Thursday, July 29, 2004

Susan Buffett Dies

Susan Buffett, wife of Warren Buffett, died of a stroke today at the age of 72. Our condolences to the entire Buffett family. [link]

Rhoads is Back

Now that baseball season is mostly over, I will have more time to spend having coffee with Bob. I read the article, and I think it makes some very good points. However, I think it is a little too simplistic. For example, a president can significantly change the water level in the swimming pool by borrowing buckets full of money, as President Reagan showed us and as President Bush has showed us as well. Of course, only Congress can borrow money, but when Congress does everything the president says, well, I would say that means the president does it. And althugh tax policies don't have very many immediate effects on the economy, they are a lot more than just moving water from one end of the pool to the other. They either pull water out altogether, or they pull it out hoping that when they come back in there is some added to them (which I believe is the theory behind trickle down economics). In either case, once again the president can affect the economy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Stimulating the Economy

Russell Roberts explains why tax and spending policies don't stimulate the economy in the short run despite claims to the contrary by politicians. He offers up a story of a little boy filling a swimming pool with a bucket for illustrative purposes and brings in the great Bastiat for reinforcement. Here's how the essay gets started:
John Kerry will focus on the mediocre performance of the economy, particularly the job market, in the first part of the Bush Administration. Bush will tout the performance of the economy over the last year or so as long as the job numbers continue to be rosy through the fall. Implicit in this discussion are two strange assumptions. The first is that the President “runs” the economy. The President hardly even runs the government. He certainly cannot direct the fortunes and failures of millions of workers, managers, investors and entrepreneurs. The second implicit assumption is that the success or failure of the President depends on his ability to “stimulate” the economy, as if the economy were an engine that simply needed a different setting for its carburetor or as if it were a lazy steer that needs prodding to speed its way on a cattle drive.
Enter the little boy and his bucket:
Imagine coming across a young boy who is standing at the edge of the shallow end of a swimming pool. He holds a bucket in his hands and he looks crestfallen. What’s wrong, you ask. Well, he explains, I’m doing a science experiment and it’s not working. What’s wrong? For the last hour I’ve been emptying water into this pool with this bucket. But the water level hasn’t changed a bit. The pool hasn’t gotten any deeper. It’s a big pool, you explain. A few bucketfuls of water aren’t going to have much of a visible effect. The boy redoubles and retriples his efforts. A week goes by. You come back to the pool and he looks no happier than he did before. What’s wrong now, you ask. I’ve been doing the same thing eight hours a day for a week and I still don’t see any change. Is there a leak in the pool, you wonder. No, he says, no leak. I checked that out.
If you haven't guessed the boy's problem, read the rest of the essay to find out.

Oh and one more thing, Roberts comes close to adopting my garden analogy to refute the notion of building an economy (where I was refuting the notion of building a nation):
A President can no more stimulate the economy in the short run than you can make a child grow a foot in a week. Genuine growth takes time. The most a President can do is to help create an environment for that growth to take place by unleashing the creativity inherent in a nation’s people and those they trade with in other countries.
Helping to "create an environment for that growth" sounds an awful lot like gardening to me.

Needless to say I think the whole essay is well worth the short read. I wish more people sought out and received this sort of economic education.

A good place to start is Cafe Hayek were Russell Roberts and Don Boudreaux offer up this sort of fare on a regular basis.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The New York Times is Liberal

If Rhoads ever gets time to visit Coffee With Rhoads he may want to follow this link to Ed Driscoll's web site. From there he can follow several more links to admissions of liberal bias in the major news media. The title of this post reflects not just my view, but more tellingly the viewpoint of Daniel Okrent, ombudsman for the New York Times itself. If you find yourself arguing that the major news media do not lean liberal, then you almost certainly have identified yourself as being to the left of the mainstream news media and well to the left of the rest of your fellow Americans. Which is fine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Intelligence and Saddam

I know Rhoads insists that Bush lied, or Bush embellished, or something like that regarding the reasons for going to war in Iraq. Multiple reports to the contrary lately are unlikely to change his mind. But for those of you who still wonder about the role of intelligence in the decision to invade Iraq, here is an intersting piece from today's New York Times called "Saddam Failed the Yeltsin Test" by Stephen Sestanovich, Clinton-era ambassador. Here are the concluding paragraphs:
When America demanded that Iraq follow the example of countries like Ukraine and South Africa, which sought international help in dismantling their weapons of mass destruction, it set the bar extremely high, but not unreasonably so. The right test had to reflect Saddam Hussein's long record of acquiring, using and concealing such weapons. Just as important, it had to yield a clear enough result to satisfy doubters on both sides, either breaking the momentum for war or showing that it was justified.

Some may object that this approach treated Saddam Hussein as guilty until proved innocent. They're right. But the Bush administration did not invent this logic. When Saddam Hussein forced out United Nations inspectors in 1998, President Clinton responded with days of bombings - not because he knew what weapons Iraq had, but because Iraq's actions kept us from finding out.

A decision on war is almost never based simply on what we know, or think we know. Intelligence is always disputed. Instead, we respond to what the other guy does. This is how we went to war in Iraq. The next time we face such a choice, whether our intelligence has improved or not, we'll almost surely decide in the very same way.

Monday, July 12, 2004

"Joe Wilson? Al Franken calling about some lies."

Not sure if Air America is still on the air, but even if it is perhaps Al Franken has some time to discuss noted liar Joe Wilson of the Iraq, Niger, and uranium lie.

I'll provide some additional links for Al to follow up on: Pejman I, Pejman II, and Taranto for starters.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Edwards Interview

Did Iraq pose an imminent threat to the U.S.? Did President Bush mislead the American people about the threat posed by Iraq in order to get us into a war that was not necessary? Let's ask John Edwards, presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

BOB: Senator Edwards, President Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the "axis of evil." Is there one that you think is more dangerous than the others?

EDWARDS: I think Iraq is the most serious and imminent threat to our country. And I think they -- as a result, we have to, as we go forward and as we develop policies about how we're going to deal with each of these countries and what action, if any, we're going to take with respect to them, I think each of them have to be dealt with on their own merits.

And they do, in my judgment, present different threats. And I think Iraq and Saddam Hussein present the most serious and most imminent threat.[link]

BOB: Some say we shouldn't go to war because we want to, only because we have to. You say Iraq poses the most imminent threat, but is war necessary?

EDWARDS: I believe we must vote for this resolution not because we want war, but because the national security of our country requires action.[link]

BOB: Well surely Senator Edwards you were misled by President Bush.

EDWARDS: [D]id I get misled? No. I didn't get misled. And as you know, I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. So it wasn't just the Bush administration. I sat in meeting after meeting after meeting where we were told about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. There is clearly a disconnect between what we were told and what, in fact, we found there.[link]

BOB: Well goodness knows these intelligence failures got us to fight a war in Iraq that took us away from the important business of finding Osama bin Laden. We had to choose between fighting al Qaeda and fighting in Iraq, and going into Iraq was the wrong choice wasn't it?

EDWARDS: I believe that this is not an either-or choice. Our national security requires us to do both, and we can.[link]

BOB: But al Qaeda, not Iraq, attacked us on 9/11. Is Iraq really all that dangerous to us?

EDWARDS: Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.[link]

BOB: Well said, John. Anything else?

EDWARDS: Iraq has continued to seek nuclear weapons and develop its arsenal in defiance of the collective will of the international community, as expressed through the United Nations Security Council. It is violating the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Gulf War and as many as 16 Security Council resolutions, including 11 resolutions concerning Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

By ignoring these resolutions, Saddam Hussein is undermining the credibility of the United Nations, openly violating international law, and making a mockery of the very idea of collective action that is so important to the United States and its allies.

We cannot allow Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons in violation of his own commitments, our commitments, and the world's commitments.[link]

BOB: Shoot that's what I was saying. I know you think we should build as large a coalition as possible in this war to oust Saddam, but should we do it without UN approval if necessary?

EDWARDS: [I]f the Security Council is prevented from supporting this new effort, then the United States must be prepared to act with as many allies as possible to address this threat.[link]

BOB: I'm with you Senator. Any final words?

EDWARDS: [T]he decision we must make now is one a nation never seeks. Yet when confronted with a danger as great as Saddam Hussein, it is a decision we must make. America's security requires nothing less.[link]

BOB: Well said, Senator. However it now appears that Saddam wasn't as imminently dangerous as we and so many others thought. Was ousting him the right thing to do in hindsight? I mean we pissed off the French, Germans, Russians and leftists all around the world. Do you still believe going in "alone" was the right thing to do?

EDWARDS: I think that we were right to go. I think we were right to go to the United Nations. I think we couldn't let those who could veto in the Security Council hold us hostage. And I think Saddam Hussein being gone is good. Good for the American people, good for the security of that region of the world, and good for the Iraqi people. I stand behind my support of that, yes.[link]

BOB: Thank you for clearing all that up for us Senator. Thank you for your time.

And thank you to Stephen Hayes for making this interview possible.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Lileks Fisks Moore

Michael Moore wrote a commentary in the July 4th LA Times. James Lileks goes over it for us as only he can.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

More on Iraq and Uranium

From today's Financial Times:
A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger.

The inquiry by Lord Butler, which was delivered to the printers on Wednesday and is expected to be released on July 14, has examined the intelligence that underpinned the UK government's claims about the threat from Iraq.
Uranium from Niger, you say? Now where did I hear that before? Oh right, Bush lied about that in his State of the Union speech in 2003.

I guess I'll have to brush up on things nuclear. It appears that Iraq had two tons of uranium and a nuclear program, yet sought to buy uranium from Niger. I guess it's possible that all this is innocent enough and that Iraq needed uranium or the "yellow cake" from Niger for energy generation purposes. But why would a country rich with oil be developing nuclear energy sources?

Radioactive News?

The AP reported:
In a secret operation, the United States last month removed from Iraq nearly two tons of uranium and hundreds of highly radioactive items that could have been used in a so-called dirty bomb, the Energy Department disclosed Tuesday.

The nuclear material was secured from Iraq's former nuclear research facility and airlifted out of the country to an undisclosed Energy Department laboratory for further analysis, the department said in a statement.
Nope, no WMD programs going on in Iraq.

Monday, July 05, 2004


Randy Barnett is impressed with Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11. In his piece Barnett cites, among others, pieces by Dave Kopel and Christopher Hitchens that are much worth reading.

I'd add to the must reading list the analysis by Brendan Nyhan of Spinsanity as well as this amusing collection of Michael Moore's own words by Tacitus. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I guess I was most amused by this give and take between Moore and Bob Costas (from Tacitus):
May 9 interview on HBO's On the Record with Bob Costas
During the pre-taped interview, Moore asked Costas: "What happened to the search for Osama bin Laden?"
Costas naively suggested: "Obviously they're pursuing Osama bin Laden as we speak."
Moore challenged the premise: "Really, you believe that?"
Costas: "Yes."
Moore: "You do believe that?"
Costas: "Sure. And if they could find him, and perhaps they eventually will, they'd be gratified by that."
Moore: "You don't think they know where he is?"
Costas, clearly astonished as Moore's paranoid thinking: "You think they know where Osama bin Laden is and it's hands off?"
Moore: "Absolutely, absolutely."
Costas: "Why?"
Moore: "Because he's funded by their friends in Saudi Arabia! He's back living with his sponsors, his benefactors. Do you think that Osama bin Laden planned 9-11 from a cave in Afghanistan? I can't get a cell signal from here to Queens, alright, I mean, come on. Let's get real about this. The guy has been on dialysis for two years. He's got failing kidneys. He wasn't in a cave in Afghanistan playing-"
Costas jumped in: "You think he's in Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan, not Pakistan."
Moore: "Well, could be Pakistan, but he's under watch of those who have said put a stop to this because-"
Costas tried to nail him down on culpability: "Including, at least by extension, the United States, he's under the protective watch of the United States?"
Moore confirmed: "I think the United States, I think our government knows where he is and I don't think we're going to be capturing him or killing him any time soon."
Sounds like Art Bell or Oliver Stone.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

More Evidence of Media Bias

I haven't read any more of Linda Seebach's opinion piece than Glenn Reynolds exerpts, nor have I gone and read the original study, but I can't say I'm surprised by the finding of yet another study that the news media display a bias toward the left, dramatically it appears.
The authors say they expected to find that the mainstream media leaned to the left, but they were "astounded by the degree."
Of course if you're to the left of the Democratic Party this won't be so obvious. In fact, if you're far enough left the news media will seem biased to the right.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Geneva Conventions and Detainees

So do the recent Supreme Court rulings mean that the War on Terror detainees are entitled to their rights under the Geneva Conventions? Nope. Eugene Volokh has a detailed post covering the issue. Here's the start of it:
Some people have said that the Supreme Court's Guantanamo detainee decision might have been influenced by the Administration's refusal to give the detainees the procedures to which they're entitled by the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions are a treaty that we signed, the argument goes, the government is bound to give this procedure, so we should interpret our habeas corpus statute as mandating at least something like what we've promised to provide in any case.

I'm not sure whether the Justices might indeed have been influenced by what they may see as Administration overreaching here. But, as best I can tell, the Geneva Conventions do not require the U.S. to give hearings to detainees who claim that they're actually civilians and should therefore be freed.[emphasis in original]
Read the whole thing.

See also this followup post regarding the Geneva Conventions at the Volokh Conspiracy.
Rhoads response: I am not sure what your point is here, Bob, but keep trying. The administration is continuing to dig themselves into a bigger and bigger hole, which is fine with me. I mean, if the Supreme Court that decided it was in their power to decide that these guys should be in charge of the Executive Branch disagrees with them, then they are in trouble, which I think is great.

Bob: Huh? I understood your first two sentences, but I can't make out the last one. Maybe once I figure that out I can help you understand the point I was making.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Soldier's View of the Liberation of Iraq

This soldier says he and his brothers-in-arms knew why they were invading Iraq:
I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis.
Read the whole thing.