October 31, 2005

An Extremist!

I'm ready to rumble...

Bush Picks Alito for Supreme Court - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - President Bush, stung by the rejection of his first choice, nominated veteran judge Samuel Alito on Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his conservative allies. Ready-to-rumble Democrats warned that Alito may be an extremist who would curb abortion rights.

Were the opposition smart, they'd compliment the pick and watch the conservatives worry about endorsements from Ralph Neas and Senator Dodd...

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 10:36 AM | What do you think? [4]
But johngalt thinks:

I heard a liberal special interest spokesman (pardon me, spokes"person") say that Alito has written that the government "has no business prohibiting ownership of machine guns." I take this to mean the judge disputes the constitutionality of the Federal Firearms Act of 1934 and/or the more pernicious amendment to it in 1986. If so, that's a big mark in the FOR column.

It's going to take a while to get to know this nominee, who was one of the "one percenters" in the GOPUSA poll (below.) So far, though, so good.

Posted by: johngalt at October 31, 2005 2:37 PM
But jk thinks:

It could just be onomatopoeia, but I take it as a good sign that Instapundit links refer to him as "Scalito."

I give deference to other court followers and that guy in the Oval Office, but have not heard anyhing yet to turn me away from this pick.

Posted by: jk at October 31, 2005 5:59 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Finally. A known quantity. Better yet, passed the Senate twice 100-0.

Posted by: AlexC at October 31, 2005 7:28 PM
But AlexC thinks:

"Scalito" doesn't really bother me. But it does someone.

Posted by: AlexC at October 31, 2005 7:29 PM

October 30, 2005


As Taranto would say "Bottom Story of the Day"

Edwards Works on Possible Bid in 2008

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:40 AM

Caveat Emptor, Hybrid Shoppers

When gasoline hit 3 bucks a gallon the hype over "hybrid cars" really shifted into high gear. "More than half of US consumers see a hybrid in their future," one article reports.


Americans surveyed had a generally dim view of U.S. automakers' efforts. Viewed most favorably for their hybrid plans were Toyota, with 41 percent of respondents, and Honda, with 40 percent.

Ford's hybrid efforts got the nod of only 14 percent, GM's only 13 percent and Chrysler was last at 8 percent.

Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid grew 90 percent in September.

But are hybrids really as superior in fuel efficiency as automakers claim in their multimillion dollar advertisements? Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has thrown a half-bucket of cold water on that nouveau conventional wisdom. In an October cover article the magazine reveals how their own fuel economy test results compare to the "EPA estimates" behind the mileage claims of every automaker selling cars in the USA.

Highlights of our study:

• Shortfalls in mpg occurred in 90 percent of vehicles we tested and included most makes and models.

• The largest discrepancy between claimed and actual mpg involved city driving. Some models we tested fell short of claimed city mpg by 35 to 50 percent.

• Hybrids, whose selling point is fuel thriftiness, had some of the biggest disparities, with fuel economy averaging 19 mpg below the EPA city rating.

Everyone who's ever computed his own gas mileage knows the EPA figures are unrealistically high, even after they were arbitrarily "adjusted" with a 10 percent reduction in 1984. But the government mandated test regimen for measuring fuel economy is still the same dinosaur it was when originally cobbled together in 1975. So how does it deal with these newfangled "hybrid" cars? They start their testing with a fully charged battery! If the test is long enough this advantage will be minimized, but the test protocol runs for only 31 minutes in the "city" test and 12.5 minutes for "highway." Consumer Reports, on the other hand, starts their hybrid tests "with the battery at the charge level you normally find--about half." Their "city" test is not as long at 16 minutes, but "highway" is longer at 37 minutes. Larger "real-world" discrepancies exist too, like the EPA test's professional driver following a prescribed speed and acceleration curve on a dyno vs. CU's two test drivers making 6 test runs on real roads, and EPA's variable "highway" speed of 30 to 60 mph, averaging 48 vs. CU's constant 65 mph.

So what's the result? Here are the tallies for select cars from Honda and Toyota:

Hybrid mileage chart cropped.bmp

From the chart we can see that, if you believe Consumer Reports' "real world" tests, hybrid cars 'city' fuel economy is often no better than good old fashioned gas only cars from the same maker. And no expensive, complicated, heavy, limited lifetime battery/motor system is required to achieve it. Just lightweight, aerodynamic and underpowered - the classic japanese car formula.

If you really want the best gas mileage try driving slower. I typically get 26 mpg while commuting in my 6 cylinder Audi "upscale car," mostly on an interstate highway. One day I tried driving at the speed limit on every street in my route and the on-board computer reported: 30 mpg.


But johngalt thinks:

"The trouble is...?" What are you, a social engineer? Yeah, we sure don't want people to have more choices, or have more freedom, or to LIVE more.

But let's not get sidetracked in these comments. The important revelation here is that Hybrid gasoline-electric cars are tested by the government in such a way that they "f[a]ll short of claimed city mpg by 35 to 50 percent."

They are not "magicmobiles." They do not defy physics. Energy in is still equal to energy out, no matter how many times you convert it.

Now, IF nearly all of the energy content of gasoline can be losslessly extracted as hydrogen (and that's a very big IF) then hydrogen fuel cell powered electric vehicles could pose the revolution in transportation that JK presupposes. But they'll STILL be running on the demon fluid - gasoline!

Posted by: johngalt at October 31, 2005 2:28 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Just to keep things interesting around here I am going to side with johngalt against JK and second his questioning your social engineering proclivities. People will just drive more if fuel economy is raised? I gauge how far I am willing to live from my job based on time not the cost of gas. Even at a moderate 20mpg and 60 mph that is only 3 gals/ hour or $9/hr at $3/gal. I am comfortable that my time will always be worth more than the cost of gasoline. This seems analogous to the argument that if you widen roads more people will drive and you will just have traffic again.

Interesting report on fuel economy though. A friend who has a Civic hybrid says she gets 43-46 mpg in a City/Hwy mix. I can readily see how battery charge level and driving style could have a bigger effect on a hybrid than a single fuel vehicle but the 35-50% lower values seem so excessive that I have to wonder about the test parameters. I do wonder about the long term viability of hybrids though, there is a weight, cost, and complexity issue with two power sources. I think the US automakers pinned their hopes on fuel cells and largely figured hybrids as a short term stop gap measure. This may still turn out to be true, even with the current high demand for hybrids only 88,000 were sold in 2004 or 0.52% of the total market according to J.D. Powers.

Johngalt is also right in that there is no substitute for weight in the energy equation. My suggestion to all the politicians now calling for energy legislation is that first stop should be at DOT. They should add a vehicle designation between car and motorcycle and eliminate or limit the safety and emissions regulations for this class of "commuter vehicles". Our average vehicle mileage has been going down and that is attributable to the American desire for "bigness", but increasingly stringent safety and emissions standards play their part in increasing weight and decreasing efficiencies as well. Americans love their boats, their campers and their Home Depot runs but they also increasingly have 3 car garages. Instead of trying to make large do everything high mileage vehicles, make them a small, 3rd vehicle option. In other words, change the vehicle to fit the market instead of the other way around.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 31, 2005 4:21 PM
But jk thinks:

The engineers are ganging up on me again, nothing ever changes...

1) Yup, jg, poor choice of words on "the problem is..." I'm not supporting social engineering but I would like less reliance on imported oil. I don't see hybrids getting us there.

2) A clarification, Silence. You may not commute longer distances but you might buy a bigger vehicle (the hybrid may ultimately save the SUV -- take THAT Arianna!), might take a driving vacation, might sign up for a machine-gun club in Bennett after "Scalito" is confirmed, &c. My point is that the conservation clamored for will not reduce demand or consumption.

3) Your suggestion for better tinkering in the market seems okay on the surface but Yeccch! On Planet jk, car companies just make what people want to buy without shoehorning it in to CAFE slots. Let's direct our efforts at getting the gub'mint out of the car biz.

4) An upscale Audi? When did this happen?

Posted by: jk at October 31, 2005 6:16 PM
But johngalt thinks:

1) I know you're far from a social engineer JK, I just need to point it out whenever you sound like one. And here's another: "...less reliance on imported oil." Good grief, you sound like Bill Ford Jr! Nobody is RELIANT on any oil, much less IMPORTED oil. There are plenty of other fuels out there and anyone is free to use them (unless the government gets in your way). The fact of the matter is, the most economical motor fuel is gasoline/diesel oil. As for IMPORTED oil, how is it considered "reliance" when we choose to import it at a lower cost than domestic production? That sounds more like smart shopping to me.

2) Excellent observation JK. Thanks for the clarification: Conservation (in the form of more efficiency) will not reduce demand or consumption.

4) February, 2005.

Silence, I suspect your friend's city/hwy mix is really mostly hwy. The CR "overall" number is a simple average of the city and highway numbers. People often consider their driving habits to be "mixed" city/hwy because they use both kinds of road to get to work. The key is how many times you stop and re-start, and idle. My point was why pay more for the hybrid when it's highway economy number is only 5 mpg better than gas only (vs. the 9 mpg difference advertised) and the city number is 26 vs 21 mpg (compared to the 48 mpg advertised.) Or you could pay even less and get an Insight that gets 66 hwy, 36 city!

As for your suspicion of the test parameters, how do you explain JK's MR2 getting the same city mileage in both the CR and EPA tests? There's clearly a difference in the cars as well as the tests.

Posted by: johngalt at November 1, 2005 3:15 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I just don't see the logic that conservation will not lower consumption or demand. Are you arguing that if my current SUV gets 25 mpg that instead of trading it in for an equivalent hybrid that gets 40 mpg that I will just buy a bigger hybrid SUV and still get my 25 mpg? If those two vehicles had the same sticker price I might see some effect there, but they don't. People may not budget for gas, but they do budget for car payments. That increase from 25 mpg to 40 mpg would net you around $40 a month which won't take your from a Jeep Liberty to a Grand Cherokee, but it would buy you some leather seats, rockin' stereo, or even a machine gun rack.

My point on the DOT classifications is that once a vehicle has 4 wheels it is a car and has all the regulations therein. This actively discourages lightweight vehicle development.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at November 1, 2005 3:33 PM
But jk thinks:

Not you, Silence, so much as you, aggregate customer. I may not truck with all of John Maynard Keynes beliefs but aggregating supply and demand has its virtues. Conservation would lower prices, which would embolden consumers to disregard gasoline costs.

I'm a small car lover but I did consider a Saturn hybrid SUV (which is not even released yet). That would have put me in a 25mpg SUV instead of the 35mpg conventional car I bought. My wife saved me from myself, she hated it.

Posted by: jk at November 3, 2005 10:17 AM

October 29, 2005

Chris Muir gets a sponsor

I am happy to see that Day By Day has been picked up by the RNC. I hope they are paying him boatloads.

The self-deprecating jibes of the past two days, as Jan worries that the strip is selling out are too funny.

Just a reminder, kids, when he makes it big, all of you who bought the Berkeley Square CD with his illustration on the cover are going to be retiring in Bermuda...

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 4:45 PM

Mommy Knows Worst!

James Lileks is the web's own treasure and I think we have a duty to buy his books. I gave several copies of "Interior Desecrations" and "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" for Christmas last year and they were all big hits.

Just got my copy of Mommy Knows Worst : Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice from Amazon and it is very funny.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 4:16 PM

Trash Talk

Heeeeeeeeeeey AlexC: the Iggles haven't a chance against the mighty Broncos!!

(Or so I wish, I just thought a little regional rivalry among ThreeSource-ites might make the time pass faster through this interminable Plame/Wilson/Libby nonsense...)

Posted by John Kranz at 4:02 PM | What do you think? [6]
But AlexC thinks:

Bah! Our sea-level team is at a distinct disadvantage in the mile-high city.
But they Eagles aren't the Iggles of last year. It'll be a game no doubt.

You may recall I have this whole love-hate thing going on with them.

Posted by: AlexC at October 29, 2005 11:28 PM
But jk thinks:

Yup. I just didn't know if you were in love or hate mode this week.

It should be a good game!

Posted by: jk at October 30, 2005 11:36 AM
But AlexC thinks:

It's nearing the end of the 1st quarter, and I'm strongly leaning toward the "hate" category... but it's mostly, "aww! what the f*ck are they doing!??!!?!"

Posted by: AlexC at October 30, 2005 5:05 PM
But AlexC thinks:

Here's a perfect example of the cause of the love-hate Iggles fan in me.

Fall down 28-0. Hate 'em.
Rally back three scores. Love 'em.
Choke big time. Hate 'em.

Breaks my heart!

Posted by: AlexC at October 30, 2005 7:44 PM
But johngalt thinks:

When the Eagles cut the Broncos' lead to 28-21, Dagny and I were saying, "Here we go again." We went out to feed the horses (in that same rain you saw on TV) and came back to quite a surprise. And they weren't done yet! That ending was very un-Bronco like. Dagny remarked that the Eagles have the Giants to blame. The Broncos had a chip on their shoulder after last week.

Speaking of the G-men, they were beneficiaries of Broncos efforts in back-to-back weeks, being alone in first place now thanks to the Eagles loss.

Posted by: johngalt at October 30, 2005 8:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah. Only a Bronco fsn gives up all hope when his team is up by two touchdowns...I was going to leave but didn't.

A bari-sax plyer in my last band would start every game with "Let's watch the Broncos snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory!"

Thankfully, when Johngalt and I quit they did not. May have a team here...

Posted by: jk at October 31, 2005 10:25 AM

October 28, 2005

More on Oil Prices

As I caterwauled, Senate Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert have forgotten how the market works. They want to hold hearings on "why oil companies posted such big profits?"

Let me refresh some memories. High profits are an important market signal. They tell other companies to compete in the field and they direct capital toward new and existing companies in that market space. Ummm, they're good. They make stockholders happy and they direct capital to its best use, which makes the world better.

Larry Kudlow is on the case with some interesting stats:

The key point is that oil profit margins are completely moderate. Exxon, for example, posted just under $10 billion in third quarter net income, on revenue of $100 billion. This means profits as percentage of sales are running around eight to ten percent, only slightly higher than ongoing run averages. This is obviously a result of the bulge in oil prices over the past year.

A deeper look will also show that energy and oil profit margins rank in the middle of the ten major S & P 500 major sectors like financials, health care, and technology, which run around fifteen to twenty percent profit margins. So the current windfall profits campaign, heralded by politicians on both sides of the aisle, is nothing more than a stupid, anti-capitalist, anti-market political barrage. It is politics at its worst. It is Republicans at their worst.

Hear that Bill O'Reilly? These companies make a lot of money because they are VERY BIG, as a percentage of market cap, they are dogs, who've enjoyed a good run on high prices. If you want to lower the prices, boys, reduce the regulative cost-of-entry of would be competitors.
Larry's more Republican than I could aspire to be, but he is pulling no punches on our misguided leadership:
In particular, Republicans Hastert and Frist should be ashamed of themselves. They are catering to snap polls. What are energy companies supposed to do? How are they supposed to invest in and build new refineries when they can’t get regulatory approval to build them? Burdensome environmental regulations and other governmental red tape issues stymie them. This is especially the case in the refining area.

But AlexC thinks:

Finally... someone says, "Yeah, they made 100 billion, but it cost them 90 billion to do it."

No harm in that.

Posted by: AlexC at October 29, 2005 12:48 AM
But johngalt thinks:

And how many legislators on either side will be scrambling to the microphones to demand hearings into why oil companies are LOSING $10BN when the cycle reverses?

So let's get this straight: The NY Times and fellow travellers are PLEASED that gasoline prices are high, even suggesting that new taxes be added when they began to soften, but none of that money had better be going to the companies that make gasoline possible. Nosiree, anything but that!

It's time for oil companies to start hearings into why federal government revenues - they should refer to them as "profits" as well - are so astronomically high.

Posted by: johngalt at October 29, 2005 10:32 AM
But jk thinks:

Amen, jg! Let the CEOs abuse the Senators for a change...

Posted by: jk at October 29, 2005 6:51 PM

For This We Elect Republicans

Senate Majority Leader and Presidential Wannabe, Bill Frist, is holding hearings of oil company executives for serving the interests of their shareholders.

John Fund (Taranto is out monkeyfishing today I guess...) worries about "Pump Panic."

What's most worrisome is how quickly the Republican leadership in Congress exhibits signs of panic. Mid-term elections are a year away, and yet this week's announcements of record profits by some oil companies are causing GOP leaders to stampede into panic over high gas prices.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called for Senate hearings in which the heads of the nation's major oil companies would be called to justify the fact they are making money. I had thought such a scene--common during the 1970s government-induced energy crisis--wouldn't return in a GOP Congress. But political expediency seems to trump principle and common sense if the price at the pump goes high enough.

Fund suggests that a relaxation of regulation on refineries and drilling might serve the public better, but it won’t generate the publicity of a good ol' witch hunt.

Republicans. Republicans.

UPDATE: Just got email from Frist's VOLPAC:

The energy bill we passed this summer was a good first step, but we need to do more.

First and foremost, we need to aggressively prosecute price gouging wherever it is occurring. That's why I've ordered a Senate hearing that will call upon major oil company executives to testify as to WHY oil prices are so high.

If we find that certain oil companies are abusing the free enterprise system to enrich themselves and their businesses at the expense of the American people, we will act swiftly.

If the facts warrant it, I will support a federal anti-price gouging law.

In addition, we need to look to the future. We need to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign sources of oil, and focus our efforts on ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. That is why - next week - we will approve the Deficit Reduction bill, which will open ANWR to oil exploration.

I guess I can hope that the hearings result in no more than Senatorial, stentorian preening and that opening ANWR results in real legislation. I would prefer to have my party avoid ill-economic nonsense but there may be a pony under that tree somewhere...

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 1:22 PM

Scooter Goin' Down?

Tucker Carlson has opened about every show this week by breathlessly intoning a new development in l’Affaire Plame courtesy of the NYTimes. Being on live at 11 gives him a head start that is interesting, he can be first to discuss "tomorrow's" Times.

Oddly enough, none of these leaks (on a leak investigation) have seemed to be real stories with any legs.

Last night's was that Scooter Libby was to be indicted for perjury but not for outing Valerie Plame. The headline I see today is the superior "Rove Not Expected to be Indicted Today."

So, two years and $22 million (starting to sound like a 90's Democrat) and Fitzgerald may drop the hammer on a Vice President's Chief-of-staff -- not for outing a CIA operative -- but for lying about it.

I'm not the only one who thinks this is sad, Jason at G e n e r a t i o n W h y ? agrees.

Just one problem... the corruption conspiracy never existed. And the indictment that's expected today will show that... or rather the lack of any indictment for revealing an undercover agent's identity will show it. Sure, the Left is likely to cheer gleefully when an indictment comes down today against Scooter Libby, but the absence of an indictment for actually outing an undercover agent will reveal that this was never a story to begin with.

We still, of course, are punditing on punditry of speculation of anonymous leaks. Carlson thinks there has to be some hidden bomb in there somewhere, that this cannot be all there is.

Can it?

Hat-tip: Insty

But Silence Dogood thinks:

The more interesting question to me is if there are no indictments did we waste $22 million? I am especially looking forward to the pundits views on this. Tempting as it is to say yes, you are in effect saying that something should be found. The sticky wicket here is that I am sure Fitzgerald (and others before him) felt pressure to come up with something, something for the $22 million. This begs the question of whether just appointing a special prosecutor pre-judges the case really both against the subjects and the prosecutor themselves. If a failure to bring an indictment is a failure of the investigation and of the special prosecutor themselves then you have biased the outcome from the start.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 28, 2005 1:03 PM
But jk thinks:

The special prosecutor is a bad idea but certainly tempting to political opponents.

Judge Starr has been maligned (rightly i some instances) but his tenure brought down a sitting Governor and resulted in many indictments. Fitzgerald seems to be coming up short.

Posted by: jk at October 28, 2005 1:38 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Silence makes a very good point: Does the mere appointment of a special prosecutor NECESSITATE an indictment of some sort?

Senator Schmucky Chumer of NY said on O'Reilly last night that "the only explanation" for why Libby would lie about something that wasn't a crime is that there really was a crime (a conspiracy to damage Plame and Wilson) and he's thrown himself on his sword to protect higher ups.

I'll posit another possible explanation for what, by all accounts, seems a stupid mistake on Scooter's part. Being beltway insiders, the administration realized the axiom that Silence just enlightened us about from the very beginning, and Scooter volunteered to be the fall guy.

It's at least as plausable as Chumer's "there really was a crime" hypothesis.

Posted by: johngalt at October 29, 2005 10:44 AM
But jk thinks:

Just this once, jg, have a little pity on the Senior Senator from New York. Not only is he overshadowed every day by the dadgummed JUNIOR Senator form New York, but he is also feeling the disappointment not unlike “a dagger in his heart.”

The anti-W camp pinned their hopes on the Fitzgerald star and all they get is Scooter. Poor Senator Schumer…

Posted by: jk at October 29, 2005 4:09 PM

Conservatives Want Brown

A GOPUSA poll of 1000 Conservatives (lets. see there are about ten in Boulder...) shows that most (72%) thought that Harriet Miers "did the right thing" by withdrawing and the consensus is almost as clear for the next nominee:

Judge Janice Rogers Brown: 46%
Judge Priscilla Owen: 12%
Judge Michael Luttig: 8%
Solicitor General Ted Olson: 8%
Judge Emilio Garza: 3%
Judge Edith Jones: 3%
Judge Samuel Alito: 1%
Judge Karen Williams: 1%
Larry Thompson: 1%
Someone Else: 16%

Count me in, though there is nobody on that list that I know whom I would not support.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 11:22 AM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I think this shows that Brown has become a judicial "rock star." When I form a mental image of her confirmation hearings juxtaposed with those of Ms. Miers there's a startling contrast of personality and, dare I say, 'gravitas.'

Let's hope that, just this once, the prez reads the polls.

Posted by: johngalt at October 29, 2005 10:47 AM
But jk thinks:

65 or not, I have to say that I could go for Ted Olsen as well -- and he would be pretty confirmable.

Posted by: jk at October 29, 2005 4:38 PM

October 27, 2005

The REAL Totalitarian Regime: UN

In the wake of Iran's calculated saber-rattling we see, rightfully, that Israel calls for Iran's expulsion from the UN. Even the EU Condemns Iran's President for Threat to Israel. But at the UN, what does Kofi say?

'The secretary general has read with dismay the remarks about Israel attributed to Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,' a statement released by his spokesman said.

Annan reminded all member states that Israel is a long-standing United Nations member 'with the same rights and obligations as every other member.'

'He recalls in particular that, under the United Nations Charter, all members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,' the statement said.

Noting that he had already planned to visit Iran in the next few weeks to discuss other issues, Annan said he now intended 'to place the Middle East peace process, and the right of all states in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force, at the top of his agenda for that visit.'

[emphasis mine]

Well then, we all feel better now don't we? Now that SGOTUN has expressed his "feelings" about the rights of "all states in the area" and the "obligations" of Israel, the UN can continue business as usual - extortion against Israel, all the traffic will bear.

War on Terror Posted by JohnGalt at 3:07 PM

Was the War Really About Oil?

Brian Micklethwait, whom I respect greatly, has a speculative post about declining support for the war. In a casual conversation with siblings, they came up with this hypothesis:

But what if the dime has now finally dropped that actually this war is NOT all about oil?

Could that be what Middle America is getting nervous about? For as long as they were convinced that it was all about oil, they were content. That is our kind of war. Simple, limited, clear, selfish. All the things you want, and not like Vietnam at all. But now that it is dawning on them that this really is about "democracy" and such like, for that exact reason they are getting fidgety. Will it be worth it? When will it end? Where will it end? etc.

I wholly reject this premise and commented so. Reading the comments reminded me one of my favorite things about Samizdata: the quality of the comments. Many different viewpoints from both sides of the Atlantic, expressed generally with seriousness and respect.

Flip through the comments, they're great.

But Silence Dogood thinks:

It is a great post even though like you I disagree, but as a hypotheses it is an interesting idea. My take is that people are realizing some pertinent things:

1) It is a long haul to build a democracy and a positive outcome is far from a sure thing.
2) The hurricanes have brought painfully to point that everything costs time, energy, and money and the supplies of all of those are limited. Money spent to rebuild Baghdad is not available to rebuild New Orleans.
3) Actions in Iran and North Korea and our government's discussion of same note that there is still no shortage of brutal tyrants who may possess WMD's and being willing to use them or provide them to those that would.

None of these is an indictment against the war but can lead to misgivings in the ranks. People certainly could have gotten the wrong idea about 1) from statements by our VP or Sec. of Defense and possibly even been convinced that the "domino theory" would take care of 3).

I also agree that the No Blood for Oil slogan has only its catchy chant and ready adaptability to a placard going for it. I would however point out that our foreign policy is tainted by our need for oil, it is not THE issue but factors in to many of the things we do or don't do.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 27, 2005 6:26 PM
But jk thinks:

I think you could've stopped after '1' Silence. The war has lost appeal because it has been longer and more difficult than we imagined.

The terrorism that remains in Iraq (it is NOT an insurgency) has certainly surprised me. You can call me naive but I expected flowers in the street, wasn't surprised by continued acts against the Coalition troops, but am gobsmacked that they are killing so many Muslims.

They see how bad democracy would be for their cause, that makes me want to stick it out.

Posted by: jk at October 28, 2005 11:27 AM
But johngalt thinks:

1) The only "sure things" are death and taxes.
2) Was indemnity insurance available to the citizens of Baghdad to rebuild their city in the event it was damaged during a war to overthrow their tyrannical government? No. But even so, they couldn't be as certain that would happen as could New Orlineans that a hurricane would, one day, hit their city.
3)And letting Iraq continue to at least claim doing the same dissuades these other Axis of Evil members, how?

The "domino theory" is having its effect. Notice that the enemies of freedom and capitalism are becoming more and more direct in their rhetoric. They had been pursuing their "diplomatic option" too, and it was a miserable failure. Democracy in "the land of three rivers" was the last straw for them. Their cause is entering its death throes.

Posted by: johngalt at October 28, 2005 3:15 PM

Sox & Strauss?

The Weekly Standard's parody is pretty funny.

Congrats to the Sox today. I'm an NL guy through and through, and I thought that the city of Houston should have been rewarded for its generosity to Katrina survivors. BUT IF YOU'RE GONNA STRAND 16 BASERUNNERS...

Hats off to the Sox bullpen.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 12:25 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

I recall several factors outside the control of the Astros that cost them in the first three games, but game four was mismanaged, pure and simple. If you're going to lift your starting pitcher for a pinch hitter with 2 outs and the bases empty, don't send your former superstar who "hasn't had the power since his shoulder surgery" simply to give him a cameo in front of the home town crowd. And for NED's sake, DON'T PULL YOUR STARTER AFTER 7 INNINGS OF 5-HIT SHUTOUT BALL WHEN HE'S CLEARLY IN THE GROOVE, AND FEELING INVINCIBLE! Come on man, what the H E double hockey sticks were you thinkin?!

The Sox were clearly the better team in the series though. Hats off.

Posted by: johngalt at October 27, 2005 2:40 PM

A Special Disappointment

That's how the WSJ Ed Page characterizes the administrations reversal on suspending Davis-Bacon.

They put the "dagger in the heart" as Senator Schumer would say, by rightfully comparing it to the steel tariffs on the political-cravenness-abandoning-principles scale:

Now, less than two months after doing the same in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this Bush White House has reversed itself on the issue. We're told yesterday's decision to reinstate Davis-Bacon in the affected Gulf states on November 8 came after a meeting last week between Chief of Staff Andrew Card and about 20 Republican Congressmen from union-heavy districts. The move can only increase the cost and slow the pace of reconstruction. And as an act of unprincipled political calculation it ranks right up there with the decision to impose tariffs on imported steel during Mr. Bush's first term.

Davis-Bacon is almost always cast as "worker-friendly" legislation that requires federally funded construction projects to pay the "prevailing" wage rate in a given area. But in reality the anti-competitive 1931 law is a relic of the Jim Crow era. New York Congressman Robert Bacon was upset about an Alabama contractor who had brought a largely black construction crew to build a federal hospital in his district. "Colored labor is being brought in to demoralize wage rates," complained the American Federation of Labor at the time. Many economists and minority leaders recognize that Davis-Bacon continues to be a cause of minority unemployment in the construction sector to this day. In addition to that ugly history, Davis-Bacon is known for creating mountains of paperwork and unnecessary compliance costs.

Now that Miers has withdrawn, I really needed something to be disconsolate about, thanks W!

Posted by John Kranz at 11:34 AM


I'm sure she's a great person, but this is best all around!

WSJ.com - Harriet Miers Withdraws Nomination to High Court

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's controversial Supreme Court nominee, White House counsel Harriet Miers, suddenly withdrew her nomination this morning.

The move came after repeated attacks from conservatives worried that she wouldn't be an ally for them on the bench, and from critics across the spectrum about whether the president's long-time friend and personal lawyer -- who had no experience as a judge and little with constitutional issues -- was qualified to serve on the court.

Janis Rogers Brown anybody? The article goes on to say that the President will be weakened in his next pick. I'd say the Miers contretemps shaves a few points off, but don't agree that the Fitzgerald investigation or Iraq drags too heavily.

A good fight will rally the base right now and give the GOP Senate seats in '06 if not a conservative justice in '05.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 11:23 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Ding, Dong the Church Lady's Dead!

All hail... Janice, Rogers, Brown.

Posted by: johngalt at October 27, 2005 2:43 PM

October 26, 2005

Good Enough for Dr. Laffer

In all the Miers hoopla, the President's nomination of Ben Bernanke to replace Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the FOMC has received short shrift (is that a word? What's long shrift?)

I think the pick looks pretty good. Stephen Moore seemed pleased on Larry Kudlow's show the other night, but I was concerned that Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was happy as well. Reich called Bernanke the "John Roberts" pick for the Fed and Moore assented.

Today, however, Bernanke gets the nod from the Supply-Side Deity, Dr. Arthur Laffer. In a guest Ed for the Wall Street Journal, Laffer gives some history, some economics, and ends with some props to "King Greenspan" and a nod to his suggested replacement.

In the 9/11 attack on America, Mr. Greenspan's Fed did the best job I could ever imagine. He followed Bagehot's dictum, "In times of crisis discount freely." As an encore, when the crisis was over he mopped up all the excess liquidity immediately, allowing no opportunity for inflation to take root. This was absolutely brilliant and kept the terrorist crisis from spreading to the economy.

Ben Bernanke, Bush 43's selection for Fed chairman, stands on the shoulders of giants (in Mr. Volcker's case, this is literally true). Mr. Bernanke was my first choice for the Fed chair and has all the traits needed to be great. He's got his Ph.D., is incredibly scholarly, and has lots of practical experience, having served a three-year stint as a member of the Board at the Fed itself and as chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. But above and beyond his résumé, Ben Bernanke has the temperament to be the Fed chairman. Anyone who has ever heard him speak knows he is careful and deliberative, and not prone to panic.

I have never witnessed or even read about an economy that comes close to the excellence of the current U.S. economy. In spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary, it just doesn't get any better. We need a Fed chairman who understands the importance of not rocking the boat, who is stable, solid and sticks to basics. Ben Bernanke is the right person at the right time.

Good enough for Art Laffer, count jk in.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 4:20 PM

Iran president calls for Israel to be destroyed

In the comments to the post 'Next Stop, Atlas Shrugged' I said that Cuba's totalitarian government could possibly be toppled peacefully through capitalistic engagement but that Iran's could not because of their, among other things "vowing to anihillate the state of Israel and every jew."

Today Reuters "reports" the Iranian president has said as much, explicitly, in just so many words:

"Israel must be wiped off the map," Ahmadinejad told a conference called "The World without Zionism", attended by some 3,000 conservative students who chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America".


"The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland," he said.

The prosecution rests.

But jk thinks:

I'm going to defend my pal Silence here. I have not responded because I have been rendered speechless (it's temporary, I promise).

China holds Tibet against her will and threatens the sovereign nation of Taiwan, which it considers part of One China. It is a fear society in Sharansky's view and a huge threat to all of its neighbors.

I am extremely comfortable sanctioning Iran, North Korea and Syria. And I am extremely comfortable engaging with China. And I would be comfortable engaging with Cuba (yet another Fear society). I am not yet comfortable explaining to Silence how I bifurcate...


Posted by: jk at October 26, 2005 3:36 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Not to heap salt on a wound, but how also do you explain engagement with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India? The Saudis may not be aggressive as a state, but it sure seems we have enough evidence they teach Islamic aggression even if the export is not officially state sanctioned. What was the President's line about being with us or against us? India and Pakistan have skirmished along their border for years and Mr. Khan seems to have sold more nuclear technology than all the rest of the world combined.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 26, 2005 5:58 PM
But jk thinks:

Exigencies. Pakistan has been an important ally in the War on Terror, Saudi Arabia a good trading partner from the realist days. Now, both of them can be dragged along the human rights road much better by engagement than by shunning them.

I do question India on your list. India is a free society, a budding democracy, and has British legal roots. I see them as a great ally and trading partner -- as you point out, fighting with Pakistan is not ipso facto a vice.

Posted by: jk at October 26, 2005 6:44 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Ah exingencies, they do make for strange bedfellows, all the more reason to have a coherent and consistent overall foreign policy. These are both areas where I feel the Bush Doctrine fails.

The pen was mightier than the sword, and so will the Internet be mightier than the atom bomb. Give people a taste, or show them one through freedom of information of a better life and they will fight hard to get it and keep it. The world has gotten smaller and dictators will find it increasingly difficult to wall their people off from other ideas and ways of life. The example of democracy and capitalism is a shining one and we have the tools to lift it aloft and let it shine across the world.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 28, 2005 11:38 AM
But johngalt thinks:

There you go, Silence. You've just explained JK's bifurcation in two words: "Bush Doctrine."

When the president named names in that now famous address to congress he did not say there were no other oppressive nations in the world. He took the opportunity of a massive and cowardly attack on free men to lay down a new, clear cut, "coherent and consistent overall foreign policy" namely, "Either you're with us, or you're with the terrorists."

China appears to have picked our side. For that, they are rewarded, as is any other nation who likewise accepts, engages, and makes progress toward the American ideals of individual liberty. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia appear to belong in this camp too, at least for the time being. They must be carefully monitored.

Cuba is a miniscule non-player in the war on terror. At some point, once the western world finally reaches consensus that the Bush Doctrine is in all of our best long-term interest (and stops denouncing it merely because it was implemented by a Republican) we can afford to give some attention to engaging Cuba. If that development coincides with the death of Castro, so much the better.

Posted by: johngalt at October 28, 2005 3:30 PM

October 24, 2005

Great Article, Bad Ending

I just got around to reading Glenn Reynolds The Next International Right and was highly impressed.

He's right to position self-defense as an international human right; he's right to suggest that it would cure genocides a lot better than U.N. brunches and petitions; and I'd even agree that he is right to ask the Bush administration to push this as an international right -- especially as our Secretary of State is a known believer in the importance of America's Second Amendment

It's a great article but he closes with a device that personally disturbs me:

I wonder if the Bush administration’s diplomatic corps will have the nerve and the integrity to push this argument at the U.N. and elsewhere, not merely as an argument in opposition to global gun control, which they have been making already, but an argument in favor of a positive right to be armed as part of international human rights law? Perhaps they will, if enough Americans encourage them to.

Sorry, perfesser, if the President of the United States does not drop what he is doing and push your personal agenda, it is because he lacks courage? That is the Bill O'Reilly argument leaders don't do what I say because they're chicken or corrupt, not because my idea of nuclear hair-trigger land mines on the border is imperfect.

A small nit in an important and well presented piece, but that's what you guys pay me for.

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 6:48 PM

Dean Dismemberment

Jeff Goldstein takes a whack at DNC Chair Howard Dean today.

I post for sport, sure, but also because he makes a great point about the left. They call those on the right Ayatollahs and Fascists while they offer more laws, more regulation and fewer freedoms. It's just a reflex. Goldstein catches Dean saying: "To deal with the 'culture of corruption,' there needs to be an ethics code in Congress and stronger campaign finance laws. . . I’m tired of the ayatollahs of the right wing...We’re fighting for freedom in Iraq. We’re going to fight for freedom in America.”

Goldstein is not impressed.

An itemized rule book for Congress? Additional checks on free speech via more campaign finance reform? Wow! Can’t you just smell your liberties being loosed from the iron-fisted grip of the fascist Rethuglicans?

Dean’s presentation would be absolutely laughable if it weren’t so otherwise chilling—an unselfconscious conflation of “freedom” with an increase in governmental regulation and a legal check on that most dangerous of all “rights,” free speech.

In fact, Dean—without giving it a second thought—is engaging in a quintessential Orwellian moment: redefining freedom to mean control of thought and speech through governmental regulation.

Dean claims to worry about the ayatollahs of the right wing; but whereas the right wing occasional gets it virtue glands pumping over video game violence and potty-mouthed rap music, it is the “progressive” base of the left that has given us “free speech zones” and tolerance codes on college campuses, a culture of political correctness constantly on guard against giving offense—even as it has managed to divide society into warring, self-interested grievance groups who by virtue of their individual authenticities can dismiss criticism and assume a uniqueness worthy of special dispensation.

Got to correct a friendly misquote that recently appeared on this blog of the jk political axiom: "Republicans promise more liberty and frequently fail; Democrats promise less liberty and frequently succeed."

Howard Dean and John Bolton -- I'm feeling pretty good as a GOPer even in these dark days...

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 6:11 PM | What do you think? [4]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I gotta agree with you here again and even with your corrected quote, my apologies for misquoting. Where we might not agree is that I would lump most of the Patriot Act in the same barrel. The original owner of my blog name once said "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." This goes for security from terrorists, drug side effects, and the freedom to make any choice that carries a risk. Our freedoms see assault from all quarters, certainly the liberals and the trend of political correctness, but also the conservatives who would regulate who you may fall in love with and what your children will learn. There is now a "religious correctness" afoot where it seems soon no teacher will dare utter the "E-word" (Evolution).

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 25, 2005 2:31 PM
But jk thinks:

Don't say e*******n on the blog Silence! You'll get me kicked out of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy!!!!

There are *some* conservatives afoot who would limit the liberties you mentioned but I am not one of them. I had a nice argument with Andrew Sullivan once on this topic (maybe it was me who drove him absolutely mad). My claim to both of you is that those people are not in power in my party; they're there but haven’t been represented in any significant legislation.

Conversely, Gov. Dean is the head of the DNC. Democratic leaders talk the same way. My argument with Sullivan literally started the day he compared something Senator Tom Daschle said to a Republican County Clerk from Bernalillo County, NM and came up with your line: "see, they’re both bad..." In short, I claim the GOP has their kooks under much better control than do the Ds. We try to keep them quiet, they elect them to leadership.

Your specific example of The Patriot Act is well taken. Many libertarians on the right are afraid of the Patriot Act as well; it happens that I am not. If you can quote Franklin, I can quote Goldwater "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." The purveyors of the Patriot Act are defending the fundamental liberties of this nation against those who would subvert it to religious rule. Governor Dean's goals are far less ambitious.

The larger points of the Patriot Act are to allow information sharing between government agencies and to update early regulations to modern technology (attaching wiretaps to a person and not a phone number makes sense in a cell-phone world). It's the beta noir the left and far right but I just haven't seen anything in it that I find that oppressive.

Posted by: jk at October 25, 2005 3:06 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

You mean they are defending our liberties against those who would subvert it to Islamic religious rule, lots of folks on the right who would be very comfortable with Christian religious rule.

Yeah we did elevate our kook to head kook position, can't really defend that. He is mostly a mouth though, I don't see Harry Reid consulting him on policy issues. All lot of the hard right kooks are outside the party mainstream, but can claim hefty veiwership and book sales so someone is listening. The religious charities legislation and the President's recent remarks about intelligent design do show that that group has some political clout on the national level and I don't think you can ignore their power locally, there is a strong grass roots movement there. I do credit President Bush with keeping them mostly under control though.

The main provisions of the Patriot Act that I don't like are those that limit due process. Actually the domestic material witness rules are equally bothersome. Indeterminate imprisonment without charge just seems fundamentally against our founding principals. I find the enemy combatant designation even more disturbing as it shows just how easily the Bill of Rights can be sidestepped. All of this really plays into a larger issue of the increase in executive branch power, mostly under the guise of war powers. The war on terror is a replacement for the Cold War and has the same capability to keep us in a constant state of war and thus is a constant trump card for claiming increased power and jurisdiction by the federal executive branch.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 26, 2005 10:44 AM
But jk thinks:

I still accuse you of conflating a guy who writes a book with a legislative leader. There are book sales and web hits a-plenty on the fringes, but actual *legislation* proposed or passed bolsters my original point that the Democrats are actively pursuing less liberty. The GOP has a sector that would like to legislate Christianity, but these proposal do not make it out of committee.

Bush's remarks on I.D. were a set up. A reporter tried to bushwhack the (Evangelical Christian) President. W didn't bring it up -- because he failed to convulse and vomit bile at the mention of I.D., he is portrayed as a knuckle-draggin' creationist.

I agree that the Executive branch has tried to go too far, categorizing American Citizens as enemy combatants. I know the ACLU will offer a vigorous defense (unless they're Republican enemy combatants...) I'll hope justice is served and remember that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus to prosecute the Civil War.

Bastiat says that law must be avoidable to be fair and I find it very easy to avoid being found on the field of battle firing at American troops. McCain-Feingold, conversely, is being used to shut down blogs. A speech code hits where I live.

Posted by: jk at October 26, 2005 3:55 PM

The U.N. in action

They want to run the Internet, but they can't figure out Microsoft Word.

It seems they forgot to accept all changes and save as before sending out a redacted report on the Syrian assassination of the leader of a neighboring country.

As we say around the office "oops!"

The report read "Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil Al-Sayyed decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri." and SecGen Annan, not wanting to hurt the sensitive feelings of brutal dictators, changed it to "senior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. "

Stunning. Complain about the Bush Administration all you want, friends, but keep in mind that the democrats (and Lachrymose George Voinovich) thought that John Bolton might not be deferential enough to represent the US at the UN. My GOP gives me heartburn on a regular basis, but I will sleep pretty well knowing I'm on the right side of US/UN relations.

UPDATE: Taranto nails it, view with HTML

Posted by John Kranz at 4:30 PM

October 23, 2005

Kelo vs. Roe vs. Raich

No, that isn't some Harriet Miers flub in a Senate meeting, it's a question about our focus as a nation.

A friend emailed me a link to a good piece on eminent domain by Carla T. Main in RealClearPolitics. It's a comprehensive exegesis on the history of application of "the takings clause" including some of its racist use in urban gentrification projects. It also explores the unlikely bedfellows that have risen in opposition. I'll not excerpt it, but I will recommend it (it's good sized, grab a cup of coffee before you start).

The accompanying mail carried the observation that so much attention is focused on Roe V. Wade, people ignore important things such as Kelo v. New London. The point is well taken and I agree.

It got me thinking later, however, about the degrees of exasperation with SCOTUS -- let me suggest a hierarchy:

3. Flubs
A flub is when you wouldn't have voted that way. I'm not sure how I would have voted in Miranda v. Arizona (complicated by the fact I was only four years old) but with forty-one years of hindsight in my favor, I'd say it's been abused and was decided wrongly or at least that the remedies are too narrow.

2. Boners
Worse than a flub is a boner (I'm using that word in a classic "large-mistake" connotation and not to increase my Google hits). It's completely wrong in a what-were-they-thinking? way. I'd put Kelo in here. I know it's the end of the free world to my conservative brethren, but it is avoidable (go Bastiat!) by legislation (as are flubs). Government entities can limit takings all they want, post Kelo. SCOTUS did NOT say that government had to take private property, though we're all disappointed how widely it said government could.

My least favorite decision of my young life is McConnell v. FEC, when they blew their chance to strike McCain-Feingold. The worst, but still legislatively reparable.

1. Clusterf***s
The WORST decisions are those which are both wrong and block legislative fixes. I guess you can put Roe in this camp, as it strikes down state provisions on partial-birth or parental consent; but, you all know where I am going here, the top C*********k (tell 'em what they've won, Johnny) has got to be Raich v. Ashcroft, which said that no wonder how a State voted to allow medical marijuana, John Ashcroft or Janet Reno or Alberto Gonzales or whoever was in charge at the time gets the decision. If you don't like it, hard cheese. You can amend the constitution but that is a long and tough road (I suppose that the 11th and 14th Amendments exist solely to repair bad SCOTUS decisions).

Quod erat demonstratum, my friends, that is why Raich is worse than Kelo. Abuse invited below.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:31 PM | What do you think? [1]
But dagny thinks:

Plug for a crony

This post has a reference to RealClearPolitics.com. There was another reference to RCP very recently. I add a plug for the site in a Harriet Miers style example of cronyism. I know Tom Bevan. He is a friend of my brother's. They played football together in high school.

That's probably not a good reason to nominate a supreme court justice but it will hold up for recommending a website. Additionally the polling averages are sort of a neat feature.

Posted by: dagny at October 26, 2005 4:30 PM

I Guess We Lost

I went out to breakfast today. Walking into the restaurant, I looked through the machine window at the Denver Post headlines, and I was surprised to read that the war had been lost in Iraq. The headline (rather small for such importance) read: "U.S. starts retreating from lofty Iraq goals" and the subhead was "Strategy for pullout outguns democracy"

Hmm, that doesn't look good, but I am not gonna give those commies at the Post a dollar of perfectly good money, so I read the article from home. It starts out pretty dire:

Washington - President Bush's goal of creating a united, peaceful Iraq that will serve as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East could take as long as a decade and cost thousands more Iraqi and American lives, administration officials say.

A more modest objective is emerging for the near term, in which the security forces of an Iraq partitioned along ethnic and religious lines take over the war against a stubborn insurgency, allowing the United States to withdraw its combat forces.

Okay, is there news here? Who said we're retreating? What prompted this story? Reading on:
This scenario would leave a weakened central state apportioned into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite districts and bears its own risk: the possibility of a civil war that could spread into region- wide conflicts, analysts and government officials say.

Again, there is no news. This is a scenario most had long feared -- and a pretty good argument against cut and run. Who says we're pulling out? It seems Secretary of State Rice does:
"When you talk about the longer-term goal of a stable, democratic, multiethnic, unitary Iraq, that's going to take a long time," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate committee last week.

"The short-term goal is to make Iraqi forces capable enough of holding their own territory against insurgents so that there is not ... a threat to the political stability of the Iraqi regime," Rice said.

In an exchange with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Rice declined to quarrel with his definition of the short-term scenario as "a Kurdish north, a Shia (or Shiite) south and a disgruntled Sunni center that constituted a loose federation and was not engaged in all-out civil war but wasn't practicing the sort of democracy we enjoy here in the United States."

There you have it, Secretary Rice said it will be hard and take a long time (not news); and that the short-term plan was for a viable stable Iraq (is this news?); then, she failed to sufficiently correct a liberal Senator from the other party on a nebulous claim that didn't call for a specific rebuttal.

That's enough for The Denver Post! It's over! We're leaving Iraq to civil war and coming home -- you read about it here first!

No wonder everybody thinks we're losing. It's black-helicopterish of me to say this but such disinformation borders on treason.

If you ask why I believe Austin Bay and not the Post. That's fair, I would say that the progress I see with the Constitution, two successful elections, economic growth, &c. all match the more upbeat narratives I see online and do not match the MSM quagmire narrative.

Yes, almost 2000 brave men and women have given their lives for this cause. And the MSM is in full-tilt, macabre waiting for the 2,00th. It is not pointed out that that is in two years of combat. In two years, over 30,000 Americans have been murdered; more than 50,000 have died in traffic. In the two years the FDA diddled with the Erbitux application, 34,000 died needlessly from Colon Cancer. The Iraq casualty rate is not significantly higher than the normal rate for US Military training accidents!

The article continues with more worst case scenarios and more soi disant officials to give them currency. The Army is in bad shape, the economy is in a shambles, civil war would be bad (for those of you who need to read that in the paper, it appears that that might be quite unpleasant). No contrary position is offered, Nobody with a more sanguine assessment is quoted. It's a hit job, and half a million Denver area residents got it delivered to their door this Sunday morning.

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 12:38 PM

October 22, 2005

Next Stop, Atlas Shrugged

Banana Oil! brings good new from China: a Chinese translation of The Fountainhead ("Howahd Lork!") it can only help:

This is absolutely awesome news!

Also good is the cover design. I’m not speaking about the esthetics of it, but what it says about how the book will be perceived here. The two-tone, rather flat look to it is quite similar to the covers you see for books in the philosophy sections, and putting the author’s picture on the front cover suggests that this is an important person whom you should know. In other words, the publisher is putting this out as a serious book, not as a gaudy potboiler. Very, very good news indeed.

Posted by John Kranz at 4:54 PM | What do you think? [5]
But jk thinks:

An important point is that this is happening because of economic engagement. Boycotts or sanctions wouldn't get us this far.

Yup, I question the level of human rights and freedom in China, but we see progress. In Cuba, we have disengaged (though our pusillanimous European pals have not) and the march of freedom has stagnated.

Posted by: jk at October 23, 2005 11:49 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I find myself thinking more and more that you're right on this one JK. If the allure of capitalistic freedom can move the mammoth Chinese society appreciably, imagine the liberating effect it would have on the hellacious house of cards known as the Cuban "worker's paradise!"

Posted by: johngalt at October 24, 2005 3:56 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

How about Syria, North Korea, and Iran? Couldn't the same tactics work there?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 25, 2005 3:07 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Hmmm, let's see... have China or Cuba asassinated the prime minister of a neighboring state? Have they sold nuclear weapon technology or components to terrorists? How about financing the "insurgents" in Iraq, or vowing to anhillate the state of Israel and every Jew? No, I think the peaceful engagement of the states you list would amount to appeasement of unprovoked agression.

Posted by: johngalt at October 26, 2005 2:37 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

You mean recently I assume, and not considering the firing of missiles into the Straits of Japan and threatening the leadership of Taiwan as aggressive? The North Vietnamese didn't completely fund and arm themselves remember. I am talking long term here, I have no illusions that a few Ipods and some Levis are going to change these regimes overnight. My point is that nothing is going to change them overnight and long term economic engagement and trade has a better track record than either sanctions or military intervention.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 26, 2005 10:55 AM

Three Abstractions

That's Attila's caption to this picture:


As they say, heh.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 4:06 PM

Sensible words on Plame

From Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard. Kristol's views are about the same as mine, that is, prosecute for the crime but not perjury.

If someone knowingly made public the identity of a covert CIA operative and compromised her status, whether to maliciously damage her career, to punish her husband, or to deter criticism of the White House--if, in other words, someone violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982--that person deserves to be fired and prosecuted.
[But ...]
Unless the perjury is clear-cut or the obstruction of justice willful and determined, we hope that the special prosecutor has the courage to end the inquiry without bringing indictments.

Then Kristol does a good job where I failed last week, comparing this to l'Affaire Clinton.
I say this knowing that legions of Clinton defenders will complain that conservatives were happy to support the impeachment of a president for lying under oath seven years ago. My response to the second charge is that if anyone lied under oath the way Bill Clinton did--knowingly and purposefully in order to thwart a legitimate legal process, or if anyone engaged in an obstruction of justice, the way Bill Clinton did, then indictments would be proper. What is more, the Clinton White House mounted an extraordinary--and successful--political campaign against the office of the independent counsel and the person of Kenneth Starr. All the evidence suggests that the Bush White House has been fully cooperative with, even deferential to, the Fitzgerald investigation. And as for the first point, many people in government and politics engage in behavior that is less than admirable. That said, defending one's bosses against criticism, and debunking their attackers, is not a criminal conspiracy. Spin is not perjury. Political hardball is not a felony.

I will stand by these words. If willful obstruction is shown, I will support Fitzgerald. But if he comes out with what I called Martha Stewart charges, you'll hear of my disappointment.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 12:13 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Sugarchuck thinks:

I seem to remember impeaching Bill Clinton for lying under oath. I don't know where you stood on that, but I thought it was the right thing to do. If Karl lied under oath, then hasta la vista baby.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at October 24, 2005 11:18 AM
But jk thinks:

As I recall the Clinton thing was all about sex. That's what they said on TV...

As Taranto noted, NYTimes reporters sometimes forget or are mistaken while administration officials "LIED!!!!"

If they lie is "I don't recall" and not germane to the original charge, I am not gonna grab for the ax.

As a more serious answer on the Clinton comparison, his lie took away Paula Jones's chance in court in a civil case. Yup, if Rove lied as blatantly and as directly to case, you bet, hasta...

Posted by: jk at October 24, 2005 3:25 PM

Miers Withdrawl

Washington Times...

    The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.

    "White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

    The White House denied making such calls.

    "Absolutely not true," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

How 'bout that?

Conspiracy theorists would say, "It was the plan all along. Get someone so ill-qualified that everyone on all sides would say, 'wtf?'"

Then she withdrawls amid the strum and drang we are experiencing now, and the President nominates one of the judicial all-stars that have been suggested instead of her.

Janice Rogers Brown, Michael Luttig, etc.

Smells of Rove to me. If I were into blaming everything on Rove.

SCOTUS Posted by AlexC at 12:00 PM | What do you think? [1]
But jk thinks:

I hope you are right. Reading Krauthammer yesterday, and Jonah Goldberg today, I really hope that this nomination does not proceed.

I don't smell Rove in this plan because I don't see that it will help the next nominee> Michael Luttig would be greeted with "Why not a woman like that nice Harriet Miers?" and Janice Rodgers Brown will be "why not a moderate like that lovely Ms. Miers?"

Score me on the side that says if Mr. Rove were not preparing for grand juries and stocking up on soap-on-a-rope, this debacle might not have gone down.

Posted by: jk at October 22, 2005 12:33 PM

October 20, 2005

If Cut Do I Not Bleed?

I know I look foolish defending Goliath drug companies, but it is insane to think that their investors can take continual abuse. The abuse comes from lawsuits, regulation, bureaucratic approval processes, political admonishments, threats to absolve property (patent) rights, and knowledge that they are the target for the next Michael Moore movie (I can hardly wait).

I'd like them working on more amazing wonder drugs (you know, an MS cure wouldn't be so bad).

But Merck is under incredible lawsuit pressure and Pfizer gives weak guidance today:

Pfizer Inc. reported a 52% drop in third-quarter profit amid slowing sales and cut its full-year earnings forecast.

The New York-based drug giant also pulled its outlooks for 2006 and 2007, citing lower prescription growth and increased competition in key markets. The company said those factors will "temper" fourth-quarter sales.
The pharmaceutical company noted an "unexpectedly rapid slowdown" in new cholesterol-drug prescriptions written in the U.S., as well as the loss of patent protection for certain major drugs.

Its shares were down $1.50, or 6%, to $22.47 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

I'm sure John Edwards and Michael Moore are happy. Everyone who might know somebody who might get sick someday should be a little down.

Pharmaceuticals Posted by John Kranz at 11:56 AM

October 19, 2005

jk gets insulted

I have been enjoying Tucker Carlson's "The Situation" on MSNBC. I find much to disagree with Mr. Carlson about but the show has a nice pace and style.

He claims that he responds to every question on his blog so I wrote this:

Q: I enjoy your show quite a bit - thanks! I also appreciate your principled, conservative disagreement to the war in Iraq. I disagree but appreciate your view. Yet I was very disappointed that the significant success of the recent elections did not warrant a mention on your show. You had time for the cancelled prom in the Hamptons, but a major strategic success of our nation in the war on terror did not even make it as far as the Cutting Room Floor. Disappointing.
-- John Kranz

True to form, he did answer:
A: I think you were in the kitchen getting another beer when we did our segment on the Iraqi constitutional referendum last night. We devoted a sizable amount of time to it, early in the show, and we did it despite the certainty (later proved true by overnight ratings) that a lot of viewers would change the channel the minute we started talking about elections in Iraq. The referendum struck me as a big deal, and we treated it that way. You are right that I didn't characterize the voting as a major strategic success for America. I honestly hope it was. It's just not clear yet.

That is so funny! I thought that I had seen the whole show. I was NOT getting another beer, I may have been helping some homeless people or been lost in a volume of Thucydides, I don't know...

It's a pretty good show if you haven't seen it, I'd check it out.

But Attila thinks:

Maybe you SHOULD have been getting another beer.

What a putz that guy is. People who wear bow ties shouldn't insult other people who aren't physically present to give them a whuppin'. It's cowardly.

Posted by: Attila at October 22, 2005 8:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

JK, why didn't you tell "the bowed one" (and if my name were "Tucker" I'd be inclined to dress that way too) that you don't have to go to the kitchen for beer? You're kegerator is right there next to your La-Z-Boy!

"Beer is proof that God loves us." (Well, NED loves us anyway.)

Posted by: johngalt at October 24, 2005 2:27 PM
But jk thinks:

I don't know if you've seen the show but it runs live at 11pm Eastern, and his voice mail segment DOES feature a lot of folks who appear to have over-imbibed. So it's a running theme and I took it good-naturedly.

To be fair, I was sheepish when I learned that he had done a segment on the election, that I had missed it, and that I had accused wrongly. Folks deserve better treatment around here unless they're commies or hippies or weirdoes or somethin'

Posted by: jk at October 24, 2005 3:30 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Fair enough. Consider my gratuitous pansy-bashing herewith retracted. (Anyone with the patience to share a soundstage with James Carville or Paul Begala deserves a medal in my book.) But I still stand by my defense of the virtues of beer! ;)

Posted by: johngalt at October 24, 2005 3:51 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Beer makes men feel strong and women look beautiful, what's not to like? Ok, it makes men stupid too, how many of your best college stories start with "We were drinking on night...." As for Tucker Carlson I say anyone under the age of 40 who wears a bow tie is a pretentious nitwit. While I agree that I would not want to be in the same room with Carville or Begala (somehow balanced annoyance doesn't do it for me) if he wants my respect let see him invite Jon Stewart back.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 25, 2005 2:58 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Harumph! Now you're bad-mouthing beer?! You've crossed the line from polite disagreement into hate-speech now, buddy boy. Your criticism is like saying cars are bad because, when driven 100 miles an hour into a brick wall, the occupants invariably die.

Really think beer "makes men stupid?" http://www.beer-lover.com/
Go tell it to Dave Berry, Ben Franklin and Plato, smart guy!

Posted by: johngalt at October 26, 2005 2:50 AM

Harsh Medicine

Robert Bork offers some harsh medicine to President Bush today in a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Slouching Toward Miers

He sets the tone early:

With a single stroke--the nomination of Harriet Miers--the president has damaged the prospects for reform of a left-leaning and imperialistic Supreme Court, taken the heart out of a rising generation of constitutional scholars, and widened the fissures within the conservative movement. That's not a bad day's work--for liberals.

And Mr. Bork doesn't ameliorate much from there:
By passing over the many clearly qualified persons, male and female, to pick a stealth candidate, George W. Bush has sent a message to aspiring young originalists that it is better not to say anything remotely controversial, a sort of "Don't ask, don't tell" admonition to would-be judges. It is a blow in particular to the Federalist Society, most of whose members endorse originalism. The society, unlike the ACLU, takes no public positions, engages in no litigation, and includes people of differing views in its programs. It performs the invaluable function of making law students, in the heavily left-leaning schools, aware that there are respectable perspectives on law other than liberal activism. Yet the society has been defamed in McCarthyite fashion by liberals; and it appears to have been important to the White House that neither the new chief justice nor Ms. Miers had much to do with the Federalists.

He claims that the President like his father "is showing himself to be indifferent, if not actively hostile, to conservative values."

I still think it is too late to pull this nomination, I just wanted to grouse a bit.

This is the most serious opposition I have seen. National Review, and even Kristol are taken seriously but thought to have other motives. Robert Bork is every conservative's idea of the perfect Supreme Court justice. This will take its toll.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 6:53 PM

October 18, 2005

The Best Serenity Review

John Coleman at Ex Nihilo captures the animating ideas of Serenity: Love and Belief

But rarely do we remember love as galvanizer. Love as world-changer. Love as bond. Love as purpose. Or love as belief. Rarely do we remember that great men and women are almost never motivated by self-interest or even pride, but by love—of an ideal, of a person, of a country, of a god—to do great things. And, to quote a movie that nails the nature of love without fully capturing its seriousness, we almost always forget that love is like oxygen. Love, for centuries, has been the sustaining force of mankind, through ages of war and turmoil, decades of flat-souled peace, and millennia of hatred and despair, it has carried us, it has nurtured us, and, most importantly, it has offered us hope. It has given us our Mandelas, our Lincolns, our Shakespeares, and our Martin Luther Kings.

Good stuff! Hat-tip: Insty

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 6:03 PM | What do you think? [7]
But johngalt thinks:

My modest review of 'Serenity' on October 5 didn't go into detail on the philosophy of the movie, but one of the two philosophical themes I mentioned was Mal's embodiment of rational self-interest as a philosophy of life. Then along comes John Coleman to say man's highest motivation is not self-interest, but "love and belief." What gives? Had we both seen the same movie? The answer, of course, is yes. But each of us had much different preconceptions against which we weighed the events of the film. Where Coleman sees sacrifice and belief, I see choice and values.

I agree with Coleman's point that there can be no love without belief in something, but I'm not willing to endorse a belief in just "anything." This is what leads, as Coleman admits, to a force that can be either the greatest good or the greatest evil. A textbook example of the latter is the belief system of islamofascists that somehow inspires them to love... DEATH.

A further example of Coleman's flawed analysis of the Serenity characters' motives is his completely baseless characterization of their loves as "unconditional." This just prior to the aforementioned belief prerequisite. Maybe he meant pseudo-conditional instead. No, the film's heroes loved who and what they loved only because those people and things were of value to them. I'm not talking about commercial value... something to be traded. I'm talking about the "big" values - the priceless ones - life, liberty, happiness and the recognition of those values in other people. This is a highly conditional love.

Then there is the issue of "true belief." As I recall, this was Book's explanation to Mal for why the Operative pursuing River was such a formidable foe. But the point was not that this "true" belief was virtuous, rather that it was dangerous. It enabled him to murder children if necessary to further the goals of his cause. Thus, another islamofascist parallel.

I do believe my counterpart has admirable intentions. He at least acknowledges the existence of good and evil. His problem is that his value system is shaped by altruism (unconditional love) and blind faith (true belief.) That may be what moves him to his personal notion of greatness, but it isn't what drives a man of principle to wager his net worth toward defeating an entire government structure founded upon an immoral ideal.

Posted by: johngalt at October 21, 2005 2:52 AM
But jk thinks:

You always get me thinking, jg, I'll give you that...

Yup, there is a whiff of Altruism (should I call it "the A-word?) in Coleman's review that may not be visible in Mal, but I still don't get your flat rebuke of alt****m in all forms.

[Spoilers ahead, but we've been good on this site, if you ain't seen it yet, I dunno...]

Why does Mal "aim to misbehave" when he does? He risks the near certainty of losing his ship, his crew, and the ignominy of being tortured and eaten by rievers.

At that point, and as I've made the case with our U.S. military heroes, it's exceeded rational self interest, if it's not a-------m, it's certainly some form of doing something to benefit others.

Posted by: jk at October 23, 2005 1:08 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I'm so glad you're engaging me on this on JK. It's too good a subject to let fade into "blognominity."

"Why does Mal 'aim to misbehave' when he does?" An excellent question for which I have the answer. Recall the context: Mal and Serenity had just returned to Book's settlement to seek refuge. On their prior visit Book had told him, "The Alliance can't find us here." Mal attempted to, as Book had, "go away and be left alone." But despite how certain Book was that they were safe, the Alliance's thugs STILL found them and STILL murdered them all. Yes, there was a trace of revenge in Mal's pronouncement but, selfishly, he knew that if he tried to hide himself and his from the Alliance they could never be safe. Or at least, could never live in peace knowing the threat was always there. THIS is what caused Mal to "misbehave" and THIS is why US troops went to Afghanistan and Iraq and...??

Now you may choose to see the actions of these men as altruistic, and some of them may feel that to some extent, they're out there risking their lives "to protect their countrymen back home and around the world." But how many of them would not also say they're pursuing evil and confronting danger now in the hope of destroying it, so they can return home to a life of peace without fear? In the final calculation, the best (and fiercest) soldiers are the ones who love not death and destruction, but life and happiness on earth.

In conclusion, because others benefit from the actions of heroes, both real and fictional, does not make such benefit their motive. The first and highest benefit goes to the hero himself. And as proof that Mal doesn't have an altruistic bone in his body I'll remind you of what happened when the man from the bank tried to climb onto Mal's "mule." Mal told him how to save his OWN life, then kicked him off. Wheedon thought this scene so important he had Zoe question him about it in the next scene. "But you left him there to die," she said. "That ship carries four," he said. "We were full and I'm not about to risk my crew when I don't have to." (Or something like that. I don't have the transcript.) This is one of the things I most loved about this film. The philosophy was not just correct, it was explicit.

By the way, did you know that "Zoe" is Greek for "life?"

Posted by: johngalt at October 24, 2005 2:24 PM
But Ken thinks:

John, you're missing the character development of the film.

At the beginning, Mal is certainly self focused, caring only about "me and mine." But it is precisely as he leaves this behind that the film moves forward. When he brings River back to his ship after what she did at the bar (the beginning of all his troubles), was that rational self-interest? When Jayne - the true voice of a Randian, and hardly put in a good light - asks why he did it, Wendon makes a point of focusing the camera on a knowing glance between Mal and Zoe, as if to say that Zoe was right to call him on his earlier selfishness. Mal, it seems, recognizes his mistake and refuses to repeat it. That he is no longer seeking his own interest (at least primarily) is confirmed when he refuses to give River up to the Operative. The rational thing to do would be to drop her like a hot potato.

In short, Mal (and especially Jayne) begins as something of a Randian, but the film as a whole (and the series it is based on) is a pretty clear rejection of that view as insufficient.

Belief (and sacrificial love) is presented as necessary, even if it can be abused. The Operative's belief is certainly condemned, but it is Mal's (and the other's) own belief in something more important than themselves (the Truth?) that leads them to oppose and defeat him. The film raises questions about belief, love, freedom and control, but it doesn't fully answer them. It certainly doesn't offer any defense of rational self-interest. Mal, too, is willing to die for his belief, even if that isn't "plan A."

In fact, without a tacit admission that there is a standard of good and evil that is more important than self-interest, the plot (not to mention real life morality) simply would not make sense. Since this affirmation of a fundamental standard of good and evil is itself a belief, self-interest is, at best, a side show to the film's real focus on belief. Thus, John Coleman's review is, I think, substantially correct. Though I suggest it needs a little expansion here: http://cruxmag.typepad.com/situation_critical/2005/10/serenity_revisi.html

Posted by: Ken at October 25, 2005 6:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I see that I've struck a nerve with my criticism of "true belief." As I compose my response to Ken, Dagny reminds me, "we want him to keep coming back to the site and commenting." While I agree with that, it's often impossible to completely challenge someone's belief system and keep him engaged in rational dialog at the same time. I'll just give it my best, and most diplomatic, effort and let the chips fall...

Earlier I observed that John Coleman saw 'Serenity' as a story of sacrifice and belief rather than choice and values. Ken takes this same worldview even further, describing it as sacrifice and belief TRUMPING choice and values. Citing no more than his interpretation of a "knowing glance" Ken insists that I've misinterpreted Mal's "misbehavior" and that it is, as JK suggested, "certainly some form of doing something to benefit others." But where JK casts this self-sacrificial behavior as "exceeding" rational self-interest, Ken argues that the entire idea of rational self-interest is "insufficient."

To his credit, Ken attempts to explain how it is insufficient: "...without a tacit admission that there is a standard of good and evil that is more important than self-interest, the plot (not to mention real life morality) simply would not make sense." But while Ken is fast and sure in his criticism of rational self-interest, he's not so confident in offering the "sufficient" alternative - one that "fully answers" the questions of "belief, love, freedom and control." His best suggestion is "the Truth." In 'Serenity's' example, the truth is, as Samizdata's Paul Marks put it (see 'Serenity Review', 10/10/2005), the Alliance central government "wishes to create a better, more civilized world (or rather worlds) and (...) is prepared to violate the nonagression principle in order to achieve this objective." (Note again, the Islamist parallel.) But Ken didn't refer to the "truth" he said, "the Truth" with a capital T, like "Him" or "God." (We call Him "NED" around here, meaning "non-existent deity.) So in the end Ken takes nothing more from this film than a duel between competing true-beliefs and, not unlike the Christian crusades against the Muslims of their day, the "good guys" win. Why? Because they believe "in something more important than themselves." This could conceivably explain how our heroes defeat the primative, range-of-the-moment Rievers, but not the Operative who gave us numerous lectures about the superior virtue of HIS true belief.

I give Whedon much, much more credit than this. As Book cautioned Mal, "True belief cannot be defeated, it can only be destroyed." This is because "true" belief means "unquestioning" belief - anything that opposes the doctrine of that belief is, by definition, wrong. But how did Joss end the film? [Major spoiler alert!] When Mal had the Operative dead to rights and raised the sword high in a two-handed grip, with every justification to kill in defense of himself and humanity, Mal plunged the Operative not into death, but into bondage before the video of what resulted on Miranda in the name of his own "true belief." The true-believer was forced to watch the horror that waits as the ultimate end of his highest value: A "better, more civilized world" through the suppression of human ambition. But ninety-nine percent of humanity will, when their ambition is removed, refuse to fight - for their neighbor's life, their loved one's life, their own life... or ANYTHING else. (The other one percent? They become Rievers.) This resulted in the Operative abandoning his pursuit of River.

Thus Mal had not destroyed true belief, he defeated it (also giving River liberty instead of "dropping her like a hot potato.") He did this not by the force of some "superior" true belief, but using reason and reality to show the Operative how his belief was wrong. For the Operative to recognize his error and submit to the overwhelming power of reality in contradiction to his belief required one thing: rational thought.

This brings me to what I consider the most pernicious element of Ken's entire entry. Whether by ignorance or hostility, Ken dismisses Ayn Rand's philosophy as nothing but "me first." He insinuates that Rand held no moral values, no "standard of good and evil that is more important than self-interest." He presents Jayne as "the true voice of a Randian." But Jayne starts out closer to a Riever than a Randian. Rievers kill for sport and for spoils. Jayne too will sometimes kill for spoils, which distinguishes him from Mal or any other Randian. Rational self-interest justifies killing only in defense and not as a means of personal gain... even if that gain is necessary for survival. Randians draw this distinction because it is rational: If every human were a Randian there would be peace and commerce and progress and life; if every human were an altruistic true-believer there would be war and slavery and taxes and mass-murder.

Zoe and Mal's "knowing glance" implies an inconsistency in Mal's treatment of River versus the stranger at the bank, but Mal had made no mistake. Despite River's actions at the bar she was still a member of his crew, and therefore a part of "me and mine." Mal's uncertainty was not the validity of self-interest, but whether River posed a future danger to the rest of the crew. He dealt with her transgression by laying down the law with her and her brother. In the end keeping her proved to be in his, and the crew's, self-interest.

For more on the the philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she called, "Objectivism" see: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro

Posted by: johngalt at November 6, 2005 1:23 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Comments closed on this post. Post future commments on the new thread at: http://www.threesources.com/archives/002077.html (Or scroll to November 6 above.)

Posted by: johngalt at November 6, 2005 1:46 PM

Plame Refresher

Good comment chatter on a Plamegate posting.

Anybody wanting a refresher course on the facts behind this contretemps (well, it might be a imbroglio, but certainly not a kerfuffle) could do no better than Stephen Hayes's' cover story in the October 24th Weekly Standard, The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons

It's a long walk through the timetable, the players, and includes the greatest hits. Wilson's description of his take-no-prisoners fact-finding is a personal favorite of mine:

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Wilson was sent by his wife's division which was predilected to disprove these claims. So, a quick junket and a couple of meetings suffice. "Are you guys doing illegal business with a rogue state? No. Okay, pass the sugar..."

Wilson's mendacity is detailed as well. His OpEd story doesn't match his earlier interviews, but "oh, well."

Hayes also compares the MSM narrative (Brave whistleblower, petulant security-threatening character attacks) to the actual story:

ON JULY 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger; from the now-famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.

As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

This is not a minor detail. The Senate report, which served as the source for much of the chronology in this article, is the definitive study of the events leading up to the compromising of Valerie Plame. The committee staff, both Democrats and Republicans, read all of the intelligence. They saw all of the documents. They interviewed all of the characters. And every member of the committee from both parties signed the report.

It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence. A story about deliberate White House deception is perhaps more interesting than a story about bureaucratic miscommunication. A story about retaliation is perhaps more interesting than a story about clarification.

But sometimes the boring stories have an additional virtue. They're true.

UPDATE: Also worth a read is Jacob Weisberg's Slate piece

Hold the schadenfreude, blue-staters. Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive. Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they'll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press's right to find out, the government's ability to disclose, and the public's right to know.

At the heart of this misbegotten investigation is a flawed piece of legislation called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As Jack Shafer has written, this 1982 law is almost impossible to break because it requires that a government official unmask covert agents knowingly and with the intent of causing harm. The law was written narrowly to avoid infringing free speech or becoming an equivalent of Britain's Official Secrets Act. Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents. It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 5:22 PM | What do you think? [6]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yep, lots to disagree about. It all depends on your viewpoint I am afraid. You see factual evidence in the administration version, if perhaps some minor miscommunication. Of the detractors you see predilection and partisan hacks. I see predilection on the Bush administration side in spades from Chalabi to "Curveball". Partisan hacks abound in the Defense Department. Intel was culled and scripted to support the conclusion that had already been made. The "CEO" president who supposedly surrounded himself with the best and the brightest to hash out solutions to the country's problems ended up with an amazing solidarity of thought. This administration has perfected the talking point system with officials trotted out to read scripts. All events are sifted to promote a single message and doubt, questioning, and differing opinions are excluded. The official message is true, all others are tainted with partisanship and ulterior motives. As the pigs said, some are more equal than others.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 18, 2005 6:23 PM
But jk thinks:

No. It is not a simple difference of opinion.

I do not claim the administration's case to be accurate, I claim that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report, signed by Democrat and Republican Senators, is more credible than Joseph Wilson IV's OpEd, which didn't match his interview, which doesn't match his book.

If Mr. Fitzgerald prosecutes Libby or Rove for identifying Plame or somehow contravening national security, then you'll be proven right and I'll apologize. If it's a Martha Stewart "lying about a non-crime,” I'll have to ask why he couldn't find anything in two years.

Maybe I shouldn't call Joe Wilson a hack but I can't help myself. He exhibits most of the features listed in the partisan hack guidebook. And as YOU called ME a partisan hypocrite in your first comment, I'm not feeling gracious enough for a retraction...

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 6:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Peek at the UPDATE: link if you get a chance, Silence. A liberal says "Hold the schadenfreude..."

And. Who is "Curveball?"

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 7:08 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I agree with the Slate article you reference in your update JK. I don't think and didn't say that Plame's name was outed to punish Wilson, just that it came out as part of the smear campaign against him, much of the questioning about how he personally was selected were innuendos against his wife, her contacts, and the CIA in general. In fact the article also states:

That blame game was morphing into a larger public dispute about the administration's claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Bush officials were in the middle of an argument in which they were largely wrong, and which they lost, but in which they thought they were right and were trying to win.

This to me is the rub, when it becomes more important to be right than to have the truth. In the high stakes that international politics and military intervention exist in we need to have the truth, not someone's version of it crammed down our throats so they don't have to admit that they were wrong.

Where I differ fromt the Slate article is that I don't know that the law in question is so flawed, it bears a very strong resemblance to the definition of perjury actually. It is there more to prosecute the Aldrich Ames types than the Karl Rove's. I am rooting against Rove purely as a partisan hack, let me admit that right now. It is not without glee that I watch you and especially johngalt rail against the possible perjury charge in a very nice juxtaposition of the Clinton case. Johngalt downloaded the entire Starr report the day it was available if I remember correctly. The glee of those times by the conservatives is now very different with the shoe on the other foot and I am just enjoying the show.

Curveball was the name of the Iraqi defector who fed so much bogus information through Chalabi's INC to receptive ears in the Defense Department. I believe the CIA gave him his code name due to their skepticism of his information which turned out to be almost completely false.

I only called you a partisan hypocrite to needle you a little after your lead in. We all are partisan hypocrites a little bit, in politics it is the nature of the beast.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 19, 2005 1:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Wow, good memory Silence. I had forgotten all about the Starr report. Yes, I did download it in its entireity. As I recall, I was a bit concerned that it would not remain available for long, or at least long enough for me to read it. I intended to read or at least skim the whole thing. Yeah, right. Never did.

But why was I so interested in impeaching the lying rat bastard Clinton then and now, conversely, "nearly disinterested" in Plamegate? Because underneath the obvious partisan motives in both cases I was fully convinced that, among other things, Clinton did in fact rape Juanita Brodderick. The closest that crime came to being punished was the Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Ken Starr saga you raised in juxtaposition to Plamegate. Did George Bush snort coke? Maybe, but who cares? Does he now? Extraordinarily unlikely. Did Clinton continue to abuse his personal power to assault women with impunity in the White House? That gun is STILL smoking.

But the lasting result of the Starr report was not the impeachment of the left's golden boy. It was the damage done to the "self-esteem" of the left. In addition to the damage done to many of their "progressive" policies over the last 6 years of Clinton's presidency, they had nearly been "Nixoned" to boot, and they weren't about to let it slide. To "Move On" as they say. They wanted revenge. They've been pounding this president since before his first Innaugural. They think they've got him now.

"He's dead meat. First Rove, then Libby, Cheney and finally the chimp himself! YAAAAAAAaaaaaagh" (c) Howard Dean

I understand the glee on CNN's talking heads shows is brazenly unabashed. Very well, have your fun. In your alternate MSM-enabled universe, the President of the United States and his entire administration is all of the despicable things the kool-aid drinkers say he is. But back here on planet Earth even ham sandwiches have not been indicted yet, much less tried and convicted. Until then I'll consider it all the result of frantic, desperate, opportunistic partisan muckraking and remain, nearly disinterested.

Posted by: johngalt at October 19, 2005 3:21 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah, I got the spirit of the "partisan hypocrite" jibe. And I do wear the "partisan hack" badge with honor somedays, but it doesn't go with these shoes.

Comparisons to Starr are legitimate; I've been soul searching lately on that topic. As a quick reminder, I have publicly apologized for the amplitude and tenor of my Clinton-hatred. Like JohnGalt, I think there is much he is guilty of but it was counterproductive of me to be so angry.

I'll go back to my claim that if he is indicted for serious, security threatening crimes I will consider Fitzgerald's inquiry serious.

Posted by: jk at October 19, 2005 7:05 PM


A friend emails a link to this Bruce Bartlett Article in RealClearPolitics.com, saying it "'bout sums it up!"

I agree with the main premise if he oversimplifies some of the subtopics. The main point is that the Bush - Conservative alliance was temporal, lasting as long as both needed each other.

The truth that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been. They were allies for a long time, to be sure, and conservatives used Bush just as he used them. But it now appears that they are headed for divorce. And as with all divorces, the ultimate cause was not the final incident, but the buildup of grievances over a long period that one day could no longer be overlooked, contained or smoothed over.

Then he lists grievances: Campaign Finance Reform, Immigration, profligacy and expanded entitlements. I think some of these may co-exist in the big tent, but the point is taken. Bartlett closes:
Had George W. Bush demonstrated more fealty to conservative principles over the last five years, he might have gotten a pass on Miers. But coming on top of all the big government initiatives he has supported, few in the conservative movement are inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt any longer.

Amen. Had the President listened to the caution expressed about Chief Justice Roberts's nomination, he should have been a little more cautious with the second pick.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 2:12 PM

October 17, 2005


I read the current issue of The American Enterprise: "Red America, Blue Europe" over the weekend. It is very good.

The TAE folks are no Europhiles, but that issue is frightening. The EU folks love to say that they're going to pass us and be the world's economic superpower. I remembered thinking "I wish!" The real threat is that the EU declines further and brings the world economy down.

Alex Brill at TCS agrees. In "Will the Real Global Economic Threat Please Stand Up?" Brill points out that the real worry is not China's success but Europe's failure.

The economy of the single-currency eurozone is five times larger than China's and per capita income is more than 20 times higher. U.S. exports to the larger European Union (EU) region, at $193 billion in 2004, were more than five times greater than to China but have grown a measly 3 percent since 2000. Imports from the European Union last year, $321 billion, were more than 60 percent higher than from China. U.S. foreign direct investment into Europe last year was $97 billion compared to just $4.2 billion into China. By virtually any measure, Western Europe is the most important trading partner, investment partner and strategic partner in the world for the United States. And the European economy is floundering.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:45 AM

Rove & Stewart

I will not be called a partisan hypocrite! I can be but I am not this time. I defended Martha Stewart from prosecutorial overzealousness on many occasions. Ms. Stewart is an elitist liberal to whom I have no devotion or affinity.

But it was wrong to send Ms. Stewart to jail for lying about a crime for which she was not even charged.

Now it seems we may see Karl Rove get indicted for the same deal. Like Ms. Stewart, there is no crime at the heart of this. Ms. Plame was not working undercover within five years, and it's hard to say that she was undercover at all. Yet Mr. Fitzgerald seems to found some incongruity between testimonies and might go for perjury or obstruction of justice charges.

Like the rest of the world, I have no knowledge but that sure seems to be what is shaping up.

As funny as it would be to hear the Democrats wail about what a serious offense lying to a grand jury is, it seems that we are giving away a basic freedom here. Call a person in four times for grueling questions, and then attack them for any inconsistency? That is not justice. That does not meet Bastiat's criteria for fair law. This is not understandable nor avoidable.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:49 AM | What do you think? [7]
But johngalt thinks:

My nearly disinterested understanding of the Rove situation is that his earlier testimonies "omitted" certain facts that have since come to light. If this is the extent of his "mischief" then it's time to Move On!

There's a fundamental difference between giving false testimony and omitting testimony. It's even got a fancy name - "Pleading the fifth."

Posted by: johngalt at October 17, 2005 2:57 PM
But jk thinks:

Silence, I don't know how to fix it. The parallel with tax evasion holds, but tax evasion is indeed a real crime.

If pressed, I will admit that Martha Stewart committed a real crime in tampering with records and lying to a Federal prosecutor. Perhaps Mr. Rove or Scooter Libby (love that sobriquet!) did as well. I just think that the extent omission, obfuscation, or prevarication affected the prosecution of the original charge should be kept in mind.

JohnGalt: Disinterested? Oh dear! He is tired of London is tired of life. He who can watch the entire second Bush Administration go down on a tawdry, insignificant charge is tired. I'd see a physician...

Posted by: jk at October 17, 2005 3:09 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"Go down?" You see Bush's presidency "going down" over Plamegate? How? Even if Rove AND Scooter handed these reporters the overhyped spook's name on a cocktail napkin, they broke no law in doing so. And even if they had, it doesn't implicate the President. What's going on here? Did I miss something by only paying attention to every third mention of it by Brit Hume?

You certainly aren't implying that "the entire second Bush Administration" is hopelessly lost without Karl Rove, are you?

Posted by: johngalt at October 18, 2005 2:01 PM
But jk thinks:

If Karl Rove leaves ignominiously on an indictment, President Bush is a lame duck. It will embolden his enemies, decrease his political capital, and give currency to both Nancy Pelosi's charge of a "pattern of GOP corruption" and revive the line (I heard this last night) that "we went to war in Iraq over a lie; Karl Rove rebarbatively attacked the man who tried to tell us the truth by outing his CIA wife!" (Yes, I it is insanely non-factual, but we're gonna heart it. A Lot.)

Add to that Rove's immense skill, talent and loyalty. There would be a big policy hole in his absence.

Yup. No crime, but as the post says the crime is now perjury/obstruction. Ms. Stewart didn't commit a crime either...

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 2:27 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

I just about agree with JK on this one. If Rove is forced out the Bush administration may not be hopelessly lost, but they will be close to that. On the Plame case itself I draw a slightly different picture. I don't believe the intention was to out Ms. Plame but to discredit her husband by questioning who assigned him his mission. The trouble is, without exposing her position within the CIA the implication that his assignment was less than above board doesn't make sense, hard to claim favoritism or an inside job without an insider. The law against this is not just for the protection of the asset themselves, but for anyone who may have had contact with this person as well. As such it does not matter if Ms. Plame was a current undercover asset, just that she had been at one time. Whether she was or not I have given up trying to discern with so many authoritative voices contradicting each other. Bottom line for me is that this is about abuse of power and dirty politics to enforce the official information stream as the only information stream. It shows the methods and lengths that this administration will go to discredit, defame, or destroy anyone who dares question their official statements. From the South Carolina primary against John McCain, to the Swift Boat Vets, to this there is a pattern of dirty politics that turns my stomach.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 18, 2005 3:36 PM
But jk thinks:

Fear not, we have plenty of room for disagreement!

I think it is pretty clear from the dates in Wilson's book that Plame was more than five years outside of an overseas, covert assignment. The statute dictates that time period, so I think the leaker is pretty much free of the original charge.

Morally, Wilson and Plame were publicity hounds. The Washington glitterati and all readers of Vanity Fair magazine knew who she was; there was no "outing."

Lastly, it was a very good leak in that it really is an important part of a very important story. The New York Times should be very cautious celebrating prosecution for what is required for their job.

Joe Wilson wrote an Editorial in the NYTimes about his Niger mission. His discrediting of the famous 16 words in the SOTU is the real lie here. The leaker was right to alert the press that Wilson was a partisan source and offer some hint at why such a hack got such an assignment.

I don't know about the push polling in SC. Perhaps it was untoward but politics ain't beanbag. It has been blown up disproportionately to its importance. Senator McCain won northeastern states with independents voting in the GOP primary. The idea that the momentum was turned is beloved by Bush haters but is not correct.

The Swift Boats charges were far more factual than those leveled back by their detractors. And the Bush campaign was not involved. Veterans harbor a deep and seething antipathy for John Kerry and Jane Fonda that needs no stoking of the flames or official support.

The Bush White House is extremely disciplined and has been able to control leaks and control the message better than other recent administrations. But to extrapolate that a pattern of deception is unjust.

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 4:30 PM

October 16, 2005

NYTimes Predictions

Dymphna at Gates of Vienna predicted the NYTimes headline on the Iraqi elections. Seeing that the turnout was better than 65 percent, he suggested “Over a Third of Iraqi Voters Stay Home Instead of Voting.”

Wrong! The real headline (as he updated): “Turnout Is Mixed as Iraqis Cast Votes on Constitution”

You really cannot make this stuff up, can you? Two thirds of Iraqi citizens risk death, walk miles in 100+ degree heat to vote on a draft constitution and that is "mixed" to the idiots at the nation's best newspaper. I weep for the republic...

Hat-tip: Instapundit

Media and Blogging Posted by John Kranz at 3:09 PM

Music Critic

It grieves me to post a bad review of a CD from one of the world's greatest guitarists, but I must. Amazon suggested in an email that I might like "Les Paul & Friends."

Not much of a leap for their software, I had bought "Best of the Capitol Masters with Mary Ford." That one was great. Lester is an interesting man. I recommend his autobiography (with Rob Lawrence) and any of his music. (Sugarchuck and I wept as young men when we heard "Lester & Chester: Monster Guitars" with Chet Atkins.)

I didn't look, I didn't think, I one-clicked (Non veni, non vidi, visa...)

I expected something on the lines of Ray Charles’s "Genius Loves Company," where Les would team up with some young folk and redo some of his old tunes. That is NOT it. The album is a compendium of people who have seen a Les Paul guitar. He plays on few tracks, and those he does are just sampled sections of his earlier works with a lot of crap produced around them. Sorry for the pejorative, I don't mind that so much but I was extremely disappointed.

It's a CD with remakes of Rock'n'Roll Hootchie Koo, My Heart is like a Wheel. There is no perceptible bow to Les Paul's music or sensibilities. I guess I won't die from it, but it makes me yearn for what it wasn't. Les Paul deserves a GREAT CD with the people his work has influenced -- that would be everybody in any honest assessment. Sad.

I will end on a good note, though. Bucky Pizzarelli and Frank Vignola's "Moonglow" is good enough to make up for this flop five times.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:35 PM

October 15, 2005

Freedom on the March!

Looks like high turnout and lower-than-expected violence in Iraq in this WONDERFUL day. October 15, 2005.

Sooni has pictures:


Freedom on the March Posted by John Kranz at 5:18 PM

Another Iraqi Election

The results are not yet in, but there can be no doubt as to the outcome.

    Iraq's deeply divided Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds voted under heavy guard Saturday to decide the fate of a new constitution aimed at establishing democracy after more than two decades of Saddam Hussein's repressive rule.

    A day that U.S. and Iraqi leaders feared could turn bloody turned out to be the most peaceful in months.

    Insurgents attacked five of Baghdad's 1,200 polling stations with shootings and bombs, wounding seven voters. But the only deaths were those of three Iraqi soldiers in a roadside bomb far from a polling site, and there were no major attacks reported as U.S. and Iraqi forces clamped down with major security measures around balloting sites.

The violence was low on another election day.


Bill Roggio has more.

But jk thinks:

If there were a real version of the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Military would win it every year.

Thanks to all who serve!

Posted by: jk at October 15, 2005 5:01 PM

October 13, 2005

Stopped Clock Technocrat

There isn't much in the world like a good ol'fashioned screed.

    Which brings us to its latest recipient: ol’ see-no-evil Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is like giving the Surgeon General the Nobel Price for medicine after bird flu depopulates the North American continent. Let’s look at his highlight reel:

    Completely whiffed the Libyan nuke program. Failed to notice that Iran had a secret nuclear program going for a fifth of a century. (You can hardly blame them – it was secret, after all. I mean, it’s not like you can barge in and say “what’s all this, then?”) The IAEA also didn’t have a clue about A. Q. Khan, the wannabe Bond villain who ran a nuclear Wal-Mart for rogue states. ElBaradei would have been better off sending Mr. Magoo to ferret out Khan’s network; at least Magoo would have tripped over something.


But jk thinks:

Somebody once brought up the Nobel Peace Prize on the TV show "Night Court;" Dan Fielding said "I'd kill for one of those!" I don't know that it was meant politically, but watching the recipients over the past decade or two --I'd say it's a requirement!

Posted by: jk at October 14, 2005 2:12 PM

Stinging Miers Rebuke

Taranto devotes all of today’s Best of the Web to a look at her testimony as a member of the Dallas City Council in Williams v. Dallas, a voting-rights case from 1989.

It is not shades of Robert Bork, it does not substantiate the President's promises of justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. It looks like a Kennedy or an O'Connor, if not a possible Souter.

It's hard to see the "church lady" overturning Raich, and part of the testimony portends poorly for Kelo:

Miers didn't directly address the question of eminent domain. But she described a tour of a South Dallas community in which the homes were not to her liking:
The construction of housing that was large in number, close together, close to the street where there wasn't a place for children to play or really just seemed so compact that it didn't seem like it was planned properly to provide the kind of environment where people could really exist and have much of an existence.

The expansion of eminent domain that led eventually to Kelo came about because the court in decades past decided that combating "urban blight" was a "public use" for which the government could confiscate private property. Miers's rather condescending thought that people in small, densely packed homes don't "have much of an existence" leads one to wonder if, were she on the Supreme Court, she would respect the property rights of those South Dallas residents or others similarly situated.

No word on where she stands on the infield fly-rule or the DH.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 4:08 PM | What do you think? [2]
But AlexC thinks:

It's too bad you couldn't launch the pilot episode of "Internecine" this week.

It would have been awesome.

Posted by: AlexC at October 13, 2005 7:50 PM
But jk thinks:

Indeed! But who's on the pro-Miers side? If Hugh Hewitt is busy, we're down to the guy who was dating her...

Posted by: jk at October 14, 2005 2:14 PM

It's Not Good To Be The Speaker

ThreeSources blogger AlexC maintains his pstupidonymous blog for postings about Pennsylvania and Philadelphia politics. Most of those postings can be applied to the rest of the country by extrapolation or by allegory, and they are always well worth reading.

Grist for the pstupidonymous mill of late has been a PA State legislative pay raise that was voted for with little debate or public discourse.

The (Republican) Speaker of the house is followed to a book-reading at a fourth grade classroom and AlexC has photos, links to video and commentary. It is must reading!

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 1:50 PM | What do you think? [1]
But AlexC thinks:

Heh... Lately, I've shifted into Pa politics mode, only because it's so ripe for commentary.

Even moreso because it's Republicans that are providing the targets.

Posted by: AlexC at October 13, 2005 7:51 PM


Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa is seem by some as a conservative, DLC-type Democrat who could run a good moderate campaign in 2008.

I liked the title of his guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, Cuts That Heal. And I will credit him for not suggesting "rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans" as a budgetary solution.

Granted, I'm a tough audience for Democrats, but it is the same old thing, Al Gore '88, I'm going to get rid of waste and pork and corporate welfare:

• Declare war on pork. Two immediate steps would generate about $42 billion in savings. The first is to demand a moratorium on pork-barrel spending in the 13 appropriations bills for the next fiscal year still pending in Congress ("Pork" is spending targeted to specific states and districts that circumvents the normal budget process, and that was not requested by the agency through which the money flows). The second is to cancel the vast array of congressional "earmarks" (special projects requested by a particular member of Congress) contained in the recently enacted highway bill, such as the $231 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska.

• End Corporate Welfare. Cutting corporate subsidies could provide another rich vein of savings. While $60 billion of such subsidies are in the budget, a few relatively easy targets stand out, such as the $2 billion provided to large corporate beneficiaries of the Department of Commerce's overseas trade promotion programs. They should pay for this service if they want it.

• Cut Oil and Gas Subsidies. The energy bill provides an assortment of government subsidies (e.g., $750 million over a 5-year period -- with the option to double the amount -- for research into deep-water oil and gas drilling likely to be conducted by the Texas Energy Center in Tom DeLay's hometown of Sugar Land) to an oil industry that is currently banking record profits at a rate of $7 billion a month. More than $23 billion over five years could be saved by simply asking these industries to pay their own way.

• Trim Government Waste. Basic "good government" efficiencies such as cutting the number of consultants and contractors, reducing political appointments to public jobs and freezing federal travel costs could save more than $7 billion over five years.

I love this kind of talk, and I expect that it will play pretty well with a lot of Americans.

But it's a lie.

If I can borrow a line from Silence, there are 535 reasons why that's not going to work. Your wasteful pork is an intriguing project in my district and likely my Congressman's hope of incumbency. No president has yet delivered on that promise. I hate to disparage Governor Vilsack, but I don't see how he pulls it off.

Perhaps a "Contract with America" redux where an entire party swears fealty to frugality. And I question whether that's a winner outside this blog's readership (both of you).

Coming from an Executive Branch wannabe, it is an empty promise and a sign of someone fearful to make tough calls (at least Kerry promised more taxes). Governor Vilsack bravely engages with the pro-pork, pro corporate welfare masses in the electorate. Yawn.

Rice '08.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 1:07 PM | What do you think? [3]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

How about I trade you a line? I always liked your definition of Republicans as trying to decrease spending and often failing versus Democrats trying to increase spending and often succeeding. Maybe pork is just an easy target and an unlikely success, but trying to reduce it seems like it has a better chance of success than just ignoring it.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 13, 2005 6:39 PM
But jk thinks:

Yeah but no but yeah but no but...(anybody watch "Little Britain?")

Better to pay attention but disingenuous to claim that it will fix the budget. Also, no real plan as to how he will reign in Congressional spending when so many (42?) other Presidents could not. Were he to demand a line-item veto, or pledge with a huge portion of his party in Congress -- something, I would be impressed.

But it is lazy and somewhat deceitful to say we're going to fix the budget by controlling waste. The system is not engineered to allow that.

Posted by: jk at October 14, 2005 2:07 PM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Yeah, I almost ended my comment with "line item veto anyone?" You do have to have something concrete. Just pledging to end pork, or even cut spending for that matter is fluff talk. You are not just fighting the 535 members of Congress but also everyone from their districts who benefits from the pork. Spread around enough you are talking a serious numbers of voters. This of course is the other insidious nature of pork, it grows partly by being spread around, if everyone gets some no one wants to vote against it.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 14, 2005 3:33 PM

The Full Tim McCarthy

Peggy Noonan offers advice to the White House today on the Harriet Miers nomination.

The Administration should listen, I have heard recently of a young woman who attributes a portion of her political success to the wise counsel of Ms. Noonan. Today, in her OpinionJournal column she offers advice on how to position withdrawal. My favorite is her first:

The full Tim McCarthy. He was the Secret Service agent who stood like Stonewall and took the bullet for Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton. Harriet Miers can withdraw her name, take the hit, and let the president's protectors throw him in the car. Her toughness and professionalism would appear wholly admirable. She'd not just survive; she'd flourish, going from much-spoofed office wife to world-famous lawyer and world-class friend. Added side benefit: Her nobility makes her attackers look bad. She's better than they, more loyal and serious. An excellent moment of sacrifice and revenge.

The Fill Tim McCarthy should enter the lexicon. It's an awesome phrase and it honors a true hero and patriot.

Ms. Noonan, does not, however, address my concern, and I think it so substantive that I would dissuade Miers from withdrawal. It speaks of the left's vision of conservatism: that the entire GOP buckles when Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer are upset. And a more conservative nominee would be pilloried with "We liked Miers! Why did they pull her and send up this extremist?"

Dark days.

Passed ball on third strike? No way.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 12:38 PM

October 12, 2005

Serenity and Iraq

We're off to see Serenity again. As Linda Richman would say, I'll leave you with a topic.

I know I am hopelessly optimistic, but isn't the process and the outcome of the Iraqi Constitutional compromise wonderful? Sure some dead-enders are blowing themselves up, but the Kurdish, Shia and Sunni States are arguing and voting and calling each other names and embracing Federalism.

UPDATE: The movie was good the second time. The first was a party atmosphere with the Firefly faithful all laughing and cheering. Seeing it in a nearly empty Wednesday matinee two weeks in, it seemed a more serious picture. Very very good.

Posted by John Kranz at 2:56 PM

October 11, 2005

Score One for the USA

I get depressed. The second term Bush agenda seems hopelessly mired, I am underwhelmed with the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Tom Delay, who cares about indictments -- his crime is saying that there is no more Pork to cut after all these years of GOP rule -- and saying it with a straight face.

The GOP bench looks weak for '08, the numbers look good for '06 but sentiment does not. There is much to be down about.

So I will take a quick gratuitous swipe at the nation that gave us John Locke and the Magna Carta.

On Samizdata, Jonathan Pearce decries the Sheer impertinence of the BBC in wanting to raise its license fee.

As I frequently have to explain to my American friends who are left aghast at the situation, the BBC licence fee must be paid, on penalty of a heavy fine, and possibly gaol. In reality, there are people who probably have gotten away with non-payment but the threat is real enough.

In the age of the Internet, satellite and cable, how long can this monster remain in existence? And for how long can it claim that without its privileged source of income, exacted with the ultimate sanction of imprisonment, our culture would be in ruins? Who seriously believes that argument today?

I gripe about PBS, but at least I am not forced to write them a check unless I badly need a coffee mug or a Yanni DVD.

It really is stunning to think our British Brothers have to put up with this.

Posted by John Kranz at 7:28 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I hope I don't depress you further JK, but the only difference in funding between PBS and the BBC is that for the latter, citizens' cash payments "exacted with the ultimate sanction of imprisonment" are not laundered first by passage through something called the General Fund.

Posted by: johngalt at October 11, 2005 11:59 PM
But jk thinks:

Fair poimt. And in Britain you can actually avoid the tax by not owning a TV. PBS is unavoidable -- Bastiat would've preferred the beeb..

Posted by: jk at October 12, 2005 11:51 AM

Blogger Makes Good

Not me, I'm still a ne'er do well. But Patrick Ruffini is joining the pro ranks as the GOP's "eCampaign Director."

This week, I'm starting on a new path that will take me away from the day-to-day upkeep of this blog. I'll be returning to the Republican National Committee to serve as eCampaign Director. This is a tremendous opportunity to work with a great team to make GOP.com the nerve center of our efforts in 2006, pushing the envelope with new ideas and tools that set the standard for online politics.

Good luck!

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 2:02 PM

October 10, 2005

Quote of the Day

Taranto at Best of the Web published letters it received in response to a post about the reaction to the Miers appointment at National Review's 50tth anniversary bash.

I know I'm among the newly converted, but this made me laugh:

I had to laugh at your unintentional Pauline Kael self-parody on Friday.
Shorter Taranto: "Nobody I met at a National Review event likes Harriet Miers." Now that's a revelation.
-- Kurt Brouwer

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 8:51 PM

Serenity Review

I missed a couple on Samizdata.net Paul Marks has a tough time with teh American accents but still gives thumbs up to "a libertarian film."

The characters are lead, for a variety of reasons, in to a head on clash with the government - "The Alliance" its Parliament and those who serve it.

They are not fighting the government because it does not spend enough on welfare or education, or because it does not issue enough fiat money (indeed many people in the outer planets do not accept the government's credit money, it has to pay in cash even some of the security forces who work for it), nor are they fighting the government because it is a selfish or corrupt dictatorship.

No, in the end, the characters are fighting the government because it wishes to create a better, more civilized world (or rather worlds) and because it is prepared to violate the nonaggression principle in order to achieve this objective.

On the web Posted by John Kranz at 7:49 PM

Electric Guitars

I signed up for a Dave Barry email from the Miami Herald, like I don't get enough email.

But I do like Dave Barry, and I think that all the ThreeSources cats would dig today's "classic" rerun of a 1998 column: Guys and electric guitars go together

At some point or another, almost every guy wants an electric guitar. It would not surprise me to learn that, late at night, in the Vatican, the pope picks one up and plays ''Hang On, Sloopy.'' Electric guitars exert a strong appeal for guys, because they combine two critical elements:

1. A guitar.
2. Electricity.

Taken separately, these elements have little intrinsic value. But combined, they have an almost magical effect: They enable a mediocre guitar player, or even a bad guitar player, to play WAY louder.

Geopolitics, Brother Dave tells us, is just like a band:
As a member of that band, my artistic dream was essentially the same dream that inspired legendary musicians such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and The Dave Clark Five: The dream of getting a bigger amplifier. This was important because of the musical dynamics of a rock band, which are very similar to the political dynamics of the Asian subcontinent. Let's say that India is the drummer, and Pakistan is the lead guitar player. There is always tension between these two instruments, because they both want to be the loudest.

Let's say that, in this band, they start out roughly equal, but then, one day, India goes out and gets larger drumsticks. Pakistan is naturally threatened and responds by buying a more-powerful amplifier. Then India, seeking to regain superiority, buys even LARGER drumsticks, and maybe a cowbell. At this point, the bass player (China) feels it has no choice but to escalate, and pretty soon the band is so loud that merely by tuning up it can kill whales swimming thousands of miles away. (In a selfless effort to avoid this kind of tragedy, [our band] almost never tuned up.)

Good stuff.

From the other side Posted by John Kranz at 1:13 PM

Throwing In With Kristol

Scoot over, Sugarchuck, I'm arriving late to the party, but I'd like a drink and a couple of hors d-oeuvres if they're not all gone.

I saw Mr. Kristol on FOXNews yesterday. They had taken a few minutes off discussing Aruban jurisprudence to evaluate America's and he repeated his call for Ms. Miers to withdraw, as he does on the Daily Standard website today. This was a nice riff, discussing the contretemps:

But the reaction of conservatives to this deeply disheartening move by a president they otherwise support and admire has been impressive. There has been an extraordinarily energetic and vigorous debate among conservatives as to what stance to take towards the Miers nomination, a debate that does the conservative movement proud. The stern critics of the nomination have, in my admittedly biased judgment, pretty much routed the half-hearted defenders. In the vigor of their arguments, and in their willingness to speak uncomfortable truths, conservatives have shown that they remain a morally serious and intellectually credible force in American politics.

I've meant all the good things I have said about Ms. Miers, and I appreciate that she has made me remember the excellent Mike Myers movie "So I Married an Axe Murderer" Not because they are both named Myers (though that's gotta be a conspiracy somehow...) but for his poem about his love: "Har-ri-et, Sweet Har-ri-et!"

Putting childish things aside, Kristol is right that if the conservatives actually do stand for meritocracy, they should ensure not that they get the vote they want, but that they put the best person on the bench.

I like the non-elitist, western-state nature of the pick. But like wanting a woman, you could fulfill the requirement and still do better.

Kristol is also right with the solution. Ms. Miers should withdraw her nomination. The President nominated her out of loyalty, she should withdraw out of loyalty.

The downside is appearance. Here's the narrative:

"President Bush nominated a consensus pick that hade wide support on both sides of the aisle, but the evil right wing conspiracy said she wasn't extreme enough! And this President knuckled under."

Pass me one of those canapés...

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 12:02 PM

October 9, 2005

Media Bias

I hate watching the Broncos on Fox. The NFC announcers always seem biased against an AFC team. I just spent three hours listening to how all around swell the Washington Redskins were. And they are. Today, however, they never once led the game, were down 21-10 through most of the second half, and had to stage an impressive 4th quartet rally to come within two.

Yet Redskins players and coaches were praised throughout he game, and the announcers had no idea who the Broncos even were.

C’mon! This is important! It's media bias and we're no gonna take it!

Posted by John Kranz at 9:36 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

I noticed the same thing JK. As time was winding down and it was clear the Redskins would lose, the narrative was, "This Redskins team will go far. They've got a strong defense and a talented offense..." blah, blah, blah. I remarked to my screen, "What about their secondary? Only three cornerbacks, and one of them got injured during this game? The Broncos never got their running game going, you say? They didn't HAVE to!"

I think this can be attributed to knowing one's customer though. Fox carries Redskins' games every week. The Broncos only grace their screen when fate allows.

Posted by: johngalt at October 10, 2005 12:59 AM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

To quote Bill Romanowski before he went to the dark side, the commentary "made me want to puke." I guess we didn't have a running game... accept for Tatum Bell's 100 plus game, not to mention his two touchdowns. I suppose John Galt is right and this was something to do with markets but these guys were not only biased but just plain bad at their jobs. I won't go into detail... you all saw the same game I did. A pox on Fox!

Posted by: Sugarchuck at October 10, 2005 12:28 PM

Constitutional Clarity

Two articles to consider, and being the administration flak that I am, I can spin them into a pro-Miers post.

The first is from Hillsdale College's "Imprimis" magazine. I hope everybody is reading this, subscriptions are free.

This month it is George Will, last month was Stephen Markman, Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. Justice Markman makes a great point about the Constitution: "It ain't for all dem fancy, wingtipped lawyers and perfessers" (I paraphrase a bit...). The serious point is that it's not legalese, that every literate American can understand it. And that the biggest treat to understanding might be penumbras and emanations.

Myth or Misconception 5: The Constitution is a document for lawyers and judges.

The Constitution was written for those in whose name it was cast, “we the people.” It is a relatively short document, and it is generally straightforward and clear-cut. With only a few exceptions, there is an absence of legalese or technical terms. While the contemporary constitutional debate has focused overwhelmingly on a few broad phrases of the Constitution such as “due process” and “equal protection,” the overwhelming part of this document specifies, for example, that a member of the House of Representatives must be 25 years of age, seven years a citizen, and an inhabitant of the state from which he is chosen; that a bill becomes a law when approved by both Houses and signed by the president, etc. One willing to invest just a bit more time in understanding the Constitution need only peruse The Federalist Papers to see what Madison, Hamilton or Jay had to say about its provisions to a popular audience in the late-18th century.

One reason I believe that the Constitution, as well as our laws generally, should be interpreted according to the straightforward meaning of their language, is to maintain the law as an institution that belongs to all of the people, and not merely to judges and lawyers. Let me give you an illustration: One creative constitutional scholar has said that the requirement that the president shall be at least 35 years of age really means that a president must have the maturity of a person who was 35 back in 1789 when the Constitution was written. That age today, opines this scholar, might be 30 or 32 or 40 or 42. The problem is that whenever a word or phrase of the Constitution is interpreted in such a “creative” fashion, the Constitution—and the law in general—becomes less accessible and less comprehensible to ordinary citizens, and more the exclusive province of attorneys who are trained in knowing such things as that “35” does not always mean “35.”

The second article is everybody's favorite Senator, Arlen Spector, suggesting that "Gosh durn it, that constitution stuff is purdy near impossible for some ol' Texas Gal to learn" (again, I paraphrase...)
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said President Bush's pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor must show she can handle complicated legal issues and has not cut deals with the White House to overturn Roe v. Wade.

I rush to Ms. Miers defense in some ways as a devil's advocate. She's not an obvious choice, but there may be a lot more to this "non-elitist" meme than many of her opponents are letting on.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 3:39 PM

October 7, 2005

Softwood Tariffs

I'm blogging from Dow Jones today, hope nobody minds. The WSJ middle editorial today highlights something important that doesn't catch the interest that it should.

Canadian softwood lumber tariffs came in with the dreaded steel tariffs. If the steel tariffs were a bad idea (which they were), the lumber tariffs are worse because they are directed at a friendly neighbor.

"If Canada and the U.S., as close as they are, can't have an agreement that is respected, what does that say about the future of the rules-based international trading system?" That's the question posed to us by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin yesterday at the Journal's New York office almost as soon as he sat down.

Mr. Martin was in town to speak to the Economic Club of New York. At the top of his list of priorities to put on the record, he told us, is Canada's deep dissatisfaction with the U.S. refusal to comply with multiple rulings that U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Mr. Martin's case was bolstered on Wednesday when a fourth Nafta panel ruled the tariffs illegal. Americans have a stake here too, since the duties add about $1,000 to the cost of a new home and affect thousands of jobs in industries that depend on lower-cost Canadian lumber.

I beat up the administration on a regular basis about this, but in the wake of Katrina and Rita it is hugely important. A thousand dollars extra on every rebuilt house, less rebuilding, fewer jobs...

We need an omnibus bill for gulf coast rebuilding that suspends Davis-Bacon and all tariffs on building supplies.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at 11:30 AM


I mean it! That free-market bastion of economic innovation, Russia, has discovered "that it now gets more tax revenues from the rich from its 13% flat tax than from its pre-existing Swiss cheese tax code with massive evasion and 50%-plus tax rates. Russia's revenues with the flat tax grew in real terms by 28% in 2001, 21% in 2002, and 31% in 2003, according to a recent analysis by the Hoover Institution." The WSJ Ed Page also says "If the U.S. had that kind of revenue growth, our politicians would be wringing their hands over what to do with budget surpluses."

This from today's lead editorial, pointing out the success of the Flat Tax in former Soviet territories, its proposed spread into Greece, and the awakening of American media to the brainchild of Milton Friedman.


As shown in the nearby table, most of the world's flat-tax nations today are the former Iron Curtain nations, which for 50 years attempted to create a workers' paradise through command-and-control economic systems. Many of these nations have swung full circle in the opposite, free-enterprise direction. Daniel Mitchell, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, notes that Greece's decision would make it the first non-former communist European nation to adopt the flat tax. East Europe is exporting its economic system westward after all, but not in the way Nikita Khrushchev ever could have imagined.
And what of the United States? The postcard flat-tax concept was virtually invented on these shores, originally by Mr. Friedman. Americans devised the economically optimal tax system and much of the world seems ready to embrace it -- just not us.

Back in the 1980s, a few Democrats (Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt) entertained a tax reform of flatter rates and fewer deductions. But nowadays the political left derides the concept as some sinister plot to let Rolls Royce and yacht owners slash their tax bills. Their ideological blinders prevent them from learning the lesson that the new political class in Russia, Estonia and now Greece accept as a 21st-century economic reality: The best way to get more taxes out of rich people is to generate more rich people, and then give them more incentive to report their income by keeping tax rates low.

I have to agree with the WSJ Ed Page folks here: TAX THE RICH!!!!!

But Silence Dogood thinks:

Amen brother!

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 7, 2005 5:16 PM
But johngalt thinks:

But they're still taxing incomes. Taxing SOMETHING will result in some disincintive for that something to grow. The "Fair Tax" is a better approach, for maximizing tax revenue. (A REAL fair tax, however, depends on elimination of any redistributive elements on the spending side.)

You mentioned intellectual blinders on America's left. On a purported "business" show this morning I heard a pundit lament that "under Bush, the rich got richer." Like it was some sort of calamity. I've got news for him: Under Clinton, the rich got richer. Under Carter, and Johnson, and Kennedy, and FDR et. al., the rich got richer. The only difference is degree, and that degree mirrors the GDP growth of the nation as a whole. When GDP grows, more non-rich can get richer too. Among the group who knows that macroeconomics is not a zero-sum game, only those who resent the affluence of others can think this is a bad thing.

Posted by: johngalt at October 8, 2005 11:56 AM
But jk thinks:

This looks like a job for....PRAGMATIC MAN!

Yes, jg, I would much prefer a consumption tax. You are right on. It's ideal in many ways: the incentive structure for savings and investment, the privacy of not telling the government how much you make, and the capturing revenue from the underground economy. I love it. What's more, you, Silence and I are all on board -- that's a frightening convergence.

The ONE problem I see is this sixteenth amendment thing...There is just too much room for chicanery from the left (and dare I say the right). The likelihood of our getting a VAT and an income tax is too scary.

So, I will settle for a flat tax that fairly siphons revenue off of production but does not inject non-market incentives (buy a house don't rent, take income as dividends and not cap gains, &c.)

The flat tax would release an explosion of pent up investment and production -- and it would be the real answer to outsourcing.

I'd prefer a National Retail Sales Tax, but I think we might be better served all getting behind the more likely of two unlikely scenarios.

Posted by: jk at October 8, 2005 1:35 PM
But jk thinks:

And thanks for taking the banner of rich getting richer. You know it's a really wonderful thing. It is best when not accompanied by "the poor getting poorer." When that is rolled out it usually means the sample is being changed: the rich get richer, the poor get richer, and some new group is thrown in at the bottom to look poor.

Posted by: jk at October 8, 2005 4:15 PM

October 6, 2005

Great Speech!

I have to put the Miers discussion away for a moment, even though it is getting very interesting around here.

I think I am the only blog in the country discussing the President's speech at the National Endowment for Democracy

Don't Google that -- I don't want to know. But the blogs I read are on full-tilt Miers duty and are allowing a very good and amazingly serious foreign policy speech to slide.

It is more of a textbook than a poem. It is long and even wonkinsh me was losing focus. Yet it had its moments of singing oratory, and it said some things that needed to be said. One of my favorites was the Sharanskyesque comparison of Islamofascism (a term he actually used!) to Communism:

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, quote, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride.

The speech is viewable from the White House website but I don't see it rerunning on CSPAN or anything (I have it TiVo'd). It is sad that this will not get the viewing it deserves. It is a good and serious speech.

But johngalt thinks:

Good post JK. I hadn't heard the speech, but your excerpt is inspirational. I'm glad you shared it with all of us.

"...though he never offers to go along for the ride." This is an inescapable element of every totalitarian regime throughout history.

Posted by: johngalt at October 8, 2005 11:34 AM

October 5, 2005

Serenity (again...)

Sorry, I have to promote a comment to a new post. JohnGalt added his Serenity review as a comment to mine.

As his is better, mine has fallen off the front page, and I need another excuse to talk about the Goram Great Flick, I have taken the liberty of reprinting his comment:

100 percent agreement, JK. 'Serenity' is a great sci-fi movie. Alas, it is a sci-fi movie, which means that anyone who doesn't know or care how things work, or why, probably won't care to see this movie either. Were it more of a fantasy film, like Star Wars or - ack - Harry Potter, the urban shopping mall suckled masses would be queuing at the ticket booth. I'm dooming science fiction to the obscurity of geekdom, you say? Don't shoot the messenger.

As for the Serenity story line, it is prodigious. Whedon is quoted saying it’s where the TV series was ultimately headed, but in dozens more one-hour episodes. While I appreciate the cinematic value proposition this movie delivered on, I feel cheated out of all the doubtless side stories that would have accompanied the main theme over the several years it could have spanned at 1 hour per primetime week.

In conclusion, since I'm loathe to include any spoilers, let me just say that I think Captain Reynolds is the greatest proponent of rational self-interest as a philosophy of life to come out of Hollywood in a long, long time. And anyone who thinks that equality is man's greatest aspiration, and that "violence is never the answer" should all go live on ... sorry, can't give away the name.

This movie is for all of us who love life, and think it is worth fighting for, the way Islamofascist terrorists love death.

Go see it!

Posted by John Kranz at 4:17 PM

October 4, 2005

Keeping an Open Mind

As the WSJ opined in their lead editorial, we only seem to have President Bush's word on the Miers pick.

I mentioned the "hopelessly upbeat" Hugh Hewitt as providing the positive side, but here is an even better one from The American Thinker

The GOP is not the party which idolizes Ivy League acceptability as the criterion of intellectual and mental fitness. Nor does the Supreme Court ideally consist of the nine greatest legal scholars of an era. Like any small group, it is better off being able to draw on abilities of more than one type of personality. The Houston lawyer who blogs under the name of Beldar wisely points out that practicing high level law in the real world and rising to co-managing partner of a major law firm not only demonstrates a proficient mind, it provides a necessary and valuable perspective for a Supreme Court Justice, one which has sorely been lacking.

Ms. Miers has actually managed a business, a substantial one with hundreds of employees, and has had to meet a payroll and conform to tax, affirmative action, and other regulatory demands of the state. She has also been highly active in a White House during wartime, when national security considerations have been a matter of life and death. When the Supreme Court deliberates in private, I think most conservatives would agree that having such a perspective at hand is a good thing, not a bad thing.

I am digging the non-ivy league thing, that really is a plus. Running a business, friendly to the Executive branch, "conservative" in W's words.

I am concerned but I'm not jumping in front of the train just yet on this one.

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 6:05 PM | What do you think? [9]
But Sugarchuck thinks:

Did you see the Monday night game? The one with Brett Favre berating Robert Ferguson on the sidelines for not fighting hard enough to hold onto the ball... the ball that was stripped from his hands after the completion and run back, setting up a Carolina TD. "You got to fight, you've got to fight harder!" Watching that was like watching the president's handling of the latest SCOTUS opening. People worked tirelessly for decades to get us to where we are, ... Republican president, Republican controlled sentate and two open postions on the bench. They busted their hind ends to get the ball into this presidents hands and W let the other side strip the ball from him and run the other way. He wasn't willing to fight for it.
I don't care much where Ms. Miers went to school, or what state she's from or where she goes to church; file all of that nonsense under "she has a really nice personality" and let's get to the point... she doesn't deserve to move to the head of the line over so many better qualified candidates. This is not an "earn while you learn gig" and for many of us, this was the single most important decision the president had to make. Republicans are supposed to believe in meritocracy.
And ya'all can keep the "I trust Bush" line because I don't, not any more. Not only that but his judgement on this was so bad it has me rethinking an awful lot of the rest we've had to trust him on. I don't know if this pick was hubris or idiocy, or both but I do know it stinks. We lament the fact that a truly engaging candidate seems to be a thing of the past. We weep and tear our garments over the mediocrity implied when there is no paper trail. But how many of us are going to write to our Republican Senators and demand better. There are enough Republicans and fence sitting democrats to put a real conservative on the bench, a conservative with the intellectual firepower not to simply vote as we would like, but to articulate the powerful arguments neccassary to uphold their decisions when future courts revisit things. Sadly, we won't get that nominee in Ms. Miers. I had serious doubts about W when he backed Arlen Specter over his primary challenger but I didn't expect him to completely roll over, placing political expediency over principal in such a critical area.
One last thing... damned if I know why liberals are all so giddy about this lady. I would be darned scared of an evangelical church lady that jumped parties after finding God. Those folks tend to be pretty serious and shouldn't be trifled with. She will most likely be another yes vote for the right. My guess is that I will agree with her votes more often than not. That still doesn't mean she belongs on the court.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at October 6, 2005 10:15 AM
But jk thinks:

I'll put you down for a "no," then...

I am far from confident that this is a great pick. But I reject a few things that I continue to hear from the detractors.

Idiocy or hubris? Running from a fight? I don't get it (well, yeah, maybe idiocy...) But I don't agree with the running from the fight sect, and by extension your fighting for the ball (I did see the game and I did see Farve's disapprobation, I thought I'd rather get hit in the ribs catching a high one up the middle than face Farve like that!)

Like Emerson, I will look for the best in others. I may doubt whether this is a good pick, but don't doubt for a second that W thinks it is a great pick.

Throw out "Trust W" for an argument. The best arguments I have from club Polyanna are:
-- non-elitist, western state, non-academic;
-- pro business;
-- pro executive;
-- pretty certain vote against Roe.

Your pessimism to me is betrayed by your inclusion of Chief Justice Roberts. I had my questions when that one came down, but after the Senate hearings, I am sold on our new Chief.

A concern with my party is that the right wants a fight. I would have loved a good scuffle over Janice Rodgers Brown as much as anybody, but if a constructionist gets on the bench with Leader Reid's blessing, we can get on to other items.

I agree that the Democrats will rue the day they let "church lady" through and, yes, she is a vote and not a leader. Neither of those depresses me that much.

Posted by: jk at October 6, 2005 1:59 PM
But Sugarchuck thinks:

Let me ask you this...what did you hear from Mr. Roberts that leads you to think he won't be another Souter. What did he say that set you at ease. I didn't hear a thing. Is he brilliant? Yes. Is he qualified to be on the court? Yes. Was it fun watching him reduce Biden to rubble? Of course. Should Bush have picked him? I don't know. The fact is, Alan Dershowitz is samrt and facile and qualified to be on the Supreme court but I wouldn't have wanted Bush to nominate him. If you are right and Bush truly believes he put up the best nominee in Ms. Miers then Bush's critics are right and he shouldn't be president. If I am right and he chose to back down from a fight he should have been preparing for prior to his first inauguration then he is a weasel and he has betrayed a large number of the folks that got him elected in the first place. I've put up with record spending and compasionate conservatism and Republican Lite all in the hopes that he would get this one thing right and he has blown it. I don't fault him for Katrina or 9/11 aftermath or any of the other things that have been dropped in his lap but this, along with his signature on McCain Fiengold, suggests he doesn't take the court seriously.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at October 6, 2005 3:07 PM
But jk thinks:

You know how to hurt a guy. Signing McCain-Feingold is one of the worst things President Bush has done. And, yes, it's a clear abdication of his Constitutional responsibility.

What did I see from (now Chief Justice) Roberts? Exactly what we're not seeing today from Ms. Miers. A man who belonged on the court for his skill and intellect (like, say, Robert Bork).

Safe to say, I'll trust the President on his ideology. I don't know what happened with Blackmun, but those who bring up Souter forget that Bush pere took his eye of the ball and trusted John Sununu. I do trust Bush file not to do that. Maybe an O’Connor, maybe a Kennedy, not a Souter.

I have also had to trust others. I don't know Chief Justice Roberts but I liked what I saw (Biden-abuse!) and I liked even better what I read on PowerLine and other lawyerly blogs. The PowerLine guys know more than I do and are less interested in another Souter than I am.

Posted by: jk at October 7, 2005 10:51 AM
But johngalt thinks:

The truly lamentable fact is that the Supreme Court, like so many modern institutions, has forgotten the primary guiding principle this nation was founded upon - Liberty for all. The purpose of the Constitution is to limit government's intrusion upon the rights of the people. The Supreme Court, as final arbiter of the Constitution's principles, should hold an individual's freedom from government coercion as its highest principle. Federalism is a valuable concept, but upholding it cannot be allowed to trump liberty.

JK takes solace in the estimation that Miers is a "pretty certain vote against Roe." Reversal of Roe is an example of the government infringement upon liberty that I'm referring to. But I take no solace in the fact that, despite this estimation, anti-Roe conservative luminaries such as Robert Bork, Ann Coulter and Sugarchuck consider Miers' nomination a "complete disaster." She is still "the church lady."

The Supreme Court was never meant to function as a "jury of our peers." The court was to enforce the Constitution's restrictions upon the government. Its justices were presumed to be ever loyal to the Constitution they swore an oath of allegiance to. But when politically motivated presidents promote command-economy liberals and science-phobic theists to the court, that court eventually devolves into a mini-legislature with its members casting ideological votes rather than rendering objective judgments. It is a case of Left vs. Right vs. Liberty.

Posted by: johngalt at October 10, 2005 12:53 AM
But Silence Dogood thinks:

Very nicely put johngalt.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 10, 2005 10:25 AM

October 3, 2005

Weekly Standard Editors Split

William Kristol is Disappointed, Depressed and Demoralized by the Miers nomination:

I'm demoralized. What does this say about the next three years of the Bush administration--leaving aside for a moment the future of the Court? Surely this is a pick from weakness. Is the administration more broadly so weak? What are the prospects for a strong Bush second term? What are the prospects for holding solid GOP majorities in Congress in 2006 if conservatives are demoralized? And what elected officials will step forward to begin to lay the groundwork for conservative leadership after Bush?

His colleague, Fred Barnes, is -- by comparison -- dancing in the aisles!
So why did Bush choose Miers? For him, these nominations are quite personal. He wants to feel comfortable with his nominee, confident his pick will be a conservative now and conservative 20 years from now. Bush picked Roberts after being impressed while interviewing him. His doubts were erased (and there were initial doubts about Roberts). My guess is with Miers his doubts were washed away too.

Conservatives shouldn't throw up their hands in despair, at least yet. They should wait until they hear from Miers as a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's then that we'll begin to find out if Bush was correct in his view that she's the person to fulfill the dreams of so many conservatives and finally shove the Supreme Court to the right.

Call me circumspectly optimistic...

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 6:33 PM | What do you think? [1]
But Sugarchuck thinks:

I am throwing in with Kristol. As to why I don't trust Bush on this or the Roberts nomination see depressing GOP facts below. W has it right on defense and that is good enough... I guess. It's all we have for now.

Posted by: Sugarchuck at October 3, 2005 7:53 PM

One Year Ago

I know we're supposed to be crucifying the President for his Supreme Court nomination and excoriating the GOP Congress for malfeasance and prodigality. And we are.

But I bought my car a year ago today. I was blogging on Berkeley Square then, but I posted this picture:

Posted by John Kranz at 3:25 PM | What do you think? [2]
But Silence Dogood thinks:

It is a cool car. Still getting hassled by the Boulder self rightous when you pull into the handicapped spots?

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 5, 2005 11:36 AM
But jk thinks:

The car does not engender a lot of sympathy...

Posted by: jk at October 5, 2005 12:59 PM

Miers as Derek Jeter

Quick! Read this before Senator Biden tries to abscond with this analogy.

"The Anchoress" advises readers to "cool their jets" on the Miers nomination. On that I must agree. Then she plays her baseball analogy: Derek Jeter's intangible assets:

He’s been the Yankee Shortstop for ten years - he has tremendous heart, a baseball IQ that is off the charts, two things that are both intangible and invaluable, and yet his whole career he has never been called “the best shortstop playing…” by people who spend all of their time memorizing stats and looking at box scores to tell them “the whole story.” And yet, Jeter is proof that checking off stats in a column can never give you a complete picture of a player and what they bring to the game.

The Anchoress thinks President Bush, knowing her well, may have seen some of these intangibles in Ms. Miers.

Like Hugh Hewitt, I have learned to trust the President on the big things. While I am very concerned, I am going to give this some time before I see "Souter in a Dress."

SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 3:16 PM

SCOTUS Nominee #2 Today

Looks like the President will announce his second choice today.

And the Democrats are promising a fight.

So let's do it.


SCOTUS Posted by AlexC at 7:00 AM | What do you think? [2]
But jk thinks:

The blogosphere roundup of Meirs on Instapundit is not good. I heard a lot of negative thoughts on Roberts and have been quite pleased. Perhaps, President Bush knows something that others do not, and perhaps he is selling all of his supporters down the river...

Posted by: jk at October 3, 2005 11:38 AM
But AlexC thinks:

I was in Jury Duty today (my first!) http://pstupidonymous.blogspot.com/2005/10/jury-dooty.html so I didn't have time to look around... but on the drive home, Michael Medved was very up on her. Especially as an "original intent" Constitutionalist.

Where's the fight though? F*ck. I was promised "some spending of political capital"... Where's Luttig? Janice Rogers Brown?

Do we know she's a good conservative? I don't know. She teaches sunday school at a "fundamentalist" church.

We'll see.

The Judiciary isn't really my beat. I'll leave it to the experts.

Posted by: AlexC at October 3, 2005 4:22 PM

October 2, 2005

Depressing GOP Facts

From OpinionJournal.com

    Here are the depressing facts. Domestic discretionary nondefense spending is up 70% since 1994. Spending growth slowed in 1995 and 1996 as the Republican-controlled House pushed for a balanced budget. But spending began to rise rapidly again in the later 1990s, as Republicans and Bill Clinton "compromised" by spending more on both of their priorities. And the gusher has continued under President Bush, as Republicans have failed to trim domestic pork to pay for the necessary increases in defense.

    Except for the 2003 tax cuts, we can't think of a single recent major policy accomplishment. There have been smaller victories--trade bills, some modest tort reform, and now some judges approved. But the drive for major reform has stalled. Mr. Bush was a co-conspirator in passing the 2003 Medicare drug bill that is the largest expansion of the entitlement state since LBJ's Great Society. But even when Mr. Bush has pressed for reform, as he did this year on Social Security, Republicans on Capitol Hill have whined and resisted. If Mr. Bush failed to mobilize the country, it was in part because Congressional Republicans were so vocal in their caterwauling.

    The real leadership deficit on Capitol Hill is one of ideas, not ethics. In the absence of any policy ambitions, Congress has drifted and the Democrats' ethics complaints have filled the vacuum. The one thing Republicans did pass and then brag about during the August recess--the $286 billion highway bill--has now boomeranged as its 6,371 "earmarks" have been exposed as petty and self-serving after Katrina. This is what happens when Republicans try to become the party of government.

Hopefully fiscal responsibility will return, or the Democrats will deserve to win in 2006.

But jk thinks:

I will join you in disappointment at GOP profligacy.

Let me be the blog pragmatist, however, and ask if you are really so disillusioned that you are ready for "Speaker Pelosi."

Perhaps the Democrats would be no worse on spending (I think they'd be worse, but I cannot prove it). They would work to roll back the Bush tax cuts (i.e., raise taxes) and we'll not have any shot at extending the tax cuts nor eliminating the death tax.

It's a pragmatic challenge to reform the party without giving too much ammo to the other side.

The Republicans promise more liberty and frequently fail; the Democrats promise less and frequently succeed.

Posted by: jk at October 3, 2005 11:17 AM
But AlexC thinks:

JK, my team is still the GOP, but I'm in the "always GOP" 40%. The Dems have their 40%.

It's the 20% that said in '94, "damn, Dem Prez, Dem Congress, and they want to heap spending on us. The GOP has the opposite message. Let's throw 'em out."

This year, they're going to say "damn, Rep Prez, Rep Congress, and they're *still* heaping on the spending, let's throw 'em out."
At least the Dems are honest enough to say "we'll spend". The GOP is supposed to be the responsible party. I'm not seeing it.

And I'm on the team! How can I defend my party as the party of fiscal responsibility when they're really having a tough time of saying "no?"

If we get a Speaker Pelosi, I can only blame the GOP for their mistakes. They were elected in 1994, in part, on being responsible.

I can't give the glory of the victory to the Dems, since their message hasn't changed. It's the Republicans who have.

A damned shame that is.

Posted by: AlexC at October 3, 2005 4:19 PM

Great Movie Line

Too funny! This comes from a friend via email. It seems to be from "The Ghost Breakers" (1940).


I have a clip in Windows Media format (wmv), or you can click "Continue Reading" for the money quote.

Geoff Montgomery: A zombie has no will of his own. You see them sometimes walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring.
Larry Lawrence: You mean like Democrats.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at 11:42 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Gotta love that Bob Hope!

Posted by: johngalt at October 5, 2005 1:01 AM

Don't click this. Comments (2)