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Spencer Blog Archives 1-03

Click here for Mr. Spencer's latest blog entry.


Get this, according to an, ugh, Fox News poll (via Polling Report), W's approval numbers have dropped since the State of the Union address on Tuesday. So, yes folks, it appears this is one of those rare times that the State of the Union address has absolutely and utterly failed.

Nice try, though, W.

Boy, things sure do turn around quickly in politics, don't they?

[Link via Interesting Times]

And now that Hans Blix is accusing W of lying about the contents of his report, the best part of W's speech is being taken apart bit by bit (or is that"lie by lie?") and exposed for the charade it was. Nightline really"opened it up like a peanut" just the other night.

The folks in this administration are supposed to be good at this stuff, right?

I guess not.

Boy, Glenn's going to get real grumpy now.

Posted by Tom at 8:23 p.m. CST


As we gear up for war we ignore rather major problems that exist in Afghanistan. Apparently Taliban and Al-Qaeda members (you remember Al-Qaeda, don't you?) used a car bomb to blow up a bridge, killing fifteen people.

It's at times like these I remember greasy Donald Rumsfeld telling us that"we're going to do for Iraq what we did for Afghanistan" back in August. Just exactly what have we done for Afghanistan really? Women are treated marginally better but the country is still on the precipice of chaos.

Speaking of Afghanistan, according to Ted Rall, American soldiers may have indeed participated in war crimes in Afghanistan during November of 2001.

Unfortunately I suspect that war crimes by Americans may become distressingly common in the next few months if we're going to follow the "Shock and Awe" battle plan described below.

Posted by Tom at 2:21 p.m. CST


Sean-Paul Kelley, who is pro-War, says some things about warbloggers and the coming IraqWar Part II that are quite appropriate in my opinion.

Here's just a bit of it to get you started:

I believe that the proposed invasion of Iraq is a necessary evil. I feel very reluctant about it in just about every aspect. The president and his cabinet have pushed for this war with a host of lies that reek like the Gulf Of Tonkin Incident. Their constantly shifting rationale and secrecy have brought me to the edge of opposing the war just on the basis of their methods. However, I am a serious student of International Relations and I try to be objective and look at the facts. I am not going to do that now. I have done it before. I do not want this war. No one should ever want war. Sometimes it is very sadly necessary.

What I do want to say is that all of you warbloggers out there are...

Click here for more.

Thank you Sean-Paul. It needed to be said.

[Link via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 12:31 p.m. CST


I just got finished reading this column by Geov Parrish about the SOTU address and the coming war with Iraq.

This part of it struck me right between the eyes:

But more important is the post-invasion example Washington can then hold up to the rest of the world, of what happens when a recalcitrant government, for any reason, displeases the Americans. What will happen? If only the attention lavished on Bush's speech had also accompanied, last week, the Pentagon's bloodless announcement of how it intended to begin the conquest of Iraq. The plan includes simultaneous ground invasions from north and south; Turkey reversed course and agreed this week -- amidst billions of dollars in American inducements -- to allow U.S. troops to use its military bases. It also includes a sudden decimation of Baghdad by raining down on its people, in two days, some 800 cruise missiles -- more than were used in the entire Gulf War. Harlan Ullman, the military strategist who apparently developed the plan, last week characterized the Baghdad assault thusly:"You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons of Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes." It would be a firestorm, a Dresden with 60 years of new technology. It would be a war crime of quick and staggering proportions.

Such a plan, of course, makes a mockery of Donald Rumsfeld's ritual insistence that the Pentagon takes enormous care to avoid civilian casualties; the plan apparently is to kill a staggering percentage of Baghdad's civilian population in the first day alone.

And the name of the plan is"Shock and Awe." Ostensibly, the name refers to the demoralizing effect such an attack would have on Iraqis, an effect, presumably, similar to the instant (although already planned) surrender of Japan after the gratuitous bombing of Hiroshima and even more gratuitous bombing of Nagasaki. But those were, both military and diplomatically, demonstration attacks -- suggesting what could be done to the imperial rulers themselves and to Tokyo, a city far more valuable and populous than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

In Iraq, Baghdad is the capitol.

I'll admit to being shocked and skeptical of this. How did I miss this? (And that really is a good question, how did I?) I did a google search and quickly found this CBS News story from a week ago that said exactly the same thing.

Here's what the story had to say about the administration's response to being asked about"Shock and Awe":

Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.

Oh, so maybe we'll just send 400 cruise missiles in two days instead of 800? If W and the boys target civilians like this, this will be the most immoral thing done by an administration since similar strategic decisions by Nixon regarding the bombing of civilians during the Vietnam conflict. I guess, once again, I shouldn't be surprised. The same people are in charge this time. This is an administration of Nixon/Ford administration retreads after all.

Folks, this will be the type of behavior that would honestly call for war crimes charges. I've been upset because I expect this war will lead to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians being killed. I had no idea hundreds of thousands could be killed in just two days.

If W's administration does this, I'm afraid Helen Thomas will certainly be right -- and I'll have to change my assessment of W from a few days ago.

Any president who takes us into an unnecessary war and kills hundreds of thousands of civilians in a Hiroshima-style attack on a city would have to win by default the title of the"worst president in all of American history."

I just hope, for the world's sake, this truly isn't the battle plan.


Posted by Tom at 9:51 a.m. CST


With this story telling us about the anemic 0.7 percent growth rate in the economy during the fourth quarter, evidence is mounting that we're headed toward the dubya dip folks.

Given today's economic news, following the lead of Atrios and Kos, I'm going to post a link to this wonderful and prescient story from the January 18, 2001 edition the Onion.

I remember reading it at the time and laughing my ass off. I didn't realize then quite how true it would turn out to be, did I?

And, guys, I agree, this supposedly satiric story becomes more and more accurate every day.

Posted by Tom at 9:03 p.m. CST


Kos points us to this story that apparently demonstrates how W and the boys are already trying to dampen expectations for the"evidence" that Powell is going to unveil next week at the U.N.

They're warning us"that no one photo or piece of evidence will conclusively prove the administration's case" and that they'll be showing us a"pattern of behavior" rather than"pictures of warheads."

So, if you're expecting this administration to suddenly to make a good case for war, it's not going to happen.

Kos also points us to this blog entry that exposes the dishonest spin the administration is employing by saying they have the support of"eight European nations" for war with Iraq and thus are not acting unilaterally.

You see, there are still 39 nations that don't support the war currently:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

Nice try guys. Fortunately, some of us are smart enough to realize when you're shamelessly spinning.

If you'll get a majority of these other 39 nations on board, then we can talk about"having European support" for our war with Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 4:02 p.m. CST


Boy, now Max Sawicky really lets Insty have it in this post about Glenn's"Icky shuffle" regarding anti-war protesters.

I'll give you just a taste so you'll go read the rest of it:

Meanwhile, the Prof and his followers indulge deficiencies, not to mention horrendous crimes, on the part of those they support. We could start and finish with the U.S. government itself, which strikes up alliances of convenience with awful regimes and individuals. Wot the hell, FDR was allied with Stalin.

The purism of IP and many others in re: ANSWER is wholly selective. In the case of Reynolds himself, it could not be more obvious that the basis for this selectivity is a determination to delegitimize anti-war sentiment. (On glennreynolds.com, he pretends to perform a neutral public service by providing a list of web sites pertaining to the war. Nearly all of them support the coming war.) Glenn Reynolds and others practice politics by the use of libel. Evidently they do not feel their arguments are good enough to carry the day. I don't blame them.

Today Mike Kinsley notes the same deficiency in no less than our President. Bush's moral condemnation of Saddam is 15 years too late and illogically narrow in focus. In other words, it is pure, hypocritical opportunism. Iraq is bad because it no longer deploys its badness in service to U.S. interests, as it did in the 1980s.

Newsflash: like all powerful nations from the beginning of time, the U.S. kills innocent people in pursuit of its national interest. Sometimes these interests are defensible, other times not. The 'Saddam-bad' discourse is just foreign policy baby-talk for the dull-witted. The same goes for the associate-with-ANSWER and you're"icky" nonsense.

Go read the rest of it. It really is quite good.

Glenn really is digging himself a deep hole, isn't he?

I think my comments a while back about how many liberal bloggers have decided Glenn's the blogosphere's equivalent of Bill O'Reilly which I know probably rankled some are looking more and more true by the minute.

Posted by Tom at 1:55 p.m. CST


Kevin Drum, in a post about Ari Fleischer, makes the following entertaining observation:

Now, I could have picked pretty much any day's briefing to make this point, but is Ari Fleischer the sorriest son of a bitch in this general vicinity of the Milky Way, or what? As near as I can tell, his job is to get up in front of the press corps every day and stay robotically calm while they rain down abuse on him. His boss never holds press conferences, everyone knows Ari's not going to tell them anything, and it's gotten to the point where reporters just sort of vent on him because there's nothing much more they can do. It's sort of like being manager of the complaint desk at Sears.

Now that, my friends, is what we call a great quip, eh?

Kevin's full of them, be sure to give his blog a frequent read!

Posted by Tom at 12:52 p.m. CST


Michael Kinsley has written a wonderful and withering column on Slate today about the SOTU speech. He argues that good words aren't enough, one needs logical consistency and intellectual honesty to make a solid moral argument.

Here's a bit of it:

And tell us again why we're about to invade Iraq but we're"working with the countries of the region" to pinion North Korea, which is further along the nuclear trail and can't even be bothered to lie about it. Bush's"axis of evil" coinage last year and recent flagrant North Korean nose-thumbing made it almost impossible for Bush to avoid addressing this logical conundrum. His solution was artful but mysterious:"Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula, and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq." He seems to be saying here that the United States should have invaded and conquered North Korea years ago. But as Bush sets it out, the"lesson" of Korea seems to be that if you don't go to war soon enough, you might have a problem years later that can be solved through regional discussions. That doesn't sound so terrible, frankly. Regional discussions can be grim, no doubt, but they're more fun than a war. So, what exactly is this lesson the Korean experience is supposed to offer?

There are actually plenty of differences between the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the one in the Middle East, and good reasons why you might decide to bring Iraq to a crisis and steer North Korea away from one. But all these reasons cut against the Manichean notion of an absolute war against an absolute evil called terrorism. Bush is getting terrific credit for the purity and determination of his views on this subject. But either his own views are dangerously simplistic or he is purposely, though eloquently, misleading the citizenry.

Proclaiming the case for war as the second half of a speech that devoted its first 30 minutes to tax cuts and tort reform also makes the call to arms seem morally unserious. Why are we talking about cars that run on hydrogen at all if the survival of civilization is at stake over the next few months? Bush declared that the best thing to do with government money is to give it back to the taxpayers, and then put on his" compassionate conservative" hat and proposed billions in government spending on the environment and on AIDS in Africa and on a program to train mentors for children of prisoners and on and on. The dollars don't exist to either give back or spend, of course, let alone both, so we'll be borrowing them if Bush has his way, a point he didn't dwell upon.

This orgiastic display of democracy's great weakness—a refusal to acknowledge that more of something means less of something else—undermined the moral seriousness of the call to arms and sacrifice that followed. Sneering at the folly of tax cuts spread over several years instead of right away, Bush failed to note that those gradual tax cuts were part of his own previous tax bill. Bragging that he would hold the increase in domestic discretionary spending to 4 percent a year, Bush probably didn't stop to wonder what that figure was under his tax-and-spend Democrat predecessor. Short answer: lower. These are venial sins in everyday politics, but Bush was striving for something higher. He had the right words for it. But words alone aren't enough.


[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 12:40 p.m. CST


It's not just Insty that's running the Joe McCarthy playbook by smearing anti-war protesters. The administration has joined in today. They leaked an intelligence document claiming that Iraqi spies are helping to organize anti-war demonstrations in this country.

Americans couldn't be against this war! They must be brainwashed by Iraqi spies!

Yeah! That's the ticket!

I think the administration has now, officially, gone off the deep end.

Posted by Tom at 12:20 p.m. CST


Get this:

The White House postponed a poetry symposium out of concerns it would be politicized after some poets said they wanted to protest military action against Iraq.

The symposium on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman had been scheduled for Feb. 12. No future date has been announced for the event, to be held by first lady Laura Bush.

"While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum," Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said Wednesday.

Just one more piece of evidence that freedom of speech doesn't really exist at this White House.

Numerous other examples come to mind immediately, don't they?

I'm off to class number two!

[Link via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 9:28 a.m. CST


I don't have time to do much more than post a couple of links. Insty still doesn't understand what the big deal is to smear people who oppose the war by trying the old Joe McCarthy"guilt by association" tactic. If you recall I blogged about this a couple of days ago.

Here's Glenn rather ugly response to Hesiod. (You know Glenn's getting defensive when he calls someone"stupid," right?) Hesiod's response is here. I think Hesiod's right about the psychology here.

If you ever wanted to know just how grumpy Glenn would get when the public turned on his boy W and IraqWar II, here it is.

I'd better run to my 8:00 a.m. class.

Posted by Tom at 7:57 a.m. CST


Here's an interesting story that quotes intelligence sources who say there is no demonstrable Saddam-Al Qaeda link and that there's a"low" possibility that Iraq would attack us with chemical or nuclear weapons -- unless provoked by an invasion of course.

President Bush invoked a grim and powerful image in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, asking Americans to imagine what would have happened if the Sept. 11 hijackers had been armed with poison gas or germs.

However, U.S. officials and private analysts said Bush's suggestion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might give such weapons to terrorists - and the implication that the risk of American retaliation can no longer deter him - stretches the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit.

W asserted in the SOTU address last night that Saddam's regime

"aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own."

According to these intelligence analysts he was lying, wasn't he?

Impressive, huh?

As I suggested yesterday, W's nose would probably grow numerous times during the address.

Look for more whoppers to come as this administration tries desperately to make a case for a war that Americans don't want.

Posted by Tom at 9:05 p.m. CST


This is an interesting story. It appears, according to Colin Powell, that we'd actually help to find Saddam"Satan" Hussein a safe haven if he'd step down.

Now this really is interesting because, of course, we keep hearing from W and the boys that Saddam is so awful that we should just kill him right now -- but if push comes to shove we'd actually help him find some cozy quarters somewhere else.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd be happy with this too. However, isn't it just a little hypocritical to essentially condemn someone as the devil incarnate while at the same time signalling that we'd help him find asylum if he'd just step down?

Just an observation.

And speaking of hypocrisy, I also love that, if Saddam were to step down, we couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't be tried for war crimes.

Oh, you mean the war crimes he committed with our weapons and our tacit approval?

If we're going to try him for what he did to his people and Iranian soldiers in the 1980s, we might as well go ahead and put most of the foreign policy team of the Reagan and Bush I administrations on trial as well for aiding him and essentially making all of these horrible things possible.

They knew about all these things and didn't do a damn thing.

Posted by Tom at 4:30 p.m. CST


As W's approval numbers continue their freefall of 30 points or more in the last 15 months, it appears the folks at the Republican National Committee are getting a bit irritated about it. Take a look at this memo from RNC senior adviser Matthew Dowd.

Of course, Dowd's right that approval numbers don't necessarily indicate anything at this point for re-election prospects but there are also a large number of polls that show his boss's numbers at about 53%, not the 60% figure he uses. Dowd, not surprisingly, picks the poll with the highest poll numbers of all of them for W in his memo. That's called spin of course.

And I seriously doubt last night's address is going to bump them up much. I've heard from some folks that it appears it is only going to give him a couple of points of bump and that's it.

Posted by Tom at 4:23 p.m. CST


According to this ABC News poll, W's speech last night changed very few minds about his foreign or domestic policies. Those who supported his policies, approved of what he had to say. Those who didn't agree with his policies, didn't. If this speech was aimed at those on the fence with regard to war with Iraq as some journalists have said, it doesn't appear to have worked at all.

BTW, is it my imagination or is the headline for this article astonishing misleading?

Posted by Tom at 12:19 p.m. CST


Hmmm. Either somebody in the administration didn't get the"strategery" memo or the administration was trying to bury this story. Yesterday, the administration quietly announced that they're projecting a $300B deficit for the fiscal year 2003-2004. This will break the deficit record of $290B set by Poppy in 1992. Since W and the boys are quite adept at media manipulation, I suspect they released this little tidbit on the same day as the SOTU address so that it would go largely unnoticed.

I noticed it -- and so did MSNBC which put it on the front page of their website.

Many believe the administration's $300B deficit estimate is actually too low. Salomon Smith Barney thinks the deficit will reach $400B next year. Since the administration has generally lied about things like this all along, I'm willing to bet Salomon Smith Barney is right.

Republicans really are the party of fiscal irresponsibility, aren't they? Of course, the obvious point is that Gore and the Democrats were absolutely right in 2000 when they insisted W and the boys were lying about the impact of their tax cut. Now we're stuck with this idiotic tax plan from 2001 until the deficit reaches some horrible point that makes the folks in congress uncomfortable.

And given the dishonesty of this administration on everything, I don't expect anyone to admit the idiocy of this tax plan any time soon. I can't believe the audacity of trying to pass more tax cuts at the same time it becomes apparent that the last round of tax cuts have done nothing to stimulate the economy and have blasted an enormous deficit hole in the budget.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 a.m. CST


Wonderful column by Gene Lyons this morning about this moron who reviewed Susan McDougal's book for the New York Times. He also suggests it raises numerous questions about the Times itself. Here is the column in its entirety:

Moonbeams and Magnolias at the New York Times

Toward the end of her astonishing review of Susan McDougal's book"The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk" in the New York Times Book Review, Beverly Lowry condescends to give the author some advice. A novelist and professor of creative writing at George Mason University, Lowry thinks McDougal ought to have sought professional help writing her memoirs,"an editor or writer...who would have persuaded her all she had to do was tell the story straight."

This is big talk from a reviewer who couldn't even summarize the book's basic facts competently. According to Lowry, Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation" came up with pretty much of nothing, beyond a felony conviction for McDougal on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt."

In reality, Starr's failure to convict Susan on precisely those charges provides the book's triumphant climactic scene. As Judge George Howard read the jury's"not guilty" verdict on the obstruction charge, McDougal writes,"a cheer went up in the courtroom...We had taken on the most powerful prosecutor in the country, an organization with an unlimited budget and incredible resources, and we had beaten them soundly. But as much as I enjoyed being a part of the victory, I was not naïve enough to believe that the verdict was about Susan McDougal. The entire trial was a referendum on Kenneth Starr, and we had succeeded in showing just how corrupt his investigation was."

A waspish reviewer might sneer that Susan's triumph over her tormentors has a cornball"Erin Brockovich" meets"The Pelican Brief" quality. It would be mean and stupid, but a defensible opinion. Lowry, however, seems completely oblivious that in the end, Susan McDougal did finally talk. She testified for several days in open court during the aforementioned trial. So did three of Starr's prosecutors. The jury believed Susan.

Here at Unsolicited Opinions, Inc., we too have reviewed a bunch of books over the years and have also taught writing to college students. At the expense of pedantry, we'd like to offer our esteemed colleague at George Mason this advice:"Yo, Beverly. Next time, read the damn book."

Assuming minimal competence, Lowry simply cannot have done so. She appears to have skimmed the opening chapters for information confirming her own loopy notions about"girl children from the Deep South"--she's the kind of Professional Southerner who peddles moonbeams to Yankees--then winged it. Her summary of what Whitewater was supposed to have been all about is filled with preposterous errors. Joe Conason exposes a half dozen howlers in Salon.com.

Part of Lowry's problem is simply bad writing. Check this out:"The future president was governor and the McDougals owned a bank and a savings and loan and were buying and selling land and, like a lot of other people they knew, making money hand over fist. Unquestionably, the Clintons took part in Whitewater and irrefutably they and the McDougals trampled on some rights and bent some rules along the way. But they were on a roll, life was good, Arkansas sheltered them, and nobody thought life would ever go any other way."

The syntax is murky, but if that's supposed to mean the Clintons made money on Whitewater, the fact is they irrefutably lost $43,000. As for trampling rights and bending rules, if Lowry's review were a sophomore's paper, I'd write"BE SPECIFIC" in the margin in big red letters. Which rules? What rights? Even the independent counsel's final report stipulates that the Clintons had no knowledge of Jim McDougal's monkey business, which didn't involve Whitewater anyway. The phrase"Arkansas sheltered them" would rate a big"EXPLAIN," because insofar as it means anything, it implies improprieties not in evidence.

True to the moonbeams and magnolias school of bad Southern writing, Lowry speculates that Susan must have been in love with Bill Clinton, a notion her book lampoons, portraying the former Chief Executive as a glib horn-dog who looks awful in jogging shorts. Lowry also questions if"we" can trust McDougal, given what she calls bizarre charges of"embezzlement of $150,000 brought by the orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta, and his wife, Nancy."

Unfortunately, Lowry neglects to mention that the California jury that acquitted Susan of embezzlement in the Mehta case held a press conference denouncing the prosecutor for accusing her without a shred of credible evidence. Several jurors then came to Little Rock to support her in her final showdown with Kenneth Starr. Once again, it's all in the book. To raise such issues without saying so isn't quite as reckless as falsely accusing somebody of two felonies, but it definitely comes under the heading of not"telling the story straight."

As for the New York Times, what is there left to say? The cover-up continues. Mention the Clintons or Whitewater, and the nation's single most influential book review metamorphoses into The Drudge Report. Have its editors no standards of professionalism and intellectual honesty whatsoever?

Great as always, eh?

I think the way the Times botched the Whitewater story was damn near criminal conduct on their part. Unfortunately, the Times and the Washington Post are about the best we've got these days -- and that's a pretty sad statement. There are times that I thank my lucky stars for Krugman, Milbank, Kessler, McGrory, Dionne, and Raspberry. At times they're the only things saving those two papers from being as mediocre as all the rest of them.

Posted by Tom at 9:04 a.m. CST


I didn't get to see the SOTU address tonight, I was teaching a night class -- tonight we talked about Reconstruction. Anyway, I've read some things about it already but I'm not sure I can give you much analysis or reaction until I learn more about it and actually read it.

The one thing that does appear clear is that I'm right that we're going to war as soon as the invasion force is in position (late February or early March). Nothing in the speech tonight changes that at all. All this stuff about"giving the inspectors more time" is just a stalling tactic while we get our forces in position.

Since we're about to go to war against Iraq again, I want you, once again, to review what happened in IraqWar Part I by going here, here, and here.

(For more about this last story, go here.)

Since I have gained such a large number of readers in the last few weeks, many of you may not have had the chance to read these important articles yet.

Go read them now.

You might as well know what's coming folks -- and what you're supporting if you support this war.

Despite what we're going to be told, it's not going to be a" clean war" folks. Thousands of civilians are going to die.

If that's okay with you, go on supporting the war. But at least now you've been educated about it and I've done my job.

Posted by Tom at 10:23 p.m. CST

HOW BAD IS IT? 01-28-03

Here's a breakdown from Missouri's Coordinating Board of Higher Education of how much the cuts in March would be for each Higher Education institution in the state if the state doesn't doesn't bond proceeds from the tobacco settlement.

I'll just state the obvious: these cuts would be absolutely devastating for my institution and all the others across the state. My institution doesn't have much in the way of reserves after last year.

I know securitization may not be a wonderful idea but it's better than no solution at all -- isn't it? Since, for some reason, a tax increase is out of the question, this seems like the only viable alternative.

Posted by Tom at 2:49 p.m. CST


Tim Lambert's update site is quite good today. He argues that this all won't go away (even if Insty, Jane Galt, Cramer, et. al want it to) because even if Lott did the survey his presentation of the data from it was at the very least questionable if not dishonest or downright fraudulent. As one of Tim's readers put it:

I think"question 3" from your last update -- significantly, the one he dodges -- is the key, because many of Lott's defenders seem to think you've shifted to a"different issue" now, when in fact it's very much the same issue. Glenn et. al. seem to believe that the only question about Lott's honesty is whether he told the truth about conducting a survey, when for a trained statistician, doing a slipshod survey with a meaningless sample size, then reporting the result without mentioning that any expert would consider the number sheer garbage, is dishonest. I mean, if he were citing some other survey, at least people could have checked the primary source and raised questions about how well it supported his claim. Here he was using the fact that his survey (which we'll assume for now really happened) was lost to hide the fact that it didn't back his statements -- something that would have been obvious to everyone with stats training if the data had been preserved.

Reynolds wants to claim that this is now merely about the accuracy of Lott's claims, and no longer about his honesty. But the kind of deceptive use of numbers we're talking about is clearly fraudulent for someone who knows better -- which an economist would. This, I think is a point you may want to stress, because it's clear from the non-controversial data we already have. Force 'em to explain why this kind of behavior doesn't count as academic fraud.

This scandal has always been about Lott's honesty in both conducting the alleged survey and, if he did, whether this alleged survey actually provided the results he said it did. Like I said earlier, somehow he's gotten a small sample size of 25 people and claiming that his results showed only 2% of them actually had to discharge the gun.

Again, 2% of 25 people is half a person. How is that possible? Don't come at me with the weighting issue either -- that sounds pretty suspicious as well -- and even makes me wonder if all this survey-driven scholarship isn't a load of you-know-what. That's one of the things I'm most happy about as a historian is that I don't have to conduct surveys for my research. I don't trust most surveys as far as I can throw them -- but that's a different issue for now.

I am also happy to see Mark Kleiman back me up about the absurd behavior of the Bellesiles bloodhounds:

So here's my plea to my gun-rights friends in academia. If you admit that John Lott lacks the basic honesty required for citizenship in the Republic of Science, that doesn't mean you have to give up your guns and join the Brady Campaign. You're perfectly free to believe in an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment and oppose gun registration. So you ought to be willing to call this one on its merits.

The inclination to circle the wagons against a co-partisan under attack is a strong one. But Lott is now beyond reasonable defense. Those who were most vigorous in pursuing Bellesiles, and most contemptuous of those who kept defending Bellesiles as the evidence of his duplicity mounted, ought to be the first to say"Enough is enough, already."

Cut your losses, fellas.

Absolutely. But there's much more going on here I think. As I've said many times, these folks only went after Bellesiles tooth and nail because they disagreed with his thesis and now they believe Lott's flimsy alibi because they agree with his thesis. To admit that's what's going on would essentially destroy the"dishonest libruls supported Bellesiles" morality play that is so important for their particular worldview to work.

They won't dare admit that they're doing the same thing Bellesiles's supporters did because it threatens more than Lott. It calls into question their entire cartoonish view of academia itself.

And they wouldn't dare do that, would they?

Posted by Tom at 1:34 p.m. CST


Paul Krugman has an excellent column this morning about how W has already broken the promises he made in last year's address.

Here's some of it:

A lot depends on whether Mr. Bush is held accountable for the promises he made in his last State of the Union address.

For there was more to that speech than the axis of evil (a phrase, by the way, that has vanished from Mr. Bush's vocabulary, along with the name of that guy he promised to bring in dead or alive). He assured those who worried about red ink that"our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-lived." He offered comfort for those who remembered his father's"jobless recovery," which felt like a continuing recession:"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs."

Fast-forward a year. We now know that the"small" budget deficit will rise above $300 billion, and stay there. Even the administration's own, ever-optimistic budget officials now concede that we face deficits as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, payrolls continue to decline; since the working-age population keeps rising, it's becoming ever harder for ordinary Americans to get jobs, or keep them.

And there's a good chance things will get a lot worse: with markets sliding, consumers wilting, businesses fearful about the effects of war and oil prices rising, the pieces are in place for a full-blown double-dip recession. And the second dip would take us much further down than the first. So can Mr. Bush convince us that his latest tax cut is just the tonic the economy needs?


The administration's credibility problem is made worse by the high casualty rate among top economic officials, and the uninspiring quality of their replacements. Today is the first day of hearings for John Snow, the administration's choice for Treasury secretary. One official I spoke to was rueful:"I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad."

But that's not why he was chosen, according to CBS Market Watch:"He was picked because he's a lobbyist, a schmoozer, a master salesman" — and a member of no fewer than nine country clubs.

Still, nobody razzle-dazzles 'em like Mr. Bush. Tonight we'll see if he's good enough to make us forget last year's promises.

Actually, I suspect W will take a simpler strategy. He won't really even talk about the economy much at all. He'll dazzle us all by obfuscation. He'll try scare us all to death about what a threat Saddam is to us.

We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 12:15 p.m. CST


This story from MSNBC/Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler is quite frightening. It appears that W is about to start dribbling out intelligence to try and whip up support for the war because the U.N. report supplied the world with a mixed verdict. To have not shared this information with inspectors already is astonishingly dishonest, isn't it?

This article also reveals that the administration is essentially daring the U.N. Security Council to veto the resolution authorizing force against Iraq:

In a speech Sunday before an international gathering of business and foreign leaders in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell tried to address the growing doubts about the United States. “Trust is a crucial commodity,” he said, and he acknowledged that many at the session had questioned “whether America can be trusted to use its enormous political, economic and, above all, military power wisely and fairly.”

“I believe — no, I know with all of my heart — that the United States can,” Powell said. He cited numerous examples in history, in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kuwait and Europe after World War II, when he said the United States liberated a nation and then sought no special favors or domination in return.

Turning the tables around, Powell noted, “Today, not a single nation, not one, trusts Saddam and his regime.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, speaking last week before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, was also peppered with questions about trust, with one audience member noting that the United States had said “trust us” during the Vietnam War, and “it turned out to be untrustworthy.”

Wolfowitz replied: “I must say I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the U.S. government. The real issue is, can you trust Saddam Hussein?”

Administration officials said that in the coming weeks they will begin to declassify certain intelligence about Iraqi behavior to build support for military action. James M. Lindsay, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the Bush administration can also exploit fears by some Security Council members that unilateral action would make the United Nations irrelevant.

“All permanent members know that if Washington carries through with its threat, it will be a deathblow to the Security Council,” Lindsay said. “Washington will give them a difficult choice: Do you want to save Saddam or save the Security Council?”

This is outrageous. So much for cooperation, eh? We're essentially threatening to destroy the U.N. if they don't support us. My goodness. These are the pros, right? This is about as amateurish and irresponsible a foreign policy as I've ever seen.

It is pretty ironic that Colin Powell mentions Afghanistan as a success, considering what's going on there today, isn't it? It's amazing how the war that's supposed to be over raises its ugly head once again at the wrong time for W, isn't it?

BTW, where's Osama?

Posted by Tom at 11:43 a.m. CST


I don't know how I missed this great piece by Michael Kinsley on how W was helped by Yale's Affirmative Action program for children of Yale alumni.

Here's a bit of it:

Opponents and supporters of affirmative action actually tend to agree that there is something bad, generally called quotas, and something good, generally called something like diversity. Their argument is about where you draw the line. Bush calls the Michigan 20-point bonus a quota, and his critics insist that it is not. But both sides are wrong. If your sole measure of the success of any arrangement is whether it increases the representation of certain minorities, then it doesn't really matter what procedure you use to achieve that result: some people are getting something desirable because of their race, and an equal number of people are not getting it for the same reason.

Of course a series of somebodies didn't get into Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School because their blood wasn't as blue as Bush's, and other somebodies didn't get a chance to own the Texas Rangers or to use the capital Bush borrowed to buy his share of the team because these somebodies were nobodies. Life is unfair. A legitimate criticism of affirmative action is that it politicizes life chances and focuses blame on race. If you get turned down by Yale to make room for a George W., you're not even aware of it. But if you get turned down by the University of Michigan, you're likely to blame affirmative action (if you're white), even though the numbers say you probably would have been turned down anyway.

So ask yourself: Would you rather have a gift of 20 points out of 150 to use at the college of your choice? Or would you rather have the more amorphous advantages President Bush has enjoyed at every stage of his life? If the answer to that isn't obvious to you, even 20 extra points are probably not enough to get you into the University of Michigan.


Posted by Tom at 11:09 a.m. CST


Atrios points us to this interesting story on Norman Schwarzkopf's views about IraqWar Part II. He's pretty skeptical about this one folks.

BTW, is it my imagination or does the last half of this story read as more or less an administration attack on Schwartzkopf? I can't help but suspect the administration led the reporter to these sources in the story.

Posted by Tom at 9:29 a.m. CST


After reading this story it appears that war with Iraq is now all but inevitable. For some reason, opposition be damned, this administration is going to get its war with Iraq and that's all there is to it.

This is one of those times when I can't help but wonder if there was any way that Saddam could have avoided this war. At this point I'm afraid to say the answer to that question is no. I didn't matter what he did this administration was going to war against him. I mean if we can jump on the report Hans Blix delivered today as a reason to go to war nearly anything will qualify."They're not being totally cooperative but we've found no evidence of WMD" is a reason for war? My goodness. I'm guessing nothing would forestall W's warmongering machine now. They've played fast and loose with the truth over the last few months. Look for W's nose to grow tomorrow night on several occasions.

I can't help but remember my very first (rather longish) post in August which was, of course, about the war. I don't think I was very far off at all -- maybe a bit off on the timing but that's about it. Very little has changed in my mind since then.

Here's what I had to say:

As a historian, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the Bush Administration's dogged pursuit of a war with Iraq. I'm trying to think of a time in our country's past when we have pursued what is, in the words of Maureen Dowd, a"war without provocation." Despite the fact that nearly every potential ally -- with the notable exception of the British, who are beginning to waver as well -- is against a war with Iraq, despite the fact that it appears this is a potential quagmire, we're going ahead anyway. The whole thing is baffling and out of character for the United States. The closest analogous historical situations are the Spanish-American War and the threatened 1993 invasion of Haiti which ultimately was not necessary (interestingly enough, the Republicans were the ones who were being"unpatriotic" back then, opposing it all the way, even threatening to withhold the money from the Federal budget for the invasion).

However, both of these analogies don't quite fit right. While there is ample precedent of the United States intervening militarily in other nation's affairs throughout the nation's history, there is no precedent for a large-scale attack on another nation without a clear provocation. I'm searching madly for a historical comparison I can draw and I'm coming up with blanks. Sure, I know we sent the Marines into several nations in Central and South America several times in the first two decades of the twentieth century for short periods but it's just not the same sort of thing. Any assistance from those in the historical community in identifying similar events in our nation's past would be greatly appreciated. This is a pretty practical concern for me: I'd like to be able to explain this developing situation to my students this fall.

Several things perplex me about this looming war. Amazingly, the Pentagon is clearly against this proposed invasion of Iraq. Over the past several weeks, they have leaked invasion plans several times to the press in an effort, it appears, to forestall the invasion. They also appear to be supportive of congressional hearings into the planning for the potential invasion. This is pretty bizarre. I can't think of a time when an administration actually had to browbeat the Pentagon into making war. They believe the invasion to be ill-conceived and, like currently in Afghanistan, there is no apparent exit strategy. However furious Rumsfeld and other administration hawks may be, they appear to be paying little attention to what these military leaders are saying. The folks in the Pentagon think this looks too much like a potential Vietnam-like situation. Therefore, frustrated that their concerns are being ignored by the administration, military leaders have begun to go directly to the press.

Also, many in the press have already begun to talk about the war as if it is unavoidable. A story by Andrea Mitchell that appeared on MSNBC's website over the weekend is typical. The upshot of her article is that we're just going to war with Iraq in the next few months and that's that.

However, there