Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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This blog translated:


Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people.

Currently reading:

Songbook by Nick Hornby

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

You should read:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks

Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright

Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

Books written or edited by my professors (well, only the good ones)

Nick Barr

The Economics of the Welfare State

The Welfare State As Piggy Bank

Chris Dougherty

Introduction to Econometrics

David Gewanter

The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (ed. with Frank Bidart)

In the Belly

The Sleep of Reason

Meredith McKittrick

To Dwell Secure

John McNeill

The Human Web (with William H. McNeill)

Something New Under the Sun

Max-Stephan Schulze

Western Europe: Economic and Social Change Since 1945

Greater Blogtopia

Abu Aardvark
Across the Atlantic
Asparagus Pee
Bohemian Mama
Brazos de Dios Cantina Carl with a K
Chip Taylor
Conceptual Guerilla
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Dilettante's Guide to Life
Egotistical Whining
Enemy of the People
Equilibrismi ridanciani Fester's Place
Fleeting Impulse
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Grammar Police
Head Heeb
I Know What I Know Interesting by Association
Impolite Company
Internet Activism
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John Hoke
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Kick the Leftist
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Kieran Healy
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Loopy Librarian
Mark Maynard
Martin Stabe
More White Teeth
No More Mr. Nice Blog Notes on the Atrocities
Open Source Politics
Passenger Pachyderms
Peevish...I'm Just Saying
Politics and Policy
Quantum Skyline
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Risa Wechsler

Sha Ka Ree
Sick of Bush
Signifying Nothing
Something's Got to Break
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Vulgar Boatman
We Report... You Deride

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2004 ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac

"Everything to Everyone" by Barenaked Ladies

"In Between Evolution" by The Tragically Hip

"Phantom Planet" by Phantom Planet

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

"One Plus One Is One" by Badly Drawn Boy

"Sultans of Swing" by the Dire Straits

"Best of the Talking Heads" by the Talking Heads

How Shareholder Reforms Can Pay Foreign Policy Dividends, James Shinn, ed.

Weaving the Net, James Shinn, ed.

Fires Across the Water, James Shinn, ed.

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Monday, March 31, 2003

Well, it's the first afternoon and I'm already posting. There's not much to note, except a lot of anti-war graffiti all over the place. Most of it is just anti-war graffiti. Some of it is anti-Bush, and a few signs call for US boycotts. A surprising amount of it is in English. A lot of the graffiti seems to be in the same handwriting (I am not anything close to a trained graphologist). Almost none of it is anti-British or anti-Blair.

Well, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics, is going on vacation. Or more precisely, I, the proprietor of this blog, am going on vacation. (If I ever become seriously unable to separate the two, some sort of intervention will be necessary). I'll be travelling around Central Europe for the next two weeks. Irregular posting is expected, but not promised.

Sunday, March 30, 2003
The Robin Cook op-ed is here.

Throughout the day, the article has been roughly characterized as: "We were promised an easy war, things aren't going well, and therefore I want the British armed forces taken out of Iraq."

Which isn't quite accurate.

The article says all three of those things but doesn't give the causal relationship that critics have attributed to Cook, who has backtracked in interviews today, saying that his words have been misinterpreted and that he wants to see a British/US victory over Saddam now that the war has begun. Such a causal relationship - the idea that the war has gone worse than hoped and therefore should be called off - is clearly idiotic. Doing such a thing would clearly create a highly unhealthy public image of a bully who turns into a coward when challenged. And, simply put, things should be done because they are right, not because they are easy. Cook needs to be a little more careful with his words if he wants to maintain the same public esteem that accompanied his exit from the Cabinet.

Cook, more intelligently, did suggest that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz ought to have been 'embedded' along with the journalists in military units. I'm all for that - as long as Cook and Charles Kennedy go too.

Sic, sic iuvat ire sub umbras*

The CalPundit asks "Will Donald Rumsfeld fall on his sword?"

I'm a little skeptical, particularly if it's expected that he'll go voluntarily. Given his public persona, I just don't see it coming. Donald Rumsfeld isn't Robin Cook. Not even close.

As far as being, um, pushed on to his sword (et tu, Cheney?), well, that's a little more possible. Still, it's a little early to be making calls on that. If the war goes well in the end, Rumsfeld will be vindicated (more or less), and will probably be around until late 2004 and hopefully no longer. If the war goes badly, Rumsfeld might be pushed out, but there will probably be a delay of a few months to deny any clear ties between Iraq and his departure.

Still, there's not much of a history that I can recall of Cabinet members resigning voluntarily due to their policy failures as there is in Britain and other countries with parliamentary systems. Some secretaries have resigned due to allegations of illegal acts, some due to ill health, and some probably legitimately wanted to spend more time with their family or in the private sector. Cyrus Vance resigned in opposition to Carter's botched rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran (this is the closest parallel to Robin Cook that I can think of). Haig resigned/was fired in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon (there was a lot of mutual antipathy going on between Haig and the White House). Some have recently attributed Les Aspin's resignation to the Somalia debacle, though he was in ill health and died not long after leaving office. Other than that, I can't remember any examples. And I don't see Donald Rumsfeld becoming a trendsetter here (even if he should be).

*Serious bonus points to anyone who knows where this is from, without looking it up

One more random pointless question:

Does anyone know why daylight savings time begins a week earlier in Europe than in the U.S.?

The cookies in my computer have (accurately) tagged me as a British resident. Therefore, I mostly get British ads when I visit websites. Left in the West, though, found the following in the ads directed to Americans visiting this site:

The American Prospect
22 issues for only $19.95. Free gift with every order!

American Prospect
A subscription of 22 issues for only $29.95

Or, as the Montanan (?) asked, "are the gifts so bad it's worth paying $10 to avoid 'em?"

I'm currently writing a couple of papers on different topics (environmental regulation and local government, to be precise). And, laziness be damned, I decided to end them both with similar pleas that there are no panaceas to be found to the problems we face.

I'm increasingly convinced, for that matter, that there are no easy ways out, no panaceas, no cure-alls, for anything in life. Quite frankly, we're stuck doing the hard work. We're stuck slogging it out. Yes, some lucky schmuck may, well, get lucky, and get something that he thinks will solve all of his problems, but the fact is that it will just bring along new ones. There are no easy solutions to the big problems.

I fear that the President does not understand that. Given the recent foreign policy debacles (a war for all the wrong reasons), economic policy debacles (tax cuts ad nauseam) and domestic policy debacles (you can kiss some of your civil liberties goodbye). He seems stuck looking for the easy way out. Of course, I don't seem to understand this either, since I'm still using the same damn ending to my papers.

It's been reported that fleeing Iraqi civilians have fed hungry U.S. Marines.

On one hand, this kind of almost completely unexpected humanitarian aid warms the cockles of one's heart (um, cockles are in the heart, right?). On the other hand, it's a little disheartening that this was even necessary.

The Telegraph is reporting that Jacques Chirac is demanding to set up an international news channel, a la CNN or BBC, to present the news to the world with a French slant.

Besides the fact that it would clearly broadcast the news from a French perspective - from what I've seen, CNN and the BBC International tend to try to remain fairly distant from their home channels, though this leads to them repeating the same half-dozen stories all day - the channel is to be broadcast in French. And that might be a problem, since the lingua franca (pun slightly intended) of the world is not French, but English. Outside of France, French-speakers, even as a second language, are largely based in West Africa, where TVs aren't plentiful compared to the rest of the world, and where there's still a fair amount of post-colonial dislike for the French. That's not to say that no one outside of France or West Africa speaks French, only that it will be a definite handicap.

The Independent is reporting that Mohamed al-Fayed (the guy who owns Harrods, chairs Fulham FC, and was the father of Dodi Fayed) is leaving Britain for Switzerland, as a tax exile.


OK, so the season doesn't really get underway until tomorrow night, but it's still something.

And I'd guess it'll be about two weeks before Bud Selig does something spectacularly stupid that threatens to ruin the season again.

The Independent is reporting that Robin Cook, who resigned as Leader of the House of Commons (a semi-ceremonial position) just before the Commons vote on war in Iraq, has called for Britain to withdraw.

Ah, Britain

English football hooligans held a traditional riot last night in Zurich, in anticipation of their 2-0 victory over mighty Liechtenstein.

Saturday, March 29, 2003
Ok, now even Gary Hart has a blog. Or he's formed an exploratory blog. Or something like that.

The Telegraph is reporting that General Sir Mike Jackson, the senior soldier in the British army (which is a longevity thing, but is still something that carries a fair amount of publicity, though I don't think there are any formal responsibilities beyond holding endless press conferences and interviews) has called for an end to the fire brigade strikes.

CNN is reporting that a suicide car bombing killed 5 U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint this morning.

UPDATE: Now they're saying four were killed.

Tech related question:

I use a very old laptop (museum quality, I think). Every now and then, the OS just freezes up entirely, and I have to unplug the charging cord and the battery to turn it off so I can restart it. Other times, though, it just seems to freeze up, but when I unplug the charging cord and then plug it back in, everything's fine (the latter happened twice last night). Does anyone have any idea what the hell is going on?

I watched the BBC evening news last night, and they were in full panic mode, fretting over what had gone so wrong that the U.S. and Britain hadn't been able to wholly subdue the country in a week and a half ... I realize - sorry, realise - that things, no matter what is said publicly, haven't gone as well as was hoped - but it's a little early to be completely panicking.

As of today, I have been in Britain for exactly six months.

I have absolutely no idea what the significance of that is.

Friday, March 28, 2003
Remember how some among the anti-war movements thought that the U.S. was only launching a war against Iraq because it was a war that could be won easily?

Yeah, well, so much for that argument.

Two quick notes (disclaimer: like almost every other blogger, I am completely unqualified to offer advice on these issues):

1. I don't know if the U.S. Armed Forces have the capability to jam Iraqi radio and television signals. If they do (and one would think that it is likely), they really ought to be jamming the Iraqi TV and radio signals. I'm not saying that they need to replace them with pro-American propaganda (that might even backfire), but replacing it with some sitcom might help. Hell, just put on The Simpsons 24 hours a day and I'd surely watch that rather than the war.

2. Here's my idea for dealing with the fedayeen and moving forward: a limited-time amnesty. Just make it really clear that anyone who surrenders before the close of business on Sunday gets off scot-free (um, I know that there are some human rights violations that might present problems here) and anyone who doesn't gets handed over to the Iraqi population for show trials once the war is over. At best, huge amounts of the fedayeen will surrender. The next best possibility is that they'll turn on each other. And the worst case scenario would seem to be that nothing happens. Well, I think it might work.

UPDATE: Slightly-less-than-random association about this post. During the first Gulf War, a radio station broadcast in English from Iraq to the Allied armed forces. The woman on the air, nicknamed "Baghdad Betty" supposedly once, in an attempt to spur American GIs to despair, said: "While you're away, movie stars are taking your women. Robert Redford is dating your girlfriend. Tom Selleck is kissing your lady.... Bart Simpson is making love to your wife."

UPDATE to the UPDATE: A little fact-checking has shown that the story may actually be an urban legend, originally drawn from a joke in one of Johnny Carson's monologues.

Thursday, March 27, 2003
The Instapundit is reporting that the Canadian House of Commons has unanimously voted to hold a war crimes tribunal for Saddam Hussein. (the original article is here)

All of the dumb Canadian-bashers - Paul "I come from the Donald Rumsfeld school of diplomacy" Cellucci included - who think that a bunch of Habs fans booing the American national anthem taints the whole country can sit back down now.

Interestingly, they seem to be in favor of an international tribunal. If my memory serves me correctly, Canada has previously passed laws that theoretically give the courts jurisdiction over human rights crimes, no matter where they occur. Belgium has passed similar laws. There have been noises made there about trying George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon after they leave office (um, not that I think there's much chance of a trial, let alone a conviction, but there's no chance of any actual punishment occurring). I don't think that the Canadian law has ever been tested, though I seem to recall a trial balloon being floated on actually putting the law to use a couple of years ago (possibly over the Khmer Rouge, but my memory is very fuzzy about that).

Of course, the Liberals (who hold a wide majority in the Canadian Parliament) are considering expelling Cellucci). It's kind of the right idea, I suppose, just at the absolute worst time. Sporadic water and electricity shortages and TPing the embassy building might get the message across better, I think. But maybe I just haven't graduated from college yet. (via Ted Barlow, and for the love of god, do not scroll up)

UPDATE: Upon further review, I have not yet graduated. Which is probably just as well given the #$(*%&( job market right now.

UPDATE to the UPDATE: I think it's about time I give the (*#$&%#$ thing a rest for the day.

Left in the West receives e-mail updates from the Montana Republican Party (no, he's not one of them).

Anyhow, he found this in the most recent update: (btw, it's another @*$#(*@# broken Blogger link from today)

"The following is a first hand account of a soldier who fought in the first Gulf War. It is long and somewhat graphic, but presented least we forget that vial dictators still roam the earth who feed on the flesh of their own people and thrive and the slaying of innocent lives."

Er. I need some clarification ('vial' grammar aside). Is Saddam Hussein a vampire or just your average neighborhood cannibal?

Ah, Britain...

In 1999, most of the hereditary lords were ejected from the upper house of Parliament. 91 remained, along with 561 life peers, and assorted others (mostly bishops of the Anglican church). One of those 91 recently died.

Rather than pass his seat along to his heir, an election will be held to replace him, with only hereditary lords eligible for the seat. This is the first such election, though, as one of the 81 candidates noted:

"Statistically, some of the members are quite old. You never know - come a good cold snap in November, and there may be some more vacant seats."

UPDATE: Viscount Ullswater has been elected. I've never heard of him before, so you'll just have to rely on the article for the biographical information that you surely cannot wait one more second for.

OK, so I'm about the next to last to post this...

Sean-Paul of the Agonist is doing at least a good of job of live-posting on the news in Iraq as any of the major news sites.

Of course, like I'll keep harping on for a while, live news needs to be taken with a grain of salt (or a kilo or so, really). Plenty of stories have been amended as time goes on.

And while you're at it, go help sponsor his Silk Road trip so that he doesn't get stuck doing the live-news blogging thing ad infinitum.

Brad DeLong has a post up about why the Iraq campaign may appear to be getting bogged down ... apparently, Rumsfeld and the neocons thought that they could win the war with a handful of guys and a couple of guns, a la William Walker (a pro-slavery leader who actually briefly took over Nicaragua in the mid-1850's - against the will of the U.S. government, mind you).

Thus, a good chunk of the U.S. army and its weaponry sits at home, rather than serving as possible reinforcements for those who are currently doing the fighting. I realize that it is still quite early, and the current strategy may yet work, but this still appears to be a fairly idiotic mistake.

Tony Blair is dead! Long live Tony Blair!

OK, so I went on at length in a few posts during the run-up to the vote in Parliament arguing against articles that had argued that Tony Blair was going to be mortally wounded (metaphorically) by backing George W. Bush on Iraq. Or, at least, forced into a coalition with the Tories.

Now, barely a week into the campaign, and Newsweek has this article explaining how Blair has regained his popular standing with the British people.

Not to pull the man on the street thing, but I'm here and I'm not seeing it.

The idea that Blair was going to be seriously undermined by Iraq seemed a little idiotic. Except for the most vocal parts of the extreme left (Foot, Gilchrist, etc.), the popular attitude was one of opposition to Blair on Iraq, not Blair in general. Blair didn't lose a tremendous amount of voter support (popularity ratings here seem to be incredibly fickle and subject to far more variance than the actual public attitude) and there wasn't that much to be gained back. It seems that most of those people supporting Blair but not the war haven't changed their views much, just maybe the answers they give to those taking the polls.

Also, it is still quite early in the campaign, and the final result for Blair will undoubtedly be tied to how the public views the outcome of the war. This one week is not likely to have a permanent impact on his standing. Barring some major screwups (inside the Parliament or outside of it), there will not be a general election until 2006. There hasn't been an early election in Britain in almost 30 years, and I'm not particularly inclined to see one in the near future. The conspiracy theorists would have you believe that Gordon Brown won't wait until then to launch a leadership challenge, but I'm not quite convinced.


OK, so it's the @*(#$&# NIT, but we have to make the best of it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Be it resolved:

Whereas, a lot of the war reporting keeps getting retracted or amended in the hours and days following initial reports.

Whereas, initial reports coming from Iraq appear to be more unreliable than one would prefer.

Whereas, henceforth all analysis of said reports shall commence with the words "If true," or something else to indicate a similar understanding of the situation.



Well, the Talking Points Memo has a little good news up. Apparently the Turkish military has backed down from its recent statements, and has now said that it will only put troops in Northern Iraq in case of a severe crisis. As TPM points out, the fact that this statement was even necessary is, in itself, quite damning.

The CalPundit has a post worth reading on why he is anti-fundamentalist. On all sides.

Yeah, I'll join that party once it gets off the ground, too. I'm not holding my breath, though.

(oh, and by the way, I think that the term "mushy middle" was actually originated by Jonathan Alter, not Al Franken ... I seem to remember that Franken quoted Alter somewhere in Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot)

Peggy Noonan has an opinion piece in the Times. It is a tale full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

OK, so there's a few gramatical errors that neither she nor the editors at the Times should have ever allowed.

And she quotes Tom Clancy on military matters, stating that he is "a great respecter of the military and appreciator of Americans." I don't think that even George "Is our children learning?" Bush would have said that, let alone written it.

The Telegraph is reporting that Robert Mugabe is now comparing himself to Adolf Hitler.

Just out of curiosity, is there anything that he could do short of attempting the same type of genocide as his idol that would trigger a western response greater than sanctions?!?

The Guardian is reporting that Serbian police believe that they have caught the man who assassinated the Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, but there are concerns within Serbia that the crackdown against the underworld figures thought to have backed the assassination may be overreaching and causing civil liberties concerns.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
I'm in London for the year, not at Georgetown. Which is probably a good thing. Since they tested the 'campus alert' whistle today, it's been reported.

Yes, that's right. In case the terrorist bring death and destruction to the hilltop, a giant whistle will let us all of the Hoya students, faculty and staff be warned of their impending deaths. Well, we can then rush to the shelters where they've apparently stocked a few days provisions (never mind that the windows in my apartment last year wouldn't quite close all the way or that the campus gates are rarely all closed to vehicles simultaneously). I guess they decided it wasn't feasible to buy everyone shovels to dig their own trenches in case of an armed invasion.

Well, it's nice to know where that $37,000 each year goes.

CNN is reporting that an uprising may be going on in Basra.

To put it nicely, the U.S. needs to support this. Given how the U.S. undercut the Shiites in southern Iraq following the first Gulf War, failing to support them now would be horrendous for the future. The American military can probably still defeat Saddam's regime even if the uprising in Basra fails. But it will certainly damage the ability of the Americans to capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

Supporting the uprising is likely to be seriously risky, since it might involve significant urban combat. And I know that I won't be there fighting it, it's the blood of other individuals that will be shed. And I still believe that the U.S. must prove that it means to help Iraq be rid of Saddam Hussein, once and for all. No matter how badly it screwed up things the last time around.

This is just nauseating:

Sen. Dr. Frist (or Dr. Sen. Frist, as he may prefer) is trying, yet again, to push through legislation that would indemnify Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical producers against claims that Thimerosal, a mercury-based additive used in certain vaccines as an inactive ingredient, had caused autism in children. Statistical studies, have come to different conclusions as to whether thimerosal causes statistically significant amounts of damage. There is no consensus yet. Mercury is known to be quite toxic, and able to cause serious harm in large enough doses.

In sum, the Senate Majority Leader is seeking to push through a bill that would benefit Republican campaign contributors - and hurt Democratic campaign contributors - under the fog of war. In doing so, he sacrifice the ability of parents of autistic children to care for them. First, do no harm, eh?

The Times has an editorial worth reading on why expectations of a quick war in Iraq were misplaced, historically speaking.


Robert Fisk is making sense. (well, close enough) What the hell happened?

I've said it before, I'll say it again:

Bill Gates Sr. seems like such a decent and honorable guy. What the hell did he do to his kid?

Why the Bush economic plan won't work, no. 25 ... Budgetary shock and awe and war as an excuse for tax cuts. Deficits do have to be paid back eventually, something that the Bush administration and Congress appear to notunderstand. What a damn mess.

One way to explain it briefly is that tax cuts lead to higher deficits (no matter what the supply-sider yells, empirical studies, as I understand it, appear to show that any increase in revenue is likely to be insufficient to make up for the cuts). Higher deficits mean that the government has to sell off more bonds to pay for the debt. A higher supply of bonds is likely to drive up the interest rate (if demand is highly inflexible - inelastic, in economic terms - the change will be small, since people will be buying up as many of the bonds as the government can sell). Driving up the interest rate contracts the economy. Got all that?

Friday, March 21, 2003
I get stopped by tourists in London looking for directions fairly often (at least once a week). I don't really know why I seem to get picked out, but it's not a problem. The American tourists, though, seem regularly disappointed that I am an American, and that they haven't had a cross-cultural encounter with that rarest of specimens, an Englishman (sorry, Englishperson). I think I need to start using an English accent when asked for directions. Or Scottish, at least.

The Telegraph is reporting that Tony Blair was actually the main reason that Bush decided not to invade Iraq immediately in the aftermath of September 11th. The article is a little short on details and long on speculation, as it seems to have resulted primarily from leaks from British sources, and not any actual public record.

The Guardian is reporting that the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott - who has been the point man on the fire strikes - is preparing a bill to be submitted to the Commons that would allow him to impose a settlement in the sporadic fire brigades strikes. The Fire Brigades Union recently refused a 16% phased pay hike in return for reforms, and are reportedly considering replacing the leader of their union, Andy Gilchrist.

Thursday, March 20, 2003
Just a thought: Does the Church Committee Report - which, as I understand, may not actually be binding, though Ford did enact it as part of an executive order - make an attack on a foreign leader, such as last night's 'decapitation' attempt, illegal under U.S. law, or is that overrided by the war resolution?

There's no real chance of Bush ever getting tried for this (the necessary means to invoke the Church Committee may not even exist), but it still makes me curious. I really have no idea what the answer is, and would appreciate if someone with a hell of a lot more legal training than I have would let me know.

A BBC 4 Radio reporter embedded in an army group is reporting that the 'shock and awe' phase of bombing in Iraq has begun in the last few minutes.

I swung by Westminster on the way home (I had to change trains there, so I just got off en route), to get a look at the protests. Parliament Square, the one square-block open park across from Big Ben, was filled, just about to the brim, with protestors. The scene was a lot more excited and happy - more than one would expect for an anti-war protest. At Westminster, music was playing, a few were dancing, and a number were chanting "Bush and Blair, they don't care." There was no organized (sorry, organised) speaking going on. The police were carefully limiting the entry and exit points, and cars were completetly banned from the streets leading to the square. I'm not really going to offer any estimates of how large the group was. It was a complete contrast to the protests at LSE, which were much smaller, with speakers making speeches that fell just short of being apocalyptic.

BBC 4 Radio is running a report right now from a correspondent in Qatar. He's complaining about how America and Britain spent enormous sums of money on systems to provide information for the press, and now the correspondents are stuck waiting in the briefing room, lacking any official information from the armed forces. I didn't expect the press to get this whiny, this quickly.

UPDATE: The same reporter is reporting that the greatest danger to Qatar comes not from Iraqi missiles (a single Scud hit the country during the last Gulf War), but from 'hundreds of journalists fighting over any scrap of information available.'

Well, unless you slept in pretty late today, you'll know by now that the US launched the first strike of the war last night, in an attempt to get rid of Saddam Hussein. It failed, as did the Iraqi attempt at retaliation.

As for the planned massive sit-down strike at the LSE, well, that failed too, I suppose. The anti-war students started their rally around 10:30, with about 30 people in the audience (the school has about 3000 undergraduates, 3000 graduate students and about 1000 faculty, staff, and other assorted people who are always around). The students took turns making speeches, and were not particularly impressive (then again, they are college students, and by and large not trained public speakers). They were also drowned out by the jackhammering on an adjacent street, which didn't help. Since the numbers weren't too large, they marched to the library, and rallied there for a while, where one student urged those sitting and studying or writing e-mails to 'join the tens of thousands who have walked out, and join the majority, otherwise the blood is on your hands.' Then they marched back to where they had started. The numbers swelled to about 100 or so by 1:00. I think they're planning to march down Whitehall (and I mean literally down the street, traffic or not) around 4:30.

A few of the students made comparisons between Bush/Blair and Hitler, which is an easy way to alienate, well, people like me. There are clearly good reasons why many people oppose the war (and plenty of good reasons why people support the war as well). Name-calling and hyperbole is not a good reason to be in opposition, however. One student projected that the American-led offensive would kill 500,000 overall, and 7,000 each night, starting tonight. The number seemed, well, a little off. As Spinsanity pointed out, even Janeane Garofolo (one of the saner anti-war celebrities, by the way) said that 7,000 civilians were killed to date in the entire Afghanistan campaign. Other estimates have placed the number closer to 1,000-3,000. Now, it's probably safe to estimate that the civilian deaths will be more numerous than in Afghanistan if the US/UK/etc. forces are required to attack Baghdad - which is a densely populated metropolis, particularly compared to anything in Afghanistan. Barring the use of weapons of mass destruction, achieving such destruction would probably require the carpet bombing of civilian areas.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Some of the anti-war groups have promised to hold a massive rally and sit-down strike at 10 AM the day after war breaks out (or if war breaks out during school hours, immediately). They seem to be losing patience, however, since Easter vacation starts at the end of classes on Friday. So they decided to hold a rally today. It was scheduled for 10:30, but there weren't more than a dozen people out ready then, so they held off. I went to check my e-mail, and a little after 11:00, a guy came into the lab and made a passionate announcement opposing the war and stating that the rally would be leaving shortly. He got a sizeable round of applause, but only a couple of people actually left their computers. I got up a couple of minutes later, as they were just getting off to march down to Westminster (Parliament is a little less than a mile down the Strand and Whitehall from school). There were only about 50 or so people marching, less than I would have expected given the rhetoric, and that, well, LSE is sometimes referred to as the London School of Extremists. It's hard to tell whether people are just apathetic or waiting for the main event to start.

To whoever stumbled onto this site a few minutes ago, looking for statistics on adultery in Japan, I don't know where you should be looking, but it ain't here.

Jonathan Freedland has a column worth reading in the Guardian on why even those opposed to the war should hope for a speedy and bloodless victory for the American and British forces.


John Keegan also has a column in the Telegraph explaining why Bush's 48-hour ultimatum is pointless - it's not like there's anywhere for Saddam to go into exile to. He has no choice but to fight, really.

UPDATE: Well, so much for Keegan's argument, thanks to Bahrain and 'six non-Arab countries' whoever they are.

The Times is reporting that the Fire Brigades Union has reached an agreement with the government on pay hikes, which will add up to 16% over a couple of years in return for the acceptance of reforms.

The agreement will now go to the union members for a vote. It would not be particularly suprising if they reject it, as the union had earlier been holding out for 40% rises. The fire brigades are woefully underpaid, but were asking for hugely expensive raises while refusing to accept common-sense reforms. The union may now oust its leader, Andy Gilchrist, as well.

The British papers on last night's vote in the Commons:

The Guardian: "Blair battles on after record rebellion"
The Independent: "Rebels fail to halt march to war"
The Times: "Blair rallies the Commons for war"
The Telegraph: "Blair wins historic vote for war"
The Evening Standard: "Blair moves to reunite party"

Note: the Guardian is usually the farthest left of the broadsheets (the Evening Standard is a tabloid, and is usually described as conservative, though it tends to be more anti-everything than anything else). The traditional role of the Guardian has been replaced by the Independent, which is normally fairly centrist by British standards (Robert Fisk aside) and thus not particularly popular. While the Guardian has done its best to maintain a modicum of objectivity, the Independent has come out against the war, both for good reasons and bad ones.

Even the Independent, though, has an editorial up today praising the leadership qualities of Tony Blair.

Why the Bush economic plan won't work, no. 24 ... It's based on a 'fantasy budget.'

From the 'right idea, wrong time' department ...

Tom Daschle said that ""I don't know that anyone in this country could view what we've seen so far as a diplomatic success," and that he was ""saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war."

I don't disagree with what he said ... no one could realistically disagree with the first point, and the second is a matter of opinion. As for the response from the Republicans, Tom 'giant corrupt hypocrite' DeLay offered an unusually cheeky retort, urging the Senate Minority Leader to "Fermez la bouche" (which translates from French as "shut your mouth").

On the other hand, Dennis 'hyperbole is completely dead' Hastert said that Daschle's comments "may not undermine the president as he leads us into war, and they may not give comfort to our adversaries, but they come mighty close."

Somehow, I doubt that Al Qaeda ignores Senator Daschle any less than the average American.

(a quick note: I'm not for getting rid of Daschle as Minority Leader right now, primarily because I can't think of anyone who could really replace him - pretty much every senator is either too unpopular with a large segment of the population (Clinton, Kennedy), not telegenic enough (Reid, Sarbanes, Durbin, Levin), too liberal (Boxer, Murray), too conservative (Breaux, Nelson, Nelson), too inexperienced (Stabenow, Lincoln, Cantwell), too short (Dodd) or running for president (take your pick))

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
The motion passed 412-149.

The number of no votes on the amendment has been revised downward to 217.

221 rebels voted for a 'no war now' amendment to the motion. That's a decent, but not huge, increase from the 199 who rebelled on the amendment last time around. The vote on the motion is going on now.

So right now, about three miles or so west of here, 650+ men and women are carrying out one of the most momentous debates that this country will see in a generation (I would hope, I guess, that nothing else need rise to this seriousness for a while)

So what's on BBC 4 Radio, the national news station?

A documentary that's been rambling on about child-raising and plastic surgery, separately.

Well, I'm going to go and see if they've bothered to put it on the TV that's in the common room, or whether they decided not to pre-empt the soccer (sorry, football). The vote should commence around 10 PM or so (they don't seem to start on time too often). I'll put a post up once I've got an idea of the total.

Tom Shales on last night's speech:

"George W. Bush may want war with Iraq as much as he wants a second term, but it's doubtful he would like to go down in history as the man who wouldn't take "peace" for an answer. So in his brief speech to the nation that amounted to a declaration of war last night, Bush spoke with funereal solemnity and an aura of mournful regret. There certainly was not a trace of bravado in his voice, manner or frozen features."


Frederick Kagan is comparing North Korea with Japan in 1941. It's an interesting historical parallel, but as with all historical parallels, there are a number of problems - principally the lack of public support for the current regime in North Korea and its total lack of any allies.


Well, apparently Americans are still welcome in Cote D'Ivoire.

An update, while you're munching on your freedom fries:

The French government has said that it will not sit by if Saddam Hussein does decide to use chemical or biological weapons (the French ambassador to the U.S., however, did not give any specifics as to what would be done in such a scenario).

Congestion charging, day ... I'm not really sure

The Independent is reporting that the charge is working better than expected. It lowered traffic within the zone by 20%, rather than the expected 15%, though traffic levels do appear to be creeping back upwards. The article also notes that the result of the greater than expected success and the higher than expected numbers challenging the £80 ($125) fines - about one quarter of the fines are being challenged - means that the revenue may actually be smaller than expected.

The Times is reporting that the fire service one-day strike scheduled for Thursday is likely to be called off. The strike had been criticized by military authorities for stretching the army (who would have to provide replacement fire cover) while much of the force was in the gulf, while they simultaneously said that the army was still up to both jobs.

The Fire Brigades Union leader, Andy Gilchrist, is militantly leftist, and it has been suggested by some that he would encourage strikes while much of the army was in Iraq. He has been losing support in recent months, however, over the seeming intractability of the FBU on its unwillingness to accept reforms in return for limited pay raises. The Telegraph also published the contents of an £800+ bill that he had charged to the union for a dinner (he later repaid it). That didn't exactly help.

BBC 4 Radio is estimating that above 155 Labour rebels or so, Tony Blair will be officially dependent on the Tories to get the war motion passed. Blair has previously said that he hopes to get a Parliamentary majority from within his own party. The math is somewhat uncertain because there are 659 members, but 4 generally do not vote (the speaker and his three deputies), there may be some abstentions, and the vote amongst the minor parties is uncertain (the SNP, I would think, will probably line up against the war, but I'm not sure what the natural inclination of Plaid Cymru and the Northern Irish parties would be).

Lord Hunt, the junior Health minister (a handful of members of the Lords are in the cabinet), John Denham, the junior Home Office minister and a Parliamentary Private Secretary (bottom tier) have resigned. The Guardian is also running a resignation watch.

Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, who previously promised to resign if Britain went to war without the support of the UN, has decided to stay on. Her statement is here. She now also takes up the additional (and unfortunately unpaid) post of walking punchline.

Blair has laid out before his case before the Commons. The always melodramatic Evening Standard headlined the speech "Back Me or I Quit."

Which is not what he actually said. But which was definitely implied, as the motion tonight will undoubtedly be tied to a confidence motion (most major pieces of legislation are also confidence votes).

Monday, March 17, 2003
BBC 4 Radio is reporting that a vote will be held in the Commons tomorrow on a war motion.

If I had to guess - and it is largely a guess - I'd say that anything under 150 Labour MPs and 225 total will be proclaimed a moral victory for Tony Blair by the Downing Street spin doctors. Anything under the 122/199 that rebelled on the amendment on February 26th (and as I keep pointing out, the rebellion was only on an amendment - the rebellion on the actual motion was actually a far more ordinary 59/124) will be offered as a ringing endorsement.

As for what the actual vote will be, I'm a little loathe to make any exact predictions, given the inevitable politicking that is currently ongoing. If I were to take a guess - and this is another guess - I'd like that the numbers will likely be the same as the amendment. Some people who have pulled out of the Cabinet who were convinced to vote on the past amendment and motion will shift. At the same time, some will be shifting to supporting Blair and the war - not wanting to be seen as against the troops - and some may either be convinced or coerced by the whips.

UPDATE: BBC 4 Radio is predicting a number of 139 Labour MPs expected to rebel.

Just heard on BBC 4 Radio:

BBC Interviewer (usually unflusterable and very combative): Are there going to be any more Robin Cooks?
Margaret Beckett, Environment Secretary: Um, no, I think he's the only Robin Cook that I know of.
BBC Interviewer: (pause) ... are there going to be any more resignations?

Well, I'm hoping that the situation in Iraq will end up in the short run like what happened in Haiti - the helicopters and planes take off when the principals facing off against the American armed forces decide that surrendering is more favorable than a 'glorious' death. Everyone gets to go home happy (except for those few who surrendered).

And I'm also hoping that the situation doesn't end up like what happened in Haiti in the long run, where the American presence quickly dwindled to a basic humanitarian presence - I'm not arguing against a humanitarian presence - and thus failed to assure the peristence of democracy where it was largely unknown, and allowed Aristide to effectively become a dictator via rigged elections.

(note: upon further retrospection, I'm also hoping for an end of the use of comparisons of historical situations to the present)

OK ... one of those rants about Britain.

I don't have a TV. I don't have a TV for two reasons - because the 17.5% VAT gets charged on everything (other than books, clothes and food), you can't get a new TV for less than about £100 ($156). Yeah, I probably could've found a used one for about half that, but it's still not cheap. Look hard enough at a Best Buy or Circuit City and you can usually find a cheap little black and white piece of crap for under $50. The cost of a TV license has to be added to that. The license is required for owning and using a TV, and goes to pay for the two over-the-air BBC channels, which provide their programming sans commercials (there are three other over-the-air channels and countless others if you want to pay for satellite or cable). The license costs £112 ($175) for a year. Spot checks can be carried out by the authorities to ensure that there are no evaders. Failure to pay can lead to a fine of £1,000 ($1560) and getting hauled away to share a cell with Jeffrey Archer and that guy who cheated on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Anyway, getting a damn TV costs more money than is worth sinking for something I can only use for nine months (a British TV won't work in the U.S. for reasons that are too technical to warrant explaining)

It's not like I'm entirely deprived of television. There's a single TV in the basement for the 250 or so of us in my hall to share, which receives four of the over-the-air channels (for some reason, it can't pick up Channel Five).

So I'm dependent on my radio (radio licenses were abolished some time ago, thankfully). Now, there are a number of radio stations, including five BBC channels that I can pick up (rock, jazz/blues, classical, news/drama and a London-specific station). The radio stations, as with the television stations, are required to perform various public services, which are all specifiied in its Royal Charter (which is due for renewal in a couple of years, I believe). The quality of the programming, generally speaking, sucks, regardless of whether the stations are private or public. And even the news station (which whittles much of the day away running godawful radio dramas) basically never deviates from doing the same pattern of just interviewing politicans and experts on various recent occurrences. Expecting original reporting, or for that matter, live reporting, is to pray for the impossible. It's one thing in the U.S., where the failure to create decent radio stations - news or otherwise - is clearly a failure of the market (and its regulators). But right now, the Beeb is really trying my patience. I'd like to know what's going on in the outside world right now without having to wait for someone to post it on the web a couple of hours after the fact (where it can spread and get distorted by many, many people). For a public service - albeit one that I'm not actually paying for, directly or indirectly - this sucks.

It seems as if should war break out, the BBC radio stations might not even break from their regularly scheduled programming, at least from what I've had to put up with.

The Lightbulb Joke Warehouse by Ted Barlow (aka 'Tenacious B') is up. If you missed it in January, you can now find the whole damn archive there.

Robin Cook, the Leader of the House and former Foreign Secretary, has resigned as the result of Britain curtailing its diplomatic efforts to avert war. Clare Short has not yet resigned.

Jack Straw is expected to speak before the Commons in about ten minutes or so.

After a referendum, Liechtenstein, a tiny principality situated between Switzerland and Austria, has become an absolute monarchy (well, almost). Which is a little ironic, since that means that it was created by democratic means.

There is no word yet on whether any pre-emptive measures such as sanctions or a military intervention are planned to head off this budding dictatorship. Then again, Liechtenstein has no army whatsoever, nor any aspirations of having one, so it probably doesn't pose much of a danger to anyone, let alone its own population. It hasn't had an army since the Austro-Prussian War, in 1866. It was disbanded after they sent 80 men to fight and came back with 81. Why?

They made a friend.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has said that he is not expecting any sizeable rebellion in the Commons (he didn't predict a number), but does expect the party to have to swing leftward after the war in order to regain the support of its base, many of whom have shifted to supporting the anti-war Liberal Democrats in recent months.


Peter Preston in the Guardian argues that replacing Blair wouldn't make the situation any better. As he roughly puts it - it's Blair's mess, and he's going to have to clean it up.


William Rees-Mogg in the Times argues that the intervention would probably be legal under international law, under both the UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and under resolutions 686 and 687, which were intended to enforce the initial cease-fire. As he notes, there is no supreme court for matters of international law, however, and violations are more a matter in the court of public opinion as anywhere else.


The Telegraph is reporting that Gordon Brown and other Cabinet ministers are engaged in last-minute attempts to shore up public support for Blair. This will come as a shock to many who saw Brown as determined to oust Blair so that he can become Prime Minister. There are a couple of possibilities here - that Brown simply isn't that selfish and conspiratorial, that he actually supports Blair on Iraq, or that he simply doesn't want to be seen as too opportunistic.


The Independent reports that the Home Secretary, John Prescott, has said that he may impose a wage deal on the Fire Brigades Union, if they continue to engage in brief strikes, under the terms of the 1947 Fire Services Act. He has been pressed by the Tories to outlaw the strikes under a 1992 act, but has refused to do so until now. He apparently will not outlaw a strike that has been scheduled for Thursday after receiving assurances from the armed services that, despite being stretched by their obligations in the Middle East, they will be able to provide the sufficient services.

Iraq updates:

The U.S. has urged U.N. weapons inspectors to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Clearly, this means that action seems imminent.

Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, has repeated that France will veto any ultimatum. I'm not entirely sure of what this will do as to the 'last-ditch' attempts by the U.S./U.K./etc. to go to the U.N., but I suspect that this will actually strengthen Tony Blair's domestic position, since he has repeatedly said that the U.N. approval could be bypassed if what he believed to be an unreasonable veto was going to be the result. This probably gives him the sufficient evidence to point to an unreasonable veto as the reason for not going forward at the U.N.

Sunday, March 16, 2003
Cavs win! Cavs win!

I didn't think that it was physically possible.

The AP is reporting that Jacques Chirac has changed his position, and is now willing to accept a 30-day deadline, so long as the final verdict is accepted by the weapons inspectors. This is in contrast to Dominique de Villepin's comments yesterday that France would not accept any automatic trigger to war.

It remains to be seen whether this is viewed by the Bush administration, Blair, etc., as too little and too late or not. The Bush administration is not likely to be flexible, nor particularly happy at the possibility of accepting any idea from France at this point short of immediate war. Blair is probably slightly less disinclined to accept the proposals given domestic pressures, but his problems with Chirac predate the Iraq crisis, and he's probably not itching to side with the French president. As for what this does as to the possibilities of a UN vote, it seems too early to say.

Ok, so I'm looking through the course listings for next fall (they're not technically up yet, but there's an easy way to find them nonetheless), and I found this course listing:

01 SEM M 4:15-5:55 ICC 219B

I think this speaks for itself.

The New York Times review of Alterman's What Liberal Media? (and Democracy and the News by Herbert Gans) is up and worth reading (it's a fairly non-partisan, if somewhat positive, review).


The Daily Kos is reporting from the annual convention of the California Democratic Party.


Go read Where is Raed?


Nathan Newman is reporting that the U.S. is threatening to pull aid from Turkey if it refuses to allow the use of Turkish bases, etc., in attacking Iraq. If true - and I don't really know enough to make a judgment there - it's spectacularly stupid, as Newman points out, and spectacularly petulant and childish. Then again, I shouldn't really be that skeptical about the Bush administration behaving stupidly, petulantly and childishly in the foreign policy arena.

The Observer (Sunday Guardian) has an article up that gives a good summary of the political situation here. It forecasts that the final decision on whatever happens at the UN will go forward tomorrow night, the vote in the Commons will be held on Tuesday night, and the U.S./British/etc. forces will be en route to Baghdad later in the week. The article is uncertain about the prospects of a Labour rebellion on the vote - some Labour backbenchers (and a few ministers) who did not previously rebel may vote against the motion. Some of the past rebels, though, seem ready to switch - some believe that the Prime Minister has done all he can, while others do not want to be seen to be giving support to anyone who wants to dislodge Blair.

If this is correct, then I was right. The war is, in fact, timed to occur simultaneously with my spring break (classes at the LSE mostly end at the end of this coming week, and I've then got a five-week break until review classes and exams start - I was planning to do some traveling, but it's up in the air at the moment). (note: I was joking at the time I originally wrote that, and I sincerely hope that I am no Cassandra)

Tom Friedman has written his now weekly column about how everything is so fucked up today.

Yeah, so tell me something I don't know.

(Matthew Yglesias prefers that we just hand the damn presidency over to Blair)

The New York Times also has an editorial arguing that the budgets proposed by Congressional Republicans are no healthier than the idiotic deficits-ad-infinitum plan proposed by the White House.


The Washington Post has an editorial inveighing against any use of torture by American forces or their allies whatsoever.

Saturday, March 15, 2003
Brad DeLong on how even Andrew Sullivan thinks that the current economic planning from the Bush administration is godawful.


Remember, today is International Eat an Animal for PETA day.

The Guardian is reporting that the government is proposing to drastically increase the taxes on air travel so as to decrease the environmental pollution that results, in an attempt to mimic a Pigouvian tax. The government, however, needs to be mindful of a few things. Some types of travel may be more inelastic than others (if too inelastic, the tax may just raise revenue and not make a significant dent in consumption). Also, it needs to be pointed out that those who don't use airplanes may just shift to other means of travel, which might be more environmentally damaging. It's an idea worth considering, but there are possible side effects that should not be ignored (and appear to have been ignored in the article).

The six uncommitted nations at the UN Security Council are presenting their ideas on how to bridge the gap between the US/UK/Spain and France/Germany.

(Bad metaphor alert! Bad metaphor alert!)

Isn't this just like when kids get stuck in the middle between fighting parents and try to propose a solution that allow both to shut up? Boy, I hope those middle six don't end up blaming themselves when it fails and needing years of therapy.

Chile has put up a compromise proposal at the UN Security Council. It's essentially Blair's six tests, just with the TV announcement that Iraq is renouncing its chemical/biological/mass destruction weapons programs and destroying any remnants of them excised. The U.S. almost immediately opposed the proposal. It was a good thought, anyway, though the removal of the TV announcement cuts both ways. On one hand, it would have been the most likely cause of a rejection by Saddam. On the other hand, if Saddam agreed to make the announcement (or have one of his peons do it), it would have been the best possible chance to oust him without a war. Of course, thanks to Bush & Co. (continuing to operate under moral bankruptcy since 2000), there's no chance of either occurring.

The rejection by the U.S. administration stinks of hypocrisy after the (justifiable) anger and outbursts following the French rejection of the Blair proposal out of hand. Two wrongs don't make a right (three lefts do, but that's another story).

Jim Moran has resigned his position as regional whip.

The Instapundit is saying that this proves that it was a 'Trent Lott moment' (it wasn't).

Eleanor Clift has a rather inane article asking why more Democrats haven't called on Moran to resign. She compares it to the Lott fiasco. She has forgotten that few, if any, within the Republican party called on Lott to resign from the Senate, only to resign his leadership post (after dawdling, he did, as Moran has done quickly). She has also greatly overestimated the immediacy of any response from the Republican party, which did not get around to pressuring Lott until after public opinion caught hold of his comments.

Friday, March 14, 2003
Around the blogs in 80 seconds:

The Talking Points Memo on George W. Bush's about-face (well, not that there's much face left to save at this point).


The Daily Kos on the Bush administration's pathetic attempts to woo Hispanics.


Max Sawicky on the idiocy of the Bush tax cut plan and how the money could be put to better use.


Jim Capozzola on learning languages and traveling in Europe. It's all true. Every word. I swear.

OK, it varies from country to country. I speak Spanish pretty fluently, enough that I could do whatever was needed of me. I generally tried to speak in French, German and Italian, when in those countries. My French and German are both pretty awful, but I could usually say just enough in the language to get a response that I completetly couldn't understand. At which point the individual would repeat themself in English. I never ran across any problems as a result. I tried to do the same thing in Denmark (I don't speak Danish) and generally got a response in English from someone who spoke English as well as I did and seemed slightly annoyed that I didn't just use English. I didn't even bother trying to learn any Czech words other than the equivalent of "Do you speak English?" as I found Czech all but unpronounceable. And don't even get me started about Scotland ...

Robin Cook, the Leader of the House (a semi-formal position) has told the rest of the Cabinet privately that he will quit if there is no second UN resolution. Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, is not especially popular, but still commands a lot of respect from within Labour. The articles that have been published today have not clearly stated whether Cook wants a second resolution at the UN passed, or simply voted upon. The cabinet has been gearing up against what is seen as French obstructionism in recent days, and it is reasonable that Cook might not if a resolution was introduced but vetoed by France.

Cook is the second major Cabinet figure, after the International Development Secretary, Clare Short, to state that they will leave the Cabinet if war progresses without a second UN vote. A few individuals in junior positions have also made similar comments. Cook is not reaping the PR response that Short got, largely because he has expressed his feelings to Blair and the cabinet, and not directly to the media. Cook does not have the same history of bucking the party that Short has, and was the Foreign Secretary during the Kosovo crisis.


Mary Ann Sieghart writes in the Times on how the anti-war forces in Britain appear to have overstretched themselves, and are now bolstering support for Blair. She hypothesizes that Cook has distanced himself from the cabinet so as to be in a position to stay if things go well and be able to run for Prime Minister if Blair is forced out in the aftermath if the war goes badly. She also guesses that, if Blair does in fact survive the war, the ranks of the hard left who oppose the reforms that he proposes will probably swell from 30-40, as in the recent past, to about 100, which may not immediately endanger the government, but may force Blair to rely on the Tories. In such a scenario, I think, Blair may likely also come to depend on the support of the Lib Dems - who aren't that far from New Labour on most issues other than the war - and the minor parties.


The Peat Report was released yesterday. The general attitude of the press seems to be that it falls just short of having been a whitewash. I don't think there's anything in the report that hasn't been released or leaked previously. Some reforms will result, principally requiring that all future gifts accepted by the Prince of Wales will be accepted on behalf of the Queen, registered and disposed of as seen fit by her household. One individual was forced to quit as a permanent staff member, but was rehired on a contract basis immediately (there no word on if he recieved any parting gifts).

Part of the report deals with the reselling of gifts to Prince Charles by his servants for their own financial benefit (with his assent, in some cases). As John O'Farrell noted in the Guardian, Prince Charles seems intent on giving gifts to those who want to abolish the monarchy.


Labour appears to have weakened the foundation hospitals bill in order to curb a rebellion from within. It's clearly a politically motivated move, and I think the fears of those opposing the move are largely stupid and groundless.


Apparently the death of the Latin language has been exagerrated.


A new center-right party, called the People's Alliance, has been formed by those who feel that the Tories are stuckin the past. They intend to run in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. Which seems to be a stupid place to get your start, really. Scotland is, by and large, about as far left as can be found in Britain. There are only a handful of Tories in the Scottish Parliament as it is, and the two parties will be fighting for a very small constituency.

The six uncommitted nations at the UN Security Council are presenting their ideas on how to bridge the gap between the US/UK/Spain and France/Germany.

(Bad metaphor alert! Bad metaphor alert!)

Isn't this just like when kids get stuck in the middle between fighting parents and try to propose a solution that allow both to shut up? Boy, I hope those middle six don't end up blaming themselves when it fails and needing years of therapy.

UPDATE: Chile has put up a compromise proposal at the UN Security Council. It's essentially Blair's six tests, just with the TV announcement that Iraq is renouncing its chemical/biological/mass destruction weapons programs and destroying any remnants of them excised. The U.S. almost immediately opposed the proposal. It was a good thought, anyway, though the removal of the TV announcement cuts both ways. On one hand, it would have been the most likely cause of a rejection by Saddam. On the other hand, if Saddam agreed to make the announcement (or have one of his peons do it), it would have been the best possible chance to oust him without a war. Of course, thanks to Bush & Co. (continuing to operate under moral bankruptcy since 2000), there's no chance of either occurring.

The rejection by the U.S. administration stinks of hypocrisy after the (justifiable) anger and outbursts following the French rejection of the Blair proposal out of hand. Two wrongs don't make a right (three lefts do, but that's another story).

For the record, I like Paul Krugman. He's an accomplished economist, and I rarely find myself in disagreement with anything substantial among what he writes in his columns. Today's column is no exception.

That said, his column opens with an allusion to Moby Dick. Five days ago, in the Washington Post, Gary Hart referred to Saddam Hussein as George W. Bush's "white whale."

It's a cute metaphor, and I'm not going to disagree with it (though I am a bit fed up with everyone having a cute metaphor for the Iraq situation). I don't even know that Krugman actually read Hart's article. And I have absolutely no idea what editing occurs between when Krugman writes the article and when it goes to print. That said, as a columnist - and, for that matter, as an academic scholar - he needs to be particularly careful about repeating anything, or even alluding to it, without something resembling a citation.

Thursday, March 13, 2003
Your tax dollars at work ...

Freshman Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Insanity) has proposed that families of some 75,000 American servicemen buried in France and Belgium who died in both World Wars be allowed to repatriate the remains of their relatives.

One would think that if we really wanted to piss off the French, we ought to start disinterring Frenchmen buried in the U.S. and deliver them home first, no?

I don't really know which is worse - that these idiots are our legislators, or that we elected them. As the CalPundit points out, acts of this kind - whether genuine or not - are both destructive and self-defeating.

"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress ... but I repeat myself" - Mark Twain

The Peat Report, an in-house investigation into alleged improprieties of various sorts within the household of Prince Charles, has been released. A synopsis of its main points is here. Or, if you're either obsessed with the Windsors or spectacularly bored, you can read the whole damn report, all 114 pages of it, here.

The 'Partial-Birth' abortion ban has passed the Senate by a 64-33 margin. It does not contain the debated health exception, which may make the bill - if unamended here by the House, as is likely - unconstitutional under the terms of decisions of Breyer and O'Connor in Carhart v. Stenberg.

The Carnival of the Vanities is up over at the Daily Rant. (I wonder how they ended up hosting it?)

Spam, spam, spam ...

OK, here's an idea. Want to deal with those damn spammers - make people pay for sending e-mails.

Nothing huge, but nothing to sneeze at, either. Something, say, in the vicinity of a cent for each recipient. That's still a hell of a lot cheaper than snail mail or the phone. Under such a charge, I would have been charged about ten cents yesterday for all of the e-mails I sent yesterday, and that was an unusually prolific day. On the other hand, a spammer, sending out a single e-mail to 10,000 people would have to cough up an extra $100. Sending an e-mail to 100,000 people costs $1,000 ... well, you get the idea.

To be clear, I know there are a lot of problems with this idea:

1. It's an open invitation for any spammer to try and hack the system so as to evade getting charged. Then again, the whole internet is pretty much a standing invitation to hackers, for that matter.
2. It's a flat-rate charge, and therefore is regressive (there is a greater relative burden on the poor than the rich). One way of dealing with this might be to use the revenues raised by the charge could be directed to paying to hook up the poor to the internet.
3. It won't actually stop spam. It'll just limit it to those with the resources to pay for it - which allows them to reinforce their lead.
4. Businesses and universities won't like being charged for e-mails sent on their own servers. There may be a technical way around this (I'm not enough of a techie to know), though that would also be an invitation for hacking as well.
5. It might be expensive to have to retrofit e-mail systems worldwide to conform to a charging standard.
6. People aren't likely to be too happy about wanting to pay for something once they've had it for free (see Napster, Kazaa, etc.)
7. Insert your own civil liberties concerns here.
8. People might just switch over to using instant messaging, at which point you might have to repeat the whole damn procedure ad infinitum.

That said, I still think it's an idea that's worth considering - and tweaking - at the least.

Almost all Jim Moran, almost all the time:

A number of Democrats in Virginia are thinking about running against him in the primary. Hopefully they can settle on one candidate, so that Moran doesn't end up sneaking past with a plurality.


This Richard Cohen op-ed is also worth reading on the same subject.


A good idea. It's economically and politically sound. Which is why it'll probably never happen.


The New York Times is urging senators to continue filibustering Miguel Estrada. Just one more reason why the editorial page of the Times can kick the metaphorical ass of the editorial page of the Washington Post.


OK, William Safire is an ass who insists on falsely attributing comments to dead people in order to suit his own political aims in his columns. That said, he's not a bad reporter.

The Firefighters union has announced another one-day strike next Thursday, in their continuing effort to get a huge raise (As I've said before, they are seriously underpaid, but are refusing to countenance quite reasonable reforms that are badly needed in return for a raise).

This time, the strike is even more political. The Fire Brigades Union leader, Andy Gilchrist, is somewhere to the left of sanity (he once threatened to replace 'New Labour' with 'Real Labour,' apparently momentarily forgetting who he was and what the country has voted for). He is deeply opposed to any war in Iraq. The strike, though, requires the firemen to be replaced temporarily by the army. With the British army currently stretched between Iraq and various peacekeeping duties elsewhere, the ability of the army to find sufficient trained soldiers to fight fires may be in question. Even the Lib Dems - who previously supported the strikes, and are opposed to any war in Iraq - have argued against this strike.

Labour has previously resisted the possibility of outlawing the strikes, as the Tories have pushed them to do. This is partly because they don't want to anger their base (further), but also because the law was passed under Major in 1992, and, as I understand it, has never been tested. They will be sorely pressed to outlaw this strike, and may well do so in the end.


An 'Alternative Parliament' is calling for massive walk-outs and civil disobedience if/when the war starts.


Worth reading: Anatole Kaletsky on why times like these call for pragmatic leadership, not idealists. It's a dig at both sides, actually.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Richard Perle, the influential neo-con hawk, apparently intends to sue his archnemesis, journalist Sy Hersh, over a New Yorker article that Hersh wrote implying that Perle was using his influence to benefit financially from a war in Iraq. Rather than suing him in the U.S., where Perle would actually have to prove his case, he intends to sue Hersh over here in Britain, where the libel laws put the burden of proof on the defendant.

First, I'm not sure that the British courts really have jurisdiction (I am not a lawyer, no matter how imaginative you are). A recent Australian High Court case aside (in which it declared that Australia had jurisdiction over an article published on the web in the US for a similar suit, I believe), I don't know of any newsstand in Britain that sells the New Yorker (not that I ran a complete check, but most newsstands carry very few American magazines, except the European editions of a few - I can't even get Sports Illustrated). A quick check has confirmed that I can still read the article on the web.

Second, if the courts do decide that they have jurisdiction, juries here have not tended, at least recently, to look too kindly on libel suits that clearly sought to use the British courts as an attempt to extend British libel laws to the rest of the world. The David Irving case, in which Irving, a historian and Holocaust denier sued Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, who wrote a book that, well, called him a Holocaust denier, is probably the prime example of this.

Atrios says that "Britain's libel laws suck." I disagree. The laws are intended to limit slander and libel to the minimum possible and punish people for violations in a manner that ensures that they won't repeat it. And the laws work. You can disagree about the ends, but the means work. And besides, every now and then a former Spice Girl has to pay £155,000 ($250,000) for a violation. And who doesn't like that?

Interestingly, Perle recently termed Hersh 'the closest thing journalism has to a terrorist' in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. If the interview was shown on CNN International, Hersh may be able to turn around and sue Perle in Britain under the very same libel laws. It should be fun.

(addendum: The Royal Courts of Justice are right next to the LSE, so should the case go to trial in the next couple of months - not bloody likely, given the sclerotic nature of British courts - I'll have to find a way to post pictures of the guilty parties ... entering and leaving the building, anyway)

You say you want a resolution ... (sorry, I couldn't resist that one)

CNN is reporting that the Bush administration thinks it's one vote short on getting nine at the Security Council. I'm not really sure what to make of this, since it's been reported that pretty much every member is voting one way or the other lately. On the other hand, I'm sincerely hoping that if the Bushies do get Mexico or Chile, the other will follow, and Pakistan will then abstain. Because given the complete and total opposition to war there, a yes vote might lead to untold problems.

Around the blogs in 80 seconds:



Matthew Yglesias on the how the UN is more relevant than ever (and possibly ever again) and why the anti-French attitude on the right is a little, um, off.

Can't shut up? Won't shut up!*

Well, the holder of the Paul O'Neill Memorial Chair for the Cabinet Secretary who can't keep his mouth shut, Donald Rumsfeld, has spoken out again. This time, he's said that the possibility of going to war without the U.K. has been discussed at the upper echelons of the U.S. government, given the current political situation in Britain. (the Guardian article is here, the WaPo/Reuters report is here).

This, of course, touched off a minor tizzy in the UK, with various anti-war forces arguing that the UK thus didn't need to have its forces in the Gulf, and could pull them out. They were essentially calling for the George Aiken (?) strategy of declaring victory and calling it a day. This, of course, ignores geopolitical realities, and the reality of what's going on inside Tony Blair's head. I shold also note that some of the people making these calls are the same people who appear to be against any war whatsoever, and believe that it is a sign that Tony Blair should pull Britain out every time George Bush sneezes (translation: the people who seem to be making these calls are not from the sane anti-war groups). It also reflects the fact that most of the British population don't quite understand Donald Rumsfeld's tendency to run his mouth.

Rumsfeld appeared to be trying to make things easier for Blair, but clearly ended up doing the opposite. He has backtracked, saying that British participation is still expected. The CalPundit characterized this as part of "the Bush administration's almost pathological inability to understand how other people are going to react to what they say ... It's like watching a bunch of posturing teenagers in a schoolyard." Even Andrew friggin' Sullivan (probably not his actual middle name) said that Rumsfeld somehow simultaneously "emboldened the left-wing critics of the war in Britain, undermined Blair at a critical moment, and, in some British eyes, devalued the importance of the British military contribution."

It is really suprising that the Bush administration has failed to place Rumsfeld under a gag order before. Even Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish Prime Minister, recently asked Bush for 'more of Powell and less of Rumsfeld.' If he can't keep his mouth shut, he's undermining himself and the government. For the sake of the standing of American foreign policy now and in the future - I'm clearly more concerned about that than the domestic standing of the Bush administration, which probably won't be seriously affected by this dumb outburst anyway - either Rumsfeld needs to go, or he needs to be kept away from the media.

*(with apologies to Dario Fo)

The Times is condemning a French promise to veto a Security Council resolution, saying that the move "will encourage dictators around the world, from Pyongyang to Harare, to believe that they can defy UN resolutions, oppress their people and get away with it, safe in the knowledge that France will take a self-indulgent and unprincipled stand, at least as long as M Chirac is in the Elysée ... He has intervened in Africa without reference to the UN. He has ignored European Union directives unpopular with French public opinion. And more recently he has undermined EU attempts to curb President Mugabe by offering him a platform in Paris to mock his opponents ... The threat to use the veto mindlessly has already caused damaging turmoil; there is still time for France to think again."

Pretty damning.


Unfortunately, The Times also has an editorial in which it tries to prove that it isn't staid ... by citing The Flintstones.


The Independent has an article up on Blair's proposed last-ditch six tests for Saddam.

Five tests on the Euro, six tests for Saddam ... well, it's nice to know that Blair has a career in mind after he's done at Downing Street.

Yep, Thomas Friedman is casting a pox on the houses of all sides involved in the Iraq crisis.


The Washington Post has an article up on the continuing response to Rep. Jim Moran's recent idiotic comments. The article mostly consists of condemnations from various politicians and community leaders in the D.C. area determined to get their two cents in. They also have an editorial condemning Moran's comments and pointed out that the view of the editorial board that he should not be in office is nothing new. A nice pat on their own back, so to say.


Go read it: The WaPo profile of Wesley Clark. Nice choice of a photo.


Rep. Walter Jones (R.-NC) on his move to have the name of French Fries and French Toast changed in the House cafeteria: "This isn't a political or publicity stunt ... It's a gesture just to say to the French, 'Up yours!' "

Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian Prime Minister has been shot in assassination attempt. The Guardian has reported that his wounds were fatal, as has BBC 4 Radio.

UPDATE: Reports are now clear that he has died.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Say what you want, the man gets results:

February 22nd: Jim Capozzola calls for an extension of Pennsylvania-style do-not-call lists to the rest of the country so as to avoid those damn telemarketing calls.

March 11th: President Bush signs a bill that creates a national do-not-call registry.

For those of you counting at home, that's 17 days. Just imagine what he'd be able to do if he were actually in office.

Almost, but not quite: Sixteen Chicago White Sox players reportedly had to be talked out of refusing to take a urine test for steroids. Their goal was not to protest, but to ensure that steroid testing be made mandatory throughout the rest of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (under the current scheme, the tests will stop if a certain threshold of players do not test positive). Had they refused to take the test, they would have been registered as having tested positive, and would have been required to go through a treatment program. They were talked out of it by the union.

I want their names published. I want their names published because I want every single fan to be able to tell them how important it is that someone is willing to stand up and do the right thing, even when no one else is. It's good to know that out of 750+ major league baseball players, there are at least 16 men out there. That's 16 more than I previously knew of.

Question that I don't know the answer to: Would it be possible for France/Russia to vote against a UN Security Council resolution without exercizing its veto?

Jose Padilla will be able to meet with his lawyers. I guess the 'boiling oil' argument didn't hold up in court.

(a few months ago, during a hearing on the subject, when one of the government lawyers essentially asserted that the government could do whatever it wanted to do to enemy combatants, Judge Mukasey asked 'if he was to be sat in boiling oil, would that be legal?" to which the government lawyer only responded that 'no one had suggested that.')

I do fear that the response of the Bush administration may be something to the effect of 'the judge has made his decision, now let him enforce it' a la Andrew Jackson and John Marshall. The government has every reason to be careful in limiting access to the bare necessities to anyone suspected of being a danger to national security. Defense lawyers, for the accused, still fall into the category of bare necessities.

The partial-birth abortion ban is up before the Senate again, and very well may pass this time (the House is certain to pass the bill, and Bush will certainly sign it).

There has been talk about an amendment that would add a health exception, but require the assent of two doctors. I am almost inclined to hope that the amendment will fail, because an unamended bill would probably be unconstitutional (note: I am neither a lawyer nor a doctor and I do not play one on TV). Finding two doctors seems unnecessarily burdensome (although people are generally encouraged to seek second opinions, I don't know of anything other subject where Congress has deemed itself to play 'doctor' and decide that two opinions are necessary, not one)

In the Carhart v. Stenberg decision, Justice O'Connor's concurrence to Justice Breyer's 5-4 majority opinion more or less set out a road map as to under what circumstances she would allow a ban to stand. Among these included a clear definition of what medical procedures were and were not banned, and exceptions where a doctor judged the life or health of the pregnant woman to be in danger.

The bill before the Senate may or may not meet the first circumstance - 'partial-birth abortion' is a term made up by anti-abortion groups, and not a proper medical term ... thus, if not worded carefully, the bill may manage to make every abortion legal or none. On the other hand, the sponsors are concerned that the second circumstance could be used to gut the bill. To a certain extent, they're right - pregnancy is inherently more dangerous than not getting pregnant. The bill simply asserts in its findings (the part of the bill that does not contain specified legal provisions and explains why the bill is necessary) that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to save a woman's life. I'm certain - without any research - that experts will be happy to argue this both ways. Well, that's all well and good, but it's still not a health exception, which O'Connor said would be necessary. The courts are welcome to accomodate the findings of Congress should they choose to, but are under no particular obligation to do so if they believe them wrong.

Of course, this whole post is academic if O'Connor - or any others among the five in the majority in Carhart - retires before the bill gets to the Supreme Court, which seems likely.

Your tax dollars at work:

The cafeterias in the House Office Buildings have changed the name of French Fries to 'Freedom Fries' and French Toast to 'Freedom Toast.'

Around the blogs in 80 seconds:

Arlon Lindner: it gets worse. The Minnesota state representative has refused to back down from his position that gays were not actually persecuted by the Nazis, and is now saying that he wants a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation repealed in order to prevent a Holocaust in Minnesota due to AIDS.

"It seems like every time this gentleman says something, he digs himself a deeper hole and embarrasses this state more," [said] Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis.

(Via Atrios)


Ted Barlow on the so-called 'ethics truce.'


Shorter Scoobie Davis: Go e-mail the WaPo ombudsman over Ceci Connolly's refusal to report on the plagiarism of her work by Bill Sammon.

(note: read the post, but I think that the onus may be on the Post as a whole rather than Connolly, the hack, specifically)

The Independent is reporting that Clare Short's days as International Development Secretary are soon to end in the wake of her comments that Tony Blair was being reckless and that she would resign if the UK went to war in Iraq without the approval of the U.N. The brief editorial in the Indy argued that her outburst was "was self-serving, personalised and incompatible with her position as a member of Mr Blair's Cabinet."


The Telegraph is reporting that up to 1/4 of all penalty fines for violating the congestion charge are being appealed, some apparently due to people having used false license plates.


The Telegraph is also reporting that a Hyundai subsidiary paid £320 million ($513 million) for work in North Korea and assurances that the North would hold a summit with the south.