Monday, May 30, 2005

General Krugman Returns

Some quick vacation blogging, while the Mrs is out fetching Starbucks and I can take advantage of wireless access at my hotel. A quick check on the news shows that General Krugman is back. Done for the time being predicting a depression era scale collapse of the economy, he is predicting a Vietnam era collapse of the US military. I sense a theme.

One of the more bizarre aspects of the Iraq war has been President Bush's repeated insistence that his generals tell him they have enough troops. Even more bizarrely, it may be true - I mean, that his generals tell him that they have enough troops, not that they actually have enough.

Of course in Krugman logic if anyone says anything in support of the administration they are cheats and liars, if they say anything which could be construed as being against the administration’s policies they are truth tellers.

The article tells the tale of John Riggs, a former Army commander, who "publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan" - then abruptly found himself forced into retirement at a reduced rank, which normally only happens as a result of a major scandal.

Of course this phenomenon can be taken to even parts of a sentence. Take this example.

The truth, of course, is that there aren't nearly enough troops. "Basically, we've got all the toys, but not enough boys," a Marine major in Anbar Province told The Los Angeles Times.

According to this, we have plenty of equipment, but not enough troops.

But only a few paragraphs later, apparently this Marine Major does not know what he is talking about. Because now the administration is depriving the troops of equipment in a “pathological” manner.

The other is the way in which the administration cuts corners when it comes to supporting the troops. From their foot-dragging on armoring Humvees to their apparent policy of denying long-term disability payments to as many of the wounded as possible, officials seem almost pathologically determined to nickel-and-dime those who put their lives on the line for their country.

Then to top it all off, Krugman, not being able to rely on the facts, simply speculate once again, that doom is near. He cannot claim that there is an exodus of military professionals, since there isn’t, but he can always hope.

Much more serious, because it would be irreversible, would be a mass exodus of mid-career military professionals. "That's essentially how we broke the professional Army we took into Vietnam," one officer told the National Journal. "At some point, people decided they could no longer weather the back-to-back deployments."

It is Vietnam all over again! Quagmire! Who is this officer, by the way, who claims that back to back deployments broke the professional Army in Vietnam? I have heard a lot of complaints about the way the military was managed in Vietnam, but that is normally not one of them. So General Krugman, stick to the the bad economics, so you can have sycophants like Brad DeLong tell you how brilliant you are, leave the military stuff to people who know what they are talking about. Even if you touch on serious issues that need addressing, your rabid Bush hatred obscures your point.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Chief taking a break

Mrs. Chief and I are going on a short vacation and then I have to spend the weekend defending democracy, so I won't be blogging for a while unless she kicks me out of the hotel room. Keep the heat on the lying left wing profs in my absence.

Orwell in Berkeley

Unbelievable, me and one other person post on Brad DeLong's site simply pointing out out, in a completely polite manner, that it is unprofessional to delete and alter people's posts merely because they disagree with you, and what happens, he deletes those posts, along with several posts refuting his and Krugman's argument, and bans me from the site! It is downright Orwellian. All dissidence will be eliminated, it never existed. I feel sorry for anyone in DeLong's class who takes a view in opposition to the teacher, he had better pack up and transfer to Stanford or something.

Well here at The Chief Brief, we don't just mouth the words of democracy, dissent, openmindness and freedom, we practice it. I have not, and will not delete anyone's post for any reason other than profanity or obscenity. I welcome dissent and criticism. Tell me I am wrong, tell me HOW I am wrong, make me work for every argument I make. Make well thought out counter arguments and post facts that prove I am an idiot. You learn nothing from people just telling you how great you are all day.

It is his website, he can do anything he wants, but how insecure do you have to be to allow posts only from people who agree with you?


Berkeley sycophant watch

This is one post that will never get deleted from Brad DeLong's site. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if he put it on his resume.

Please do not be insulting to Brad. This is always uncalled for and makes a mockery of any argument you care to use. I thank Brad every day for the wonderful teacher he has been and is. Please, no more rudeness.

I replied, commenting that I was not being rude, had not called him any names or made any personal comments, my only sin was that I disagreed with him, and it was in fact DeLong who had called Steven Antler a "dork" and his work "intellectual garbage". Of course my post was deleted.

UPDATE: Thinking about the ridiculousness of this whole thing got me thinking about the importance of being able to speak your mind and contradict and debate with others in academia. When I was getting my Russian Studies degree I had a class with Professor Christopher Jones, where through a mistake in posting the course I ended up being the only one in it. So I would go to the professor's office twice a week get some instruction from him, hand in some reports from the reading assignments, and then spend the rest of the time debating the issues with him. To a certain extent it was intimidating, going one on one with with a Harvard PhD, with me as a little undergrad, but it was also one of the best academic experiences of my life. Despite the fact that we didn't agree on many issues, he respected my viewpoint and forced me to organize, research and defend my opinions in a stringent manner. Whether I learned anything about the role of the Soviet military in Eastern Europe is irrelevant, the skills I learned from being able to express myself and defend my views were invaluable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

That 70's Show

Not to beat a dead horse, but regarding Krugman's claim Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure. I earlier questioned the legitimacy of claiming that American workers are worse off over this period. Krugman is saying that basically things have been going downhill since around 1980, presumably because the evil Reagan and the father and son Bush team were in charge for much of that time. So logically, based on his statement, the corollary is that American workers were better off and more secure in the 70's. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but since the 70's immediately preceded the 80's, I don't know what other conclusion I could draw. But look at what Mr. Krugman said about the 70's mere weeks ago.

We shouldn't overstate the case: we're not back to the economic misery of the 1970's.

So which is it? Were the 70s a time of prosperity and worker security, or a time of economic misery? I guess the answer depends on what political point he is trying to prove.

Fuzzy math?

I was thinking more about Krugman's claim, and something dawned on me.

Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure. Jobs come without health insurance; 401(k)'s vanish; corporations default on their pension obligations; workers lose their jobs more often, and unemployment lasts much longer than it used to.

Krugman is claiming both, that people are becoming unemployed more often, and when they are unemployed they are unemployed for a "much" longer period of time. For both of these statements to be true, wouldn't it also be true, one could even say required, that unemployment was not only increasing, but increasing at an exponential rate? This is quite clearly not happening.

UPDATE: On DeLong's site a poster commented that this unexplained phenomenon was caused by a decrease in the participation rate. Although this, if large enough could theoretically explain it, the fact is the participation rate is up significantly over the time period in question. Unfortunately my post was deleted from the site, apparently the free speech movement at Berkeley does not extend to contradicting liberal economists, but here is the data courtesy of the BLS.

UPDATE: DeLong, or someone acting on his behalf, edited my orginal post on his site, deleting some of my text and inserting the following, rather condescending, and factually incorrect remark.

[The "lose their jobs more often" makes a distinction between temporary layoffs and permanent dismissals that you are missing. Paul's fine here.]

First of all, there is nothing in "Paul's" language to indicate he is specifically referring to temporary layoffs versus permanent layoffs, which would be the more common usage of the term, especially since he then mentions the duration of unemployment as increasing, but even if you go to the BLS and look, you find that DeLong is in fact wrong. Temporary layoffs, even in real terms have been going down, relative to the labor force it would be an even larger drop.

Series Id: LNS13023653
Seasonal Adjusted
Seasonal Adjusted
Unemployment Level - Job Losers on Layoff
Labor force status: Unemployed
Type of data: Number in thousands

Maybe I am looking at this wrong, but I can't come up with any way of making that look like it is going up. But then again I am not a distinguished economics professor, so maybe there is some subtlety that I am "missing".

Roland Patrick also makes a similar point here. I am not expecting a correction, he will probably just delete the evidence.

DeLong chimes in, I chime back

Brad DeLong, a liberal economist from Berkeley (an apparent arch-villian of Don Luskin) posted a rather vituperative (that word seems be used a lot recently) rebuttal of the econopundit piece that I helped start. Geez, I am just causing trouble all over. I posted a response to his piece, which I have repeated here. We have the bears and the Dawgs in an intellectual cage match here sports fans!

I am the blogger who originally started this discussion. Although Mr DeLong did not address my argument, and probably didn’t even read it, I will insert my little bit regarding the original point I was trying to make. As far as Mr. Antler’s analysis I will leave that up to him if he so chooses.

“You should reflect on the fact that Krugman's "unemployment lasts much longer than it used to" is part of a tradition of analysis that contrasts the first post-World War II generation--the 50s, 60s, and early 70s--with today. There's nothing in Krugman to make anyone imagine that "used to" applies to the 1980s only.”

Yes there is, he said so. Mr Krugman stated, “Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure.” And then proceeded to list 5 supposed economic indicators of this phenomenon. He did not state “Since WWII the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure.” Maybe Krugman is only guilty of vague sentence structure, but this is the impression he leaves with that statement. My original article was asking why he picked that time period, whether the numbers were accurate was only a follow on issue. I can find no particular significance to this number, other than he probably wanted to blame Reagan for the start of this supposed trend, not for any particular economic reason. This is politics, not science. The whole gist of my original post was that this was a ridiculous time period to compare the present situation with. Although things may not be stellar now, can any serious economist, or layman, look back on the era of 10% unemployment, and 20% mortgage rates, and say people felt better off and more “secure” then?

You should cyclically-adjust the series--after all, we know that the duration of unemployment will be relatively high whenever unemployment itself is relatively high--and calculate what the duration would be if the unemployment rate were six percent, as is shown here:

This is an idiotic way of looking at it. You have to remember Krugman was not merely making a scientific observation of the relation of unemployment rates and unemployment duration, he was trying to make a socio-economic point as to how this factor effects people. Adjusting this to some arbitrary 6% not only obscures this effect, it intentionally distorts it. The fact is (once again as I said in my original blog post) that unemployment has trended down significantly in the last 25 years, something that Krugman intentionally avoided mentioning. Which would effect the “security” of the average worker more, 10,000 workers being unemployed for 50 weeks, or 10 million workers being unemployed for 25 weeks? The latter obviously would have a much greater economic impact, although the “duration” as Krugman selectively cites is much greater in the former. The most accurate way of measuring this effect, in this context, is to measure the amount of long term unemployed in terms of the whole workforce, as I did on my blog, not just in terms of those unemployed. If you look at it in this manner, it is not only not “much longer” than 25 years ago, a claim even you cannot defend, but it trends significantly downward.

If Krugman were, for example, trying to examine the historical trends of unemployment duration in order to study certain factors such as education, workplace mobility, outsourcing, unemployment insurance etc. then such a way of adjusting would make sense, but he is not. Instead he is trying to make a political point, so he handpicks certain data that will back up this point. This is the biggest bone I have to pick with him. He used to be a serious economist, now he is nothing more than a political attack dog, like Michael Moore or Ann Coulter, with a degree. I know economics is called the “dismal science” but it is still a science. You are supposed to observe the data and use that to form theories, not come up with a theory based on a political ideology, and then selectively pick data to back it up, ignoring all common sense and contrary data.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ungrateful Bosnians?

An article in Slate asks the question as to whether Bosnians are ungrateful for our role in saving them from Serb genocide in the 90s. In my personal experience I found Bosnian Muslims to be generally appreciative and friendly towards Americans. Yes, this doesn't always mean that they are supportive of our foreign policy, but at least on a personal level. Could they be a little more appreciative of what we did? Yes, probably, but this is a problem throughout the world. The US military intervened to save the lives of Muslims in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, but we never got any credit for that in the Islamic world or elsewhere. Also one has to keep in mind that in Bosnia, just like in every other country, there is a red/blue mix. The opinion of a poor farmer or shopkeeper in Bijeljina is going to be much different then some politician or journalist in Sarajevo.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Slate impersonates me

They are way behind The Chief Brief. Can I sue for copyright infringement?

Hack and Me

I posted recently about the death of COL Hackworth. As I mentioned, I had the honor of meeting him a couple of years ago. Unfortunately due to a system crash I seem to have lost the original digital version, the best I can do is a scan on my marginal quality scanner.

Paul Krugman gets nostalgic

I found this a bit odd, now Paul Krugman is getting nostalgic for, of all things, the job security of the early 80's in his latest column.

Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure. Jobs come without health insurance; 401(k)'s vanish; corporations default on their pension obligations; workers lose their jobs more often, and unemployment lasts much longer than it used to.

Now, I was a bit young at the time, but I don't remember "25 years" ago as a time of comparative prosperity and security. Rather it was a time of economic chaos, high unemployment, inflation and uncertainty.

Unemployment by year
1975 8.48%
1976 7.7%
1977 7.05%
1978 6.07%
1979 5.85%
1980 7.18%
1981 7.62%
1982 9.71%
1983 9.6%

Inflation by year
1975 7.13%
1976 5.04%
1977 6.68%
1978 8.99%
1979 13.26%
1980 12.35%
1981 8.91%
1982 3.87%
1983 3.79%

It would take more research, but I am sure if you looked you would find his statments of "workers losing their jobs more often" and "staying on unemployment longer" false too. Maybe Paul was off by a few years and meant over the last "20 years", intending to compare the current situation with the Reagan boom...

UPDATE: I decided to use my future MBA skills and take a look at the statistics, starting with the claim that "unemployment lasts much longer than it used to".

To give Krugman some credit, the graph does show a slight upwards trend, depending how you measure it, although I do not know how you could call this lasting "much longer"

Average Weeks Unemployed

This is misleading though, because the unemployment rate over that same period has trended downward, as I mentioned before.
Unemployment Rate

However, since Krugman's whole point is that people are less secure in their jobs, it is misleading to look solely at the length of unemployment among those who are unemployed. Is it logical to say that workers feel less secure over a small increase in the average duration of unemployment, set against a large drop in the rate of unemployment? The workplace has grown much more complex and technical over the last few decades, this factor alone could account for a slight rise in the time needed to get a new job, not a bad economy. Besides, if there is a low unemployment rate, the chronically unemployed underclass, those who will be unemployed no matter how the economy is, will be a larger proportion of the rate and inflate it. So what happens if we look at the percentage of long term unemployed, in this case those unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percentage of the work force as a whole?

Percent Of Civilian Labor Force Unemployed 15 Weeks & over

Far from trending upward, it is actually decreasing, from cyclical peaks of 3.1% and 4.2% in 1975 and 1982, to only 2.9% and 2.5% in 1993 and 2003, respectively. This once again shows how the formerly distinguished economist, will go to any means to come up with doom and gloom scenarios for the economy, even ignoring basic facts an average college student would get.

All numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

UPDATE: Econpundit, who knows a lot more about economics than I do, picks this up. He says that the duration of unemployment has been going down, as opposed to before the 80s when it was going up. As I mentioned, it depends how you look at the graph. Regardless, it is apparent that Krugman is misrepresenting the stats to make a political point.

Howard Dean continues his Bin Laden defense

This guy must be a Karl Rove plant, nothing else would explain his constant idiotic rantings.

DR. DEAN: I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were. But the thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false. The 9-11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, said it was false. Is it wrong to send people to war without telling them the truth. And the truth was Osama bin Laden was a very bad person who was doing terrible things, but that Iraq was never a threat to the United States.

I am assuming that this is a misstatement, but Dr. Dean has come to the defense of bin Laden before.

"I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found," Dean said. "I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials. So I'm sure that is the correct sentiment of most Americans, but I do think if you're running for president, or if you are president, it's best to say that the full range of penalties should be available. But it's not so great to prejudge the judicial system."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Premodern meets Postmodern

An even better editorial by Victor Davis Hanson. See, you get all sides here at The Chief Brief. Fair and balanced.

Note also after the riots how few Americans announced their immediate scorn for silly rumors about our own POW center in a time of war — especially when it is housing Afghan terrorists who helped kill 3,000 of our own innocents. Can one imagine fundamentalists in the Bible Belt rioting and shooting should they hear an unfounded rumor that an American prisoner in Riyadh, charged with complicity in killing thousands of Arabs, found his Old Testament trashed by a Saudi guard — or a Saudi official promising to apologize to the Western world should a miscreant guard be culpable?

Straight Talk

Thomas Friedman weighs in with some wise words on the the Koran flushing thing.

And a few days ago, a group of Iraqi journalists actually went to Jordan and got right in the face of Jordanian columnists and editors, demanding to know why they were treating Muslim mass murderers in Iraq like anticolonial war heroes. It's already changed the tone. That's the war of ideas.

The greatest respect we can show to Arabs and Muslims - and the best way to help Muslim progressives win the war of ideas - is to take them seriously and stop gazing at our own navels. That means demanding that they answer for their lies, hypocrisy and profane behavior, just as much as we must answer for ours.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Idiotic Filibuster Argument O' the Day

I saw this on Wizbang:

Restricting the ability of Democrats to block final votes on several of Bush's most controversial nominees "would be particularly offensive to people of color," members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote Majority Leader Bill Frist during the day. "All of the major legislation that today bars racial discrimination in voting, employment and housing was passed after filibusters" were broken, it said.

Let me get this straight, they comment that progress on civil rights began only after filibusters were broken, and then use that as an argument to support filibusters. Ackk, my brain hurts just thinking about it. How did these people get out of high school, much less get elected to Congress?

Assault on the Senate

I read this editorial in the Seattle Times by David Broder, and I was so annoyed by the repeated mischaracterization of filibusters that I e-mailed this letter to the editor off. We'll see if they print it

David Broder in "Assault on the Senate", and many Democrats, are being disingenuous when they say that filibusters are about "unlimited debate". Historically filibusters are not used because senators want to discuss an issue in more depth, but because a minority of senators want to block a vote on something they know will pass otherwise.During the most famous filibusters, attempts by Southern Democrats in the 50's and 60's to obstruct civil rights reforms, senators did not argue the case on the merits, but would just read off random items such as the bible or their wives's recipe books. One of the most famous cases was a 14 hour marathon by current Democratic SenatorRobert Byrd to block the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Is this the proud tradition of debate that the Democrats really want to honor?

Dude, you are not Indian, give it up

This guy just cracks me up. He is like a case study for the loser left.

DENVER (AP) An Oklahoma Indian tribe said Wednesday embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, whose claim of Indian heritage is under investigation, "could not prove any Cherokee ancestry."

In a statement on its Web site, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians said it gave Churchill an "honorary associate membership" because he promised to write a tribal history.

Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies who could lose his job over allegations he lied about his ancestry and plagiarized others' work, said Wednesday the tribe's statements are false.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Getting Uzbekistan Right

A good article from the Weekly Standard

The bottom line in Uzbekistan is simple and obvious. The people of the Ferghana Valley have Kyrgyzstan next door, just as Wahhabi-ruled Saudi Arabia has newly liberated Iraq next door, and just as 25 years ago, the Soviet Union had Poland next door. Uzbekistan is the most populous and developed of the former-Soviet Central Asian republics. Of all these states, it has the most in common with Ukraine and Georgia, even more than Kyrgyzstan had. The appeal of radical Islam in Uzbekistan is highly overrated; the resentment of local bazaar merchants against unjust taxation and other abuses in the Ferghana Valley is not. It's time for the Uzbeks to definitively join the democracy movement and leave the Soviet era, with its bloodshed and lies, behind.

The NY Times on Filibusters

This is great, can you say hypocrisy?

More brilliance in the Seattle Times

After reading numerous ridiculous Floyd McKay editorials, I have often wondered what the requirements are for writing guest editorials for the Seattle Times. Now apparently it is just being a paranoid WSU student.

THINGS have gone from silly to dangerous in Washington, D.C., folks. But not to worry. This has happened before, and things always get ridiculous again.

Remember in 2003, when the Senate Republicans held a 30-hour, all-night talkathon? It was because, after confirming 168 of President Bush's nominees, the Democrats dared to block a whopping four they felt were too extreme.

Fast forward to today, as Republican leaders once again are whining about Democrats blocking judicial nominations. Funny, in their complaints about obstructionism, I haven't heard the Republicans mention Bill Clinton's 68 nominations that were never "voted up or down," thanks to Republican delaying tactics.

So why are Democrats being difficult? Maybe they missed some new memo from an overzealous Republican staffer explaining that the Republicans control everything (they have a mandate, you know).

Uhh, has he ever heard of "democracy"? There is a vague little concept known as "majority rules". Maybe they don't teach that at WSU? The Republicans do control everything! If you want to control everything then try winning a freaking election every once in a while! I know the Democrats want affirmative action in school admissions, but now they apparently want it in elections too. We are sorry you lost, here, have a couple of extra seats. It will be all right...

Or maybe it is that, as Mario Cuomo recently noted, the "minority" of Democratic senators actually represent more Americans than the majority Republican senators do. Maybe Democrats should have some small influence on the direction our nation is headed?

So what, that is part of the checks and balances written into our constitution. Blame that "moron" Thomas Jefferson. This isn't grade school playground games. Do over!

Meanwhile, their extremist conservative base was seeking domination of both government and our information. The conservatives built a network of radio and television programs, even a 24-hour news channel. After all, if American propaganda is good enough for Iranians, isn't it good enough for Americans? They even began turning churches into recruiting centers, inciting fear and anger over a couple of extreme issues.

Ooh, it is that evil FoxNews rearing its ugly head once again (cue ominous music). I am sorry, the liberals only have CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and PBS to watch now. I guess you will be stuck watching MTV all day. Speaking of "fear and anger" who is writing an editorial saying the Republicans are "scary" and things are "dangerous in Washington D.C."?

But I'm here to tell you, don't cry, there's good news. People can now see that we have a lot of problems, and there are no tax-and-spend, bleeding-heart Democrats running things in the White House, in the House, or in the Senate to blame it all on.

Nope, not a single welfare-loving, tree-hugging liberal in majority control of big government to curse for your lost job, your lack of health care, your polluted environment, your back-door draft, your children's mounting debt, or anything else.

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

This guy is entertaining at least...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pictures from Uzbekistan

Since it is in the news I figured I would post a few pics to give people an idea of what the country is like. Sorry for the quality, I didn't have a digital, so these are scans from a disposable. I have some more interesting pictures, if I can find where in my closet I stashed them.
Sour Cream Vendors

The world's worst argument for rail transportation

Having traveled around Europe, I enjoyed their trains and it would be nice to see something similar here in the US, but this argument, taken from an letter to the editor in the Seattle Times, takes the cake for a moronic argument.

Nationally, we put billions of dollars of taxpayer money into construction and support of air-travel infrastructure, while letting Amtrak die a slow death from neglect. (You can't fly a train into an office building — the money we're spending on the Iraq war could've bought us a very nice, national high-speed rail network.)

Has the writer ever heard of 3/11?

Darth Bush?

All the Bush-Hitler comparisons were pathetic, if not unexpected given the political environment, but now they are comparing Bush to the Galactic Empire. Give me a freaking break! What is next, the John Kerry-C3PO connection? Actually that one makes sense... All I want to know is does it suck, and is Jar-Jar in it?

CANNES, France - Without Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11" at the Cannes Film Festival this time, it was left to George Lucas and "Star Wars" to pique European ire over the state of world relations and the United States' role in it.

Lucas' themes of democracy on the skids and a ruler preaching war to preserve the peace predate "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" by almost 30 years. Yet viewers Sunday — and Lucas himself — noted similarities between the final chapter of his sci-fi saga and our own troubled times.

Cannes audiences made blunt comparisons between "Revenge of the Sith" — the story of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering — to President Bush' s war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Does he get an employee discount?

Don Luskin points out that the New York Times is going to start charging $49.95 a year to read the online edition of their paper. This reminded me of a recent section on open source that I read in The World is Flat, the new book on globalism by Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist.

From page 102

But I believe that all online newspapers should be free, and on principle I refuse to pay for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. I have not read the paper copy of the New York Times regularly for two years. I read it only online.

So this of course raises the question, will he stop reading his own newspaper?

Yet another new standard in journalism

First Dan Rather brought us "fake but accurate", now we have a new standard in the continuing evolution of journalistic practices, via Michelle Malkin's site.

"We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either."
-- Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker

More News from the Uz

Violence and bloodshed continue in Uzbekistan. There is nobody to cheer for here, a repressive dictatorship on one side and terrorist affiliated fundamentalists on the other side. The US needs to push the country towards a more peaceful revolution. Hopefully Karimov is smart enough to realize, after Georgia, the Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, that his days are numbered otherwise.

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan (AP) — Gunfire rang out Monday in the eastern city where Uzbek security forces fired on protesters last week — a clash that reportedly left as many as 500 people dead — and reports emerged that violence in nearby towns killed hundreds more, further threatening the stability of the government in this key U.S. ally in Central Asia.

The clashes in the region bordering Kyrgyzstan were the worst since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. If the reports of more than 700 deaths since Friday hold true and if Uzbek forces were behind the killing — as most reports indicate, it would be some of the worst state-inspired bloodshed since the massacre of protesters in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. (Video:
Death toll rises in Uzbekistan)

President Islam Karimov's government has denied opening fire on demonstrators as witnesses have claimed, instead blaming Islamic extremists for the violence. The authoritarian government has restricted access for reporters in the affected areas.

Paul Krugman: Military Analyst

Paul Krugman should stick to what he does best, bad economics analysis. When he branches into military subjects, the economist whose military experience is limited to watching "Platoon" on HBO once, only embarasses himself. In his latest column titled "Staying what course?" Krugman is insisting that the Bush administration has not only failed to make us safer, but destroyed the capabilities of the military.

Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?

Let's have a quick recap of the last 4 years. Hmm, less than 2 months after 9/11, with less than 500 US troops on the ground we overthrew the Taliban. Then in March 2003, despite being numerically outnumbered, we marched 500 miles through the desert and occupied Baghdad in 3 weeks. All while suffering less casualties then a hot weekend in Paris. Yet somehow, because some terrorists still know how to make bombs we have "demonstrated the limits of American power". Do you think Saddam Hussein is sitting in prison right now laughing over the weakness of the US military?

At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.

Yeah, and anytime they chose to accept battle they lost! If "melting away" were considered a sign of military prowess we would be saluting the great victories of the French Army right now.

Next year, reports Jane's Defense Industry, the United States will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the Pentagon now admits that our military is having severe trouble attracting recruits, and would have difficulty dealing with potential foes - those that, unlike Saddam's Iraq, might pose a real threat.

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

While I agree that recruiting may be a long term problem if we stay in Iraq longer than expected, especially for the reserves, we are hardly powerless to respond to threats. Between the active Army and Marine Corps and their respective reserves, and the Army National Guard, we have over one million soldiers under arms. Only 140,000 are in Iraq. Not to mention the most powerful Air Force and Navy in the world, which have barely had to make an effort thus far.

While the war may be hurting recruiting, it is actually making the veteran servicemen better. It may sound cruel, but surviving war and combat teaches you your job. Most of the soldiers in the military are now veterans of at least one deployment. They know how to do their jobs under stressful conditions, and they know how to train soldiers to do their jobs and kill the enemy. We are not going to win the war with a bunch of untrained draftees, but with some hardcore veteran professional soldiers.

So we need to get beyond the clichés - please, no more "pottery barn principles" or "staying the course." I'm not advocating an immediate pullout, but we have to tell the Iraqi government that our stay is time-limited, and that it has to find a way to take care of itself. The point is that something has to give. We either need a much bigger army - which means a draft - or we need to find a way out of Iraq.

Well no kidding. The whole point of it is that we are enabling the Iraqi government to take care of itself. We have no intention of staying forever. Has Krugman not noticed all those Iraqi policemen and soldiers on CNN? He criticizes the administration, and then proposes what the administration is already doing. He says we need to get beyond the cliches, well here is one cliche, can you say strawman argument?

UPDATE: My first link on Don Luskin's excellent site, although I gave him several tips in my pre-blog days. Welcome all Poor and Stupid readers, you are anything but. Also Mr. Luskin points out a great ironic comment by Krugman on

Friday, May 13, 2005

A good essay on WWII

In contrast to the incoherent blather of Pat Buchanan, we have some words of wisdom from Victor Davis Hanson. It is well worth a read.

Revisionism holds a strange attraction for the winners of World War II. American textbooks discuss World War II as if a Patton, Le May, or Nimitz did not exist, as if the war was essentially the Japanese internment and Hiroshima. That blinkered and politically correct focus explains why so many Americans under 30 are simply ignorant about the nature and course of World War II itself. Similarly, the British have monthly debates on the immorality of their bombing Hamburg and Dresden.

In dire contrast, even the post-Soviet Russian government will not speak of the Stalin-Hitler non-aggression pact, the absorption of the Baltic states, the murder of millions of German citizens in April through June 1945 in Eastern Europe, and the mass execution of Polish officers. If we were to listen to the Chinese, World War II was about the gallant work of Mao’s partisans, who in fact used the war to gain power, and then went on to kill 50 million of their own citizens — about the same number lost in all of World War II. Japan likewise has never come to terms with the millions of Asian civilians its armies butchered or its systematic brutality waged against American POWs.

The truth is that the supposedly biased West discusses the contribution of others far more than our former enemies — or Russian and Chinese allies — credit the British or Americans.

Violence in Uzbekistan

There are reports out of protests, prison breaks and even deaths in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. Instapundit has a good roleup too.

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan — Outrage over the terror trial of 23 Muslims exploded into broader unrest in eastern Uzbekistan on Friday when armed protesters stormed a jail to free defendants, clashing with police in violence that brought thousands of protesters into the streets. At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded, witnesses and officials said.

One protester, who put the death toll as high as 20, said 30 soldiers were being held hostage because they were shooting at demonstrators. Two of the dead were children, Sharif Shakirov, a brother of one of the defendants told The Associated Press.

President Islam Karimov and other top officials rushed to the eastern city of Andijan, where the government insisted it remained in control despite the chaos, though it blocked foreign news reports for its domestic audience.

For those of you who have not been to Uzbekistan, which is probably just about everyone, it is a very remote (it holds the distinction of being one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world in case you ever get that question on Jeopardy) and poor country. It is also a virtual police state. My job when I was in Tashkent was basically to haggle with traffic cops to get out of tickets. They apparently can't afford cars, so they stand on just about every street corner waving down passing motorists.

I found their characterization of rushing "to the eastern city of Andijan" a bit odd, since Andijan is in the Fergana Valley, the only real agriculturally rich and densely populated area of Uzbekistan, and only about 50 miles east of the capital anyway.

The big question of course is whether this "uprising" is a more popular rebellion like in Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine, or more Islamic fundamentalist tinged (cue memories of Tehran 1979). Just to give you an idea of what the country is like, in Bosnia for example, they play the Islamic calls to prayer 5 times a day (mostly just to annoy the Serbs) but you never see anyone praying. In Uzbekistan, which is 90% Muslim, it is illegal to even play them. Islam Karimov (ironic name admittedly) bans just about any display of Islam, in a paranoid attempt to crush Islamic fundamentalism. The people I talked to didn't really seem to care, their biggest concern was just surviving economically, in a country where a hundred dollars a month was considered a decent salary. In the aforementioned article this guy points that out.

"We are not going to overthrow the government. We demand economic freedom," Egomov told The Associated Press.

"If the army is going to storm, if they're going to shoot, we are ready to die instead of living as we are living now. The Uzbek people have been reduced to living like dirt," Egomov said.

This is not to say that Islamic fundamentalism plays no role, religion is a common way of venting frustrations for more temporal concerns. The US has helped a bit, giving $500 million plus to Karimov in return for renting an old Soviet Airbase for the Afghan war. Of course how much of that ended up in Swiss bank accounts is a good question.

More on all this later if I get a chance.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

There goes my career in the Peace Corps

In the wake of Putin's nostalgic comments and a look back at the victories of the Great Patriotic War, Russians continue to get paranoid. Of course, then again, I am sure we are spying on them.

U.S., British and other foreign nongovermental organizations are providing cover for professional spies in Russia, while Western organizations are bankrolling plans to stage peaceful revolutions in Belarus and other former Soviet republics bordering Russia, Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev told the State Duma on Thursday.

Patrushev said the FSB has monitored and exposed intelligence gathering activities carried out by the U.S. Peace Corps, the British-based Merlin medical relief charity, Kuwait's Society of Social Reforms and the Saudi Red Crescent Society.

He said foreign secret services rely on NGOs to collect information and promote the interests of their countries.

"The imperfectness of the legislation and lack of efficient mechanisms for state oversight creates a fertile ground for conducting intelligence operations under the guise of charity and other activities," Patrushev said in televised remarks.

He said a bill to regulate the activities of foreign NGOs will be submitted "soon" to the Duma. He said the bill would change registration procedures for foreign NGOs, but did not elaborate.

Pat Buchanan Uber Alles

Pat Buchanan has now shown that he has taken that step beyond being an odd former conservative politician and talk show host, and transformed into a complete flipping lunatic. In a little gem of an essay titled, Was World War II worth it? Pat takes the completely legitimate fact that Eastern Europe pretty much got sold out to Stalin in the deal and makes the wild leap that this somehow invalidates the entire war.

When one considers the losses suffered by Britain and France – hundreds of thousands dead, destitution, bankruptcy, the end of the empires – was World War II worth it, considering that Poland and all the other nations east of the Elbe were lost anyway?

If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler? If to liberate Germans, it was not worth it. After all, the Germans voted Hitler in.

If it was to keep Hitler out of Western Europe, why declare war on him and draw him into Western Europe? If it was to keep Hitler out of Central and Eastern Europe, then, inevitably, Stalin would inherit Central and Eastern Europe.

Was that worth fighting a world war – with 50 million dead?

Herr Buchanan is of course missing the point, that although we were stuck between two unpalatable choices, these were the only choices we had. We had no choice but to throw down with Germany, we couldn't beam to some other more peaceful planet. As horrible as Stalinism was, Hitler was more of a threat, we could not just wish him away.

Another great, more indepth fisking of this story is available here at Vodkapundit, great name for a blog I must say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why we are still in Bosnia

I saw this on LGF. Since I spent most of last year in Bosna i Hercegovina, I was asked constantly by friends and family why we are still there. Well, this may have something to do with it.

The terrorists that carried out the Madrid bombings in March 2004 have been trained at special Al Qaeda based in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The news was broken Tuesday by the chief of the local police department Dragomir Andan at a special press conference.

RIA Novosti cited the top police chief as saying that all 11 terrorists left for Spain passing through Sarajevo.It was also reported that the explosives used in the terror acts were produced in Bosnia.

A total of 192 people were killed and over 1,500 others were injured in the March 11, 2004 attacks in Madrid.

Friday, May 06, 2005

This is why I don't take business advice from the New York Times

From Taranto

Business Advice From the New York Times

"Wal-Mart critics often note that corporations like Ford and G.M. led a race to the top, providing high wages and generous benefits that other companies emulated. They ask why Wal-Mart, with some $10 billion in profit on about $288 billion in revenue last year, cannot act similarly."--New York Times, May 4

"Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut its corporate credit ratings to junk status for both General Motors Corp. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F). . . . The decision by one of the nation's most respected ratings agencies comes as the two iconic American automakers are losing market share at home to Asian automakers, seeing sales soften for their most profitable models and are facing enormous health care and post-retirement liabilities."--Associated Press, May 5

Why our public high schools schools are doomed

They are lucky it wasn't my mom on the phone, getting yelled at would have been the least of their worries. Happy soon to be Mother's day mom!

Kevin Francois gave up his lunch break to talk to his mother, but it ended up costing him the rest of the school year.

Francois, a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, was suspended for disorderly conduct Wednesday after he was told to give up his cell phone at lunch while talking to his mother who is deployed in Iraq, he said.
His mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, left in January for a one-year tour and serves with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

"This is our first time separated like this," said Francois, 17, on Thursday.

Bates came to Fort Benning with her son from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. She enrolled him at Spencer in August. Since her deployment overseas, Francois, whose father was killed when he was 5 years old, lives with a guardian who has five children in Columbus.

The incident happened when Francois received a call from his mother at 12:30 p.m., which he said was his lunch break. Francois said he went outside the school building to get a better reception when his mother called. A teacher who saw Francois on his phone told him to get off the phone. But he didn't.

According to the Muscogee County School District Board of Education's policy, students are allowed to have cell phones in school, but cannot use them during school hours.

"They are really allowed to have those cell phones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents," said Alfred Parham, assistant principal at Spencer. "They're not supposed to use them for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."

Francois said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."
Francois said the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up.

The student said he then went with the teacher to the school's office where he surrendered his phone. His mother called again at 12:37 p.m. and left a message scolding her son about hanging up and telling him to answer the phone when she calls.

Col. David. H. Hackworth, 1930-2005

I had the honor of meeting COL Hackworth at Ft. Carson in 2002. I got a book signed by him and my picture taken, which unfortunately I can't find. Whether you agree with all of his views or not, his record stands, he was a true American hero, and will be missed.

Col. David. H. Hackworth, 1930-2005
Legendary U.S. Army Guerrilla Fighter, Champion of the Ordinary Soldier

Washington, D.C., May 5, 2005 – Col. David H. Hackworth, the United States Army's legendary, highly decorated guerrilla fighter and lifelong champion of the doughboy and dogface, ground-pounder and grunt, died Wednesday in Mexico. He was 74 years old. The cause of death was a form of cancer now appearing with increasing frequency among Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliants called Agents Orange and Blue.

Col. Hackworth spent more than half a century on the country’s hottest battlefields, first as a soldier, then as a writer, war correspondent and sharp-eyed critic of the Military-Industrial Complex and ticket-punching generals he dismissed as “Perfumed Princes.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The only thing worth reading in the New York Times

I may not always agree with Thomas Friedman, but I always find him interesting. I am reading The World is Flat currently. This article says a lot about the importance of democracy in Iraq.

"The Iraqi election was a total shock to the militant jihadist forces in the Arab-Muslim world," Mr. Stock noted. "They warned Iraqis that 'you vote - you die,' and instead millions of Iraqis said back to them, 'We vote - we decide.' " And the thing they are deciding on is not to be pro-American, not to be pro-Western, but to try to build their own Arab society in a way that will be open to modernism and interpretations of Islam that encourage innovation, adaptation and progress.

The jihadist forces hate this notion. They see the struggle for democracy in Iraq as anathema to everything they stand for: a literalist interpretation of Islam, unsullied by modernity, adaptation, women's rights or political and religious pluralism.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born jihadist behind much of the Iraq violence, spelled it all out in his declaration last January. Democracy must be opposed, he said, because it is based "on the right to choose your religion," and that is "against the rule of God." He added: "Oh, people of Iraq, where is your honor? Have you accepted oppression of the Crusader harlots?"

Zarqawi and his Saudi and Egyptian allies are trying to defeat America and its allies in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, but Zarqawi & Co. are losing - and they know it.

Having lost the argument with their own community, and unable to offer any program, the Sunni-Traditionalist-jihadists seem to have become totally unhinged, with people becoming suicide bombers at the rate of three and four a day.

The jihadists "know that if democracy comes to this part of the world, the Zarqawis and their ilk are done," Mr. Stock said. "Because the majority of people do not buy their methods or most of their message. They don't want to live like the Taliban. If democracy manages to spread in the Arab world, it will not necessarily be pro-American, but it will definitely be pro-living, not pro-suicide. It will not be a cult of death, but a culture of life." A recent cover of a popular Egyptian magazine, Rose el-Youssef, Mr. Stock noted, shows two well-known female Arab pop singers under the headline: "Stronger than Extremism."

Western Washington Terrorist Supporters

I noticed this on LGF, and e-mailed Soundpolitics, who soon put up a post on it. This is some Democrat (a self proclaimed program director, whatever the hell that is) in Snohomish County, who writes anti-American articles for left wing websites. Initially I passed on making my comments, since this is on just about every conservative blog on the net, but I can only hold my tongue so long. If someone wants to criticize the war or the president, that is fine, but this one goes too far.

The greatest moral quandary of our day is whether we, as Americans, support the Iraqi insurgency. It’s an issue that has caused anti-war Leftists the same pangs of conscience that many felt 30 years ago in their opposition to the Vietnam War. The specter of disloyalty weighs heavily on all of us, even those who’ve never been inclined to wave flags or champion the notion of American “Exceptionalism”.

For myself, I can say without hesitation that I support the "insurgency", and would do so even if my only 21 year old son was serving in Iraq. There’s simply no other morally acceptable option.

I can't even begin to address the idiocy of someone who would argue the moral legitimacy of sacrificing his son to a bunch of head chopping car bombing terrorists.

As Americans, we support the idea that violence is an acceptable means of achieving (national) self-determination. This, in fact, is how our nation was formed, and it is vindicated in our founding document, The Declaration of Independence:

Now this utter moron is comparing Iraqi terrorist to our founding fathers? Yes, I get Al Zarqawi and Thomas Jefferson confused all the time. I just can't count all the times I have heard those rousing Al Qaeda speeches on democracy, human rights, and self determination. Apparently for this moron, the votes of 8 million Iraqis who went to the polls in January are a less important measure of the will of the Iraqi people, then car bombs being set off by a few thousand jihadists, many of whom aren't even Iraqi! I have to go now, I am going to lose it.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Paul Krugman's Misleading Math

In his recent columns, the formerly respected economist turned left wing Bush hater has been vociferously attacking any and all attempts to reform Social Security. In today's editorial he turns his teeth on Bush's recent proposal, at last week's press conference, to limit social security payments to the rich in order to hold down its cost and help stabilize the system. Usually liberals like sticking it to the rich, but for some reason that only applies to taking taxes from them, not giving them benefits.

The average worker - average pay now is $37,000 - retiring in 2075 would face a cut equal to 10 percent of pre-retirement income. Workers earning 60 percent more than average, the equivalent of $58,000 today, would see benefit cuts equal to almost 13 percent of their income before retirement.

But above that level, the cuts would become less and less significant. Workers earning three times the average wage would face cuts equal to only 9 percent of their income before retirement. Someone earning the equivalent of $1 million today would see benefit cuts equal to only 1 percent of pre-retirement income.

In short, this would be a gut punch to the middle class, but a fleabite for the truly wealthy.

Even if we assume he is telling the truth, and as Don Luskin points out, he probably isn't, this comparison is incredibly misleading. He is claiming that the rich are not "feeling any pain' from these cuts. But isn't that the whole point? Yes, millionaires will not see much of a difference if their benefits are cut, but that is the whole point of cutting it in the first place! You could eliminate Bill Gates benefits entirely and he wouldn't notice, so why are the taxpayers of America paying for his benefits? Krugman manages to argue against his own point.

Why doesn't Krugman compare the total amount of benefits the "rich" get before and after the change? That would give us a truer indication of what the changes mean to the system, not to the individual. Social security payments are capped to a certain amount, so for the rich they will always be a smaller percentage of their income, regardless of their level. The whole point of the change is not to "cause them pain" as Krugman appears to desire, but to save money in the system by giving it to people who need it the most. Gone are the days when taxes are a mere form of income to support government programs, they are now a form of punishment for those who are in the wrong social class.