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April 19, 2005

Web Clippings--20050419

Sigh What I would write about if time were infinite:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20030701faessay15403/jessica-stern/the-protean-enemy.html: Foreign Affairs - The Protean Enemy - Jessica Stern. From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2003: Summary: Despite the setbacks al Qaeda has suffered over the last two years, it is far from finished, as its recent bomb attacks testify. How has the group managed to survive an unprecedented American onslaught? By shifting shape and forging new, sometimes improbable, alliances. These tactics have made al Qaeda more dangerous than ever, and Western governments must show similar flexibility in fighting the group...

http://www.newsday.com/business/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-adobe-macromedia,0,2202302.story?coll=sns-ap-business-headlinesNewsday.com: Adobe Buys Macromedia in $3.4B Stock Deal: SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Combining two of the largest makers of software for creating and delivering digital content, Adobe Systems Inc. said Monday it will acquire Macromedia Inc. in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.4 billion. Shares of Macromedia, known for its Dreamweaver Web-design program and Flash, which animates and adds interactivity to Web pages, rose more than 8 percent in early trading, while Adobe shares sank 11 percent...

http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/852: Bad And Worse | Liberals Against Terrorism. Submitted by Eric Martin on April 18, 2005 - 6:05pm: A story on the BBC's website (via Juan Cole) recounts statements by Iraq's new president, Jalal Talabani, regarding the use of Kurdish and Shia militias to put down the insurgency: "Iraq's new president has said the insurgency could be ended immediately if the authorities made use of Kurdish, Shia Muslim and other militias. Jalal Talabani said this would be more effective than waiting for Iraqi forces to take over from the US-led coalition.... The Kurds have in the past offered the use of their estimated 80,000 Peshmerga guerrillas for security tasks but have been turned down. So, too, has the Iranian-influenced Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and its Badr brigade, another well-trained fighting force. 'We cannot wait for years and years of terrorist activity because we haven't enough government forces,' the president said." This dilemma represents the 1,092nd example of a Catch-22 encountered in the Iraq campaign. Talabani might be correct that these Iraqi militias would be better suited to ferret out insurgents, having a knowledge of the language, customs, peoples, etc. Unfortunately, such an ethnically polarized military campaign would bring Iraq to the brink of full-fledged civil war - and given the long standing grievances of the Shia and Kurds simmering just under the surface, it is probable that passions will lead to atrocities and brutalities that further exacerbate the situation...

http://www.livejournal.com/users/jmhm/1291005.html: Sisyphus Shrugged - Mr. Kinsley gets it exactly wrong again: I sometimes wonder if Mr. Kinsley reads what Mr. Kinsley writes.... Work with me, Mr. Kinsley. Ms. Kirkpatrick thought we should prop up the oligarchs (many of whom we hand-picked and foisted on the people to begin with) and let the people fend for themselves. The current crop, as a response to a wave of democratization, thinks we should foist hand-picked oligarchs on the people (by force of arms, if necessary) and then prop them up. Where in this you see a switch in actual practice rather than in figleaf rhetoric (swooning over ideas indeed. 'Carter sucks' is not an ideology. Nor is 'It sucks if Carter does it') eludes me. It's all neo realpolitik, and what neo realpolitik meant then and means now is that Republicans make up grand, lofty lies about their goals to get elected so they can do pretty much what they want to do with no reference to all the pretty rhetoric.Perhaps I dine with the wrong people...

http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2005/04/18/4152: Defining Apocalypse Down. ustin Logan catches quite the example of definitional slippage from a New York prosecutor: "Q: Regarding that phrase 'weapons of mass destruction,' in sort of the political discussion, that term has come to mean chemical and radiological and biological -- and I realize it might be different in legal -- is there any implication in the use of that term that there was a biological or a chemical or a radiological element to the plan? MR. COMEY: We have not alleged that. But as you alluded to, a weapon of mass destruction in our world goes beyond that and includes improvised explosive devices." Oy. I guess that makes Dick Cheney sort of right (if you squint), when he says that we continue to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Dear neolibertarians and alleged conservatives (if any of you are still out there): the government is still the government. War doesn't make it less like it used to be. If anything it makes it moreso...

http://thinkprogress.org/index.php?p=667: Democracy Hypocrisy: An Election Mess In Mexico: As the Bush administration continues to tout its efforts to promote democracy in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq, it has overlooked a serious challenge to democracy in Mexico. With 15 months left until the 2006 presidential election, Mexico City9s left-leaning, 51-year-old populist mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, may be forced out of the race due to a highly undemocratic Mexican law..... Rival political parties PRI and President Fox%u2019s own PAN are uniting against the popular mayor, who currently leads in the polls. Their effort (despite the fact that many Mexicans feel the case to be a minor infraction) attempts to strip Lopez Obrador of the immunity from prosecution he maintains as a public official. Taking away Lopez Obrador's immunity would bar him from running for further office, since Mexican law states that politicians cannot run for office if under indictment...

http://ezraklein.typepad.com/blog/2005/04/health_care_fra.htmlEzra Klein: Health Care: France: Da' basics: France has a basic system of public health insurance that, as of January 2000, covers everybody in the nation. Before then, portions of the population lacked insurance. The reimbursement rates are wholly uniform, despite the fact that there are actually three health care funds, a main one covering most workers, and then one for the self-employed and one for agricultural workers. As that hints, the health care is occupationally based. It's paid for through employer and employee contributions (much like Social Security), in addition to personal income taxes. The latter have been increasing in recent years. The funds are private entities under the joint control of employers and unions, which are in turn supervised by the state. As might be expected, that doesn't work particularly smoothly, and there's a constant battle for authority and control. Creative tension, one might kindly call it. The funds are mandatory, no one may opt-out, and they're not allowed to compete with each other nor micromanage care. The public system covers around 75% of total costs. Half of the rest is paid out-of-pocket and the remaining is made up by supplementary insurance companies. About 85% of the French have some form of private insurance...

http://economistsview.blogspot.com/2005/04/daily-standard-bernanke-now-top-pick.html: Economist's View: The Daily Standard: Bernanke Now Top Pick to Replace Greenspan: Irwin M. Stelzer believes Martin Feldstein's association with the troubled American International Group (AIG), and the likelihood that Robert Rubin will be asked to be the new CEO elevates Ben Bernanke as the top candidate to replace Greenspan as chair of the Fed, and that this will bring about "replacement of Greenspan's flexible, intuitive approach to monetary management with specific inflation targeting..."

http://ragout.blogspot.com/2005/04/squid-strategy.html: When you're wrong, and someone points it out, the squid strategy is a good one. Fill the water with black ink to confuse the issue, and hope that observers will through up their hands and decide that it's all too complicated, and too much trouble to judge who's right. This kind of thing is pretty common in politics, but via Brad DeLong, I learn how Harvard Economist Caroline Minter Hoxby is doing the same thing. Hoxby wrote a well-known paper arguing that competition, in the form of numerous school districts, improves school productivity and student outcomes. In fact, relatively simple statistical methods find no such relationship, but Hoxby argues that there might be an omitted variable or reverse causation problem. For example, maybe good school districts get bigger, reducing competition. This doesn't seem like such a serious statistical problem to me, but Hoxby famously proposed to solve it using rivers as a "natural experiment." Her idea is that metropolitan areas with more rivers will have more school districts, because in the olden days, it was hard to cross rivers to go to school. To simplify a little, Hoxby shows that metro areas with more rivers have higher student achievement, and so concludes that competition is a good thing. Recently, the tenured Hoxby has been criticized by the untenured Jesse Rothstein of Princeton, who says he found numerous errors in her study...

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A64409-2005Apr18?language=printer: Army intelligence officials in Iraq developed and circulated 'wish lists' of harsh interrogation techniques they hoped to use on detainees in August 2003, including tactics such as low-voltage electrocution, blows with phone books and using dogs and snakes -- suggestions that some soldiers believed spawned abuse and illegal interrogations. The discussions, which took place in e-mail messages between interrogators and Army officials in Baghdad, were used in part to develop the interrogation rules of engagement approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of U.S. troops in Iraq. Two specific cases of abuse in Iraq occurred soon after. Army investigative documents released yesterday, as well as court records and files, suggest that the tactics were used on two detainees: One died during an interrogation in November 2003 while stuffed into a sleeping bag, and another was badly beaten by inexperienced interrogators using a police baton in September 2003. The documents indicate confusion over what tactics were legal in Iraq, a belief that most detainees were not covered by Geneva Conventions protections and alleged abuse by interrogators who had tacit approval to 'turn it up a notch.' In both incidents, a previously disclosed Aug. 14, 2003, e-mail from the joint task force headquarters in Baghdad to top U.S. human-intelligence gatherers in Iraq is cited as a potential catalyst...

http://www.tnr.com/arch/hs/: The New Republic Archives: Historical Society: Welcome to The New Republic Archives: 90 years of articles, editorials, and reviews. The TNR Archives includes every issue since our first in 1914, so here are some tips to help you get started: Join the TNR Historical Society. Your membership includes access to weekly archive features such as This Month in History, Historical Perspective, and Editor's Choice. As a member, you'll receive 10 handpicked articles each month. Click here to sign up or for more information. Search the full archives for free. The search function in the upper right corner allows you to find articles by topic, subject, and author. Scroll to the bottom of the page or click here for advanced search options. All summaries are free, but there is a cost to download the full article. Click here for pricing information. Find content with TNR Recommends. These are our most popular archive subjects. Click on the subjects in the right-hand column to bring up their full search results...

http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2005/04/loss_aversion_e.html: Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science: Loss aversion etc: If a person is indifferent between [x+$10] and [55% chance of x+$20, 45% chance of x], for any x, then this attitude cannot reasonably be explained by expected utility maximization. The required utility function for money would curve so sharply as to be nonsensical (for example, U($2000)-U($1000) would have to be less than U($1000)-U($950)). This result is shown in a specific case as a classroom demonstration in Section 5 of a paper of mine in the American Statistician in 1998 and, more generally, as a mathematical theorem in a paper by my old economics classmate Matthew Rabin in Econometrica in 2000...

Posted by DeLong at April 19, 2005 09:36 PM