Friday, May 30, 2003

Rep. KucinichMr. Spock

Separated at Birth
Apparently, not only can you not defend yourself with a gun in England, but you can't defend yourself with pepper spray either, as a wheelchair bound man who did so last week and was arrested has discovered. It has not been determined yet whether he will be prosecuted. (via Rachel)
Robert L. Pollock has a short vignette of life in postwar Iraq.

Among the thousands of friends and relatives who have come to this mass grave near Hilla to find their loved ones, there is surprisingly little bitterness against the U.S. for encouraging and then abandoning that rebellion. Some even express hope that Iraq could become an American state. "Saddam, Saddam," one man mutters in disbelief, staring at the bodies. "Television only show Iraq Ali Baba [Iraqis as thieves]," complains another of the foreign media's fixation with looting, "not show this."

Not surprisingly, none of these people thinks that finding weapons of mass destruction is critical to the case for war. The old regime did most of its dirty work the old-fashioned way, with a pistol to the head. Nor are they alarmed, like so many distant pundits, that Iraq has traded tyranny for anarchy. Even a messy freedom is something to savor.
The drive from Amman does little to prepare the visitor for the spectacle that is Baghdad. Western Iraq is a near-Martian landscape from which a few shepherds improbably coax nourishment for their flocks. But at Ramadi the waters of the Euphrates bring forth an explosion of date palms and other greenery, and it suddenly becomes clear how the lush land between the rivers, "Mesopotamia," could have become the cradle of civilization. Modern Iraq, it is often noted, is the only Arab country with both water and oil.

This wealth of resources was something neither U.N. sanctions nor Saddamite war-socialism could entirely erase. Baghdad has its slums. But it is also a city of wide boulevards, stately villas and well-tended gardens. Citizens spouting near-fluent English and holding degrees from European or American universities accost visitors with their hopes for the new Iraq. "Tell Mr. Bush . . ." they say. "I want to thank Mr. Bush and the Americans for helping liberate our country . . . and all countries that help the American people and stand with them for giving us the happiness . . . ."
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You are Morpheus, from "The Matrix." You
have strong faith in yourself and those around
you. A true leader, you are relentless in your

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Well, what do you know? I am Morpheus. I guess one of my lives has a future after all.
Keith Windschuttle has a detailed dissection of Noam Chomsky in the New Criterion (Warning: it's a long piece). For those unfamiliar with the odious Professor Chomsky, this article will provide a good overview. For the cliff notes version, I have provided my own short guide to the views of Chomsky:

  • America (or Amerika) is a totalitarian state, led by a right-wing, corporate cabal. No one except the enlightened Chomsky and his followers are smart enough to recognize this fact.
  • All mainstream media are puppets of the totalitarian state. The only sources of unbiased reporting can be found at places like the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea News Agency
  • If America does anything to stop mass killings and totalitarian governments any deaths that arise from ending that governments reign of terror are the fault of America.
  • If America doesn't do anything to stop mass killings by totalitarian governments all of those deaths are the fault of America.
  • If America ever had any dealings with a country any deaths caused by that countries government are the fault of America.
  • Any deaths in the world due to famine, sickness and other natural disasters are the fault of America.
  • Any deaths caused by governments which are directly opposed by the US are justified.
  • Anything that isn't the fault of America is the fault of Israel and the Jews.
  • The death toll of the Holocaust is grossly exaggerated.
  • The death toll of Pol Pots 're-education' is also grossly exaggerated (and the fault of America anyway).
  • FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II are the greatest monsters in recent history.
  • Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein are great heroes.
As a Russian I feel like I should comment on this passage from Lileks today:

The execution of the children was the event that established the character of the regime. Yes, yes, regicide was often accompanied by such atrocities, but this was the 20th century. Why, this was the birth of Scientific Socialism. There is nothing so powerful as an idea has time has come!

But just in case it’s not that powerful yet, let’s shoot the little girls.

When I woke up this morning I didn't think I would be defending the actions of Communists, but here we are. Yes, I will agree that killing children is wrong but you have to look at the historical context of all this. These days, all anyone remembers about the Romanovs is that they were the royal family that ruled Russia before the Communists. Some might even remember that they didn't do a particularly good job. The truth of the matter is that the Romanovs were dictators who brutalized Russia for 400 years. And it wasn't just one bad Czar, here and there. They were all guilty of atrocities against their own people. They were cruel despicable despots. Even Nicholas II who was viewed by many as a "kindler, gentler" czar promoted massive progroms agains the Jews and was directly responsible for the death of 2 million Russians by entering World War I. I'm sure just about every Russian had some reason to hate the czar, most likely through a family member being killed or imprisoned due to actions of the regime. So I can understand the emotional need to simply try to wipe that vile and disgusting family off the face of the Earth, especially given the condition Russia was in back in 1918.

There are plenty of reasons for me to hate the Communists and what they did to my mother country, but this isn't one of them.
John Cole at BalloonJuice posts this challenge from Kevin Drum at CalPundit:

Of course, Sullivan joins the chorus of those who say that they like tax cuts, honest they do, but what they really want is to cut spending. Fine. Let's hear what you want to cut. And remember, for bonus points you have to include some programs that you yourself benefit from.)

Of course, only a liberal (or a congressperson of either party) would think that this is a difficult thing. For one thing, except for defense, there is not a single Federal Program that I consider myself to benefit from. Any benefits I get from government come at the local level (garbage, schools, water, etc). That said, there is a fair amount of waste in the Defense department that I would be happy to see cut. As a first step they can accelerate and expand on the projected list of base closings which congressional pork considerations keep open. And several weapon systems in development can also be given the boot. But considering that military spending was about the only thing the Clinton administration was happy to see cut I think cuts here would be offset by spending in other areas along the lines Rumsfeld has suggested reshaping the military.

Now that the bonus points are out of the way, lets get to cutting. I culled these from a quick once over of the 2004 Federal Budget. I am amused, looking over the budget, at the distinction between 'mandatory' and 'discretionary', since except for pensions and Social Security payments which have already been promised and therefore have some contractual claim to being mandatory, everything else in the budget is discretionary (ie exists at the whim of Congress). In fact, since SS benefits have been changed many times it is hard to even claim that they are completely mandatory.

Since I believe drugs should be legalized, the whole DEA can go. NASA hasn't done anything useful in years, scrap it and build a supercollider with some of the left over cash. Department of Energy, useless, gone. Dept of Agriculture, except for inspection services and some of the research programs, gone. End all the payments to farmers to not grow things, honey, mohair, etc, etc subsidies, export subsidies, below market loan programs. HUD, scandal ridden, useless, close it. Department of Education, worse than useless, I think it has actually worsened education, get rid of it, it should be handled at the local level anyway. Commerce department, except for small business assistance which is probably an earner because of backend tax revenue from job creation and some regulatory administrative functions the rest is useless. Dept of Transportation completely useless, except for normal road maintenance programs which are mostly handled by the states anyway and FAA safety administration, close the rest of it. Cut Amtrak loose too and stop the airline payoffs. Community and regional development programs, don't work and are mostly just pork delivery mechanisms to get local congress people re-elected. Department of Health, actually one of the few I don't have major complaints about. CDC functions and food inspections services are actually useful. But I'm sure there is a lot of waste here too that could be cut, there certainly is in Medicare and Medicaid administration. Justice Department, like I said get rid of DEA, also BATF which can be merged with FBI. I think there can also be large cuts made to congressional and executive staffs which have increased exponentially in the last 40 years.

There that was easy and I didn't even get to Social Security privatization. Now since I'm Neo, all I have to do is gain control of the Matrix, and...
You are Neo
You are Neo, from "The Matrix." You
display a perfect fusion of heroism and

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I thought there could be only one Neo? Let's fight.
You are Neo
You are Neo, from "The Matrix." You
display a perfect fusion of heroism and

What Matrix Persona Are You?
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Yup, that's me, pretty much in a nutshell.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

I wonder how I've missed getting a subscription to this magazine. Be sure to check out the Great Moments in the History of Hooch which contains such gems as:

2800 BC A brilliant isolated tribe living off the coast of Scotland begin brewing a hallucinogenic ale out of, among other things, hemlock, nightshade and cow dung. Undoubtedly prompting the first unironic usage of the phrase: "Hey, this beer tastes like shit."

30 AD Performing his first miracle, Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding, rescuing the occasion from becoming a dull affair. Christ's entourage soon doubles.

625 AD Mohammed declares alcohol is evil. Europeans wonder, "Well, what shall the Muslims do for fun?"
711 AD  Muslims invade Europe.
Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for picking up this gem.

An interesting exchange on Howie Kurtz's "Reliable Sources" this past weekend. The discussion was about the liberal-left leanings of most political drama on television. Why isn't there a conservative version of, say, the "West Wing?" Over to Howie:
KURTZ: One thing these programs have in common, conservatives are practically invisible. President Bartlett in The West Wing is a Democrat. Martin Sheen, in fact, made anti-war ads before the invasion of Iraq. "Mr. Sterling" is a California liberal based loosely on Jerry Brown. Why aren't there any Republicans?
O'DONNELL: You will never get that TV show. You'll never, ever get the Republican TV show. the Writers Guild of America, my union, is at a minimum, 99 percent leftist liberal and, like me, socialist. And we don't know how to write it. We don't.
Was there some irony there? Sure. But truth as well.

David Pogue asks 'Why hasn't the digital video recorder become the must-have, smash-hit, world-changing appliance of the digital age?". As one of the million or so DVR owners, I like Pogue and the other owners of this wonderful device am constantly evangelizing it's charms to everyone who will listen. Read the article then go order your TIVO. (I recommend getting one of the pre-hacked ones you can buy online so that you can get more than the 80 hour maximum that TIVO currently sells).

P.S. I made a convert of Max who now happily has one. Join us. Resistance is futile!
Nat Hentoff adds his support for the posthumous pardon of Lenny Bruce's 1964 NY obscenity conviction.
There are 1,700 students and staff at one Canadian high school under quarantine due to SARS. How is any of this legal? How can you incarcerate someone against their will when they are not even suspected of committing a crime? And if you consider the sickness to be a disability then isn't this a form of discrimination which I bet is just as illegal in Canada as it is in the United States?
Somehow this doesn't strike me as a good idea...there is a "Lord of the Rings" musical being planned for the London stage.
Bob Herbert is whining again, this time on the tax cuts. Most of it is just the usual drivel but then there was this passage that really annoyed me:

What the economy needs is a real stimulus that will create real jobs, not an irresponsible package of tax cuts that will inflate the portfolios of the very wealthy while starving the government of the money needed to pay for essential services and to maintain a safety net for the nation's most vulnerable citizens.

I love the phrase "starving" the government. The US government plans to spend $2.1 TRILLION of taxpayer money in 2003 alone, with "human rescources" spending (includes medicare, social programs, etc.) totalling $1.4 trillion of this. I don't think the government is starving for funds and it surely isn't because of a tax cut which will cost the government only $50 billion in revenues this year, $30 billion of which coming simply from an acceleration of previously enacted tax cuts.

And Bob, are you for the money being spent on stimulus or government welfare programs? It makes it sound like you want to have your cake and eat it too. And I don't see how increasing the budget of government welfare programs will do anything to stimulate the economy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Paul Kane has a fun article on the prevalance of dystopian visions in sci-fi cinema.

So why do they have to paint such a pessimistic picture? Dystopias have always been and always will be more popular than utopias. Films where everything goes wrong are infinitely more attractive to audiences than films in which everything goes right. You only have to consider the popularity of disaster movies for proof of this.

Without dystopias there'd be no "Planet of the Apes," no "Mad Max," no "Metropolis." "Jurassic Park" (Steven Spielberg, 1993) wouldn't have been half as much fun, and wouldn't have made so much money at the box office, if the genetically created dinosaurs had all been well behaved. No chase sequences, nobody getting eaten on the toilet....
A man suspected of masterminding the Casablanca suicide bombings has died in custody. I wonder if they have decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape (all they say is that he had heart disease and died while being transferred to a hospital, though the two statements may have nothing to do with each other).
Daniel Pipes thinks that people are wrongly thinking of Al Qaeda as a traditional top-down organization and that it is more of a federation of terrorist groups. Meaning, just because you cut off the head doesn't mean it dies. Sure some coordination might be lost but the underlying groups are still around.
Leno joke:

As you know, Canada is battling with its first case of mad cow disease. .... This is not a big deal. Canada says it's only one cow. Wasn't that Clinton's defense?
Check out Bob Geldolf's (organizer of the Live Aid concert, former punk, also played Pink in Pink Floyd's The Wall) comments on George W. Bush and his support for Africa:

Bob Geldof astonished the aid community yesterday by using a return visit to Ethiopia to praise the Bush administration as one of Africa's best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids. The musician-turned activist said Washington was providing major assistance, in contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response to the continent's humanitarian crises.

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian.

The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all."

There is a 0.3% chance that an asteroid will hit the Earth on March 16, 2880 (just in time to ruin St. Patrick's Day). Here is what scientists say will happen if the asteroid does indeed strike the Earth:

For the simulation, the researchers chose an impact site consistent with the orientation of the Earth at the time of the predicted encounter: in the Atlantic Ocean about 360 miles from the U.S. coast. Ward summarized the results as follows:

The 60,000-megaton blast of the impact vaporizes the asteroid and blows a cavity in the ocean 11 miles across and all the way down to the seafloor, which is about 3 miles deep at that point. The blast even excavates some of the seafloor. Water then rushes back in to fill the cavity, and a ring of waves spreads out in all directions. The impact creates tsunami waves of all frequencies and wavelengths, with a peak wavelength about the same as the diameter of the cavity. Because lower-frequency waves travel faster than waves with higher frequencies, the initial impulse spreads out into a series of waves.

"In the movies they show one big wave, but you actually end up with dozens of waves. The first ones to arrive are pretty small, and they gradually increase in height, arriving at intervals of 3 or 4 minutes," Ward said.

The waves propagate all through the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. The waves decay as they travel, so coastal areas closest to the impact get hit by the largest waves. Two hours after impact, 400-foot waves reach beaches from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras, and by four hours after impact the entire East Coast has experienced waves at least 200 feet high, Ward said. It takes 8 hours for the waves to reach Europe, where they come ashore at heights of about 30 to 50 feet.

Let's hope my descendants have the brains to get the hell outta Dodge if the probability of the asteroid striking starts going up.

Ronald Bailey also weighs in on the healthcare 'crisis' and has some suggestions for market based solutions.

First, how much of a crisis is it, really? Politicians typically claim that 41 million Americans do not have health insurance. Please note that lack of health insurance does not mean lack of health care. However, a new Congressional Budget Office study has found that the number of Americans who are uninsured at some point during the course of each year is 59 million. But before someone screeches that the "crisis" is 50 percent worse than we thought, the study also notes that the number of Americans uninsured over the course of the entire year is actually much lower, between 21 million and 31 million, depending on which of two surveys one accepts.

Who are the people uninsured for a year or more? It turns out that 60.5 percent are under the age of 35, and 80.2 percent are under 45. Furthermore, 86.1 percent of those uninsured for a year consider their health to be "good" to "excellent," and they are not wrong. Consider the risk of death faced by those under 35. In 2000 there were 134,419,000 Americans in this age bracket. Of the 2,404,598 Americans who died that year, 112,005 were under 35, or about 4.6 percent. Using death as a crude measure for serious health risk (can't get more serious than death), the under-35 uninsureds were risking one chance in 1,200 of dying from whatever causes in 2000. And while 60.5 percent seems like a high number, keep in mind that the rate of the uninsured among the population as a whole remained small—only 7.3 percent of those under 19 were uninsured for the whole year; the 19-24 bracket was at 14.4 percent; and the 25-34 group came in at 12.3 percent.
To the extent a crisis exists, it's because nobody in the health care "system," least of all patients, feels that they are in control of their health care arrangements. Patients feel insecure about losing their coverage first because it's tied to their jobs—either their employers will drop their benefits, or they'll lose their jobs outright. Second, while most patients say they are satisfied with their managed care plans, a significant proportion feel that such plans deprive them of control over their health care choices. Meanwhile, discouraged physicians are being turned into paper-pushers handling mass quantities of government and private health insurance paperwork, while being limited in the tests and drugs they can order for their patients. Physicians are also being squeezed by federal government restrictions on what they can charge their patients. This means that doctors typically lose money on Medicare and Medicaid patients, which forces them to raise prices on their privately insured patients to make a decent living.
Perhaps the time has come in which some brave policy makers can step forward and advocate true free market health care. Already, patients and physicians are seceding from today's barely disguised system for rationing health care, and moving to free market models. Consider the case of SimpleCare, which is spreading across the United States. In SimpleCare, patients agree to pay physicians in full on the spot. This cuts out the morass of administrative paperwork, allowing doctors to slash their fees by between 30 percent and 50 percent. Uninsured people can access SimpleCare physicians by paying an annual $20 fee. Since patients are paying up front for routine maintenance, they can afford to buy high-deductible catastrophic insurance policies to cover emergencies like cancer and heart attacks.
Holman W. Jenkins has a good piece in the WSJ today on the fantasy of 'free' healthcare.

Which brings us to today's topical absurdity, a new round of labor discord at General Electric over exactly how much health care the company will dish out to hourly workers in return for their willingness to punch the clock. No, this isn't about labor relations, GE or the dignity of work. It's about our health-care "crisis."

Any close analysis of our predicament must begin with the fact that we don't expect our employers to give us food in lieu of wages, pay our cable bill or supply us with hair spray. Why do we expect them to provide us with health care? Yet both parties are keen to revise and extend this anomaly, using taxpayer dollars or indirect tax subsidies to stimulate yet more spending on health care.

The distortion created here, ironically, goes a long way toward explaining why so many of the estimated 41 million uninsured are going without health insurance unwillingly -- i.e., they'd happily pay for a policy that met their needs at a reasonable price. Why aren't such policies available? Because so much middle-class health care is paid for by employers, politicians treat it as a free lunch: "We'll give you more health insurance (they tell voters) and it won't cost you a cent. Your employer will pay for it."

Then they pass laws expanding the cornucopia of services that must be covered, driving the cost out of sight.
We've been willing to live with this wacky system and perhaps will continue to do so indefinitely. GE's heath-care spending on behalf of its employees is up nearly 50% in four years. But let's not lose sight of how much trouble it costs us:

• The system encourages more profligate consumption than if consumers were paying directly from their own pockets with after-tax dollars (more consumption of health care is not the same thing as more health).
• It gives the fattest subsidy to those in the highest tax bracket, tilting the entire health-care economy toward providing gold-plated service to those with gold plated coverage.
• It entraps most of society in a "common pool" morass -- we're all drawing from the same insurance pool, so I better spend as much as I can because you'll be doing the same.
The latest Carnival of the Vanities is up at Dean's World.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I don't usually comment on Krugman's weekly NYT rantings, leaving that job to the specialists like Hoy, Luskin and Jottings but I haven't seen any of them cover it yet. In fact I have pretty much given up reading Krugman's columns, but I was intrigued by this weeks charge that 'right-wing ideologues' are creating a fiscal crisis to make it easier to slash Federal spending. I was intrigued because, even though I doubt that was the intention, it is such a rip-roaring, great idea. In fact Milton Friedman has long encouraged this:

"It is my view that what is important is cutting government spending, however spending is financed. A so-called deficit is a disguised and hidden form of taxation. The real burden on the public is what government spends (and mandates others to spend). As I have said repeatedly, I would rather have government spend one trillion dollars with a deficit of a half a trillion than have government spend two trillion dollars with no deficit."

So I forced myself to read it and halfway through discovered another of Krugman's famous distortions (or in this case one of his outright lies):

Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P.

I don't know where Krugman gets his history from but according to gubmint publications, in 2002 individual tax receipts were 8.3% of GDP, one only has to go back to the ancient year of 1995 to find a period in which tax reciepts were a lower percentage of GDP (8.1%). The only reason that you have to go back even that far is that tax receipts under the Clinton administration were historically high. In fact the 10.3% of GDP recorded in 2000 are the highest level on record. And the 1998, 99, 2000, 2001 levels of 9.6%, 9.6%, 10.3%, 9.9% are the highest in the history. (Note: I used percentages for individual receipts but a similar pattern applies to total receipts).
The draft text of the EU Constitution is out and looks exactly like what it is: a document designed by a large committee of bureaucrats. A combination of meaningless and vague platitudes like "The Union shall work for a Europe of sustainable development based on balanced economic growth, with a social market economy aiming at full employment and social progress." and "It shall combat social exclusion and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of children's rights." with excruciating examples of bureau-speak "Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.". As Lileks mentioned today it reminds one of the equally ridiculous 1977 Soviet Constitution which promised love and happiness for all (no mentions of the gulags). Here are some quick items that stuck out in comparison although there will be far more when the second part of the EU Constitution which includes the Charter of Fundamental Rights is out.

Soviet ConstitutionEU Constitution (proposed)
Article 3
The Soviet state is organized and functions on the principle of democratic centralism, namely the electiveness of all bodies of state authority from the lowest to the highest, their accountability to the people, and the obligation of lower bodies to observe the decisions of higher ones. Democratic centralism combines central leadership with local initiative and creative activity and with the responsibility of the each state body and official for the work entrusted to them.
1. Reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a common future, this Constitution establishes the European Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common. The Union shall coordinate the policies by which the Member States aim to achieve these objectives, and shall exercise in the Community way the competences they confer on it.
Article 34 [Equality]
(1) Citizens of the USSR are equal before the law, without distinction of origin, social or property status, race or nationality, sex, education, language, attitude to religion, type and nature of occupation, domicile, or other status.
(2) The equal rights of citizens of the USSR are guaranteed in all fields of economic, political, social, and cultural life.
Article I-2: The Union's values
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. These values are common to the Member States in a society of pluralism, tolerance, justice, equality, solidarity and non-discrimination.

In many ways the EU document is even more frightening, since the Soviet document was purely for propaganda purposes. The EU bureaucrats actually intend this document to be used as a basis for the union. As much as I respect Tony Blair for his support (and in many ways leadership) for deposing Hussein, if he insists on trying to foist this travesty on the citizens of the UK they should toss him out first chance they get.
John Hawkins describes the 'Dynamics Of A Blogosphere Story'.
Donald Rumsfeld lays out a set of core principles for building democracy in Iraq in todays WSJ.

• Assert authority. Our goal is to put functional and political authority in the hands of Iraqis as soon as possible. The Coalition Provisional Authority has the responsibility to fill the vacuum of power in a country that has been a dictatorship for decades, by asserting authority over the country. It will do so. It will not tolerate self-appointed "leaders."

• Provide security. Among the immediate objectives are restoration of law and order for the Iraqi people and provision of essential services. The coalition is hiring and training Iraqi police, and will be prepared to use force to impose order as required--because without order, little else will be possible.

• Commitment to stay; commitment to leave. The Coalition will maintain as many security forces in Iraq as necessary, for as long as necessary, to accomplish the stated goals--and no longer. Already 39 nations have offered stabilization forces or other needed assistance for the postwar effort, and that number is growing. Together, coalition countries will seek to provide a secure environment, so that over time Iraqis will be able to take charge of their country.

• Improve conditions; involve Iraqis. The Coalition is working energetically to improve the circumstances of the Iraqi people. Already, electric services in the north and south are better than they have been in 12 years and the power situation in Baghdad is improving, albeit slowly. The coalition is working to achieve rapid and visible accomplishments in other vital public services. The coalition will work to engage the Iraqi people as rapidly as possible, and give Iraqis leadership roles in the reconstruction effort--for it is their responsibility to build the future of their country.

• Promote Iraqis who share the goals of a free and moderate Iraq. In staffing ministries and positioning Iraqis in ways that will increase their influence, the Coalition will work to have supportive Iraqis involved as early as possible--so that Iraqi voices can explain the goals and direction to the Iraqi people. Only if Iraqis are engaged in, responsible for, and explaining and leading their fellow citizens will broad public support develop that is essential for security.

• De-Baathification. The Coalition will work with forward-looking Iraqis and actively oppose the old regime's enforcers--the Baath Party leaders, Fedayeen Saddam, and other instruments of repression--and make clear that it will eliminate the remnants of Saddam's regime.

• Justice for criminals. Those who committed war crimes or crimes against humanity will be tracked down and brought to justice. Mechanisms will be established to detain and screen out members of organizations that carried out the regime's repression and bring them to justice. De-Baathification may cause some inefficiencies, but it is critical to removing pervasive fear from Iraqi society.

• Repairing the social fabric. Iraq will need to find ways to heal the wounds the Baathists inflicted on the society. The experiences of Eastern Europe and other countries could inform this process.

• Property claims. Mechanisms will be established to adjudicate property claims peacefully.

• Favor market economy. Decisions will favor market systems, not Stalinist command systems, and activities that will begin to diversify the Iraqi economy beyond oil. The Coalition will encourage moves to privatize state-owned enterprises.

• Oil. The Coalition Provisional Authority will develop a plan for the Iraqi oil industry based on transparency. Iraq's oil wealth will be used and marketed for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

• Contracts--promoting Iraq's recovery. Whenever possible, contracts for work in Iraq will go to those who will use Iraqi workers and to countries that supported the Iraqi people's liberation so as to contribute to greater regional economic activity and to accelerate Iraq's and the region's economic recovery.

• The international community. Other countries and international organizations, including the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, will be welcomed to assist in Iraq. They can play an important role. The Coalition Provisional Authority will work with them to maintain a focus of effort.

• Iraq's neighbors: assistance, but not interference. Assistance from Iraq's neighbors will be welcomed. Conversely, interference in Iraq by its neighbors or their proxies--including those whose objective is to remake Iraq in Iran's image--will not be accepted or permitted.

• Priority sources of funds. In assisting the Iraqi people, the U.S. will play its role but should not be considered the funder of first and last resort. The American people have already made a significant investment to liberate Iraq, and stand ready to contribute to rebuilding efforts. But when funds are needed, before turning to the U.S. taxpayers, the coalition will turn first to Iraqi regime funds located in Iraq; Iraqi funds in the U.N. Oil-for-Food program; seized frozen Iraqi regime assets in the U.S. and other countries; and international donors from across the globe, many of whom are already assisting.

• Trial and error. The transition to democracy will take time and may not always be a smooth road. In Central and Eastern Europe, the process has taken time, but it is succeeding. Trial and error and experimentation will be part of the process. It will not be perfect. Course corrections will be necessary and should be expected. This effort will require patience by all involved if it is to succeed.

• Patience and respect for Iraq's singular character. The ultimate political outcome must be decided by the Iraqi people, within the broad principles of the rule of law, minority rights, individual liberty, and representative democracy. One ought not expect the Iraqi outcome to replicate any other system.

Another journalist exposed...

May 27, 2003

Al-Jazeera director general 'sacked'
By afp in DOHA

The director general of Al-Jazeera has been sacked, Qatari sources said, amid allegations that he worked with Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.

Mohammed Jassem al-Ali had held the top job at the controversial Doha-based Arab satellite television station since it launched in 1996.

Al-Jazeera and Mr Ali have been accused by western media of collaborating with the former regime in Baghdad, which the ex-director general visited before the US-led war, interviewing the president for an hour.

Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the American-backed Iraqi National Congress, has accused several Al-Jazeera journalists of working for Iraqi agencies based on documents allegedly found in state archives in Baghdad.

Mr Ali, who has denied the charges, could not be contacted.

A replacement was expected to be announced shortly, the Qatari sources said.

Al-Jazeera enjoyed a special status in pre-war Iraq, being allowed to work independently of the information ministry which strictly controlled foreign media.

Washington and London blasted Al-Jazeera after the network carried footage from Iraqi television of dead coalition soldiers and prisoners of war, as well as repeated images of Iraqi civilians badly wounded in air strikes.

The 24-hour news network has emerged as a rival to international media giants, notably after its ground-breaking coverage of the Afghan conflict, but its no-holds-barred coverage has also sparked rows between Qatar and several Arab governments.
Telus, Canada's 2nd largest carrier, expects to have the majority of it's long distance traffic going through it's voice over ip network by the end of the year.
The Fashionable Dictionary

Your guide to the language of pseudoscience and fashionable nonsense.

Some samples:

Exploded concept. Foolish, Platonic notion that we can get our facts straight.

A wonderful thing. Because it's the opposite of everything. You have the regular, normal, boring thing, like medicine, or scholarship, or education, and then you have the alternative kind, which does whatever the opposite is. Normal medicine relies on testing, so dear alternative medicine relies on guesswork and hunches and an inner voice. So much more spiritual.

Criticising something that I approve of.

Sharply criticising something that I approve of.

Absurd notion that observation and measurement are useful in getting to know about things (see positivism).

Very very nice thing to be. Loving and accepting of everyone, except of course linear thinkers, reductionists, determinists and anyone else whose opinions are dangerous.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Victor Davis Hanson has another great piece up at NRO.

Pick up any newspaper and the day's bombings, killings, and terror are most likely to have occurred somewhere in the Islamic world. The big, silly lie — Jews caused 9/11, the U.S. used atomic weapons against Iraq, Americans bombed mosques — has been a staple of Middle East popular culture. The hatred of Jews is open, unapologetic, and mostly unrivaled on the world stage since the Third Reich.

I think the American street — and as we have learned in the case of anger toward the French, there surely is such a thing — has finally thrown up its hands with Arab ingratitude. Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian recipients of billions of dollars in American aid routinely reply by trashing the United States, whether in the street, through government publications, or via public declarations in Arab and European capitals.

In embarrassed response, we are tossed the old bone by their corrupt leaders — "Ignore what we say publicly and look instead privately at what we do." Arab apologists claim that triangulating with and backing off from the only democracy in the region would win back their good graces; but we know that such perfidy toward Israel would only win us contempt, as we were shown to be not merely opportunistic, but weak and scared into the bargain as well.

Shiites, once murdered en masse by Saddam Hussein, now turn on the American and British liberators who alone in the world could do what they could not. Iraqis, freed by us from their own home-grown murderers, in thanks now blame us for not stopping them from robbing themselves. Our citizens are routinely blown to pieces in Saudi Arabia or shot down in Jordan, even as we are told that Americans — after losing 3,000 of their citizens to Islamist killers — are not being nice to Arab students and visitors because we require security checks on them and occasionally tail those with suspicious backgrounds. Egyptians march and shout threats to America and the West — and then whine that thousands in Cairo and Luxor are out of work because most over here take them seriously, and choose to pass on having such unhinged people escort them around the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. Have all these people gone mad?
The general causes of these Middle Eastern pathologies have been well diagnosed since September 11, ad nauseam. The Arab world has no real consensual governments; statism and tribalism hamper market economics and ensure stagnation. Sexual apartheid, Islamic fundamentalism, the absence of an independent judiciary, and a censored press all do their part to ensure endemic poverty, rampant corruption, and rising resentment among an exploding population. Siesta for millions is a time not for napping between office hours, but for weaving conspiracies over backgammon.

Class, family, money, and connections — rarely merit — bring social advancement and prized jobs. The trickle-down of oil money masks the generic failure for a while, but ultimately undermines diversification and sound development in the economy — as well as accentuating a crass inequality. Autocracies forge a devil's bargain with radical Islamists and their epigones of terrorist killers, from al Qaeda to Hezbollah, to deflect their efforts away from Arab regimes and onto Americans and Israelis. All the talk of a once-glorious Baghdad, an Arab Renaissance in the 13th century, or a few Aristotelian texts kept alive in Arabic still cannot hide the present dismal reality — and indeed is being forgotten because of it.

As is usually the case with Hanson's columns, I've had trouble deciding what parts to excerpt, just go read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

The Horsefeathers piece below contains a reference to this article about Edward Said at Frontpage by Edward Alexander and others. It is well worth reading if only for this line:

Should Said's past membership in an international terrorist organization or his bountiful production of Disneyland versions of history or his thinly-veiled antisemitism and blatant anti-Americanism have disqualified him for selection by the John Danz/Walker-Ames committee? Perhaps not: if UW were to eliminate all candidates who promoted ideas so stupid that only intellectuals could believe them, the stock of possible appointees would be seriously depleted. (Emphasis mine).

Stephen Rittenberg at Horsefeathers predicts that we will be seeing an annnouncement like this in the near future:

5/22/03 Columbia University announces appointment of the first Edward Said Professor of Anti-American and Anti-Jewish studies. Joseph Massad narrowly defeated Nicholas De Genova for the prestigious position. Columbia cited its commitment to a multicultural, inclusive faculty, especially welcoming those who despise the very liberal arts tradition it once exemplified.

While the above has not actually occurred, if and when it does it will be no surprise to those who have followed the decline of a great liberal arts university. Once the home of Lionel Trilling, Columbia is now represented by the renowned Prof. of Comparative Literature Edward Said who recently described our liberation of Iraq as follows: "I am convinced this was a rigged, unnecessary and unpopular war. The reactionary Washington institutions that spawned Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams and Feith provide an unhealthy intellectual and moral atmosphere.." He vitriolically 'explained' that America, in league with Israel, poses the greatest threat to the world, while warding off any criticism of his position by claiming the mantle of victim to a new wave of Mc'Carthyite criticism by what he so delicately refers to as "failed academics".

Follow the link and read the rest.
The true pompous nature of the French Foreign Minister exposed and fisked.
From The Telegraph U.K.

A rhyme for cheese-eating?
By Susannah Herbert
(Filed: 25/05/2003)

In the same Dominique de Villepin, the foreign minister, aristocrat and homme de lettres who has done so much to redefine French diplomacy as the art of inducing frothing fits of rage in your most powerful allies, is a brave man. This Friday, he publishes his magnum opus Eloge des voleurs de feu ("Tribute to the fire-stealers") - a remarkable 800-page analysis of the poets and the poetry that have shaped his world-view.

Now, statesmen who love poetry are two a penny. Unlike, say, the triple-decker novel or the five-act play, a poem is economical, the perfect literary form for a busy man embroiled in the cares of state. It is expected to be memorable rather than lengthy. It can be produced on scraps of paper in the most trying of conditions - during long-drawn-out negotiations, or while preparing an ambush or a battle-campaign. Lorenzo de Medici wrote poetry, as did Ho Chi Minh.

Vaclav Havel, the father of Czech freedom, has long been hailed as a genuine poet, and so, more comically, has the American Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld - whose podium riffs on the subjects of war, mortality and the limitations of human knowledge become a great deal more illuminating when laid out on the page a la e e cummings. Even the Queen, we learnt this week from her late mother's guest book, delights in the occasional lapse into verse. "To leafy Balmoral/ We're now on our way/ But our hearts will remain/ At the Castle of Mey."

But de Villepin is different. Not content with dashing off the odd alexandrine - he has published four collections of poetry - he now attempts, in this new book, to establish himself up as the heir to a highly-specific poetic and political tradition. Not for him the rueful crumpled wisdom of a W H Auden: "Poetry makes nothing happen." Instead, de Villepin sets himself squarely in the outsider school of the tortured and feverish Promethean rebel, damned by genius to perpetual spiritual agony.

His book "listens to the seed of the terrible voice which cleaves our consciences and feeds our imagination. It affirms its confidence in words, which force open the doors of mystery and give it movement and brightness". He put the final touches to the manuscript during the negotiations over the second UN resolution on Iraq. There is nothing, note, about the power of words to, er, communicate.

De Villepin cites as his ideal hero-poet Arthur Rimbaud - the patron saint of misunderstood adolescents in bed-sits around the world. His potted biography gives the general flavour - drugs, drink, doomed homosexual passion, gun-running in Africa, early death from syphilis. Villepin also names Franois Villon, mediaeval murderer on the run. And speaks highly of Gerard de Nerval, the proto-Surrealist and founder member of the Club des Hachichins, who hanged himself from a window-grating in drug-addled despair at the condition of the world.

Villepin also admires the certified madman Antonin Artaud, whose late work, characterised by delusions, hallucinations, glossolalia and violent anti-American tantrums, has been described as "a heretic's scatalogical tirade at the extreme of the linguistic lunatic fringe". According to de Villepin, both de Nerval and Artaud have been misunderstood: "They were not mad, but prophets. They saw what others did not see, their cries were luminous."

De Villepin's pronounced preference for luminous cries from the outer frontiers of intelligibility should come as no surprise to students of his political oratory - he is given to pronouncements like "I believe in the power of the truth of language" and "If there is no indignation behind the State, it doesn't work" - but it does much to explain the conduct of French foreign policy over recent months. Jacques Chirac is a bulldozer, one of the President's political friends told the Wall Street Journal recently. "And when a bulldozer is driven by a poet, the result is bound to be catastrophic."

spirit, we may laugh at the Queen's attempts at rhyme, but we should also be profoundly grateful for the banality of the dominant poetical influences on our head of state: a dash of A A Milne, a hint of William McGonagall, a flavour of Patience Strong. They may sit lower than Rimbaud, de Nerval and indeed, M de Villepin, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus - but at least they're not nuts.