Friday, May 16, 2003
PRINCETON ECONOMIST ON THE FRONT LINES
How do you make the Bush Administration appear ineffective in battling al Qaeda, despite the fact that it has killed or captured 10 key leaders and 2,000 rank-and-file members, and frozen more than $120 million of its assets? Well, you simply take a quote of out context.
Paul Krugman does this, albeit clumsily, in his anti-Bush screed today:
How is the war on terror going? You know about the Riyadh bombings. But something else happened this week: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected British think tank with no discernible anti-Bush animus, declared that Al Qaeda is "more insidious and just as dangerous" as it was before Sept. 11. So much for claims that we had terrorists on the run.
I guess the good professor thought none of his “internet stalkers” would double check that quote. But that’s why the Krugman Truth Squad exists. Rather than being a definitive claim that al Qaeda is just as strong today as it was on 9/11, the IISS is ambivalent, as this story from the BBC (Krugman’s favorite news outlet) shows:
In an annual report issued this week, IISS warns that Osama Bin Laden's organisation is today "more insidious and just as dangerous" than it was in the run-up to 11 September.
The Afghan war removed its centralised command and forced the leadership to regroup in areas where it is much more difficult to direct operations, says Jonathan Stevenson, the author of the report.
"From an offensive point of view, the Afghanistan operation had a positive counter-terrorism effect," he says.
But Mr Stevenson adds: "From a defensive point of view, I think that it has made al-Qaeda harder to find.”
Further, this story from the Taipei Times notes:
The report warns that al-Qaeda has reconstituted itself since the war in Afghanistan and was now "doing business in a somewhat different manner, but more insidious and just as dangerous as in its pre-September 11 incarnation".
It describes al-Qaeda as a "potent transnational terrorist organization that could take a generation to dismantle". With improved European and American defences, al-Qaeda could "content itself with softer high-value targets".
So on the one hand al Qaeda is “more insidious and just as dangerous” but on the other it was forced to “regroup in areas where it is much more difficult to direct operations.” It seems to me that the IISS is acknowledging that the Bush Administrations has had success in the war on terrorism but at the same time doesn’t want to appear as though it is minimizing the remaining danger.
Furthermore, the IISS appears to acknowledge that the U.S. war has caused al Qaeda to change tactics: “With improved European and American defences, al-Qaeda could ‘content itself with softer high-value targets’.” That seems to be what al Qaeda is doing by bombing Israeli owned hotels or gated compounds. However, there has been no attacks on the U.S. mainland, on U.S. warships, or on U.S. embassies since 9/11. Krugman also overlooks a recent State Department report showing that terrorist incidents have dropped 44% since 2001. So much for Krugman’s contention that the Bush Administration isn’t doing its best to fight terrorism.
Krugman also states:
Still, we defeated Saddam. Doesn't that make us safer? Well, no.
Saddam wasn't a threat to America — he had no important links to terrorism, and the main U.S. team searching for weapons of mass destruction has packed up and gone home.
Perhaps it depends on what the definition of “important” is. I guess the fact that Saddam made payments to families of homicide bombers is not important. I guess the recent document find linking al Qaeda to Saddam is not important. I guess the recent capture of an al Qaeda operative in Iraq isn’t important (nor, I suppose, would it mean that the Bush Administration has made us safer.)
Krugman’s Bush hatred is becoming pathological. It causes him to distort and overlook significant facts. Hopefully Krugman will be one of casualties in what may be a coming housecleaning at the Gray Lady.
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Thursday, May 15, 2003
HOW TO SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT
The Des Moines Register editorialists are really a piece of work (but you already knew that).
Today they bemoan a proposed income-tax cut by Iowa Republicans because:
Lower income-tax rates would clearly benefit taxpayers individually, but there eventually would be $310 million less coming into the state treasury each year for schools, corrections, child welfare and other essential services.
But later they urge
the $700 million [Iowa Values] fund should be created immediately, not raised in $70 million increments over 10 years.
Apparently it never occurs to them that’s $700 million that won’t be spent on “schools, corrections, child welfare and other essential services.” But, of course, that’s different. That’s money that government is going to spend on selected industries to get the economy moving again, while tax cuts will only “benefit taxpayers individually.”
Sigh. Some folks will always be clueless.
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Sorry folks but the lawsuit has been dropped. So I’ll just post the four entries, all of which were quite good.
Chip Taylor offers:
Caution: DO NOT look into laser with remaining eye.
Applebee Salads: "Lizard heads in this salad are not certified as "fair-trade" reptile parts."
Natural Light Beer: "Consumption of this product in the presence of co-eds and cameras has been linked with public humiliation and loss of employment."
And what had a great chance at being the eventual winner, Steve Eriksen says:
“Don’t believe everything you read.” Will be stamped on each New York Times.Heh.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003
THE WARNING LABEL CONTEST
Yes, loyal readers, it is contest time again! The last contest was a smashing success, so let’s make this one even better.
It seems that a non-profit outfit called BanTransFat.com, Inc. is suing OREO Cookies (yeah, that’s gonna be a popular lawsuit), the underlying premise being that the average American is too stupid to realize that eating too much snack food could make you fat. Such lawsuits usually result in a new wave of warning labels (DO NOT PUT YOUR HEAD INTO A CONTINUOUS LOOP TOWEL DISPENSER). The sillier the lawsuit, the more absurd the warning label. Well, now that the lawsuits are taking a one-way trip into fruit-loop land (Fruit Loops? Let’s sue them next!), I can imagine what the next round of warning labels will say.
And that is the contest: Come up with your own warning label. Here are my two entries as an example:
Matchbooks will come with large type advising “Do Not Light Match After Spilling Gasoline on Hands.”
“Do Not Thrust Pointed End Into Eye Socket,” will be stamped on every knife handle.
Those aren’t bad, but I know you can surpass them. Here are some contest guidelines: The sillier, the better. The more indulgent toward human stupidity, the better.
So send me an email or post one in the comments sections below. I’ll post the top ten a week from today.
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WANT SOME SNAKE WITH THAT?
Lizard Head Found in Salad Tests Negative
What’s more, I ate at that Applebee’s a week ago Monday.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003
GOVERNMENT HAS TOO MUCH INFLUENCE ON THE MEDIA, SO GOVERNMENT SHOULD FUND THE MEDIA
The following passage forms the crux of Paul Krugman’s column today:
Through its policy decisions — especially, though not only, decisions involving media regulation — the U.S. government can reward media companies that please it, punish those that don't. This gives private networks an incentive to curry favor with those in power. Yet because the networks aren't government-owned, they aren't subject to the kind of scrutiny faced by the BBC, which must take care not to seem like a tool of the ruling party. So we shouldn't be surprised if America's "independent" television is far more deferential to those in power than the state-run systems in Britain or — for another example — Israel.
The reductio ad absurdum of Krugman’s argument is a media organization that receives its funding from the government is freer from government influence than those media organizations that are merely regulated by the government. I’m not going to bother explaining what’s wrong with that as it should be obvious.
Not surprisingly, Krugman’s absurd theory yields myopic implications:
And the implicit trading surely extends to news content. Imagine a TV news executive considering whether to run a major story that might damage the Bush administration — say, a follow-up on Senator Bob Graham's charge that a Congressional report on Sept. 11 has been kept classified because it would raise embarrassing questions about the administration's performance. Surely it would occur to that executive that the administration could punish any network running that story.
Gee, is there anything a network could do in that instance? Hmm….let me think real hard….boy, this is tough….wait, just a minute….ah, there, I think I’ve got it: The network could run a prime-time story suggesting that the administration was engaging in petty payback! And, after that, they could run lots of other stories damaging to the administration. Boy, got a severe case of brain strain thinking up that one!
One last thing: Krugman uses media mogul Rupert Murdoch as an example of someone who is likely to be a victim of Bush Administration interference. Krugman notes that Murdoch owns “Fox News and The New York Post.” Three days from now is the one-year anniversary of the New York Post running this image and headline on its frontpage. I wonder, has Murdoch yet felt the blowback from W. and Company?
P.S. If you want more, see Hoystory and Minuteman.
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HOLLYWOOD HERE I COME—OR NOT
Well, most people who saw it seem to think that my first TV appearance was quite good. Thanks for all the nice compliments.
You know, it’s interesting to go on TV via a satellite hook-up. I actually went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to, believe it or not, Kirkwood Community College. They have a ton of TV equipment there, and apparently also do feeds for CNBC and CNN. Everyone at the studio was very nice and professional, making my first time a lot easier. The studio is a medium-sized room with a kitchen setup on one side—they do a cooking show once a week.
With a satellite hook-up, you never see the host of the show. Rather, you hear him through the earpiece, and try to look straight ahead at the camera at all times. Before you go on, all the lights except for two very bright ones are turned off. The two remaining lights don’t quite shine directly into your eyes, but they come close. They were also rather warm, which made my scalp itch—always helpful before a TV appearance.
It can best be described as “very glamorous.”
Only two problems. The host, John Gibson, mispronounced my last name. The “O” is long, not short. Oh well, it’s a common mistake.
Second, I recorded the show on my VCR so I could see how I came off. I must say, I look a bit goofy. Heh.
Well, my Mom was very proud. And in the end, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
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WAY TO GO MIKE!
Michael Totten made the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Go read it, now. He has more at his website. Go read that, next.
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IS “UNPATRIOTIC” ALL IN THEIR MINDS?
After my column last week in the American Prowler questioning whether Democrats and liberals had faced a barrage of criticism, post 9/11, questioning their patriotism, Jane Finch wrote this in my comments section:
Why is this reminding me of the Biblical quote about removing the log from one's eye?
I'd suggest a search of Lexis-Nexis using "unpatriotic" and all of the synonyms....why do they hate America? treason; sedition; un-American; etc. Heck, a search of townhall.com columnists over the past eight or so months would produce a fertile yield.
Okay, fair enough.
I don’t have access to Lexis-Nexis, but I did make a search of Townhall.com. I paired either the word “Democrats” or “liberals” with one of the following terms: “unpatriotic,” “un-American,” “sedition,” and “treason.”
The following were the number of columns yielded by the initial search:
Unpatriotic - 18
Un-American - 16
Sedition - 6
Treason - 45
Unpatriotic - 8
Un-American - 7
Sedition - 2
Treason - 50
That does seem like a lot. Yet, the numbers need to be adjusted for the columns that appeared pre-9/11, and the ones that show up in the search more than once (a real problem in Townhall.com’s search engine). Once those were excluded, I then checked the actual content of the columns to see if they indeed described Democrats or liberals using one of those adjectives. I then excluded the ones that did not. Here are the revised numbers:
Unpatriotic - 3
Un-American - 1
Sedition - 0
Treason - 7
Unpatriotic - 2
Un-American - 1
Sedition - 0
Treason - 4
That’s a total of 20 columns, an infinitesimal amount when one considers all of the columns that have appeared in Townhall.com since Sept. 11, 2001. Furthermore, even that number may be too high. In some of the pieces, like the ones by Paul Craig Roberts, Oliver North, and Kathleen Parker, it is debatable whether Democrats or liberals are being so described. And when you consider that some of the columns deal with Cynthia McKinney or John Walker Lind, who arguably deserved terms like “unpatriotic” and “treason,” then Hillary Clinton’s complaint seems even weaker.
Sorry Jane, but mainstream conservatives are not visiting a deluge of such criticism on Democrats and liberals. Such complaints have more to do with Democrats’ and liberals’ psyches than it does with any actual attack from the right.
Oh, just for grins and giggles, I ran “Hillary Clinton” and the four terms through Townhall.com’s search engine. Big, Fat, Zero.
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Monday, May 12, 2003
TV APPEARANCE? MAYBE
It looks like I’ll be appearing on the FOXNews Channel around 5:10pm Eastern Time (4:10 Iowa Time). The show is called The Big Story with John Gibson. Supposedly I’ll be discussing “How To Build a Better Democrat.” Keep your fingers crossed!
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Sorry about the late notice, but I’m supposed to be on Mickelson in the Morning, WHO 1040 AM, at 9:20am today. Hope you catch it.
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HI! I WORK FOR THE REGISTER EDITORIAL PAGE! I DON’T HAVE A CLUE!
According to the Des Moines Register:
Iowa's Chuck Grassley has taken a welcome step in recognizing the federal responsibility for some of the state's woes. The chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee included $20 billion in aid to the states in his latest effort to find a tax-cut proposal capable of attracting enough votes to pass the Senate.
But $20 billion is not enough. The states collectively face budget gaps of nearly $100 billion for 2004 and the remainder of 2003.
If the purpose of the legislation is to stimulate the economy - as everyone insists it is - federal aid to the states is a far more effective tool than tax cuts. The preponderance of economic thinking is that President Bush's proposed tax cuts would have only a slight effect on the economy - and that effect might actually be negative.
So let’s see here. $100 billion in government spending is more effective at stimulating the economy than $726 billion in tax cuts (or $550 billion, or $330 billion). And why would it stimulate the economy?
Extending unemployment benefits, helping with Medicaid funding, additional money to hire teachers and social workers would have a dual purpose: It would improve the quality of life for people in states and it would put money directly into the paychecks of people who will spend it.
I see. I suppose that the folks that would receive a tax cut wouldn’t spend it (or better yet, invest it), but would stick it under a mattress. And, of course, the Register fails to acknowledge the fact that government transfers only redistribute wealth, they don’t create any of it. Oh wait, they do acknowledge it:
That turns dollars over.
So, given that they’ve just shot themselves in the foot, how can the Register editorialists be so confident that government spending will work?
Aid to the states would be stimulative.
Well, there you go. Had they only written “would be stimulative,” then I’d be worried. But when you write “would be stimulative,” when you italicize a key word, then you can be confident that a proposed policy will be effective.
Works for me:
Tax cuts would stimulate the economy.
Personal accounts would save Social Security.
I deserve a raise.
The Register editorialists are brilliant.
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AND SPEAKING OF CLUES…
In another anti-tax cut editorial the Register quotes Warren Buffet:
Buffet said cutting taxes won't create jobs. "The idea that it creates all kinds of jobs and everything else, that's what sort of turns me off. That's like a manager saying we're going to grow our earnings 20 percent a year. They don't have the faintest idea, in my view, of how many jobs this is going to create."
Did Buffet say tax cuts won’t create jobs, or did he say that “they” don’t know how many jobs tax cuts will create? Oh well. Why let a little thing like accuracy get in the way when there are ideological points to score?
I’ll end by noting that this isn’t argumentation. This is appeal to authority. I suppose next time a billionaire like Rupert Murdoch says that tax cuts will create all kinds of jobs, the Register will be eager to quote him. Heh.
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