April 2006, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Happy Easter! To all those who celebrate it today.
And for those who want more thoughts on Easter, see these posts by Marty Mazur and Chris Mazur
(And a happy Passover to my Jewish friends,)
- 11:20 AM, 16 April 2006 [link]
How Would The New York Times Cover The Passover Story? Yehudit has the spoof, beginning with this paragraph:
The cycle of violence between the Jews and the Egyptians continues with no end in sight in Egypt. After eight previous plagues that have destroyed the Egyptian infrastructure and disrupted the lives of ordinary Egyptian citizens, the Jews launched a new offensive this week in the form of the plague of darkness.You can probably guess how the rest goes, but it's still fun to read.
- 7:49 AM, 14 April 2006 [link]
Do "Mainstream" Journalists Want The US To Lose? That's what Michael Barone says in a post complimenting bloggers for their corrections of "mainstream" stories..
In World War II American media wanted us to win; it's hard to avoid the conclusion that major parts of today's mainstream media want us to lose.That's goes farther than I would — although I am sure that it is true of at least a few "mainstream" ` journalists.
"AMac" comes closer to my own views in this must-read post, which uses Time magazine's man in Iraq, Michael Ware, to make general points.
When I think of wartime reporting, I'm drawn to the standard set by Ernie Pyle in World War II. Get past the grit in one of his dispatches, and you realize that you're reading a partisan account. There's no doubt about it, Pyle wants his guys--the Allies--to win.And that desire to be "objective" means that a reporter will want to cover both sides, as Ware has. Unfortunately, as "AMac" explains, covering anti-US forces has a high price.
In other words, Ware has entered into a contract with his hosts. You agree to spare my life, and to keep giving me access to exciting material. In return, I agree to write reports that portray you in favorable terms. Terms that make you look good even after my sophisticated readers have taken my precarious situation into account.In other words, Ware's efforts to be "objective" have turned him into a propaganda mouthpiece for terrorists. That would be ironic, if the result were not so terrifying. (And Ware may have swallowed some of that propaganda himself, judging by what I heard from him on the Hugh Hewitt talk show.)
A similar desire to be "objective" may have let the Associated Press ignore the strong likelihood that one of its stringers in Iraq, photographer Bilal Hussein, was a tool of the terrorists. Michelle Malkin has that story, which includes this crucial, but unverified claim:
According to my tipster, Hussein was captured earlier today by American forces in a building in Ramadi, Iraq, with a cache of weapons.How can reporters avoid what has happened to Ware? By not trading soft stories for access. In most cases, that will mean giving up the direct contacts with the terrorists that Ware is so proud of — the direct contacts that have been traded for biased stories, as Ware admits. Ware may gain fame from these stories, but he misleads his readers, making his reporting worse than useless to them.
And how can AP, and other news organizations, avoid hiring the Bilal Husseins? By listening to their critics, especially in the American military.
Now back to Barone's claim. Do I think that "major parts" of the "mainstream" media want us to lose? No, but they are acting as if they did. (For at least a few, seeing President Bush lose overrides any other consideration. They would be supporting the war if Bill Clinton were still in office.)
- 7:27 AM, 14 April 2006 [link]
Fifty Years Of Decline: For a social trend, any social trend, that's impressive continuity. But that's what has happened to the fertility rate in Europe, according to Ben Wattenberg, who is promoting his new book, Fewer. That would mean that the decline started in 1955, and has continued every single year since. Every single year.
Wattenberg was on the Michael Medved program with Robert Engelman of Population Action International, who is, on the whole, quite pleased with the decline. Their debate was interesting and civil, but never touched on some of the more sensitive issues.
Wattenberg would disappoint those who have a single explanation for the decline in fertility. He has, he said, twelve of them. (And one cause of higher birth rates, the improvements in treating infertility.)
(Here are the numbers for the United States, for the 20th century.
If you have any doubt about how controversial this issue is, look at the Publisher's Weekly review of Wattenberg's book at Amazon. And you may be amused to see who else reviewed the book, a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who had a different assessment of the book.)
- 4:26 PM, 13 April 2006 [link]
MS Windows Is Weird: At least it seems weird to those of us who use a different operating system for our work. This morning, knowing that there were some security updates available for Windows, I rebooted into Windows from Linux to install them. When I ran the update program, I got a refusal to display a page and this error number: 0x8024001D. Which did not seem to have any explanation when I searched for it, in the places Microsoft provided. (Maybe, since it is a hexadecimal, or base 16, number, I should have converted it to decimal and tried that number, too.) What is the point of supplying an error number if you don't give the user a way to look up errors by number?
Then, having fooled around trying to find an explanation for the error, I noticed that Microsoft was offering free help for Windows updates. But when I got part way into that process, they began asking for money. Presumably, I stepped off the free path somewhere. Or perhaps I misunderstood the offer.
I then went back to other work. This afternoon, I decided to take a little break and play some games, which I mostly do in Windows. When I finished and started the reboot, Windows offered to do the updates I had wanted, but only if I would let them be done before turning the PC off. I followed the directions and the updates were installed correctly, as far as I can tell, leaving me baffled on several points, but with an up-to-date version of Windows — I think. Tomorrow, I'll put up a screen shot showing how this same process works under the version of Linux that I use.
(For the curious who have missed previous posts on this subject: I run Linux for most of my work, and for nearly everything I do on line. Right now I am using the SUSE distribution, version 10.0, though I have used Red Hat more in the past. I do NOT recommend Linux for everyone, or even dual boot systems with Windows and Linux for everyone, but I can recommend it for more people than I could have just a few years ago.)
- 3:49 PM, 13 April 2006
More: Click here to see what the SUSE update process looks like. You'll notice that I get descriptions of each update, along with a rating of its importance, and much more. I could skip this process, and have the system updated automatically, but I prefer to watch what is happening to the system. And the whole update can be done manually with just five mouse clicks.
- 8:32 AM, 14 April 2006 [link]
Do Campaign Contributions Determine Votes In Legislatures? Those who favor restrictions on those contributions are convinced that the answer to that question is yes. They might be surprised to learn that academic studies have generally found little effect on legislative votes from campaign contributions. Here's how Bradley Smith (who opposes most restrictions on contributions) summarizes the research in Unfree Speech.
It should not be surprising, therefore, that empirical studies show that the influence of contributions is dwarfed by that of party agenda, personal ideology, and constituent desires, as the latter is revealed in polls, letters, calls, and conversations with voters. Common sense and experience tell us that money matters, but they also tell us that people who are attracted to public office generally do have strong personal views on issues.And often those contributions follow votes, rather than precede them, a point made in this generally sensible article on the growing relationship between Corning and Hillary Clinton.
Corning Inc., one of upstate New York's largest and oldest employers, has supported Republican candidates for so long that its chairman once joked that it had not raised money for a Democrat since 1812.So Clinton helped Corning, and now Corning is helping Clinton. Is there something wrong with that?
It would depend on what kind of help each gave the other. If Clinton was working to ensure that Corning was treated fairly, then I would have no objection to her actions. But she would be cheating others if she worked to give Corning special advantages. The line between the two is not always easy to draw, but the principle is simple enough.
But there are times when campaign contributions do buy votes. Most often, I believe, that happens on measures that are of great interest to a few, but of little interest to everyone else. Mickey Kaus has found a likely example. A billionaire, Ron Burkle, who had gone through a messy divorce, made large contributions to Democrats and Republicans and, shortly thereafter, this happened:
In early 2004, according to [Michael] Hiltzik, after Burkle failed to convince a judge to seal parts of the divorce record, the state legislature within months mysteriouslyMaybe you think Kaus is just too suspicious. I don't. Not when a law like this one is passed without a hearing.enacted — hastily, unanimously and without a single hearing — a law requiring judges in divorce court to seal in their entirety (upon a party's motion) any documents that mention the party's assets or other financial details even in passing.
(Would the New York Times find this alliance between a New York senator and Corning suspicious if the senator were a Republican? Some of this journalists there would.)
- 3:47 PM, 12 April 2006 [link]
Want To See One Of George W. Bush's Fancy Homes? Here's a picture. And here's a description.
A part of the American epic will be unveiled Tuesday when Midland opens to the public a small home of 1,547 square feet at 1412 W. Ohio Ave.Their first residence in Texas was even more modest — half of a "shotgun" house, the other half occupied by a pair of prostitutes.
- 10:58 AM, 12 April 2006 [link]
When We Distribute Jobs, School Places, and other desirable things by race, we must expect that some people will react by trying to change their official race. When whites were given advantages because of their race, non-whites sometimes tried to "pass" as whites. (One of the more amusing examples was longtime Harlem Congresman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.. According to a story I read some time ago, Powell posed as white when he first went to Colgate. He was not detected until a fraternity, which he was trying to join, did some checking.)
Now that those advantages often go to blacks, or to Indians, some people who have been officially white are beginning to check for helpful minority ancestors.
Alan Moldawer's adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Mr. Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA kit that he had heard could determine an individual's genetic ancestry.Naturally. If you aren't overburdened with scruples. Those who are might think that the children of a "business executive in Silver Springs, Md." are not especially disadvantaged.
As you have probably guessed, the money from Indian casinos has inspired many people to check for Indian ancestors. Others hope for Indian ancestors for more romantic reasons; they hope they are descended from an Indian princess. (This is a motivation I can understand; when I was growing up in rural Washington state, the boys I knew mostly thought that a little Indian ancestry was desirable, giving you courage.) And the article goes on to mention a few even stranger cases.
There are still some idealists like myself, who would rather not distribute valuable things by race. Perhaps these strange cases will help others see why we feel that way, why we think people should be judged by the "content of their character".
(One of the odder cases of changing one's official race occurred in Los Angeles some years ago. The Los Angeles school system wanted its teachers to be more evenly distributed by race. This meant moving black teachers from mostly black schools and white teachers from mostly white schools. Many of the teachers, black and white, didn't want to move. So some of them began claiming to be of the opposite race so they could stay where they were. The administrators reacted, naturally, by setting up an official race classification board, not realizing that the precedents for such boards are not entirely admirable.
The article is in error on one point. Amy Harmon says that: "DNA tests cannot pinpoint to which tribe an individual's ancestor belonged." That may be true of the simple commercial tests that the article discusses. But it isn't true of more sophisticated tests. For example, some DNA tests are good enough to establish paternity, so they must be good enough to establish membership in a tribe.)
- 8:10 AM, 12 April 2006 [link]
Inspiring: This BBC photo essay showing Afghan schoolchildren. Here's what one of them had to say:
My name is Ahmed and I am in the third grade.Here's an example of the kind of attack he fears.
At least seven children have been killed and 34 injured after a rocket hit their school in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, officials say.As you probably know, the Taliban have made a point of targeting schools that educate girls. Now they seem to be attacking all schools.
(By the way, if you have a whiney kid, you may want to show them these stories, for perspective.)
- 6:46 AM, 12 April 2006 [link]
Senator Joseph Lieberman Isn't Leftist Enough For Some Democrats: Including, interestingly enough, Howard Dean's brother.
At the Connecticut Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey fund-raising dinner last month, James H. Dean was among the guests invited to sit at the table of Ned Lamont, a Greenwich cable television executive who is planning a primary challenge to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman over the senator's support for the war in Iraq.Lieberman raised the stakes by saying he might run as an independent, if he were to lose the Democratic nomination.
How far left is Senator Lieberman? In 2004, the liberal ADA gave him a rating of 75. In the same year, the American Conservative Union gave him a 0. And the National Journal, which separates votes into three categories, gave him 62, 82, and 55, for his votes on economic, social, and foreign policy issues, respectively. I would give high odds that it is that last score, and the record it summarizes, that has drawn Lamont into this race. On foreign policy, Lieberman is a genuine moderate — and that's no longer acceptable to a large fraction of the Democratic party.
- 5:00 PM, 11 April 2006 [link]
Here's An Amusing Election Result: Unless you happen to be Italian.
Romano Prodi has claimed a knife-edge victory of less than one per cent in Italy's general election, but allies of Silvio Berlusconi have disputed the result and called for a review of the count.The Italians do have my sympathies, because it is unlikely that this will end well. But I did have to smile a bit first.
- 3:26 PM, 11 April 2006
More: Here's the latest on the Italian election results from the BBC. (One curiosity: The candidate of the center-left alliance and apparent winner, Romano Prodi, said the Bush-Kerry election was just "even closer" than this election. That would be true if several million were less than tens of thousands.) Silvio Berlusconi wants to have the ballots checked, which is reasonable, given how the close the election was. Michael Barone has a fine preliminary analysis of the results. And for comic relief, you may want to compare what Barone says about Berlusconi and the Italian media with what Professor Henry Farrell says at Crooked Timber. Barone knows what he is writing about. And I'll just stop there, because academics can be so sensitive.
- 10:24 AM, 12 April 2006 [link]
The French Are Misinformed About Basic Economics: (Or, perhaps I should say, even more misinformed than Americans. We don't do that well on basic economic facts, ourselves. And that's true even of those who have taken an introductory economics class in college, I learned years ago from an economics professor, who immediately softened her point by noting that students could not go on to learn more without taking that introductory course.)
This article from the International Herald Tribune begins with an amusing (and dismaying) story:
Danielle Scache tries to avoid using the term "capitalism" in her economics class because it has negative connotations in France.Scache is 59, and has just learned that some employees of large companies like their jobs. That's amusing. She has been teaching economics for 37 years, and is this misinformed. That's dismaying.
She is a typical French citizen — and quite different from the average person in China.
It is a world that many people here still prefer to live in. In a 22-country survey published in January, France was the only nation disagreeing with the premise that the best system is "the free-market economy." In the poll, conducted by the University of Maryland, only 36 percent of French respondents agreed, compared with 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain, 71 percent in the United States and 74 percent in China.Here's a mischievous thought: New York Times columnist (and Princeton professor) Paul Krugman despises President Bush, but he does know (or did know) basic economics. Let's send him to France to help them revise their economics courses. His hatred of Bush will ensure that he is welcomed in France, and perhaps even heard, as he explains, for instance, why free trade is (mostly) a good thing. (And Professor Krugman may learn something himself, after he has some more direct encounters with the French economy.)
- 10:56 AM, 11 April 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Christopher Hitchens delivers a message that many "mainstream" journalists and leftwing Democrats will find unpleasant.
In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)In short, a reasonable reading of the evidence shows that British intelligence was right when they concluded that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa — just as Bush said in his State of the Union speech. (And that's just the public evidence.) Which means that Joseph Wilson was, at the very least, wrong on this point. At the very least. More likely, he was willing to say anything that he thought journalists might accept, in order to attack President Bush. And many journalists have been suckers enough to believe what he tells them.
(Hitchens has more on how this simple matter became so muddled.)
- 8:51 AM, 11 April 2006 [link]
Chivalry is still dead.
Mayvis Coyle, 82, was shuffling with her cane across busy Foothill Boulevard while a traffic police officer watched and waited.The officer needs training from the Boy Scouts, apparently. He should have escorted Coyle, not ticketed her.
In the Seattle suburb where I live, Kirkland, drivers are relatively good about watching out for pedestrians. But an older woman was killed in a crosswalk several years ago, and I saw one almost get hit just a few months ago.
(Some years ago, I saw a study that found that the "free right turn on red" rule, which was established to help save gas, had resulted in more pedestrian deaths. And those who died from that change were likely to be the inattentive, as small children often are, and the slow, as the elderly often are.)
- 8:27 AM, 11 April 2006 [link]
One Of My Minor Vices is an inordinate interest in the Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame "scandal". (It is inordinate because the whole thing is, by now, so trivial (except to Lewis Libby), and so silly. I should probably ignore the whole thing and concentrate on more important matters, but I haven't been able to.) If you share my vice, you should get your fixes from Tom Maguire, who knows more about the subject than anyone else, perhaps more than anyone should.
There is one legitimate reason to pay close attention to the "scandal"; it reveals, like an X-ray, the attitude many in the "mainstream" media have toward President Bush.
Cet animal est très méchant,And they really do feel that way.
- 3:44 PM, 10 April 2006 [link]
This Is Disturbing: In Britain, "cautions" for rape have doubled in the last ten years. And that's not even the worst part of the news.
Forty rapists a year are being cautioned and released instead of facing jail terms, it has emerged.One would think that the advances in DNA technology would make it easier to find rapists — and easier to prosecute them successfully.
What is a "caution"? Just what it sounds like, a warning. Here's an explanation from an article on their greater use:
A caution counts as a criminal record but means the offender does not face a court appearance which would be likely to end in a fine, a community punishment or jail.Over the last thirty years, Britain has decreased punishments for crimes — and seen crime rates soar. Americans should not be smug because we did much the same thing, starting in the 1960s.
(Americans may not remember when Labour took over from the Conservatives. It was 1997, so most of this enormous increase in rapes has occurred while Tony Blair and company have been in charge. And there was an aspect of his victory that now may seem just a little ironic, in view of this enormous increase in rapes: Blair brought in a great number of women MPs, who were jocularly referred to as "Blair's Babes" Many then believed that Blair's Babes would bring more attention to women's issues.
Could some of this increase in rapes come from the growing Muslim population in Britain? Almost certainly, judging by the experience of other European countries.)
- 3:06 PM, 10 April 2006
More: Hal Colebatch has much more on British crime, beginning with these paragraphs:
American and British criminologists have long been puzzled and angered by the fact that Britain seems to have learnt nothing from the experience of New York in successfully reducing crime.One great advantage the United States has over Britain in fighting crime is our less centralized government. States and cities can try different strategies for fighting crime; the states and cities that succeed are (often) imitated by other states and cities. And, of course, in some states, citizens can force changes on legislatures through intitiatives; some of our "three strikes" laws were citizen initiatives.
- 5:29 AM, 11 April 2006 [link]
Saddam Planned Terrorist Attacks On American Interests: Ed Morrisey has the document and the translations to prove it.
You will note that all three translations of this document -- performed by three different people working independently of each other -- all translate this section almost identically. All three explicitly show that the Iraqi military had ordered a call for volunteers to carry out suicide attacks on American interests, six months before 9/11 and two years almost to the day prior to our invasion.Our intelligence agencies may well have overestimated Saddam's efforts to obtain WMDs, but, as these documents are translated, it becomes more and more obvious that the same agencies underestimated his willingness to use terror against us, directly and indirectly.
(Kudos to "Captain Ed" for this fine piece of work.)
- 12:34 PM, 10 April 2006 [link]
Couric And Conservatives: It is no secret that conservatives don't care much for the new CBS anchor. Some are contemptuous toward her. Some despise her. And all conservatives think that she is hopelessly biased, as you can see here and here. I even made my own small contribution to this conservatism criticism after the 2004 election:
Just saw Katie Couric. I didn't expect the election results to make her happy, but I was still taken aback by the angry, bitter woman I saw on TV. She was wearing a black dress that would not be out of place at a funeral, and she looked as if she had lost a child to a brutal murderer. Peter Jennings was fun to watch last night, but Couric was more than a little disturbing this morning.At least it is no secret to anyone who follows conservatives. But it is a secret, or perhaps a matter of no importance, to our "mainstream" media. I haven't seen a single article in the New York Times that mentioned how conservatives feel about Couric.
Consider, for example, this article, which wonders whether Couric will "revive" the news at night, but never asks whether being despised by conservatives — who outnumber self-identified liberals by a large margin — will be a handicap for Couric. (And, of course, many moderates, who also outnumber liberals, share some of the conservative distrust for people with Couric's views.)
I honestly do not know why the New York Times, and other "mainstream" new organizations, have not mentioned conservatives when they covered the Couric story. You would think they would be interested in this part of the story, for the most practical of reasons. Ignorance? Prejudice? Both? I'm really not sure.
- 10:56 AM, 10 April 2006 [link]
Are Leftists More Likely To Have Servants Than Conservatives? First, an amusing John Kerry story.
Responding to criticism that he had a laundry list of demands when he stayed in luxury hotels on the campaign trail, Sen. John Kerry said yesterday that he recently took a trip where he slept every night in his truck - accompanied only by his motorcycle, a friend and his butler, "Marvin."The 2004 Democratic nominee, like the socialites described in Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic", apparently believes that having a servant is a "psychological necessity". Kerry can give up regular beds, but not having a personal servant with him at all times.
Are those socialites and Kerry typical of wealthy leftists? Do they preach inequality, but require servants for themselves? Are they, in fact, more likely to have servants than wealthy conservatives?
I don't know of any survey data on that question, though it is easy to find examples of famous leftists with servants. There is, for example, Karl Marx, who had servants most of his life, and may have fathered an illegitimate child by one. And it would probably be hard to find a wealthy Hollywood leftist who did not have servants.
These examples don't tell us whether leftists are more likely to have servants than conservatives. But there is just a little bit from "Radical Chic" that suggests that they may.
[Seymour Martin] Lipset speaks of the wealthy Jewish family with the "right-wing life style" (e.g., a majority of Americans outside of the South who have full time servants are Jewish, according to a study by Lipset, [Nathan] Glazer, and Herbert Hyman) and the "left-wing outlook."Let's clarify that a bit. (Sometimes Wolfe's Ph.D. in American Studies keeps him from writing as clearly as he might.) When Wolfe wrote "Radical Chic", a majority of those outside the South with full time servants were Jewish. Then, as now, Jews were a very small proportion of the total population (though larger then, than now). Then, as now, Jews were far more likely to be on the left than the average American. So, it is likely that when Wolfe wrote "Radical Chic", the majority of American servants outside the South worked for leftists — and leftists who strongly supported ideals of equality, at that.
Is that still true? I suspect that it is. And there may even be a connection between having servants and supporting radical causes, as Wolfe suggested, ever so slyly. Let us suppose that you have servants and feel a little guilty about that — as anyone who believes in American ideals of equality might. You can mask that guilt and keep those servants — who you see as psychologically necessary — by supporting leftist causes. And if the causes are fashionable, so that you can get favorable publicity, so much the better.
Perhaps Lipset had it backward. Having servants may be, not a "right-wing life style", but a left-wing life style. If, that is, we go by what people do, not what they say. (At least in the United States. Conservatives elsewhere often have very different traditions, and are much more likely to accept a certain amount of stratification in society.)
- 7:55 AM, 10 April 2006 [link]
When I saw this story:
A screaming intruder made it onto the front lawn of the White House Sunday while President Bush was at home before being apprehended by Secret Service officers.I wondered, just for a second, where Howard Dean was yesterday. (Was that a little unfair? Probably, but I'll bet I'm not the only one who had that thought.)
- 6:34 AM, 10 April 2006 [link]
The "Gospel of Judas" Got Much Attention From Journalists In The Past Few Days: That's because journalists know little about Christian history. Reverend Sensing, who is better informed on the subject, explains why the "Gospel" is a "yawner".
The reason being that this text is not a gospel - just writing something about Jesus doesn't make the work a gospel.That's not too complicated, is it?
- 1:39 PM, 9 April 2006 [link]
Worth Study: If you live in the Utah or a Plains state, you are much more likely to be religious than if you live on the West Coast. That's no surprise, but it is a surprise to see that the South is not as uniformly religious as most would think. Or that West Virginia has a lower proportion of religious adherents than many other states. You can see those patterns, and many more, in these maps, showing religious affiliation by counties.
(There are, I suspect, some systematic problems with the maps, since different religions, and even different denominations, have such different membership rules. It would be interesting to see similar maps showing religious observance for comparison.)
- 10:38 AM, 9 April 2006 [link]