Man Without Qualities

Saturday, May 11, 2002

What Were the Media Smoking In That Gun?

Some people associate The Man Without Qualities with Enron matters, especially the skepticism expressed here regarding the evidence of accounting and related frauds in that case. That is fine.

There is also the quite separate matter of Enron’s role in the recent California energy crisis, a matter in which two memos from Enron’s attorneys Stoel Rives (there are two versions of this memo – one from December 6 and one from December 8) and Brobeck have caused some fuss in the media and the blogospere. The Man Without Qualities has not commented on these memos (or the earlier story about a request by an employee of ISO, the State-created energy network, to Enron that it hike prices in at least one case in order to deny profits to a third party), because I have simply not been able to take the fuss seriously. For example, as Arnold Kling has pointed out, any sensible person with even slight knowledge of how arbitrage works (a group of people that may be smaller than one thinks, since it omits Harvard President Larry Summers, who, well into his economics Professorship at that institution, publicly stated that he believed arbitrageurs had no legitimate role in the economy) who actually reads the memos should be left with the belief that the memos describe almost nothing but ordinary arbitrage moves decorated with silly names (Death Star, Fat Boy, etc). I agree with Mr. Kling. Almost any extensive further discussion is bound to become rant.

It is worth noting a few points to entice the reader to go look at the memos. As the reader may have learned from the media, one memo (the one by Stoel Rives) is supposedly much worse for Enron that the other memo. But even the Stoel memo – described as the worst kind of “smoking gun" by Enron’s critics, such as Paul Krugman - quotes one Enron trader as describing one strategy as the “oldest game in the book” and then goes on to observe that “interestingly, this strategy appears to benefit the reliability of the ISO grid!” Does that sound like a "smoking gun?" The Brobeck memo is much more sophisticated and does much to explain why the Enron tactics did not amount to serious infractions. As Matt Miller put it: “[E]xperts parsing the details [of the “shocking memos] in court will show these practices are largely legal and common, they'll never work as a basis for getting California's money back.” There is one big lesson to be learned from these memos: Do not hire an attorney who has judgment so bad as to use terms in a memo (even a "confidential memo”) he or she writes to you like “Death Star”, “Fat Boy”, etc. instead of more boring terms such as “Strategy 1”, “Strategy 2”, etc.

It is indeed curious how commentators such as Paul Krugman, and even good ones such as Matt Miller, can be moved to rely on complex “conspiracy” theories in connection with Enron. Mr. Krugman finds conspiracies among “energy companies.” He seems to be referring to more than just Enron, but can’t quite seem to find evidence for that other than some unspecified “circumstantial evidence.” Mr. Miller finds a very different conspiracy: “[T]he Bush administration continues a campaign of revenge on Golden State voters. … One insider tells me there's already talk that by disclosing those damning internal Enron memos, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is shrewdly scheming to leave California in the lurch yet again.”

The Man Without Qualities is never an easy fan of such complex “conspiracies” for reasons described in prior posts, and considers the easy acceptance of conspiracies to be a kind of pretentiousness which is a sign of neither intelligence nor mental health. Without rehearsing the points again, it is enough to say that such conspiracies are extremely hard and expensive to organize, maintain and keep secret, are very likely to be discovered, and have a huge downside if they are discovered. This means they are unlikely and should not be easily inferred for want of another explanation.

True, the releases of the memos have all the characteristics of actions taken by those with serious manipulative political agendas – and such people rarely wish to reveal all they know. But they are even more rarely involved in a complex conspiracy or near conspiracy, because those are a lot of work and hard to organize, and maintain, etc. It is one thing to release a document to the media because one thinks it will advance one’s agenda (that’s done every day and many political reporters rely on such “leaks” for their livings), it is quite another to enter into an agreement or understanding with others to coordinate their actions – especially where the conspiracy would require the cooperation of a great many “others” whose coordination requires the breach of laws, contracts or fiduciary obligations with a high likelihood of discovery.

Here, even Mr. Miller – by far the more rational and insightful of these two writers - at a minimum needs to posit a conspiracy involving the entire FERC (and its staff), and the President (presumably including many of his advisors, close and not-so-close). Does the conspiracy also include the California Republican Party? The California Republican Congressional delegation? How about the millions of California Republicans who had to pay those high rates? And all the sitting United States Attorneys and their assistants in California and Washington DC who are charged with rooting out such conspiracies? What about the bankruptcy judge who has jurisdiction over the Enron case, and the Federal District judge handling the Lerach civil action against Enron and Anderson and hordes of other defendants? Wouldn’t those judges have a right to know if the information they are receiving in their respective cases is false and being manipulated by a White House led “conspiracy.” Shouldn’t Mr. Lerach be adding the President and all the members of the FERC as civil defendants?

Mr. Paul Krugman, suffering a severe relapse into his propensity to see conspiracies in many places, says it “turns out that Enron was indeed rigging the markets, with schemes that had smart-alecky nicknames like Fat Boy, Death Star and Get Shorty. Who said business isn't fun?” Mr. Krugman does not even quote from the “smoking gun” memos other than the “smart-alecky nicknames,” which should alert his readers to the sad prospect that the memos don’t really contain very much to support Mr. Krugman’s thesis. If they did, Mr. Krugman would have included the “smoking gun” language in his column. (Perhaps one could rephrase the argument in elliptical Krugman-speak as something like: “My favorite Krugman assertion was that he had the ability to quote directly from the “smoking gun” memos to support his argument; and that it would have been profitable for him to do so, but he decided not to. That Paul Krugman must be a swell guy!”) Mr. Krugman’s column does not rise above the intellectual equivalent of a stuck-out-tongue. Why answer that in detail?

(0) comments


As noted here in earlier posts, the question of whether the rights expressed in the Second Amendment are to be considered binding on the States is not widely treated in the renewed learning in that area. That omission is understandable in some respects, since the question of the moment is whether the Amendment states an "individual" or "collective" right - a question technically independent of whether the Amendment should be "incorporated" (that is, made binding on the States). However, the Man Without Qualities suggests that it is a mistake to attempt to separate the discussions of these questions Moreover, although the research of Michael A. Bellesiles on eighteenth century America is now discredited, Bellesiles' depiction of a mid-to-late nineteenth century America deeply immersed in a "gun culture" that he and his school admit then enjoyed a firm hold provides vigorous support for finding that the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was adopted at the height of that nineteenth century gun culture Bellesiles establishes, would have considered the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms to be very fundamental indeed.

Unless the Second Amendment expresses a fundamental right, the courts will defer broadly to legislatures when they seek to curtail or "regulate" that right - even if the right is an "individual right." Under the incorporation doctrine, the federal courts only bind the States to "fundamental rights" found in the Constitution. So the question of whether the Second Amendment creates meaningful restrictions on the ability of any legislature (Congress or those of the States) to curtail or regulate "individual" Second Amendment rights is really inseparable from the question of whether those rights are "fundamental" and therefor made binding on the States through the incorporation doctrine.

Consider the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Emerson , which upheld the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting people subject to certain types of family law restraining orders from possessing guns. The defendant, Emerson, had been indicted under that law, but the lower (district) court had thrown out the indictment on the grounds that the law violated the fundamental right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that the Second Amendment does protect "individual rights," and articulated a "standard" for evaluating whether a particular law actually infringes that right, saying:

"The district court held that [the challenged law] was unconstitutionally overbroad because it allows second amendment rights to be infringed absent any express judicial finding that the person subject to the order posed a future danger. In other words, the [challenged law's] threshold for deprivation of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms is too low. Although, as we have held, the Second Amendment does protect individual rights, that does not mean that those rights may never be made subject to any limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country. Indeed, Emerson does not contend, and the district court did not hold, otherwise."

The district court had held that Second Amendment rights were "fundamental." The Fifth Circuit opinion seriously garbles this part of the analysis, which unfortunately makes that opinion very vulnerable. The Fifth Circuit standard will uphold laws that are "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions [on the Second Amendment] for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country." The last part of this standard ("and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country") seems to be make-weight language, because any law that is "not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country" does not need the benefit of an exception in the first place. So the Fifth Circuit's standard may be shortened to allow laws that are "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable." Is this the kind of standard that normally protects a "fundamental right?"

No. Federal courts do not normally permit restrictions on fundamental rights just because the restrictions are "narrow and reasonable." For example, under the Fifth Amendment Congress cannot validly enact a law requiring people to testify against themselves in criminal cases just because the law is limited to "reasonable and narrow" conditions - such as when nobody else witnessed the acts which constituted an alleged crime with which the defendant/witness is charged. And under the First Amendment a Congressional act restricting core political speech is not validated just because it is "reasonable and narrow." Even permissible restrictions on "commercial speech" have to pass a test far stricter than "reasonable and narrow." And any implicitly suggested similarity to Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" is misleading because the right created by that amendment is the right to be free of "unreasonable searches and seizures." In other words, the "reasonableness" standard is included in the Fourth Amendment right and language, not in the standard of protection given to the right. Nor does the Eighth Amendment permit "cruel and unusual punishment" just because the conditions of such punishment are "narrow and reasonable." Indeed, I am unaware of any precedent that would even uphold a Congressional attempt to remove the right to a federal civil jury trial solely on the grounds that the conditions of the removal were "reasonable and narrow" - and the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury trial is not even a fundamental right binding on the States.

A fundamental right cannot normally be constrained except where a very high test is met, along the lines of "compelling state interest." There is obviously no "compelling state interest" (or similar fact) supporting the law challenged in Emerson. So if the Second Amendment creates a "fundamental right to keep and bear arms," then the district court was almost certainly correct to overturn the indictment.

Does the Fifth Circuit accept that the Second Amendment creates a "fundamental right?" The Fifth Circuit's "narrow and reasonable" standard isn't much of a restraint. Not surprisingly, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court and upheld the federal statute challenged in that case, while giving every benefit of the doubt ("deferring") to Congress. None of this is very consistent with the existence of a "fundamental Second Amendment right." But while the Fifth Circuit's standard and behavior are inconsistent with the existence of a fundamental Second Amendment right, the Fifth Circuit's language is curiously hedged and confused on the subject. It says: "In other words, the [challenged law's] threshold for deprivation of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms is too low." Does this sentence just describe the district court approach, which the Fifth Circuit is rejecting? If so, then what's to be made of that too-clever-by-half bit: "Emerson does not contend, and the district court did not hold, otherwise"?

Simply put: The standard actually adopted by the Fifth Circuit implies that the Second Amendment is not a "fundamental right" and that its scope of protection is less than that of the Seventh Amendment right to a civil trial. It is almost inconceivable that imposition of this version of the Second Amendment could be justifiably imposed on the States through the incorporation doctrine, or that it would place meaningful restrictions on the federal government.

With a little more forethought the advocates of Second Amendment rights, especially the authors of the Fifth Circuit opinion, might have avoided these catastrophic results implicit in Emerson. The only description of the prohibited firearm Emerson allegedly possessed appearing in the Fifth Circuit case is: "Emerson on November 16, 1998, unlawfully possessed ... a firearm, a Beretta pistol." The opinion does not say that Emerson had introduced any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a Beretta pistol had some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. If no such evidence had been introduced, the Fifth Circuit could have expressly adopted the "individual rights" model of the Second Amendment, reversed the district court on those grounds - and not committed itself to a standard which essentially guts the very Second Amendment rights the fifth Circuit is attempting to establish. A reversal on those grounds was exactly what the Supreme Court did in the Miller case, where the Supreme Court held: "In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense." So the Fifth Circuit may have missed an opportunity to obtain exactly the result they desired while parrotting the very case Second Amendment critics often cite.

(0) comments

Friday, May 10, 2002

Exercising A Second Amendment Right to Remain Silent?

Professor Eugene Volokh has committed a fine article regarding the Second Amendment to I have submitted the following letter to regarding that article. The letter will appear or not in the applied judgment of the Journal editors, presumably James Taranto, as follows:

"Professor Volokh's interesting article is disappointingly silent on a question which is key to understanding how big an impact judicial recognition of the Second Amendment as an individual right would have: would such a right be binding on the States through the so-called "incorporation doctrine." Professor Volokh's argument suggests that the right - as he conceives it - WOULD bind the States. He equates the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" with the "the right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures" or "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." These latter two rights have long been held to constitute "fundamental rights" which bind the States (as well as the Federal Government) under the incorporation doctrine. In contrast, Professor Volokh does not suggest that Second Amendment rights are more like the individual right to a civil jury created by the Seventh Amendment, which bind ONLY the Federal government. The differences would be immense, both practically and from the standpoint of Constitutional theory. Professor Volokh notes that the severe gun control statutes of the District of Columbia might be inconsistent with this renewed view of the Second Amendment. Fine. But the laws of the District are FEDERAL laws - so no decision as to applicability of incorporation doctrine is needed in that case. But what of the restrictive gun control laws of, say, New York City? Does the Second Amendment require that New York's gun control laws pass scrutiny for potential conflict with a "fundamental right to bear arms?" Perhaps they should - but New Yorkers would probably want to know. With respect to Federalism, can it be that somehow in the excitement of Reconstruction, the Republic imposed the Second Amendment on the States through principles contained in the Fourteenth Amendment - the source of the "incorporation doctrine"? Such a holding would be as big an act of judicial activism as anything perpetrated by the Warren or Burger Courts. Such an act may or may not be justified. But it definitely needs to be discussed and examined."

(0) comments

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Who Were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison?

Chris Mooney of Idea Log thinks the United States Constitution is "Godless":

"Idea Log knows full well that Jefferson was no atheist. Nor is the argument that we should ignore those famous lines in the Declaration of Independence -- "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Nevertheless, around now it's crucial to remember that the U.S. Constitution, the binding document of our government, is a markedly secular text that explicitly prohibits religious tests for public office. That's because men like Jefferson and James Madison, two central figures in the founding, were very concerned with preserving the separation of church and state in the new nation."

Thomas Jefferson was undoubtedly a political genius of the highest order - and he had a lot to do with the Declaration of Independence, the reconstruction of the laws of Virginia following the Revolution and many other important things in American history. So Mr. Mooney it is not wrong to describe him as a central figure in "the founding."

But Jefferson was not a central figure in the writing of the original Constitution of the United States for the simple reason that he was living in France while that drafting job was in progress in Philadelphia. In fact, he had intense - and obviously correct – concern that the original (Pre-Bill of Rights) Constitution was perfectly compatible with broad involvement of the central government in religious affairs. That is, Jefferson was convinced that the original Constitution was anything but Godless. His concern is one of the big reasons Jefferson insisted on adding a Bill of Rights. As Jefferson wrote to Madison in 1788:

"The general voice from north to south... calls for a bill of rights. It seems pretty generally understood that this should go to juries, habeas corpus, standing armies, printing, religion and monopolies. I conceive there may be difficulty in finding general modifications of these suited to the habits of all the States. But if such cannot be found, then it is better to establish trials by jury, the right of habeas corpus, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, in all cases, and to abolish standing armies in time of peace, and monopolies in all cases, than not to do it in any. The few cases wherein these things may do evil cannot be weighed against the multitude wherein the want of them will do evil."

Jefferson's letter above (and the linked site includes many more such Jeffersonian concerns) makes clear that anyone like Mr. Mooney or Isaac Kramnick (author of a book Mr. Mooney cites as discerning a "Godless Constitution") who purports to find the original Constitution "Godless" will have to contend with the strong disagreement of Mr. Jefferson. Focusing on the original Constitution's prohibition of religious tests for office - as Mr. Mooney does - is just silly. Any reasonable interpretation of the Commerce Clause, for example, would permit Congress to ban Catholic religious figures from "interstate commerce," whatever scope is given to that concept. Jefferson, Madison and the other advocates of the Bill of Rights saw that clearly. Lots of people did at the time – and they didn’t like it one bit. The absence of a Bill of Rights - especially in the area of religion - became a major popular obstruction to the adoption of the Constitution. The proponents of the Constitution eventually promised that a Bill of Rights - especially a guaranty of religious rights - would be added. And it was.

So, if we have a "Godless" Constitution from the time of Mr. Jefferson, it must have been the Bill of Rights that killed God off - specifically, it must have been the First Amendment that killed God off. This assassination is unlikely, to say the least, since the structure of the Jefferson-Madison approach to individual liberties depended on the existence of "natural rights of man" (including religious rights) that God created and included in a divine plan which legislatures were prohibited by God from modifying. That is, in the Jefferson-Madison approach, the Bill of Rights and natural rights generally reflect the plan of a universal God. It's not that hard to locate plentiful evidence of this. For example, Madison drafted the Bill of Rights, and he had previously written his "Memorial and Remonstrance" in 1785, which opposed a bill in the General Assembly of Virginia to impose a tax to support Christian teachers. That bill was defeated and in 1786 the legislature instead enacted Jefferson's "Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Liberty." Jefferson’s bill is in many ways the precursor to the First Amendment. It reads in part:

"Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations ... are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion ... that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right...

"Be it therefore enacted ... That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

"And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no powers equal to our own and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."

We are to believe that this Bill reflects the theory - and its authors are the men – that supposedly eliminated God from the Constitution through their Bill of Rights? The reader may decide for herself.

Madison and Jefferson WERE opposed to the idea that the United States was founded on Christianity. Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance" is very specific about that. It is also worth noting that Jefferson was not a Christian, although he regarded Christ as a sublime philosopher. But, then, so did Mohammed.

It is not necessary to base a theory of "natural law" on the existence of God – but it is possible to do so. Writings such as those quoted above make clear that both Jefferson and Madison did exactly that. Their writings and religious and political thinking all reflect that choice. Messrs. Mooney and Kramnick apparently don't like everything they find in the Jefferson-Madison mix. But that is the mix that forms the foundation of this Republic. And it is anything but “Godless.”

(0) comments

What Makes People Poor

There is an excellent article on Tech Central about Peter Bauer, the rare "development" economist who really cared about why some countries were not developed and what outsiders could do to help fix that.

Clue: The World Bank, the United Nations and almost all academic economists had and have it mostly all wrong. How do those people sleep at night?

(0) comments

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

What Was Pim Fortuyn?

The Times of London reports:

"Fortuyn and his allies developed a critique of the establishment notably different from those pioneered by the politicians with whom he has been compared, Jörg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Fortuyn was uncompromisingly neo-liberal. An advocate of laxer rules on euthanasia, greater drugs liberalisation, more use of the private sector in healthcare and tax cuts, he was very far from Le Pen’s hearthland politics of Vichyiste nostalgia. He may have been a “cultural protectionist” like Le Pen. But the culture he wished to protect was the Dutch libertarianism so familiar to many Britons from their weekends in Amsterdam, so congenial to him as a gay man, and so threatened, he claimed, by the incursions of Islam.

Mr. Fortuyn's own garish application of his basic political beliefs in the area of immigration politics may distract us from the nature of those basic beliefs, perhaps as it distracted him. It just seems wrong to say that Mr. Fortuyn was mostly interested in protecting anything as familiar as the Dutch libertarianism (really libertinism) one finds on the streets of Amsterdam, although that may have been where his thinking began. His advocacy of "more use of the private sector in healthcare and tax cuts" is particularly intriguing, and not at all reflective of someone who wants to "protect" any current way in Europe. Is it possible that Pim Fortuyn represented something much more threatening than the "Far Right Wing Activist" the European mainstream press and political establishment has labeled (and libeled) him to be?

"Laxer rules on euthanasia, greater drugs liberalisation, more use of the private sector in healthcare and tax cuts?" Is it possible Mr. Fortuyn's thinking represented the beginnings of a popular, imperfect groping for some form of a true European libertarianism, one that placed much more emphasis on the individual than do current and familiar Amsterdam collectivism or libertinism? If so, what a pity he got sidetracked into his strange brand of xenophobia.

(0) comments

The Vagrant Amendment II:
My Amendment Godfrey

The Justice Department recognizes the Second Amendment as an individual right and the people rejoioce!

Fitting, very fitting. The Federal Courts should get out of the business of reading pieces of the Bill of Rights out of the Constitution.

But will it mean a whole lot if the Second Amendment is not found to express a fundamental right binding on the States through the "incorporation doctrine?"
(0) comments

What Europe Can Teach Uncle Sam IV:
Productivity Equals Growth?

According to the New York Times, United States productivity soared at an annualized rate of 8.6 percent annual rate in the January-March period, following a strong 5.5 percent growth rate in the previous quarter. Short term productivity changes like this have more to do with employment decisions than technologically driven work enhancement. In this reported period, for example, some of the productivity improvement was obtained just by firing "redundant" workers. The Times article does mention that employment curtailment was involved here, but makes no attempt to unpack the 8.6% figure - preferring to include boilerplate about how long term productivity increases make for lower inflation and higher growth. It does when other conditions are right. But European economic performance shows that the boilerplate is not always true. High structural employment is perfectly consistent with no overall growth and high worker productivity - at least by some measures of productivity.

(0) comments

Monday, May 06, 2002

Warren Buffet's Profession

At Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s annual meeting, Warren Buffet professed that he is convinced that an atomic bomb is going to be set off in the United States soon.

If Mr. Buffet is as convinced as he says he is, then he should be thinking in terms other than the possible amount his various insurance companies would have to pay out if, say, Manhattan and the million plus souls who call it home, are rendered into ash within the next few years. Mr. Buffet should try to actually do something to effectively and substantially reduce the chances that this horror will become a reality.

Mr. Buffet is a very practical person. The things that can be done practically generally fall into the categories of national INTELLIGENCE and DEFENSE. Mr. Buffet points out that the likelihood of atomic attack is tied to "envy and dislike" of the United States worldwide. A third category in which things might practically be done to address that problem – a category related closely to the second category and perhaps forming a part of it – is national OFFENSIVE MILITARY PREPAREDNESS, which might be used to deactivate governments cultivating such sentiments. It is hard to imagine a man as intelligent as Mr. Buffet thinking that any form of appeasement could achieve such a result. His profession should also make it obvious to him that people who culivate the "envy and dislike" of those who do well create mischief both at home and abroad, often unleashing forces they cannot contain.

Mr. Buffet should not be a member of the Democratic Party if he believes what he says he believes. For there is little doubt that the people in charge of the Democratic Party are at heart hostile to increasing the United States’ capabilities in even one of these areas in a meaningful way. Under the harsh glare of a Republican President attempting to build up these capabilities, Democrat leader can be expected to acquiesce grudgingly and to mount rear guard actions against such expenditures under the guise of “reform” such as this New York Times editorial, which contains not even an admission that expenditures and efforts substantially greater than those requested and obtained by the Clinton administration are - and were then - necessary.

Until recently Mr. Buffet was registered as a Republican. If he believes what he says and cares about the United States, he should again be one, and act like it. Otherwise, his statements to shareholders seem just intended to produce a flashy effect while trifling with a most serious topic and the fate of the United States. It is hard to see why someone of Mr. Buffet's substance would have any interest in such petty hypocrisy.
(0) comments

And If You Thought Things Were Getting Bad in Europe...

That's nothing compared to what's happening UP NORTH!
(0) comments

What Europe can Teach Uncle Sam III:
Whatever Happened To Sweden?

Instapundit points out this Yahoo! story reporting that Sweden is now poorer by many measures than Mississippi.

The Swedish study which is the subject of the Yahoo! article is interesting, although cross-border comparisions are notoriously difficult.

Separately, while the details are not clear from the Yahoo! summary, it is worth noting that the Swedish Research Institute of Trade that prepared the study and the Swedish newspaper article that reported the study seem to have broken out and emphasized the comparison of the relative economic positions of Swedes and African Americans. Why? The study and newspaper article were prepared in connection with an upcoming Swedish election. It's hard to believe that minor ironies arising from remembrances of Gunnar Myrdal can mean that much to a Swedish election. Does the comparision of Swedes and African Americans pack a political punch in Sweden that would be lacking in a non-racial, purely economic comparision?

The study says something about Swedish economic performance. The way the study has been reported and used may say something about some Swedes as human beings. That would be a larger and nastier Myrdal irony.

(0) comments

Enron Rises From the Grave: The Night of the Living Dead DEMOCRATS!

According to The Nation, the Enron mess - consigned to its grave these many weeks as a political issue for the Republicans, despite the best hopes of the Senator Daschle, Paul Krugman and others of similar inclination - RISES FROM THE DEAD TO DRAIN THE BLOOD OF MODERATE DEMOCRATS LIKE SENATOR LIEBERMAN ... AND EVEN DASCHLE HIMSELF!

What does this all mean for Herr Doktor Professor Albert Van Gore Helsing - and the Democratic Leadership Council generally?

Opening salvo from The Nation:

"If left-labor-liberal progressives had the cohesion and muscle of their right-wing opposites, they would be articulating a simple-to-understand litmus test for the Democratic Party--no "Enron Democrats" on the presidential ticket in 2004. That precondition would eliminate a number of presidential wannabes now mentioned by the Washington media's Great Mentioner. Scratch Senator Joe Lieberman. Forget the happy talk about Senate majority leader Tom Daschle's running for the White House. And Senator Joe Biden can stop daydreaming. These men--and perhaps some other would-be candidates--do not pass the Enron smell test."

After this relatively benign opening, The Nation really goes for the jugular!
(0) comments

The European Right Wing Just Isn't What or Where It Used to Be!

Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch "Right Wing" activist often compared to Le Pen was just murdered.

A recent BBC interviewer reported:

"Pim Fortuyn is gay, openly so and proud of it and this is crucial to understanding his politics. He fears that the influx of Muslim immigration into the Netherlands is undermining the ultra-liberal, permissive values which made his the first country in the world to fully legalise same-sex marriages. 'Muslims have a very bad attitude to homosexuality, they're very intolerant,' he says. Jabbing his finger aggressively."

It is indeed a curious sort of "Right Wing Activist" who opposes immigration to protect "ultra-liberalism, permissive values" and gay rights.

Interestingly, the thinking of neither Andrew Sullivan nor Eve Tushnet seems to have taken that particular hairpin turn.

(0) comments