Dafydd: Why Markets Sometimes Fail

As many of you know, Hugh Hewitt has been on holiday for the past several days. His guest host today (or at least for this first segment) is someone named Jerry-something; I didn’t catch the name, and I’m not familiar with him. But he raised an interesting question… one that he seemed incapable of answering, alas, for the answer seems pretty clear to me.
He asks the standard question about Iraq: “are we winning?” But he is drawn to the negative response, no we’re not, by an interesting line of reasoning: he notes that oil hit a high today, and he deduces (rather, he surmises) that international investors are beginning to be convinced that we’re losing and are going to lose. And as he points out, “markets are usually right.”
But that facile pronouncement at the end is insufficient; it requires deeper thought: why are markets usually right? And under what conditions can they be egregiously wrong? Alas, many capitalists (such as myself) have such a kneejerk love of markets that we are occasionally led to attribute godlike powers of perception to them.

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Dafydd: Crystal Gaza

Israel is just about to evacuate the settlers from Gaza, by force if necessary. Most observers are tearing their hair out, seeing nothing but bad coming from this.
The argument — and it’s perfectly logical, as far as it goes — is that by withdrawing the settlers and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) which is primarily there to defend them with checkpoints, searches, and restrained shows of force, a power vacuum will be created. The Palestinian Authority will of course be too weak to maintain its power, so Hamas (and perhaps Hezbollah or Palestinian Islamic Jihad) will seize control instead. (Though Al-Qaeda has also now staked a claim to Gaza, and the strip may turn into a decidedly uncivil civil war instead of smoothly transitioning to Hamas.)
Thus, Gaza will inevitably become a new base for militant Islamists, say those opposing the pullout. Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posts the template of this argument:

The U.S. has, at great cost, overthrown two governments that harbored and supported terrorists. But now, with U.S. encouragement and indeed pressure, Israel is about to transform Gaza into a substantial base of terrorist operations.

The Captain himself has presented this argument ably and frequently, of course, most recently here, here, and again here.
But opponents of the pullout never seem to ask the next question: so Gaza is taken over by Hamas, which launches an attack on Israel… and then what happens?
What happens, I predict, is that Israel — which would no longer have to fear mass murder of the settler-hostages in enemy territory — will respond to Hamas as they responded to all cross-national attacks on Israel, most particularly in 1948, 1967, and 1973: with a full military response from the IDF, including air support, which they have rarely used in the territories since capturing them during the Six-Day War (after Gaza and the West Bank were used as staging areas for an Arab invasion of Israel).
Right now, Israel’s hands are tied in the occupied territories. Israel is an occupying nation, so it cannot go all-out in combat within the territories without violating the rules of civilized warfare. Because Israel is in fact a civilized, Western country, it takes those rules seriously, even when the enemy does not. This is immensely frustrating, of course, since the Palestinian terrorists don’t even recognize the existence of any sort of rules of warfare, civilized or otherwise; they have no restraint upon their behavior whatsoever.
But once Israel pulls out of both Gaza and the West Bank, “Palestine” becomes an independent nation in both law and fact (the first time an independent nation of Palestine has ever existed there, I believe). And that lifts the restraints on the IDF — because even France and Russia would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Israel wouldn’t be allowed to defend itself from attack by another independent nation. Even if members of the UN Security Council floated a resolution to condemn Israel, it would be the simplest thing in the world for the United States and Great Britain to veto it.
Note: There is absolutely no doubt that the terrorist groups will claim they “drove” Israel out of Gaza, just as they claimed they drove it out of Lebanon. They will get a little temporary propaganda advantage out of this. But that slight advantage will be more than offset by the improvement in the military situation… especially if Ariel Sharon withdraws in an orderly fashion; unlike Ehud Barak, who ordered the IDF to flee Lebanon as if they had just been routed in battle. (The Israelis departed so quickly they actually left armor behind; they had to send Israeli warplanes to bomb their own tanks, lest they fall into the hands of Hezbollah!) I don’t think anybody knows why Barak ordered such a panicked departure; perhaps just the typical Leftist urge towards melodrama.
Here is what to look for to see if my prediction is coming true: once Israel pulls out, a major attempted attack by some terrorist group or groups is inevitable. Because of the security fence (the “wall”), that attack will probably be in the form of rockets, mortars, or artillery fired over the wall. If Israel responds with aerial bombing of significant targets within Gaza and the West Bank, that will tell us that the days of pussyfooting have passed. The Palestinian Arabs will wake up to a new reality, one in which Israel no longer pulls punches in response to mindless Arab terror. I absolutely believe this will create a much better situation than what we have now, with international terrorist groups having significantly less ability to launch attacks on Israel (or on us) from the Palestinian territory than they enjoy today.
But if Israel’s only response is a targeted assassination of some Hamas official and a strongly worded letter of protest to Failed Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas… well, then Israel would have surprised and saddened me.
One thing you gotta admit about me: when I make predictions, they are always testable — and usually very quickly so!

Dafydd: Imminent Domain

This one slid under the electrified fence, wriggled through the bales of razor-wire, and nearly escaped. Fortunately, my elf-eyed wife Sachi caught it in the spotlight at the last moment.
After the Supreme Court held in Kelo v. New London that the city of New London could seize non-blighted residential real estate and sell it to a developer for no other “public use” reason than the fact that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. would pay more property tax on that land, many of us predicted that it would be open season on private property… and not just residential, either. Why not seize a group of small businesses, throw the owners out with a cut-rate payout, and sell the land to a much larger corporation? Wouldn’t the public be better served by a brand, spanking new commercial apartment complex than some dirty old auto-parts stores?
Well, I know you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that the City of Oakland — whose mayor is the former governor of California and champion of the little guy Jerry Brown — has done exactly that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Thriving businesses, including Revelli Tires and Autohouse, the latter owned — formerly owned — by first-generation immigrant Tony Fung, have been told to pack up and move out, find somewhere else, go away, because Oakland needs their property for a wonderful new private apartment complex.

Oakland also evicted Tony Fung, Revelli’s next-door neighbor and the owner-operator of Autohouse on 20th Street. “I am a first-generation immigrant, ” Fung told me. “This is my American dream.”
To hell with Fung’s dream — the City of Oakland seized it, so that someone else can build on it. And without offering enough money for Fung to relocate his business, he says.

It’s all part of Oakland’s downtown redevelopment. When reporter Debra J. Saunders caught up with Brown, he was in full Captain Renault form:

“I know Revelli,” said Brown. “He fixed my brakes, twice.” Brown lives seven blocks away from Revelli’s shop. He admitted that Autohouse and Revelli Tires are not blighted, but told of other buildings nearby that were crime- ridden and vermin-infested before the city pushed for redevelopment.
“You cannot have a downtown with this kind of abandonment,” said Brown. And: “There is a greater good here,” in eradicating the blight and replacing it with homes.

I’m shocked, shocked to find that Eminent Domain is going on in here!
Your takings, sir.

Lest we think Jerry Brown might not have a heart of gold, but perhaps some other element (Plutonium springs to mind), he hastened to reassure us that he’s still fighting for the little guy:

The mayor also made a pledge: “It’s not easy, but I personally pledge to do everything I can to get [John Revelli] located.” Fung, too.

It almost raises a lump in the throat. Or perhaps one’s gorge.
So until and unless each and every state in the Union gets busy and enacts a state constitutional amendment insisting that “public use” actually means, you know, use by the public, don’t imagine for one second that your own property is secure. Assume all property is under imminent threat of Eminent Domain whenever the local Eye of Sauron notices its existence.

Dafydd: Flipper the Duck

Patterico has noticed an astonishing claim by Howard Dean — no, I mean astonishing even on the Dean Scale — a few days ago (I can’t find the exact date).
Here comes Mr. Chairman:

The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is “okay” to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is.

Let us all ponder this audacious argument. My old dictionary defines “chutzpah” as Lizzie Borden pleading for mercy from the judge on grounds that she’s an orphan. But next year’s edition will eschew written examples in favor of a photo of Chairman Dean.
What Dean has done, of course, is simply to flip the political identity of the justices on the Court; in Dean’s world, it was the “right-wing” caucus on the Court — Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy — that ruled in favor of the city of New London, CT, in the Kelo case; while the “left-wingers” (Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, and O’Connor) desperately tried to stick up for the little guy. It’s Howard Dean through the looking glass!
Patterico has also noticed the thundering sound of a million crickets chirping in the MSM auditorium; or as Paul Simon (the successful singer, not the lefty senator) wrote, the “sounds of silence.” It’s hard to imagine so many quiet noises if it had been Bill Frist or Tom DeLay who casually flipped left and right; Dana Milbank in particular would have gotten at least four op-eds out of it.
In honor of Howard “Flipper” Dean, herewith, offered for your approval:
They call him Flipper, Flipper, quick to the cameras,
No-one you’ve seen, spins faster than Dean,
And we know Flipper, lives in a media bubble,
Truth lies in rubble, watch Howard preen!
MSM loves the king of the twist,
Tripe that he shoves they cannot resist,
Tricks he will do when cameras appear,
Sneer, smirk, slither, and smear!
He’s a hot tipper, Flipper, makes the news fright’ning,
Giddy they seem with “I Have a Scream,”
They know their Flipper feeds them the soundbites to plotz for,
Cheap dirty shots whore, he’s on their team!

Dafydd: A Climate Pact Even I Can Applaud

This one caught me totally by surprise: China, India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States (we led the effort) have just signed an international agreement, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, to “keep climate-changing chemicals out of the atmosphere, especially carbon from fossil fuels.” But rather than the Kyoto-Protocol method of setting target goals for emissions reductions that force de-industrialization among complying nations (of which there are actually very few among the Kyoto signers), this new pact aims to reduce emissions by jointly developing new pollutant-control technologies. (Power Line’s John Hinderaker, the only “SuperLawyer” currently blogging in the ‘sphere, is on the story.)

In a move to counter the Kyoto Protocol that requires mandatory cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions, [President Bush] is making the technology pitch as part of a partnership with five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India. The idea is to get them to commit to cleaner energy production as a way to curtail air pollution that most scientists believe is causing the Earth to warm up.
The administration announced late Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the five countries to create a new partnership to deploy cleaner technologies whenever possible to produce energy.

I’m one of the most rabid despisers of the global-warming mob (globaloney, that is) and their ham-fisted, Luddite attempt to force industrial Western societies back into the past, the pastoral, preindustrial golden age when everyone was treated with love and respect, and lions lay with lambs in arrangements other than prandial.
So why am I wildly approving of this new greenhouse-gas pact, agreement, whatever one calls it? Well, do the obvious…!

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Dafydd: ab Hugh’s Universal Rules of Intelligence

Thinking about the terrible shooting of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot to death in London by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber, recalls some rules of intelligence and analysis that we should always keep in mind:
1. The Law of Imperfect Precognition: Sometimes there is no “right choice.” Throw the dice.
2. The Law of Imperfect Postcognition: Not even hindsight is ever really 20-20.
3. The Law of Colliding Interests: Five different people can each make a rational decision and still wind up in a melee.
4. The Law of the Rational Onion: There is always another layer of analysis that contradicts everything you’ve already concluded. At some point, you just have to stop.
5. The Law of Models: There is a real reality out there, whether you can see it or not. And it bites.

Dafydd: The Tancredo Threat

I cannot believe that this controversy is still roiling within the blogosphere. The newest argument I’ve seen is that threatening to bomb or even “nuke” Mecca is just the same as MAD, the Cold-War strategy of threatening massive retaliation in response to a Soviet first-strike on the American homeland.
But it’s not. And there is a very good reason why it is not analogous.
The reason that MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction, worked is that the Soviets were modernist dictators; they were a modern, industrial society run by atheists who believed that this life was the only life, and who were motivated not by a transcendent religion but rather by an ideology of absolute temporal power. They took seriously the threat to destroy their realm and kill the leaders themselves.
Now, I realize it seems crazy to postulate a group that literally believes that the fastest way to paradise is to die killing the infidel. It sounds insane to imagine a group that would embrace — oh, for an impossible example, some sort of suicide bomber as a holy martyr assured of his seventy-two one-eyed virgins, or whatever it is. And it feels utterly ridiculous to worry that the leadership of such a group themselves might really believe those ideas, believe them to the point where they extrapolate the martyrdom concept to a planetary-wide “suicide bombing,” actually trying to bring about global annihilation in order to precipitate the Millennium.
Alas that this “insanity” is the reality of the enemy we do, in fact, face today, right where we are sitting now.
The Tancredo Threat assumes that the militant-Islamist terrorists are rational and temporal human beings, concerned more with life and temporal power than they are with the death-cult religion they profess. But what if they are not? What if at least some of them are really what they appear to be — irrationals concerned not with this world, but only with the next?
What of the Tancredo Threat then? Mecca is only significant in this world; it is the temporal link between humans and Allah. But if Allah has returned and is ruling in person, then what need of Mecca? Even if it were a glassy, radioactive plain, if the all-powerful Allah actually wanted it — wouldn’t he simply rebuild it himself?
People, this is the fire you’re playing with, this is the lightning that Tom Tancredo thinks to bottle. You think that in the end, the Islamists will act as rationally as the Soviets did, and the Great Threat will succeed. You’re playing Islamist Roulette, but you have the barrel pressed against the head of civilization itself.
“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” Because if you are, then God help our world.

Dafydd: Word War III

All right, I confess: being a math geek, I actually love polls to death.
I love nearly everything about them… especially the game of taking some tendentious poll and trying to tease out what’s really going on beneath all the thud & blunder. And boy, did I run across a doozy yesterday!
How’s this for a headline?
Poll: Americans Say World War III Likely
by Will Lester
Jul 23, 2005, 4:01 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans are far more likely than the Japanese to expect another world war in their lifetime, according to AP-Kyodo polling 60 years after World War II ended. Most people in both countries believe the first use of a nuclear weapon is never justified.

What caught my eye like a free-swinging fish hook [eeew] was the comparison between Japanese and Americans. Why such a huge difference?

Six in 10 Americans said they think such a war is likely, while only one-third of the Japanese said so, according to polling done in both countries for The Associated Press and Kyodo, the Japanese news service.

According to my wife Sachi, who is Japanese, there is a lot less political variation among Japanese than among Americans. There are Japanese Communists, of course; a lot more than here. And there are true “right-wingers” who still yearn for the emperor to seize control and turn Japan back into an imperial-military dictatorship.
But both of those extremes added together are still a very tiny percent of the population, not likely to show up in a typical poll of 1,000 respondents. Outside that fringe, Japanese political opinion is much flatter than in America.
So my suspicion — in the absence of any real data in the AP article about the actual poll results — is that the Japanese response of 33% was likely across the board, whether the Japanese places himself to the left or the right of the political centerline (mathematically, I predict a very low standard deviation).
But let’s turn to the American side. How on earth do we get 60% of Americans convinced that World War III is just around the corner?
The rest of this post is numbers, numbers, numbers… so if you took your Sociology or English Lit degree precisely to avoid those squirmy little figures, don’t continue reading this post!

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Dafydd: Either/Or

A puzzling and intriguing story from AP raises — and begs, of course — a conundrum of the first order: who killed them?
In “Sunni Arabs Continue Constitution Boycott,” Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes that the Sunni delegation to the Iraqi constitutional convention are “continuing” their boycott, which I didn’t even know was ongoing. Jeeze, you go away for a day, and all heck breaks loose.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Sunni Arabs decided Thursday to continue boycotting the committee drafting Iraq’s new constitution, casting doubt on whether the group can meet an August deadline to complete its work. Insurgent attacks, including two car bombings, killed 15 people, officials said.

If that looks like two stories got accidentally shuffled together, get used to it; it’s all through this piece. On the one hand, we have boycotting Sunni; on the other hand (now I sound like JFK), we have various people killed in terrorist attacks. There is somewhat of a connection, but they really are two distinct stories.
The Sunni delegates are boycotting (they mean on strike) until their demands are met, the primary of which is that there be an “international investigation” of the assassination of two of the fifteen Sunni delegates at the convention:

Two members resigned under rebel threats, and two prominent Sunnis – committee member Mijbil Issa and adviser Dhamin Hussein al-Obeidi – were assassinated in front of a Baghdad restaurant two days ago – prompting other Sunnis to suspend participation in the drafting.

We pause in the midst of this exciting story of Sunni suffering to ponder the question that Qassim Abdul-Zahra leaves hanging: do the Sunni believe that Issa and al-Obeidi were assassinated by Shia?
It’s hard to make sense of this demand otherwise: “Say, you lot — we refuse to attend your bally constitutional convention until you promise that we’ll stop assassinating ourselves!”
Another possibility is that the delegates are deep into a “Captain Renault” moment: they really think it was Zarqawi, like the rest of us thought; but they hope the world will blame the Shia, the Kurds, or perhaps the Coalition troops.
One of the other demands (I know you’re shocked, shocked to hear this) is “a greater role for Sunnis in drafting the constitution.” I don’t know how much affirmative action they expect, after shunning the elections and now engaged in a sit-in at the convention; but it does tend (at least to me) to cast doubt on the honesty of their demand for an investigation. The demand for religious preference makes me think the outrage is faux, sort of like those folks who demand reparations for a peculiar institution whose demise will celebrate its sesquicentennial in ten years.
Here is the connection between the two distinct stories that were shoehorned into this article:

Elsewhere, two suicide car bombings and a string of other attacks in and around Baghdad Thursday left 15 people dead, police and army officials said.

The attacks today were all against Iraqi government targets — two Iraqi army checkpoints, the Qadisiyah provincial council, the Ministry of Trade, Iraqi guards at a British security firm, and an Iraqi patrol. All of the attacks took place in either the Sunni Triangle or the smaller “Triangle of Death” just south of the former, where Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists freely operate. And all of the victims were employees of the new Iraqi government.
And the AP does not quote a single member of the Sunni delegation calling for an “international investigation” into any of these 15 deaths. Perhaps AP is just being shy, but I think it likely that the Sunni delegation couldn’t care less if officials of the Shia-run government are slain… they focus their outrage like a laser beam on bad things that happen to them.
Suppose the Sunni line turns out to be correct; suppose that some Shiite group has begun to target Sunnis. Would that be the beginning of the response from the rest of Iraq that finally goads the Sunnis into ratting out the terrorists? My Magic 8-Ball says “ask again later.”
By the rules of constitutional ratification, if any three provinces reject the constitution by 2/3rds vote, the constitution fails… and Sunnis constitute a majority in four provinces: Anbar and Nineveh, which are almost all Sunni; and Salahaddin and Diyala, which have substantial Shiite populations (but not more than 33%, I believe). Which means that the Sunni probably can, all by themselves, prevent the constitution from being ratified… but only if they vote almost unanimously against it.
What we don’t know is how all these shenanigans are playing out among the general Sunni population: are they just itching for a chance to throw the nascent nation into chaos by rejecting the constitution? (The next go-round might not be so Sunni-friendly, if the Shia and Kurds see them as obstructionists.) Or are the Sunni Iraqis simply fed-up with the antics of their delegates, and do they just want to vote in the constitution and have done with it?
We won’t have long to wait: the constitution is supposed to be finished by August 15th.

Dafydd: The New Antisemitism

…Is Moslem Derangement Syndrome.
Do I mean the undenial derangement of some but not all Moslems, who murder the innocent to make some irrational point of religious bigotry? Oh, not this time. By Moslem Derangement Syndrome, I mean those Americans who advocate the murder of hundreds of thousands of Moslems, just to make an equally irrational point arising from their religious bigotry.
I explicitly refer to all those who propose, demand, and practically salivate over “nuking Mecca.”
I’m not talking about Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO). He never went that far. As far as he did go, he was still a dangerous fool; but just as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) does not really believe that American guards at Guantanamo Bay are just like Nazi concentration-camp guards, Stalinist gulag torturers, and Khmer Rouge butchers — he was just stretching for a ridiculous (but dangerous) intensifier — neither does Tancredo really support the idea of incinerating 350,000 people and setting a match to the quick-burning fuse of world wide holocaust by “bombing Mecca” in response to a nuclear terrorist attack.
Tancredo was simply speculating irresponsibly, firing off the mouth before the brain was in gear, and giving terrorist mouthpieces around the world more supposed “evidence” that America is on a “crusade” against Islam. So I’m not talking about old Tom.
I am talking about you, sitting right there at your desk at work or home reading these words. Moslem Derangement Syndrome applies to anyone who sees the war on terrorism through an increasingly apocalyptic filter, where every attack, every statement, and eventually every turbin on TV becomes more evidence of Armageddon, Ragnarok, the final battle between Good and Evil.
This is a deadly metaphor. If this really is Armageddon, the Final Trump, the armies of righteousness versus the demons of darkness, then anything goes. Everybody is a target. There is no distinction between combatant and civilian, between terrorist and believer, or even between enemy Moslem and allied Moslem; the world becomes one monstrous “war of all against all,” in which there not only are no neutrals, there are no innocents.
That some folks look forward to such a horrific conflagration with ill-disguised glee is no testament to the civilizing nature of Western society.
This new avatar of antisemitism is no different than the old: Jew hatred began as the hatred of a religion; but in the 20th century, it overtly became what it covertly was all along… a kind of racism, hatred based upon the blood. And although those who suffer from MDS insist they hate all Moslems democratically, not just Arabs, their specific examples never stray far from the Semitic genotype: I’ve heard “nuke Damascus” and even “nuke Teheran” (Middle-East Persians surrounded by Arabs), but never Jakarta, Islamabad, or Khartoum. The unmistakable whiff of race permeates MDS.
And there is little lower than that. The only way MDS victims could fall off that floor would be to retreat into the final barbarity of tribalism, where they could join their terrorist neighbors in an orgy of blood against the subhumans of that other tribe in the next valley over.
But I do have an obligation to say what I’m for, not just what I’m against. What do I suggest we do if terrorists plant a dirty bomb under Los Angeles, Denver, or New Orleans? Or worse, how should we repond to a “suitcase nuke” (the favorite shibboleth of MDS these days, as if you can by one off the shelf at the local Samsonite outlet) exploded somewhere on the mainland?
Here’s a revelation: how about identifying who did it, and which country aided and abetted them — and then expunging those people and that regime?
Rather than strike with eyes wide shut at all 1.3 billion Moslems in the world — how to win friends and influence people! — let us strike with open eyes at the actual ghouls themselves, the true enemies of civilization and humanity: the Ba’athists in Syria, the mullahs in Iran, the werewolves who rule from Pyongyang. Let us announce our plan: we strike any country that actually had a hand in the attack, along with every international terrorist group in the world, whether or not it was specifically involved: every Wahhabist terror cell, every spinoff from Hezbollah, every al-Qaeda affilliate. Even the IRA. Every militant group that does not disarm and sue for peace.
I think better of the American people than do those who swim deep in the currents of Moslem Derangement Syndrome. Real Americans truly, deeply, madly believe in American exceptionalism and the basic righteousness of our individual values. They will never demand that we kill innocents to punish them for looking like our enemies.
Everyone who dares is unAmerican, and I’ll have no truck with him.