Nathan Newman is Totally Right - A Story Too Big to Blog
Nathan Newman is Totally Right - A Story Too Big to Blog
Lawyer, My Eyes! Tell Me What Is Wrong?
TAPPED was amused by the Norah Vincent story. Rittenhouse Review quoted a reader who used the "stealing" word and tossed in "plagiarist" with a question mark. Jason Rylander, however, seems to be hyperventilating:
"Norah Vincent -- A Plagiarist?
So it would sadly seem.... she seems to have swiped language straight out of a Jackson Browne song without attribution. In an op-ed on 9/11 submitted to (and rejected by) the New York Sun, Vincent refers to that fateful day as "the fitful dream of this rude and much greater awakening."
A little over the top, but cute. But then a Rittenhouse reader remembered this verse from Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”:
I want to know what became of the changes we waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?
I believe the word is BUSTED. I'm often willing to give writers the benefit of the doubt, but such an unusual phrase appearing in virtually identical language defies any notion of coincidence. It's too bad. I didn't always agree with Vincent, but I used to think she was talented.
I believe the phrase is "KIDDING!" And if we are both recycling old SNL routines, well, here's the attribution. Let's go to the videotape! (Warner Wolf), namely, Norah Vincent's blog:
Here is the piece that, I'm told, was too rhetorical to run in the New York Sun after all. I guess that's why we need blogs, right? Enjoy.
Our detractors say we were christened on September 11th. We got what was coming to us. We took a hit at long last. Call it comeuppance, deserts, blind justice or what you will, we got ours, and they — the self-styled pacifists — say we deserved it. The irony was lost on them.
...They were demonstrably right, you see, about those chickens called American foreign policy coming home to roost.
...Likewise, on the West Bank...crowds and families gathered and cheered this long-awaited victory by Team Jihad. They, too, told us it was time we tasted our own medicine.
We corrected that blithe summary of events with well-chosen words....
No matter, those are moot arguments now. The time for smart talk is over, or should be. We have other plans.
...Let the bored radicals rave, and in their ravings give us still more justification for our course of proactive action. The sickly quality of their mercy won’t restrain us.
Yes, we have gotten ours, and those who get theirs give as good as they get....
We have taken our blow. We have been laughed at for it. We have indeed lost our innocence, and having lost it...
That is how the game of retaliation works...
We are changed, but not in the cowering way some had hoped. Undeclared war came home to our front yards a year ago and, courtesy of cable news, it tramped through our living rooms as well.
Reality hit hard that day, so hard that even Pearl Harbor seemed small by comparison, the fitful dream of this rude and much greater awakening.
Now clichés of battle abound. And they are all true. We dashed our complacency on the girdered, corpse-strewn wreckage that it took us nine months to clean up....
We may have gotten what they thought we had coming to us, but now our attackers and their apologists will be repaid in kind.
OK, this piece was rejected by the Sun, and my excerpting has not improved it. But the key phrase is "clichés of battle abound". This is either some of the worst writing I have seen on the blogosphere, or she is kidding, or both. So what are the rules of attribution in this context? Did anyone else hear Frank upon learning that "We have taken our blows"? And even I caught one Shakespeare. Heady company for my man Jackson, actually. Anyway, since Ms. Vincent is evidently a published "professional writer", I am leaning towards the subtle joke theory. A joke that failed, and was way too subtle for some folks. And yeah, my title is adapted from Jackson Browne.
UPDATE: An itty-bitty change I hope only the good folks at Rittenhouse Review will notice. My current text is OK, but at one point I was hopelessly misleading as to where the Rittenhouse readers stopped and the Rittenhouse folks took over.
UPDATE 2: Juan non-Volokh disagrees with the "plagiarism" notion in a pop-culture context. And in response, Jason Rylander backpedals.
UPDATE 3: Norah Vincent speaks! (reference to the old "Garbo Speaks" promotion, for those still keeping score).
Save This For The Memory Vault
From Krugman's latest, as he discusses the passing of the era of Federal budget surpluses: "perhaps because of the end of the bull market, a given level of G.D.P. is yielding much less revenue than it did during the late 1990's. Or to put it another way, our brief era of big surpluses seems to have been a fluke."
This little tidbit will, I expect, be forgotten by Gore in '04, or Hillary in '08. Best to remind them.
UPDATE: Oh, c'mon, Krugman himself says "The "trifecta" is not the main story...". And I too am satisfied that nobody cares. However, in his opening paragraph, Krugman does say "Summer 2000: Candidate George W. Bush... pledges, without qualification, not to dip into the Social Security surplus." Not so, Dr. Zen! As Spinsanity has pointed out and I have harped on post nauseum, the WaPo reported in August 2000 that Lawrence Lindsay, then chief economic advisor to the campaign, now Chairman of the CEA, endorsed the "trifecta" qualifications. Since Krugman might be angling for a similar post someday, he might want to show a bit more respect.
Fourth and Inches For Baseball
What was Bogey's great line? "Go ahead and strike, you'd be doing me a favor".
The Brothers Judd Think Neville Chamberlain is Underrated
"If he were alive today... he'd be a hero...". Probably ought to read the whole thing, though.
Osama bin Laden “could have put any nationality he wanted on those airplanes. He purposefully chose Saudis in order to give this operation a Saudi face and drive a wedge between us and America,” Adel al-Jubeir, an adviser to the Saudi Government and a key figure in the PR drive, said. “And you know what? He almost succeeded.”
He almost succeeded? Don't be modest - there's plenty of credit to go around.
What Would George Do?
George Will says that Bush should seek Congressional approval for a war against Iraq. This will respect the Constitution and be smart politics.
What Do Right Wing Bloggers Think of the Baseball Strike?
Do we monolithically support oppressive Management? Do we surprise by joining with Labor? In a battle of milionaires versus billionaires, normal allegiances may not hold. OTOH, normal logic might. Here is Larry Kudlow of NRO, and elsewhere.
TAPPED Points the Way
To an interesting column by William Raspberry on slavery reparations, the to-be-hot issue of 2004. A hot issue for Al Sharpton, that is. But here is an interesting piece on other black leaders (just don't call them that).
UPDATE: Susanna Cornett on related points and Jason Rylander on minority districting.
Let Me Get Some Pine-Tar, and Start Swinging
Michael Pine offers more thoughts on the environment. Let's play ball:
"Excuse me for doubting the good faith of the Kyoto critics but did I miss the Bush Proposal on Climate Change? Nope - there wasn't one."
This takes us to Newton's Law amended for US politics: for every Bush-bashing, there must be an equal and opposite Clinton-Gore bashing. Clinton's Kyoto plan was to leave the treaty hidden deep in his desk and hope that no one could ever find it. Gore paid lip service to Kyoto during the 2000 campaign. However, inspired in part by the 1993 BTU tax debacle, Gore firmly ruled out new energy taxes during the 2000 race. So, I think that both Clinton and Gore had a similar view of Kyoto to many European governments: it was a useful sop to the Greens, but not a serious action plan. By keeping Kyoto alive, but not moving to implement it, Gore would have achieved "Kyoto-lock": no debate, no progress, no alternative plans.
By announcing what we all knew, that the US would not implement Kyoto, Bush creates an opportunity for real progress on climate change. The problem, we all suspect, is that Bush will stop at step 1. Years ago, the Democratic party embraced the environmental movement as providing one more excuse for doing what they want to do anyway, which is regulate everything under the sun. The Republicans, in opposing expanded and intrusive government regulation, have let themselves be painted as foes of environmental protection. Good for fund-raising, maybe, but a terrible strategy for attracting suburban moms (and dads).
The Republicans have begun to address environmental pollution as a market failure and a failure of property rights, and have tried to create market based solutions. With respect to carbon dioxide, for example, right now there is no person or entity with an internationally enforceable property right to clean air. Furthermore, the price of emitting carbon dioxide is currently zero. Now, a price of zero is too low: even if all the global warming arguments are only "probably" or "maybe" accurate, a positive probability of future harm suggests that the correct price today for the right to emit carbon dioxide is positive.
M Pine suggests a carbon tax. This will certainly put a price on carbon emissions, and may have the virtues of simplicity and enforceablity. However, where is the market? Can we connect the price the tax puts on carbon with our emission-reduction goals? The tax might be a step in the right direction, but is too short a step, or too long?
Under both Clinton and Bush, the US attempted to negotiate carbon emissions trading rights into the Kyoto protocols, with no success. It was only after the US dropped out that trading rights were put in, to attract the support of the Japanese. But this sort of market based approach is what the Republicans shoud be pushing as an alternative to yet another thicket of regulations.
Some of the proceeds from either a tax or an auction of emission rights "should" go to those disadvantaged by the regime change. Newly unemployed coal miners in West Virginia come to mind. In principal, the new (higher) market price of carbon emissions should be a spur to investment in new technology. Currently, green technology is competing with what is arguably way-under-priced coal and hydrocarbon energy.
Right now, both parties are in a bit of soul-searching. Some Greens (and, by extension, some Dems) seem to be opposed to anything at all that smacks of growth, progress, or change. Some Republicans really do oppose both new regulation and environmental protection. Neither party has succeeded in articulating a sensible way forward. I see a huge political opportunity for the party that does.
UPDATE: Here is a bunch of lefty Greens working with businesses and colleges to cut carbon emissions and save some money. Measurable results and a model for new ideas and change. Check it out.
I Guess You Had To Be In The Meeting
"Worried Saudis Try to Improve Image in the U.S.". And having hired some PR firms, these bright lights have the following brainstorm:
"A striking sign of the Saudis' eagerness to reach out to the United States has been an 11th-hour scramble within the royal family to find a gesture of solidarity with the American people on the anniversary of the attacks.
The royal family has considered presenting the racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes this year as a gift to the victims' families, according to one adviser to the family. The horse, War Emblem, which was owned by Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who died in July, would be part of the commemoration at Ground Zero."
Oh, that should make for a memorable ceremony: your loved one is dead, here is a horse. More honest just to give us the horse's ass. My advice to the PR firms - make sure the check has cleared.
And don't you just know the Amish will be on this?
UPDATE: It only gets better. According to my traffic meter, Google now has me as a go-to site for "Amish Incest Stories". Don't overlook "Amish Necrophilia, or dead-horse beating", either. For those who wonder, "incest" gets mentioned at this blog in a WSJ excerpt referring to exceptions for rape and incest. And I thought I must have misspelled "insect".
"Lomborg's flaw, however, is that he doesn't spell out what the "other things" we should be doing are. And that's what he needs to do if he wants to advance the ball."
First of all, I believe this is a football metaphor. Although college football has started and a baseball strike looms, I want to throw a flag on the use of football metaphors until after the Fall Classic. Secondly, although I agree in principal that Lomborg ought to provide constructive suggestions, within the framework of the football metaphor, he is still on defense: before he can advance his own agenda, he needs to persuade people that the current agenda is deeply flawed. Nice to see that on this point, he seems to have found some supporters.
I Predict a Long Day For Tom Friedman in the Blogosphere
My man Tom writes about the controversy at the University of North Carolina where incoming freshman were urged to read a book about the Koran. I will boldly straddle this issue by saying that I support his conclusion, which is that promoting a greater knowledge of Islam is a worthy objective for a University. However, his column is ludicrous. Let's see:
"THE ruckus being raised by conservative Christians over the University of North Carolina's decision to ask incoming students to read a book about the Koran — to stimulate a campus debate — surely has to be one of the most embarrassing moments for America since Sept. 11.
Why? Because it exhibits such profound lack of understanding of what America is about, and it exhibits such a chilling mimicry of what the most repressive Arab Muslim states are about. Ask yourself this question: What would Osama bin Laden do if he found out that the University of Riyadh had asked incoming freshmen to read the New and Old Testaments?
He would do exactly what the book-burning opponents of this U.N.C. directive are doing right now — try to shut it down, only bin Laden wouldn't bother with the courts...."
What would Osama do? I hope this is not meant to compare Osama with the opponents of this Unversity decision. Oh, and "bin Laden wouldn't bother with the courts" - hey, don't think of going to court as a bother, Tom, think of it as the American way. Redress of grievance, real or imagined. Rule of law.
Right, then, Friedman goes on to deliver a call for greater understanding of other ideas. OK, here is an idea, and let's see if it gives him, or his supporters, a greater understanding.
Christian Fundamentalists are an important political bloc in the US. Polls consistently show about 20% of the American public to be strongly pro-life, and this pro-life movement has had a profound effect on American politics. So far, so good? Fine, now try to imagine Friedman's column if the University of North Carolina had required incoming freshman to read a calm, thoughtful pro-life book. Anyone who thinks that he would defend this as a responsible attempt to understand an important part of American culture is welcome to a share in a lovely bridge I bought which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Or, take religion out of it. The Democratic party has a quadrennial wrestling match on the subject of gun control. A big part of the country seems to have a different view of this than urban New Yorkers. Still, if SUNY-Buffalo attempted to require incoming freshman to read about the rights of gun owners, I daresay the Times and Tom Friedman would be less than enthusiastic.
So, read the Koran - fine. But don't tell me that the people who think this idea lacks balance are like Osama, or that Tom Friedman would high-mindedly support a wide range of controversial, tolerance building measures.
UPDATE: A different set of objections to the Koran-reading are here (link from Common Sense and Wonder)
UPDATE 2: Brad DeLong thinks reading the Koran is a good idea. Well, so do I. But economics is the study of making choices. Of all the good ideas out there, why was this one chosen?
UPDATE 3: Eugene Volokh waits until Friday afternoon before Labor Day to unload on Friedman.
MoDo Held Prisoner By Warbloggers
Her latest column, in which she declares war on Saudi Arabia, may actually include a coded plea revealing the location of her captors. Or, perhaps the Iraqi situation has caused complete editorial confusion at the Times. Well, as Den Beste said in a related context, that's not a bug, that's a feature.
UPDATE: A Desperately Alert Reader wonders:
Can you square this, from Maureen Dowd: "we should be willing to knock over the Saudis for letting the state-supported religious police burn 15 girls to death last March in a Mecca school, forcing them back inside a fiery building because they tried to flee without their scarves.";
with this, from the Economist:
"The glasnost has even infected the mainstream Saudi press. Earlier this year, newspapers attacked the hitherto untouchable religious police for killing 15 girls in a Mecca school dormitory. They had, said the press, prevented the girls' escape from a fire in the school because they were not properly veiled. In the subsequent outcry, editorials demanded and won an end to religious control of girls' education—no mean feat in a state where the clergy have held power with the Al Sauds for the past 250 years."
The Economist has an Arab tilt, but this is fascinating if true. Are Maureen and I the only two who don't know about this?
Farming, Yet Again
The NY Times wraps up a four part series on water usage with an article centered about the Ogallala aquifer, which provides well-water from South Dakota to Texas. I present excerpts demonstrating the power of economics and unregulated markets. Sort of.
Saving Water, U.S. Farmers Are Worried They'll Go Dry
By DOUGLAS JEHL
PETERSBURG, Tex. — Ronnie Hopper grows cotton, and he has learned firsthand that water is precious. The water that he pumps from underground costs him five times as much as it used to, so he does his best not to waste a drop...
Mr. Hopper has reason to be parsimonious. Though he lives atop one of the world's largest aquifers, the Ogallala, which spans eight states, it is falling every day. Here in dry northwest Texas, the problem is particularly acute, with declines of at least three times the average....
"We're coming to the reality that we may not have enough water to farm all of this land," Mr. Hopper said, in fields that stretched toward the pancake-flat horizon. "But we don't want anyone coming in and telling us that we don't know how to use it best." (Emphasis added).
...In most of the country, farmers have primary water rights, ahead of suburbs and cities. But competition is intensifying. Texas, for instance, with rapid population growth and few restrictions on water use, is increasing its water consumption faster than any other state.
...At 58, Mr. Hopper remembers when water was so plentiful and the Ogallala lay so near the surface that conservation and cost barely entered his mind. But cotton is a thirsty plant, and out where he lives, farming has always been a marginal business.
On Mr. Hopper's farm, the aquifer, which stood 95 feet below the surface when he was a boy, now stands at 335 feet, with just 65 to go before it hits bottom. Now, he figures, his water bill (in electricity, for pumping from ever greater depths) accounts for a fifth of his overhead. Last year, he earned 52 cents an acre for his cotton, not enough to break even, and 20 cents of that came from the government. (More emphasis added. Am I coming to a point?)
Environmentalists call it a waste twice over: the United States produces a surplus of cotton, and pays subsidies to its farmers, yet in places like Texas the water-intensive crop is draining a finite water supply.
Well, then, call me an environmentalist. Mr Hopper doesn't want anyone to tell him how to farm his land - he just wants the Federal check. And we don't want his cotton - we just want him to go on wasting water. It's hard to say enough good things about those farm subsidies.
Congressmen Comment on Iraq
The WaPo has this headline: Congress: Bush Needs Our OK on Iraq and gets some comments from members of the House and Senate.
Apparently, hearings are planned for the fall. However, it is entertaining to watch these normally proud and assertive Congressional "leaders" suddenly playing the old children's game of "Mother, May I?" All perfectly understandable, of course: plan A is to whine about the Administration leaving Congress out of the loop; Plan B is to go an record one month prior to an election either supporting or opposing the removal of Saddam by force. Tom Daschle would be well within his prerogatives to schedule a vote on action against Iraq. Whether he deems such a course to be politically attractive is a separate question, and illustrates again the impracticality of maintaining Presidential aspirations while serving as Senate Majority Leader.
And are Presidential hopefuls such as Kerry or Edwards pressuring Daschle to give them a vote? Please. Maybe I picked the wrong game here - perhaps Congress is actually playing "SPUD".
Nicholas Kristof Marches to War!
He opens with a clarion call: "It's time to hear about Iraq from us feckless wimps". Kristof claims to be with most Americans in believing that removing Saddam is a good idea if it won't be too painful - sort of like how people feel about a trip to the dentist, or sitting down to read a column by Paul Krugman.
Is The War Powers Act Unconstitutional?
From today's WaPo: "Presidents of both parties have considered the act unconstitutional and ignored it."
Is there a lawyer in the blogosphere? I found this bit on a website, and excerpt as follows:
"As was indicated above, Section 5(c) of the War Powers Act provides that, at any time after the President engages U.S. military forces in hostilities abroad, in the absence of a congressional declaration or war or a congressional statute specifically authorizing the action, (1) Congress may pass a concurrent resolution directing the President to withdraw the troops from hostilities and (2) the President must immediately comply with the concurrent resolution. Section 5(c) is seriously flawed, constutution-wise. The Section gives the force of law to a concurrent resolution, which is passed by majorities in both chambers of Congress, but is not presented to the President for his consent or veto....Giving the force of law to a concurrent resolution dealing with the circumstances specified in Section 5(c) allows Congress to exercise a legislative veto over military actions initiated by the President without a congressional war declaration or authorizing statute....
In Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (l983), the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the legislative veto, as provided for in Section 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. The Court held that the legislative veto was a resolution subject to the requirements of Article I, Section 7, Clause 3, of the Constitution....
Despite its obvious unconstitutionality, Section 5(c) has never been struck down by the Supreme Court. Why? Congress has yet to invoke this section of the War Powers Act. Until Congress does invoke Section 5(c) and the constitutionality of the provision and the action of Congress in attempting to enforce it are challenged in the federal courts, the Supreme Court will not have the opportunity to rule on the question of the constitutional validity of Section 5(c) and its enforcement..."
Send in the lawyers. However, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb, said it best: "I don't play this game so much on what's legal and what's not legal," [he] said of a U.S. attack on Iraq. "If the president is going to commit this nation to war, he'd better have the support of the Congress and the American people with him."
This Seems To Be Pretty Clear
Cheney calls for preemptive strike against Iraq. Interesting close:
"Officials reiterated on Monday that Bush had made no decisions regarding whether to attack Iraq, and that he would consult with Congress regarding future steps."
"Consult" does not mean "seek authorization", however.
Upbeat War Plans in the Times
The Kos had more on urban warfare, and gloomier.
Resolution on Iraq
I have two bold predictions regarding Iraq. First, Jim Baker argues that the US should seek a new UN resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam, as discussed below. The Bush administration will only seek such a resolution if it believes it has the votes. My guess is that the votes are not there.
Secondly, the WaPo has a piece today about whether the administration must, or should, seek Congressional authorization for a war with Iraq. This is an administration that committed political hara-kiri clinging to Cheney's energy task force minutes, claiming Constitutional separation of powers and Executive Branch prerogatives. My belief, seemingly borne out by this story, is that a similar mind-set will guide the decision to seek Congressional authorization now. However, as the article explains, this does not mean that Congress will not vote; it means that Bush will not formally seek a vote.
One administration argument runs thusly:
"Administration officials said their position was bolstered by a Sept. 14 resolution -- passed 98 to 0 in the Senate and 420 to 1 in the House -- endorsing a military response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That argument would depend on linking Iraq and al Qaeda.
Although the administration has not publicly made this case in detail, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a July 30 news conference, "Are there al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes." Last week, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that a number of high-ranking al Qaeda members have taken refuge in Iraq."
US intelligence officials were evidently speaking with William Safire, too.
For background, here is an interesting review of the run-up to Desert Storm. Apparently, having a UN resolution in hand put pressure on the Senate, which ultimately supported the use of force by 52-47. A very close vote, since we already had over 400,000 troops dangling at the end of a long supply chain. OTOH, a close vote can be deceptive. A Senator may agree to be the 51st vote, meaning he or she will support the legislation only if that will be the deciding vote. Still, I don't see this Bush risking this sort of uncertainty.
Al Sharpton on Meet The Russert
Attention, Fact Checkers!
This letter to "The Economist" newsweekly caught my eye:
Jenin's massacre myth
SIR – You say that “Palestinians accused Israel of massacring up to 500 civilians” in Jenin (“Naught for your comfort”, August 10th). While this charge is widely attributed to Palestinians—even in Kofi Annan's UN report—we have been wholly unable to locate any direct quote from any Palestinian official making it in any media. The confusion appears to have originated when a Palestinian cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat, told CNN on April 10th of unconfirmed reports that up to 500 people had been killed throughout the West Bank in Israel's “Operation Defensive Shield”.
The next day, the Jerusalem Post wrote “Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told CNN that Israel had massacred 500 people in the Jenin camp.” In fact, looking at the CNN transcript from April 10th, Mr Erekat neither made this claim, nor used the word “massacre”. As a publication that sets a higher standard, we urge you to set the record straight, lest one more myth take root among the countless others that fuel the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Electronic Intifada
Well, here is The Electronic Intifida, evidently dedicated to countering media spin. The Economist is a great mag, but it definitely does not have an Israeli tilt. So, anyone care to help The Economist and take these guys up on this?
James Baker III Weighs in on Iraq
The heavy talent arrives:
"While there may be little evidence that Iraq has ties to Al Qaeda or to the attacks of Sept. 11, there is no question that its present government, under Saddam Hussein, is an outlaw regime...
And thus regime change in Iraq is the policy of the current administration, just as it was the policy of its predecessor. That being the case, the issue for policymakers to resolve is not whether to use military force to achieve this, but how to go about it."
And Baker goes on to make the case for war. He takes Kissinger's view (in an op-ed for which I cannot find a working link) that we should do the weapons inspection dance first. These next passages strike me as daft, but see for yourself:
"The United States should advocate the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a simple and straightforward resolution requiring that Iraq submit to intrusive inspections anytime, anywhere, with no exceptions, and authorizing all necessary means to enforce it. Although it is technically true that the United Nations already has sufficient legal authority to deal with Iraq, the failure to act when Saddam Hussein ejected the inspectors has weakened that authority. Seeking new authorization now is necessary, politically and practically, and will help build international support.
Some will argue, as was done in 1990, that going for United Nations authority and not getting it will weaken our case. I disagree. By proposing to proceed in such a way, we will be doing the right thing, both politically and substantively. We will occupy the moral high ground and put the burden of supporting an outlaw regime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on any countries that vote no. History will be an unkind judge for those who prefer to do business rather than to do the right thing. And even if the administration fails in the Security Council, it is still free — citing Iraq's flouting of the international community's resolutions and perhaps Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which guarantees a nation's right to self-defense — to weigh the costs versus the benefit of going forward alone."
So, the US should seek a new UN resolution. If the UN does not oblige us, we should proceed alone, because history will judge harshly those who falter in the face of evil. History? Clinton worried about his legacy. No doubt, James III and Bush Sr. ponder theirs. But I have a hard time picturing a big chunk of the UN General Assembly worrying about how history will judge them on this issue. And only those who want to end the UN as a functioning organization will applaud if the UN does not provide an appropriate resolution and we attack Iraq anyway. Jim "Dream-politik" Baker.
He then explains that the road to Baghdad does not got through the West Bank, but that Bush must re-affirm his vision for peace there. Well, that's clear. Sort of an Ocean's 11 riff: "Are you in or out?" "Both."
So, Scowcroft, Kissinger, Baker. For those of you scoring at home, two out of three seem to support military action. And let's not hold the fact that Baker made no sense against him.
UPDATE: The Brothers Judd join in. Hmm, maybe Baker has friends on the left?
The Farmer in the Dell
The Sunday Times has an interesting piece about the farm bill. As we have noted before, agricultural subsidies in the developed nations are an impediment to free trade, which creates problems for the third world nations that might otherwise develop an internationally competitive agricultural capability. All in the story, and a few more reasons to hate the farm bill.
Tom Friedman's "Freedom and Democracy" Tour Continues
Another good column from our man in the Near East. Key bit:
In short, countries with oil can flourish under repression — as long as they just drill a hole in the right place. Think of Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iraq. Countries without oil can flourish only if they drill their own people's minds and unlock their energies with the keys of freedom. Think of Japan, Taiwan or India.
He follows with interesting thoughts on the Saudi rulers, the Saudi elite and middle class, and the Wahhabi clerics. Check it out.
The Week That Was
I'm back! Did I miss anything? Let me see:
Iraq: Kissinger opposes a war with Iraq, suggests the Times. Not so fast, say Kaus, Krauthammer, and Keller - Kissinger supports a war with Iraq. All very entertaining, but I was struck by the non-reaction in the blogosphere to Safire's Thursday piece suggesting a clear link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Cynthia McKinney: Good-bye. And now it's a Jewish conspiracy? A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case, if I may borrow a phrase.
Enron exec pleads guilty: My main Man Without Quaities has an extended discussion of this, which leads to an intriguing question: can Andy Fastow, former Enron CFO, be too guilty? If he engaged in personal self-enrichment scams such as Southhampton, maybe he really was lying to everyone above him about everything else. Attorneys for Skilling and Lay will surely consider a "the buck stops there" defense and attempt to pin everything on the crooked CFO. And the truth is...?
Krugman: Puts the weight of the NY Times behind Josh in the Talking Points Memo dispute with the WaPo and provides a dead-tree link. But does Josh comment on whether he got a traffic boost? The blogosphere waits and wonders. And Mickey wonders (Aug. 20) about the rest of Krugman's column.
Kristof: Our man Nicholas continues his strange journey back from what must have been a media-bias re-education camp. On Tuesday, he offers a sensible "Nuke the Whales". Friday, kind words for Christian evangelicals and right wing Republicans as he joins in the general pounding on Florida's wacked out adoption law. Props to Pandagon, by the way, whose eye for the absurd spotted this before either the Times or the Wall Street Journal.
Herbert: On Tuesday, he offers a sequel to "Three Killers But No Baby", of which more later. Friday's column takes us back to the subject of Tulia for the sixth time. Apparently his crusade has prompted Senators Schumer and Clinton of New York to prod the Justice Department on the matter of their criminal investigation. Good.
Hilarity and Good Times: The Amish have their thinking caps on, and are cooking up a BIG project. But is this film Amish-approved? I don't think so.
And the Brothers Judd provide a story about the NY Times under attack with a headline that brings a smile, and suggests a replacement for "All the news that's fit to print". Their headline: "Gray lady down". The Brothers also have a fascinating take on the Robin Hood legend. If I recall, their view confounds the view of one of Ayn Rand's protaganists in "Atlas Shrugged". Was it Francisco D'Anconia who had the Robin Hood speech? Hey, Objectivists, go hassle the Judd boys. And good luck.
We Will Be Gone For a Week
Hope you all enjoy the balance of the summer. Just One Item from our assignment desk:
We are troubled by the absence of orignial speeches at the 9/11 commemoration in New York. The story mentions the collaboration of Peggy Noonan and Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster. So, we suggest that for her contribution to 9/11, Peggy Noonan write the speech that a younger Ronald Reagan might have delivered. We suspect she is doing exactly that anyway.
Secondly, Iraq: In the blogosphere there have been many "can we / can't we" debates regarding our military capability in the region. There have been many "should we / shouldn't we" debates about international law, the view of our allies, and our priorities relative to other issues, such as the West Bank and Gaza. Recently, Jason Rylander offered a post, which I will describe as "will we / won't we", titled "The March to War" (scroll up for part 2).
Following on his thoughts, and left unremarked: September 11 was perhaps the most humiliating day in the history of the US Presidency. Do you remember George Bush being shuttled from one military base to the next, his safety uncertain and his link to the American public tenuous? George Bush surely does. And Donald Rumsfeld? He spent the morning helping survivors out of the burning Pentagon. For these two, 9/11 must have been a searing personal experience, and I strongly believe that they are determined that it will not happen again to themselves or their successors. As much as we may hope that the final decisions on Iraq will be the result of a logical, analytical process, this emotional component should not be ignored.
No predictions, no conclusions. Back in a week. Great Little League stories below, and other good stuff below that.
Harlem Can Play in World Series!
Little League officials listen sympathetically to stories about the unsettled lifestyle of inner-city kids, and do the right thing.
A Profile of Two People Who Made A Difference in the Lives of Hundreds
A New York City banker and his attorney wife. Greatest city in the world.
With Thunder From the Left, Pandagon Thought This Law Was Crazy
Check this flame:
"Sex and What City?
Laws that make sane people wonder if the legislators were smoking something funny when they dreamed them up aren't all that uncommon. Still, we'd have to go far to find anything matching the weirdness of Florida's new law, ostensibly aimed at giving fathers a chance to have a say before their child is put up for adoption.
The rules of this grand social endeavor require that mothers wishing to give a child up for adoption, and who can't find or identify the father, must publish notices in newspapers. These must supply her full name, and complete physical details, such as weight, height and coloring. Also to be included is a list, complete with physical description, of all the male partners who could possibly have fathered the child.
The thoroughness of this search mechanism could put our airport security to shame. The mother's notice must also include the dates and locations of all the sexual encounters that could have led to the pregnancy. That notice must furthermore be published every week for four weeks everywhere (not just in Florida) those sexual encounters took place. There is no exception for minors or for victims of rape or incest.
The harm in this legislation couldn't be more obvious. Pregnant single women or girls confronting Florida's requirements are more likely to choose abortion or single-parenting rather than publish their sexual histories in newspaper advertisements for all the world to see. This is the 21st century's version of the Scarlet Letter...."
Harmonic Convergence, or "Deep Thoughts Ahead"
We have seen Paul Krugman muse about marking his beliefs to market. And we have seen him muse about "errors and omissions" in our national accounting. BUT, we have not seen him muse about marking our national accounting to market.
Meaning what? Well, we had a fairly spectacular tech bubble over the last few years, as you may have noticed. GDP growing, people working, many whiz-bang telecom widgets produced, many trenches dug to lay fiber optic cable - heady stuff, On To The Next Millenium!
GDP is, and I am working without notes here, the measure of the goods and services produced domestically. The value of these goods and services is ascertained from market prices. Now, a lot of telecom equipment and investment was made at prices that, several years later, seem ludicrous. For example, suppose that "Big Tel" spent $1 Billion on routers and fiber optic cable in 1999. That $1 Billion figure is still hanging around in our GDP for 1999. Big Tel, however, is gone, and after the fact it seems that the $1 Billion of output was really worth, I don't know, $1.75.
So, imagine that we reduce GDP by this $1 Billion. Accountants will clamor for an offsetting entry. OK, maybe a hypothetical "National Net Worth" account? Write down some notional "accumulated assets" by $1 Billion. But the offsetting entry will not be an increase in some other part of the GDP.
So, GDP down in 1999. Maybe similar adjustments should be made for 1997 to 2000, which seems like a lot of work, and is Quite Irregular. Still, if GDP is reduced, then what happens to the productivity boom of the late 90's? Suddenly our productivity miracle looks less miraculous, and a lot more like a bunch of folks digging ditches.
Well, I don't know. Our guiding motto is "Any fool can answer a question that ten wise men cannot answer". Wise ladies may also be stumped. But, if anyone has any thoughts on this, I would be fascinated.
Some Red Meat For the Krugman Crowd
And your chef is Brad Delong! Here we go:
Alan Krueger reports that Paul Krugman had a good line last night on the Charlie Rose show. Paul Krugman was trying to illustrate how large the gaps are in how our statistical system covers the economy:
"If you look closely at the numbers, the U.S. is the world's leading exporter of errors and omissions... "
I imagine Mickey Kaus might take a different tack, but my question is: "Has Krugman ever driven a Renault?"
The NY Times Boldly Illustrates the "Beinart Effect"
Peter Beinart of the TNR observes, as Michael Pine noted yesterday, that some Republicans favor war on Iraq, but Democrats are coming out strongly in favor of... more debate. This "can we talk" approach is vividly illustrated yet again on the editorial page of today's Times. Their call to arms:
"Mr. Scowcroft's concerns about attacking Iraq, aired yesterday in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, were the equivalent of a cannon shot across the White House lawn. The piece should erase any doubt about the need for a national debate on Iraq."
And then some hand-wringing. Look, I'm sympathetic, I'm hand-wringing too. But this Alphonse and Gaston pose at the Times is getting to be a bit much.
An interesting column, but again, no links. Krugman refers to a recent Fed paper: Brad DeLong covered it, and presents follow up comment.
My summary of Robert Feldman's response to the Fed paper: Japan used macroeconomic tools - fiscal and monetary stimulus - to address what was fundamentally a bundle of microeconomic problems - "less flexible labor markets, more intrusive regulation, less strict corporate governance, an inadequate judicial system, and many other structural problems.... ".
And, with respect to Japan's financial system:
"Because of the reluctance of the financial regulatory authorities to impose and implement strict standards on loan classification or capital adequacy for financial institutions, both the institutions and the inefficient borrowers have remained in business."
Both quotes are from DeLong's site, but are excerpts from Robert Feldman of Morgan Stanley, for those of you scoring at home.
Krugman admits he is not sure how worried about the "turning Japanese" scenario we ought to be, but seems to prefer an interest rate cut ASAP. Complete agreement here.
I Duly Note Kristof's Latest Column
Does my silence give consent? Let's say that I will be curious to see if there are rebuttals elsewhere. I would predict the alternative theme to be that Kristof has a misplaced faith in international treaties, but this is not my area. Love his big finish - original to him?
This Story About The Letter is Disturbing
But I don't see that the Times has picked it up. What the Times does have is this story of a split among Republicans. Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Bush 41, says that world opinion demands that we deal with Palestine first. Among the responses:
"Richard N. Perle, a former Reagan administration official and one of the leading hawks who has been orchestrating an urgent approach to attacking Iraq, said today that Mr. Scowcroft's arguments were misguided and naïve.
"I think Brent just got it wrong," he said by telephone from France. "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism."
This "we talked the talk; now we have to walk the walk" view is somewhat central to my own sense of where this freight train is headed.
Can Anyone Here Play This Game?
Jeff Hauser gives us an early start on the weekend by pitching us Derek Zumsteg, author of the modestly priced "Zumsteg Plan" to save Major League Baseball from itself. Briefly, "big market" teams pay a franchise fee based on Nielsen data estimates of their market size; "Small market" teams are compensated by the franchise fees for playing in, well, small markets. This will not penalize successful teams, or big spending teams, or teams with loyal fans. Also, the underlying data is a lot more objective than owner's Enron-like revenue figures.
My problem? Big market teams ought to win more. C'mon, do you want to make a few million folks in Kansas City happy, or give the twenty million people in the New York area a thrill? Look, George Steinbrenner isn't spending his money - he is spending the money the fans gave him. The fans bought that pennant, and I'm ready to buy another one. And another. And another. Baseball survived for decades with the Yankees ascendant, and it's my turn now.
And, somewhat more seriously, baseball is a regional game. Competitive balance may work for football, where fans from all over might tune in to watch the Buffalo Bills lose to some NFC team in the regular season or the Super Bowl. But here in baseball, nobody cares. If the Royals play the Brewers in the World Series, make it best out of five. Five innings, that is, because it can't end soon enough for the network execs. Baseball needs successful big-market teams. Hello, Philadelphia? Hello, Mets?