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Tuesday, November 26, 2002



Fore! Or, The NY Times As A Blog

Mickey comments on the NY Times / Augusta National women's integration flap, and points us to another Slate writer. Says Jack Shafer of the Times unrelenting and uninteresting campaign:

This sort of churning and whisking of yesterday's topic, adding new ingredients in incremental proportions in story after story until you build a 12-foot tall meringue isn't news coverage, it's blogging!

Well, write about your interests and hope people discover you. Didn't the Times put out a poll saying the Democrats need to sharpen their message? Maybe "Women in Augusta" could be the rallying cry for 2004!

The Times delivers another Augusta editorial today. Everyone should boycott the Masters except the Times:

CBS stockholders should ask how the network can afford to devote so much broadcast time to an event that produces no revenue.

Corporate executives from major companies should ask themselves whether they feel comfortable with any endorsement of an extravaganza run by a club that excludes women. Top players present and past, starting with Tiger Woods, also need to ask themselves whether winning the Masters next year will be such a crowning achievement. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus should apply pressure as well.


The AP reaches Tiger Woods for some comments. A clearly rattled Woods offered these thoughts:

Woods said Johnson called him shortly after the chairman said in a series of interviews there was no chance a woman would join Augusta National by April.

``He told me what was going to come out, what he had said, and that was it,'' Woods said. ``He also talked about some of the changes to the fifth hole.''


The mounting pressure is clearing having an effect:

...More people are going to be more inquisitive come the Florida swing and on,'' he said. ``There's going to be a lot of players asked about it.''

Well, maybe it isn't. In other developments, Jack Shafer adds another newspaper to the list of those calling for a Times boycott! This could get big yet.


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The Times, The Onion, Who Can Tell?

Now, no kidding, I am serious about this. This story is on the front page of the Times: "Inviting TV Into Jury Room in a Capital Case".

Now admit it, isn't that a cool idea? Film the jury while they deliberate about imposing a death sentence. Broadcast it nationally on PBS. Sort of like "Survivor", only this time, the loser really gets voted off the island.

Some Texas judge not only manged not to hurt himself laughing at the very idea, he actually agreed to this, as did the defense. Well, the defense had to sign a waiver:

The defendant, Cedric R. Harrison, 17, and his mother agreed to the filming and signed waivers saying they would not use the film on appeal or to seek a new trial. Mr. Harrison is accused of shooting a man to death in a carjacking.

Right. So now, imagine we end up with a videotape of a juror saying "I knew from the second he walked into the courtroom that the little [insert ethnic slur] [insert religious slur] had to be fried. Who cares about evidence, cook him". Well, that won't become an issue on appeal. No, sirree. The subject will never come up.

The prosecutor had some reservations:

The desire to serve on a `Survivor'-style reality television series should not be added to the qualifications for jury service," they wrote.

I'm not so sure. Lots of states have budget problems - this could be a creative way out. Maybe even auction off the right to sit on the jury - condemn a man, get on Lettermen, top ten reasons he deserved to die - yeah, I might like to try that. Aren't meals included with jury duty?

The prosecutors had other negative feedback on this creative concept:

We strongly believe that the jury will be reluctant to engage in full and free deliberation when they are subject to being second-guessed down the road," said William J. Delmore III, an assistant district attorney in Houston.

Mr. Delmore also suggested that a televised jury might be less likely to impose the death penalty. "I don't know that I would want to take a strong position on the death penalty if the defendant's friends and family could identify who is taking a possibly unpopular position," he said.


Oh, c'mon, think of it as a great way to meet people - there are no strangers here, just people whose children you haven't sentenced to death yet.

Now, the judge felt that he was within his authority to allow this, since no Texas precedent barred him from allowing the filming of jury deliberations. Capturing the spirit of the initial ruling, prosecutors responded thusly:

"If a respondent judge were to order that jurors disguise themselves with ski masks and speak only pig Latin during deliberations, the state would be hard put to point to prior decision of this court that specifically addressed the legality of the challenged order," they wrote.

Exactly. Ixnay on the Elevisiontay.


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The Evolving Nicholas Kristof

Such a trip to China! Last Friday, Kristof came out firmly in favor of expensive, elitist private schools. This week, he is an admirer of the Christians being persecuted in China, joined by Nancy Pelosi, George Bush, and ourselves.


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Krugman Takes A Deep Breath

And we get to see him inhale. Oh, man, that was old when I read it in MAD Magazine thirty years ago.

OK, the subject is the "Clear Skies Initiative", and "new source review". The proposed "Clear Skies" legislation has been stuck in Congress, with environmentalists holding out for regulation of carbon dioxide, and the Administration resisting - this is the three pollutants versus four pollutants discussion alluded to in the story.

So, the Administration waives some rules which have been hanging about, pending new regulation. Does Prof. K have a theory?

Last week's announcement is, I believe, a signal that even Clear Skies isn't going to happen.

Aside from cynicism (which has been an almost infallible guide to administration environmental policy so far), how do I reach that conclusion?

Here's one reason: If a cap-and-trade system is just around the corner, why not wait and introduce the whole system at once? As the E.P.A. press release last week correctly declares, "under the Clear Skies Initiative, NSR [new source review] would no longer be necessary." But then why did polluters so badly want an immediate end to such review before a new system could be put in place? And why was the administration willing to accept lots of bad press for a clearly anti-environmental move, if it was seriously planning to impose new controls in the next year or two? The obvious answer is that both the polluters and top administration officials know that Clear Skies is, figuratively and literally, a smokescreen.


Well, it's obvious to some people. My suspicion is that we will see a prompt resolution of the three pollutant / four pollutant problem, now that environmentalists can contemplate an unhappy alternative. The previous status quo was tolerable - this is not.

So, a simple negotiating ploy to shake loose the bargaining position of the other side? Black clouds of smoke will not begin belching forth until a substantial regulatory review, and several lawsuits, have been addressed, as ABC reports:

The proposed rules will not take effect until the EPA has collected and analyzed feedback from utilities, green groups, and others.

Has the "bad cop" entered the bargaining room? Seems obvious to me. But maybe it is a smokescreen.






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Monday, November 25, 2002



I'm Getting Dizzy

Matt Drudge seems to be criticizing John Ashcroft for a flip-flop on internet security - snooping that would have been intrusive under Clinton makes sense now. However, the Man Sans Q points out that circumstances have changed.

Meanwhile, I have had a couple of posts subtly wondering whether the hysteria on the Left about John Ashcroft, incipient fascism, and the termination of our civil rights might not be opportunistic political posturing. Where, we might wonder, were these people during the Clinton years? When Republicans say "Waco", Democrats say "whacko"; when Republicans say "Filegate", Democrats say "scandal pandering" - now we are meant to take these same critics seriously on Ashcroft and Bush?

Talk Left decides to Talk Right and Talk Center, addressing this at length and sparing no one. Samples:

Particularly when it comes to electronic surveillance, we're much more aligned with the conservative Republicans and libertarians than we are with the Democrats. Bush, unfortunately, is a centrist on many issues and not much different than the current crop of democrats.

or

We're not trying to bash Clinton and Gore here. [Having re-printed a delightfully nostalgic WaPo guest editorial that did just that]. We're pointing out why many on the left (e.g. the ACLU and criminal defense lawyers) bond with the right on privacy and civil liberties issues. The centrist dems and republicans are the ones to fear.

Something for everyone, in an admirable display of intellectual honesty. There are hints that the fireworks may have been triggered by a Jason Rylander post to which Talk Left links. And does Mr. Rylander see any hypocrisy in the Democratic position?

Adler makes another point: "As for hypocrisy on the Right, just remember that the version of the USA Patriot Act that emerged from the "conservatives" in the House was less intrusive than that which emerged from Daschle's "liberal" Senate." This is a tougher criticism to address, because on the face of it, Adler is correct. I think its fair to say given the votes that both parties are guilty of loading up the bill with intrusive measures (not to mention plenty of pork). I don't think Adler really refutes my point about hypocrisy, though. Democrats, to our misfortune, don't campaign on the idea of less government. For the most part, we don't run on slogans that BIG government is a problem. We don't always advocate big government, but we certainly don't demogogue against government the way Republicans often do. In that sense, I think it's fair to say that limited government Republicans have a greater responsibility to speak out against programs like the Homeland Security bill, which seem quite clearly to violate their professed "principles." Adler's right on this point: there's plenty of blame to go around.

Yes, the soft bigotry of low expectations.




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Moral Equivalence Watch

The NY Times, on the execution of a Christian evangelist in Lebanon, placed front page and above the fold:

Killing Underscores Enmity of Evangelists and Muslims
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR


Yes, and the rioting in Nigeria underscores the enmity of Muslims and beauty pageant organizers.




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Sunday, November 24, 2002



Easy Come, Easy Go

Maureen Dowd continues her boycott of US election coverage with a column about "The Boomers' Crooner", Eminem. Personalities, pop culture - the formula works! If Frank Rich can go from drama critic to political commentator, then a trip in the opposite direction should be possible.

And speaking of the ever astute and reliable Mr. Rich, we do not need to add him to the roster of the Al Gore Fan Club.


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Saturday, November 23, 2002



Way Down South

The Washington Post has a story about a "blackface" incident at the University of Virginia.

The U-Va. incident seemed likely to stoke an ongoing debate about how well black students have been integrated into extracurricular life on campus. About 400 African American students protested outside the Cavalier Daily offices last month after an opinion piece criticized the rhetoric of a predominantly black student organization.

Here is a description of the campus protest. The protest was triggered by this editorial in the campus "Daily Cavalier". The editorial referred to the Griot Society website, which seems to have been subsequently modified.

Sometimes the backstory is even more interesting than the headline-grabber.


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Our Civil Liberties Are Imperiled

OK, a sample link. I don't think you will disagree that we have heard this "civil liberties" plaint quite a bit.

So, as proof that everything old is new again, I wonder - Al Gore, to our horror, seems to be the leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President. He has come out in favor of single payer health care. Now, he has not gotten into specifics, but my understanding is the the ultimate effect of a single payer system is that every physician becomes a government employee, and that every patient has each and every health care decison monitored and approved by the state.

As I said, an old question - does anyone on the left want to voice concern about this potential infringment on our civil liberties?

OK, it's early. The next "New Al Gore" will probably propose something else. But those are excuses, not answers. Does single-payer health care represent a serious compromise to American civil liberties?

UPDATE: An interesting series of posts on the bipartisan nature of our current civil liberties situation, starting with TalkLeft.


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Friday, November 22, 2002



Spinsanity On A Roll

Daschle is wrong, but Rush is a kook. And a great link to real demonization of the opposition.

Gore critics, including Jonah Goldberg, are lying about Gore's hypocrisy on single-payer health care and Bill Bradley.

And, playing the patriotism card. OK, this is excessive. I never listen to Rush myself (nor does he read me), but I recognize that he does have an audience.


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A Little Bit of Turf In the Battle For Truth

Did you fight the power today? Eugene Volokh is a very nice guy (benefits explained here), and he doesn't pester his readers for favors that often. He is also right, and Amazon is wrong. Follow his links and fire away! I mean, nicely, of course.

Here, for example, is my evil prose. A holiday boycott? The pocketbook is their most vulnerable area.

Dear Sir:

With the holidays approaching, I need to find a site that sells books with reviews I can trust. You can imagine my embarrassment if I sent as a gift a book that turned out to be discredited.

I suggest that you check your review and information of the following book:

BELLESILES: ARMING AMERICA

The author has been booted from his professorship for falsifying his research, and the book is totally discredited. Probably worth mentioning at some point in an updated review.

If you do a bit of news research, you will find this easy to confirm. Here are two stories:

http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20021101-32833616.htm

http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/11/19/3dd99ce649c3c

As a book-seller, Amazon should be vigilant about this.

Best wishes for the holiday season. I hope I can rely on you when I shop there.


Hey, the Times buckled, sort of, as noted below. Who knows?


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Oh, This Freight Train Is Moving Now

Power of the blogosphere, baby! Or the power of Two. CNN/SI has jumped on the bandwagon launched by Sneaky and Suspicious, with a little boost from The MinuteMan.

Their headline: Times, not Tiger should boycott Masters

That's what I'm saying! And stick a fork in the Times, they are toast! Or something. Amongst sports journalists, and sports fans, CNN/SI versus the New York Times is Godzilla versus Alvin the Chipmunk. It's over!


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The InstaPundit Is Down?

Darn, it's overcast here - is the sun still shining?

Probably a sneak attack by the "Blogger" crowd. Payback is a bummer, or some such.

UPDATE: I should put in a link to a page that won't load? How much sense does that make? Fine. Whatever.


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The Hammer Comes Down

And again! And as reassurance that there is a method to this nick-naming madness, a clue.

I continue to like my idea from yesterday:

Harvard Law School is considering a speech code. Maybe Daschle can propose one for the whole country. Gee, if Rush is creating a "hostile work environment" for poor old Tom, maybe some sort of harassment lawsuit is possible, too.

More research is needed. We know that Senators are often described as "public servants", and surely it is we, the people, who are paying Daschle. Does this oblige us, as his employer, to prevent a "hostile work environment"? Does the answer change if the elected official is a woman, or a member of a particular ethnic or religious group? Is Rush harassing Tom based on Tom's lawful exercise of his free speech rights, and is that a problem? Troubling.



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Part Of Me Was Bummed Out When I Read This Headline

Part of me was elated.


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Giuliani Sells Out

We applaud. Our hope was that Giuliani would join the Bush Administration is some capacity to help clean up corporate America, and if I had an archive link I would prove it. However, this free market solution has some advantages.

Rather than lease his credibility and reputation to the American people at what might be a discount to its market value, Rudy will be fairly compensated for his reputation. We like to see people do well by doing good, and it is nice to think that our system can actually provide financial rewards for honesty. Paul Volker had a similar experience.

Secondly, "Giuliani Partners" has his name on it. Unless we were going to create "The Department of Giuliani Justice", his impact would be diluted across many agencies and people, and eventually, his reputation would be diminished. Now, he will live and die by sweating the truth out of his clients.


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I Love The Blogger Spell-checker

Does it get any better? Some suggestions from the "Blogger" spell-checker:

"Krugman" shuld be "Ragman" - given his politics and attitude, who can argue?

"Scalia" should be "Salvia" - hey, that could explain a lot.

And "blogosphere"? Change to "blooper". Oh, my.


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Krugman Identifies The Problem

Prof. Krugman identifies the problem with income inequality and income mobility in America today. It is not, as you might have thought, that it is difficult for poor people to move up into the middle class. No, the problem is that it is too difficult for the middle class to enter the ranks of the super-rich, and too unlikely that the super-rich will fall back to earth.

I can only infer that a Princeton Professor with an economics specialty living in a suburb near Wall Street observes too many people who are less-educated, but much better paid. I expect he would be happier being a professor at Dartmouth. Perhaps Brown.

Well, enough of worrying about Paul's well-being. Let's have at "The Sons Also Rise", a cute but deplorably sexist title - how about "The Golden Apples of the Son">?

America, we all know, is the land of opportunity. Your success in life depends on your ability and drive, not on who your father was.

Well, we believe that in America a person can succeed with ability and drive, regardless of who one's father is. I don't think that, even in our American dreams, we have argued that having a successful father is not an advantage.

Just ask the Bush brothers. Talk to Elizabeth Cheney, who holds a specially created State Department job, or her husband, chief counsel of the Office of Management and Budget. Interview Eugene Scalia, the top lawyer at the Labor Department, and Janet Rehnquist, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. And don't forget to check in with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and the conservative commentator John Podhoretz.

Now, the obvious objective of this introduction is to bait a distraction for his critics, who will stop right here and mention many, many Democrats who have inherited their claim to fame. Rather than spend time walking down that road, I will mention Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and Harold Ford Jr., then press on.

It has always been good to have a rich or powerful father. Last week my Princeton colleague Alan Krueger wrote a column for The Times surveying statistical studies that debunk the mythology of American social mobility. "If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries," he wrote, "it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement."

Ahh, the Alan Krueger piece. This was noted approvingly by Prof. DeLong, and crows picked at it quite vigorously in the lengthy comments. Folks aware of my secret identity might find me there, in fact.

So, beyond simply passing dollars to their descendants, what did Prof. Krueger say about the heritability of wealth:

Why is there such a strong connection between parents' socioeconomic status and their children's? A large part of the answer involves intergenerational transmission of cognitive ability and educational level.

But these factors can "explain at most three-fifths of the intergenerational transmission of economic status," Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis of the University of Massachusetts wrote in the latest issue of The Journal of Economic Perspectives. They suggest that the intergenerational transmission of race, geographical location, height, beauty, health status and personality also plays a significant role.


Unsurprising. Educated people encourage their kids to get educated. Smart people have smart kids. Healthy people have healthy kids.

And how does Krueger, cited approvingly by Krugman, compare income mobility in America with that in the rest of the world?

Perhaps the only legitimate use of the intergenerational correlation in income is to characterize economic mobility. The data challenge the notion that the United States is an exceptionally mobile society. If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries, it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement.

Anders Björklund of Stockholm University and Markus Jäntti of the University of Tampere in Finland, for example, find more economic mobility in Sweden than in the United States. Only South Africa and Britain have as little mobility across generations as the United States.


Well, he says "for instance", so perhaps he has some other studies in mind. But this seems to be the study Krueger cited:

[LATE NOTE: "perhaps" and "seems to be" were meant to hold open the possibility that Prof. Krueger had some other paper in mind. Check the UPDATES for what is almost surely the correct paper.]

Abstract

This paper compares income inequality and income mobility in the Scandinavian countries and the United States during 1980-90. The results suggest that inequality is greater in the United States than in the Scandinavian countries and that this inequality ranking of countries remains unchanged when the accounting period of income is extended from one to eleven years. The pattern of mobility turns out to be remarkably similar, in the sense that the proportionate reduction in inequality from extending the accounting period of income is much the same. But we do find evidence of greater dispersion of first differences of relative earnings and income in the United States. Relative income changes are associated with changes in labor market and marital status in all four countries, but the magnitude of such changes are largest in the United States.

JEL Key Words: D31 Personal Income and Wealth Distribution


OK, bit of confusion. This site also has this paper and links to others. Info on South Africa and Britain are presumably coming from elsewhere, but I can't find it.

The key points made in challenging this paper:

1. The study looked at income mobility across quintiles. Suppose, hypothetically, that two countries have a median income of $25,000. Country A has much less income inequality, so that it's lowest quintile has a cutoff of $23,000, and its highest quintile a cut-off of $27,000. Country B has a low quintile of $10,000, and a high quintile of $50,000.

Suppose someone in Country B improves their income from $11,000 to $49,000. Success!? Well, they have only moved from the second quintile to the fourth. Loser! Their counterpart in Sweden, sorry, Country B, improves their income from $22,500 to $27,500. The Swedish dream! This stalwart has vaulted from the lowest quintile to the top of the (low) mountain!

2. The data was only from the 1980's, not a bad time for the US or Sweden. It also is a bit of a one way comparison - Sweden is relatively small, prosperous, and homogenous, and with a low level of immigration. Here is another paper from the same site titled "Wealth Dynamics in the 1980’s and 1990’s: Sweden and the U.S."

Abstract: Given differences in public saving programs between Sweden and the United States, an examination of household private wealth accumulation in these two countries can be enlightening. In this paper we examine wealth inequality and mobility in Sweden and the United States over the past decade. We show that wealth inequality has been significantly greater in the U.S. than in Sweden and, while remaining relatively constant since the mid-1980’s in Sweden, has increased in the United States. In addition to less inequality and a higher median wealth, we also show that wealth quintile mobility in the 1990’s has been 25.7% higher in Sweden, as measured by Shorrocks’ index. Noting the role of various demographic components in shaping the patterns of wealth mobility as well as the importance of the initial wealth distribution, we utilize a matching algorithm that controls for these differences. Matching on the initial wealth distribution alone accounts for most of the mobility difference between the two countries and yields a Shorrocks’ index in the U.S. 11.1% less than that in Sweden. Adjusting for the large degree of imputation in the Swedish data, the U.S. index is only 3.4% to 6.1% less than that of Sweden. Along with exploring the role of racial composition differences, we conclude tha demographic variation between Sweden and the U.S. play very little role in explaining wealth mobility beyond that explained by the initial wealth distribution. Despite the higher quintile mobility in Sweden, dollar mobility is still high in the United States.

Emphasis added. Now, I just have to excerpt this next bit, partly to make a point, and partly because it is perhaps the most amusing spin I have seen, at least today.

For 1994 to 1999, Table 4 shows that 58 percent or almost three-fifths of U.S. families in the lowest quintile in 1994 were still in the lowest quintile in 1999. For Sweden (Table 5), of those in the bottom quintile in 1993, over half (56.8 percent) were in the bottom quintile in 1998. Of course absolute amounts matter, since the real value of
assets of those in the bottom quintile in Sweden are well above the assets of those in the bottom quintile in the U.S.


OK, 58% versus 56.8% - "almost three fifths versus "more than half". Thanks for the smile.

Here, they summarize a point I belabored above: It is therefore difficult to compare mobility in the two countries. Given the larger wealth dispersion, it is possible for the U.S. to have larger absolute wealth changes but still have less rank mobility.

Here is a lovely snippet provided by my Creative Excerpter. The authors are making a lot of adjustments to their data, imputing income for various Government programs, and so on. To compare the two countries, they also attempt to create matched samples, which can be problematic. However, I like this, so I will re-print it:

Given this reservation the main conclusion from the matching exercise is that dollar changes and probably also dollar mobility is higher in the U.S. than in Sweden, while quantile mobility is smaller. The smaller relative mobility is however due to the larger absolute quantile differences, which implies that a U.S. household on average has to change its wealth more in dollars to pass from one quantile to another than must a Swedish household. After standardizing for differences in the initial distribution of wealth, quantile mobility appears to become about the same, although quantile
differences are still larger in the matched U.S. sample.


Well, then, we have some economists who seem to lean against the Krueger-Krugman wind. Any other points?

3. Immigration. Groan. The US takes in a lot of immigrants, generally at the low end of the economic distribution. What you did not know is that Sweden, too, is an immigrant's paradise. No, really. They take in many Finns and Norwegians, and we applaud them for it. I have emigrated from New Jersey to Connecticut, and I assure you, these cultural transitions are difficult.

Here are links to an historical overview of Swedish immigration, some hints at the life of those who do not assimilate quite so well, and a chart.

One highlight, although you can guess where this is headed:

However, immigrant labor rates started decreasing in the mid-70s, and the gap between the indigenous population and immigrants continued to increase considerably in the past decade, partly due to the recession that began in 1990. During the first half of 1998, the unemployment rate for non-Nordic citizens was 28.3% and a relatively mild 5.7% for the "Nordic" population (the Nordic countries are Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway).

Land of opportunity. Enough, already. Jim Glass explains why it does not matter over in Prof. DeLong's comments. I explain why it only matters to Lefties. LOTS of assigned reading. The entire point of which is this: we had one economist, Krueger, approvingly cite a particular bit of research favorable to a specific political agenda. A second economist, Krugman, then cited the first approvingly. Meanwhile, we, the credulous public, are left to wonder whether either of these distinguished professors is seriously advocating this work as superior to other, conflicting studies in the same field. We are always assured that Krugman separates his politics from his professional economics. How was that separation maintained here?

Having enjoyed exposing the Swedish Bikini Team, let's get back to our original target, Prof. Krugman himself:

Meanwhile, one key doorway to upward mobility — a good education system, available to all — has been closing. More and more, ambitious parents feel that a public school education is a dead end. It's telling that Jack Grubman, the former Salomon Smith Barney analyst, apparently sold his soul not for personal wealth but for two places in the right nursery school. Alas, most American souls aren't worth enough to get the kids into the 92nd Street Y.

In either of the Krueger or the Krugman articles, this is the sole mention of the importance of education. And it is a cheap shot at the absurd situation in Manhattan. In his very own town of Princeton, which I have not seen described as Calcutta, Prof. Krugman can undoubtedly find excellent nursery schools for far less than a soul-selling price. Which is good, since you shouldn't sell the same thing twice, that's naughty.

Now, I don't like to demonize individual teachers, most of whom are doing a difficult job under demanding circumstances. But collectively, through the NEA, they seem to be a bit of an obstacle to experimentation with our educational system. Perhaps that is why Prof. Krugman sails his ship well away from that particular Democratic rock. As a tidbit, I recall reading that roughly 8% of the delegates to the Democratic Convention are teachers - the summer holiday helps, no doubt.

OK, big finish:

But today's heirs feel no need to demonstrate concern for those less fortunate.

More class warfare, more bait for his critics.

So, our respected economist approvingly cites a fellow who cited some research that might need a bit of qualification and support. He spends half of one paragraph noting that education is the way out of the underclass, but proposes nothing. The rest of the column rants at permutations of rich, powerful, and evil Republicans, as though there are no rich Democrats, no Democrats who have "inherited" political power and ambition, and no Republicans who work for the public betterment.

I predict rave reviews across half of the blogosphere for this.

UPDATE: More? Yes, Hoy is not a fan.

UPDATE 2: I give up. Kristoff of the Times notes with approval an expensive, exclusive private education system as pointing the way to a brighter tomorrow - in China! Well, investing in human capital is always a great idea, especially when other forms are subject to expropriation. Do any of these guys have any thoughts about education in this country?

UPDATE 3: Which paper did Krueger have in mind? Well, he mentions intergenerational mobility throughout his column, but not in the specific sentence referring to Björklund and Jäntti. Bother. Bjorklund and Jantti do have a paper on intergenerational mobility as well, although all I can find is the abstract. In this paper, which is very probably the one Krueger had in mind, the measure of mobility is the correlation of the income of the son with that of the father. Krueger further suggests that this measure of mobility is also a measure of opportunity, which is the statement that is then trumpeted by Krugman. However, glancing at the abstracts for this paper or this one suggest that equating "mobility" with "opportunity" is far from a settled question in economics.


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Thursday, November 21, 2002



Tom Daschle Explains

Sort of. Rush Limbaugh incites threatening behavior.

So, are these folks part of the regular audience?

Harvard Law School is considering a speech code. Maybe Daschle can propose one for the whole country. Gee, if Rush is creating a "hostile work environment" for poor old Tom, maybe some sort of harassment lawsuit is possible, too. Lots to research during your break, TD!


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Let's Weigh This Balanced And Objective Comment...

... against a modest bit of history.

Comment: "...the most secretive administration in the nation's history will now be even less forthcoming."

History: "By our rules now, John F. Kennedy almost certainly could never have become president."




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Let The People Be Heard

The NYTimes prints four responses to its editorial calling for Tiger Woods and others to boycott Augusta National.

Julian Bond, head of the NAACP, does not believe the burden should be exclusively on Tiger Woods to lead on this issue. Two of the remaining three letters do not suport the Times. None reflect my idea of suggesting that the Times boycott the Masters.


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Sometimes You Should Stop With The Headline


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Been There, Done That

Got the candidate.


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I Have Been Begging My Wife To Do This

But I never thought to call in the heavy artillery.


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Time Has A "Man Of The Year"

Shouldn't we have a "Blogger Of The Year"?

I nominate the team of Raines and Krugman for their tireless inspiration to so many.


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Sen. Lieberman On "Imus In The Morning"

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a long-time guest of Don Imus, had a phone chat this morning. It is difficult to take notes while driving, but here are a few highlights:

Lieberman repeats "the pledge": Gore will decide by January whether he is going to run. Lieberman owes his national prominence to Gore, feels loyalty and commitment, so he will not run if Al does. Does he think Al should run? Well, Gore/Lieberman got more votes than anyone other than Reagan/Bush in 1984, so Gore is entitled to a second shot.

How about Tom Daschle saying that right wing radio increases the threat of violence? Well, Lieberman's offices in Washington and Hartford do receive more phone calls when Rush attacks Joe. There has not been a suggestion of violence, although he cannot speak for Daschle. In any case, no one wants to limit Rush's free speech.

Well, if talk radio can incite violence, can't Hollyood movies? Tap-dancing. Free speech. No censorship.

Are you over the 2000 election? Lieberman disagrees with the US Supreme Court decision, but it all ended January 20, 2001.

Soundbite of Lieberman's economic plan - undo tax cuts for the rich, have targeted tax cuts for the middle class and working class - college aid, health care, whatever might buy votes. Ooops, he did not put it that way, that was how I heard it.


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Wednesday, November 20, 2002



OPEC, Oil Prices, War

All from last week, but still interesting - oil is described as being around $25/barrel.

This is more current, and shows oil at $27/barrel.


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TAPPED Accuses Senate Democrats of Catering to Big Money Interests

Boy, they are committed to this new bi-partisnan spirit.

Let's quickly review the logic. From TAPPED:

What a stupid headline this is: Two More Senate Victories for Bush. It should have been this: Big Money Wins Again.

Follow the link, and we learn that one of the big money victories passed the Senate 86-11. So, either the Republican success in the recent election was greater than reported, or "Big Money" controls a lot of Democrats. And hey, I'm not arguing.


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George Bush Will Always Be A Weasely Coward

However, look for frequent changes in my supporting evidence.

UPDATE: Whoa, I am getting a lot of flack from fans of George Weasley, beater for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. OK, yes, to play beater takes a lot of courage. And I loved the movie.

UPDATE 2: Oh, you want more background?


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The Dark Night Descends (cont.)

The fickle fingers of fascism strengthened their grip on America's throat today with Senate approval of the bill creating the Homeland Security Department. Eight heroic Democrats and one bold Independent stood tall against the imminent depredations of the Bush Administration. Let their names be immortalized, perhaps as leaders of the rebellion in "Terminator 3".

The other Democrats, principled and courageous though they may be, succumbed to what we can only presume to be intense, unscrupulous pressure from the Administration. How were they coerced? The Times speculates thusly:

"Ms. Landrieu [D, Lousiana] is in a tight re-election race, and her vote means that Republicans cannot use the issue against her as they did other Democratic senators.

The pressure must have been brutal to force her to surrender her principles. Elections! What will they think of next!

So, ninety Senators, including all but eight Democrats, have thrown in the towel in the struggle against fascism. Darn it.


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Giving Women The Byrd

Tell me Robert Byrd, Senator (D) from West Virginia, did not say this on the Senate floor:

"As his colleagues hurriedly tried to give the president a domestic security bill, Senator Robert C. Byrd took the floor this morning to tell them of a "truly great" senator from the first century A.D. named Helvidius Priscus. One day this Roman was met outside the senate by the emperor Vespasian, who threatened to execute him if he spoke too freely.

"And so both did their parts," Mr. Byrd said. "Helvidius Priscus spoke his mind; the emperor Vespasian killed him. In this effeminate age it is instructive to read of courage...."


Emphasis added, because I suspect that women's groups, so keenly tuned to Republican misstatements, might miss this one.

And, as a help to the Senator:

ef·fem·i·nate adj.

1. Having qualities or characteristics more often associated with women than men. See Synonyms at female.
2. Characterized by weakness and excessive refinement.

Next we will hear that "effeminate" has nothing to do with women. Whatever.






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Getting Back To NORML in NYC

"I think we have a lot of work to do, but if we make our positions clear and explain to people what we are trying to do, they will agree with us. I just see the laws as causing more harm than the drug. The drug laws have completely failed. Illegality does not prevent people from obtaining their drug of choice."

I'll drink to that.



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Tuesday, November 19, 2002



Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

I'm reading TAPPED, right? So what's with this:

..., this was about as bad an incident of P.C.-inspired censorship as Tapped had seen in years, although it was quickly followed up with more examples from the University of California at Berkeley and other hotbeds of left-wing censorship. (Liberals ignore this growing trend -- groups of students demanding apologies and redress from papers that have printed articles with which those students disagree -- at their peril. The new left-wing campus culture, for all its newfound energy and activism, provides principled liberals with plenty to be worried about.)

or this criticism of the NY Times:

HOW STRANGE . . . That the secretive, late-night, voice-vote confirmation of conservative judge Michael McConnell received only an A.P. note in The New York Times.

or this:

One of the best indicators of a political writer's intellectual honesty is his or her willingness to accurately describe the opposition. A dishonest pundit, seeking to radically shift political definitions, will describe even the most milquetoast centrist as a "left-wing radical." (By the same token, a lot of liberals seem to consider every Republican a "right-winger.")

Que pasa? We are confounded by their new-found awareness of some of the peculiar symmetries of American politics.

However, re-assurance can be found promptly. Over at Spinsanity, we see a report on the response of the Left to the election:

...a number of liberal commentators have let loose a barrage of attacks on President Bush and his party featuring dire claims about what will happen when Republicans take control of Congress.

The attacks started immediately after last Tuesday's election. Writing in the American Prospect Online, Harold Meyerson claimed that "Only the filibuster now stands between the nation and the unchecked rule of the most rightwing, xenophobic and belligerent administration in the nation's history."


Ah, order restored.


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This Sounds Like Great News

Hope for RAIN.


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I Hate To Steal His Big Finish

A nice "bon mot" on San Francisco Democrats. I am sooo tempted to steal his close. OK, I am strong.

The author also links to this laugh-out-loud self-rebutting piece from some San Francisco columnist, as an example of the mind of a San Fran Dem in action. "Inaction", really, one word, no brain activity, flatline, am I clear?

The subject is creeping fascism under Bush, as exemplified by the new traffic stops by the INS:

In Michigan last week, federal agents started to use roving checkpoints to seek illegal immigrants, drug runners, weapons and terrorists.

Is this legal? Yes, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Under federal law," the newspaper reported last week," the Border Patrol can set up checkpoints up to 100 air miles from any international border, or from the shoreline. Within the first 25 miles, federal agents can stop drivers who seem suspicious, and they can search and conduct surveillance of private property."

Who knew?

Think of the places within those 100-mile or 25-mile limits. To name a few: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Savannah, Jacksonville, El Paso, San Diego, Portland, Sacramento, Bangor, Buffalo, Detroit, Tucson...


And so on for several more paragraphs outling the commencement of the dark night of fascism. Then, the first of several flickers of neural activity:

What I didn't know, until I read the Free Press last week, is that federal cops have been setting up their little checkpoints all over the Southwest border for several years now.

In Texas, Arizona and California, the newspaper reports, "temporary checkpoints have become permanent, and agents now patrol neighborhoods in cars and on bicycles."


OH! MY! GOSH! The dark night has already descended in his very own California, and he did not even know it! More than evil, these fascists are unobtrusive. Probably the soothing earth tones of the Brownshirts. Let's stumble on:

Fascism doesn't descend on a nation overnight. A nation has to be prepared for it first. In California, we long ago accepted checkpoints for imported fruits and vegetables.

Wait, California has checkpoints for fruits? Man, no wonder there is so much sensitivity to this gay-baiting thing. NO, I'M KIDDING! Can I strike that, yet leave it in the record? Blame it on my evil doppelganger? Oh, I said it, I'm sorry.

I had a real point before the last shred of self-discipline vanished. Doesn't California have a Democratic Governor, and Statehouse, and all that? I am sure I read that Simon lost. If these fruit and veggie checkpoints are so intolerable, let Gray Davis get rid of them. Oh, sure, the medfly cost Jerry Brown his governorship, but that can't be a consideration when standing up to fascism. I doubt these checkpoints are protecting the agricultural interests of the good people of Nevada or Arizona. Dump them. Let Freedom Ring! My goodness, man, you're blaming Bush for a creeping fascism that overcame California under Davis and Clinton!

Or maybe it didn't. Maybe you are just a kook. Or a San Francisco Democrat. Careful at the next checkpoint when they ask for fruits and nuts.

UPDATE: The Instapundit sent us to Agenda-Bender, for a singularly excellent post on San Fran Dems.

We see Common Sense applying itself to the San Fran columnist. Hmm, they seem to be going with calm logic and some powerful historical citations. Something for everyone.


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Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

Safire and Sullivan noticed this story. So did I. Trifecta!


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Tom Friedman Does the NASTY

Well, it worked for him. Let's go:

"...most NATO countries have fallen so far behind the U.S. in their defense spending and modernizations, they really can't fight alongside of us anymore anyway.

...The old NATO has been replaced as a military alliance — not by the expanded NATO but by a totally different NATO. The "new NATO" is made up of three like-minded English-speaking allies — America, Britain and Australia — with France as a partner for peace, depending on the war. What these four core countries all have in common is that they are sea powers, with a tradition of fighting abroad, with the ability to transport troops around the world and with mobile special forces that have an "attitude." That is what you need to deal with today's threats.

Also, as one European official noted, all four of these countries play either rugby or American-style football — violent games where success depends on hurting the other team. This should be a prerequisite for joining the new NATO, which should henceforth be called "Nations Allied to Stop Tyrants," or NASTY.


Pause. Someone is missing. A country with it own football league, speaks English, except the parts that speak French.... O, Canada!

And what are the French doing on this list?

Said one U.S. official: "The French are bad-weather friends and their troops certainly have an attitude."

Margaret Thatcher did assure George Bush that he could count on the French, back in the days when giants walked the earth.


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Monday, November 18, 2002



Gore in '04

Oh, help me, please. I need a rhyme for Gore and " '04". What is the English for "No mas"?

Gore gets a valentine from Time magazine. Great new info:

Gore now acknowledges that he micromanaged his campaign into incoherence. "I don't think I'm a very good political tactician. As a matter of fact, I think I'm pretty lousy at it," he told Time. "I don't think I'm a good campaign manager, particularly not good at managing myself as a candidate." Or managing others: Where Bush relied on—and trusted—a few key advisers like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, Gore's team was a shifting cast of backbiting pollsters and strategists, none of whom were ever sure where they stood with the candidate. His wife and kids seemed to be the only people he really trusted.

Well, yes, there is much anecdotal evidence that he annoyed his staff as much as he annoyed the rest of us. More:

Our polling has good news and bad news for him. In a Time/cnn survey conducted last week, 61% of Democrats said they would like to see Gore run for President in 2004, so at the moment, the nomination is his to lose. Against the six most likely challengers (Joe Lieberman, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and Howard Dean), Gore is favored by a whopping 53% of Democrats. (No one else gets more than 10%.) If Hillary Rodham Clinton's name is included, it becomes a contest, though Gore would outpoint her 36% to 26%.

So, Big Al is running strongly in early "name recognition" contests. What TIME does not report is that, in another poll that includes Hillary!, Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt, and Elvis, Gore drops behind former Vt. Governor Dean, both of whose supporters stuck with their original pick. But perhaps this is a new Al Gore?

"This is the New Gore..."

Oh, please. "New Al Gores" are like street-cars - there will be another one along in a minute. And, finally, a bit of cliff-dancing by the once and future candidate:

"He [Gore] has a much more easygoing attitude toward the world than I ever knew him to have." One clue as to how he got there may be a little book in the Arlington, Va., house where he and Tipper have spent most of the past two years—The Meditation Year: A Seasonal Guide to Contemplation, Relaxation and Visualization. "Both Tipper and I have meditated for quite a while," he says, "and we both believe in regular prayer."

Oh, good supplement, Al! Without the "prayer" coda, you would not have had one. Nice to see you've still got it.

The Man Without Qualities and the Woman With Many reflect on Big Al.




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Sauce For The Goose

The NY Times is full of free advice for folks involved with the Augusta National controversy about the refusal of this private club to admit women as members.

...If the club that runs the Masters can brazenly discriminate against women, that means others can choose not to support Mr. Johnson's golfing fraternity. That includes more enlightened members of the club, CBS Sports, which televises the Masters, and the players, especially Tiger Woods.

...Mr. Weill and Mr. Chenault should lead the way by resigning from the club and encouraging other C.E.O.'s to do the same. CBS Sports, which seems to think this issue is no big deal, needs to think again.

Tiger Woods, who has won the Masters three times, could simply choose to stay home in April.


Such noble attention to other people's behavior. My pithy Letter to the Editor will read as follows:

Dear Sir;

I read with interest your editorial describing the refusal of Augusta National to admit women as members. ("America's All-Male Golfing Society") You call on Sanford Weill of Citigroup and Kenneth Chenault at American Express to resign from the club; you call on Tiger Woods to boycott next year's Master, one of the four legs of golf's Grand Slam; and you seem to suggest that CBS Sports should not broadcast the Masters.

May I suggest that these lofty principles can be applied somewhat closer to home? I call upon the NY Times to announce immediately that, unless and until Augusta National admits a woman, the Times will not send any sports reporters to cover the Masters, and that Times coverage will consist of burying the Masters daily leaderboard results back in page nine of the sports section.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this.

Regards,

A Skeptical Reader

UPDATE: Hey, I like the way this guy thinks. Although, with this kind of coincidence, it may be time to change the tinfoil in my Yankees cap.


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MoDo Held Hostage: Day 12

Twelve days after the election - the election here in the US, for those of you who may have forgotten Ms. Dowd's home base - Our Woman In Riyadh contiunes to file from (or at least, about) Saudi Arabia. Perhaps she has taken inspiration from a History Channel documantary about Pearl S. Buck or Margaret Mead.

Her subject: "Driving While Female", in Riyadh. Apparently, a critical moment in the potential modernization of Saudi Arabia has passed us by:

The moment when America should have tried to use its influence to help Saudi women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to go to war in Iraq. Inspired by the American troops — including female soldiers — 47 women from the intelligentsia went for a joy ride to protest Saudi Arabia's being the only place where women can't drive.

"We were very, very careful to plan it correctly not to be too antagonistic to the culture," recalled one of "the drivers," as they are still known. "We were mothers, well covered, nothing anti-Islam."

Using international licenses, the women took the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove in a convoy until police stopped them.

At first, the drivers were exhilarated. But then the clerics pounced, blaming "secular Americanist" ideas and branding the women "whores" and "harlots." They were publicly harassed, received death threats and lost their jobs..."


This is all presented quite uncritically. No "faux" balancing quotes from MoDo! Presumably, she does not delude herself that her whinings are taken seriously.

But let us surprise her, and ourselves, by trying to put ourselves back in November of 1990. Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990. James Baker III had a bloody index finger from dialing world leaders in an attempt to organize a coalition to reverse this. The US Senate was two month away from mustering a full 52 votes in support of the Kuwaiti liberation effort.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, US troops had arrived, to the horror of conservative Muslims. Western troops defiling their Holy Land? Osama bin Laden spent the next decade plotting revenge.

So, in this very ticklish situation, Ms. Dowd tells us what? The US Government, having had troops in Saudi Arabia for at least a few weeks, should have commenced a re-ordering and modernization of Saudi society? For heaven's sake, opening a McDonalds in France is the worst kind of cultural imperialism, and she straight-facedly reports this?

My Bold Prediction: MoDo returns to the States this Wednesday. Probably "the States" circa 1960, to talk about JFK, drugs, and testosterone enhancement. Perhaps the new Bond film gets mentioned, as a testosterone tie-in. But I am sure she will be back. I have to conclude, after this column, that her own prescription medicines have run out.

UPDATE: Nothing in her life became her like the leaving it. Or some such. The Man Sans Q is also giving a lot more thought to the Maureen that might be than he ever gave to the Maureen that was. I think everyone should play - e-mail one of us with suggestions for MoDo's Wednesday column. First prize - you don't have to read her column.


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Nancy Pelosi: How Conservative A Catholic?

So she says, in this NY Times piece:

"...leaders of both parties have grown far more savvy about the image they project. Republican leaders were carefully pledging to reach across the aisle and build bipartisan coalitions last week, while Ms. Pelosi was arguing, with a centrist's smile, "It's not about left and right." As she noted at one point, "I'm a liberal Democrat, but I'm a conservative Catholic — put that into the mix."

Andrew Sullivan noted this as well, so perhaps between his readers and mine, this riddle will be answered.

Now, Sullivan poses the following questions to verify Ms. Pelosi's "conservative Catholicism":

"Does she oppose women priests? Does she oppose married priests? Does she favor allowing gay priests to serve openly and chastely?

Well, as a political figure she may not feel obliged to comment on those church-related issues. However, Mario Cuomo famously and eloquently agonized, as Governor of New York, over his role as a Catholic in, for example, capital punishment or abortion. I am unable to find similar agonistes at Ms. Pelosi's website. In fact, putting her views as a "conservative Catholic" into the mix would not be possible based on this website, which does not contain any obvious reference to her religious background. Here, for example, is her personal data:

PERSONAL BACKGROUND. Prior to her election to Congress, Rep. Pelosi served as the State and Northern Chair of the California Democratic Party and Chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention Host Committee. She served as a Democratic National Committeewoman from California for 20 years between 1976 and 1996.

Congresswoman Pelosi comes from a strong family tradition of public service. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., served as Mayor of Baltimore for 12 years, after representing the city for five terms in Congress, where he served on the Appropriations Committee. Her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, also served as Mayor of Baltimore. Rep. Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. in 1962. She and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a native of San Francisco, have five children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul and Alexandra, and five grandchildren."


Well, her father could be Italian - bit of a clue. And Trinity College was "founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame as a Catholic liberal arts college for women. Today, the College continues the founders' commitment to offer students of all faiths...", so perhaps this is a straw in the wind.

But surely her public statements and recorded votes are a better place to look. Here she strongly opposed to the "Defense of Marriage Act". In a thought provoking bit of alliteration, she says this:

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this ill-named Defense of Marriage Act and I do so on the basis of conscience, Constitution and constituency."

Hmmm, "Catholicism" would have fit the alliterative scheme, although not, perhaps, the intellectual one.

And, on the partial birth abortion ban, she has several statements, none supporting it. To her credit, she does say this:

"This is a very sad debate today. Abortion is a failure in every respect. We want to keep them safe, and we want to keep them legal."

But no clear mention of any reservations she may personally feel as a "conservative Catholic".

So, add "conservative Catholic" to the mix - but only for certain audiences, when the politics work.

UPDATE: Bold words from Ms. Pelosi via Tacitus. Hmm, I guess the link sort of revealed that, didn't it?


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Saturday, November 16, 2002



Lawyers Work Overtime For Justice

I know, I didn't believe it myself. But check this WaPo story:


Justice Told to Pay Overtime to Lawyers


OK, the InstaPundit has a serious comment on this. I just wonder whether it means more blogging or more money for this earnest clock-puncher.



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A Feast For Fans Of The "Martha and Hootie Show"

Trust me, it's ubiquitous. Scroll down and around. There is other good stuff too.


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Even I Recognize News Management When It's This Obvious

Sen. Daschle criticizes our progress in the War on Terror. So we have this anouncement:

U.S. Captures Senior Al Qaeda Leader

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A high-ranking al Qaeda leader sought by the United States in its war on terrorism was captured recently and is in American custody, U.S. government sources said on Friday.

The sources declined to name the operative for Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s network, caught in the past week or so...


Emphasis added. Is this sort of "saving for a rainy day"?


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Friday, November 15, 2002



Brad DeLong and John Derbyshire Agree

Use Google. The InstaPundit sends us to Heather Hurlburt (oh, man, nickname hell in High School!), who writes on national security and the Democrats. Very interesting. But, being a small-minded literalist, I stuck on this:

"the closest anyone came to articulating a coherent theory of force was Lawrence Eagleburger's infamous dictum on Bosnia, "We don't have a dog in that fight."

Well, I "googled" my brain, and immediately came up with James Baker as the source of that policy statement. But, for those who prefer the real Google, here is a link. Or go to Google itself for about twenty more.

When will these monthly mags get editors?




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Oh, Those Annoying Pop-Ups!

The Man Sans Q describes his experience with software that blocks pop-up windows:

"However, Pop-Up Stopper often blocks access to certain "click-ins" - including most notably the "comments" sections of many blogs."

Say it with me, people: that's not a bug, that's a FEATURE!

In fact, we are waiting for a "Blog-Stopper", that will prevent annoying bloggers from promoting their bizzaro views. "Blogger" was partway there, with a version that prevented folks from publishing or archiving, but they seemed to have backed off from that product.

Anyway, here is a good, free pop-up stopper. And if you want to open a "click-in" window, either turn off the pop-up stopper, or simply press CTRL-C.

BTW, are you taking tech advice from the MinuteMan? Hard times all around.


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Thursday, November 14, 2002



So Glad We Cleared This Up

The Times reports, seemingly without irony, the following:

Prosecutors in St. Paul vacated a 1985 rape conviction yesterday after a review of old cases led to DNA testing that showed they had the wrong man. It is believed to be the first time that a prosecution-initiated review, as opposed to a defendant's appeals, has resulted in exoneration.

Well, that was very forward-looking of them. But, oh, the wasted years. Can society repay its debt to this innocent man?

The man convicted of the rape, David Brian Sutherlin, is serving a life sentence for a double murder committed while he was out on bail on the rape charge.

Oh. Well, then, why, exactly, did they bother, other than an admirable intellectual curiousity?

Prosecutors expect the lifting of the rape conviction to ease his path to parole, for which he became eligible this year.

OK. Sorry I asked.




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Please Come to Boston

Democrats select Boston for their 2004 Convention, to start July 26. John Kerry smiles.

We applaud the Dems for a wise choice - now, their party and the Red Sox can begin their mid-summer swoon together.

Time for a Bold Prediction: If, I say IF, Gov. Pataki can convince Karl Rove that George Bush can win NY in 2004, we will see the following:

- The Republican Convention in 2004 will be in the greatest city in the world.

- There will be a Federal bail-out of the NYC budget, linked to 9/11, so don't everyone crowd the trough. Look for Pataki and Giuliani at center stage of the signing ceremony, with Senators Schumer and Junior Senator What's 'er Name stuck at the edge of the crowd.

- As a twofer, either Pataki or Giuliani will contest Schumer's Senate seat in 2004.

UPDATE: Neither The Brother Judd nor the New Republic seem to be Boston fans.


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MoDo: You Can't Go Home Again

As the Man Sans Q observes, Maureen Dowd resolutely refuses to confront the election news, the ascendance of the Bush Administration or the Bush success at the UN. Did she make an "Alec Baldwin" style promise to leave the country if Republicans re-gained control of the Senate?

We are reminded of Tex Cobb, a minor pugilist and actor ("Raising Arizona"). Mr. Cobb was tabbed for a hopelessly one-sided boxing match against Larry Holmes, covered by Howard Cosell and ABC Sports. Mr. Cosell was so embarrassed by the spectacle that he asserted he would never cover boxing for ABC Sports again.

Informed of this news, Mr. Cobb reflected briefly and asked "If I fight Larry Holmes again, will Cosell quit Monday Night Football?"

If it took an election to silence MoDo, let's have another one soon.




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Free JK Rowling!

We are total fans of JK Rowling, creator of the classic "Harry Potter" series. In our very own household, we have two youngsters who basically taught themselves to read so they could make it through the first books without having to wait for Mom or Dad to read the stories aloud. When the fourth book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" came out, we bought three copies (Mom is not a great sharer, either). 750 pages and two days later, I had three copies available to read. We are talking commitment here.

However, time is passing. Where is book five in what has been promised to be a seven part series? Over two years have gone by, and no relief is in sight!

OK, Ms. Rowling has gotten married, and is expecting a child. We applaud this, especially the traditional sequencing. But our fear is that the studio is taking too much of her time, consulting with her on details about the film adaptations - the movie version of book two is coming out tomorrow, as you may have heard.

This was fine for one film. But the delay in the release of book five is no longer acceptable. Therefore, it is with deep regret that I must announce the following:

Free JK Rowling! No Book, No Movie!

If Hollywood won't let her deliver the book, then we must stand firm and boycott the movie! Send a message - We Want Book Five! Give us "The Order of the Phoenix"! We are not going to foolishly buy tickets for a movie today in the hope of getting a book next year. Show Me The Manuscript! When a release date for the book is announced, this boycott will end. Only solidarity amongst Harry Potter fans can free JK Rowling from the clutches of the Hollywood studios!

This message caught on like wildfire in our household. Desperate for Book Five, my two no-longer-quite-so-youngsters seized on the boycott as a beacon of hope. Last year, we drove straight from school to a 3:30 showing on the Friday afternoon that the movie was released. Well, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on you. This year we are standing firm - my girls have rallied their friends, and ten of them are steadfastly refusing to see the film until Saturday afternoon.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2002



What Did Bush See In Putin's Soul?

Putin lets it rip at a press conference following the EU-Russia summit:

Responding to a question from a reporter on whether Russia's assault against terrorists would also eliminate portions of Chechnya's civilian population, Putin did not mince words, even leveling at the journalist a thinly veiled threat of castration. "I think you are from a country that is, in fact, an ally of the United States of America. You are in danger. They speak about the necessity of killing all kafirs [nonbelievers], all non-Muslims, all 'cross-bearers,' as they call them. If you are a Christian, you are in danger. But if you reject your religion and become an atheist, you are also slated for liquidation, according to their way of thinking and their rules. You are in danger. If you decide to become a Muslim, even this will not save you, because they consider traditional Islam to be hostile to their aims. Even in this case, you are in danger. If you want to become a complete Islamic radical and are ready to undergo circumcision, then I invite you to Moscow. We are a multidenominational country. We have specialists in this question [circumcision]. I will recommend that they carry out the operation in such a way so that afterward, nothing else will grow," Putin said.

Well, well. This reminds me of a story that I find mentioned here, about the behavior of the Russian SPETSNAZ in Beirut:

In 1985, terrorists stormed the Soviet Embassy in Beirut and abducted several Russian officials, demanding that the Soviets force Syria to stop its efforts to drive Palestinians supporting Arafat out of Lebanon.

Then Soviet president Gorbachev was quickly able to get Syria to stop its operation, but the kidnappers were slow in releasing the hostages. The SPETSNAZ quickly went into action, rushing to Beirut and giving the extremists 48 hours to free their people. When the terrorists let the deadline pass, the SPETSNAZ actually kidnapped four of them and sent one of their decapitated heads in a bag to the terrorist chief, promising further unrestrained action. The captives were quickly freed.


I have a vague memory of hearing that more than the head of one terrorist was in the bag. Apparently, the SPETSNAZ took this opportunuity to demonstrate necro-auto-fellatio, a technique not endorsed here.

Putin, cold-blooded killer? Yes. Want to make something of it?


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Tuesday, November 12, 2002



Why Can't We Filet People So Delicately?

This is how to do it. We always get all snarly, and the result is more of a puree - sort of the difference between using a stiletto and a sledgehammer. Well, this gives us something to which we may aspire.


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Krugman Is On Vacation

So Kristof tackles an intersection of economics and medical ethics. Why not? Maybe when George Vecsey takes a vacation, Krugman can swing by the Sports Desk and deliver an article on free agency and revenue sharing. Mix it up!


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OK, It's Tasteless, But Is It Intentional?

What do we find near the bottom of Friday's "Best of the Web"? [Yes, I have noticed the calendar, what did YOU do last weekend?] There is a story about the Left titled "Anti-American Implosion".

The story begins with a well known quotation, and an interesting link to the source thereof: "if a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain." Well enough, but the article concludes with the following news item:

The San Francisco Chronicle reports "the second of two anti-war protesters who suffered severe head injuries when they poked their heads from a private bus in San Francisco's Broadway Tunnel has died"...

Maybe, given the intro, this story could have been omitted.






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An Interesting Peggy Noonan Post-Election Piece

Ms. Noonan congratulates the Dems on their many victories and suggests they go home. Once they figure out where that is. Hillary 2008, if not sooner.


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Everything Reduces To "Good Cop - Bad Cop"

Has the Bush Administration been using Powell and Rumsfeld in a "good cop - bad cop" tactic on Iraq? This routine is so much fun, everyone can play. Apparently, the Iraqi Parliament has rejected the UN Resolution on disarmament. Gosh, Iraq has a parliament? I suspect gerrymandering has left this institution sadly unresponsive to the views of the people.

In any case, we deplore their unreasonable stance and can only hope that wisdom, patience, and good judgement will be found elsewhere in the Iraqi government. This is an opportunity for Saddam to position himself for a Nobel Prize by bringing these two seemingly irreconcilable sides together. Step forward, man of peace and good will!

UPDATE: Hmm, the White House does not think this sets the stage for a grand entrance by Saddam. They may have a point.


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Monday, November 11, 2002



The Resolutely Non-hunting Dog

TAPPED is aglow with this:

BUSH IS A LIAR, PART XIV. The always-excellent Spinsanity has the definitive take on the Bush administration's serial mendacity. Unlike Tapped, Spinsanity is free of cant or rage. They stick to the facts. And the facts are devastating enough.

Oh, I bet this will be devastating. Let's check it out:

Making Bush Tell The Truth

...the White House has dissembled wildly rather than admit mistakes or mendacity.


WARNING! Is it Bush that is lying, or "the White House"? I suspect this is a significant distinction to the American people. Carry on:

Take Bush's false claim to have publicly listed three exceptions during the campaign under which budget deficits would be acceptable. As revenues declined last year and deficits appeared imminent, the president claimed the following to try to protect himself from criticism: "As I said in Chicago during the campaign, when asked about should the government ever deficit spend, I said only under these circumstances should government deficit spend: if there is a national emergency, if there is a recession, or if there's a war."

Oh my goodness, they are leading with the Trifecta! This was beaten endlessly a while back. Let's see if they provide the rebuttal, or make us do the dirty work.

After much investigation, it was discovered that Vice President Al Gore listed the exceptions during the campaign, not Bush. A Bush advisor did indicate at the time that he also supported them...

Yes, that was Larry Lindsey, now Economic Advisor to the President, then the campaign's leading economic advisor. So, the "trifecta" was authoritatively part of the Bush economic message during the campaign, a fact not in dispute. The rest is "who said what, and where", and frankly, who cares?

Continuing with "the mendacity":

Then, in July, the Office of Management and Budget issued a press release that severely underestimated the percentage decline in the 10-year federal budget surplus caused by the Bush tax cut (apparently an inadvertent error). Rather than admit its mistake publicly, OMB deleted the error and posted an altered version of the release (Adobe PDF file) on its Web site with no indication that it had been changed. After my initial report on this was picked up by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, OMB was finally forced to add a disclosure to the release (Adobe PDF file).

So, the OMB made what Spinsanity is prepared to admit was an inadvertent error. They failed to trumpet the correction. Oh, dear. And, although the headline says "Making Bush Tell The Truth", this mistake is attributable to the Administration, not Bush personally.

Well, it must get worse:

Now, with matters far more grave at stake in the debate over Iraq, the administration has been no less brazen in its dishonesty. At a Sept. 7 appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said, "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], that they were six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need."

An IAEA report in 1998 (around the time that inspectors were "finally denied access") did say Iraq was six to 24 months away from developing a weapon before the Gulf War in 1991, but its efforts to produce weapons-grade uranium were largely crippled by the war and subsequent inspection regime. It appears Bush was referring to that estimate to underscore the point that Iraq has already come close to developing nuclear weapons and will try to do so again.

However, he should have been clearer about when that capacity was discovered. By tying the pre-Gulf War estimate to when inspectors were "finally denied access," Bush appears to imply that IAEA's conclusion that Iraq was "six months away from developing a weapon" dated from 1998, rather than 1991.


Oh my goodness. Bush should have been clearer at a live press conference! Was he so wrong, and so misleading, that this can be called a lie? No, he should have been clearer.

But surely there must be whoppers ahead of us. This cannot be the entiire indictment that set hearts aflutter at TAPPED. Sorry, that's all, folks. Big finish:

This dissembling is a betrayal of Bush's promise to restore honor and dignity to the White House. With so much at stake domestically and abroad, it's time to hold the president and his administration to a higher standard of truth.

And my big finish, which will be clear: Rubbish. An uncertain but irrelevant story, a bureaucratic mistake, and a reasonable statement open to misinterpretation? A story about lies probably ought to feature some.


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The Times Sticks The Knife In Deeper

One little election, and the Times has surrendered. Commenting on Bush's economic agenda, we read this:

No `Rubinomics' for Them

Behind the emerging Bush economic strategy is a shift away from the bipartisan consensus of the late 1990's that fiscal responsibility should come first when setting budget policy. Instead the administration is reasserting conservative economic orthodoxy and giving itself more room for tax cuts.

...White House officials say there is nothing to support the primary economic benefit claimed by proponents of fiscal responsibility, that cutting deficits or running surpluses puts downward pressure on interest rates.

"As an economist, I don't buy that there's a link between swings in the budget deficit of the size we see in the United States and interest rates," Mr. Hubbard said. "There's just no evidence."

Indeed, Democrats are having a difficult time invoking the interest-rate argument because rates have declined sharply even as the budget has moved from surplus to deficit in the last two years.

...The White House formulation — that economic growth leads to an improved budget situation, not the other way around — reminds many analysts of the assertions of the so-called supply-siders in the 1980's, when Republicans promised that tax cuts would pay for themselves.

Stanley Collender, managing director of the federal budget consulting group at Fleishman-Hillard, the public relations firm, summed up the administration's fiscal philosophy this way, "Cut taxes because we have a surplus, and cut taxes because we have a deficit."

Democrats agree that running moderate deficits during a downturn is appropriate. But they say the administration is leading the nation down a path of more or less permanent deficits.

Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the nation would burden future generations with heavy government debt and find it even more difficult to keep Social Security and Medicare afloat as the population ages.

So far, voters do not seem to care. When he asked voters this week to pick among 12 reasons to support Democrats, Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, found that dealing with the budget deficit came in dead last.


Emphasis added, just to demonstrate that sometimes we read this stuff as well as link to it.





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This Only Looks Complicated From A Special Perspective

The NY Times takes us to an odd Twilight Zone with a front-page story about a Federal irrigation project to help Arkansas rice farmers. The Army Corps of Engineers has information; taxpayer groups and conservation groups oppose the project.

Rice, as you may remember, is a subsidized crop in this country. We are not alone in our puzzlement:

"Mr. Carruth, the critic of the plan, said a better approach would be to retire some farmland and to spend federal money on technology to enable farmers to use water more efficiently. That approach, he says, eases overpumping of the aquifer without the costly river diversion.

"Why should we subsidize a pump that will sell subsidized water to grow a subsidized crop?" he asked, noting that federal price guarantees mean that rice farmers receive $3.10 a bushel for their crop, more than twice the current $1.40 market price."


And, of course, water is a "free resource" in this area - no property rights, pump all you want, yahoo! And rather than attempt any sort of market based allocation scheme, we are being taken in this direction.

But what about the "Twilight Zone" aspect to this? The Times story seems to have been written in a world in which all politicians have disappeared - there are no comments from the Arkansas Senators, the Governor, Congressmen, or the White House. The closest we get to an acknowledgement of a political issue here are a few hints like this:

"Congress has allocated $45 million for the project, and farmers and the State of Arkansas have spent an additional $11 million. The Bush administration has not included the plan in its budgets. Although withholding a final decision, the Office of Management and Budget has limited how the corps can spend money already allocated for the plan, restricting it to conservation purposes.

Here is a guest editorial in another newspaper by Dale Bumpers, former Senator from Arkansas, containing a bit of timeless, priceless logic:

"The question of subsidies is a political argument worthy of debate. But it is a separate issue from that of how we are going to save our underground water supplies from being depleted."

Separate but equal, maybe? If we quit subsidizing rice, and the farmers quit growing it, I am guessing the water problem would be solved.

So, what are the politics of this project? A Republican boondoggle? Arkansas Dems helping their farmers? A bi-partisan fleecing of the taxpayer? At whom should we direct our ire? Surely the Times must be curious. Or is this just a puzzling bit of front-page filler?

UPDATE: Well, at least the editors read the Times. They have a follow-up editorial on Tuesday in which they oppose this project. Highlight:

...Wisely, however, President Bush's Office of Management and Budget, which has grown increasingly skeptical of the Corps's projections, has so far refused to spend $45 million that Congress has allocated. It should keep on refusing.

OK, I remember the word "impoundment". When Nixon did it, refusing to spend money allocated by Congress, it was an outrage. Times change, even at the Times.






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