Archive:

February 2003, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics



Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Al Sharpton and Anti-Semitism:  Yesterday, I sent an email with some thoughts on Pat Buchanan and anti-Semitism to Meryl Yourish.  She was kind enough to publish it here, and added that she was not familiar with Sharpton's record.  His record is horrible, as these two exerpts from a Jay Nordlinger article from National Review show.  First, Crown Heights:
The horrible roll continues.  August of 1991 saw "Crown Heights," the period of madness that began when a car driven by a Hasidic Jew careened out of control, killing a seven-year-old black child, Gavin Cato.  Riots broke out.  A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was lynched.   Over a hundred others were injured.  The city was on the verge of breaking apart.  And here is what Al Sharpton had to say, in one of the most vile orations of his career, noxious with slanders familiar and novel:
The world will tell us that [Gavin Cato] was killed by accident. . . . What type of city do we have that would allow politics to rise above the blood of innocent babies? . . . Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. . . . All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise. Pay for your deeds. . . . It's no accident that we know we should not be run over.  We are the royal family on the planet.  We are the original man.  We gazed into the stars and wrote astrology.  We had a conversation and that became philosophy. . . . We will win because we are right.  God is on our side.
Sharpton's rhetoric could also be rather less high-flown.  "If the Jews want to get it on," he said, "tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house."
(Some minor details.  Yankel Rosenbaum was not literally "lynched" but stabbed.   The jury in the first trial acquitted the man who had stabbed Rosenbaum and then went out to dinner with the defendant to celebrate.  The federal government did later convict him for violating Rosenbaum's civil rights.)

Even more people died at Freddy's Fashion Mart, where anti-Semitism was mixed with racism:
But the torching, so to speak, continued.  In 1995-four years into the putative New Sharpton-there was another, fatal case in which Sharpton had a guilty hand:  Freddy's Fashion Mart.   In Harlem, a white store owner -- no, worse: a Jewish one -- was accused of driving a black store owner out of business.  At one of the many rallies meant to scare the Jewish owner away, Sharpton charged that "there is a systemic and methodical strategy to eliminate our people from doing business off 125th Street.  I want to make it clear . . . that we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business."  Sharpton's colleague, Morris Powell, said of the Jewish owner -- Sharpton's "white interloper" -- "We're going to see that this cracker suffers.   Reverend Sharpton is on it."  Three months later, one of the protesters, Roland Smith, stormed Freddy's with a pistol, screaming, "It's on now: All blacks out!"  In addition to shooting, he burned the place down.  Eight people died.  Sharpton now faced a PR problem, a bump on his road to full respectability.  In a manner both Sharptonian and Clintonian, he denied having even spoken at a rally at all.  When tapes surfaced, he asked, "What's wrong with denouncing white interlopers?"   Eventually, he decided to apologize-but only for saying "white," not "interloper."
Here's more about the attacks on Freddy's, including the anti-Semitism from the demonstrators, in this article by Katherine Jean Lopez.

There's much more about Sharpton's career in the Nordlinger article, and about the way the media and politicians, especially Democratic politicians, have catered to him.  Many of the Democratic candidates for president have said, jokingly, that they are willing to be his vice-presidential candidate.  I am not a lawyer, so I can not say whether he belongs in jail, but the media and his Democratic rivals should not allow this disgraceful man to escape from his history of violent racism and anti-Semitism, like a snake shedding its skin.  (All this reminds me of a subject I have been planning to add to my already too large "Coming Soon" stack on the right.  You can see it there now.  It's the fifth item.)
- 4:39 PM, 28 February 2003   [link]


It Must Be Stardust:  Scientists studying dust from high in the atmosphere have found a few dust grains from stars.   It is not clear from the article how they know the origins of the grains, but the grains should provide fascinating information on stellar evolution.
- 8:48 AM, 28 February 2003
Update:  Here's an article explaining how the scientists know that a grain of dust is from the stars.  (If the explanation seems a bit mysterious, here's more:   Physicists now think that all the elements except the lightest, hydrogen and helium (and perhaps a little bit of lithium), were formed after the big bang, in nova and supernova.  Each exploding star would produce a different mix of isotopes, so a ratio of isotopes that differs from that in the solar system would have come from a different star than the dust that makes up the earth.)
- 8:40 AM, 1 March 2003   [link]


Bush Right, Guardian Wrong:  In this ridiculous editorial, the Guardian claims that President Bush is wrong about American, German, and Japanese history. In fact, Bush is correct, and the Guardian wrong.  Bush argued, in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Iraq's future, that at one time "many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values".  Many people did argue just that during and after World War II.  The destruction of promising democratic experiments made many skeptical about the prospects for democracy in Germany and Japan.  

Not satisfied with being wrong about this, the Guardian then argues that "there is a case for saying that Germans have at least as strong a democratic tradition as Americans", something that will astonish students of comparative politics and historians.  Elected governments began in the United States within a few years of the Pilgrims landing in 1630.  Millions of Americans were choosing leaders in elections even before the Revolution, and we had mass democracy here decades before any other nation.  Germany was not even a united country until 1870; instead it was a patchwork of kingdoms. dukedoms, and smaller units, none of them democratic.  After Bismark unified Germany, the imperial government had democratic aspects, including a parliament with significant powers, but most political scientists would not call it fully democratic.  The Weimar Republic that took power after World War I was fully democratic, but was seen as illegitimate by large segments of the population.  After World War II, West Germany soon had a democratic government, but East Germany did not until after reunification.

In support of its argument about Germany's democratic traditions, the Guardian notes some manhood suffrage legislation during the 1848-1849 uprising, when attempts were made to establish a unified and democratic Germany.  They may be correct in their description of the legislation, but they neglect the main point:  The autocrats in Germany defeated the democratic experiments.

The Guardian claims that "America only became a full democracy in 1965", by which they mean, I suppose, after the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights act.  Here they show their ignorance, as well as their bias.  In 1870, the United States passed the 15th amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". For about two decades, blacks voted in large numbers in the southern states and sometimes controlled state governments.   Black voting was suppressed by threats of violence and a variety of legal tricks in the southern states after the end of reconstruction, but never entirely eliminated.  It grew slowly in the southern states all through the first four decades of the 20th century, and surged during World War II, especially outside such deep South states like Mississippi.  By 1960, enough blacks were voting in the South so that they probably provided the Kennedy-Johnson ticket with its winning margin in some states.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act was the culmination of a long effort, not the beginning.

Finally, the Guardian claims that the 2000 American election is still disputed.  Perhaps to those whose information on the subject comes from the Guardian, but not among informed people.   George W. Bush won all the recounts, including two informal media recounts, in spite of cheating by Democratically controlled election boards, both in registration and in the counts.  (For those interesting in the details on the cheating, see my Q&A on the 2000 Election.)
- 8:29 AM, 28 February 2003   [link]


Tim Graham  thinks Dan Rather's interview with Saddam was business as usual, just another example of the American media giving "respectful treatment of despotic regimes opposing America".  I've seen too many similar examples to disagree.
- 5:45 PM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Euroskeptics  like myself have wondered whether their recent efforts to unify the currency will damage European economies.  A common currency and a common interest rate force the different nations into similar policies, whether or not this is appropriate to their circumstances.  (In the United States, we often have similar, much milder differences between regions.  We resolve them, in part, by people moving to where the jobs are.  Obviously that solution will be much harder for the Europeans, for many reasons.)  This Financial Times commentary supports my skepticism.  Europe nations may have arrived at a common policy damaging to nearly all their economies, including that of Germany, the largest.  More trouble for Chancellor Schroeder, I suspect.
- 5:00 PM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Do "Peace" Demonstrations Increase Support For Liberating Iraq?  Almost certainly.  This question was studied extensively during the Vietnam war, and most analyses found that the protests caused public support for the war to rise.  (Though they may have had the opposite effect on leaders, especially in the Democratic party.)

The reasons for this are easy to understand.  In his book, War, Presidents and Public Opinion, John Mueller explained it with this academic jargon:
[M]any people, in arriving at at a position on an issue, do not cue on the elements of the issue itself so much as on the expressed preferences of various opinion leaders.  Instead of paying high information costs by sorting through the intricacies of argument on the issue, they prefer to take the word of people and institutions they have reasons to trust.  Thus the public does not view an issue in the simple debating manual sense with arguments pro and con neatly arranged.  Rather the issues comes attended by certain public figures who array themselves on various sides and whose visible presence at an issue position may influence public opinion more than the issue itself.
And,
Now it happens that the opposition to the war in Vietnam came to be associated with rioting, disruption, and bomb throwing, and war protesters, as a group, enjoyed negative popularity ratings to an almost unparalleled degree. (p. 164)
Translating this to plainer speech gives us something like this:  Many people base their views on the war not on the arguments, but on which leaders they trust (or distrust).  Those who trust Bush, for example, will tend to back his positions on foreign policy because they trust him, not because they have thought through the issues.  (I think this is especially likely to be true of foreign policy issues because most are so distant from the lives of most people.)  Conversely, many people will take positions opposite from people they distrust, like the Vietnam era war protesters.  The extreme and nasty elements in the recent demonstrations probably turned some people against the protesters and toward support of liberating Iraq.  I think many in the media understand this, which is why they often depict the demonstrators as peaceful, ordinary people, whether or not this is true.

Finally, though I think most of my readers do not form their opinions on foreign policy issues this way, there is, I think, nothing wrong with it.  In all sorts of areas, where we know that our own knowledge is incomplete, we decide to trust someone that knows more than we do and base our decisions on what they say.  Most people hope to have just that kind of relationship with doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, trusting them, rather than going to the immense effort of understanding everything behind their recommendations.
- 4:39 PM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Kudos to the Philadelphia Inquirer  for this editorial attacking the Bush-Hitler comparisons more and more common on the left.  This appeal for fairness toward Bush, and sanity in political thought, works best when it comes from a newspaper on the left, like the Inquirer.
- 3:47 PM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Don't Eat Yellow Snow  for reasons that you know, and don't eat yellow worms, for different reasons.
- 3:36 PM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Another Strange New Hawk:  Journalist Julius Strauss is not yet sure about the "strategic wisdom" of removing Saddam, but, after meeting some of Saddam's victims, he is absolutely sure about its "moral rectitude".
- 7:55 AM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Have Peace Demonstrations Brought Peace?  Most often no, says Max Boot in this column.   (It's in the Los Angeles Times, unfortunately, so you may have to go through their annoying registration to read it.  The column is worth it.)  Historically, peace demonstrations have often made wars more likely or prolonged them.
- 7:47 AM, 27 February 2003   [link]


First "Unilateral", Now "Precipitous":  Opponents of liberating Iraq have been abusing the English language since the argument began.  First, many claimed that our action would be "unilateral", even though other nations have supported us from the beginning.   (A review of definitions for those who still don't get it:  An action is "unilateral" if done by one nation, "bilateral" if done by two, and "multilateral" if done by three or more.  With the number of nations supporting us at thirty or more, any action will be multilateral.  We will even have the support of most of the nations that share a border with Iraq, specifically Kuwait, Saudi Arabia (tacitly), Jordan, and Turkey.  Syria, a another Ba'thist dictatorship, will support Iraq with words but will remain neutral.  Most of the people in Iran will support removing Saddam, who killed so many of their countrymen, and the government will stay neutral.)

As the absurdity of calling an action by thirty nations or more "unilateral" became more and more apparent, opponents of liberating Iraq have switched to abusing the plain meaning of a new word, "precipitous".  The French government used it in their efforts to save Saddam.  (The word has similar spellings and, so far as I can tell with my limited French, identical meanings in French and English.)  Many others have followed the French lead, including the Seattle PI, as you can see in yesterday's editorial:
The U.S.-led proposal is precipitous, with little hope of garnering enough Security Council votes to pass.  As such, it will serve only to further isolate the United States' foreign policy on Iraq and to strengthen prospects for military action in which the United States acts either alone or, at best, accompanied by few allies.
(Note that the editorialist can not quite give up on the "unilateral" argument, though they no longer use the word.)

My American Heritage dictionary defines precipitous as "extremely rapid, hasty, or abrupt".   As the Washington Post explains in today's editorial, the struggle against Saddam has been going on since 1990, so our actions now are hardly "precipitous".   And they point out, rightly, that President Clinton came to the same conclusions in 1998:
In 1998 Mr. Clinton explained to the nation why U.S. national security was, in fact, in danger.   "What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route, which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction? . . . Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will.  He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction.  And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."
I doubt very much that the Seattle PI, or many other opponents of liberating Iraq, called Clinton's arguments more than four years ago, "precipitous".
- 7:35 AM, 27 February 2003   [link]


Robert Samuelson  gently reminds our fair weather friends about American contributions to peace and prosperity and warns them not to provoke American resentment.
- 4:58 PM, 26 February 2003   [link]


Seattle Is a Top Target for Terrorists:  At least according to the estimates of insurers who have to set premiums for terrorism insurance.  Curiously, the article does not mention the efforts of the Seattle city government to keep the risks of terrorism high in Seattle.  Recently, for example, the city directed its police officers to ignore immigration laws when they stop suspects.  To those in the real world, outside Seattle, this may seem bizarre, considering how many of the 9/11 hijackers were violating some part of the immigration laws.  Inside Seattle, where political correctness is far more important than trivia like survival, it makes sense.
- 4:53 PM, 26 February 2003   [link]


Teachers Behaving Badly:  Public teachers are generally expected not to bring politics into their classrooms.  With the pre-war tension mounting, some have been unable to follow that sensible rule.  In Maine, a few teachers apparently taunted small children from American military families.  Similar incidents seem to have occurred in other states.  And in other nations.  By way of Damian Penny, I learned that radical teachers in Canada were spreading anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda.   Note the date of the article, by the way, just a few months after the 9/11 terrorist attack.   A Seattle school shows the dismal result of this one-sided indoctrination.  This set of student essays all come to the same conclusion, against freeing Iraq.  None of the essays shows any real understanding of arguments on either side.  In a class of this size, one would expect a few students to be able to think more clearly.  That the English teacher who assigned this subject seems proud of this universal failure is, I think, terribly sad.
- 4:38 PM, 26 February 2003   [link]


Kabul Is Booming and not from bombs.  This Washington Post article describes the small business boom that is one of the most hopeful signs for the future of Afghanistan.   As Afghan businessman Salib Latifa says, "There is so much money to be made in Afghanistan now".   He should know, since he has a chain of successful businesses.  One of his latest, an internet cafe, has been open for just two months and has already paid back his investment.
- 1:24 PM, 26 February 2003   [link]


"Saddam Has Been Appeased to the Point of Madness"  says Janet Daly in this Telegraph column.  
He is now wildly, perilously deluded.  He believes that the French and the Germans, and the motley peace party in Britain, have the Anglo-American position at bay.  Of course, he is an experienced game-player.  He knows that the French president and his opportunist allies may sell him down the river at the last moment.

So he has sold them out first.  But not before making use of all the helpful space they have cleared for him, and all the respectability they have given to his murderous regime.  Such a giant is he now, standing on their amenable shoulders, that he can challenge the American President to a public debate.
His madness, encouraged by the press, makes it certain that he will not back down at the last moment.   Happily, it will also make him easier to defeat.
- 7:51 AM, 26 February 2003   [link]


The Liberation of Afghanistan  is one of the causes of the rising anti-Americanism in the world.  Months ago, I argued in this post that many nations in the world view the United States as the Lilliputians viewed Gulliver, dangerous from our very size and power.  (Some weeks after I had written the original post, the Mexican foreign minister confirmed it, even using the identical Gulliver metaphor.)  The liberation of Afghanistan showed that we were, militarily and diplomatically, even more powerful than they had thought.  The American Gulliver was not just large, but strong and agile, capable of brushing away a government that had survived for many years in Afghanistan.

The quick victory over the Taliban surprised many, especially on the anti-American left.  Recall some of the predictions before we began the attack on the Taliban.  Many said that we would be mired in Afghanistan just as the old Soviet Union had been.  Many others thought that we would be unable to work effectively with the Northern Alliance and the warlords, that we did not have agents who could negotiate effectively with them.  For those who want to limit the American Gulliver, the easy victory was a most unpleasant surprise.  We are, they realized, even more dangerous than they had thought.  The more powerful we are, the more they will hate us and work to tie us down with UN resolutions, "peace" demonstrations, and all the rest.  There is not much we can do about this, other than, as I originally argued, trying to walk as softly in the world as we can.
- 7:37 AM, 26 February 2003   [link]


Fourteen Years of Torture  for a Baghdad camera shop owner who sold a roll of film to the wrong person.  Here's the terrible story of one of Saddam's many victims, with his suggestion for the "peace" demonstrators:
I am surprised to hear of all the anti-war demonstrations in the West.  I wish that the demonstrators could spend just 24 hours in the place I have come from and see the reality of Iraq.

Fourteen lost years of my life.  Nothing but bread for food -- darkness, filth, beatings, torture, killings, bitterness and humiliation.  I wish they could experience it for just 24 hours.
- 9:11 PM, 25 February 2003   [link]


British Muslim Cleric Abdullah El-Faisal  has been convicted of "encouraging his followers to kill Jews, Hindus and Westerners".  This message was so popular among fanatical Muslims in Britain that el-Faisal made his living by selling tapes of his sermons urging the murder of non-Muslims.  The tapes contained disgusting and bizarre arguments like this one:
This is how wonderful it is to kill a kuffar [unbeliever].  You crawl on his back and while you are pushing him into the hellfire you are going into paradise.
Not quite "Blessed are the peacemakers", is it?  The Times has more on the story, including the strange exclusion of Jews and Hindus from the jury and the bribe offered to the judge.  This Guardian story is more sympathetic to the cleric—no surprise there—but includes this significant detail.   El-Faisal acquired these murderous religious views in his eight years of study in Saudi Arabia.
- 9:02 PM, 25 February 2003   [link]


Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 4:  In this column, Matthew Engel fails as a journalist, political analyst, and historian.  He does not realize he has failed, and, sadly, neither will most of his readers in Britain.  Contrary to what he says, the Bush administration is not enthusiastic about a war with Iraq, any more than they were enthusiastic about the war to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Grimly determined, yes, but not enthusiastic.

Bush came into office hoping to reduce our foreign entanglements and to intervene less often than Clinton had.  The 9/11 attack convinced him that this was not possible, and that it would be necessary to clean up some festering problems before the nation could get back to ignoring the rest of the world.  There were candidates in the 2000 election who were enthusiastic about interventions abroad.  Bush defeated one, John McCain, in the primaries, and the other, Al Gore, in the general election.  As these results show, most Americans share Bush's preference that, as much as possible, we leave the rest of the world alone, and be left alone in return.

This is part of the explanation for Engel's inability to find supporters of the administration on Iraq.  He is looking for enthusiasts, when he should look for people who are resigned to an unpleasant but necessary task.  (If he actually wants to talk to supporters of Bush, which I very much doubt, he should go to the local talk radio station and be interviewed on the air, or to one of the many demonstrations around the nation in support of our troops.)

Engel repeats the traditional smears and sneers the British left used against President Reagan.   A real political analyst would notice that Reagan has been proved right on many issues, and the British left wrong.  Reagan expected his policies would cause the break-up of the Soviet Union and would renew growth in the American economy.  The Guardian expected them to lead to disaster and perhaps even nuclear war.  We all know what happened, but Engel does not draw the obvious conclusion, that Reagan had a more accurate picture of the world than the Guardian.  (I will not shock Engel by suggesting that the same might be true of Bush.)

Finally, I have come to expect factual errors on American politics from Engel and, as usual, he does not disappoint.  Like many others, he thinks that the American Midwest is a stronghold of isolationism.  In fact, attitudes in the Midwest on intervention are not that different from the country as a whole.  The Midwest gained this reputation after World War I because it has such a high number of German-Americans.  They were opposed to intervention because the last one had been against Germany, not because they objected to intervention itself.   During the Cold War, the Midwest tended to be more hawkish and interventionist than the Northeast, because then the enemy was Communism, not Germany.  All this has been known at least since Samuel Lubell wrote his classic book, The Future of American Politics, more than a half century ago, but apparently the knowledge has not crossed the Atlantic.
- 7:25 PM, 25 February 2003   [link]


Castro Gets Nasty:  Or, perhaps I should say, nastier, even literally sh*tty.  What this article does not explain is why Castro has increased his harassment of dissidents and our diplomats now.  Most likely, the dissidents are getting increasing support from the Cuban people.
- 2:05 PM, 24 February 2003   [link]


The Troubled Shuttle Columbia:  This account of the shuttle's troubles makes me wonder how the Columbia lasted as long as it did.
- 11:14 AM, 24 February 2003   [link]


The Popularity of the Munich Agreement:  Diane Moon asked here how popular the Munich agreement was when it was negotiated.  An exact answer can not be given, since scientific polling was in its infancy then, but we can give an approximate one, using other measures than the usual polls.  The unpleasant fact is that Munich was enormously popular at the time, by every indication, with both the public and most leaders.  Here is what English historian A. J. P. Taylor says:
Nor is it true that the "appeasers" were a narrow circle, widely opposed at the time.  To judge by what is said now, one would suppose that practically all Conservatives were for strenuous resistance to Germany in alliance with Soviet Russia and that all the Labour party were clamouring for great armaments.  On the contrary, few causes have been more popular.  Every newspaper in the country applauded it with the exception of Reynolds' News.  Yet so powerful are the legends that even when I write this sentence I can hardly believe it.   (p. 292, The Origins of the Second World War, 2nd edition)
Churchill tells the same story.  When he told the House of Commons that Britain had "sustained a total and unmitigated defeat", he was met with such a storm that he was unable to continue for a while.  The vote to approve the Munich agreement passed 366 to 144, with 30 to 40 Conservative MPs abstaining.  Churchill and other dissident Conservatives faced sharp opposition from their own constituencies after the vote.  The Conservative Association in Churchills's constituency backed him, but only by a vote of three to two.

Americans should not think that we behaved better.  Public opinion was strongly isolationist at the time, and President Roosevelt reflected that in his public actions, though perhaps not in his mixed private sentiments.  He did not offer any help, even diplomatic, to Czechoslovakia.  After the Munich agreement, Roosevelt sent a telegram to Chamberlain, saying, "Good man".  Both Roosevelt and the British leaders soon had second thoughts, and began to think about opposing Hitler more forcefully, but at the time most leaders in both countries approved the agreement, as did most of their citizens.

There is a general lesson in the reaction to Munich.  Among the logical fallacies so common as to have acquired a Latin name is "ad populum", an appeal to popular sentiment.   It is illogical to conclude that a policy is correct just because it is popular.  I would go even farther and say that the public is especially likely to be wrong on foreign policy.  The average person has little knowledge of foreign policy and little contact with nations like Iraq.  Even now, I doubt that as many as half of Americans can even locate Iraq on a map.  It is easy to find historical examples in which the public erred on foreign policy, both here and in Europe.  The two largest examples in the last century from Europe illustrate my point.  World War I, which could have been avoided, was enormously popular, by every indication, at the beginning.  Men went off to war singing, being cheered by women throwing flowers and kisses at them.  Before World War II, Europeans made the opposite mistake, and were too reluctant to use force to confront Hitler while he was weak.  European public opinion was disastrously wrong in both cases.   Americans can think of many similar examples from our own history.  Public opinion has been a poor guide to foreign policy, and probably always will be.
- 10:56 AM, 24 February 2003   [link]


Régis DeBray  is an extreme leftist, who fought with Che Guevara in Bolivia, and then later wiggled his way into the French government.  To provoke further dissension between the French and the Americans, he wrote this unintentionally hilarious op-ed, published yesterday in the New York Times.  DeBray claims that: "Europe has learned modesty".  Showing that great modesty, he later argues that: "In its principles of action, America is two or three centuries behind 'old Europe'".  (If he were not so modest, he would say two or three millennia behind.)   Actually, though this is not well known in Europe, American political institutions are generally much older than those in Europe.  France and Germany both provide obvious contrasts.  France is now on its 5th Republic, which is about a half century old.  Germany's current government dates to just after World War II.  Neither nation has a political party with as long an uninterrupted history as our Democrats or Republicans.

The op-ed was so offensive that I almost think that it was intended to damage France's image in the United States.  Briefly, before I laughed it off, I entertained the idea that some company that competes with French exports to the United States had paid DeBray to write this, in order to sabotage their competition.  An Australian wine company, for instance, might see it in its interests to help make it unpatriotic for Americans to drink French wine.  I'm sure that didn't happen, of course, but it is more logical than assuming that DeBray was trying to persuade Americans of the correctness of his views.  (Fans of media bias will note that the Times left out the more spectacular parts of DeBray's career.  It is sheer coincidence that they did not mention his connection to Che, no doubt.)
- 9:33 AM, 24 February 2003   [link]


Free Iraq TV Ads:  Seattle radio station KVI has started a campaign to raise money for TV ads supporting the troops and backing the liberation of Iraq.   The station donated the production costs and has collected over $100,000 in pledges so far.  If you would like to contribute, here's the address.   They hope to have the first ads on the air within a week.  Note that contributions are not tax deductible.
- 8:56 AM, 24 February 2003   [link]


700 Posts So Far:  When I first started working on this site, I did not know how many would find my thoughts on politics of interest.  I am gratified to see from Seanet's reports that thousands of you have viewed my site, and that I have had visitors from dozens of nations so far.  I'll try to repay you with even more good posts in the future.   If there is some subject you'd like to see me tackle, please feel free to email me with your ideas.

If, like most readers, you have come here recently, you may have missed some early posts.   Here are some from the first three months you may find of interest:
  • The missing word in discussions of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
  • JFK's error in space policy, which we have not corrected.
  • The extraordinary rate of rape by Muslims in Norway.
  • An article, What Would Mohammed Do?, giving the politically incorrect history of the prophet.
  • My take on the free trade victory in Congress.  Events since have shown that I was correct.  After the backward steps that the Bush administration had taken on free trade to obtain "fast track" authority, it has moved forward strongly.
  • A "Unified Theory" of one of America's most irritating columnists, Maureen Dowd.
- 8:47 AM, 24 February 2003   [link]


No Good Choices on North Korea:  During the Clinton administration, critics of his policies on North Korea urged him to be more forceful in dealing with that oppressive and dangerous regime.  Now that President Bush has used sharper rhetoric toward North Korea, critics are urging him to be more diplomatic in what he says.  The sad fact is that both presidents failed in their dealings with North Korea, and that there are, as Anne Applebaum shows, no good options for our policies toward that country.  Sometimes, as both Clinton and Bush administrations seem to have decided eventually, the least bad option is to do nothing, however infuriating that may be.   I think we might make more efforts to help the refugees fleeing that country, but beyond that, and perhaps some food aid, we should do nothing.
- 7:41 AM, 23 February 2003   [link]


Bulldozer in a China Shop:  President Chirac of France was nicknamed "the Bulldozer" during his rise to power, because of his relentless ambition.  (Here's a sketch of his career, including some of the dirt.)  A year ago, it looked liked he was headed for jail, as his long history of corruption had finally caught up with him.  Winning re-election to the presidency continued his temporary immunity from criminal charges, and his narrow escape seem to have gone to his head.   Since his election victory, and the later victory of his allies in taking control of the French parliament, he has pursued a reckless foreign policy that has divided the European Union, damaged NATO, and weakened the United Nations.  His latest diplomatic gaffe, in which he insulted all the nations of Eastern Europe, suggesting that they should be good children and listen to France, rather than speaking up, is only the latest in a series of errors.

Some of the clashes were inevitable.  A man who has been nicknamed "La Girouette, the weathervane", as well as the Bulldozer, is not going to get along well with conviction politicians like Tony Blair and George Bush.  (That shared characteristic is one reason Blair gets along better with Bush than he did with Clinton, even though they are farther apart on policy.)  Most of the clashes were not.  Chirac chose to provoke fights with Blair, Bush, and most of the European leaders, while cuddling up to dictators like Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein.  In almost every fight he provoked, Chirac made it far worse by adding personal insults to the substantive disagreements.

Moreover, Chirac has convinced most of the leaders he negotiates with that he simply can't be trusted to keep an agreement.  Britain and the United States worked hard to get an agreement with France on UN resolution 1441, which set up the new inspection regime.  They reduced the number of inspectors and accepted Hans Blix as the head inspector, in spite of his record of failure.  In return, France agreed that a "material breech" would result in serious consequences.  There have been material breeches, in fact there have been almost nothing but material breeches from Iraq.  Now, however, Chirac wishes to weasel out of what he agreed to just last fall, first by denying the obvious, that there have been material breeches, and then by switching his position, again, to now favor the more extensive inspection regime he opposed just last fall.

Smashing all this china has made Chirac popular in France, and in the anti-American parts of Europe.  It will have, in the end, I predict, little effect on world affairs, except to isolate France, and to reduce its importance in world affairs still farther.   If institutions like the European Union or NATO can not solve problems because of Chirac vetos, then other nations will simply work around them and ignore France.  In its long history, France has had many incompetent leaders.  France will survive Chirac, of course, but will not amount to much in world affairs until he is gone.
- 7:15 AM, 23 February 2003   [link]


African AIDS and Needles:  A new study has concluded that:
The re-use of dirty needles in healthcare—not promiscuity—was the main cause of the AIDS pandemic now devastating Africa, according to a controversial new analysis.
If the study is correct, it explains the puzzling differences seen between the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the rest of the world.  Africa appeared to have much higher rates of heterosexual transmission than anywhere else, and there are other differences as well.  If true, it gives reason for hope, since it is much easier to provide disposable needles and training to medical professionals than to change sexual behavior.  For more, see the Medpundit's comments, here.
- 10:27 AM, 21 February 2003   [link]


NPR Is Sometimes Beyond Parody:  Today Seattle's KUOW has two guests on its 10:00 AM Weekday program, columnist Sean Gonsalves and Harper editor Lewis Lapham, discussing a possible war with Iraq with moderator Guy Nelson.  So, we have a leftwing journalist, Nelson, interviewing two far left journalists on the war on terrorism, with not even a pretense at balance.  That neither Gonsalves nor Lapham is, shall we say, always constrained by mere facts, is something that Johnson is either unaware of, or indifferent to.   Certainly he has not come up with a single challenging question in the time that I have been listening.  He did not even object to Gonsalves' disgustingly false description of the sanctions on Saddam's regime.  As usual, Gonsalves absolved Saddam of any responsibility for the sanctions and blamed the United States for these actions of the United Nations.

Is KUOW's objective to be as biased as the BBC, now often called the "Baghdad Broadcasting Company"?  Your tax dollars and donations at work.
- 9:56 AM, 21 February 2003   [link]


Just Vote  on Miguel Estrada urges this Washington Post editorial, calling for the Democrats to end their filibuster against the Appeals Court nominee.  Democratic arguments against Estrada "range from the unpersuasive to the offensive".  They are unpersuasive because they can not admit their true motive, to keep a Hispanic conservative off the bench.  And other conservatives as well.  As the editorial points out, John Roberts has gone two years without even a hearing, thanks to Democratic obstruction.

Byron York explains here how the filibuster may break down, and refutes one of the Democrats principal arguments, that Estrada has not answered questions.  Some of the very senators making that charge have not bothered to ask him any.   Without telepathy, it is hard to answer questions that haven't been asked.
- 10:00 PM, 20 February 2003   [link]


H'mmm:  That's absolutely all that this man plans to say about this politically incorrect study showing the effects of estrogen on women's sense of direction.
- 7:59 PM, 20 February 2003   [link]


Historian Ronald Radosh  finds many similarities between Senator Taft's arguments against opposing Hitler, and Senator Byrd's current arguments against opposing Saddam.  Alistair Cooke, who witnessed the Munich sellout, also finds many similarities between arguments then and arguments now.  Those who now favor appeasement or containment will immmediately object that Saddam is not, as Hitler was, the ruler of the world's second most powerful industrial nation.   That's true, but the unpleasant fact is that the possession of nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles will soon make Saddam capable of killing just as many people as Hitler did.
- 7:50 PM, 20 February 2003   [link]


Is Carol Moseley-Braun a Crook?  Most people would think so, after they looked at the evidence summarized in this Slate article.   So, too, is her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Al Sharpton, and I would judge that his crimes are much worse than hers.  Will any of their white Democratic competitors mention this part of their careers?  Will any of the networks news programs cover it?  Probably not, in both cases.   The "soft bigotry of low expectations" and the fear of being labeled a racist explains the silence to date on the subject.  
- 7:19 PM, 20 February 2003   [link]