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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Now for something completely different. Do I (partly) agree with Martin Feldstein, Larry Lindsey and George W Bush ?

It seems that Bush was not dishonest when he suggested that private social security accounts could be part of a plan to save social security. He really believed something like that because Larry Lindsey told him and Lindsey got the idea form his old prof. Martin Feldstein (and a co-author). The idea was so crazy that it went no where in the Bush administration (and that is saying something). However, I am not sure I am totally convinced it is crazy.

Brad DeLong notes correctly that it doesn't really have anything to do with social security. The idea is that there is a multi trillion dollar sure thing for the US treasury -- issue treasury bonds and buy corporate bonds and stock. Some of the huge profits from this deal were to be used to save social security and others to give people who wanted private accounts to get higher returns.

One crude way to view this is that Bush and Lindsey bought into the bubble just as it was about to burst. The pressure for private accounts came from the idea that stock was a great buy, which, as usual became very strong at the peak of the bubble. The idea vanished as voters suddenly found stock scary again when the bubble burst.

However, the idea that stocks are, on average, underpriced has considerable support. The equity premium is a puzzle. The evidence is that, since WWII, Stocks have far out perform treasury bonds over every long period. Clearly most of the evidence is from some time ago. I think it is possible that investors just made a mistake and have since corrected it (so no more multi trillion dollar sure things). The mistake would not be simply hating stocks but rather failing to diversify and then correctly perceiving undiversified stock portfollios as highly risky.

I am perfectly willing to believe that Stock is still underpriced. I am also willing to believe that quality premia on bonds are too high. Now if I think people are making a mistake do I think the government should correct it by selling (safe) bonds and buying stock ? Sounds good to me.

One might argue that rational investors would shift their private portfollios from stock to treasury bonds to cancel the maneuver. I believe that rational investors are too few to matter.

So what would be the problem ? Well would someone at treasury decide which stocks to buy ? I don't trust any one team of people to be competent to do that and expect huge corruption. I think just about everyone agrees that it would be a bad idea. Actually I'm not sure about "just about everyone". For all I know all living human beings think that would be a bad idea.

OK so the plan has to be that the treasury buys say x% of all stock and corporate bonds. Here I see another problem. It is very nice to deal with someone who has to buy x% of your stuff no matter how much and how bad it is.

Let me put it this way. There are two cows. One belongs to Mr A and one to Ms B. A and B, who are very very rich,incorporate and issue shares in an IPO rating each cow as worth a billion dollars. They buy each other's shares. Treasury has to give each of them 100 million dollars for 10% of a cow.

Doesn't sound so good for the honest citizen. Still scams like this exist already, consider the case of Harkin energy or more recently Enron. There are semi sometimes enforceable rules about arms length transactions.

I personally think the treasury should issue even more t-bills and buy say 1% of stock and corporate bonds in the USA.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Outdated update on FMA (Musgrave amendment)

Carl Levin hasn't posted a view recently. However, if he felt obliged to be consistent (hah) he would be against the FMA given his rejection of a proposed pro gay marriage amendment

July 21, 2003
Dear Ms. Blough,

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed Constitutional amendment relating to marriage. I appreciate hearing your views on the subject.

This issue was addressed through the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L.104-199), which was signed into law by President Clinton on September 21, 1996. I voted for this law because I support the continuation of the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In the history of our country, only 27 Constitutional amendments have been ratified, the first 10 of which were ratified as the Bill of Rights in 1791. Since then, despite the introduction of more than 11,000 Constitutional amendments in Congress and over 200 years of social, political and economic progress, the constitution has been amended only 17 additional times. James Madison, one of architects of the Constitution, wrote that constitutional amendments should be reserved for "great and extraordinary occasions." It does not require a constitutional amendment to afford legal protection to a civil union between persons of the same sex, an action which I favor.

Thanks again for writing.

Carl Levin


Friday, February 27, 2004

Update on count on DOA Musgrave Amendment

Mikulski goes from cop out to Against

Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), facing a re-election battle this year, said in a written statement: "A constitutional amendment is not about helping families. . . . It is an election-year ploy to divide and conquer. With our country at war in Iraq, we do not need a cultural war here at home."

Warner (R-VA) seems to be more or less maybe against

Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was cool toward Bush's proposal in a written statement: "Congress must proceed with great caution . . . any time it considers amending the Constitution." Virginia's senior senator has not stated an opinion on civil unions, his spokesman said.

and amazingly

George Allen Jr (R-VA) seems to be wavering

Allen is heading the GOP's Senate campaign effort this year, with Republicans running in several swing states in which the amendment may be unpopular.

Allen declined this week to be interviewed on the topic. But in a written statement about the president's declaration that the Massachusetts ruling requires immediate action, the senator said he was not convinced that an amendment is timely.

"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. We must treat everyone during this important debate with dignity and respect while continuing to hold to our principles," Allen said. He said he would support an amendment only "if necessary, to protect the important institution of marriage."

listed as undecided I guess.

all from
My addition to the count on the DOA Musgrave amendment

The amendment appears to be dead. Josh Chafetz has counted 41 senators against (34 needed to block)

I add
Sarbanes against (up to 42)

Her counterpart, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), who also scored a 100 percent pro-gay voting record, released a statement to the Blade that he is opposed to proposed Constitutional amendments when a statutory approach would adequately serve the interests being advanced.?


Mikulski cop out (up to 7)

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who has a 100 percent pro-gay record in the 107th session of Congress, has declined to say where she stands.

Also from

Byrd seems to be against (although the quote might be distorted by removal of context)

But state lawmakers aren't completely ready to embrace altering the Constitution.

The Defense of Marriage Act, approved by Congress in 1996, "addressed this issue at the federal level," Tom Gavin, a spokesman for Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said.


Also there is at least a hint from a dead google link that Inouye is against

TheHawaiiChannel - KITV 4 News - Hawaii Congressional Delegation ... - [ Traduci questa pagina ]
... Inouye was particularly critical of Bush's stance on marriage ... the Union address that
he'd support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage if the ...

So up to 42 maybe 44.

Clearly Chafetz' list is very cautious. Chafetz does not count Akaka and Inouye as against. They voted against the much milder defence of marriage act which, among other things, didn't mess with the constitution.

Counting Akaka gets to 45. Looks like, if it ever came to a vote (unlikely) the amendment might not get a simple majority.
The Amateur Lawyer

I am still thinking about the proposed amendment

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Now I wonder if the second sentence implies state constitutions can not be construed as implying that All of the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples. If so, the second sentence would add little to the first.

The Massachusetts supreme judicial court might just say that all, but one, of the incidents had to be conferred on request to same gender couples who wished to form a civil union. Say all except the requirement to file tax returns jointly or as married filing separately. That would discriminate against opposite gender couples, but the court could say that opposite gendered couples too must be allowed to enter into civil unions and that currently married couples must be allowed a taxpayer funded no fault divorce.

I suppose the second sentence would mean that no law can require that any of the legal incidents of marriage be extended to unmarried couples or groups. Now that would add quite a bit to the first sentence. Many laws refer to "next of kin" which means spouse if there is one and otherwise someone else. Laws referring to next of kin extend some of the legal incidents of marriage to groups other than a married couple (right to make health related decisions for an unconscious patient, inheritance in the absence of a will etc etc). Would they all be unconstitutional ? Does that mean (in the vanishingly unlikely case that the amendment is passed and ratified) that whenever a single person dies without a will, the money goes to the government. Let's welcome the inheritance tax back, but this time it would be only for the non rich not only for the very rich.

Another legal incident of marriage is the right to refuse to reveal conversations letters etc. Such a right is also applied to the unmarried couple of a defendant and his lawyer. Would the amendment make attorney client confidentiality unconstitutional ?

I don't know and I don't want to find out.

One thing is clear; the word "construed" adds nothing and removes nothing. It might give some people the impression that the second sentence is aimed at judicial activism and not at legislation as such, but that is silly. Even if you know judicial activism when you see it, you can't define it and certainly not with the single word construed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Very good point from atrios . Now it is absurd for me to link to Atrios.

Recall the Musgrave proposal

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Atrios argues that
"...the truth is, of course, that the amendment actually outlaws all new marriages."

Indeed, there is no exception in the amendment that states "unless this unmarried couple are a man and a women who are currently not married to anyone else and are engaged to be married". I'm not sure it would be unconstitutional to issue marriage licences, but if some official decided not to recognise a marriage he would not be violating any constitutional law.

Let's say San Francisco (for example) decides to treat same gender and different gender couples, who were not married when the amendment was ratified and claim to be married, in exactly the same way. Currently that would be a violation of California law, which establishes rights for married couples and conditions for legal marriage. Those laws would clearly be unconstitutional. "Unmarried couples" means "unmarried couples" and allows no exception for a man and a women who are currently single and agree to marry.

OK that would be extreme for San Francisco or even Provincetown ? How about some weirdo local (or state) government 100 years from now ?
Very interesting results from ABC News/Washington Post Poll Feb 18-22 via

"Would you support amending the U.S. Constitution to make it illegal for homosexual couples to get married anywhere in the U.S., or should each state make its own laws on homosexual marriage?" Options rotated

Amend Constitution State Laws No Opinion
ALL 46 45 9
Republicans 58 36 6
Democrats 44 48 8
Independents 35 56 9

unusually independents are to the left of democrats on this one.
Now the difference could be just plain sampling error. My back of the envelope calculation says the standard error due to sampling alone of the difference dem-independent is about 4%, that is about equal to half the difference (actually to be honest top of my head I didn't even use an envelope).

However, if this is true (and it could be given age distributions of independents and attitudes) Bush's endorsement of an amendment would be a political mistake. The election is decided by independents and if they are against the amendment his unscrupulous strategy is also dumb.

Also, I guess, support for an amendment will decline when people begin discussing the text as in "legal incidents thereof" and realise that amending the constitution is very dangerous.

(tech note standard error due to sampling assuming all really about 50 50 yes so the variance of answer yes for each respondent is 0.25 (really less as some say don't know), Dem Rep indep about 1/3 1/3 1/3 so dem and indep samples probably around 300 to 350 (guess 300) so var number dems says yes is about 75. The var of fraction of dems say yes around 1/1200. Var of dif dem-indep = sum of variances = 1/600. Standard error of dif a little over 1/25 = 4%. )

Monday, February 23, 2004

Household survey vs payroll survey

As everyone knows under Bush employment has shrunk shockingly according to the payroll survey and grown (slowly) according to the household survey. I just learned from Brad Delong that there was an even larger shift in the difference between the two measures during the late 1990s. The difference went from 5% of working age population to 3 % and has since widened back to 4%. What is going on ?

Since the household survey counts the self employed, a natural guess is that changes in the gap are due to changes in the number of self employed. In the household survey people are asked if they are self employed. Subtracting such people from household survey employment explains a small part of each of the changes in the gap (less than a third of it).

In comments to Brad I thought about the underground economy

Then I had a crazy idea. The idea is that the widening really is due to increase in the number of self employed but they don't report themselves as self employed. In the household survey, one member of the household answers for all leading to fairly high error rates. In particular, I thought about outsourcing services but not to Bangalore to self employed contractors. What if employees are being replaced by cheaper contractors (or laid off and turned into contractors). Would such people who ahve only the disadvantages of self employment call themselves self employed ? Would their spouses consider them self employed ? Hmmmm.

Then there is a reasonable argument made in another comment by Barry Ritholtz
who cites a study by the Fed. The point is that th e payroll survey counts jobs not workers so, if someone has two jobs, they are counted twice. This means that the change in the gap could be do to changes in the number of moonlighters. This certainly fits the cyclical pattern.

Finally, of course, there is
the Fed's current view that population growth has been over estimated. This would mean that the payroll survey gives an accurate estimate of the decline of employment and the household survey gives an accurate estimate of the decline in the ratio of employment to the working age population.


I just suggested to my dad that, if Kerry is the Democratic nominee he should and might choose Max Cleland as his running mate. Cleland is centrist (maybe conservative) from the South. In a debate with Cheney he won't have to mention that he, unlike Cheney, served in Vietnam. The VP candidate has to do the dirty work of attacking the opposing presidential candidate and Cleland is mad as hell. I don't think that Kerry can over do the reluctant warriors vs chickenhawks theme. Finally veterans have reason to be angry at the Bush administration and Cleland will appeal to them.

Against ? I don't know. Cleland could over do the attacks as Dole did in 1976 & there are other attractive candidates.

Now on the other side, will Bush dump Cheney. I think this would clearly be a good move politically. Cheney has all of Bush's faults (but uncuriousity/dumbness) in spades. Since he has had heart attacks the claim that he is bowing out for health reasons is credible.

I doubt that Bush will dump Cheney. First Bush never seems to fire anyone for making mistakes (only for pointing out correctly that he is making mistakes). Second Cheney clearly has immense influence over Bush. Bush famously does not read newspapers and might have to be told how much of a liability Cheney is and who would dare take on Cheney ? I'm not sure Rove could be confident that Cheney not he would be dumped and no one else is close. I think that Bush would have to figure it out for himself and I doubt that it is likely.

So assuming Bush dumps Cheney who does he choose to replace him ? I know this sounds odd but one possibility is Colin Powell (now you know I'm crazy). I have long thought that, when Republicans get good and desperate, they will try the African American VP gambit, and there is a reasonable chance that they might feel desperate. I always imagined that the candidate would be Powell. Now one reason this sounds crazy is that he has been consistently ignored as Secretary of State and is rated unlikely to be with a possible Bush II in any capacity. Now recall Bush nominated him for State when he was still fighting Gore on the recount. I don't think he ever considered Powell for other than political reasons and I don't see the relevance of what he would do once re-elected for what he would do to get re-elected.

Another two reasons that it sounds crazy is that Powell has (twice?) refused the spot, and I would guess that he dislikes Bush. However, Powell no longer has an attractive alternative to the vice presidency now that he has sacrificed his credibility to be a good soldier.

I think it is possible.

On the African American gambit another possibility is Rice. She clearly gets along with Bush. Also nominating a Black women would totally confuse everyone. I expect that she will be severely hurt by the 9/11 commission. Basically, I think she lost her chance at the vice presidency and put her current position in danger when she said no one imagined that terrorists would use an airliner as a missile after 9/11 and a month and a half after the briefing on exactly that point.

Still given how Bush operates Rice probably has a better chance than Powell and neither is anywhere nearly as likely as Cheney.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Shill game

Compare the shill from the latest press (Q) gaggle to Robert W Bush (this blog Sunday 2/8/04 answering Brad DeLong's questions"

"Q Scott, when you talk about the unemployment -- or the jobs being created, is that based on the payroll survey, or the household survey? Because there's -- because of the tax cuts, there's been a tremendous increase in the number of entrepreneurs that have started their own businesses, and those numbers aren't reflected in the payroll survey"

No no no Mr Shill. I don't know who you are but you are over doing it. The "question" is mainly assertions. First (true) that the CPS shows more employment growth than the standard number. Second (false) that there is a huge increase in self employment and in employment in new firms. Third that it is a fact that the tax cuts have caused the (non existent) increase in self employment.
The last claim is a theory presented as fact in the premise to the question.

I assume that a rule of the shill game is that McClellan gets to state the CPS number for January as he did in his answer (odd that he knows it off the top of his head no ?). However the shill is supposed to be asking a question so he can hint at false claims without stating them.

Robert W Shill would have asked with additions in [].

Q Scott, when you talk about the unemployment -- or the jobs being created, is that based on the payroll survey, or the household survey? Because there's [a huge difference]. [Do you think that the explanation of the difference is that] because of the tax cuts, there's been a tremendous increase in the number of entrepreneurs that have started their own businesses, and those numbers aren't reflected in the payroll survey"

This way the false claims become a question to which the answer happens to be no (but no one there will notice that the answer is no).

Now McLellan wiffed the softball

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct, yes. The household survey is different from the payroll survey. And the household survey showed that some -- an increase of 496,000 jobs in January alone. So there are different numbers that you're talking about there. And we can look at both. But, again, you're getting into -- you're getting into the numbers here. The numbers that the President is interested in is theactual numbers of jobs being created and the policies that we aretaking to create an even more robust environment for job creation

Clearly set up for the first 5 sentences. Then McClellan gets knocked out by the guy as he takes a dive. From "But, again, your getting into" McClellan goes off script. He has just mentioned January then he suggests that the question was *not* about actual jobs created. His use of the word "numbers" makes it clear that he believes that statistics are always damn lies. He should have stopped after 5 sentences. Now if he had responded to Shill, he could have just added that he doesn't know why the numbers are different. No one expects a press secretary to be an economic theorist.

Now compare

"DeLong Mr. President, you are disappointed that your administration has seen a loss of 2.3 million payroll jobs for Americans, aren't you? You wish that the job market had been better?

Robert W Bush you know I don't understand why the employer survey shows a decrease in jobs while the household survey (the CPS) shows a big increase in employment. I guess the key word in your question must be "payroll". I don't think even smart eminent economists such as JBD have a clue as to what is going on with the numbers. I would guess that more people are setting up their own businesses given the improved incentives for entrepreneurship. "

Robert W Bush phrases the lie as a guess. Guessing wrong is not lying to the American people.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I am a leftist economist and strong supporter of free trade. The reason I support domestic regulation, taxation and redistribution and also support free trade is very simple. I am consistently egalitarian. Te reason I see trade policy as different from much of domestic policy, is that I think that the (not always stated) aim and result of protection is to help US workers at the expense of poorer foreign workers. I would certainly support negative tariffs for imports from very poor countries if some suicidal politician proposed it.

I am against protection for the same
reason that I am against corporate welfare. Even if the market is not perfect, it is easy to do worse.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

See below for a crazy theory of what the Bush administration was up to with ANG filegate.

Now let's see if two can play that game. Take the rumour of a rumour about an affair between John Kerry and an AP reporter to be named later. Let's see how Rove would handle it.

1. Kerry says he doesn't even know her.
2. an anonymous source on Kerry's staff whispers that the reporter and Kerry were once alone in his Senate office for half an hour.
3. Kerry refuses to confirm or deny.
4. The reporter is asked if they did anything oral. She says, yes, of course, were were right there in his Senate office what do you expect.
5. Kerry refuses to speculate as to how she might have interpreted "oral".
6. an anonymous source on Kerry's staff whispers that, as the reporter left, she mentioned that she had kept her tape recorder running the whole time and Sen Kerry seemed upset.
7. The rest of the press demands to hear the tape.
8 the AP reporter refuses saying it is her private tape and she promised not to reveal its contents and this is grossly sexist.
9. The rest of the press demands that Kerry ask the AP reporter to play the tape.
10. Kerry refuses
11. the press pack speculates about what they have to hide.
12. The ap reporter plays the tape on national TV revealing that it is an off the record interview about Kerry's views on accounting standards
wildly misleading deduction (WMD) about the Whitehouse.

OK so maybe they are crazy or maybe they are very very smart. The question is why did

1) Bush say he would release his military records provoking a press feeding frenzy ?
2) The White House refuse to release his military records convincing reporters that Bush had something horrible to hide ?
3) His press secretary claim that asking for them was gutter politics convincing reporters that the Bush administration was panicking ?
4) the white house release pay records showing that they had not released all relevant information in 2000 ?
5) The white house refuse to release the whole file increasing the intensity of the press feeding frenzy ?
6) The press secretary claim that asking for them was deeply disappointing and shameful convincing reporters that the Bush administration was panicking ?
7) the white house release dental records showing that they had lots of files ?
8) The white house refuse to release the whole file increasing the intensity of the press feeding frenzy to the point that reporters were flailing about madly biting each other ?
9) The white house release the whole file causing disappointed reporters to wonder what the hell they were trying to hide hemerrhoids ??? I mean there was nothing there. Sure the records show that he went off to Alabama and stayed after his transfer was denied, that he began considering it his right to take August off in 1972, that he didn't show for a flight physical disobeying direct orders, that after he finally got around to asking to be transferred to a base in Alabama which had actual airplanes he didn't show up on the day he was ordered to show up, that no one has any idea what he did for his country for 18 months except open wide and spit, but they all knew that already.

10) disappointed reporters decide that, in their effort to be tough on Bush they had made fools of themselves.
11) embarassed reporters to decide to think twice before going back into attack mode, but to be glad that they had, at least, disproven complaints by the tiny left wing conspiracy that they were soft on Bush.
12) voters to decide that the press is ruthlessly hostile to Bush and that if Kerry complains when he gets Gored it means he is a crybaby.

13) why didn't I think of that ?

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I think Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum slipped on links.

Marshall links to J Calhoun's claims at CNN (which he describes as the ap) before linking to the Houston Chronicle which observes that Calhoun claims to have seen Bush in his office in the Dannelly Air National Guard basemonths before Bush requested a transfer to the 187th Air National Guard Tactical squadron.

In fact the relatively specific claims which prove either that Calhoun is lying or that he was misquoted do not appear in the CNN story but do appear in the Washington Post

The implausible assertions are in the sentence "Calhoun estimated that he saw Bush sign in at the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group eight to 10 times for about eight hours each from May to October 1972. ."
The period May to October fits the period from preliminary approval of Bush's transfer to the 9921st Air reserve but does not correspond to his trasfer to the 187th ANG tactical squadron. Bush Was ordered to appear first on October 7th and 8th (and he didn't show up probably because he was a pallbearer at his grandfather's funeral that day). The reference to service in May, June, July, August and/or September makes sense in a lie given the published assertions about when Bush transfered. It makes no sense as a memory.

The written record shows only two days of in the May *through* October period and that on the very last weekend in the period. Now 8 to 10 days are just too many. Even if some service was missed due to sloppy paper work there are only 3 weekends in the period in which Bush was assigned to the 187th and not seen in another state.

In subsequent interviews Calhoun has scaled back his claim to "at least 6 occasions". This is the calpundit post in which, it seems to me, Drum slips up on a link. The link is to a very recent story on the mass release of Bush ANG records. Finally in the CNN story it is down to 4 to 6 occasions.

I actually haven't found the raw AP story to which Marshall and Drum are trying to link.
You have got to be kidding.

I am beginning to suspect that this whole Bush AWOL business is a practical joke that some hacker made my pc is playing on me. I was't even suspicious about the idea that Bush, having blown off at least 5 months of ANG duty, would take every opportunity to remind people he had been in the ANG. I was amused but still unsuspecting when a key witness for the prosecution was allegedly named general Turnipseed. However, enough is enough. Does anyone really expect me to believe that conservatives take heart because of the give no inch uncompromising assertions of J Calhoun ? Do I really believe that one of the people who didn't seen G W Bush in Alabama is then lieutentant Rambo
Whoever you are, I may be an idiot but I am not stupid.
Weirdness mounting daily (WMD) in the white house.
I, for one, was sure that Saddam Hussein had WMD because I didn't imagine
that he would have gone to such lengths and paid such a price to hide nothing.

It is also bizzare that the Bush administration went to such lengths and paid such a price in credibility to hide files which contain nothing of interest. At least Saddam could have been bluffing, hiding the fact that he had nothing to hide.

I don't want to compare an evil dictator to a (more or less) elected leader nor would i want to cmopaare the costs to Iraq of sanctions to the discomfort Scott Mclelland suffered in some of the most ferocious press conferences in my memory.

What could possibly be going on ? Is it possible that Bush is so stubborn and confident that he can get anything he wants, that he was prepared to break a promise made on national TV to hide the fact that he once briefly had hemorrhoids ?

My honest (tinfoil hat) guess is that the pile of records released by the white house is far from complete. In particular it does not seem to include his actual honorable discharge with reinlistment codes.

As a practical proposal I think that reporters should say that now that everything has been released, there is no reason for Bush to refuse to sign a release waiving privacy rights. Now I don't imagine that there will be unscrubbed documents unhidden anywhere, but, for some reason, Bush seems unwilling to sign such a document.

If there are gross gaps in the file released by the whitehouse (no copy of the discharge itself, no disciplinary response to the failure to take the flight physical-) the story might still have legs. Still I think it is basically time to move on and get back to the 21st century.
No cover up of Bush's military record at either it seems. I don't get it. They try to stonewall then they release all this information on Friday the 13th. Don't they know that's bad luck ?

Friday, February 13, 2004

I am appalled that, while the US dead tree press has behaved itself, bloggers (such as myself) keep echoing the Drudge sludge rumour or rumours about Kerry. Over in the UK the Sun has a story.
As far as I can tell they are accusing Kerry of sexual intercourse related program activities.
No cover up at
they have nothing to hide
The Ali Al Sistani fan club is getting really crowded. The Post reports that Lakhda Barhimi supports Sistani 100%. Remember I helped him out with his surgeon question.

Actually to me it is almost as important that Abdul Aziz Al Hakim (head of SCIRI the biggest Shiite party) supports a rotating presidency. I think a Senate is a better protection for ethnic and religeous minorities, but Shi'te flexibility on some deviation from pure majoritarianism is, maybe, what Iraq needs most.
So what is he trying to hide. Bush won't release his military records.

As far as I can tell everyone pretty much agrees that he was absent without permission (which does not mean he was legally AWOL) irresponsible, alcoholic and probably snorting coke. What could so much worse than that.

I think that he was pissed because he was grounded (for refusing to piss). Maybe he asked for a transfer to the North Vietnamese Air force (this request too denied because they had no airplanes)

Robert J Tinhat
Bush's credibility so horribly burned that it can be identified only by dental records.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I am sorry for the obscene last two letters in the last post. It was a youthful indiscretion. I did not mean to write BS. I meant to write plausible deniability.
Robert W Bush returns to explain his Air national guard record.

This is the story of a young man who wanted to fly warplanes as his father had. He knew he wouldn't qualify as a pilot in the Air Force so he joined the Texas air national guard. There he worked hard and after 4 of his 6 years he had clocked 200 hours of flight trainin. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam but was turned down. (note the not very sympatheitic source for this fact).

To be qualified for combat he needed 500 hours of flight training. That would take 10 years at the rate he was allowed to go in the ANG. He realised he should have checked the regulations. He also realised that, given the low risk of a Mexican invasion, he was wasting his time and public money.

He decided to work for the Alabama Senate campaign of the postmaster general and asked for a transfer approved by his current and future commanding officers. When he was in Alabama he learned that some bureaucrat in Washington had disapproved his transfer so he asked to go to another base in Alabama.

In the end the mess took so long to clarify that he only served one weekend in Alabama.

Then he found out that, since he hadn't found a flight surgeon that weekend he was grounded, which given the low risk of a new round of the civil war didn't make much difference.

He returned to Texas quietly (very very quietly) working a desk job. Then he asked to be transferred to the ORS (which means he could have been shipped out to Vietnam and had to remain signed up for 6 extra months) so He could go to Harvard BS

Monday, February 09, 2004

more highlights from calpundit ARF

It seems agreed that ARF is Air Reserve Force not army reserve force. A typo or thinko by Bob Rogers cited by Drum.

An important issue is ORS (obligatory reserve Section) not ARF (which includes ANG). Bush was transfered to ORS in Colorado. Was this, effectively, his discharge from the Texas ANG or a punishment (such that he could have been sent to Vietnam if he had a different dad).

here "color me confused" points out that the final release from ARF ORS Colorado came 6 months after Bush's normal term of service ended. This suggests that it was a punitive assignement as mentioned in the threatening letter signed (as received and read) by G W Bush Jr

available here

[edited to correct ORF to ORS oof now edited again to correct service to section]
I am still working through the comments to ARF at

It seems to be agreed that someonenamed Lloyd added the torn document to Bush's file. Martin Heldt himself notes that such an action would be a crime see

A file can't be changed without permission and Lloyd did not request permission.
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Red alert for the 6 people who read this. Bush is nailed. The untorn version of the torn document shows that he was AWOL for two years and not punished presumably because of his family connections.

I got this from Kevin Drum.

[edit well OK so Bush is not nailed. He wasn't where he was supposed to be and he didn't have leave but that doesn't mean he was AWOL. I don't get it.]

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Well G W Bush seems to have confessed that he there is NO evidence Anywhere that he did any national guard duty in Alabama in 1972. Certainly none has been released. Even the dubious torn document (the W document) does not present relevant information.
Bush just admitted that he has already released all relevant documents. He doesn't put it that way, but, to me it is pretty close to a confession.

"Russert: When allegations were made about John McCain or Wesley Clark on their military records, they opened up their entire files. Would you agree to do that?

President Bush: Yeah. Listen, these files I mean, people have been looking for these files for a long period of time, trust me, and starting in the 1994 campaign for governor. And I can assure you in the year 2000 people were looking for those files as well. Probably you were. And absolutely. I mean, I

Russert: But would you allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period?

President Bush: Yeah. If we still have them, but I you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.

And I'm just telling you, I did my duty, and it's politics, you know, to kind of ascribe all kinds of motives to me. But I have been through it before. I'm used to it. What I don't like is when people say serving in the Guard is is may not be a true service.

Russert: Would you authorize the release of everything to settle this?

President Bush: Yes, absolutely.

We did so in 2000, by the way."
OK a tough one. Robert W Bush is going mano a mano against J B DeLong

RWB returns after a walk in the park with the family

Social Policy

Mr. President, Republicans in the House and the Senate are outraged that the administration's Medicare staff thinks that last December's Medicare bill will cost much, much more than the $400 billion cap your staff promised them, isn't that right?

Well no actually that is not right at all. The $400 billion estimate is from the CBO which answers to congress not to me. later the treasury department staff (which is unlike CBO part of the executive branch) reported to me that they had different higher estimates. It's not like either the CBO or the treasury staff made a mistake let alone spun the numbers for political reasons. It is actually very difficult to forecast how much a new benefit will cost, at least for those of us who don't have crystal balls.

The main difference is that here in the executive branch they assumed that the program would be so attractive that all elligible senior citizens would sign up immediately. At the CBO, they assumed take up would be more similar to that of existing programs. A lot of money is at stake but it is very hard to know who is right.

[Follow up] Last week you said that that this was as much a surprise to you as to anyone else--that you had only learned of this large extra expense two weeks ago, isn't that right?


[Follow up] That means that HHS Secretary "Tommy" Thompson, Treasury Secretary John Snow, and OMB Director Josh Bolten kept from you--for months--their staff's estimates of the costs of the Medicare bill you signed last December. Why do you think they did this?

Robert W Bush I guess they had the same doubts that I now have about the assumptions behind that number.

[Follow up] The president of the United States is not a mushroom--not something to be kept in the dark and fed compost, is he?

Robert W Bush No no I prefer pork rinds.

[Follow up] How many of those three--Thompson, Snow, and Bolten--will resign this week to spend more time with their families?

Robert W Bush None of them I hope. At least I haven't heard anything about it.

Military Service

Mr. President, all this fuss about your military service could be ended in an hour if you would--like all other presidents and candidates--release your military service records, isn't that right?

Robert W Bush That would be right in an ideal world but, as we both know, once the media get their teeth into something they (well ok you) won't let go. With the full records they could say "OK all cleared up now. Our concerns were baselss" or they could search and search for some unclear detail and keep the story going. Do you really think I really think they would choose the first course of action ?

[Follow up] As long as you don't release them, we all will infer that there is something in them that you regard as really damaging--much more damaging than the current accusations that you failed to fulfill your commitments and got your father to fix it with the Pentagon,isn't that right?

Robert W Bush I hope that no one will infer that, given the clear explanation I just gave of why I don't want to release them.

[Follow up] What is in your military records that you and your staff are so scared of?

Robert W Bush Look if we could figure out what strange detail the press is going to jump on, we could prepare an explanation. The records look fine to me, but I know that reporters aren't going to give up on a story just because they should. I have no idea what detail some reporter is going to blow out of proportions and frankly I don't care to find out.

[Follow up] Then I can announce that your military service records will be publicly released this afternoon?

Robert W Bush I think you need to turn up the volume on your earphone.

Mr. President, your staff has been handing around a strange, torn document that they say is a partial copy of your military record from 1972-73, isn't that right?

Robert W Bush My staff has been handing around a document with my social security number on it documenting my service in 1972 and 1973 yes.

[Follow up] This "torn document" shows you reporting for Air National Guard duty in Houston on 25 days from May 1972 through April 1973, isn't that right?

Robert W Bush I don't recall the exact number but that sounds about right.

[Follow up] But your superior officers in Houston said that you had "not been observed" at all during that year. Is this torn document a crude forgery?

Robert W Bush No of course it isn't a forgery. I think when you say officers you are incorrectly using the plural to refer to one officer. I was there in 1973. He was certainly there in 1973. I guess we never happened to be there on the same day. Remember Air National Guard is not a full time job. Well actually it would be enough if you remembered what you just said "25 days in 1972 and 1973." Even a dedicated officer might not be there on 25 particular days which are usually on weekends.

[Follow up] How is it possible that you could have been on base for 25 different days during a year in which your superior officers claimed that you had not been seen on base at all?

Robert W Bush There you go again using the plural for the singular.
Also I just answered that question.

[Follow up] Mr. President, do you know who created this "torn document" and who inserted it into your personnel file?

Robert W Bush I assume the file was created by a National guard clerk typist in 1973 just as it seems. Mr Lloyd found it and put it in my file as he is glad to remind anyone who bothers to ask.

National Security

Mr. President, your CIA chief, George Tenet, has said in a speech at Georgetown University that the CIA never believed that Saddam Hussein posed a major or immediate threat to America--that it would Saddam more than five years to acquire nuclear weapons, isn't that what CIA chief Tenet said?

Robert W Bush Well to be exact he said that the CIA said that Iraq was not an imminent threat just as I did Before the war. Also he said that it would take Iraq 5 years if they did not get their hands on bomb grade fissionable material. That's a big if.

[Follow up] Your Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said that it is not at all clear, if we had known then what we know now, that the case was strong enough to support an attack on Iraq, isn't that right?

Robert W Bush As everyone knows, Colin Powell has always been very reluctant to go to war. Arguing for more time for diplomacy is basically the job description of the Secretary of State. I'm not sure why he said he might not have advised me to invade Iraq. I'm sure he remembers that he never advised me to invade Iraq. Actually, of course, I know he refused to mention that detail because he is a team player.

[Follow up] In light of these conclusions by your chief advisors, are you sorry that you did not give Hans Blix and the U.N. weapons inspectors more time in Iraq?

Robert W Bush I don't see what purpose could possibly have been served by giving them more time.

[Follow up] But more time would have allowed them to definitively establish what we know now--that Saddam Hussein did not possess significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction, and did not pose a threat to America. Wouldn't that have allowed us to follow other paths with Saddam Hussein, and wouldn't that have kept 500 brave American soldiers from being killed and 10,000 from being wounded--many of them in ways that will mark them for the rest of their lives?

Robert W Bush I don't think they could have definitively established that. In fact we still don't have final proof that there are no WMD hidden anywhere in Iraq.

If we had followed other paths, Iraq would still be suffering under the tyranny of a monster. How many Iraqis can you find who argue that it would have been better if we had left Saddam Hussein in power ?

[Follow up] Mr. President, if the CIA never believed that Saddam Hussein posed a major or immediate threat to America, and never believed that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were friends rather than enemies, what was the real reason for our invasion of Iraq?

Robert W Bush Your question is very odd. I don't see where you get "rather than enemies". Al Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq were certainly not enemies. More than 10 years ago they reached a non aggression agreement which, at the very least, each side has respected since. Remember the Molotof Ribbentrof pact was supposed to be just a non aggression pact. We suspect that the Saddam Hussein Osama Bin Laden pact had secret protocols too.

Mr. President, it is now more than six months since some of your senior White House aides leaked classified information about the identity of U.S. agents, and so outraged all current and former CIA and other intelligence community members,isn't that right?

Robert W Bush Robert Novak claimed to be quoting two administration sources. That's all I know so far.

[Follow up] You have sat passively by, taking no personal steps to establish the identity of the leakers of classified information, apparently happy to have them continue to serve you. Isn't that right?

Robert W Bush That's completely unfair. The justice department is hot on the tail of the leakers. I personally have made clear how much I deplore their crime.

[Follow up] Doesn't this inaction and appearance of unconcern on your part undermine trust in the White House on the part of those who work for our intelligence services?

Robert W Bush Clearly in this case I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. If I intervened in the investigation I would, correctly, be accused of meddling. Since I, quite properly, leave the professionals freedom of action I am accused of "inaction and the appearance of unconcern".

[Follow up] What steps are you going to take to regain the trust of those brave and dedicated men and women who work in our intelligence services?

Robert W Bush I an confident that I have the trust of the brave and dedicated men and women who work in our intelligence services. an think of no better way to keep that trust than to continue to allow the dedicated prosecuters at Jusctice continue to work with the grand jury which they have empanelled.
OK a tough one. Robert W Bush is going mano a mano against J B DeLong

JBD The Washington Post has called your budget a "bogus budget," and the New York Times has called your budget a "Pinocchio budget," isn't that right. The Post editorial page has been a big supporter--why did they say that?

RWB I guess they liked the alliteration. Although the Post supported the invasion of Iraq, they are, after all, the Post. I mean this must be the first time someone tried something like "even the conservative Washintgon Post". Also, you know, the editorial page has very severe space restrictions so they have to over simplify. I think that if you look at the much longer and mor thorough news story at (re f*** Brad DeLong)you will find a much more balanced analysis.

[Follow up] They say that your budget omits $150 billion of costs in 2009 associated with policies you advocate--and that the real 2009 deficit number is $400 billion. Isn't that true?

Who are "they" ? How can you talk about the real 2009 number ? Last I heard it was 2004. Real facts concern the past or the present. The 2009 number is a forecast, really an informed guess. You might disagree but suggesting that because we disagree about what is likely to happen in the future, one of us is lying doesn't make sense.

[Follow up] But the budget you submitted has no money in 2009 to fight the War on Terrorism, no proposals to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax from undoing the tax cuts you are so proud of, and contains $60 billion of promises that sometime in the future you will submit more spending cuts. Doesn't that add up to about $150 billion?

RWB [note ha ha he is trying to keep it short and punchy but he put the $150 Billion and the $400 Billion in the same question so I answered the less specific $ 400 Billion part. The follow up doesn't follow. Anyway I will try to answer it]

RWB We are commited to transferring sovereignty over Iraq to the Iraqis. If they request our assistance we will certainly try to help. To budget funds for an occupation of sovereign independent Iraq would be an insult a diplomatic disaster. Oddly president Karzai hasn't given us specific requests either. God knows he's busy and doesn't have the kind of staff I have, but, out of respect for Afghan sovereignty we had to wait on that one.

[note. After this one JBD would have been speachless for a moment then asked RWB since when he gave a damn about international law. The deck is stacked for me because I am getting the questions in writing with no true follow up]

[Follow up] Shouldn't you withdraw the budget document, and issue a new one that presents a more honest picture of your policies and their likely costs?

I don't see why you are questioning my honesty. You are not just pretending to be the judge and jury, you are pretending to be the judge and jury with a crystal ball

Mr. President, your first Treasury Secretary--Paul O'Neill--warned about the dangers that over-hasty and imprudent budgeting could produce embarrassingly-large deficits, didn't he?

Well actually no one advocated "over-hasty and imprudent budgeting" either in my administration or, as far as I know, ever. Paul had a lot of company on that one including me.

[Follow up] Isn't it now clear that Paul O'Neill was very right?

RWB Yes it is. Since Paul supported Bush administratino economic policies he shares some o fthe credit for the economic recovery which has been stimulated by our tax cuts.

[Follow up] Since he was so right, shouldn't you bring him back? Wouldn't it be better to have advisors who gave you good advice than advisors who gave you bad advice?

RWB Paul is a smart dedicated hard working guy but he isn't exactly a team player. Also he tends to be outspoken. Unfortunately an outspoken treasury secretary can cause instability in financial markets.

Mr. President, you are disappointed that your administration has seen a loss of 2.3 million payroll jobs for Americans, aren't you? You wish that the job market had been better?

RWB you know I don't understand why the employer survey shows a decrease in jobs while the household survey (the CPS) shows a big increase in employment. I guess the key word in your question must be "payroll". I don't think even smart eminent economists such as JBD have a clue as to what is going onwith the numbers. I would guess that more people are setting up their own businesses given the improved incentives for entrepreneurship.

[Follow up] I mean, it is disappointing to know wthat your administration has the worst job record since Herbert Hoover, isn't it?

[note doesn't follow and even GWB himself wouldn't leave himself open to that one]

RWB That would be disappointing if it were true but it isn't.

[Follow up] If you had known back in 2001 what you know now, what would you have done differently in economic policy?

RWB I guess the main thing is that if I had known that the Republicans would take back the Senate I wouldn't have bent over backwards to compromise with the 50 Democrat Senators in 2001. In particular, I never liked the idea of temporary tax cuts.

[Follow up] Wouldn't giving more tax cuts to the middle class that spends them and fewer to the $300,000+ a year crowd that saves them have boosted spending and employment?

RWB we gave lots of tax cuts to the middle class.

[Follow up] Wouldn't it, in retrospect, have been better to have had a different tax cut package--one that would have purchased some insurance against the extraordinary decline in employment that we have had?

RWB You are almost contradicting yourself. You say that the labor market is slack. A standard response to that problem is to cut taxes. Now you are suggesting that we should have put in a mechanism to raise taxes if the economy is weak and cut them if it is strong a procyclical fiscal policy. That doesn't make any sense. Now I think the economy is strong and I support tax cuts for other reasons. I can't see any economic logic behind your argument.

Mr. President, your former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill quotes you as saying one cause of lost jobs is "SEC Overreach": that because the SEC is too aggressive in regulating corporate managers, investment is discouraged and jobs are lost,isn't that right?

You are making a very big deal about an alleged off-hand comment which I don't remember making. You will notice that in actual policy and public statements I have always
I don't think that SEC over reach is currently a major factor in investment decisions. I admire the necessary esential job that the guys at the SEC are doing.

[Follow up] But Alan Greenspan and Paul O'Neill are on record as saying that the thing reducing investment and holding back the American economy over has been a fearthat the SEC is not doing enough. Enron. Adelphia. Global Crossing. WorldCom--all cases of fraud by corporate managers on a scale that would dwarf the Gilded Age, isn't that right?

RWB As I said above, I think the SEC is essential to the health of the US economy. I guess you can ask them or anyone to do even more, but I think they are giving 100%

Speaking of alleged offhand comments and Alan Greenspan, didn't he say that he has no recollection of saying something that O'Neill claims he said ?

[Follow up] Can you please explain why you think that Chairman Greenspan and the man you thought best suited to be your Treasury Secretary are wrong, and that you are right on this issue?

RWB well no I can't, since we three agree.

Mr. President, your budget reports estimates for only five years, ending in 2009, is that right?

RWB right

[Follow up] It's traditional to report them for the standard ten years. The deficit numbers in years six through ten look really bad--much worse than in 2009, is that right?

RWB there you go with the Crystal ball again. Look it's hard to forecast one year ahead. The 6 to 10 year ahead numbers create an illusion of certainty when they are really just guesses.

[Follow up] Did you and your staff decide to cut the six through ten year estimates from the budget in the belief that if you don't release the numbers for those years, the press corps is too dumb and lazy to ask about them. Is that correct? Is that the reason?

RWB Not at all. I think I explained above that we decided that long term economic forecasts are unreliable.

[Follow up] [Follow up] Has it worked? Has the press by and large failed to ask about what's going to happen in years six through 10, 2010 through 2014?

RWB Well most journalists understand that they don't have crystal balls so they don't challenge us based on their knowledge of the future.

RWB returns after a walk in the park with the family

Saturday, February 07, 2004

It seems that I am way too late to be on Tim Russert's staff as Brad, Matthew Yglesias, Joe Conason and ABCs the Note have applied for the job. Also much too pleased with the sound of my own voice (keyboard clicking ???) to be damaging.

I am going to try the hard part. I will pretend to be Bush and try to answer the questions without lying (much), admitting what I disaster the Bush administration is or making a fool of myself. My answers to Brad's questions in his comments.

Boy am I glad that Matthew Yglesias is not interviewing me on TV. The idea of checking if Bush knows one tenth as much as Yglesias about what is happening in the Bush administration is wicked. If he cared, Matt could figure out what to do to me to make me unelectable to anything (this is a very minor challenge and I know how to do it but I won't tell).

Mike to Matt

Mr. President, could you describe for our viewers what kind of work William Luti does for your administration."

Robert Bush) Thank you for giving me a chance to tell the American people what a great job William Luti is doing advising Doug Feith on emerging military threats and innovative approaches to increasing our readiness.

Follow up. Hey wasn't he stovepiping (sorry I'm not Matt).

Robert Bush) Well of course when considering possible future threats one has to look at intelligence information.

(Robert Bush will refuse to admit that the office of special plans was set up to bypass the CIA. There is nothing wrong with people in the pentagon talking about what might be happening in the world and if people from the OVP happen by well hey it's all between consenting adults)

"why doesn't your budget include a permanent reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax?"

(Robert Bush major wince that one is tough). I do think that we will have to address the issue of the AMT but I don't think that we will do it this year. Remember it is a 2005 budget. A whole lot of attention seems to be focused on the forecasts as opposed to the actually budget proposals. I think we are going to have to see how strong a majority the Republicans have in the house and Senate before we can begin to decide how much relief from the AMT we can provide to the tens of millions of middle class Americans who risk paying a tax designed long ago to catch super rich tax evaders)

"If temporary tax cuts are a bad idea today, why were they a good idea when you proposed them in 2001?"

Robert Bush) Well remember in 2001 we only had 50 Republican Senators.
In the Senate it is very easy for the minority to block change so it is even easier for a party with 50 Senators to keep things how they were. We had to compromise. We always thought that permanent tax cuts were better than temporary tax cuts, but decided to support the best bill that could pass rather than seeking confrontation.

"How would you characterize your administration's policy toward Uzbekistan?"

Robert Bush) We are working with the government of Uzbekistan in our common effort to fight our common enemy terrorism (in both cases Islamic terrorism). Uzbekistan was very helpful during the war with Afganistan. Of course we strongly support human rights in Uzbekistan.

"Why did your administration reject the compromise resolution put forward by Chile in the United Nations Security Council?"

I would like to personally thank president Lagos for his patient effort to build a unified position for the security council. However, at the time, we really felt that it was time to make a final decision to invade. Saddam Hussein had been dodging and delaying for 12 years hinting at a concession whenever the world came close to action. The UN security council had already given him one last chance with 1441. We worked very hard to reach agreement in the Security Council but there is a point when people have to realise that they have honest sincere fundamental disagreements and will not be able to reach consensus. We felt that the Security council had reached that point. Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed I am delighted to say that the Security Council is working together very well again.

"Do you agree with the position on gay rights put forward by Vice President Cheney in his 2000 debate with Joe Lieberman?"

I think gay Americans have a right to dignity and respect. I also think the traditional definition of marriage should be mantained.

[by the way I am sure Bush knows that Cheney supports gay rights and knows why].

So how did Robert Bush handle Matthew Yglesias ? send votes to

Friday, February 06, 2004

Brad Delong suggests Let's Be Tim Russert's Staff.

OK I have some questions.

Mr president when you were in the national guard you seem to have vanished for at least 7 months without anyone getting too upset. Given how lax the requirements seem to have been, don't you think that national guard duty is a very poor substitute for real military service as performed by e.g. Senator Kerry ? How do you feel as commander in chief sending guardsmen to Iraq (find case of mom who will see her newborn after a year)m when your off and on guard service protected you from service in Vietnam.

Well the question is no good but noting the guard is no longer reliably a cushy weekend job is a way to contrast what Lieutenant Bush did and and what CIC Bush expects others to do.
Brad Delong suggests Let's Be Tim Russert's Staff.

OK I have some questions.

1) Colin Powell has suggested that if he had known about Iraqi WMD he might not have recommended invading. Now just imagine what would be happening now if Iraq had posessed large amounts of gas and biological weapons which were ready for use. Given the persistence and total ruthlessness of the Iraqi insurgents and the failure of coalition forces to promptly secure suspected WMD sites and a bombed out atomic plant, do you think it would have been possible that our forces would be subject to attachs with biological and chemical weapons if there had been more of them in Iraq ?

1.1) (follow up to yes). Doesn't that mean that it is a terrible idea to invade a country full of WMD ruled by an evil but deterable dictator ?

1.11) follow up to "Saddam was not deterable". If he was out of control why did he destroy all or almost all of his WMD ?

1.2) Follow up to no. Why not ? Is it because the people who attack the red cross would have scruples or because suiicide bombers are deterrable or because all WMD would certainly have been secured.

1.3) follow up to "all WMD would have been secured" (punch fist in air in triumph). Your sect of defence disagrees with you completely claming that there may be unsecured WMD in Iraq now. Given your fundamental disagreement on such a central point don't you think one of you should resign. Given that, after the end of major armed conflict, you stated without any doubt that there were WMD (obviously unsecured) in Iraq and now say that was impossible should you be the one to resign ?
Impeachable misconduct ?

I understand that judges can be impeached for "misconduct" short of high crimes and misdemenors. I wonder if theoretically hypothetically Scalia's possible refusal to recuse himself after accepting a valuable favour from a litigant would amount to impeachable misconduct ? Needless to say, it won't happen but just in theory. Who shold I ask ? Why Michael Froomkin from whom I got the link.

On a lighter note consider an edited version of the LA Times story

"PATTERSON, La. — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled as an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two when the pair came here last month to hunt ducks.
The hunting trip took place just weeks after the high court agreed to take up Cheney's bid to keep secret the details of his energy policy task force.
Two military Black Hawk helicopters were brought in and hovered nearby as Cheney and Scalia were whisked away in a heavily guarded motorcade to a secluded, private hunting camp owned by an *oil industry* businessman.
Two years ago, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch sued Cheney, seeking to learn whether the vice president and his staff had met behind closed doors with lobbyists and corporate officials from the oil, gas, coal and electric power industries."

* mine. Omigod I missed that. When Scalia is hearing a case about whether Cheney can keep his (illegal) secret contacts with OIL industry officials secret he hops a ride with Cheney on air force two to visit the hunting lodge of an OIL industry businessman.

I couldn't make that up. The Onion couldn't make that up. It pains me to admit it but I'm not even sure George Orwell could make that up.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Perjury ?

Mr. Rumsfeld told Mr. Kennedy that his assertions were baseless. "You've twice or thrice mentioned manipulation," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I haven't heard of it, I haven't seen any of it, except in the comments you've made."

The claim by Sect Rumsfeld that he had not "heard" of manipulation before Sen. Kennedy raises the issue implies one of two things. Either he, like the president, doesn't read newspapers or he is lying. I have heard of manipulation of intelligence generally from quotes of anonymous and/or retired CIA employees. In spite of the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a Talib slip, I think Sect Rumsfeld has access to more information than me. I am basically sure that his response to Kennedy was a lie about what he has heard.

Why isn't that perjury ?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Could be worse

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas "Firebrand" has published a draft of the fundamental law (temporary constitution) written by the Iraqi governing council.

They manage to include article 4 on Islam which Might satisfy Sistani and is acceptable to a bigoted atheist (me). In article 4:"Islam is the official religion of the state and is considered a fundamental source of legislation. " Well I don't like the idea of an official religion but I don't mind living in Italy (officially catholic). The key point is the Arabic equivalent of the article "a". This means the clause means nothing. Changing "a" to "the" would mean everything. As it is, the guarantee of equal rights for people of all sects (in article 9) and, to a lesser extent, the rest of article 4 "This Law respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the complete freedom of the other religions and their practice of their rites." which guarantees freedom of religion should be enough protection against the first sentence of article 4 (if anyone pays any attention to the basic law).

It remains irritating that the Bush administration is willing to compromise with Sistani on the separation of church and state but not on elections. I guess they aren't too enthusiastic about the separation of church and state in the first place.

Other provisions are positively pink. Iraq gets the equal rights amendment as not ratified in the USA :
Article 41, point 6: "The guarantee of the rights of women to political and other participation in a manner that is equal to the rights of men in the entire society." The basic law sure doesn't include the second amendment, quite the opposite it mandates gun control:
Article 16: "It is not permitted to carry a weapon for self-defense without a permit issued in accordance with the law."

In fact, I regret to announce that I am more sympathetic to the classical liberal support for negative over positive rights than the IGC who write

Article 11: "An individual has a right to education, well-being, work and security, and the right to a just and open trial."

Hmm isn't that going a bit far ? Does the right to education include university education with open admission and no tuition (I'm for that but it sounds weird coming from a body appointed by an appointee of Bush). Does the right to well being mean a minimum income for all citizens. I mean would welfare reform as signed by Clinton be unconstitutional (I go with the IGC against Clinton on that one).

My objections are too the right to security and especially the right to work. By security I think they mean porotection from violent crime. That is, it is unconstitutional for there to be any violent crime in Iraq. This is an impossible goal. Similarly there has never been an economy (not even Sweden not even centrally planned economies with terrible labor shortages) with zero unemployment. 0 unemployment is an ideal like an ideal gas.

I think these are serious defects in the constition. It makes promises which can not be kept. This means that rights can't be trumps. It must and will be accepted that people will not have something which is theirs by right. This undermines the power of the other articles to guarantee rights absolutely with no exceptions allowed.

Now I am legally resident in Italy and so have the right to health (not health care, health) and a bruise. My rights are being violated and there is nothing to be done about it. My rights are not absolute.

Still the draft Iraqi fundamental is vastly superior to the Italian constition or to the original US constitution so better not be to picky.

Oh and I should admit that I don't read arabic and am only editing down and commenting on a post by Juan Cole