Archive:

December 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Distributed Vote Fraud In Wisconsin?  In 2000, there were worrisome instances of vote fraud in Wisconsin.  In 2004, there were even more problems, enough to inspire the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to do an extensive investigation, in which they found, among other things, that thousands more votes were counted in Milwaukee than voters were listed as having voted in the precinct records.  These "discrepancies" triggered an extensive criminal investigation.   The prosecutors in that investigation have concluded, somewhat to my surprise, that there was no broad conspiracy.
The nearly yearlong investigation into voter fraud in 2004 has yielded no evidence of a broad conspiracy to try to steal an election, U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic said Monday.

He predicted that perhaps "a couple of dozen" isolated cases of suspected fraud might be charged, and he said that sloppy recordkeeping by election officials was a key impediment to proving such cases.
Not a broad conspiracy, but certainly a set of small conspiracies.
Two of those charged with double voting were driven to several polling places in the same van, but the driver hasn't been identified, and no evidence of an organized conspiracy has been uncovered, Frohling said.

* McCann's office has charged four people with felonies in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.   Two people affiliated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now were charged with filing false voter registrations, and two felons were accused of illegal voting.  None of those cases has been resolved.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is better known by its acronym, ACORN.   Those who have read this site regularly will recall that they have been associated with vote fraud in many different states.

The collection of small conspiracies is what I have been calling "distributed vote fraud".  I described the problem in this post, and gave it the name in this post.  Those who have followed my posts on the Washington state's governor's election will recall that I am nearly certain that distributed vote fraud gave Christine Gregoire her narrow win.  Could it also have given Kerry his narrow margin in Wisconsin?  That is certainly possible.

(There's a brief summary of the problems in Wisconsin here and a description of their bizarre same day registration law, which makes fraud easy to commit, here.)
- 6:45 PM, 8 December 2005   [link]


Another Nobel Reprimand:  This one going to playwright Harold Pinter.
The playwright Harold Pinter turned his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on Wednesday into a furious howl of outrage against American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but had also "supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship" in the last 50 years.
Even the New York Times suspects that he received the literature, not for his literature, but for his leftist views.
The literature prize has in recent years often gone to writers with left-wing ideologies.   These include the European writers José Saramago of Portugal, Günter Grass of Germany and Dario Fo of Italy.
And to the extent that I am familiar with their political views, I can say that they all deserved reprimands, too.

I would say that nearly all the peace prizes and literature prizes that the Nobel committees have awarded in the last ten years have actually been reprimands, and should have been accompanied by fines, rather than monetary awards.

(You can find earlier posts on Nobel reprimands here and here.)
- 3:33 PM, 8 December 2005   [link]


Christmas In Japan:  My friend, and fellow blogger, Matt Rosenberg, asks this question:
How would you feel if every year at the appropriate time, the streets, schools, and stores were plastered with signs and displays exhorting us all to have a "Joyous Ramadan?"  Uh, just curious.
If I were in a country that was largely Muslim, I would expect that, or whatever the Muslim equivalent is.  Matt then goes on to say:
But there's something distinctly un-Republican about conservatives in a lather over this supposed war on Christmas.
As it happens, I have rather complex feelings about this dispute, and I will probably do a longish post on it before Christmas.  I think that those Christians who object to turning Christmas into a purely commercial holiday have a point.  And I am amused and mildly annoyed at the sometimes silly efforts to remove even the mention of Christmas.  (Favorite example: Last year, in a local Barnes and Noble, I saw a four-sided display.  One side was labeled "Hanukkah", one side labeled "Kwanzaa", one side labeled "Eid" (the Muslim holiday), and the fourth side was labeled — "Holiday".  As I recall, I found this so silly that I left the store without buying anything.  As those who know me well would guess, it is not often that I leave a bookstore without a purchase.)

But let me set the American controversy aside — for now — and turn to another place Christmas is celebrated, Japan.  Here's how a Christian missionary describes it:
Most Japanese are fairly ignorant about Christmas, just as most North Americans are fairly ignorant about the Japanese New Year holiday.  (Our first Christmas we bought a small evergreen arrangement for a tiny "Christmas tree" only to find out later it was a traditional Japanese religious decoration for the New Year!)

But there is a certain kind of Christmas here in Japan. Let me describe it a little.

At the end of November merchandising heralds the onset (onslaught?) of the season.  Santa's show up in some advertising and Christmas carols can be heard in stores.  (In English!) Also advertisements appear for special Christmas eve and Christmas day hotel & restaurant dinners and shows, generally with a strong romance theme.  More and more Christmas lights are going up each year (probably a thousand per cent increase in the seven years we've been here) on stores and at malls, though I've seen few if any on private homes.
And the Japanese have two customs, special Christmas cakes and getting together in immense groups to perform Beethoven's 9th, that can be seen as variants on Western customs.

All in all, the Japanese Christmas sounds much like old-fashioned Christmases in the United States, except perhaps for the romantic hotel and restaurant dinners.  So the Japanese have the Christmas customs that bother some here in the United States, without the beliefs that underlie those customs.  (About 1 percent of Japanese are Christian.)  Those who want to join the Christmas wars should give that curious (from our point of view) Japanese combination some thought.

(For more on Japanese Christmas customs, see here and here.)
- 11:11 AM, 8 December 2005
And In China:  The "MadScientist" had this to say in a comment to a Joanne Jacobs post.
I am currently living in Mainland China, you know, the PRC, where religion is an enemy of the state.

Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, there are signs wishing people a - get this - Merry Christmas.  Christmas trees, and the whole shebang - except for Christmas carols.
So, I did a quick search and learned that he is right, as you can see here and here.  The second site has many pictures, most of them showing scenes that will look familiar to Americans.
- 8:23 AM, 9 December 2005   [link]


Christmas In Japan:  My friend, and fellow blogger, Matt Rosenberg, asks this question:
How would you feel if every year at the appropriate time, the streets, schools, and stores were plastered with signs and displays exhorting us all to have a "Joyous Ramadan?"  Uh, just curious.
If I were in a country that was largely Muslim, I would expect that, or whatever the Muslim equivalent is.  Matt then goes on to say:
But there's something distinctly un-Republican about conservatives in a lather over this supposed war on Christmas.
As it happens, I have rather complex feelings about this dispute, and I will probably do a longish post on it before Christmas.  I think that those Christians who object to turning Christmas into a purely commercial holiday have a point.  And I am amused and mildly annoyed at the sometimes silly efforts to remove even the mention of Christmas.  (Favorite example: Last year, in a local Barnes and Noble, I saw a four-sided display.  One side was for Hanukkah, one side for the recently invented Kwanzaa, one side for the Muslim Eid, and the fourth side was labeled — "Holiday".  As I recall, I found this so silly that I left the store without buying anything.  As those who know me well would guess, it is not often that I leave a bookstore without a purchase.)  But let me set the American controversy aside for now and give you a brief description of Christmas in an almost entirely non-Christian country, Japan.

Here's how a Christian missionary describes it:
Most Japanese are fairly ignorant about Christmas, just as most North Americans are fairly ignorant about the Japanese New Year holiday.  (Our first Christmas we bought a small evergreen arrangement for a tiny "Christmas tree" only to find out later it was a traditional Japanese religious decoration for the New Year!)

But there is a certain kind of Christmas here in Japan. Let me describe it a little.

At the end of November merchandising heralds the onset (onslaught?) of the season.  Santa's show up in some advertising and Christmas carols can be heard in stores.  (In English!) Also advertisements appear for special Christmas eve and Christmas day hotel & restaurant dinners and shows, generally with a strong romance theme.  More and more Christmas lights are going up each year (probably a thousand per cent increase in the seven years we've been here) on stores and at malls, though I've seen few if any on private homes.
And the Japanese have two customs, special Christmas cakes, and getting together in immense groups to perform Beethoven's 9th, that can be seen as variants on Western customs.

All in all, the Japanese Christmas sounds much like old-fashioned Christmases in the United States, except perhaps for the romantic hotel and restaurant dinners.  So the Japanese have the Christmas customs that bother some here in the United States, without the beliefs that underlie those customs.  For those who want to join the Christmas wars, that curious (from our point of view) Japanese combination deserves some thought.

(For more on Japanese Christmas customs, see here and here.)
- 11:11 AM, 8 December 2005   [link]


Jim Geraghty spots Bill O'Reilly making a fool of himself.
CAVUTO: Wait, you're taking credit for gas prices being down?

O'REILLY: My reporting and reporting of others.
Alternate explanations, such as this one from Mickey Kaus (scroll down), are rejected by O'Reilly.
It's indeed deeply disturbing to learn that higher gas prices have held down demand, causing those prices to fall back to a level at which demand begins to rise again!  It's almost as if some insidious law was at work--as prices rise, demand declines!  As supply increases, prices fall! You can't win! ...
Damian Penny, who tipped me to this story, adds this:
Here's the part that confuses me: everyone knows Fox News is an unquestioning tool of the Bush Administration, and everyone knows the Bush Administration is an unquestioning tool of the oil companies.  But here's the Fox News Channel's best-known host, spouting conspiracy theories about Big Oil which wouldn't be out of place on IndyMedia.  How can this be?  I need to lie down for a while to make some sense out of this one.
I suppose that the simplest explanation is that Bill O'Reilly is a dope about economic questions — but an independent dope, just as he claims.

(For what it is worth, the idea that a few large oil companies controlled prices (the "Seven Sisters" as they were then called) controlled prices was not completely implausible many decades ago, though even then market forces set severe constraints on their ability to control prices.  They long ago lost their ability to control the prices of crude to OPEC.  And, of course, with the rise of non-OPEC producers, that organization has less control over prices than they once had.)
- 8:23 AM, 8 December 2005   [link]


Why Did The Japanese Attack At Pearl Harbor?  That's actually two questions, as you may have noticed.  Why did the Japanese attack the United States, and why did they choose Pearl Harbor for their main attack?

Entire books have been written on both questions.  Most agree on their answers to both, though the answer to the first still seems strange to most Americans.  The Japanese had come to believe that they were entitled to rule, if not the world, as least all of Asia.  And their earlier conquests — Formosa, Korea, many German islands during World War I, Manchuria, and much of China — had given them confidence that they had the "mandate of heaven".  This view was held most strongly by the army leaders who took over control of the government of Japan during the late 1920s and 1930s in a gradual process, punctuated by the assassinations of moderate leaders.  (The leaders of Japan's navy, who knew America better, were much less ready to risk war with us.)

The army leaders believed in this mandate so strongly that they would literally rather die than give it up, regardless of the costs.  In 1937, they began an attack on China, having swallowed Manchuria earlier.  They soon occupied most of the largest cities and the coast line, but were unable to force Chiang Kai-shek's government to surrender.  By 1938, the war there had become stalemated.  The cruelty of their attacks on the Chinese and their attacks on American missions and businesses in China (always said to be accidental), culminating in the sinking of an American gunboat, the Panay, slowly turned American opinion against the Japanese.  (The Japanese apologized for the attack on the gunboat, claiming as usual that it was a mistake, and paid us an indemnity.)

When Hitler conquered the Netherlands and France in 1940, that left their colonies, French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies, almost defenseless.  That tempted the Japanese government and they began to move southwards, establishing bases in Indochina and pressuring the Dutch for concessions.  Because of the swing in American public opinion, pressure began to build up to stop selling them war materials.  Of these, the most crucial was oil.  The Japanese produced about 10 percent of their needs and had to import the rest, much of it from the United States.  When we finally stopped the exports of oil to Japan in July, 1941, we gave the Japanese a stark choice — go to war to seize oil supplies in the Dutch East Indies or give up their imperial ambitions.

And the latter was, as I have said, unthinkable, at least for the army officers who then controlled Japan.  As they saw it, we had given them no choice.

But why Pearl Harbor?  Because much of our fleet was stationed there as a deterrent to Japan.  (By the way, many naval officers, including the commander of the fleet from January 1940 to February 1941, Admiral James O. Richardson, opposed basing so much of our fleet in that forward position.)  We knew, abstractly, that the fleet could be a target there as well as a deterrent, but we never really accepted emotionally that the Japanese would attack us.

And because the brilliant Japanese admiral, Isoroku Yamamato, saw the opportunity for a devastating victory if he could surprise us.  (Previous Japanese plans had envisioned wearing down the American fleet as it fought westward to relieve the Philippines, and then a great battle much nearer their homeland.  Though less dramatic, that might have been a better strategy for the Japanese.)  And it was devastating, though much less so than it could have been because of the caution of the Japanese admiral who commanded the six attacking carriers, Chuichi Nagumo.   He did not follow up the initial strikes with attacks on our repair shops or even our immense tank farms which held the fleet's oil supply, nor did he make much of an effort to find our carriers, though he knew they were near Hawaii.

If I had to choose just one lesson from the Pearl Harbor attack, it would be this: It is easy, but often wrong, to believe that your enemy has the same values and picture of the world that you do.   The drive for empire that seemed so natural to the leaders of the Japanese army was, by then, completely foreign to most Americans, even those leaders who had dealt with their aggressive moves for years.

(I drew this post largely from my three favorite books on the attack.  You can find a brief post on them here.)
- 2:42 PM, 7 December 2005   [link]


Who Shot First At Pearl Harbor?  Not who you might think, as I explained two years ago.
- 8:01 AM, 7 December 2005   [link]


Congressman Murtha Versus Senator Lieberman:  Each made, recently, strong statements on our Iraq policy.  The Congressman got more attention, notes Kathleen Parker.

Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, Murtha, (Lieberman), Murtha, Murtha, Murtha.

That's about how news coverage has gone the past several weeks concerning Rep. John Murtha's call to withdraw from Iraq versus Sen. Joe Lieberman's call to stand fast.

It is simply a fact that the senator from Connecticut (and Democratic candidate for vice president in 2000) is a more important figure than the congressman from Pennsylvania's 12th district.   It is also a fact that neither man has changed his position on the Iraq war in the last few years, though you might not have learned that from most news stories on Murtha.

But the story that a "hawk" had changed his mind on Iraq was just too good to check and so our "mainstream" journalist ran with it and gave enormous coverage to Murtha, while almost completely ignoring Lieberman.

And those same journalists have had to ignore a certain incoherence in Murtha's position.  In this Mickey Kaus post, you will see Murtha taking opposing positions on important questions — during the same interview on ABC's This Week.  According to Murtha, there is a civil war going on in Iraq — and a civil war is unlikely.  According to Murtha, the Iraqis will never ask us to leave — and the Iraqis are clamoring for us to leave.

What does Murtha actually believe?  That's easy.  He believes that there should be more federal spending in his district.  Oh, you mean on Iraq.  Like Mickey Kaus, I really don't know.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

(Here's the Lieberman op-ed if you want to read something coherent on Iraq.  And, in this post, you can find at least one of Murtha's positions on the war.)
- 7:26 AM, 7 December 2005   [link]

Better Late Than Never:  Zenji Abe says he's sorry.
To Zenji Abe, 89, a former dive-bomber pilot, Pearl Harbor was a place where he headed to risk his life to defend his country.  But more than 60 years later, it has turned into a place where he can nurture ties with American friends who had once been his foes.
. . .
"I believe Japan and the world would have changed for the better if the Pearl Harbor attack did not happen, and the relationship between Japan and its neighboring countries would have been different if wartime leaders had acted morally," he said.
To be fair, I should add that, for years, Abe has been sending roses to Pearl Harbor to commemorate those who lost their lives in the attack, and that he has worked hard to bring reconciliation.

(Abe is greatly ashamed that the Pearl Harbor attack was not preceded by a formal declaration of war.  Actually, the Japanese government intended to deliver a message that amounted to a declaration of war, their rejection of our proposal for a settlement, just before they struck.   Here's how Roberta Wohlstetter puts it, in Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision:
The Japanese wanted us to have what amounted to their declaration of war and their justification for waging war, and they wanted us to receive it before the actual blow — but not so long before that it would be useful. (p. 349)
We failed to get the note — officially — before the attack, as Samuel Eliot Morison explains in volume III of his history of the US Navy in World War II, The Rising Sun in the Pacific:
On Sunday morning, 7 December 1941 — the "day that will live in infamy" — the Japanese Ambassadors, as instructed by their government, asked for an interview with Mr. [Cordell] Hull [the American secretary of State] at 1300 in order to read Tojo's reply to the proposals of 26 November.  That time had been selected because it was just twenty minutes before the scheduled hour (0750 Honolulu time) of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Owing, it seems, to a delay by the embassy staff in deciphering and translating this note, the interview was postponed until 1400. (p. 79)
But we had received the note — unofficially.  Our military cryptographers had broken the Japanese diplomatic code and had read both the note from Tojo, and the "pilot" note that directed that their reply not be delivered until 1300.  After seeing the Japanese reply (and reports of Japanese troop movements toward Singapore and Malaya), Roosevelt and his War Council appear to have expected war between Japan and Britain, but not an attack on the United States.)
- 1:38 PM, 6 December 2005   [link]


Would Afghanistan Be A "Quagmire" Like Vietnam?  That's what New York Times reporter R. W. Apple thought might happen in October, 2001.
Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word "quagmire" has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad.

Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam?  Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world?  Premature the questions may be, three weeks after the fighting began.  Unreasonable they are not, given the scars scoured into the national psyche by defeat in Southeast Asia.  For all the differences between the two conflicts, and there are many, echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable.
. . .
Despite the insistence of President Bush and members of his cabinet that all is well, the war in Afghanistan has gone less smoothly than many had hoped.  Not that anyone expected a lightning campaign without setbacks; indeed, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have often said the effort would be long and hard.

But signs of progress are sparse.  A week ago, the Pentagon said the military capacity of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan had been "eviscerated" by allied bombing raids; now ranking officials describe those leaders as "tough characters" who remain full of fight.  The sole known commando sortie into enemy territory produced minimal results and ample evidence that American intelligence about the Taliban is thin.
On November 13th, two weeks after the article was published, the Taliban lines in front of Kabul collapsed.

(This "golden oldie" by way of David Cohen, writing at the Brothers Judd.   I am a little surprised that the entire copyrighted article is posted, but the rules on such things are somewhat more permissive for academics.)
- 9:04 AM, 6 December 2005
Oops!  For no reason I can think of, I originally wrote "October, 1991", rather than "October, 2001", as a sharp eyed emailer noticed.  I have corrected the mistake above.
- 10:53 AM, 6 December 2005   [link]


What Else Were Governor Blanco's Aides Doing?  Three days ago, in this post, I mentioned the emails that showed that Blanco's principal aides were spending time during Katrina trying to blame any failures on the Bush administration — rather than trying to rescue people.

Now we learn that some of her aides were also trying to stop the efforts to gather buses.
Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, thousands of people were trapped in the city without food, water and medical care and growing increasingly desperate for rescue.  But a top aide to Gov. Kathleen Blanco sent out an e-mail informing his colleagues that his staff had stopped calling for the buses needed to evacuate people from the Superdome and other places of refuge.

"NO MORE CALLS FOR BUSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Ty Bromell wrote Wednesday morning, Aug. 31.  "My people are not calling for buses now."

Bromell, who heads Blanco's Office of Rural Development, said he had gotten word -- from Leonard Kleinpeter, a special assistant to the governor who was spearheading the effort to wrangle buses from school boards, churches and other groups -- that the vehicles were no longer needed.
You may want to read the entire article which reveals a mixture of incompetence and dishonesty by the Blanco administration that would be hard to believe in most other states.  Here are two selections I found especially striking.
Though there was a focus on getting people out of the city, the governor did not issue the executive order that speeded the process of getting the buses until late Wednesday evening, Aug. 31.
. . .
In her explanation of what occurred after the storm, Blanco focused on FEMA's failures, noting that she first got word that the promised buses were coming into north Louisiana on Wednesday just before midnight.  Blanco also wrote that she continued the state effort to mount convoys of school buses to evacuate people.
Think of that!  The Louisiana state government didn't even start to gather the buses until days after Katrina!  They were relying on FEMA rather than their own efforts, even though FEMA tells state and local governments, again and again, that it will not be able to provide help in the first two or three days after a disaster, that those governments must be the "first responders".  (Or perhaps the second responders, since families should plan to take care of themselves for two or three days.)  One can understand — though not forgive — their efforts to blame the Bush adminsitration for their own failures.

(There is something of a mystery about what FEMA promised in the way of buses.   The agency did provide buses, about three days after the hurricane, but some of the Louisiana officials seemed to believe that FEMA would do their job and provide buses immediately.  If I had to guess I would say that the Blanco aides, realizing that they had botched the rescue efforts, hoped that somehow FEMA, which has very few resources of its own, would bail them out.  And, in the confusion, turned that hope into a belief that FEMA would be able to act more quickly than it had told them before Katrina that it could.)
- 6:06 AM, 6 December 2005
More:  Bryan Preston has similar thoughts and the classic picture of those flooded New Orleans buses.
- 12:18 PM, 6 November 2005   [link]


Protecting Frank Rich?  I have wondered for some time whether the letters editor at the New York Times protects some of their worst columnists, the group I have started calling their "bad children".  It is a group to which Frank Rich very definitely belongs, since his columns frequently have factual errors, are often badly written, and almost always include adolescent sneers.

A week ago, in this post, I mentioned the many errors in his particularly nasty November 27th column.  In the week since it was published, has the New York Times printed any letters critical of the Rich column?  No, not a single letter.   Since they get hundreds of letters a day, it is hard to believe that they received none critical of that column.

But I can make sure they have by sending them one, and I plan to do that tomorrow.  If, in the next week, they do not print that letter, or any other letter critical of the column, I think we can conclude that, almost certainly, the letters editor decided to protect Frank Rich.  (If you have seen other examples of this protection, I would be interested in hearing about them.)
- 4:05 PM, 5 December 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  If you are at all interested in Mt. St. Helens.
The satellite trucks and news reporters have long gone.  The crowds of tourists have thinned.   No plumes of steam and ash have risen above Mount St. Helens for nine months.

Daniel Dzurisin, a volcanologist at the United States Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said that people often asked him when St. Helens would erupt again.

"When I tell them it's erupting today, they're surprised," Dr. Dzurisin said.
(Chang is probably correct (I haven't checked) when he says no plumes of ash have risen from the crater for months, but steam plumes are quite common.  And, especially around sunrise and sunset, sometimes quite beautiful.)

What reaches the surface from this eruption is not, technically, lava.
Instead, what is coming out of the ground is a tube of rock that, while still hot, solidified perhaps half a mile underground and then was pushed upward.  The process is somewhat like holding a toothpaste tube vertically and squeezing the toothpaste out.

Each second, about a cubic yard of new mountain - roughly a pickup truck's worth - is pushed to the surface, adding to a dome growing inside the crater.
It took me a while, but I finally figured out why dome building eruptions of this kind are what we should expect.
After St. Helens didn't explode as some geologists had feared, I realized that dome building is what we should have been expecting.  The mountain builds itself slowly, but destroys itself quickly.  Since there is a mountain there, periods of building must be far more common than periods of destruction.
Also worth reading is this article on insects, especially if you think we humans, or even we vertebrates, run things on this planet.
In the annals of life, insects are one of the great success stories.

A little over 400 million years ago, their six-legged ancestors came out of the water onto dry land.  They have evolved into an estimated five million living species - dwarfing the diversity of all other animals combined.  Even if you throw in all the known species of plants, fungi and protozoans, insects still win.

Insects are also a success in terms of sheer biomass.  Put all of the insects on a giant scale, and they will outweigh all other animals, whales and elephants included.

And insects are also ecologically essential.  If all humans decided to leave for Mars, taking all the vertebrates with them, the disruption to life on Earth would be incomparably less than the catastrophe that would ensue if insects disappeared.  Forests would probably collapse, rivers and oceans would be poisoned, and many other animals would starve.
I have no idea why the loss of insects would poison the rivers and oceans, though the other disasters are easy enough to understand.

(Here's the Mt. St. Helens volcano cam if you want to watch the current eruption from time to time.)
- 1:42 PM, 5 December 2005
More:  Here's a (slightly cropped) picture showing this morning's steam plume:


And here's a blog site devoted to Mt. St. Helens.   Not much there now, but it would be good place to check whenever Mt. St. Helens gets more active.
- 10:29 AM, 6 December 2005   [link]


Republicans Need Not Apply:  Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper that has lost a little circulation recently, surveys the problems of the major network news programs and comes up with this solution
The truly sad part about the rumors of Katie Couric becoming anchor of the "CBS Evening News" -- now closing in on one year of whimsy in the ether, with six months to go -- is not that the end result would be Katie Couric as successor to Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite.

It's this: Katie Couric is not a revolution.

Wake us up when you get Oprah.  Or import Keith Olbermann and "Countdown" from cable.   Or burn the whole building down with Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" starting a synergy fire.
None of whom are Republicans or conservatives.

Here's a fact that Mr. Goodman should consider.  One network has been gaining market share for its news programs.  That network is, as Goodman should know, Fox.  So, perhaps, just perhaps, a network that wanted to gain share (or lose it less rapidly) should figure out why Fox was attracting viewers — and imitate it.  Or even hire someone from Fox, such as Brit Hume or Tony Snow.  Now that would be revolutionary.

(Revolutionary, but not unprecedented.  In the 1970s, ABC, then a distant third to CBS and NBC, was able to capture a much larger share of the viewers by moving its news broadcasts toward the right.  For a brief discussion of how ABC did that, see the middle part of this post.)
- 8:48 AM, 5 December 2005   [link]


Acrostics In The War On Terror:  We have to use, as I have said before, many weapons in the war on terror, but it had not occurred to me that we (or one of our allies) would deploy acrostics.
A poem in a school textbook has been removed by embarrassed education officials in Pakistan after it was found that the first letters of each line spelt out "President George W Bush."

The 20-line anonymous poem, The Leader, lists the qualities of "a man who will do what he must" and bears a passing resemblance to Rudyard Kipling's If.

"Ever assuring he'll stand by his word/Wanting the world to join his firm stand/Bracing for war, but praying for peace/Using his power so evil will cease", run typical lines.
The Pakistani government is embarrassed by this discovery, naturally.  Ever since at least the end of the Vietnam war, many have thought it safer to be an enemy of the United States than a friend — and not without reason.  So President Musharraf doesn't want to get too close to us.

It would be interesting to know who wrote the poem, whether it was an American or, more likely, a Pakistani who genuinely admires Bush and chose this half-hidden way to say so.

And it would be fun to see the poem used in American schools.  Maybe we could sneak it into the text books used in such anti-Bush strongholds like San Francisco and Seattle.
- 6:51 AM, 5 December 2005   [link]


First Things First:  During Katrina, what were Governor Blanco's aides doing?   If this account in the New York Times is reasonably accurate, they were mostly trying to figure out how to blame any problems on President Bush.
As New Orleans descended into horror, the top aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana were certain the White House was trying to blame their boss, and they were becoming increasingly furious.

"Bush's numbers are low, and they are getting pummeled by the media for their inept response to Katrina and are actively working to make us the scapegoats," Bob Mann, Ms. Blanco's communications director, wrote in an e-mail message that afternoon, outlining plans by Washington Democrats to help turn the blame back onto President Bush.
. . .
"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts - that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands," ,[the governor's chief of staff] Mr. [Andy] Kopplin wrote in one e-mail message a week after the storm hit.
Helping the people of Louisiana appears to have been less important to these aides than shifting the blame to President Bush.

And then there is this bit, which is infuriating.
The documents also demonstrate the enormous sense of frustration that overcame Ms. Blanco's staff members as they fielded thousands of desperate calls, few of which they were able to act on effectively.

"Whoever is in charge needs to get control of the situation regarding the thousands of people (including elderly, babies, infirmed, etc.) up on I-10 in New Orleans," according to one e-mail message a Blanco aide received from his cousin on Aug. 31, two days after the storm hit.  "They need food and water to start with.  They seem to be in need of specific direction from the 'powers that be,' at the very least."
Governor Blanco and her aides were the "powers that be", but were unwilling, so it seems, to do what needed to be done, or even to get out of the way of the federal government's efforts.

After reading this, I have to wonder whether some in her administration did not slow down rescue efforts intentionally, knowing that it would damage Bush politically.  Think that's too paranoid?  Something very similar happened in Florida during the first Bush administration.   President Bush offered help after a storm several times, but was turned down by the foxy Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles.  Then an announcer went on TV in Miami and pleaded for federal help, getting enormous coverage.  Only after that outburst had damaged Bush did Chiles agree to accept the federal help that Bush had offered him days before.  I think it almost certain that Chiles delayed the federal help deliberately, just to damage Bush.  And Clinton did win Florida in 1992, though narrowly.

(I don't know whether Blanco herself tried to delay rescue efforts — though she did issue orders that delayed rescue efforts.  But I have never been sure whether she is actually running her administration, or is just a figurehead.)

Interestingly, a poll that I saw a few days ago showed that Blanco and Mayor Nagin got more blame for the delayed rescue efforts than President Bush — among the people of Louisiana.

(Chiles barely survived a challenge from Jeb Bush in 1994.  The election was close enough so that Chiles ran a nasty push poll at the end of the campaign, which may have tipped the balance in his favor.  As I recall, the poll accused Bush of wanting to cut social security, or something similar.)
- 5:15 PM, 4 December 2005   [link]


Mountain Blogging:  Seven weeks ago, I finished my disaster area tour by visiting Crater Lake, though the Park Service did not make the visit as easy as it might have been.  When I reached the north entrance to the park, about ten in the morning, I found the gate chained, with no explanation posted.  As I waited, a school bus with a class trip came along, and the driver told me that the Park Service knew his group was coming.  So I waited for five or ten minutes until a Park Service employee came along and told us all that the road was closed because of ice on the roads, but that we could drive around up and get up to the rim from the south side — which I proceeded to do.  When I reached the main vistor center there, I found that the rim road was closed, because of the ice, though I saw none on the approach or on the road at the top.  Still, though I was unable to explore most of the park that day, I must admit that the view was wonderful.


It is hard to imagine, viewing that peaceful scene, just what it was like when Mount Mazama boiled away about 7,000 years ago.  Here's just one number: In one place in the park, the ash from the eruption is 50 feet deep, and there is no reason to think that was all the ash that was there originally.

Given the size of the eruption, it almost certainly changed the climate of the entire world for years.

How dangerous is Crater Lake?  Here's what Stephen Harris says in his Fire Mountains of the West.
The date of its latest activity only a few thousand years ago implies that Mazama has not finished its volcanic career.

Future eruptions are likely to occur inside the caldera, erecting new cinder cones like Wizard Island or emitting lava flows from fissures on the lake floor.  Some eruptions will probably take place entirely under water, while others may build new islands, shooting clots of red hot lava over the caldera rim or splashing them into the lake.  Eventually vents may open on Mazama's outer flanks, creating additional cinder cones of lava domes.
So the peaceful scene you see will not last forever.

(Here's web site for the Crater Lake National Park.  I erred by not checking it before I left.  One of the books I consulted said that the rim was open all year round, but if you check the site, you will find that is no longer true, if it ever was.

You can see the previous posts from my disaster tour here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The picture is a miniature version of a panorama that I created with my Olympus C-765 and the software that came with the camera.  Taking the series of pictures was easy, though I have learned that I should use a tripod, rather than a monopod, and the software stitched them together with no problems.   This picture is 600 pixels wide to fit on the screen; the original is about 5,000 pixels wide.)
- 5:12 PM, 2 December 2005   [link]


Wonder If That Would Work With American Newspapers?  That was my first reaction to the story that the military had been paying Iraqi journalists to print favorable stories.  As far as I can tell, the stories were true and may have brought some balance to the coverage of our operations in Iraq.

I am being a little frivolous, but the coverage of the Iraq conflict is so one-sided in most of our newspapers, that it is hard not to want some such solution.  I suppose I am not actually in favor of paying our newspapers to print true stories to bring some balance to their coverage, but I would welcome other efforts to bring some balance.  Perhaps some public spirited billionaire could take out ads to bring the facts to those who are relying on our "mainstream" journalists for the news of the war.

(For more on the subject, here's a defense of the practice, from a retired general who notes that propaganda is almost universal during war time, and an outraged editorial from the Washington Post, which would be easier to take if the newspaper were not so often filled with what one can reasonably call propaganda.)
- 1:10 PM, 2 December 2005   [link]


Coincidence?  Another kidnapping of westerners in Iraq with odd similarities to an earlier kidnapping.
Four Christian peace activists held hostage in Iraq were kidnapped at the same place where an Italian journalist was abducted, raising the possibility one group carried out both attacks, police said Thursday.

The style of the abduction also was similar: The activists were seized Saturday in the vicinity of a mosque near Baghdad University.  A car blocked their car, gunmen got out, threw the driver and translator out and drove away with the four captives, security officials said.  They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, was seized Feb. 4 and held for a month by a group calling itself Mujahedeen Without Borders.  That previously unknown group has not been heard from since, but may now be using a different name.
Now, as far as I know, this account in the Guardian is correct, but it does leave out an interesting detail or two.  Sgrena is a Communist who opposed the liberation of Iraq and sides openly with the terrorists.  The "Christian peace activists" belong to a group, Christian Peacemaker Teams, that opposed the liberation of Iraq and effectively sides with the terrorists now.

And one more detail that the Guardian omits.  Many suspect that Sgrena's abduction was staged.   And I must say the similarity in the incidents makes that theory more likely.

(For more on the Christian Peacemaker Teams, see this post by Reverend Sensing.)
- 10:45 AM, 2 December 2005   [link]


The "Long Lance" Torpedo:  As I mentioned in this post, I have been reading Samuel Eliot Morison's Breaking the Bismarks Barrier.   As I read, I have been finding examples of intelligence failures — as I do almost every time I read a military history.

Among the greatest failures was missing the "Long Lance" torpedo, which the Japanese had invented for use by their cruisers and destroyers long before World War II.
Consider next the Japanese Model 93 or "long lance" torpedo that did all the damage to Allied ships in these two battles, besides sinking the Strong earlier, and winning the battle of Tassafaronga in 1941.  Invented as early as 1933 and perfected in prewar years, this oxygen-fueled weapon packed 470 kilograms (1036 pounds) of high explosive, twice the charge of the contemporary 21-inch American torpedo.  It could travel 20,000 meters — almost 11 miles — at 49 knots, or twice as far at 36 knots, outreaching even a battleship's guns.
The American equivalent was less impressive.
The standard American destroyer torpedo (Mark 15) could travel only 3 miles at 45 knots, 5 miles at 33.5 knots, or 7.5 miles at 26.5 knots.  It was 21 inches in diameter, and originally contained 789 pounds of explosive.
And that isn't all.  The Long Lance torpedoes were fired from racks on the decks of the Japanese destroyers and cruisers, racks that could be reloaded during battle, sometimes within minutes.

And what did we know about this weapon in the middle of 1943?  Nothing, other than a few rumors, even though, says Morison, we had captured one in February, 1943.  As a result, we lost ships again and again in night battles — and did not know why.

As I have said before, intelligence failures are routine.  To expect otherwise is to ignore the lessons of thousands of years of military history.

(It was not an accident that the Long Lance torpedo outranged our battleship guns.  At the time it was developed, the Japanese had agreed to a navy about 60 percent as large as ours (and Britain's).  So the Japanese looked for a weapon that might be able to whittle away at our battleship strength as we fought our way across the Pacific, and came up with the Long Lance.

Morison errs he when calls the torpedo "oxygen-fueled".  The oxygen was, naturally, the oxidizer, and replaced the compressed air used as an oxidizer in many other torpedoes of that era.  That gave it, as anyone who has had high school chemistry would know, much more energy for the weight.   It also reduced the bubble trail, which often betrays a torpedo's track.

For more on the specifications of the torpedo, see here and here.)
- 2:14 PM, 1 December 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Debra Saunders tells us just how dishonest the efforts to gain clemency for gang leader "Tookie" Williams are.
Lies so pervade the campaign waged to "save" convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams that Williams and company don't even bother to cover their tracks when they say things they know aren't true.
And she goes on to describe some of those lies.

And it is worth mentioning that, although his gang, the Crips, undoubtedly killed far more blacks than those of other races, Williams himself was convicted for murders of a white and three Asian-Americans.  Some of his statements at the time suggest that racism may have been part of his motivation for those murders.

(Saunders is tough on crime, but intelligent about it.  In an earlier column, she faults President Bush — as I would — for being too slow to pardon some who are serving enormous sentences for minor parts in non-violent crimes.)
- 12:22 PM, 1 December 2005   [link]


MoveOn is funny, though they may not realize it.
After Cybercast News Service reported Wednesday that MoveOn.org had removed from its website a television advertisement that misrepresented a photograph of British soldiers as Americans, the liberal group restored the spot to its site.  However, the group dropped an accompanying picture that had been altered to cover the fact that one of the soldiers in the ad was wearing shorts, which are not part of the American combat uniform.
So, MoveOn put up a picture of British soldiers, misrepresenting them as American soldiers, altered the picture when this was pointed out, and then restored the original picture, which still shows British soldiers, when people spotted the alteration.

So, should we believe MoveOn on other subjects?  I wouldn't.

It really wouldn't have been that difficult, and only slightly embarrassing, for them to have replaced the original picture with an authentic picture of American troops and apologized.  Instead, they kept playing games with the truth.

(But then this doesn't surprise me, since the organization has been playing games with the truth since their founding.  As you may recall, they were founded, after Clinton's Lewinsky affair was revealed, to lobby for censuring him and "moving on".  Since anyone who wanted to could censure Clinton, you might have thought that MoveOn would have censured Clinton themselves, or at least presented a draft motion of censure.  But they never did, perhaps because they didn't really think Clinton deserved even censure.

You can find the pictures here, if you haven't seen them.)
- 10:58 AM, 1 December 2005   [link]


Global Warming Might Be Good:  For some places.  But you can't say that in a mainstream news story on the subject, or so says Stephen Strauss.  After discussing Canadian newspaper stories that claimed that global warming would cause drought in Western Canada, when the study that they cited actually showed that global warming would cause an increase in precipitation, he asks why these mistakes are so common, and then gives these theories:
I have a couple of theories. The first is that calamity always plays better in a newsroom than contradiction.  "Drought threat looms over Prairies' bounty" appeals humongously more to editors' "news" instincts than anything bearing a headline which mumbles: "Changes in hydrological cycle may or may not make a difference to Prairie farmers."

But most sinisterly I fear that the drought apocalypse scenario fits into an environmental reporting paradigm that says it is the responsibility of journalists to cover up any doubts about the validity and meaning of global warming.
And then goes on to argue that some global warming would be good for Canada.  Which is, as I understand it, just what most of the models show.  (And perhaps other places, as I have been saying in my disclaimer for some time.)

So why can't Canadian (or American) journalists say that?  I fear that Strauss is right when he says:
However, reporters are told you can't say: global warming will be good for anywhere or anything.
Even if it is true.  And you will find that those attitudes also affect the stories on other environmental subjects, which are often far more negative than the facts warrant.

Since such attitudes are almost universal in newsrooms, we must treat all stories on global warming with some skepticism.

(He doesn't mention it, but I would guess that the same models would show better growing conditions in the upper Midwest and upper Plains states.)
- 9:21 AM, 1 December 2005   [link]