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Very Friedmanesque but also

Very Friedmanesque, but also very good column by Tom Friedman in Wednesday's Times; also a good column by Maureen Dowd -- each on figuring out why we fought the war we just fought.

Tragic. Just tragic. Back

Tragic. Just tragic. Back on that awful day last February 1st when the shuttle Columbia ripped and burned apart over Texas, I never really believed that some sort of rescue or repair mission wasn't possible -- either an attempt at a repair of some sort, or sending one of the other shuttles up to save the crew. Couldn't they rush another shuttle up to rescue them? Couldn't they do a spacewalk and fix the damage? The conceit of the NASA brass was that there was simply nothing that could have been done -- a claim that took a lot of sting out of the fact that so little was in fact done to find out what damage the ship had sustained.

That never sounded right to me. And now it turns out that I and, I'm sure, many, many others who were similarly unconvinced were right.

You probably remember in the movie Apollo 13 when a crack NASA team of white-buttoned-down-shirted gizmocrats ingeniously brainstormed a way to use all the available materials on the crippled spacecraft to get the three astronauts home safely. Recently, as part of the investigation, NASA set a similar team to work on devising possible rescue or repair plans -- as though they had known in time that something was wrong.

You almost wish they hadn't, but the team came up with two very credible -- though certainly not foolproof -- plans to rescue the seven astronauts. In both scenarios the ship, Columbia, was doomed. But not necessarily the crew. One plan was to quickly get the shuttle Atlantis into space for a rescue. It turns out this would have been possible. The question was how quickly they could get it to launch. And that would have been a close call. If they couldn't have managed that in time there was a repair that might have worked. A space walk to the underside of the shuttle, it turns out, would have been feasible. The plan would have been to hope the repair held on through the most violent part of reentry and then have the astronauts parachute out at about 35,000 feet.

None of these ideas were sure-fire, of course. But they would have had a fighting chance. And as the author of the MSNBC exclusive says, under the pressure of actually having lives to save, they might have come up with even more ingenious solutions.

Read it and, literally, weep.

The Glenn Hubbard story

The Glenn Hubbard story, the struggles of a hard-working economist struggling to maintain tax progressivity while cutting or abolishing every tax paid by high-income earners ... From the Post ...

"It's hard to get a lot of progressivity at the very top," said R. Glenn Hubbard, the architect of Bush's most recent tax cut proposal and a former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. By slashing taxes on dividends, capital gains and inheritances, the cuts ensure that tax burdens will no longer rise consistently with income, as they would with a perfectly "progressive" system. "But," Hubbard added, "we've very much retained progressivity overall because so much money was dumped into the bottom rates."
Hard. So hard...

This graph would seem

This graph would seem to tell the tale. It's from the new Pew poll on global attitudes toward the United States. I was a little confused at first about the timing of the poll. It's being reported and sent around today as though it's a new release. Indeed, the International Herald Tribune says it was conducted in May. Yet the Pew site says it was released on March 18th and that the polls were conducted in the week previous to that. So I'm not quite sure what to believe. It's not an insignificant difference -- considering that that week was the one immediately prior to the beginning of the war when anti-US sentiment was presumably at its apogee.

In either case, the results are sobering. Folks tend to get their backs up when they hear about foreign disapproval. They say that what people overseas think or don't think doesn't tell us what's right or wrong. And they're correct, of course, as far as it goes. Amongst countries as amongst individuals, you must make your decisions based on what you think is right, not what everyone else says -- though unanimous disapproval should usually provoke at least some serious reflection.

The more relevant point, however, is that foreign disapproval on such a scale is a fact that must be taken into account quite apart from rights or wrongs. It is a form of collateral damage produced by the conflict -- no different from combat fatalities, expended materiel, and so forth -- part of the price we've paid for the decision to go to war.

One other point: the essence of the Atlantic Alliance -- both its values and its strength -- is that it is an alliance of democracies. That's why NATO won the Cold War. Despite some significant ebbs and flows of public opinion, the great majority of the people of Western Europe supported the alliance throughout the Cold War. Given these facts, America's standing among the people of Europe -- as opposed to the governments of Europe -- is no secondary matter. It is fundamental to the preservation of the alliance. And it is deeply frayed.

LATE UPDATE 2:01 PM: My bad -- there are two polls, one from March 18th, another embargoed till 2 PM this afternoon and to be announced at a press conference in downtown DC. The numbers in the new poll show a bounce back up in the European and other allied countries, but not nearly to the levels they were at a couple years ago, or even one year ago. And in some key countries like Turkey there is virtually no bounce back at all.

Former Army secretary Thomas

"Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials 'are unwilling to come to grips' with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq." That's from an interview with former Army Secretary Tom White, which appears today in USA Today. Rumsfeld had wanted to fire White for months, but his unwillingness to toe the line on Iraq and troop strength issues was certainly a trigger for his defenestration last month.

Hmmm. When I talked

Hmmm. When I talked to Texas state rep Lon Burnam he told me he had "multiple sources" at the Texas Department of Public Safety who told him about illicit document shredding. When he was deposed yesterday he said his only source was Roberta Bilsky, a staffer for Kevin Bailey, the Democrat running the investigation in the state House. How do you explain the conflict? Good question. On an equally troubling note, the State Attorney General's Office now wants to depose Bailey. In other words, Bailey is investigating the AG's office among others to find out their role in the manhunt. And now the AG's office wants to put Bailey and his folks under oath. The saga continues.

Just read Sam Tanenhauss

Just read Sam Tanenhaus's article on the neocons in Vanity Fair, the one which generated all the controversy about the quotes from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The piece is quite good, definitely pick up a copy. The best line from the piece: "The neocons are not usurpers. They are the new establishment ..."

To call it an article about the neocons is partly a misnomer. It's really about Wolfowitz, with biographical profiles of Perle and Kristol woven in to give a context to his place within the larger movement. The piece is quite good, I think, on Wolfowitz, capturing him in far more than wooden or two dimensional terms. It's not a portrait that will be entirely congenial to either his critics or his allies, though in many respects I think he comes off quite well.

Tanenhaus captures the aspects of the guy that make me just as much an admirer of the guy as I am, in many respects, a critic. The quotes that have generated all the commotion come at the very end of the piece. And really the whole issue of WMD only comes up in any serious way at the tail end of the piece.

In fact, for all the buzz surrounding the WMD quotes, the real stunner comes in the very next paragraph. It's there where Tanenhaus says Wolfowitz is "confident" that Saddam was "connected" to the original World Trade Center attack in 1993 and that he has "entertained the theory" that Saddam was involved in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.

These are both ideas advanced by Laurie Mylroie, a researcher at AEI, whose theories on Saddam (many of which are contained in The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge) are often ridiculed even by some of the neoist of neocons.

A couple months ago

A couple months ago, I wrote briefly about an issue I was re-researching and rewriting in the final draft of my dissertation: a group of New England Indians who had been deported to Morocco in the 1670s and were still living there (and trying to get home) in the 1680s. I had a surprisingly large number of people write in and ask for more information on the question, what happened to them, and so forth. So here is the brief section of the dissertation (8 pages) which covers this question.

Do yourself a favor

Do yourself a favor and read this important new article by John Judis in The New Republic: 'History Lesson: What Woodrow Wilson Can Teach Today's Imperialists'. (It's a tribute to TNR that they give Judis a forum to argue so persuasively against the editorial line they've been pursuing for more than a year.) One isn't supposed to say such things publicly. But Judis is one of the few -- probably the only political writer, actually -- whose opinions and analyses I presumptively assume to be correct. Perhaps a better way to put it is that when I write X and he writes Y, the ground never feels wholly solid beneath my feet. This new article looks at the Iraq venture through the prism of the earlier, aborted heyday of American imperialism. We've never needed Cold War liberalism as much as we need it today -- to save us from the right and the left.

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