July 2007, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Do TV Journalists Have A Sense Of Humor? That's what I was wondering this morning after watching a few minutes of TV coverage of Al Gore's Live Earth concerts. Now I suppose some print journalists do; there is more than a little skepticism in that Reuters article, but those I saw on TV seemed to take the whole thing seriously; they seemed to believe that rock stars flying in private jets to play amplified music at giant concerts might somehow save the earth. You don't have to be a global warming skeptic to realize that idea is absurd — but you do have to be smarter than the average TV talking head.
Tim Blair is way smarter than the average TV talking head, and he found the event hilarious. As did I after I found out that Madonna, who is famous for her modest life style, had this solution to global warming
"If you want to save the planet, I want you to start jumping up and down!" Thus Madonna revealed her plan to combat global warming. Clad in a black satin leotard, she gyrated with dancers and simulated sex with an amplifier and a guitar. Along with the Foo Fighters, the 48-year-old Queen of Pop transformed a Live Earth concert that at times had seemed earnest and slow."Jumping up and down." Now why didn't I think of that?
(The "Gore effect" did hit one of these concerts, the one in Johannesburg.)
- 3:27 PM, 8 July 2007
More: One TV correspondent, CNN's Lola Ogunnaike, did find the spectacle absurd. NBC may be regretting televising the event; they came in last in the ratings.
- 2:46 PM, 9 July 2007 [link]
More Thoughts On The Libby Case: Yesterday, a local reporter called me to do an interview on the Libby case, in particular President Bush's partial commutation of Libby's sentence. Preparing for the interview made me go back over the investigation and the trial and summarize my thoughts. These are not final thoughts, since there are still many events that are obscure, at least to me, but they should give you an idea of my current thinking.
(Incidentally, I agree — partly — with Noah's criticism of Bush. I think he could and should have done more to clean up the Texas judicial system while governor, and that he has issued too few pardons and commutations as president.)
- 9:55 AM, 8 July 2007 [link]
The Gang Of Four, Part 1: Every Friday, four local journalists discuss current events (and, often, their own columns) on the Weekday program on our local PBS affiliate, KUOW. Usually, the host is KUOW's Steve Scher, and the three guests are Knute Berger, who edited an alternative paper, the Seattle Weekly, for many years (and now has what appear to be a couple of part-time jobs), Susan Paynter of the Seattle PI, and Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times.
From time to time, I listen to the program, though I usually do so, as I mentioned here, as a pathologist. I am interested in why our "mainstream" news organizations are failing, why they are losing readers, watchers, and listeners, why "mainstream" journalists are held in such disdain by the public. And listening to Weekday often gives me some clues on those questions.
If I had just two adjectives to describe the typical Gang of Four show, I would choose partisan and frivolous. Not partisan in the sense of supporting the Democratic party — though they do — but partisan in the sense that they treat moderates and conservatives very differently than they treat leftists. Today's show provided examples for each adjective.
After discussing the surprise resignation of Mike Hargrove, the Mariners manager, they moved to a discussion of a political topic, and those who are familiar with the show will not be surprised by their choice. Not the doctors' plot in Britain, the most dramatic story of the week, not the good news on the economy, the most important story of the week, but Bush's partial commutation of Lewis Libby's sentence. None of the four seemed willing to consider the idea that Libby might be innocent, or even that his sentence might be unfair — though it is at far end of the Justice Department guidelines. And all of the four had the leftist talking points on the subject down pat.
None of the four seem to understand why President Bush had chosen a partial commutation, though the explanation for that is simple enough. Giving Libby a partial commutation allows him to stay out of jail while he appeals the verdict, while he seeks justice in a higher court. That's unfair only if you know for certain that Libby is guilty.
As he often does, Knute Berger contributed some nasty speculation on how evil the Bush administration is, without, as usual, providing a single bit of evidence for his speculation. The other three, as usual, just chuckled at Berger's nasty irresponsibility. (They may have trouble understanding why I object to this, so let me give them a personal example. Though I often disagree with the Gang of Four, it would be wrong for me to speculate, without evidence, on crimes they may have committed.)
From that partisan topic, the Gang of Four moved to a frivolous topic, a story about coyotes in Seattle, which is not news because it is not new. Even there, they missed something interesting. Though pets, especially cats, are often lost to city coyotes, they can also be dangerous to people. Some years ago, a coyote killed a toddler in Los Angeles, a story so dramatic that I would think that experienced journalists would have heard of it. (Of course, as you may know, Seattle has many more pets than children, so the four may just have been catering to a large segment of their audience.)
When I listen to the show, I often end up grading the gang for partisanship. I have tried different grading schemes, but have finally settled on this one: If the program is entirely partisan (on the left) they get a zero. The grade rises as they include more ideas from moderates and conservatives. The ideal score would be a .5, showing an even balance. Today the score was a typical .05. Why .05, rather than 0? Because they did laugh at the Clintons' criticism of the Libby commutation. Or at least three of the four did; Berger did not seem to join the other three in finding that amusing.
You may wonder whether any listeners made moderate or conservative points. In fact, none did, at least none whose calls were taken, or whose emails were read. And, from listening to the program for some time, I think I can say that Steve Scher does little to encourage comments from the center, or the right. (I do, by the way, include what the listeners say in the program's grade.)
There are, I think, lessons in what I heard on the program this morning, lessons that help explain the decline in trust for "mainstream" journalists, lessons that help explain why their audiences are shrinking. I don't plan to make those lessons explicit, but I do plan to listen to the program again from time to time, and give you more reports like this one. And I think that, over time, you may come to the same conclusions that I have about our "mainstream" journalists — if you have not done so already.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 1:36 PM, 6 July 2007
Correction: What I originally wrote is that the Libby sentence was outside the Justice Department guidelines. That went too far, and I have corrected it above. And I should have added that the sentence went far beyond what the probation office recommended. In fact, defense attorney (and leftist) Jeralyn Merritt thought, after seeing that recommendation, that an ordinary defendant in the same situation as Libby would get no jail time at all.
I'm wondering if Judge Walton will have the wherewithal to sentence Libby to probation given the high profile nature of the case. But, in an ordinary case, given a pre-sentence report as favorably described as this one, I think that would be the outcome.In other words, Merritt believes that the sentence was, at least in part — political.
- 9:05 AM, 7 July 2007 [link]
One Bishop In The Episcopal Church has some common sense.
The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, a local Episcopal priest who announced she is both Muslim and Christian, will not be able to serve as a priest for a year, according to her bishop.A timeout is a fitting punishment for this troubled woman.
Whether anyone at Seattle University, which has hired Redding as a part time instructor, also has common sense, is yet to be determined. Seattle University is a "Jesuit Catholic university". That a university with that background hired Redding will amuse some — and distress many others. Believe it or not, the Jesuits were once famous for their intellect.
(Earlier posts on Reverend (Imam?) Redding here and here.)
- 7:21 AM, 6 July 2007 [link]
Can You Guess Who's Performing At The German "Live Earth" Concert? A man once named Cat Stevens, but now going by "Yusuf Islam". A man once famous for songs such as Peace Train, but now best known for his radical Islamic views and his desire that author Salman Rushdie be burned to death. (Despite, I suppose, the CO2 that would produce.)
One would think that the PR people for these concerts would see that Islam brings a negative or two with him, and would have vetoed him.
(For the record, I would have missed this question.)
- 4:50 PM, 5 July 2007 [link]
Cheap, Dangerous, And Hard To Spot: That describes the homemade bombs that Al Qaeda has been using in Western countries.
The 39-page memo recovered from an al-Qaeda laptop computer in Pakistan three years ago read like an Idiot's Guide to Bombmaking. Forget military explosives or fancy detonators, it lectured. Instead, the manual advised a shopping trip to a hardware store or pharmacy, where all the necessary ingredients for a terrorist attack are stocked on the shelves.But they can still kill, and some have.
In the wealthy societies that radical Islamists are now attacking, there is no lack of materials that can be used to kill. In fact, anyone with a little technical knowledge can think of some ways to cause even more deaths, ways they haven't used yet, ways I don't intend to mention here. Although we can, and should control some of these materials, we must recognize that our enemies will almost always be able to get some of those materials.
(One of the recipes that the jihadists (and other terrorists) have used was actually disseminated by the federal government. The recipe used for the "antiwar" Sterling Hall bombing actually came from the Agricultural Extension Service, which had published it in order to save farmers money on explosives. That same recipe was used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing and in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Incidentally, according to this article, the London bombs failed because medical syringes used in the detonator did not work properly. I hope that story is false, that the authorities lied to the journalists in order to deceive other Al Qaeda bomb makers.)
- 4:08 PM, 5 July 2007 [link]
Welcome To These New Citizens: I think we can conclude that they meant it when they took the oath.
U.S. soldiers and Marines filed into the marble hall of Saddam Hussein's former Al Faw Palace on Independence Day as foreigners at home as well as here. But they left the room as American citizens.For years I have suspected that many new US citizens did not believe the citizenship oath when they took it, but these new citizens are showing, in the clearest possible way, that they do.
(Here's the current citizenship oath.)
- 7:34 AM, 5 July 2007 [link]
Wonder What Kind Of Mileage A Prius Gets at 100 miles per hour?
The 24-year-old son of former Vice President Al Gore was arrested for drug possession on Wednesday after he was stopped for speeding in his hybrid Toyota Prius, a sheriff's official said.Not as good as the EPA estimates, I suspect.
- 7:12 AM, 5 July 2007
Roger Simon has some sympathy for Al Gore III, as do I — though not quite as much as he does. Celebrity kids do have it harder in some ways, but they also have advantages that most of us don't.
- 4:27 PM, 5 July 2007 [link]
Happy 4th Of July! And don't forget who made it possible.
(Picture taken near the end of Kirkland's 4th of July parade.)
- 2:33 PM, 4 July 2007 [link]
Another Victoria Cross Awarded: This one to New Zealander Bill Apiata.
A 35-year-old corporal who carried a badly wounded colleague to safety across a battlefield in Afghanistan has been awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military honor among British Commonwealth countries.There are some remarkable men among our allies in the war on terror, and we should honor their skill and bravery. I was pleased to see that President Bush had already given Corporal Apiata's unit a Presidential Citation.
You can find a longer description of Apiata's feat here, and you can read some messages of congratulation here.
And, though I would like to avoid this last point, I can not. As of the time I wrote this post, I could not find a single mention of this story in any American newspaper, when I used Google News to search on "Apiata". (The International Herald Tribune, though owned by the New York Times, is mostly sold overseas.) The story has not yet appeared on either the BBC site or the New York Times site — unless their search routines are defective. We should honor our heroes, not ignore them.
(Beharry Johnson and Bryan Budd also were awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during the war on terror, Budd posthumously.)
- 7:56 AM, 3 July 2007 [link]
A Doctors' Plot? This is strange.
The suspected al-Qa'eda terrorists behind the attempted car bomb attacks on Britain were almost all foreign doctors working in the NHS, it can be disclosed today.Another blow to the theory that most terrorists are deprived.
(If the phrase seems vaguely familiar, it may be because you know something about Stalin's last days.)
- 7:38 PM, 2 July 2007
More: Another doctor has been arrested in Australia.
Like me, you may be wondering how many foreign doctors are employed in Britain, and whether anyone checks their political views before they are hired. The answers to those questions are "nearly 128,000" and no. (And a spokeswoman for Britain's National Health Service, Sian Thomas, says they don't intend to start making such checks. I think they ought to at least think about that idea, at least if they want doctors who agree with this ancient principle: "First, do no harm.")
- 6:12 AM, 3 July 2007 [link]
George Bush Commuted Scooter Libby's Jail Sentence: So I thought I would write a post predicting that the New York Times would do a nasty editorial attacking the decision — and when I sat down to write the post, I found that they had already posted the editorial I was about to predict. Oh, well, I wasn't going to claim that it is difficult to predict what our newspaper of record will say.
For the record, I think President Bush did the right thing. The commutation gives Libby a chance to fight the rest of the sentence, while staying out of jail. I doubt that he is guilty of anything other than having an imperfect memory, and I am sure he did not receive a fair trial. (If you are wondering why I think that, I will just mention one point. The case rested on different recollections, but Judge Walton did not allow memory experts to testify. Those experts would have said that the different recollections were just what one should expect in these circumstances. In fact, what would be suspicious would be if the recollections agreed entirely.)
- 7:24 PM, 2 July 2007 [link]
Vote Suppression In Mississippi, Part 3: John Fund summarizes the latest developments.
Last week a federal district judge found direct evidence that the political machine in Noxubee County, Miss., had discriminated against voters with the intent to infringe their rights and that "these abuses have been racially motivated."You have heard about it if you read this site regularly; I wrote about the case last October and last January.
As I said in January, aside from the racial angle (and perhaps Ike Brown's brazen actions), what strikes me most about this story is how familiar it all sounds, especially the use of absentee ballots to commit the vote fraud.
- 2:15 PM, 2 July 2007 [link]
Some Times You Need A Tabloid Newspaper To Explain Things: As the Sun does here.
Hundreds of women were feared to have been the target of yesterday's first chilling car bomb — left outside a top London nightclub on a packed LADIES' NIGHT.(That use of a second bomb is a very common terrorist tactic, so the idea is entirely plausible.)
Women were targeted because our terrorist enemies despise the freedoms that Western women have, and because we see attacks on women as more horrifying than attacks on men.
(If you are like me, you may need a translation of some of the slang in the article. "Slag" more or less means "slut" and "totty" more or less means "hotty" or "hotties".) .
- 10:03 AM, 2 July 2007 [link]
Iraq And Al Qaeda: Most leftists now believe that Saddam did not cooperate with the terrorist organization. And they often cite statements from the CIA in support of that argument. But that isn't what the CIA was finding — prior to the liberation of Iraq. Intelligence analyst Christina Shelton corrects the record.
On Aug. 15, 2002, I presented my part of a composite Pentagon briefing on al-Qaeda and Iraq to George Tenet, then CIA director. In his recent book, "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet wrote that I said in opening remarks that "there is no more debate," "no further analysis is required" and "it is an open-and-shut case."Finding, but not reporting, because, as she goes on to say in the next sentence, "analysts were not addressing these reports since much of the material did not surface in finished, disseminated publications". So the CIA had raw data showing some cooperation between the dictator and the terrorist organization, but that cooperation was not showing up in their reports.
Why not? Most likely because some in the CIA opposed Bush policies, and distorted their analyses to support their political goals. (And I suppose some in the CIA may have ignored the evidence all along, for a variety of reasons.)
(I would like to think that it was just a coincidence that this piece was published on a Saturday, the least-read day for most newspapers — but I can't)
- 5:59 AM, 2 July 2007 [link]
Happy Birthday To Our Northern Neighbor! You don't look a day over 140. Canadians have much to be proud about, much to admire, in both their past and their present. It is good to have you as neighbors. (And I hope that we can behave in a way so that most of you can have the same feelings toward us.)
(Most Americans know even less about Canadian history than our own, so a quick summary of Canada's birth, taken from Colin McEvedy's Atlas of North American History, may be in order.
The British had been alarmed to hear that in the run-up to the Civil War some Americans had proposed invading Canada as an alternative to fighting among themselves. This off-hand attitude suggested that if British North America was to survive it needed stronger political identity. Britain's answer was an act of Parliament which, in 1867, established the Dominion of Canada. The original components were Canada itself, in the form of the twin provinces of Ontario and Quebec, plus New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company transferred its charter lands to the Dominion in return for a handsome payment. A portion became the province of Manitoba; the major part was administered directly as the Northwest Territories. British Columbia joined the next year after getting a promise from the Dominion authorities to build a railroad across the Rockies within the next ten years. The government was slow to start this project but got the job finished almost on schedule, the Canadian Pacific finally opening for traffic in 1885. For laying the political foundation for the Dominion, credit is traditionally, and justly, given to its chief architect and first prime minister, John A. MacDonald. (p. 102)Prince Edward Island joined in 1873, Alberta and Saskatchewan were created in 1905 out of parts of the Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland joined in 1949.
Here's the Wikipedia article on Canada's first prime minister, John MacDonald, if you want to know more about that remarkable man.)
The United States began with percussion, Canada with strings, but both are fine compositions, in spite of those very different beginnings.
- 7:00 PM, 1 July 2007 [link]
Because They Aren't Liberals? Liberal columnist David Broder is puzzled.
If you believe most of the newspaper editorials and the outraged complaints from self-styled reform groups last week, the Supreme Court opened a huge "loophole" in campaign finance law that will enable corporations and unions to pollute the political process with their ads.The ad was banned by a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign "reform" measure which did not allow issue ads during a campaign "blackout" period before the election. Supporters of free speech thought all along that the provision was unconstitutional, that it was forbidden by the First Amendment. Now the Supreme Court has agreed with the common sense position that "Congress shall make no law" means what it says, at least for this provision.
Broder should not be surprised to find "liberals" favoring this restriction on free speech. Most "liberals" are not liberals in the traditional sense of the word, or even in the sense common a half century ago. They have given up their support for freedom of speech, which was once a central part of any liberal's beliefs. Broder has not, but by now should not be surprised, much less astonished, that so many who call themselves "liberal" no longer agree with the clear language of the First Amendment.
(This shift in the meaning of "liberal" is one of the reasons I prefer to call most Democrats "leftists".)
- 6:41 AM, 1 July 2007 [link]