Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Things that I can't get away with saying, Vol V.
Written by: Beck

From the estimable Mr. King:
There is a tangible, visceral hatred for Republicans in general and for George W. Bush in particular among many blacks. With that element in play, most of the black support for Kerry (and it is considerable at this stage) is not so much a ringing endorsement for the presumptive nominee, but a stingingly vocal denouncement of George W. Bush.
There is a fundamental perception that conservatives not only hate minorities, but are actively seeking to do away with them. This perception is fostered by half-truths, innuendo and outright lies by those on the left, and the simple fact that the right has neglected to counter those stories and lies.

And of course a lie told enough times becomes truth in effect if not in fact.

Historically, all truth, wisdom and knowledge in black society came from the pulpit. One's minister was (and still is) held in highest regard among the black community. By extension, every and anyone who is invited to speak in that same pulpit is accorded the same measure and level of respect. Because of that, many of the "civil rights professionals" and black intelligentsia who have pushed their views on blacks in America, have done so and been able to do so from the pulpit, lessening the chances that their statements, whether true or not, would be challenged.

Conservatives in general and the GOP in particular has ignored those statements and speakers. And when combined with historic missteps during the Civil Rights era, a picture has been created that paints conservatives as an evil "boogieman" who would rather turn back the clock on black progress than to extend a hand of friendship.
Frankly, I'd like to cut & paste King's entire post here, it's just that good. Instead, let me just tell you this: bookmark Rambling's Journal and read it daily. He's always got something worth saying.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Written by: Anonymous

Bill Buckley has long been a proponent for the legalization of marijuana, based primarily upon the obscenely disproportionate amount of resources that are committed to its prohibition.

In his latest column for his magazine, he revisits his long-ago-established thoughts. The offering is classic Buckley - full of amusing, ehem, circumlocution.
The laws aren't exactly indefensible, because practically nothing is, and the thunderers who tell us to stay the course can always find one man or woman who, having taken marijuana, moved on to severe mental disorder. But that argument, to quote myself, is on the order of saying that every rapist began by masturbating.
Then, and he is one of the finest at this, Buckley, in his very next line, abruptly becomes curt:
General rules based on individual victims are unwise.
I don't know that much more needs to be said.

Incidentally, Buckley hands over the reigns of his magazine tonight, as he relinquishes his shares to a board of self-appointed trustees.

An Inexplicable Delta
Written by: Anonymous

Not always, but occasionally, I am struck by the sheer benevolence of some women. I mean, look at that guy. Think Mira's father and the new suitor find much common ground?

Dodging three bullets
Written by: Beck

The three Turkish men held captive by al-Zarqawi--who had threatened to behead them in three days if Turkish companies didn't stop helping coalition forces--appear to have been released.
The Turkish official said Tuesday the men informed the Turkish government they were on their way back to Turkey from Iraq.

"We only know they have been released," Reuters quoted a Turkish government official as saying.

The Arabic-language television network Al Jazeera said a group led by suspected al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had freed the three, who were kidnapped last week, "for the sake of Muslims in Turkey."

[...] The militants said they decided to free the Turks "after they pledged not to support the non-believers again," meaning stop working for U.S. forces.
Nice to actually have some good news for once. But the news can't all be good. The first fatal attack after the turnover of sovereignty weren't long in coming. Three marines have been killed and several more wounded in a roadside bombing. And those won't be the last deaths either.

Saudi Sanity
Written by: Beck

Granted, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the Interior has a habit of declaring that Al Qaeda is actually a Zionist front, but they seem to have gotten something right for once. They're going to allow foreigners who feel threatened by recent violence to carry guns.
"In principle a Saudi has the right to carry a weapon, if he has a permit. Likewise a foreign resident, if he felt in danger he could get a permit to carry a weapon," Nayef was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency on Thursday.
I wonder how long it takes until some Texan, exercising his rights under this law, drops a few would be kidnappers.

(Hat tip: mansizedtarget)

Loaded Words
Written by: Beck

America is in the middle of an obesity epidemic. The CDC says so. The NIH says so. The FDA thinks so. The EU knows so. Such august institutions couldn't possibly be wrong, could they?

Or could it be that in the past twenty year, the broader public mindset has been captured by an anorexic media mindset which fails to realize that the correlations between obesity and health problems have far less to do with body weight than with a sedentary lifestyle? That's precisely what Paul Cambos argues in a recent interview with (registration required, or watch a relatively brief ad).
He says that we're willing to buy into the notion of a national fat emergency because the medical profession and the media feed us misleading information about the connections between weight and health risks such as hypertension, cancer and heart disease. Campos says that what the studies actually show -- before they have been garbled by an "anorexic" media -- is that improved health is possible with a moderate amount of increased physical activity, regardless of our weight. But that message gets lost in the fever-pitch of fad diets, ever-shrinking government definitions of what it means to be overweight, and cultural discrimination against people who fail to meet the unrealistic and unnecessary standards for slimness.
But then, he's a lawyer, so what could he possibly know about the subject?
Something which ought to cause tremendous skepticism but hasn't is when you hear there is an epidemic of obesity in the U.S. According to official government standards, you're overweight if your BMI [body mass index] is over 25, which is 64.5 percent of the population on the basis of available data. Then there are the people at Harvard Medical School who think everyone should have a BMI of under 22 when 80 percent of the population is at 22 or higher. So according to all of them, the large majority of the population weighs too much. But there should be suspicion about the claim that there is a strong causal link between heart disease, hypertension, cancer -- and weight. Because these diseases are less prevalent and less fatal than they were even recently. Cancer rates continue to fall. Americans are much healthier now and have a longer life expectancy than they ever had before.

Studies about the causal relationship between these diseases and obesity fail to take into account a host of other factors, including socioeconomic status, activity levels, fitness levels, dieting, weight cycling, and diet-drug use, which all have an impact. If you take those factors into account you see how weak the argument is that a certain level of BMI is in and of itself causing heart disease, hypertension or cancer.
Of course, it wouldn't be if it didn't contain at least a little leftist boilerplate.
Overconsumption in America is closely equated with class: The higher up you go the more you consume. The only area in which consumption is inversely related to class is caloric overconsumption. So the American elite project anxiety about the fact that they're massively overconsuming economically and materially through a disgust for fat, lower-class people.

America is just too big. We throw our weight around, our cars are too big, our shopping malls are too big, our houses are too big. Our anxiety about fat is our anxiety about our own bigness. But it's a projection that is so inappropriate when our cars weigh 700 pounds more than they did 15 years ago -- which is politically and economically and environmentally far more troubling than the fact that our bodies on average weigh eight pounds more than they used to 15 years ago.
Long story short, you'll be fine from a health perspective with a little extra padding so long as you still get off your ass several times a week and get some exercise. Of course, you'll still be unattractive, but then, you can't have everything in life, now can you?

Ministry of Silly Links
Written by: Beck

I can't imagine marijuana flavored vodka tastes very good.

Fear the Trunk Monkey.

Michael Moore: proving once again that people will believe anything.

Finally, the wacky world of Japanese ice cream. My favorite is definitely the raw horseflesh ice cream. Not that I don't say, "Raw horseflesh flavored ice cream." That's because it's not just flavoring. It has actual chunks of raw horseflesh in it. Raw. Horseflesh. Big time.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Bad music made worse
Written by: Beck

I'm quite happy to say that my profound dislike for Barbara Streisand extends to her music, and as a consequence, I'm not familiar with her song "People." Barbara seems to have taken a page from Elton John's playbook and rewritten one of her songs for a special occasion. Only instead of commemorating dead blondes, Streisand has taken her opportunity to send a political message.
I MEAN G - O - P - EOPLE -
In case you're wondering, the message in this case is, "I'm a clueless Hollywood has-been."

(Hat tip: Imago Dei)

Because fish in barrels are fun to shoot
Written by: Beck

Nader to Moore: You're fat.
But the advice continues to flow to Moore from candidate Nader. "I've been at him for years, saying 'you've got to lose weight,' " Nader said in the phone interview. "Now, he's doubled. Private exhortations aren't working. It's extremely serious. He's over 300 pounds. He's like a giant beach ball."
Nader then offered to help out by loaning Moore his "Buns of Steel" tapes, and he has begun work in California to have Moore assigned his own "honorary" zip code. Nader was also heard to cryptically remark, "Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat."

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

The die is cast
Written by: Beck

I would pick today to sleep in.

Iraq Sovereign

"We will not forget who stood by and against us," Allawi said at the swearing in ceremony, a clear warning to insurgents trying to topple the government.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

More on the Super Sexy Topic of Capacity Utilization
Written by: Anonymous

David Foster, over at Photon Courier, posted a very good point to my last posting on Capacity Utilization.

Bear in mind, though, that "capacity" is not really a hard number. I may have several machines that can perform a given job...when cap utilization is relatively low, I will use those that are most labor and/or energy efficient...but as utilization grows and these machines become fully busy, I start using the older & less-efficient ones--thereby creating higher labor/energy costs and consequent inflationary pressures.
David, this is a great point, and I only wish that I had seen it earlier. First, you are dead on with your comment. The cost to employ the incremental unit of capacity begins to advance as we get closer and closer to the magical number of 83 or 84%. At 77.8%, many hold that there remains first-rate capacity to dispatch. Where we begin to witness accentuated concavity is anyone's guess, I have heard discussions that suggest 79 or even 80%. (To be honest, this is one of the areas where I begin to lose appreciation for macroeconomics - each individual actor within the vast domestic economic space is unique and pontificating where the aggregate "averages" an increase in the increase of costs is akin to incantation.)

But, your comment invites some thoughts that combine the idea of Cap Util and a monetary policy that has become as accommodative as a two-dollar whore. As I have eluded to in the past, a historically low fed funds rate affects all rates, near and far, as the steepness in the yield curve fails to fully, or even at times partially, absorb the depression of near term structure.

This creates a lower cost of debt financing for all players, even those that fight for existence on the investment-grade frontier. But, for now, lets take a look at those who enjoy a solid credit rating, say mid-range investment grades.

This is where your point (of the introduction of less efficient machinery as available capacity shrinks) comes in. If my trabajo in a given organization is to allocate surplus funds (by surplus I mean cash available to the firm after all obligations, including dividends, have been met) I am more than likely going to engage in some NPV analysis. Now, as my firm's WACC falls (due to the reduction of the fed funds rate (FFR) which leads to a reduction in the risk-free rate (RFR) which leads to a reduction in the cost of my debt financing - credit spreads sympathize, especially within investment grades, with shifts in the yield curve, i.e., spreads don't blow out as the yield curve falls) the propensity for positive NPV projects to surface increases.

There is some speculation (I am not saying that I subscribe to this line of thought) that firms have recently been purchasing capital goods in an almost speculative fashion for a few reasons. First, they "know" that rates are "soon" to rise and second, they are facing the age-old conundrum of deploying otherwise dormant funds (everyone, including Microsoft, is scolded for excess cash reserves). The recent theory goes, a firm can do one of two things with this excess capital, a) hire or, b) purchase capital goods. Some speculate that firms have found justification, via reduced WACCs, to replace worn and inefficient equipment, as they believe that they can enjoy greater return on marginal capital introductions rather than marginal labor introductions (I have great employees already, and they are getting better and better at using this productivity-enhancing machinery, lets just get the capital equipment I have at the periphery replaced with some new razzle-dazzle stuff - and no fear, the NPV on this idea is positive, as my hurdle rates have never been lower, but I hear that time is running out!)

So, some speculate that we as an economy are actually adding net capacity to the system, and may even experience a decline in Cap Util rates over the short term. At the very least, we may be replacing worn and inefficient capacity, so if we begin to approach 80, 81%, we may find that firms are incurring no real increases in marginal costs.

This of course says nothing of the peril that may be waiting for firms in industries where overcapacity (telecom, airlines, autos) creates a situation where firms have no ability to pass on increased costs, as market share must be protected to maintain cash flows.

Time wasters...
Written by: Beck

They finally made a computer game in my honor. Don't ask me who "they" is, I don't speak, um... whatever language that is. German? Czech? Albanian?


My high score is 75 meters.

(Hat tip: Dave Barry)

Sunday Brunch
Written by: Beck

The FBI still has not completed work on an anti-terror computer system, and they anticipate it will not be ready by year's end. What the hell? It has been almost three years now since the wake-up call to get started working on, you know, stuff like anti-terror computer systems occurred. This failure is even more pathetic than it sounds.
The newspaper quoted one FBI official who suggested the Virtual Case File program, designed to allow agents to share information easily, "might ultimately have to be abandoned."

FBI Director Robert Mueller had lauded the system as one that would help agents make the types of connections that were missed before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
IT professionals have a word for a system like this. It's called a "database." The FBI could have bought an off the shelf solution, had someone like Accenture install it, and had things up and running in four months. But, you ask, surely there are problems the FBI faces that an ordinary database couldn't handle? Of course.
"You have to realize that FBI network is a classified network. And until we solve the challenge between secret, top secret and nonclassified, we're not going to be able to have them all stored on the same computer."
Have these people never heard of access levels? Permissions? These are simple flags, simply implemented. And now, for something especially un-reassuring:
"The FBI's primary information management system, designed using the 1980s technology already obsolete when installed in 1995, limited the bureau's ability to share its information internally and externally," the statement said in part. "The FBI did not have an effective system for storing, searching, or retrieving information of intelligence value contained in its investigative files."
We're all doomed. This is what happens when the government attempts to do something the private sector is vastly more qualified for.

  • Had Microsoft developed the product, they'd be on version 3.0 already, and by this point, they'd even have most of the bugs worked out.

  • Had Apple developed the product, every FBI office in the country would have terminals up and running AND in a half-dozen different new-age color schemes.

  • Had Unix developed the product, no one at the FBI would understand how to use it except for their IT guys who, I assure you, would love nothing more than scoffing at the cluelessness of FBI agents all day long.

  • Had the product been developed on Linux... well, ok, maybe an anti-terror computer system designed in open-source isn't such a good idea.

Next item on the menu for today's brunch: the CIA has announced that they are going to suspend use of harsher-but-approved methods of interrogation in the wake of the torture memo scandals.
The CIA has suspended use of some White House-approved aggressive interrogation tactics employed to extract information from reluctant al Qaeda prisoners, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Citing unnamed intelligence officials, the newspaper reported that what the CIA calls "enhanced interrogation techniques" were put on hold pending a review by Justice Department and other lawyers.
And of course those lawyers, having witnessed what happened to their colleagues who wrote the original terror memos (i.e. gave their best educated opinion on the use of various forms of torture and then saw their careers get sodomized when the memos came to light) are going to write a bunch of double-talking watered down blather. Oh well.
It said CIA interrogations will continue, but without the suspended techniques, which also include feigning suffocation, "stress positions," light and noise bombardment, sleep deprivation, and making captives think they are being interrogated by another government.
Here, I'll go ahead and provide a translation of these events for any terrorists who happen to be reading this site: if you find yourself captured by the United States, there's absolutely no reason for you to confess or admit anything. No one's going to do anything to force you to give up information which might, you know, save lives and stuff. I'd like a chance to meet some of these people (John Kerry) who are hooting and howling about the "atrocity" of using "harsh interrogation techniques" on "known terrorists." I'd like to ask them if, had one of the 9/11 terrorists been captured before the attacks, would they have been willing to torture him in order to prevent 9/11. If they say yes, they're hypocrites, if they say no, they should be shot. Here's my own opinion, just in case things aren't perfectly clear. If you have in your custody someone about whom you have zero doubt that they are a member of a terrorist organization, you should be prepared to happily engage in whatever form of interrogation is necessary to get information out of them regarding the identities of other members of their organization and operations that are being planned.

Here's my suggestion for a more humane form of interrogation. Along the lines of "killing with kindness," I'd inject captured terrorists routinely with heroine confiscated from other terrorists in Afghanistan, get them good and thoroughly addicted, then cut off their supply. If they want anymore smack, they have to give up everything they know. How's that for fair turnabout?

OK, that's enough Sunday Brunch for me. I'm stuffed.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Open discussion thread
Written by: Beck

Because I don't especially feel like blogging this weekend, here's an open thread for our weekend readers to talk about whatever. Sports, current events, politics, guns, whatever floats your boat.

Have at it.

Friday, June 25, 2004

News of the cool: Superboy
Written by: Beck

It's not often that you get to watch evolution in action. It always seemed strange to me that some of the great apes are so much stronger than humans, even holding constant for things like muscle mass and limb length. One German boy could well be on the way to catching up.
A genetic mutation made a Berlin boy extra strong, but the German doctor who has been studying the child since just after his birth nearly five years ago says he's just a regular kid.

The boy doesn't stand out among his peers on the playground, but when he puts his mind to it, can perform feats of strength, said Dr Markus Schuelke...

Schuelke began conducting tests, and found over the course of five years that the boy had a genetic mutation that boosts muscle growth.

It is the first human case where a mutant DNA segment was found to block production of a protein called myostatin that limits muscle growth...

The boy, whose name Schuelke has promised not to divulge, has muscles twice the size of other kids his age and half their body fat.
I mean, how cool is that? Now all they need is to find the gene that allows humans to shoot lasers out of their eyes, and I'll be ready to start having children of my own.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

There's a word for this sort of behavior
Written by: Beck

North Korea told the United States on Thursday that it would test a nuclear weapon unless Washington accepted Pyongyang's proposal for a freeze on its atomic program, a senior administration official said.
You know, of second world nations, North Korea has long been the most backwards and primitive. While they've spent much of their abundant natural resources towards building up heavy industry and military technology, at the same time, a majority of their population lives only a few international aid packages ahead of the stone age and starvation.

Despite much of what you read in popular fiction, a true nuclear fission bomb is not an easy thing to produce. The fissile material has to be highly purified, properly shaped, and the implosion which triggers the fission reaction must be absolutely perfectly engineered and timed. Otherwise, all you have is an extremely expensive (and not especially effective) dirty bomb. There's a large part of me that would actually like to see the North Koreans test a nuclear device (so long as it's on their own soil--I'd rather they not test it on, say, Seoul). Why? Because I think there's a very good chance it wouldn't even work.
There was no indication of when North Korea might carry out its reported threat to test. The United States is uncertain as to how many weapons North Korea possesses, but thinks it has at least one or two with the potential for several more.
Go ahead, use up one of your bombs. We've got a few thousand we can loan ya if you ever find yourself caught short. To quote regular INCITE reader Goe, "Ok. You can have nuclear weapons. Here they come. Catch."

That other thing at the Onion
Written by: Beck

I've long been a regular reader of the Onion's A.V. Club online, though almost exclusively for the Red Meat comics. The remainder of their content tends to pendulum between liberal pandering and artsy elitism. It's rare that a movie, song, or book reviewed by the A.V. Club's hypercritical critics gets an unequivocally positive review, and if you DO stumble across a rave review, it's almost certain to be for something or someone you've never heard of. But that's neither here nor there.

One thing their writers are especially fond of is declaring something inessential. Their annual "Least Essential Albums" wrap up is actually usually pretty amusing. Regardless, as a blogger, my eye quickly caught a headline from this week's edition of the Onion A.V. Club: A helpful guide to celebrity web logs. I've seen a lot of this sort of stuff lately--CBS had a guide to creating a blog, Time Magazine published a huge article about the phenomenon. It's as though the mainstream media has realized they're going to be unable to eliminate the viral scourge of bloggers, so they might as well embrace them in hopes of at least getting a few links out of Instapundit. All I can say, having read this "guide" to "celebrity" blogs is, having read a whole host of old-media blog articles, this is easily, without doubt, the most inessential guide to blogs ever written. The list of celebrities is very telling:

Billy Corgan (famous for being lead singer of Smashing Pumpkins)
Lisa Whelchel (famous for... no, wait, who the hell is she?)
Gillian Anderson (famous for being subject of countless X-Files fan solo sex fantasies)
Melanie Griffith (famous for marrying Antonio Banderas. Also, been in some movies)
Al Roker (famous for being fat)
Fred Durst (famous for shouting)

Links to these people's blogs can all be found in the original article. I'd insert links myself, but that would take at least 2 minutes, and believe me when I say that it's not worth the trouble.

Just wait until the Olsen twins have a blog. Can you even begin to imagine what their comments section would look like? On second thought, nevermind, I don't want to even think about it.

Why didn't I think of this?
Written by: Beck

Click Me. It's for a good cause.

(Hat tip: Protein Wisdom)

Blame Canada
Written by: Beck

Since we're on the topic, here's something else Canada is doing right. Now there is a politician I could get behind.

Oh get your mind out of the gutter.

Flotsam and Jetsom...
Written by: Beck

First, and most importantly, the Canadians are really on to something this time. I mean, sure, there were a couple porn stars running for governor of California during the Davis recall, but that was just publicity stunt material. Canada has a professional dominatrix running for office on the Marijuana Party ticket. As you might imagine, the Marijuana Party is something of a one-issue party. I wont spoil the surprise by telling you what that issue is.
Her campaign workers left postcard leaflets on Wednesday in mailboxes featuring Taylor with one breast exposed under the banner "Can the cannabis crackdown."

Taylor was a Senate page shuttling paper to and from lawmakers in the early 1990s and since then has worked in a Montreal "dungeon" as a dominatrix.

"I can't believe Elections Canada allows this kind of stuff. I'm not uptight but I can see how some people would consider this to be pornographic," one Senate employee said. "I'm shocked, and a little aroused."
Think of it as truth in advertising.

Next up: PIE!!!

Finally: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Update: PIE!!! Outakes.

The Democratic Party Opposes Democracy
Written by: Beck

Not for the first time, Ralph Nader was on the receiving end of a hissy fit from Democrat operatives who would really really really like it if he would drop out of the race. Yes, the Democratic party is the party of inclusion and open mindedness, so long as you agree with them, otherwise get the hell out of the way 'cuz they are going to mow your ass.
A meeting between independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and members of the Congressional Black Caucus turned into a shouting match Tuesday, after Nader made it clear that he would not drop out of the race.

At a closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol, lawmakers could be heard shouting at Nader to get out of the race. When the meeting was cut short by a floor vote, several of the members stormed out of the room.

Nader emerged from the confrontation appearing calm but slightly shaken. He described the meeting as "a robust exchange."
Man, talk about trying to put a brave face on a bad situation.
He told reporters that he tried to explain to caucus members that he will help elect presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry in November by splitting the conservative vote and siphoning support from President Bush.
You know, I actually feel sorry for the poor bastard. He's done so much for the Democratic party and its constituents over the years, and he really believes in the causes he champions. In return, he gets pretty much constant abuse as the Dems try to frogmarch him out the door.

Of course, the naked hypocrisy of the Dems intimidation and harassment tactics are so glaringly obvious they hardly bear mentioning.

Random Google Statistics
Written by: Beck

We now come up #10 in Google searches for the word "incite". Isn't that nifty?

Written by: Beck

Nurse Bloomberg may be a Republican, but he ain't no Conservative.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Kerry decries senate lockout, tears up Treaty of Versailles, demands Austria, Poland, rest of Europe, Asia, and Africa, has eyes on Washington, D.C.
Written by: Beck

Perhaps you're beginning to notice a theme? John Kerry has missed 80% of votes in the Senate, and showing up late to one Tuesday, whined and cried and bitched and moaned when he missed a chance to vote on an issue he'd already missed past votes for. Apparently there's a vast right-wing conspiracy to prevent John Kerry from casting votes in the Senate.
"But oh, no," Kerry said at the fund-raiser. "Oh, no. Not in this Senate, not with these people. Once again, it's my way or the highway, shut the door, lock the people out, don't let them take part in the democracy, don't respect the institution. Don't show the common courtesies that actually bring people together to find the common ground. So they found a way all day to twiddle their thumbs, do very little, attend a reception at the White House, but not let John Kerry vote.
Kerry then stamped his feet, shouted, "Bush is a meanie-pants-poopy-head!" and began crying for his mommy. Aides were quick to rush up on stage and hand Kerry his binky, soothing the irritable and clearly colicky man from Massachusetts. Asked to comment, mystified Republican leaders asked, "Is this guy for real? And people actually take him seriously!?"

North Korea to receive heavy fuel oil, re-arm Rhineland
Written by: Beck

Didn't the Clinton administration attempt something like this? I seem to recall it being a spectacular failure. Of course, if Korea accepts the multilateral proposal, weapons inspectors will be involved. And we all know how effective weapons inspectors are at, you know, keeping track of weapons and whatnot.
Under the plan, U.S. officials said, North Korea would provide a full declaration of its nuclear activities and stop all of them; secure any fissile material that could be used to produce a nuclear bomb; disable any dangerous materials, and allow inspectors to return.

In exchange, the other countries in the talks -- China, South Korea, Japan and Russia -- would provide Pyongyang with badly needed heavy fuel oil and the United States would offer a "provisional" guarantee not to attack North Korea, the officials said.
Of course, since we essentially lack the capacity to launch an all-out war against North Korea right now, guaranteeing not to attack them is a pretty decent negotiating ploy. Now why am I getting a strange feeling that North Korea's response is likely to involve hearty laughter?

Saudi Arabia offers terrorists asylum, Sudetenland.
Written by: Beck

Great thinking guys. Let me see if I've got your reasoning down. Terrorists have been making things hellish for the Saudi government for a year now. Their stated goal is removal of the house of Saud from power and creation of a strict Islamic state. As bad as they have made the Saudi government look, the Saudis finally gained something of an upper hand by killing one of the resident Al Qaeda leaders and rounding up a bunch of his cohorts. So, naturally, you must be upset about your success, as you've now decided to send the terrorists a signal that your weakness persists and that no matter how many crimes they commit, they can ultimately get away with it in the end.

Makes perfect sense to me.
"We are announcing for the last time that we are opening the door to repentance and for those to return to righteousness," said Crown Prince Abdullah in a televised address.

The move comes days after U.S. engineer Paul Johnson Jr., who was working in the kingdom, was kidnapped and beheaded -- and after months of battles between Saudi forces and al Qaeda terrorists.

"To everyone who has gone out of the righteous way and has committed a crime in the name of religion and to everyone who belongs to that group that has done itself a disservice, everyone who has been captured in terror acts is given the chance to come back to God if they want to save their lives, their souls," Abdullah said.
Step one: kill foreigners. Step two: receive a royal pardon. Step three: laugh all the way to the recruiting center.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Written by: Anonymous

I tire of hearing about $50, $60, $100 oil.

First, some facts (all '03 figures):
1. In a given day, the world consumes 78.1 million barrels of crude oil (mbpd).
2. Iraq's current production is around 2 mbpd, and it is widely assumed that Iraq is currently producing near their capacity. (Here and henceforth on, by capacity I mean working capacity.)
3. Saudi Arabia currently produces 9.8 mbpd, and it is widely assumed that SA produces around 60% of their daily capacity. This is to say SA currently has existing infrastructure in place that would allow them to pump around 16 mbpd at full-bore. It is assumed that SA could achieve 80% of their capacity, or 3.3 additional mbpd, within 5 days. (The constraint on day 5 would be dock space at the ports, not wells or pipes.)
4. The US currently produces 7.5 mbpd, and it is widely assumed that the US produces within 5% of full capacity. Before I forget, this makes the US the world's third largest producer, behind Russia and SA. Russia only overtook the US in 2001.
Michael Ledeen of the National Review made his case for the potential for $60 oil today, essentially pontificating on the power of saboteurs to shock the global oil market. He also goes into potential motives, but that is for another post.

Let's take a look at this. First, let's establish that world markets of all types, equities, debt, but especially commodities, respond to price signals. They respond quite efficiently in fact. This is the primary reason that crude oil has such a difficult time maintaining prices above $40/bbl. The reason is simple: there are enough suppliers in the global crude markets who are compelled to introduce incremental supply when prices exceed certain thresholds. There are two reasons for this: 1) profit, and 2) the sustenance of historically elevated prices will induce additional monies to be earmarked for the development of new crude oil production, something a country like Saudi Arabia would like to avoid. (They rather like their powerful presence, and it is thought that countries like Russia have only begun to understand the tip of their oil-reserve iceberg.)

Second, we need to establish a brief idea of pricing behavior. Most commodities experience a "pricing-at-the-margin" phenomena. As supply is interrupted, prices generally respond to a level where the next marginal unit can be sourced. This process is not instantaneous and is subject to other conditions, such as speculative pressures and risk premia, but in general holds.

Ledeen suggests that the arresting of Iraq's 2 mbpd would cause prices to surge, and maintain, $22 above today's price. Restated, there are a host of merry-andrews out there who ejaculate that the sudden absence of 2.5% of the world's supply would cause prices to achieve 160% of their current levels. There are two reasons this will not, under any circumstances, at all, ever, happen: 1) response to price signals, and 2) pricing-at-the margin. Saudi Arabia alone, not to mention the spare capacity elsewhere, can and is interested in responding to an Iraqi supply outage.

Quite simply, saboteurs can spend the next decade field testing advances in ordinance and its delivery on the pipelines in Iraq, and it will be of little long-term consequence to the global crude market. It is high time someone with a greater dissemination machine than a third-tier blog refuted these asinine claims.

Eye For an Eye, Head For a Head
Written by: Beck

You have no idea how happy this makes me. Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan beheaded several captured Afghanis. So what did Afghan forces do when they in turn captured four members of the Taliban? They cut their fucking heads off, that's what they did. I'm not naive enough to think that the US government--under any president's administration--would sanction such "unenlightened" behavior by its troops, but I'm glad to see that someone in this world still understands how to send a message. Afghanistan is a harsh, unforgiving nation containing virtually every extreme of weather, geography, and culture. You don't survive there for long by attempting to reason with enemies who favor decapitation.
Afghan soldiers beheaded four Taliban fighters after guerrillas cut off the heads of an Afghan interpreter for U.S.-led forces and an Afghan soldier, a government commander said on Tuesday.

The interpreter and the soldier were beheaded after becoming separated from a patrol of Afghan and U.S.-led foreign troops in the Arghandab district of the southern province of Zabul on Monday night, Namatullah Tokhi, commander of the government's 27th division in the province, told Reuters.

He said government troops later captured and killed four Taliban guerrillas in the same way.

"They cut off their heads with a knife, so when our forces arrested four Taliban, we cut off their heads too."
There are two counter arguments against such retaliatory behavior. First of all, it IS barbaric behavior, and stooping to the depraved level of ones enemy reduces ones own stature. Second, behavior like this leads to escalation, and could result in American captives suffering far grizzlier deaths than simple beheading. However, you also have to know your enemy. These aren't Germans or Japanese we're fighting, we're fighting men who see any hesitation or shrinking from absolute commitment, no matter what sort of violence is implied, as a sign of weakness.

I'm reminded of an Egyptian proverb a friend once told me. It's not especially humorous, it doesn't make for a good read, but it IS highly instructive. A man owned a farm, had a wife, and had many sons. Then one night, men came and stole his goose. His sons went into a rage, but the man just told them, "You must get back the goose." Later, the same men came back and stole his horses. The sons raged and vowed revenge, but the man just said, "First you must get back the goose." Later the thieves stole the farmer's wife and burn down his house. His sons find him near death and take oaths to avenge their parents, but the father simply said, "If only we had gotten back the goose--once our enemy knew that they could steal our goose, they knew they did not need to fear us at all."

Mercy can be noble, and it can serve a purpose. It can also come across as weakness, however. Once our enemies know they can revolt against our authority and succeed, they will never fear us again.

(Hat tip: Rambling's Journal)

Moore Ripped Surplus Sphincter
Written by: Beck

Christopher Hitchens, writing for Slate, has some lovely things to say about Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
After that line follows eight solid pages of scathing criticism. The long and the short of it: Moore's facts are wrong, Moore contradicts himself repeatedly, and Moore deliberately seeks to deceive his audience in order to make Bush look bad. Oh, and one last thing: Hitchens is a liberal.

(Hat tip: Protein-Wisdom)

Government Logic
Written by: Beck

I have to imagine that these guys could learn a lot from these guys.

Total government rocket launch contract expected value by the end of the decade: $5 billion
Cost for private individuals to build civilian reusable rocket spacecraft: $20 million
The look on the major party's candidate's faces when the ASP takes the presidency: Priceless

OK, so I'm not entirely sure how that last one relates to the previous two, but I'm rather fond of my American Sovereignty Party idea, so I'm going to keep finding random ways to link it. You're just going to have to get used to it.

Bush and the summer time blues
Written by: Anonymous

As a good friend of mine, and incidentally yours, highlighted to me yesterday, within the confines of this administration Compassionate Conservatism is equivalent to Liberal Fiscal Posturing. Sure enough, it took only hours to provide me with a fresh example.

Next month, the Bush Administration is set to unveil its new mental health initiative. The eventual goal of this program is to screen the entire citizenry for mental illnesses and treat those diagnosed with "expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs favored by supporters of the administration".

As any good citizen would do, I asked myself if this is a responsibility of the state. Mental health screening is a voluntary medical procedure. As such, it is the duty of the person considering screening to determine the advantage of such a course (if the person is a dependent, then it falls to the custodian), not that of the state. In effect, this positions the federal government as quasi-custodian to all of us, a condition with which any conservative should find visceral disagreement.

Monday, June 21, 2004

UKIP in America
Written by: Beck

There's a new political party in Great Britain: the United Kingdom Independence Party. UKIP's platform in one sentence: get the UK out of the EU. It's a great idea, and in recent EU parliament elections, the UKIP was fantastically successful. They went from being a fringe party to being the best funded political party in the UK virtually overnight. That's right, they're the best funded party--they have more money in their war chest than either the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, or even Tony Blair's Labour party. While the UK has managed to retain more sovereignty than most EU nations (for example, by not adopting the single-currency euro), the British have nonetheless been watching national sovereignty steadily erode, power and decision making being steadily ceded to Brussels. It's disgusting, and Brits are coming to their senses.

I think this is a wonderful development in what is quite possibly the last bastion of common sense in all of Europe. And it's time that the United States did the same damn thing. So without further ado, I'd like to announce the creation of the American Sovereignty Party (ASP). In short, the goal of ASP is to protect the right of every American to go about the business of being an American without taking suggestions on how to live our lives from anyone else in the world. The official ASP platform would be relatively simple (though a little more involved than the single issue UKIP).

Foreign Policy:

1) US withdrawal from the United Nations -- The UN is corrupt, and it does not even come close to serving the purpose it was created for. Whether or not its creation was a good idea at the time, it no longer serves any useful function. All the UN does is keep scores and scores of bureaucrats employed, and all those bureaucrats do is tell the United States that all the worlds' ills are our fault and could be solved if only we would stop being so damn selfish. The UN had its chance, it failed, it's time to move on.

2) War on Terror -- Kill terrorists wherever terrorists can be found, and prevent terrorists from successfully entering the United States. This would involve, among other things, curtailing the asinine asylum laws we have now, and finally taking action to prevent illegal immigration. Furthermore, immigration laws would be restructured so that a Ph.D. from South Korea doesn't have a harder time getting a US work visa than migrant laborers from Guatemala.

Domestic Policy:

1) Boot the UN out of New York -- It's not sufficient for the US to withdraw from the UN, we also need to get those double parking diplomatic immunity dickheads off our soil. Send them to Brussels, I'm sure they'd be welcome there. New Yorkers have been supporting the UN with their infrastructure and their tax dollars for long enough. Plus, the mass exodus of so many unskilled bureaucrats (to say nothing of the overnight increase in available office space) should do wonders for the cost of living in NYC.

2) Don't change anything else -- This is the real key to the ASP's potential for success. You see, where we are right now, the US economy can continue to grow strongly for basically an indefinite period of time. Sure, there are things which could be done to improve that growth, but a majority of Americans are never going to agree on it. While conservatives might want to scale back various changes that have been made over the past few decades, we all know it's not going to happen. While liberals might want to expand the social welfare state and further trample on American civic institutions and traditions, the majority of Americans are fed up with their asinine imposition of the European mindset on our way of life. In short, while no one's exactly happy with the status quo, no one's so unhappy about it that they wouldn't be able to tolerate it indefinitely. Any fine tuning people want can be done on the state level. Without question or hesitation, however, ASP domestic policy will involve voting down anything that expands the scope of government beyond its already gargantuan reach, excepting legislation designed to fight terrorism. Further, the ASP won't actively seek to dismantle any of the government institutions that Americans have grown so fond of (much as this goes against my own personal political philosophy, I feel it's necessary to create a viable political party). Again, any changes people want, whether it involves gay marriage, drug legalization, or further tightening or loosening of abortion laws, can be done on the state level.

So tell your family. Tell your friends. Email them links to this article. ASP in 2008. It's time for Americans to come to their senses, retake their sovereignty, and finally free themselves up to go about their business without interference from the millions of talent free government employees (both domestic and foreign) who think they know more about how people should live their lives than the people themselves.

Question: How does a state become a EUnuch?
Written by: Beck

Answer: Castration.

You can't teach a retarded dog new tricks.
Written by: Beck

The terrorists must think they've really hit on something special with this whole beheading foreigners policy. It's brutal and graphic and sends a message to the world that no one can mistake (namely, that terrorists are sub-human animals). Islamists have done it to an American in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia. Now terrorists are threatening to behead a South Korean civilian.

Try for one moment to divorce yourself from the extreme emotional response to hearing about or seeing a human beheaded. Ask yourself, what in hell can these fools be thinking? Take Nick Berg, killed shortly after pictures began emerging from prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. What was the goal of terrorists there? Were they really thinking the entire Coalition was just going to say, "Wow, screw this, we're going home." The impact was to take attention away from the Abu Ghraib scandal. A secondary impact was to reunite American sentiment against these nihilistic shitstains. The beheading in Saudi Arabia had a similar impact.

The terrorists goal is to so horrify and demoralize enemy civilians and leadership that they lose the taste for the fight. With that in mind, you'd expect them to come up with something worse. I mean, there are far worse ways to die than beheading. I'm not suggesting it's pleasant, but I am suggesting that it's going to be a relatively quick death. Having hit on something they like, however, these "people" lack even the creativity to come up with something worse. If you've watched the AEI film footage of torture perpetrated by the Iraqi regime under Hussein (head over to VodkaPundit if you just really want to see the snuff film), you know fully well that things can be much worse than a beheading. To summarize, these pathetic excuses of humanity are actually harming themselves through this graphic engagement of violence, reminding the entire world that there really are worse things than hordes of Americans attempting to inflict democracy on unsuspecting dictatorships.

Back to Korea. The South Korean government recently announced that they're going to increase their troop commitment in Iraq by 3600 soldiers, making them the third largest contingent after the United States and Great Britain. The Korean government has refused to make any alterations in their plans for additional troop deployment in light of the threats against their citizen.

And they're off!
Written by: Beck

History in the making.

Tickle Me Elmo
Written by: Anonymous

This should be delicious. In his attempt to buoy his wife's '08 bid, this man is going to accelerate the cementing of his inevitable legacy.

Incidentally, and perhaps most of you have already read this, the newspaper that has over the years replaced many reporting functions with hectoring mechanisms, has written a dolly of a review of bubba's 957 pages. I enjoyed how Kakutani essentially dismisses Clinton's memoirs, and essentially the rake himself, as a relic of a time now long, long past. Wonder if Dowd and Kakutani share any space at headquarters.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Lazy Weekends
Written by: Beck

I'm going to be away from the computer for a couple days, so unless my cobloggers suddenly come out of the woodworks with a massive volume of content, don't be surprised if posting is light. I should be back in force by Monday, so in the mean time, go do something entertaining like watching stick figures fight or reading Dave Barry's blog.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Written by: Beck

It's a bitch.

Written by: Beck

Well, they kept their word.

Time to get some payback.

A Meme is Born
Written by: Beck

I've always hated the expression "meme" for some reason. I suppose because I've never been entirely sure how to pronounce it, especially without sounding foolish. That, and I'd be much happier if people would just use the original "mimetic".

Regardless, you know the hooded/standing-on-a-box/wired picture from the Abu Ghraib torture photos? Get used to seeing it. It's not going away any time soon.

Why this image above all the rest? It is far from the most violent, but easily the most graphic. You need less than a second's glance to know exactly what it is. The triangle of the hood silhouettes sharply against the hot pink or chartreuse background of a fake iPod ad. Andy Warhol himself could not have done better. It holds its own on murals meant to be read from far away. It plays well against the Statue of Liberty. It suggests Christ on the cross. And, best yet, the hooded figure in the photograph is on a pedestal. It is already an icon.
(H/T: Rambling's Journal)

More news that will never see the light of day
Written by: Beck

Russian President Vladimir Putin has plenty of reasons to dislike the United States. American officials routinely criticize his policies, condemn his human rights abuses, and join battle with him on the field of international diplomacy. I can't imagine he enjoys being told how to run his country by mid-level bureaucrats of a foreign nation. Furthermore, he strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq, and numerous Russian citizens are complicit in the ever unfolding oil-for-food scandal. So what's my point, you ask?

My point is that Russia has no cause to do the Bush administration any favors. It's sad that I have to go to such lengths to try to lend credibility to anything Putin (or anyone else) might say should that thing turn out to be beneficial to Bush, but that's the kind of environment conservatives must operate in today.

Let's engage in a brief thought exercise. WMD, violating UN sanctions, and Gulf War I aside, would it be a legitimate reason in and of itself to invade Iraq if it turned out that Iraq had plotted terrorist attacks against the United States? Mind you, I'm not asking about Iraq collaborating with terrorists, I'm talking about a hypothetical attack entirely planned and carried out by the Iraqi regime.

Of course it would. There's no question. So now, on with Putin's recent statements.

Putin said Russian intelligence had been told on several occasions that Saddam's special forces were preparing to attack U.S. targets inside and outside the United States.

"After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received information that the official services of the Saddam regime were preparing 'terrorist acts' on the United States and beyond its borders," he told reporters.
Well spank my ass and call me Charley.

One final note: from the text of the original Reuters report, can you spot the bias? Think of it like you would a Where's Waldo book.
The Kremlin leader's comments were certain to bolster Bush, whose campaign for re-election in November is under pressure from the Iraq crisis.
Only instead of a cluttered picture, there's just Waldo on a white piece of paper.

(H/T: Captain's Quarters)

A message for Kofi Annan from Beck on behalf of the United States:
Written by: Beck

Get bent.

Oh, and about that son of yours... Right, the one who was running the Oil-For-Food Program. It turns out we couldn't find a cannon to shoot him out of, so we've decided to simply shoot him with a cannon. See the subtle difference? We assumed you wouldn't mind, what with your famous obsession with justice and whatnot.

Update: A message for Jacques Chirac from Beck on behalf of the United Kingdom:

Sod off.

OK, so maybe I don't exactly have legitimate grounds to speak on behalf of the UK, but I'm pretty sure that's what they would want to say. And even if it isn't, it's what they SHOULD say. Let me put it to the Brits as plainly as I can: when it comes to the European Constitution, RUN AWAY. And for the love of god, keep voting for the UKIP.

Update II: A message to Australia from Beck on behalf of Japan:


How on earth did a team from Japan win the International Australian Rules Football tournament? Can you imagine a team from Japan (or anywhere else) winning the Super Bowl? Hang your heads in shame. Money quote:
[T]he Narita Cup is an annual event showcasing Australian Football and is fast becoming the Australian Football equivalent of the Hong Kong Sevens. [ed: Rugby evidently. Learn something new every day.]
For those who've never watched an Australian Rules Football game, I highly recommend it. It's easily the most violent sport I've ever watched.

Anything you can do I can do better...
Written by: Beck

...said the free market to the government. You probably don't remember when law first went into action--I vaguely remember hearing something about it and then promptly dismissing it as just another stealth tax ramrodded through congress by a congressman with a hard-on for the phone companies. Essentially, everyone gets a small tax on their phone bill, the money from which ($2.25 billion/year, not a small sum) goes towards subsidizing schools' efforts to computerize and get online. Big surprise: the government woefully mishandles the entire project, corruption abounds, and great swathes of money go to waste.
But [the program, called E-rate, is] messy, as cases of wasted equipment, improper or falsified purchases, insufficient payments and poor oversight have been found or alleged nationwide.

Completed audits and investigations underway show E-rate has an unacceptably high risk of fraud, waste and abuse, said H. Walker Feaster III, inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission, in testimony Thursday to a subcommittee investigating the program.

He called for more auditors so the vast technology project would get adequate oversight, and for program changes to ensure competitive bidding, clear rules and solid record-keeping.
Yes, as always, when you ask the government for a solution to a problem created by the government in the first place, their invariable answer: More Government!
Of 122 audits done over the past year, about a third revealed substantial violations, Feaster told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
That's right. One third. This is not a small time problem. This is not a few random instances of fraud and mismanagement. This is one in every three cases. The program is run by the sorry sods at the FCC in cooperation with a not-for-profit corporation. I've always had an instinctive distrust of any institution that exists for a purpose other than profit. Those not motivated by the bottom line aren't motivated, period, and their work output reflects it.

I'm not arguing that it isn't a noble cause to bring technology to schools. As long as you're going to have public schools, they might as well teach something useful, and to do that these days you need good computers and an internet connection. My point is that there were other ways to handle the implementation of this--ways which take advantage of pre-existing market infrastructure. Rather than letting the companies with the expertise work on it, new institutions are legislated into existence. Anyone who has ever worked for a major corporation knows that such businesses go hog wild for chances to show that they're charitable and "involved in the community." At many Silicon Valley companies, where liberal social ideology often dominates, the desire to volunteer time, effort, knowledge, and know-how, is entirely sincere and quite pervasive. Why not tap into this? You can leave the phone-bill tax in place, raise that $2.25 billion, and then let these people go hog wild. Of course, that never happens (take the recent example of Ted Kennedy gutting every market-based mechanism from the prescription drug benefit legislation). Instead, you get outcomes like this:
An investigative team found in February that about 74,000 wireless computer cards purchased for schools were sitting unwrapped on a loading dock in a warehouse. The cards were purchased in 1999 for about $24 million, including supposed installation charges.

At least...
Written by: Beck

At least someone in this administration is speaking up.

At least someone in Europe understands what's going on in North Korea.

At least someone in the Islamic world is on our side.

At least the Rottweiler has been reading my mind.

Too bad Europeans still haven't learned that appeasement of tyrants never works.

Random thought for the day...
Written by: Beck

When was the last time you used a computer application for which the Scroll Lock button had a function assigned? Frankly, I'm not sure I've EVER used a computer program which utilized the Scroll Lock button, and I've been using computers for almost 20 years now. I'm not even entirely sure what it was originally intended for. Does anyone out there actually use this button on anything approaching a regular basis?

You know what I'd like to see? Bold Lock. Hold down shift and hit Bold Lock and you get Italics Lock. That would save a lot of time formatting text, and would be especially helpful for writers who don't want to derail their train of thought in the middle of composing. I mean, sure, it's not something I'd use all the time, but I'd get more use out of it than I do the Pause/Break button or the Print Screen button. My keyboard even has these random special-function buttons across the top which are programmable for audio, video, and web control. But no Bold Lock.

Is that so much to ask for?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Never give up...
Written by: Beck


Written by: Beck

This is a fascinating read. The head of NORAD, testifying before the 9/11 commission, answers the question, "Given perfect communication and immediate reaction from traffic controllers once they knew what was afoot, could the USAF have shot down the 4 hijacked planes? Answer: Yes X 4.

That's not the reason you should read the article though. The reason you should is because it enumerates in great detail everything that went on between the military and the civilian air control establishments on that fateful day. This article is easily one of the most fascinating things I've heard out of the 9/11 commission to date. Frankly, it's for revelations like this that the 9/11 commission was created--so that we could figure out what went wrong, what could have been done, and what needs to be done in the future to prevent anything like it from happening again.

What are we to do with you?
Written by: Beck

Clinton, Clinton, Clinton, Clinton...

To paraphrase P. J. O'Rourke, who was paraphrasing someone else:

Your wife is a bitch, your girlfriend is ugly, and your dog don't hunt.

At it again...
Written by: Beck

The Zionist conspiracy claims more innocent lives in Baghdad today. A car bomb went off outside of an Iraqi army recruitment center killing 35 and injuring at least 138. None of the 175 people lined up to join the Iraqi army were harmed in the attack. The only victims were innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time. How do Iraqis continue to delude themselves that America (or Israel) is the enemy? They can't possibly really be that stupid. Right? No, the truth of the matter is that the terrorists have better propaganda than we do. You'd think that'd be something that media obsessed America would be good at.

Wishful Thinking
Written by: Beck

At some point, once the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are over with, there will be debates. At some point in these debates, a question will come up about the War on Terror and how it should be fought going forward. And at some point, someone is likely to reiterate that tired old observation about Islam being a religion of peace. You know what I would like to hear? You know what virtually every single person in America would like to hear? You know what this nation NEEDS to hear? This is what I would like to hear:

GEORGE BUSH: "This isn't a war against Islam, Islam is a religion of peace, this is a war... no, you know what? There are some followers of Islam who truly believe that it's a religion of peace, and they act accordingly, but let's be honest with ourselves. These people are a distinct minority. It's a culture of aggression, and the Wahabiists and Islamofascists believe and want nothing more than that every man, woman, and child in America should die.

"The War on Terror is about killing them before they kill us. They will not stop for lack of action by us, we must act before they do. We have to hunt these people down in every nook and corner and cranny of the world, we have to find them, and we have to kill them. Until we do, no American can go to work in New York safely, no American can go shopping in the mall in Ohio safely. The government of the United States is responsible for a great deal of things, but chief among them is the safety of its citizens. That's what the War on Terror is about.

"We can't sit by and wait for them to come to us. We can't treat this as a police action. We can't sit around waiting for the approval of the United Nations or of France. This is kill or be killed. We have the initiative. We have the upper hand. For now. We must not relent, not for one second. We must not hesitate to take every action necessary, we must not quake before the vision of our enemy lying dead at our feet.

"Make no mistake. These people hate us and they want us dead. They have for a very long time. The tragedy of September 11 wasn't planned in a day or a year. There is a cultural movement afoot in the Middle East (and Europe and Asia and across the entire globe) whose only intent is to replace our way of life with theirs. America is the bulwark standing astride their path to victory, and we must not step aside. We must declare that we Will Not Step Aside.

"Anything less constitutes suicide. It's as simple as that."

Is that so much to ask for?

That's what I'm sayin'
Written by: Beck

OK, this is a partial transcript from Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics, but it highlights a point I (and others) have been making for a while here. The economy is doing great, but most people don't realize it because the media refuses to report on it. It's longish, but don't worry, there's plenty of white space for those who can't handle more than a handful of paragraphs (I kid!). Here, I'll even toss out some bold text for the really important bits.

WOODRUFF: The spotlight in the coming days on the campaign trail will be on the economy. While President Bush promotes an economic recovery, Senator John Kerry says it is not being felt by a lot of people. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, takes a closer look at this issue that always seems to play a big role in the battle for the Oval Office.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Here's a little secret: the nation's economy is actually doing very well. President Bush has been trying to spread the word.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It shows that our economy is vital and growing. We've added 900,000 jobs over the last three months and 1.4 million jobs since last August.

SCHNEIDER: At that rate, the administration's projection of 2.6 million new jobs this year, a figure that was widely ridiculed a few months ago, now looks too low. Are happy times here again? Not if you ask the people who matter, the voters.

Only 35 percent say the country's economy is in good shape. President Bush's job approval on the economy is still low. It hasn't budged in months.

Don't people believe the good economic statistics? No, they don't. There's always a time lag between statistics and perceptions.

President Bush can ask his father about that. In June, 1992, the economy was more than a year into recovery but job growth was slow. Only 12 percent thought the nation's economy was doing well. The first President Bush had to argue that things were better than they had been 12 years earlier, in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was president.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Misery Index, the sum of inflation and unemployment, is 10.8 percent, down from 19.6 percent in 1980.

SCHNEIDER: How about when Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996? In May, 1996, the public's view of the economy was actually worse than it is now. But things picked up very fast. By the fall, nearly half thought times were good. Good enough for President Clinton to get comfortably reelected.

And look at the figure for May 2000. Wow. Sixty-six percent said times were good. But it didn't quite work out for Al Gore. Critics say he tried too hard to distance himself from Clinton's record.

Right now, when you ask people about the economy, they may not be thinking about growth rates and jobs created. They may be thinking about gas prices and health care costs, the bad news. The Bush campaign is trying to create a sense of economic momentum: we're on a roll here, folks. BUSH: And one reason I need to stay in the office is to make sure that we don't ruin the incentives and don't stop the momentum of economic growth by failed Washington D.C. policies.



SCHNEIDER: Here's another reason why the good economic news may not be having much impact. It's not being reported. A study by Media Tenor, an independent media analysis institute, reveals that news coverage of President Bush's economic policy has practically vanished from the major broadcast networks since the beginning of the year. It's all been Iraq. The improving economy is a secret.

WOODRUFF: But we're talking about it here?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, we are.

WOODRUFF: OK. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
Yes, Judy, you were talking about it, but unfortunately, I don't think anyone actually watches Inside Politics. Still, it's a good sign when CNN's own senior political analyst realizes what's going on & is willing to talk about it.

(H/T: Best of the Web)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

This post rated R
Written by: Beck

I struggled at first trying to find a way to comment on this in a calm, collected, high-brow manner. Then I realized something: to reign in my temper and tongue on this subject would be to do the subject an injustice.

I've never been hesitant about the use of profanity on this site, but lately I've been making a quiet effort to clean things up. I keep reading that going blue isn't mainstream. It repels potential readers I'm told. There's a limited audience for the really obnoxious stuff (for instance Misha over at the Rottweiler who can curse like a seasoned veteran of the merchant marine) (Don't get me wrong. I love his stuff). (And if we use him as the barometer, the "limited audience" constitutes over 4000 readers a day). But there are times when restraint is not a virtue.

As I wrote recently, we have Saudi Arabia to thank for much of the terrorist threat we face today. Bush not too long ago made noises supporting the Saudi regime for reasons that I won't get into or evaluate now. While his approach may have merits, there also comes a time when you have to realize that you cut your losses and walk away. And those shitstains on the highway of humanity have passed that point as far as I'm concerned.

The Saudi Arabian government has done some deep soul searching, and they have reached the conclusion that Islamofascist terrorists are the result of, get this, Zionists. These people are blatantly racist, self-serving, lying, despicable motherfuckers who should be hung out to dry like the pork jerky they strive so hard to emulate. Was that unclear? I hope not. Feel free to express your disagreement, I don't care at this point if I lose site traffic over this, but the Wahabi supporting Saudi regime is guilty of some profoundly despicable stuff. Enough with the invective and rhetoric. The evidence:

Last month, an attack on contractors at the Saudi oil facility in Yanbu killed six Westerners, two of them Americans. Senior Saudi officials told the world al-Qaida terrorists were to blame and al-Qaida claimed responsibility...

But tape obtained by NBC News reveals that, inside Saudi Arabia, on Saudi television, Crown Prince Abdullah told a strikingly different story about who was to blame.

NBC News translated Abdullah's remarks from Arabic: "Zionism is behind it. It has become clear now. It has become clear to us. I don't say, I mean... It is not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened."

Other senior Saudi officials reaffirmed the claim that supporters of Israel--Zionists--were behind the terror attacks.

Prince Nayef, the Saudi Interior Minister said, "Al-Qaida is backed by Israel and Zionism."
Let's summarize. One: terrorists in Saudi Arabia attack westerners. Two: Saudi officials claim to the international media that al-Qaida is behind the attacks. Three: Saudi officials claim to the local press that Zionists are behind the attack. Four: my head explodes.

That's right folks. Islamic terrorists, the same ones whose stated goal in life is the eradication of the Jewish state, are backed by Israel and Zionism. What. The. Fuck? Fuck these people and the camel they rode in on.

(H/T: Protein Wisdom)

Full Steam Ahead
Written by: Anonymous

Johnnie-jackass - oh how are you going to spin this news...

Big economic news this morning. The Federal Reserve reports that Industrial Production surged by 1.1% (month over month) in May. This is the largest increase since August 1998 and puts manufacturing output within 0.3% of its all-time peak in June 2000. This is a bona fide sign that the economic rebound is real and deep, as it is widely thought that Industrial Production is a lagging macroeconomic indicator - business don't order capital goods speculatively, they do so when they are confident that demand has returned.

Also, capacity utilization rose to 77.8%. Cap utilization is an aggregate measure of how much capacity (capital, not labor) the economy is currently employing. At 77.8%, the current rate is 330 bps below the running average since 1973 and well below full capacity, which is generally thought to be somewhere between 83 and 84%.

The cap ute number presents an extremely interesting dynamic. First-quarter GDP growth has been initially estimated at 4.4%, which is moderately above the 3.5% growth that is considered "natural" in a full-steam booming economy. What is interesting is that an assumption accompanying "natural, full growth" is a capacity utilization rate of 83%. So, superb GDP growth, along with relatively low utilization equates to one thing in macroeconomics - low inflation. See, in so far as there is spare capacity in the economy, there is little pricing pressure to engage the incremental unit of capacity, it is going to be employed without an increase in cost. So, along with surges in productivity, which we continue to experience, this spare capacity will certainly not add to inflationary pressures, and may serve to dampen them.

Things, from this vantage point, look good. There are, however, a host of other topics, that create concern. I'll get more into that later.

Bear repellent, it turns out, is potent
Written by: Beck

I can see this happening just about anywhere (because people everywhere do stupid things):
A student caused chaos at Kwansei Gakuin University on Tuesday evening when he decided to test out some bear repellent inside a university building, police said.

Eight students from the university's lacrosse club were left suffering from sore throats and other symptoms brought on by the offensive smell, which wafted into the lacrosse club room.

Police said the 20-year-old student, a member of an outdoor expedition team, sprayed the American-made repellent inside the corridor on the fourth floor of the student union building at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday to see how well it worked.
But this could only happen in Japan (because they take abiding the law freaky serious):
However, after learning from a school notice board the smell had caused chaos inside the building, he turned himself in to the Nishinomiya Police Station and apologized to the lacrosse club.

Coffee: Good!
Written by: Beck

An LA Times article from last week reports that coffee is both good for you in many ways not originally suspected and not bad for you in many ways long believed. Considering the amount of coffee I suck down on an ordinary day, this is good news to say the least.

Coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from kidney stones, Parkinson's disease, and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants. And while tea shares many of the same benefits, it seems there are certain helpful chemicals which are unique to coffee.
Caffeine has received most of the research attention, but it is only one of hundreds of substances found in coffee," says coffee chemist Tomas de Paulis, a researcher at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Coffee Studies, which receives funding from coffee manufacturers.

He and his colleagues are investigating substances in coffee called quinides, which increase the capacity of the liver to use glucose. That, in theory, should improve blood sugar control in diabetics. Unlike caffeine, these substances may be unique to coffee, created during the process of roasting coffee beans.
Also, decaf seems to be mostly worthless, an opinion I've long held though not necessarily for the same reasons. Another interesting point is raised in the article, namely that for a long time, coffee was thought to be a net negative.
In the 1970s and 1980s, coffee was blamed for a variety of ills, from high blood pressure to cancer. "The focus of early research was almost always on finding fault," says Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Alan Leviton. "People tended to think of coffee as a vice, so the bias was that there had to be something wrong with it."
I think this attitude says something important about our culture. The natural inclination is to seek out negatives in things we enjoy rather than identifying positives--wherever they may crop up. This mentality has much in common with the force behind the rise of the nanny state that wants to control every aspect of our lives from seat belt wearing to fast food consumption. Examples abound. Take for instance, Time Magazine's special report on obesity. They title it "The Obesity Crisis." It's not a crisis. It's a part of life which goes hand in hand with economic success. Get over it. Fine, fine, so I've completely derailed. I'll get back on topic.

There are still some negatives associated with coffee, so it's only fair to mention them.
A few worries persist. Caffeine can aggravate arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, so cardiologists sometimes advise people with such conditions to switch to decaf. Insomnia sufferers are also typically advised to give up caffeinated coffee, especially late in the day and evening [ed: Well no shit Sherlock]. Because caffeine can make its way into breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that nursing mothers drink decaf coffee or other non-caffeinated beverages.

Caffeine in coffee also raises blood pressure temporarily, so people with hypertension might do well to avoid it. But several extensive studies have shown that coffee drinkers are no more likely than nondrinkers to suffer chronic high blood pressure--evidence that coffee doesn't cause hypertension.
(H/T: Vice Squad)

News Bytes
Written by: Beck

The face of Marxism in Columbia shows itself again. Thirty-four farm laborers were rounded up by Marxist rebels, tied up with rope from the hammocks they had been sleeping in, and shot. The long standing civil war in Columbia claims an estimated 3,500 lives each year.

Another mid-level Iraqi interim government official has been slain. This time it's the security chief for Iraq's Northern Oil Company. At the same time, an attack on an oil pipeline has temporarily slowed export capacity from 1.7 million bbl/day to 500,000.

Finally, one completely random yet interesting tidbit: at a web site known as Intrade--a thinly disguised online gambling site (so you may not be able or want to access it from work)--you can trade "futures" on the likely outcome of the 2004 elections. The contract trades from a range of 0-100, and Bush's chances currently trade at 58. If Bush wins, the contract is worth a full $100, if he loses it's worth $0. In other words, internet gamblers and "traders" are strikingly confident of a Bush victory, regardless of what the polls may think.

Kerry downshifts, floors it
Written by: Beck

The problem is, Kerry's not a very good driver. If he's not careful, he's going to wind up spinning out of control. OK, enough of the automotive metaphors. Kerry has had to play nice since the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend--to behave otherwise would be to make himself look especially bad. After that, there was the run-up to the 60th anniversary of D-Day, followed promptly by the death of Ronald Reagan. The period of mourning is over, Reagan stories have finally dropped out of the press, and he figures it's time to go full guns.

The New York Times reports that Kerry has launched his new offensive with an attack on two fronts: the economy and the prison abuse scandal. Put briefly, Kerry asserts that bush has overstated the health of the economy and understated the impact of the prison abuse scandal.

Campaigning in New Jersey and Ohio, the Democratic challenger accused the Republicans of being all too willing to settle for an economy that leaves the middle class falling farther and farther behind. "We all know that the middle class built this country," he told a cheering convention of the New Jersey A.F.L.-C.I.O., meeting in Atlantic City Tuesday. "Franklin Roosevelt understood that, and so did Bill Clinton."
Well, actually this country was built with Rock & Roll. At least that's what the songs tell me. FDR understood that you could buy off the lower class with government spending, and Bill Clinton raised taxes on the middle class. I don't really know what in hell Kerry is talking about quite frankly.

At an airport news conference near Cincinnati, Mr. Kerry also asserted that Mr. Bush had "underestimated the full impact" of the Iraqi prisoner scandal on America's reputation in the world. He said Mr. Bush should appoint an independent investigator to investigate the abuses--someone like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona--"to prove to the world that this is really not going to be swept under the rug." Mr. Kerry has reportedly tried repeatedly, and in vain, to get Mr. McCain to consider being his running mate.
A reporter then pointed out to Senator Kerry that he had some white stuff on his chin & some brown stuff on his nose. Kerry responded, "Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib torture memo."
Mr. Kerry also said: "Torture is not acceptable, period. The United States of America has always been a leader in making it clear to the world that torture is not acceptable."
OK. I have absolutely no problem with that statement by John Kerry. Much like you expect monkeys pounding on typewriters to eventually generate a sentence or two, you figure Kerry has to get something right every once in a while.
Throughout the day, the Bush and Kerry forces engaged in a long-distance debate over the economy that suggested the contours of the fall campaign. Mr. Bush declared at a news conference Tuesday, "Our economy is strong and getting stronger." He added that employment was growing, consumer spending was rising, and "all indications are that the economic stimulus plan we put in place is working."
And no matter how much neighing and braying Kerry bleats out, the one unalterable fact which he cannot deny is that the economy is moving from strength to strength.
Echoing the themes of his campaign operatives, who described Mr. Kerry as engaged in a "pessimism and misery" tour, Mr. Bush concluded: "I am an optimistic person. I guess if you want to try to find something to be pessimistic about, you can find it, no matter how hard you look, you know?"
Yes, that's right, any time Bush says something he's merely, "Echoing the themes of his campaign operatives." Come on, you didn't expect me to go for an entire post without mentioning media bias at some point did you? Anyway, my favorite line from the whole article is coming up:
Mr. Kerry countered, at his news conference, "They're the pessimists, because they believe Americans are willing to accept less than what Americans are used to doing and achieving."
Don't be too alarmed if you can't make any sense out of this statement. You can't. Kerry has bent his words and logic into such a twisted pretzel that anyone thinking about it too hard is likely to suffer a massive brain aneurysm.
Making the case for changing economic leadership is widely considered critical to Mr. Kerry's campaign--and the case has become more complicated in recent months, amid steady employment gains. In his speech to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which he echoed throughout the day, Mr. Kerry argued that economic growth alone was not enough to help the middle class.
The sad thing is, the one area in which Kerry could make a compelling and legitimate attack on Bush's economic policy is spending. And Kerry can't afford to make that attack, as he would then be forced to state explicitly where he would cut spending. He can't say military because he's already attacked the Bush administration for undersupplying our troops in Iraq. Any other area he might mention is virtually guaranteed to step on at least a few liberal toes. What, he's going to oppose the horrendous prescription drug benefit championed by his own fellow Masshole senator Ted "Balloon Head" Kennedy?
There were some dissonant moments in his bid for middle-class support; he attended a celebrity fund-raiser Monday night at the sprawling estate of Jon Bon Jovi. And he was asked by a local reporter Tuesday how his championship of the middle class squared with his wealthy wife and lifestyle.

"It's not the size of your bank account," he said. "It's what you feel in your heart and your gut. If it was the size of your bank account, John Kennedy might not have been president. Franklin Roosevelt might not have been president."
I have to give the NYT credit for printing those two paragraphs. I do believe Kerry is seriously suggesting that John Kennedy did not come from a wealthy family, among other things. More twisted logic, more twisted words, no more sense. And now, the money quote:
He ended his day at a rain-soaked outdoor rally in Columbus, which drew a large crowd of supporters as well as a scattering of abortion protesters, and some Bush supporters. The Republicans blasted the theme song from "Flipper" for part of his speech to accuse him of flip-flopping on issues. As dusk fell, Mr. Kerry delivered his paean to the middle class, and the crowd held in a driving rain, cheering as he invoked the legacies of Presidents Clinton and Roosevelt.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Playing Connect the Dots
Written by: Beck

Let's start at the end and work our way backwards, shall we?

Saudi clerics seen as influential with Islamists have announced that attacking Westerners is a sin. Go ahead and read that again, then take a minute to stop gibbering. That's right, the people primarily responsible for the anti-Western sentiment which rages across the entire Muslim world are changing their tune. But what would prompt them to do that?

Perhaps because the massive exodus of foreigners is seriously threatening the Saudi Arabian economy. The threat to the Saudi economy is much more fundamental than you at might first think. Unlike, say, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia is not in the least dependent on money spent by resident aliens & visitors. They make all their money on oil, and so long as the oil never runs out, they've nothing to fear. The problem is that Westerners quite literally run the Arabian oil companies. Western expertise is essential to keeping the oil coming out of the ground. Therein lies the Gordian knot the Sauds are trying to untie.

Now why would westerners be fleeing Saudi Arabia? OK, that's sort of a redundant question, but the issue has gone well past those fearful of terrorism in some ambiguous, nebulous sense to the United States State Department telling Americans to get the hell out. Now, this is going to be bad for the price of oil. Looks like those $35/bbl prices predicted only a couple weeks ago aren't quite going to be realized. But the message is clear: the safety of American workers is more important than the price of oil. Be sure to remember that the next time you hear some screeching moonbat yelling "No blood for oil!"

But how did all this get started? Why are we in this position in the first place? William Dalrymple has the straightforward (and painfully obvious) answer to that question: Saudi Arabia created the very monster now devouring it.

So now the picture is complete. As such, allow me to redraw it for you in a relatively novel way. The next four paragraphs are from the four articles linked above in reverse order of linkage.
Yet if more of the Muslim world is now open to a newly intolerant and violent strain of Islam, no force has been more responsible than Saudi Arabia. Ever since the 1930s, the Saudis have promoted Wahhabism, the most severe incarnation of Islam. After the oil boom of the early 1970s this became a fundamental tenet of Saudi foreign policy, and a sizeable slice of the country's vast oil revenues has been devoted to promoting Wahhabism at the expense of more tolerant forms of Islam. The Saudis have provoked a clash of civilisations, not so much between east and west as within Islam itself.

Referring to U.S. workers in Saudi Arabia, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We first and foremost have a responsibility to Americans. We need to give them our best advice on how to handle any particular situation overseas."

There are even unconfirmed reports in the government-guided Saudi media of mass resignations from the state-owned energy giant Saudi Aramco, where Americans make up the bulk of the more than 10,000 Westerners whose expertise the kingdom still largely relies on to run its most vital economic sector.

"The bombings and killings have revolted people and hurt individuals and their property, and no one with the slightest knowledge of Islam can doubt that this is an atrocious crime and grave sin," they said in a statement carried by Saudi media.
The situation today stands at a critical juncture, but this did not happen overnight. This did not happen because of the invasion of Iraq. This did not happen because of September 11, 2001. The roots of this development can be traced as far back as World War I, and the roots took a firm hold during the immediate post-colonial period. Once oil came to the region, so too came the money, and now we shall all reap the whirlwind.

Update: Joined Beltway Traffic Jam

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