Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Written by: Beck

...and I still hate him.

105 Yen
Written by: Anonymous

The global financial markets achieved a milestone overnight - the Yen crossed 105 to the USD in Tokyo trade and has strengthened further to trade slightly under 104 in NY at the time of this writing.

So, why is 105 such a big deal? The Ministry of Finance has long broadcasted that 105 was the "line in the sand" for this export dependent economy. It is no secret that the Bank of Japan is the champion of open-market currency intervention, and has been effectively a perma-bid for USD over the past several years. But their thirst for USDs (in the form of US Treas) has reached heretofore unseen levels of late, all in an attempt to protect the flooded glow plug of a '73 Mercedes diesel that is their economy.

Then they stopped. Out of nowhere. Why?

Well, lets just say that they built an IMPRESSIVE position in treasuries, to the tune of $350 billion, over the last twelve months (prevailing market consensus puts the estimated cost average at 113). The BOJ effectively became price sensitive - as they were witnessing that their attempt to support the dollar, albeit unprecedented, was working about as well as the Al Sharpton '04 Pro-Am out at the west course of the Westchester CC.

At 105, the market has estimated the losses for the WEAK YEN SONY DO WELL play to be around $27BB. Net this with estimated interest income of $5.5BB and things look bad. The BOJ has incurred a real economic loss of around $21,000,000,000. (This only speaks to their marginal position and says nothing to any previously existing position)

The bond market is now wondering whether Japan will blink. Here is why we need to worry about this: If the Ministry of Finance becomes sensitive to these capital losses and the BOJ begins to unwind $350 BB in US Treasuries, rates will move. Up. And there is nothing, nothing, that the Fed can do about it. When I have time, hopefully soon, I’ll discuss the implications, and they abound, due to the perverse proliferation of derivatives by guys who graduated "cum laude" from Metropolitan State University (lookie here, I can lay of RISK), of a spike in treasury yields for our financial system.

How do you spell broo-ha-ha?
Written by: Anonymous

I am as surprised as Answerman is by the fact that Andrew Sullivan seems to think the Richard Clarke broo-ha-ha constitutes a meaningful debate. In reality, it is simply an opportunity for the media to over report the accusations and provide them an artificial legitimacy, knowing that the details of what Clarke said, or the worthiness or reliability of what he said, are for the most part irrelevant to the process.

Fortunately, in about a week or two, the only people who will remember Richard Clarke are the ones who had already made up their mind about Bush long before they even knew who Richard Clarke was.

What qualifies as a WMD threat?
Written by: Anonymous

The new weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, says he won't rule out the possibility of finding WMDs in Iraq. I really don't think it matters at this point, because the world has now officially decided that the whole WMD issue was a "myth".

We know this much for certain - an evil, America-hating, homicidal dictator who had used WMDs in the past and who had connections with numerous terrorist organizations willing to use WMDs, was violating UN resolutions on WMD by conducting prohibited biological research, deploying long range missiles capable of delivering WMD, and hiding components necessary for the development of a nuclear weapons program. None of these facts are in dispute. Also not in the dispute is the fact that many WMDs (particularly chemical) can be quickly produced and rely on technologies that have been with us since early in the last century.

So regardless of whether or not there were 12 million liters of anthrax stored in barrels marked NYC, L.A. and D.C., Iraq obviously posed a WMD threat. Indeed, any country which harbors terrorists and has long range missiles poses a WMD threat, as the critical limitation for many WMDs is not the ability to produce them, but the means to deliver them.

Anyone who thinks honestly about this issue realizes the truth of this statement, yet the issue of Iraq's WMD threat has still been discredited in the eyes of the world. Obviously, most of the world is more concerned with defeating Bush than in dealing with security threats. Which is why I think it won't really matter what Duelfer might find in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

More Krap from Kerry
Written by: Beck

According to a recent article on, John Kerry has a plan to lower gas prices! Well bully for him and hooray for us. Let's have a look at this plan, shall we?

Kerry's plan is three-fold. First, he would have us stop filling the national oil reserve. Second, he would support tax breaks & other incentives to encourage exploration & production. Finally, he would take measures to "reducing price disparities across the country."

Now about that national oil reserve... you people are aware of where most of the world's oil comes from, right? Correct! It's the Middle-East. Now, boys and girls, what region of the world is the most hostile to the United States? I see you're catching on. So naturally, perhaps the single greatest vulnerability of the United States from a natural resources standpoint is availability of crude. Why, oh why, can't people see the importance of stocking the national oil reserve? At least the White House understands:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last week that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve must have enough resources to respond to an emergency disruption of oil supplies.
Oil purchases by the US government amount to 150,000 barrels a day. Global oil markets, by comparison, amount to 86 million barrels a day of sold production. That means the US government is responsible for driving up demand by less that 0.2%. The impact this will have on prices is going to be measured in cents/bbl, not dollars/bbl. Furthermore, try to keep in mind that there are 42 gallons to a barrel, so even a $1 increase in the price of crude only translates into a couple cents at the pump. OK, enough on that.

Here's the bit that surprises me the most:
Kerry's campaign aides said the Democratic candidate wants the United States to pressure the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase production and apply diplomatic pressure to the member nations to reduce prices.
Can I get a WTF!?! This man has spent the past year screeching about how the White House has been widening the divide between the Middle East and the United States. Kerry's plan for reducing the price of gasoline? Put pressure on the world's biggest oil producing region--which happens to hate us at present--all while "reducing tensions in the Mid-East." How in hell does the guy get away with this sort of thing? Kerry is not just a bad economist, he's a hypocritical one as well.

Finally, there's this scary tidbit:
If elected, Kerry also would seek to enact a national fuel strategy aimed at reducing price disparities across the country, the aides said.
Creeping socialism watchers beware! Disparities in fuel prices across the country originate from two sources: 1) differing state taxes, and 2) differing transport costs. How exactly does Kerry propose to alter these things? Quite simply, the only way that Kerry (or any politician for that matter) could ease disparity in gasoline prices across the United States is to raise prices on the places where it is least expensive. Kerry, then, would lower us all down to that lowest of the lowest common denominators: California.

One last point I'd like to make. In Kerry's speech in San Francisco late Monday, he observed that, "I noticed that gas is now close to three dollars a gallon here in California." Several things here folks. First of all, the national average for prices at the pump, according to CNN, is $1.80. Not quite $3. Furthermore, in San Diego, which has the nation's highest gas prices, the pump average is still only $2.12. Finally, gas prices in 1981, adjusted for inflation into 2003 dollars, averaged $2.90 at the pump. I just wanted to point that out.

Finally, a nice little money quote for you:
"If it keeps going up like that, folks, Dick Cheney and President Bush are going to have to car pool to work together," Kerry said at a fund-raiser Monday night in San Francisco, California.
It'd be nice if Bush would respond in kind. Maybe something like, "If Kerry's chin keeps getting bigger, I'll be able to land a fighter on the damn thing." Hey, is it the GOP's fault that John Kerry's head is shaped like an aircraft carrier?

Condi craters...
Written by: Beck

Condoleezza Rice will testify before the 9/11 Commission, publicly and under oath! This is a good thing. The negative publicity from Clarke's attacks needed counteracting, and the cloud hanging over the White House's secrecy on this particular issue needed dispelling. The White House ingeniously agreed to allow full public sworn testimony from Rice only under the condition that:
the commission must agree in writing that Rice's appearance would not set a precedent for testimony by White House staff -- and that the commission "will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice."
This gives the public the circus they want, pulls the teeth of liberal criticism of Rice, and at the same time, protects against future circus performances of this nature.

NRO has a reproduction of the White House's letter demanding the commission's concessions.

Democratic Debates
Written by: Anonymous

This morning, Andrew Sullivan waxes poetic about how our democracy is now debating the Richard Clarke testimony. He actually seems to think (1) there is an intelligent debate going on and (2) it is good and enlightened and all that. Are you kidding me? Millions of imbeciles catching a few TV soundbites and parroting either anti-Bush or pro-Bush propaganda is somehow equivalent to a meaningful debate? It's somehow good? We need to get over our righteous self-satisfaction with the "democratic process" and "good citizenship" and all the rest of that crap. We live in a declining, decadent culture that is fairly incapable of producing high-level political dialogue and debate. We are extraordinarily ill-informed, as a people, about . . . well, about damn near everything. To think that in this context we can mimic some sort of ancient civic virtue is laughable. My rule of thumb is the less the American public hears about, thinks about, or has even the least bit of indirect say in an important issue, the better.

Written by: Anonymous

You know what I hate? Urban enterprise zones. Bear with me here, folks. Sometime around 25 years ago, at the only moment in American history since the 1920s that conservatives were poised to create a governing majority in this country, some "Republican strategist" (talk about an oxymoron) decided that conservatives as such could never win elections. Apparently the best we could do was trot out members of the Old Left -- who had become dissatisfied with Democrat foreign policy weakness, nihilism, and pure evil -- to lecture conservatives and the rest of America on how liberals' public policy goals were super, but Republicans would be more efficient at implementing them. In the meantime, these Old Leftists would spend a couple of decades ruthlessly branding as a racist and anti-Semite any true conservative in the Republican party who wasn't excited about this new direction.

Today, we call these Old Leftists "neoconservatives." That's like calling me a "neocommunist" or a "neo-Buffalo-Bills fan," because in our postmodern lexicon, "neo" apparently means "No way in hell am I." But I digress.

Neoconservatives like to give up a whole bunch of ground in the culture wars, execute occasional purges of actual conservatives from their "movement," and drone on and on about nifty little policy proposals like urban enterprise zones. An urban enterprise zone is an area inside the poverty-stricken inner city where Jack Kemp and his ilk want to devote a lot of time, energy, and -- of course! -- money building up minority businesses. Something about tax breaks and subsidies and free enterprise and a melting pot and a nation of immigrants and blah blah blah blah. Basically, these assclowns want to give up addressing the real reasons for crime and poverty in the inner city and instead figure out clever little ways to apply supply-side economics to the situation. That's right folks, bring all your problems -- cultural, racial, whatever -- to the neocons and they will cure them with 18th century economic theory!

How this is at all conservative I don't know. And that's my beef with these people. Can't they call themselves something else, like pseudo-conservative, or neo-liberal, or Lyndon Johnson? But for God's sake, take the damn "conservative" out of your moniker! I don't mind debating these issues and this very different philosophy and policy approach, but I do mind the dishonest way in which these people have infiltrated a party, rooted out all intellectual opposition, and defined themselves as the only legitimate voice on the Right to a generation of young conservatives.

They should all go live in an urban enterprise zone and see how they like it. In the meantime, the rest of us should take back the Republican party. Or repudiate it.

"Israel is a democracy; the Holocaust was horrible" is an insufficient basis for a so-called "conservative" foreign policy.
Written by: Anonymous


Former Trotskyites should no longer be permitted to dominate the so-called "conservative" intellectual agenda.
Written by: Anonymous


Civil Unions
Written by: Anonymous

Whatever one's views on homosexual "marriage," I hope we can agree that civil unions are perhaps the most pernicious public policy idea currently floating about. I happen to think that permitting homosexuals to "marry" will be yet another significant step in the abolition of marriage and ultimately Western civil society, but assuming we have to have one or the other, it seems "marriage" would be preferable to civil unions. At least in the case of the former the damage would be limited to a subset of 2-3% of the country's population. Sure, the cultural effect would be much magnified beyond the number of people involved, but it would be so much worse with civil unions. If civil unions become law in several states, they will eventually be extended to straight couple as well, and this revolution in the way society treats marriage and families will extend directly to the whole population. My guess is marriage would disappear as a positive social force within 2 generations. Assuming, that is, that we haven't all been blown up by a series of Chinese nuclear bombs within 2 generations.

Jacko and the election
Written by: Anonymous

The conventional wisdom is that the Michael Jackson trial is good for Bush because it will distract the public away from Iraq and the economy.

I am not so sure that this is actually a good thing, because the media has already succeeded in creating a negative tone on both Iraq and the economy. Over the summer and fall, however, the news from Iraq and the economy is likely to improve, and if Jacko distracts the public from anything, it might be the fact that things are continuing to get better.

On the other hand, I can see how the Jacko trial might actually still be a positive development for Bush. Fox is sure to provide more salacious (and far better) coverage of the trial than CNN, which will draw more viewers to Fox's coverage of other issues and away from CNN. Since Fox is less prejudiced against the Bush administration than CNN and the major networks are, this could have a positive effect.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Conservative Schismatics
Written by: Beck

The Mises Institute, official home of the Austrian school of economics, recently published an interesting article which is especially timely considering Answerman's recent writing about how 9/11 brought to the fore differences--previously relatively minor--among different flavors of conservatives. For those not familiar with the Austrian school of economics, they are essentially a fairly extreme offshoot of Libertarians who are heavily anti-government, pro-market, (very) anti-war, and pro-immigration.

The article, aptly titled The Awful Truth about Republicans, attempts to show that the behavior of Republicans during the Bush administration should come as no surprise to those familiar with the history of the Republican party. As authors Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., and Mark Thornton tellingly observe:
The Republican Party was established as a party of big government and economic intervention. Their reputation as a party of limited government is of more recent vintage and stands on a flimsy foundation.
The article goes on to give a resume of early Republican influences which would make a modern Conservative blush.
The Republican Party that emerged in the 1850s was an amalgamation of historical influences, third parties, and interest groups. One group that entered the Republican Party was the Free Soil Party, whose primary platform was free land and subsidies for farmers...

Also joining the Republican Party in the 1850s were supporters of the Know Nothing Party. The Know Nothings were most concerned about immigrants coming into the country, competing against labor, and suppressing wages. They favored restrictive immigration and protective tariffs to keep wages high...

The Whig Party formed the core of the Republican Party with its economic platform consisting of protectionism for industry, a national bank and currency, a large national debt, and a larger federal government engaged in extensive public works.

Also joining the Republican ranks were the Prohibitionists and the Abolitionists.
About the only thing the Republicans of 1850 got right was opposition to slavery.

While it is clearly a mistake to judge the party on beliefs it held over 150 years ago--it is no secret to political historians that Republican and Democratic parties largely traded sides, with the pivotal period occurring upon the election of FDR & his implementation of the New Deal--still, the historical comparison bears consideration for its value as a warning to modern conservatives. After all, we're certainly not going to do ourselves any favors by voting for a Democrat, and if you want to provide an example to the people of the world how NOT to do things, you need look no further than Europe. Take warning Republicans, with control of both the Legislative and the Executive branch, we have much to gain, but we have everything to lose.

Funny ha-ha
Written by: Beck

A friend forwarded me a rather amusing discussion of taxes in America today. It's attributed to a Prof. David R. Kamerschen at the University of Georgia. Whether or not that's accurate I do not know. Regardless, I'm reprinting it here for the greater edification of the masses.
Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten people go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this - The first four (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh $7. The eighth $12. The ninth $18. The tenth (the richest) would pay $59. So, that's what they decided to do.

They ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a problem. "Since you are all such good customers," the owner said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."

So, now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So, the first four were unaffected, they would still eat for free. What about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyonewould get their 'fair share'?

The six paying customers realised that $20 divided by six is $3.33. If they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth and the sixth would each end up being 'PAID' to eat their meal. So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each person's bill by roughly the same amount, and proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so - The fifth, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. The first four continued to eat for free. Once outside the restaurant, they began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth, pointing to the tenth diner "but they got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that they got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh. "Why should they get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine surrounded and beat up the tenth diner.

The next night the tenth diner didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without number ten. When it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

That, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table any more. There are lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.

Condi under fire...
Written by: Beck

The media has launched a full-court press against NSA Condoleezza Rice's refusal to testify before the 9/11 commission. CNN's article is a par for the course. They're doing the Democrats the favor of saving them from having to shoot their mouths off, thereby making it look like a non-political issue. Hell, the story is so juicy, the press doesn't even really have to lay on the sly insinuation. The administration is absolutely taking it on the chin on this one.

Evidently, her refusal to testify is a simple matter of principle--the NSA is the President's confidential adviser, and as such, they don't wish to set a precedent of exposing such an important adviser to interrogation. Rumsfeld and Powell have both pretty much said, in effect, "It would be really good for us if Rice could testify, but she really just can't. Sorry folks."

Quoth Rummy:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to reporters Sunday, said Rice "would be a superb witness. She is anxious to testify. The president would dearly love to have her testify."

But the administration's lawyers have determined that her testifying "would leave the institution different than it was," he said.
Quoth Powell:
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he would not have testified publicly when he was national security adviser under President Reagan in the late 1980s.

"The president has to have a unique and confidential and private relationship with his immediate staff," Powell said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
I would absolutely love it if Rice would step up before that commission and spend an entire day giving them the works. It doesn't look like this will happen, and the Bush administration will take a beating. I suspect that her refusal to testify will be far more damaging to the re-election campaign than anything that buffoon Clarke could have said.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Why I don't like college kids
Written by: Anonymous

Writing a response to Answerman's provocative note on the crisis of conservatism is near the top of my to do list. Unfortunately I have been rather busy lately and don't have the mental energy to write anything really substantive right now. In the meantime I'll just write about a topic that comes easily to me -- my seething contempt for college kids.

Before I go any further, let me admit up front that I am unduly prejudiced by jealousy, as I suffered through four years of an institution dedicated to snuffing out all of the fun associated with the college experience. Let me also note that I was heavily influenced by my exposure to Answerman and Beck during their years in a different but highly distinguished academic institution. As far as I could tell, the greatest challenge of their college experience seemed to be finding a way to fill the time between registering for classes and showing up to these classes for the first time to ace the final exams.

Now I have nothing but respect for all those students working their way through college, or graduating with a degree in nuclear engineering in three years, or taking care of their sick grandmothers, etc, etc, but that's not the type of student I am writing about. He (or she) has a quite different existence. You probably knew someone like him yourself, or maybe it is or was you (as it would have been me had it not been for my inexplicable decision to put myself through four years of misery instead).

That's right, I am talking about all those students majoring in some ridiculously easy liberal arts field where earning a 3.5 requires showing up to a few classes, discussing feelings, and writing a few essays. True, these students also have some other responsibilities, such as pursuing the opposite sex, drinking a lot of alcohol, calling their parents to ask for more money, attending college sporting events, and occasionally bathing themselves.

Now my real problem isn't the students that get to enjoy this lifestyle, it's the students who get to enjoy this lifestyle but DON'T APPRECIATE IT! The typical college student is at the very apex of our society, enjoying most of its benefits while contributing nothing. But for some reason, many college students feel the need to reflexively denounce the society and armed forces that support their cushy lifestyle, and complain about how our culture is oppressing and exploiting them. I mean, c'mon, how can they keep a straight face when they talk about exploitation -- don't they realize that they're the first stop on the gravy train?

So if you are one of those college students out there living the good life, don't feel guilty, keep enjoying yourself while you have the opportunity. And naturally you shouldn't stop questioning our society and examining its many, many faults. But please just have enough humility to appreciate the fact that society is treating you pretty dang well right now.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Welcoming a New Member to the Team
Written by: Beck

You may have already noticed, but we have a new writer on the INCITE team--Captain Dave. He's a friend of mine that I've known for a frighteningly long time, and he has one of the best conservative minds that I know. He has served in the army, and he just recently got home from being stationed in Iraq. Currently, he's serving time in grad school over in the People's Republic of California. Hopefully you enjoy his stuff. Or hate it. Either way, it keeps things interesting.

The Crisis of Conservatism
Written by: Anonymous

The more I think about it, the more September 11 looks to be a turning point for the worst in the tumultuous history of American conservatism. For most of my life, conservatives of many different stripes in the United States have banned together in an uncomfortable unity. This common front was largely due to the menace of international communism, and it frayed considerably in the 1990s, with libertarians, paleoconservatives, and neoconservatives going their separate ways. Still, these internecine quarrels were largely at the level of the conservative intellectual elites; right up and through the 2000 election, your average American conservative still considered himself part of something at least akin to a unified movement, and considered that movement to be aligned with the Republican party. No more.

September 11 brought conservative differences on critical issues such as immigration, interventionism, and accommodation of the welfare state from the think tanks and policy magazines to local politics and the concerns of the average conservative. Some of the most bitter policy quarrels I have seen over the past couple of years have been between different strains of the old conservative movement (these strains are not limited, by the way, to the three I identified above; American conservatism has become a quite complex and fractious creature). Foregin policy is no longer an academic game like it seemed to the unconcerned in the 1990s, where the price of getting it wrong was spending too much money in Haiti, or accidentally bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Now foreign policy is quite literally about life and death, and not surprisingly, non-interventionist paleocons and recklessly-interventionist neocons have become mortal enemies. At the same time, the long-simmering immigration issue has reached the tipping point, as we stand merely a few years away from a demographic and cultural catastrophe brought upon us by the open borders lobby. When the catastrophe was visible but more distant, the stakes weren't as high; moreover, immigration itself has become a life-and-death issue in the context of Islamic terrorists and the ease with which they enter this country to do us harm.

Foreign policy and immigration are the key issues of difference among conservatives that have become so fundamental and irreconcilable since September 11, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg in that they are symptoms of deeper ideological differences. The Patriot Act, for instance, has raised to the fore differences between traditional conservatives and libertarians on so-called ''civil" liberties issues. And affirmative action, political correctness, and racial profiling divide different wings of the old Cold War conservative coalition.

I actually have a proposal for averting this continuing separation and increasing animosity among conservatives of different stripes in the face of the ever-more-powerful liberal menace (let us not forget the simple point made by both Sam Francis and Paul Weyrich -- American conservatism has been defeated on every issue of importance to it over the past two generations, no matter what the goofy neocon revisionists try to tell you). But I need to think things out a little more and would like to make a different, simpler point today.

The most striking thing about conservative discord since September 11 is how separated leading national conservative policymakers and thinkers have become from the public on whose support they rely. On most of the critical long-term issues -- race, immigration, the asinine neocon version of a "New World Order" -- leading Republican politicians and leading so-called conservative publications such as National Review and the Weekly Standard differ fundamentally with their constituents and readers. Regardless of one's views on any of these particular issues, the fact remains that this ever-widening gorge between the movement leadership and its rank-and-file members can only do harm, and given the age we live in and the nature of the liberal opposition serious harm at that, to American conservatism and America itself.

The Bush administration and the ahistorical former Trotskyites who have hijacked it had soon better realize the harm they're doing in fawning over men like Tony Blair -- an unabashed supporter of the welfare state, racial preferences, global government, and coddling of criminals -- while issuing ridiculous Ayn-Rand-style edicts against men like Pat Buchanan -- a true conservative who, despite his significant failings on economic issues and foreign policy, remains a positive and important figure within the increasingly technocratic and leftward leaning conservative movement. These essentially left-wing functionaries who have invaded the upper ranks of American conservatism must be stopped, but in stopping them, we cannot resort to a reactionary populism whose time, if it ever truly existed, is long past.

COMING SOON: how I propose to do all that.

Bush ads on the net
Written by: Beck

Blackfive provides a link to an online Bush ad. Someone should definitely look into getting this on TV--assuming that particular first ammendment right hasn't already been stripped by Demopublican Sentaor John McCain's campaign finance reform law. Anyway, the ad is a 1.6mb file in Shockwave format. Be sure your speakers are on.

Further clarification on genital mutilation
Written by: Anonymous

This is great, I got a reader comment on my first post - the one about clitoral peircing. It raises an interesting question too.

L.J. writes:

"Given that cultures have been doing similar, and more damaging, things to their bodies for generations, I assume all cultures, except for Georgia, are degenerate?"

L.J., please let me clarify. Georgia's culture is degenerate too, along with the rest of the cultures in the first world.

I would stop short of saying that ALL cultures are degenerate though. To qualify as a degenerate culture, a culture must have reached some high point from which it can descend, which would disqualify most of cultures where serious genital mutilation is practiced.

Does this surprise you? Not me...
Written by: Beck

Bush supporters outside of a Bush fundraiser were assaulted by some steelworkers unionists. True colors anyone?

John Kerry is a childish lying idiot.
Written by: Beck

Let me give you just one brief excerpt from a recent CNN article. In the article, Bush talks about how the economy has been steadily growing stronger (it is), and Kerry slaps him down through plain old fabrication (the article doesn't mention the fabrication bit).
Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts issued a news release Saturday headlined: "Worst job loss since Great Depression, Bush can't see the problem."

"Nearly 3 million Americans have lost their jobs since George Bush took office and the president's response is to give himself a pat on the back," Kerry said. "American jobs are being shipped overseas, health care costs are overwhelming working families and George Bush still doesn't get it."
Does the observation that job loss is the worst since the depression seem a bit out of kilter with what you observe going on around you? It should. During the great depression, unemployment reached 29%. Hell, during the Reagan administration, unemployment hit 10%. What in hell is Kerry's point? In September of 2003, unemployment was at 6.1%, it's already down to 5.6%.

That's right, unemployment is down to 5.6%, and that less then three years after an attack which destroyed the world trade towers doing literally hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to the broader economy. Think about it folks. The already struggling stock market was completely wrecked. We've rebounded in fewer than three years. This economy is doing amazingly well.

John Kerry likes to point out that "nearly" 3 million jobs (I'd like to see by just how much he's rounding up) have been lost since Bush took office. He's playing a simple game of semantics. He doesn't mention the number of jobs that have been GAINED. Oops.

Finally, there's his announcement that Bush just "doesn't get it." He really said that. That's the kind of thing you expect to hear from some disaffected teenager to his parents, not from a presidential candidate. I can't remember the last time I've used that phrase. Anytime someone DOES use that phrase, it's almost unfailingly intended as self-deprecatory humor. This man wants to be your president ladies and gentlemen. Big congratulations to the Democratic party for nominating this guy. Naturally, the only two "adult" democratic candidates from the 300 or so who began the race, Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt, were thoroughly thrashed at the polls.

Creeping Idiotarianism Watch
Written by: Beck

Nancy Reagan may have consulted an astrologer, but in Fort Myers, Florida the police consult psychics. And act on it. A flight from Southwest Florida International airport to Dallas was canceled yesterday when a psychic phoned in a tip that there might be a bomb on board. Guess what? THEY DIDN'T FIND ANY FREAKING BOMBS. Are you as surprised as I am? Here's the money quote:
The purported psychic's call was "unusual," conceded Doug Perkins, local administrator for the federal Transportation Security Administration director.

"But in these times, we can't ignore anything. We want to take the appropriate measures," he said.

French Bashing--A reader responds...
Written by: Beck

Those keeping up with the comment thread on my French Bashing post from Thursday likely noted one gentleman, a certain Raymond, observing that:
[France is] not rogue, just a throwback. Little ovr 100 years ago, this was how all civilized nations conducted business.

And why are we surprised by a nation building a coalition against us? Isn't that what nations do to one another?
There's more to it than that--read the comment thread if interested (it's worth it--there's a very lively conversation going on between Goe and Raymond). Anyway, one reader had a response that wouldn't come anywhere close to fitting under the 1000 letter cap, so he emailed it to me. I felt it was worth sharing with everyone, so here ya go.
100 years ago, most of europe was ruled by empires with so many clerks that
even their emperors were unable to effect any real change, not that they
were inclined to. 100 years ago, china was a dictatorship in which free
thought was punishable by death. 100 years ago, most of russia was mired in
poverty, despite living in one of the most resource rich portions of the
planet. 100 years ago, world leaders detested the united states and it's
brash president. 100 years ago, most of latin america was dominated by
local warlords who gave themselves titles such as 'president', 'governor',
and 'mayor' to sound like they were chosen by the people they tormented.
100 years ago, most of africa was run by goons working for europe, as the
european powers tried to wipe out the locals and take everything for
themselves. 100 years ago, most of southern asia was loosely governed, so
long as the spices and silk kept moving. 100 years ago, the middle east was
kept under tight control so that it's population couldn't interfere with the
flow of spices and silk.

the only thing that's changed in a hundred years is swapping the middle east
and southern asia, and spices and silk for oil.

europe is waging a war on us, because europe thinks that we are going to cut
them off from resources they think they will die without. a similar belief
is what turned serbian land-grabs into the first world war. most of the
world sided with serbia, even though it was invading everyone around it, and
against austria, who tried to impose peace on the region. now we're the
ones trying to impose peace, and the world is lining up against us, with the
europeans footing their bills, and providing them arms. if you view the
world the way the europeans did a hundred years ago, the united states will
be divied up between canada, mexico, and a couple of small, new eurofriendly
countries by the end of 2018, with millions dead.

either we need to smack the europeans into not looking at the world the way
they did 100 years ago, or we need to launch an overt propaganda war against
europe, build up our army, and find allies before the shooting gets heavy.

The comments thread has already moved past this argument, but, well, it took a couple days to get the author's permission to reprint his email. So there you go.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Creeping Fascism / Clitoral Piercing Point of Clarification
Written by: Anonymous

Beck, thanks for letting me join your site, it's an honor.

I would like to first clear up a question I had in regards to your post on Georgia's law banning genital mutilation.

You titled the post "Creeping Fascism watch..." What exactly is the linkage to a growing threat of Fascism? Is it that this law is evidence of an out of control state trampling on the rights of the masses to pierce their clitorises? Or is it that the procedure's popularity is evidence of an abundance of individuals in our population willing to forgo modesty and suffer pain and humiliation so that they can please others and achieve a modicum more of stimulation in their lives? I assume that this is what you meant, since this type of person obviously makes great fodder for a fascist movement.

All right, all right, sarcasm aside I agree that this is not the State of Georgia's business and that the law should not have been passed. But I am not as worried about the efforts of misguided Georgia legislators to outlaw clitoral piercing as I am by our culture's degeneration to the point where this sort of thing is not only popular but socially acceptable.

More creeping fascism watch...
Written by: Beck

Police raided a family's home looking for marijuana and found nothing there. It was just a normal family. So what was the probable cause for launching the raid? A high electric bill.
Homes were targeted largely based on unusually high utility bills, which often result from the 24-hour use of grow lights, according to court records.
Hmmm... of course police then went on to give two different explanations, just in case we weren't happy with a justification likely stemming form a family preferring to keep the air conditioner a few degrees lower.
[Police Lt. Rowland] noted a drug-sniffing dog showed interest in the home when it was taken there before Friday's search.
I'd be fascinated to learn what exactly constitutes "showing interest," from a dog. Finally, in one last bit of CYA, the police assert that:
In his sworn affidavit, Carlsbad Detective Mark Reyes states an unidentified, confidential source told a county Narcotics Task Force agent that someone might be growing pot in the house.
Oh, OK. Nothing creepy here. An unidentified source said someone might be growing pot.

I wonder what the odds are that this mystery source was a sock-puppet named "Mr. Binky." Actually, it was probably the dog.

Link credit to Fark.

Maureen Dowd and Why I Hate Her
Written by: Anonymous

Is there anyone who can tell me how Maureen Dowd got a column at the New York Times? Did she sleep with the entire editorial board? Better yet, did she get the column in exchange for NOT sleeping with them? Folks, this woman is a raging imbecile, and yet she is one of a handful of regular columnists for the newspaper that is ostensibly this country's most important.

Now, let me tell you what I mean when I say Dowd is a moron. She's not a moron in the way that John Kerry, Paul Krugman, and your average Democrat voter are morons. All those types have asinine life philosophies and fairly shabby personalities to boot, but at least in Krugman's case (not so much Kerry's, I guess) the third-rate conspiratorial dementia is balanced by some baseline ability to string together coherent thoughts on paper. Not in Dowd's case. I'm not sure the woman has ever written a complete sentence. She usually just tosses out political references here, pop-culture references there, and mixes them together with a witless sarcasm that makes me wonder if there should even be women columnists. Is this the best the fairer sex can do?

What put me over the top with this cretin was her recent emoto-screed against Justice Scalia's reasoned opinion refusing to recuse himself from a case on account of his accompanying Vice-President Cheney, among numerous others, on a hunting trip to Louisiana. Dowd sprinkled her column with quotations from Scalia's opinion, which she followed with asinine sarcasm. The woman actually thought she had something to say about a legal opinion discussing legal precedent, despite the facts that (1) she has no legal training and (2) she has the IQ of butternut squash. Anyway, the notion of a man of Scalia's intelligence and stature having his reasoned legal opinion "fisked" by a mentally retarded likely whore was too much for me to take, so I had to speak my mind.

And finally, something on the lighter side...
Written by: Beck

Good news for everyone worried about the eschaton: once WWIII sends us back to the stone age, we won't have to rely on Kevin Costner to deliver our mail for us, thanks to a team of Linux users (who else!) who conducted a successful test of Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol. Yes, you read that correctly. What's more, the protocol has been around since 1990, before the real mainstreaming of the internet even began (i.e. before the development of Netscape). Why would people do such a thing? Funny you should ask...
Why bother with such a pokey protocol? "Because it could be done, and because no one had done it before," Engen said.
The best part of that article is the little info box showing comparative internet speeds, all the way from OC768 fibre optic cable (40 gigabits/sec)all the way down to pigeon (.08 bits/sec).

Creeping Fascism watch...
Written by: Beck

Georgia (of course) has passed a new law making female genital mutilation illegal--this includes piercing. I get the vague hunch that this was intended to keep obscure Yemenese religious sects from cutting off women's... hmm, no real way to keep this work safe so I'll just stop. Anyway, even adult women who choose to, uh, participate in such activities are prevented. Male circumcision is naturally unaffected. Money quote for you:
Amendment sponsor Rep. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, was slack-jawed when told after the vote that some adults seek the piercings.

"What? I've never seen such a thing," Heath said. "I, uh, I wouldn't approve of anyone doing it. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to be doing."
Thank god we've got Bill Heath looking out for us. God forbid someone accidentally do something he "wouldn't approve of."

Wait, you're sure this didn't happen in Europe?
Written by: Beck

Oh, it was Canada? Close enough. Canadian prison guards in maximum security "correctional facilities" (jails? what are those?) are not going to be allowed to wear stab-proof vests. Why not you ask? BECAUSE IT WOULD HURT THE INMATES FEELINGS, THAT'S WHY. You inconsiderate bastards. Criminals are people too, damnit, and they deserve as much of a free, unobstructed shot at stabbing a prison guard as anyone else.

Oh, you think I'm kidding?
EDMONTON -- Corrections Canada won't let guards at maximum security prisons wear stab-proof vests because it sends a confrontational "signal" to prisoners. "If you have that kind of presence symbolized by (a stab-proof vest), you're sending a signal to the prisoner that you consider him to be a dangerous person," said Tim Krause.
Because obviously all that nonsense with bars, locks, walls, razor wire, guard towers, spot lights, and attack dogs has nothing to do with these people being dangerous.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dynegy exec gets it in the ass
Written by: Beck

Jamie Olis, former vice president of finance of Dynegy, was sentenced to 292 months in prison today. That's 24 years for the mathematically disinclined.

He was involved in a little Enron-esque project known innocuously as "Project Alpha," in which he misstated nat gas trades as loan cash flows. Oops.

Extra-Judicial Killing
Written by: Beck

Reason Online has an intriguing article up to consider extra-judicial killings. In one form, these executions sans court procedures take the form of terrorist attacks, in others, they take the form of Israel's recent incineration of Yassin. Many people make no distinction between these two varieties of death dealing. Others seem to get it completely backwards--such as when the UN representative for Displaced Arabs (they have a UN representative?) tried to ram a resolution through the Security Council condemning Israel and praising Hamas.

Ronald Bailey makes the (correct) distinction that there are times when "assassinations" are perfectly justified, yet terrorist attacks on civilians never are. I know, I know, this distinction seems obvious and self-evident (ooh, nice redundancy there Beck), but in a world in which Europe so often sets the parameters of any dialogue of this sort, it's important some times to make absolutely certain everyone is aware that there IS indeed a distinction. Here's a nice money quote for ya:
So when are extra-judicial killings acceptable, if ever? Although, our former and current foreign affairs, intelligence, and military officials are busily trying to exonerate themselves for failing to stop the 9/11 atrocities, they all admit that both the Clinton and Bush Administrations were considering ways to extra-judicially kill Osama bin Laden. If Osama bin Laden had been killed in 1998 by the air strikes on his Afghanistan training camps ordered by President Clinton, the World Trade Center towers could well still be standing. In any case, the U.S. resorted to judicial proceeding against bin Laden later in 1998, when a U.S. Federal grand jury did indict him for the murders of 244 people who died when the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by his confederates.
At the end of his article, Bailey tries to make a case for how criteria for green-lighting extra-judicial killings, such as the Yassin termination, can be formalized and made transparent. I'm afraid he falters here, as he concludes that some sort of legal court can be established whose transparent workings would issue death sentences from on high in special cases. It's just these judicial approaches to terrorism that bogged down US policy so much before 9/11, we don't need to create further layers of unelected bureaucracy between decision makers and the men on the ground.

Meanwhile, over at National Review Online, Lee Casey and David Rivkin argue that the killing of Yassin was perfectly legal. Their (quite valid) point is that Europe applies a double standard to what they're willing to "allow" Israel to do in their conflict with Palestine.
Ironically, for years, European leaders--along with various non-governmental organizations--have demanded that Israel apply the Geneva Conventions to its fight against the Palestinians and its so-called occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. This suggests that Europe and the NGOs fully accept that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is an armed conflict to which the laws and customs of war apply. Of course, if Israel is engaged in an armed conflict with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, as it surely is, then the Israeli military is legally entitled to target and attack any Hamas combatant, high or low, at any time--so long as the attack does not result in disproportionate damage to civilians or civilian objects.

In condemning Yassin's killing, then, Europe contradicts itself. It has made clear that Israel must apply the laws of armed conflict vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Now, however, it says that individual militants cannot lawfully be targeted. Indeed Europe's outrage over the Yassin assassination is far more troubling than a little Israel- (and by implication America-) bashing. It reveals, once again, the ever-widening canyon that separates the United States, and Israel, from its NATO allies on the question of fighting terror and on the laws of war themselves.
Casey and Rivkin go on to make a further legalistic argument that Israel was perfectly within the dictates of the Geneva Convention when targeting Yassin. Definitely an interesting read.

Somehow I'm not surprised...
Written by: Beck

So anyway, with the creation of this blog, I also created a new email address to post under. I wanted to make life easier on myself--providing a nice separation between any blog-related emails and, well, everything else. Makes perfect sense, right? And since I only use my blogging email address ( for blog-related stuff, I assumed that it would be relatively hard for me to show up on the spam-mailers email lists. After all, I haven't used it on any commercial sites that don't have a strict privacy statement. The only exception I can think of is using it to post in the comments thread of others' blogs. Still, it had to be only a matter of time before I finally got my first bit of spam. Today was the day. It's a great one. The spammers decided to open in style. No penis enlargement offers, no herbal viagra or online pharmaceutical offers. No online degree offers or low home refinancing deals. Not even a XXX site. No, folks, it was much better than that. And the good news is, with the $28,000,000 I've inherited, I'll be able to retire and devote my time entirely to building this blog! Oh happy day! And all I have to do to take receipt is send my personal banking information to Mr. Wang Qin of Hang Seng Bank!

And it must be true because it's email!
I am Mr.Wang Qin, credit officer of Hang Seng Bank Ltd, sorry if my English may not be well composed [Strangely the English is surprisingly good--I always figured the bad English in these things was more art than accident] but I have a confidential business proposition for you. I honestly apologize and hope I do not cause you much embarrassment by contacting you through this means for a transaction of this magnitude,but this is due to confidentiality and prompt access reposed on this medium. [Makes perfect sense to me.] Furthermore,due to this issue on my hands now,it became necessary for me to seek your assistance, and it is imperative for me to know your opinion. [Oh, don't worry, you'll get to know my opinion.]

On June 6,1998, a British Oil consultant/contractor with the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation, Mr.Smith Lawrence made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit for twelve calendar months, valued at US 28,000,000.00 (Twenty-eight Million Dollars only) in my branch. Upon maturity,I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from
his contract employers, the Hong Kong Solid Minerals Corporation that Mr. Smith Lawrence died from an automobile accident. On further investigation, I found out that he died without making a WILL, [that silly Mr. Smith!]and all attempts to trace his next of kin was fruitless.

Consequently, my proposal is that I will like you as a foreigner [You like me! You really really like me!] to stand in as the next of kin to Mr. Smith Lawrence so that the fruits of this old man's labor will not get into the hands of some corrupt government officials. [That last sentence was almost poetic. I'm getting a bit weepy, give me a minute] This is simple, I will like you to provide immediately your full names and address so that the attorney will prepare the necessary documents and affidavits that will put you in place as the next of kin.[Note to aspiring legal professionals: you can accomplish anything so long as you have "necessary documents and affidavits."] We shall employ the services of an attorney for drafting and notarization of the WILL and to obtain the necessary documents and letter of probate/administration in your favor for the transfer. A bank account either a new one or existng one in any part of the world that you will provide will then facilitate the transfer of this money to you as the beneficiary/next of kin. The money will be paid into your account for us to share in the ratio of 78% for me and 20% for you and 2%for any expenses Incurred in the course of the transaction. [$560,000 in expenses. Normally this might cause me to take pause, but inclusion of a third percentage in the breakdown has convinced me this is entirely realistic! Where do I sign up, Mr. Wang?]

There is no risk at all [reassuring!]as all the paperwork for this transaction will be done by the attorney and with my position as the credit officer guarantees the successful execution of this transaction. If you are interested,please reply immediately.You may reply to my email box, [Note the email address. More on that in a second] Upon your response, I shall then provide you with more details and relevant documents that will help you understand the transaction. Please send me your confidential telephone and fax numbers for easy communication. You should observe utmost confidentiality, and rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us because I shall require your assistance to
invest my share in your country.

Awaiting your reply.

Thanks and regards.

Mr.Wang Qin.
The email this was sent from was, with the vastly amusing result that at the bottom of the email is appended this lovely nugget:
Join the World's Largest Snowboard Community for FREE!!!
So, naturally, I felt compelled to send a response:
You can hardly imagine how excited I was when I received your email notifying me that I stood to receive 78% of $28,000,000 and all that was required was necessary documents and affidavits. In anticipation of this great windfall, I've already taken the liberty of quitting my job and buying a new car. It's red! Do you like red? I sure hope you do, as I'm not certain I would be willing to enter into such an important business transaction with someone who doesn't like red. One quick question: why is your reply-to email address while you originally sent the email from Are you just, like, some kind of snowboarding freak? I'm cool with that, if you are. Never tried it myself, but then, there's a lot of things I haven't tried that you probably have.

So what do we do next?

John Beck.
I'll keep y'all posted on any future correspondence from Mr. Qin.

EU in rare form...
Written by: Beck

The EU has fined Microsoft $613 million for alleged anti-trust violations. Furthermore, they're requiring MS to strip Media Player out of versions of their operating software sold in Europe. In case that weren't enough, they're required to take measures to "open up," MS server software.

Am I surprised? Not in the least. You should read the article, actually--it's quite long, but rather interesting.

You know what I would like to see? I'd like to see Billy Gates calmly turn to the East, raise his right hand, and extend his middle finger, giving a big F-U to Europe. There has been no other company in history better positioned to pull off such a dramatic move. There will likely never be another company better positioned. Over 90% of European desktop computers use MS operating systems--to say nothing of dependence on MS Server, Office, and Networking software. How glorious would it be to see Gates, John Galt style, stand up and tell the EU that they're not getting their hands on a single dollar of his, and if they don't want to use his software, they don't have to. Then just pull all software sales and support from EU and watch the dominos tumble. Inside of a week, virtually every business and computer using citizen would be writing, calling, and emailing their respective elected officials and telling them to settle the hell down. Naturally, the magnitude of lefty outrage might just be enough to deafen out the right-thinking individuals, but ah, it would be lovely to see.

Naturally, it will never happen.

French bashing
Written by: Beck

Most Americans have an instinctive disdain for the French. We engage in French bashing with reckless abandon. Even as PC as our culture has become, it seems France bashing has remained an island of allowable discrimination. And I love it. It's one of the last truly bipartisan pastimes Americans can enjoy together. Take the phrase "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys." It was the Simpson's, whose creator/writer Matt Groening is a Democrat (he donated $2000 to the John Kerry campaign), that coined the famous meme to describe the French, while arch-conservative Jonah Goldberg has adopted it as one of his favorite phrases.

While no one really needs an explanation for this cross-Atlantic antipathy (especially not after French refusal to back the Iraq invasion, followed by the emergence of evidence of just how much French intermediaries, many of them closely connected to the French government, profited off of the oil-for-food program), still, if you ask the average American for an explanation of the origins of this animosity, the best most of them can come up with is that the French are generally disdainful, have rude waiters, and smell funny.

Well Gabriel Gonzales over at Winds of Change has written an extensive article explaining just why in hell it is Americans can't stand the French. Turns out, it's for some pretty good reasons. In his article Gonzales argues that France isn't just an ordinary nation pursuing its self interest, but rather, structural and cultural aspects of France lead to a systemicly confrontational stance with the United States, and frankly, the entire Anglosphere.

For starters, a bit that nicely summarizes French foreign policy:
Timmerman points out France's irresponsible dealings with Iraq, which included conditional oil contracts, huge infrastructure deals (construction, roads, utilities, etc.), as well as illegal weapons sales and perhaps even bribes under the UN oil-for-food regime. This was a major part of French policy to undermine the sanctions regime, which was an aspect of its broader policy of triangulating against the U.S. to promote its commercial and strategic interests, especially with corrupt regimes abandoned by the U.S. (Saddam, Iran, Sudan, Cuba...).
Gonzales goes on to argue that protecting these lucrative Iraq deals wasn't even the root cause of French interference in the UN Security Council against an Iraq invasion. Rather, it was part of a broader strategy of courting dictatorial regimes across the world in an attempt to build a bloc in opposition to America's sphere of influence.

He also points out that an American government could never get away with such overtly nefarious behavior. His explanation for why France's government has carte blanche from its citizens to pursue such goals was, in my opinion, the most telling point in the entire article.
What allows France to engage in such conduct much more freely than the U.S. is:

  1. A thoroughly corrupt business culture and state bureaucracy (that has a paranoid view of itself as being in a fierce Machiavellian competition with a U.S. business establishment presumed to be equally or more ruthless),

  2. The demonization of an imperialist United States as a distraction, and

  3. The passive support of its citizenry.
This last point - the passive support of the citizenry - is very important to understand: unlike the U.S., France has effectively no political or citizen control over its foreign policy, which is a purely executive function. This stems from the relationship of the citizen to the State: whereas state power is perceived as inherently dangerous by Americans in our historical tradition of skepticism towards official power, the French centralized state is glorified by its citizenry as the ultimate protector of citizen interests, rather than as a danger to them. As a result, the citizenry has little interest in the details, substance or moral dimension of foreign policy, which are fully delegated and blindly entrusted to this Collective Protector.
Essentially, the French have neither a concept of nor a concern for the frank and unashamed corrupt behavior of their government.
In the frigate bribes scandal, there is no public or media curiosity to speak of about which government officials were using bribes to procure these contracts and what they might of done. Who cares? The sole preoccupation is how much the state and thus the citizenry stands to lose in the lawsuit brought by Taiwan (currently the subject of French military intimidation, as mentioned). In the Executive Life matter, it took 6 months for the opposition even to raise any question about the propriety of the government using the public treasury to negotiate protection from criminal prosecution for Chirac's personal friend, the billionaire Francois Pinault.
Anyway, I highly recommend reading the article in its entire. It's lucid and well reasoned points make a strong case for why the US should not consider France an ally in any way, shape, or form. And now I leave you with a money quote:
I am not sure that "evil" is the right word, but France is, among Western powers, the closest one can get to a "rogue" state.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Time wasters for bloggers...
Written by: Beck

So I finally headed over to Fundrace's website to see what all the hype was about. And it's all kinds of fun. You can search areas by zipcode, people by name, or look at national & city maps to see who is giving to whom and how much. I found a few surprises too. I always had Billy Gates pegged as a lefty but it turns out he gave $2000... to George Bush. As someone pointed out to me over at IMAO, the massive anti-trust assault from Clinton's Justice Department must've left a mark.

Aaron over at the Rantblog has a great break down on his home territory of LA, with special emphasis on celebrity giving and how much money has been wasted by Dems on failed candidates. Granted, money spent on a losing candidate isn't completely wasted, as it does go to fund anti-Republican advertising, but it's still a little nice to think about what it must feel like for these people to spend $2000 on Howard Dean and then watch him implode like a black hole.

Scaring terrorists works, Part II
Written by: Beck

From Reuters, link credit to Hamas has moved quickly to reassure America that they don't have any intention of targeting Americans or American interests.

That's hardly the story they were singing prior to the invation of Iraq.

To all the Brits who might be reading...
Written by: Beck

What the hell is wrong with you people!?! First, go read this article. It's about a man whose home was broken into by four men, armed with guns, intent on robbing him. The guy grabbed a samurai sword (probably only because he couldn't legally procure a firearm) and cut one of the assailants to ribbons.

In America, we call someone like that a "Hero." In Brittain, you can now call him a "Convict Doing Eight Years In Prison."

Would someone care to explain the logic of this to me?

Link credit to John Derbyshire.

This is just plain stupid...
Written by: Beck

OK, one last post before I get some sleep. A county in Oregon has made the dreams of the anti-gay "marriage" slippery-slope argument supporters wet with glee. They have banned marriage. All marriage. They made the mental leap of deciding that they could save everyone some time in the incremental process of trivializing marriage by just doing away with it entirely. Granted, that's not exactly the way they see it, but why give their arguments any credit?

It's really a shame Andrew Sullivan has gone on vacation. I'd love to see what he has to say about this.

Finally, a money quote:
State Attorney General Hardy Myers said in a statement that he was "very pleased" with Benton County's decision. "It is my sincere hope that legal process will provide clarity for each of Oregon's counties."

Toddlers gone wild...
Written by: Beck

In Indiana, a 4 year old child brought a big fat bag of crack cocaine to school.

In an unrelated event, a 5 year old Miami child brought a big fat bag of marijuana to school. What's more, he sprinkled some of it on a class mate's lasagna (it went uneaten).

I think it's pretty obvious what needs to be said here, but I'm going to spell it out anyway. THESE CHILDREN SHOULD BE THROWN BEHIND BARS FOR THE REST OF THEIR NATURAL LIVES!!!

Well, it was either that, or say something pithy about making new laws... For The Children!(tm)

Try not to think of this in context of Answerman's post about prison rape. Damnit, I TOLD you not to think about it!

So Here's My Point
Written by: Beck

First, be sure to read my previous two posts. The juxtaposition should be obvious. We're losing a highly organized propaganda war against Islamist forces in the Middle East and doing virtually nothing to fight back. These people know exactly what they're doing. They have a well defined strategy and clearly they are executing it masterfully. In the West, front organizations for pro-Palestine and pro-Wahabi Islamist organizations routinely preach that Islam is a religion of love, and immediately denounce as racist anyone openly criticizing the goings on in the Middle East (it doesn't really matter what, they defend anything in any way related to Islam or the Middle East on principle). Meanwhile, back at the ranch, leaders both religious and secular--backed by the exact same organizations--preach hatred to the gullible masses. Hatred folks. HATE. There aren't sufficient adjectives to describe the magnitude with which these people hate Jews. And America too. But especially Jews. After all, America takes its marching orders from Israel, so the two are really one and the same. It must have been too hard to take time out from all their Jew hating to hate the United States as well, so it was very convenient when they concluded that America was just a puppet of the Israeli state. That allows them to be more efficient in their hate.

The worst part of all? That we Westerners are so often guilty of believing this "Islam is love," nonsense, while turning a completely deaf ear to priests who declare that all non-Muslims must die. In a world where The Guardian can eulogize a mass-murderer who founded an organization whose charter stipulates that Israel must be annihilated and not be forced to apologize or lose 99% of their readership as a consequence, the Islamists aren't just winning the propaganda war... they've won it.

Flip side of the coin...
Written by: Beck

The one television channel that you can get inside the territory of the Palestinian Authority has a special Friday sermon special every week. The special is filled with unabashedly anti-Semetic vitriol and hate. The Weekly Standard has a nice bit of coverage of one of their more recent Friday specials.
History repeats itself, explained the imam. Once again, the Jews, characterized by "miserliness and cowardice," are the terrorists. "They deserve death, and we deserve life, because we are the people of Truth."

It all makes sense now...
Written by: Beck

Muslims love Jesus! I bet you didn't know that. Money quote:
CAIR claims to be a civil-rights group that represents mainstream Muslims in the U.S., but the group is a spin-off of the Islamic Association For Palestine, labeled a "front group" for the terrorist organization Hamas by two former heads of the FBI's counterterrorism section.
Next week, we'll be bringing you features on Jews for Zoroaster and Buddhists for Baal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Statistics and talking points...
Written by: Beck

It's easy for an anti-war protester to blather tripe like, "The average Iraqi citizen is worse off today than he was prior to the American invasion," but it's hard for a pro-war supporter to refute it. You're left with a battle of rhetoric which doesn't ultimately do the pro-war cause any good. After all, the anti-war people have the luxury of ranting about what-ifs, while the pro-war people are saddled with the body counts and the suicide bombers. As such, I was happy to see this article by Andrew Cline over on NRO in which he gives some good, hard statistics which nicely demonstrate that the invasion was the right thing to do. Some numbers for you:
...[A] poll conducted for ABC News and the BBC found that 48 percent of Iraqis called the war "right" while only 39 percent called it "wrong," and 56 percent said their lives were better after the war. Seventy percent of Iraqis said their lives were either "very good" (13 percent) or "quite good" (57 percent). Someone should ask Howard Dean, who in January said that Iraqi living standards are "a whole lot worse now," about these results.

Seventy-one percent of Iraqis said the job market was better now than before the war. Thirty-nine percent said the availability of electricity was better after the war, compared to 25 percent who said it was worse. Fifty-four percent said security was better after the war, compared to only 26 percent who said it was worse.

On every subject, from security to medical care to schools, more Iraqis said their lives were better after the war.

Creeping Fascism watch...
Written by: Beck

Are you legally required to identify yourself? The supreme court begins hearing arguments Monday.

I myself have mixed emotions. I firmly believe that the police's presumed attitude that they have the right to demand anything of anyone at anytime is a grievous violation of human rights. Furthermore, I believe that incremental things--such as requiring that people show identification on demand--lead to much worse violations of liberty.

Then I think about an Arab terrorist driving across New York, and for whatever reason--a hunch, an instinct, an anonymous tip--a police officer pulls that terrorist over. Inasmuch as the terrorist isn't required to show ID the officer has no choice to set him free, so long as he was breaking no laws. Then the terrorist blows up a few thousand people.

Like I said. Mixed emotions.

Comments invited. Just click that little link below and to the right.

Not that you were worried about this...
Written by: Beck

But the world's population has officially gone over 6 billion now. Malthusians in the 80s who were predicting a population crisis of epic proportions seem to have been stymied again, however. The rate of increase is decreasing, and is currently forecast to drop below the replacement rate some time around 2050. Money quote for ya:
US demographers also projected that a number of African countries will experience levels of mortality during this decade that will lower the average life expectancy at birth to around 30 years by 2010, a level not seen since the beginning of the 20th century.

Much of this decline in life expectancy is likely to result from the AIDS epidemic.

Fixed Economic Demise
Written by: Anonymous

What can we say of an actively intrusive central bank? Is it possible for a central economic authority to micromanage an economy; can the business cycle be massaged to achieve some preconceived optimal oscillation? Furthermore, can it be considered sapient to have a collective aiming to do just that? Or is it better to have each economic agent acting on its own behalf, unfettered from synthetic shocks?

To be sure, we are witnessing the most reflexively activist Fed in its 70 year history. There seem to be those who subscribe to the thought that booms can be replaced with booms, all without the nonsense of those silly busts. And thus far, things look pretty darn good. Heck, even the captain of this mighty ship is just silly with it: "Mr. Greenspan's view is that household balance sheets are 'in good shape', and perhaps stronger than ever, because the value of people's homes and stock portfolios have risen faster than their debts" - New York Times, 3/16/04. Uh huh.

I was utterly shocked when I read this line last week, as the NYT was reporting on Greenspan's testimony to Congress earlier this month. A few things: housing prices, in general, are actually a derivative. Have you ever met the guy that buys cars based upon what monthly payment he can afford, actually ignoring the price that he pays for the car? Homes, in many ways, work the same way. The purchase price of a home is eventually the principal that is "backed-out" from the monthly mortgage payment that one can afford, which is a direct function of mortgage interest rates. As debt service has achieved an all-time low on the Scale of Burden, people are finding that their dollar can buy a hell of a lot more home. And as more and more people enter the amusement park of contemporary home-buying, with their eyes wide and hearts pitter-patting, they bid up the price of homes with arguably reckless abandon. Why? Because they can 'afford' to. And, as some know, when a home in a neighborhood sells for 110% of the ask, all homes in the relative vicinity are "marked-to-market" - holy cowballs honey! we've got EQUITY in this thing!. And the banks are more than pleased to "unlock" it for you, at, yep, a lower rate than your previous. (Much more on this psycho clown circus stunt show in later posts)

But the key here point here is that it takes only ONE home sale at an appreciated price for many to enjoy price appreciation. It takes little imagination to envision what would occur if more than three owners within a neighborhood came to roost and attempted to sell at these recently appreciated levels. But no need, the refi wizards down at your local branch can help you with that.

So, as banks refi the Joneses and the Smiths at, lets say, principals of 120% of original purchase (which were probably already inflated), they sit smug knowing that they are well secured - the home backs their credit extension. We should all do our best to get a prize seat to watch the cacophony that will result as Joe banker attempts to fetch all he can for the principal extension of 1.2X he made only a short 18 months prior.

Now, as you will soon come to find, I am somewhat of a hyperbolist at times: I don't really believe that there is going to be a devastating liquidity crisis. But it's fun to think about.

Nonetheless, I was beside myself to hear the venerated Mr. Andrea Mitchell speak as he did. Surely he didn't find bona-fide evidence of health in household balance sheets as he said he did.

More commentary on active intervention by a central bank later.

Outsourcing is good, m'kay?
Written by: Beck

Foreign Affairs magazine has a phenomenal article online about the effects of the outsourcing of American jobs written by a professor of political economy at the University of Chicago. If the subject at all interests you, you should definitely hop over and give it a read. One word of warning: this article is LONG. Definitely not lightweight stuff. It would be nice if someone would send a flying tackle into John Kerry and force him to read the entire thing. Actually, inasmuch as I don't think Kerry would change his campaign message one whit regardless of what he reads, it would be nice if someone would just send a flying tackle into John Kerry for no reason at all.

For those without the patience Foreign Affairs kindly provides a summary:
Summary: According to the election-year bluster of politicians and pundits, the outsourcing of American jobs to other countries has become a problem of epic proportion. Fortunately, this alarmism is misguided. Outsourcing actually brings far more benefits than costs, both now and in the long run. If its critics succeed in provoking a new wave of American protectionism, the consequences will be disastrous -- for the U.S. economy and for the American workers they claim to defend. [emphasis mine]
And where would I be without a money quote for you ladies and gentlemen?
The outsourcing phenomenon has shown that globalization can affect white-collar professions, heretofore immune to foreign competition, in the same way that it has affected manufacturing jobs for years... [T]he law of comparative advantage does not stop working just because 401(k) plans are involved. The creation of new jobs overseas will eventually lead to more jobs and higher incomes in the United States. Because the economy -- and especially job growth -- is sluggish at the moment, commentators are attempting to draw a connection between offshore outsourcing and high unemployment. But believing that offshore outsourcing causes unemployment is the economic equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the earth: intuitively compelling but clearly wrong.
OK, so it's more of a money paragraph than a money quote, but you get the point.

Re: Pieces of the Pie
Written by: Beck

A problem Answerman has brought up repeatedly is that while two nations may both benefit from free trade, they do not necessarily benefit equally. This assertion is 100% true. In trade, the ratio of exchanged items isn't necessarily going to be Pareto optimal--a situation in which neither party can be made better off without making the other worse off. Both sides, naturally, will try to squeeze every last drop of blood out of the other's proverbial turnip, and at the end of the day, the party who comes out ahead more often than not is the best negotiator.

Governments often step in to try and swing things in favor of their nation's companies. This invariably leads to inefficiencies and lost economic gain for both parties. Yet while that is a problem, a far greater problem occurs when one side's government interferes and the other side's passively allows it to happen, doing nothing to thwart the interference. For this reason, tit-for-tat trade incentive/penalty programs and such tools as withholding Most Favored Nation trade status are valuable tools which the government shouldn't be too quick to surrender (those who've been keeping up with the comments threads on all these trade posts have already heard as much from me). The Clinton administrations push for Congress to make MFN status for China permanent was a horrible decision, and I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that Chinese contributions to the Clinton/Gore election campaigns played a significant roll in that decision.

What to do about this guy...
Written by: Beck

Richard Clarke is being defensive. For those not up to speed on Clark(e)s Not Named Wesley, Richard Clarke was Clinton's anti-terrorism expert (he was a thirty year White House veteran, and worked for a while under the Bush administration, before being forced out), and having remained relatively silent in the two years since September 11, is now doing the talk-show circuit. Why? Well because he has a new book out of course!

The man's tenure in the Clinton White House was a failure. He spent his time focusing loudly on cyber-terrorism. His one great accomplishment was making sure the US government didn't completely implode from the Y2K bug. Judging from the fact that no ICBMs up and decided to launch themselves at midnight on December 31, 1999, I assume he was successful. In everything else, the Clinton administration soundly failed. Between 1992 and 2000, the United States sustained a bomb attack on the world trade tower, a bomb attack against a naval destroyer, and two bomb attacks against embassies of ours in Africa. Our retaliation involved throwing a few Arabs in jail, blowing up a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, and lobbing a cruise missile into Afghanistan. We're not entirely sure about the effect of the cruise missile, but we're pretty sure it scared the bajeezus out of some goats.

And so, Clarke has gone on the offensive, declaring in essence that Bush's failure to completely dismantle and destroy Al Qaeda in the 9 months he was in office prior to the WTT and Pentagon attacks was 100% the fault of the Bush administration and 0% the fault of the god-like, infallible, and much more fashionable Clinton administration. Surely the timing of this book release--in an election year--is pure coincidence! I would hate to ascribe sinister motives to poor Mr. Clarke.

Anyway, the White House has launched a full court press to make this guy look like the hammer-pickle he is. (If you want to know what a hammer-pickle is, ask Speculator, I'm not really sure myself). Now he's being very defensive, and looking rather silly in the process. The problem is that it doesn't even matter if the White House comes out fully vindicated and everyone pretty much concludes that Clarke needs to get back to things he's good at like huffing paint fumes, damage has still been done to the credibility of the White House. It's just another salvo in what I'm quite certain is going to be the dirtiest campaigning by the Democrats in my lifetime. Money quote for you:
Rice has characterized as "ridiculous" Clarke's statement in his book that she seemed unaware of al Qaeda until he told her about it.

Update: It would seem Clarke is launching a job at a Homeland Security consulting firm with a former Clinton White House employee. To say that this guy's motives in writing this book and publishing it now are suspect would be to say that the sky has a "bluish tendency."

Update:William F. Buckley rips in to Clarke over on National Review Online.

Update:Another article about the Richard Clarke mess. Nothing especially new, except for these wonderful quotes from two Democratic senators, including Joe Lieberman:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Sunday he doesn't believe Clarke's charge that the Bush administration -- which defeated him and former Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election -- was focused more on Iraq than al-Qaida during the days after the terror attacks.

"I see no basis for it," Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday. "I think we've got to be careful to speak facts and not rhetoric."

And Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that while he has been critical of Bush policies on Iraq, "I think it's unfair to blame the president for the spread of terror and the diffuseness of it. Even if he had followed the advice of me and many other people, I still think the same thing would have happened."

Monday, March 22, 2004

Trade Policy, Answerman-Style
Written by: Anonymous

My broad trade strategy would be as follows: create a free trade block with countries with similar economic systems, political rights, and cultural backgrounds, then expand trading policy outwards from this nest of strength. I would start with Andrew Sullivan's concept of the Anglosphere. The British should be at the top of our list of free trade partners, not the Mexicans and Chileans and such. In my view, our dogmatic approach to trade has caused us to go about this in a wrongheaded, haphazard fashion, and it has prevented us from taking a strategic approach to a complex problem. Perhaps my particular strategy has flaws, but I don't think you can deny that (1) we should have a trading strategy and (2) the one we have is too beholden to dogma and pure economic theory to be an effective component of our national grand strategy, which involves a lot more than economics.

Buy a Gun Day 2004 is getting closer. Have you bought yours yet?
Written by: Beck

Aaron over at the estimable Rantblog wants you to know about the second annual Buy A Gun Day this April 15. I highly encourage you to do two things. First, read about BAG Day over at Rantlog. Second, GO BUY A GUN. It's the responsibility of every American citizen to be prepared to protect themselves and their property.

Aaron has some other suggestions for how to celebrate BAG Day:
  • Join the NRA, Liberty Belles, the JPFO or similar organization.

  • Spread the word about BAG Day II.

  • Take a non-shooter to a firing range.

  • Link to the National Ammo Day website.

  • Lobby a conservative judge or mayor in California or New York or Massachusetts to issue 10 concealed carry permits for each gay marriage performed in San Francisco, New York or elsewhere it is legal.

Nationalism and Free Trade
Written by: Anonymous

Nationalism is important because I speak as someone interested primarily in American policy-making, not in growing the global economic pie. If I need to do the latter to satisfy the former, or if it is a side effect, then great. But it is not my focus, nor do I think it should be the focus of U.S. economic policy. It certainly should not be the focus of U.S. foreign policy.

The fact of the matter is that free trade can, in theory, cause a country to do something in its net economic interest that is not in its overall national interest. Beck agrees with this point, perhaps Spectator does as well. In my view, Beck ignores the fact that this not only can happen in theory, but does happen, and often, in practice. Sometimes economist-types who are smart concede the obvious theoretical point and then pretend that it is only a marginal problem that doesn't crop up very often. They assume that a confluence of theoretical economic and actual national interests is the norm, and that deviations only occur a small percentage of the time. I think this is incorrect, and that our overall national interest often deviates from our theoretical economic interest.

You guys make the same error in logic when you write off the peace and cooperation point. You say, "Sure you need it, but hey, the U.S. can impose it," or, "Sure you need it, but hey, it's not like China is suddenly going to close its doors." The fact is that peace and cooperation is extraordinarily rare; it is the exception, not the norm. If the exception is a necessary assumption underlying free trade theory, then free trade theory is by definition less useful than everyone seems to think it is. Moreover, the proposition is not either/or. China currently, although it is not taking drastic measures (and remember, I only use China as an illustration), could be "harming" our national interest by taking advantage of our trade policy. In fact, it is. Where do you think their nuclear and satellite technology comes from (assume for a moment that the Clinton administration didn't give them a bunch of stuff)?

Finally, no one has answered my point about relative economic power, which is yet another reason nationalism is important to trade policy. If free trade with China results in China closing the relative gap in economic power between it and the United States, then free trade with China may not be in the U.S. national interest. Do you dispute that statement?

I'm not saying any of this means we should pursue autarky. What I am saying is that it means we should develop a sensible industrial policy, with exceptions to our baseline free trade strategy where warranted. And that we should stop dismissing as "protectionist nonsense" intelligent propositions along these lines, as if having an industrial policy is something akin to preferring horses to cars and typewriters to computers.

But II...
Written by: Anonymous

I agree with Answerman: nationalism is effectively ignored in the free-trade argument. But, so what? In effect the global free-trade argument, when taken to its logical extreme, nullifies any nationality discussion at all; save the differentiation provided by national currencies, global free-trade, in this context, eliminates borders. Raw mats will be procured and processed in the countries that have "volunteered" to host such activity and material such as the Bose-Einstein condensate will be produced by the countries that have the ability to host such activity. The simple point here is that economic activity will be relegated to the marginal provider--there is really little you can do, outside of artificial and despicable intervention, to arrest this process. It should happen.

Your point is well taken, that free-trade necessitates the continued existence of peace and cooperation. I think we are understating, or perhaps even ignoring, the possibility that the US is in a singular position to install and ensure the preservation of these qualities (but this may very well invite an entirely different discussion).

I found myself in an interesting argument with a seasoned macro professor a while back. I argued that the current account deficit that the US is currently running, and has been now for almost 10 years, will from henceforth on remain a deficit, save an unprecedented puke of the USD. He was astonished and began to vaticinate all sorts of doom. Why is this so bad? The world has become our grand outsource project--China included. They (the world) produces what we could but have found to be less than optimal, and we engage in the development of products and ideas that will only serve to enhance our dominance as the greatest experiment in the human condition. (Lest we forget, this is the country where a man who should have died in a coal mining accident finds himself with a six-figure salary and no responsibility) Just because China is involved in raw material processing and is gaining on a relative scale, doesn't mean that they have the domestic investment opportunity set that we here in the US do. We are progressing at a rate that China is categorically unable to replicate.

Written by: Anonymous

But let us not forget one primary problem with China--uncertainty. Uncertainty is the kryptonite of global financial progression. Foreign direct investment to China has spiked over the past few years, and will continue to do so, up to a point. That point will be reached when the returns being garnered in China have 'matured'. By this I mean that the 'first mover advantage' has been exhausted, and the return required by the aggregate investor base that is commensurate with the level of uncertainty, or risk, that is inherent with investment in China, is no longer available.

Make no mistake: China remains one of the most opaque investment opportunities on the global investment menu. This nebulousness begets outsized risk premiums, and in so far as the premiums are no longer available, due primarily to oversubscription to the China-play, China will suffer.

Twelve hours makes for old news...
Written by: Beck

Unless you've spent the day trying to decide what color to paint your new tin foil hat, you've already heard that Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and leader of Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, was killed last night by rockets fired from an Israeli helecopter.

You can read the full story here

The only thing about his death that I'm unhappy about is that it was relatively quick and painless.

True or False Question
Written by: Anonymous

"Through our free-trade industrial policy, we are funding the relative economic rise of a great power competitor in China."


Assorted Responses
Written by: Anonymous

Who cares if regulatory and labor costs are artificially high in the US? They are also artificially low elsewhere. And in any event, they are what they are; the question is what does that mean in terms of our industrial policy. Just because in the best of all possible worlds I would deregulate in the United States does not mean that I should be willing to toss my country's fortunes to the wind in a mindless devotion to a theory whose baseline assumptions about the world and its level playing field are incorrect.

Second, if free trade theory rests on the assumptions not only of peace, cooperation, etc. but also on the continuation of the validity of those assumptions well into the future, and if human history has hardly known periods of peace, cooperation, etc., then you do the math. What we have here is an economic theory based on a set of assumptions that rarely exist. That makes the theory somewhat less useful than its strongest proponents are ever likely to admit.

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