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Monthly Archives: January 2004

Armed, Dangerous, and Very Well Spoken

January 31st, 2004 - 7:27 pm

Eric Raymond came out of his blogging hiatus to add his two cents (three cents, in Eric’s case — he’s just that good) to the Great Libertarian Debate of ’04.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve finally finished reading the thing (inbetween bouts of tinkering with the venison chili I’m making), here’s the choice bit:

…Having conceded the present necessity of state action makes it more necessary, not less, that we listen to the most contrary, ornery, anti-statist libertarians we have, and to hold harder than ever to our intentions for a libertarian future. Otherwise we risk becoming too comfortable with that concession, and letting the statists seduce us further down that road to serfdom.

Does this mean we can’t slam the LP for its attribution of the 9/11 attacks to American foreign policy? No, you’re right; that position is not just wrong, it bespeaks a lack of moral seriousness and a kind of blinkered parochialism that cannot actually see anything outside of U.S. politics as having causal force.

But there is a big difference between observing that the LP is contingently wrong about the liberation of Iraq (true) and suggesting that our only course is to abandon our longer-term commitment to the abolition of drastic shrinking of the state (false). Beware of throwing out that baby with the bathwater.

As the InstaMan would say, “Indeed.”

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Mea Culpa

January 31st, 2004 - 6:37 pm

Radley Balko responds to yesterday’s post — and I owe him an apology.

Trying to be brief in an already over-long essay, I inadvertantly lumped Radley’s stance (pro-Terror War, anti-Iraq Campaign) in with the no-war-at-all peaceniks. For that I’m sorry.

Reasonable people can (and should) disagree reasonably over Iraq, and Radley is one of those reasonable people. But I stand by the rest of the piece.

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Separated at Birth?

January 31st, 2004 - 6:19 pm

Botoxed Presidential ContenderAffable Talk Show Host

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Maybe It’s the Water

January 31st, 2004 - 4:51 pm

An Aussie wonders why stupid some people think Americans are stupid.

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From the Horse’s. . .

January 31st, 2004 - 4:44 pm

Famed anti-war Libertarian Justin Raimondo writes:

You and all your little yuppie “new wave” liberventionists are really just neocons who want to legalize pot. The Libertarian rank-and-file can see through all the slick rationalzations — Everything’s changed! We have to “libertarianize” the Empire! Gay bars in Riyadh! — and fully realize that you, and Glenn Reynolds, are no more “libertarian” than than the neo-Trotskyites over at the American Enterprise Institute.

Oh, but you’ve got Neal Boortz on your side. Wow! What a plus that is. But somehow, I think, us “old school” libertarians will manage to retain our ideological (and moral) compass.

You — take over? Forget it, bub.

If that’s what passes for reasoned discourse with the Big-L Libertarians (I think you’ll agree my original essay was pretty darn reasonable). . .

. . . well then, it’s really no wonder that the movement, such as it is, remains such a dismal and marginal failure.

Groucho Marx joked that he wouldn’t join any club that would have him as a member. That’s cute when a Vaudeville comedian says it, but rather pathetic when it’s the modus operandi of an entire political party.

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Don’t Blame Me

January 31st, 2004 - 2:14 pm

Suddenly, Professor voter Stephen Bainbridge is feeling a lot less alienated, and a lot more energized.

Guess who talked him into it…

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Mail Bag

January 31st, 2004 - 1:32 pm

In response to my comment (“I’m sure people looking for Internet copies of the video will — sadly — create the biggest video Google since Daniel Pearl’s murder”) about the suicide bomber footage, one reader writes:

I disagree with the tone of your comment. It makes me feel that the only reason somebody would get it is for some kind of “sick fun”. I am sure there are a lot of people who download it exactly for this reason (just see the huge interest in the German cannibal case…) But there are other reasons. Yes, I downloaded the Daniel Pearl video, and I still have it. But I didn’t get it to watch it over and over, and definitely not because I enjoy it. I have it (and others) to show people who doesn’t realise what they are protecting. The problem is that people in the West have no clue how cruel the world outside is. Reading or hearing about a blown off leg, a bloody torso, or a severed head, is completely different from actually seeing one. Until people haven’t confronted evil, they don’t know what evil is.

I stand corrected.

(Click “MORE” to read the whole thing.)


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Extra Credit

January 31st, 2004 - 1:07 pm

You’ll be kicking yourself Monday if you don’t take ten minutes today to read this.

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Just Say No Way, Man

January 31st, 2004 - 12:51 pm

Every few months, new footage or photos appear on the internet of old ’50s military experiments with LSD. Usually, it’s the same old stuff recycled. But this find on StrategyPage is new — at least to me.

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Methinks He Doth Protest to Little

January 31st, 2004 - 12:35 pm

From ABC News:

In the first action from Pakistan’s probe into allegations of nuclear proliferation, the government on Saturday fired the revered founder of the country’s atomic program from his job as a top adviser and confined him to his home.
The moves against Abdul Qadeer Khan considered a national hero for giving Pakistan its nuclear deterrent against India and the Islamic world its first atomic bomb came as investigators narrow their pursuit of nuclear scientists’ black market ties to Iran and Libya.

Opposition Islamic parties called the action against Khan baseless and said they would take to the streets in protest against what they labeled yet another case of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf caving in to the West.

Funny that the al Jazeera version of the story fails to mention either Khan’s house arrest or the threatened protests.

The protests themselves are interesting, if indeed they do happen. Popular support for Islamic nuclear proliferation would be just one more indication that despite Afghanistan and Iraq, the broader Islamic world just doesn’t get it: We’re serious this time.

But my guess is, the angry Arab Street (OK, OK, Paks aren’t technically Arab) will fail — once again — to amount to much.

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Shop Talk

January 31st, 2004 - 12:11 pm

Stephen Bainbridge joins the ranks of fiscal conservative bloggers who are concerned about Bush’s freespending ways. But he goes the extra mile and argues Bush is also in serious trouble with — wait for it — evangelicals, too:

Lately, a lot of those leaders seem pretty unhappy. Check out, for example, Cal Thomas on spending or Phyllis Schlafly on Bush’s immigration proposal. Marvin Olasky recently felt compelled to write a column imploring his fellow “Christian conservatives” to “remember that we’re better off now than we were four years ago (when Bill Clinton was in office) or than we will be a year from now, if millions of us stay home in November and John Kerry or someone else takes over.” Sounds like there’s trouble in Paradise to me.

Elections are all about turnout, kids. You’ve got to energize your base, not alienate it.

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Required Reading

January 31st, 2004 - 11:34 am

From the Toronto Star:


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Libertarians Revisted

January 31st, 2004 - 11:05 am

A reader (who asked that I not use his name) wrote in response to yesterday’s essay:

The movement is going through a profound realignment right now — with pro-Iraq liberation libertarians like you, the Samizdata crowd, Neal Boortz, Glenn Reynolds and others being criticized by the institutionalized anti-war libertarians who have pretty much run the movement for the last thirty years.

There is no question in my mind, as a long-time activist, that the new crowd is far more dynamic and in-touch with political realities. It is not clear to me, however, that they will not simply abandon the movement to the old-school libertarians who were motivated initially, I think, by a desire not to be seen as taking sides against their leftist friends — who were winning the culture war in the sixties and seventies. Today, their anti-war position seems more to do with momentum and habit.

That’s heartening to hear, especially from an insider. I’m curious to see if the capital-L Libertarian movement can be captured by the small-l newcomers.

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How Do You Want Your Eggs?

January 31st, 2004 - 10:13 am

Just in time for the weekend talking head shows, Steven Taylor has the new Democratic Primary Toast-o-Meter.

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Queer Eye for the Falcon Guy

January 30th, 2004 - 2:48 pm

From StrategyPage:

Deciding what color to paint aircraft has always been a contentious issue. Many different color schemes have been tried over the years. At one point, the U.S. Air Force ran some extensive tests and concluded the color that best hid an aircraft in flight was a shade of pink. The results of this effort were never implemented.

I wonder why not?

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New Math

January 30th, 2004 - 2:07 pm

Read this and try not to squirm:

The Bush administration Friday downplayed its ballooning cost estimates for the Medicare reform and prescription drug package by saying it was a just a matter of a few percentage points.

When President George W. Bush pushed to get the legislation through Congress, he cited Congressional Budget Office forecasts that said the legislation would cost $400 billion over 10 years.

However, the Department of Health and Human Services has told the White House budget office it now believes the legislation will cost between $530 billion and $540 billion during the next 10 years.

“A few percentage points” means, in this case, about 30 damn percent. Try using that math next time you’re applying for a mortgage.

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First Revision

January 30th, 2004 - 12:46 pm

Oops — not quite 5% last quarter:

The economy grew at a 4 percent annual rate in the final three months of 2003 – a slowdown from the red-hot performance of the prior quarter but still compelling evidence of a recovery in full motion at year’s end.

The reading on the gross domestic product for the October-to-December quarter, reported Friday by the Commerce Department, came after the economy grew at a sizzling 8.2 percent rate in the third quarter. That had been the strongest performance in nearly two decades.

Not quite as good as hoped — but a lot more sustainable.

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So Long, Harry Browne

January 30th, 2004 - 12:18 pm

Doctrinaire libertarians are about as practical as a remote-control toaster, and are about as likely to achieve their goals as an Iraqi Republican Guard unit caught out in the open desert.

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January 30th, 2004 - 11:07 am

Busy morning here, but trying to make some blogging sense of the news this morning. What I keep coming back to, however, is why doctrinaire libertarians are. . . well, I’ll save it for the essay.

Back in a few.

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Not Quite a Fisking

January 30th, 2004 - 2:02 am

I don’t get too often into the comments on this site, but this one has me scratching my head:

I wonder why you call yourself a libertarian.

You say you love this kind of government and you love that kind of government.

And you are in favor of MASSIVE government spending programs……

Don’t you realize by now that the only way to get your massive spending programs approved is to give everybody else their massive spending programs too?

You are a good writer and I enjoy reading what you have to say. But to paint yourself as a fiscally conservative libertarian is truly a work of fiction.

I appreciate the compliments about the writing, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the last big government program (other than the current War, which isn’t a “program,” it’s a necessity for national survival) I supported.

In fact, searches for the terms “government spending” and “government programs” yielded some libertarian gems.

September 17, 2002:

I’m no supporter of government-sponsored research, especially in medicine. Libertarian that I am, I think business should invest their own money in profitable areas.

November 19, 2002:

Gore now supports a single-payer socialized medical insurance plan. A sure recipe for greater government spending and, eventually, higher inflation.

February 12, 2003:

Getting serious about terrorism means taking the fight to the bad guys. It shouldn

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. . .Second Time as Farce

January 30th, 2004 - 1:15 am

It was during the waning days of the Cold War that I first discovered Jim Dunnigan. You probably know him from his StrategyPage website, which is one of my daily reads (and should be one of yours, too). The book I found in the school library was called A Quick and Dirty Guide to War.. The budding military history geek in me just had to read it. I mean, did that title sound manly, or what?

Turns out, you can’t judge a book by its title. What it turned out to be was a very sober look at conflicts and potentional conflicts around the world, and at the countries and militaries and cultures involved in them.

One thing I remember clearly, was Dunnigan arguing that the CIA (among others, but we’ll get to that) couldn’t really know the size of the Soviet economy. The Politburo told GOSPLAN what needed to be done. GOSPLAN told the regional authorities, who told the local factory managers, mines, etc., how much of everything to make, who then issued quotas to their workers.


The workers lied to the managers, who lied bigger to the regional authorities, who lied even bigger to GOSPLAN, who told great big whoppers of lies to the Politburo, who then told the world that they were the richest country in the world, or at least soon would be.

Meantime, nobody could even get decent toilet paper.

The sad truth about the Soviet economy was, not only did the CIA not know what shape it was in, but neither did the leadership of the Soviet Union..

Think of that when you read Charles Krauthammer on David Kay and Iraq’s WMD program:

It was a combination of Iraqi bluff, deceit and corruption far more bizarre than heretofore suspected. Kay discovered that an increasingly erratic Saddam Hussein had taken over personal direction of WMD programs. But because there was no real oversight, the scientists would go to Hussein, exaggerate or invent their activities, then pocket the funds.

Scientists were bluffing Hussein. Hussein was bluffing the world. The Iraqis were all bluffing each other. Special Republican Guard commanders had no WMDs, but they told investigators that they were sure other guard units did. It was this internal disinformation that the whole outside world missed.

Am I annoyed that the CIA blew the call? A little, but not nearly as Andrew Sullivan has been of late. Am I bugged that we were duped into a pointless war? Hardly — I believed then and I believe now that Iraq needed to be dealt with because of issues far larger than WMDs. Does it worry me knowing that we might similarly be misjudging North Korea? Not much, although it is a concern.

What bugs me is, I’m a pretty serious amateur history student, and I fell for Saddam’s bluff and bluster in the exact same way Jim Dunnigan once helped me see through the bluff and bluster of the old USSR.

I shoulda known better.

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Required Reading

January 30th, 2004 - 12:44 am

A deep-think piece by Robert Samuelson on the unknowable future of China.

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Good Fences, Bad Neighbors

January 30th, 2004 - 12:38 am

David Ignatius reports that Jordan doesn’t want Israel to build its security fence around the West Bank, saying

to Israel’s consternation, Jordan has taken a leading role in opposing the barrier. The Jordanian foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, told his country’s parliament on Jan. 21: “Construction of the wall would kill every opportunity for a viable Palestinian state.” He said it would pose a “direct threat . . . to Jordanian national security because it might revive the transfer option [of Palestinians to Jordan] despite all Israeli assertions to the contrary.”

What’s interesting isn’t that Jordan doesn’t want the Fence. My first thought was, “Of course they don’t — it could make things better for the Jews.” On brief reflection, I realized that was unfair to Jordan, because they’ve done much to make amends with Israel and the US.

What is interesting is why the Jordanians don’t want it. They’re afraid that it might cause Palestinians to come to Jordan:

“Why are we worried?” [Muasher] went on. “The wall will effectively divide the West Bank into three parts. It will make life impossible for Palestinians: dividing them from their work, their schools, their lands. If that happens, what options do Palestinians have? They will leave, voluntarily or by force, for Jordan.”

“Duh,” was my next thought.

Jordan is a Hashemite kingdom ruling over a majority Palestinian population. Having a bunch of angry, unemployed, Arafat-”educated” neighbors crossing to their side of the river would just make an unstable situation worse. (The last time Arafat and his people were big in Jordan, they put the country through a mini civil war.)

In other words — not even other Arabs want the Palestinians around.

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Roll Call

January 30th, 2004 - 12:16 am

ABC News did us all a service and organized the alleged (?) beneficiaries of Saddam’s oil slush fund by country.

(Click on the MORE button below to see the whole thing.)

The two Americans listed are Samir Vincent and Shakir Alkhalaji. A quick Google turned up nothing on Alkhalaji, but Vincent earned some fame in 2000 as one of the Iraqi exiles of 1958 who wanted the sanctions lifted, calling them a “political dead end.”

Strangely enough, Vincent also worked with Jack Kemp’s Empower America last year, on a program aimed at (I swear I’m not making this up) creating some kind of a “Marshall Plan” for California.

And while I don’t know if this means anything, a lot of his Google hits were in French.

The guy gets around.


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Gold Watch Reboot

January 29th, 2004 - 6:21 pm

From Yahoo! News:

David Bradley spent five minutes writing the computer code that has bailed out the world’s PC users for decades.

Technology is changing sports– for better or worse. Plus, tech tools for athletes and sports fans alike.

The result was one of the most well-known key combinations around: CtrlAltDelete. It forces obstinate computers to restart when they will no longer follow other commands.

Bradley, 55, is getting a new start of his own. He’s retiring Friday after 28 1/2 years with IBM.

In a related story, the “Abort, Retry, Fail?” guy is expecting twins.

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Strong Last Quarter

January 29th, 2004 - 3:25 pm

How about 4Q growth of 5%?

GDP is expected to rise at a 5% annualized rate in the fourth quarter, with strength coming from almost every segment.

“This is going to be the most balanced [report] we could ever see,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “Consumers have continued to spend, it looks like residential construction is going to be good, exports have been growing, clearly business investment is up and we know the government has been spending like crazy.”

Although economic growth undoubtedly slowed from the third quarter and some of the strength in the last three months of the year was a result of continued fiscal stimulus, Naroff said the report is likely to prompt further speculation about a hike in interest rates this year.

Read that last line again, and you’ll know half the reason I expect the dollar to appreciate against the euro this year. Think the ECB can afford to raise rates with enemic economies to deal with?

(Actual rates, however, may rise in response to Germany and France’s refusal to live within the spending constraints of the Growth & Stability Pact. Those higher rates, however, would be at least partially offset by the inflationary pressures created by those same deficits.)

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Breaking the Mouse

January 29th, 2004 - 3:01 pm

Pixar Studios — Disney’s last surefire hitmaker of animated films — is going its own way:

Pixar Animation Studios Inc. said Thursday it ended talks with Walt Disney Co. to extend a five-picture deal for Disney to distribute Pixar films.

Pixar said it would begin talks with other companies to distribute its films starting in 2006.

“After ten months of trying to strike a deal with Disney, we’re moving on,” Pixar CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. “We’ve had a great run together — one of the most successful in Hollywood history — and it’s a shame that Disney won’t be participating in Pixar’s future successes.”

And with that, I’d have to guess that Mike Eisner is history.

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Pay Any Price

January 29th, 2004 - 2:43 pm

After selling us on a ten-year, $400 billion expansion of Medicare, the White House now tells us it’s going to cost a teensy bit more:

Instead of a $400 billion 10-year price tag, Bush’s 2005 budget will estimate the Medicare bill’s cost at about $540 billion, said aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bush will submit on Monday a federal budget for the fiscal year 2005, which starts next Oct. 1.

Bush just signed the Medicare measure into law last month. While it was moving through Congress, Bush, White House officials and congressional Republican leaders had assured doubting conservatives that the bill’s costs would stay within the $400 billion estimate.

Usuaully, a program has to be in actual existence for a year or two before it blows past estimates by that much. That means that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This is gonna be a trillion-dollar sinkhole by 2016.

That’s trillion, with a T.

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Mo’ Money

January 29th, 2004 - 2:36 pm

It’s not just cranky green-eyeshade libertarians like myself who are upset with Bush’s spendthrift ways. So are some of his fellow Republicans in Congress:

In briefing papers prepared for this weekend’s party retreat — expected to be dominated by budget debates — the Republican “appropriators” who actually divvy up federal funds each year noted even a complete freeze in the spending targeted by Bush would cut the deficit by only a “minimal” $3 billion.

“We need to be realistic about the impact of this proposal,” the House Appropriations Committee said. “Solely targeting non-defense discretionary spending will not have a significant impact on the deficit.”

Of course, those same Republicans have been happily dishing out pork and increasing entitlements, too.

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January 29th, 2004 - 2:30 pm

Are we closing in on Osama (or his remains)? Maybe:

Military spokesman Lt Col Bryan Hilferty said the military now believed it could seize him within months.

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