Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Over at Wonkette, DCeiver reads Washington Post reporters Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei on George W. Bush in 2005, and succumbs to shrill unholy madness:

The Year in Accidental Tourism - Wonkette: With a few inches of petroleum jelly lathered on their critical lens and a couple tumblers filled with the crystal waters of the River Lethe by their sides, Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei perfect the art of the pulled punch in their look back at the past year of the Bush Presidency. The resulting article is a piece of gorgeous goggle-eyed wonderment.... [T]he pair say that one of the lessons learned this year is: "Overarching initiatives such as restructuring Social Security are unworkable in a time of war." Yeah, or: Unworkable solutions to Social Security are unworkable at any time whatsoever.... [M]ost fascinatingly of all, [they] spare a moment of pity over the way Hurricane Katrina brought Bush's vacation "to an abrupt halt." Funny: we don't remember the end of that vacation being quite so abrupt. There are probably people who could speak with considerably more authority on the concept of abruptness and Hurricane Katrina, but, in Baker and VandeHei's defense, bloated corpses floating face down in sewage are notoriously hard to interview.

Me. I'm just astonished at how Baker and VandeHei can write Bush's "recent political progress" with straight faces when Republican stalwarts like Bob Barr, Norm Ornstein, and Barrons are saying that Bush has committed impeachable offenses.

Well, well, well. So this is what a hundred-year storm looks like...

I don't think we're going to lose the road--although the three-foot culvert underneath it is full right now, the water has backed up and is lapping at its edges, and each molecule of that water does lose 200 vertical feet x 32 feet/second/second of gravitational potential energy in the quarter mile approaching the culvert...

And we only have fifty cubic feet of mud in back of the garage, and another fifty cubic feet on the backside of the house--everything else has been swept past the house into the... culvert...

UPDATE: The culvert was full because it was blocked with boards--so not a hundred year storm after all.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Andrew Sullivan compliments me for writing: - Daily Dish : "Bill Bennett is a hypocrite, a loathsome fungus on the tree of American politics, a man who has worked unceasingly to make America a worse place--when he's not publishing the work of others under his own name, or rolling the dice at Las Vegas while claiming that America's poor would be rich if only they had the righteousness and moral fiber that he does. But Bill Bennett is not afflicted with genocidal fantasies about ethnically cleansing African-Americans. The claim that he is is completely, totally wrong."

Thank you Andrew.

Immediately below the mention of me I find: - Daily Dish: YGLESIAS AWARD WINNER 2005: "Most conservative books are pseudo-books: ghostwritten pastiches whose primary purpose seems to be the photo of the "author" on the cover. What a tumble! From 'The Conservative Mind' to 'Savage Nation'; from Clifton White to Dick Morris; from Willmoore Kendall and Harry Jaffa to Sean Hannity and Mark Fuhrman - all in little more than a generation's time. Whatever this is, it isn't progress." - Andy Ferguson, Weekly Standard.

Let me enthusiastically agree with Andy Ferguson's high praise of the very interesting Harry Jaffa. But Willmoore Kendall? Those with access to National Review's electronic archives can read Willmoore Kendall's review of Harry Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided, with Kendall's attack on Jaffa's argument that the Declaration and the Constitution are together living documents dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. As Kendall (unfairly) summarizes Jaffa's argument:

As for the "all men are created equal" clause, Jaffa's Lincoln... sees it as the indispensible presupposition of the entire American political experience.... Jaffa's Lincoln sees the great task of the nineteenth century as that of affirming the cherished accomplishment of the Fathers by transcending it. Concretely, this means to construe the equality clause as having an allegedly unavoidable meaning with which it was always pregnant, but which the Fathers apprehended only dimly.... [T]he Civil War... had to be fought in the interest of freedom for all mankind... once the South had gone beyond slaveholding... to assert the "positive goodness" of slavery, and so to deny the... equality-clause standard as the basic axiom of our poltical system. [Jaffa] insists that [the Civil War] had to be fought lest the possibility of self-goernment perish from the earth

And what does Kendall think of Jaffa's argument? That it is OK as long as it is kept a hundred years past and dead. But Kendall believes that "all men are created equal" is not fine, not fine at all if it is going to have implications here in the present. Let me quote the ultimate paragraph of Willmoore Kendall, on November 7, 1959, in National Review, reviewing Harry V. Jaffa (1959), Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (New York: Doubleday)

The idea of natural right is not so easily reducible to the equality clause, and there are better ways of demonstrating the possibility of self-government than imposing one's views concerning natural right upon others. In this light it would seem that it was the Southerners who were the anti-Caesars of pre-Civil War days, and that Lincoln was the Caesar Lincoln claimed to be trying to prevent; and that the Caesarism we all need to fear is the contemporary Liberal movement, dedicated like Lincoln to egalitarian reforms sanctioned by mandates emanating from national majorities, a [Civil Rights] movement which is Lincoln's legitimate offspring. In a word, it would seem that we had best learn to live up to the Framers before we seek to transcend them.

Kendall writes in code. Where Kendall writes "Caesar" read "illegitimate tyrant." Where he writes "egalitarian reforms" think "letting African-Americans vote." Where he writes "a movement which is Lincoln's legitimate offspring" read "post-WWII civil rights movement." Where he writes "live up to the Framers" read "abandon any attempt by federal courts or the national legislature to interfere with the peculiar institutions of the American South as they stood in 1950."

Abraham Lincoln--and Harry Jaffa--would agree that there are better ways of demonstrating the possibility of self-government than imposing one's views concerning natural right upon others. That's why they objected to Southerners' holding African-Americans as slaves: what could possibly be a greater "imposition"? For a Union army under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant to say to rich white Southerners that they cannot hold African-Americans as slaves would seem to everyone a lesser imposition than for the Mississippi militia under the command of Jefferson Davis to say to poor African-Americans that they are slaves. Well, it seems like a lesser imposition to almost everyone. It seems a greater imposition to Willmoore Kendall.

Oh. And the "transcending" that Kendall italicizes in the first of my quotations from him above? That's also code. That's code for "under Jaffa's interpretation, Abraham Lincoln is, at best, a fellow traveler of the communists."

What does it say about somebody that they miss the voice of Willmoore Kendall?

A tropical storm? On December 30?

1100 AM EST FRI DEC 30 2005



Thursday, December 29, 2005

As I've noted before, what got Washington Post national political editor John Harris really mad was when I said that it looked to me as though many of his Washington Post reporters spent a good deal of their time as simply stenographers for their sources--repeating the line the sources wanted without maintaining any critical distance.

Today Jane Hamsher comes up with a fine example of this. Here's Washington Post reporter "Steno" Sue Schmidt and Jim Grimaldi giving the Tom DeLay line of the day on today's page A1:

Sue Schmidt and Jim Grimaldi: DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.

And here is Michael Isikoff last April 18 giving the Jack Abramoff "if I'm going down, you're going down with me" line.

Michael Isikoff: "Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague. There are e-mails and records that will implicate others, he said. He was noticeably caustic about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. For years, nobody on Washington's K Street corridor was closer to DeLay than Abramoff. They were an unlikely duo. DeLay, a conservative Christian, and Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, traveled the world together and golfed the finest courses. Abramoff raised hundreds of thousands for DeLay's political causes and hired DeLay's aides, or kicked them business, when they left his employ. But now DeLay, too, has problems--in part because of overseas trips allegedly paid for by Abramoff's clients. In response, DeLay and his aides have said repeatedly they were unaware of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes financing role. "Those S.O.B.s," Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."

It is a Washington melodrama that has played out many times before. When political figures get into trouble and their worlds collapse, they look to save themselves by fingering others higher in the food chain. Will Abramoff attempt to bargain with federal prosecutors by offering up DeLay%u2014and does he really have the goods to do so? Abramoff has at times hinted he wanted to bargain%u2014possibly by naming members who sought campaign cash for legislative favors, says a source familiar with the probe. But Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, says, "There have been no negotiations with the Justice Department." Lowell cryptically acknowledges that Abramoff has been "disappointed" and "hurt" by the public statements of some former friends, but insists his client is currently "not upset or angry with Tom DeLay." Still, if Abramoff's lunch-table claims are true, he could hand DeLay his worst troubles yet.

In light of episodes like this, I am dumbfounded by claims, like John Harris's, that the Washington Post's only asset is its credibility as an objective news reporter. No. The Post sold that asset long ago in exchange for "insider" access. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing I don't know--but I do know that it cannot be a good thing if the Post continues to pretend that it did not do it.

The highly intelligent Peter Boettke protests that Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek were not dogmatic ideologues:

The Austrian Economists: Economics and Ideology : Perhaps no charge has been leveled against Austrian economists more than any other to dismiss their scientific contribution as the claim that they are dogmatic ideologues. This is, of course, ironic because the Austrians from Menger on insisted on their "value-freedom" in a Weberian sense of means-ends analysis. In fact, Gunnar Myrdal in his analysis of the political influences on economic theory points out that the Austrians are the least guilty. But the debates with both Keynesianism and market socialism, and the staunch stance that both Mises and Hayek held, led to the impression that dogmatic ideologue was the best label for these two and their followers...

But what, then, is one to make of Friedrich Hayek's statement in 1956 that Clement Attlee's social democratic government had destroyed the "rule of law" in Britain?

More on Hayek...: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal: Of course, six years of socialist government in England have not produced anything resembling a totalitarian state. But those who argue that this has disproved the thesis of The Road to Serfdom have really missed one of its main points: that "the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people." This is necessarily a slow affair... attitude[s] toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of... political institutions under which it lives.... [T]he change undergone... not merely under its Labour government but in the course of the much longer period during which it has been enjoying the blessings of a paternalistic welfare state, can hardly be mistaken.... Certainly German Social Democrats... never approached as closely to totalitarian planning as the British Labour government has done.... The most serious development is the growth of a measure of arbitrary administrative coercion and the progressive destruction of the cherished foundation of British liberty, the Rule of Law.... [E]conomic planning under the Labour government [has] carried it to a point which makes it doubtful whether it can be said that the Rule of Law still prevails in Britain...

Private property rights were much narrower than Hayek would have wished, and government ownership of the commanding heights of the economy was much greater than he (or I) would have wished. But destruction of the rule of law? Nonsense.

This is important. For if right-wing ideologues claim that Clement Attlee has destroyed the rule of law through nationalizations, unemployment insurance, public health programs, and zoning, then right-wing ideologues can take one step further to justify the crimes of a Franco or a Pinochet.

Michael Rosten reports on John Yoo. Can anybody tell me how somebody who claims to be unable to use the standard tools of legal research was tenured at Berkeley's Boalt Hall? Isn't an ability to use Westlaw a core competence of a law professor?

Looking for Someone to Lie to Me: Yoo can't be serious: Professor John Yoo has received ample opportunities to defend himself in various media outlets. For a man whose job it has been to defend the indefensible, he sure is good at finding new and innovative ways to stuff the turkey. Here's a recent example quoted in the Washington Post:

Yoo thinks his critics should understand that he offered legal advice, while others made policy. "I think people don't understand how difficult was the work we did, how difficult the questions, how recent the 9/11 attacks were," he said. "There was no book at the time you could open and say, 'under American law, this is what torture means.'"

Um, sorry Professor Yoo. Either you didn't want to find out "under American law...what torture means," or you just didn't do your job and go looking for the book that says what torture was under American law hard enough. It's easy enough to find - just go to, and look for the 1999 US report to the Committee Against Torture on America's work to implement the Convention Against Torture. The report's first section starts out with reference to the fact that "Within the federal government, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is the primary institution responsible for enforcing federal civil rights statutes... Examples of recent activity relevant to the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Torture Convention include" 18 particular cases, all of which had to define whether or not acts used against detainees or prisoners within the United States were acts that in severity amounted to torture.

But that's only part one. Part two speaks more to how the US had worked specifically to implement Article 1 of the CAT, which explicity defines torture. A few examples of what actually constitutes torture are outlined:

The intentional infliction of "mental" pain and suffering is appropriately included in the definition of "torture" to reflect the increasing and deplorable use by States of various psychological forms of torture and ill-treatment such as mock executions, sensory deprivations, use of drugs, and confinement to mental hospitals.... in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from: (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.

The report goes on to note that "Perhaps the strongest and clearest protection against torture [in US law] is afforded by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits 'cruel and unusual punishments.'" It then goes on to refer to no fewer than 16 federal cases in which the definition of "cruel and unusual punishment" was evaluated by American courts.

The DOJ memo that superseded the memo authored by Yoo, in which he could not find the book that defined torture according to American law, explained that there are also quite a few cases under the Torture Victims Protection Act which defined what was and was not torture. Why exactly did it take two more years for the Justice Department to complete the kind of trailblazing legal research into TVPA jurisprudence that any second-year law student with a Westlaw password could probably wrap up in a few weeks time?

Like victims of waterboarding, Yoo's suggestion that it was hard to figure out what is and is not torture just doesn't hold water. Any simple review of the key materials that established America's commitment to the Convention Against Torture would show that there are plenty of acts that do not amount to organ failure that constitute torture. The only reason you can't find reference to the 1999 CAT Report in the Yoo memo is that it would have been inconvenient. They were trying to build the case for committing torture and inhumane acts, and their memo sought to create a legal defense for those who might commit these acts. Boalt Hall really should ask how much longer it benefits from having a war criminal on its faculty.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Doug Muir tells us that central Europe is dense with history. Incredibly dense:

Halfway down the Danube: Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach : "Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach" is rather ungainly, isn't it. But it's important to distinguish it from the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, the Principality of Saxe-Gotha, and the tiny Principality of Saxe-Coburg[-Gotha]... that last, of course, being the ancestral home of the current British Royal Family. I couldn't make this stuff up. Anyway, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was by far the biggest and most important of all of these; it was not just a Duchy, but a Grand Duchy. It was nearly as big as Rhode Island, and by the mid-1800s it was home to around a quarter of a million people....

Where were we... oh, yes, Bavaria. The Dukes and Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach tended to be plump, conservative, strongly Protestant, and Prussophile. The Kings of Bavaria tended to be skinny, liberal, Catholic, Francophile, and Prussophobe. (Excepting the ones who were barking, raving mad. Story for another time.)

One example. Back in the day, King Maximilian of Bavaria was Napoleon's most loyal ally. He stuck with the little Corsican for years, even through the disastrous Russian campaign. Didn't turn his coat until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. And when he did, he sold his loyalty high: he demanded that Bavaria be treated as a full member of the anti-Napoleonic alliance, and not have to give up any territory or pay any indemnities. To countries like Britain and Austria, who'd been fighting Napoleon nonstop for a decade or more, this was pretty galling. They needed Bavaria to switch sides, so they agreed. But it left a rather bad taste.

This was far from the first time. The Bavarians had a long, long history of this kind of thing, going all the way back to the 15th century when they first grabbed Franconia for no better reason than that they wanted it, and could. So, the plump solid Protestant Dukes of Saxe-whatever had no reason to like or trust their sly, Catholic neighbors to the south.

Which brings us back to the slightly oversized architecture of Ostheim. Here we have a town of less than 3,000 people. In the 1600s, it was more like 1,000 people. But it already had a huge town hall -- big enough for a small city -- an enormous fortified church, and a castle sitting on a hill just a mile away, looking down over it all.

Why? Because this was the Dukes' way of saying to the Bavarians, "Don't even try it, creeps." The Ostheim enclave might be small, but it was heavily fortified, and it sat right on the best invasion route. It could even, in a pinch, appeal to Franconian separatism against the Bavarian crown. In a war, that big town hall could end up being a military headquarters for a surprisingly large region. It happened, more than once.

The Bush administration's argument that it was not possible to amend FISA in the fall of 2001 looks... odd. Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Think Progress: Reality Check: We Did Amend FISA After 9/11: Defenders of President Bush's secret spying program argue that it would have been impractical for the administration to seek amendments to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the weeks after 9/11.... "Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed?" The fact is the administration sought, and received, major amendments to FISA just weeks after 9/11 through the PATRIOT Act. Specifically, Section 218 of the PATRIOT Act loosened the requirements of FISA.... The Bush administration argued then, and continues to argues today, that this change was essential for national security. We now know it's all a ruse. Time spent in Congress debating Section 218 of the PATRIOT Act was a charade. President Bush ignores FISA completely when it suits his purposes.

You don't have to be particularly smart to hunt. You do have to be particularly smart to eat fruit. The Economist says that eating fruit is a mentally-taxing activity:

If this is a man | : Many primates, monkeys in particular, are fruit-eaters. Eating fruit is mentally taxing in two ways. The first is that fruiting trees are patchily distributed in both space and time (though in the tropics, where almost all monkeys live, there are always trees in fruit somewhere). An individual tree will provide a bonanza, but you have to find it at the right moment. Animals with a good memory for which trees are where, and when they last came into fruit, are likely to do better than those who rely on chance. Also, fruit (which are a rare example of something that actually wants to be eaten, so that the seeds inside will be scattered) signal to their consumers when they are ready to munch by changing colour. It is probably no coincidence, therefore, that primates have better colour vision than most other mammals. But that, too, is heavy on the brain. The size of the visual cortex in a monkey brain helps to explain why monkeys have larger brains than their weight seems to warrant.

The intelligence rocket's second stage was almost certainly a way of dealing with the groups that fruit-eating brought into existence. Because trees in the tropics come into fruit at random, an animal needs a lot of fruit trees in its range if it is to avoid starving. Such a large range is difficult for a lone animal to defend. On the other hand, a tree in fruit can feed a whole troop. For both these reasons, fruit-eating primates tend to live in groups.

But if you have to live in a group, you might as well make the most of it. That means avoiding conflict with your rivals and collaborating with your friends%u2014which, in turn, means keeping track of your fellow critters to know who is your enemy and who your ally. That, in turn, demands a lot of brain power.

One of the leading proponents of this sort of explanation for intelligent minds is Robin Dunbar, of Liverpool University in England. A few years ago, he showed that the size of a primate's brain, adjusted for the size of its body, is directly related to the size of group it lives in. (Subsequent work has shown that the same relationship holds true for other social mammals, such as wolves and their kin.) Humans, with the biggest brain/body ratio of all, tend to live in groups of about 150. That is the size of a clan of hunter-gathers. Although the members of such a clan meet only from time to time, since individual families forage separately, they all agree on who they are. Indeed, as Dr Dunbar and several other researchers have noticed, many organisations in the modern world, such as villages and infantry companies, are about this size.

Living in collaborative groups certainly brings advantages, and those may well offset the expense of growing and maintaining a large brain. But even more advantage can be gained if an animal can manipulate the behaviour of others, a phenomenon dubbed Machiavellian intelligence

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

If I had infinite hours in the day...

First, I hereby apologize to every left-winger whom I have spanked over the years for saying something like "you know the neoconservatives are really fascists." They really are fascists: Matthew Yglesias writes: "THE RULE OF LAW. Bill Kristol doesn't really care: 'Now, General Hayden is by all accounts a serious, experienced, nonpolitical military officer. You would think that a statement like this, by a man in his position, would at least slow down the glib assertions of politicians, op--ed writers, and journalists.... Was the president to ignore the evident fact that FISA's procedures and strictures were simply incompatible with dealing with the al Qaeda threat in an expeditious manner? Was the president to ignore the obvious incapacity of any court, operating under any intelligible legal standard, to judge surveillance decisions involving the sweeping of massive numbers of cell phones and emails by high--speed computers in order even to know where to focus resources? Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed? The questions answer themselves.' This is honestly just dumb. The story we're all talking about isn't a story about how, in September and October 2001, the president authorized some kind of illegal program on a temporary emergency basis before getting things sorted out. That would arguably be forgivable, depending on the details of the hypothetical. The story we're talking about is that today, on December 27, 2005, more than four years after 9/11, the president is still authorizing some sort of illegal, secret surveillance program. The administration has had ample time to make his case.... If the program is really so wonderful, there's every reason to assume Congress will approve it. If the White House really has no intention of abusing whatever it is they've implemented, then they have nothing to fear from the implementation of some oversight or safeguards..." Ezra Klein: "THAT'S...NOVEL. This argument, being rapidly replicated across the right but here coming from David Rivkin and Lee Casey, is very odd: 'Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance. More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate "spy versus spy" world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy's military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.' Put another way, although the administration could've followed the law, it chose not to because the law is cumbersome and dusty. So, of course, is the Constitution (which was fully ratified in 1790, when they didn't even have e-mail!) and any number of largely uncontroversial statutes. The question here is whether the Bush administration is really prepared to brandish a theory of law that renders legislation optional when it requires procedural steps and was enacted 30 or more years prior..."

Next, I'd ask what the "Iraqi army" that we are training is going to do--besides fight itself: The Mighty Middle: "Peshmerga Don't Need No Stinkin' Training. Knight Ridder is the little engine that could on Iraq news. While the New York Times was getting it wrong on WMD, Knight-Ridder was getting it mostly right. But on this story, let's hope they're wrong: 'KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan. Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted. "It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours"...'"

And last, I would stand dumbstruck like a deer stuck in the headlights at the stupidity of Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell: The Sideshow December 2005 Archive: "Deborah Howell is deep in the right-wing, to the point that any minute I expect to see her writing things like 'Democrat Party'. This week's article could only have been written by someone who is completely in thrall to the right-wing machine. Observe: 'Ann Scott Tyson, a respected military reporter just back from Iraq, wrote in a front-page story Nov. 4 that "newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war." The story said that more than 44 percent of military recruits come from rural areas, most from the South and West. "Many . . . are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income."' Now, you'd think this one fell into the category of 'not even news'... But in winger-land, this kind of analysis sets all the alarm bells ringing, apparently. [Howell:] 'In looking at the story, I talked to Curt Gilroy, who, as director of accession policy for the secretary of defense, has oversight of all active-duty recruiting; Tim Kane, a Heritage researcher; Betty Maxfield, demographer of the Army; Bruce Orvis, director of the Manpower and Training Program at the Rand Corp.'s Arroyo Center, and Robert Brandewei, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center in Monterey, Calif.' We have noted before that Ms. Howell thinks that right-wing "think tanks" that make up excuses are equivalent to mainstream think tanks (original usage) that do actual research - and that she regards the latter as "liberal".... Howell doesn't tell us, by the way, why she felt the need to research this particular story... the facts presented in the article are pretty uncontroversial..."

National Review on Martin Luther King, Jr., back in 1959:

The soberly-dressed "clerky" little man... seemed oddly unsuited to his unmentioned but implicit role of propagandist.... Let me say at once, for the benefit of the wicked, fearful South, that Martin Luther King wil never rouse a rabble; in fact, I doubt very much if he could keep a rabble awake... past its bedtime... lecture... delivered with all the force and fervor of the five-year-old who nightly recites: "Our Father, Who art in New Haven, Harold be Thy name."...

The history of Negro freedom in the United States... according to Dr. King, is actually a history of Supreme Court decisions... in each of these decisions "the Supreme Court gave validity to the prevailing mores of the times." (That's how they decide, you see? They look up the prevailing mores--probably in the Sunday New York Times.)...

In the future, [according to King] the reactionary white south will try.... Nevertheless, victory is inevitable for the Good Guys.... The Negro must... expect suffering and sacrifice, which he must resist without sacrifice, for this kind of resistance will leqve the violent segregationist "glutted with his own barbarity. Forced to stand before the world and his God splattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of his Negro brother, he will call an end to his self-defeating massacre." (I don't think [King had] really examined that one, do you?)...

In the words of an editorial from next morning's Yale Daily News, "a bearded white listener rose, then a whole row, and then a standing ovation." Did you ever see a standing ovation rise? It's most interesting! Anyway, I rose and applauded heartily. I was applauding Dr. King for not saying "the trusth shall make you free," because actually it took the Supreme Court, in this case, didn't it?...

[A] discussion period for undergraduates followed the lecture.... Here was no trace of the sing-song "culluh'd preachuh" chant, the incongruously gaudy phrases.... Martin Luther King... relies almost entirely on force of one kind or another to accomplish integration.... [I]t seems curiously inconsistent to hear him, time after time, suggest power, or force--the force of labor, of legislation, of federal strength--as the solution....

My review of Ben Friedman's The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth is up at Harvard Magazine

Growth is Good: An economist's take on the moral consequences of material progress; by J. Bradfold Delong

Economists have always been very good at detailing the material consequences of modern economic growth. It makes us taller: we are perhaps seven inches taller than our preindustrial ancestors. It makes us healthier: babies today have life expectancies in the seventies, not the twenties (and more than half that improvement is not directly related to better medical technology, narrowly defined). It provides us with leisure: eight-hour workdays (rather than “Man’s work is from sun to sun, and woman’s work is never done.”) It provides us with enough clothing that we are not cold, enough shelter that we are not wet, and enough food that we are not hungry. It provides us with amusements and diversions, so that there is more to do in the evenings than huddle around the village campfire and listen yet again to that blind poet from the other side of the Aegean tell the only long story he knows—the one about Achilles and Agamemnon. As time passes, what were luxuries become, first, conveniences, and then necessities; what were utopian dreams become first luxuries and then conveniences; and what was unimagined even in wild fantasy becomes first utopian dreams and then luxuries.

Economists have been less good at detailing the moral consequences of economic growth. There are occasional apothegms: John Maynard Keynes observed that it is better for a man to tyrannize over his bank balance than his fellows (a rich society has an upper class that focuses on its wealth as power-over-nature, rather than on its power as power-over-people). Adam Smith wrote about how wealth made it attractive for the British aristocracy to abandon their feudal armies and private wars and move to London to take up positions in society and at court. Voltaire (who not even I can claim was an economist) observed that people who in other circumstances would try to kill each other for worshipping the wrong god (or the right god in the wrong way) were perfectly polite and civil when they met each other as potential trading partners on the floor of the London Exchange. Albert Hirschman (who is an economist) wrote a brilliant little book, The Passions and the Interests, about the eighteenth-century idea that commercial society made humans “sweet”: polite, courteous, and civilized, viewing one another as potential partners in mutually beneficial market exchanges, rather than as clan members to be helped, clan enemies to be killed, or strangers to be robbed. But focus on the moral consequences of economic growth has—from the economists’ side, at least—been rare.

Benjamin M. Friedman ’66, Jf ’71, Ph.D. ’71, Maier professor of political economy, now fills in this gap: he makes a powerful argument that—politically and sociologically—modern society is a bicycle, with economic growth being the forward momentum that keeps the wheels spinning. As long as the wheels of a bicycle are spinning rapidly, it is a very stable vehicle indeed. But, he argues, when the wheels stop—even as the result of economic stagnation, rather than a downturn or a depression—political democracy, individual liberty, and social tolerance are then greatly at risk even in countries where the absolute level of material prosperity remains high....

Ah. The FISA court is not quite a rubber stamp:

United Press International - NewsTrack - Bush was denied wiretaps, bypassed them : U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate. A review of Justice Department reports to Congress by Hearst newspapers shows the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation. But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration, the report said. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004. And, the judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejection of a wiretap request in the court's history.

But this has me even more worried: FISA rejected the communications interceptions and they went and did them anyway?

Impeach George Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Congratulations to Andrei Illarionov, a good man, for speaking truth to power within the Kremlin for so long: / World / Europe - Putin adviser quits, saying Russia "no longer free" : by Neil Buckley in Moscow December 27 2005 17:04: Andrei Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's chief economic adviser but also an acerbic critic of the Kremlin's grab for economic power, offered his resignation on Tuesday, saying Russia was "no longer free." Mr Illarionov famously described Russia's partial renationalisation of the Yukos oil company 12 months ago as the "scam of the year"; days later he was stripped by Mr Putin of his role as Russia's "sherpa", or representative, to the Group of Eight industrialised nations.Still, he survived in his post as economic adviser another year despite evermore blunt outbursts, prompting some analysts to consider him him a "court jester" kept on to promote the appearance of plurality and tolerance within the Kremlin.The resignation of one of the most prominent champions of liberal economic reform occurred days before Russia takes over the presidency of the G8 amid scrutiny of its record on democracy and freedom of speech. It came as Russia's upper house on Tuesday approved controversial controls on charities and human rights groups....

Mr Illarionov added he had considered it important to remain in his job "as long as I had the opportunity to do at least something including speaking out", implying he no longer had that freedom.His announcement came a week after a press conference in which he said Russia was moving to a "corporatist" model, dominated by state-controlled companies chaired by government representatives which did not always function according to economic criteria.... "In six years, the situation in the Russian economy has changed radically," Mr Illarionov said. "There is no longer any possibility of conducting a policy of economic freedom."

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Republican Leadership says: "Let's make more Americans deeply poor!":

Conference Agreement Imposes Expensive New TANF Requirements On States And Will Result In Loss Of Child Care For Working Poor, Rev 12/19/05 : The conference agreement on the spending reconciliation bill (S. 1932) includes a major restructuring of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work participation requirements, imposing expensive and unfunded new requirements on states and severely limiting the flexibility they were afforded under the 1996 law that created the TANF block grant. While some have suggested that the TANF changes represent only minor changes from current law, that is incorrect. In fact, a new Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that the work requirements would be even more expensive for states to meet than those included in the controversial House-passed bill.

States would have to meet much higher work participation rates in 2007 — starting just ten months from now — or else face fiscal penalties. The participation rate measures the percentage of TANF recipients enrolled in federally-prescribed work activities for a federally-prescribed number of hours. The new requirements would be effective in FY 2007.... The number of children in deep poverty is likely to rise, as CBO expects states to try to cope with the federal mandates by increasing the number of families that are sanctioned off the program and by imposing new barriers to poor families seeking assistance.... The number of children living below one-half of the poverty line increased by nearly 1.5 million between 2000 and 2004.... There already is significant research showing that families sanctioned off TANF programs are disproportionately those with the most severe barriers to employment....

Some states already have instituted policies and procedures that have resulted in a sharp decline in the proportion of eligible poor families that actually receive aid through TANF. In the mid-1990s, about 80 percent of families with children who were poor enough to qualify for cash assistance through the former AFDC program received aid through that program. Data from HHS shows that in 2002, fewer than half of families poor enough to meet the TANF eligibility requirements in their states received income assistance through TANF.[3] This marked drop in participation is one of the reasons that the number and percentage of children and families who live in deep poverty has risen significantly in recent years. The expensive and unfunded work requirements in the conference agreement provide states with a strong incentive to restrict access to assistance which could exacerbate this already disturbing trend....

The conference agreement sharply restricts states’ flexibility to set policies in state-funded programs, undoing a basic tenet of the 1996 welfare law.... The conference report imposes unrealistic work requirements on two-parent families. Under current law, states are required to meet a 90 percent work participation rate for two-parent families. Researchers and state officials have long recognized that such a participation requirement is not attainable because of the many legitimate reasons that parents may be unable to fulfill the full participation requirements each month. If a parent is ill, is needed to care for an ill child, or is simply waiting for a work program to begin, the parent will fail to meet the hourly requirements and the state will not be able to “count” them toward the work participation rates. Recognizing that the federal law was wholly unworkable, states placed many two-parent families into separate state programs to ensure that if they failed to meet the 90 percent standard, the state did not face fiscal penalties.... Under the conference agreement, the 90 percent work participation rate... requirement means that any state that provides assistance to two-parent families will almost certainly fail to meet the work participation requirements and will face fiscal penalties. This could serve as a strong disincentive to states to provide aid to two-parent families and, ironically, take many states back to the old AFDC days when only single-parent families could get assistance...

Jean Tirole's Corporate Finance book:

Tirole, J.: The Theory of Corporate Finance: Contents with Links to Sample Chapters in PDF

Ariel Rubenstein's Micro book:

Rubinstein, A.: Lecture Notes in Microeconomic Theory. : Full text online (PDF format)

Veni, Emmanuel:

O Come O Come Emmanuel:

O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, oh, come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In Ancient times once gave the law
In cloud, and majesty and awe.


Oh, come, strong branch of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satans tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.


Oh, come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home:
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.

O Come Thou Dayspring, from on high
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.


O come desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace.


The New Economist notes that India's higher education system has enormous problems:

New Economist: Indian higher education in disarray : Bloomberg columnist Andy Mukherjee warns that substandard higher education may thwart India's call-center dream:

To maintain its global share of 65 percent in information technology and 46 percent in business-process outsourcing, the country will need 2.3 million professionals by 2010. According to McKinsey's calculations, India may face a deficit of as many as 500,000 workers. As much as 70 percent of the shortage will crop up in call centers and other back-office businesses, where proficiency in English is the No. 1 prerequisite for landing a job.

People within the Indian outsourcing industry are aware of the problem: A number of executives cite high employee attrition and galloping wages as signs that the labor market for undergraduates in India is getting tighter.

It isn't obvious why that should be so. In a country where millions of educated young people are unemployed, why do call centers feel compelled to give pay raises of 10 percent to 15 percent a year? Why don't they boot out the highly paid workers and grab the eager aspirants? And why do they offer their employees free dance lessons on top of a $4,000 annual wage -- worth $36,000 when adjusted for purchasing power in the local currency -- when they can't pass on the increase in costs to the U.S. bank or the European insurance company that is paying for the call centers' services? The answers may have a lot to do with India's education system... only about "10-15 percent of general college graduates are suitable for employment" in the outsourcing industry.... About 8 million students in India begin their undergraduate studies each year.... Mukherjee... discusses the well known problems of affilated colleges:

The globally renowned Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management are islands of excellence; they produce India's technological and managerial elite. The foot soldiers of India's knowledge economy are produced in lesser institutions, the so-called affiliated colleges.... A typical Indian university has scores of -- sometimes several hundred -- related colleges. The university administers examinations and distributes degrees. Other than that, "the entire higher education in India takes place only in the ill-equipped, understaffed, affiliated colleges" that produce 89 percent of India's undergraduates, Kulandaiswamy wrote in May in India's Hindu newspaper. Large, single-campus universities that have economies of scale must replace the affiliated colleges, most of which don't even have decent libraries.... [A]ll university students in India should be able to pick up the minimum English language skills required for call-center employment. That doesn't happen now.

If I had infinite hours in the day: Firedoglake watches Howard Kurtz call Bob Barr a "liberal": "Howard Kurtz: 'Some liberals, meanwhile, attacked the paper for holding the story for more than a year after earlier meetings with administration officials. (snip) Some liberals criticized The Post for withholding the location of the prisons at the administration's request.' And in one fell swoop the whole matter of illegal wiretaps is now reduced to a partisan squabble instead of a justifiable concern about government overreach, invasion of privacy and complete disregard for the Constitution. Someone should hip Bob Barr to the fact that he is now a Fellow Traveler: 'What's wrong with it is several-fold. One, it's bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order.'... Meanwhile in between recipes for the perfect Molotov cocktail and love poems to Kim Jong-il that librul rag Barrons says that Bush's willful disregard for the law 'is potentially an impeachable offense'. Someone check Richard Morin for sharp objects..." Archbishop Raymond Burke attempts to gain "control of the parish's $9.5 million in assets. The parish's property and finances have been managed by a lay board of directors for more than a century. Archbishop Burke has sought to make the parish conform to the same legal structure as other parishes in the diocese" by removing "both the parish's priests in 2004." Now Archbishop Burke has excommunicated the parish's Board of Directors as well as "Father Bozek, a Pole who came to the United States five years ago, said he agonized about leaving his previous parish but wanted to help a church that had been deprived of the sacraments for 17 months," and declared that going to church as St. Stanislaus Kostka "would be a mortal sin." But "1,500 people attended Christmas Eve Mass.... Catholics and others from as far as Oregon and Washington, D.C., filled the church. An overflow crowd viewed the Mass by closed-circuit television in an adjoining parish center. 'I'm not worried about mortal sin,' said Matt Morrison, 50, a worshiper. 'I'll take a stand for what I believe is right'." One has to wonder whether Archbishop Burke is an atheist: it is, after all, the only religion that could possibly be any comfort to him. Orin Kerr: "Was the secret NSA surveillance program legal? Was it constitutional? Did it violate federal statutory law? It turns out these are hard questions, but I wanted to try my best to answer them. My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges somewhat on technical details we don't know, it seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. My answer is extra-cautious for two reasons. First, there is some wiggle room in FISA, depending on technical details we don't know of how the surveillance was done. Second, there is at least a colorable argument -- if, I think in the end, an unpersuasive one -- that the surveillance was authorized by the Authorization to Use Miltary Force as construed in the Hamdi opinion." Partnership for Civil Justice Legal Defense & Education Fund: Ex Parte Mulligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall) 2, 120 (1866): "The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government." "WHERE DOES DISINFORMATION COME FROM: Where does disinformation come from? Consider Bart Gellman's short report atop page 12 in this morning's Post. Here's the headline... 'Carter, Clinton Authorized Spying, RNC Says.'... Gellman knew how bogus that claim really is. But you had to read all [of Gellman]... 'The RNC's quotation of Clinton's order left out the stated requirement, in the same sentence, that a warrantless search not involve "the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person." Carter's order, also in the same sentence quoted, said warrantless eavesdropping could not include "any communication to which a United States person is a party."'... Carter and Clinton didn't 'authorize spying' on U.S. citizens.... Why did Gellman write this report as he did? Why did the Post put this headline atop it? We don't know, but we do know this: Cheers rang out at the RNC when they saw their bunk at the top of page 12, with readers required to read very carefully to discern that the claim is pure hokum." "Thanks to my readers Movie Guy, Joe Rotger, and Spencer (as well as Dave Altig in personal email communication) for helping to clarify a misunderstanding I may have helped promote with my post earlier this week on wages and total compensation. The two BLS series I plotted there, average hourly earnings and total compensation, are not strictly comparable, because they apply in part to different groups of people. Average hourly earnings only refers to production workers, construction workers, and nonsupervisory workers, whereas the BLS compensation series includes all wage and salary workers as well as a compensation imputation to proprietors. Thus the divergent trends between falling wages and rising compensation in part reflects the phenomenon I referred to (an increased share of compensation going to nonwage income), and in part reflects the growing wage gap between nonsupervisory workers on the one hand and supervisors or proprietors on the other. The answer to the question I posed-- should we worry about the declining trend in real wages-- should I think be a stronger "yes" than I originally suggested." Moulitsas Zuniga lays down ten requirements for places he would like to live. And Glenn Reynolds and Steve Bartin make their play for the Stupidest Men AliveTM crown by recommending... Houston, which flunks five of the ten. Steve Clemons writes: "Powell was apparently the guy in the room who mattered when he was there because he would usually bring up the part of the picture that others had conveniently neglected as they tried to sell their plans to the President. The problem was that Powell had to be in the room.... Rice... today... looks like a Colin Powell cautious incrementalist -- doing what she can here and there, nearly in an ad hoc fashion to promote global stability, encourage and nudge forward self-determination, and doing deals with some of the world's real bad guys -- particularly in North Korea and Syria.... But she... has the 'latitude' to do what she is doing both because she has a personal relationship with the President... and because she does not have a Condi Rice at the National Security Council shutting her down. Rice's biggest failure as NSC Advisor to the President is that she got swept up in the strong Cheney-Rumsfeld current following 9/11 and tilted the President and the national security decision-making process away from judicious analysis and consideration of all options and all consequences. Rice deferred to "the cabal" and made Bush's decision making easier and less complex than it should have been because she filtered out much of what should have been before the President. In the past, Rice shut down Powell and his team..." In other words, there are two kinds of National Security Advisers: those who make sure the president hears what he needs to hear, and those who make sure the president doesn't hear what he doesn't want to hear. Condi Rice was the second. On Mel Torme: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas... Matt Taibbi writes: 'I actually worried that gopher-faced administration spokescreature Scott McClellan might be physically attacked by reporters, who appeared ready to give official notice of having had Enough....In fact the room at one point seemed on the verge of a Blazing Saddles-style chair-throwing brawl when McClellan refused to answer the cheeky question of why, if we weren't planning on torturing war-on-terror detainees in foreign prisons, we couldn't just bring them back to be incarcerated in the United States.... The room broke out into hoots and howls; even the usually dignified Bill Plante of CBS started openly calling McClellan out. "The question you're currently evading is not about an intelligence matter," he hissed. I looked around. "Man," I thought. "This place sure looks better on television." On TV, the whole package -- the deep-blue curtains, the solemn great seal -- suggests majesty, power, drama. For years I'd dreamed of coming here, the Graceland of politics. But in real life the White House briefing room is a grimy little closet that's peeling and cracking in every corner and looks like it hasn't seen a bottle of Windex in ten years. The first chair in the fifth row is broken; the fold-up seat doesn't fold up and in fact dangles on its hinge, so that you'd slide off if you tried to sit on it. No science exists that could determine the original color of these hideous carpets. Reporters throw their coats and coffee cups wherever; the place is a fucking sty. It's a raggedy-ass old stage, and the act that plays on it isn't getting any fresher, either. All partisan sniping aside, this latest counteroffensive from the White House says just about everything you need to know about George Bush and the men who work for him...' The Washington Monthly: "The opinion was written by conservative darling Michael Luttig, who until today was considered a possible contender for a spot on the Supreme Court. Now, probably not. In fact, he's probably not even a conservative darling anymore. It's worth reading Luttig's whole opinion. It's not very long and it pretty clearly indicates that Luttig and his colleagues were seriously pissed. They want to know why the government claimed it was absolutely essential to national security that Padilla be detained indefinitely, and then suddenly changed their minds without so much as an explanation. They want to know why this change of heart came only two business days before Padilla's appeal was scheduled to be filed with the Supreme Court. And that's not all. They also want to know why the government provided them with a completely different set of facts than they provided to the civilian court in Miami. They want to know why the government provided more information about the case to the media than they did to the court. And finally, they want to know why the government did all these things even though they must have known that these actions rather obviously undermined their own public arguments about the importance of the war on terror..." The Reality-Based Community: "I wonder how long the Bush boosters will continue to peddle the fairytale that the Iraqi elections were a success? The folks nearer the action don't seem to think so. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is trying to put a good face on the Iraqi election results, but he doesn't seem to be willing to just make stuff up. He's pointing with pride to the process... but he's not happy about the outcome: 'It looks like people preferred to vote for their ethnic or sectarian identity. But for Iraq to succeed, there has to be cross-sectarian and cross-ethnic cooperation. At this point, it seems sectarian and ethnic identity has played a dominant role in the vote.' The really bad sign is that the losers aren't taking the results at all cheerfully.... [The] language is not the language of a politician in a country where democracy is likely to work..."

Once again, only Fafblog can deal with America's right-wing wingnuts on the appropriate level:

Fafblog! War on Chistmas Edition: "I hear they got Rudolph today," says me.

"No!" says Giblets. "Not Rudolph! With his unmatched dogfighting skills and his nose so bright he was invincible!"

"It's true," says me. "Zombie Judah Maccabee shot im down over the Island of Misfit Toys with his dreidel of doom."

"Damn you Hannukah!" says Giblets. "Will your eight days of madness never end!"

"Do you think Santa really has a secret plan to take the Kwanzaan capital an win the war?" says me.

"Of course he does!" says Giblets. "And once Christmas spreads to Kwanzaa it will inspire Hannukhan dissidents to rise up and overthrow their oppressive anti-Christmanian leadership, and from there Christmas will spread to Eid and New Years and Halloween and Arbor Day until every day is Christmas!"

"Work will become obsolete in the new Christmas-based economy," says me. "All resources will be directly mined from wells of infinite jollity."

"Secularists do not believe in jollity," says Giblets. "They believe in a series of random chemical processes which over millions of years have created the appearance of jollity."

"Secularists don't decorate Christmas trees," says me. "They decorate Secularmas trees, which are big holes dug in the ground to demonstrate the absence of trees."

"On Secularmas, they do not exchange presents," says Giblets. "They exchange identical cardboard boxes filled with rocks and mold and broken childhood dreams and nothing!"

"But even so," says me, "maybe we can make peace with the secularists by comin to understand their strange but unique culture."

"Never!" says Giblets. "That would only embolden them to steal Christmas again! Whoville changed everything!"

"There was never a convincing link between Hannukah and the Grinch, Giblets," says me.

"Well Giblets can't let them win now!" says Giblets. "Not after what they did to Frosty!"

"Giblets, you can't keep blamin yourself for Frosty," says me. "There were menorahs fallin everywhere. You hadda save yourself."

"Giblets should have gone back for him!" says Giblets. "And by the time we did all that was left was an old top hat and a button nose!"

"Giblets, you gotta let Frosty go," says me.

"Tell that to the eyes of coal that haunt Giblets every night!" says Giblets. It's quiet in the trenches tonight. We can hear Suzy Snowflake playin a harmonica down along the wire."Some day this war's gonna end," says Giblets.

"Maybe on Boxing Day," says me.

Daniel Gross writes:

What Makes a Nation More Productive? It's Not Just Technology - New York Times : Today, as bubble-era books like "Dow 36,000" collect dust on library shelves, evidence is mounting that there may be a new economy after all. In the late 1990's, growth in labor productivity - the amount of output per hour per worker - kicked into a higher gear. From 1996 through 1999, it grew at a blistering annual rate of 2.5 percent, compared with 1.4 percent from 1972 to 1995.... As the technology investment boom of the 1990's gave way to bust in 2000, many analysts feared that the productivity gains would dissipate. Instead, productivity since 2000 has grown at a substantially higher pace than it did in the late 1990's.... "The I.T.-producing industry itself, with its extraordinarily rapid pace of change, certainly has contributed to overall productivity growth," said Martin Baily, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, based in Washington. "But now we're getting a bigger share from the rest of the economy."... In the late 1990's, McKinsey found that six of the economy's 59 sectors accounted for virtually all productivity growth... new-economy industries like telecommunications, computer manufacturing and semiconductors. But from 2000 to 2003, the top seven sectors accounted for only 75 percent of the productivity increase. And five of the top contributors were service industries, including retail trade, wholesale trade and financial services.... To be sure, service industries have become more productive in recent years by continuing to invest in information technology. Yet there are also other factors at work. "I.T. is a particularly effective enabling tool," Ms. Farrell said. "But without the competitive intensity that drives people to adopt innovation, we wouldn't see these kinds of gains."

To compete with Wal-Mart, for example, retailers of all stripes have been working furiously to gain scale, to manage supply chains and logistics more effectively, and to negotiate better terms with suppliers and workers. A similar dynamic has played out in the finance sector, where there has also been a huge gain in productivity.... One mystery of recent years has been the enduring gap in productivity growth between the United States and Europe. In this case, another structural force - regulation - may be at work. "In economies with less regulation, companies can use information communications technology that link sectors to one another in ways that create joint productivity," said Gail Fosler, executive vice president and chief economist at the Conference Board. Because domestic retailers don't face the same sorts of restrictions on working hours and road use that European retailers do, for example, the Americans have been better able to use technology to manage trucking fleets, deliveries and inventory...

A word from the National Security Agency:

Responsible Citizen: Americans expect NSA to conduct its missions within the law. But given the inherently secret nature of those missions, how can Americans be sure that the Agency does not invade their privacy? The 4th Amendment of the Constitution demands it... oversight committees within all three branches of the U.S. government ensure it... and NSA employees, as U.S. citizens, have a vested interest in upholding it. Respecting the law is only a part of gaining Americans' trust. The American people need to know, within the bounds of operational security, what NSA does and why they do it, and how they work within the Intelligence community and the Department of Defense to protect the Nation's freedom...