July 2005, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Was He Casing The Joint? It certainly appears so.
Suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan was given a guided tour of the House of Commons last year - raising the disturbing prospect that Parliament was on the hit list of targets.
- 3:10 PM, 16 July 2005 [link]
What Motivated The London Bombers? There may be some hints in what these young British Muslims told a New York Times reporter.
The bombers are an exception among Britain's 1.6 million Muslims. But their actions have highlighted a lingering question: why are second-generation British Muslims who should seemingly be farther up the road of assimilation rejecting the country in which they were born and raised?Now we don't have to believe that Khan is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to this reporter. Or that reporter is telling us everything he learned. (Although there was this interesting bit:
Another turning point occurred when he watched a BBC Panorama program about Britain's Muslims aired in the summer of 1993. "It was a very harsh, Islamiphobic program about Muslims in ghettos, mistreating their women and similar things," he said.Note that he does not say it was false, just harsh.)
But I do think that Khan was telling the truth when he said that he was radicalized by the first gulf war. One Islamic country (Iraq) invaded another (Kuwait). The second was rescued by a coalition that included most Arabic countries, but had, at its heart, forces from countries that are at least nominally Christian.
He was angry, in short, that non-Muslims defeated Muslims. (Even though they were helping Muslims.) This is an entirely orthodox thing for him to believe, however strange it may seem to us. Ever since the founding of Islam, Muslims have believed that Christians and Jews should be tolerated only in a inferior position, and that pagans need not be tolerated at all. To have non-Muslims in a superior position is, for people like Khan, an infuriating attack on his religion. In contrast, the ongoing massacres of Muslims, by Muslims, in Darfur, may be wrong, but they do not reverse what he believes should be the natural order of the world, with Muslims on top.
To find this almost tribal belief in an educated man may us, but it shouldn't if we take some time to remember history, including some of our own. Khan's belief isn't much different from the beliefs held by many warlike tribes, or by the Nazis, for that matter.
- 2:30 PM, 16 July 2005 [link]
Republican Photo Editor At The NYT? For some time, I have had the theory that a photo editor at the New York Times is a closet Republican. Take a look at the photograph that accompanies this article and you'll see why I think so. It couldn't be better, for Bush's political purposes, if Karl Rove himself had picked it out.
(And the article? Oh, the article. I'm glad to see that the Bush administration is reaching out to black voters, and I think they are doing it intelligently by (mostly) going around the NAACP, and similar organizations. Party chairman Ken Mehlman spoke to the NAACP, but Bush didn't, which is the right approach, given their incredibly nasty attacks on Bush.
I'd like to see both the Republicans and Democrats try to appeal to all groups in the country. Now, if only the Democrats would make the smallest effort to understand and reach out to white evangelicals . . . )
- 4:39 PM, 15 July 2005 [link]
Mixed, But Real, Educational Progress: That's what the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show.
America's elementary school students made solid gains in both reading and mathematics in the first years of this decade, while middle school students made less progress and older teenagers hardly any, according to federal test results released on Thursday.The Bush administration gives credit for these gains, naturally, to the No Child Left Behind Act. I am sure there are other causes, notably the efforts of many states to raise standards, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Act deserves some credit.
(Meanwhile, our largest teacher's union, the National Educational Association, was passing a whole set of silly resolutions, most of which had nothing to do with education. I'm not quite as critical of them as "Captain Ed" is, but I can understand why he said this:
If I wanted to parody the NEA, I couldn't draft a better list than this.That's hyperbole, but if you read the list, you'll see that he has a point.
I hope to take a look soon at the latest NAEP study, which you can find here.)
- 3:53 PM, 15 July 2005 [link]
Worth Reading: Many have been making this point, but few as clearly as Charles Krauthammer.
The fact that native-born Muslim Europeans are committing terrorist acts in their own countries shows that this Islamist malignancy long predates Iraq, long predates Afghanistan and long predates Sept. 11, 2001. What Europe had incubated is an enemy within, a threat that for decades Europe simply refused to face.But we haven't. Like nearly everyone else, Krauthammer urges moderate Muslims to join the fight against the terrorists. But he also has two suggestions that are likely to have more immediate effects. He believes that European nations should expel Muslim leaders who advocate murder, and he wants to end the welfare that supports so many of these violent young men.
- 2:59 PM, 15 July 2005 [link]
What Have We Learned About The London Bombings? Quite a bit. Let's start with a (relatively) hopeful point. This attack showed less skill and had less success than the attack in Madrid last year. The Madrid attack showed less skill and had less success than the 9/11 attack. We need more data, but it would appear that our Al Qaeda enemy is less competent now than it was in 2001.
Then let's turn to a discouraging point. The four bombers were, until a very short time ago, normal young British men. (It is possible, of course, that they were long term sleepers, but this seems quite unlikely for a number of reasons*.) Whoever turned them into killers appears to have done it quickly. And to have done it without being detected. It seems likely to me that the recruiter or recruiters approached more than these four, perhaps many more, but as far as we now know, no one in the Muslim community tipped off the police.
That the recruiters approached more than those four seems especially likely given that British police now believe that the attacks were suicide attacks and that all four died in the explosions they set off. I would think it easy to find men who would contribute to terrorism, especially if they are protected by some front organization, not too difficult to find men who would take on the less risky parts of terrorism, such as the surveillance of a target, hard to find men who would kill, and very hard to find men who would willingly go on a suicide mission. (It is possible, of course, that the men did not know they were going on a suicide mission, that they thought they were setting timers that would give them long enough to escape.)
We have learned — though some may deny it — that surveillance cameras can help identify criminals and track their accessories. (I may worry less about this than some people because I grew up in a small town, where it was taken for granted that any one who wanted to could know what you were doing.) Those cameras may have helped find an Egyptian chemist, who is suspected of having concocted the bombs.
We have learned that some of the four were trained in Pakistani jihadi schools. Our relationships with Pakistan, like our relationships with Saudi Arabia, are, to say the least, complex. Both nations have been, formally, our allies in the war on terror. And the governments of both nations contain elements that back our enemies. Given the widespread popular support that the Islamic fanatics have in both nations, there are serious limits on how much pressure, especially open pressure, we can put on the governments of those nations.
We have learned that the younger bombers may have been radicalized at a government funded community center. Think about that the next time you see proposals for similar centers as methods for fighting radicalism. (Those familiar with the history of anti-poverty programs in the United States will not be surprised by this. As Tom Wolfe noted in Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers:
It was no accident that Huey Newton and Bobby Seale drew up the ten-point program of the Black Panther Party one night in the offices of the North Oakland Poverty Center.And printed copies of it on the government mimeograph machines.)
We have learned, again, that some in the West will automatically blame us first.
A week after July 7, I have the same question. Why do they hate us? But the "they" of my question are not the al-Qaeda slaughterers, the jihadis from Leeds and elsewhere and their sympathisers across Europe. I think we know by now why they hate us. The "they" of my question are the massed ranks of so many British opinion-formers.But those same respectable folks are unlikely to join in this criticism, though recent events give it force:
Thanks to the war in Iraq, much of the world sees the British Government as resolute and tough, the French one as appeasing and weak. But in another war, the one against terrorism and radical Islam, the reverse is true: France is the most stalwart nation in the West, even more so than the US, while Great Britain is the very most hapless. Consider:Some of the differences between France and Britain reflect their different legal systems, but it is hard not to wonder whether some in the British legal system are still treating the war on terror as a matter of routine law enforcement, rather than a struggle to the death.
Finally we have learned that attacks such as this one will cause some increase in support for two politically incorrect, but essential, ideas, that Britain has a heritage worth defending, and that moderate Muslims must help defend it.
(*Among them the possibility that this group of four were substitutes brought in after eight similar men were captured last year. Or at least three of the four were. According to this story, the oldest bomber, Mohammed Sadique Khan, was on the arrest list last year, but was missed. So you can't help wondering whether this attack might have been prevented in interrogators had gotten more information from the eight they did arrest.
There is much that is still unknown about the attack; the Times of London published this list of ten unanswered questions, and almost anyone who has followed the news can think of more.
If you want to know more, I would suggest starting with the Times and the Telegraph. The Times, for example, published a fascinating pictorial with data on British Muslims. They are, I learned, about 3 percent of the British population, but about 8 percent of the London population. The Telegraph published this "factfile", which includes links to most, in not all, their stories on the attack.)
- 10:39 PM, 15 July 2005 [link]
Today Is Bastille Day: The French (or at least most of the French) will celebrate it, but should they? Not in my opinion. Before the storming of the Bastille, the odds favored non-violent reform in France, reform that might have led to a constitutional monarchy similar to Britain's; afterward the odds favored what actually happened, the descent into violence, the executions of political opponents, the massacres of peasants in some parts of France, and finally the enormous death toll of the Napoleonic wars. So I won't celebrate Bastille Day, and I don't think the French should either.
My view is the traditional American view. Some American leaders applauded the French Revolution in its early stages, but nearly all came to disapprove of it, as the revolutionary government became more extreme and the death toll mounted. And the undeclared naval war between France and the United States didn't improve our view of the French Revolution.
(Need a review of the historical events behind Bastille Day? You can find them here and here.)
- 9:25 AM, 14 July 2005 [link]
All Right, Just One More Post On Rove: Having said that the controversy was unimportant, I went on to write two posts on it yesterday and am writing a third today. Am I embarrassed? A little. But when a big crowd goes nuts, it is hard to ignore. And so I am doing just one more post, and will try very hard not to come back to this subject, unless something appears that makes it actually important.
Who has gone nuts? The White House Press corps. By my rough count, in the last three days of press briefings, two thirds of the questions have been on Karl Rove, in spite of the fact that there is nothing new, and press secretary Scott McClellan is not answering any questions that might touch on the ongoing investigation. Reading through them, I began to wonder whether these "reporters" might be better employed at Guantánamo interrogating the terrorists there. Assuming such interrogations would not violate the Geneva conventions, that is. (If you want to look at these three amazing sessions, you can find them here, here, and here.)
Who else? Some on the left, including, naturally, "cartoonist" and "columnist" Ted Rall, who asserts the following things in his current column.
Since Karl Rove surfaced last week as the White House official who probably unmasked a covert CIA agent, new developments appear to confirm that the deputy chief of staff and chief Bush political strategist has committed treason:I am not making any of that up, and it will not entirely surprise anyone who has paid much attention to Rall during the last few years.
Now some might say that Rall does not really believe all that and that, like some small boys, he is being outrageous in order to get attention. Perhaps, though when he was on Michael Medved's talk show this afternoon, he did not back down and went so far as to say Rove deserved the death penalty (though Rall is an opponent of the death penalty). Rall was not so sure about Osama bin Laden, who he thinks should not be prejudged in advance of his trial.
But let's set Rall aside and look at a post from another leftist Ted, Ted Barlow, writing at the leftist academic site, Crooked Timber (though Barlow himself does not seem to be a academic). Barlow does not, as far as I can tell, favor the death penalty for Rove, but he does seem convinced that Rove did something terrible. (Though I must say that Barlow does not seem to be completely up on the facts of the case.)
Still another leftist, Young Goodman Brown, has a different view, as you can see in his comments to this post; he doesn't express outrage (or pretended outrage), he expresses enjoyment, for example: "This continues to be simply ... delicious." That's honest, if not particularly admirable.
(It is hard for me to believe that Rall and Barlow do not actually have views closer to Brown's. The left is not, after all, famous for worrying about protecting our intelligence assets. I doubt that either were perturbed when Democratic Senator Patrick was dropped from the Senate Intelligence Committee because he kept revealing secrets. And I doubt that either of them were bothered when, more recently, Democratic Senator John Kerry revealed the confidential name of a CIA employee. But perhaps they really do believe what they write; people can work up real emotions when they battle against people they despise — whether those emotions follow from any reasonable analysis or not.)
Some, apparently including "Instapundit" Glenn Reynolds, believe that we don't have enough facts to decide who is right and who is wrong in this controversy. And I suppose I would fall in that group.
What we do know, from the information available to the public, is this: Valerie Plame had not been a covert agent for years, long enough, in fact, that revealing her identity would not be a crime. That she worked for the CIA was known outside the agency, though how widely is disputed. A Time magazine reporter, Matt Cooper, called Karl Rove and asked him about a number of other matters, and then threw in a last minute question about Joe Wilson, Plame's husband, who was then attacking the administration. (Some may think it relevant that Cooper's wife is Mandy Grunwald, a "Democratic consultant", in Howard Kurtz's delicate phrase. At the very least, I think we can conclude that he does not often vote for Republicans.) Rove warned Cooper away from the story and said that Wilson had been sent to Niger by his wife.
And we do know four other things, all of which may be relevant. First, Joe Wilson lied repeatedly:
In short, Joe Wilson hadn't told the truth about what he'd discovered in Africa, how he'd discovered it, what he'd told the CIA about it, or even why he was sent on the mission. The media and the Kerry campaign promptly abandoned him, though the former never did give as much prominence to his debunking as they did to his original accusations. But if anyone can remember another public figure so entirely and thoroughly discredited, let us know.Second, the Wall Street Journal seems to be right — at least from what is known publicly — to conclude that Karl Rove has told the truth through this whole affair, to Matt Cooper, and to everyone else. Third, the Bush administration has been trying to get the facts out, by accepting a special prosecutor, and by ordering all their employees to give up any claims of confidentiality. Fourth, New York Times reporter Judith Miller has gone to jail rather than testify about what she knows. Her silence has the full support of her newspaper, which defends it, as James Taranto notes, as necessary to protect the public's right to know. Mere presidents and vice presidents may have to testify, as they have in this case, but New York Times reporters belong to a higher order, I suppose.
Those four things aren't enough to clear up the controversy, but they are enough to make me think that Rove will survive this without much damage — if all the facts get out.
(I saw still another reaction from a leftist that deserves some comment. Josh Marshall didn't bother to address the arguments made in the Wall Street Journal editorial; he just smeared the editorial writers:
On the other hand, can you blame them? Most of the kids there want White House jobs or other GOP-based promotionsAfter that gob of mud, I think it fair to wonder about Marshall's own motivations.
Just below that Marshall quotes a former CIA employee, who has his facts wrong, as Tom Maguire points out. But maybe Maguire and I are being picky in worrying about mere facts.)
- 9:20 PM, 13 July 2005 [link]
Now, Can We Call them terrorists?
A suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children and detonated his explosives Wednesday, killing up to 27 other people, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. One U.S. soldier and about a dozen children were among the dead.Apparently not, because you will not find either "terror" or "terrorist" in the article. And this article is from the Associated Press, which is a little less biased than the BBC or Reuters.
An Iraqi mother has more sense than most Western news organizations.
At Kindi hospital, where many of the dead and injured were taken, one distraught woman swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried as she pounded her own head in grief.If you can't call people who deliberately murder innocent children, "terrorists", who can you call terrorists?
- 9:20 AM, 13 July 2005 [link]
BugMeNot: Reading as many newspapers on line as I do, I often run into their registration barriers. If the newspaper is one I expect to come back to often, I'll take the time to register. If not, I'll usually skip the story. I don't object to the registration requirements in principle; newspapers do need ad revenue to support their on line sites. But I do find some of the registration questions too intrusive (and likely to generate lies from annoyed readers) and I do find some of the registration procedures far too complicated.
The worst I have found yet is at the New York Post, which requires you to fill out a form on line and then fill out more forms after you receive an email in reply. Yesterday, wanting to read this opinion piece by John Podhoretz, I filled out the on line form — but never received their reply email. And when I tried to start over, it recognized me, said I was half way through and then would not allow me even to start over. (I would guess that their automated email reply system has flaws, and I may be able to register by complaining, as they suggest I do.)
That annoyed me, so I tried another alternative, BugMeNot, which, as most you probably know, maintains false registrations on a great many sites and allows you to use those registrations to get into the site. BugMeNot didn't work for me, either, though it did work for some — though not all — of the readers at Lucianne who wanted to read the same piece.
Even though it didn't work for me this time, I am going to add BugMeNot to this site, in a new category, "Internet Tools", which for now is under "References". (And, if you have any suggestions for other tools in that category, let me know.)
- 7:39 AM, 12 July 2005 [link]
Setting The Barrier To The Supreme Court As High As It Can Go: Don Surber read what Senator Biden said more carefully than I did.
We have a historic opportunity to begin uniting the nation, and honoring Justice O'Connor, by again selecting a nominee who can be confirmed with unanimous support.As Surber points out, the requirement of unanimity gives any single senator a veto. Which is a much better than the forty-one votes a filibuster requires. There is not a single justice on the court who would win a unanimous vote, if they had to be reconfirmed — and that includes Justice O'Connor.
- 2:38 PM, 12 July 2005 [link]
A Hoary Old Reporter's Trick? As I just said, the current Karl Rove controversy strikes me as telling us more about how petty our press is than anything else. But there is one possibility that interests me, because of what it tells us about the way reporters operate.
I learned about this trick from Tony Hillerman's detective novel, The Fly on the Wall. Unlike his other detective stories, this one takes place in the Midwest, not the Southwest, and the protagonist is not a Navajo detective, but a political reporter at a state capital. The reporter, John Cotton, is investigating the mysterious death of another reporter, John "Mac" McDaniels. Since Cotton suspects that the death may be connected to the big story McDaniels was chasing, he is questioning people who talked to him recently to try to discover what that story was. After questioning the governor and learning that McDaniels had given up a scoop, Cotton comes to this conclusion:
No reporter would have suppressed a story simply to accommodate a politician. To do so violated ethics, common sense and competitive instincts. Mac must have sat on the bonding story to protect his source. And yet he hadn't hesitated to let the Governor know that he had a leak somewhere. That didn't seem to matter. For some reason, Mac wanted the information confirmed, even though he didn't plan to use it. He had confirmed it by using a hoary old reporter's trick. He had presented the Governor his rumor as if it were fact and Roark [the governor] had walked right into the trap.How is this relevant to the Rove story? It seems possible that one or more reporters used the trick to confirm the rumors about Wilson's wife, that they asked Rove for his reactions on the fact that she was in the CIA. They might do that if, for example, they wanted to have two sources on the story.
(Later in the story, Hillerman learns that one of his colleagues has, in fact, suppressed the story to accommodate a politician. And I suspect you can think of other examples of reporters doing the same thing — especially for Democratic politicians.
The "hoary old trick" also tells us something about the work day morals of reporters. It is not just acceptable, it is admirable, in their view, to lie, in order to trick some facts out of a public official.)
- 11:08 AM, 12 July 2005
More: This AP story claims that Rove learned about Plame from reporters, not vice versa, which is consistent with the possibility that he was the victim of a "hoary, old reporter's trick". And, if true, it should end the claim that Rove did something terrible.
- 2:29 PM, 15 July 2005 [link]
Our Petty Press: Try this experiment. Ask a friend to list the five most important problems the world faces. Then ask them to list the five most important problems the United States faces. I very much doubt that whether Karl Rove may have revealed that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA will make either list. Which will show you that your friend should not look for a job at one of our major news organizations. If you read this transcript of yesterday's press conference at the White House, you will see that minor matters, such as Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons, or the state of the economy, or the problems caused by immigration, do not come up at all. There are instead endless, tendentious questions on Karl Rove.
These reporters, who must rank very high in their news organizations, are obsessed with this minor matter for partisan reasons — as anyone can figure out. They see a chance to win a fight with the Bush administration and so they concentrate on what Karl Rove may or may not have said to reporters two years ago instead of on important issues. The nation deserves better from our news organizations. If these reporters can't put aside their partisanship and show some sense of proportion, they should be fired. (Not that I expect that to happen. If you look at the front page stories from the New York Times and the Washington Post, you'll see that the editors at those newspapers have the same partisanship and the same lack of proportion as the reporters at the press conference.)
What makes this particular confrontation ironic is that these same newspapers — in this same dispute — are arguing that they should be allowed to print secret information with no consequences. In other words, their position is that a White House aide, or, I should say, a Republican White House aide, should be dismissed and perhaps prosecuted for leaking information, but newspapers that print that information should be honored. And they seem completely unaware of how much their double standards disgust the public.
(There is actually a medium sized news story here, though the press has missed all the really interesting parts of the story. It is quite clear from published reports that a rogue faction at the CIA set out to undermine the Bush administration in various ways. This is an extraordinarily dangerous development — if, that is, you believe that elections should determine who controls policy. But since nearly everyone in our news organizations agree with these rogues at the CIA, we have heard little about their operations.
Those who, unlike me, want to follow this trivial story could start here and here.)
- 8:13 AM, 12 July 2005
More: Mark in Mexico counted and classified the questions in that "news conference". There were 59 questions altogether, 42 of them on Karl Rove.
- 2:53 PM, 12 July 2005 [link]
Doily Or Hyperbolic Space? Mathematician Daina Taimina can crochet either for you, though she prefers the second. And I must say that the results, some of which you can see in this article, are quite beautiful, as well as instructive.
Math professors have been teaching about hyperbolic space for decades, but did not think it was possible to create an exact physical model. In the 1970's, some educators, including Dr. Taimina's husband, David Henderson, a math professor at Cornell, created hyperbolic models, but the first ones, made from paper and cellophane tape, were too fragile to be of much use.And the results fascinated both math professors and crocheters.
(Has hyperbolic space unaccountably slipped your mind? Here's the explanation from the article.
Dr. Taimina, a math researcher at Cornell University, started crocheting the objects so her students could visualize something called hyperbolic space, which is an advanced geometric shape with constant negative curvature. Say what?I fear that wouldn't satisfy a mathematician, but it may give the rest of us a vague idea.
Here's a link to her pieces at the gallery. And here's a general link to the Sculptural Knitting and Crochet exhibition. There are fifteen sets of work, fourteen of them by women (judging by the names), and one set by a couple.)
- 4:52 PM, 11 July 2005 [link]
Those Heartbreaking Pictures From Darfur are drawn by children who survived the horrors — but have not forgotten them.
A crayon drawing by "Taha," who is 13 or 14 and lives in North Darfur, showed helicopters in the sky and houses engulfed in flames. "Now my nights are hard because I feel frightened," says the label accompanying the drawing. "We became homeless."And somehow the children's pictures have more emotional impact than the cold statistics. But if you combine the two, you get even more impact. The deaths in Darfur since February 2003, when the rebellion began there, are variously estimated at 180,000, 200,000, and 400,000. To fully grasp the horror in Darfur, imagine multiplying the Taha and Salah's stories perhaps 100,000 times. Or, for Americans, especially here in the Northwest, imagine multiplying Shasta Groene's story 100,000 times. We have been horrified, and rightly, by that single case, but as Taha and Salah could tell us, it would be routine for Darfur.
And, though the "mainstream" media will not stress this point, I must add that those attacks in Darfur have been by Arab Muslims on black Muslims — and almost no one in the Muslim world has protested these rapes and murders.
(How did Darfur happen to become part of Sudan? One of those historical accidents. When the British acquired Sudan in 1898, they allowed Darfur to become independent under one of its traditional rulers, Ali Dinar. During World War I, he attacked the British in Sudan out of sympathy for the Islamic rulers of the Ottoman empire, whom the British were then fighting. They defeated him and included Darfur in Sudan. Interestingly, Darfur has a much longer history than Sudan. It existed as an independent country from about 1600 until late in the 19th century, when it was conquered first by the Egyptians and then by the Mahdists of the Sudan.
And, in discussing the Sudan we should never forget, that, as horrific as the carnage is in Darfur, it is still much less than the carnage in the southern Sudan, where a decades long series of attacks by the northerners (Muslim and Arab speaking) on the inhabitants of the south (pagan or Christian and of pure African descent) probably resulted in 2,000,000 deaths. There is now, thanks to the efforts of the Bush administration, especially Colin Powell, a settlement in that war. We can only hope that the southerners will get the peace and the independence that they deserve. And there are some hopeful signs. One refugee group has already walked half the 230 miles to their old home.)
- 1:54 PM, 11 July 2005
Correction: An alert emailer told me that I got Groene's first name wrong originally. It is "Shasta", not "Sasha". I have corrected it above.
- 9:44 PM, 13 July 2005 [link]
"Wretchard" of Belmont Club is Richard Fernandez. He revealed his identity after he was quoted in the Times of London. Under either name, he is consistently worth reading.
- 10:42 AM, 11 July 2005 [link]
Site Pests: One reason I have not added comments to this site, and probably will not, is the problem of site pests. Site pests have many different tactics; one favorite is to change the subject. If, for example, you write a post on the problems of Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election, a few commenters are certain to raise the issue of the Florida 2000 recounts.* Others will just resort to personal insults, especially if they sense that they are losing the argument. And a few will use your site to propound their own bizarre views, without really responding to the facts or arguments that you presented.
There is a quite remarkable example of that last case in this brief post I wrote for Oh, That Liberal Media. When I wrote the post, I didn't expect many comments or much disagreement. I thought mentioning the massacre at Wounded Knee — in the second sentence of an article celebrating the 115th birthday of a Dutch woman — was such an obvious case of media bias that even the usual critics would pass it over, or even concede the point — for this one article. I was wrong.
One "KB", who appears to be a member of the Chomsky cult**, simply refused to admit, in comment after comment, that making a connection between Wounded Knee and the Dutch woman was bizarre. KB was joined by one Tom Murphy who, though not quite as entertaining as KB, is just as obsessed. Both probably think of themselves as intellectuals; both will remind many of Orwell's famous remark about intellectuals:
You have to be an intellectual to believe such nonsense. No ordinary man could be such a fool.It is entertaining, at least for a while, to read comments from people who assert that Michael Moore is a centrist, that they have never read anything anti-American, or that there are no liberals on network TV. But it is not very productive. And policing their comments, if I allowed them here, would take more time than I want to spend.
(*Remarkably, I had a site pest (or the equivalent) do that while I was standing in line to see the some of the Tall Ships in Tacoma on July 3rd. My oldest nephew and I were standing in line behind a couple with a baby. We had not spoken to them, other than to admire the baby. I mentioned this site pest problem to my nephew, using the Washington 2004-Florida 2000 example. The young man immediately turned around, interrupted us, and told us that Florida 2000 was relevant to the election problems here. I was so surprised that I did not make a very good reply. I considered telling his wife (girlfriend?) that he should not be allowed out until she had given him better training, but that seemed a little harsh.
This young man, from everything I could tell, was serious in his argument. But many site pests are not. They raise irrelevant issues to distract readers from your argument and do so intentionally. It is best not to reply to them, but it is easy to forget that when you see some particularly annoying assertion or nasty insult.
**For more on the Chomsky cult, see my set of posts on the right, beginning with this one.
Since I criticized KB and Tom Murphy by name, I'll extend this offer to them. If they email a brief falsifiable argument to me on any of their points, I will answer it. For example, if they wish to argue that there are no liberals on network TV, then they should explain what evidence would convince them to change their mind. If no evidence would change their mind, then their argument is not falsifiable, and it would be pointless for me to spend time assembling facts for them.)
- 8:51 AM, 11 July 2005 [link]
That Didn't Last Long: As I mentioned in this post, after the London bombings the BBC began calling terrorists by that name. That honesty lasted about a day. The BBC is now calling the terrorists, "bombers", and other softer names. They even went back and changed earlier articles, replacing the word they find so offensive.
Other bloggers did all the work of chasing this BBC switch down; here are examples from Gene at Harry's Place, Meryl Yourish, and Donald Sensing.
Gene thinks that some BBC official directed the writers to make the change. That explanation is almost certainly correct. Which means that — less than 24 hours after the worst terrorist attack on Britain in years — a BBC official thinks the most important part of their job is to stop their underlings from calling it a terrorist attack, and stop their underlings from calling those who murdered more than fifty innocent people, terrorists.
(Thanks to the posters and commenters at Biased BBC for spotting all these examples.)
- 6:05 AM, 11 July 2005
More: John Simpson, the BBC World Affairs editor, no less, is now calling the terrorists, "misguided criminals".
- 8:38 AM, 12 July 2005 [link]