June 2003, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Can Timothy Noah Be Both a Moron and a Liar? Well, yes he can, though this article does not quite demonstrate that. (Slate did not do Noah a favor when it changed his "ignorant" to "moron" in their headline, but I'll let him take care of that complaint.) Commenting on a silly New York Times article, Noah argues that Bush was both ignorant and a liar in two recent statements. Noah is wrong on both examples.
First, Noah quotes Bush as saying that his tax plan would reduce "reduce tax rates for everyone who pays income tax". Noah tries to contradict this with a table from a study made by two leftist think tanks, the Urban Institute and Brookings, that shows that some taxpayers will not receive tax cuts from the most recent tax bill. Noah makes two mistakes in using the table: (1) When Bush talks about his tax plan, he is not referring just to the latest bill, but to all of his tax cuts, including the first, which established a new 10 per cent rate for all taxpayers. That's why Bush says "plan", rather than "bill". The table describes the effects of the latest bill, not the entire tax plan. (2) Bush qualifies his statement with "who pays income tax", a point Noah ignores. Those in the table who do not benefit from the latest round of tax cuts are, for the most part, not paying income taxes. (There are some with very low incomes who would have benefited from the first round of cuts, but not the latest.) Bush is right on his tax rate claim, and Noah is wrong.
Second, Noah attacks Bush for claiming that trucks found in Iraq were the mobile weapons labs described by Powell in his speech to the UN. As Noah says, some people now have doubts about the trucks. When Bush made that speech in Poland, most American experts were agreed that the trucks were mobile weapons labs. (I'm not sure if any of those with doubts about that description have gone on record.) So Bush was simply repeating what separate teams of experts had concluded before he made the speech. It is absurd to claim that repeating the conclusions of most experts is lying, even if one can find other experts who disagree.
Do these two errors make Noah a "moron" or a "liar"? No, but they do show a carelessness about facts and a recklessness in making accusations that should make readers distrust anything he writes, especially on the Bush administration.
- 7:16 AM, 24 June 2003
Update: Day before yesterday, I botched the explanation of Noah's errors on taxes. I have re-written the post to correct it. (Note to self: Don't write posts before you have had your morning coffee and don't put them on the Web site while you are still angry.)
- 8:04 AM, 26 June 2003 [link]
Buckley's Bakke Question: After the 1978 Supreme Court's Bakke decision, which said that you could use race as one factor in admitting students, William Buckley asked an interesting question: If you wanted to write a law to prevent the University of California from discriminating against Allan Bakke, how would you do it? The Supreme Court did not think that the "equal protection" phrase in the 14th Amendment, or even more explicit language in the 1964 Civil Rights law and similar legislation, prohibited racial preferences, so Buckley wondered what would. Buckley concluded that naming Bakke in the law might work, but he wasn't sure that anything less would.
There is now a partial answer to Buckley's question in yesterday's Supreme Court decisions on Michigan's use of racial preferences in admission to the university, and to the law school. The Supreme Court explicitly said, I learn from Professor Volokh, that state initiatives, like Washington's Initiative 200, can prohibit racial preferences. This leaves me genuinely puzzled, because the Washington initiative was modeled on the 1964 federal Civil Rights statute and even borrowed language from it. The court seems to be saying that, if the voters are crude enough to stop racial preferences, we won't interfere, but Congress shouldn't get any ideas about doing the same thing. I say "seems" because I am not a constitutional scholar, and there may be legal reasons why the Court accepts the prohibition of racial preferences in Initiative 200, but not in the 1964 Civil Rights law. So, for those who are constitutional experts, here's Buckley's question, modified: How would you write a national civil rights law to have the same effect as Washington's Initiative 200? (Assuming that's possible.)
(There is an interesting detail in Bakke's rejection that has drawn less attention than it deserves. It seems likely that he was rejected, not because of his race, but because of his political beliefs. There's more than a hint of that in the case, which notes that, in his second try at admission, Bakke got a low score on his interview with Dr. George H. Lowrey, the Chairman of the Admissions Committee. Bakke and Lowrey had clashed over the special admissions program earlier, which Lowrey had helped devise. If Bakke had received a score from Lowrey as high as those in his other interviews, he would have been admitted.)
- 5:45 AM, 24 June 2003 [link]
Even Fallujah, supposedly a hotbed of support for Saddam, and the scene of a deadly clash between American troops and Iraqi demonstrators, is relatively calm now. Iraqi cattle farmer Maher Sadoun says:
The media is making a much bigger story out of Fallujah than it is.This is echoed by Alaa Hussein Hummadi, who helps in his uncle's tire shop:
We don't know what all the fuss is about.On that, they are in agreement with the American troops on the ground:
U.S. service personnel are continually perplexed by the distraught letters and emails from their families, who read or hear about a veritable hunting season on U.S. troops when the casualties - considering the magnitude of invading, pacifying and rebuilding a California-sized country - pale in comparison to any other American war of such magnitude.Don't expect those who are stirring up these fears to change their stories soon.
Here's the full Associated Press article.
- 9:28 AM, 23 June 2003 [link]
Matthew Parris, writing in the Times of London, appealed to another kind of bigotry in his latest attack on the United States and our foreign policy. (The article was available free on line to foreigners only briefly, so I can't link to it.) We are, he explained to his readers, not really English, but German, as the subtle title, "Mein Gott! America is the new Germany", gently suggests. If that didn't make his point clearly enough, he later states that the United States is "the reincarnation of our former European enemy". The United States, Parris thinks, is more like the Kaiser's Germany or maybe even Hitler's than Britain.
Parris rests this argument on one fact about the United States, and much ignorance of our history. The fact is that, since about 1980, slightly more Americans say they are of German descent than British, about 20 per cent for each group. What this means isn't entirely clear given the enormous mixing over the years, but that doesn't bother Parris. He is so fixated on the idea that the United States is the new Germany that he apparently thinks that the Roosevelts were a German family, rather than Dutch. Nor does he understand what kinds of Germans immigrated to the United States. He does not realize that most of the early German immigrants were members of peace churches like the Anabaptists. There was another wave of German immigration after the collapse of the various revolutionary movements in 1848. These immigrants, though few were pacifists, were strong supporters of freedom. Most of them backed Lincoln and the Republican party shortly after they arrived in the United States. Still another wave came from imperial Russia before World War I. For many of these immigrants, one motive for coming to the United States was to avoid serving in the Russian army.
(There is an interesting parallel here to the Japanese immigrants. Those who immigrated to the United States came from a relatively tolerant Japan. Those who immigrated to Brazil a generation later came from a much more militaristic and nationalist country. In World War II, nearly all Japanese-Americans backed the United States, while the Japanese in Brazil were mostly fierce supporters of Japan.)
Parris also ignores how the United States changed these immigrants, as it has so many others. That's a long story, best told in David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed, which describes how folkways from four different British populations still shape our country.
- 9:06 AM, 23 June 2003 [link]
Labour MP Ann Clwyd makes some new friends, which causes problems with her old ones. People on the left simply can't understand how she can be on speaking terms with, believe it or not, neo-conservatives. As she explains:
I don't know what my colleagues would make of me sitting here, listening to neo-conservatives. It's why I haven't talked about it here, people might misunderstand it.Think about that. It is hard to think of another group in the entire world that her colleagues would think can contaminate by mere contact. Nearly everyone on the left in Britain (and most of the rest of Europe) could, without any effort, deliver a speech on the importance of discussions, especially with those that you disagree with. Apparently, they make an exception for one group—American neo-conservatives. There's a word for this attitude, an unpleasant but fitting word, bigotry.
- 7:24 AM, 23 June 2003 [link]
Al Qaeda in Lebanon? This article from the Telegraph claims that al Qaeda has established a base in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. They are said to be persecuting people for their hair cuts and any contact with American institutions.
To me, the most interesting thing in the report is the source of the accusations, "Lebanese intelligence officials". Lebanon has been occupied by Syrian troops for decades now, an occupation that has drawn almost no objections from anyone other than the Lebanese, at least those who have fled from Lebanon. Did the Lebanese officials have the authorization of the Syrians to make this report? If so, why? Perhaps because Syria backs other terrorist groups who are at war with al Qaeda.
- 5:26 PM, 22 June 2003 [link]
Saddam Dead? Maybe, according to this report. I don't think that they use DNA tests on every target.
- 5:07 PM, 22 June 2003 [link]
Jeff Brokaw pays tribute to a classy professional athlete, David Robinson, who has just retired from the Spurs. As well as being on two NBA championship teams, Robinson spent millions of dollars and gave much of his time to help poor kids succeed in school.
Europundit Nelson Ascher speculates that some of America's sharp reaction to France has been caused by the coverage the issue is getting on the net from bloggers. I would add that the bloggers often inform and inspire talk radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt.
Charles Murtaugh explains why, though not a conservative, he reads conservative articles and looks at conservative web sites. Sometimes you learn most from those you disagree with. (Making a point of reading the other side may be more important for those on the left than the right, since it is much harder for those on the right to avoid leftist ideas.)
Randall Parker summarizes what we know (not much) about conditions in North Korea, and explains why neither a preemptive strike nor negotiations is likely to solve the problem.
NZ Pundit catches a New Zealand network in an embarrassing mistake. It is curious that, having overthrown the Taliban regime, which some called Islamofascist, and destroyed Saddam's regime, which also might be called fascist, Bush keeps attracting that label from the know nothing left.
Robert Ray identifies political types in Elizabethans Robert Cecil and Sir Walter Raleigh. The post will amuse conservatives, annoy leftists, and intrigue students of Elizabethan history.
Donald Sensing, unlike the New York Times, has no sympathy for the Guantanamo prisoners, who have been treated far better than American prisoners in some past wars.
Bjørn Stærk describes an increasingly common trap for candidates and parties, a declaration of " principles" that prevents debate on controversial issues.
Eugene Volokh, who genuinely believes in free speech, spots a nasty attempt to suppress an Australian's professor's research.
Meryl Yourish has begun tracking Indymedia's coverage of events in Iran with this post. For some reason, the folks at Indymedia don't care much about the struggle of the Iranian students.
- 4:41 PM, 20 June 2003 [link]
Is the American Library Association Pro-Castro? That's the accusation being made by opponents of the Castro regime, who are trying to garner support for the independent libraries in Cuba, at the annual convention of the ALA. This would not be entirely surprising given some of the strange resolutions that have come from the ALA in recent years.
- 8:14 AM, 20 June 2003 [link]
National Public Radio, which I often criticize here, is less biased than its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, claims Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay. If that's true, then the United States can feel fortunate that there is as little anti-Americanism in Canada as there is. NPR is consistently biased against both Israel and the United States; that the CBC (and similar networks abroad) may be even worse goes far to explain why the United States diplomats have such trouble making our case in foreign countries. (Israel, of course, has an even greater problem than we do.) If Kay is right about the greater bias at the CBC, one reason may be a simple one, more feedback here than there. Attacks on the United States are more likely to draw responses here than in other countries, even Canada.
On one point, however, I must disagree with Kay. As one who often listens to NPR, I can tell him that he is wrong to conclude that:
Certainly, no NPR producer would permit the sort of overt bias and basic errors I regularly hear on CBC.Is there "overt bias" at NPR? Of course. Are there basic errors? Often. They may not be as bad as those at the CBC. That's something I don't have the knowledge to judge, but they are there. And it is hard for me to believe that there are CBC programs even worse than the Chomsky cult's "Alternative Radio", as far as errors and bias goes. (At the bottom of the right column, you can find some examples describing their "overt bias and basic errors".) Alternative Radio is carried by some CBC stations, so there may be some Canadian readers who can tell me whether the CBC has even worse programs.
- 8:03 AM, 20 June 2003 [link]
Tens of Thousands of Tons of Chemical Weapons are missing. In Iraq? No, in the Baltic. After World War II, the allies dumped captured Nazi chemical weapons in the Baltic to dispose of them. How much was dumped is uncertain, with estimates ranging from "at least 13,000 tons to more than 200,000 tons". There are some interesting lessons in this. Although there was no deliberate attempt at secrecy, apparently we do not know how much was dumped, or exactly where the weapons are. Hitler, who had few scruples, to put it mildly, did not use these weapons, even as his regime crumbled around him. Although the article does not mention it, the Nazis destroyed many of these weapons near the end of the war, not wanting the weapons to be evidence against them. Yet there are still many people on the left who refuse to believe that Saddam Hussein might have behaved as we know Hitler and the Nazis did, refusing to use chemical weapons even as a last resort, and destroying them before the end of the war.
- 9:19 AM, 19 June 2003 [link]
Dick Morris Accuses the New York Times of getting an exclusive interview with President Clinton in 1996 by promising to cut back on scandal coverage, and letting Clinton choose the questions for the interview. There's nothing new about this practice. Some years ago, a Seattle Times writer admitted to me that he slanted his stories on a certain large software company not far from here, in order to keep his access to them. Usually, however, it is done with a wink and a nod, and the person or company that wants the favorable coverage approaches the journalist, rather than the other way around. There's another ethical lapse in this story, as I learned from the National Review's Corner. Morris did not identify the journalist who did this staged interview with President Clinton, but left enough information so others could. He is Todd Purdum—the husband of former Clinton Press Secretary, Dee Dee Meyers. Now there's a man who can be impartial.
- 8:56 AM, 19 June 2003 [link]
Moderate Left Columnist Tom Friedman says that it is too soon to tell how things are going in Iraq, with about as many positives as negatives. (Interestingly, he argues that the war ended too soon because we did not kill enough Saddam supporters.) Far left reporter Rory McCarthy interviews one of Saddam's soldiers and concludes that things are going badly. Even farther left columnist Seumas Milne says things are going horribly, and justifies the killing of American and British soldiers. By, although he does not mention this, supporters of Saddam, who are being paid bounties, according to American press reports. Since these killings, if they spread, will make things far worse for the Iraqis, it is clear that he is pleased by their suffering. Like many on the left, Milne didn't care about the Iraqi people before the liberation of Iraq and he doesn't care about them now. (Milne may not be aware of this, but his argument would also have justified the killing of allied soldiers in occupied Germany after World War II, which in fact happened, as some Nazis refused to accept defeat.)
And the facts about what is happening in Iraq? Oh, the facts. Last week, I linked to two positive pieces on progress in this post, and at the end of this more recent summary article from Bloomberg, there's even more good news from an American Major General:
Odierno commands 27,000 U.S. troops in an area of northeastern and central Iraq about the size of West Virginia. He listed a series of accomplishments U.S. forces have logged in their efforts to restore stability to Iraq."Equal to or better" than before the liberation. Wonder why Tom Friedman, Rory McCarthy, and Seumas Milne didn't mention that?
- 7:06 AM, 19 June 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: David Warren's column on the rising protests in Iran. Warren says that the Iranian rulers have had to import foreign thugs to repress the students, since they no longer can rely on Iranian thugs. His depiction of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and his heir as revolutionaries, both in religion and Iran is interesting, and seems plausible to me, though I do not know enough of the relevant history to be certain that he is right. And, it is fascinating to learn that:
Among the many charges against Khomeini and his successor Khamenei, the strangest to innocent Western ears would be "polytheism" and "Christianizing." These mullahs claim to be Allah's own representatives on earth; but in Islam generally, and Shia Islam particularly, Allah does not have such representatives. Allah is truly Incomparable, and Muhammad was His very last Prophet. By making Khomeini's claim the mullahs are setting themselves up as alternative prophets, for what must therefore be alternative Gods; hence, "polytheism." Moreover, Khomeini created, almost de novo, a formal, self-replicating, institutional religious hierarchy as the guardian of the Iranian revolution. This strikes traditional Shia Muslims as an attempt to adopt the Christian model of church government; hence, "Christianizing."One hopes Warren is right in predicting that the regime will soon fall, both for the Iranian people and for the peace of the world.
- 9:09 AM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Howard Dean's Hot Talk has made him popular among Democratic activists. It has also led to a number of embarrassing errors, some of which he has apologized for. The Boston Globe passes on this speculation from Vermont political scientist Garrison Nelson about the reasons for Dean's verbal recklessness:
The professor linked the behavior to Dean's history as a doctor.Republican Senate majority leader Bill Frist is not just a doctor, but a surgeon. He doesn't seem to have this problem, but Nelson still may be right about the tendency of doctors not to accept being challenged. The Medpundit, in her post commenting on another article on Dean concludes as follows:
Hmmm. Maybe the physician temperament isn't the best fit for a national leader.Certainly, Howard Dean doesn't seem to have the right temperament to be president. This will not matter, I suspect, to the Democratic activists who are flocking to support him. Most expect to lose to Bush and would rather lose with a candidate who makes them feel good during the campaign, even if he is unfit to be president.
- 8:48 AM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Labour MP Ann Clwyd Cared About the People of Iraq when few others did, and cares about them now. While others are going on a fraudulent chase after Tony Blair for claims about the WMDs, she is helping Iraqis uncover the secrets of Saddam's brutal regime, which may have killed as many as 800,000 Iraqis.
The UN could have gone on passing resolutions and sending in inspectors and rapporteurs for the next 50 years, but in the end there was no realistic alternative to war. Those who bleat about weapons of mass destruction or question the legality of war should talk to the Iraqi people. They are irritated. They ask, "Don't they care about us? About mass graves? About torture?" Stand at the mass grave at al-Hillah where up to 15,000 people are buried, hands tied behind their backs, bullets through their brains. Examine the pitiful possessions found so far: a watch, a faded ID card, a comb, a ring, a clump of black hair. Watch the old woman in her black chador, tattoos on her gnarled hands, looking through the plastic bags on top of unidentified, reburied bodies, for something that will help her to find her son, who disappeared in 1991.No, they don't care, as you can see in the Robson column I linked to below. Iraqis know who to thank for the end to Saddam's killing.
On the streets of Baghdad, WMD is not an issue. "Thanks to Bush and Blair," they cry. I ask what would have happened if they had spoken to me like this in the past on the streets of Baghdad. One man slowly drew his hand, palm down, across his throat.And those who know of her outstanding record on their behalf will say, "Thanks to Ann Clwyd", as well.
- 8:00 AM, 18 June 2003 [link]
British Archaeologist Eleanor Robson, like American art historian John Russell, amplified the lies told by Saddam's officials about the looting of the Baghdad museums. Like Russell, she is not the least bit apologetic for her claims, which included the absurd comparison to the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258. Even worse than Russell, she has not admitted she was wrong. The confession by Donny George that he had lied, the physical evidence showing the original claims were false, the inventory showing that relatively few important items are missing, do not matter to her.
Two months ago, I compared the demolition of Iraq's cultural heritage with the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, and the 5th-century destruction of the library of Alexandria. On reflection, that wasn't a bad assessment of the present state of Iraq's cultural infrastructure.Or, in the vernacular, that's her story, and she's sticking to it. Evidence that doesn't fit her story, like the testimony of most of the staff at the Museum of Antiquities, she dismisses. There is something almost grand in this indifference by a "scientist" to facts that don't fit her theory. (If I were at Oxford, and concerned about the university's reputation, I would re-check all her published work for a similar indifference to evidence, after reading this column.)
You can judge her accuracy from this statement:
It will take years of large-scale international assistance and delicate diplomacy to return the Iraq Museum to functionality.The Museum of Antiquities, which has been closed for months, will reopen within a few weeks.
Russell's motives are clear enough. Like many specialists, he is so enamored of his field that he does not care much about other matters, like the lives of Iraqis and American troops. Robson's are equally clear in this column. She wants to suck up to Saddam appointed officials, like Donny George. I don't think that she has grasped that they may not hold their positions for long.
- 7:33 AM, 18 June 2003 [link]
When Documents Were Found in Baghdad that appeared to show bribes to Labour MP (and opponent of the liberation of Iraq) George Galloway, I commented that charges this extraordinary would require extraordinary proof. The Telegraph now has another bit of proof, in Galloway's admission that he was in Baghdad on the day mentioned in the memos. I'll have to check to see whether the Christian Science Monitor agrees that the Galloway documents they published have already been proved to be fakes, as he claims.
- 6:57 AM, 18 June 2003 [link]
Peru's Shining Path Guerrillas started a civil war that led to the deaths of perhaps 60,000 people, most of them very poor Indian peasants. The Shining Path got support from the Black Panthers, as Elaine Brown boasted in her speech for the Chomsky cult radio program, which I critiqued here. Now there's a progressive cause, killing poor Peruvian peasants.
- 7:53 PM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Kissy Mess Mess is not a name I can resist for a post. Kissy Mess Mess is, if I read the few items that popped up from Google correctly, a neighborhood in the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. There was no explanation of the name in anything I read, except, just possibly, this from my half century old Encyclopedia Britannica, describing the founding of Sierra Leone as a home for freed slaves:
In 1787, the settlement was begun with 400 negroes and 60 Europeans, the whites being mostly women of abandoned character.Would women of abandoned character kissy mess mess? Perhaps. And, what kind of woman would now be considered to have an "abandoned character"? Madonna, in her earlier days?
I probably should not get so much fun out of the neighborhood's name, which I found in this article describing the help given by an American Lieutenant Colonel to a Muslim school in Kissy Mess Mess. The terrible suffering from the civil war there means even the donation of some textbooks and supplies can be a big help to the poor of that country. If one or two of you chuckle, and then look for a way to help Colonel Bonventre, or some other person or group aiding that poor ravaged country, the chuckle will have served a good purpose. My quick search on "Kissy Mess Mess" turned up at least one American Christian charity that helps there, and I am sure there are many others.
- 7:35 PM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Since the End of the Cold War, the BBC has done as much as any organization to spread anti-Americanism. Now, it is celebrating its success. My guess is that the survey is flawed in various ways, and I'll see if I can check on it for you. One mistake is obvious even in this short article.
The survey groups were also asked whether they felt that the American military did enough to avoid civilian casualties during conflicts.Logically, as long as there is even one civilian casualty, the United States could have done more. It's a foolish question. And you don't have to be especially ornery to note that many people, especially in Muslim countries, support terrorist attacks that deliberately kill civilians, even toddlers and babies. Somehow I doubt whether the BBC asked about that.
- 1:31 PM, 17 June 2003 [link]
One Reason We Are Still Looking For Saddam's WMDs: Saddam killed our spies in Iraq, almost all of them according to unnamed intelligence sources. A competent dictator—and in these matters Saddam was more than competent—has many advantages in finding spies. If he is ruthless enough, he can, for example, simply kill all the suspects, if he can not establish which ones are actually spies. And that's just what Saddam did:
From 1991 to 2003, Saddam's security forces killed hundreds of U.S.-linked Iraqi agents, intelligence sources said. Sometimes security officials ferreted the spies out and executed them, and sometimes they made what amounted to lucky kills, executing spies along with non-spies during broader purges.And, though we would rather this were not so, almost everyone can be made to talk in time.
- 1:07 PM, 17 June 2003 [link]
"Beat Up a White Kid" was a May Day ritual at a Cleveland school, according to this article describing an attack on a 13 year old white girl by 18 black and Hispanic youths. That it was a "ritual" suggests to me that it has happened before, but the article does not go into that. Often newspapers and TV stations suppress racial angles when the attacks are by blacks on whites. The Seattle newspapers and TV stations were quite reluctant to mention race after the Mardi Gras riots here several years ago, which led to one death. They were almost forced to do so by the many videotapes, made by both the TV stations and individuals, showing that some black thugs had gone through the crowd targeting whites. In this Cleveland attack, I would guess that it is the charge of "ethnic intimidation" that forced the Plain Dealer to mention the racial motive.
- 8:33 AM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: John Berlau's article from Insight magazine describing the bias at NPR. The quotations from "newscaster" Bob Edwards are devastating.
- 7:57 AM, 17 June 2003
Update: The broadcaster is Bob Edwards, not John Edwards, as I originally wrote. Thanks to two emailers for spotting my error.
- 5:56 PM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Staff at the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities are still charging that some of the looting was an inside job, and are now saying that Donny George, who made many of the false charges about massive looting, was one of the culprits. This Guardian article has the most recent story, along with this evasive correction of the newspaper's many false stories and columns on the subject. The artifacts were "thought to have been looted". The passive voice is such a help when you want to avoid responsibility. Even toddlers know that trick.
- 6:53 AM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Some Political Charges Are So Powerful that they should not be made without substantial evidence, just for the political effects. The current charges, that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair (And Bill Clinton, UN inspector Hans Blix, French intelligence, German intelligence, et cetera, though the critics don't mention these sources.) lied about Saddam's weapons are being made by journalists, politicians, and activists who have not thought about the problem, or, in some cases, do not believe their own arguments. If you happened to see Michigan senator Carl Levin on PBS last night, you saw a politician pleased that he had found an issue, and indifferent to the truth of the claims. There are many others like him, and as William Shawcross says in this Guardian column, critics of Blair (and Bush) on this subject should be ashamed:
Tony Blair's enemies have behaved in a shocking manner over the liberation of Iraq and its elusive weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of the war predicted all manner of disasters - millions of refugees, famine, thousands of deaths in battle, and revolution on "the Arab street" throughout the region. None of these horrors happened. Instead, it is obvious that the coalition has indeed freed Iraqis from a monster and created a new reality in the Middle East - one which just might offer the region hope.They should be ashamed, but they won't be. Kudos, by the way, to the Guardian for publishing this column, which contradicts so many of its own writers.
(There is a historical parallel you may find of interest. In the 1930s, as Churchill tried to warn Britain about the dangers from Hitler, he made many specific claims about German rearmament. On some of them, we now know, he was wrong. Does this show that Churchill lied? Of course not. He used the best information he had, as persuasively as he could, just like Blair and Bush.)
- 6:01 AM, 17 June 2003 [link]
Father's Day is easier for families than Mother's Day, but more difficult for the politically correct. Yesterday, on the Fox Sunday News program, Tony Snow said that fathers would forgive being neglected on their day, unlike mothers on their day. He was echoing, unconsciously, I assume, the Peanuts cartoon in yesterday's Seattle Times, which ends with "That's what's good about Father's Day. You don't have to remember it." You can even use Father's Day, as this light-hearted article on ties notes, to criticize your father. A gift of a brighter tie than a man usually wears, may be, for example, more criticism than honor. Very few Mother's Day gifts are selected with that kind of motive.
Father's Day is harder for the politically correct, for the obvious reason. If you think the root of many of our ills is patriarchy, then it is rather hard to honor fathers. News organizations give less attention to Father's Day than Mother's Day, and it is less positive. (Sometimes mothers get whacked too; one of the Seattle papers thought it appropriate to celebrate Mother's Day with an article on really horrible mothers.) This year Salon ran this article on Father's Day letters from incarcerated teenagers in the Bay area. They aren't complimentary. NPR broadcast a similar feature on terrible fathers last Saturday. And a few years ago, the New York Times ran an article on sperm banks on Father's Day. Nothing wrong with such articles in general, but to celebrate Father's Day?
- 11:49 AM, 16 June 2003 [link]
Isaac Newton is now best known for his scientific discoveries, like his work in optics, his theory of gravity, his laws of motion, and his mathematical achievements, like his development (along with Leibniz) of calculus. Much of his life, however, was spent on other things. He was a member of parliament, and headed the royal mint. Even his investigations were not limited to what we now consider science and math. He worked for years studying alchemy and theology. Most people would now consider the first medieval superstition, and the second not really a proper subject of scientific study. Newton, however, did not make this modern separation between science and theology. His ideas on these subjects, along with his scientific ideas, were recorded in notebooks, which survived but were not available to the public. Now, a group of scholars are using the Internet to make them widely available, a far better idea than producing a formal series of volumes to be stored in a few research libraries. Here's an article on the project, and here's the project site.
Every action has side effects, and there is one unpleasant one that I can confidently predict. The kind of person who finds predictions in Nostradamus will find truths in some of Newton's wildest speculations.
- 10:39 AM, 16 June 2003
Update: I revised the text above to be fairer to theologians and more accurate about Newton's thought.
- 7:01 AM, 17 June 2001 [link]
In France, the NBA Championship was mostly about San Antonio's talented, but erratic, point guard, Tony Parker. Le Figaro's headline today is "Les Spurs menés par Parker gagnent le championnat de basket américain" (The Spurs, led by Parker, win the American basketball championship). And Le Monde's is "San Antonio et le Français Tony Parker vainqueurs de la NBA" (San Antonio and the French Tony Parker victors of the NBA). Those who watched the sixth and deciding game would be more likely to conclude that San Antonio won the game in spite of Parker. He scored just four points, played only half the game, and not at all in the decisive fourth quarter.
That quibble aside, this attention to Tony Parker is something our State Department can be pleased with. Our openness to talent appeals to many outside the United States, and Tony Parker's success here will help our image in France.
(The championship series may not. Neither team played very well, though there were individual exceptions like Tim Duncan. I had expected a good series, and was thinking of recommending it even to those who don't usually watch basketball. Sometimes procrastination works out for the best.)
- 7:34 AM, 16 June 2003 [link]