February 2006, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Anthony Pellicano And Bill Clinton? The celebrity private investigator is in serious legal trouble and, if even some of the charges are true, has been breaking the law for years.
Anthony Pellicano, the deposed detective to the stars, masterminded a sprawling wiretapping ring that helped his clients gain an advantage in disputes with opponents including actors, reporters and talent managers, federal prosecutors said on Monday.What this article does not mention is that Pellicano may have had one even more famous client — Bill Clinton. Note that I said "may", because although there are connections between the two, the direct evidence that Pellicano worked to, for example, intimidate women who had dirt on Clinton is lacking. For evidence (and some rumors) on those connections, see here, here, and here. It is certain that Pellicano helped Bill Clinton on several occasions, but it is not clear, at least to me, what their relationship was (is?) beyond that.
For instance, it is entirely plausible that Clinton got some help from Pellicano indirectly, through his Hollywood friends, and that he never hired the detective directly. That would let Clinton deny, as he has, that he ever hired Pellicano. It is even possible that Pellicano, who is not a man to turn down a chance for publicity, worked for Clinton on his own. At best, Clinton was helped by a sleazy private detective. At worst, he hired a sleazy private detective to spy on and intimidate his enemies. It sure would be interesting to know where the truth is, in that rather large range.
And I can't help wondering whether these widely believed rumors about Clinton's use of wiretaps and intimidation are part of the reason that Democrats are making so much of the efforts of the NSA to catch Al Qaeda. Democrats may worry that their Republican foes are using such methods against them because they believe that Pellicano (and others) did that kind of dirty work for the Clintons.
- 8:43 AM, 8 February 2006 [link]
How Accurate Is Robert Fisk? The British journalist is one of the best known writers on the Middle East, though more influential outside the United States than here. (In this area, the Seattle PI publishes his columns from time to time.) Fisk has just written a book on the Middle East, The Great War for Civilisation, and was unlucky enough to have it reviewed by Efraim Karsh. Karsh's review is devastating throughout, but I was most struck by this paragraph:
First there is the problem of simple accuracy. It is difficult to turn a page of The Great War for Civilisation without encountering some basic error. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not, as Fisk has it, in Jerusalem. The Caliph Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was murdered in the year 661, not in the 8th century. Emir Abdallah became king of Transjordan in 1946, not 1921, and both he and his younger brother, King Faisal I of Iraq, hailed not from a "Gulf tribe" but rather from the Hashemites on the other side of the Arabian peninsula. The Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958, not 1962; Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed by the British authorities, not elected; Ayatollah Khomeini transferred his exile from Turkey to the holy Shiite city of Najaf not during Saddam Hussein's rule but fourteen years before Saddam seized power. Security Council resolution 242 was passed in November 1967, not 1968; Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, not 1977, and was assassinated in October 1981, not 1979. Yitzhak Rabin was minister of defense, not prime minister, during the first Palestinian intifada, and al Qaeda was established not in 1998 but a decade earlier. And so on and so forth.I am by no means an expert on Middle East history, but I would have spotted some of those mistakes. They really are that basic. And when I write a post here that includes dates, I generally try to check them in some reference. Robert Fisk did not spot those mistakes and does not follow my simple rule.
Now to a broader question: Is it likely, given the errors in his book, that Fisk often errs in his columns and articles, too? I think it nearly certain. Blogger Scott Burgess provides evidence for that conclusion in this post, where he notes that Fisk calls the largest newspaper in Denmark "pip-squeak" and misspells both the name of an editor and the name of an author you may have heard of, Hans Christian Andersen. And those errors are not, by any means, the largest problems with the column that Burgess demolishes.
If Fisk often errs, as it seems he does, then why do editors continue to print his pieces? Part of it, I suppose, is that most editors are even less experts on the Middle East than Fisk is, and so they simply do not spot the mistakes. And, though I am sorry to say this, I think some are attracted to Fisk's anti-Western attitudes and do not look carefully at his work.
- 7:04 AM, 8 February 2006 [link]
Amusing: This story about Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Among the tussles and arrests during the State of the Union address Tuesday night was a little-noticed scene involving Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), who has made a tradition out of staking out an aisle seat and, therefore, assuring a network TV appearance with President Bush. (Who cares whether she likes him or not — that's not the point.)(You may have to scroll down a bit to find the whole story.)
You may recall that in 2002 she charged that President Bush "may" have had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. And that she received considerable financial support from people with ties to Islamic extremism. But none of that matters when it comes to a chance to be on national TV with the president.
When I saw her at the State of the Union speech, I wondered why she was up front, since she is not exactly President Bush's best friend in Congress, nor necessarily the person that the Democratic leadership would choose to represent them. Now I know.
- 5:07 PM, 7 February 2006 [link]
Denmark And Darfur: As I mentioned in this post on the cartoon controversy, it is dismaying that the Muslim world is so little concerned about what is happening in Darfur, where thousands of Muslims have died, at the hands of other Muslims.
So what is happening in Darfur? Pretty much the same thing that has been happening there since 2003.
Today, another 600,000 refugees fill the camps - 1.8 million inhabit those in Darfur and another 200,000 have fled into Chad. Estimates for the total killed have reached 300,000 - five per cent of Darfur's population.And, if anything, a little worse, since the Arab "Janjaweed" militias, as they are usually called, have taken to fighting with each other, as well as raiding the villages of the black inhabitants of Darfur.
The UN keeps passing resolutions, but has yet to put a serious military force into the field, a force that could restrain the Janjaweed. And the Sudanese government, which most believe unleashed them, is resisting proposals to send a UN force to Darfur.
I may be an infidel for suggesting this, but I think that Darfur should be of more concern to Muslims than drawings in a Danish newspaper.
(More: Here's the story of how the Janjaweed emptied a town with 55,000 inhabitants just days ago.)
- 1:54 PM, 7 February 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Jeff Goldstein's discussion of Senator Rockefeller's record on intelligence. Of special interest is a 2003 memo from Rockefeller's staff. As I read it, the staffer who wrote the memo wants to use intelligence "abuses" to help the Democrats, but is uninterested in improving intelligence so that we can prevent more terrorist attacks. It might be well to remember that memo as we watch the latest hearings on the NSA surveillance program.
(Goldstein also speculates, as others have, that Rockefeller may have been the source of the leaks on the NSA program. I would be more inclined to think it was a staffer, perhaps the very staffer who wrote that memo.)
- 10:57 AM, 7 February 2006 [link]
Is Canada Moving Toward The Abolition Of Marriage? (Or perhaps I should say "Was Canada Moving", given the outcome of their last election.) That's the argument made in this Stanley Kurtz piece, which begins uncompromisingly.
Canada, you don't know the half of it. In mid-January, Canada was rocked by news that a Justice Department study had called for the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy. Actually, two government studies recommended decriminalizing polygamy. (Only one has been reported on.) And even that is only part of the story. Canadians, let me be brutally frank. You are being played for a bunch of fools by your legal-political elite. Your elites mumble a confusing jargon to your face to keep you from understanding what they really have in mind.And what those elites have in mind, thinks Kurtz, is the step-by-step abolition of marriage by extending it so that it becomes meaningless, beginning with gay marriage.
You'll want to read the whole thing. I'll just add that abolishing marriage is an idea that had significant support among radicals a century ago. (And for that matter, still does among many radical feminists.) The idea may seem strange but, if the freedom of the individual is your only goal, abolishing marriage is not that radical.
It is not my only goal because I think that societies must be organized in a way that allows them to continue, that they must be organized to provide for children, not just personal fulfillment for adults. We have learned, often the hard way, that children do best in stable families. The idea that we can abolish marriage and gain from that is incompatible with the lessons of history — and with the latest research findings.
- 12:59 PM, 6 February 2006 [link]
A Closer Look At Those Danish Cartoons: Let me start by recalling why the Danish newspaper commissioned the cartoons. A Danish writer had written a children's book on Muhammad's life and was unable to find an artist to illustrate it. The Danish artists who usually do this kind of work feared for their lives. And so to prove that Denmark still has freedom of speech, the newspaper asked cartoonists to supply cartoons that it could publish. Twelve brave souls did so.
One produced this drawing, which is not a cartoon, but an illustration that might go in a children's book.
Would you have realized that drawing might offend people? I wouldn't have, unless I had been told that it was a picture of Muhammad. Although the turban suggests that the man is a Muslim, most Muslims do not wear turbans and some non-Muslims do. It is, as a matter of fact, similar to many drawings made by Muslim artists for centuries. Although all, or nearly all Muslims reject idolatry in principle, many have not believed that principle prevented them from drawing pictures, including pictures of Muhammad.
This second drawing is a cartoon, and, I think, an amusing one. Muhammad is speaking out against suicide bombings, though for a practical reason. If the subject were any Western politician (or religious leader), few would consider it unfair, much less a cause for riots.
But for some Muslims, that picture, and that cartoon, should be forbidden everywhere. They wish to impose their religious laws on us, and a few are frank enough to admit it.
FOX News Interview with Imam Ahmad Abu Laban:Actually a very old set of rules, but Western Europe has not experienced them in recent decades.
(You can see the whole set of cartoons here. And you can find my discussion of the "assassin's veto" on free speech here.)
- 11:16 AM, 6 February 2006 [link]
Super Bowl Reactions: Yesterday, I watched much of the Super Bowl, cheering (mildly) for the Seahawks. Maybe it was because this year I cared — a little — which team won that I temporarily forgot one of the unpleasant facts about Super Bowls: Most aren't very good football games.
And yesterday's game was not an exception. Neither team played very well. But despite the score, the Seahawks were the better team for most of the game. And so even mild Seahawk fans, such as myself, will wonder whether Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon is right about the referees.
And when Seattle wasn't bungling, the referees were.Though Wilbon does go on to say that he thinks in a seven game series, the Steelers would win 4-3. But it is dismaying to realize that the Super Bowl was affected, and may have been decided, by poor calls.
The half time show and the ads are now almost as big a deal as the game. I found the show disappointing and the ads baffling. I watched only a bit of the Rolling Stones and my immediate reaction was this: Do people actually still pay to see this bunch? (And that isn't because I disliked the group back in their salad days. I still have a couple of their albums, in fact.) But then I got interested in their ravaged faces, interested enough so that I wondered about the causes. We needed, I thought, a color commentator to explain whether it was drugs, alcohol, surgery, makeup, or some combination that gave the Stones their peculiar visages.
The ads — at least those I saw — baffled me because I could not see why any of them would persuade customers to buy the product, though many of the ads were amusing. More than once I got the feeling that the producer of the ad really wanted to be working in Hollywood, rather than on Madison Avenue. And the ads for some of the products — Bud Light comes to mind — imply that stupid people buy it. That may be a big market, but I had always thought that advertisers thought it smart to flatter their customers, not insult them.
- 7:43 AM, 6 February 2006
Sadly, as Michelle Malkin points out, those planning the Super Bowl gave no time to those in military. Considering how bad the Stones' performance was, it is easy to see where they could have fitted some tribute to the troops into the half time show.
- 1:12 PM, 6 February 2006 [link]
Fabricated Cartoons: By now, you have certainly heard about those Danish cartoons that have many Muslims in an uproar. But you may not have heard this part of the story.
Last November, Abu Laban, a 60-year-old Palestinian who had served as translator and assistant to top Gamaa Islamiya leader Talaal Fouad Qassimy during the mid-1990s and has been connected by Danish intelligence to other Islamists operating in the country, put together a delegation that traveled to the Middle East to discuss the issue of the cartoons with senior officials and prominent Islamic scholars. The delegation met with Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam's most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi. "We want to internationalize this issue so that the Danish government will realize that the cartoons were insulting, not only to Muslims in Denmark, but also to Muslims worldwide," said Abu Laban.It wasn't just the usual Muslim "journalists" who included descriptions of those fake cartoons in their stories. So did the BBC.
Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the tip.
(I have given up and am calling them "cartoons", though some are not, as I explained here.)
- 10:19 AM, 3 February 2006
More: The Gateway Pundit has the fake cartoons here. They are offensive, but no more so than cartoons published in European newspapers attacking George Bush and Ariel Sharon.
Charles Moore asks an interesting question.
Why were those Danish flags to hand? Who built up the stockpile so that they could be quickly dragged out right across the Muslim world and burnt where television cameras would come and look? The more you study this story of "spontaneous" Muslim rage, the odder it seems.Some of the flags appear to be homemade, he is right to question the spontaneity of the attacks.
- 7:13 AM, 5 February 2005 [link]
Almost As Bad as the Titanic.
A ferry carrying about 1,400 people, most of them Egyptians, has sunk in the Red Sea.(1,503 were lost when the Titanic sank.)
Though not nearly as bad as the Doña Paz.
On December 20, 1987, she was en route from Tacloban, on the island of Leyte, to Manila, via Catbalogan, Samar. At about 2200 she was in the 18-mile-wide Tablas Strait between Mindoro Island and Marinduque Island when she collided with Vector, a motor tanker bound from Batangas, Luzon, to Mashate, Central Philippines, with 8,800 barrels of petroleum products. These ignited and caused a fire from which it was virtually impossible to escape. Vector had a crew of 13, only 2 of whom survived, while Doña Paz's survivors numbered only 21. Although she was licensed to carry only 1,518 passengers, there were actually 1,586 passengers on the manifest. Based on subsequent interviews with survivors and relatives of passengers not listed on the manifest, the company later put the total number of fatalities at 4,375, about 1,000 of them children; none of the ship's 58 crew survivedIs there something in common in the sinkings of the al-Salam Boccaccio and the Doña Paz? We don't know why the Egyptian ship sank, but there may be. Safety rules are often evaded when governments are corrupt.
- 9:35 AM, 3 February 2006 [link]
Gabriel Schoenfeld Asks A Good Question: But it is not a question I expect the New York Times to investigate.
The debate over the legality of what the President did remains unresolved, and is a matter about which legal minds will no doubt continue to disagree, largely along partisan lines. What about the legality of what the Times did?And Gabriel Schoenfeld answers his own question:
One might go further. What the New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism. If information about the NSA program had been quietly conveyed to an al-Qaeda operative on a microdot, or on paper with invisible ink, there can be no doubt that the episode would have been treated by the government as a cut-and-dried case of espionage. Publishing it for the world to read, the Times has accomplished the same end while at the same time congratulating itself for bravely defending the First Amendment and thereby protecting us—from, presumably, ourselves. The fact that it chose to drop this revelation into print on the very day that renewal of the Patriot Act was being debated in the Senate—the bill's reauthorization beyond a few weeks is still not assured—speaks for itself.I am not a legal expert, but from what I can tell, he is right about the law. I can say that any administration will be cautious about taking on those who "buy ink by the barrel", even when the law is clear and the damage to our security considerable.
- 8:52 AM, 3 February 2006 [link]
Librarian, Leftist, Censor: When I linked to the Amazon entry on the latest Almanac of American Politics, I glanced at the first few reviews and found this fascinating bit from W. F. Gray, who is the head librarian at, unless I have been fooled by proximity and name similarity, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Here is most of Gray's review:
I became a fan of this series back in the 1970's, beginning with its first edition. At that time, it had 3 authors, and the net effect of their input was very balanced, extremely interesting commentary.(What Gray may not realize is that Barone has become more conservative over the years, as many of us have, at least those of us who were paying attention to events such as the downfall of the the Soviet Union and the success of welfare reform.)
So there you are. A librarian at a community college in Kentucky, paid, I assume, by the taxpayers of Kentucky (many of them conservative) has decided not to order of one of the best references on American politics because he does not agree with Michael Barone's moderately conservative politics.
And though it is true that one can find most of those facts, statistics, and ratings elsewhere, I don't know of a single reference that could come close to replacing the Almanac, at any price.
What amazing intolerance, especially for a librarian.
(Some will wonder what books Mr. Gray does like. His other reviews at Amazon give us a hint. He gives four stars to Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The 2006 Almanac may not be in his college's library, but I'll bet Franken's book is.)
- 5:38 PM, 2 February 2006 [link]
What Kind Of Man Is John Boehner, the new majority leader of the House of Representatives? Impressive, I would say, after reviewing what the latest Almanac of American Politics had to say about him.
Boehner is one of twelve children, and was he first in his family to graduate from college (Xavier University, 1977). He worked for Nucite Sales, a plastics packaging business, after college, eventually becoming president. He was elected to a local office in 1981, and then to the Ohio House in 1984. In 1990, he won the Ohio 6th district, which he has held ever since.
In the House of Representatives, he became a strong supporter of Newt Gingrich and helped craft the 1994 Contract With America. He held the fourth position in the House leadership, chairman of the Republican Conference, until he fell out with Gingrich after the 1998 election.
After the 2000 election, he won the chairmanship of the House Education and Workforce committee and worked effectively to pass bipartisan education reform, and pressed for proper funding for pensions. Sadly, he did not make much progress on the second, being blocked by union opposition. (According to the Almanac, some unions want to be able to use their funds for funds for political purposes, even though that may hurt the financial interests of their members.) He has a been a strong supporter of the "Freedom to Farm" act, which reduced subsidies and controls.
Of the three candidates, he would have been my first choice, so I am pleased that the House Republicans agreed.
(More: Here's Boehner's official web site, a list of his votes on many issues, and a table comparing the three candidates for majority leader.
Those in this area may recall Boehner from his continuing legal fight with Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott. Two Florida Democratic activists taped Boehner talking on his cell phone to others in the House Republican leadership. They were certain that the innocuous conversation showed something terrible and passed the tape to their Congresswoman, Karen Thurman. She, in turn, passed it to McDermott, who leaked it to the New York Times, illegally. McDermott escaped from the criminal charges with a slap on the wrist, but has lost the first rounds of the civil fight.)
- 1:42 PM, 2 February 2006 [link]
What Do Tempura And Vindaloo Have In Common? Both have Portuguese origins. Though we think of tempura as a quintessentially Japanese dish, both the dish and the name came, originally, from Portugal.
[Tempura] refers to classic Japanese deep fried batter-dipped seafood and vegetables. The batter is made of ice cold water, flour, and egg yolks. Small dry bite-sized pieces of food are dipped in flour, then in batter, and then deep fried for 2-3 minutes. In high class restaurants, sesame oil or a mixture of sesame and other cooking oils is used. Because of the cost of sesame oil, this is rarer in lower grade restaurants.And the same is true of what I had always thought of as an Indian dish.
In addition to chilies, the Portuguese brought carne de vinho e alhos, or pork cooked slowly in wine vinegar and garlic. Local cooks in Goa, Portugal's trading headquarters, reinterpreted the dish. They fashioned an ersatz vinegar from tamarind, and threw in lots of spices, especially chilis. Thus vindaloo, a corruption of vinho e alhos, was born, and with it a new traditional Indian food.This New York Times review of Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors has much more on these early fusions of European and Indian cuisines. What we think of as authentic usually isn't, at least if we go back a few centuries.
(For cooks: I have never even tried to make tempura because it is difficult to cook without a thermostatically controlled deep fat fryer, as I understand it. On the other hand, the teriyaki I have made tastes better to me than any I have had in a restaurant.)
- 11:12 AM, 2 February 2006 [link]
Can Alcohol Solve Our Energy Problems? In the past I have been skeptical about how much biodiesel and ethanol could help with our energy problems. Ethanol has always required substantial subsidies, and biodiesel was practical, I have argued, only if the oil was made from waste products. Now Robert Zubrin, a man I admire greatly, says that another alcohol, methanol, can replace much of our gasoline. And that it can be made, economically, from coal, of which we have enormous amounts.
So if we are to use alcohol fuels to achieve energy independence, a broader resource base is needed. This can be provided by methanol, which can come from both a broader array of biomass materials and also from coal and natural gas. Methanol production from coal is particularly important, since coal is America's, and the world's, cheapest and most prevalent energy resource. The United States could power its entire economy on coal for centuries, and large reserves also exist in allied countries. Current coal prices stand in the range of three cents a kilogram, much cheaper than agricultural products, so methanol can be made from coal at low costThe key, Zubrin argues, is to require all cars sold in the United States to be "Flexible Fueled Vehicles".
With gasoline having roughly doubled in price recently, and with little likelihood of a substantial price retreat in the future, high alcohol-to-gasoline fuel mixtures are suddenly practical. Cars capable of burning such fuel are no futuristic dream. This year, Detroit will offer some two dozen models of standard cars with a flex-fuel option available for purchase. The engineering difference is in one sensor and a computer chip that controls the fuel-air mixture, and the employment of a corrosion-resistant fuel system. The difference in price from standard units ranges from $100 to $800.Zubrin believes that were we to make these changes, the United States could actually become a fuel exporter, as we once were.
Is he right about the engineering and the economics? I don't know, but I must say this is the first plan using these fuels that did not appear impractical at first glance. We'll have to hear from the engineers and the energy economists, but I think Zubrin's proposal is, at the very least, worth serious consideration.
(Thanks to the Instapundit for the tip.)
- 9:50 AM, 2 February 2006 [link]
Ten Planets? Perhaps.
German astrophysicists have concluded a space body located in the outer reaches of the solar system is 435 miles (700 kilometers) larger than Pluto, the smallest planet. Their research puts more pressure on the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to classify the object as the 10th planet in our solar system.Or perhaps eight, since many astronomers have wondered whether Pluto should really be considered a planet.
(You have to have some sympathy for Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo, David Rabinowitz, the scientists who discovered of "2003 UB313", as it is currently known. They can't name it until other astronomers decide what UB313 is.)
- 2:04 PM, 1 February 2006 [link]
Kudos To these European newspapers.
Newspapers across Europe have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage. Seven publications in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain all carried some of the drawings.Will any American newspapers follow their example? I certainly hope so.
(More: One of the Muslim boycotts of Danish products may have disastrous consequences, as I learned from this bit at the end of a Times of London article.
The world's biggest maker of insulin, Novo Nordisk, has also been hit after pharmacies and hospitals in Saudi Arabia refused to offer its products.And, at least according to this brief Wikipedia article, France Soir, the only newspaper in the group to publish all of the cartoons, has a surprising majority owner, Ramy Lakah, a millionaire from — Egypt.)
- 1:45 PM, 1 February 2006
The France Soir Editor was fired for running the cartoons.
The editor of a French newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has been sacked.As you may have guessed, I was wondering yesterday whether the owner had approved of running the cartoons. He hadn't.
So far, I haven't seen a report of any American newspaper running the cartoons.
- 8:14 AM, 2 February 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: James Taranto takes on the media and doesn't mince words.
In October the U.S. government released a letter found in Iraq and purportedly written by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, and addressed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terror group's leader in Iraq. "More than half of the battle is taking place on the battlefield of the media," Zawahiri wrote. "We are in a media race for . . . hearts and minds." He added, "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam--and how they ran and left their agents--is noteworthy."Do our media want us to lose this war, as Taranto implies? I would not go that far, though I think it a fair thing to say about some media figures. But are most in the "mainstream" media acting in ways that help the terrorists? To that question the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Having said that, I must add immediately that I do not believe most are doing so with the intention of damaging the war effort. Many "mainstream" journalists are simply not willing to face the obvious consequences of their acts. In the future, I hope to do a little more to enlighten them on those consequences.
(It is hard to sort out just how much of the negative coverage of the war comes from partisanship and a dislike for President Bush. But we can say that, if President Clinton was still in the White House and pursuing the same policies that President Bush is, the coverage would be far less negative.)
- 1:36 PM, 1 February 2006 [link]