Assume the Position

Saturday, April 10, 2004
Kerry Would Have Defied the WTO and EU on Steel Tariffs…Maybe

The tariffs, imposed in March 2002 to shield beleaguered U.S. steel producers from foreign competition, were declared illegal last summer by the World Trade Organization. The White House pulled down the tariffs in December, halfway through their three-year program, under threat of $2.2 billion in retaliatory sanctions from the European Union.

Kerry, speaking to about 17 reporters from political battleground states on both sides of the matter, said he supported the tariffs because "under the circumstances, it was an important grabbing-air moment."

"I wouldn't re-impose them, but I would have let them play out the way they were promised," he said. "Once you put them in place, people have expectations. ... And if you, all of a sudden, upset that, you're really wreaking havoc in the market."


Kerry said he would seek other ways, under WTO rules, to fight subsidized foreign steel from flooding the U.S. market.

"Tariffs are the clumsiest of the tools," he said. But "the long-term solution is not to sit there and say, 'I'm going to reinstate them.' The long-term solution is to help the industry be more competitive by enforcing the trade laws on dumping."

"Kerry hits Bush on steel tariffs _ but would not re-impose them" seems to have been the hed the Associated Press sent out (see another copy of the story and a Google Search for the phrase). I think it misses the point that Kerry is essentially claiming he would have ignored the World Trade Organization's adverse ruling and billions in retaliatory sanctions against US products, which is what it would have meant to "have let them play out the way they were promised" after the US lost its anti-dumping case.

Would Kerry really have done that? Who knows?

On a lighter note, I ran across the story at Powerline where Hindrocket wonders, "First of all, what in the world is a "grabbing-air moment"? Must be a French expression." It's less likely French than just a really poor sports metaphor from the man who wants to ride Snowboard One (another Hindrocket post, so he should have guessed it). A quick Goggle search for snowboard "grabbing air" gives enough hits to provide the general idea: the thrilling and exciting periods when a snowboarder is airborne. Certainly no way to describe the status of the steel industry or the imposition of tariffs. It is likely Kerry was trying to paraphrase Bush, who said when he ended the tariffs, "The U.S. steel industry wisely used the 21 months of breathing space we provided to consolidate and restructure." It is much less likely that Kerry was coining a new, extreme contraction merging the two "worn-out metaphors" grabbing at straws and gasping for air into one, though Orwell's ghost might be proud of him if that were the case, and it could accurately describe the status of some segments of the US steel industry.

[Yes, I know grasping at straws is the standard form of the metaphor, but grabbing at straws shows up more than five percent of the time. --lp]

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
British Reporter Acts the April Fool

"APRIL FOOL: British Journalist Threatens Lawsuit Over Linking to His Crime Stories to Promote American Firearms Rights"
This is not an April Fool's joke. It's a true email exchange that happened on April Fool's day.

Following is the text of the email that started this exchange. NOTE: click here to see the full header below.

Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2004 16:25:37 +0100




Needless to say, the folks at Keep and Bear Arms didn't back down and gave Mr. Truscott a suitably public online response by posting their email exchanges and reposting some links to recent South London Press stories. I would just add to Nicki Fellenzer's (Newslinks Director for KABA), "If you don't want people to be directed to your writing, perhaps you should have chosen another career," that if the South London Press doesn't want links to its articles, then it shouldn't put them on the web. (Via Publicola, where Nicki also posts.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Privacy Watchdog Barks Up Wrong Tree

Various privacy advocates are already up in arms over the new Gmail service Google is starting. Their basic complaint that there is something unsavory about automated keyword scanning of email to provide targeted advertisements may be arguable as a matter of personal opinion. "Gmail has a 'definite creepiness factor,' said Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology." But this complaint by Simon Davies is ridiculous:
Some parts of Gmail even could be illegal, said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, a watchdog group in London.

Google's current Gmail policy advises potential users that "residual copies of e-mail may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account."

Vast data collection like that appears to be a blatant violation of communication protections in United Kingdom and possibly elsewhere in Europe, Davies said. Privacy International already has filed a complaint against Gmail with United Kingdom regulators.

"If millions of people have their communication history kept on Google computers," Davies said, "then that storehouse becomes a very valuable source of information for a range of unintended consequences."

The way that reads, Simon Davies is either computer illiterate or trying to blatantly mislead the media and public (probably successfully), as well as possibly attempting to mislead the UK authorities.

Privacy advocates have gotten companies to develop and publish privacy policies, in some cases they are even required by law. If for some reason a company violates their own privacy policy, they become subject to multi-million dollar class action lawsuits. This means that privacy policies need to account for the basic features of the underlying technology. Deleting files on a hard drive does not destroy them. Even multiple overwrites with various bit patterns may not render the data completely unrecoverable to a determined party with the appropriate tools. Without physically degaussing or destroying the hard drive platters, something no company is going to do every time a user deletes an email or terminates their account, there is no way Google can guarantee that "residual copies" of email will not exist; therefore, Gmail's privacy policy warns users of that possibility.

Residual copies of any email you have ever sent may (at some low probability inversely proportional to the age of the message) remain on any server through which that email passed. Google's Gmail is no different in that regard than other systems.

Norway May Follow Spain Out of Iraq

Bjørn Stærk says it looks like the small Norwegian contingent will leave Iraq in a few months.

Monday, April 05, 2004
Utter Balderdash

The latest that can be added to the unmitigated malarkey over National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice testifying before the 9-11 Commission comes from this CNN story.

A historical photograph may have helped persuade the White House to let national security adviser Condoleezza Rice testify before the independent panel investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001, a panel spokesman said Sunday.

The photo, published in The New York Times on November 22, 1945, shows Adm. William D. Leahy -- the White House chief of staff under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman -- appearing before a congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, spokesman Al Felzenberg said.

Felzenberg said commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow faxed the photo Monday to the White House counsel's office to show there was a historical precedent for Rice to testify publicly and under oath.


Commission member Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said the photo was just one element of Bush's decision.


"I know that Mr. Zelikow found some type of close historical precedent and standard," Roemer said.

"Again, this may have been one of the straws on the camel's back, but the camel certainly had the big load of the 9/11 commission with bipartisan support insisting on Dr. Rice's public and sworn testimony."

So, FDR's Chief of Staff testified before "a congressional panel investigating the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." You are supposed to immediately believe from the significance of this "close historical precedent and standard" that Adm. Leahy was the "White House chief of staff" on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and that his testimony related to his being in that position in the months leading up to the attack. He wasn't.

He was appointed Chief of Naval Operations, took the oath of office in January 1937 to serve until August 1939 when he was placed on the retired list. On that occasion, President Roosevelt said "Bill, if we have a war, you're going to be right back here helping me run it."

Immediately following his retirement, Admiral Leahy was assigned the duties of Governor of Puerto Rico in September 1939. He served in that capacity until November 1940 when he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to France where he served from January 1941 until recalled in May 1942.

In July of that year, he was called back to active duty as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Army and Navy, the President of the United States. As such, he presided over the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, when our country was host, over the combined Chiefs. In December 1944, he accepted the appointment and was confirmed as the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral.

Adm. Leahy did not become FDR's special military advisor and first chairman of the newly created Joint Chiefs of Staff until several months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into WWII. His testimony, whatever it covered,* is not a "close historical precedent" to the current situation.

* I'd say it is most likely that he testified about drawing up plans for simultaneous war in the Pacific and Atlantic while he was Chief of Naval Operations.

Early in November [1938] the Joint Board sent the joint Planning Committee (JPC) the following problem to study: . . . the various practicable courses of action open to the military and naval forces of the United State[s] in the event of a) violation of the Monroe Doctrine by one or more of the Fascist powers, and (b) a simultaneous attempt to expand Japanese influence in the Philippines.


The planners considered it quite unlikely that in the near future Great Britain and France would give Germany the necessary assurances or that Japan would decide to attack. They nevertheless believed that the kind of problem posed-resulting from concerted aggression by Germany, Italy, and Japan-was one that should be taken into account in future planning, and recommended steps to be taken "to overcome salient deficiencies in our readiness to undertake the operations that might be required."

UPDATE: Adm. Leahy may also have testified about whatever he had learned as Ambassador to Vichy France of their dealings with Japan over French Indochina in the period before the Japanese attack on the US.

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