Man Without Qualities


Saturday, September 28, 2002


Urban Legends of Pisa

According to a recently published history of science, Galileo never dropped weights of different sizes from Pisa's leaning tower to prove that objects fall at a rate independent of their weights; the weights were dropped by Aristoteleans hoping to prove Galileo wrong.

Snopes does not appear to take up the matter.

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Friday, September 27, 2002


Brian O'Connell Returns to the Blogoshere

... just shortly after the Apollo 12 booster was identified as re-entering the Earth's gravitational capture.

Coincidence?

UPDATE: Brian says this is questionable questioning! But I just say that it's our patriotic duty to ask questions and that makes us more patriotic than all you sheeple out there.

And I never said "space junk," anyway.
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Democracy, Liberal Democrat Style II

Mr. Gephardt makes it official. The Democratic Party holds that voters should not be involved in any campaign debate or process that might actually inform them of their representatives' views on war with Iraq and related topics.

Mr. Gephardt and his crowd could not be more wrong. WAR IS INHERENTLY POLITICAL. IT IS A COMPLETELY APPROPRIATE AND INEVITABLE CAMPAIGN ISSUE. If the Framers didn't think war was a political issue, why did they divide up the decisions involving war betwen the President and Congress?

If we and they thought that matters of war were matters of objective principle, the Constitution would assign the power to declare and wage war to the unelected Supreme Court.

But there is no chance that Mr. Gephardt crowd will succeed in removing the war from the campaign. In fact, even Mr. Gephardt's New York Times Op-Ed is itself obviously driven by an excruciatingly pure political fact reported on the front page of the very same edition of the Times: With six weeks to go until the midterm elections, Republicans appear to hold a slight edge in this year's fight for control of the House of Representatives.

Poor Mr. Gephardt. He probably won't get to be Speaker again this year. Boo, hoo. (Mr. Gephardt can take comfort from the Note's opinion that "Adam Clymer goes out on the limb big-time with this front-page New York Times lead.")


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That Kennedy Style

The WMD placed by the Soviet Union in Cuba posed no "immediate" threat to the United States - nobody thought the Soviet Union would use them right away and if they had remained in Cuba they would never have been used.

But John F. Kennedy saw the Soviet strategy for what it was, and blockaded Cuba "unilaterally." He did not act pursuant to United Nations authorization. No sensible person thought he had to, and no sensible person argued that this clear act of war against Cuba violated the United Nations Charter.

What a difference a brother makes.
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Al Gore's Continuing Descent Into Madness

Al Gore is now reported to be denouncing the Bush Administration for not acting on its pre-9-11 information:

"The warnings were there" before the attacks, Mr. Gore said. Mr. Gore's speech, which also accused the administration of running roughshod over civil liberties.

Of course, his argument seems to completely ignore that the intelligence services he is now criticizing are the same ones the Clinton-Gore Administration molded for the preceding eight years.

But the completeness of Mr. Gore's incoherence is most surely displayed in the way it neatly illustrates Dan Henninger's observation that "the same people who say the danger was obvious also say and write that we don't yet know enough about Iraq's military capabilities or intentions to act pre-emptively against Saddam Hussein." Just days ago, Mr. Gore asserted that any military action against Iraq now could "seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and weaken our ability to lead the world."

Gore and Henninger must be a vaudeville act, right? Henninger the straight man. Gore does Gracie?

As an amusing aside, Mr. Gore revived his old embarrassing campaign problem of asserting bizarre factoids which almost certainly will not check out once the inevitable investigative leg work is done by the media or Republican partisans:

Mr. Gore also said Mr. Bush's Justice Department and the FBI had spent more time and resources investigating a suspected brothel in New Orleans than monitoring bin Laden and his terrorist network. "Where is their sense of priorities?" Mr. Gore asked.

Where indeed.

And let's not forget:

Ironically, while Mr. Gore was escalating his attacks on the administration, former President Bill Clinton was planning to attend a Labor Party conference in Great Britain to help Prime Minister Tony Blair persuade skeptical party members to support Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush in taking military action against Iraq.

It is increasingly apparent how much Messrs. Gore and Clinton dislike each other. But is that any reason for Mr. Gore to ignore the caginess of the old silver fox?

Mr. Gore's statements are taken by some as a sure sign that he will run for the presidency in 2004. But really they are a sure sign that he should take Ms. McNeil's advice: "You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage." In fact, Mr. Gore's 2004 campaign song now seems obvious, and in the mean time I know just the song for Mr. Clinton to urge Mr. Gore to work on now:

Don't you love a farce; my fault I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want - sorry my dear
But where are the clowns - send in the clowns
Don't bother they're here


UPDATE: Only a few weeks ago the Man Without Qualities suggested:

Gee, if this recent progress against Iraq and al Qaeda keeps up, maybe the [New York] Times will begin to suspect that the United States is not only the world's only superpower - but it can whistle and walk at the same time, too! Don't laugh. It could happen!

And while the scales have not yet fallen from the eyes of the New York Times, an astute reader e-mails that the Associated Press reports that Bill Clinton said:

"I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. That is, I think we can turn up the heat on Iraq and retain our focus on terror."

Is Mr. Gore listening? Or is he still too busy trying to get his nose to honk?



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Awesome, Sensational Dreck!

Shouldn't be missed. Worth the extra time and then some.

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Thursday, September 26, 2002


Simon and Davis

The Man Without Qualities has for some time believed that reports of Gray Davis' inevitable triumph over Bill Simon have been greatly exaggerated, and, frankly, amateurish. I therefore cheerfully welcome signs that the Wall Street Journal now seems to agree, as indicated in these excerpts from an editorial in today's Journal:

California Governor Gray Davis signed a bill mandating paid family leave this week, just as a new survey of executives rated the state's "business climate" the worst in the nation. Consider these two more signs that Republican challenger Bill Simon still has a chance to beat Mr. Davis next month.

....


The paid leave law is a bonanza for unions that Mr. Davis wants to turn out to vote in November. It is, however, one more burden for business, which will have to finance this attempt to import European economic vigor. Current federal law mandates only unpaid leave and exempts companies employing fewer than 50 people; progressive Sacramento is sticking it to every Mom and Pop store in the state.

This is one more reason for job creators to leave what was once an entrepreneurial mecca. The recent survey, by Development Counsellors International, found that 57% of 283 executives rated California the worst state in the nation to locate a business.

....

It takes some doing to turn California into a business bust, considering its climate, resources and tremendous talent base of 35 million people. But the state's politicians have done it by piling ever more regulations and costs on employers. The state's workers' compensation system is out of control, with premiums rising as much as 120% this year. In February, as a payoff to trial lawyers, Mr. Davis signed a bill doubling workers' comp payouts.

All of which explains why Mr. Davis still faces a close re-election contest. California hasn't elected a Republican statewide since 1994, and the media long ago declared Mr. Simon a goner. But a new poll this week shows him within striking range at 40% to 32%, with one in five voters still undecided. This is bad news for an incumbent whose record voters know.

....

One recent [Davis] ad asserts that "a jury of 12 Californians ruled Simon's company defrauded its partner." That ad ran after a trial judge threw out the civil fraud jury verdict against Mr. Simon. The judge declared that Mr. Simon's company was the real victim of fraud and awarded it $125,000 in legal fees.

Mr. Simon is trying to refocus the debate on such trivia as the state's economic future. The Republican is proposing to slash the capital-gains tax -- which hits Silicon Valley hard -- curb lawsuits and workers' comp, and reform endangered species laws that punish agriculture. He also wants to expand cooperation with private contractors to rebuild the state's neglected roads. All of this is worth debating, along with a state budget deficit already expected to be at least $10 billion next year.

....

Watching the polls, the national GOP is finally saying it will throw as much as $2 million into the race. And Mr. Simon recently loaned his campaign $4 million. But that pales compared to the $31 million that Mr. Davis has in the bank, money raised from business on the promise that he'd veto the kind of onerous mandates he is now signing to save his career.

California voters tune into politics notoriously late, and many are clearly unimpressed with both candidates. The magnitude of the state's problems, Mr. Davis's enduring negatives and the fact that Mr. Simon can now run free of his legal problems means they may yet deliver an upset.


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Top 10 Reasons Not To Go To War With Iraq

The ever-thoughtful Cato Institute presents its Top Ten well-reasoned factors against war with Iraq.

The Man Without Qualities thinks war with Iraq is a necessary and beneficial thing, well worth the price.

But every citizen should weigh carefully the pros and cons of something as serious as a war. The President, the Republican Party, the conservative portion of the mainstream press and the right side of the Blogosphere have all done a very good job of explaining the reasons for invading Iraq.

But none of the liberal mainstream media, the Democratic Party or its "leaders" or (strikingly) the left side of the Blogosphere has been producing much other than jibberish in this area.

So it is worth pondering seriously what the Cato Institute has to say.

UPDATE: The Man Without Qualities is not impressed with Cato's points. For example, many of them are of the "Arab street" variety - which make no more sense now than they did in the case of Afghanistan. Here's an article from Arab News (sent by an astute reader) that pretty much blows that concern away.
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Democracy, Liberal Democrat Style

As discussed here in prior posts and by many other people in many other venues, Senator Daschle and the Democrats are complaining that the Republicans are "politicizing" the Iraq war question.

This Michael Kinsley article exhibits the other - simultaneous and entirely inconsistent - position the left is attempting: "Shouldn’t we all have a say in deciding whether our nation goes to war with Iraq?"

In a democracy, "the people" normally and mainly "have a say" through the campaign and election process.

But, of course, to the very dapper Senator Daschle that would be prohibited "politicization." Can't have that.

In sum: From the Democrat's perspective, the country can't go to war without everyone "having a say" - and we can't let people "have a say" because that would mean bringing the war up as a campaign issue, which is "politicization."

Conclusion: No war possible. Got that? An algebra problem.

Isn't that tidy?

The only thing the Democrats leave out is the reality of all those dead people on September 11 - and the great many more dead people we can look forward to if Saddam and his kind continue to go unaddressed.

UPDATE: The Star Tribune does one-half of the liberal algebra problem.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2002


Chimp Relations

Scientists reportedly now suspect that chimps and humans are not as closely related as once thought.

Where prior studies suggest that 98.5% of the human genetic code can also be found in the chimp, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says the true overlap may be only 95%.

These chimp/human overlap reports have always confused the Man Without Qualities. And it's not just that Jane Goodall's emotional and physical relationships with her chimps have always seemed - for my tastes - a little too close for comfort. (Does she know when she's got hold of an ugly one?). It's just that while it's is all very nice to say that the human and chimp genetic codes have a lot in common, it has always been my understanding that most of the human genetic code is not used at all - but has apparently been deactivated for a very long time. [Indeed, my memory is that in the course of a single, port-drenched dinner two Nobel Prize Winners (one a winner for monoclonal techniques and the other for cat brains) told me that.] Only a small part of the DNA in a human cell is therefore active in cell operations, and I have always assumed the same is true for chimps, too.

My confusion arises because I have never been able to determine from the popular media coverage (such as this linked article) if the "overlap" studies include comparisions of inactive genetic material. If the studies do include such comparisions, then why is it not possible that much of the active human code only overlaps with the inactive chimp code - and vice versa. Wouldn't that mean that a 95% (or 98.5%) "overlap" could be all but meaningless?

Or is the "overlap" implicitly restricted to the active portion of each genome - and that technical aspect of such reports just suppressed in the popular version? I must confess that I have never taken the time and effort to read an original paper. However, I have little doubt that a considerable portion of the readership of the Man Without Qualities curls up with their subscription copy of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from time to time. So perhaps one of them knows.

Just asking.

UPDATE: TurnedUpToEleven posts a remarkably transparent (given the technical nature of the material) and very enlightening explanation answering the above questions. TurnedUp also makes the telling point that humans appear to be at least as closely related to bonobos as to chimps! Take that, Jane Goodall!

FURTHER UPDATE: By the way, while I very much like TurnedUpToEleven's well-considered response to my post, it is worth noting the portion of that response that actually addresses my questions:

Dr. Britten suggests, based on his analysis of a few million base pairs of the genomes of chimps and humans (about 0.1%), that we may be off in our estimate, and that it is probably closer to 95%. As far as Mr. Musil's concern goes, this study does not distinguish between "useful" DNA and "junk". The best guess, however, is that there isn't going to be a difference, but that, if anything, the functional genes are probably more similar, because they are constrained by their function. That is, the gene that encodes for hemoglobin is more restricted than an equal sized region that does not encode a gene, because what ever changes that hemoglobin gene, its essential function must be preserved. So, it is most likely that the "junk" DNA is not identical, with all the functional genes varying, but rather the other way around. In this sense, the very close similarity between our "junk" and chimp "junk" is further evidence of our close evolutionary pairing.

I think that the "best guess" of a good scientist is worth a lot, and deserves a lot of respect. I also think that a "best guess" is a guess. Further, the proposition that functionality can be expected to constrain genome structure is appealing, as is the corresponding thought that "junk" portions of the genome should be able to drift more.

But if functionality were really so important to genome structure, it is a little odd that there is already a 95% overlap in genome structure even where one considers portions of the genome with no apparent functionality. And if the "junk" portion of the genome actually plays some ill-understood structural role in the genome itself (as TurnedUp suggests may be the case), then how do we know that such internal structural "functionality" does not impose more uniformity than is imposed by external "functionality." For example, if one builds a building out of bricks, the internal engineering funtionality of the walls will have a lot more to say about the ordering of the bricks than does the ultimate external function of the building - a fact which is apparent simply because the exact same building can function as a church or a disco. It seems to me that this kind of thing can only be answered by experiment. But I do not see anything in what has been discussed so far that prohibits a regime in which some simple internal structural role of "junk" DNA may be shared by many animals and cause the "junk" over time to assume a highly unified, definite, shared pattern in many genomes - but where relatively minor differences in external functionality cause vastly greater differences in "useful" DNA sequencing.

In the alternative, if the "junk" DNA represents once-functional DNA which has been superseded by later evolutionary developments, it seems that the "overlap" might be exaggerated in the "junk' portions of the genome. For example, if most of the "junk" comes from a period before chimps and humans evolutionarilly diverged, then all (or most) of the divergence will be reflected only in the "useful' portion of the genome. If that were the case, then studies that do not distinguish between "junk" and "useful" DNA might exaggerate the degree of evolutionary similarity.

Moreover, there are plenty of examples of biological systems that serve the same function but seem to have very different structures. For example, the mouse immune system and the human immune system serve the same "function." But the differences betwen the mouse immune system and the human immune system have demolished more than a few immunological theories. It doesn't seem to me to be much of a stretch to ask whether those differences are reflected at the genome level. Of course, primates have more and deeper "functionality" in common than do rodents and humans.

So, as Aaron Haspel observes, TurnedUp's post is convincing. It convinces me that my first question (Do the studies distinguish between the "junk" and "useful" portions of the genome?) has been definitively answered.(The studies do not distinguish). But my subsequent question (Does this mean the overlap percentage may not be very meaningful?) has not been answered, but does lie within the still-to-be-tested zone of a good scientist's good guess. Actually, several guesses. That's OK with me. Maybe that's what Aaron means by my being "set straight."

Aaron's "mapping fallacy" point is a generalization of the "junk/useful" question. I asked whether the "non-junk" overlap in the chimp and human genones is extensive (Answer: the evidence supports some best guesses that it is extensive - but that's not what these studies are actually saying.). But Aaron points out the danger of concluding too much from even an extensive overlap of the "useful" portions if it is confirmed, a point with which I strongly agree.


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But Watch Out For Buffy

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bill Bennett notes how Al Gore has consigned himself politically to the ranks of the walking dead with his Commonwealth Club speech:

Mr. Gore's speech reminds us that it really does matter who is president -- and that if he were president, the war against terrorism would be conducted in a radically different manner. Last September, Americans breathed a sigh of relief in reflecting on the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Now we have reason to be grateful once again that Al Gore is not the man in the White House, and never will be.

No member of the walking dead has ever so perfectly looked and sounded the part. Indeed, it is surely the role Mr. Gore was born to play! HIS TIME HAS COME ROUND AT LAST!
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Central Park Jogger

By the way, anybody not following The MinuteMan's continuing series on the Central Park Jogger case is making a mistake. It's the best. Here and here and here and here - and the links!
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Regime Change in the Senate?

You know the Democrats are really getting desperate when even the normally sensible ones in the bunch feel they have to start carping about the president's "legitimacy" (yes, yes, Florida again!) in efforts to stop the coming Iraq war.

I guess those rumors of the probable coming "regime change" in the Senate have a lot more to them than I had thought.

UPDATE: Some recent MSNBC/Zogby Poll tracking poll results show some interesting spreads.

Some examples:

Minnesota – Senate Republican Norm Coleman (47%) leads Incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone (41%)

Missiouri – Senate Democrat Jean Carnahan (48%) leads Republican Jim Talent (40%)

New Jersey – Senate Democrat Bob Torricelli (39%) leads Republican Douglas Forrester (34%) [Is Torricelli really as "endangered" as McAuliffe (nee Clinton) says?] [UPDATE: You bet he is!]

North Carolina – Senate Republican Elizabeth Dole (55%) leads Democrat Erskine Bowles (32%)!

South Dakota – Senate Democrat Tim Johnson (46%) leads Republican John Thune (43%)

lots more
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Starbucks as Starter Home

The Man Without Qualities has an Italian friend (well, actually, his family has lived in Turkey for almost 100 years in Istanbul's "Western Quarter" and he's considered a "Turk" on his American immigration papers, which he's really annoyed about - but that's another story) who denounces Starbucks' coffee as "Cheap, burnt, over-priced, over-roasted, undrinkable swill!"

But I point out to him - with apologies to Mr. Allen - that, yes, it is cheap, burnt, over-priced, over-roasted, undrinkable swill, of course, but as cheap, burnt, over-priced, over-roasted, undrinkable swill goes it's some of the very best! The Starbucks niche is a kind of "starter home" for serious coffee drinkers. After a while, once the exoticism of the espresso-based Starbucks drinks wears off, many Starbucks patrons will want to move further upscale and drink good espresso. They may even learn not to drink any kind of milk in their coffee after dinner and that a double espresso just before bedtime can help one to sleep (an old Italian trick)!

Of course, not every Starbucks patron will move upscale or want to. But the net effect should be more and better coffee and more and better coffee houses!
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Torricelli Flame-Out Casts Light on Daschle-Gore Crack Up

Senator Torricelli just doesn't get it. In fact, at least with respect to understanding his own ethics problems he appears to have lost it.

Curiously, the good Senator appears to retain his ability to recognize acts of political suicide by other Democrats:

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, who was trailing his Republican opponent badly in the polls, called Mr. Gore's speech "not relevant."

"I don't think it has any effect on Democrats' thinking at all," Mr. Torricelli said.


[Croooow Blog wonderfully demonstrates what an intellectual and political mess Mr. Gore has become.]

The symptoms of partial disassociation Senator Torricelli is manifesting seems to be shared by Senator Daschle, who is quoted in the same linked article as saying:

"A lot of people in this country have many of the same concerns that ... vice president [Gore] spoke about. But I think at the end of the day, there's an interest on the part of most Democratic senators to express support for the effort [in Iraq] and to give the president the benefit of the doubt. ...I must say, I was very chagrined that the vice president would go to a congressional district yesterday and make the assertion that they ought to vote for this particular Republican candidate because he was a war supporter, that he was bringing more support to the president than his opponent."

The Senator Majority Leader has now further expanded on his sentiments:

"So, Mr. President, it's not too late it end this politicization. It's not too late to forget the pollsters, forget the campaign fund-raisers, forget making accusations about how [un]interested in national security Democrats are ..."

Since the senior New Jersey Senator is exhibiting so much lucidity in the area of the Iraq war, perhaps someone might want to ask him how he thinks Senator Daschle is going to make his "Stop politicizing the War!" charge stick while the nation is receiving embarrassing transmissions from the Goreocosm [ click for a detailed rebuttal to the Goreocosm transmission] such as:

"In the immediate aftermath of September 11th," Mr. Gore said, "we had an enormous reservoir of good will and sympathy and shared resolve all over the world. That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world, not primarily about what the terrorist networks are going to do, but about what we're going to do."

With Mr. Gore intoning such things - and Senator Daschle treating them seriously and suggesting the rather obvious fact that a lot of other Democrats in Congress agree with Mr. Gore - how can Senator Daschle argue that a candidate's position on Iraq is not an important election issue?* Is it Senator Daschle's view that voters shouldn't be thinking about and voting about whether the country should go to war? Senator Daschle thinks that a candidate's telling the voters where the candidate (and an opponent) stands on the war issue is prohibited "politicization." Are the voters just supposed to find out the details of their representative's positions on waging war as a surprise after the election - like someone popping out of a cake at a wild party? If it were the case that Democrats support the war just as much as Republicans then Senator Daschle would likely be in the right - but that is not what he's saying. And it just isn't true. Of course, some Democrats think the President is right and clearly split with Mr. Gore. But astute observors think the bulk of Congressional Democrats agree with the bulk of Mr. Gore's complaints, for example. There are even hints of an "80/80 Rule": 80% of Congressional Democrats may support 80% of Mr. Gore's complaints. But it appears Senator Daschle urgently wants to hide that fact and its consequences from the voters. [ * Mr. Daschle was reminded that the particular Presidential quote to which he was objecting actually pertained to the Homeland Security Bill, not Iraq. Details, details - the Senate Majority Leader responded that he wasn't being that limited or picky in the basis for his assault on the President.]


Is that what Democracy means? What happened to all those Democrats calling for a "national debate" on war with Iraq? And what was the point of the "national debate" the Democrats have been demanding (even as they refused until recently to participate in such a debate) be if not to affect the composition of the decision-making bodies involved in determining whether and how such a war should be waged? If a particular Democratic candidate objects to being characterized as unsupportative of an Iraq war, then the candidate can just say to the media: "I support the President's position as much or more than my Republican opponent!" Of course, if that's not true, the Democrat has to choose between uttering a public lie and accepting accurate criticism. That's good.

Domestic issues are going to be a major feature of this election, as Mr. Gore is correct to point out and exploit. But efforts to take the war out of the campaign are at least as foolish as any delusion that domestic issues can be completely swamped by war issues. It all properly goes into the hopper, although some polling results suggest that most voters deem terrorism and national security to be more important issues than the economy:

Despite the stock market drops and a lackluster economy, the public sees terrorism as having a higher priority for the nation right now over the economy and jobs. By 55% to 33%, Americans say terrorism and national security, instead of the economy, should be the nation's higher priority.

So why the heck does Senator Daschle think that the set of issues deemed by the electorate to be the most important facing the country be excluded from the campaign debate? The calculated efforts of Congressional Democrats to suppress the war debate even while demanding that the debate must occur before military action is taken is having some strange results: 44% of polled voters (and a majority of Democrats) say members of Congress have not asked enough questions about President Bush's policy on Iraq, while one in five say they have asked too many questions. And to educate and satisfy the voters, there is no one better for a member of Congress to ask questions of than another, competing candidate for Congress.

The Man Without Qualities does not generally view Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal) as a constructive person. However, she certainly got it right in her NPR discussion:

"[W]e have all said to the president in order to build consensus in our country for a course of action, the American people have to know at what cost; at what cost in terms of human lives of our young people; at what cost in terms of dollars, especially if we go it alone--it could cost tens of billions of dollars; at what cost in the war against terrorism; and at what cost in terms of the length of an occupation of Iraq that may be necessary if, indeed, Saddam Hussein is toppled."

Ms. Pelosi is not just advocating a number-crunching exercise. She is correctly urging a political process to determine whether the voters and their representatives are in allignment in their considerations as to whether the costs of a war are acceptable. And an essential part of making sure that the voters' views are alligned with those of their representatives as to what constitutes an acceptable cost is to determine during the campaign whether a particular candidate in fact accepts the costs and supports war with Iraq. That's not "politicization" - that's democratic, representative self-government.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2002


TIME's Fool II

The Daily Howler (scrowl to bottom) now posts - finally a transcript copy! - Sandy Berger's bizarre, unexplained retraction of his TIME interview assertion that he handed over an anti-al Qaeda "plan" to the incoming Bush Adsministration:

BERGER: Now, the second question you asked—which comes off of the Time magazine story, I think—was there a plan that we turned over to the Bush administration during the transition? I could address that.

The transition, as you will recall, was condensed by virtue of the election in November. I was very focused on using the time that we had—I had been on the other side of a transition with General Scowcroft in 1992. But we used that time very efficiently to convey to my successor the most important information—what was going on and what situations they faced.

Number one among those was terrorism and Al Qaida. And I told that to my successor. She has acknowledged that publicly, so I’m not violating any private conversation. We briefed them fully on what we were doing—on what else was under consideration and what the threat was. I personally attended part of that briefing to emphasize how important that was. But there was no war plan that we turned over to the Bush administration during the transition. And the reports of that are just incorrect.


Now, of course, the question everyone is asking is "Will TIME run even one of those little corrections that hardly anyone reads? Or maybe it was always just a big joke, so there's no need?"

Croooow Blog also wants to know if Josh Marshall is planning an acknowledgment of error (or worse).

Link via Croooow Blog
__________________________________________________________

UPDATE: An astute reader points out that Eric Alterman also tippled in Mr. Berger's Cool Aid. Indeed, the Alterman column is still warm. No admissions yet.

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Monday, September 23, 2002


Clueless in Berlin

The Times of London reports that "a senior diplomat" (apparently, a senior German "diplomat") said:

“The Bush people are worried that the German resistance will prove to be a rallying point for other critical Europeans ahead of a possible war.”

"The German Resistance." Think of that choice of words from a "a senior diplomat."

This same Times of London article reports that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder "moved to repair an increasingly fraught relationship with the United States by sacking two senior politicians" : Ludwig Stiegler, head of the Social Democratic parliamentary grouping, who had compared Mr Bush to a Roman Emperor lording it over his colonies and Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Justice Minister, who compared Mr Bush with Adolf Hitler.

A Roman Emperor lording over colonies and Adolf Hitler. And now the irresponsible, opportunistic antics of Herr Schröder's campaign and continuing intransigence become "The German Resistance" to "a senior diplomat." Like the heroic French Resistance in the 1940's.

Herr Schröder! Number three for the sack!

Maybe President Bush should congratulate Herr Schröder by having Colin Powell send him some White Roses? After all, wouldn't it be diplomatic to condescend to the new government's offensive "German Resistance" delusion? Isn't that what one should do to abide those once admirable but who descend into senility? Somebody has to provide the responsible adult supervision - and it apparently isn't going to be Gerhard Schröder's crowd - including his "senior diplomats."
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Earthquake!

A 4.8 might be noticed in California. Might even make it to the happy talk local news.

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Sunday, September 22, 2002


Uber die Dummheit [Wieder, Mehr]

Associated Press is calling the German election for the Social Democrats.

German voters opt for de facto support of Saddam Hussein and a reduced chance of urgently needed economic reform. In particular, the smaller-government Free Democrats will be excluded from power entirely (of course, the antics of Juergen Moellemann show the dark side of even that party).

UPDATE: One gets the feeling that German elites have talked themselves into thinking that wide sweeping reforms are simply impermissible. The reasons are cultural. Individualistic Americans see government as "Uncle Sam"; the collectivist-oriented Germans, as "Vater Staat," or the paternal state. They are historical. Remember hyperinflation in the 1920s, if you wonder why Germans are risk-averse. Or the lethal fragmentation of Weimar, if you need to ask why Germans adore consensus and things like "Mitbestimmung" or co-determination, which allows unions a powerful voice in the ways companies are run. There's even the German character if you're reaching for an excuse. The poet Hoelderlin once mused about his fellow countrymen: "tatenarm und gedankenvoll" -- weak in deeds, but rich in thought. In the end, though, these excuses are mostly rubbish.

Wacky German "kulture," in the context of modern history, was seen as competing and inconsistent with, "civilization" (i.e. responsible Democracy). This fight between "kulture" and "civilization" was a hallmark of German politics for decades. The whole mess is nicely outlined in Paul Johnson's wonderful book "Modern Times".

“Uber die Dummheit” (“On Stupidity” - included here), a lecture that Musil delivered in Vienna in 1937 - note the date - deserves special attention for its relevance to this election and the german cultural and political experience. "Anyone, these days, who would have the audacity to talk about stupidity would be running serious risks: such audacity may actually be interpreted as arrogance, or, in a nutshell, as an attempt aimed at upsetting the development of our age." Particularly relevant is Musil's analysis of “the higher, pretentious form of stupidity” —the “real disease of culture,” in Musil’s opinion, which infiltrates even “the highest intellectual sphere” and has consequences throughout society. “The examples,” he dryly notes, “are pretty blatant.”

And they remain so today.

Parts of the essay sound as if they might have been taken from a Social Democrat strategy paper: "If stupidity did not resemble progress, talent, hope and improvement quite so perfectly, nobody would want to be stupid".

In particular, it looks like it's going to be a long, cold four years in US/German relations.

UPDATE: From a stock market's perspective, not every election contains real information. It seems this one did. But the real test will come in the near future.
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The Evil That Title IX Does

Title IX, of course, is the federal the law "prohibiting sex discrimination" in federally funded institutions. An already huge and growing body of evidence indicates that by any reasonable definition of 'discrimination" Title IX is likely the nation's largest single source of sex discrimination in college sports - as this this New York Times article again confirms.

The article describes male "walk ons" - male athletes who are not recruited for athletic scholarships - being turned away in droves because of Title IX-induced restrictions on their sports, even as women's teams scour their campuses for female "walk-ons".

It is hard to know what is more appalling here, the actual harm inflicted on these young men, or the unspeakably hostile, self-serving, insensitive and (of course) deeply sexist comments of the interviewed female coaches, including this pearl in which the chairwoman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's committee on women's athletics denigrates male walk-ons as people who never actually play but just want to be "part of the group" so they can talk about it years later:

"If you're not going to get your uniform dirty during games, you shouldn't be on the team," said McNeil, who is also the chairwoman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's committee on women's athletics. "I believe there is still an opportunity for a walk-on to bloom on our teams, but there has to be a cutoff date for those who just want to hang around. We can't afford it. It's time to tell these students: `You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage. Some guys just like to be part of the group. Then 10 years later they will talk about being on their college team, when the fact is they never played."

So, there has to be a cutoff date for those who just want to hang around. And it's just fine with Ms. McNeil if the "cut off date" for male athletes is the date the school decides not to recruit you before you even arrive on campus, but for female athletes the "cut of date" is the date of, say, graduation. For this comment alone, Ms. McNeil should be ejected from her position with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. But the problem is clearly much bigger than one such intensely myopic and bigoted thug. The problem goes all the way up to Congress and back to foolish voters.

UPDATE: The Man Without Qualities is always thrilled to be graced with a link from Overlawyered.com, one of my very favorite blogs. But it is not true that I am angry at Ms. McNeil, even as the call goes out from these quarters that she be ejected from her position with the National Collegiate Athletic Association as an intensely myopic and bigoted thug! I would no sooner get angry at Tony Soprano. But one expects people favoring a position for Tony as the chairman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's committee on women's athletics would be in short supply. And let's face it, it wouldn't just be because Tony is a guy. It's because he's an intensely myopic and bigoted thug. After all, someone who makes his point with pearls like "I'm the motherfucking fucking one who calls the shots" is no more or less desirable as the chair of such a committee than someone who who trills that "there has to be a cutoff date for those who just want to hang around. We can't afford it. It's time to tell these students: `You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage. Some guys just like to be part of the group. Then 10 years later they will talk about being on their college team, when the fact is they never played."

No, it's not that I'm angry with Ms. McNeil or people like her, it's just that there has to be a cutoff point for those who just want to hang around as chairpersons of committees like this saying embarrassing things that practically invite litigation, among other things. We can't afford it. It's time to tell these chairpersons: `You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the local newspaper, develop your skills (so strongly suggested by the tone of your remarks to the Times) for picking the exactly right New Jersey bridge abutment into which those who disagree with people like Tony can be entombed, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage (who knows, maybe you're a soprano!). Some people just like to be part of the committee, but they really just end up imposing their own thoughtless, unexamined biases through their official position. Then 10 years later they will talk about being on the committee and forging "progress", when the fact is they never really understood how much they used their powers to hurt the innocent young people they were supposed to be helping.

You know. I'm just trying to help Ms. McNeil find the position that's right for her so she can be HAPPY.

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