Friday, May 14, 2004
Evan Maloney at Brain Terminal writes the following about the media coverup of the Nick Berg video:
One day the media was telling us we had to see the pictures from Abu Ghraib so we could understand the horrors of war. But with Berg's beheading, we're told we can't handle the truth. It kind of makes you wonder which masters the media serves: images that cast us in a negative light get a full airing; images that remind us of the savagery of our enemies are hidden from view, lest we get blood lust. But is it possible to win a war without a little blood lust?
There is a wide consensus in the blogosphere that the media is very blatantly showing its bias against the war, against the Bush administration, and against America.
Paul Krugman writes about oil again in his New York Times column today, and this time he actually uses the entire column to write about oil instead of attacking the Bush administration. The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: A Crude Shock. Maybe he read my blog and rewrote his column based on my complaints about his last column.
In fact, Kerry should read this column. Kerry has been complaining about oil prices being high, and blaming Bush for it. Here we have a ultra-liberal like Krugman actually talking straight and making sense.
The oil crises of the 1970's began with big supply disruptions: the Arab oil embargo after the 1973 Israeli-Arab war and the 1979 Iranian revolution. This time, despite the chaos in Iraq, nothing comparable has happened — yet. Nonetheless, because of rising demand that is led by soaring Chinese consumption, the world oil market is already stretched tight as a drum, and crude oil prices are $12 a barrel higher than they were a year ago.
Ah ha! Here we have Krugman admitting that oil prices are not high because of Republican policies, but because the Chinese are consuming too much, and supplies are limited.
What if something really does go wrong?
This is certainly a reasonable question to ask.
The International Energy Agency estimates the world's spare oil production capacity at about 2.5 million barrels per day, almost all of it in the Persian Gulf region.
Yes, in case you didn't get it before, oil prices are high because there is barely enough prodouction to meet demand.
But wait: basic economics says that markets deal handily with excesses of demand over supply. Prices rise, producers have an incentive to produce more while consumers have an incentive to consume less, and the market comes back into balance. Won't that happen with oil?
Yes, it will.
Yes, the basic principle of supply and demand. Free markets work. Imagine a liberal admitting that free markets work! Liberals like Kerry who think we use too much oil should be happy that prices are high, because high prices will give consumers an incentive to consume less.
Sustained high gasoline prices lead to more fuel-efficient cars: by 1990 the average American vehicle got 40 percent more miles per gallon than in 1973. But replacing old cars with new takes years. In their initial response to a shortfall in the gasoline supply, people must save gas by driving less, something they do only in the face of very, very high prices. So very, very high prices are what we'll get
Yes, once again an explantion of how high prices will cause people to conserve energy. People will drive less. What an interesting concept. Maybe instead of driving 30 miles to the big Walmart, they will walk to a nearby store. What a radical concept, people using their feet to get from point A to point B. Liberals have complained about how Walmart squeezes out the small businessman. High gasoline prices will give the small businessman a chance to come back. Liberals should be cheering the high gasoline prices. Why aren't they?
So oil prices will stay high, and may go higher even in the absence of more bad news from the Middle East. And with more bad news, we'll be looking at a real crisis — one that could do a lot of economic damage. Each $10 per barrel increase in crude prices is like a $70 billion tax increase on American consumers, levied through inflation.
Here is where Krugman is wrong. Because only about half of our oil is imported, that means that half of the $70 billion benefits American oil companies. Or shareholders of American oil companies. Who are these shareholders? I am one of them. I've made a lot of money (relative to the unfortunately small amount invested) from my investments in domestic oil and gas companies. I couldn't be happier that oil prices are high. If you had read my blogs and followed my investment advice, you too would own oil stocks and be as happy as I am.
[I]f there is a major supply disruption, the world will have to get by with less oil, and the only way that can happen in the short run is if there is a world economic slowdown. An oil-driven recession does not look at all far-fetched.
This is good news for Republicans! George W. Bush doesn't have a chance in hell of winning another term in office. So John Kerry will get blamed for the economic downturn, which means he will be a one term president, and then maybe if we are lucky, in 2008 the country will elect a genuine conservative Republican into office, one who believes in a small federal government, simplifying the tax code, eliminating burdensome regulations, keeping illegal immigrants out of our country, and all the other things that real Republicans believe in that W. doesnt.
It is, all in all, an awkward time to be pursuing a foreign policy that promises a radical transformation of the Middle East — let alone to be botching the job so completely.
It causes Krugman great pain to make it through a whole column without putting down the Bush administration, so he had to stick in a gratuitous insult at the end. But at this point, it's really like beating a dead horse. With Bush's approval rating at an all time low, and nothing looking up for him on the horizon, he's already like a lame duck.
MSNBC has made public photos, provided by Spc. Charles Graner's attorney, which show military intelligence officers who were "in charge of interrogations at the prison", involved with the abuses. MSNBC - Photo may show intelligence officers in charge.
The interrogators are trained at top secret Fort Huachuca in Arizona. "[T]wo former soldiers training there to become interrogators told ABC News that they were taught to 'bend the rules' to inflict physical and mental pain on prisoners." The Arizona Republic: Ex-trainees: We learned abuse tactics at Huachuca.
"The abuse at Abu Ghraib occurred in two cell blocks in the 7,000-prisoner facility. Two cell blocks, 1A and 1B, hold about 200 of some of the most hard-core insurgents thought to have vital information on the whereabouts of Iraqi fighters killing American troops." The Washington Times.
It could not be more clear that this was not some random abuse by a few bad apple rogue soldiers, but rather an example of military intelligence officers using methods they learned at their top secret training to get information out of enemy insurgents.
Now the military and the Bush administration are in deny, scapegoat, and cover up mode. In a most cowardly manner, the Bush administration has blamed everything on the actions of a few low level soldiers, and the army is helping out by happily court martialling them.
No one in the administration has the courage to say what's politically incorrect but true, that these prisoners are terrorists who participated in the murder of Americans, and they should be thankful that they just had to walk around naked and wear women's underwear, and that they weren't beheaded like poor Nick Berg.
I thought that after we got rid of Clinton, the days of coverups and lies coming from the White House had ended, but this is apparently not the case.
As I wrote before, the wrong people are being court martialled. These soldiers were serving their country, and now their country is punishing them for their loyalty.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
I see that I am not alone in noting the double standard here. The media eagerly shows pictures from the Iraqi prison that make American soldiers look bad, but then avoids showing us the Nick Berg video, and even reporting facts about the execution, because this would make our enemies look bad.
Robert Cox at the blog The National Debate writes:
American television news organization rediscovered their long-standing reticence to show images of brutality that might "offend" viewers, a reticence lost several weeks ago when photos began to emerge from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. News organizations had previously enforced a policy to shield viewers from gruesome images including those of men and women jumping from the World Trade Center, from the bodies blown apart in the bombing of the East Africa embassies, the bodies of sailors from the U.S.S. cole, the American dead from Khobar towers, the burned American bodies from the Bali bombings, from Daniel Pearl's slit throat and decapitated head. Over the past few weeks the American media abandon this policy and somehow found the courage to show the "horrible pictures of abuse" that are "tantamount to torture" coming out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The Boston Globe was so eager to maker our troops look bad that it published fake photos that purported to show American soldiers raping Iraqi women. (See WorldNetDaily: Globe publishes apology for fake 'GI rape' photos.)
Many pages of business books are filled with advice on how to hire employees. If someone said “hire the best employees and you’ll have the best company”, it wouldn’t be a recommendation that would raise any eyebrows. Someone has probably said that exact same thing.
But mathematically, it’s impossible for all companies to have the best employees. If we say that the “best employees” comprise the top 10%, that means at the most only 10% of companies could have all their employees be “the best.”
Furthermore, it’s mathematically impossible for all companies to have good employees. If we say that half of employees are “good” and the other half “bad”, this means that only 50% of companies will be likely to have more good employees than bad employees.
Yet you will rarely hear a company say that it has bad employees. In fact, I would say you’ll never hear a company admit to such a thing, except that “never” is too absolute of a word. Somewhere out there, there must be a company outside of a Dilbert cartoon that admits they have bad employees and they’re proud of it.
In one industry I’m familiar with, government contracting, I would say that companies definitely do not want to hire the best employees. This is because the best employees demand higher salaries than mediocre employees. And in most of the contracts I’ve seen, the money billed to the government is based on how much experience the employee has. A lousy employee with many years of experience will get billed out at a much higher rate than a superstar employee with little experience. So a government contractor would lose money by hiring better employees, because they’d have to pay them more but would get reimbursed the same amount of money. Even worse, if it’s a time and materials contract, the best employees might complete the work faster than mediocre employees, causing the contractor to make even less money from the contract. Clearly, government contractors have a lot to lose by hiring the best employees!
For a consulting or contracting company, it’s much more important to create the perception of having the best employees than to actually have them. The most profitable company would have the perception of having the best employees, but would actually have the worst, and thus lowest paid, employees. The only problem is that maintaining such a perception is difficult if the employees are really that bad. But the point, nevertheless, is that perception trumps reality. (Read my essay about the marketing economy for my further thoughts on the importance of marketing in today’s economy.)
Clearly, a government contractor is better off with mediocre employees and the best account managers, who are able to create the perception, in the clients, that they are getting the best employees. But probably, government contractors won’t even get the best sales people, because the best sales people will be in most profitable industries where they can get bigger commissions.
The highest profit industry in the United States is investment banking, and that is where they very best people work. (The investment banking industry maintains its high profitability through an illegal gentleman’s agreement whereby no investment banks compete with each other on price—but that’s surely a tangent best fleshed out in a future post.)
Even outside of government contracting, there are many reasons why the best people aren’t hired. If an organization is comprised of mediocre people, such an organization probably doesn’t desire to hire a superstar who wouldn’t fit in. Most managers probably avoid, either consciously or unconsciously, employees who might outshine them.
Unless a company puts forth effort into cultivating a philosophy of seeking the best employees, the forces of entropy will result in the mediocre being hired. At most companies, finding employees willing to work for the least amount of money seems to be given a higher priority than finding the best.
Many companies, through lack of foresight, laziness, or other reasons, wait until the last minute to hire people. At the last minute, the need to hire someone fast becomes more important than finding the best person. To pick on the same industry again, this seems to happen a lot in government contracting. If there is a time and materials contract, the contractor can’t bill the government for an employee unless there is a warm body to fill the position. If it takes three weeks to hire a mediocre employee, or eight weeks to hire the best employee, then five weeks of billing would be lost by engaging in a lengthier hiring process. Once again, the government contractor has the financial incentive not to hire the best. This problem is further exacerbated by the government itself, which often waits until the last possible minute to award a contract, giving the contractor little time to fill positions.
When I had to fill a position at a government contractor that I recently worked for, the HR department wasn’t especially pleased at my rejection of so many applicants. Yet HR refused to place an advertisement in at the premium job sites or in the newspaper, because they were too expensive. I’ve never dealt with an HR department in any industry that didn’t rewrite ad copy submitted to them; and the rewrites were always worse than the original. At most companies, HR definitely seems to stand in the way of hiring the best employees.
This essay doesn’t address the issue of whether companies know how to identify which job applicants will become the best employees. It’s not clear that companies can identify the best employees even after they’ve been on the job for a year! But these are issues for a future post.
The conclusions today are: (1) many companies don’t desire to hire the best employees; (2) the perception of having the best employees is often more desirable than actually having the best employees; and (3) government contracting is an example of an industry that doesn’t usually gain anything by hiring better employees.
It's reported by Reuters that Kerry wants to make a campaign issue out of the high gasoline prices:
Record-high gasoline prices have left Bush exposed to continued drubbing from Kerry, who wants to turn them into a campaign issue.
"Another day of record prices and another day of no plans from the White House," said a spokesman for Kerry. "The president needs to get his advisors together to consider every option to address short-term prices."
The Democrats have said that we are using too many hydrocarbons, and it's ruining the environment, and making us dependant on foreign oil, and blah blah blah.
So if Kerry and the Democrats were consistent, they'd be applauding the higher prices because high prices will encourage people to conserve and use less gasoline.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Nick Berg, the American who was beheaded by Iraqis linked to Al-Qaida, was Jewish, but you would never know that from the news stories released by the major media publications. Only the JTA has written anything about it (see JTA News: Videotaped execution of U.S. Jew may not shake commitment in Iraq).
Is this a fact worth noting? Absolutely. If the Klu Klux Klan murdered someone, and the victim was black, you can be sure the media would point this out.
Here we have Islamic terrorists, who are known to hate Jews above all others, killing a Jewish American, and this fact is not noted.
Amongst left wing folk, killing people because of their ethnic background is the most evil of all possible offenses. Although I suspsect that the average American doesn't care about Nick's ethnicity, they just care that he's an American who was killed in horrible manner by our enemies, the left wing probably sees it differently.
Add to this the fact that no pictures of the beheading, or of the Islamic terrorists holding his head up for the cameras, were shown by the American media. The same media that is eager to show pictures of alleged abuse at the Iraqi prison, to make our own soldiers look bad, avoids showing pictures and reporting facts that make the terrorists look bad.
Something smells unkosher.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I'm happy to see that I'm not the only person outraged over the reaction to the prison abuse:
"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," the Oklahoma Republican said at a U.S. Senate hearing probing the scandal.
"These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations," Inhofe said. "If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."
If I lived in Ohio, Senator Inhofe would have my vote.
Monday, May 10, 2004
It seems that a bunch of liberal blogs have been citing a fake chart which showed that all of the high IQ states voted for Gore, while all of the low IQ states voted for Bush. Thankfully, Steve Sailer has revealed the chart to be a hoax, much like a similar hoax from a few years ago which purported that Republican presidents had low IQs.
Steve also had the following, brilliantly worded, observation:
Nothing demonstrates the hypocrisy of Democrats on the topic of IQ than the enthusiasm with which so many leapt aboard this bandwagon as a way to prove they were mentally superior to Republicans, despite, in the near-decade since the publication of The Bell Curve, having constantly denounced IQ tests as meaningless, racist, and evil incarnate.
Way to go Steve.
On Friday, I posted about how I thought that statements of one of the accused’s lawyers, that he was just following orders, had the ring of truth to it (Iraqi prison duty: it's a dirty job, but someone has to be the scapegoat ).
With more facts surfacing, that truth rings louder than ever. Most notable is the article in today’s Wall Street Journal which reveals that the American Red Cross had previously catalogued exactly the kind of activities that we saw in the pictures (AP: Red Cross Report Describes Abuse in Iraq ).
[A]ccording to the Red Cross, military police guards supervised by intelligence officers subjected prisoners to "ill-treatments ranging from insults and humiliation to both physical and psychological coercion that in some cases might amount to torture." The report adds that "several military-intelligence officers confirmed" that holding prisoners "naked in a completely dark and empty cell" was "standard operating procedure" to extract information.
This is exactly as I pointed it out in my previous post on this matter. Furthermore, it seems that all of the accused soldiers are telling the same story.
I still remain agnostic about the way the Iraqi prisoners were treated. If people who know a lot more about intelligence gathering than I do determined that this was a proper way to treat the prisoners, I owe their determination a certain amount of deference. Bad things happen in war. If the war is fought for a just reason, we shouldn’t back away from it because it hurts the enemy. As Pat Buchanan writes in his column today (The superpower goes to confession):
What did the president and his advisers – and Kerry, who voted to give Bush a blank check to go to invade Iraq – think a guerrilla war would be like? Has none of them even seen "The Battle of Algiers," the 1965 film of how Gen. Massu ended terrorism out of the Casbah?
What we are getting from Abu Ghraib is a glimpse of the dark side of guerrilla war, with this critical difference: Cameras and minicams are ubiquitous today. The Internet transmits photos and videos worldwide in a flash. America can no longer control the images of America's wars.
What I find to be outrageous here is the reaction to these photos. Soldiers who had no part in determining our Iraqi policies are being made scapegoats, and Bush is apologizing to the Arab street to whom he owes no such apology.
From today's New York Times:
The decision to allow a wide level of public access to Specialist Sivits's court-martial appears to reflect a conclusion by American commanders that the abuse and the photographs have severely damaged the credibility of the United States enterprise in Iraq and the country's reputation in the Middle East. While American courts-martial are not usually conducted in secret, it is unusual for the military justice authorities to make them easily accessible to the public.
In anticipation of intense interest from around the world, General Kimmitt said military officials might hold the trial in Baghdad's convention center, a spacious building with several auditoriums, ...
Pandering to the Arab street in this manner is not going help us. And what happens if the soldier is found not guilty? Does anyone remember what happened after the police officers in the Rodney King trial were found not guilty? Perhaps the people conducting the trial know that the soldier will be found guilty because it’s not a real trial at all, but a sham kangaroo trial?
I am not certain that anyone should be on trial here at all, but if there are people who deserve to be on trial, they are the people who gave the orders and the people who created the policies, not the unfortunate soldiers who got stuck with MP duty.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Blogger has rolled out a whole bunch of new features, including individual pages for each post, and comments. This means that I will now have access to some of the more sophisticated publishing features found in other blogging software. This is very good news for The Calico Cat as well as other Blogger based blogs.
No longer will I have to make a special HTML page for my "special essays" as I call them. From now on, every post will be special.
I thank Google, the new owners of Blogger, for developing a better Blogger and not even charging me for it.
I need to work on my template, however, so the Calico Cat's new look won't happen immediately. Maybe it will take a few hours. Maybe a few days. I don't know how big of a task this is going to be.
There's been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about Paul Krugman's recent column in The New York Times regarding the coming oil shortage. Here are some links: Tim Worstall, Crooked Timber, Cold Spring Shops.
Well let me add my two cents. First of all Krugman is a lousy economist, and his column in The New York Times is mostly left-wing propaganda. Indeed, in his oil column, he is too busy attacking the Bush administration to have much space left to actually write about oil. It's disgusting that The New York Times gives this guy a platform while economists more deserving are denied a voice.
Nevertheless, Krugman is correct that oil is running out. I've written about this topic before on my blog. But because people are very shortsighted, they don't see the obvious. In 1956, M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S oil production woule peak in 1970 and then begin declining. And he turned out to be right.
Applying the same analysis to other parts of the world, other geologists have predicted that world oil production will peak sometime during this decade or the next, and then begin declining.
Does this mean the end of the world? Not for people living in the United States. If the price of gasoline rose to $5/gallon, or even $10/gallon, life would go on. Big deal. People would drive more practical cars instead of monster SUVs (of which presidential candidate John Kerry owns three). Even if oil were $100/barrel, it's still the most practical form of energy for transportation.
That doesn't mean that there is nothing to worry about. Vastly higher oil prices will be a bad thing for the world. It will give even more economic power to unstable governments in the Middle East. It will hurt poor third world nations far worse than the United States. For example, think about how oil is related to agriculture. The costs of operating farm machinery, fertilizer, and transportation of food, are all impacted by higher oil prices. Where people barely can afford to buy enough food to eat, higher prices for food could mean famine.
Even Americans will feel pain. Higher prices for oil means we have to make do with less. Making do with less is painful. People whine because gas is $2/gallon. How much more loudly will they whine when it's $10/gallon? We are accustomed to each generation having more than the last. How will we pay for the social security payments of Baby Boomers if prosperity is decreasing due to declining resources?
I am pessimistic about the ability of technology to magically replace oil. First of all, we must remember that oil is predominately used in transportation. "Green" forms of energy almost always involve the creation of electricity. Windmills won't power your car. Also, think about all the plastic we use. Plastic comes from oil, and there's no good substitute for plastic.
Cars powered by alternative forms of energy are just not very practical at the moment. Some say they could be more practical in the future through technological innovation. Many liberals complain that if just the evil Republicans would allocate more money towards research, we could replace all the gasoline powered cars with ones powered by hydgrogen or electricity or kryptonite. However, this research has gone nowhere. In Europe, where gasoline is already significantly more expensive, people still use cars powered by gasoline, they are just smaller and they don't drive them as much.
Liberals should be glad that the price of oil is rising. After all, they hate it when Americans drive big SUVs (except for John Kerry who owns three). Well, high gasoline prices will encourage people to conserve, right? So liberals are happy that gasoline prices are high, right? No, instead the liberals whine and complain when gas prices are high. They blame Bush and Haliburton and evil right wing conspiracies, and bemoan how horrible it is that poor people can't afford to fill up their SUVs. Liberals are very hard to understand.