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QandO has moved. Please update your blogrolls and bookmarks accordingly.

The new address is: www.QandO.net - click there to be taken to the new blog.

The first post there has a bit of an explanation, but I'll mention it here, too. I've picked up a co-blogger - McQ - one of the most interesting, intelligent fellows I've had the good fortune to meet. I suspect you will enjoy his contributions a great deal.

At any rate, join us over at www.QandO.net from now on.
....and if you have a blog, we certainly would appreciate any publicity you could give our move.

***End Blogspot Transmission***


Dean for America? 

Heh. Just go here.

Says the Dean campaign: "D'oh!"


You know, with so little on which the left, right and libertarian sides of the blogosphere can agree, it's nice that we have one thing. One little thing on which we seem pretty bipartisan.

Maureen Dowd sucks.

Yep, from Calpundit to Instapundit - from Pejmanesque to Pandagon - from Atrios to Oxblog.....we all agree - Maureen Dowd sucks.



Howard Dean.....'s wife 

Is there anything lamer than the ongoing fascination with the fact that Howard Deans wife has continued her work while her husband is campaigning? What are we supposed to glean from these stories? Their marriage is in trouble? She doesn't care about politics? She doesn't think he can win? She's stage shy? Or - and bear with me here, it's a stretch - maybe she would no more trail Howard around Iowa all month than she would have him trail her through her office all day. She's got a life, and all.

And shouldn't we be glad at the prospect of a Democratic Presidential candidate whose wife is not angling for a raft of her own policies? (read: Hillary and Tipper)

Again: Not about oil.  

At the risk of mixing my metaphors, let's drive a stake into a dead horse.....
Australia's Worley Group Ltd. (WOR.AU) said Monday that a joint venture in which it has a 35% stake has been awarded a contract worth up to US$800 million to restore Iraq oil infrastructure.
This replaces the Halliburton contract.


I am skeptical that this will turn into anything - it's just too unusual, too convenient - but this yellowcake story is interesting.....(thanks to Steverino for the heads-up)
The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed Friday that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.
The story is interesting, because one wonders how and why a bit of radioactive material would make its way into a heap of scrap metal. Onthe other hand, as much looting as occurred at locked down nuclear storage areas, it's entirely possible that radioactive material got out and eventually mixed in with scrap metals.

However, I doubt this has much to do with the infamous "sought uranium in Africa" comment. According to the CIA, Iraq was already in possession of around 550 metric tons of raw uranium.

Interesting story, but the small amount of the material and relatively large amounts of it in Iraq lead me to be skeptical that this has any larger meaning.

Blog Note 

Sorry about the light posting recently. I've been very busy, though, and some big changes are in order. In due time, QandO will be switching to its own domain and I'll be adding a co-blogger - one you will enjoy a great deal, I'd wager.

In the meantime, I'm still trying to figure out how to import these blogspot files over to the new domain in the MovableType editor.....without bugging my more tech-savvy friends too much. They've already done a lot, and I'm grateful.

For that matter, I'm also grateful to you readers, who make it worthwhile to invest the time, money and energy into a new site.
Details as soon as possible. Promise.

Losing their bet 

Stephen Blank writes that we're winning the War on Terror - and yes, the Iraq war is helping.....
Even if there has never been any connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden placed a strong wager in terms of resources and men on Iraq, and he appears to be in great danger of losing his bet.

The tape bin Laden released early this month indicates his sense of gloom and of failure that the Arab states remain in power and have not actively resisted the Americans. In fact the exact opposite has happened, particularly once Saddam was captured. Libya has not only announced the termination of its nuclear and other programs for weapons of mass destruction, Muammar Gaddafi has also invited foreign inspectors into Libya and has now publicly put out feelers to Israel. Egypt has tried to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians - and has duly become the latest recipient of the Palestinians' usual gratitude for such endeavors, so it is unlikely to persist very strongly in its efforts. But it is likely that its ties to Israel will improve, even if only slightly. And in any case Hosni Mubarak, not the Muslim Brotherhood, still reigns.

Syria not only improved ties with India - for bin Laden a leading enemy of Islam - it has also found reason to make similar gestures to Turkey, another of bin Laden's betes noirs and principal targets. Clearly it too feels the US heat and pressure as more and more revelations of its duplicity and conniving with Iraq to evade sanctions become clear. The United Kingdom and the US have both told President Basher al-Assad that he too must give up his weapons of mass destruction at once and do so unconditionally without any regard for Israel's supposed possession of such weapons. Iran too has announced its willingness to have inspections and apparently to make a rapprochement with the US and Europe. And we should probably assume that those elements of al-Qaeda who have found a refuge in Iran are first of all under very tight wraps and, second, probably can sense the ground shifting beneath their feet.
As Blank points out, terrorist actions in Pakistan are having the opposite of their intended effect, as well. They're actually forcing Musharraf to conclude that terrorism must be fought, rather than India.

And what is Bin Laden's response? Some grand strategic move? Not really. "Blow stuff up". That's pretty much the extent of it. If that was achieving results, I'd be worried. As it stands, it seems to do nothing but create more enemies for Al Qaeda.

Let's remember one reason this is happening, though. Bush has shifted the battleground to the Middle East, rather than fighting it domestically and in the halls of the United Nations. The NIMBY principle applies to the Middle Eastern theocrats and tyrannies, as well. Not even a dictator wants a war in his backyard. We've given them a choice, and made it fairly clear. "Pick a side....and, by the way, we're much stronger".

If it weren't for difficult decisions, everybody would like him.... 

Robert Prather discusses the reasons Bush generates so much anger....
I don't understand the hatred that President Bush faces, but it's there and it's real. My own theory is that he has done a lot in his term and making big changes creates enemies.
Imagine the backflips Republicans would have done, had Clinton actually done something, rather than simply engage in a series of compromises with the Republicans. Actually, that might have been the best thing for the Democratic party, as about 50% of the Republican Party would have experienced Spontaneous Political Combustion...just burst right into flames.

You remember what happened when he actually did send a few missiles towards Bin Laden? He was accused of "wagging the dog". Now, he's accused of not attacking Bin Laden enough. (Note: I don't want to get into a discussion of what else he could - or could not - have done. Just making the point that criticism was rampant for even his relatively small moves)

So Bush is suffering the consequences of big and bold decisions.

Clinton pissed the Republicans off when he did something they disliked, but he really pissed them off when he did something they liked. Prather notes that Bush seems to have learned from this....

Not many Presidents do that much in eight years, much less in four. He apparently learned from Clinton -- who learned from Nixon -- about co-opting the other side's issues. Medicare and the education bill are two examples.
Unfortunately, as Clinton and Nixon learned, that's a recipe for hanging onto power for a bit. It's not much of a recipe for advancing your core interests, except in very narrow areas.

Prather makes on last important point.

If a Democrat wins, the Republicans will likely start to act like Republicans again and rein in the growth of government. That's the only upside to a potential win by the Democrats. The biggest downside is that the next President will likely fill as many as four SCOTUS vacancies.
Ouch. I neaarly forgot how important this Presidential election is. Add the potential SCOTUS vacancies to the continuation of the war on terror and this could be a defining election. Legislation may not be going the way of conservatives and libertarians, but it might really hurt our long term interests to abdicate our strong position in the war on terror, AND lose ground in the Supreme Court.

What he said.... 

Couple of items I've been pondering lately, but they haven't congealed enough to justify their own posts. Well, John Cole said them for me, so I'll just pass along his "Things That Piss Me off".....
The fact that Al Gore gave a speech on Global Warming on a very cold day. The speech was demagogic and stupid- but what does that have to do with seasonal cold weather?
Yep. Especially since the global warming contentions actually do account for temperature swings. Mind you, I'm not getting onboard his train, but I think that particular criticism is heavy on humor but light on substance.
People cheering the arrival at court of an accused child molester.
Seriously, even if you think he's probably innocent, what the hell? At least have the basic decency not to cheer a guy on trial for buggering kids. You know. Just in case.



Shorter Paul Krugman:

* We're going negative, and it's ok!

* Bush plans to go positive, and that's wrong!

* Appearance critiques are bad - "...what I dread most...is the return of reporting about the political significance of John Kerry's hair."

* ...unless I can get a good line out of it - "Money-saving suggestion: let's cut directly to the scene where Mr. Bush dresses up as an astronaut, and skip the rest of his expensive, pointless — but optimistic! — Moon-base program"

* Democrats aren't getting as much money as Bush because their donors are scared of Republicans. (Except, according to Opensecrets.org, the contributions to the Democratic candidates actually exceeds that given to Bush by about $10 million)

* The Bush administration is mean as demonstrated by "The bogus security investigation over Ron Suskind's 'The Price of Loyalty,'" - a security investigation about which O'Neill said "If I were secretary of the Treasury I would have done the same." Bastards!

* Paul O'Neill is a coward -"In the case of Paul O'Neill, alas, the intimidation seems to be working" - but when I criticize his character, that's not at all like when the Bush administration "officials have attacked Mr. O'Neill's character".

* To clarify, Paul O'Neill said what I thought he said, not what he said that he said. He's obviously an unreliable witness. Now, anyway.

* The allegations that Democrats have been throwing at each other is evidence of....(wait for it).....a Republican bias in the media! If things were really fair, the media wouldn't be paying attention to what the candidates are saying about each other.

* Here's how to guage my definition of "moderate" - "...all of the [democratic] candidates are actually quite moderate" - Apparently, Kucinich is either a moderate....or not a candidate.

UPDATE: The Belgravia Dispatch takes a good look at Krugman, too. Then scroll down for more good stuff.


The rationalization, my friend, is blowing in the wind..... 

Great news for Howard Dean and Wesley Clark! Words no longer mean things!

At least, that's what Josh Marshall says, as he dismisses the Howard Dean "unilateralism" gaffe by calling it "more silly word-game gotcha. Nothing more than that". Whew! Thank goodness....I thought Howard Dean was going to be subject to the same standard that Marshall applies to Bush. Fortunately, Marshall has more integrity than that!

And the Wesley Clark address to Congress report? Marshall claims that it's "highly cherry-picked clips"....whereupon Marshall proceeds to cherry-pick some clips (nothing wrong with that...unless you just criticized it) which don't actually contradict the pieces Drudge reported. So, you see, he never really said it! It's just an illusion. Like Maureen Dowds ellipsis scandal....except, without leaving out any actual context.

So, don't worry about it. Move on. Nothing to see here. Words don't mean things anymore. We'll print up a memo and distribute it as soon as possible.

The market moves as the market will..... 

HobbsOnline has a good post on the economy....
The Labor Department says today that jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level since February 2001 in a better-than-expected report on the labor market. The decline in initial claims and the drop in the number of people collecting unemployment insurance are two solid indicators of a strengthening labor market and economy.

Reuters says the "unexpectedly upbeat claims numbers" follow disappointing data on new-job creation released last week in which non-farm payrolls for December rose just 1,000. I'd say that's more evidence the December jobs numbers are likely to be revised sharply upward.
I'd remind you, again, that no recession in decades (or anytime, that I know of) has seen unemployment fall below 6% in so short a time. Hiring is not rebounding sharply for three reasons:
1: Unemployment didn't get very high - thus, not far to rebound.
2: A lot of the jobs that were lost were "bubble jobs" in the first place.
3: Technology driven productivity gains made it easier to take up the work slack without hiring more people.

At any rate, Bill Hobbs cites "economic commentator - and self-identified Democrat - James Cramer, co host of CNBC’s Kudlow & Cramer"

With stocks at two-year highs and interest rates, as represented by the 10-year treasury, hovering near all-time lows, I can't help reach a different conclusion from Mr. Bush's critics: The economic policies pursued by this president have been a stunning empirical success.
Of course, we don't yet have job growth. However, economic recoveries don't traditionally produce job growth until one year after interest rates bottom. That means March of 2004. From my perch, discussing hiring plans with dozens of companies in industries as varied as smokestackers, financials and tech, we're right on schedule for robust job creation.
Economic Chicken-Little-ing aside, the economy is doing just fine. And the next few years are going to be very good. Want more evidence of that? How about this....where does business put its money when they're looking for a boom? Advertising.
U.S. advertising spending is expected to rise 7.8 percent this year to $138.4 billion, helped by political and Olympic advertising, as well as general economic improvement, market research firm TNS Media Intelligence/CMR said on Thursday.
That's putting your money where your mouth is.

Kennedy - a retrospective 

Ted Kennedy, 2004
"The administration capitalized on the fear created by 9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy."
Ted Kennedy, 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."

Clark bombs away.... 

Well, this should just about end the Wesley Clark campaign. In the London Times, Clark wrote....
"President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt," Clark wrote on April 10, 2003. "Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back. Statues and images of Saddam are smashed and defiled."[emphasis added]
If that's not enough, add this congressional testimony....
"There's no requirement to have any doctrine here. I mean this is simply a longstanding right of the United States and other nations to take the actions they deem necessary in their self defense," Clark told Congress on September 26, 2002.

"Every president has deployed forces as necessary to take action. He's done so without multilateral support if necessary. He's done so in advance of conflict if necessary. In my experience, I was the commander of the European forces in NATO. When we took action in Kosovo, we did not have United Nations approval to do this and we did so in a way that was designed to preempt Serb ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization there. There were some people who didn' t agree with that decision. The United Nations was not able to agree to support it with a resolution."

Clark continued: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat... Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He's had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001... He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we."

More Clark: "And, I want to underscore that I think the United States should not categorize this action as preemptive. Preemptive and that doctrine has nothing whatsoever to do with this problem. As Richard Perle so eloquently pointed out, this is a problem that's longstanding. It's been a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this."

Clark explained: "I think there's no question that, even though we may not have the evidence as Richard [Perle] says, that there have been such contacts [between Iraq and al Qaeda]. It' s normal. It's natural. These are a lot of bad actors in the same region together. They are going to bump into each other. They are going to exchange information. They're going to feel each other out and see whether there are opportunities to cooperate. That's inevitable in this region, and I think it's clear that regardless of whether or not such evidence is produced of these connections that Saddam Hussein is a threat."[emphasis added]
The problem for Clark is not the positions...they're very defensible. The problem is the total dichotemy of his former position with his current position. He's going to lose any chance he had with the antiwar crowd, and everybody else is going to question either his integrity or his memory.

I thought Clark was really beginning to make this a two man race, but I may have to re-evaluate this. He's shot himself in the foot. Hard.

UPDATE: Pandagon says Clark didn't really say that and points to a text of his speech. Interesting. Except, uh, Clark still appears to be saying it.
The critical issue facing the United States now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaeda or efforts to deal with other immediate, mid and long-term security problems.
His contention is not that we don't need to deal with Iraq militarily....just that we need to vette the UN thing, and if they won't act, then we should build as much of a coalition as possible to attack - and we need to do that without diverting from Al Qaeda. Well, that's what Bush did. He took it to the UN, got a resolution, and gave them a chance to enforce the language of the resolution. Then, when Veto-wielding members of the UNSC made it clear that there was no way they'd allow any resolution that would lead to war - thus fulfilling Clarks caveat that a Congressional resolution should only allow US action "if the United Nations will not" - Bush built a coalition and did the deed.

I'm sure I remember Bush doing something like that. I could have sworn.
But Wesley Clark said he did not, and Wesley Clark is an honorable man.

Read the whole thing. I get the same impression from Clarks statement that I got from Drudge's report - he's for it, so long as we do due dilligence on the diplomacy front.

Yep, "Clark for President" is history.

UPDATE: Instapundit suggests Tom Maguire is saying that it "isn't quite the same when you read the whole thing". Except, in the comments, Tom pretty much agrees with the point I've made above. Clark, for all intents and purposes, made a case for the war, provided we'd given the UN a shot first.

I didn't know he had it in him... 

After this, it may be hard for Gephardt to endorse any potential Dean ticket....
Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt on Wednesday called chief rival Howard Dean a "fair-weather friend of the American worker" whose words can't be trusted and motives must be questioned.
Ouch. Who needs Karl Rove? The Republicans are getting all the campaign material they need from the Democratic Primaries - just roll tape. Money quote from the Dean campaign...
"Howard Dean travels the country and yells and pounds the podium against NAFTA, against the secrecy of the Bush-Cheney White House, and against insider corporate deals," he said. "This is the same Howard Dean who said he 'strongly supported NAFTA,' who won't release his records as governor, and who wanted Vermont to 'overtake Bermuda' as a tax haven for companies like Enron."
Intellectual honesty check for both sides: Can you criticize your candidate for doing exactly that which you criticize in another candidate? You'd better.

Finally, Gephardt makes what I think is a very fair point....

"I've come to realize that Howard Dean isn't shooting from the hip. That's just making excuses for him," Gephardt said. "Howard Dean knows exactly what he's saying when he says it. And if you think he's contradicting himself, well, as far as he's concerned, that's your problem and not his. Democrats deserve a lot better."

Gah! I hate doing this.... 

...but I have to agree with Atrios....
"...for media types who are getting all touchy about Hitler comparisons, may I suggest clicking on this link.

I could spend all day finding bloggers who are all "upset" about Move On, and who have been motivated to call ADL over it, and who regularly use the word 'Hitlery'.

Rush Limbaugh regularly calls her 'Hitlery.'

Neil Boortz regularly calls her 'Hitlery'."
He also cites a bit of hypocrisy on the part of Dennis Miller, who is currently decrying "Hitler/Nazi comparison".....even though he's made them. If he's simply seen the error of his ways - good. I hope everybody comes to that conclusion, eventually. In the meantime, I've little respect for Limbaugh and those who go into high dudgeon at the Moveon.org antics, while forgetting their own.

There are valid comparisons to be made similarities between various authoritarians, but calling your opponents "Hitler" just demeans those comparisons, as well as the victims of the actual "Hitler".

Friedman: relevant as always 

As a nice counterpoint to the irrelevant Maureed Dowd, Thomas Friedman provides a concise and cogent view of the Iraqi democracy issue.....
You don't want to miss this show. This is pay-per-view history. If, somehow, Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis, Turkmen, Christians, Assyrians and Shiites find a way to embrace pluralism, it will be a huge boost to moderates in the war of ideas all across the Muslim world. Those who scoff at the idea of a democratic domino theory in the Arab world don't know what they're talking about. But those who think this is a done deal don't know Iraq.

If Iraq is going to be made to work as a decent, pluralistic, self-governing entity, noted the Iraq expert Amatzia Baram of the United States Institute of Peace, all the key factions there will have to accept being "reasonably unhappy." All will have to settle for their second-best dream in order to avoid their first-class nightmare: chaos or a return to tyranny.
The beauty of the limited central government federal system - each faction can control their own piece of the pie; the omni-present problem of ambition will be thwarted by ambition.

And Friedman is right about the possibility of a domino effect in the Arab (and Persian) world. It remains the best - if largely unsaid - reason for the Iraq war: we had to start somewhere.

For a person who writes a lot, Dowd doesn't say very much. 

Further evidence of how irrelevant an editorialist she is, even when I sort of agree with Maureen Dowd, I find her unconvincing. Today, she writes on marriages....
Not satisfied with colonizing the Moon, scouting for Martians and civilizing Iraq, President Bush is lavishing more gazillions on another audaciously quixotic plan.

He wants to become the national yenta.

As Robert Pear and David Kirkpatrick wrote in The Times, administration officials are planning an extensive election-year initiative to please conservatives in a swivet over gay marriage; their social engineering scheme will try to shore up traditional marriage, offering training to couples in the interpersonal skills needed to achieve and sustain "healthy marriages."
Great. Social engineering. Because the government is sooo good at that sort of thing. (Dowd note: enjoy the irony of a liberal complaining about "social engineering") Hey, since "financial problems" are one of the leading causes of marital conflict, wouldn't it be just as effective to simply divide up that $1.5b among those married people? Or, better yet, not take it from us in the first place?

At any rate, so far Dowd and I are in agreement....but that doesn't last long.

Before Mr. Bush ventures into the inner cities to practice his conjugal noblesse oblige, perhaps he should beeline to a more rural spot — a split-level ranch house with green shag carpeting and Grateful Dead albums in Burlington, Vt.

The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness and building a healthy political marriage, if that's not an oxymoron.
From a fair, if insubstantial, criticism of Bush's marriage proposal, she turns to this? A claim that Howard Dean has marriage trouble, because his wife is not campaigning with him? Good lord.

You know, my wife doesn't come to work with me, either. Should we get counseling about that?

At the end of the column, I'm left with nothing so much as the impression that Maureen Dowd thinks a woman must "stand by her man" on the political trail. So much for the modern liberated woman.

O'Neill - a few (more) thoughts 

NPR had a fascinating interview with Paul O'Neill and Ron Suskind yesterday. Wish I had a link for you, but I can find none. A few things struck me, though....

* O'Neill was a very thoughtful, considered speaker. He didn't make rash comments, and didn't take the bait repeatedly offered him. Odd, because his tenure as Treasury Secretary was marked by exactly that - "verbal gaffes and impolitic comments".

* My GOD is NPR liberal. EVERY single question asked of O'Neill was a "gotcha" question about Bush. No objective questions...just an attempt to find a scandal. In fact, at one point, the interviewer even rephrased his comments in such a way that it would be a direct criticism of Bush, then asked if that's what he really meant - O'Neill declined to go along. To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock...."it's like a liberal FoxNews with the tubes burned out".

* I don't see O'Neill's comments as "sour grapes" now that he's clarified them. His criticisms seem fair, whether one agrees with them or not. Some of the statements that Bush's critics leapt upon immediately are actually turning out to be near-vindications of Bush - turns out, he didn't "plan the war in advance", he just continued Clinton-era policies. Etc.

* Ron Suskind was brown-nosing. Hard. It was a bit uncomfortable listening to a guy suck up that much.

* Some of his fiscal/tax comments seem reasonable to me. He supported the first tax cut, but not the last. He indicated that he believed there were more important structural problems that needed to be dealt with first....specifically, reforming Social Security. I can agree with that. In fact, if I had to pick between reforming/partially privatizing Social Security or the last tax cut, I suspect I may have been drawn to the reform. Unless expenditures are cut, it's mostly a tax shift and not a true tax cut.

* His interview with Katie Couric was very revealing, as well. Excerpts, courtesy of The Corner....

"The truth is I didn't take any documents at all".
This statement and his explanation strike me as true. I very seriously doubt there's any wrong-doing...but, as he says, a normal investigation is appropriate.
"...this red meat frenzy that's occurred when people didn't have anything except snippets -- as an example, you know, people are trying to make a case that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually, there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be regime change in Iraq."
Clark claimed in a campaign press release that this "confirmed" his worst suspicions. Now, O'Neill points out that it doesn't mean what Clark assumed it meant, saying "I'm amazed that anyone would think that our government, on a continuing basis across political administrations, doesn't do contingency planning and look at circumstances"

Clark has not issued a press release on that, yet.

Then there's this very important statement - something that should be read by every voter in America.....

Now, are people going to keep bashing each other for the unemployment rate is too high? Yes. The truth of the matter is, government on a long-term basis can fix the conditions that affect the level of employment, but the truth of the matter is no politician, I don't care who they are, they cannot make a difference in short-term employment rates because it's a complicated consequence of what's going on in the whole world economy, not some politician standing up saying, you know, "We're going to have more jobs." That's all garbage.
Amen to that, brother. My impression of O'Neill has improved after listening to him explain his comments in context.

Braun pulls even farther out of the race 

Not that she was really in the race, but she's officially not in the race now...
Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun is ending her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Fox News has confirmed. Campaign officials for Howard Dean told Fox News she intends to endorse the former Vermont governor.
So, which gig do you think she's angling for in a Dean Administration?

Non-story of the year 

Well, if there's ever been a non-scandal, this is it......
In his presidential campaign, and as governor of Vermont before that, Howard Dean has taken a tough, zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence, accusing the Bush administration of not being committed to the issue. Yet Dean said he had no idea that one of the men closest to him was repeatedly abusing his wife.
On May 23, 1997, Dean inserted himself in the case, filing a three-page affidavit at White's request for use in a custody hearing, in which he described Madore as "a firm but gentle disciplinarian" and a "wonderful parent."
What's the story here? That Howard Dean had an associate who was not very open about his abusiveness? Who doesn't?

One might question the wisdom of filing an affadavit about the private life of a man when you know very little about his private life - beyond that, this just strikes me as the most piffling bit of tabloid "journalism" I've seen this year.

Mars attack.... 

I remain unsure of Bush's proposed Lunar base and mission to Mars, as I just don't believe the government has a role in doing "neat stuff" when it could be done by the market...if the market (you, me, all of us) even wants it done.

Having said that, though, I do have to mention the one justification for this project that I could support. You been paying attention to the Chinese space program?

On Oct. 15, Colonel Yang Liwei orbited Earth several times in a modified Russian capsule before landing safely inside China's borders. The mission catapulted China onto the short list of countries, Russia and the United States, with manned space-flight programs.

Beijing envisions plans for a space station and a lunar base. China has also announced a second human mission by 2005.

China regards its space program as a matter of prestige -- though there are military purposes, particularly with intelligence-gathering satellites.
It would be rather short-sighted of us to win the war on terrorism, but lose the space race. After all, the earth is at the bottom of a huge gravity well, and control of the moon could have significant long term military implications. I don't think it's particularly good policy to trust in the good intentions or bad technology of the Chinese government.

Is that the real reason for the Moon/Mars mission? I don't know. If it is, though, it would make for a different argument.



Otto Von Bismarck once said "Those who love sausage and the law should never watch either being
." Now, we get both....

Former President Jimmy Carter will offer support for Democratic White House hopeful Howard Dean in a joint appearance in Georgia on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, campaign aides said on Tuesday.
Jimmy and Dean. Jimmy Dean. "Elections never sounded so good".

Blog Rolling 

Bad. Nationwide.

* Econopundit cites powerful econometric evidence that the tax cut actually created 1 million more "unemployed" people....by encouraging 1 million more people to join the labor force.

It's hard to dislike a tax cut that makes Americans want to work harder.

* Captain Ed calls the Moveon.org awards show a "vulgarian's delight". I'm less concerned with the fact that there's invective - hey, it is politics - and more concerned with the impression that the invective seems to be crowding out any rational discussion of the issues. The roar of idiotarians is drowing out the discourse of the intelligentsia.

* If your blog was graded, would you pass? That day may come soon, according to Tyler Cowen. (which makes me wish I could go to George Mason U - uh, after I learned to write like I know what I'm talking about)

* Via Right-Thinking - this is exactly why it's a bad idea to F* with US troops. In graphic detail.

* Jesse Taylor manages to suggest that, since Larry Lindsey has been honest and disagreed with the Bush administration before, he's untrustworthy when he agrees with the Bush administration now. Got it? Course, just yesterday, they were calling that sort of personal criticism "character assassination".

* Baby pictures! Marc is having a boy! (unless it's a girl) Either way, congratulations. You'll be amazed, when you're not exhausted.

* Galen also has a picture of his new baby - uh, followed by a discussion of spam that I never want to read in a post about babies. "Penis enlargement spam"? New post, bro. Some separation.

...the baby is beautiful, though. He's also got a good post about Hillary Clintons new health care proposal - and in case you didn't catch it the last time I mentioned it, he's a doctor so his insight is credible.

* Professor Bainbridge on Howard Dean's "Daddy Issues" - not that Howard Dean really has them, but if Dean wants to pull that rhetoric out for his duel with President Bush, then he's picked his weapons.


Bet this won't get the play O'Neill's first comment got.....
Retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he saw nothing to indicate the United States was close to attacking Iraq early in Bush's term.

Shelton, who retired shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said the brass reviewed "on the shelf" plans to respond to crises with the incoming Bush administration.

But in the administration's first six months, "I saw nothing that would lead me to believe that we were any closer to attacking Iraq than we had been during the previous administration," Shelton told CNN.
How many times does this Bush statement need repeated: "Nine-eleven changed my calculation. It made it really clear we have to deal with threats before they come on our shore."

Another thing for Dean to explain 

In retrospect, Howard Dean probably shouldn't have been so wordy in the 1990s. In a 1995 letter to President Clinton.....
Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action. While I completely agree with you that no ground troops should be committed for other than humanitarian purposes in Bosnia, I would ask that you take the following steps in Bosnia. First, lift the arms embargo as it applies to the Bosnian government. Second, enforce a full embargo of the sort that is now in effect in Iraq on the Bosnian Serbs and upon Yugoslavia. Third, break off diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. Fourth, commit American air power to support the Bosnian government until the situation is stabilized and the civilian murders and atrocities by the Bosnian Serbs have been stopped.

I understand the risks of this policy and their implications for the NATO Alliance and the future success of the United Nations. Surely, however, as you watch and read about the huge amount of unwarranted human suffering, particularly of children, you would agree that our current course must now be changed.

I urge you to make these changes as soon as possible, and I look forward to supporting your policy fully to the best of my ability.
So, to review:

* 1995 - Unilateral action: OK
* 2003 - Unilateral action: NOT OK

* 1998 - Multilateral action: "Impossible"
* 2003 - Multilateral action: Described himself as a "multilateralist", and called today's unilateralism "radical".

* 2002 - Attacking Iraq - "Regrettable, but unavoidable, choice"
* 2003 - Attacking Iraq - "Mistake" - Unjustified.

Got that?

Time to re-evaluate.... 

Applying the hindsight to Josh Marshall......
Oh, they can do better than that, can't they?
CNN's headline story on the O'Neill story reads: "Cabinet members defend Bush from O'Neill"

And then, when you click through, it turns out the cabinet members are Don Evans (the president's Texas crony and political fixer) and John Snow (O'Neill's tepidly respected successor at Treasury).

None of the bigs? That's all? No Colin? We're Rummyless?
Yeah, they can do better than that, Josh. Wonder if you'll mention this?
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that his experience in the Bush administration is "night and day" different from the one described in a new book former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill helped to inform.

"What I've been reading about the book is so different from my experience in this administration. It's just dramatic. It's night and day," Rumsfeld said. "The perspective I have of this president, whom I have enormous respect for — his brain, his engagement, his interest, his probing questions, his constructive positive approach to issues — I see every day a totally different picture than the one being characterized in the press."
Finally, Josh asserts that the White House has "pilloried Paul O’Neill as a sorry doofus and, by all appearances, launched a punitive investigation against him. How about denying any of his claims or those in Suskind’s book?"

Meanwhile, after O'Neill concedes that the investigation is something he'd have done himself and denies the way his book's claims have been portrayed - after all that - Josh seems to have missed it trumpeting that "even now he's not taking it all back! I think what we've got here is a little rope-a-dope. O'Neill needs to give them a little..."

Uh huh. So, he was being totally honest and the White House was being vicious....until the story didn't match your talking points. Then, he's succumbing to the White House pressure....uh, the kind that he said was reasonable.

Sounds like Josh already had his story written - new facts just get in the way.


Darren Kaplan does an admirable job dealing with the myth that the US created Saddam Hussein. Apparently, people seem to confuse "deal with" and "create".

Reminds me - I still need to do a big post debunking the myth that we gave Saddam permission to invade Kuwait. That's been around far too long.


Him again.... 

Anybody else notice that O'Neill was called a "straight-shooter", an honest person, somebody who would not be forced to lie as soon as he came out with his allegations?

Anybody notice that ever since he's begun defending the President, the word has been "somebody must have gotten to him"?

He's still the same guy....what happened?

It burns, it burns, aaaaah it burns...... 

I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue.....
The ACLU asked permission of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach to file a "friend-of-the-court" brief in Limbaugh's appeal of a judge's order giving prosecutors permission to review the medical records.
Oh, my head....it hurts. Must. Not. Die. From. The. Irony.

Wait. Step back. Clear head. Ahhh...that's better. Life is normal again.

Ahhhh! Joe Conason has written an article!

When President Bush inspires us onward and upward to Mars this week, his political calculations may be more earthly. Expanding space exploration is a wonderful aspiration for America and humanity -- and also quite promising for the Houston economy, the national aerospace industry, and one company in particular that has long pondered exploration of the red planet: Halliburton.
(head explodes)

The Corner 

A bit back, I'd noted that National Review's The Corner had become "like standing around the water cooler at the AMWAY office. If they're not boring you, they're trying to sell you something." Well, that seemed to change shortly after. They got back to news and issue discussion, and The Corner became more interesting. (Perhaps it had something to do with the holiday season passing by? Perhaps)

Ever since Bush announced his immigration plan, though, it's gotten somewhat....eh, angry over there. Sort of suprising to see that level of vitriol for a Republican President - even for each other - coming out of National Review. Earlier, Jonathan Adler wrote in support of free trade in labor (immigration), but admitted the position was not "politically popular". Derbyshire responded, writing....

I am sorry, Jonathan, but as an old Monty Python fan from way back, I see the figure of John Cleese in that sketch where he lays out his proposal to bomb the houses of the working class so that they can be driven out into the streets to be machine-gunned. He concludes: "I realise that this is not a popular position, but I have never courted popularity."

I no longer have any sympathy with your befuddlement, though, as our difference of opinion now seems perfectly clear to me. You are an open-borders guy, and I'm not. You favor free trade in labor, and I don't.
I think I understand why Andrew Sullivan finds Derbyshire so....distasteful. I disagree with him more often than any other NReview contributor, and I find his arguments less moving....now, I find him a bit insulting, as well.

And since I'm on the topic...is it just me, or has The National Review been a bit weak? Since subscribing, I've found some very trenchant articles...but far too often, they are surrounded by weakly argued social arguments (see: homosexual issues, church/state issues), simplistic economic arguments, and emotional appeals. Not to mention their nearly unhinged dislike for Clinton. (hey guys...he ended up being a moderate - relax)

So, why do I subscribe? Well, they do have some good articles. If you have suggestions for other good policy magazines, I'd be interested.

Polling data.... 

Since we don't have votes, yet, we may as well take a look at polling data. A poll from Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion indicates this breakdown for New York.....

* Howard Dean - 26% --- up from 18%
* Sen. Joe Lieberman - 12% ---down from 16%
* Gen. Wesley Clark - 10% --- down from 14%
* "None of the other contenders cracked double digits in the new poll. Twenty-six percent of Democrats said they were undecided."

So, while the New York race can still be won with undecided voters, it doesn't look like Lieberman and Clark are getting them. That's not the direction you want your poll data going this late in the game. Of even more concern to the Democrats, though, may be this bit....

The new poll also found that Republican Bush appears to be a viable option for New York voters in a state where Democrats have a 5-3 enrollment advantage over Republicans. Among all registered New York voters sampled, 34 percent said they would definitely vote for the incumbent president in this year's election while 36 percent said they would definitely vote against him. Thirty percent were undecided.

A September poll from the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based institute had found 32 percent of voters planned to vote for Bush and 48 percent planned to vote against him.

The improvement for Bush's standing in New York was also evident in his job approval rating _ 52 percent in the new poll and 44 percent in the September poll.
I'm not sure whether it's suprising that a Republican could possibly carry New York....or not very suprising that New Yorkers are a bit concerned about going with a candidate who is unwilling to be proactive in the war on terror.

It's just one poll, though. Just a data point.

O'Neill breaks the bad news to Bush critics 

After their day-long joygasm over O'Neill's criticisms of the Bush administration, these O'Neill comments may come as a blow.....
"People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."
I wonder whether Paul Krugman will update his claim today to..."They say that the planning for an invasion of Iraq began during the Clinton administration"? I don't really wonder, but it'd be nice.

As O'Neill said what surprised him "was how much priority was given to Iraq by the president". Fair enough - the Treasury Secretary differed with the priority given Iraq. Honest people can disagree. Regarding the WMDs, he says....

"I think the fact that we have not found them makes the point. But that doesn't make the point that we should not have got rid of Saddam Hussein."
Jeez, the guy wasn't even necessarily opposed to getting rid of Saddam. He just differed on the weight of the evidence. Finally, this is very interesting...
Pressed whether he would vote for Bush in the November presidential election, O'Neill said he probably would, but he said the American people needed to demand more of their leaders.
He's probably going to vote for Bush? I guess this means it's ok to investigate him now. Or throw him to the wolves. Whatever the case, he's probably not going to be the Democratic standard bearer they thought he might.

Double standard bearers.... 

Well, I guess I'm not suprised. A brief check around the left side of the blogosphere and I can't find much demand for any investigation of the O'Neill leak.

* Not from Atrios, who shows a picture of Cheney holding a secret document! I guess disclosing that a red folder exists is now the same as turning them over to journalists.

* Josh Marshall calls it a "punitive investigation". You see, he's had a change of heart about possibly releasing classified information. It happened just this week. It's the most amazing thing.

* Pandagon says the White House is "prosecuting O'Neill all over the front pages". Leak investigations should be buried, you see. Funny, they don't agree with the White House reticence on any other leak investigations, but this is different because....well, it just is.

* Kevin Drum makes a more interesting point - that the documents "had already been released six months previously". It may well exhonerate O'Neill, and I'm prepared to learn that it does....but it's a bit disingenuous of Drum to imply that an investigation amounts to a "vindictive" attack. After all, it was labeled "Secret" and...well, gosh, that seems like the sort of thing we should check out. It might be a hint.

Anyway, I was under the distinct impression that Drum was in favor of these investigations? In fact, he argues that " I guess you never know, but usually people who leak classified documents do it secretly, not in a blaze of nationwide publicity...."

That's a very good point. I wonder why that only applies to O'Neill, though and not to whoever outted Valerie Plame to a national journalist?

Sure, there may well be a perfectly innocent explanation, and I'm prepared to accept that there was no wrongdoing......but, I don't think it's much of a credit to the left side of the blogosphere that they are so quick to denounce investigations all of the sudden. A little consistency, guys. If you think it's inconsistent for the Bush administration to hold different standards for different investigations, then DON'T DO THE SAME DAMNED THING!

"I doubt there's any illegal activity, but there should be an investigation."
- Try it, guys. It won't hurt.

The Iraqi adolescence.. 

Steven Metz makes an interesting argument in the Washington Post yesterday....
From childhood, Americans are taught the importance of compromise and consensus, of "playing by the rules" and of individual initiative. These are traits that form the foundation of our political and economic system.

Iraqis at this time do not have these basic traits and ideals. To survive in a repressive, pathological system, they've developed a very different set of behaviors, attitudes, values and perceptions, all of which are unsuited to open government and to success in a globalized economy. This is a serious problem.

Although the United States and its coalition partners are working hard to help Iraq build the structures of democracy, the qualities necessary to sustain open government and economic success won't take root for years. That means that whatever government and constitution emerge in Iraq during the coming year will be badly flawed. Even a talented and energetic people cannot emerge from the darkness of totalitarianism overnight. To ensure success in Iraq, the United States needs to think in terms of multiple generations and decades of sustained effort.
Metz goes on to list a series of high-minded and abstract goals - ways in which the US can foster the sort of mindset among the Iraqis that would be conducive to a functioning democracy. Noble and perhaps productive goals, but I think he's shooting too far, too early.

The Iraqi people had a very different relationship with their government than do people of democratic nations. Moreover, very few of them have ever known any other way. Unlike most European nations, which have had exposure of one degree or another to democracy, Iraq has been under totalitarian rule - with not even a hint of democratic processes - for entire generations. That is exacerbated by the unusually young age of Iraqis. 41% of Iraqis are age 14 or under - contrast that to a mere 21% of the US population age 14 or under. Not only does the current generation not have any direct experience with democracy, they really don't have a connection with a generation that did. Iraq has gone straight from monarchy (1921-58) to military dictatorship (which masqueraded as a "republic" from 1958-68), to the reign of the Ba'ath Party (1968-03).

So, the Iraqi people have gone from the frying pan to the unknown. And while the frying pan may be terrible, the unknown - no matter how much better - is equally frightening for awhile.

Our goals need to be less expansive than those suggested by Metz. Laudable, but there are more practical concerns and more effective ways to give the Iraqi people the time and training they need to assume a democracy. What concerns me are reports like this.....
A fourth day of protests erupted Tuesday in the Shiite south of Iraq over rampant unemployment as demonstrators threw grenades at US-led coalition soldiers in Kut.
Note that it's not the larger problems of democracy that Metz discusses that concern the Iraqi people. Those concerns seem to be the subject of ongoing discussions between the Iraqi governing council, the Coalition Provisional Authority and influential clerics, snd what they're discussing is not the reality of elections, but the timetable. A minor difference, in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, the problems of the Iraqi people are very closely related to the problems among their governing authorities, and we're approaching this from the wrong side.

We are setting up an Iraqi government from the top down, creating a central government to take over authority for every region at once. Well, that's not the way it happened in the United States, so I'm not sure why we think it will be best in Iraq. In the US, we began with smaller, local governments which gradually ceded power to a larger central government. (some would say too much, but that's a discussion for another day)

In short, we got our S*** together before we turned it over to a central government. In Iraq, it's not quite working that way. Despite the fact that basic services - the fundamentals of any organized society - are in terrible shape, there is still widespread unemployment - over 50%, in fact. The result is the "broken window" problem....the appearance of disorder creates the impression of greater disorder, which leads to even more disorder.

Why the disparity? There are basic functions being left undone, yet massive human capital to do these basic functions. Why are we letting that human capital sit idly by, compounding the problem? I simply don't understand the logic. Instead of focusing on the hand-over of central government power, the US needs to focus on building from the bottom up. Hand over cities, then regions and finally the central government....but not until competence has been demonstrated at each of the lower levels of government control.

The Iraqis are still adolescents at this "democracy" thing. Let them walk before they can run. Give them their learners permit before they get the keys to the car.

As with the "Broken Windows" theory, this additional maintenance of local infrastructure may not result in less crime - although I'd argue that it would, since there is a transmission mechanism...a job for the idle hands that had caused problems...a better choice than opposition. What it will do is create the appearance that things are better. When the mail is delivered, the power on, the streets clean....then people will believe that the new government is a net benefit to them.

Starting at the top and working our way down leaves them in the dark - and protesting - until everything gets better all at once. Or doesn't. Starting from the bottom, we can fix the most fundamental problems first, then organize and fix problems as they arise.

And the US should know this, already. It's a central theory to our own form of government.


Free trade 

The Mises Institute is not kind to the recent Schumer/Roberts article "Second Thoughts on Free Trade". Not kind at all. Their conclusion....
The case for free trade remains solid. The citizens of the US are not made richer by raising taxes or other barriers to foreign consumption goods, and this is true whether factors of production are immobile (as Ricardo assumed) or mobile. We should not fear the cost-cutting advancements in data transmission, or the improved skills and education of foreign workers. On the contrary, we should welcome these developments because they mean lower prices for imported goods and services, and hence a higher standard of living for Americans.
It seems pretty axiomatic. Externalities like tariffs reduce the efficiency of a capitalist system. (presumably, in a Communist system, the workers will make as much as the leaders say, or else....no matter what externalities exist)

The people who argue against free trade are not arguing for a "better system for all of us"....they are arguing for a "better scheme for a few".

He was a General before he ran for office, you know. 

Econopundit draws my attention to this bit from Wesley Clark....
"Certainly there's a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda," he said in 2002. "It doesn't surprise me at all that they would be talking to Al Qaeda, that there would be some Al Qaeda there or that Saddam Hussein might even be, you know, discussing gee, I wonder since I don't have any scuds and since the Americans are coming at me, I wonder if I could take advantage of Al Qaeda? How would I do it? Is it worth the risk? What could they do for me?"
Two points:

1: Note his recent disclaimer in which he denies there is any inconsistency, saying "I never thought there would be any evidence linking Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein. Everything I had learned about Saddam Hussein told me that he would be the last person Al Qaeda would trust or that he would trust them."

...but that's precisely the opposite of what he'd said in his first statement. In the 2002 statement, he indicated that Saddam would consider working with Al Qaeda. In fact, that was pretty much the meat of his comment. I don't mind him changing his mind, but this is a bit insulting.

2: Clark actually has a pretty good background source to back up his claim that "Saddam Hussein might even be, you know, discussing gee, I wonder since I don't have any scuds and since the Americans are coming at me, I wonder if I could take advantage of Al Qaeda."

Some years back, an Iraqi fellow said....

If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you.
The speaker - the Iraqi fellow claiming that they could and would attack the US through terrorism - was Saddam Hussein.

So maybe General Clark isn't so wrong after all. Or, rather, wasn't so wrong.

Even more on O'Neill 

Topic du jour in the blogosphere and I have a few more items.

* Note that I first posted this two days ago....

O'Neill says those memo's were labeled "Secret". Yet, he discusses them. Can we expect outrage similar to that expressed by the Democrats when a Republican staffer leaked Democratic memos which were not labeled "Secret"?
Well, the Treasury Department is on it.....
The U.S. Treasury has asked the U.S. inspector general's office to investigate how a possibly classified document appeared on Sunday in a televised interview of ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, a department spokesman said on Monday.
I haven't seen denunciations pouring out of the left side of the blogosphere, yet. Hopefully, they will begin immediately. Fair's fair.

* Powerline Blog has an extremely interesting look at the document O'Neill claimed was evidence of Pentagon pre-9/11 planning for Iraq. Apparently, it was not a pre-war planning document, or a Pentagon document at all. It was a part of the Vice Presidents energy planning project prior to 9/11.

Which sort of puts a dent in O'Neill's credibility. Or his intelligence.

* Here's something that needs to stop. Already this line is being passed around as if it's from the President....

"‘Go find me a way to do this"
...and that's just not the case. Those were not Bush's words....they were O'Neill's impression - words put in Bush's mouth.

I think it's important to differentiate between the two.

* One more point I made recently, but think is worth remaking. Paul O'Neill said "For me, the notion of preemption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap." So, O'Neill finds the notion of pre-emption a "huge leap"....which puts him at ideological odds with Howard Dean, who says "Of course we're going to use our force at our discretion to protect the United States. To say that we've never had a preemption policy would be foolish."

Paul O'Neill is foolish. Howard Dean says so. You read it here.

Opportunity Cost 

Outside of my emotional geek-response, (not a good basis for policy decisions) I've little sympathy for Bush's latest immigration proposal - to Mars. It's expensive, and it doesn't seem to have much point. Once we're there...then what? We'll learn a great deal, sure, but is that really the most cost-efficient way to learn new things?

I'm reminded of the Lewis and Clark expedition - lauded in mythology, but largely a failure. They were sent to find a "direct water communication" to the Pacific - something that didn't exist - in order to expand commercial and political relations with western tribes. No fault of theirs, certainly, but a mission failure, nonetheless. The "Lewis & Clark" legend was really a feature of later generations, as their story went mostly unreported in the decades following their trip. By the time their reports were published, the evidence they contained was well-known to everybody.

Further evidence, if one needs such, that the best laid plans of governments and bureaucrats often go awry. With that in mind, Alex Tabarrok has an interesting idea.....

President Bush reputedly asked his big-think guys to come up with a new vision to unify and motivate the nation and they came up with ... a moon base? It's so been there, done that. Going to the moon was one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind but I am not inspired by imitation. Are you?

Hence, I issue this challenge to the blogosphere. What's your big-think idea to unify, motivate and inspire the nation? A moon-base will cost on the order of 200 billion so let's economize and say that the idea should cost 100 billion or less - a better idea and 100 billion to spare! Ideally, the idea should be mostly free of politics and have a strong possibility of success given that the money is spent.
I've got a lot of ideas - stuff that would be "neat" to throw $100m at....what I don't have is a reason the government should do so. Ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comments, or visit MarginalRevolution and email your idea to Tabarrok.

Health Care, Pt 3 

Galen, who has been participating in my ongoing discussion of the problems in Health Care, puts up a follow-up post that is very worthwhile. He discusses the steps that would have to be taken, in order for a real free market to emerge in the field of health care. One suggestion, in particular, points out our current problem.....
Abolish full coverage of health benefits. Why?

Let's say someone comes into my office with knee pain after a basketball game. I'm not terribly suspicious about a ligament injury, and suspect it's just a strain. I can:

a. prescibe some over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, tell them to go easy on the knee, and see them back in a couple of weeks. Cost-50-75$ for the office visit and 3$ for a bottle of ibuprofen.
b. give them the newest prescription anit-inflammatory, order a stat MRI, and immediately send them off for an orthopedic evaluation. Cost-50-75$ for office visit, 100$ for a month of Vioxx, 1500$ for the MRI, and 300$ for a new patient eval at the orthopod's office. Total cost: close to 2000$

Now if someone is responsible for 20% of the cost out of their own pocket, you get guess which they will pick at first. They may need option B, but they won't ask for it unless there's a damn good reason. There's many ways to skin a cat, but some ways are way cheaper than others.
That's why I say the price mechanism has largely been removed. The consumers are not the payers. The payers are insurance companies - which would be fine if there was a direct relationship between insurance company and consumer, but there's not. The consumers for insurance companies are not the health care consumers, either...they are the employers. The employers hand out health coverage to employees, but by that time the price mechanism has been so far distorted, it does little to increase efficiency and value.

As he says, we need to decide whether health care is a commodity or a right. As it stands, I think people are beginning to perceive health care as a right, in the same way that police protection is a right - and is paid for collectively.

What's the difference? Policing is done collectively and cannot be paid for privately. It is simply not consumed privately. Same applies to the military. Benefits of police and military protection are common, rarely individual. Even the individual benefits are usually common benefits, as well.

Health care, on the other hand, is an individually consumed commodity. Fighting your cancer does not make me less likely to succumb to cancer. Thus, it will operate more efficiently if the market is allowed to operate. It's the difference in consumption, I think, that differentiates whether something should be paid for collectively or individually.

Read Galens whole post for more.


I notice that QandO has been blogrolled by Hoystory - the blog of San Diego journalist Matthew Hoy. Perhaps it was an accident - perhaps it's just evidence of low standards among journalists - whatever the case, it's certainly flattering. He's a blogger whose insight I respect.

Hoystory has been a link on my favorites for quite a long time and I've linked him more than once. He should have been blogrolled long before, but I can fix that oversight immediately.


Ten years later, a look at the benefits of NAFTA.
There has been no "giant sucking sound" of jobs and investment heading south. In the past decade, the U.S. economy has added a net 18 million new jobs. America's unemployment rate is actually lower today than it was in the year before NAFTA went into effect. Since NAFTA, about 400,000 Americans have qualified for trade adjustment assistance under a special program for workers displaced by imports from Mexico, but that is a small number when spread over a decade and when compared to the millions of jobs being eliminated and created every quarter in the U.S. economy.

Though U.S. investment in Mexico has increased, American cash hasn't exactly been gushing southward. In the past four years, America's direct manufacturing investment in Mexico has averaged $1.9 billion a year, a fraction of the $200 billion invested annually in our domestic manufacturing capacity. In fact, U.S. companies invest far more each year in other high-wage, high-standard economies, such as those of Western Europe and Canada, than they do in such developing countries as Mexico.
Matthew Yglesias wrote one of the best defenses of free trade, including outsourcing, that I've read.....
"Say we changed things around and more Americans made more money, more Indians made less money, and all people everywhere had to pay somewhat more for their software. How is that really better? Because it's better for Americans? What if we sent the Marines into Bombay to rob a few banks and help close the budget deficit -- would that be better? I would say not. Now it's not the same as restricting the offshoring of jobs, but it's not totally different either, the Indian software engineers are people too, and their interests count. Come to think of it, American software consumers have interests that count as well. So do the shareholders in US software companies. Why is protecting the salary levels of American geeks so overwhelmingly important?
Same reason people usually support government intervention, Matt. It benefits them. It allows people to shape the world by fiat, rather than that messy collection of individual choices we call "liberty".

Wow. Just wow. 

A doozy from Dick Gephardt at last nights debate, when he was asked about his "target unemployment rate"....
GEPHARDT: Well, my target would be zero. That's what we need to work toward, and I would remind you that at the end of the Clinton administration we had unemployment in the country down to 3 percent.

ARRARAS: Is zero possible?

GEPHARDT: It is possible. I think we surprised everybody during the Clinton years as to what we achieved. There were a lot of economists who said, "Oh, you can't get to 3 percent unemployment, you'll have inflation."

We did things that really got people to be employed. We increased the minimum wage, and that's the first thing that I would do. I'd also ask the World Trade Organization for an international minimum wage.
* Gephardt says they "had unemployment in the country down to 3 percent"....but you notice he fails to mention that it occurred due to the bubble of the late 90s. The very bubble which is largely responsible for the overcapacity...the overcapacity which is largely responsible for the rise in unemployment and the slow return of hiring.

So, Dick Gephardt's economic plan is "more bubbles please". Lovely.

* Gephardt cites the drop to 3% without signigicant inflation as proof that it can be done....but, again, doesn't cite the bubble, which is what we experienced instead of that inflation.

* Finally, Gephardt insists on a combination of full employment (apparently, nobody will every be fired again!), and higher mandatory wages, yet insists we won't experience inflation as a result. It's the classic politicians free lunch promise...."you can have it all, and it won't cost a thing". Either Gephart really believes this and he's just economically illiterate, or he's wildly overpromising and he's irresponsible. This just isn't a serious claim from Dick Gepahrdt.

How do we know that? Take a look at Germany, which has strict "rules on hiring and firing" so jobs are more secure. At least, that's the plan. In reality, the rules "are so rigid that companies hire fewer people because it's so difficult to drop workers in a slowdown". And the unemployment in Germany is 10.4%.

Gephardt wants all the benefits of the dynamic free market, without actually having to deal with the dynamic part. Or the free part.

UPDATE: The Cracker Barrel Philosopher has more on a debate stunt that backfired on Dean.

Oh my... 

Remember all the Democratic claims that Bush was "questioning their patriotism"? Well, look how the "screw you" has turned...
"I think there are some similarities between George Bush's Administration and Richard Nixon's Administration: a tremendous cynicism about the future of the country; a lack of ability to instill hope in the American people; a war which doesn't have clear principles behind it; and a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States."
Add to that Howard Deans previous statement that John Ashcroft is "not a patriot", and one has to ask....who's guilty here? And when does Dean issue his apology?

(hat tip to Spinsanity, which has more)

A Defense of Howard Dean 

In recent months, much has been made of Howard Deans mis-steps. Understandable, as he is the Democratic front-runner, but I think not all of the criticism has been completely fair. As is usual in politics, his opponents often him to a different standard than that to which they hold their own candidate.

I hold no great sympathy for Dr Dean on this matter, because it is precisely this double-standard on which he is basing his criticisms of the President...but, whether I've sympathy for him or no, I think it's vitally important that we be intellectually honest in our judgement of Howard Dean - that we address his policies, rather than "gotcha's". A few areas of interest.....

* At the debate last night, Howard Dean was accused of never hiring a black or hispanic person to fill a position in his cabinet during his 12 years as Governor. He was alleged to have "discovered blacks and browns during this campaign". This will, of course, be picked up by his opponents for use against him.

But, wait a minute: is this a fair criticism? Not quite. After all, this is Vermont...not Georgia. According to Census Bureau statistics: blacks account for 12.3% of the population, nationwide. In Vermont? Blacks account for .5% of the population. The Hispanic population? 12.5% nationwide - .9% in Vermont.

One can understand how Howard Dean may have failed to have a black or Latino in his cabinet. They pretty much don't live there.

* John Hawkins has a round-up of Howard Dean quotes, many of which are quite instructive. (The 1998 France comments; his defense of Clintons 1998 Iraq attack) Some, however, have generated criticism - criticism that I think is obstructively cynical.

- The "Soviet Union" gaffe on Hardball? Yes yes....embarrassing. Obviously, the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore, but who among us has not done something similar? Somehow, I doubt defenders of President Bush have much room to critique poor extemporaneous speaking abilities. It's an amusing slip, nothing more.

- The statements about the capture of Saddam, saying it has not "made America safer"? First, it's important to note that he was talking about mainland America. Second, in a very narrow sense...he's correct. Saddam was not an imminent threat to the US, so we were not in any immediate danger from Saddams regime. But the very narrow sense he used was, itself, a misrepresentation of the administration position. We weren't in danger from a 2003 Saddam regime, but from a Saddam regime later in the decade - a regime that had lost the interest of the world and regained capabilities.

Deans statement was only technically correct, but in a very narrow sense. It was certainly misleading.

* Deans statement on the death of Uday and Qusay: "I think in general the ends do not justify the means." - Well, it's true. The death of bad people does not necessarily justify "any means necessary". In this case, many of us believe it was justified, but the justification does not flow from their death, but from preceding reasons.

Taking the "ends justify the means" belief to its conclusion, one would also have to assume that it would be justified to attack North Korea with nuclear missiles, so long as Kim Jong-Il died. Clearly, at this point, it would not. It may eventually be justified to attack them, but the ends do not necessarily justify the means.

* Deans confederate flag comment: "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" - I'm not sure why this was ever an issue, except as a chance to jump on the front-runner. What he said was not a validation of the confederate flag - he simply said that he wanted the stereotypical "southern guys" who vote Republican to vote for a Democrat instead. Sort of like Reagans comment that, if you supported him...that meant you agreed with him, not that he agreed with you.

* Deans "insider trading" and the "Vermont nuclear plant" issues: These strike me as the normal sort of issues that will affect every candidate. Less an indicator of their character than of the myriad quibbles that can be made against any office-holder. Bush certainly has his share.

I'm not dismissing any of these as "conspiracy theories", or unworthy of question. Just trying to keep this stuff in context. I've defended Bush against misguided criticism of his alleged "insider trading" - I'd like to give Howard Dean the same benefit of the doubt. I'd like to disagree with his policies. Opposition by "gotcha" has only served to lower the level of political discourse in this country.

And besides....there are plenty of good policy differences to be had with Howard Dean.



Brownian Motion - Does it count as excercise?

A bit more on Paul O'Neill 

More thoughts on the Paul O'Neill topic, from both here and abroad....

* O'Neill says...

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go".
Is this really a suprise to anybody? Seriously....what if it was NOT true? What if, instead, "there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was not a bad person and needed to stay in power." Don't you think that would be a bit more odd?

Besides, "Saddam is a bad guy and needs to go" was our official policy since 1998, so I'd say it would be a bit of a suprise to find out that the Bush administration had reversed that particular Clinton-era policy.

* O'Neill goes on to say....

"For me, the notion of preemption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap."
Well, presumably he won't be getting a position with any Dean administration, since Howard Dean says "Of course we're going to use our force at our discretion to protect the United States. To say that we've never had a preemption policy would be foolish."

Howard Dean says Paul O'Neill is foolish. You heard it here first.

* John Cole points to Calpundits immediate acceptance of the O'Neill allegations, and responds....
Neat-O! In other words, everything O'Neill says is true, automatically, and any attempts by anyone in the administration to state otherwise is evidence of the 'kind of people he's dealing with."
After a quick rewind to the castigated George Stephanapolous book, Cole writes...
If I inhale the California ether and use the Calpundit's standards- everything bad Stephanopoulos stated in the book is true, and that all of these attacks from the Clinton White House is evidence of the type of people we were dealing with.
Yeah. Like I said yesterday "I saw enough "exposes" after Clinton left office to learn to take this stuff with a grain of salt....."

* So, when is somebody going to fuss about O'Neill going public with those "Secret" memos? I thought CalPundit, Atrios, Josh Marshall, et al, had a big problem with that sort of thing.

UPDATE: Hoo-boy, does PowerLine have a good bit of debunking on one of the central O'Neill claims. Read it immediately.


Now these are questions.... 

Radley Balko asks the questions that would make the Democratic debates worth watching....
* Every campaign season, candidates promise us new government agencies and programs to deal with whatever problems they believe are on the voters' minds. Many of these agencies and programs later become law. But we never hear a candidate say that a particular agency has lost its usefulness, is no longer effective, or that its mission has been duplicated by another agency. Surely there are some federal programs or agencies that are no longer necessary. My question: Can you name three federal programs or agencies that you would move to abolish as president?
* There are generally two tracts an elected official can take once he's in office. He can assume that he was elected to vote his conscience regardless of popular sentiment, or he can vote in a manner that represents the will of his constituents. As president, there will inevitably be times when your own convictions put you at odds with the will of the American people. When such a conflict arises, how will you act?
* If U.S. forces were to capture Osama bin Laden, and there was reason to believe a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was imminent, would you approve the use of torture on him to prevent that attack?

* If forced to choose, which of your eight competitors would you vote for?
Actually, they're pretty good hypothetical questions for all of us. Balko also has questions for the individual candidates. Among others....

Howard Dean:

* You opposed the war with Iraq, but supported intervention in Liberia. Reasonable people can disagree about just how much a threat Iraq posed to U.S. safety and security, but it's difficult to envision a scenario where Liberia would be more of a threat than Iraq. What exactly are your criteria for when the U.S. should and shouldn't send troops into conflict? Of the military actions the United States has undertaken in the last twenty years, which would you have supported and why?

* Since announcing your candidacy, you've been coy about your past support for gun rights. Do you believe the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms?
Dennis Kucinich...
* What in the world is up with this?
Joe Lieberman...
* You've recently said that you would appoint an FDA panel to tackle America's obesity problem. You've been an outspoken critic of violent video games, and of sex and violence in music, television and movies. Do you believe that "protecting people from themselves" is a legitimate function of government?
Wesley Clark....
* In a speech at the University of Iowa, you conceded that the war in Kosovo, which you commanded, was "technically illegal." Several international organizations have concluded likewise. You also conceded that had the Kosovo campaign been put to a UN Security Council vote, it most certainly would not have survived the veto of either Russia or China. The Clinton administration's claims of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo letter proved to be exaggerated, and in any case, post-war retribution on the Serbs was far worse than the genocide we intervened to stop. When weighing the brutality of Milosevic vs. Saddam, the threat each posed to the United States, and the degree of international support for each campaign, can you today still claim that the war in Kosovo was proper, but the war with Iraq wasn't? If so, how?

* You've introduced a tax plan in which the bottom half of families pay no federal income tax at all. If half the population pays no income taxes, aren't you concerned that that half will be incentivized to vote themselves entitlements, benefits and redistribution programs at the expense of those who shoulder the tax burden?
All very good questions. Not only would I like to hear those candidates answer the question....I think it might be worth putting the questions to their supporters.

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