January 2007, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Obsession Shown At Cedar Park: Last night, talk station KTTH combined with Cedar Park Church to give a free showing of Obsession, a documentary on the threat of radical Islam. The crowd, the introduction, the movie, the collection, and the discussion were all of interest.
While people were still gathering, I asked two of the ushers for a crowd estimate; they guessed about 900 were there. Before the movie started, they had so many extra people that they arranged for a simultaneous showing at another building in the complex, which can accommodate about 200 more. As the discussion was beginning, I asked the head pastor, Dr. Joseph Fuiten, for an estimate of the total attendance; his estimate was somewhat higher. All in all, there might have been as many as 1500 people there.
The movie was supposed to begin at 7 PM, so that means that most of those in attendance had had to drive through rush hour traffic to get there. I live only a few miles away and it took me almost an hour to get to the church, though I did take the back way. The drive must have been longer for many, perhaps most, of those who came.
The people there were, I would judge, mostly working class and middle class. There were few people wearing suits, and almost no one dressed ostentatiously. For a Seattle area crowd, there were fewer visible minorities than usual, and almost no piercings. In short, the crowd looked like the people who were the backbone of the Democratic party forty years ago — the people who now get little respect from the McGovernites who have taken over the party.
During the introduction, one of the early morning hosts — I'm not sure whether it was Dan Sytman or David Boze — said that the movie had been banned by Pace University as hate speech. That is, I would say, a bit exaggerated. But it is certainly true that Pace administrators put very heavy pressure on the Pace Hillel chapter to keep them from showing it.
Obsession is a straightforward account of the threat that radical Islam poses to the West. It explicitly compares the rise of radical Islam to the rise of Hitler, and shows the similarities between the propaganda efforts then and now. (The script goes farther than I would in finding parallels, though I agree that there are parallels, and that the 1930s still have lessons for us.) Some of the most effective parts of the film are the speeches of radical Islamic leaders. They are not shy about telling us their long range plans.
Obsession makes one crucial point again and again: Most Muslims do not support the extremists, and these moderates are often victims of the radical Islamists. (It does not get as much attention as it should, but radical Islamists have murdered far more Muslims than Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, or Jews.)
Obsession has a point of view that not all experts would agree with. But I did not see any factual errors or any great exaggerations, though I hasten to add that I do not consider myself an expert on Islam or the Middle East. On the other hand, I see factual errors in news accounts almost every day, so I do have some ability to spot errors. On the whole, I would recommend the movie to anyone who wants to understand the threat we face — and will face for the next century, I fear.
After the movie, a collection was taken to pay for the cost of the movie and, if there was money left over, to contribute to two charities. The average donation appeared to be more than five dollars, so those who attended not only fought rush hour traffic and gave up a week day evening, they spent real money to see this movie.
The two charities that benefitted (I hope) from the contributions may surprise those who have a little grey in their hair, as I do. Half of any extra money was to go to Bridges for Peace, a Christian organization that tries to build better relationships between Christians and Jews, and strongly supports a secure Israel. The other half was to go, as I understood it, to an organization that provides services to soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force. In other words, much of the money raised in this mostly Christian crowd was to go to Jewish causes. I'm not saying that never happened thirty or forty years ago, but it was much rarer.
KTTH talk show host Michael Medved led a discussion after the collection (and after an introduction that should have embarrassed him). Near the end of the discussion, a young man stood up, said he was from Pakistan, and said that he wanted to live in peace with Christians and Jews, though not in just those words. He received loud applause, several times, and I think it fair to say that most of the crowd responded very warmly to what he had to say. And remember, this crowd had just watched a movie that showed frightening scenes of evil Muslims, radical Muslims, but still Muslims. Several other Muslims there echoed his sentiments. (Jeff Siddiqui was there, but did not speak, which may be just as well, since he irritates me almost every time he does.)
What do I conclude from that exchange? That moderate Muslims can find partners for peace among Christians and Jews, if they try.
There were, as far as I could tell, no reporters at this event. Which is unfortunate, because they might have learned something if they had come.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:05 PM, 31 January 2007 [link]
Did You Ever Suspect that, deep down, some journalists are shallow? If so, you'll find evidence to support your suspicion in this Los Angeles Times article, which tackles this difficult question:
Will President Bush put the "-ic" back in "Democratic"?I won't say much about why the Los Angeles Times published this story, or even why Maura Reynolds wrote it, since both seem obvious: Reynolds and the editors fear that President Bush was "dissing" their Democratic buddies.
But I will add this: The Los Angeles Times has had enormous circulation losses. Sometimes, it is easy to understand why.
- 1:41 PM, 31 January 2007 [link]
Former Senator John Edwards Is Building A House: A very nice house. Or perhaps estate would be a better word for it, given the number of buildings.
Presidential candidate John Edwards and his family recently moved into what county tax officials say is the most valuable home in Orange County. The house, which includes a recreational building attached to the main living quarters, also is probably the largest in the county.Some have been critical of Edwards because this lavish estate seems out of place for a man who is promising to fight poverty. That doesn't bother me greatly, though I do share some of Roger Simon's feelings on the subject.
But something else about the estate does. Given the size of the estate, the two garages, and the isolated location, the Edwards family will necessarily be using a lot of energy, or to put it another way, they will be using enough fossil fuels to take care of, at a guess, ten ordinary American families (or one hundred ordinary Chinese families). This naturally raises the question: Is John Edwards worried about global warming? Why, yes, he is; in fact, as I write, the lead post at his campaign site asks us to "conserve energy and fight global warming" in our communities. Which makes me think of an enormous glutton, urging others to go on diets.
(In my first post on John Edwards, I noted that he had no experience as an executive, or accomplishments in public office, that he was, in short, unqualified to be vice president, much less president. He still has neither political accomplishments nor executive experience.
He often uses his trial lawyer career to claim that he fights for the little guys against the powerful; in fact, he was on both sides during his career. And some of his successes came from what nearly everyone now agrees was an abuse of scientific claims; as his Wikipedia biography gently puts it: "During the trial, it has been argued that Edwards relied more on his verbal skills as a trial lawyer than on actual science."
As it happens, the Bush home in Crawford, Texas is quite energy efficient — which infuriates many leftists. For an example, see this Bill Press column.)
- 9:48 AM, 31 January 2007 [link]
Woman Convicted For Vote Fraud: No, really. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.
She won't suffer greatly; she is paying a fine which may cover court costs, and she will be on probation for a year.
Her daughter had given her permission to sign the ballot. Would either even have been tempted to commit this fraud if they had to vote in person? I doubt it. Absentee ballots make vote fraud easy and almost risk free, and so we get more vote fraud as we move away from voting in person.
Reddy was voting on a school bond issue, which some may find ironic. Her ballot was set aside, along with 22 others, because the signatures didn't look right.
This is also an example, though a small one, of what I call distributed vote fraud.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.Thanks to an emailer for tipping me off to this story, which has gotten little coverage, even in this region.
- 1:50 PM, 30 January 2007 [link]
Worth Reading: Strategy Page debunks the top ten Myths of the Iraq War. Here's the most important:
10- The War in Iraq is Lost. By what measure? Saddam and his Baath party are out of power. There is a democratically elected government. Part of the Sunni Arab minority continues to support terror attacks, in an attempt to restore the Sunni Arab dictatorship. In response, extremist Shia Arabs formed vigilante death squads to expel all Sunni Arabs. Given the history of democracy in the Middle East, Iraq is working through its problems. Otherwise, one is to believe that the Arabs are incapable of democracy and only a tyrant like Saddam can make Iraqi "work." If democracy were easy, the Arab states would all have it. There are problems, and solutions have to be found and implemented. That takes time, but Americans have, since the 18th century, grown weary of wars after three years. If the war goes on longer, the politicians have to scramble to survive the bad press and opinion polls. Opposition politicians take advantage of the situation, but this has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with local politics in the United States.You'll want to read the other nine, too.
(You can find similar views on victory in Iraq here.)
- 9:48 AM, 30 January 2007 [link]
Senator Obama Does Have A Religious Problem: Oddly enough, it comes from his membership in a "mainstream" denomination, the United Church of Christ. But the particular church he belongs to, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, does not have "mainstream" theological beliefs, as these excerpts from their own statement show:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization.Some might think those beliefs are just a little racist. And it is hard not to wonder what would happen if a white showed up and wanted to join this church. Or someone of Japanese descent, or even someone who is one quarter or one eighth black.
Does Senator Obama share all those views? Probably not. But some reporter should ask him if he does.
(Just for fun, imagine what would happen to a white candidate who belonged to a church that was "Unashamedly" white.
And I suppose that I should add that most archaeologists do not think that Africa was the "cradle of civilization. Instead they believe that civilization spread from Sumeria to ancient Egypt.)
- 7:41 AM, 30 January 2007 [link]
Some Stories Deserve Refutation: And the New York Times thinks the Obama school story is one of them.
The controversy started with a quickly discredited Jan. 17 article on the Insight Web site asserting that the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was preparing an accusation that her rival, Senator Barack Obama, had covered up a brief period he had spent in an Islamic religious school in Indonesia when he was 6.This refutation, which made the front page of the New York Times, goes on at some length about why the school story can't be trusted, but never really refutes it.
If you look at the original Insight story, or their follow-up, carefully, you will see that Insight did not claim that Obama attended a Madrassa, or that he was raised as a Muslim — but that supporters of Hillary Clinton were claiming he had, or at the very least, getting ready to say that he had.
Now, how could one discredit that story? I can think of only two ways; you would have to find the original reporter — who is anonymous — or his sources — who are also anonymous — and get either the reporter or the sources to admit that the story is false. No one has gotten those admissions so we don't know whether the story is true or not, and we can not conclude that it has been discredited.
My guess? It is only a guess, but I think it likely that some supporter of Hillary Clinton was spreading this story. It would not, after all, be the first time the Clintons had used smears against a political opponent. And this would be a natural smear to use against a man whose middle name is "Hussein" and whose background is odd even for an American. But we don't know for certain, and probably never will know. Those who are less suspicious of the Clintons than I am may think that "likely" goes too far, but even they should concede that the story is possible, and has not been "discredited".
(What kind of school did Obama attend in Indonesia? Probably a mostly secular school, though news accounts such as this one don't entirely resolve the question. We can't be certain that the school was not quite different decades ago. But, from what we know about his mother, it seems unlikely that she would have sent him to a radical Islamic school.)
- 6:58 AM, 30 January 2007 [link]
Follow Up On The Sandy Berger Case: John Fund summarizes how gently the former Clinton advisor was treated and adds this tidbit.
The [National Archives] Inspector General's report found that the papers Mr. Berger took outlined the adequacy of the government's knowledge of terrorist threats in the U.S. in the final months of the Clinton administration--documents that could have been of some interest to the 9/11 Commission, before which Mr. Berger was scheduled to testify. The Washington Post buried news of the Inspector General's report on page 7; the New York Times dumped it on page 36.Unfortunately, that failure to administer the polygraph test is all too easy to explain; career officials at the Justice Department did everything they could to protect a guilty man, Sandy Berger. (And so did editors at the New York Times and, perhaps, the Washington Post.)
Maybe this pressure will help Gonzales do the right thing. He should put some pressure on the career people in the Justice department who failed their nation, though perhaps not their party.
(To read my earlier posts on the Berger scandal, start here.)
- 12:33 PM, 29 January 2007 [link]
If You Couldn't Reach This Site earlier this morning, well, neither could I. And the provider had not posted an explanation when last I looked. But their servers seem to be working now.
- 9:48 AM, 29 January 2007 [link]
Nancy Pelosi And San Francisco Values: As explained by Saturday Night Live. (After the election, of course.)
Note: The video may be awkward to explain to younger sprogs.
- 9:38 AM, 29 January 2007 [link]
It's Good To Have Friends: Especially friends who give you lucrative real estate deals.
It's hard to buy undeveloped land in booming northern Arizona for $166 an acre. But now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effectively did just that when a longtime friend decided to sell property owned by the employee pension fund that he controlled.But congressmen should remember that friends can sometimes lead you to break the law, as Senator Reid may have done in this case.
This is not the first time that Senator Reid has crossed ethical and perhaps legal lines, but the Senate Democrats elected him leader again, without opposition. (For descriptions of some of his earlier scandals, see the end of this Wikipedia biography.)
There is another part to this story that, though less important, still deserves some comment. Senator Reid has a full time job working for the taxpayers. Or at least it should be a full time job. When I see these stories about his business deals, I wonder whether the taxpayers are getting forty hours a week from the senator.
- 1:14 PM, 28 January 2007 [link]
McKenzie Pass: On my way back home, I drove through McKenzie Pass, originally a main route (and a private toll road) across the Cascades, but now a "scenic byway". You'll like the scenery if you like volcanoes.
At the summit of the pass is the strange Dee Wright Observatory, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The observatory and the trails leading from it offer fine views of this "island", surrounded by lava flows. (On Hawaii, similar islands are called "kipukas".)
And fine views of the the volcanoes to the north and south. It was the wrong time of day to get good pictures of the Sisters to the south, but there was a good view of Mt. Washington to the north, good enough so that I cranked up the telephoto for a close up.
You can find the earlier posts from my 2006 disaster area tour here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
You can find the last post from my 2005 disaster area tour, with links to all the other 2005 disaster tour posts, here.)
- 5:31 PM, 26 January 2007 [link]
The 20 Minute Anti-War Commercial On KUOW: KUOW is Seattle's NPR affiliate, so they are not supposed to carry commercials. But they often have commercials anyway, and I am not just referring to the thinly disguised "commercials" from their sponsors. No, what I am referring to are their political commercials.
For example, this morning I was listening to their Weekday program, from 10 to 11. As usual on Fridays, they had three local journalists as guests, Susan Paynter of the Seattle PI, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times, and Knute Berger, who edited the Seattle Weekly for many years. Marcy Sillman of KUOW substituted for the usual host, Steve Scher.
In the first twenty minutes of the program, the four discussed President Bush's State of the Union speech and Senator Webb's reply. What they said amounted to a twenty minute anti-war commercial. They made no attempt to explain the arguments on both sides, or, with one small exception*, to discuss the consequences of an American withdrawal, which all four favor. But Paynter did tell us that she planned to join a weekend anti-war demonstration**, and so did some who called and emailed the program
The level of discussion was embarrassingly low — and annoying when you remembered that our taxes were paying for this foolishness. For example, none noted any of the factual errors in Webb's speech, nor did any of them find it strange that he would say that Eisenhower's efforts to bring an armistice in Korea were an example to be emulated. (As I mentioned in my post, Eisenhower was able to get an armistice in part by threatening to use nuclear weapons. None of the four may know that, though I am almost certain that Webb does.)
During the twenty minutes commercial, Paynter made an astonishing mistake; she said that she thought that Webb's son was the only child of a congressman now serving in Iraq. For the facts, see this article. Earlier, Paynter had said that she didn't know much about military matters, but that she knows how to listen to those who do. I hope she will forgive me for saying that I agree with the first part, but have doubts about the second. The other three said less than Paynter, but none appeared qualified to speak on military questions.
Think about this twenty minute commercial for a minute. It was paid for, in part, by the government. But it was also an attack on official government policy. And it was blatantly partisan, probably far past the bounds of NPR's charter. But none of the four journalists seemed to see the slightest thing wrong with this silly and biased discussion. The host of the show, Marcy Sillman, did not not even make a perfunctory request for callers with different views.
It is this kind of program that has persuaded me that we should defund NPR, that it is impossible to reform it. (I would have no objection to privatizing NPR; in fact, if it were privatized, I might even be willing to contribute to a few of the programs.) The organization is impervious to criticism from the outside, if that criticism comes from moderates or conservatives, no matter how justified the criticism is. The only thing left to do is to end the subsidy from the taxpayers.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.
(*The exception came from Knute Berger who briefly mentioned some of the possible bad outcomes from withdrawal, though only to contrast them with American victory, which he thought might lead to an Iranian puppet state, another bad outcome.**Some newspapers do not allow their journalists to take part in demonstrations. Apparently, the PI does not have that rule. Wondering what happened in the rest of the program? The four mostly discussed the failures of Seattle to find a fix or a replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct. As is usual in these discussions on Weekday, none considered blamiAng this failure on the Democrats who run Seattle. And none suggested that it might be time for Seattle to put Republicans in charge.)
- 2:58 PM, 26 January 2007 [link]
Bad News: More layoffs of journalists.
U.S. media job cuts surged 88 percent in 2006 from the previous year, a downsizing trend expected to continue this year, a survey said Thursday.Or is this good news? If you think, as I do, that our "mainstream" media companies are distorting our political discussions and hurting the nation, then you have to admit that firing some of the culprits might improve matters. But I see no evidence that those who deserve to be fired are being fired. So the staffs are shrinking, but the product is not improving.
(The decline in newspaper sales in recent decades is startling. Since 1984, the daily circulation of American newspapers has declined 13 percent. The decline began before the internet started offering competition and continued while the American population grew and became more educated and more wealthy.
Because of the ads, newspapers are sold for less than their cost of production and distribution. And they contain extras besides the news that many people want, including coupons and, of course, ads. For example, I spotted my bargain laptop in a newspaper ad and my savings on that one purchase were large enough to pay for months of the Seattle Times, which is where I saw the ad. And I am sure shoppers more skilled than I learn even more from newspaper ads.
Despite all these advantages, readers continue to drop away from the newspapers. But somehow those who run the newspapers do not seem to believe that the losses in circulation are their fault, even partly. And that is rather strange, when you think about it.)
- 9:48 AM, 26 January 2007 [link]
Webb's Reply: Just a glance at Senator Webb's reply to President Bush's State of the Union speech showed me that it would illustrate my argument that it is often better to read the speeches — and think about them — rather than watch them.
Journalists who watched Webb's speech liked it. I suppose there may have been a few who did not, but they were greatly outnumbered by those who did. For some examples of these positive reactions, see this E. J. Dionne column, this account of . Mark Shields' reaction, and the end of this New York Times article, where they describe his commentary on the war as "poignant".
My own reaction was different; the speech was, I think, not just bad, but embarrassingly bad.
Let me go through the speech, in some detail, so that you can see why I think so.
Webb begins with this paragraph:
I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.That's just weird, unless he planned to come back to Jamestown later in the speech, but he never does. (And the sentence is terribly awkward. Webb earned a living as a novelist, so one would expect him to be able to write more clearly. And he did, according to news accounts, write this speech.)
There is a historical reason that Webb does not come back to Jamestown; it is one of the best examples of perseverance, even under terrible losses. A glance at my copy of Colin McEvedy's Penguin Atlas of North American History gave me some numbers on those losses. In the first three years of the colony, 600 settlers were landed, and supply ships came regularly.
None the less, mortality among the colonists was so high that by the spring of 1610 they had all had enough. Of the 600 who had been put ashore, barely 200 were still alive and that included 100 who had just arrived. A vote to return home was carried unanimously. (p. 40)They didn't return home because a tough leader, Lord de la Warr, arrived with 150 more colonists and ordered the survivors back from the ships. But the losses did not end; a census taken in 1624 found just 1,275 people — though more than 6,000 had been landed in the preceding 17 years.
Eventually, the colonists learned to live in Virginia and gained the military advantage over the local Indians. But settlers who had arrived in the first two decades of the colony had good reason to believe that they were trapped in a hopeless quagmire.
One can understand why Webb did not discuss this history — but one can not understand why he mentioned Jamestown at all, assuming he knew about these losses.
After some political fencing with President Bush, in which Webb seems to promise cooperation on some issues, he comes to his economic complaint, which he appears to have recycled from his campaign.
Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.Wages began to grow rapidly in the last year, something that has received less attention than it should have. As American investments increase, it is inevitable that the share of national income going to wages and salaries will decrease. Medical costs have skyrocketed largely because of government intervention, and of course, the effects of lawsuits. The Democratic party supports more government intervention and opposes limits on lawsuits. College tuition has soared because Webb's leftist allies in the universities have been greedy, and because government subsidies of various kinds have supported those increases.
Many believe that we are losing our manufacturing base; but the National Association of Manufacturers does not:
The manufacturing sector -- more than any other -- is driving the current U.S. economic recovery but faces unprecedented challenges, according to The Facts About Modern Manufacturing, released today by the National Association of Manufacturers and The Manufacturing Institute. The 7th edition of this comprehensive resource, sponsored by Toyota Motor North America, spotlights the latest U.S. government statistics, NAM economic analysis and corporate success stories about manufacturing in America. It is available at www.nam.org/facts.The highest level in US history. Would anyone guess that from reading Webb's speech? And in spite of fierce new competitors, the US share of global manufacturing has stayed at about 25 percent over the last two decades.
Webb says that the middle class is "losing its place at the table". Home ownership, the traditional mark of the middle class, is at record highs.
Webb ends those two paragraphs with a mushy sentence about fairness in a global economy, so mushy that I can't tell what policies he would favor. (He may not know either, if his grasp of economic issues is as weak as it seems to be.)
Most who saw the speech were, I imagine, most interested in what Webb had to say about the war in Iraq.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.(Emphasis added.)
The claim that the military no longer supports the way the war is fought is based, as far as I can tell, on a poll done of subscribers to a military magazine, which explicitly said that you could not extrapolate from its poll to the military as a whole. (For details, and many links, see this post.)
But it is the emphasized part that deserves the most attention. He says that we should not take one step back in the fight against terrorism, nor should we make a precipitous withdrawal. And in the very next sentence, proposes both. Amazing! And, of course, the idea that we could sit down with our deadly enemies at a regional conference and achieve something useful is so absurd that only a journalist could believe it. Historical analogies have their limits, but imagine this one: Would it have made any sense to propose such a conference with the Japanese or the Nazis in 1944?
Webb tries for a historical analogy of his own near the end of the speech:
As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.And how did Eisenhower bring the war to an end? By threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons, and by moving them to Korea to show that he was serious. Even with that threat, it took months before the North Koreans and the Chinese were willing to accept a truce. Does Webb believe that we should make the same threats now? If not, why did he bring up this analogy?
Most likely, Webb does know about Eisenhower's nuclear threats. But he relied on the ignorance of most watchers, and nearly all journalists, to get away with that comparison. Those are not the tactics of an honest man.
- 4:56 PM, 25 January 2007
Minor correction: Maybe. According to this post, which cites a famous history of the Korean War, Eisenhower actually moved the nuclear weapons to the theater, but not into Korea. By the way, I have also seen reports that we used the Indian government to tell the Chinese that we intended to use nuclear weapons.
- 5:13 AM, 26 January 2007 [link]
Why I Usually Don't Watch Those Big Speeches, Again: As I have mentioned before, I stopped watching most of the big speeches during Nixon's administration. His mannerisms annoyed me so much that I was distracted from his message — which I often found impressive, when I read it afterwards. There are other politicians who have the opposite effect on me, and, I am sure, most people. Their speeches sound more impressive than they read.
That's why I haven't said anything so far about President Bush's State of the Union speech, or Senator Webb's reply. I haven't read either one yet, though I suppose that I will.
On the whole, I think that I have benefitted from this practice. (I do watch big political speeches some times to gauge political effects, to see how well the speaker makes his argument.) By skipping the show, I have more time to concentrate on the substance, and am less likely to be distracted by irrelevancies, such as how often Nancy Pelosi blinked. (In the brief glimpse I saw on a news program, Pelosi looked like a a contact lens wearer who had kept her lenses in far too long.)
And some times, watching the speeches will give you entirely false impressions. Consider, for example, the problem of the homeless. I suspect that, if you were to watch Bill Clinton speeches on the problem, you would be impressed by how much he wanted to help the homeless. In contrast, judging by the results of this search, President Bush doesn't seem to have said much about the homeless. But President Bush does seem to have succeeded in reducing the number of homeless — unlike President Clinton. If you judged the two men only by their words, you would get an entirely false impression.
(Some will find that conclusion about Bush's success in reducing the number of homeless surprising, since his success has not received much coverage by the "mainstream" media. If so, you may want to review the evidence in this post. Note that my source is the San Francisco Chronicle, not some organ of the Republican party.)
Those familiar with public policy will be able to think of many similar examples, where the rhetoric and the results are out of sync.
So, should everyone do as I do, and skip the speeches? I wouldn't go that far, but I think that more should. And I do think our "mainstream" news organizations, which are filled with people who value words too highly, would benefit from bringing in some reporters who understand enough about numbers to measure the results of politicians' decisions.
- 8:50 AM, 25 January 2007 [link]