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Ephemerides (January 2003)
January 29, 2003
The following letter, signed by the Prime Ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy, the U.K., Hungary, Poland and Denmark and the President of the Czech Republic, will appear in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. Germany and France were not invited to sign.
The real bond between the U.S. and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the United States of America. Today they are under greater threat than ever.
The attacks of Sept. 11 showed just how far terrorists -- the enemies of our common values -- are prepared to go to destroy them. Those outrages were an attack on all of us. In standing firm in defense of these principles, the governments and people of the U.S. and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their convictions. Today more than ever, the transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom.
We in Europe have a relationship with the U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the U.S. we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security.
In today's world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that unity and cohesion. We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious.
The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world security. This danger has been explicitly recognized by the U.N. All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the U.N. route, and our support for the Security Council at the Prague NATO Summit and the Copenhagen European Council.
In doing so, we sent a clear, firm and unequivocal message that we would rid the world of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We must remain united in insisting that his regime be disarmed. The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.
The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein's last chance to disarm using peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him. Sadly this week the U.N. weapons inspectors have confirmed that his long-established pattern of deception, denial and non-compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions is continuing.
Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, they are the first victims of Iraq's current brutal regime. Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world.
The U.N. Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result. We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.
Who is it that is truly "isolated" in the confrontation with Saddam Hussein?
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January 25, 2003
The U.N. inspectors are reportedly going to give Saddam Hussein a "B" when they present their findings to the Security Council next Monday. If only they had been the Yale faculty in the mid-1960's, George W. Bush and I would both have graduated summa cum laude.
To get this better-than-passing mark, all Saddam had to do was allow a group of less than a hundred men, very few familiar of them with the country's geography, language or culture, to search at random through an area the size of the state of California, under the leadership of an elderly bureaucrat whom Saddam has fooled before and whose selection was specifically approved by the Iraqi government. Iraq was marked down only slightly for failing to explain what happened to the chemical and biological weapons that were known to be in its possession in 1998, when the last cadre of inspectors left, and for the inspectors' inability to interview Iraqi scientists who had worked on weapons research to be interviewed. Iraq says that the scientists unanimously refused, entirely of their own volition, to cooperate, ignoring Baghdad's pleas to tell what they know. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that the U.S. has evidence that they were warned that cooperation would mean death for themselves and their families. Which explanation is more plausible observers may judge for themselves. If the scientists have any uncertainty about whether the inspectors are willing or able to protect them from reprisals, it was dispelled yesterday, when two men seeking sanctuary were handed over to Iraqi police by U.N. personnel. (Associated Press, "Iraq Says No Scientists Want Private Interviews With Inspectors"; CNN, "Iraqi Scientists Refuse U.N. Talks"; Associated Press, "Iraqi Scientists Refuse Solo Questioning")
The course that is being graded is not, in any case, "courtesy to the United Nations" but Disarmament 101, the first class in a curriculum laid down by President Bush last September in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. It is useful to recall the the full list:
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.
The White House has just published a description of what is involved in the first class, the one in Disarmament: "What Does Disarmament Look Like?". Useful ancillary reading is "Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003". The clear evidence that the Saddam tyranny has no intention of disarming – much less ceasing to support terrorism, ending persecution, accounting for Gulf War MIA's, compensating Kuwait and other nations for their Gulf War losses, and complying with U.N. regulations governing its trade in oil – has persuaded Colin Powell, the Administration's least belligerent figure, that the time has come for action in Iraq.
General Powell, not Professor Blix, will have the decisive word on class ranking, so we can be sure that Master Hussein has thrown his last spitball at the civilized world. What's interesting now is the residual opposition to disciplining him, which comes from three principal sources.
First, and most despicable, are Democratic politicians who voted last year in favor of authorizing the President to go to war and who now want to unvote their votes. James Taranto has fisked them thoroughly, and I have nothing to add.
Second, certain of our European "allies" are balking. Their heckling is an annoyance, but it is largely a game, with goals that have little to do with saving Saddam Hussein's neck. In Germany, Chancellor Schröder desperately needs to rally the Left behind his faltering government. Anti-Americanism is the best formula for that, and the Chancellor himself appears to loathe George W. Bush as an individual, so that political and personal imperatives coincide.
Russia is a simpler case, France a more complicated one. In a last-gasp bid for a protector, Saddam has awarded large oil concessions to Russian firms. Prime Minister Putin's "opposition" to American policy will collapse as soon as our diplomats whisper into  his ear that the grantees won't automatically be booted out by the post-Saddam government.
In France, there are, I think, two lines of force at work. One is the fact that the Right is now solidly in power, and the last French Rightist who truly sympathized with America was Louis XVI. From a Catholic, counterrevolutionary, anti-egalitarian perspective, the "wind from America" brought with it the catastrophe of 1789 and all the disasters that have ensued. Ideologically, French and American conservatives have converged since World War II, but it will be another century or so before les hommes du Droit regard the American Revolution without rancor.
The other significant force is the prospect of gaining a commanding position in a de-Americanized Europe – Charles de Gaulle's old dream – by giving aid and comfort to Herr Schröder. Berlin will offer almost anything right now. President Chirac evidently reckons that he may as well swallow the bribes. He knows full well that it doesn't matter to the outcome of the war whether France says "Oui" or "Non", whereas the opportunity to reassert a form of Great Power status won't come again. Americans who denounce the French for their conduct are being ungenerous. We should welcome Chirac's self-interested antics, which do us no real harm, confirm the triviality of the United Nations and hold out the prospect – slender but real – of wrecking the European Union.
Beyond the Germany-Russia-France trio, allied opposition is wishful thinking by The New York Times. Nations that have experienced terrorism and have ethnic ties to the United States – Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania et al. – are lining up to contribute what they can to the fight.
Finally, there is the real opposition: the international Left, which has decided that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and thrown its weight, such as it is, behind Saddam. Its impotence is shown both by its shrill "Bush the Nazi" rhetoric and the tenuousness of its arguments.
The Left's rationale for not going to war come down to, we can contain Saddam; he isn't such a big threat right now. It is a plea for letting the status quo continue to work out its inexorable logic. That logic is utterly foreseeable.
A "contained" Iraq will be a sanctuary and source of terrorist funds in and of itself, and the continuance of its regime will guarantee the continuance of all of those Middle Eastern tyrannies that wink at or actively promote anti-Western fanaticism. As time goes by, the terrorists will gain momentum, and the West will be reduced to more and more burdensome defensive measures. Eventually, we will pass through metal detectors to board a bus or enter a shopping mall.
Since no defense can be perfect, the terrorists, even if thwarted 99 percent of the time, will strike successfully on the hundredth attempt. A Bali bombing twice or thrice a year, a 9/11 every two or three, lesser atrocities month in, month out will sap civilian and military morale. We will huddle together, weakened and fearful.
And in the end, we will go to war – not from a position of supremacy but out of sheer desperation. Probably not on ground of our choosing; perhaps with our economy collapsing behind us; very likely disrupted by a plenitude of terrorist sleepers and moles. It will be a longer war and an infinitely harder one than we face now.
That war, not peace, is what the "peace movement" has to offer us.
Further reading: The Wall Street Journal, "Nos Amis the French"
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January 20, 2003
Last night I was in the Seattle area and happened to hear half an hour or so of a liberal talk radio show, hostessed by an young woman whose name I didn't catch. She didn't impress me as the Left's answer to Rush Limbaugh – more like a refugee from a morning rush hour soft rock program. What truly aroused her enthusiasm was not the free-form diatribe on the joys of Affirmative Act that was running from her mouth but the Golden Globes Award telecast that she was watching simultaneously. Interrupting an earnest exposition on the resegregation of American elementary schools, she blurted out, "Oh, no! That is the worst dress ever!" After which we were treated to a seam by seam deconstruction of the offending article of clothing.
Okay, she was not the best and the brightest of liberal punditry, but a couple of her points about Affirmative Action struck me as indicative of wrong ways to think about the subject and symptomatic of the Left's malaise on the subject of race.
First, she led off her praise of diversity with the statement that, if Stanford admitted students purely on the basis of ability, 95 percent of the freshman class would be Asian. Maybe, she continued, some people would be happy with that state of affairs, but she believed that it was good to go to school with all kinds of people, etc.
President Clinton once uttered similar sentiments in defense of race-conscious admissions policies, and the line of argument seems inoffensive to the liberal conscience, notwithstanding its blatant bigotry. Are Americans of Asian descent all "the same kind of people", an undifferentiated mass that will impose a dreary homogeneity on campuses unless leavened with skins of other colors? Anyone who sees real people rather than stereotypes ought to have noticed that Asians, in this country and, for that matter, in Asia, are no more, indeed less, a unified political, cultural, social or economic bloc than Europeans or Africans.
If the academic achievement of Asian Americans, taken as a group, is disproportionately high, that fact does not stem from any kind of conspiracy to sinicize Academia. All of the credit goes to the individuals who have studied hard, put their schoolwork ahead of extracurricular distractions and earned high grades. Our talk show hostess would deprive a large number of them of the fruits of their personal accomplishments simply because they belonged to a group whose existence had nothing to do with their success. How does that differ from the old-fashioned racism that black Americans endured, except that the color of the victims has changed?
I doubt that the hostess bears personal animus against Asians, but she must think that other people do and that appealing to their baser instincts is an effective way to defend the liberal position on race. If liberals truly detest bigotry in all of its forms, should they be so comfortable about exploiting the bigotry of others?
The other claim that caught my attention was that, if Martin Luther King, Jr. could have heard President Bush's speech last week in favor of unbiased admissions policies, he would have been disappointed with "the content of the President's character". It was taken for granted that no one can decently dissent from liberal views on the proper role of race in American life. Only weakness of character can lead someone to discount skin color in favor of individual merit.
Debate about practices like Affirmative Action is not likely to be useful so long as liberals refuse to accept that the other side is arguing in good faith, rather than rationalizing unreconstructed racism – and remain blind to the extent to which racism has become part and parcel of their own ideology.
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January 11, 2003
Ben Jonson, appointed by James I in 1616, was the first Poet Laureate. One wonders what Ben would have thought of the honor had he known that his 21st century successor would be a doggerel writer named Andrew Motion (probably pronounced "Mutton") whose most recent opus reads:
They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
our straighter talk is drownéd but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad.
"Causa Belli" has deservedly attracted a deluge of parodies, as well as Mark Steyn's aperçu into how such stuff comes to be put down on paper. Virtually all of these readers have, however, committed a fundamental error in construing the text. Because it appeared in the idiotarian Guardian newspaper, they conceive it to be an attack on American foreign policy. That any passage in The Guardian, including the sports page, is intended by the editors to attack the Great Satan Uncle Sam is a reasonable guess, but in this instance, as I shall demonstrate, utilizing my well-honed skills as a literary deconstructionist, the guess is wrong. In the manner of oppressed writers under those regimes that Guardian editors admire, Mr. Motion has slipped past the commissars of left-wing orthodoxy an ironic and subversive send-up of the anti-war mentality.
To begin with the title: The Guardian hacks doubtless thought that "causa belli" was the same as "casus belli" ("pretext for war"), but it is not. "Causa" (ablative case) with the genitive is a commonplace Latin construction, meaning "for the sake of", "on account of", "in the cause of". In his first two words, the poet declares that his purpose is to demonstrate why "the war", which from the exterior context we can safely take to be the prospective war against the Iraqi dictatorship, is a cause to be promoted. The title could be ironic, of course, but we shall see that it accurately describes the matter of the poem.
"They read good books, and quote": Who are "they"? The one "fact" that the entire bien pensant world knows about George W. Bush and his co-conspirators is that they do not read, much less "read good books", certainly not books that subscribers to The Guardian would label "good". "They" must be leftish intellectuals, to whom reading and quoting are an incessant occupation.
"but never learn/ a language other than the scream of rocket-burn": The poet unloads his blast at the good-book reading quoters: For all their intellectual pretensions, they are incapable of responding to rational argument. The only "language" that persuades them (that they "learn") is force, which they so much admire when practiced by Stalin or Mao or Ho Chi Minh or Osama bin Laden or Yasir Arafat and so greatly fear in the hands of Messrs. Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell (not to mention Sharon).
"our straighter talk": Who speaks the second couplet? It is, I perceive, a reply to the first. The opening couplet's "they" rise up to defend their "talk". The surface meaning, the one designed to fool The Guardian, is that left-wingers have "straight" and "ironclad" objections to the American war policy, objections summarized by a list of headnotes for anti-war clichés. Beneath the banal surface, though, lurks an ironic self-rebuke.
The rebuke begins with the adjective "straighter". There is nothing "straight", in the ordinary sense, about the rapidly summarized anti-war shibbolets. They are, one and all, products of political, economic and Freudian conspiracy theories that are not considered simple and straightforward by their own proponents. Therefore, we should look for a more pertinent referent for "straighter".
We find one in the career of Michael Straight, one-time editor of The New Republic, who confessed in old age that he had worked as an agent for the Soviet Union in the early years of the Cold War. The speakers are disclosing that their talk is "straighter" – more supportive of a hideous despotism – than Straight's procommunist deeds.
"is drownéd": "Ah, yes, suppressed by Bush-Blair fascists," the Guardian editor sniffs without a second thought. The reader, who knows how widely the British press trumpets anti-war tirades, may take away a different set of ideas. On one level, he will see portrayed the self-pity of the Left. The second level emerges when one combines these words with –
"but ironclad": "Drownéd but ironclad": The image is an obsolete, unseaworthy vessel, sunk beneath the waves, while its designer insists plaintively, "But she is ironclad". He overlooks the problem that being impervious (as the leftists' minds are to argument) doesn't matter if your "straighter talk" can't float on the waves of reason. The archaic "drownéd", the accent not marked in the text (presumably to avoid tipping off the Guardian editor) but compelled by the meter, reinforces the message.
"elections, money, empire, oil and Dad": The concluding line is a cascade of keywords for all of the favorite pro-Saddam fatuities; running them off like this displays their lack of substance. It also encourages the reader to confront their ambiguity. "Elections", for instance, might call to mind more than the Däubler-Gmelin slur about how the Hitler-like Bush is employing war to fool the voters; it also reminds us that Iraq has no voters who can express their preferences freely, that the American "empire's" goal is to install democracy in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. A Guardian editor, for whom "democracy" simply means the triumph of socialism by whatever means, will miss the point.
I conclude, then, that Andrew Motion has, in four concededly unpoetic lines, encapsulated the case against the anti-war, pro-Islamofascist Left. Mr. Motion once edited the letters of the notoriously right-wing Philip Larkin. It appears that the Larkin influence has lived beyond the grave.
Update, 1/14/03: Dave F. from Capetown, South Africa, offers this additional insight into Mr. "Motion's" multifaceted work:
I think your admirable exegesis has missed, as it were, a trick. Motion's name itself is not just mutton dressed as lamb, but a cunning corruption of "Motian". It refers, I believe, to the iconoclastic jazz drummer Paul Motian, a leading exponent of "free-form", whose angry outbursts have enlivened many an album. Thus "Motion" summons the beat of war drums.
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January 9, 2002
The centerpiece of President Bush's tax proposal is eliminating double taxation of corporate profits, an idea whose merits in economics and equity have attracted Presidents as unlike as Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter (Bruce Bartlett, "Jimmy Liked It, Too"). The concept is marvelously simple, but in taxation as in war, everything is simple and the simplest things are difficult.
The Bush plan, similar to one drafted for Bush père by a team that included current White House economic advisor Glenn Hubbard, represents a purist's approach. The objective is to keep profits from being taxed twice and nothing more. In particular, the plan has no bias in favor of or against paying the profits out as dividends rather than reinvesting them in the corporation. For those who have not been following the details, here is an outline of how it would work:
At present, corporations keep track of their "earnings and profits", which can be approximately defined as income before taxes. Distributions to shareholders reduce the E&P account and are taxed as dividends. Distributions that exceed accumulated earnings and profits are considered to be a return of capital and are not immediately taxed. Instead, the amount distributed reduces the shareholder's tax cost basis in his stock. When the stock is sold, the seller's capital gain or loss is the difference between the sales proceeds and his basis.
If the President's proposal becomes law, corporations will have another notional account to maintain. It will be credited with earnings and profits that have been fully subject to federal income tax (a figure that, for multitudinous reasons, is typically less than total earnings and profits) and reduced by dividend distributions. So long as dividends do not exceed the account balance, they will be tax-free to the recipients. Those that exceed the fully taxed income balance will be taxable. The effect is that corporate income shielded from taxation by tax shelters will eventually be taxed to shareholders, while unsheltered income is taxed to the corporation. In either case, there will be only one level of tax. A corollary is that corporate tax shelters will lose much of their point.
What about fully taxed income that is not distributed? Each year the corporation will determine the amount of undistributed income allocable to each shareholder and report it to him as an increase in the tax cost basis of his stock. Thus reinvested dividends will not increase taxable capital gains (or reduce semi-deductible capital losses) upon disposition. Again, there will be only one level of tax.
Here is a simple example: In 2003 Instapundit Inc. goes public (about time, say I), selling 1,000,000 shares at $10 each. Earnings and profits for the year are $500,000, of which $400,000 is fully taxed and $100,000 is sheltered through clever tax strategies. The fully taxed income account is now $400,000. Instapundit pays a dividend of 20¢ a share ($200,000) and reinvests the rest of its profit.
Let's now look at stockholder Tim Blair, who snapped up 10,000 shares at the offering price. Tim receives $2,000 in dividends without tax liability. (We have turned him into a U.S. citizen for the sake of this example; no offense intended.) In addition, he receives a statement from Instapundit telling him that his tax cost basis has increased by 20¢ a share, from $10.00 to $10.20. If Tim now sells his entire holding, his taxable gain will be $2,000 less than under prior law.
The information released so far about the proposal leaves one big gap: It does not eliminate double taxation when stock is held by tax-exempt retirement plans or individual retirement accounts. Suppose that Tim bought his Instapundit shares through his IRA. The IRA is already exempt from taxation, so it doesn't gain any benefit from the receipt of tax-free dividends or from the increase in tax cost basis. When Tim withdraws funds from the account, however, he has to pay regular income tax on every penny. That means that he will wind up paying taxes on the Instapundit dividend and on the IRA's full capital gains, even though those items would be tax-free if he had made the investment personally rather than through his IRA.
This anomaly can be corrected readily for IRA's and defined contribution plans (like the familiar 401(k) plan) by giving participants a tax cost basis in their accounts equal to the amounts that would have been excluded from tax if received directly. In our example, Tim would get basis of $4,000 in his IRA and therefore would be able to withdraw $4,000 tax-free (subject to some complications that I won't get into here).
A correction for defined benefit pension plans is less intuitively obvious, since participants do not have individual accounts, and there is no feasible way to associate dividends or capital gains with specific benefit payments. The best course of action that I can devise is to allow the plan sponsor to deduct the excludible amounts on its own tax return.
All of these thoughts may be pure theory, for the conventional wisdom is already declaring the dividend exclusion not dead, but seriously wounded, on arrival. Commentators who are ideologically opposed to cutting taxes at all assure us that only a far more modest proposal is "politically possible". Maybe they're right, but George W. Bush has shown a talent for creating his own political possibilities that aren't what Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi and their friends want to see. With or without my modification, this is the third best Presidential tax package submitted in my lifetime (after the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts). We can hope that merit will in the end prevail.
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January 6, 2002
An economic stimulus package? Weren't we talking about that 13 months ago? Yes, indeed, and, when one looks back, it's startling to realize how much has changed in 13 months.
The 2002 package was a hodge-podge of demand stimulation and pump priming that ignored marginal tax rates and offered nothing to encourage capital investment. Except for the anomalous fact that it was approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives with the support of the Republican President, it was a classic Democratic measure. Luckily, Senator Daschle was determined that nothing put forward by George W. Bush would get through the Senate. He thus saved the President from a serious economic misstep.
Without the government's "help", the American economy went to work on its own and has just completed four consecutive quarters of moderate growth. The Wall Street Journal usefully summarized the record a few days ago. If the government remains equally quiescent this year, we can anticipate a steady acceleration of the recovery, both because success tends to build on success in post-recession periods and because a much larger tranche of EGTRRA tax reduction will take effect this year than last.
In the natural course of things, the 2004 election season will see a robust economy, with unemployment (a trailing indicator) dropping and stock prices moving higher – exactly what a President wishes for as he runs for reelection.
This positive picture has encouraged Mr. Bush, I think, to set aside the timidity that comes naturally to Republican politicians. Assuming that the preplanned leaks are correct, tomorrow he will present a set of stimulus proposals aimed less at spurring a short-term rebound than doing long-term good by removing a portion of the tax system's bias against investment. I'll save specific comments on his ideas until they are officially on the table. What is worth noting now is that the Administration is in an ideal position. If it wins the political battle, it gains reforms that are valuable in and of themselves. If it loses, the risk to the President's reelection prospects is minimal.
Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership acts as if it were following a script written by Karl Rove. By playing down the economy's current strength, it adds credibility to the argument that the President's package is needed now. Moreover, pessimistic appraisals in early 2003 will make the rebound look all the rosier when 2004 rolls around. The Democrats' own stimulus plans meanwhile are so insipid that they they seem like the work of mere grumblers. Assertions that we need to keep the federal budget deficit in check in order to restrain long-term interest rates – and that is the major element of the Democrats' reasoning – are starting to sound like real voodoo economics. During the past 12 months, deficit projections have risen steadily, while the yield on high-grade corporate bonds has fallen by over 125 basis points.
So the President has found a position from which he can win by winning and win by losing, even as his opponents reinforce his arguments and reduce their own to the crackpot level. How long before the media nickname him "Jiu-Jitsu George"?
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January 5, 2003
The readers of that invaluable site Little Green Footballs have given the first annual Fisk Award to a truly deserving recipient:
Mr. Carter serves as a perpetual reminder of the dangers of combining high ideals, good character and abject folly. We should remember, though, that his greatest contribution to undermining Western civilization, the 1994 agreement that allowed North Korea to press forward with its nuclear weapons program, would not have been possible without the active collaboration of a man on the opposite end of the moral spectrum: William Jefferson Clinton, who played the knave to Mr. Carter's fool.
The new year has scarcely begun, but already competition for next year's Fiskie is running hot and heavy. Senator Patty Murray, who made the Top Ten finalists for 2002, may be gearing up for a run at the 2003 honor. Senator Murray, you will recall, "explained" her praise of Osama bin Laden's eleemosynary works as her attempt to stir up "a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America's future". So now her home state Republican Party has asked her to continue the discussion, and she has fallen strangely silent. If she wins the Award, we might call her the "Trappist Fiskie".
The early front runner, however, has to be former Congressman Bob Edgar (D–Penn.), who is now general secretary of the National Council of Churches. Visiting Iraq on a Potemkin Tour, Mr. Edgar called for settling the disputes between the United States and Saddam Hussein through negotiation. "The U.S. and the Iraqi governments have worked together in the past and they could work together in the future," he opined. For those who can't figure out why that is a supremely idiotarian notion, Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal has taken the trouble to spell it out:
Huh?!! As Damian [Penney] observed, didn't that used to be a bad thing? The US is constantly condemned by opponents of this war for "working together" with Iraq in the past. We have no right to go to war with Saddam Hussein, they say. We made Saddam Hussein. We sent him weapons, we supported him against Iran, we probably even got his chemical weapons program going. We did all that when we "worked together in the past" with Iraq.
So what you're saying, Bob, is that instead of trying to prevent Hussein from acquiring a nuclear bomb, we should send him some of our spares? Instead of trying to shut down his chemical weapons facilities, we should send him aid to get them up and running again? Instead of trying to deny him the weapons that he has used against the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq and their ChildrenTM in the past, we should restock his shelves?!
Bob. Buddy. Saddam Hussein is not a misunderstood social democrat with an inept PR staff. He is a genocidal dictator. Genocidal dictators have seldom ever been interested in working together with other countries for the good of their people. Their primary focus is their own power and aggrandizement. And they certainly don't care even a little bit about what earnest western "Christians" say or do or think about anything. Except perhaps as comic relief.
But the year is still young, and the comic relief will, we may be sure, continue unabated.
Update, 1/6/03: It looks like Mr. Edgar will face tough competition from one of his fellow tourists, who is credited by The Washington Post with these thoughts:
Melvin G. Talbert, a United Methodist bishop who joined a similar mission just before the Persian Gulf War of 1991, said he was struck by the difference in [Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq] Aziz's tone. "This time he was much more cordial," Talbert said. "This time he was understanding of the importance of our being here. . . . He understood that the image of Iraq in our country is a negative one and we're here to put a positive spin on things."
The National Council of Churches: spin doctors for tyrants.
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