Deinonychus antirrhopus: terrible claw


"In a nutshell, [Steve] is 100% unadulterated evil. I do not believe in a 'Satan', but this man is as close to 'the real McCoy' as they come." --Jamey Lee West

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© 2002 Steve Verdon


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Monday, March 31, 2003

Who Sold What to Saddam This article points out that the U.S. Military is not only looking for weapons of mass destruction, but who also violated the embargo with Iraq and helped to arm the dictator. For example, apparently some of Saddam's forces have GPS jammers.

Despite both U.S. laws and UN sanctions that prohibited all but a handful of commercial dealings with Baghdad, there have been persistent reports that companies from Russia, France, and China, among others, were breaking the embargo. And when the evidence in Iraq is analyzed, says a top Washington official who deals with trade policy, it's likely that at least a few U.S. companies will face fines or perhaps even criminal prosecution.

FERC Decides in California's Favor A few days ago the FERC decided that indeed the gaming and price manipulation in California was more extensive than originally thought and that the amount of the refunds would be larger than an earlier FERC ruling.

One factor was the price of natural gas, which was also being manipulated. This can result in massive gas prices for inefficient plants. If you have several generating stations and demand is high, supplies are low, and gas prices are high, you might very well consider firing up your combustion turbine unit and hope that it sets the market price which would be insanely high. If this occurs then you collect that insanely high price on all your generation and you can make a very nice pile of cash real fast.

The refunds will undoubtedly be in the $3 billion dollar range and maybe higher. One thing is for sure is that this is going to result in a huge legal mess and the attorneys are surely going to benefit.

In addition to the refunds Reliant and BP are at very serious risk of having their market based rate making authority revoked. This means that it is back to the old paradigm of cost of business plus a rate of return in terms of setting rates.

That last article also accuses two of California's investor owned utilities (IOUs) of gaming the market as well. The problem here is that driving up prices by these two companies would only hurt them. So the FERC staff has to argue they tried to game prices downwards...a weird thing to be complaining about. "Yes your honor, SCE and PG&E were trying to drive down prices so that they could....uhhhh....uhhhh...uhhhhh...can we get back to you?" At best this would allow the two utilities to collect their competitive transition costs (CTC, also known as stranded costs) faster, which they were allowed to collect by law anyways. Also, if the goal was to drive down prices well either they clearly failed or thank God that they did. When prices were going over $1/kWh (if you were a tyical California resident your home electricity bill would be about $500 a month if the costs were passed on to consumers) it would have been frieghtening to consider how high they could have gone.

Or as this article notes:

The utilities' failure to buy enough power in advance, leaving the ISO to cover up to a third of their needs at the last minute, is what made much of the sellers' strategies possible, FERC staff said.

The approach saved the utilities money, but the staff concluded that FERC can't order the utilities to disgorge profits, because "there are no profits to disgorge from a price-reducing strategy."

Further, I am curious as to the time frames for this, if it was near the end of 2000 and the begining or 2001 then the FERC also has to accept some of this responsability as it was the FERC that removed price caps that let prices go sky high, and refused to do anything about the situation for months. Sure both IOUs engaged in cash saving strategies...because they were bleeding cash like gutted pigs. In a matter of a few months the companies lost billions of dollars. The IOUs, the State government, the State regulatory agencies were all screaming at FERC to do something, and they sat there with their heads firmly ensconced between their buttcheeks saying, "We don't see any high prices."

U.S. Marines on the Hunt for 'Chemical Ali' Hopefully they will catch this guy. He is the general who ordered the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1988.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Adnan G. El Shukrijumah: The Next Mohammed Atta?

According to the segement I saw on 60 Minutes the FBI believes that Adnan El Shukrijumah has had training in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan (prior to 9/11) and that El Shukrijumah is in the U.S. right now. What makes him more dangerous is that he has lived in the U.S. for several years and could use this to blend in to U.S. society.

Here is another article on El Shukrijumah that indicates there might be a link between El Shukrijumah and Jose Padilla. Also that El Shukrijumah's name (or one of his aliases) surfaced in documents taken during the arrest of senior al-Qaida organizer Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Here is another article.

War Could Last Months According to that article while in one sense the war is going well, there are still unanticipated problems. Namely that the supply lines are vulnerable and there are not enough heavy units to protect the convoys. Apparently the convoys are being attacked by the Fedayeen Saddam are carrying out these attacks.

The coalition is now looking to the 4th Infantry Division whose equipment is on ships coming from the Mediteranean to Kuwait, which by itself could take over a week. Other units are heading towards the region, the 3rd Armored Cav. Regiment and the 1st Cav. Division, both coming from the U.S.

Still the old saying is that any battle plan lasts only until its first contact with reality. So that the situation is changing shouldn't be a surprise. The final paragraph basically says that the in the near term the pessimistic views will seem accurate, but will the be shown to be wrong.

One senior general at the Pentagon, listening to both sides of the argument, said he thinks that in short term the pessimists will look right, but will be proved wrong by mid-April. "There are some tough days ahead," he said. "I think this whole thing is at the culminating point. Within the next week to 10 days, we will find out about the mettle of the Republican Guard." But, he concluded, "Once we smash the Medina and Baghdad divisions, it's game over, and I think Baghdad will fall."

Will He Use WMDs? An article by James Robbins on whether or not Saddam will use weapons of mass destruction (assuming he has them). Its pretty interesting and I recommend it.

Can the Coalition deter Saddam from using these weapons? Deterrence is only possible under specific circumstances. First, the opponent has to be a rational actor. For all his faults, it would be a mistake to assume Saddam is irrational. He could not have maintained his rule as long as he has unless he was very intelligent, not to mention cunning and ruthless. But deterrence also requires that the opponent be threatened with losing something of value if he misbehaves.

The second condition is the problem. It isn't clear that he has anything to lose right now, and as the war progresses and the outcome looks more and more like Saddam will lose, he'll have even less incentive to not use whatever WMDs he might have.

Anyhow check out the article.

Another Example of DU Idiocy Granted the war is not a cake walk (and who in the Administration has said it would be?), but "having our asses handed to us"? Please. Casualities so far have been light despite the rules of engagement that are so cautious in terms of endangering civilians it is practically suicidal. The U.S. advance is currently stalled more as a result of weather than of Iraqi fighting capabilities. Also, the media seems to be rather ghoulish about the news; hanging on every coalition casualty as if it is the end of the world. But remember, the number of troops is amazingly high and the number of casualties ridiculously low so far (and hopefully it will stay that way). So saying we are having our asses handed to us is just stupid.

Democratic Underground has Turned on Clinton Clinton called on people to support the troops and the President during this time, and apparently it pissed some people at DU off. Big shock.

An Incredibly Stupid Idiot at Democratic Underground Yes, sir, thos fine Iraqi's are going to treat POWs with respect, kindness, and warmth. Why after the war I bet the POWs will want to stay because Iraq is such a idyllic place.

(Via DUMB)

Have you noticed anything fishy about the inspection teams who have arrived in Iraq? Pretty funny, go check it out.

Also check out this picture:

Brooks Brothers Suit: $680
Political Career to become Senate Majority Leader: $15 Million
Using the wrong hand while repeating the Pledge of Allegiance: PRICELESS!

Now, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the photo is doctored, but I still find it mildly amusing.

Yep it has been been digitally manipulated. Close inspection shows that the suit is also backwards, and if Daschle really was using his left hand...where is his wedding ring?

The Monty Hall Problem This is an old problem, that many might have seen before, but amazingly enough it still stumps people. Here is the problem.

You are on the game show Lets Make a Deal, and Monty has picked you as the contestant. He tells you that there is a new car (worth $35,000) behind one of the doors, and that the other two have nothing behind them. You are to choose between door number 1,2, or 3.

Now after you select a door, Monty says, “I am going to open a door that does not have the car behind it, and afterwards you’ll have the option of switching or sticking with your original choice.” Monty then opens one of the two doors you did not pick. Do you switch or stick?

Shockingly enough, most people elect to stick with their original choice even though switching is always the preferred strategy. In this case if you “stick” your chance of winning is 1/3, but if you “switch” your chance of winning is 2/3. So you should always switch because it always results in a higher probability of winning.

Here is how you should think of the problem. When facing the three doors your probability of getting the right door is 1/3. The probability that the car is behind one of the doors you didn’t pick is 2/3. Now when Monty opens one of the two doors you didn’t pick he is eliminating that door so the unopened door you did not pick has a 2/3rds chance of having the car behind it.

If that doesn’t work for you consider a revised version of the problem. Suppose that there are 1 billion doors. Now it seems to me no matter what door you select it is probably the wrong door. Thus it follows that one of the 999,999,999 doors you didn’t pick has the car. Now of those 999,999,999 doors Monty opens 999,999,998 of them revealing that the car is not behind them. Your initial pick is probably still wrong because Monty hasn’t told you anything about your door, but he has told you a Hell of a lot about the 999,999,999 you did not pick. You should switch in this case.

If this still does not convince you, try writing and then running a computer program that will simulate the 3 door game. Others have done it and it confirms that switching is preferred…always.

Now if all this still does not convince you…you really don’t understand probability at all and I’d advise you to never engage in games of chance with a potential for large losses.

Update I: Here is another way of demonstrating that switching is always better. Suppose you select door number one (denoted D1, doors numbered 2 and 3 are D2 and D2 respectively). So now, you have selected D1. The probability that D1 is the winner is

P(D1) = 1/3.

Now, lets look some conditional probabilities. What is the probability that Monty will open D2 given that the prize is behind D1 (Denote this as D1*) and that you picked D1?

P(D2|D1*,D1) = ½.

By the fact that

P(D3|D1*,D1) + P(D2|D1*,D1) = 1

We know that

P(D3|D1*,D1) = ½.

Now suppose that the prize is behind D2* what is the probability that Monty will pick D2 given that you picked D1?

P(D2|D2*,D1) = 0.

Thus, we also have

P(D3|D2*,D1) = 1.

Similarly if the prize is behind D3 then the probabilities are

P(D2|D3*,D1) = 1,


P(D3|D3*,D1) = 0.

Now using Bayes theorem we can calculate the probability of the D1*, that the prize is behind D1 given that Monty opens D2 (to simplify the notation I am going to remove D! from the right hand side of the conditioning symbol, |).

P(D1*|D2) =[P(D1)* P(D2|D1*)]/[P(D2|D1*)*P(D1) + P(D2|D2*)*P(D2) + P(D2|D3*)*P(D3)]
= (1/6)/(1/2)
= 1/3

Thus, the probability that D3 is the winner given that D2 is opened is

P(D3*|D2) = 2/3.

Since the selection of D2 as the door being opened and D1 as the door the contestant picked are arbitrary the result holds in general.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Sorry for Light Blogging Real life has me rather busy.

No Liberal Bias at All in the Press Nope, none at all.

Okay, that's a little flip. Sure there are examples of bothe "liberal" and "conservative" biases, I just happen to think the former outweighs the latter. Anyhow, check out that post by Prof. Volokh. It notes that first the headline is misleading. Only 38% of Those Polled Said the War is Going Very Well, or something like that was the title. The problem is that the 38% is actually the percentage who said the war is going very well. Second, they don't tell you in the article the percentage who think the war is going well (from fairly well to very well). Go check out Volokh's post for that number...its rather high. An the AP article is bordering on propaganda, IMO.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Support for the War Still High According to the article it is around 70%.

An avowed leftist, Alan Thomas, 33, doesn't like Bush, but he believes in the war. "I don't support the president. I'm skeptical about his sincerity in wanting democracy in Iraq. But I feel he's committed to it," Thomas says.

Thomas works the night shift in a group home for mainstreamed developmentally disabled adults in Kirksville, Mo. He's the son of college professors. He and his wife, Kate, 27, live in an apartment and drive a 1989 Chevrolet van. They have two mutts rescued from the humane society. They also run a small shop that sells things they think are cool, such as bumper stickers that read "Bush/Cheney: America's Second Choice."

"I'm sympathetic with the plight of the Kurds and the Iraqi people," Thomas says. "And I'm disappointed in, and embarrassed by, the left."

Yeah its only one guy, but still with 70% support this means many Democrats support the war as well.

And Even More Stupidity from Democratic Underground Yeah, I know its DU so its like shooting fish in a barrel. Still it can be humorous to see what passes for "enlightened discussion" on BBs for the far left.

Some good quotes:

I was thinking he'll nuke our troops, blame N.K. for the nuke, and...claim Al Qaeda smuggled it into Iraq.

Rummy said the use of nukes was still on the table I firmly believe that the only "Plan B' these criminals came up with is "nukem!"
--Walt Starr

Only if Ariel tells him its ok They might be downwind, and he would care about Israel, but not a hoot about the rest of the M.E.

New Heights in Stupidity at Democratic Underground So far it is only a one post thread so it is a quick read.

Another Big Shock Iraqi troops feign intentions of surrendering only to open fire on coalition forces and have been fighting in civilian clothing. Great, now this makes it more likely that civilians will get shot by jump coalition forces and that troops that actually are surrendering will be killed. I have little doubt this will somehow be blamed on Bush by some of the more wild-eyed anti-war crowd.

No Chemical Weapons at Najaf Apparently no chemical weapons were found and the plant was abandoned long ago.

Update I: The Financial Times has a similar story.

Forces from the US 3rd Infantry Division occupied the 100-acre site. According to military officials, the site is surrounded by an electric fence and the buildings within it are camouflaged, raising suspicion that it was still in use. However, a Pentagon official said on Monday that the site had probably been abandoned some time ago.

The Arab League Condemns the Invasion of Iraq Not a big surprise here. I also note the part near the end of the article

Although public opinion in most Arab countries is strongly opposed to the American-led attack, some Arab governments are opposed, openly or in private, to Saddam Hussein.

I wonder how many nations voted to condemn the war, but secretly the governments want to be rid of Saddam?

Light Blogging Today Sorry, but real life intrudes....

Sunday, March 23, 2003

DUMB is Back For the latest fecal droppings from Democratic Underground check out D.U.M.B. Nothing is too outrageous for Democratic Underground! The soldier who may have thrown a handgrenade into officers tents and then opened up with small arms fire? A set up. Potential chemical weapons factory, a lie started by those wiley jews.

Huge Iraqi Chemical Arms Factory Found Well maybe.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces on Sunday found what they believe to be a "huge" chemical weapons factory near the Iraqi city of Najaf, about 100 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. networks and the Jerusalem Post reported.

I know those who oppose the war will point out that this means nothing. Short of finding a nuclear bomb with the timer ticking, I expect nothing will dislodge them from their position on the war.

Update I: Apparently the Pentagon is downplaying the discovery.

"Media reports are premature," the US Central Command said, in a brief statement read by Pentagon spokesman Major James Cassella. But he added: "We are looking into sites of interest."

Oi! The same source is not saying that US official says "huge" Iraqi chemical weapons factory discovered: report. Which is it guys, premature or not. Actually, this article is pretty much the same with nobody saying it is a chemical arms plant for sure.

This article points out that Special Operations Forces in western Iraq have found documents that might point to chemical/biological weapons caches in Iraq.

Michael Moore: Liar This review of Bowling for Columbine indicates that Michael Moore is a liar of the first order. It is sad that this mendacious slackwit is probably going to win an Oscar for this supposed "documentary".

1. Lockheed-Martin and Nuclear Missiles. Bowling for Columbine contains a sequence filmed at the Lockheed-Martin manufacturing facility, near Columbine. Moore interviews a PR fellow, shows missiles being built, and then asks whether knowledge that weapons of mass destruction were being built nearby might have motivated the Columbine shooters in committing their own mass slaying. After all, if their father worked on the missiles, "What's the difference between that mass destruction and the mass destruction over at Columbine High School?" Moore intones that the missiles with their "Pentagon payloads" are trucked through the town "in the middle of the night while the children are asleep."

Soon after Bowling was released someone checked out the claim, and found that the Lockheed-Martin plant does not build weapons-type missiles; it makes rockets for launching satellites.

Moore's website has his response:

"Well, first of all, the Lockheed PR people would disagree with your use of the term, "missile." They now call their Titan and Atlas missiles on which nuclear warheads were once (and still are but in less numbers) attached, "rockets." That's because the Lockheed rockets now take satellites into outer space. Some of them are weather satellites, some are telecommunications satellites, and some are top secret Pentagon projects (like the ones that are launched as spy satellites and others which are used to direct the launching of the nuclear missiles should the USA ever decide to use them)."

So Moore admits he is a lying sack of excrement. The movie also has the follow segment

Weeping children outside Columbine, explaining how near they had come to death and how their friends had just been murdered before their eyes;

Cut to Charlton Heston holding a musket over his head and happily proclaiming "I have only five words for you: 'from my cold, dead, hands'" to a cheering NRA crowd.

Cut to billboard advertising the meeting, while Moore in voiceover intones "Just ten days after the Columbine killings, despite the pleas of a community in mourning, Charlton Heston came to Denver and held a large pro-gun rally for the National Rifle Association;"

Cut to Heston (supposedly) continuing speech... "I have a message from the Mayor, Mr. Wellington West, the Mayor of Denver. He sent me this; it says 'don't come here. We don't want you here.' I say to the Mayor this is our country, as Americans we're free to travel wherever we want in our broad land. Don't come here? We're already here."

But as the link indicates this is riddled with inaccuracies and Moore's own misrepresentation. First the NRA Denver meeting was just that an annual meeting not a pro-gun rally, and the date was fixed well in advance of the Columbine tragedy. Second, the NRA cancelled many events, but was unable to cancel the annual meeting because corporate law requires such a meeting. Heston's comments about "cold dead hands" was from a speech a year after Columbine in another state. As for the speech Heston gave in Denver shortly after the Columbine shootings here is what Moore did:

Moore's fabrication here cannot be described by any polite term. It is a lie, a fraud, and quite a few other things. Carrying it out required a LOT of editing to mislead the viewer, as I will show below. I transcribed Heston's speech as Moore has it, and compared it to a news agency's transcript, color coding the passages. CLICK HERE for the comparison.

Moore has actually taken audio of seven sentences, from five different parts of the speech, and a section given in a different speech entirely, and spliced them together, to create a speech that was never given. Each edit is cleverly covered by inserting a still or video footage for a few seconds.

First, right after the weeping victims, Moore puts on Heston's "I have only five words for you . . . cold dead hands" statement, making it seem directed at them. As noted above, it's actually a thank-you speech given a year later to a meeting in North Carolina.

Moore then has an interlude -- a visual of a billboard and his narration. The interlude is vital. He can't cut directly to Heston's real Denver speech. If he did that, you might ask why Heston in mid-speech changed from a purple tie and lavender shirt to a white shirt and red tie. Or why the background draperies went from maroon to blue. Moore has to separate the two segments of this supposed speech to keep the viewer from noticing.

Moore then goes to show Heston speaking in Denver. His second edit (covered by splicing in a pan shot of the crowd at the meeting, while Heston's voice continues) deletes Heston's announcement that NRA has in fact cancelled most of its meeting:

Go to the link and read it. Its pretty amazing that Moore has gotten away with this and is likely to win an Oscar.

(Via Ricky West)

U.S. Soldiers Captured by Iraqi Forces Soldiers from a manintence unit went astray and have been captured. Early reports indicate some of the P.O.W.s may have been executed and the appearance of the soldiers indicate two are wounded.

Update: Jesus Gil actually saw the Al Jazeera report. (Via Jane Finch at the Daily Rant)

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Dean is Doing Yoeman's Work over at the Daily Rant Jane Finch has posted another article on how the war with Iraq doesn't look like a war of self-defense. The problem is it was never presented as "attack Iraq or soon they'll invade." The case for war was that

1. Iraq aided, trained, and financed terrorists.
2. Iraq has sought weapons of mass destruction.

These two make Iraq a general threat to just about everybody (including other muslim states). Further, this is a danger in the making. Leaving Saddam alone and simply "containing and deterring" him would give him time to re-start his nuclear program. Once that is complete the problem is completely different than it is today.

Update I: Robert Crawford has a couple of good observations.

Alex Knapp on the Iraq al-Qaeda Link A very long post that puts in one place many of the arguments and evidence that there is a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. I have to admit, it is quite persuasive. The idea that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda would not work together due to religious differences always struck me as weak. Alex points out that Iraq is known to support Hamas and Hezzbollah both of which are radical Islamic groups. Anyhow go read it.

The Lessons of 9-11 Over at the Daily Rant Jane Finch has posted an article that points to the lessons of 9-11. The article fits perfectly with much of the liberal rhetoric of late. Basically that we need to run around and build things like hospitals and schools so that the rest of the world will love us. Of course, this is pure bunk since Osama does not hate us simply because the U.S. has a large military, he hates the West because the west is counter to his view of Islam.

Anyhow some of the claims in that article deserve response, IMO and since Jane has told me in the past to do it on my blog and not there...I will.

911 proved that terrorists do not need to purchase any weapons of mass destruction from any foreign power. They proved that they can use materials that can be readily obtained in the US. Therefore, the US cannot prevent such attacks by disarming Iraq, the axis of evil, or any other country. Had we disarmed every single country in the world, it would not have prevented 911 because the terrorists used US-made and US-supplied weapons. So disarmament of foreign powers is not a credible solution to this new threat.

Not true. The attack on 9-11 did not use our own weapons against us. The airliners that were turned into weapons are not weapons like a missile or a handgun. The terrorists took non-weapons and used them in a very destructive manner. This kind of thinking leads to just about everything being a weapon. After all if you stab somebody a sufficient number of times with a pencil or in the right places you will kill them. Do we now classify pencils as weapons, no of course not. Referring to the kind of moronic logic that has airport security confiscating miniscule plastic toy guns that come with the little army men children play with.

Further, that the terrorists were able to turn non-weapons into weapons does not mean they are not trying to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, and are not willing to use them. In subsequent terrorists attacks conventional means have been used that are weapons. You know things like explosives such as the one in Bali.

After every terrorist incident involving the use of aircraft, we increase security. Yet the attacks still happen. We do it over and over increasing security every time and every time we find that there are holes that can be exploited. 911 proved increasing airport security didn't work. So we increased it again after 911. Yet, a few weeks ago, my local TV station was easily able to pass a lead lined bag without inspection past security at San Jose and San Francisco airports. So if we haven't been able to solve that problem after 911, it is doubtful we ever will. But the point of 911 is that terrorists know where the security weaknesses are and will exploit them. So increasing security is not a credible solution to this new threat.

I actually agree with this, but not in the way Jane or the original author probably intended. I say, arm those pilots who are willing to be trained with and carry side arms. Also consider letting police officers who receive the requisite training to carry their weapons onboard planes as well. When somebody tries to take over the airplane shoot them.

911 proved that we are vulnerable to people from friendly countries want us to change our behavior. bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers are from Saudi Arabia. The others were from Egypt. These countries have denied any links to Al Qaeda. Therefore, attacking governments who we believe are sinister is not a credible solution to this new threat because it is not governments of unfriendly nations that are the problem; it is the people of friendly nations that are attacking us. Even if we had completely obliterated every "unfriendly government," 911 would still have happened. In fact, it would be much more likely to have happened. Let's also not forget that the terrorists were trained by US citizens in the US to fly the US planes that attacked us.

When you want to wipe out a nest of vipers it is best to wipe out the nest of vipers and not sit around waiting for each viper to leave the nest. That is, what the policy of going after those who harbor terrorists is about. The terrorists need a safe haven to regroup, train, and plan. By depriving them of this luxury, the U.S. makes the job of the terrorists just that much harder. Also, the claim that "obliterating every unfriendly government, 911 would still happen..." is bunk. Going in and wiping out the Taliban and chasing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan could have quite possibly prevented 911.

Uh-oh, it also looks like we are going to have to classify flight schools as dangerous weapons.

If we want to stop the attacks, we must address the root cause. Specialists on bin Laden such as Milton Bearden, who headed the CIA's covert operations in Afghanistan during the 1980s when bin Laden was leading Arab volunteers to fight ''jihad'' there, noted that bin Laden's original and still preeminent goal is to rid the US military presence from Saudi Arabia. World opinion of the US has gone down since the attacks, not because people are more jealous of us, but because of our foreign policies. 911 is our "canary in the coal mine;" it is a warning sign that our international reputation is bad and that we must move to correct it or face more incidents. That means working cooperatively with other countries, not against them. We must be seen as a friend and not an enemy or a threat. Yet today, anti-American sentiment, along with hatred of all things American, is increasing, not decreasing. President Bush is viewed as no more likeable than Saddam Hussein in polls in Germany and Austria. A new poll by the Washington-based Pew Research Center indicates that the number of Europeans with a favorable image of the US has plummeted, even among the coalition of the willing. In Italy, only 34% view the US positively, compared to 70% in 2002. In Spain, only 14% have a favorable image. Even in Eastern Europe, support for the US has dropped from 80% to 50% in Poland.We are clearly moving in the wrong direction. We are expending a lot of time, money, and resources to make things worse, instead of better.

This is the "we gotta do things so they love us" rhetoric. We have a bad reputation around the world, so we need to do things to make it better. This way, people like Osama bin Laden wont attack us. The problem here is that for guys like bin Laden, there isn't anything the U.S. could do, that is reasonable, that would get him to like us. Sure, we could pull back our military, forcibly convert the entire nation to the Wahabbi version of Islam, turn U.S. women into chattel and give up many of our current practices that we enjoy, and bin Laden might decide that there are better targets. But I don't want to do this. Also, that President Bush is no more likeable that Saddam Hussein is a problem of the Germans and Austrians. If they cannot tell the difference between President Bush and a psychopath it is the Germans and Austrians that need to engage in some self-assessment.

Also, what has to be taken into account is that the Europeans are extremely weak now. A century ago Europe was where all the dominant countries were located. This weakness, IMO, is one of the things that motivates the Europeans to eschew force even to the point of ridiculousness. If you cannot effectively project force, then the thought that some other country or countries might is very frightening. So the Europeans would like to see the U.S.'s ability to project force seriously constrained by such institutions as the United Nations. This goes for other countries as well, such as China. The Europeans would prefer that problems get settled diplomatically because if things start to get rough there isn't much Europe can do. The problem with this view though is that if you take it too far you can't stop anything. You can use diplomacy as much as you want, but if the other side doesn't mind using force and perceives that force can get it what it wants, your shit out of luck.

This reminds me of something I read in Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture. In the beginning of the book, the author, Karl Friday, looks at the underlying philosophy of the Samurai.

Chinese Taoist-inspired etymology traces the origin of this latter character to the combination of ideographs for “spear” and “stop”; “bu” is thus said to have originally meant “to stop a spear” or “to end conflict.” The Japanese martial tradition, however, associates “bu” phonetically with the native term “musubu”—“to give birth,” “to bring together,” “to create,” or “to give life.” In the Japanese conceptualization then, “bu” is a proactive, constructive meaning “to bring forth peace.” Peace cannot be created through military affairs alone. In its broadest sense, therefore, “bu” also refers to agriculture, manufacture, and all other forms of production. Japanese budo posits the sword as a symbol for all the tools of these peace-creating trades,…

Now, at first one might think this supports the position Jane is taking, I don’t think it does. For one thing, it does not completely disavow military affairs having a role in bringing peace about. If you have no weapon, cannot fight, and will not fight then you are completely helpless when confronted by a thug. At the same time the U.S. should not be focusing just on military matters alone, but also on productive issues as well. One problem with this though is many on the left view this as bad as well. International trade is bad because it benefits “trans-national corporations,” it exploits the people in third world countries, and is nothing more than a tool for U.S.’s “hegemonic foreign policies.”

Also the approach where we focus on these peace-creating trades wont work with people like Osama bin Laden. He indicated that he does not want to go in that direction on 9-11. Trying to negotiate with him is futile and will only result in more attacks as he will perceive the U.S. as weak and ineffectual. Similarly with Saddam Hussein; I have little doubt that Saddam believes he won the first Gulf War. He “won” in that the U.S. and the coalition did not remove him from power. That he effectively stared down George H. W. Bush. It is clear that he was using the diplomacy as a stalling/waiting game hoping that he could stall long enough so that the U.S. would lose interest or would capitulate to the idea of multi-lateralism which would pretty much ensure not only his survival, but that he could continue with his program to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration seems to have never learned the lesson of "Playground Psychology." Most children learn pretty quickly that if you constantly bully others and try to use force to influence their behavior towards you, eventually those others will retaliate - in many cases this leads to an escalating cycle of violent behavior. Children who go on to be successful very quickly learn that the way forward is to work hard and build trusting, mutually beneficial relationships with others. Children who don't learn this usually don't get far in life. The comparison here is obvious.

The 911 attacks were a predictable result of US/Western foreign policy over the past 50 years. Money and might has been used to support regimes which suppress freedom in parts of the world where stability is a requirement in order to ensure continuity of western energy (i.e., oil) supply, and what happened is probably mainly a result of this.

The other aspect of “Playground Psychology” is that if you don’t stand up for yourself you will continue to be picked on. Lets be clear about this, the U.S. has been attacked quite a few times prior to 9-11 and the response was fairly limited. Finally there was a big attack that cost thousands of lives and the U.S. is responding now. War has been declared and not by the U.S.

Further, the notion that it is “Money and might has been used to support regimes which suppress freedom in parts of the world…” is part of the problem is laughable. Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong-il are not freedom fighters fighting against oppression, they either are the oppressors or will be the oppressors if they win. I find it extremely amusing that so many leftists seem to turn a blind eye to the horrors inflicted upon women by the Taliban, a group that basically practiced Wahabbism.

This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been mistakes with U.S. foreign policy, but to make it out that the U.S. is the greatest threat is rather comical.

The final paragraph indicates the thinking of the author (not Jane Finch)

Ironic isn't it? In the same way, they used our airplanes to kill our people and devastate our economy, now they are using our own government to kill our people and devastate our economy on a scale 10 times larger than the original attack. In addition, they are using our own government to increase the chance of future terrorist attacks on America. All with the majority support of the American people!

The core value of America is freedom. But the terrorist have also leveraged our own government into taking away our freedoms at home, via the Patriot Act and Patriot II.
The terrorists have won.

They have successfully convinced America to attack itself

Kill our own people? Devastate our own economy? Simply astounding that anybody can conclude this. Where are these killings of our own people (a killing of Americans that is an order of magnitude larger than 9-11)? Our economy is not doing great, this is true, but the problems with the economy started before 9-11 and probably would be about as bad. Correcting for a bubble economy can be long and painful.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Stratfor's Long Term Analysis of Iraq Bill Quick has a long term analysis of the war with Iraq from Stratfor up, I strongly recommend it.

The U.S. has Launched its First Strike 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles and F117 stealth fighters have struck at a target near Baghdad in hopes of killing several senior Iraqi leaders. According to ABC this was a target of opportunity.

Update I: Looks like this is an isolated attack and not the big bang.

Update II: CNN on the strike.

Blix the Contortionist: Puts Foot in Mouth Up To Knee

United Nations, March 19 - Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix said Tuesday that if Iraq had chemical or biological weapons, concern about world opinion would probably prevent it from using them against attacking US troops.

He told a news conference that Iraq was "capable of building warheads" to carry toxins, but said it was an open question whether it had the weapons.

Gee, I thought they weren't supposed to have any chemical or biological weapons. Covering his ass?

At another point, he expressed frustration that the inspections were cut short after less than four months on Monday, when the United States and Britain decided to bypass the United Nations and disarm Iraq by force.

Gee, call me whacky, but wasn't Saddam and his government supposed to provide a list of all the chemical and biological weapons that it had? Failure to do so is a material breach of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, is it not? Would the good Mr. Blix admit, that if chemical or biological weapons are used, that he was wrong to take the positions he did? Some how I doubt it.

Krugman Watch I haven't done one in a while, and there isn't much need with Robert Musil is on the job. Check out his latest shredding of Herr Doktorprofessor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Ho, ho, ho...What Chemical Weapons? Why those chemical weapons. Although it according to the article the intelligence is raw intelligence and is hard to confirm. So take it with some salt.

"The information is raw … and hard to confirm ... but we are seeing -- using different methods -- that Saddam Hussein has armed troops south of Baghdad with chemical weapons," one official said.

Still if Saddam does use chemical or biological weapons it will pretty much indicate that Bush is right and that France, Germany, and the protestors had their heads completely ensconced in their large colons.

Update I: Another article indicating that chemical weapons use is likely. I sure hope not. I hope they find any chemical weapons sitting safely waiting to be destroyed, not used.

Saddam's Strategy: Cheat & Retreat An interesting article that offers some speculation as to what Saddam's strategy will be. For example, the author suspects that Saddam will initially try to slow down coalition forces with a flood of refugees. According to the author Saddam has moved his IV Army Corp to the Iranian border, thus shutting off that direction for refugees; leaving only the south as the direction to flee. He also notes that Saddam's strategy is to play for time hoping that the U.N. will call for a ceasefire if things take a long time and many civilians start to get killed (mostly by Saddam).

The third goal of the plan is to maximize civilian casualties in the hope of shocking world public opinion, especially in the United States, into even stiffer opposition to the war. This is why Saddam has positioned almost all of his best assets in densely populated areas. Antiaircraft guns, heavy artillery pieces, and tanks are stationed inside cities, including in mosque, hospital courtyards, and school playgrounds.

To get at these assets the coalition forces will have to go into these densely populated areas, and such actions will likely result in civilian casualties. Personally, I wouldn't even be surprised if Saddam fired on his own civilians. After all if he loses it wont matter much to his fate, if he "wins" (i.e. stay in power) then who is going to do anything about such an atrocity? Nobody. Large numbers of civilians casualties will look bad. Initial reports probably will be unclear as to who is to blame, and I wouldn't be surprised if Chirac and other French politicians immediately blamed coalition forces.

Most Iraqis regard al-Majid as a psychopath who is capable of killing large numbers of civilians and blaming all on the coalition forces.

Here is the Humans Rights Watch on Chemical Ali (al-Majid). Here is's take on Chemical Ali.

That's where Ali Hassan Al Majid comes in. To his colleagues, he is General Al Majid. To ordinary Iraqis, he is "Chemical Ali," the man who loves to gas his own people or anybody that gets in his or Saddam's way.

Here is another article on Chemical Ali. What a swell guy.

I sure hope George Bush does not consider returning to the U.N. until Saddam is either in the custody of coalition forces, dead, or outside the country (along with all his advisors, sons, and other family members). To do so would be a huge mistake.

Monday, March 17, 2003

The New York Times Admits Paul Ehrlich was Wrong?!?!?!?!?!?!? I had to run to the window to see if dogs and cats were living together in harmony. I mean what took the New York Times so long? Was it the failure of a nuclear war to occur during the 80's in the great war over resources that....wait? You mean there wasn't a great war? Really? Wow, I guess Ehrlich was wrong. Who'd a thunk it.

Oh well, better late than never I guess.

Via Instapundit.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Atrios the Mendacious Atrios asks why do they hate America after reading a letter to the editor. The letter reads:

If I were given a choice of pressing one of two buttons - one to do away with terrorism or another to do away with those Democrats up in Washington - I wouldn't even have to think about it. I would do away with the Democrats, and do this country a favor.

Atrios, this guy doesn't hate America he seems to have some issues (to put it mildly) with Democrats. Now, his view is not one to be endorsed and I don't endorse. Further, I am wondering if it isn't perhaps some hyperbole and not something the guy would actually do.

This "why do they hate America" further underscores the mendacity and hypocrisy of Atrios. Here Atrios quotes approvingly those who decry Republicans who question the patriotism of Democrats. Here he mentions in a disapproving way calling Max Cleland's patriotism into question. Here Atrios quotes another approvingly where the term Moron-American is used. Here is another one where Atrios points to the questioning of an opponents patriotism as being bad.

But this post by Atrios is the most revealing of his mendacity and hypocrisy. A few months ago Ted Barlow made a big stink about the venom coming from the Right. He wasn't happy that if you opposed war in Iraq you were labelled unpatriotic. I agreed with him, but also pointed out that the Left had been using pretty venomous rhetoric on other topics, such as claims that Republicans want to let the elderly die.

It's easy and sloppy to tar people in self-identified groups with the worst actions of their worst people. It's easy to say "conservatives this" and "liberals that," and when one side does that it is easy for the other side to cry foul.

Yes Atrios and you are one of the best at it.

But, the problem with the post by Bill Quick which started off the latest round in this endless discussion is not that he said that liberals and Democrats are all stupid, or mean, or even corrupt and evil. It's that he, in effect, said that everyone who pulls the 'D' lever at the ballot box hates America, hates the constitution, hates the country, wishes terrorists would eat all of our babies, and wishes that America were completely different from the ideals it has had since its founding. In short, he incorporated the standard meta-narrative of conservative discourse for decades - liberals and Democrats are unpatriotic.

Yes, but it is okay for Atrios to say that people hate America or are brownshirts or that if they pull the 'R' lever they are morons. I know Atrios will use the lame defense, I am just using their rhetoric to get back at them (I don't buy it though, I think Atrios is dead serious with that question "Why do they Hate America So?"). Well Atrios if it is wrong for Bill Quick to do it, it is wrong for you to do it. Or are you a 9 year old? "Buuuuut Mom, hee did it first, I was just getting him back!" If you are a 9 year old you need to be sent to your room without your computer. In any event, it makes your whining right here particularly laughable

This charge is particularly powerful and sinister because it is made in an attempt to undermine the ability of 50+% of the country to even have a say. No I'm not crying censorship (so stop saying that!), but if you impugn the patriotism of 'the other side' you destroy their ability to enter into the fray of political discussion. If what you say is motivated by a hatred of America, then you of course should not be listened to.

Yes, don't use "Why do they Hate America So" unless of course you are a liberal Democrat like Atrios.

I won't call Bill Quick a fascist.

No, but you'll call a bunch of other people brownshirts.

The problem is not simply that the Right employs nasty rhetoric, it is that a common undercurrent of the rhetoric is that liberals wish to destroy all that makes our country great. Tell us we're wrong, tell us we're stupid, but don't tell us that our belief that going to Iraq is perhaps the wrong way to go about the "war on terror" arises out of our desire to see the terrorists win. Don't tell us that our concern for civil liberties springs from the same desire. And, definitely do not pretend you have a monopoly on patriotism, good works, love for country, flag, constitution, mom, and apple pie.

I guess Atrios doesn't believe this anymore. I guess he said, "Aww fuck it. I'm done trying to raise the level of debate, I'm just going to use their tactics against them!" Yeah that is one way to show those on the Right how to act. Snivelling, lying, hypocrite.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Atrios the Gullible? Atrios posts a note from a reader who claims to have wittnessed about 20 or so San Francisco police officers beating 6 to 10 protestors on a busy downtown street at 4 P.M.

Problem is it doesn't seem to have shown up anywhere in the media.

Not here, here, here, here, here, here, or here. As far as I can tell this event of 20 police officers beating half as many protestors did not happen.

Now, I am highly skeptical of this story. Look at the time, 4:00 PM. If San Francisco is anything like Los Angeles at that time it is elbow to elbow with people. I find it highly unlikely that there would not be one peep about this story and zero pictures or video. I suppose it is possible something could pop up a few days later, but I think it is unlikely. I think somebody sent Atrios a false report from San Francisco and since it fit with Atrios' view of the world he published it.

This article actually mentinos 4th and Market which is near the location the letter claims the event took place. Still nothing on a small group of protestors getting beaten down by a gang of cops.

Of course Atrios will probably claim there is some sort of conspiracy here between the cops, the media/reporters, Rev. Moon, and the White House.

Update: My wife said I should add Tony Blair to the list of conspirators.

Update II: This article gives some more details. Still nothing on the beatings though, but there is some information on some minor attempts at vandalism.

More Hypocrisy from Atrios Here Atrios makes an oblique reference to those who wish to use their Constitutional right to not support the Dixie Chicks as being Nazis. Then later in this post Atrios chastizes pro-war prostestors for using similar language.

Now, I don't like the Dixie Chicks, can't stand country music. But if you did like them, object to what they have said over in Europe, and have decided not to support them, that is your right. Further, if you own a radio station that was playing them and decided not to play their songs, that too is your right. Calling such actions the actions of "brown shirts" is rather lame.

Global Climate Change For sometime I have had some interest in this. It is one of the "Big" environmental scares out there. Sure logging is pointed to as a problem, but it is more of a local problem. Drilling for oil is protested...but a local problem. Building houses is railed against, but again a local problem. Global Climate Change...well that is really big because it involves the entire world! We should all care about it.

The problem is that the data is, IMO (and warning here, I am not a climatologist just a guy who likes to play with data sets and I do have some skill with statistics and mathematics), not conclusive. One place to go look at some the data quickly is John Daly's site. Now John Daly is a skeptic on this issue and his take on most of the evidence is from that perspective. Anyhow, he presents lots of data to the visitors of his site. For example, the satellite data vs. surface data.

Now in lookint at that data we see a trend in the surface data that is upwards. We don't see such a trend in the satellite data from the lower troposphere. The spike in both data sets around 1998 was due to a big El Nino for that year. I remember it because that was also a year when there was a really bad heat storm in S. California. Mr. Daly also has a graph of the satellite data itself, but is too large to present here (go to his site to see it). Anyhow, again you see little or no trend when you realize that there was a big El Nino in 1998 and that we are currently experiencing another El Nino now (IIRC El Nino's come every 3 to 5 years and can vary in intensity).

Here is another thing that bothers me.

That is a graph of areal coverage by surface stations. That is, the amont of the fraction of the globe that is covered by ground stations. Notice something, it isn't constant, instead it increases then decreases. This change in coverage could be doing things to the trends in the data series. In fact, this is exactly the conclusion Douglas Hoyt has come to. That is, changes in the base year affect the trend, or read what Mr. Hoyt says:

Next we changed the base year in our calculations from 1965 to 1980 (blue line in figure above). Otherwise our calculations were identical. Note that using the 1980 base year gives lower temperatures in recent years and higher temperatures in the earlier years. Why are the results such sensitive functions to the choice of base year? The so-called "global" measurements are not really global at all. At best, they sample 40% of the globe. The coverage by land surface thermometers slowly increased from less than 10% of the globe to about 40% in the 1960's, but has decreased rapidly to less than 20% in recent years. Depending upon the base year or interval chosen, a different time history of coverage will result. This different coverage history will lead to different climate reconstructions as shown in the figure above. These differences in trends arise from differences in areal coverage which are a function of baseline interval chosen.

Remember Tuvalu, the island in the pacific that is gonig to sink beneath rising ocean levels? Well look at this graph from Mr. Daly

If there is a trend in any of those series it will be very slight and you'll need to run the data through a computer to detect it. Furthermore, one has to ask the question, lets suppose the worst is going to happen. What should we do, impose controls on all world economies (by the way, the Kyoto Protocols does not do this, countries like China and many African nations were exempt) that could run into the trillions, or do we send in the 7th fleet and evacuate the island?

Lets consider this further for a minute. Right now many on the left are clamoring about Bush's deficits due to tax cuts (lets also be honest here and note that most people who worry about the environment tend to be on the left too, although this is true for everybody). They claim that trillions in deficits over an extended period of time is bad news. Okay, lets grant them that. But this makes me wonder...why is it bad to go trillions of dollars in debt for government spending, but it is perfectly fine to impose trillions of dollars in costs to participants in the economy (i.e. you and me and everybody else) with the Kyoto Protocol? Is the potential increase in temperatures so devastating that it is worth this cost? Has anybody looked at the costs of global warming vs. the benefits?

These guys have. Here is the abstract

Economic efficiency is a major argument for the inclusion of an international emission permit trading system under the Kyoto Protocol. Using a partial equilibrium framework, energy system models have shown that implementing tradable permits for greenhouse gases internationally could reduce compliance costs associated with the emission targets. However, we show that international emission trading could be welfare decreasing under a general equilibrium framework. We describe a case of immiserizing growth in the sense of Bhagwati where the negative terms of trade and tax-interaction erects wipe out the primary income gains from emission trading. Immiserizing emission trading occurs only when there are pre-existing distortions in the economy. Simulation results based on a CGE model developed at MIT, the EPPA model, show that under an EU-wide emission trading regime the introduction of a permit trading system cause welfare losses for some of the trading countries.

Gee, this isn't the rosey picture lots of people like to present. Immiserizing growth? Yikes.

What about the likelihood of catastrophic warming. Yep, these guys look at that too. And the mean change in global temp that they get is around 2 degrees Celsius. The scary scenarios that we often hear about (like a change of 5 degrees Celsius or greater) are way the heck out on the tails and rather unlikely.

Now lets return to the Kyoto Protocols. Various developing nations were exempted from the treaty requirements. Suppose you are the owner of a large factory that is in a country that will have to cut back on GHGs (greenhouse gasses). Do you look at maybe moving the plant from its current location to one of the exempt countries? Naaawww, look at something that could save you and your fellow shareholders money? Pffft, perish the thought. Suppose the analysis indicates it would save you money? Is this treaty supposed to reduce emissions or is it a way to help out developing countries?

Now for the name change. The name was initially global warming, but when it became harder to point to areas that are warming, the advocates of global warming started talking about global climate change. The genius of this strategy is now they can point to change vs. warming. The climate is variable, and periodically new records are set (record number of hurricanes, record heat waves, record cold spells, etc.). So now the advocates of this scary issue can point to a much longer list of effects of increases in GHGs. It makes disproving the hypothesis even harder.

So I am very skeptical of this "scary" issue.

Is It Time to Fire Hans Blix Seems so. In an MTV interview Mr. Blix indicated that his greatest fear is...wait for it...Global Warming. Yep, that's right. He fears this speculative claim far more than Saddam Hussein.

Call me crazy, but I know Saddam is a nasty, dangerous psychopath (note to the woo-woo crowd, being a psychopath does not make him irrational) who has used weapons of mass destruction. In looking at some of the data on global warming...ooops sorry global climate change (more on that name change latter) I am not nearly as worried. For one, even if the worst is true, I am not convinced it will mean bad things for possibly millions of people. If the worst is true with Saddam (granted not a high probability event) it could very well mean bad things for millions of people.

As I noted in this post here Hans Blix seems to have a view of his job that really isn't that of weapons inspector, but more along the lines of peace keeper. Seems he might also have an axe to grind against the U.S. due to its reluctance to sign onto the useless Kyoto Protocols.

I think it is time to tell Blix to clean out his desk and look for a new job. Then find somebody with a pair of cajones to fill the job who will go in and actually do the job of a weapons inspector.

Update: Henry Hanks thinks this shows Blix is incompetent. Works for me, we can still fire him for that too.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Lynne Kiesling on Oil Prices Read it, especially if you are one of the people who think there is collusion going on and/or you think Bush is manipulating things all for the benefit of his oil buddies. This point is a great one

There's one other twist to the gouging theory. If market forces and competition rule the gasoline market, then how can suppliers charge more for the oil they bought months ago when prices were lower? Again, think of your house. When you sell your house, you can't charge whatever you like. But you can charge what the market will bear. And that has nothing to do with what you paid for it If war comes, and if there's no real disruption to oil supply, the price of gasoline will fall dramatically, just as it has in the past. And sellers who paid a premium for their supplies will take a loss. The fact that they paid a lot for their supplies will be irrelevant. Somehow, their alleged ability to exploit us will disappear overnight like the morning mist.

If you are complaining about gas prices and that oil companies are selling gasoline at prices well above what they paid for it a few monts ago; when you get ready to sell you house I'm sure you are going to sell it for what you paid for it.

Also, read this post as well.

Middle East Prime Ministers and the Implications for a Palestinian Prime Minister This is an interesting article that looks at Prime Ministers in the Middle East. Apparently many countries there have them and the role is for the most part very much like the U.S. Vice Presidency with the exception that the actual rulers use the Prime Minister as sort of a cut out. That is the Prime Minister is the one that implements the unpleasant policies, and if things get dicey the actual leader can fire them, thus placating the public.

The possible results for a Palestinian Prime Minister is described here:

Last June, President Bush conditioned American support for Palestinian statehood on the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership "not compromised by terror." It was clear that Bush meant chucking Arafat in favor of a new generation of reformers, committed to good government at home and peaceful resolution of the conflict with Israel. But because Bush was too diplomatic to say so explicitly, his words allowed some diehard Arafat partisans to concoct a way for Arafat to please the critics and save himself in the process: by appointing a prime minister for the Palestinian Authority.

To make the strategy more palatable, advocates argued that this would be an "empowered" prime minister. No one has ever defined what that means. But the track record of other Arab prime ministers is crystal clear.

One warning, I am not an expert on the Middle East so take it with a grain of salt.

Eugene Volokh on Declaring War Interesting post on what it takes to declare war, for instance the words "declare" and "war" are not required. Also, that the law recognizes that if a war is being fought without a decleration, then the country is pretty much at war. I think the idea is that, if the U.S. is attacked by a foe and the President orders the U.S. military to respond, the country is basically at war. It is unreasonable to expect the President to sit around on his hands waiting for Congress to pass a decleration of war.

Bush is Shredding the Constitution I have been hearing variations on that basic idea for months now. That Bush doesn't give a crap about the Constitution; that he wants to gut as much of it as possible, for apparently, his own personal power. Typically, we hear these various statements of this nature from the left, liberals and Democrats. My question is:

Where in the Hell have you been?

Is there anything in the Constitution on Universal Health Care? No. Is there anything in the Constitution about Medicare, Social Security, and agricultural subsidies? No. Why are you now just starting to rant and rave about the Constitution? Is it because you don't really give a rat's ass about the Constitution, but now find it a convenient issue with which to attack Bush and Republicans? Hmmmm?

Lets go back. Remember in your high school U.S. history class the discussion of the Depression, the New Deal, FDR and how many of his programs were being struck down by the Supreme Court as not having any basis in the Constitution? Do you remember what FDR did? He threatened to expand the number of Justices on the Supreme Court and pack it with people who would support his programs. What did the Supreme Court do? Roll over and stop opposing his programs. FDR subverted one of the checks in our system of government. He subverted the Constitution, and we see the effects today with all sorts of things being passed by Congress that really don't have support in the Constitution.

Yes, yes I know people are going to say, "Steve you idiot, look at the General Welfare clause." Okay, lets

Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Ooops, looks bad. I mean it does say "the Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, impost and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the U.S." Looks bad, maybe there is something too this. But that isn't the entirety of that section of that article of the Constitution. The rest of it reads as follows:

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;--And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Do those things "promote the general welfare of the United States"? I think they do. The power to establish post offices and post roads sure does, IMO. So does the ability to grant patents. Similarly for the courts lower than the Supreme Court.

Seems to me the general welfare clause refers to the above powers and not something like Universal Health care or Social Security. To get around this, people have argued that the Constitution is a living document. That is its meaning changes over time; you can basically read into it what ever the Hell you want too. Now, in a sense the Constitution is a living document, you can amend it. However, this is a difficult and lengthy process. So calling it a living document who’s meaning changes over time is far easier thing to do. Calling the Constitution a living document allows various people to make changes to the Constitution without actually having to amend it.

Now a response might be, “But Steve, you dolt, you are interpreting the Constitution yourself, aren’t you viewing it as a living document?” Okay, fair enough, but let me make two points in response.

1. I am not trying to stretch the meaning of the Constitution.
2. This could very well turn out to be a doubled edged sword.

Point number one should be obvious, but point number two might need some explaining. Now people who favor Social Security and who argue that the General Welfare clause is the Constitutional justification are now on very weak ground (if they are also complaining about Bush “shredding the Constitution). For Bush and those who support him can claim

1. We view the Constitution as a living document
2. We think the General Welfare Clause provides the necessary Constitutional justification for what we are proposing.

By trying to hammer everything under the sun into the General Welfare clause, it becomes meaningless. Live by the General Welfare clause…die by the General Welfare clause.

Update: Daniel Goldberg in the comments says, that a great deal of legislation gets pushed through under the commerce clause. So I thought it'd be nice to have a link to something on it and here it is. Looks like Daniel is right, lots of stuff gets through via the commerce clause.

There was also this section:

As is recounted below, prior to reconsideration of the federal commerce power in the 1930s, the Court in effect followed a doctrine of ''dual federalism,'' under which Congress' power to regulate much activity depended on whether it had a ''direct'' rather than an ''indirect'' effect on interstate commerce. 616 When the restrictive interpretation was swept away during and after the New Deal, the question of federalism limits respecting congressional regulation of private activities became moot.

What the…? Well Atrios is at it again.

Q: Sir, so as I understand your states' rights position, you believe the federal govenment should stay out of matters that have traditionally been the province of state government.

A: That's it exactly.

Q: Then you'd have serious reservations about Congress ordering state governments to institute damage caps on state court law suits which are determined under state law, as these have been matters for state courts for as long as there have been states.

A: er...well....ummmm.....I haven't really thought about that....

Q: fuck you, sir, and thank you for coming in this morning.

I’m not sure what Atrios’ problem here. With Congress imposing damage caps it hampers the ability of people to impose some sort of discipline on corporations. Imagine a corporation is looking at a question of whether or not they should issue a recall for a defective product. Now, the corporation is going to look at the costs of such a recall vs. the benefits of a recall and weigh it against not issuing a recall. With damage caps in lawsuits it is quite possible that corporations will now decide not to issue recalls in some cases and risk the litigation.

Seems rather weird for a liberal to be supporting such a position. Oh wait…I remember, for Atrios when somebody is saying they are in favor of State’s Rights they are actually saying they are racists. “They are saying a big ‘Fuck You’ to blacks.” Those code words you know. (Click here, here, and here).

Now in the last two links Atrios “claims” he doesn’t have a problem in general with State’s Rights, but I have to wonder if Atrios is really sincere in such statements. After all, he says that we could have a discussion of State’s Rights, but the above quote seems to indicate that any Republican nominee coming before the Judiciary Committee should be rejected out of hand if he or she indicates support for the notion of State’s Rights. So the issue of where the Federal Government’s power ends and the power of the State’s start is totally taboo for judges. Never mind that such an issue is right in the Constitution. Never mind, that when such issues come up it is judges who are usually the ones to try and decide the issues. Lets just never discuss it again, because as soon as you do…why you’re a racist.

Max Sawicky's Fun Fact

FUN FACT. Over the next 75 years, the present value* of tax cuts enacted and proposed by the Bush Administration is between 2.3 and 2.7 percent of GDP, or between $11 and $14 trillion. The combined shortfall in the Social Security and Medicare programs over that same period is less than 2 percent of GDP, or less than $9 trillion. The source for these calculations is this paper, summarized here.

Foregoing the 2001 tax cuts means no problem with Social Security or Medicare. Now structural reforms in Medicare would be nice because they could reduce the growth of costs, but even in the absence of such reforms all the doomsday talk about the aging of the population is just a crock.

What Max is saying, is that we don't have to worry about the shortfall in Social Security and Medicare because we can:

  1. Not lower taxes.
  2. Cut spending elsewhere to cover the shortfall in these who welfare programs.

Only one problem here, we wont cut spending elsewhere, so in fact we are most likely talking about a tax increase. But tax increases tend not to be good for growth. For one thing income taxes tend to reduce incentives to work. If your after tax wage goes down you are inclined to work less. You might not cut back on your hours worked, but you might not work as hard, take an extra few minutes on your breaks and lunch, etc. So is this a "fun" fact? I don't think so.

Soaring Oil Prices--Bush Responsible? Well I suppose it is possible, but I have a couple of problems here.

1. Who in the Hell is the independent analyst and where in the Hell is his analysis? Is there some reason not to print the guys name? Smacks of an anonymous basing an argument on such a source wouldn't be a fallacy would it? Naaawww.

2. While this might be good for Bush's oil buddies, it is bad for him as President. People don't like high gasoline prices, it tends to piss them off. And having a pissed off electorate is not a good thing if you want to get re-elected. Further, it isn't good for the economy and having a bad economy also isn't good for a President's chances at re-election.

So while this is possible, I find it a bit of a stretch. But hey, maybe Bush really is as stupid as many on the left claim (and all of his advisors, and Dick Cheney and all the other Republicans as well).

Via Lean Left.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Tapped on an Invasion in Iraq

Hawks foresee a "new dawn" in the Middle East rising out of the aftermath of a U.S. war against Iraq; doves foresee such an invasion as the "gates of hell," since they predict it will lead to a rise in Islamic radicalism and terrorism, not to mention an increase in global economic and military instability. In the upcoming issue of the Prospect -- which will hit newsstands next week -- John B. Judis makes the case for hell.--emphasis in the original

Here is my question, what do the "doves" propose as a solution to the rise in Islamic radicalism? Ignore it? I don't think that is a viable alternative. I haven't heard anything from those who oppose an invasion of Iraq on how to promote democracy, stability, modernization, and economic liberalism in the Middle East. Exactly how is this to be done?

The article by John Judis, linked in the quote above, provides no altrenatives. All he says is, "this could be bad," when you distill it down to its basics. Yeah, and not invading Iraq, should it come to that, "could be bad too." Saddam might decide, "Ahhh, the U.S. and Britain are paper tigers. Plus my good buddy Chirac will keep the U.N. paralyzed...maybe I should consider another military adventure." Oh he might not do it right away, but maybe in another 2-4 years? What then?

Saddam is a destabilizing element in the region. Granted not the only one, but he is one that is more easily dealt with.

And what is up with this Judis fellow anyways:

Of course a U.S. overthrow of Hussein wouldn't necessarily embitter the Iraqis themselves. But the specter of the United States, with Israel watching enthusiastically from the sidelines, brutally imposing its will on an Arab regime, even one unpopular with its citizens, could inspire a strong response in the Arab world that would eventually take the form of terrorism. And if an American occupation persisted in Iraq, the Iraqis, too, might turn against their would-be liberators.--emphasis added

Brutally? What the? So he thinks we are going to go in and become brutal tyrants in place of Saddam? Gee, and people wonder why some people take exception to this kind of rhetoric. Sheesh.

A final thought. By having forces in Iraq it might allow the U.S. to pull troops out of Saudi Arabia, which is one of the things that really set off al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. This, it seems to me, would help reduce future terrorism.

Peace Demonstrator? Doesn't sound like it to me.

Police early Wednesday arrested a 19-year-old woman who witnesses said showed up at the memorial late Tuesday, claimed responsibility for burning some of the flags and pushed Chandler while saying the memorial endorsed the looming war in Iraq.

Jennifer Quintana, whom police identified only as an Orange County resident, was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and released....

"It's an American flag, obviously it has everything to do with the war," she told the crowd. "There should be no war, just peace and togetherness."

Yeah man, peace and hold still while I push you around.

Via Instapundit.

Safire on the China-France-Iraq Connection A possible explanation for France and China's reluctance to authorize the use of force through the U.N.

Via the Volokh Conspiracy. Alsok Prof. Volokh's word of caution on the veracity of the information should be noted.

Ricky West Yet Again! Now that's funny.

More Evidence that Atrios Doesn't Read his Own Links Atrios' first link not only explains why being above the 400,000 mark is bad (it indicates a detiorating labor market), but another paragraph down it presents the data in Atrios' second link about the decline in retail sales.

Hypothesis: Atrios reads just the headlines and maybe the first paragraph then moves on.

Deception from Atrios In this short post Atrios gives the impression that the U.S. Senate is trying to ban abortions even if your wife's life might be in danger. In reading the article though this is not the case. The linked article first notes that the Senate voted in favor of abortion in general (now granted this wasn't unanimous, but it was greater than a simple majority).

Abortion rights advocates scored one victory during the day, when the Senate voted 52-46 in support of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade (news - web sites) ruling that gave women the right to end their pregnancies.

But that was a nonbinding verdict with no legal effect. And on the skirmishes that counted, abortion foes were in command.

The big fight was and is over what are called partial birth abortions. Partial birth abortions are abortions late in the pregnancy typically late in the second trimester. Now, I have read that in some cases these types of abortions are done even in the third trimester. The procedures are rather disconcerting. It entails, based on my reading of this, inducing a breech deliver with forceps, pulling the fetus' body out, then using scissors to punch a hole into the base of the skull where a suction currette is used to vaccuum out the brains of the fetus. The fetus is alive, it shows signs of feeling pain and struggles. It is, in my opinion, a very questionable procedure and one that I would rather not be performed save in instances where the life of the mother is in doubt (I also don't object to abortion for rape, but I don't think a rape victim is going to wait 5, 6, or 7 or more months to get an abortion). I am also in favor of abortion in general, I just find this type of abortion very questionable. I don't see it as being all that much different than delivering the fetus then strangling it with its own umbilical cord.

Maybe Atrios thinks abortion right up to the 9th/10th month is fine, but I don't. Further, the article does not support Atrios' assertion that abortions would be banned even in the event where the mother's life is at risk.

The day's events reflected hardened political lines on abortion, an issue that Sen. Richard Durbin (news, bio, voting record), D-Ill., said was dividing America as deeply as slavery did in the 19th century. The Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women had the right to abortions.

Durbin authored the proposal to ban a wider range of late-term abortions, but it drew opposition from abortion foes and abortion rights supporters as well.

It would have prohibited abortions after the point that the fetus could survive outside the mother, tempered by an exception in cases that threaten a mother's life or "risk grievous injury to her physical health."--emphasis added

Either Atrios didn't read the article (he is ignorant) or he did and decided to phrase his post the way he did (i.e. he is dishonest).

Update: Senate passes ban on late term abortions.

Update II: People are getting confused here I think. This is the article Atrios linked too yesterday that he is misrepresenting. It is not the same as the article I have linked to in the first update.

Further, I am now fairly convinced that Atrios is not being purposefully deceptive, but it is a function of the fact that Atrios does not read the articles he links too, he seems to stop reading at the second paragraph at most. His appearance of deception is due to his ignorance.

Update III: In looking at the news reports on the bill passed today, it seems to only contain language providing and execption from saving the life of the mother. I think this is not good and would rather have the broader exception that includes the health of the mother. I am also not impressed with the claims that the mother's life is never in danger. While it maybe true so far, who knows what could happen down the road.

Update IV: People (Atrios commentors/readers) are still confused. I am pointing out that Atrios misrepresented the article he linked to yesterday. Since the article was from yesterday it cannot be about articles today or bills passed by the Senate today. Now if this isn't clear, that Atrios was misrepresenting yesterday's article, then I don't know what to tell you folks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The Paralzying Principle In this article Cass Sunstein looks at the strong version of the Precautionary Principle and notes how it actually leads to complete inaction. The strong version of the principle is stated thusly:

When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not established scientifically. In this context the proponent of the activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

That is from the Wingspread Decleration a meeting in 1998 of environmentalists.

Contrast it to the weak version of the Precautionary Principle

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degredation.

This version is from the 1992 Rio Decleration. The weak version is much more reasonable. Do you know the exact probability/risk of a fire in your house? But you still have a smoke detector and you may very well have insurance. That is an example of the weak Precautionary Principle (WPP). You know that houses sometimes catch fire, and that often the costs are quite serious and even irreversible. So you go out and buy a smoke dectector for say $25 for certain key parts of your house. You have decided that this is a cost effective precautionary activity.

The strong version of the Precautionary Principle (SPP) removes the terms serious, irreversible and cost-effective. Hence anything that is a threat should not be undertaken! Suppose you have a job interview in Chicago (and you live in Los Angeles). Should you go? By the SPP no you shouldn't. Your plane, train, or whatever mode of transportation could crash and you could die. Even if you'd double your salary you shouldn't go. Is this cost-effective or sensible?

But lets keep going. You are an advocate of the SPP and so you decide not to go. But that is that decision consistent with the SPP? No! You could be taking a risk that could pose a threat by not going and not taking the job! So you should go. But the earlier analysis says you shouldn't. If you were a computer you'd be stuck in an infinite loop. Fortunately you are not a computer and you can terminate the above cycle as being stupid and just go to the damn interview.

Update: Robin Roberts says (in the comments)

This is the core argument in environmental discussions - and an issue few people actually have an understanding of.

Which is a very good point. I should have put it here in the main post, but forgot too.

Another point is that one could use a Bayesian approach to this. One of the reasons behind the PP in general is that you don't know what the exact risk is. For example, your house burning down. Does anybody know the exact probability? I don't, but I know it is small. I'd say it is probably less than 1 in 100. Now, that is my personal and subjective estimate/guess as to what the probability is. Now, as I get more information I can update that probability using Bayes theorem. This can be done on a larger scale as well. Further, if you are concerned about the risk you could structure your probability density function so that the higher risk levels are more likely, you could also reflect this concern in your cost function (which takes you into decision theory). The PP is not the only way of dealing with the problem of risk and uncertainty about that risk. The Bayesian approach also has the additional benefit of providing a nice mechanism for learning. That is as more and more information comes available you learn more about what the risks are.

A natural response is that the personal and subjective are not part of science. This, IMO, is completely false. Another objection is the notion of selecting the initial probability, an unscrupulus person might select one that is very low so that they can not have to take various precautions. The problem though is that even if this is done, the new information will move you away from that purposefully incorrect prior probability assessment.

I see no such mechanisms with the Precautionary Principle.