"There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters." Daniel Webster

Friday, February 27, 2009

Abu Muqawama Explains Just How Stupid Christopher Hitchens Is

He writes

I can't get that scene in Rushmore out of my head, the one where Max gets pummeled by the Scottish kid (the 2:23 mark of this clip) and looks up at the little kids who used to idolize him. This must have been what Hitchens was like in Beirut.

In summary, it's no one's fault in Beirut that Christopher Hitchens was born too late to have participated in the Spanish Civil War, and if you're hunting for fascists to insult in Lebanon, there's no need to stop with the SSNP. But it might be smartest to just be a considerate tourist, keep your mouth shut, and draw your conclusions later.

Damn, Christopher Hitchens Is Stupid

Here's the proof.

Herbert Clark Obama

Add Steve Horwitz to the list of economists noting parallels between the policies of Barack Oabam and Herberte Hoover.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Father Tells Children About Obama's Stimulus Law

HT: LewRockwell.com

Sometimes I worry about what we are doing to our childrens' future. Then I remember I have no children and feel much better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Radio (And Others) Still Wrecking the Right

Bobby Jindal's response to Barack Obama's speech got panned pretty much everywhere, even on the right. Fox News commentators didn't like it. At National Review's The Corner, the always reliable Kathryn Jean Lopez was the only one enthralled.

But Rush Limbaugh isn't having any of it. He chimes in with a love song to Jindal.

Not to be outdone, the Republican Echo Chamber says critics of Jindal are racist. OK, he doesn't come right out and say it. In his typical passive-aggressive style, he links to someone who says it, and covers himself with a by saying only that he can see how people would interpret things that way.

Some coccoons don't produce a butterfly.

More on How Radio Wrecked the Right

More from The American Conservative blog. And they apparently didn't like the article over at Freerepublic.com.I find it telling that posters are calling for a boycott of National Review, when the article was published in The American Conservative.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barack Obama's Facism

Robert Scheer, who is about as left as you can get, goes there. Meanwhile, economist Pete Boettke is worried.

Two Lost Decades? Why Japan's Economy Is Still Stumbling

A new paper from the Heritage Foundation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

How Radio Wrecks the Right

John Derbyshire writes

Taking the conservative project as a whole—limited government, fiscal prudence, equality under law, personal liberty, patriotism, realism abroad—has talk radio helped or hurt? All those good things are plainly off the table for the next four years at least, a prospect that conservatives can only view with anguish. Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?

They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to “build democracy” in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a “massive success,” and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy “phenomenal.”

Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism. There is nothing wrong with lowbrow conservatism. It’s energizing and fun. What’s wrong is the impression fixed in the minds of too many Americans that conservatism is always lowbrow, an impression our enemies gleefully reinforce when the opportunity arises. Thus a liberal like E.J. Dionne can write, “The cause of Edmund Burke, Leo Strauss, Robert Nisbet and William F. Buckley Jr. is now in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity. … Reason has been overwhelmed by propaganda, ideas by slogans.” Talk radio has contributed mightily to this development.

It does so by routinely descending into the ad hominem—Feminazis instead of feminism—and catering to reflex rather than thought. Where once conservatism had been about individualism, talk radio now rallies the mob. “Revolt against the masses?” asked Jeffrey Hart. “Limbaugh is the masses.”

In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right. But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans. McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year.

There's much more at the link.

Randy the Ram vs. Tito Santana

The New York Times has an article on Tito, who is doing pretty well for himself. He always had a reputation as a class act.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Russian LOLCats

Enjoy the commie kitties.

I Don't Call Him The Republican Echo Chamber for Nothing

At The American Conservative blog, Clark Stooksbury catches Glenn Reynolds in full huckster mode.

Eric Bischoff on the Verne Gagne Situation

A little background, former pro wrestler and amateur wrestling champ Verne Gagne now suffers from dementia and is confined to a nursing home. He ahd another dementia sufferer were in some sort of altercation that left the other man injured and that man later died.
Eric Bischoff was a pro wrestling promoter who got his start as an announcer for Gagne's AWA promotion. He writes
Above all that Verne has accomplished as an athlete, father, and a businessman, the Verne Gagne that I know was one of the most generous and caring people I have ever met. He gave tirelessly to the community and was passionate about supporting the community where he lived.

Verne Gagne deserves better.

I promised myself that I would refrain from my usual rant when it comes to the media, but as the days go by I am getting more and more angry.

Perhaps if the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County where Verne built the home he invested his life work in and wanted to retire, hadn’t forced him to give up his property for a fraction of its market value by invoking an act of socialism known as “eminent domain” (for those who don’t know Verne had a spectacular home on a large acreage that the State/County wanted as a park on Lake Minnetonka just west of Minneapolis), Verne and his family would gave been better able to provide for Verne’s care without having to live in an assisted living facility.

Perhaps that’s the story the media should focus on: that despite the hard work, contribution, and self made success of an individual like Verne Gagne, the State of Minnesota and Hennepin County can force a then 62 year old man to take pennies on the dollar for his life’s work, and end up in an assisted living facility in such a tragic situation. Perhaps that would help shed some real light on the real story that has made victims of the Guttman and Gagne family.

I am grateful to Verne and the Gagne family for everything that I have been able to provide my family. Nothing will tarnish the respect I have for Verne.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Editorial Cartoonists Learn Some People Can't Take a Joke

They must draw Barack Obama carefully.

The Racist Right

Over at Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson has been training his sights on high-profile conservatives who associate with or defend some pretty unsavory types. He has so far identifed: Republican Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, Ann Coulter and Robert Spencer, among others.

The New Aristocracy of Pull

The way to make money in 21st century America isn't to make things that people want but to take it from those who do.

Here's a Stimulus Idea That Would Cost Taxpayers Nothing

And help clean the air, courtesy of Donal Hertmark at the Master Resource blog. Want to be the Obama administration gives it even one second of consideration?

None Dare Call It Anti-Semitism

Right-wing Web site were all aghast recently when a poll showed many Europeans believed the Jews are behind the world's current economic woes. But they have no problem seeing a Jew behind much of it, or in the Republican echo chamber's case linking to such speculation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Best and the Brightest Redux

David Halberstam used that as the title of his book about the Vietnam War as an ironic comment on how the intellectuals in the Kennedy administration, arrogant in their own brilliance, crafted the policies that led the United States down a bitter road.

Fabius Maximum uses the term to describe the parallels with Barack Obama's economics team.

Butch Reed Confronts Dick Slater

And the lovely Dark Journey

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Patterico Won't Be Pleased About This

Radley Balko explains why it's very bad to get arrested in Mississippi or Louisiana. Radley has done some other extaordinary work on the problems with autopsies in those two states. It's archived on the Reason site.

Outsourcing America's Drug War

Is prohibition destroying Mexico?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Dangerous Book

Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" is now online. It lays out the essentials of classical economics is brilliantly simple English. That's why Brad DeLong, who is an ethics-free partisan hack, called it a dangerous book.

Are Basketball Centers Smarter Than Forwards or Guards?

Steve Sailer asks.

The Economic Collapse of Japan and the Phoenix Suns

Tyler Cowen has more to continue our basketball theme.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The No-Stats All-Star

Michael Lewis's article on basketball player Shane Battier has been getting a lot of attention.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama Gets One Small Thing Right

He refuses to join the idolization of Winston Churchill.

Is There Anything Cocaine Can't Do?

The United Nations' top anti-crime official says drug money is the only thing that kept some banks from going under last year.

The Cost of Stimulus: Infrastructure

Some thoughts on the matter at Market Urbanism.

Japan's Finance Minister Says He Wasn't Drunk

Can he say the same about the economy?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Diesel Punks

Here's a great story on Amish hackers. Really.

HT: The Republican Echo Chamber

The Latest on the Republican "Liberty" Caucus

The RLC of Illinois has removed all of Puma's posts and apparently removed him as well. (They removed many posts with a similar tone that were signed with different screen names. It was pretty obvious there was one person posting under several names. I guess this confirms it.)

Radley Balko got apologies from some of the RLC's national officers.

But the Classically Liberal blog isn't too convinced by the apology of the Illinois state co-coordinator.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Going Nowhere

Is high-speed rail a waste of money? Well, let me put it this was, how many government officials want it? How many businessmen are willing to put their own money, and only their own money, on it?

How the Crash Will Reshape America

I don't agree with all, OK much, of Richard Florida's work. But this essay has a lot of food for thought. For instance:

So how do we move past the bubble, the crash, and an aging, obsolescent model of economic life? What’s the right spatial fix for the economy today, and how do we achieve it?
The solution begins with the removal of homeownership from its long-privileged place at the center of the U.S. economy. Substantial incentives for homeownership (from tax breaks to artificially low mortgage-interest rates) distort demand, encouraging people to buy bigger houses than they otherwise would. That means less spending on medical technology, or software, or alternative energy—the sectors and products that could drive U.S. growth and exports in the coming years. Artificial demand for bigger houses also skews residential patterns, leading to excessive low-density suburban growth. The measures that prop up this demand should be eliminated.
If anything, our government policies should encourage renting, not buying. Homeownership occupies a central place in the American Dream primarily because decades of policy have put it there. A recent study by Grace Wong, an economist at the Wharton School of Business, shows that, controlling for income and demographics, homeowners are no happier than renters, nor do they report lower levels of stress or higher levels of self-esteem.
And while homeownership has some social benefits—a higher level of civic engagement is one—it is costly to the economy. The economist Andrew Oswald has demonstrated that in both the United States and Europe, those places with higher homeownership rates also suffer from higher unemployment. Homeownership, Oswald found, is a more important predictor of unemployment than rates of unionization or the generosity of welfare benefits. Too often, it ties people to declining or blighted locations, and forces them into work—if they can find it—that is a poor match for their interests and abilities.
As homeownership rates have risen, our society has become less nimble: in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were nearly twice as likely to move in a given year as they are today. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s. This sort of creeping rigidity in the labor market is a bad sign for the economy, particularly in a time when businesses, industries, and regions are rising and falling quickly.
The foreclosure crisis creates a real opportunity here. Instead of resisting foreclosures, the government should seek to facilitate them in ways that can minimize pain and disruption. Banks that take back homes, for instance, could be required to offer to rent each home to the previous homeowner, at market rates—which are typically lower than mortgage payments—for some number of years. (At the end of that period, the former homeowner could be given the option to repurchase the home at the prevailing market price.) A bigger, healthier rental market, with more choices, would make renting a more attractive option for many people; it would also make the economy as a whole more flexible and responsive.

Friday, February 13, 2009

MARTA Mugger Picks Wrong Victim

Watch the video.
And the dude was caught, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Republican "Liberty" Caucus's Next Target?

Jacob Sullum write that the Concerned Women of America's attack on David Ogden "makes Ogden sound like a vigorous defender of the First Amendment and one of Obama's best nominees."

Economists Say Democrats' Debt Bill Won't Stimulate

McClatchy's Washington Bureau reports
The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.

"I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending.

"It's unfocused. That is my problem. It is a lot of money for a lot of nickel-and- dime programs. I would have rather had a lot of money for (promoting purchase of) housing and autos . . . . Most of this plan is really, I think, aimed at stabilizing the situation and helping people get through the recession, rather than getting us out of the recession. They are actually providing less short-term stimulus by cutting back, from what I understand, some of the tax credits."

Meanwhile, a Democratic senator says they won't read the bill before voting on it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Laffs from the Republican Liberty Caucus

Check out comments 152-154. It's bad enough to remove critical comments, but to change them to favorable comments?

The Next Herbert Hoover

David Henderson explains. Be very afraid.

This White House Won't Be Pushed Around By the Market

Be very afraid.

Pete the Puma is Off His Meds Again

Enjoy. Remember the Republican Liberty Caucus is what passes for the libertarian part of the GOP.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rush State Fascism

Wow. Just wow.

Conservatism = The Love of War

I was going to blog about the disproportionate number of war movies in National Review's top conservative moves, but Daniel Larison beat me to it. And these aren't merely war movies but movies that glorify war. They arne't finished with the list yet, but I doubt that "All Quiet on the Western Front" or "The Americanization of Emily," which may be the greatest libertarian movie ever made, will make the list.

So much for conservatism as a political philosphy that celebrates commercial culture and bourgeois values.

Crunch Time in Afghanistan-Pakistan

Former Australian Army Col. David Kilcullen, who was one of Gen. David Petraeus's top counter-insurgency advisers writes:
We need to do four things – what we might call “essential strategic tasks” – to succeed in Afghanistan. We need to prevent the re-emergence of an Al Qaeda sanctuary that could lead to another 9/11. We need to protect Afghanistan from a range of security threats including the Taliban insurgency, terrorism, narcotics, misrule and corruption. We need to build sustainable and accountable state institutions (at the central, provincial and local level) and a resilient civil society. Then we can begin a phased hand-off to Afghan institutions that can survive without permanent international assistance. We might summarize this approach as “Prevent, Protect, Build, Hand-Off”. Let’s call it “Option A”.

Given enough time, resources and political commitment, Option A is definitely workable. But we need to be honest about how long it will take – ten to fifteen years, including at least two years of significant combat up front – and how much it will cost. Thirty thousand extra troops in Afghanistan will cost around 2 billion dollars per month beyond the roughly 20 billion we already spend; additional governance and development efforts will cost even more; in the current economic climate this is a big ask. The campaign will cost the lives of many American, Afghan and coalition soldiers and civilians, and injure many more. There are also opportunity costs: we have finally, through much blood and effort, reached a point where we can start disengaging some combat troops from Iraq. We need to ask ourselves whether the best use for these troops is to send them straight to Afghanistan, or whether we might be better off creating a strategic reserve in Central Command, restoring our military freedom of action and, with it, a measure of diplomatic credibility in the Middle East.

How Much Is Afghanistan Worth?

Michael Yon writes:

Beyond the fact that we will need to dedicate decades or even a century to Afghanistan, no country in the neighborhood will cooperate except when it directly affects their own interests. They will attempt to squeeze every dollar and concession from us as we help secure their neighborhoods, all while the present drug-dealing Afghan government is bucking like a mule while our government is preparing to pin a significant amount of our combat power in a landlocked country.

The sum of many factors leaves me with a bad feeling about all this. The Iraq war, even during the worst times, never seemed like such a bog. Yet there is something about our commitment in Afghanistan that feels wrong, as if a bear trap is hidden under the sand.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pete the Puma Digs Deeper

Now, Pete accuses Radley Balko of lying about being a biweekly columnist for Fox News. She writes

However, the claim is not bourne out by the evidence. We searched through the Forbes.com site, and could find only two URLs, from the summer of 2005, authored by Mr. Balko.

Puma apparently missed every single one of Radley column's including the one published FOUR WEEKS AGO and the one published TWO WEEKS AGO and the one published TODAY!!


Bradley's site clearly says he writes for Fox. In fact, that's what she quotes him as saying. But she read it as Forbes. I guess that's what passes for research among right-wing bloggers. Let's see how long her post remains up.

UPDATE: Radley has more, including an answer to their hotlinking. Remember, the Republican Liberty Caucus is the "conscience of the Republican party."

When Even Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong Can't Get on Board Obama's Plan

You know it must be awful.

Russell Roberts has more.

Good politics requires action, constant proof that the politician is working tirelessly.

Good economics requires quiet consistency so people can plan for the future.

The times we live in are the greatest example in my lifetime of the tension between these two goals.

The Republican "Liberty" Caucus Gets Called Out Again

This time at the Classically Liberal blog.

Update: It didn't take them long to start trashing Radley Balko for pointing out they aren't very libertarian. Well, at least I think what's what this is all about. As usual, Pete the Puma doesn't link to Radley's blog. He doesn't mention him by name, just an oblique reference to his blog's title and a hotlink to his photo. Pumice doesn't address any of Radley's arguments, just calls him names and repeats his name calling of David Ogden. In at least three posts on Ogden, he's yet to provide any evidence for his charges. I guess that's what passes for persuasive argument on the right these days.

The Last Draftee

Jeffrey Mellinger was drafted into the Army in 1972. He's still serving today.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Struck a Theo-Con Nerve

I'm still not sure why they don't want the guy who played Maj. Winchester on M*A*SH to serve in the Justice Deparment. Now, Frank Burns I could understand.

Here's something a little more temperate from Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

UPDATE: I see Radley Balko has also discovered these friends of invectiveliberty. Careful, Radley, they'll probably accuse you of putting flouride in their water.

The Republican Liberty Caucus calls itself the "conscience of the GOP."

Mexican State Mandates English

Tamaulipas officials want it to be the first bilingual state in Mexico.

"Our efforts are aimed at preparing students for a more competitive world filled with technology and English," governor Eugenio Hernandez said at a ceremony formally inaugurating the program. "Let's face it. The world speaks English. And even if you can only speak a little, you can defend yourself and compete."

The Tamaulipas effort is one of several under way in Mexico - from Mexico City to the Texas border states of Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon - to teach students and business leaders English. Tamaulipas, however, represents the biggest experiment.

One of four Mexican states abutting Texas, Tamaulipas shares a long border with the Lone Star state. Annually, millions cross the border on foot or by car to shop, work or play. Overall, more than 50% of all US-Mexico trade crosses through Tamaulipas and Texas.

The top industries are agriculture, foreign-owned manufacturing companies, fishing, ports and petrochemicals. Because of its geography and proximity to Texas, the state also has long been a magnet to drug traffickers and to the violence they unleash.

Hernandez and the federal government are currently injecting millions of dollars to build up the state's infrastructure along the Gulf Coast in hopes of turning the area into a beach gateway for Americans who either want to visit or live.

"We have the tools and resources to rival Padre Island," he said, referring to the South Texas resort island popular with both Americans and Mexicans.

To serve those potential American tourists, Hernandez and educators say, Tamaulipas students must learn English. Hernandez said he hopes the classes will become a permanent part of the school curriculum by fall semester. He's working with the teachers union to permanently hire the teachers.

Fannie Mae to Loosen Standards

Wasn't this part of what got us into this mess? Well, excessive money growth and government spending also played a part. I guess Fannie Mae feels that if we are back to doing those things again, they might as well join in.

A War on Good Immigrants

ICE told Congress it needed more money to go after the worst of the illegal immigrants - those who had committed crimes or violated deportation orders.

Instead, they went after the easiest of the easy and used possibly illegal tactics to do it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Limits of (American) Power

Talking Points Memo book club has been focused on Col. Andrew Bacevich's new book "The Limits of Power" over the past few days. The whole back and forth between Bacevich and the others is interesting and points to how America might reclaim a truly conservative (as opposed to neoconservative) foreign policy.

Here's a smaple from Bacevich himself:
What I try to argue is that empire (or at least an expansionist foreign policy) once /paid. /Indeed, if we cite the Louisiana Purchase as the beginning of serious American expansionism, then it paid quite nicely for at least the next century-and-a-half. By the time I was born after World War II, the United States had become the most powerful, the richest, and (for the white majority), the freest nation on earth. Americans liked to attribute the nation's success to Providence or their own virtues, but that was nonsense. We acquired power because we sought power. Many (by no means all) Americans then reaped the benefits of power.

The problem is that for roughly the past four or five decades empire (or expansionism) has /ceased/ to pay. Unfortunately, our political elites, deeply invested in obsolete and bloated conceptions of "global leadership," won't face the facts.
Will Obama be able to break us of these old habits? Maybe. His pragmatic inclinations offer modest cause for hope. But persuading institutions wedded to the expansionist tradition to change poses a mighty challenge.

The Radical Conservative: Col. Andrew Bacevich on the Failure of the Iraq War

Very good interview with Bacevich in In These Times. Here's a sample:

What are your views on Iraq?

There is no question that security conditions have improved significantly over the past year and a half. Regardless of whether you think the war is a good idea or a bad idea, it’s a good thing that the security conditions have improved. Those who have claimed that this is the result of a genius strategy called “the surge” probably are oversimplifying. The explanation for why security conditions have improved is complex, and it reflects as much internal decisions made—internal to Iraq—as much as it does anything that we’ve done.

Does that mean that victory is at hand? I don’t think so. Iraq still is in many respects a dependency, can’t manage its own affairs. So we are stuck there, absent a sort of a decision by President-elect Obama to just draw a line and say, “This was a mistake and we’re getting out.”

It’s important to ask, “What does it mean, what have we gained?” Among the numerous justifications for the war, one very important one was weapons of mass destruction. There were none. One was that somehow Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with al Qaeda. He was not.

The real justification, the real strategic plan, the real reason that the Bush administration went in is that they thought that by toppling Saddam, we could bring about rapid and efficient transformation of Iraqi society and make it into a somewhat liberal, modern, cohesive, functioning nation state, and that somehow that success in Iraq would be a precedent for achieving a similar transformation in other Muslim societies.

Does that strike you as chutzpah?

It strikes me as bizarre.

Even if tomorrow we declared victory in Iraq, the war has not provided a template for the, quote, unquote, transformation of the rest of the Middle East. Even if it ended tomorrow, we would have expended—what, $800 billion or $1 trillion?—and lost well more than 4,000 American lives.

Does anybody think we’re going to similarly transform Iran or Syria or, God forbid, Pakistan? As a step in a longer-term strategic process, the Iraq War has failed.

George Bush and the Iraq War Destroyed the Republican Party

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party's edge in registered voters has grown from 550,000 in 2006 to 1.2 million today. Muhlenberg College researchers looked at those people who have swtiched their registration from the GOP from the Democratic Party.

They tend to be more educated and more affluent than those who stayed with the GOP.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A strong majority of the switchers, 67 percent, also described themselves as in favor of abortion rights.

They also were more likely to characterize their decision to leave the GOP as the result of changes in the party's positions, rather than changes in their own political views -- 37 percent to 21 percent. By a wide margin, 67 percent, the respondents cited former President Bush as a "very important" catalyst for their decision to leave the party. Fifty-four percent cited the Iraq war.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How the NYPD Defeats Terrorists

Christopher Dickey has a new book out on the New York Police Department's anti-terrorism efforts called "Securing the City."

The New York Times has a write up:

The heroes of Mr. Dickey’s book are Raymond W. Kelly, New York’s police commissioner, and David Cohen, a former top C.I.A. official whom Kelly hired to run the department’s intelligence operation. They essentially created their own wily little C.I.A., instantly deploying police officers overseas to gather information about terrorist acts and embedding them with foreign police departments.

The department did a lot of other things right, too — buying state-of-the-art equipment (high-tech helicopters, chemical and radiation sniffing devices), monitoring Middle Eastern Web sites, hiring elite academic talent.

Most important, perhaps, while the C.I.A. struggled to hire or train Arabic speakers in the aftermath of 9/11, the Police Department realized it had dozens of Arabic speakers already walking the beat. Because police work is often attractive to immigrants, the department already had hundreds who spoke other languages that were useful when it came to tracking down terrorists.

Once the department began to gather important information on its own, Mr. Dickey writes, it could deal with the F.B.I. and C.I.A. from a position of strength. “There’s no such thing as information sharing,” Mr. Cohen says at one point. “There is only information trading.”

Mr. Dickey is Newsweek’s Paris bureau chief and its Middle East regional editor, and he knows this material — he’d been reporting on Osama bin Laden and his networks a decade before 9/11. (Mr. Dickey is also the son of the poet James Dickey, and the author of a beautifully thorny memoir about his father, “Summer of Deliverance.”)

Mr. Dickey is critical of the Bush administration’s “gruesome occupation” of Iraq and of the so-called global war on terror. So, it seems, is Mr. Kelly. Mr. Dickey writes, “When Commissioner Kelly says the acronym as a single word, ‘the GWOT,’ it’s with a twinge of irony that makes it sound almost obscene.”

Economist Rewrites Economics Story

Russell Roberts has some fun with an Associated Press story.

Bill O'Reilly vs. Christian Bale

Hundreds Sued for Posts on Topix

Story here.

The New Era of Irresponsibility

My old colleague Jacob Sullum writes
This is the theory underlying the "stimulus" package: Since we can't depend on consumers to spend money they don't have on stuff they don't need, the government has to do it for them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Japan: The Simulus That Didn't Work

The New York Times reports:
In total, Japan spent $6.3 trillion on construction-related public investment between 1991 and September of last year, according to the Cabinet Office. The spending peaked in 1995 and remained high until the early 2000s, when it was cut amid growing concerns about ballooning budget deficits. More recently, the governing Liberal Democratic Party has increased spending again to revive the economy and the party’s own flagging popularity.

In the end, say economists, it was not public works but an expensive cleanup of the debt-ridden banking system, combined with growing exports to China and the United States, that brought a close to Japan’s Lost Decade. This has led many to conclude that spending did little more than sink Japan deeply into debt, leaving an enormous tax burden for future generations.

The Times says that in Japan both average citizens and experts believe that nation's attempt to spend its way out of recession was a failure. Unforutunately, it also reports that the people advising Barack Obama draw a different conclusion: that it didn't work because the Japanese didn't spend enough.

Here's a Wall Street Journal editorial on the Japanese experience.

Republican "Liberty" Caucus Opposes Free Speech

The RLC labels David Ogden, Barack Obama's nominee to be deputy attorney general, a "pornography buff" and "cultural radical" because he has a record of successfully defending obscenity cases.

Remember, these are the people who claim to be the libertarian wing of the party.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Obama Administration Bungles Yet Another Nomination

And screws yet another early supporter.

Afghanistan Deteriorating

The path from Pakistan into Afghanistan is increasingly controlled by the Taliban. This is just the latest convoy they've destroyed. Meanwhile, the United States is losing its access to an airbase in Krygistan, its major alternative to going through Pakistan.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Etta James Threatens to Kick Beyonce's Butt

And she's not happy with Barack Obama, either.

Incidentally, I didn't find out until last year that Etta James claims to be the daughter of pool hustler Minnesota Fats.

Georgia Teachers Guilty of Grade Inflation

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains what is happening.

Economist Scott Beaulier explains why it is happening.

Why Can't I Get Laid Off By IBM?

It doesn't sound too bad.

The Mind of a Neo-Con

Daniel Larison examines one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Are They Eating in Japan?

Maybe I should start eating the same thing.

He's No Buddy Rich

Christian Bale is but a pale shadow of the true master of the profanity laced rant.

How Not to Lose in Afghanistan

Great New York Times symposium with various defense and foreign policy gurus.

Parag Khanna has the most realistic and depressing take:

Even if an additional 30,000 American and NATO troops were deployed in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban problem would not be reduced. It would merely be pushed back over the Pakistan border, destabilizing Pakistan’s already volatile North-West Frontier Province, which itself is more populous than Iraq. This amounts to squeezing a balloon on one end to inflate it on the other.

The tribal militias, newly armed with Chinese AK-47s, will not be able to cope with that influx. Even now, the increase in attacks on NATO convoys in Peshawar and the Khyber Pass show how the Afghan front is seriously affected by American policies in Pakistan. Fewer arms from the United States (the Obama administration intends to emphasize civilian over military aid) have diminished the Pakistani military’s willingness to support American supply routes, forcing the U.S. military to scramble for new routes through Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Here's a discussion of the pieces at the Small Wars Journal.

Eight Years of Necocon Foreign Policy

Willaim Dalrymple reviews "Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia and writes
Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all.

It's not funny because it's true. Let's see what the next four (or eight) years of Democrat neocons can do.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Time Lapse Baby

Here's One for You, Ron

What Michael Phelps Should Have Said

Radley Balko has a strong contender for rant of the month.

Bacon Explosion

This was apparently a big hit with Superbowl grillers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Third Greatest Country Song of All Time?

Jimmy Espy says the geatest country song of all time is "He Stopped Loving Her Today." I won't argue with that.

I've already mentioned my pick for the second geatest country song. Here's my pick for the third greatest country song.

Is the Military Just Another Republican Interest Group?

The Republican Echo Chamber seems to think it is.

If We Buy American, No One Else Will

Barack Obama and the Democrats seemed ready to make many of the same mistakes Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt commited that made the Great Depression worse.

Economist Douglas Irwin warns them about one mistake to avoid.

A Military Reformer Speaks Out

Some thoughts from retired Marine Lt. Col. John Sayen.

I Like It When a Plan Comes Together

The lady who just had octuplets, and who has six other children, plans a career as a TV childcare expert.

The Second Greatest Country Song of All Time?

Jimmy Espy says the greatest is "He Stopped Loving Her Today." I won't argue with that. Here's my pick for the second greatest country song:

What Economists Can Learn from the Dog Whisperer

Mercer University economist Scott Beaulier explains what he learned from Cesar Milian.