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. "

"In American Politics Who is GM and Who is Toyota?"

Interesting thoughts from John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in the LA Times with The GOP's a Toyota, Dems Are All GM: "You might imagine that the GOP would be the GM Party. Conservatives are more likely to drive gas-guzzling Chevy Suburbans; liberals are more likely to try a sensible RAV4. A Hummer almost screams 'I'm a Republican and I don't care'; the Toyota Prius comes standard with a faded Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker. But if you look at the state of the parties rather than the driving habits of their members, the picture reverses."
Read it all to understand how apt the comparisons and conclusions.

David Frum: "Grey Lady Proves Rove Right"

David Frum's Diary: "Take for example this [NYT'S] story, which appeared on the front page, upper left hand corner of Friday's paper. Here's the lede: 'Military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators.'
And it continues: 'The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation's fight against terrorism.'

You might well wonder: what questions could this story possibly raise? What on earth could be wrong with the military using psychologists to help it figure out how to interrogate more effectively? Or - to be more specific - how on earth could even the NYT possibly find this use of psychologists objectionable? The interrogations in this case after all involve terrorists captured in Afghanistan, the war that the NYT tells us it unequivocally supports. The psychologists were not involved in any alleged abuse or maltreatment of prisoners.

Yet the paper gives prolonged and highly visible credence to complaints that 'there was no way that psychiatrists at Guantanamo could ethically counsel interrogators on ways to increase distress on detainees.' How, how, how? Hold your jaw in your mouth with both hands and listen:
'Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as 'biscuit' teams, which advise interrogators.

''Their purpose was to help us break them,' one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year.'
In other words: in the view of the NYT's favored experts, and of those editors who adjudged this story worth of the most prominent spot on A-1, it was the very act of extracting information from terrorist detainees that was morally problematic.

And that's why conservatives like Karl Rove express doubts about the liberal commitment to the war on terror."

Kudlow on Trade with China

Larry Kudlow on China Trade, the Yuan, and Smoot Schumer and Hawley Graham: "If a store is selling quality products at low prices, why would anyone want to shut it down? This rhetorical question was asked by economist Arthur Laffer last week in connection to an unprecedented attack on China trade by numerous U.S. senators. In response to the China bashing, the stock market plunged.

How fitting that such a misguided approach to both the economy and national security would come on the 75th anniversary of the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff bill. According to economist Thomas Sowell, that massive tariff helped trigger the Great Depression, with U.S. unemployment rising from 9 percent in 1930 to 16 percent in 1931 and 25 percent in 1932.

Today, senators Smoot Schumer and Hawley Graham have proposed a 27.5 percent tariff on Chinese imports unless China raises significantly the value of its yuan currency. The senators seem to be angry at a rising bilateral trade deficit resulting from Chinese imports to the U.S. But so what? Free trade only empowers our consumers. In the last couple of years the U.S. has created about 3.5 million new jobs, the unemployment rate is only 5.1 percent, and the nation's GDP is expanding at a 4.5 percent pace. Meanwhile, China's economy continues to climb near a 10 percent rate, with the heretofore impoverished Chinese population slowly but surely entering the modern realm of rising global prosperity.

Schumer and Graham believe that a higher yuan would narrow the trade deficit. But Alan Greenspan completely disagrees. The Fed chairman told a Senate panel that 'some observers mistakenly believe that a marked increase in the exchange value of the Chinese renminbi [yuan] relative to the U.S. dollar would significantly increase manufacturing activity and jobs in the United States. I am aware of no credible evidence that supports such a conclusion.'

More, Art Laffer argues that a stable yuan linked to the dollar has promoted strong economic growth at low inflation for the U.S., China, and the rest of the world. 'We have outsourced Alan Greenspan to China,' said Laffer, 'and that's a good thing for everyone.'

...The freedom to trade and the freedom to choose are central to the economic freedom that's necessary for nations to grow and prosper. Centuries of economic history confirm this, and yet some people seem to want to repeat the worst mistakes of the past. Open trade and currency stability enormously benefit both the U.S. and China and may well lead to improved international relations. Why do senators Smoot Schumer and Hawley Graham want to disrupt the 21st century march to peace and prosperity?

Cutting off your nose to spite your face makes no sense for individuals, nor for nations. Hasn't history taught us that free trade is part of the solution - not the problem?"
I caught part of this debate yesterday when Senator Schumer appeared on Kudlow & Company on CNBC yesterday. Sen. Schumer certainly held his own and argued that the purpose of the bill was not to actually impose tariffs to but to pressure the administration and China to engage in productive efforts to recognize the situation with the yuan and its effect on certain domestic US manufacturing firms. Given that if the bill is indeed a threat not a implemented policy - then it does not concern me as much as it did before I saw the interview. By the way, while Larry Kudlow's show comes on at an awkard time for me (5pm Eastern), I think it is the best of the general business shows (without Jim Cramer whose stock show follows)including those of Neil Cavuto on Fox and Lou Dobbs on CNN. Of course, CNBC during the day is often mandatory depending on the situation as it indeed is all business all day with up to speed information.

A Primer on Oil Prices

Oil Prices: Cause and Effect: "Oil prices did not quintuple after 1999 because Americans suddenly switched from mini-cars to SUVs. On the contrary, if all passenger cars, pickups and SUVs were replaced with bicycles, the United States would still import a lot of oil.

We import nearly 58 percent of all petroleum, yet only 45 percent of each barrel is used to produce gasoline, and a significant portion of that gasoline is used in delivery vans and taxis. Commuter and leisure driving accounts for little more than 40 percent of the oil we consume -- far less than the amount we import. The rest of each barrel of crude is used for heating oil and diesel fuel for trucks, busses, farm machinery and ships (23 percent), petrochemicals (17 percent), jet fuel (9 percent), asphalt (4 percent) and propane (4 percent).

U.S. industries use petroleum to produce the synthetic fiber used in textile mills making carpeting and fabric from polyester and nylon. U.S. tire plants use petroleum to make synthetic rubber. Other U.S. industries use petroleum to produce plastic, drugs, detergent, deodorant, fertilizer, pesticides, paint, eyeglasses, heart valves, crayons, bubble gum and Vaseline.

When the cost of oil goes up, production costs are increased and profits reduced for industries that depend on oil. Producer costs -- not consumer gasoline costs -- are the reason high oil prices threaten to shrink industrial production of goods directly affected and also of energy-intensive products such as aluminum and paper. This threat affects all new and old industrial economies, whether those nations import or export oil. The United States may be least vulnerable because of superior energy efficiency and a larger service sector.

Of these many uses of oil in industry and commercial transportation, gasoline demand among ordinary consumers may be the least sensitive to price. That is why the relatively invariable demand of motorists cannot possibly account for the wide cyclical variations we observe in crude prices. It's the other 60 percent of the barrel that matters most, at the margin.

Just as oil market pundits typically ignore the 60 percent of petroleum not going into passenger cars, they likewise ignores the 60 percent of incremental oil demand not coming from China and the United States.

Want the bad news first? High oil prices have already slowed industrial production in many countries, even China and the United States to a lesser extent. Leading indicators point to wider and deeper trouble ahead.

The good news is that oil prices have proven very sensitive to industrial production, so this problem is self-limiting. Cost-squeezed industrial firms -- not necessarily in the United States -- will be reducing production and thereby reducing world oil demand and prices.

Nobody in Washington shows the slightest awareness of the global nature of the oil market, of the fact that industrial damage from high oil prices has nothing to do with whether a country imports or exports oil, or even the fact that there is a crucial two-way linkage between worldwide industrial production and worldwide oil prices. When it comes to causes and effects of high oil prices, nobody in Washington shows much interest in logic or facts. It might be sad if it wasn't so pathologically pathetic."

Tax Receipts Soar

Michael T. Darda on the Deficit and Tax Receipts: "According to the Treasury department, the U.S. government took in a single-day record $61 billion in tax receipts on June 15. This surpassed the previous single-day high of $56 billion set on December 15, 2000. The recent surge in tax revenues is not just a one-day event. Fiscal year to date, total government receipts are up 15.5 percent, the fastest rate of increase on a comparable FYTD basis since 1981. The difference between the growth rate of tax revenues and the growth rate of government spending has widened to 8.4-percentage points, the largest since late 2000 when the budget was in surplus.

Not surprisingly, the recent tidal wave of tax receipts has ignited a furious debate about whether or not the Bush tax cuts are responsible for stimulating economic activity enough to actually boost overall tax-revenue collections. Classical economists refer to this as the Laffer curve, or the revenue-reflow, effect. In simple terms, if a tax cut stimulates the underlying activity being taxed, a revenue reflow will result. The reflow can offset or even surpass the volume of revenues that would have been collected under the higher tax rate and smaller tax base. Pro-growth tax-rate reductions on labor and capital in the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s, and then again in 1997 and 2003 all exhibited revenue-reflow effects, although some were stronger than others."
See my earlier post "Supply Side Economics Made Easy."

Gitmo Menus

The next time you hear about the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba recall the care and balance of the detainees' food intake. The menus are available on line here. Those people eat better than any American I know.
(HT: Roger L. Simon.)

House Members Tour Guantanamo

Camp Delta 1 Guard Tower Guantanamo Bay Cuba Posted by Hello

Guantanamo Bay Standard Cell Posted by Hello

Excite News: "During a tour of the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists on Saturday, House Republicans and Democrats, including one who has advocated closing the facility, said the United States has made progress in improving conditions and protecting detainees' rights.

The U.S. lawmakers witnessed interrogations, toured cellblocks and ate the same lunch given to detainees on the first congressional visit to the prison for suspected terrorists since criticism of it intensified in the spring. A Senate delegation also was visiting this weekend. 'The Guantanamo we saw today is not the Guantanamo we heard about a few years ago,' said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.

After getting a classified briefing from base commanders, the House delegation ate lunch with troops - the same meal of chicken with orange sauce, rice and okra that detainees were served. They then toured several of the barbed-wire camps where detainees are housed, viewing small cells, dusty recreation yards and common areas.

From behind one-way mirrors, lawmakers watched interrogators grilling three individual terror suspects. None of the interrogators touched detainees.

In one session, they questioned a man who defense officials said was a Saudi national and admitted al-Qaida member who was picked up in Afghanistan and knew nine of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers. In another, a female interrogator took an unusual approach to wear down a detainee, reading a Harry Potter book aloud for hours. He turned his back and put his hands over his ears.

At a communal camp for those given privileges because of good behavior, bearded detainees in white frocks, flip-flops and skull caps quietly lingered near lawmakers, although from behind fences. Later, the detainees played soccer."

Why NCLB Was Necessary: NC Leads States in Lies about Graduation Rates

N.C.'s graduation rates are misleading to public: "North Carolina reported a 97 percent graduation rate - the highest in the nation. But its rate measures the percentage of graduates who finish in four years, not the percentage of students who entered the ninth grade and received a diploma four years later. No dropouts were counted.

The numbers show 'rampant dishonesty,' said Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, an advocacy organization for poor and minority students. The Trust reviewed the 2002-03 graduation rates that states provided this year and released its report Thursday.

A series of independent analyses shows the graduation rate across the U.S. is closer to 70 percent, meaning almost one-third of students don’t finish on time – or at all. North Carolina’s graduation rate is probably closer to 60 percent. Only 11 states put their graduation rate somewhere in the 60 percent or 70 percent range, the new report finds. Three states and the District of Columbia reported no graduation rate data at all.

Next year, North Carolina will change its formula and begin reporting the percentage of ninth-graders who graduated on time, said Janice Davis, the state’s interim superintendent of public instruction. In the meantime, she said, the state is accurately reporting what it measures, but also is aware that its measure 'is misleading, and that is not our intent.' "

"Failing to Teach History Bad for Democracy"

OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail: "Yale professor David Gelernter says that 'ignorance of history is destroying our judgment.' He points to Sen. Dick Durbin's ignorant comment comparing the actions of U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay to those of Nazis and Soviets. His remarks went largely unremarked upon by fellow senators until talk radio made them an issue. Future leaders may make even more horrific missteps: a 2003 survey of seniors at the top 55 liberal arts colleges found that over half thought Germany, Italy or Japan had been a U.S. ally in World War II. The concern about historical amnesia crosses the political spectrum. Bill Moyers, the liberal PBS pundit, has said 'we Americans seem to know everything about the last 24 hours but very little of the last 60 centuries or the last 60 years.'

When Ronald Reagan delivered his 1989 farewell address to the nation, he noted there was 'a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells,' and he would make no exception. He told his audience that the 'one that's been on my mind for some time' was that the country was failing to adequately teach our children the American story and what it represents in the history of the world. 'We've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion, but what's important,' he said. 'If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.'

As well-meaning as Philadelphia's attempt to raise the self-esteem of black students may be, we should take time this coming Fourth of July to realize that our failure to teach America's story demands far more strenuous solutions."
See earlier post on Philadelphia's requirement for all high school students to take black history in addition to the above comments.

Iraq Not Quagmire

OpinionJournal : "Regarding Mr. Kennedy's 'quagmire' claim, General Casey had this response: 'I thought I was fairly clear in what I laid out in my testimony about what's going on in Iraq, that you have an insurgency with no vision, no base, limited popular support, an elected government, committed Iraqis to the democratic process, and you have Iraqi security forces that are fighting and dying for their country every day. Senator, that is not a quagmire.'

General John Abizaid of the U.S. Central Command stressed this point last week. Troop morale, he said, has never been better. But 'when I look back here at what I see is happening in Washington, within the Beltway, I've never seen the lack of confidence greater.' He added that, 'When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they're starting to do that.'"

Steyn to the Point on the Flag

Don't worry, Old Glory can take the heat: "Banning flag desecration flatters the desecrators and suggests that the flag of this great republic is a wee delicate bloom that has to be protected. It's not. It gets burned because it's strong.

That's the point: A flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that's not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can't stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business. It's the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand that the battle of ideas is won out in the open."

Mark Steyn Seeing People as They Are

Don't worry, Old Glory can take the heat: "One of the big lessons of these last four years is that many, many beneficiaries of Western civilization loathe that civilization -- and the media are generally inclined to blur the extent of that loathing. At last year's Democratic Convention, when the Oscar-winning crockumentarian Michael Moore was given the seat of honor in the presidential box next to Jimmy Carter, I wonder how many TV viewers knew that the terrorist ''insurgents'' -- the guys who kidnap and murder aid workers, hack the heads off foreigners, load Down's syndrome youths up with explosives and send them off to detonate in shopping markets -- are regarded by Moore as Iraq's Minutemen. I wonder how many viewers knew that on Sept. 11 itself Moore's only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted New York and Washington instead of Texas or Mississippi: ''They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C. and the plane's destination of California -- these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!'

In other words, if the objection to flag desecration is that it's distasteful, tough. Like those apocryphal Victorian matrons who discreetly covered the curved legs of their pianos, the culture already goes to astonishing lengths to veil the excesses of those who are admirably straightforward in their hostility.

If people feel that way, why protect them with a law that will make it harder for the rest of us to see them as they are?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

President Clinton's Paperback Tour

President Clinton in Indianapolis Posted by Hello

"Former President Bill Clinton, left, talks with Ball St. student Erin Graham of Muncie, Ind., as he signs her copy of his autobiography, 'My Life Bill Clinton' in Indianapolis, Wednesday, June 8, 2005. Clinton will also give a speech in Indianapolis tonight. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) "
Blame this on John Podhoretz in The Corner .

Bill Kristol on US Political Economics

Remember Tax Cuts?: "'s not too soon for the president to start recapturing the Reaganite high ground of tax cuts and economic growth and opportunity. He can do that in two easy and obvious ways.

First, he can make clear that his tax cuts worked. The 2003 cuts in personal income rates, and in the tax rates on dividends and capital gains, have helped produce economic growth of better than 4 percent a year--as non-tax-cutting European economies have stagnated. Unemployment here is down to 5.1 percent, while it remains 10 percent or more in Germany and France. The Dow is up by about 24 percent since May 2003, and capital spending by business is up some 22 percent.

And tax revenues are up. As Stephen Moore has pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, the supply-side Laffer curve has worked. Federal tax receipts are up by over 15 percent so far this fiscal year--and state tax receipts are up 7.5 percent. Individual and corporate receipts are up some 30 percent in the two years since the tax cut. The budget deficit looks as if it will be down by some $60 billion this year.

It's a Bush administration success story. They should tout it. Usually politicians seek to forget--and to have others forget--their failures. In this case, the Bush administration has forgotten to take credit for its successes. Tax cuts have been orphaned. But it's never too late to remind the American people that Republicans pushed through, and the Democrats opposed, tax cuts.

And then the president can ask that the tax cuts be made permanent."

Supply-Side Economics Made Simple

Laffer Curve Posted by Hello

From Stephen Moore, whom you recall as the former president of "The Club for Growth" and now with the Wall Street Journal's editorial board and author of "Bullish on Bush: How the Ownership Society Will Make America Richer" (Madison Books, 2004) in OpinionJournal : "As legend has it, the famous Laffer Curve was first drawn by economist Arthur Laffer in 1974 on a cocktail napkin during a small dinner meeting at the Washington Hotel attended by the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley and such high-powered policy makers as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The Laffer Curve helped launch the Reaganomics Revolution here at home and a frenzy of tax-rate cutting around the globe that continues to this day.

The theory is really one of the simplest concepts in economics. Yet its logic continues to elude the class-warfare lobby, whose disbelief is unburdened by the multiple real-life examples that validate its conclusions. The idea is that lowering the tax rate on production, work, investment and risk-taking will spur more of these activities and thereby will often lead to more tax revenue collections for the government rather than less.

Now we have overpowering confirming evidence from the Bush tax cuts of May 2003. The jewel of the Bush economic plan was the reduction in tax rates on dividends from 39.6% to 15% and on capital gains from 20% to 15%. These sharp cuts in the double tax on capital investment were intended to reverse the 2000-01 stock market crash, which had liquidated some $6 trillion in American household wealth, and to inspire a revival in business capital investment, which had also collapsed during the recession. The tax cuts were narrowly enacted despite the usual indignant primal screams from the greed and envy lobby about "tax cuts for the super rich."

Earlier this month the Congressional Budget Office released its latest report on tax revenue collections. The numbers are an eye-popping vindication of the Laffer Curve and the Bush tax cut's real economic value. Federal tax revenues surged in the first eight months of this fiscal year by $187 billion. This represents a 15.4% rise in federal tax receipts over 2004. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have exploded like a cap let off a geyser, up 30% in the two years since the tax cut. Once again, tax rate cuts have created a virtuous chain reaction of higher economic growth, more jobs, higher corporate profits, and finally more tax receipts.

All of this brings us to the crucial policy issue of whether Congress will observe these new economic and revenue data and have the common sense to keep a good thing going by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Thanks to inane budget rules in Congress the capital gains and dividend tax cuts are currently set to expire in 2008. (When was the last time a spending program in Washington expired?) One thing would seem certain: Raising the tax rates on capital gains and dividends would be a formula for choking off the expansion and reversing the stock market climb. Until now, the Democrats in Congress have in unison sanctimoniously charged that the government can't afford the price tag of making the tax cut permanent. But, of course, all this new fiscal evidence points to precisely the opposite conclusion: that we can't afford not to make the tax cuts permanent.

Whether Mr. Bush's critics' ideological blinders make them capable of being persuaded by facts and evidence is an altogether different issue."