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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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

 
Kevin Drum and Co. on Taxes Thanks to Ricky West for spotting this (by the way Ricky also has something to say on this, so follow the link).

Now, Kevin does pose an interesting hypothesis, that the decrease in the tax burden on millionaires and the increase in the tax burden on "the average family" is the cause for the "declines in economic growth and labor productivity."

First, lets get one thing out of the way right away. I'm pretty sure that Kevin is talking about the total tax burden, i.e. Federal, State, local, etc. taxes. He is not talking just about the Federal taxes (because the "average family does not send 25% to the Feds). This is something he has used before when rebutting the claims that the rich are overtaxed. Most people making such claims are referring to Federal taxes, Kevin shifts the discussion from Federal taxes to total taxes to show that actually those at the low end of the income distribution end up with a heavier burden than those at the top. Of course, the problem is that these policies are set at different levels of government and by government agencies that are not part of the same government. That is, Bush, Clinton, Reagan or any other President can do nothing about taxes at the state level.

This right off the bat gives us a possible way of testing Kevin's hypothesis. We could gather data on economic growth rates for different states and then try to control for various factors that affect economic growth and then see if the growth rates vary with state tax rates. Of course, this is a pretty big undertaking, so I am not going to be doing it here, however if you are reading this and you are a graduate student....

Another implicit hypothesis put forward by Kevin is that income redistribution is good for economic growth (note, he didn't actually come out and say it like this...in fact here is how he said it):

Economic growth is most robust when money is in the hands of people who spend it: the poor and the middle class. Sometime soon this lesson needs to be relearned.


That is when money is in the hands of the poor and the middle class the economy will do better. Unfortunately Kevin gives us no reason why this has to be true, and I can't think of any myself. One could argue that the poor and middle class will be more likely to spend money that they are given vs. letting the rich keep it. This might be true, I don't know I don't have any data on this, but the problem with this view is that the rich don't take any savings and bury in a hole in the backyard. They will take that money and put in the bank at the very least. This in turn will mean that the money is then lent out to others who will spend the money. One way or another the money will get back into the economy. And since the multiplier effects that everybody is blathering about in that thread...what is the multiplier effect? Oh, well let me explain.

The multiplier effect is where government spending (or an increase in the amount of money banks can lend) has a multiplicative effect on the economic spending. The idea is that people generally spend say, 90% of their income and save the rest. So if you get an extra $10 you'll spend $9 and save $1. Then the people who got the $9 you spent will spend $8.1 saving the rest. And so on, the third round is $7.29, the fourth is $6.56 and so on. Now if you add all these numbers up you'll get a number that is related to the 90% noted earlier (this 90% is called the marginal propensity to consume). In this example the multiplier is 10. That is an extra $10 in my pocket translates into and extra $100 in the economy. So you can see if the government gives every household an extra $100 we should see an increase in GDP of about $100 billion (assuming there is 100 million households). An extra $1,000 would mean about an extra $1,000 billion in GDP. So the idea is you can get the economy out of a recession with some pump priming from the Federal goobermint.

Now, notice a couple things about this process. First, it makes no difference who the people are who get the money. In fact, the whole idea of the marginal propensity to consume is an average across all individuals (or more accurately and estimate of that average). So right here Kevin gets no support, that's one of the problems with macroeconomics (well this isn't totally true, nowadays macroeconomic models are built using microfoundations, but there is still the aggregation issue so in the end this somewhat inaccurate claim is true after a fashion), it is top down so the characteristics of individuals is unimportant.

[Aside: If you are wondering how I got the 10 for the multiplier here is how.

The summation goes like this

100 + .9*100 + .92100 + .93100 + .94100 + .95100 + ....

Notice, that the 100 can be brought outside so we have

100 ( 1 + .9 + + .92 + .93 + .94 + .95 + ...)

Now the series inside the parentheses is going to converge (because .9 < 1). And we can find what it is converging too by noting

S = 1 + .9 + + .92 + .93 + .94 + .95 + ...

.9*S = .9 + + .92 + .93 + .94 + .95 + ...

Now substract .9S from S to get

.1S = 1

Which leads to S = 1/.1 = 10.]

Now there is an additional problem here. Where does all that extra money come from. Lets use the single individual example. Suppose you find yourself with an extra $10...but before we go off yammering about the extra $100 for the economy we have to ask, where did it come from. If we got it from somebody else (i.e. somebody lost it and we found it) then there really isn't much of an improvement is there? After all that person was probably going to spend a portion of that $10 so the increase was going to happen anyways. Now in the case of the government they aren't finding the money...they are taking it from you and me. Thus, this "increase" would have taken place irrespective if the government had taken it or not. Now, some of the more economically literate might say, "Steve what about borrowing the money, i.e. running a deficit?" Good question. In this case, the government is still taking money (but now paying interest) form you and me, further, being fairly rational individuals we realize that this debt will someday have to be paid. So we might very well realize that any money we get is someday going to have to be used to pay off the debt...so we don't spend it. This is known as the Ricardian Equivalence Theorem, that no multiplier takes place because we realize "there ain't so such thing as a free lunch."

Basically the problem boils down to this, the money we are talking about is already in the economy, simply moving it around from one bank account to the next isn't going to help anything. The multiplier story is just that, a nice story.

Another problem with this redistribution theory is that is can severely blunt incentives. Why do you go to work? So you can have things you want that you currently cannot afford. So you go to work, earn money, then use that money to pay for these things you want. Suppose I were to show up at your door and hand you the money to go buy those things everyday? Would you still work? Probably not. Work is called work, not fun or leisure time. Notice we, as a species, have developed different words/terms for different uses of our time. So, wealth re-distribution can very adversely affect the work incentive.

Now we could take this another level of economic theory, but then most of you would be at risk of slipping into a comma. The basic idea of the multiplier really isn't something one sees outside of an elementary economics class room. Most macroeconomic models these days start with a rational economic agent and start building a solid micro model and going from there. The idea of multipliers just never shows up. The idea that the government can move the economy away from a long term growth trend for anything other than the short run is pretty whacky economics, IMO. So Kevin's hypotheses...just some wishful thinking.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

 
Jane's Odd Claim Over at the Daily Rant Jane wrote:

Even though they've only had "a week" (the latest meme that's become "fact"), it also appears that it's been 38 days (not to mention the months and months UN inspectors were there) and "military forces have yet to produce any of the weaponry or chemical or biological agents Powell described, nor have they produced Iraqi scientists with evidence about them, officials said.


38 days since what? 38 days ago was March 23rd. Hmmm, what happened on March 23rd? The 75th Annual Acadamy Awards? Oh wait...let me guess that is when the ground offensive started? Yes, I see. U.S. troops were supposed to be searching right away for chemical and biological weapons. Ignore those guys shooting at you, search, search, search. Don't worry if you get shot at, blown up, or lost in a sandstorm, gotta find those Chemical weapons.

Jane is also upset about the "week" claim, well gee Jane you were the one who brought up that time frame. Fine, its only been a few weeks (2 or so, and there is still some fighting going on). If the anti-war crowd was willing to give the U.N. inspectors months (years?) then it seems reasonable that they should give U.S. forces at least half that time? No. Well, we already no Jane's answer. Time's up, the U.S. and British governments are liars and the war was all a sham simply for oil (or to distract everyone from the economy...or even better both...dang those Republicans are tricksy tricksters aren't they?).

 
Hesiod...Idiot Extrodinaire A few days ago, Hesiod was bemoaning that the U.S. military did not act like police officers, that they should have acted like police officers, and should have prevented the Iraqi National Museum from being looted. But now, he is pointing out that this is actually a problem. Hesiod also postulates four possible scenarios

1) Our soldiers overreacted to a bunch of protesting, unarmed civilians and wound up killing more than a dozen of them.

2) Our soldiers overreacted to a bunch of rock-throwing unarmed civilians. [This is Israeli Defense Forces "bad"]

3) Our soldiers were FIRED UPON by SOME Iraqi civilians during a "get the hell out of Iraq" protest, to which we responded by mowing down the crowd.

4) Our soldiers were under ATTACK from a crowd of armed Iraqi militants, who were using sympathetic civilians as human shields, and got the desired "kill 'em all" response from U.S. forces.


How likely are scenarios 1 and 2? Damn unlikely is my guess. I am not even sure that 3 is all that likely. Now 4 would be where I put most of the emphasis, plus the fact that a surprise attack would likely result in U.S. forces immediately returning fire.

Question: Why is it that ONLY U.S. forces have been involved in the shooting of Iraqi civilians since the war ended? Why are there no reports of British troops getting into scrapes, and mowing people down?


How about this Hesiod, you dumbass, there are far more U.S. soldiers than British soldiers, and that the U.S. forces are more likely to be entering remaining "hot spots" which have a higher probability of having events like this. How can anybody be so stupid and still be sucking wind?

According to an Iraqi doctor treating the victims, three of those killed were boys under the age of 10-years-old.


Of course, lets ignore the fact that a 10 year old can still use a weapon, just as well as a 15 or 20 year old. In fact, given the horrific nature of the former regime I wouldn't put it past them to be arming children, so that they could get a great piece of propaganda. (Note: There is no evidence suggesting this is ture, I am offering this as a possible explanation as to what happened.)

Hesiod also comments on this:

"Some town residents were upset that American soldiers were using night-vision goggles and could see into courtyards and onto rooftops, where women often sleep outside in the hot weather, according to resident, Basheer Abdul Aziz."


A classic example of why the cultural ignorance of our forces will continually be a source of trouble in the future.


Yeah Hesiod, lets take away equipment that will result in more American dead. Like I said, Hesiod...you are a vulture, a ghoul who feeds on the death and misery of others.

Update I: Joe Katzman at Winds of Change, points to this article at the Command Post about Saddam arming and training children.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam's security police began forcing boys as young as 6 from their families and into intensive boot camps. There, they are beaten, forced to kill animals and indoctrinated with Baath Party propaganda.

They emerge about age 10 schooled in the use of small arms and basic infantry tactics, clad in black trousers and shirts bearing the inscription "Ashbal Saddam," said the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights.

U.S. soldiers have battled children before, in Vietnam, Somalia and Afghanistan, where the first American killed in action died from shots fired by a 14-year-old boy.


I know it doesn't mean the incident above involved children who had undergone any such training, but I think it is relevant to keep this stuff in mind unitl more information becomes available...well except we all know such considerations don't mean anything to Hesiod.

Update II: In the comments, Stumpy accuses U.S. troops of murder. Good job Stumpy!

 
Nothing Serious Going on These Days When the biggest deal in the world to Atrios is a stupid fight between two dimbulbs at MSNBC you know not much must be going on. Apparently Atrios is just outraged by this, and so are is readers (well over 100 comments). Perhaps Atrios is depressed what with the war being over quickly and with so few casualties.

 
DU: Bush Wanted 9/11 Talk about full bore paranoia. Here is a particularly daming bit of evidence:

Osama Bin Laden was trained to be a terrorist by George Bush Sr and the CIA. Therefore, whatever the facts turn out to be, Bush is responsible.
The also obvious facts are:

1) Many of the hijackers took their flight lessons in Texas and Florida, while Junior and Jeb were the governors of those states.

2) The Junior White House ordered FBI agent John O Neill not to investigate any Bin Laden family members, or any possible Saudi Arabian ties.


Here is another one...this lady needs to get some professional help...and preferably lots of medication:

The fourth plane ended up crashing into the terrain of rural Pennsylvania (whether shot down, blown up by the hijackers, or lost control of during a struggle) instead of being flown into the U.S. Capitol Building (its presumed target).

This would have killed or incapacitated much of the House and Senate, which would have been an unprecedented "national emergency," which would have been used as the excuse for martial law "until new elections could be held."

Sure, such an attack would have killed as many Republicans as Democrats, but history has shown that would-be dictators don't mind killing off a few political allies to achieve their goals.


That does it...I'm buying stock in the company that manufactures aluminum foil.

 
Democratic Undergrounders Find Property Rights...Idiotic Hypocrites Its funny, if you went there and extolled the virtures of property rights, I have little doubt your account would be tombstoned. Property rights after all are synonymous with markets, which is synonymous with Reaganomics, which makes you and EVIL FREEPER!!

 
Democratic Underground on Condoleezza Rice Nice, eh? Figures the bottom dwellers at DU would see the first black female in a position of power not as something to be happy about, but to make crass and disgusting innuendo about. What juevenile nitwits. Gee where is Atrios, Josh Marshall and the rest of the gang...probably too busy (verbally) beating up Rev. Moon or something.

Monday, April 28, 2003

 
Jane Finch's Amazingly Bad Logic Jane is apparently upset that not that the war is over, WMDs were not found in Saddam's palace basement. Apprarently only a week is long enough for the U.S. to find the WMDs and since a week has gone by and no WMDs the U.S. and Britain must have been lying.

Further there is this amazingly excellent feat of illogic

They don't exist until they're proven to exist....so suck it up, pro war supporters.


Gee, how lovely. Atoms didn't exist until Einstein came along. The electron didn't have a charge until after Millikan.

Also the claims of mortal danger to the U.S. are a bit misleading. I don't remember seeing to many claims that Iraq could attack the U.S. directly. The claims were that Iraq might align itself with terrorists and give them WMDs with which to attack the U.S.

 
Bigotry DU Style Apparently the nitwits at DU didn't see enough people of color amongst the troops in Iraq. Of course, if they saw too many they'd be screaming about bigotry. Damned if you do...damned if you don't.

Lets also not forget that one of the P.O.W.s was named Edgar Hernandez (do the dimwits at DU only see black and white?).



Yep, all white.

Let us also not forget Cpl. Edward Chin who placed the American Flag on the statue of Saddam that was being torn. Clearly Chin is not white, but like with many race-baiters it seems the idiots at D.U. don't see Asians.





 
Democratic Underground Yikes, that thread scares me.

From the opening post by Q:

- Moderates (fence sitters, middle of the roaders, centrists) seem too willing to compromise on issues important to the survival of Democracy.

- The People had to FIGHT for many of the rights we take for granted today. It wasn't the moderates (fence sitters) who fought for the voting rights of women and Blacks. For that matter...everything from environmental regulations to public education came from the liberal mindset...not the 'compromisers'.

- The Bill of Rights will remain viable only as long as Americans are willing to fight for them. The centrists say that fighting to maintain these rights is 'radical' and 'leftist'. Yet these rights wouldn't exist in the first place without the 'liberal' elements of society confronting government and making demands for the common good.

- You're deluding yourself if you're 'proud' to be a fence sitter. Democracy can't prosper or even survive in an atmosphere of moderation. Your rights WILL be taken from you if you don't fight to keep them.
--emphasis added


Yep, lets go with good old authoritarianism! Much better than this Democracy shit.

Plus, while the radicals during the civil rights era undoubtedly helped to bring this issue to the forefront, I don't think Dr. King would be considered a radical. From what I understand he was a farily conservative guy. Further, without the support of moderates, achieving these goals is much much harder. Once these images were seen on televisions by moderates attitudes and policies began to shift.

To have only radicals and reactionaries would be like living in Jacobin France (and I have little doubt having a working guillotine would not bother some of the more...ahhh loopy members of D.U.).



 
Check Out D.U.M.B. For your daily dose of whacky Democratic rantings and ravings. (Note: I don't think that all Democrats are kooky, just the majority of posters at D.U. It is indeed a site run by the fringe of the Democratic Party.)

 
The Self-Appointed Mayors Are No More The self-appointed Mayor of Baghdad has been arrested by U.S. forces (link), and the self-appointed Mayor of Kut has scampered off with his tail between his legs (link--thanks to Robert Crawford for both links). I must say this is a very good sign.

From the Reuters article on the situation in Kut:

Marginalized in Kut by the U.S. Marines, who worked with other officials to coordinate joint Iraqi-U.S. foot patrols, restore electricity and water supplies, Abbas suddenly left the mayor's office -- and the city -- after U.S. troops threatened to arrest him.


While there is still lots of work to do, these two things make me feel alot better.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

 
More on California's Fiscal Nightmare--Democrats Run Amok Here is something from the Pacific Research Institute...I know nothing about them for those of you who like to attack sources, but if what this website is saying is true, then I am four-square in favor of the recall effort for Davis. I know it will probably fail, but I don't care, any chance to get rid of the lying sack of dog crap is something I'll get behind.

Just reining in that binge a little would have made a big difference. If state spending had increased by 20 percent rather than 36 percent, then California now would be enjoying a balanced budget.


36%....Davis increased the state's budget by 36% over his first 3 years in office. That is simply staggering. Further, this was totally avoidable and could have still had very large spending increases (20% is still a Hell of alot, think about your paycheck...would you like it to be 20% larger at the end of three years?).

Note to Kevin: Yeah Kevin you called the plans to raise fees horroiffic, yet I'm pretty sure Doer would say the same thing about the proposals to increase the state's sales tax...yet you still nailed him on the regressive thing. Right back at ya' on the user fees.

Friday, April 25, 2003

 
I Know the Feeling Ricky West has found a "new" (new to me at least) blog, Discount Blogger who points out an interesting fact about some on the left..that if you disagree with one Democratic issue you automatically become a right-winger. I have been labelled a right-winger, supply sider, etc. many times. However, here are some of the things I am in favor of


  1. Pro-choice on abortion

  2. Legalizing drugs

  3. Gay marriage (actually I just don't care...if you want to pay that marriage penalty be my freaking guest)

  4. Oppose sodomy laws

  5. Legalizing prostitution



I imagine that little list right there would send Rick Santorum into a fit of apoplexy. Yet, without fail I'll be labelled a right-winger if I don't oppose tax cuts, don't oppose Social Security privatization, don't oppose property rights, or some such.

 
Robert Crawford on Santorum's Idiocy I totally agree. Don't try to defend it, just say you disagree with it and be done with it. Trying to defend him or his position will only result in the defender being labelled a homophobe, and an authoritarian.

On this issue in general I have always been baffled as to why some people are so damned concerned what consenting adults do in private. I don't care so long as it is with consenting adults, none of my business. Knock yourself out doing whatever you and your partner find enjoyable.

 
Baghdad's Self-Appointed Ruler Wants to Work with Garner Looks like Zubaidi is trying to legitimize his power grab by getting Garner to give it his stamp of approval.

Zubaidi appealed for cooperation a day after Garner threatened to boot him out if residents rejected him.

At a meeting of tribal chiefs and other citizens, Zubaidi said the city would show its support for his council, which Washington does not recognize, on April 27. He did not say how.

Continuing confusion over Zubaidi's status highlights the difficulties Garner faces in filling the power vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule.


What? Why not just boot him now, and tell him he has no such claim to any position of authority until elections of some sort are held (and are overseen) and Zubaidi is a candidate in the election. I'm also not sure what Garner means by the "residents rejecting" him. Elections, protests, riots...what? If it is via elections, does this mean that Zubaidi is automatically a candidate?

U.S. officials say Washington does not recognize Zubaidi's authority since he was not chosen democratically.


I wonder what would happen if I went to Los Angeles, rented some office space, declared myself the mayor, started a police force (complete with firearms), and started issuing "official decrees" and doing things that a mayor and its office normally does. If it is something like shut me down and/or arrest me, why aren't we doing that in Iraq?

Zubaidi has said he was elected by people representing clerics, academics, Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims, Christians, writers and journalists.


Yeah, sure whatever you say there Mohammed. I'm sure you can present these clerics, academics, Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims, etc. Sheeesh, this sounds about as valid as Saddam's last election.

Karim Munshial-Assadi, head of the finance and management committee in the executive council, said the council would soon start paying civil servants' salaries.

"We are now in control of money that remained in banks," Assadi said. "Besides that we were able to save stolen money."

Assadi, once a Finance Ministry director general, said his council had helped to save $260 million from looters, which had been transferred to the central bank along with cash from other Iraqi banks in the capital.


LOL, in other words these guys are gangsters. The money that remains in the banks belongs to the depositers, some might have belonged to the Iraqi government and/or Saddam Hussein, but I doubt all of it. And why isn't the money and goods taken by looters being returned to the victims of looting? Not all of them were part of the Iraqi regime. These guys sound like a criminal organization.

 
The Ethnic Bomb If you aren't comming in from Trash Talk or from Aziz Poonawalla's Unmedia there is a good chance you are missing the current discussion on this topic. Winds of Change has a very nice round up on this topic. I highly recommend it.

 
OxBlog on Iraq and the Problems There Basically this post attempts to rebut the various articles that have been appearing in the Washinton Post that paint a rather pessimistic picture in Iraq. There are indeed some good points, but I disagree with other points as well. For example,

Thankfully, US officials don't seem prone to rush to conclusions as fast as the media has. As Jay Garner said,

"I think the bulk of the Shia, the majority of the Shia, are very glad they are where they are right now...Two weeks ago they wouldn't have been able to demonstrate."


Exactly. There is every reason to believe that most Iraqi Shi'ites are greatful for their liberation. In fact, many indigenous Shi'ite clerics are open to working with the United States. What we have to watch out for are the ambitious men with friends in Teheran.


No, we don't have "every reason to believe that most Iraqi Shi'ites are grateful for their liberation." I can see the reasoning here, and it is indeed very strong, but I don't see the evidence supporting this. There are protests, there is opposition to the U.S. being in Iraq and staying in Iraq for any length of time. There hasn't been, AFAIK, some kind of poll of Iraqi Shi'ite attitudes towards the U.S. and the idea of the U.S. staying in Iraq to get things going again and taking a direct hand in shaping the furture government of Iraq. I know the Kurds seem quite happy with the U.S. and seem quite willing to work with the U.S. in getting things back up and running and setting up a new government. Maybe the same evidence exists for the Shi'ites in southern Iraq, but I haven't seen it yet. And until I do, I have to regard the above as just speculation (although do want it to be true).

Thursday, April 24, 2003

 
California's Fiscal Nightmare My first point is: where are people like Kevin Drum and Paul Krugman. Krugman after all loves to lament how various states have deficits totalling anywhere from $60-$80 billion dollars. What the Good Professor wont tell you is that anywhere from 50% to 75% of that is just from California alone. Yep California has a $30+ billion plus deficit that was brought to you by those wonderful Democrats. Kevin Drum has used California, he lives here, as an example of how the poor actually alot in taxes when you consider all taxes (state, federal, and so forth). Yet California Democrats are proposing tons of increases in user fees. Kevin even notes this here. The problem is that Kevin was one who jumped on the regressive tax wagon when discussing Bush's tax cuts. Kevin does note that an increase in the sales tax is regressive, but he doesn't make a similar observation about all these proposed fee increases (maybe his liberalism is not so compassionate).

Anyhow, there are around 80 proposals to raise user fees as well as taxes. Such as this plan to tax health care plans. No idea how much it is going to cost, it is to be set by...wait for it...bureaucrats. Isn't that great? Here is another great one, a $0.10 tax on bullets. Maybe this will induce the Democrats to loosen up California gun laws....after all, more gun owners the more bullets that are bought.

My second point is: why do people like term limits when term limits are, IMO, part of the problem. Kevin notes this as well. Term limits dramatically reduce the control voters have over politicians. Voters can keep politicians in control by voting them back into office provided the politician does what the voters want. With term limits this control for all intents and purposes disappears. Yet people keep expecting term limits to be some sort of magic bullet for solving problems created by government.

 
Jacoby Levy Asks (Its near the bottom of the post.)

Can anyone name for me a candidate in a competitive race (or, really, any candidate) for either Senate or House who is


  1. pro-choice;

  2. pro-trade (supports NAFTA, TPA, and WTO without weaselly exceptions, hasn't been a force in favor of any of the dumb protectionist moves in the past few years);

  3. not-actively-antigay (sometimes one takes what one can get);

  4. generally in favor of tax cuts;

  5. generally in favor of spending restraint;

  6. generally pro-immigration;

  7. not guilty of demagoguing Social Security?



I'd have a hard time supporting someone who suppported the campaign finance bill or a vigorous drug warrior. Supporting the death penalty is bad, but I'm willing to treat that as a litmus test for executive posts rather than legislative ones. And, obviously, actively pro-gay-rights (marriage, military) would be better than passive, and actively pro-Social Security reform would be better than passive. But I think I could stomach someone who met the named threshold tests [a-g]; and I'd actively want to encourage that person's party (whichever party it was!) to move in that person's direction. But I can't think of a single such candidate from either major party...


Nope, I can't think of a single candidate that fits all the criteria either, but it sure would be nice if one were to be found.

 
More on Iran's Involvment in Iraq This article from the New York Times indicates that Iranian agents have been moving into Iraq to promote an Iranian style government with the Shi'ite clerics in the southern part of Iraq.

Until last week, some gunmen from the group's Badr Brigade maintained a visible presence in the town of Baquba, near the Iranian border, and in the larger city of Kut, according to American intelligence officials. American forces have since taken control of those cities, and the armed Badr forces have largely melted away.


What seems really whacky to me is this

The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is among several Iraqi opposition groups recognized by the Bush administration for inclusion in discussions about Iraq's future, even though some in the administration regard the group with deep suspicion because of its close ties with the Iranian government. The group's Badr Brigade, a force of about 10,000 men, received training and support from the Iranian government, American officials say.


Sounds alot like what I was worrying about in this post, that the U.S. is going to try this, "If we do it just right, everybody will love us" approach.

There is this though that sounds helpful

The leading Shiite cleric in southern Iraq is the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sestani, who is 73, and whose base is in Najaf. Like many Iraqi clerics, he has a long record of opposition to what has become the Iranian model of Shiite jurisprudence, which grants clerics a pre-eminent political as well as religious role.


This article indicates the U.S. is telling Iran to back off. Which is a good thing. Still this is a little disconcerting.

"We're flying a little blind here," one official said, adding that in retrospect the administration had probably put too much faith in assurances from Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite who is a leader of the Iraqi National Congress, that the vast majority of his countrymen would welcome not only the American invasion but also American-led efforts to shape a new Iraq.


"Flying a little blind?" Good Lord.

This article from the Washington Post points to another Iraqi who has appointed himself Mayor of Baghdad.

Zubaidi "is running Baghdad as much as Saddam Hussein is," said Lt. Col. Alan King, commander of an Army civil affairs battalion working in the capital. King said he had seen reports that Zubaidi was issuing weapons and uniforms to followers.


Uhhh...why is this guy still free? Sorry Robin and Rob, you guys might be right, but it just looks bad. And I don't buy the media conspiracy theory.

 
Why is this Guy Still Around? The self-proclaimed mayor of Kut that is. Now the U.S. is warning him not to arm his followers. Hello? If he is even hinting of doing this, why hasn't he been detained/arrested?

Lieutenant General David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, issued a proclamation putting Iraq's politicians on notice, saying: "The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq." He warned that anyone challenging the U.S.-led authority would be subject to arrest.


This sounds better. Finally somebody with some sense.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

 
Stupid Legislators Looks like the Motion Picture Association has got its hand up the backside of several legislatures around the country.

Now Super DMCA has claimed one of its first victims, the award-winning open-source application LaBrea, which is designed to stop the spread of worms such as Nimda across the Internet. Tom Liston, the developer of LaBrea, has stopped distribution of the program for fear of prosecution under the Illinois version of this law.


Isn't that great? Now if you are running this program to help with your internet security you are in violation of these new laws (if you live in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming). How stupid is that.

One of the common aspects of these laws is that they make illegal any device or program that can "conceal or to assist another to conceal from any communication service provider or from any lawful authority the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." Aside from LaBrea, this makes a whole set of common IT programs and hardware illegal, from firewalls to VPNs to privacy applications.


Great. I use a firewall program at home, so if they pass something like this in California I'm breaking the law. Just lovely. What morons.

Here is some more on the Super-DMCA.

 
Well This Doesn't Look Good Looks like the Bush Administration was totally unprepared for the Shi'ites in Iraq standing up and being such a force, and that there is a very serious possibility that a fundamentalist Islamic state could form in Iraq which would definitely be...very bad. Now, there'd basically be two Irans...or a really big Iran.

U.S. intelligence reports reaching top officials throughout the government this week said the Shiites appear to be much more organized than originally thought. Monday, one meeting of generals and admirals at the Pentagon evolved into a spontaneous teach-in on Iraq's Shiites and the U.S. strategy for containing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.

The administration hopes the U.S.-led war in Iraq will lead to a crescent of democracies in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied territories and Saudi Arabia. But it could just as easily spark a renewed fervor for Islamic rule in the same crescent, officials said.


Geez, nobody thought at all about what to do after Saddam was gone? Did they really think it would be like liberating Europe or something? Man, my pessimism that the Bush Administration can handle the aftermath of the war is growing by the day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

 
Wow...a Bank Run I'm a bit surprised at this. Didn't anybody tell these people that their accounts are insured for upto $100,000 by the federal government?

But depositors who read an article in a Chinese newspaper or heard reports on a Chinese-language radio station yesterday converged on three branches — two in Chinatown, including the one at Canal and Mott Streets that had been run by the fired manager, Carol Lim, and one in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.


My guess is that many of the people are immigrants and don't quite understand the idea behind the FDIC.

 
Maureen Dowd Ughh, that is all I have to say. Well...okay not really...

The Bushies pretend that we don't want an all-access pass to Iraqi bases (we do); that we are not interested in influencing the disposition of Iraqi oil (we are); that we will stay out of Iraqi politics, even if they go fundamentalist (we won't); and that we will leave Iraq soon (we can't).


What a twit. Even though I agree with her above, she is clearly shovelling disengenuous pablum here. Sure we probably would love to get access to Iraqi bases, it would make the Saudis less important and they'd have less of a bargaining chip. I am sure the U.S. would also like to have a major say in the Iraqi production of oil, again for the same reasons; reducing the influence of Saudi Arabia. And if Iraq is going to go fundamentalist like Iran that is the last thing we want. And if we leave Iraq too soon in about a year we will end up right back at square one with another dictator in charge.

My problem with Ms. Dowd is that "the Bushies" can't win. No matter what they do she'd be on them like stink on dog crap. Above she pretends (falsely) that she'd find it far less objectionable if the "the Bushies" were just a bit more honest. Yeah right.

Even as they stifle their Pax Americana impulses in Iraq, the imperialists swagger with a Pox Americana at home. Karl Rove has broken creative new ground in appalling political opportunism by pushing back the Republican National Convention in New York City to September 2004, the latest date for a convention in the party's history and only days away from you-know-when.


When I read this the first thought that popped into my head was, "I bet she is smacking her head on the pavement on this one...'Why didn't we think of this?!?!?'" By the way Ms. Dowd, this was the same tactic used by another Democrat although one before your time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What was the campaign slogan..."you don't change horses in the middle of the river"? Somehow I don't think Dowd would object to this, even though it is the same thing.

Its amazing how shrill the Democrats are these days.

 
Wow Big Surprise Here Bush has "left it to Greenspan" to decide if he wants another term as head of the Federal Reserve Board. Not at all surprising given the weak state of the economy right now. While some have speculated in the past that Bush might want to consider not reappointing Greenspan, Bush really doesn't have much of an option right now given that many would see that as a very bad sign for the economy.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

 
Iraq and the U.S. Occupation This is another thing I was thinking about on the way to work. The U.S. right now seems to be stumbling in Iraq, and if something is not done the U.S. could fall flat on its face. The self-appointed mayor in al Kut is an example. Instead of going in and sending this guy packing (or even to jail for a while to contemplate his misdeeds), the U.S. stands around twiddling its collective thumbs. Now, this is meant as an attack on the troops, far from it. My target is the U.S. State Department and the Bush Administration.

The problem, to me, appears to be this idea that the U.S. is going to try and "get out as fast as possible and have the Iraqi's running their own country." Excuse me, but they can't. They haven't run their country in...well shit, I don't know when. They have no idea of how a Free society should be run. If the U.S. pulls out right now it will undoubtedly be a complete disaster. Within a year or two a new dictator will in all likelihood take the place of Saddam. Now maybe he wont be as bad...or he could be even worse. So this option is just flat out not an option.

But, I still get the feeling that there are those in the Bush Administration that feels that if we "do it just right in Iraq" we'll get the "Arab street" in the other Arab/muslim world to like us, or something. This is stupid. No matter what we do in Iraq those that already hate the U.S. will still hate the U.S. There is nothing we can do to change the minds of these people by fiddling with Iraq. Now, if we handle post-war Iraq badly, which path we seem to be heading down, those in other Arab countries that don't already hate us, might very well end up hating us. Further, the Iraqis will in all likelihood end up hating us.

So, it seems to me the best thing is to try and get the Iraqis to be grateful to the U.S. Get the water running, restore law and order, get the power back on, the schools open, get businesses going again, and when some dipshit tries to proclaim himself some leader of some area of Iraq, remove him. Throw him out of whatever office he thinks he is entitled too and if he still wont go away, arrest him. If some faction in Iraq gets it into its head that it should go after another faction with force, stop them.

Also, institute markets. Markets are wonderful (when they work) they allocate resources by an impersonal mechanism (i.e. not some idiot bureaucrat or tyrannical dictator). The transactions are all voluntary. Is it any wonder that the countries that are typically considered "Free" also have markets?

My impression right now is that the Administration is going to try to find some guy that it likes and put him in power. The problem is this was what we were doing that lead to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. It is that old Cold War mentality of we'll put in a leader that will do what the U.S. wants and we'll ignore what he does to stay in power. Then the situation goes south and we have another mess on our hands.

 
More on Michael Tomasky I was thinking about Tomasky's column that I blogged about here a bit more and realized there was more I wanted to say about it. The problem I really have is Tomasky's notion that the Right, i.e. conservatives, have some sort of monopoly or are particularly intolerant. Take a quick trip to Democratic Underground and try posting something even remotely in favor of Bush (if you are already a member get a new userid and try it). See how long you are able to post with that userid. Or try it at Atrios' blog or Hesiod's. Or course this does not mean that some on the Right are not guilty of intolerance, but to pretend like the Right and conservatives are some how more intolerant is, IMO, a characteristic of intellectual laziness...no...not laziness, more like vacuousness. Somebody who is so intellectually lacking that they cannot periodically look at their own position and analyze it, even criticisize it. What is even more disturbing is that Tomasky has a weekly column at The American Prospect Online, which hints at their vacuousness as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

 
The Subjunctive Just found out about this blog. The guy who runs it also posts at a BB I post at as well, Trash Talk. mal-3, his username at Trash Talk, hasn't been a prolific poster, but he makes up for the lack of quantity with quality. So check out his blog, and if you want, check out Trash Talk, its a good place to get answers.

 
An Interesting Thread

I repeat my prediction - we keep going down this inclusive, hands-off, let-the-Iraqis-decide route, and in a year, the whole nation will be collapsed into a mess of religious and ethnic fiefdoms, all busy fighting each other and exporting just as much terrorism as they did before. They're simply not capable of resisting the forces that will make that happen without we keep boots on the ground there and do the sometimes-tough and politically-unpopular things it will take to resist the backward slide.(added by edit) SCREW Turkey and whether they might be offended because we actually let the Kurds have an equal say in their own determination. SCREW the Saudis if they don't like the fact that we make all equal and don't observe their medieval oppressions of women and religious minorities. SCREW the Europeans if making Iraq a functioning, free nation places their commercial interests at risk. We spilled OUR blood and OUR treasure to toss this sub-human sociopath out, and we do the people we just saved from him a horrible disservice if we do not follow through and protect them from the results of a popularity contest, as every S.D. in the region, who all contributed a big old pile of Jack S**t to their liberation, lines up to pick over the carcase and further their own interests.


The problem is that there does not seem to be any definitive plan in place for what to do with post-war Iraq. I have to admit this poster's (his nom-de-net Llamas ) views sound very good, specifically:

Look, llamas are by nature optimistic beasts that see the best in people, but I am frankly highly discouraged for the future of the Iraqis when I see what's been going on over the last few days and how the US military is standing by and doing - not enough.

We now have some jackanapes with a three-part name and a towel around his head who has set himself up as the boss of the city of Al-Kut (sp?) and is presuming to tell the Marines what they may and may not do.

'Scuse me? Isn't that trading one dictator for another? I didn't hear where the city of Al-Kut held free and fair elections and chose this guy to speak for them?

The same sort of thing is breaking out all over as local leaders of one stripe or another rush in to fill the power vacuum. Many of them are religiously-motivated, and we've all seen how well Muslims of different persuasions get along together. Many of the newly-emerging 'leaders' have more-than-passing ties to the regime that we just spilled our blood and treasure to drive out.

Meanwhile, the commanders on the ground have their hands tied as the dilettantes at the State Department try to figure out some Byzantine scheme or other to let the Iraqis choose the government they want, as long as it best reflects the interests of the State Department. Screw 'em - we have done the Iraqis no favours if we cast out the tyrant that has tortured and oppressed them, then stand aside so that a different set of tyrants, who know how to make the right noises to please their US handlers, can rush in and take over.

I want to see a column of tanks draw up outside the City Hall of Al-Kut and send the guy who has set himself up as Lord Mayor back to his goat-patch, and put a light colonel or above at his desk, and start kicking ass and taking names. Get the power back on, bring street crime and looting to a short and sudden stop - a few 5.56's over their heads should do it - confiscate and destroy any and all weapons of a military nature, get the schools open and working, institute a rigorously secular administration and thoroughly de-Baath-ify the populace.


I have to admit, the idea that the U.S. at this juncture is going to be sitting around being told what to do by some self-styled mayor is just stupid. Tell him to shut the hell up, that there is work to be done, like getting the power one, getting the water running, bringing in food and medical supplies and getting law and order re-established. If he has a problem with these things you politely point out that you have a gun, he does not, and when things have returned to some sort of normality you'll be glad to reconsider this discussion.

Here is an article on this self appointed "mayor". This guy really has to go:

Abbas is said to be a local leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a political party that was outlawed under Saddam Hussein and that has ties to Iran. While military officials played down Abbas' support here, photographs of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakar Hakim, the council's leader, can be seen on telephone poles, car windows and shop doors.


It would be a serious mistake to leave him in power. In fact, my feeling is that the damage done by hauling his ass out of there and putting a Lt. Col. in charge of getting the city back on its feet would not be nearly as damaging as leaving this nitwit in charge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

 
Mark Steyn Read it for a good dose of reality.

 
Matt Welch on the Dark Side of Liberalism In that post Matt points us to a column by Michael Tomasky who is actively wanting less press and less comeptition between media organizations.

There's a lesson in this, and in the whole tale, for our side. Tolerance for other views has been part of the very essence of liberalism since John Stuart Mill. Read Lionel Trilling's brief introduction to The Liberal Imagination: He fretted not that conservatism might one day overtake liberalism (the notion was laughable in 1949) but that conservatism was so weak that liberalism would grow flaccid from its ideas not facing rigorous-enough scrutiny from the other side (which happened, in certain respects).

Well, this isn't 1949, modern conservatism is not founded on toleration for other points of view, and Mr. Murdoch has an empire that's just getting up a head of steam (FOX News Europe? FOX News India?) and that's out to smash everything we believe. We need to quit being so damn reasonable about it.


Very nice. If you are a conservative you are intoleratn. But notice something else here. Tomasky is advocating that the liberals cease being tolerant as well, otherwise conservativism will win. So to keep this from happening Tomasky advocates the silencing of opposing viewpoints.

Kevin Drum also gives Tomaksy his seal of approval. So it is okay to shut down the opposition via the government.

Kevin also revises some recent events:

We should remember that we lost only a couple of Senate seats in the 2002 elections, not exactly a massive repudation of the party's policies, and poll after poll shows that the American public basically supports moderate Democratic positions on most social and economic issues.


In an election year that doesn't include the Presidency as one of the offices up for grabs, the party in the White House usually loses support in Congress...Bush actually picked up support, in fact the Republicans ended up in charge of both Houses of Congress, it was a big deal. Holding on to what they had would have been impressive, actually making gains is...highly unusual.

Update: I also recommend reading the comments, both Daniel and Dean have some interesting things to say.

 
Protests In Iraq Personally I think it is a good thing. After all isn't this one of the reasons we went in there (yeah, yeah, I know it was to find/disarm Saddam of WMDs, but I think the freeing of the Iraqi people was a secondary consideration). So now the Iraqis get a chance to get out there and make their views known. The thing that has to be watched out for is that no single faction gets power and sets up another dictatorship and we end up right where we started at a few weeks ago.

"We reject the concept of a confessional democracy that would prevent the Iraqi people practising religion," he said.

But Nassar Hussein Musawi, a secondary school teacher, who said he and his wife were persecuted by Saddam, told the meeting: "Those who would like to separate religion from the state are simply dreaming."


Great! Just don't pick up guns over this, and you'll be ready for Iraq's version of Meet the Press or whatever. Further, I think another goal here should be to get the Iraqi people sucking on the tit of Western Civilization. Fast food (in the Hlal manner for those who want that), DVDs, televisions, and Starbucks. Lets get them interested in making money, taking vacations, and worrying about whether or not the Iraqi version of Jerry Springer is bad for television or not. Get rid of the ideas that using a gun is the correct way to solve your problems, that the Kurds are going to grind the Shi'ites into the dirt and the Sunni's are going to eat Kurdish children. I think it would be a huge improvement if the average Iraqi is more concerned about whether or not he should get DirectTV or Cable vs. wondering if he is going to be put through a plastic shredder feet first or head first.

 
The Ten Most Outrageous Facts About the Income Tax and the IRS


    1. The IRS "tax army" is six times larger than the U.S. army stationed in Iraq. Income taxes are so complex that there are up to 1.2 million paid tax preparers in the country-six times more than the 200,000 or so troops in Iraq.1 The IRS itself has a workforce of 100,000.2

    2. Tax code sets new record of 54,846 pages. The number of pages in the tax code and regulations doubled from 26,300 in 1984 to 54,846 by 2003.3 The number of pages has jumped 20 percent in just the past two years. The energy bill currently being debated, H.R. 1531, is chock-full of fancy anti-market tax credits for such items as solar hot water heaters, fuel cells, homebuilding, and oil and gas drilling.

    3. The costs of complying with the complex tax code cost Americans $100 to $200 billion every year. The costs of the income tax are far greater than the actual cash paid to Washington each year from American taxpayers. Millions of taxpayers waste both time and energy filling out tax forms, collecting receipts, preparing for audits, and other hassles. Billions of dollars is spend on tax accountants and computer tax software. Most estimates put these compliance costs at about 10 to 20 percent of income tax collected, or about $100 to $200 billion of extra costs every single year.4

    4. There is a tax form for every "special interest." The number of IRS tax forms jumped from 402 in 1990 to 526 by 2002.5 That is good news for accountants because they are the only ones who know how to file tax forms such as "6781-Gains and Losses from Section 1256 Contracts and Straddles." The education breaks require three IRS taxpayer guidebooks with 76 pages of instructions.

    5. Congress promotes discrimination -- through the tax code. The tax code is riddled with exemptions, deductions, credits, and narrow rules that treat people with similar or different incomes differently. Consider that a higher-income homeowner can effectively deduct non-home interest, such as on car loans, by shifting around their finances, whereas a lower-income apartment dweller cannot.

    6. "Voluntarism" works for the U.S. military, but not for the income tax. The IRS says that it pursues "enforcement programs to promote voluntary compliance" and establishes "strategies to maximize voluntary tax law compliance by emphasizing customer satisfaction."6 But with 32 million IRS penalties assessed each year and about $10,000 in income taxes imposed on each taxpaying household, the tax isn't voluntary and these customers aren't satisfied.7

    7. Congress still can't figure out how to measure "income." Although the income tax is 90 years old this year, Congress still can't figure out how to properly measure "income." Indeed, the income tax treats different income and deduction items grossly inconsistently. Some income such as municipal bond interest is not taxed, but other income such as dividends are taxed twice. The solution is to replace the income tax with a low-rate consumption-based tax that exempts personal savings, and taxes businesses on an easy-to-measure cash-flow basis.

    8. Alternative Minimum Tax -- originally designed to catch 155 taxpayers is soon to catch 37 million. An elaborate new tax structure that began in 1969 and then expanded because just one out of every half million taxpayers legally reduced their taxes "too much." The number of AMT taxpayers is set to skyrocket from 3 million in 2002 to 36 million by 2010.8 Congress should follow the advice of its own Joint Committee on Taxation and repeal the AMT.9

    9. Families shouldn't need an advanced math degree in order to save for their futures. Congress has manufactured dozens of vehicles and special rules for certain types of savings. We have unique rules for 401(k)s, Keoghs, deductible IRAs, nondeductible IRAs, education IRAs, Roth IRAs, traditional pension plans, annuities, SIMPLEs, SEPs, MSAs, and other alphabet-soup provisions. President Bush's recent initiative to consolidate some of the savings plans and create a universal IRA would be a good first step to bring some sanity and fairness to the IRS savings mess.

    10. Double-tax on dividends: 60 years and still not fixed. At the present time corporate profits are taxed first to the corporations, then again to the stockholders when they are distributed as dividends. In the 1930s, a Treasury report argued that the tax disincentive to pay dividends caused corporate management problems.10 Recent scandals proved them right. Congress should reform dividend taxes now -- before the next round of corporate management scandals begins.


 
Kevin's Bogus Economics Kevin gets it right that housing prices are higher due to the mortgage deduction, but he fails to realize, that while you are paying a higher mortgage you are also building equity. That latter you can sell that house (or refinance it) and take that equity out to spend on other things or move, or whatever. For example, when you retire, you might decide to relocate to an area with a cheaper housing market (since you no longer need to live "close" to where you work). So the extra money from the sale of your house is now yours.

Would I rather pay higher taxes or build up equity in my house? I'd rather build equity in my house thank you very much. After all, the house is mine I can sell it, refinance, or not. I don't have such recourse to "get my money back (or eve part of my money back)" with the Federal goobermint.

Later Kevin realizes part of his mistake here. Which is also right, the increase in price does not have to exactly offset the decrease in taxes. There is nothing magic about the market that says this has to be so.

 
The Anthropic Principle, Probability Theory and God Some of you may have noticed I have taken a dim view of William Dembski's attempts to use probability theory to "prove" the existence of a God (actually Dembski doesn't say he is trying to prove the existence of God, but of a Designer...as to who that Designer is, Dembski leaves to his readers).

Here is another bit of Creationist of rhetoric that the Universe was created by God and we can prove it scientifically (therefore lets teach creationism in biology classes). The gist of the anthropic principle, if you haven't heard of it before, is that the constants in the universe are "fine tuned" in that if they were not in this narrow band life as we know it would not be possible. Since it is so unlikely that the universe would be fine tuned by chance alone, this clearly implies that some supernatural being (a being outside of the restrictions of nature's laws) made the universe in its fine tuned state.

This article argues that such a view is logically flawed. A word of warning though if you click on that link, the paper uses conditional probabilities which can give you quite a headache if you aren't already familiar with them.

 
Hesiod the Moronic Here Hesiod takes Glenn Reynolds to task for not blaming President Bush for the looting of historical Iraqi artifacts from Museums. Lets ignore that we don't know when the looting actually took place. It is possible that some, all, or none of the artifacts were taken prior to the U.S. even getting close to Baghdad.

Further, Hesiod's pap completely absolves that actual looters of any responsibility for the looting and places it all on the shoulders of President Bush, and that Glenn Reynolds is a stupid jerk for not doing the same.

On a seperate note, I'd just like to point out that Hesiod was wrong, wrong, wrong on his predictions for this war.

Remember this is Hesiod who predicted large numbers of American dead at the hands of Saddam and his Republican Guard units. Here is another prediction along those lines. This one not only has maximum casualties, but also thousands upon thousands of dead civilians because we'd have to "bomb the hell out of Baghdad."

So how does it feel to be so wrong Hesiod?

Friday, April 11, 2003

 
Trivial Pursuits Blog This is Daniel Goldberg's blog, Daniel has been posting periodically in my comments, and its a fine blog. Left of center and reasonable, such as his post on Supply Side Economics. So check it out, the blogosphere needs more left of center blogs like this.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

 
Some Good Stuff from MEMRI Here is some of the stuff you can find at the Middle East Media Research Institute:

Bush Jr. Would Outdo Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin

What no Mao? Well that is a tall order. Let me see that would be 30-40 million people killed...hmmm, maybe Bush isn't after getting rid of Saddam's WMDs, but wants them so Bush can use them![/end sarcasm]

"It was only in the last Christian century that the world saw such blood-sucking megalomaniacs as Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin."


What, Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin were all Christians?

The Amazing Contradictions of Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the sheikh of Al-Azhar University.

First he fires Sheikh Ali Abu Al-Hassan for issuing a fatwa urging jihad against American forces that enter Iraq. Then he backpedals and approved a fatwa calling for Jihad against American and coalition forces inside Iraq. Plus there is all the mumbo-jumbo about a "Crusader war" what jihad means in terms of war, and the part where Sheikh Tantawi condemns all Shi'ite clerics who support the U.S.

Clearly a very confused man.

The Palestinian Authority Yout Movement Decides Bush is Guilty of War Crimes

That should win some sort of award for irony.

Abd Al-Raouf Barnakh, leader of the YPP, said that the decision to try Bush came "after a number of legal suits were submitted to the YPP by Palestinian children regarding his intentions for the region." He said, "The court decided to hold a quick trial for President Bush after the court received power of attorney from the children of Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt to try him in the name of all the Arab children."


An Interview with Bashar Al-Assad: 'The Arab Defense Agreement Should Be Implemented'; 'As Long as Israel Exists It Will Constitute a Threat'; 'Israel Will Not Be a Legitimate State Even After the Peace'

So much for the peace process.

 
Main U.S. Military Base in South Korea to Move out of Seoul Looks like both sides want this. Although there is some concern that such a move could make the south more vulnerable to attack by the North.

You know, I find this amusing in a sort of macabre way. The South Koreans don't want a tough stance with North Korea...but they don't want us to leave because they are afraid they'll be attacked. The don't like having a U.S. base in Seoul and want us to move it...but are worried it will make them more vulnerable to attack.

Maybe we should just pull out and let them deal with this problem.

 
Is Saddam in the Russian Embassy? Well according to Rueters, the Russians are saying, "No".

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

 
Okay So Its a Little Late This is an article by Mark Strauss that looks at the issue of going to war in Iraq (hey, this is a quarterly magazine so there is a lag time). Still there are some things that I found interesting, such as the section on the deterrability of Saddam.

Many on the left who oppose the war argued that Saddam could be contained/deterred. Strauss argues that while Saddam can be deterred he is a high stakes gambler, "Shrewd...but stupid." Saddam's invasion of Kuwait is evidence of this. He surely must have known such a move would alarm the West and the U.S. in particular and the probability of an American military response woud be quite high. Similarly Saddam's pursuit of WMDs over the past decade or so. Surely he knew that he was playing with fire and that it could, quite literally, blow up in his face. Yet he pursued developing WMDs.

His invasion of Iran a larger country than Iraq, one with more people. Yet he still invaded and waged a protracted war which drained and damaged his country. The number of dead is estimated to be around 100,000 Iraqi's and $500 billion dollars and he got nothing.

Basically to deter Saddam you need to make a very clear and loud threat. Imagine the shrill cries from those opposing the current war if a future American President had to literally say out loud that Iraq would be nuked if Saddam did something stupid...again. Hesiod, Atrios, and even the respectable left such as Kevin Drum and Ted Barlow would be apoplectic (at least that is my guess). They'd be blogging furiously about what a tyrant such a President would be...well maybe not if he was a Democrat.

Overall an interesing article.

 
What the Heck Are They Smoking at the Guardian? The title of that article looked interesting:

The two horrible flaws in Blair's Panglossian vision


Then there was the opening paragraph

George Bush and Tony Blair met in Belfast last night mainly to talk about the consequences of military victory. Seven days earlier and the context would have been different. A week seems to be a longer time in modern warfare even than it is in politics. But neither leader now believes that another seven days will turn things back Saddam's way. They were talking about a win that many thought they would not get, and some did not want them to have. It's already not too soon to try and enter their minds as they survey the postwar world.


They were talking about a win that many thought they would no get? Who thought this (besides Peter Arnette and the Iraqi Minister of Spinformation)? As I noted here the Coalition is winning this war (and let me tell you that analysis is not rocket science).

The rest of the article is a screed where Hugo Young tries to demonstrate his psychic powers and isn't worth the read. How disappointing given the interesting title.

Monday, April 07, 2003

 
OPEC Considers an Emergency Meeting as Prices for Oil Plummet Gee didn't anybody get the memo? I thought this war was supposed to push oil prices up. A glut...why that is no good for Bush's oil buddies.[end sarcasm]

 
Hesiod is Still an Asshole It had been a while, but I thought I'd see what kind of sleazy innuendo Hesiod was posting and boy I was not disappointed. In that link Hesiod strongly implies that Bush is going to use the SARS outbreak and the recent quarentine bill Bush signed to round up political opponents.

Nice.

Earlier Hesiod speculates that a Marine commander that was relieved of duty in Iraq was possibly responsible for killing a "shitload of civilians". Later when Hesiod found out it was because the commander was too cautious does he offer a weak apology (in an update about halfway down the page).

Splendid.

Notice too the inconsistency of the likes of Hesiod (Atrios, Democratic Underground participants, etc.) you can engage in any type of invective you want, but if anybody who disagrees with the mendacious miscreants becomes even slightly disagreeable, why it is a crime, something to be deplored, the destruction of meaningful dialogue.

 
Anti-War Whining With respect to the kook with the gun, geez, nice smear in painting all pro-war supporters as kooks with guns.

As for disrupting things: Well clearly something must be done. Only the anti-war crowd is allowed to disrupt anything.

 
Chemical Ali Reported as Dead Supposedly he was killed in an airstrike in Basra according to the British. The airstrike was against al-Majeed's home in Basra.

 
Blair Needs Bush to Cross the Atlantic An interesting article on the symbolic nature of President Bush's visit to Northern Ireland.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

 
U.S. Soldiers Possibly Exposed to Sarin or Tabun Nerve Gas Tests at an Iraqi military compound came back postive for a G-series nerve agent which includes Sarin and Tabun, both of which Iraq has been known to produce.

The evacuation of dozens of soldiers Sunday night followed a day of tests for the nerve agent that came back positive, then negative. Additional tests Sunday night by an Army Fox mobile nuclear, biological and chemical detection laboratory confirmed the existence of sarin.


Update I: This article fromt he Sydney Morning Hareld says that the initial tests were inconsistent. I am not a NBC expert, and I am not sure what could result in a false positive test.

Early tests for chemical agents at the compound were inconsistent. Some showed the presence of so-called G-Series nerve agents, which include tabun and sarin, both of which Iraq has been known to possess.

A hand-held scanning device also indicated the soldiers had been exposed to a nerve agent. Other tests, however, came back negative.

More precise tests by an Army Fox mobile nuclear, biological and chemical detection laboratory indicated the existence of sarin and triggered the evacuation of the captured military compound by dozens of soldiers.


Maybe they are detecting trace amounts? I dunno.

Update II: This article says it could have been a pesticide.

But two subsequent tests overnight by the Army's Fox mobile nuclear, biological and chemical detection laboratory were inconclusive, said Army 1st Lt. Kevin Bateman. He said the substance could have been a pesticide.


However, what prompted the scare was the possible symptoms exposure to low level exposure by soldiers from the 101st Airborne Assualt,

The testing came after more than a dozen soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division who guarded the military compound on Saturday night came down with symptoms consistent with exposure to very low levels of nerve agent, including vomiting, dizziness and skin blotches. The soldiers, along with a Knight Ridder reporter, a CNN cameraman and two Iraqi prisoners of war, were sent for decontamination and hosed down with water and bleach.


Update III: This article again notes that this hasn't been confirmed yet, but that further tests will be done which will confirm if these chemicals are indeed the "smoking gun".

Friday, April 04, 2003

 
Democratic Underground Dances on Michael Kelly's Grave Here are some of the better comments:

Kanzeon:
I find it hard to be sad...Frankly, the less conservative pundits, the better. Though I wish they'd just consider their career options flipping burgers at McDonald's.


9215
Agreed, New Yorker
This warmongering chickenshit chickenhawk [Kelly] is more deserving of death than innocent Iraqi children. It will be good not having to see his stupid face on the editorial pages.

He and others of his bent are the ones who hyped this slaughter, let's not forget that.


AJA
friends, americans, countrymen. i come to bury kelly, not to praise him

the death of anyone diminishes the world. the death of one mealy mouthed, blowhard, fascist faux journalist... well, let's just call that a good start. i hope ollie north gets it next.


Bozola
Ok so it is him...It is not a tragedy to die, death is an eventuality for all of us; it is a tragedy to not have lived. The best any of us can hope for is to live a life we are proud of, and perhaps, one that we will be remembered favorably for after we are gone.

It is a shame that Mr. Kelly died before he realized the the errors of his own petty, self-hating ways. It is a shame that he had never given himself to the chance to make a positive contribution to his country. As for his memory,it is literally by his own hand that he will be forever thought of as just another dead sycophant for a criminal regime. Herein lies the tragedy.

Once up a time, he was somebody's darling little baby boy. Where did he go wrong?

Let this be a lesson to us all.


Nice, eh?

 
Hypocrisy from Democratic Underground Administrator Skinner Apparently he is trying to make an open forum...hey why are you laughing?

Thursday, April 03, 2003

 
Josh Chafetz on Marc Herold's Methodology for the Iraqi Civilian Casualties Project It is clearly biased upwards. Instead of saying, "This guy could be lying so we will not count those numbers in the minimum" or some such they go right ahead and accept whatever number the Iraqi Information Ministry claims. Further, Herold's minimum number is actually higher than what the Iraqi Information Ministry is claiming.

 
Nicholas De Genova: Genocidal Maniac or Just Plain Stupid Idiot? Nicholas De Genova is a professor at Columbia University who has announced that he is hoping for "a million more Mogadishus". What the good Professor does not realize is that while it was not a good thing for the U.S. military it was even worse for the Somalis in Mogadishu. Around 100 U.S. soldiers fought and killed approximately 1,000 Somali militiamen that day, the Americans lost 18 men. The casualties were completely and totally lopsided. So a "million more Mogadishus" would mean over a billion people dead. Is that what Professor De Genova wants? If so, then we must conclude the "good" Professor De Genova is indeed a genocidal maniac. My guess it is actually the latter, that the "good" Professor is a stupid idiot of undescribable proportions.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

 
So How Goes the War? Well according the John Keegan it is going quite well. Despite the alarmist hysterics on the news, this is not another Vietnam, this is not a quagmire (at least yet). Keegan offers the following simple procedure for assessing the war.

Divide a sheet of paper with a line down the middle, and then list unfavorable events/conditions and favorable events/conditions.

The Unfavorable

  1. The refusal by Turkey to let Coalition forces move ground troops through.
  2. The apperance of irregular resistance
  3. The shortage of coalition troops
  4. The number of friendly fire incidents


The Favorable

  1. The rapid progress of the coalition, it controls most of the country, and is miles outside of Baghdad
  2. Low casualties so far
  3. The Iraqi Army is not fighting, but merely waiting in position and being defensive (i.e. not attacking)
  4. The capture of key bridges across major rivers
  5. The Iraqi populace seems content to let the military forces fight it out and keep their heads down
  6. The Coalition has total air superiority


So that is 6 to 4, the Coalition is winning (and Peter Arnett is an idiot). Further, the four favorable factors are not all that significant. For example, the shortage of troops/forces is about to change with the arrival of the 4th Mechanize Infantry Division and teh 1st Armored Division. The irregulars, Fedayeen Saddam, have been mostly a pain in the butt vs. posing a serious military threat. They have not launched any major offensives and have been defeated in most/all engagements. Hopefully, the problem with friendly fire will also decrease as the troops become more experienced. So it is a meager four unfavorables to six favorables.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

 
Well Big Surprise The Dipshits at Blogspot have fucked up my Template. Morons. They did something to update their templates or some such and now every post that is not from the current day is in italics and bold. Fuckwits.

Well...it seems fixed now. Hopefully it wont come back. Hmmm, looks like I can also add new links. About time.

 
Ansar al-Islam linked to al Qaeda Looks like Bush might have been right, that Iraq was providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists.

Here is another article on this.

An American officer familiar with the search for evidence said detailed recipes for toxins and chemical agents had been discovered in the Ansar al-Islam camps. Also recovered were page-by-page translations of U.S. military tactical warfare training manuals.


Ooops.

Local Kurdish civilians who lived around the camps say foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sudan lived and trained in the area. Kurdish and U.S. officials say Ansar al-Islam became a “safe haven” for al-Qaida fighters who fled Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in November 2001.


Seems to me that this part of Bush's claim at least is proving to be true.