February 2004, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
CBS Allows Retakes For Democratic Candidates: This is a very small story.
CBS News helped John Kerry refine his attack on President George Bush -- and then the CBS Evening News featured a soundbite of that re-hashed and now succinct blast. In Thursday's Boston Globe, Patrick Healy reported that in Ohio on Wednesday Kerry had delivered a meandering three-minute attack on the Bush economic team for backing off an earlier jobs creation forecast number, "yet it left TV reporters without a soundbite until one CBS News producer asked the Massachusetts Senator to try again."But it reminds me of a much larger story from the 1992 election, when the CBS program 60 Minutes may have determined the election. Retakes helped that time, too.
CBS knew the Clintons were lying while James Carville was crying. [60 Minutes producer Don] Hewitt recounted how he first encountered Carville during the famous 60 Minutes interview with Bill and Hillary aired after the 1992 Super Bowl:Don't let the Carville interruption distract you from the main point. Everyone there knew that Clinton was lying. So did Don Hewitt try to convey that to the viewers? No. He tried to help Clinton deceive the viewers, as even George Stephanopolous admits.
But I was just thinking something else about Don Hewitt there. During the interview, he would come in. There would be breaks every once in a while. There was that moment when the lights fell on the Clintons and Clinton shielded Hillary. But Hewitt kept coming in and kneeling down in front of them as they sat in their chairs and said, "Just say yes or no. Just say yes or no. Then we'll move on." It was like a movie director. And he would say, "Listen, I elected a John Kennedy with the debates in 1960. I'm going to elect you in 1992. Just say yes or no." Because he knew that would be the big news. Clinton never did say yes or no, really.Hewitt boasts about how he conned the public and saved Clinton. There is no worse sin for a journalist than lying, in my opinion. But Hewitt's candid confession never drew much reaction from other journalists, or, to my knowledge, journalism professors.
Here's my reaction. If Don Hewitt, or anyone else on 60 Minutes, told me the sky was blue, I would go outside to check.
- 2:38 PM, 21 February 2004 [link]
A Ninth Rule: You have probably heard of Bruce Cameron's humorous 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. The brutal murder of Rachel Burkheimer leads me to suggest a ninth: If your name is "Jihad" or you are friends with someone named "Jihad", you may not even speak to my daughter.
Here's a story with the main facts of the case.
The criminal charge against an Everett man who allegedly ordered the killing of Rachel Burkheimer was upgraded yesterday to aggravated first-degree murder.Cameron was partly joking, but I am entirely serious with my advice for fathers of teenage daughters.
(Fans of multi-culturalism will be pleased to learn that this gang was admirably integrated, including blacks, whites, and at least one Hispanic.)
- 8:26 AM, 21 February 2004 [link]
Summary On Turnout In Democratic Contests This Year: For the convenience of those who want to see all the posts on turnout, here they are in order:
- 2:19 PM, 20 February 2004 [link]
Mud On Mars? More evidence for that possibility from the two Mars rovers. Where there is mud, there may be life, or may have been life.
- 9:46 AM, 20 February 2004 [link]
Voodoo Helped Clinton In 1992? Before you read this Lowell Ponte column, take out your salt shaker, because you may need more than one grain. Here are the most startling claims:
Aristide, according to historian Joel A. Ruth, reportedly supplied Clinton with a Voodoo sorcerer. This sorcerer, according to the Haitian media, gave Clinton magical advice on how to run his campaign. (One piece of advice that Clinton reportedly followed: not to change his underwear during the final week of the 1992 race.)Now I found that just a little startling, so I followed the link to the Joel Ruth article. What Ruth wrote is much less sensational, not that Clinton got help from a voodoo sorcerer, but that Haitian papers have said that happened. In particular:
Those and other bizarre stories were being told the Haitian people through the Lavalassien, a newspaper published by Aristide's ruling Lavalas party. They were written by the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was a priest in Aristide's entourage. The Rev. Gerard claimed that Aristide had developed a powerful grip on Clinton's psyche through the power of voodoo.Now, if I was skeptical, rightly, about the sensational claims about Clinton, why am I suggesting you read this Ponte column? (To be fair, Ponte may simply have made a mistake in writing. He uses "according to" and "reportedly" over and over, but not clearly, so he may not have intended to imply what he did.) Because the rest of the column has much interesting history on the importance of voodoo in Haiti, and an account of its current importance, especially to Aristide in recent years. So, look it over, but have your salt shaker handy.
Ruth uses the examples to make a general point of great importance.
The voodoo scenario is a classic example of how, in a Third World country, what the general public accepts as truth is often more important than the truth itself.And what they accept may be very different from the truth.
- 9:31 AM, 20 February 2004 [link]
More Delays: To do the post I mentioned below, to respond to requests for more information on turnout in Democratic contests this year, and to catch up on some chores, I am postponing some promised posts one more time.
- 6:41 AM, 20 February 2004 [link]
Strange Discrimination Case: A lawsuit against the Small Business Administration in Montana has exposed a strange case of discrimination against white men.
A federal court judge in Helena has ordered the U.S. Small Business Association to pay a former employee almost half a million dollars, and rehire her, as part of an unusual retaliation and wrongful discharge case.The full story is well worth reading. Ms. Mospan set out to destroy the careers of a number of employees at the office, simply because they were white men. When Conway-Jepsen objected, she was not allowed to leave quietly, as she requested, and became a new target.
Or is the case so strange? We probably would never have heard of it if Mospan had allowed Conway-Jepsen to go away quietly. And, in my own experience, discrimination in favor of women is widespread in universities and government bureaucracies. I don't know of any cases quite as extreme as this one, but I have heard of many others in which women were given preferences in employment and promotion. None of the cases I know about was ever the subject of a newspaper article.
I should add that I am sure that there are still many places in which discrimination against women occurs, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unconsciously. How much of each kind of discrimination is there? I don't know, and as far as I can determine, there have been no good studies of the subject. Later today, I will have a post on another case that helps explain why we are ignorant on the subject and likely to remain so.
Finally, I should add that I admire Conway-Jepsen greatly for standing up for what is right. It would have far been easier for her to just go along for a while, and then slip away on some pretense.
- 5:38 AM, 20 February 2004 [link]
Lackluster Turnout in Wisconsin: By now, I think I have buried the idea that this year's Democratic contests have had exceptional turnout, but here's one more shovel full.
Total Votes in Wisconsin Presidential Primaries, 1988 and 2004
Michael Dukakis drew far more votes in 1988 (483,172) than John Kerry did in 2004 (327,672).
Here are the numbers for the Wisconsin primary, and here is a Weekly Standard article on Dean's campaign that makes the same point I have been making about turnout. Except in New Hampshire, contested by two candidates from neighboring states, the turnout in the Democratic contests has not been exceptional.
- 10:17 AM, 19 February 2004 [link]
Put Another Infidel On The Barbie: Some Australian citizens (residents?) don't seem as friendly as tourist ads would lead me to expect.
The leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims advocated martyrdom operations and strongly endorsed banned terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, during a visit to Lebanon last week, Arabic media has reported.The accounts come from that valuable organization, MEMRI, which has much more on the sheikh here. You can learn, for instance, that Afghan Muslims discovered and settled Australia before the British.
Sheikh Al-Hilali also claims that Afghan Muslims preceded Captain Cook in his discovery of Australia:  "Australia is an old-new continent. The Europeans issued a false birth certificate for it when the British seafarer Captain James Cook reached it. However, Australia already had the most ancient race of men on the face of the earth — the Aborigine people . . . They continue to live their primitive lives to this very day.What more proof do you need? And the archeologists and historians who disagree are probably all infidels anyway.
The Sheikh, through a spokesman, has said he was "misrepresented", but this would hardly be the first time that speeches made in Arabic are different from those made in English.
- 7:06 AM, 19 February 2004 [link]
Liberal Columnist David Broder Agrees With Me: I have argued that Senator John Edwards has no significant accomplishments as a senator, and that Senator John Kerry has few for his almost 20 years as a senator. Here's Broder's summary of their Senate careers:
Edwards' great boast is that he helped pass a patients' bill of rights in the Senate, but it died in the House and never became law. That's about what he has to show for his five years in office.Short version: Edwards has done nothing in the Senate, and Kerry has done very little.
Broder thinks that either man will be a fine candidate against Bush, even so. Perhaps, but I do wonder about his thinking. Broder has always been an advocate of positive government. Now he seems to almost endorse two men who have shown little ability to get anything done.
- 6:38 PM, 19 February 2004 [link]
Did The Drudge Rumor Hurt Kerry? That's what some people are asking, as you can see here and here. My guess is that it didn't, at least not much. None of the questions in the exit poll touch on it even indirectly. (And, I suppose, it says something about journalists, that, less than four years since Bill Clinton left office, questions about a candidate's character appear irrelevant.) So all I can do is speculate.
There are several reasons that I think it made little difference. First, many voters would not even have heard about it, since the story was almost entirely confined to the Internet. Second, many, especially Democrats, think this is the sort of issue that should be kept out of politics. Third, there are other, plausible causes of the shift of voters away from Kerry and toward Edwards, endorsements from important newspapers, a strong debate performance by Edwards, and possibly a desire not to settle the nomination quite this early. On the other side of the argument, it does appear that, not only did Edwards surge, but Kerry fell back in the polls.
Journalists mostly say that such stories, even if true, should not affect voters' decisions. I disagree, thinking that it depends, as I explained here. Jay Nordlinger makes a general argument that I agree with entirely.
I say, every voter gets to act on the criteria he cares about. Every voter — every person — gets to choose what he values: what he admires, what he disdains. And he doesn't have to tell anyone, doesn't have to explain: He can just enter that booth, close that curtain behind him, and do his thang, all nice 'n' American.Finally, the description of the young woman in this column gives us a hint about why rumors might attach to her
- 3:28 PM, 18 February 2004 [link]
More Links to the right. I'll have something to say about many of them in the next few days.
The list of individuals is getting long enough so that I can't read all of them more than once a week. If you have a post you think I should see, feel free to email me about it.
- 1:43 PM, 18 February 2004 [link]
We Have No Interests in Haiti. What happens in that wretched country does not affect the United States, except when it adds slightly to our refugee problem. Unlike Iraq, Haiti does not have oil, has not attacked its neighbors, and is not exporting terror. Therefore, the Seattle PI, which opposed the liberation of Iraq, wants us to intervene in Haiti.
The pressing issue for Haitians is simple survival. After watching other disasters, the United States, the Organization of American States or the United Nations should consider decisive diplomatic or military action.Note the "or" in the sequence "the United States, the Organization of American States, or the United Nations". Unilateral action would be fine in this case, apparently.
Do we have values that are threatened by the possible collapse of Haiti? Yes, we do. If there is a practical way to help that miserable country, the world should do so. The problem is that the current leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is not much better than his opponents. The PI wants the United States to save this man, who has little respect for democracy, despises the United States, and has been a disastrous leader in many ways. In fact, the PI wants us to save him again, since we restored him to power in 1994 after a military coup.
If we care about the people of Haiti, we will refuse to intervene without a change in policy from Aristide.
(The failure of Aristide in Haiti shows, again, that ideas have consequences. When he was an active priest, Aristide absorbed ideas from the "liberation theology" then so popular in Latin America. Those ideas are disastrous for governing a country, as Aristide has demonstrated. You can find more on his early career in this explanation of his current status in the church.)
- 8:27 AM, 18 February 2004 [link]
Dated Dean, Married Kerry: That was a popular bumper sticker in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now we can add, Flirted with Edwards, to the sticker. Though Edwards lost by 6 points in Wisconsin, he did well enough to allow the contest to go on for another round or two, which will please the media greatly. Edwards (and the media, who are his side in this) can also say that he surged at the end, making another argument for him continuing, even though he has won a single contest so far.
Many of Edwards' votes in the primary came from non-Democrats. According to the exit poll, 9 percent of the voters in the primary were Republicans, and 29 percent were independents. Those groups gave pluralities to Edwards, while Kerry was winning almost half of the Democrats.
This pattern, with Edwards drawing more support from independents and Republicans than Kerry, has been true in most of the contests, as William Saletan reminds us again. Saletan has been drawing the conclusion from this pattern that Edwards is more electable than Kerry, since he would have more appeal to the centrist voters. Saletan may be right, but his analysis is incomplete. The Republicans and independents who vote in the Democratic primaries may intend to vote for Bush in November, but are voting for Edwards now as a bit of insurance, trying to make the opponent more palatable. And, given our low turnouts, it is possible that Kerry could draw enough additional vote from Democrats, who would otherwise stay home, to make up for any votes he lost in the center. This happens more often in off year elections than presidential years, but it can happen.
Can Edwards still win? Sure, a candidate needs 2162 delegates for a majority and, according to this scorecard, just 1074 delegates have been chosen so far. Edwards has won 190 delegates; to reach a majority, he needs to win another 1884. That's possible, but difficult without help, because the Democrats allocate delegates proportionately. Edwards needs to win about 58 percent of the remaining delegates, which seems unlikely, especially in the states that hold closed primaries where only Democrats vote..
But that's without help. There is some gossip that Dean will drop out and endorse Edwards. If he did, and brought over his 201 delegates, it would be far easier for Edwards to accumulate a majority. (If he won most of the late contests, many of the superdelegates would jump on his bandwagon.) The race isn't over. It isn't even time for the fat lady to start warming up her vocal chords.
- 7:37 AM, 18 February 2004 [link]
Fidel Castro Is Hollywood's Favorite Dictator: Wonder what Fidel's fans in Hollywood will think of this UN report, written by a French judge.
A United Nations envoy has published a scathing report on Cuba's treatment of political dissidents in prison.My guess is that this story won't make Fidel's Hollywood fans even blink, whether or not they have had their Botox treatments recently.
(Since it is a UN report, it also criticizes what it calls, incorrectly, the American blockade, but I still think this represents progress.)
- 2:02 PM, 17 February 2004 [link]
Seattle Has A Problem, Homeless Kids: Seattle has a solution too, a multimedia art exhibit portraying homeless kids.
"Endurance" opens today at Seattle's City Space gallery in the Bank of America Tower, with a meet-the-artists reception Thursday night.You say that doesn't seem like much of a solution for the kids? True enough. But it's a great solution for the artists, and for the people who want to say they care without ever making the necessary tough decisions or even meeting the kids.
The Times is a little shy about details on what happened to the models for this wonderful multimedia exhibit, but does give us a hint or two.
Many of the participants are in a dramatically different place in their lives today than when "Endurance" began. Many are no longer homeless, others are in school or holding down steady employment. The whereabouts of roughly a dozen of the participants are unknown (PSKS Executive Director Elaine Simons is trying to track all 26 for the exhibit's opening) and two PSKS members involved at the beginning of "Endurance" died just as the project was taking shape. Steven "Filth" Greenberg, an audio intern on the project, died of a drug overdose, and Nicholas "Rooster" Helhowski, a former street kid-turned-homeless advocate, was fatally beaten at a North Seattle bus stop in 2002.Why worry about a death or two when you have this fine exhibit? And why spend money on locating the "roughly a dozen" that are missing (and may be dead) when you have portraits and emotional accounts?
I sometimes want to say that Seattle hates kids, but that's unfair. It's not unfair to say that Seattle doesn't care much about kids. If Seattle did care, the city wouldn't be making a multimedia exhibit of homeless kids (which must have been expensive), it would be using proven methods to get them off the streets.
The article was in what the print paper calls the "Northwest Life" section, but the web page more honestly calls the "Entertainment" section. Which is a great description of the attitudes toward homeless kids in the city across Lake Washington.
- 1:01 PM, 17 February 2004 [link]
More Saddam Oil Bribe Documents: And look which newspaper thinks they are genuine, the leftist Guardian.
Money illicitly siphoned from the UN oil-for-food programme by Saddam Hussein was used to finance anti-sanctions campaigns run by British politicians, according to documents that have surfaced in Baghdad.The Guardian is annoyingly vague on the documents, but they appear to include copies of contracts, with information beyond the spreadsheet list that surfaced previously. Here's their description of how the oil bribes were passed to the recipients.
These documents lessen my skepticism about the spreadsheet list that surfaced earlier. I would very much like to know why the Guardian investigators think these documents are genuine. Since they are accusing prominent British politicians of crimes, they must have evidence that their libel lawyers accept. They also strengthen the case that the even earlier documents showing bribes to George Galloway are genuine.
This seems like an enormous scoop to me, but the Guardian downplays it on their site. It is not listed as a "pick", nor is it even on the main web page. I suppose it must be a little embarrassing to see what your ideological friends may have been doing.
Finally, will more documents be revealed in other nations? The Guardian says that the Iraqi authorities turned these documents over to the British government for investigation. One would assume that other sets of documents are being turned over to governments in other nations, or at least the governments of nations that favored the liberation of Iraq. Don't be surprised if you see similar stories from other nations soon.
- 6:02 AM, 17 February 2004
More: I was not as precise as I should have been. The Guardian is charging that Saddam's money went to anti-sanctions campaigns, and is implying — I think — that some politicians took it as well. They are being very careful about the second charge, as they should be.
- 11:24 AM, 17 February 2004 [link]
Presidents' Day: Neither Seattle newspaper had an editorial on the reason for this holiday, or perhaps I should say this shopping day, because that is what it has become for most. (Nothing unusual about the papers' neglect. The New York Times and the Washington Post editorial pages skipped the holiday, too.) So, I will do my best to fill in for them.
The two men whose separate holidays were glommed together into the single Presidents' Day were remarkable in different ways. Paul Johnson admires Washington as one of those strong, silent men who make some of the best leaders. Some contemporaries did not think much of Washington's smarts.
Take George Washington, who was well described as "the supreme example of eternal taciturnity and enigmatic wisdom couched in stoic silence." Timothy Pickering, first a military aide and then a member of Washington's Administration, claimed that the great man often dozed off in Cabinet meetings; never read dispatches; wrote few, if any, of his own speeches; needed chalk marks on the floor to know where to stand in public; and was a semiliterate figurehead who had to be propped up by his staff.Sound familiar? And yes, Johnson does think Bush might be in that strong, silent category, which is farther than I would go at present.
Washington was famous for what he didn't say; he was even more famous for what he didn't do. He chose not to become a king after the success of the American Revolution, though many of his officers wanted him to, and most European observers expected him to. At the end of his second term, he left office peacefully, setting a precedent that has held to the present. He did not stay in power till his death, as he probably could have. He kept us out of most European quarrels, which was the right course then, for our weak and isolated nation.
Lincoln, an even greater man than Washington in my estimate, had different virtues. As a successful lawyer and politician, he was a remarkable speaker. But what he did, preserving the union and ending slavery, was far greater, Few civil wars end as ours did, with far less hate than the terrible losses would make one expect. Much of the credit for that must go to Lincoln who never held the bitterness toward the South that he might have.
When people think of his speeches, most think first of the Gettysburg Address. I must confess that, for all its perfection as a piece of rhetoric, it has never touched me as have some of his other speeches. The "House Divided" speech is more powerful, and his Second Inaugural touches me in way that the Gettysburg Address does not. It does not have the same tight composition (Does any other speech?), but it does have these powerful lines.
If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"Those lines end the speech. Read the whole thing to see how he got there.
The Seattle papers could have simply printed this Lincoln speech today. What was on their editorial pages instead? The Seattle Times had a long and boring editorial on a "water trust", three syndicated columns by Neal Peirce, Charles Krauthammer, and Molly Ivins, and a special on the prescription drug bill. The Seattle PI limits its Monday editorial material to a single page; on it you will find three editorials on sex ed, tribal history, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and a contributed piece on the new checks on airline travel.
(While looking for the Lincoln speeches, I found this useful site, which has a collection of famous American speeches.
Finally, one oddity. Legally, though not on any calendar I have seen, this is still Washington's birthday, not Presidents' Day.)
- 8:06 PM, 16 February 2004 [link]
Two Million Starved In North Korea during the 1990s, and many of the young who survived are stunted.
The World Food Program and UNICEF reported last year that chronic malnutrition had left 42% of North Korean children stunted — meaning their growth was seriously impaired, most likely permanently. An earlier report by the United Nations agencies warned that there was strong evidence that physical stunting could be accompanied by intellectual impairment.I may be wrong, but I don't think this catastrophe has gotten much time on network news programs.
And the Los Angeles Times reporter makes an interesting admission about who cares about these starved kids.
Like almost everything else to do with North Korea, discussions of height are deeply wrapped up in politics. Conservatives — in South Korea and the United States, among others — who may prefer a change in leadership in North Korea point to residents' shrinking stature as evidence of Kim's failure.Think of what she is implying. Conservatives are willing to raise the issue, but those on the left are not, in both South Korea and the United States. Certainly, fashionable leftists like Noam Chomsky will never lift a finger to help those North Korean kids. (There are honest, decent people on the left still, though fewer, I think, than there once were. Johann Hari, for example, would condemn the government that causes these horrors, I am sure.) Any decent person, whatever their political views, should "prefer a change in leadership in North Korea", to use her prim little phrase. I'd put it a little more forcefully myself, too forcefully perhaps to be suitable for a family web site.
And the starvation isn't the only regime crime. In an earlier article, Dernick described the reports from refugees that the Kim regime tests chemical weapons on political prisoners. Only conservatives took much notice of those reports, too.
- 2:37 PM, 16 February 2004 [link]
Going Out With A Bang: I couldn't resist this story telling how one man's ashes were disposed of. (Gun nuts may find it especially amusing.)
- 9:59 AM, 16 February 2004 [link]
Howard Dean's Strategic Error: Howard Dean's campaign has collapsed far enough so that his campaign chairman is promising to quit if Dean loses in Wisconsin tomorrow. The polls suggest that he will lose there, and big. So I don't think it is premature to ask how he squandered his lead.
Most important, I think, was his message. Dean said too many things that offended moderates, or those willing to see some virtues in the other Democrats. Even those who might agree with Dean often thought that his ideas would not sell in a general election.
And, although I have seen very little discussion of this, many of the things he said were simply not true. Politicians often deceive, but they tell outright lies less often than most think. When, for example, Dean claimed that there had been no middle class tax cut, he was telling a lie. Now one can argue that the middle class tax cut will not be worth it, because of other Bush policies, but you can't claim that it doesn't exist without lying.
He also made a strategic mistake that makes me think he has never run in a multiple candidate election or even played Diplomacy or Risk. Game theorists divide games into two person and multiple person games, because the analyses are so different. General elections in the United States can usually be treated as two person, zero-sum games. There are just two significant candidates, and what one gains, the other loses.
Presidential nomination campaigns almost always start out with more than two serious candidates, and so the strategies that make sense in two person games do not apply. (There are exceptions, of course. I think one can reasonably treat the Bradley-Gore contest in 2000 as a two person game.) A gain for one candidate can help another candidate, in the short run. In this, the nomination campaigns are like Risk and Diplomacy; they are zero-sum, but the key to winning is often the temporary alliances between players. For example, in the 2000 Republican fight, the people supporting Steve Forbes and those supporting Gary Bauer would have been correct to work together to slow down George Bush, even though they had little in common otherwise.
With this background, it is easy to see that Dean pursued the wrong strategy in Iowa. For Dean, coming in second in Iowa—assuming Gephardt won—was as good or better than winning. If Gephardt came out of Iowa wounded but still alive, he would draw votes from Kerry, Lieberman, and Clark in later contests, more than from Dean. By forcing Gephardt into a corner, Dean made it certain that Gephardt would respond with a tough attack on Dean. The two eliminated each other, which was the most likely result. Game theorists would have expected this, as would any good player of Risk or Diplomacy.
- 8:12 AM, 16 February 2004 [link]
President Bush Says There Are Some Jobs Americans Won't Do: Basketball great Oscar Robertson agrees.
Thus, just as America imports cheap labor from other countries to do the jobs Americans don't want to do, the N.B.A. turns increasingly to foreign players who do have fundamental skills and an all around approach to the game that fewer and fewer American players—even though they may be superior athletes—can be troubled to learn.Most of the foreign players in the NBA come from Europe. I'm not sure whether Europeans will be pleased or hurt to find that their basketball players are, so to speak, braceros, men who will do the hard work of setting picks, scrambling for loose balls, and grabbing rebounds for the pittance that they receive, typically mere millions a year.
(I am not an expert on basketball, but I think Robertson is right to say that the current NBA game has been spoiled. Besides the faults he mentions, there is the outrageously unfair refereeing. Superstars simply don't have to play by the same rules as journeymen.)
- 3:24 PM, 15 February 2004 [link]
Death And Marriage: Go together in France, as I just learned.
Dressed in a demure black suit, a 35-year-old Frenchwoman has married her dead boyfriend, an exchange of vows that required authorization from President Jacques Chirac.This drew amused comments from Americans, as you can see here and here.
But no one seemed to know the reason for the French law allowing this kind of marriage. After a few minutes of thought, I came up with this explanation: Sometimes, and you may not want to mention this to your children, a woman becomes pregnant before marriage. Allowing marriages like this allows her unborn child to be legitimate, even if she should have the bad luck to lose her fiancee before the wedding. This was once of great importance socially and legally, believe it or not. (Now, of course, we are far too modern to worry about such things—in spite of the abundant statistical evidence showing how important legitimacy is to children.)
This explanation seems the most likely to me. I'd be interested in hearing alternative explanations for the law, or, even better, the facts, if you happen to know them.
- 8:36 AM, 15 February 2004 [link]
Sixty-Six Percent Say National Guard Issue Not Legitimate: In this post, I argued that Bush was suckering the Democrats by keeping the issue of his service in the National Guard going, and that it was beginning to benefit him. This ABC poll supports that argument.
On another front, questions about Bush's National Guard duty during the Vietnam War lack traction: Americans by more than 2-to-1—66 percent to 30 percent—say it's not a legitimate issue in the election campaign.That means that every story run on the subject annoys two out of three voters, or to be more exact, two out of three adults, since the poll was not limited to likely voters or even registered voters. Typically, registered voters are a few percentage points more Republican than adults, and likely voters even more so. The 30 percent that do think it a legitimate issue are mostly hard core Democrats, who will oppose Bush regardless.
The resistance to seeing the issue as legitimate is not because the "mainstream" media have not been mentioning the issue or have presented it fairly. The Media Research Center watches television news so I don't have to, and they show that the coverage of the "issue" has been both heavy and very different from the coverage of Clinton's draft dodging in 1992.
But all three networks have exposed themselves as eager purveyors of a shameless double standard in campaign coverage. Twelve years ago, the Clinton draft story was treated as a partisan dirty trick and an unfortunate distraction voters didn't care about (see box). Now, the networks have done nothing to question why the Democrats led with "AWOL" charges without any proof, and have not suggested in any way that this story is a distraction. They look like partisan tools, not objective observers.The great joke is that the networks probably helped Bush by doing this.
(Voters, especially independents, are surprisingly resistant to charges of scandal. ABC asked a second question about the legitimacy of another issue.
More, by contrast, say it is legitimate to look into questions about Kerry's fund raising as a U.S. senator (a 42 percent to 46 percent split).Now I think that is a completely legitimate issue (as would the same question be about Bush), but more voters disagree with me than agree.)
If George Bush and Democratic chairman Terry McAuliffe, who worked so hard to raise this issue, sat down for a game of poker, McAuliffe would be lucky to escape with his underwear.
- 7:18 AM, 15 February 2004
Correction: I changed "almost all" to "mostly" in my description of those who thought that the issue was legitimate, after seeing some more poll results in the Washington Post.
-11:00 AM, 16 February 2004 [link]