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  • HOW MASS IS...

    HOW MASS IS YOU DESTRUCTION? Jonah Goldberg replies apropos our earlier disagreement. There seem to be two points of contention. On the question of chemical and biological weapons, I'd say this: There's no doubt that you can kill a lot of people through aerial bombardment with toxic chemicals (see the case of Saddam Hussein and "special envoy" Don Rumsfeld versus Iraqi Kurdistan), but by the same token you can kill a lot of people through aerial bombardment with conventional explosives (everything from the United States bombing Dresden to the Serb forces shelling Sarajevo). A single nuclear weapon, by contrast, can destroy a substantial chunk of a big city -- or maybe more. Poison gas and most biological weapons (things like anthrax) are much closer to conventional weapons in their destructive force than they are to nuclear weapons. Lumping them together with nuclear weapons is, per se , a seriously misleading way of talking about the situation. (It should also be added that there's...
  • IMPORTANT COJONES FOLLOW-UP....

    IMPORTANT COJONES FOLLOW-UP. I�m going to lower the level of discourse here for a moment, but following up on Ezra �s mention of cojones earlier in the day, I thought it only appropriate to offer up this Reuters piece . --Alec Oveis
  • PRICE GOUGING FOR...

    PRICE GOUGING FOR FUN AND POLITICAL PROFIT. Let's get something straight: the President's proposed investigation into gasoline price gouging is straight theatre. Not just because, as Matt noted, the Bush White House and the Republican Congress are funded by (and composed of) oilmen, but because gouging simply isn't the issue. At best, an investigation into unfair pricing practices will turn up a handful of malicious station owners jacking up the price. That, however, isn't what's driving high oil costs. Fears about peak oil, about Iraq, about Iran, about Venezuela, and all the rest are doing most of the work forcing prices upwards (if we so much as touch Iran, pump prices will shoot skyward). In addition, India, China, and others are requiring more and more crude, further inflating prices. Worse yet, the light, sweet crude -- the easily-pumped, low-sulphur, cheaply-refined oil the industry prefers (see this for more) -- is becoming harder to find and trickier to extract. Take a look...
  • YET ANOTHER DELAY...

    YET ANOTHER DELAY IN PROBING BUSH'S PREWAR DECEPTIONS. Can this be true? From The Hill : Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panel�s inquiry into the Bush administration�s handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.... An aide to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), the panel�s ranking Democrat, said that Democrats are aware Roberts is mulling a decision on whether to divide the inquiry and that Rockefeller is unlikely to oppose such a move if Roberts goes through with it . But one Democrat who has followed the probe said separating the controversial elements would relieve pressure on Roberts to complete the entire inquiry soon... Roberts would like to wrap up work quickly on three relatively less controversial topics of the second phase of the inquiry... Left unfinished would be a report on whether public statements and...
  • LESS COMMON, MORE...

    LESS COMMON, MORE GOODS. Ed Kilgore 's remarks on the Supreme Leader's "common good" article inspires some thoughts of my own. I certainly agree that the interest-group model of party and movement organization is ill-serving progressive politics. I'm not 100 percent sure how that insight translates into Kilgore's contention that "there is tangibly a deep craving in the electorate for leadership that appeals to something other than naked self-interest and the competing claims of groups." I see a tangibly deep craving in the electorate not to have one's kids killed either in terrorist attacks or in misguided invasions, and a tangibly deep craving for more disposable income after the costs of housing, energy, education, and health care. Basically, people would like to have more stuff and be safe so they can enjoy it, and they worry about pop culture screwing up their kids. No doubt they also would like to feel more altruistic, but if you could convince 60 percent of the population that...
  • HEADING TO THE...

    HEADING TO THE SOURCE. It's a rare day when I give George W. Bush credit for political courage, but traveling to my hometown of Irvine, California, and forthrightly saying that "massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work," takes some cojones . Orange County is second only to San Diego in its xenophobic sentiment, so it's a meaningful place for Bush to take a stand. Or at least kinda take a stand, because he refused to actually endorse any legislation, lay down any principles (save an opposition to deportation), or explain what he wants a compromise to look like. As the situation stands, Bush is resisting the most xenophobic elements of his party, but refraining from supporting anything more specific than "progress." It's like political courage, only smaller! Orange County, by the way, is responsible for most everything that's gone wrong in this country for the last couple of decades. So much as I love the beaches, and Pacific Coast Highway, and...
  • WHO TO BELIEVE?...

    WHO TO BELIEVE? I read with interest today's Washington Post report on the growing (if still limited) presence of Shiite militias -- Moqtada al-Sadr 's Mahdi Army, SCIRI's Badr Brigade -- in the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. With Kurdish forces digging in and insisting on solidifying Kurdish control of the city, the potential for a genuinely disastrous conflict is obvious. But over at The Corner this morning, Kathryn Jean Lopez assures us that "there's good news in Iraq," citing Bill Crawford 's latest good-news-in-Iraq round-up . Crawford touts the promising news in Kirkuk as "Iraqis [take] the lead in security operations and intelligence gathering" there, linking to dispatches released by the U.S. State Department and � the U.S. Defense Department . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • MORE ON SABRI....

    MORE ON SABRI. Jonah Goldberg links to this earlier NBC news report on the Naji Sabri issue. Jonah and his readers seem to have two points to make. One is that the NBC account allegedly contradicts the CBS account. The other is to mock CBS for being "a month behind" on the story. Both claims are false and, indeed, somewhat contradictory. The NBC story is different from the CBS story. This, however, is exactly why CBS wasn't "late" with their account. Rather, building on previously reported information, they added new information to the story. NBC reported that Sabri told the CIA that they were all wrong about Iraq's WMD programs. What CBS added is that this didn't just vanish into some CIA black hole but, according to Tyler Drumheller , the administration's top officials were apprised of Sabri's information and chose to ignore it. Jonah's readers also want to make a big deal out of the fact that Sabri apparently did say that Iraq had stocks of chemical weapons. Thus, in a semantic...
  • FAKE CONSERVATISM. Can...

    FAKE CONSERVATISM. Can there be anything more silly looking than the oil industry's bought-and-paid-for GOP servants in Congress and the White House pretending to crack down on alleged price-fixing in the oil industry? No doubt some of this is going on (probably at the level of retail gas stations rather than the big business end of the deal), but the whole thing is obviously a red herring to avoid the real questions in energy policy. Why, to take one, does the government dole out generous subsidies to an industry that's both profitable, bad for the environment, and increasingly bad for our foreign policy? Why not a windfall profits tax? For that matter, why not a real energy policy aimed at increasing fuel efficiency, decreasing reliance on oil as a fuel, and, for the long-run, decreasing overall dependence on cars? National Review at least has the courage of its convictions and says the government should do nothing, but the GOP doesn't really want to do anything; they're just...
  • The Housing Bubble: Why Did the Media Miss It?

    As the housing bubble starts to unwind people will be looking for villains in this economic disaster. There are many, with the list including Alan Greenspan, the bulk of the economics profession, and of course, the reporters covering the housing market. As was the case with the stock bubble, there was very little attention paid to the underlying fundamentals in the market. Anyone who bothered to look at the data could have quickly recognized that the run-up in home prices in the years after 1997 had no historical precedent . From the early 1950s until 1997 (the years for which we have good data), house prices largely followed the overall rate of inflation. In the years since 1997, house prices have increased by 50 percent after adjusting for inflation. If housing prices have tracked the overall price level for 50 years, and then suddenly take-off relative to other prices, this is a fundamental change in a key sector of the economy. Fundamental changes in the economy are not impossible...

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