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May 04, 2005

Web Clippings--20050503

What I would write about if time were infinite:

http://juliansanchez.com/notes/archives/2005/04/project_much.php: Notes from the Lounge: Project Much?: I should be beyond surprise of this story, but it's still a little striking to see self-righteous dudgeon and disingenuous horseshit combined in such close proximity and copious quantity. Glenn [Reynold]'s reminding everyone of his 'link-rich refutation' of the 'revisionist' claim that democracy promotion wasn't part of the rationale for invading Iraq.... Seriously now. We all know that this was advanced as a benefit of the invasion, but gimme a break. If someone sells you 'a Porche with a nice stereo system' and you then discover you've actually bought a Dodge Dart, are you supposed to be mollified because it actually has had a nice stereo system installed? Democratization was supposed to be a happy side effect of eliminating the WMDs... before the 'smoking gun' came in the form of a 'mushroom cloud,' why we couldn't keep pushing for a diplomatic solution. Anyone else remember that?... Here's what I'd call 'revisionism': Pretending that the imminent danger of some kind of WMD attack-by-terrorist-proxy hatched in Iraq wasn't, by an overwhelming margin, the major prong of the case for the war and a necessary condition of building public support for it...

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/5e8d7e5a-b8e8-11d9-bfeb-00000e2511c8,_i_rssPage=9d5b9ebe-c8bc-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html: Labour beset by fears for its majority By James Blitz in London: Tony Blair, UK prime minister, entered the final weekend of the general election campaign assured of victory but beset by fears his massive majority in parliament will be severely eroded, destroying his hopes of serving a full third term. As the three main parties launch a final push for votes before the May 5 vote, the prime minister can be confident he will be back in Downing Street on Friday. "We're in a situation where a switch of vote by a few hundred people in more than 50 marginal seats could end up throwing out each of the sitting Labour candidates," said one party strategist. "That, in turn, could make the difference to the overall result. We don't know if we're coming back with a majority of 50 or 150." The size of Mr Blair's majority currently 161 seats in the House of Commons will be the central issue in the most uncertain UK election since 1992...

Daring Fireball: The Tiger Details List: I've been using the final developer build of Mac OS X 10.4 for the past few weeks, and compiling a list of observations and interesting details. Things that are new, things that are different. I'm going to assemble them together on a single page... update the list continuously over the next week or so... the URL:

http://daringfireball.net/misc/2005/04/tiger_details

You're welcome to reload that page every few hours, but the best way to ...a special, temporary RSS feed that will contain just the entries to this list of Tiger details:

http://daringfireball.net/feeds/tigerdetails.rss

In other words, it's sort of like a temporary mini-weblog dedicated to details about Tiger...

Meet The New Boss | Liberals Against Terrorism: I'm not sure to what extent the inability to form a government in the time spanning from the elections in late January to just yesterday was aiding the insurgencies in Iraq, but I do think that the formation of a cabinet and the transfer of power from Allawi's interim group to Jaafari should at least provide a spark of hope for a populace that was growing disenchanted and frustrated with the stalemated process. But this renewed optimism triggered by the long awaited establishment of an elected Iraqi government brings with it expectations, and with those expectations, the possibility for more frustration and let down. The questions remain: can the new government get results in terms of repairing Iraq's still dilapidated infrastructure, improve the delivery and availability of vital services, and clamp down on what are a variety of tenaciously resolute insurgencies plaguing the nation...

Stephen Roach: In all my years in this business, never before have I seen a central bank attempt to spin the debate as America’s Federal Reserve has over the past six or seven years. From the New Paradigm mantra of the late 1990s to today’s new theories of the current-account adjustment, the US central bank has led the charge in attempting to rewrite conventional macroeconomics and in making an effort to convince market participants of the wisdom of its revisionist theories. The problem is that this recasting of macro is very self-serving. It is a concentrated effort on the part of the Fed to exonerate itself from the Original Sin of failing to address asset bubbles. The result is an ever-deepening moral hazard dilemma that poses grave threats to financial markets.... It all began with Alan Greenspan’s worries over “irrational exuberance” on December 5, 1996, when a surging Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 6437.... Alan Greenspan went on to champion the notion of a sea-change in the macro climate -- a once-in-a-century productivity miracle that would justify the stock market’s exuberance as rational... a New Economy actually did come into being. But it was not the new economy of ever-accelerating productivity growth that infatuated the New Paradigm Crowd and legions of equity-market speculators. Instead, it was the Asset Economy that enabled consumers and businesses to draw on the pixie dust of a new source of purchasing power -- asset appreciation -- as a means to augment what has since turned into a stunning shortfall of organic domestic income generation.... The Fed is not only hard at work in the engine room in keeping the magic alive with a super-accommodative monetary policy but is has also become the intellectual architect of the New Macro....

  • Chairman Greenspan has made light of traditional measures of household indebtedness -- even going so far as to urge consumers to move from fixed to floating rate obligations (see his February 23, 2004, speech, Understanding Household Debt Obligations. Note: All references are to speeches available on the Fed’s website at www.federalreserve.gov).
  • Fed governors have also borrowed a page from the Roaring 1990s in denying the possibility of a housing bubble (see Chairman Greenspan’s October 19, 2004, speech, The Mortgage Market and Consumer Debt, and Governor Kohn’s April 1, 2004, speech, Monetary Policy and Imbalances).
  • More recently, an army of senior Fed officials -- namely, Chairman Greenspan, Vice Chairman Ferguson, and Governors Bernanke and Kohn -- have unleashed a veritable broadside against the time-honored notion of the current-account adjustment (see their various 2005 speeches, especially Governor Kohn’s April 22 speech, Imbalances and the US Economy, Vice Chairman Ferguson’s April 20 speech, U.S. Current Account Deficit: Causes and Consequences, and Chairman Greenspan’s February 4 speech, Current Account).
  • Governor Bernanke has also led the charge in coming up with a new theory of national saving -- that the United States is actually doing the world a favor by absorbing a so-called glut of global saving (see his April 14, 2005, speech, The Global Saving Glut and the U.S. Current Account Deficit); Vice Chairman Ferguson has been on a similar wavelength in dismissing concerns over subpar personal saving (see his October 6, 2004, speech, Questions and Reflections on the Personal Saving Rate)....

The rhetorical flourishes of America’s central bankers have dug the US economy -- and by definition, a US-centric global economy -- into a deep hole.... The day is close at hand when US monetary policy must get real. At a minimum, that will require a normalization of real interest rates. Given the excesses that now exist, it may even require a federal funds rate that needs to move into the restrictive zone -- possibly as high as 5.5%.... But in the end, there may be no other choice. Fedspeak has taken us into the greatest moral hazard dilemma of all -- how to wean an asset-dependent system from unsustainably low real interest rates without bringing the entire House of Cards down. The longer the Fed waits, the more perilous the exit strategy...

http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/940: Zelikow? | Liberals Against Terrorism: "The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week. Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers 'significant' attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir.... After a week of complaints from Congress, top aides from the State Department and the NCTC were dispatched to the Hill on Monday for a private briefing. There they acknowledged for the first time the increase in terrorist incidents, calling it a 'dramatic uptick'.... Both Republican and Democratic aides at the meeting criticized what a GOP attendee called the 'absurd' explanation offered by the State Department's acting counterterrorism chief, Karen Aguilar, that the statistics are not relevant to the required report on trends in global terrorism. 'It's absurd to issue a report without statistics,' said the aide, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. 'This is a self-inflicted wound by the State Department.' Aguilar, according to Hill aides, told them that Rice decided to withhold the statistics on the recommendation of her counselor, Philip D. Zelikow. He was executive director of the Sept. 11 commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on the United States." Stupid. So the headline comes out anyway, and now there's this controversy over the numbers. Dumb.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0425-07.htm: Marines From Iraq Sound Off About Want of Armor and Men, by Michael Moss: On May 29, 2004, a station wagon that Iraqi insurgents had packed with C-4 explosives blew up on a highway in Ramadi, killing four American marines who died for lack of a few inches of steel. The four were returning to camp in an unarmored Humvee that their unit had rigged with scrap metal.... "The steel was not high enough," said Staff Sgt. Jose S. Valerio, their motor transport chief, who along with the unit's commanding officers said the men would have lived had their vehicle been properly armored. "Most of the shrapnel wounds were to their heads." Among those killed were Rafael Reynosa, a 28-year-old lance corporal from Santa Ana, Calif., whose wife was expecting twins... Company E during its six-month stint last year in Ramadi... more than one-third of the unit's 185 troops were killed or wounded, the highest casualty rate of any company in the war, Marine Corps officials say.... The saga of Company E, part of a lionized battalion nicknamed the Magnificent Bastards, is also one of fortitude and ingenuity. The marines, based at Camp Pendleton in southern California, had been asked to rid the provincial capital of one of the most persistent insurgencies, and in enduring 26 firefights, 90 mortar attacks and more than 90 homemade bombs, they shipped their dead home and powered on. Their tour has become legendary among other Marine units now serving in Iraq and facing some of the same problems.... Sergeant Valerio and others had to scrounge for metal scraps to strengthen the Humvees they inherited from the National Guard.... But while most of Company E's work in fighting insurgents was on foot, the biggest danger the men faced came in traveling to and from camp: 13 of the 21 men who were killed had been riding in Humvees that failed to deflect bullets or bombs.... Toward the end of their tour when half of their fleet had become factory-armored, the armor's worth became starkly clear. A car bomb that the unit's commander, Capt. Kelly D. Royer, said was at least as powerful as the one on May 29 showered a fully armored Humvee with shrapnel, photographs show. The marines inside were left nearly unscathed.... Marine Corps officials disclosed last month in Congressional hearings that they were now going their own way and had undertaken a crash program to equip all of their more than 2,800 Humvees in Iraq with stronger armor.... Defense Department officials acknowledged that Company E lacked enough equipment and men, but said that those were problems experienced by many troops when the insurgency intensified last year, and that vigorous efforts had been made to improve their circumstances.... In parceling out Ramadi, the Marine Corps leadership gave Company E more than 10 square miles to control, far more than the battalion's other companies. Captain Royer said he had informally asked for an extra platoon, or 44 marines, and had been told the battalion was seeking an extra company.... Lt. Sean J. Schickel remembers Captain Royer asking a high-ranking Marine Corps visitor whether the company would be getting more factory-armored Humvees. The official said they had not been requested and that there were production constraints, Lieutenant Schickel said...

http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/4069.html: Good things come to Dems who wait: Rep. Alan Mollohan, the ranking Dem on the House Ethics Committee, probably knew he was taking something of a risk. The GOP had gutted the chamber's ethics rules in January and he knew his committee would be a joke unless the changes were scrapped altogether. He led other Dems on the panel in blocking the committee from organizing and conducting business unless Republicans agreed to reverse course and bring back the stronger, more effective, ethics rules. Mollohan didn't know if holding the committee hostage would work. Would he shut down the process for the entire two-year Congress? Would he get blamed for the impasse? Fortunately, we now see that Mollohan's efforts are paying off in a big way.... Lawmakers and other senior officials said that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and other leaders had concluded that the only way out of the ethics impasse was to abandon the rules changes opposed by Democrats who have refused to allow the committee to get to work...

http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3908700&fsrc=RSS: Economist.com | Internet advertising: THIS year the combined advertising revenues of Google and Yahoo! will rival the combined prime-time ad revenues of America's three big television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, predicts Advertising Age.... A 30-second prime-time TV ad was once considered the most effective--and the most expensive--form of advertising. But that was before the internet got going. And this week online advertising made another leap forward.... Both Google and Yahoo!, along with search-site rivals like Microsoft's MSN and Ask Jeeves (recently bought by Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp), are developing much broader ranges of marketing services. Google, for instance, already provides a service called AdSense. It works rather like an advertising agency, automatically placing sponsored links and other ads on third-party websites. Google then splits the revenue with the owners of those websites, who can range from multinationals to individuals publishing blogs, as online journals are known.... Other innovations in online marketing are said to be in the pipeline. Local search and its associated advertising opportunities are one huge growth area.... This week, Yahoo! appointed another top executive to its media group, fuelling industry speculation that the website may start to produce its own entertainment content. Television stations would then have a lot more to worry about than just losing ad revenue to the internet.

http://highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2005/04/24/4176: Kidnap Nation: You're soaking in it: "One document in particular contained references to both the detention of suspects' relatives and the use of torture by US interrogators.... The sergeant, whose name was redacted from the released documents by military censors, explained that the detainees "are normally arrested by Coalition Forces because they are family of individuals who have been targeted" by US forces. He added that many such detainees have been transferred to Abu Ghraib prison where they "become lost in the Coalition detention system" regardless of whether their targeted relative surrenders himself." The rest of the story is just a bunch of ho-hum! torture details, like: "Other documents released Monday by the government included a report investigating the mock execution of a teenage Iraqi boy conducted by US soldiers in front of the boy's father... two Iraqis who were severely beaten by US soldiers... contrasted with a statement by an Army captain who reported those same Iraqis were only "roughed up a bit." I remember when the first hostage-taking stories broke a year and a half ago, and hawks fell all over themselves to assure us there must be more to the story. Indeed there was: more hostage-taking. I don't think that was what they meant...

http://www.discourse.net/archives/2005/04/a_publicly_displayable_level_of_venom.html: Discourse.net: Scrivener's Error has had a little redesign and now is a little easier on the eye than it used to be; the content remains great. Today's is especially worth your while:... "Phil Carter... has penned a remarkably even-tempered (if ultimately condemning) response to the whitewash over command responsibility at Abu Ghraib... he concludes: '...none of the officers responsible for facilitating these abuses will face criminal charges. Or, put another way, the Army IG has wholly disregarded the record evidence before him to arrive at an arbitrary and capricious decision that the senior Army leaders involved should face no legal consequences for their actions. What kind of message does that send to our junior military leaders? What kind of message does that send to the world?This is a lot more generous than I would have been.' It's taken me three days to keep the venom in this message to a publicly displayable level. The IG's report presents a truly disturbing contrast with other recent international-law and law-of-war activities, particularly including the ongoing trial of Slobodan Milosevic.... What this really says, more than anything else, is that our whitewashes are morally and ethically acceptable, but nobody else's are, and most particularly that anyone else who ever questions the results of our disciplinary process (or the lack thereof) has no right to do so--primarily because they're not Murikans. There are more horrible historical examples of the consequences of this attitude than I can begin to name.... When I resigned my commission, I stated that 'I have lost confidence in the senior military and civilian leadership of the Air Force; I believe that my oath of commissioning requires me to tender my resignation in these circumstances.'

http://www.liberalsagainstterrorism.com/drupal/?q=node/943: Who is Wafiq al-Samarrai? | Liberals Against Terrorism: Helena Cobban noticed after reading the newly-revived IWPR Iraqi Press Monitor that Jalal Talabani has his own security advisor, a man named Wafiq al-Samarrai. He had been the head of Iraqi military intelligence under Saddam during the first Gulf War.... Al-Samarri defected to England in 1994, and I believe he was somehow involved with the INC's various foiled coup attempts that were launched from Kurdish territory.... A very interesting character, this Wafiq al-Samarrai. His current position would help explain, incidently, why Talabani is now warning about Ba'athist purges going too far.

http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2005/04/frists_blackber.html: The Decembrist: Frist's BlackBerry Spring: I am sort of a connoisseur of leadership in the U.S. Senate. It's a particular kind of skill, very different from executive leadership, because everyone you're trying to lead is an equal, and most of them are prima donnas in one way or another.... I suspect that we are witnessing the first real mismatch in leadership skills in a long time, in Harry Reid vs. Bill Frist. I think Reid might have pulled off something amazing yesterday, holding out the card of compromise on the Nuclear Option at just the moment when he knew that Frist could least accept it -- because he put himself so far out on the limb by making it a theological matter -- and knowing that there are any number of Republican Senators who would desperately love to see some sort of compromise, and simultaneously making clear that if the trigger is pulled, Democrats will not 'shut down the Senate,' but instead try to force votes on issues in the Democratic agenda that Republicans would like to be protected from voting on. That's a pretty powerful one-two punch.... You can overanalyze Frist's inadequacies, but I think it's very simple: He doesn't know where his votes are. He doesn't quite know where his votes are on Bolton, he doesn't quite know where they are on the Nuclear Option. Knowing where your votes are doesn't just mean knowing how your members would vote if it happened today, it's knowing which ones might be shaky if any of a dozen other events occurs and what's going on with Senators on the other side. It's a matter of keeping hundreds and hundreds of pieces of constantly changing information in your head. And you can only do that if you're talking face to face with every single one of your own members and many of the others, all the time. And Frist doesn't do that. Nina Easton of the Boston Globe recently quoted political scientist Sarah Binder: "'He's a BlackBerry addict,' Binder noted, referring to his electronic communications with senators. 'That's not how Lyndon Johnson got it done. It takes face-to-face interaction.'"...

http://angrybear.blogspot.com/2005/04/health-care-intelligence-failure.htmlAngry Bear: Health Care Intelligence Failure?... Arnold Kling... is challenging the suggestion from AB and Kash that we do not get that much from all the money we spend on health care as compared to other nations: "I believe that it is likely that, for the most part, Americans receive significantly better health care than their counterparts in other advanced countries... the indicators available on comparative health care quality send only weak and contradictory signals. Much better research is required.".... The difference of opinion seems to be whether this increase represents more and/or better services.... Arnold, on the other hand, is arguing that the increase in real health care spending represents an outward shift the demand curve.

(Via .)

http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/_/2005/04/but_is_it_good_for_the_jews.php: Mark A. R. Kleiman: But is it good for the Jews?: Jonathan Zasloff writes:

According to Ha'aretz, Syrian troops will be out of Lebanon by tomorrow. Regardless of the timing, many in Jerusalem and Washington are celebrating. In particular, it will be seen as a vindication of George Bush's call for democracy. But in Israel, the situation can always get worse, and this will be no exception. If Bush has any more vindications like this, we'll start hankering after the failures. Hizbullah made little secret of its desire to have Syrian troops stay. But now, who exactly is supposed to clamp down on Hizbullah terrorists now that the Syrians are gone? Beforehand, we knew where to put pressure on Hizbullah--through Damascus. Now, the Syrians can say with a good deal of justification that they have no responsibility for the matter. With all the talk about the Syrian exit, hundreds of Iranian intelligence agents remain in Lebanon, and they will give Hizbullah all the guidance it needs straight from Tehran. The Syrians might have feared an Israeli strike--the mullahs will not. But doesn't this show the success of people power, and the Cedar Revolution? Again, be careful what you wish for.... [I]f you've got democracy, you've got to have a census. Hizbullah could very well find that it can get a majority to the polls. And this will hasten the creation of a pro-Iranian Shiite crescent across the Middle East...

http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/001946.html: War and Piece: Bolton Pulled by White House from Libya Team. Bolton had to be taken out of the Libya negotiating chain of command at Tony Blair's insistence, Newsweek reports, for it to succeed. Bolton's supporters cite two meagre successes of his on the job he was supposed to be performing when he wasn't running his own ideologically-driven counterintelligence ops against US negotiators and intelligence underlings at State and CIA. That job was supposed to be nonproliferation, and the two successes cited are Libya's decision to abandon its WMD program and Bolton's pet Proliferation Security Initiative. Well, scratch Libya:

On several occasions, America's closest ally in the war on terror, Britain, was irked by what U.S. and British sources say were efforts by Bolton to undermine promising diplomatic openings. Perhaps the most dramatic instance took place early in the U.S.-British talks in 2003 to force Libya to surrender its nuclear program, NEWSWEEK has learned. The Libya deal succeeded only after British officials 'at the highest level' persuaded the White House to keep Bolton off the negotiating team. A crucial issue, according to sources involved in the affair, was Muammar Kaddafi's demand that if Libya abandoned its WMD program, the U.S. in turn would drop its goal of regime change. But Bolton was unwilling to support this compromise. The White House agreed to keep Bolton 'out of the loop,' as one source puts it. A deal was struck only after Kaddafi was reassured that Bush would settle for 'policy change'--surrendering his WMD.

Read the Newsweek piece which is testimony to the fact that the US's most significant ally, Britain, refuses to work with Bolton because of the destructive role he has played in sensitive negotiations to persuade countries like Libya and Iran to abandon their nuclear programs. We already have the principal US negotiators on North Korea coming forward to say Bolton was a dangerous disaster on North Korea -- and the proof is in the pudding. These are substantive policy failures, where the combination of Bolton's inability to work with others who don't share his ideological worldview, and gross misuse of intelligence made him a danger and a hindrance for US policy goals...

Posted by DeLong at May 4, 2005 11:55 AM