August 2006, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Not Just Presbyterians: The Presbyterian Publishing Company just published Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11, another conspiracy theory book, this one arguing that the Bush administration faked the 9/11 attacks.
But it would be wrong to blame only the Presbyterians for this outrage. The author, David Ray Griffin is a Methodist, in fact an ordained Methodist minister, if what I found with a quick web search is correct. And the book has gotten endorsements from other leaders of the religious left.
The book is blurbed by the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin, United Methodist theologian Catherine Keller of Drew University, Episcopal theologian Carter Heyward of Episcopal Divinity School, and Roman Catholic dissident feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether. Griffin explains that parts of the book are based on lectures he delivered in June 2003 on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky. The project in revisionist history seems to be ecumenical.So it does. But not very Christian.
(Here's my previous post on the book.)
- 11:21 AM, 24 August 2006 [link]
And Then There Were Eight: Pluto has been demoted.
Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.So it obviously has not "cleared the neighborhood". There's a lesson for all of in this decision. If you don't take out the trash, the neighbors won't respect you.
Now the discoverers of 2003 UB313 will get to name their object, which will be classed with Pluto, and other dwarf planets. They favor Xena, which I rather like myself, maybe for the same reasons they do.
(After they realized just how small it is, many astronomers have thought that Pluto should never have been included with the other eight planets. According to this Wikipedia article, Pluto has just 18 percent of the mass of Earth's moon. Or to make the other obvious comparison, the smallest remaining planet, Mercury, has more than 25 times the mass of Pluto.
And then there is this oddity. Astronomers had decided (wrongly) that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were being perturbed by a planet still farther out. And so Clyde Tombaugh looked in the region where they expected "Planet X" to be and found Pluto.
Ironically, Pluto is far too small to have the effect on Neptune's orbit that initiated the search. The discrepancies in Neptune's orbit observed by 19th century astronomers were due instead to an inaccurate estimate of Neptune's mass. Tombaugh's discovery is therefore even more surprising, given that Pluto's proximity to the region predicted by Pickering, Lowell and Ketakar was a coincidence.Sometimes being lucky is just as good as being right.)
- 9:49 AM, 24 August 2006
More: Astrologers have their own views on whether Pluto should be classified as a planet. (And I must admit that I had not realized that the discovery of Pluto led to the World War II.)
And, this demotion will ruin the traditional mnemonics for the planets. (Though I can't say that I have seen one for the planets as good as this astronomical mnemonic: "Oh, be a fine girl, kiss me.")
- 3:37 PM, 27 August 2006 [link]
The Instapundit Recklessly reveals a Republican party secret. (It must be secret, at least from the Democrats, or they would not concentrate their fire so heavily on George W. Bush.) Karl Rove will have to pull Glenn's clearance, to prevent future slips.
- 6:52 AM, 24 August 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Many believe American conservatives are having more children than American liberals. Arthur Brooks has some plausible numbers in support of that argument.
But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.The numbers look about right to me though, of course I would like to see his formal work before endorsing them completely.
There is not much mystery about why there might be this difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals are much more likely to be feminists, who have, typically, denigrated having children, or at least not valued it as much as those with traditional values. And liberals are much more likely to be hard core environmentalists, and think that over population is a great problem. So, in having fewer children, they are simply acting on their beliefs.
This is, by the way, a reversal of traditional patterns, at least as far as the parties go. For thirty years after the Great Depression, Democratic families had more children than Republican families, helping to preserve the Democratic majority that FDR created. During that time, Catholics and blacks both had significantly higher fertility rates than white Protestants. And both groups were heavily Democratic. (Catholics are now only slightly more Democratic than the population as a whole, while blacks have become even more Democratic, though there are signs their party loyalty is breaking down.)
Demography may not be destiny, in spite of Auguste Comte, but demography is a good place to start almost any poltical analysis.
- 2:24 PM, 23 August 2006 [link]
DEBKAfile Is Almost Always Interesting, and sometimes correct, so you may want to read their discussion of the Israeli failure (as they see it) against Hezbollah.
None of the commanders at any level could explain what was going on because none were party to the backroom decision-making at the prime minister's office. According to our sources, Olmert kept his exchanges with Condoleezza close to his chest and members of his cabinet and high army command firmly out of the process. The prime minister even kept the chief of staff out of the picture and did not explain why he was called on to chop and change tactics in the heat of war.So the failure is the fault of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — for following the orders of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Chances of this being true? Very low, in my opinion. And it would be interesting to know who is spreading this story.
- 9:15 AM, 23 August 2006 [link]
Law Professor Ann Althouse shows that the decision by Judge Diggs Taylor to end an NSA terrorist surveillance program was poorly argued.
This means that the judge has a constitutional duty, under the doctrine of standing, to respond only to concretely injured plaintiffs who are suing the entity that caused their injury and for the purpose of remedying that injury. We trust the judge to say what the law is because the judge "must of necessity expound and interpret" in order to decide cases, as Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury. But Judge Taylor breezed through two of the three elements of standing doctrine — this constitutional limit on her power — in what looks like a headlong rush through a whole series of difficult legal questions to get to an outcome in her heart she knew was right.Note that Professor Althouse is not arguing that the decision was wrong, just that it does not follow from the judge's argument. That distinction was lost on some of the commenters at both her site and at the Volokh site. My favorite comment was probably this one at Althouse's site, from one "Freder Frederson":
What sense does it make to take the judge's word about what the law means over the word of the president?Bush derangement syndrome claims another victim. I'll leave the dissection of the logical and factual errors in that last paragraph to you, if you are so inclined. (And, no, I have no idea whether that is his real name.)
- 8:41 AM, 23 August 2006 [link]
Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Football, and now Fantasy Husbands?
Kim Cramer and the members of her fantasy league are looking forward to an exciting season of marital strife and bliss.H'mmm. And I think that's all I will say on this particular subject.
(Here's the site, which does not have much for non-subsribers.)
- 2:49 PM, 22 August 2006 [link]
The ACLU went judge shopping.
A federal judge in Detroit agreed last week with American Civil Liberties Union lawyers that President Bush exceeded his constitutional authority with warrantless monitoring of telephone and internet traffic between Americans and suspected terrorists abroad.And they had good reason to pick this judge.
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and judicial abuse, announced today that Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who last week ruled the government's warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional, serves as a Secretary and Trustee for a foundation that donated funds to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, a plaintiff in the case ACLU et al. v. National Security Agency.Sure looks like conflict of interest to me — but I have no idea whether it meets the legal definition.
(There was much critical comment from the right about Judge Diggs Taylor being a Carter appointee. Some thought this criticism unfair, but in fact, the judicial appointments made by Jimmy Carter did include an exceptionally high proportion of scoundrels. And then there was the memo that leaked near the end of his administration. They planned, as almost every administration does, to use his re-election to clear out the deadwood — except, the memo noted casually, the women and minority appointees.
One of the more infamous Carter judicial appointees was Alcee Hastings, who was removed from office by a Democratically controlled Congress, but then won a House seat in 1992, which he has held ever since.)
- 1:46 PM, 22 August 2006
More: Most citizens will find the Lincoln precedents instructive; most judges and law professors will find them appalling. Were Lincoln's actions necessary to save the Union? He thought so. Scholars have argued over the question ever since, so I won't try to settle the matter here. But I do wonder whether Judge Diggs Taylor agrees with Lincoln.
- 2:58 PM, 22 August 2006
Still More: The New York Times finds this little conflict of interest more than a little embarrassing, especially since it was discovered by a "conservative group, Judicial Watch", Would it have been less embarrassing if the conflict had been discovered by a leftist group, such as the New York Times? I don't think that is what they mean; I think they mean that the judge should have disclosed it herself.
- 10:17 AM 24 August 2006 [link]
Election Brings Hope To The Little People: The real little people.
After queuing for hours to mark her ballot paper in Congo's first multiparty elections for four decades, Salome Ndavuma confesses she had a little dance.The Pygmies were often victims of the horrific Congo civil war, a war they had no part in starting.
Elections are not perfect, but they do give some protection to those who have numbers, but no military power. One can only hope that this proves to be true for the pygmies, who have been mistreated for centuries.
- 12:54 PM, 22 August 2006 [link]
Gasoline Prices fall.
Good news for drivers: Gasoline prices likely have peaked for the year as oil costs have backed off record highs and the busy summer driving season comes to a close.As predicted. (Not that the prediction showed any great insight.)
Will they fall enough to help the Republicans this fall? Maybe.
- 10:42 AM, 22 August 2006 [link]
Osama Loves Whitney?!? I pass this bit of gossip along, not because I necessarily believe it, but because I find it amusing.
Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, was obsessed with the singer Whitney Houston and wanted to marry her, a new book claims.And who knows? The story might be true.
(Here are some pictures, if you are trying to remember what Houston looks like.)
- 10:12 AM, 22 August 2006 [link]
August 22: Does Iranian President Ahmadinejad have a nasty surprise planned for today? Here's the Bernard Lewis column that raised that possibility.
In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time--Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.There's a cheerful thought. I hope that we (and the Israelis) have taken precautions.
Although Lewis's column got the most attention for this suggestion that today might be unpleasant, the bulk of the column makes a different argument, one that deserves serious attention, regardless of what may or may not happen today. Briefly, Lewis argues that ordinary deterrence, even the threat of nuclear war, may not affect the behavior of those currently running Iran.
Is he right? In the last week, Lewis probably forgot more about the Middle East than I will ever know, but I am not sure he is right in this case. The bargaining advantage in pretending to hold these beliefs is so large that we can not exclude the possibility that Ahmadinejad is conning us.
Those my age might recall that President Nixon directed Henry Kissinger to hint to the Soviets that Nixon was just a just a little unstable, that the Soviets should not be provocative. Nixon did this because he understood that pretending to be a little crazy would strengthen his bargaining position.
And we all understand this principle. We give more space to those people we think are crazy — and some people pretend to be crazy in order to push other people around. So we can't be sure that Ahmadinejad means what he has been saying. Short, of course, of having definitive intelligence from his inner circle, something that seems quite unlikely.
(You can find two contrasting opinions on the Lewis piece here and here. Though I must say that the author of the second, leftist Manan Ahmed, rather spoils his argument — at least for me — by citing English professor and extremist Edward Said as an authority.)
- 9:42 AM, 22 August 2006
As you must have noticed, the world did not end yesterday. Was Ahmadinejad just playing mind games? Maybe.
- 10:28 AM, 23 August 2006 [link]
When Even New York Times Editorial Writers start expressing scorn for French President Jacques Chirac, I think we can conclude that he is in trouble.
It would be tempting to laugh about France's paltry commitment of 200 additional peacekeepers for Lebanon, if it weren't so dangerous. After insisting for years that they be treated like a superpower, the French are behaving as if they have no responsibility for helping dig out of the Lebanon mess.And deservedly in trouble.
(By the way, did you know that Chirac's approval ratings are much lower than Bush's? It's true. And Chirac hasn't even tried to do anything significant.)
- 1:43 PM, 21 August 2006 [link]
Edward Luttwak says that historians may disagree with the idea that Hezbollah won in Lebanon. He compares the latest conflict to the 1973 war, which was also thought, by some, to be an Israeli defeat.
The situation today, with the Lebanon war just ended, is the same [as in 1973]. Future historians will no doubt see things much more clearly, but some gross misperceptions are perfectly obvious even now. That even the heaviest and best protected of tanks are sometimes penetrated by the latest anti-tank missiles should really not surprise anyone — they cannot be invulnerable, but still did well enough in limiting Israeli casualties.And he has more in a similar vein.
Much is being made of the money Hezbollah is handing out for rebuilding. But, as Luttwak notes, those doing the rebuilding may be less inclined to see their new buildings destroyed by another conflict with Israel.
By way of the American Thinker.
(Here's my post making a similar argument.
And here's a description of the Israeli Merkava tank, which helped keep Israeli casualties low, as it has in previous conflicts.)
- 1:04 PM, 21 August 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: David Perlmutter's column on what has gone wrong with photojournalism.
The Israeli-Hezbollah war has left many dead bodies, ruined towns, and wobbling politicians in its wake, but the media historian of the future may also count as one more victim the profession of photojournalism. In twenty years of researching and teaching about the art and trade and doing photo-documentary work, I have never witnessed or heard of such a wave of attacks on the people who take news pictures and on the basic premise that nonfiction news photo- and videography is possible.Worth reading, but incomplete, because it is entirely possible to deceive with true photographs — and photo editors do it all the time. They choose, for example, a flattering picture of a candidate they support, and an unflattering picture of a candidate they oppose.
Or they pretend that an unrepresentative picture is typical. The Seattle Times gave us a striking example of that trick after the shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. They illustrated their lead story on July 30th with a photograph showing two Muslim women going to a Jewish temple to lay flowers. (Or at least two women they said were Muslims. One woman, whose face is almost entirely covered, refused to give her name.) Above this was a giant headline: "Community responds with sorrow, unity".
But if you read the story carefully, you learned that only a few of our local Muslims expressed sympathy, and you could see that the Times made no effort to find any Muslims who had mixed or hostile feelings toward Jews. And there are some here, as there are some almost everywhere.
Is this kind of manipulation deliberate? Often it is. And you can spot it, from time to time, in nearly every "mainstream" publication.
And that is why it would not be enough if our "mainstream" news organizations stopped publishing obviously faked photographs. (Not that they will, though they may be more cautious for a while.) We need more honest photo editors, and I see no reason to expect them any time soon. It really is a matter of integrity — and too many of our journalists simply don't have it.
(You can find more reactions to the Perlmutter piece here and here.)
- 9:59 AM, 21 August 2006 [link]
No Jury Duty After All: A few weeks ago, I received another summons for jury duty, this one from the Kirkland Municipal Court. The notice was a bit cold for my tastes; after the official "you have been randomly selected" was a reminder that intentionally failing to appear for jury duty is a crime. I would have preferred at least a brief appeal to my public spirit before that warning.
At the end of the summons was a significant note. I was told to call the court, after five PM on the day before the trial, for a recorded message, which might tell me that the case had been settled — as it was. So they won't need me after all, at least for that trial.
(As far as I could tell, jurors at this court receive no compensation at all, not even bus fare or mileage. All the more reason, I would say, to be more polite in the summons.)
- 6:34 PM, 20 August 2006 [link]
How Do You Score A War? In baseball or in cricket, the team that scores the most runs wins. In basketball, the team that scores the most points wins. Even in soccer, the team that scores the most points wins, though the rules appear designed to produce as many scoreless ties as possible.
But what about war? How do we decide which side won in a war? Ordinarily, we look at what each side had at the beginning and at the end of the war, and judge from that. Losers usually control less of their own territory than they did at the start and have lost more in men and material than winners — though there are, of course, exceptions to these rules.
By these rules, Israel defeated Hezbollah handily in the war that has been interrupted by a ceasefire. Israel holds a part of Hezbollah's territory and lost fewer soldiers than Hezbollah did. I haven't seen firm estimates, but it seems certain that Hezbollah lost a larger proportion of its weapons than Israel did.
Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom is that Israel lost and that Hezbollah won, and that belief seems to be held by most Israelis as well as by the terrorists and their supporters.
(There are some who disagree with the conventional wisdom, notably President Bush.)
Is the conventional wisdom right? That depends on whether you think that perception is reality, or more precisely, creates reality. By the usual way of judging who wins a war, Israel won. (Though, if you will pardon me for this levity, Hezbollah may have beaten the point spread.) But, if it is widely believed that Hezbollah won, then many will take different actions than they would have otherwise. Israel's enemies will be emboldened, and so will ours. And so the media, by spreading Hezbollah propaganda about their "victory", has made a new war even more likely.
- 2:24 PM, 19 August 2006 [link]
Fifteen In A Row: As Seattle PI columnist Art Thiel says, this is a mystery. The Oakland A's have now beaten the Seattle Mariners 15 games in a row. And it is not because the teams are unequal — when they play other teams.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that if the season series results were removed from each team's records, the A's would be 53-51 and the Mariners 55-51. That suggests two teams, via comparison against all other available competition in a sufficiently large sample, are about as evenly matched as could be hoped for, short of converting them into nickels.(The nickels are for coin flipping, if you are wondering.)
My guess is that this is just one of those funny streaks that shows up from time time, but it would be interesting to hear the views of those who know more about baseball statistics than I do.
- 1:56 PM, 19 August 2006 [link]
Good Point: Among the letters to today's New York Times was this gem.
The ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of United States District Court that the government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional is out of line with the times.And the letter that follows it, noting that the media make far too much of decisions by trial court judges, isn't bad either. (The rest of the letters make predictable leftist arguments, so predictable that I could have written every one of them myself, without much effort.)
- 1:41 PM, 19 August 2006 [link]
Why Haven't We Had More Hurricanes This Year? The water is too cool.
Hurricanes require warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and last year the tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures were running well above normal. Global warming was the explanation given by most 'experts' the media interviewed. And since global warming will only get worse, those SSTs were expected to just keep on increasing.The cooling surprised climate modelers, but not the author, Roy Spencer.
This is not the only surprisingly cool SST story. A new scientific article now accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the globally averaged upper ocean cooled dramatically between 2003 and 2005, effectively erasing 20% of the warming that occurred over the previous 48 years!Spencer thinks that the models are incomplete, specifically that they lack some of the feedback that stabilizes the climate. His argument seems plausible to me, though I would like to see the other side.
(As always, when I write about global climate change, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.)
- 8:17 AM, 18 August 2006 [link]
Someone Should Tell The Presbyterians: That this isn't funny.
A book suggesting the September 11 attacks were engineered by the U.S. government is raising hackles among the faithful because its publisher is an agency of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the largest of several Presbyterian denominations.In fact, it is disgusting to see a company belonging to a "mainstream" denomination spreading these terrible accusations. It has been a while since I studied the Bible, but I seem to recall something in there about not bearing false witness.
Naturally, the chairman of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Kenneth Godshall, is making the usual denials that the company agrees with the book, though he does say that the book deserves "careful consideration". Right. No word yet on whether the company plans to follow this with a book on how the devil has been misunderstood through the centuries. (The author, David Ray Griffin, was best known before this book for his belief in something called "process theology", which "denies the omnipotence and omniscience of God". Would that predispose him to sympathize with the devil? It's hard to know these days.)
(This is still funny — and I must say that I prefer funny Presbyterians to disgusting Presbyterians.)
- 7:50 AM, 18 August 2006 [link]
Our Frivolous Leftists: Would you describe a would-be mass murderer as a "creep"? Now he (and almost all would-be mass murderers are men) might be a creep, but that bit of slang seems inadequate for someone who wishes to murder civilians by the hundreds.
But that's the word that linguist Geoffrey Nunberg chose in this op-ed, which criticizes "Islamic fascism" and similar terms. Better, he says, would be to call these terrorists "Islamo-creeps". Nunberg is a "linguist at UC Berkeley's School of Information", so we can assume that he did not choose Islamo-creeps" because because he did not know what creep means. (According to my American Heritage dictionary, creep means "an annoyingly unpleasant or repulsive person". A creep, in other words is someone you will ordinarily avoid, not someone who will murder you.)
So why did Nunberg choose "creep" to describe our enemies? Because, I believe, he can not treat this serious matter, seriously. He can be serious in discussing how to defeat the evil Republicans, who mostly just want to win office in democratic elections, but not when discussing how to describe radical Islamists, who want to murder him and destroy the United States.
Frankly, I find his unwillingness to be serious about our enemies just a little bit creepy. And his attitude is all too common on the left, especially the academic left. They don't like facing the facts about radical Islamists, so they deny the facts or downplay them with frivolity, as Nunberg did in this op-ed.
(If you read all of Nunberg's op-ed, you will see that he actually agrees with my argument that "fascist" could be applied to some of our enemies, though not all.)
- 3:21 PM, 17 August 2006 [link]
Just In Time For The November Elections? Crude oil prices are falling.
Oil fell for a fourth day on Thursday to the lowest in nearly eight weeks after U.S. data reminded traders that crude stocks are relatively robust and the summer driving season is nearing its end.Nothing unusual about this decline; we use more gasoline in the summer (and more heating oil in the winter). Prices for gasoline typically rise in the spring and decline at the end of the summer.
I have seen arguments that the current price of crude oil is partly due to speculation. I don't have any opinion on that question, but can say that, if it is true, we might see a larger drop in price than usual.
And if that were to happen before the November elections, Republican candidates wouldn't mind it one bit.
- 8:01 AM, 17 August 2006 [link]
A Spectacular Example of distributed vote fraud.
Riley, 69, the former CEO of the University of Illinois Medical Center and a former law professor at Loyola University, is running for a state senate seat in Milwaukee.In 2000, Al Gore defeated George Bush in Wisconsin by just 5,708 votes. I have believed, ever since, that Gore's margin probably came from illegal votes. Wisconsin's election laws, especially the one allowing same day registration, make vote fraud easy and every close election there suspect.
(Need a review on distributed vote? You can find some of my more important posts on the subject here, here, and here, and my disclaimer on the extent of distributed vote fraud here.)
- 7:39 AM, 17 August 2006 [link]