Thursday, July 21, 2005

China Unpegs Yuan

Yuan Unpegged - 072105 Posted by Picasa

China drops yuan-dollar peg, to price vs. basket : "The Chinese government on Thursday announced its long-awaited reform of its currency, saying it's dropping its yuan-dollar peg in favor of one vs. a basket of currencies. The government also lifted the value of the currency by more than 2%.

'The People's Bank of China will make adjustment of the renminbi exchange rate band when necessary according to market development as well as the economic and financial situation. The renminbi exchange rate will be more flexible based on market condition with reference to a basket of currencies,' it said.

China said it's adjusting the exchange rate to 8.11 yuan per dollar; overnight, the dollar traded at 8.2765 yuan overnight.

The move gave a boost to Asian currencies, with the Japanese yen soaring 1.7% against the dollar. One dollar was last worth 110.89 yen.

The Korean won appreciated 0.9% against its U.S. counterpart.

The daily trading price of the dollar vs. the yuan will continue to be allowed to float within a band of 0.3%, while the trading prices of non-U.S. dollar currencies will be allowed to move in yet-to-be announced bands, it said in a statement released on its Web site.

The Bush administration and the U.S. Congress have long complained that an artificially low yuan has boosted Chinese exports."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Best Comment on Judge Roberts So Far

Forget the NYT's pre-written snide remarks and the preety good Washington Post piece and all the email I'm getting, I liked this the best "The Insta-Daughter's take: 'He looks pretty good for 50.'"
I'll give you my opinion on Roberts after I do my homework on him. Me liking the above might have something to do with my own mid-40's...No of course not.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Remembering Srebrenica

SREBRENICA, BOSNIA - HERZEGOVINA - JULY 11: The 610 coffins of the Srebrenica massacre victims are seen prior to the funeral attended by their family members at the Srebrenica Memorial site during the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre on July 11, 2005 in Srebrenica, Bosnia Herzegovina. Srebrenica marked the 10th anniversary of the massacre with a massive funeral of about 610 victims who were identified after being exhumed and who will be buried at the memorial site. Some 8,000 Muslims, mostly boys and men, were slaughtered at Srebrenica in July 1995 by Bosnian Serb soldiers who had overrun the eastern town. The killings, in what was then a U.N.-protected zone, came shortly before the end of the country's 1992-95 war. (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images) Posted by Picasa

Please click and read the article from Richard Holbrooke as he shows clarity, honesty and bi-partisanship, all of which we could use more of in these days - Was Bosnia Worth It?: "If you wonder whether the 1995 American intervention in Bosnia was the right decision, go to a really horrible place, one whose name has become synonymous with genocide and Western failure. Go to Srebrenica."
Read it all, please.

FX Speculators: Yuan Boat Ready to Float

Yuan Headed for Controlled Float Posted by Picasa

China's Currency May Float a Little: "Sixty percent of China's state economists think the government should allow the country's currency to increase in value sometime this year, according to a survey compiled Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The survey of 60 economists -- an internal study confirmed by two participants -- reinforced a growing consensus that sometime this summer China will adjust slightly upward the value of its currency, the renminbi, also known as the yuan, which has been pegged at about 8.28 to the dollar for about a decade.

...Predicting a Chinese currency move has become a perilous if popular game, with some of the world's largest investment banks making bold forecasts of imminent moves in recent months only to see the old regime prevail. The last such outbreak came in May, when some predicted China would use a national holiday week to try to sneak in a change, assuming that markets would be relatively quiet.

In recent weeks, anticipation has been building anew, with many predicting that a move will come sometime in August, ahead of a visit to Washington by President Hu Jintao in September."
I wish I could play in this game....

America's Drug Laws Are So Wrong

Tierney today with Punishing Pain : "...Mr. Paey is merely the most outrageous example of the problem as he contemplates spending the rest of his life on a three-inch foam mattress on a steel prison bed. He told me he tried not to do anything to aggravate his condition because going to the emergency room required an excruciating four-hour trip sitting in a wheelchair with his arms and legs in chains.

The odd thing, he said, is that he's actually getting better medication than he did at the time of his arrest because the State of Florida is now supplying him with a morphine pump, which gives him more pain relief than the pills that triggered so much suspicion. The illogic struck him as utterly normal.

'We've become mad in our pursuit of drug-law violations,' he said. 'Generations to come will look back and scarcely believe what we've done to sick people.' "

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Nicklaus Says Goodbye

Jack Nicklaus Waves Farewell at St. Andrews Posted by Picasa

Nicklaus Exits The Open Posted by Picasa
Nicklaus Completes Bittersweet Farewell : "After a record 18 major titles in five decades of professional golf, Jack Nicklaus [age 65] made an emotional exit today at the British Open.

St. Andrews gave him two of his three British Open titles, endearing him to Scottish golf fans forever.

But Nicklaus's prime has passed, and he acknowledged that. He said his family was prepared to return to Florida on Saturday rather than stay at St. Andrews through the weekend, when Woods will try to win his second major of the season and 10th over all of his career, compared with 18 for Nicklaus.

When Nicklaus exited the tent this evening, the sky he left was still bright. Golfers who had spent their lives looking up to him were finishing their rounds.

In Scottish summers, the sun stays out a little longer."

Tierney on Wilson and Rove

John Tierney on the Joe Wilson, Valerie Wilson, Karl Rove, Judith Miller, Matt Cooper, Bob Novak story with Where's the Newt? : "this scandal is about a spy who was not endangered, a whistle-blower who did not blow the whistle and was not smeared, and a White House official who has not been fired for a felony that he did not commit. And so far the only victim is a reporter who did not write a story about it.

It would be logical to name it the Not-a-gate scandal, but I prefer a bilingual variation. It may someday make a good trivia question: What do you call a scandal that's not scandalous? Nadagate. "
Tierney is becoming a star with his clarity, brevity, and his citation of other readings at the end of his columns for further sources on his current subject - he is the professional that Krugman is not.
(And with apologies to my friend Nada.)

VDH Explores the Left's View of the GWOT

Victor Davis Hanson on the War on Terror : "Ever since September 11, there has been an alternative narrative about this war embraced by the Left. In this mythology, the attack on September 11 had in some vague way something to do with American culpability...

...That is the dominant narrative of the Western Left and at times it finds its way into mainstream Democratic-party thinking. Yet every element of it is false.

...Why does this false narrative, then, persist — other than that it had a certain political utility in the 2002 and 2004 elections?

In a word, this version of events brings spiritual calm for millions of troubled though affluent and blessed Westerners...

These tenets in various forms are not merely found in the womb of the universities, but filter down into our popular culture, grade schools, and national political discourse — and make it hard to fight a war against stealthy enemies who proclaim constant and shifting grievances. If at times these doctrines are proven bankrupt by the evidence it matters little, because such beliefs are near religious in nature — a secular creed that will brook no empirical challenge.

These articles of faith apparently fill a deep psychological need for millions of Westerners, guilty over their privilege, free to do anything without constraints or repercussions, and convinced that their own culture has made them spectacularly rich and leisured only at the expense of others.

So it is not true to say that Western civilization is at war against Dark Age Islamism. Properly speaking, only about half of the West is involved, the shrinking segment that still sees human nature as unchanging and history as therefore replete with a rich heritage of tragic lessons.

...we are divided over two antithetical views of the evolving West — Europe at odds with America, red and blue states in intellectual and spiritual divergence, the tragic view resisting the creeping therapeutic mindset.

These interior splits largely explain why creepy killers from the Dark Ages, parasitic on the West from their weapons to communications, are still plaguing us four years after their initial surprise attack.

'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.' "
Always read all Victor Davis Hanson you can find, please.

Two Looks at Muslim Suicide Bombers

First, Tom Friedman writes in A Poverty of Dignity and a Wealth of Rage : "...Why are young Sunni Muslim males, from London to Riyadh and Bali to Baghdad, so willing to blow up themselves and others in the name of their religion? Of course, not all Muslims are suicide bombers; it would be ludicrous to suggest that. But virtually all suicide bombers, of late, have been Sunni Muslims.

There are a lot of angry people in the world. Angry Mexicans. Angry Africans. Angry Norwegians. But the only ones who seem to feel entitled and motivated to kill themselves and totally innocent people, including other Muslims, over their anger are young Sunni radicals. What is going on?

Neither we nor the Muslim world can run away from this question any longer...

'Some of these young Muslim men are tempted by a civilization they consider morally inferior, and they are humiliated by the fact that, while having been taught their faith is supreme, other civilizations seem to be doing much better,' said Raymond Stock, the Cairo-based biographer and translator of Naguib Mahfouz. 'When the inner conflict becomes too great, some are turned by recruiters to seek the sick prestige of 'martyrdom' by fighting the allegedly unjust occupation of Muslim lands and the 'decadence' in our own.' This is not about the poverty of money. This is about the poverty of dignity and the rage it can trigger. How does that happen?

Britain's Independent newspaper described one of the bombers, Hasib Hussain, as having recently undergone a sudden conversion 'from a British Asian who dressed in Western clothes to a religious teenager who wore Islamic garb and only stopped to say salaam to fellow Muslims.' The secret of this story is in that conversion - and so is the crisis in Islam. The people and ideas that brought about that sudden conversion of Hasib Hussain and his pals - if not stopped by other Muslims - will end up converting every Muslim into a suspect and one of the world's great religions into a cult of death. "

Then we have William F. Buckley Jr. on the 7/7 London Bombings and the War on Terror : "The first thought, surely, has to be that not all young Muslims at large in Europe have a viral compulsion to put bombs in London subways or to shoot and stab provocative filmmakers. So having arrived at that thought, what is our next thought?

It is not highly developed, but it focuses necessarily on acute security measures. They mount aggression, we mount a defense. This is bitter medicine in that the countermeasures signal a victory for terrorism.

London withstood years of bombings organized by a sovereign madman who came to control Germany.

That threat, on reflection, seems simple: Cope with it by waging a world war. We know how to do that. We don't know how to abort the evolution of young Muslims into murderers

Measurement and Accountability in Schools Fix Problems

Younger Students Show Gains in Math and Reading : "America's elementary school students made solid gains in both reading and math in the first years of this decade, while middle school students made less progress and older teenagers hardly any, according to test results issued today that are considered the best measure of the nation's long-term education trends.

Nine-year-old minority students made the most gains on the test, administered by the United States Department of Education. In particular, young black students significantly narrowed the historic gap between their math and reading scores and those of higher-achieving whites, who also made significant gains.

Older minority teenagers, however, scored about as far behind whites as in previous decades, and scores for all groups pointed to a deepening crisis in the nation's high schools.

Nine year old students born in the mid-1990's, on average, earned the highest scores in three decades, in both subjects.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attributed the gains among elementary students to President Bush's school reform law, No Child Left Behind. Sounding jubilant, she also credited the nation's teachers, principals and state and national policymakers, including Democrats who have supported the federal law.

"I'm really excited, it shows that we're on the right track, that N.C.L.B. is working, that all our attention to the early grades and to minority kids - now we've got some good results to show for it," Ms. Spellings said. "As a country we're headed in the right direction.

Several groups that have criticized the federal law, including both national teachers' unions, said that increased teacher training and efforts to reduce class sizes as well as a proliferation of early childhood and kindergarten programs should also be credited for the gains.

No Child Left Behind, which has required states to test students grades three through eight in English and math every year, and to report minority scores separately from student averages, first took effect in fall 2002."

Wie's Masters Debut 2007?

Michelle Wie at US Am Public Links in Ohio Posted by Picasa

A Defeated Wie Puts Her Masters Dream on Hold - New York Times: " Michelle Wie's run at the men's United States Amateur Public Links championship came to an end... when she was beaten by Clay Ogden, 5 and 4, in the quarterfinals.

The golf world usually sets its sights exclusively on the British Open at this time of year. But Wie's play this week, and her pursuit of a spot in the Masters tournament next year, managed to transform a sleepy Ohio town into a center of attention among the news media and fans.

The 15-year-old from Honolulu was attempting to become the first woman to compete at Augusta National. Every Public Links champion since 1989 has been invited to the next year's Masters.

"Obviously I am very disappointed, but it is not the end of the world," Wie said.

Wie fell behind early as Ogden, who will be a junior at Brigham Young University this fall, birdied four of the first five holes."

Rosett: "Saddam and al Qaeda"

Claudia Rosett, our nation's star reporter in my opinion, (the NYT's John Burns is a close second) discussing the abundance of evidence connecting two forces against Western civilization in OpinionJournal - The Real World: "Any conclusions or even inferences about contacts between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda are subjected these days to the kind of metaphysical test in which existence itself becomes a highly dubious philosophical problem, mired in the difficulty of ever really being certain about anything at all.
Certainty is then imposed in the form of assurances that there was no connection. This notion that there was no Saddam-al Qaeda connection is invoked as an argument against the decision to go to war in Iraq, and enjoined as part of the case that we were safer with Saddam in power, and that, even now, the U.S. and its allies should simply cut and run.

Actually, there were many connections, as Stephen Hayes, writing in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, spells out under the headline "The Mother of All Connections."

...By the time Mr. Hayes is done tabulating the cross-connections, meetings, Iraqi Intelligence memos unearthed after the fall of Saddam, and information obtained from detained terrorist suspects, you have to believe there was significant collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda. Or you have to inhabit a universe in which there will never be a demonstrable connection between any of the terrorist attacks the world has suffered over the past dozen years, or any tyrant and any aspiring terrorist. In that fantasyland, all such phenomena are independent events.

Mr. Bush, in calling attention to the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in the first place, did the right thing. For the U.S. president to confirm that clearly and directly at this stage, with some of the abundant supporting evidence now available, might seem highly controversial. But reviving that controversy would help settle it more squarely in line with the truth. "

WSJ: "Karl Rove, Whistleblower"

OpinionJournal :"... In short, Mr. Rove provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign. Thank you, Mr. Rove.

...If there's any scandal at all here, it is that this entire episode has been allowed to waste so much government time and media attention, not to mention inspire a 'special counsel' probe. The Bush Administration is also guilty on this count, since it went along with the appointment of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in an election year in order to punt the issue down the road. But now Mr. Fitzgerald has become an unguided missile, holding reporters in contempt for not disclosing their sources even as it becomes clearer all the time that no underlying crime was at issue.

As for the press corps, rather than calling for Mr. Rove to be fired, they ought to be grateful to him for telling the truth. "

May Trade Deficit Improves

May Trade Deficit Shows Slight Improvement : "The Commerce Department reported that America's trade deficit fell by 2.7 percent in May to $55.3 billion, the best showing since March. The bulk of the improvement came from a big drop in oil prices which pushed petroleum imports down by 6.8 percent. However, the trade improvement was likely to be temporary because prices of crude oil have soared to record levels above $60 per barrel since May. The trade performance in May was also helped by strong export sales, which edged up 0.1 percent to a new all-time high of $106.9 billion. Sales of agricultural products, industrial supplies and consumer goods all set records."

"Barbarity and Civility"

The Union Leader- Barbarity and civility: Eyeing the terror war with clarity"IMMEDIATELY after Thursday's bombings in London, some on the far left blamed Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying it was his fault for sending troops to Iraq. This is the same poisoned thinking that blamed America for the 9/11 attacks and equated the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay with the acts of terrorists and totalitarian regimes...

As we debate whether glovelessly handling a Koran is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, terrorists plot the destruction of all Western civilization, or at least as many "infidel" non-believers as they can possibly wipe out.

The CIA reportedly kidnaps Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, a radical cleric, in Milan, and ships him to Saudi Arabia, and there is widespread outrage. Meanwhile, al-Qaida kidnaps and executes Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif, and there is only a murmur of mild indignation.

That the fundamental differences between the actions of Western governments and the actions of the Islamist terrorists have to be continually pointed out is one of life's absurd realities. That many of the people who need to have it pointed out are Westerners themselves is doubly absurd."

Krugman Says Good News on Deficit a "Temporary Blip"

Un-Spin the Budget : "The usual suspects on the right are already declaring victory over the deficit, and proclaiming vindication for the Laffer Curve - the claim that tax cuts pay for themselves, because they have such a miraculous effect on the economy that revenue actually goes up.

But the fact is that revenue remains far lower than anyone would have predicted before the tax cuts began. In January 2001 the budget office forecast revenues of $2.57 trillion in fiscal 2005. Even with the recent increase in receipts, the actual number will be at least $400 billion less. [me: Krugman ignores impact of 9-11-01]

A close look at the tax data explains why these experts believe that we're seeing a temporary uptick in revenues, not a sustained change in the trend. Taxes that are closely tied to the number of jobs and the average wage, such as payroll taxes and income taxes automatically withheld from paychecks, aren't showing any big pickup. [me: Krugman ignores the steady growth and that employment has now reached the same level as September 2001]This confirms other data showing that the economy as a whole is, if anything, doing worse than one would expect at this stage of an economic recovery.

It turns out that all of the upside surprise in tax receipts is coming from two sources. One is tax payments from corporations, up both because last year corporate profits grew much more rapidly than the rest of the economy and because the effective tax rate on corporations went up when a temporary tax break, introduced in 2002, expired. [me: Krugman likes to think corporate profits aren't related to consumers being able to buy more goods with less personal taxes and the notion that an expired corporate tax provision in 2002 resulted in a surge of revenues last quarter 2005.]Both are one-time events

The other source of increased revenue is nonwithheld income taxes - taxes that aren't deducted from paychecks but are instead paid by people receiving additional, nonsalary income. The bounce in nonwithheld taxes probably reflects mainly capital gains on stocks and real estate, together with bonuses paid in the finance and real estate industries. [me: Krugman hates to think people are more entrepreneurial and make a lot more money to spend and invest as non-withheld taxpayers with lower tax rates; also note they do usually pay nice quarterly estimates of taxes owed, but to Krugman that means Wall Street bonuses not any economic success caused by reduced taxes]Again, this revenue boost looks like a temporary blip driven by rising stocks and the housing bubble.

In other words, we're still deep in the fiscal quagmire, with federal revenues far below what's needed to pay for federal programs. And we won't get out of that quagmire until a future president admits that the Bush tax cuts were a mistake, and must be reversed." [me: Krugman would solve every situation with taxes so burdensome the US would have unemployment at the 11.7% rate like Germany in June and France at 10.2%, and growth rates of 0.3% to 0.5% for France and Germany respectively.]
Bernard Goldberg in his book about the 100 people ruining America only has Krugman at the number 8th worst - I would rank him at least in the top 5 - and very sad he has any influence at all.

CBO: US Deficit To Be 24% Below Forecast U.S.: " 'Rising tax payments and a growing economy may push the U.S. federal deficit down to $325 billion or lower, a 24 percent decline from the previous estimate,' the Congressional Budget Office said. The agency, in a monthly snapshot for fiscal 2005 that ends on Sept. 30, said tax payments and spending were running ahead of the year-ago pace. As a result this year's deficit 'will be significantly less than $350 billion, perhaps below $325 billion.' The White House is scheduled to issue its revised estimates on tax collections, spending and the deficit on July 13. In February, White House budget director Joshua Bolten forecast a deficit of $427 billion, about 3.5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

``Treasury receipts have been skyrocketing since April,'' and in June ``corporate receipts will lead this boon,'' said Ellen M. Beeson, an economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. in New York, in an interview before the report. Her firm expects the July 13 report to forecast a 2005 deficit of $315 billion to $330 billion. 'The stock market will certainly like the lower-than- expected deficit as it will mean less financing will be needed to cover U.S. debt,' Beeson said.

In its monthly report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said federal tax collections from people and corporations are up about 15 percent from the same period a year ago, and spending is up about 7 percent."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

China's Political Economy

Rural Poor Aren't Sharing In Spoils of China's Changes: "A recent study conducted by the World Bank found that incomes among rural Chinese -- about three-fourths of the total population -- have declined slightly in the years since China entered the WTO, while urban residents have enjoyed modest gains...

...Last month, China's government announced that the income gap had widened in the first three months of the year, with the richest 10 percent of the population controlling 45 percent of the country's wealth and the poorest 10th holding little more than 1 percent, according to the official New China News Agency.

In Beijing, concern mounts that the rural poor are falling so far behind as to challenge the legitimacy of the party. Demonstrations have become near-daily occurrences as farmers protest loss of land to development and excessive taxation. In response, the central government has rolled back taxes on peasants.

...Throughout China, more than 200 million farmers have supplemented incomes by heading to coastal provinces to do construction or factory work. Typically, one or two people go, sending money back to relatives who remain at home to tend land.

All of Wang's hopes rest on his youngest son, now in Jingyuan in high school. He is the first in his family to attain that level of education. The costs of keeping him in school are monumental, about $250 per year.

Every year, Wang borrows that amount from the local credit cooperative, and every year he cobbles together about $100 from friends to keep up with the interest payments so he can draw another loan.

His total debt exceeds $1,250 -- about what the average person lives on here in a decade. Still, his may be a rational strategy for the times: He hopes his son will test into a university, get a white-collar job in a city, and lift his family out of the poverty that still defines reality in most of rural China."

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Freakonomics Guys: Seat Belts vs. Car Seats

From Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, the authors of "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" with The Seat-Belt Solution : " question about car seats is rarely even asked: How well do they actually work?

They certainly have the hallmarks of an effective piece of safety equipment: big and bulky, federally regulated, hard to install and expensive. (You can easily spend $200 on a car seat.) And NHTSA data seem to show that car seats are indeed a remarkable lifesaver. Although motor-vehicle crashes are still the top killer among children from 2 to 14, fatality rates have fallen steadily in recent decades -- a drop that coincides with the rise of car-seat use. Perhaps the single most compelling statistic about car seats in the NHTSA manual was this one: 'They are 54 percent effective in reducing deaths for children ages 1 to 4 in passenger cars.'

But 54 percent effective compared with what? The answer, it turns out, is this: Compared with a child's riding completely unrestrained. There is another mode of restraint, meanwhile, that doesn't cost $200 or require a four-day course to master: seat belts.

...For children younger than roughly 24 months, seat belts plainly won't do... Even a quick look at the FARS data reveals a striking result: among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts.

So if car seats and booster seats aren't the safety miracle that parents have been taught to believe, what should they do? The most important thing, certainly, is to make sure that children always ride with some kind of restraint...

It may be that the ultimate benefit of car seats and booster seats is that they force children to sit still in the back seat. If so, perhaps there is a different contraption that could help accomplish the same goal for roughly the same price: a back-seat DVD player. "

WSJ: "Lessons of Srebrenica"

OpinionJournal : "If American policy makers want to avoid facing another Srebrenica on their watch, they must never let the U.N. determine the mission. Allowing the Europeans to 'take the lead' is also a bad idea. Above all, Srebrenica is what happens when Western policy makers reject taking pre-emptive measures against gathering dangers, so that by the time the dangers are obvious it is too late to do something.

It has become trendy in certain circles to speak of 'No More Srebrenicas,' as well as 'No More Rwandas' and 'No More Darfurs.' If these people really believe the slogan, then the policy to make it work already has a name. It's called the Bush Doctrine. "

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Democrats Stand FOR... What?

In today's Washington Post and yesterday's Washington Times two very different editorials address the problem summarized by my post title - we know Democrats oppose anything George Bush wants (whether it makes sense or not) but who knows (especially Democrats themselves) what Democrats are for - what is the Democrat Party 's agenda?

First, let's look at David Broder, usually a stable voice for the Democrats, in his column Democrats In Need Of Stances: "Because Republicans control the congressional agenda, the Democratic leaders cannot bring forward their own initiatives with any hope of success. The best they can do is block GOP efforts or criticize their policies. But that strategy simply strengthens Republican accusations of negativism. The tactic of not offering an alternative on a subject as vital as Social Security -- which makes sense in the legislative context -- does nothing to enhance the Democrats' reputation with the public.

When I interviewed Dean recently, he readily acknowledged that 'people think they know what the Republicans stand for, and they can't say that about the Democrats.'

...There's a better model available, should Dean have the courage to follow it. In the late 1950s, after Adlai Stevenson had lost to President Eisenhower for the second time, DNC Chairman Paul Butler created the Democratic Advisory Council as a policy voice for the party.

...Once again, the Democrats need a vehicle for speaking to the country about the changes they would bring if entrusted with governing. They can find that vehicle in their archives."
Next look at Victor Davis Hanson, now one of the most respected voices on the right, with Who are the reactionaries: " understandably frustrated opposition seeks some sort of countermove. But instead of the hard, necessary work of winning the public over to a systematic alternative vision, the Democratic leadership seems to hope a quickie scandal, a noisy filibuster or a slip overseas will tip a few million voters and thus return the Democrats to power. ...Can't the Democrats find spokesmen other than a calcified Mr. Kerry, Joe Biden, Mr. Kennedy or Al Gore -- who all crashed in past general presidential elections or primaries and now drip bitterness? How do you politely tell your leadership that it, not just George W. Bush, is the problem?

...The Democrats should focus on new issues and faces and promote national optimism and an overdue return to a more inclusive broader-based populism. Instead, the leading members of the party -- who have become the new reactionaries in American political life -- choose to fixate on John Bolton and try to ankle-bite a wartime president working to bring democracy to the Middle East. Apparently, the liberal opposition thinks sarcasm and negativism can reverse the larger political tide of the last three decades. Good luck."
This is not just a political problem for Democrats. This problem is disturbing to America because I believe our country is better facing choices and making decisions as to how we move forward rather than attempts from either party to just block progress. We need to deal with the future with our heads up high and firm in this ever-changing world. I happen to trust the people to make the right choices when they understand the questions and the choices of answers. I happen to think that is why George Bush is president of the United States right now. Let's trust the people and give choices not a move forward in one direction or a roadblock.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Morgan's Mack Turns Down $25 mln Yr Base For More Pay for Performance U.S.: "Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Mack said he's changing his employment agreement with the firm and no longer will accept a guarantee of $25 million a year in pay. Mack's pay will be based on the firm's performance, instead of being pegged to the compensation received by his four Wall Street counterparts, he said in a letter to employees today. He would have received a minimum of $25 million this year and again in 2006 provided the CEOs of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. made an average of at least that much.

'I don't want anyone to think that I am entitled to something that others are not,' Mack said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg. 'This is a business built on trust.'

His reversal highlights the pressure Mack is under to rebuild morale and restore Morgan Stanley's reputation
after a public battle to oust his predecessor. Morgan Stanley said yesterday that former Chairman and CEO Philip Purcell, 61, will receive a cash retirement bonus of $44 million and co-President Stephen Crawford, 41, can collect $32 million should he resign for any reason by Aug. 4.

Purcell's package has drawn fire from some investors as being too high for someone who presided over a 50 percent decline in the New York-based firm's shares during his last five years in charge.

Mack said certain decisions were made by others at the firm 'in good faith' and he's not going to 'second-guess' them.

'Even if the previous contract seemed technically reasonable, Mack seems to be saying he'll leave it up to the board to reward him as he tries to enhance shareholder value and increase the performance of the business,' said Michael McKeon, head of financial-services consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in New York."
Nice move - it reassures all stakeholders that Mack is fair and willing to bet on himself as he obviously is doing. I would bet with him that he will make even more with this "generous and fair" move on his part given how Morgan Stanley compensated CEO failure. Also note Mack certainly accepted his signing bonus as detailed in my post a few days ago. Mack was very wealthy before his return to Morgan and now he's betting house money - and it is good for the firm too.

"Democrats and CAFTA"

OpinionJournal : "The Central American Free Trade Agreement passed the Senate last week, as everyone expected, but the more interesting news is who voted against it. Hint: This isn't Bill Clinton's Democratic Party anymore. Nafta was one of the former President's signature achievements, and free trade one of the issues he used to define himself as a New Democrat...

Why this protectionist turn by Democrats?

...Perhaps Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and the rest are all eyeing each other as they maneuver for 2008 and want to make sure no one can get to their left with Big Labor. Or perhaps they all believe they have no choice but to march to the orders of, the Daily Kos and other liberals who are threatening primary challenges for any Democrat who supports Mr. Bush on anything. The latter theory is supported by Ron Brownstein's article in the latest National Journal about the rise of this Bush-hating, but rich and mobilized, Internet-based left.

Whatever the explanation, this Democratic turn against free trade is bad for the country. The U.S. hasn't had a protectionist President since Herbert Hoover, and we all remember how that turned out. "

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tom Friedman on Muslim Extremism

If It's a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution : "The Muslim village has been derelict in condemning the madness of jihadist attacks. When Salman Rushdie wrote a controversial novel involving the prophet Muhammad, he was sentenced to death by the leader of Iran. To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden.

Some Muslim leaders have taken up this challenge. This past week in Jordan, King Abdullah II hosted an impressive conference in Amman for moderate Muslim thinkers and clerics who want to take back their faith from those who have tried to hijack it. But this has to go further and wider.

The double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst. "

US Jobless Rate at 5% Lowest Since September 2001

U.S. June jobless rate falls to 4-year low of 5% : "The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4-year low of 5% in June as the economy added 146,000 payroll jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. Payroll growth was 48,000 under the 194,000 expected by economists, but April and May hiring were revised up by a total of 44,000. May's payrolls were revised to 104,000 from 78,000 previously. Economists had expected the jobless rate to remain at 5.1%. The unemployment rate was last at 5% in September 2001.

Average hourly earnings rose 3 cents, or 0.2%, to $16.06 in June, as expected. Earnings are up 2.7% in the past year. The average workweek was unchanged at 33.7 hours in June. The factory workweek was also unchanged at 40.4 hours. Total hours worked in the economy rose 0.2%. Among 278 industries, 55% were hiring in June, down from 57% in May. The report shows continued improvement in the labor market.

It is not likely to have much impact on the Federal Reserve's deliberations about whether to keep raising interest rates. The Federal Open Market Committee will have the July employment report in hand when it next meets on Aug. 9."
For the negative spin on the same news the NYT's report.

"Our Politics Fiddles While London Burns"

London Bus 7-7-5 Posted by Picasa

Daniel Henninger in a piece titled " 'Close Guantanamo'? " echoes my sentiments in my previous post - OpinionJournal - Wonder Land: "The U.S. seems to have experienced a post-9/11 fall from seriousness. As the reality fades of a September 11 in America, a resort in Bali or a train station in Madrid, it somehow seems 'safe' to propose setting a deadline to remove our troops from Iraq, to close Guantanamo, to dump the Patriot Act. We in America can do any of these things, and it will still be OK. We can believe that Islamic terrorism is less than it is, and get away with it.

One more time? Should one assume that July 7 in London--the ripped-open double-decker buses, the stunned, bloody faces of those who lived--will in time fall in the queue of concerns to make it safe to argue, again, that all of this will go away if George Bush goes away?

...The standard response to all this is that if George Bush and Tony Blair hadn't done Iraq, we'd all be as one in the war on terror. The standard response before September 11, was that if we weren't so close to terror-beset Israel, none of this would ever happen. For 30 years, the standard response to this terror has gotten many of us killed. "

WSJ 0n 7/7/5

OpinionJournal : "Will yesterday's savagery reunite the West against its common enemy?

That was an impressive sight yesterday, in Gleneagles, Scotland, of British Prime Minister Tony Blair responding to the London terror attacks flanked in solidarity by all the world's major leaders. Now let's hope those leaders react with the resolve President Bush showed after 9/11, rather than retreat the way Spain did after the Madrid bombings last year.

...The best response would be for G-8 leaders to immediately expand their commitments to both countries [Iraq and Afganistan]. Islamists are most dangerous when they sense weakness. And they can be forgiven for detecting it as they've watched debates in Europe and the U.S. in recent months. The calls to close Guantanamo, the recriminations over rendition of terror suspects, the demands for a "date certain" to withdraw from Iraq: In the mind of al Qaeda these are all signs of the West's flagging will to prevail...

...For months the debate in Washington hasn't been over how best to fight terrorists but how harshly we treat them. Rather than strengthen the Patriot Act, Congress wants to weaken it by creating a library loophole. The press corps has wallowed in Abu Ghraib as the defining event of the entire Iraq War.

...Perhaps the London bombings will inspire a new shared determination. Yesterday Mr. Blair read a joint statement of the leaders present, including France's Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder: 'Today's bombings will not weaken in any way our resolve to uphold the most deeply held principles of our societies and to defeat those who would impose their fanaticism and extremism on all of us. We shall prevail and they shall not.' More than what they say, the world will be watching what those leaders now do, al Qaeda most of all. "
As unfortunate as yesterday certainly was, perhaps the event will wake up many Americans who have quickly forgotten what 9/12/01 felt like and the resolve that our country shared, however briefly. It appears now to have faded in the stink of partisan politics, the creep of pacificism and protectionism, the great waving of the Downing Street Memo as something it certainly is not, the disconnect of some that Operation Iraqi Freedom is indeed part of the Global War on Terror, and an impression to the world that Osama bin Laden may have been right after all when he wrote and proclaimed that the West and especially America is too weak to fight a hard long war against Islamic jihad.

Will the geart voice of the American and British people push our leaders to fight and show our resolve or show weakness until we have another catastrophe greater than our 9/11/01 and 7/77/05? What does it take for Westerners to realize this is indeed a war we are fighting whether we want to or not?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thinking About a New Computer? Google Earth - System Requirements

A great new free application from Google - Google Earth which provides remarkable satellite pictures, mapping and other features gives us a clue what we will all need in computer capabilites in the not so distant future: Google Earth - System Requirements:
"Recommended configuration:
Operating system: Windows XP
CPU speed: Intel Pentium P4 2.4GHz+ or AMD 2400xp+
System memory (RAM): 512MB
2GB hard-disk space
3D graphics card: 3D-capable video card with 32MB VRAM or greater
1280x1024, 32-bit true color screen
Network speed: 128 kbps ('Broadband/Cable Internet')

Insecure Home Wi-Fi Users

Man Charged With Stealing Wi-Fi Signal : "ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Police have arrested a man for using someone else's wireless Internet network in one of the first criminal cases involving this fairly common practice. Benjamin Smith III, 41, faces a pretrial hearing this month following his April arrest on charges of unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony.

Police say Smith admitted using the Wi-Fi signal from the home of Richard Dinon, who had noticed Smith sitting in an SUV outside Dinon's house using a laptop computer. The practice is so new that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn't even keep statistics, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which reported Smith's arrest this week.

Innocuous use of other people's unsecured Wi-Fi networks is common, though experts say that plenty of illegal use also goes undetected: such as people sneaking on others' networks to traffic in child pornography, steal credit card information and send death threats. Security experts say people can prevent such access by turning on encryption or requiring passwords, but few bother or are unsure how to do so. Wi-Fi, short for Wireless Fidelity, has enjoyed prolific growth since 2000. Millions of households have set up wireless home networks that give people like Dinon the ability to use the Web from their backyards but also reach the house next door or down the street."
How secure is your network right now?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mack Scores $25 mln Payday at Morgan Stanley

Financial Services - Company Announcements : "John Mack, who returned last week from a four-year exile to become chief executive of Morgan Stanley, will earn a minimum of $25 million a year in total compensation, according to a regulatory filing made late Tuesday.

Mack, whose contract runs through 2010, will receive no less than the lowest-paid among the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns & Co. and Merrill Lynch & Co., the filing said.

Morgan Stanley is also giving Mack 500,000 shares of restricted stock. A fifth of those shares are vested, and another 20% will vest annually through the final year of his contract.

Under terms of the deal, Mack will also receive retirement benefits as if he had not been ousted in 2001. That year Mack lost a power struggle with Philip Purcell, the CEO he replaced last week."
I looked for you: MWD (Morgan Stanley) closed at $53.77 today, so Mack's signing bonus in the vested stock gift was worth $5.377 mln, if he gets all 500,000 shares in today's dollars that is worth $26.885 mln. before any stock appreciation. So the five year deal is worth approximately $157 million. Nice work if you can get it...

A Mother Who Lost Her Son in Iraq Writes...

Beth Houck is a resident of Mount Ulla, NC and wrote a letter last week, a portion of which follows Son's death should not be in vain: "As a gold star mother - that means I lost a son in combat - I was very much interested in the Salisbury Post's article dated June 13 regarding the altered position of Congressman Walter B. Jones on the War on Terror.

You may remember that this man coined the phrase "freedom fries" to show support of our military and disdain for France's lack of help in the War on Terror in Iraq. You may also remember the genuine concern the Post showed in reporting the loss of our son, Lance Cpl. David Houck on 26 November 2004 at the Battle for Fallujah. I have since returned Congressman Jones' letter of condolence with a personal letter expressing my concern for his change of position. I've also talked to several combat veterans and seasoned veterans from World War II who share my same sentiments. I'll explain...

...If Congress gets involved in telling the military what to do, such as demanding a timetable for a pullout from Iraq, then my son WILL HAVE DIED IN VAIN. I will have to tell his daughter that he died only to have the insurgents who hate freedom take over Fallujah again.

Germany never attacked us; yet FDR led us into Europe to free them from a mad man. Truman finished that war and started one in Korea when North Korea never attacked us. John F. Kennedy led us into the Vietnamese conflict in 1962 when Vietnam never attacked us. Clinton sent troops to Bosnia without U.N. or French consent when Bosnia never attacked us. Ask Iranians and the Kurds in northern Iraq about chemical weapons. They bear the scars today.

I will close with a quote from Gen. R.A. Huck, presently commanding Marines in Iraq:

"We are finding that most Iraqis want to live in peace. We are giving them the opportunity to take hold of their own future and build a better Iraq for their children. Your family's great sacrifice has helped to make that possible. Thank you for your courage. You continue to be in our prayers."

Therefore, will you join me in asking Congress to leave the military alone to do bravely, professionally and effectively what they are trained to do? "
Please read all of her letter; it is claer and from her heart. I am sure President hears this over and over during his unpublicized meetings with the families of lost loved ones.

Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4, 1776 - July 4, 2005: 229 Years Ago

The Declaration of Independence Posted by Picasa

The Declaration of Independence:

Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

"IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world....

...In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. "

(Emphasis added is mine. The full documaent available at the link. Note: All Fourth Of July pieces will stay top of the fold today.)

The Declaration of Independence: Parchment Locations

For a brief complete history of the events around the Fourth of July 1776 go to The Declaration of Independence.

Some facts I had forgotten about - since the signing of the engrossed parchment on August 2, 1776 the document has moved from time to time for rather obvious reasons;the locations given for the Declaration from 1776 to 1789 are based on the locations for meetings of the Continental and Confederation Congresses:

Philadelphia: August-December 1776
Baltimore: December 1776-March 1777
Philadelphia: March-September 1777
Lancaster, PA: September 27, 1777
York, PA: September 30, 1777-June 1778
Philadelphia: July 1778-June 1783
Princeton, NJ: June-November 1783
Annapolis, MD: November 1783-October 1784
Trenton, NJ: November-December 1784
New York: 1785-1790
Philadelphia: 1790-1800
Washington, DC (three locations): 1800-1814
Leesburg, VA: August-September 1814
Washington, DC (three locations): 1814-1841
Washington, DC (Patent Office Building): 1841-1876
Philadelphia: May-November 1876
Washington, DC (State, War, and Navy Building): 1877-1921
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1921-1941
Fort Knox*: 1941-1944
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1944-1952
Washington, DC (National Archives): 1952-present

*Except that the document was displayed on April 13, 1943, at the dedication of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

George Will on McCullough's '1776'

A Timely Reminder in '1776': "When George Washington, in a spiffy uniform of buff and blue, sitting his horse with a grace uncommon even among Virginians vain about their horsemanship, arrived outside Boston in July 1775 to assume command of the American rebellion, he was aghast. When he got a gander at his troops, mostly New Englanders, his reaction was akin to the Duke of Wellington's assessment of his troops, many of them the sweepings of Britain's slums, during the Peninsular War: 'I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me.'

You think today's red state/blue state antagonism is unprecedented? Washington thought New Englanders "exceeding dirty and nasty." He would not have disputed the British Gen. John Burgoyne's description of the Americans besieging Boston as "a rabble in arms." A rabble that consumed, by one sober estimate, a bottle of rum per man each day.

Using narrative history to refute historicism, McCullough's two themes in "1776" are that things could have turned out very differently and that individuals of character can change the destinies of nations. There is a thirst for both themes in this country, which is in a less-than-festive frame of mind on this birthday. It is, therefore, serendipitous that "1776," with 1.35 million copies already in print, sits atop the New York Times best-seller list on Independence Day.

But, then, serendipity has often attended the Fourth of July. That day is the birthday of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804), arguably the father of American literature. And of Stephen Foster (1826), arguably the father of American music. And -- saving the most luminous for last -- of the sainted Calvin Coolidge (1872), who oversaw a 45 percent increase in America's production of ice cream.

So, this Fourth read McCullough. Perhaps by the light of a sparkler."
In addition, I highly recommend McCullough's 'John Adams'. I plan on reading '1776' around Christmas this year when I will have the time to selfishly enjoy one of America's great writers.

Glenn Reynolds on Independence Day

Independence Day - Glenn Reynolds - "We usually call it the 'Fourth of July,' but it's worth mentioning that what we celebrate on the Fourth of July is America's independence. Not America's membership in the family of nations, not America's connectedness with the rest of the world, not the many ways in which America is like other countries, but American independence.

That's an unfashionable thing to celebrate in these days of overarching international institutions, globalized trade, and global media villages. But although there are plenty of positives to globalization, there are plenty of positives to independence, too.

It's no accident that the biggest enthusiasts for increasing the power of international institutions, after all, are usually the people who are losing the political battle at home. Independence means we get to decide whether to go along. Being independent means that you may choose to demonstrate -- as America did in the Declaration of Independence -- a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind."

But the Declaration showed that respect by explaining why Americans were doing something that, if the opinions of other countries were determinative, we never would have done.

...Power to the people. It's an American idea, and it's one that elites, abroad and at home, have always found threatening."

"Do You Know What Day This Is?"

From Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune: "Most people call today the 4th of July, or just the 4th. That's fine. But what we're really celebrating today is Independence Day.

The distinction is worth a thought. The 4th is parades, fireworks, squirt guns, bands and picnics. Independence Day is freedom and the community we call the United States of America.

But as sweet as it is to celebrate our independence, we should boldly celebrate something more: our delivery of the gift of independence to millions elsewhere.

Few nations have had the rare privilege of bestowing such a magnificent gift. It has happened only twice in the past 60 years, when the United States and its allies released tens of millions from fascism's grip, and when we and the Free World (we used to capitalize it) peacefully released millions from the captivity of Soviet communism.

Historically, you can't get much bigger than that. Yet, what's happening now might be as historic.

We have liberated two nations, and their millions of people, from brutal tyrannies. We have brought the prospect of democracy to the Middle East, a region that has rarely, if ever, known it. We have confronted today's most rancid oppressors.

It is notable that in all instances, we--the United States--were instrumental in these global victories. Can anyone really believe this was an accident? Can anyone doubt that our national character and our values had something to do with it? America's main export is freedom, and not just as an idea. Our actions have bettered the lives of millions. The price is high, but it's worth it.

Yet, some would turn this mountain into a molehill. They will not allow us to bask in what should be a proud time in our history. We should feel ashamed, they tell us, with some success. Just like during and after the Vietnam War, when we engaged in a period of self-loathing perhaps unmatched in our history.

As historian David McCullough noted, if our War of Independence "had been covered by [today's] media and the country had seen how horrible the conditions were ... and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it."

We can't bestow independence on every country, although we're roundly criticized when our efforts to bring cures, prosperity, stability and peace to suffering nations fall short. And certainly, where we spend our lives and treasure in the cause of freedom is subject to cool-headed debate.

But what's it worth to us? Why care about spreading freedom? The answer is here, in this question: When was the last time we were invaded by a free nation? "

Krugman: Red America Kills by Obesity

Girth of a Nation - New York Times: "The Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group financed by Coca-Cola, Wendy's and Tyson Foods, among others, has a Fourth of July message for you: worrying about the rapid rise in American obesity is unpatriotic.

...It sounds like a parody, but don't laugh. These people are blocking efforts to help America's children.

...So there is, understandably, a movement to do something about rising obesity, especially among the young. Bills that would require schools to serve healthier lunches, remove vending machines selling sweets and soda, and so on have been introduced in a number of state legislatures.

...But even these mild steps have run into fierce opposition from conservatives. Why?

In part, this is yet another red-blue cultural conflict. On average, people living outside metropolitan areas are heavier than urban or suburban residents, and people in the South and Midwest are heavier than those on the coasts. So it's all too easy for worries about America's weight to come off as cultural elitism.

More important, however, is the role of the food industry. The debate over obesity, it turns out, is a lot like the debate over global warming.

So what can we do?

The first step is to recognize the industry-financed campaign against doing anything for the cynical exercise it is. Remember, nobody is proposing that adult Americans be prevented from eating whatever they want. The question is whether big companies will have a free hand in their efforts to get children into the habit of eating food that's bad for them. "
First, John Edwards says red america kills kids by starvation; now Krugman says red america feeds kids too much bad food just like the "big" companies want...

So, Krugman wants to 1)restrict the free speech of big bad companies out to kill people (isn't a dead customer by definition not a good customer?) and red state conservatives play into the hands of the conspiracy; and 2) have the government dictate the diet of children for their own good (Krugman notes that "nobody is proposing that adult[my emphasis] Americans be prevented from eating whatever they want.")

Krugman sees the ads by the food industry as seemingly "parody"; I think Krugman's columns are ghost written by Scott Ott of Scrappleface fame.

Since Krugman's "Fourth of July" column only mentions our Independence Day in an oblique comment added seemingly as an afterthought to today, I guess Krugman thinks the Declaration of Independence was just another crazy treatise from a red state guy from Virginia, Thomas something or other, wanting the government out of his affairs.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Frum on Foote

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online: "JUL. 2, 2005: THE ETERNAL THINGS
I have always believed that Shelby Foote was one of the very greatest of American historians, fully the equal of Francis Parkman, a country mile ahead of the vainglorious Henry Adams. In the national convulsions that will be triggered this week by the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the revelation of the source of the Valerie Plame leak, can we pause just a moment to pay homage at the death of this great artist and chronicler? Foote was a Southerner and a Union man all at once, who honored the courage of the soldiers of the Confederacy while never conceding an inch to those who doubted that the right side won., usually the abode of the snide and petty, has a surprisingly sensitive appreciation of Foote's achievement. [See earlier post on this blog.]
A reader [of Frum] writes on Foote:
'In the spring of 1981 as a freshman at Auburn University I went to a luncheon lecture by Shelby Foote--a unviversity sponsored event. Thinking back I can't remember why I went. I'd never heard of Mr. Foote, had never read anything he'd written, and didn't know anyone who had. There were maybe fifteen people there. Most probably English grad students it occurs to me now. Shelby Foote enthralled me. He was a gentleman. He was well spoken. He was soft spoken. He described how his novel Shiloh started out a short story about a young Mississippi boy's first occasion uttering a rebel yell. Mr. Foote said something like, 'He'd charged the hill and yelled his yell, but I kept writing for two hundred more pages.' I read in an obit that Foote's three volume, 3,000 page magnum opus about the civil war was originally supposed to be a short one volume work.

'I have since met other great men, or men alleged to be great. Shelby Foote is the one I remember though.'"

Good News on School Vouchers

Ohio Voucher Plan For Schools Tripling: "Ohio is more than tripling the size of its school voucher program, making it the nation's largest since the practice of using public money for private-school tuition was found constitutional three years ago.
The tuition aid, which has been available only in Cleveland since 1996, will allow as many as 14,000 additional students statewide to leave schools that persistently fail academic tests and move to private schools, beginning in the fall of 2006."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

O'Connor Notifiying White House: POTUS Telephones

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "O'Connor's resignation was a closely held secret - even from Bush - until Friday morning. The Supreme Court's head marshal, Pamela Talkin, had called White House Counsel Harriet Miers on Thursday to inquire about how to deliver a sealed envelope the next day. When she called back on Friday before 9 a.m., Talkin said the letter was from O'Connor.

The news was relayed to Bush and he alerted Vice President Dick Cheney, deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett. When the letter arrived around 10:15 a.m., it was in a letter-size manila envelope. Miers took it to Bush, and the president talked by telephone with O'Connor.

'For an old ranching girl, you turned out pretty good,' the president told O'Connor, who grew up on an Arizona ranch. It was an emotional, five-minute call, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. He quoted Bush as telling O'Connor, 'You're one of the great Americans' and 'I wish I were there to hug you.'

...After O'Connor's resignation, Bush spoke on the telephone with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the panel's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. No names were discussed, McClellan said.

The president plans to review briefing material on potential nominees on his flight to Denmark next Tuesday and during his stay Wednesday through Friday at a meeting of leading industrialized nations in Scotland. McClellan said Bush would make no decisions before his return."
I have no idea how much is true and what is spin; it sounds hokey and government-confused enough to me to be real.

Shelby Foote on Iraq Situation

Field Maloney: "Foote had not lost his keen sense of historical perspective. The Abu Ghraib scandal had recently broke, and he was surprised that Bush had stood by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the failures of postwar planning in Iraq. 'Lincoln went through six leaders of the Army before he got to Grant, whom he trusted enough to leave alone. All the others always had to look back over their shoulders. And Lincoln had to. They had wrong strategies and wrong notions of war.'

Foote mentioned that he had been reading Tacitus over and over. 'Tacitus writes about high-placed scoundrels. He's so damned good. He said that he wrote so that people would be ashamed of bad things and proud of good things.' Foote borrowed a quote from Tacitus in his final volume of The Civil War. That afternoon in Memphis, he was reminded of it: "A German, watching the Roman legions passing through the area beyond the Rhine, tearing it all up, says, 'They make a wilderness and call it peace.' I think we're doing some of that ourselves now." "
The perspective on Iraq from a great Southerner storyteller, controversial historian, a lover of bourbon, dogs, perspective, and the truth about man, war, and our conundrums.
(For UD.)

Civil War Medicine

Battlefields and Bladders: "In a world without antibiotics or knowledge of bacteria, with blood transfusions still 60 years off and amputation the cure du jour, Engel says medical diseases caused two-thirds of Civil War deaths. Treatments often contributed to fatalities. Physicians treated some 6 million illnesses during the war -- brought on by 'malaria miasmas,' 'crowd poisonings' and 'mephitic effluvia,' which hovered around the privies.
A majority of troops suffered from typhoid, dysentery and diarrhea. 'They treated venereal diseases with mercury, which actually helped,' Engel says. But in high amounts, mercury is poisonous and destroys mucus membranes from the nose to the bowels, he says. Opium was the common drug doctors gave soldiers for intestinal problems.

'So many of the treatments invoked in those days were treatments where today we would say, 'My God, they did that?' On the other hand, by doing those things, they really pushed medicine forward. We eventually learned this was something good, this was something not good.'"
Warning - Do not read this story anywhere near a meal.

President Bush Unscripted

G8 summit at Gleneagles Times Online The Times: "THERE has probably never been a president, there may not have been a human being, who observes punctuality with the sort of fanaticism that President George W. Bush brings to every aspect of his life.

If you are on time for a meeting with the President you are late, we were told as we prepared for our interview in the Oval Office yesterday to preview the G8 summit at Gleneagles next week.

Sure enough, a full nine minutes before the allotted time for our appointment, the door of the most famous room in the world opens and a genial President steps forward to greet us.

In person Mr Bush is so far removed from the caricature of the dim, war-mongering Texas cowboy of global popular repute that it shakes one's faith in the reliability of the modern media. "
Read it all to get a handle on the real President Bush revealed throughout this interview.

Krugman Advises Cut and Run

America Held Hostage : "A majority of Americans now realize that President Bush deliberately misled the nation to promote a war in Iraq...Iraq posed no threat before we invaded...the war is helping, not hurting, the terrorists...victory the hawks promised is no longer possible...pretty much the whole U.S. Army is already in Iraq...time is running out for America's volunteer military, which is cracking under the strain of a war it was never designed to fight...The point is that the presence of American forces in Iraq is making our country less safe. So it's time to start winding down the war."
I really, really dislike every opinion Krugman has on everything from economics, to foreign affairs, to even trival domestic issues. He is one of the rare people I have never read one thing I think is smart, well-reasoned or even vaguely correct. I would like to see Krugman say "the military is cracking under the strain of war" to an Army Ranger or a US Marine. That scene would certainly make my day.

The Poll Not Reported

Captain's Quarters: "Gallup announced yesterday that it had taken a snap poll after the speech given by George Bush on the war in Iraq from Fort Bragg. The poll showed some movement bolstering support for the war. In fact, it showed Bush picking up ten points on whether we are winning in Iraq (up to 54%), twelve points on keeping troops in Iraq until the situation improves as opposed to setting an exit date for their evacuation (now at 70%/25%), and seven points on whether Bush has a clear plan for handling the war in Iraq (up to 63%/35%).

All of these gains were made, Gallup points out, despite the fact that the speech had the lowest ratings of any prime-time presidential address in Bush's terms of office.
Only 23 million people watched the speech, and Gallup notes that most of them consisted of Bush supporters. CNN also reported on the low turnout for the speech: President Bush's latest address to the nation, urging Americans to stand firm in Iraq, drew the smallest TV audience of his tenure, Nielsen Media Research reported Wednesday. "
(HT: From Instapundit to Captain's Quarters to here.)
The MSM reports the viewing audience but little to no reports on the Gallup poll including fron USA Today/CNN which commissioned the poll. No surprise - it was good news for Bush.

Xenophobia Influences Iragi Insurgents

John Tierney discusses xenophobia and Iraq in 'Get Out, You Damned One' : "...marriage between cousins is so common in the Middle East - half of Iraqis are married to their first or second cousins - Arabs live in tightly knit clans long resistant to outsiders, including would-be liberators. T. E. Lawrence learned that lesson when trying to unify Arabs early in the last century. 'The Semites' idea of nationality,' he wrote, 'was the independence of clans and villages, and their ideal of national union was episodic combined resistance to an intruder. Constructive policies, an organized state, an extended empire, were not so much beyond their sight as hateful in it. They were fighting to get rid of Empire, not to win it.'

Today's liberators in Iraq like to attribute the resistance to Islamic fascists' fear of democracy and hatred of the West. But those fascists know that an abstract critique of Western ideology isn't enough to attract followers. In their appeals they constantly invoke the need to expel foreigners from their soil, a battle cry that is the great common denominator of suicide bombers around the world.

Maybe, as President Bush hopes, Americans can stay long enough in the Middle East to jump-start democracy and reduce the long-term risk of terrorism. But in the meantime, they're bound to face resistance, no matter how noble their intentions.

During the Civil War, Union soldiers were amazed to see poor Southerners without any stake in the slavery system defending it in suicidal charges. But there was a simple explanation, as a barefoot, emaciated Confederate captive famously put it when a Union soldier asked him why he kept fighting: 'Because you're here.'"

Shelby Foote Obituarists

Shelby Foote - The Homer of the Old South? By Field Maloney: "Our nation's obituarists responded to the death of the Civil War historian Shelby Foote on Monday night by splitting, roughly, into two familiar camps: those above and those below the Mason-Dixon line. The tenor of the Northern praise was respectful, occasionally admiring, but restrained—at least compared to the Southerners, a number of whom had reverential firsthand tales of droll conversations and shared bourbons with the elegant, puckish Mississippian. One columnist from North Carolina called Foote's history of the Civil War 'the Iliad of our nation,' while a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lamented, 'we've lost a modern day Homer.' One Washington Post writer boldly ventured that with Foote's passing now the Civil War could 'finally be over.'

As Edmund Wilson wrote in his introduction to Patriotic Gore, the 'period of the American Civil War was not one in which belles letters flourished, but it did produce a remarkable literature which mostly consists of speeches and pamphlets, private letters and diaries, personal memoirs and journalistic reports.' Has there ever been another historical crisis of the magnitude of 1861-65 in which so many people were so articulate?" Much of the considerable power of Foote's epic comes from the way he—drawing on his novelistic instincts—wove together all the these disparate voices into one seamless narrative.

...[Foote's] scene[s] ha[ve] tremendous pathos, and the postcript[s are] the kind of quietly devastating flourish one might come across in Chekhov. Foote's epic history is filled with thousands of such small moments. They make the Southern obituarists' claim that Foote's opus is the Iliad of our nation seem not quite as outlandish."
A nice summary piece on Foote - worthy of a quick read before you delve into the real stuff.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shelby Foote, RIP

Shelby Foote, 1916-2005 Posted by Hello

Shelby Foote, Historian and Novelist, Dies at 88 : "Shelby Foote, the historian whose incisive, seasoned commentary - delivered in a drawl so mellifluous that one critic called it 'molasses over hominy' - evoked the Civil War for millions in the 11-hour PBS documentary in 1990, died on Monday at a Memphis hospital He was 88 and lived in Memphis.

Under the influence of William Alexander Percy, a local author and the uncle of young Shelby's best friend, Walker Percy, the boy took to books, discovering abiding favorites from Shakespeare to Dickens. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he wrote short stories and poems for the campus literary magazine before dropping out in 1937 without taking a degree. But he did find occasion, with Walker Percy, to visit William Faulkner in Oxford, Miss. The pair were cordially received.

...Writing in an ornate script with an old-style dip pen in his rambling magnolia-shaded house in Memphis, where the Footes had moved in 1953, he produced the 2,934-page, three-volume, 1.5 million-word military history, "The Civil War: A Narrative." At 500 to 600 words a day, with times out to visit battlefields on the anniversaries of the battles, it took him 20 years. The volumes appeared between 1958 and 1974.

Responding to the observation that it took him five times as long to write the war as its participants took to fight it, Mr. Foote pointed out that 'there were a good many more of them than there was of me.' Inspired by the works of Tacitus, Thucydides, Gibbon and, more surprising, Marcel Proust, Mr. Foote's own specially prized writer for prose style, psychological insight and the sweep of his vision, he created a history as written by a novelist, with due bows to a line that included Tolstoy, Stendhal and Stephen Crane.

Still, it remained for television to carry him to fame. In 1985 Ken Burns, planning his television documentary on the war, called on Mr. Foote, who had been recommended by his fellow Southern writer Robert Penn Warren, to be a paid consultant. The choice of an accomplished stylist steeped in Southern lore was made to order, and Mr. Foote readily established himself as the viewers' surrogate.

The series, a smash hit for public broadcasting, attracted an audience of 14 million over five nights and turned Mr. Foote into a prime-time star. His fans learned that he was a pipe smoker who loved Mozart and Vermeer and Proust (he said he had read "Remembrance of Things Past" from start to finish nine times) and drank bourbon outdoors and scotch indoors. His dog, Booker, an akita, dozed nearby as he wrote. At one point Mr. Foote was getting 20 calls a day from admirers who just wanted to have him over for dinner. He took a page from Ulysses S. Grant who, in reply to the remark 'You must get lots of mail,' said, 'Not nearly so much as I did when I answered it all.' Mr. Foote stopped writing back. "


Tournament (1949)
Love in a Dry Season (1951)
Shiloh (1952)
September, September (1978)

The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville (1958)
The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (1963)
The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox (1974)

I am very proud of my boxed, well-worn set of the three volumes of his Civil War Narrative which I keep directly behind my desk -- at which I sometimes just stare at his books and remember that war the way Shelby Foote wrote it. I usually pull a volume out every winter and re-read some of my favorite parts of his writing and how he makes those famous legendary figures seem so human, so alive, so fallible yet simultaneously heroic. It is long but it is one of those things you should do if you care about the history of our United States and the most monumental episode in our history -- and I pray it will remain so. And if you are a Southerner, or if you wish to understand us, it is certainly required reading. May the great Shelby Foote rest in peace in his dear Southern soil.

Lady Needs Help With Driving Test

Flash floods swamp Henderson County: "Maureen Peltier was another victim of high water. The 65-year-old Hendersonville [NC] woman was on her way home from the library in Fletcher, where she'd checked out a study guide to help her pass her driver's license test, when she drove her Chrysler New Yorker into more than four feet of water on Howard Gap Road. Henderson County Rescue Squad members waded through the water and pulled Peltier from her stranded vehicle at about 10 a.m. 'My husband and son are going to kill me,' said Peltier as she sat on the rear bumper of a Dana Fire Department emergency vehicle, a high-water mark about chest level on her white T-shirt, and tried to get warm."

"The Defeatist Caucus"

Subhead: "Some on Capitol Hill seem to yearn for a repeat of Vietnam." OpinionJournal - The Western Front: "The history of the Vietnam War could repeat itself in Iraq if the Beltway class decides to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Yet we are winning the global war on terror by the only measure of success that matters: Terrorists have not successfully pulled off another attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. We are also succeeding in Iraq and at pressuring much of the Middle East to move toward accepting the antidote to the hate-filled ideology that spawns terrorists: democracy and freedom.

It took eight years of determined effort for Ronald Reagan to reverse the course of history by backing freedom fighters across the globe, building up our military capabilities and finding other ways to put the screws to the Soviets. During those years he was also roundly criticized for confronting the ideologues of oppression and, in the process, risking alienating our European allies. But shortly after President Reagan left office the evil empire collapsed in a heap. We had our holiday from history in the 1970s and again, under President Clinton, in the 1990s, with disastrous results each time. Now we've got the wind at our back and a president willing to confront the ideologues of hate by backing those seeking their own freedom around the world. We don't have to lose this war. But we could, if the nation loses confidence in fighting it."

SCOTUS: "Thou Shalt Split Hairs"

Peggy Noonan with Thou Shalt Split Hairs: "The Supreme Court rendered two more hairsplitting, migraine-inducing decisions yesterday about when religious displays on public property do and do not violate the First Amendment protection against 'establishment' of religion.

Never mind the court's minute reasoning about the finely tuned criteria it has spun over the years. Instead, consider -- as the court should have done years ago, when it began policing religious displays -- a few facts about the era in which the establishment clause was written. In 1789 the First Amendment was drafted by the first Congress -- after it had hired a chaplain..."
Read it all if you can.

'King of the Hill' Gov. Mike Easley of NC

'King of the Hill' Democrats?: "If politicians and pundits are really so desperate to understand the values of conservative America without leaving their living rooms, then they should start setting the TiVo to record another animated sitcom...despite its general policy of eschewing politics, somehow continues to offer the most subtle and complex portrayal of small-town voters on television: ''King of the Hill,'' on Fox. North Carolina's two-term Democratic governor, Mike Easley, is so obsessed with the show that he instructs his pollster to separate the state's voters into those who watch ''King of the Hill'' and those who don't so he can find out whether his arguments on social and economic issues are making sense to the sitcom's fans.

For those who have somehow missed ''King of the Hill'' during its nine-year run, here's a lightning-quick primer: It revolves around a classic American everyman, the earnest Hank Hill, who sells ''propane and propane accessories'' in the small town of Arlen, Tex. Hank lives with his wife, Peggy, a substitute Spanish teacher who can't really speak Spanish, and his son, Bobby, a sensitive class clown who exhibits none of his father's manliness. (''This is a carburetor,'' Hank tells his son. ''Take it apart, put it back together; repeat until you're normal.'')

The composition of the audience for ''King of the Hill'' is telling. You might expect that a spoof of a small-town propane salesman and his beer-drinking buddies would attract mostly urban intellectuals, with their highly developed sense of irony. In fact, as Governor Easley long ago realized, the show's primary viewer looks a lot like Hank Hill. According to Nielsen Media Research, the largest group of ''King of the Hill'' viewers is made up of men between the ages of 18 and 49, and almost a quarter of those men own pickup trucks. 'This is only the second show that's a comedy about the South -- this and 'Andy Griffith' -- that doesn't make fun of Southerners,' Easley told me recently, adding that Hank and his neighbors remind him of the people he grew up with in the hills near Greenville. (Which is probably why Easley does startlingly good impressions of the various characters, including the verbally challenged Boomhauer.)

Easley polls surprisingly well for a Democrat among these voters, and he says he thinks that understanding the show's viewers might resolve some of the mysteries confronting his party about the vast swaths of red on the electoral map. Easley is reasonably progressive -- he raised taxes during his first term to protect education spending -- but he's also known as a guy who cracked up a race car during a spin on a Nascar course. When the governor, a former prosecutor, prepares to make his case on a partisan issue, he likes to imagine that he's explaining his position to Hank -- an exercise that might be useful for his colleagues in Washington too. For instance, Easley told me that Hank would never support a budget like the one North Carolina's Senate recently passed, which would drop some 65,000 mostly elderly citizens from the Medicaid rolls; Hank, after all, has pitched in to support his own father, a brutish war veteran, and he would never condone a community's walking away from its ailing parents. Similarly, Hank may be a lover of the environment -- he was furious when kids trashed the local campground -- but he resents self-righteous environmentalists like the ones who forced Arlen to install those annoying low-flow toilets. Voters like Hank, if they had heard about it on the evening news, would have supported Easley's ''Clean Smokestacks'' law, which forced North Carolina's coal-powered electric plants to burn cleaner, but only because industry was a partner in the final bill, rather than its target. "