Archive:

June 2004, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Very Early Americans?  For many years, archaeologists had a simple and apparently well supported theory about the peopling of the Americas.  The first Americans crossed from Siberia less than 12,000 years ago, following an ice free path through northern Canada that opened up between periods of glaciation.  They came with sophisticated stone age technology, good enough to hunt animals as large as mammoths.   They are usually called the "Clovis people", after an important early excavation in Clovis, New Mexico.

As often happens in academia, a theory that appeared to explain so much attracted adherents who were resistant to conflicting information.  Sites that appeared to be older were rejected on one ground or another.  But evidence accumulated, and now the theory that the Clovis people were the first Americans is being challenged on many points.
And then, in early 1997, one of the occupation levels at Monte Verde, Chile--far southern Chile--was unequivocally dated 12,500 years BP.  More than a thousand years older than Clovis; 10,000 miles south of the Bering Strait.
. . .
Recent archaeological evidence at Charlie Lake Cave and other sites in the so-called "Ice Free Corridor" in British Columbia indicates that, contrary to our earlier assumptions, peopling of the interior of Canada did not take place until after the Clovis occupations.
Some of the most interesting evidence has come from the eastern part of the United States, where some excavations may date to far earlier than Clovis.
BARNWELL, S.C., June 24 - On a hillside by the Savannah River, under tall oaks bearded with Spanish moss, an archaeologist and a graduate student crouched in the humid depths of a trench.  They had reason to think they were in the presence of a breathtaking discovery.

Or at the least, they were on to something more than 20,000 years old that would throw American archaeology into further turmoil over its most contentious issue: when did people first reach America, and who were they?
. . .
In his more exuberant moments, Dr. [Albert C.] Goodyear ventured that the dates could be as old as 25,000, even 30,000, years ago.  He has already found elsewhere on the site what appear to be 16,000-year-old artifacts, evidence for a pre-Clovis peopling of America similar to findings in Virginia and Pennsylvania.  None of those discoveries has convinced skeptics.
The new ideas may also lead, along with genetic evidence, to another change in the standard theory.   Linguists have generally divided native Americans into three groups, the Eskimo/Aleut, the NaDene (Navajo, Apache, et cetera), and all the rest, usually called Amerind.  Most archaeologists thought that the first two groups followed the Amerinds, in separate, later migrations.  Now, some are beginning to think that the ancestors of all three groups came earlier, and differentiated here.

Many text books will have to be re-written if Dr Goodyear is right, but what will be in them, if that should occur, is still uncertain.

(Does Barnwell sound familiar?  Then you may have read too much Civil War history.  Sherman's troops marched through there and temporarily changed the first vowel in the city's name.)
- 5:22 PM, 30 June 2004   [link]


Just In Case You Missed It, here is what Michael Moore said after the 9/11 attack.
Bush has always been the issue for Moore.  On September 11 itself, his only gripe was that the terrorists had targeted New York and DC instead of Texas or, indeed, my beloved New Hampshire: "They did not deserve to die.  If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him!  Boston, New York, DC and the plane's destination of California — these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!"
The logical implication is clear and so nasty that Moore removed it from his web site after the Wall Street Journal, among others, called attention to it.  Killing people who voted for Bush would be an acceptable course for terrorists.  (That people who work in financial institutions and the Pentagon might be Bush voters did not, apparently, occur to Moore.)  To the best of my knowledge, Moore never apologized for this appalling statement.  Nor do I know of any high ranking Democrat who asked him to.  Instead, many are plugging his latest movie.

(The rest of the Mark Steyn column is worth reading, too, if you haven't already overdosed on Michael Moore.)
- 2:10 PM, 30 June 2004   [link]


George W. Bush Is A Good Campaigner:  I've been saying that for some time, but it is good to get confirmation from Sandeep Kaushick of the alternative (and often extremist) Seattle newspaper, the Stranger.
As I sweated through the proceedings, I roused from my stupor upon realizing our president is a pretty good campaigner (his Fort Lewis speech was an official, rather than a campaign, event, but puh-leeze).  He's disciplined, and does indeed project certitude, but there's more to it than that.  It's the first time I'd seen him live, and it gave me an inkling of why so many people buy what Bush is selling, in spite of the fact that what he's selling has increasingly little to do with what he's doing.  There is--I know many in Seattle will find this hard to believe--a method to the madness.
Like Clinton, Bush reassures his audiences, though in a different way.  He points out that we have enemies, an idea almost entirely foreign to the Stranger, but understood by most of the American electorate, and he is comfortable with popular culture.

In my predictions for the popular vote, I have been giving Bush an edge for his campaign skills; Kaushick, who may agree with me on, say, 10 percent of the issues, agrees with me on this point.  (Of course, he could have come to this conclusion sooner if he just read my site regularly, but that's another matter.)

(Since this is the Stranger, I was not surprised to see a completely misleading statement.  Kaushick says that Bush is "in touch with the heartland, even if he never collected food stamps or lived in a double-wide".  In fact, early in his life, Bush lived in very modest places.  George W. was born when his parents were living in a modest apartment in New Haven.  The first place that George and Barbara found in Texas was half of a "shotgun" house, so called because it had no hall and one room opened directly into another.   Even their first house in Midland was quite modest.  From the picture I once saw, I would say that it was not as large or nice as the average "double-wide".  I'm not sure double-wides even existed just after World War II, as far as that goes.

George H. W. Bush has described that shotgun house a number of times, for example in this speech to home builders.
I remember the first place Barbara and I lived in, when our son George was just a baby -- a tiny, ramshackle shotgun house in the oil town of Odessa, Texas.  It had a makeshift partition down the middle that cut the house into two apartments, leaving us with a small kitchen and a shared bathroom, an old water-drip window unit -- you remember those cooler units they used to use out there -- cranked up like a west Texas dust storm still couldn't drown out the noise of the all-night parties next door.
And in some of the speeches, he tells more about the "all-night parties".  Their neighbors were two prostitutes, something George and Barbara had not known when they moved in.)
- 9:45 AM, 30 June 2004   [link]


Canada's Independent MP:  if you looked carefully at the Canadian results yesterday, you saw that Canada elected one independent.  The reporters seemed to take it for granted that the independent would not vote vote with the Liberals, but never explained why.  After a bit of search yesterday, I learned wthe answer; the "independent", Chuck Cadman, is really a Conservative, though not officially one.

Cadman was an Alliance MP and joined the Conservative party when they merged with the Progressive Conservatives.  Since the new party wanted to encourage popular participation, it allowed candidates to be chosen at public meetings and allowed people to join the party with no waiting time.  A broadcaster, Jasbir Cheema, packed the meeting with 1,500 instant Conservatives and won the nomination.  (I know you will be as shocked as I am by this unethical behavior from a journalist, but perhaps Canadian journalists have lower standards than ours.)  Cadman refused to accept this, ran as an independent, and won easily.

(Cadman has an unusual biography for a politician.  He was a technician until a tragedy drew him into public affairs and then politics.
Chuck was introduced to politics through the criminal justice system.  On October 18, 1992, [his son] Jesse, then 16, was murdered in a random, unprovoked attack on a Surrey street by a group of older teenagers.  As a result, Dona and Chuck became heavily involved in Justice Reform and Victims' Rights issues.  They co-founded the justice reform/victims rights group, Crime, Responsibility and Youth (CRY), in early 1993.  Prior to entering politics Chuck devoted much of his time to increasing public awareness about violence, victimization and justice issues including working closely with the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General to develop programs and legislation in areas falling under provincial jurisdiction. He also served on a number of advisory committees including the BC Ministry of the Attorney-General and the Correctional Service of Canada.
Candidates such as Cadman, who do not have the usual political background, often bring something special to legislatures.  I know that I would much rather have him as my Congressman than the incumbent, Democrat Jay Inslee, who has never done anything except politics.

Was it fair for Cadman to run as an independent after losing the nomination?  I think so, given the way he lost it.  And I hope he can get the Conservative nomination if he runs again.)
- 8:08 AM, 30 June 2004   [link]


Should John Kerry's Divorce Records Be Released?  John Kerry says no.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Tuesday rejected any suggestion that he release records of his 1988 divorce, calling it old history that had nothing to do with anyone else.

"I have no intention of doing that at all," Kerry said during a campaign stop in Phoenix, Arizona, when a reporter asked if he would release the papers from his divorce from his first wife Julia Thorn.

In a U.S. senate race in Illinois, Republican candidate Jack Ryan quit his campaign last week after the Chicago Tribune and other media sued to have his sealed divorce records made public.
Some Republicans favor the release of Kerry's divorce records, on the grounds that turnabout is fair play.  I think the records probably will be released, but think they should not be, unless (and I have no reason to believe this) they contain allegations of illegal behavior by Kerry.

It is no secret that false charges, sometimes extremely nasty one including child molestation, are often made in divorce cases.  To release all these records, after the parties agreed to seal them, is wrong, because at this time we have no good way to determine the truth of the charges.

The Jack Ryan case is a good example.  His wife charged that he had asked her to engage in sex at private sex clubs, before an audience, but not in public.  He denies it, but it was that revelation that drove him from the senate race.  The charge may have been entirely false, or it may have come from a misunderstanding between the two.  I don't know, and I don't see any good way to determine what actually happened.

(Did the Chicago Tribune sue, hoping to force Ryan out of the race?  Probably.  Though he was running behind his Democratic opponent, he was not so far behind that he had no chance.)

Though I oppose opening Kerry's divorce records, I have no objection to speculation about what is in them.  In fact, this seems like a perfect subject for certain kind of columnist.  To write about this, we need a feminist, who is careless about facts and nasty enough to make the most of the sad story.  We need, in short, Maureen Dowd.  Just remember, if Dowd does write on the subject, that there is no reason, given her history of error and malice, to believe what she says.
- 7:06 AM, 30 June 2004   [link]


Fourteen Afghans Killed:  No news there, you may say, but the reason they were killed tells us much.
Suspected Taliban fighters have carried out their most lethal attack yet in a widening campaign to derail Afghan national elections, executing at least 14 unarmed men because they had registered to vote, government officials said.

Jan Muhammad, the governor of the province of Uruzgan, said three survivors of the attack on Friday told officials that Taliban fighters had kidnapped and killed the men after discovering their voter registration cards.
In nations like the United Sates (and Canada), it is easy to forget how difficult the struggle for elections still is in much of the world, and was in our own past.

(Even now, there is some violence at every national election, though much less than there once was.   But the murders that accompany elections in many countries are a rarity now here, though they were common in the past.)
- 4:43 PM, 29 June 2004   [link]


Electoral Strategies For Terrorists:  To defeat our terrorist enemies, we must outthink them.  One of their biggest successes was the Madrid bombings, which were widely credited for changing the Spanish government.  So it is only natural to wonder what they might try to do to affect our own election this November.  Putting on my political consultant hat to think through electoral strategies for terrorists gives me an odd feeling, but it is the kind of exercise we must do if we are to stay ahead of them.

Let me begin with the most fundamental question: Who do the terrorists want to win, Bush or Kerry?   Most people would say the terrorists want to defeat Bush.  Republican entrepreneurs will even sell you a button or a T-shirt with the slogan, "10 out of 10 terrorists agree — anybody but Bush".  But there are people who disagree.
A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands.
. . .
Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

"I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said.

"One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."
(I think his analysis of the war on terror is nuts, but it is good enough for the Guardian.  In fact, it has been the most popular story there this last week.)

"Anonymous" isn't the only one on the far left to come to this conclusion; you can find the same thinking in this column from Australia.

This thinking is silly, coming more from hatred of George Bush than from a serious analysis of the terrorists, but a much milder form of the argument is not just plausible, but almost certainly true.  Mickey Kaus has been arguing that some terrorists want Bush defeated, and some want him elected.  Put this blandly, the argument is irrefutable.  The tens of thousands of terrorists have different views on every other subject and it is certain that they also disagree on whether a Bush re-election would help or hurt their cause.

Now then, let's consider what terrorists who wanted to help Bush should do.  One common argument is that another attack would again rally Americans around their president.  But is this true?  It would, after all, be another defeat, and in the long run Americans do not reward those who lead during military defeats, any more than they like coaches with losing records.  Much would depend, I think, on how bad the attack made the government look.   If voters decided that the attack could have been prevented, then Bush would be unlikely to benefit.

This line of thought shows what terrorists should do to help Bush win the election.  They should give him a success, or an apparent success, before the election.  We saw the boost in the polls that Saddam's capture gave Bush.  Something similar a week or two before the election would help in the same way.  (I am not the first to think of this.  There are conspiracy theorists on the left who are convinced that the Bush administration has Osama ready to be "captured", just before the election.)  A terrorist group could even improve their own prospects with the right kind of "success", for example, tipping us off to the location of the leader of a rival group.

If a success, or an apparent success, would help Bush, then terrorists who want to defeat Bush might decide that a failure would help defeat him, especially an embarrassing failure.  That is possible, but not certain.  A successful attack would have two effects; it would be another defeat and it would raise the importance of terrorism.  If Bush was seen as better able to handle terrorism than Kerry, an attack might help him by making the issue more important.  Terrorists who want to defeat Bush might do best by doing nothing and hoping that the economy stalls.

Finally, terrorists who want to defeat Bush must take into consideration two things.  Their attack might be detected and give the administration a small boost.  Second, the administration might be able to respond in a way that makes up for the defeat, just as they did after 9/11.  Even in the Spanish case, the governing party might have been able to retain power if they had reacted more intelligently after the attack.  (They made one great mistake, blaming Basque separatists for the attacks rather than al Qaeda.  When the truth came out, they looked foolish.)

If this range of possibilities leaves you annoyed, you have my sympathy.  I'm not very happy about them myself.  But they are an inescapable part of any battle against a secret organization.  There's an example from the Cold War that shows just how bad it can get.   The East Germans planted a spy in the West German intelligence agency.  They then allowed him to "detect" a series of less important East German spies.  Naturally the West Germans promoted him for his successes, and he rose to near the top of the agency, second place, I think, before he was finally caught.

(The column from Australian Phillip Adams, which I found through Tim Blair, is worth reading if only for the appalling reasoning.  For example:
In objective terms, September 11 was infinitesimal.  For the mighty US to lose a couple of large skyscrapers in a nation with cities as full of these perpendicularities as a jungle is of trees, would hardly destroy its prospects.  What it did do was get the President off the golf links and back into Washington — and give him a new lease of political life.
That there were thousands of people in those skyscrapers, and in the Pentagon, does not seem to change his view that the attack was infinitesimal.  The thousands who died don't bother him, but the rallying of the people to our president does.)
- 2:21 PM, 29 June 2004   [link]


Fashion Show:  Every once in a while, a story comes along that puzzles me.
Many of the models for the London-born designer's first menswear show in Milan were cadets hand-picked from the military academy at West Point, New York.  [Alexander] McQueen then raided Brick Lane in east London for young British men of Asian background.
. . .
When asked about the significance of the collection, McQueen said: "It is a political statement as well as a sartorial one — a mixture of two cultures that are separate but, here, can be mixed harmoniously."
(By "Asian", I assume they mean Muslim.)

I have no idea why West Point agreed to this — or did they?  Maybe the cadets chose to do this on their own, though I don't think it would be a plus in an Army career.  On the other hand, for a trip to Italy, I might be willing to dress in a "parachute silk jumpsuit with matching pink gas mask", even though pink is not my best color.

I think I understand vaguely what the designer was trying to convey, and I hope, just for his own enlightenment, he takes the show to Saudi Arabia or Iran.
- 10:58 AM, 29 June 2004   [link]


Canada Voted:  But didn't quite decide.
Liberal Leader Paul Martin was handed a minority government in a surprising election outcome Monday that marked the party's fourth-straight mandate but a return to the House of Commons with diminished clout.

The NDP improved its seat totals, giving the Liberals a possibly ally in the Commons.  According to latest results, the two parties are just one seat shy of a majority.

Few had predicted that the Liberals would win a strong minority Monday evening, but with most polls reporting, the Liberals were winning or elected in 135 ridings, the Tories in 99, the Bloc Québécois in 54 and the NDP in 19.  All four party leaders won in their ridings.
So, between them, the Liberals and the NDP hold exactly half the seats.  Just to complicate matters further, there is one independent, who could hold the balance of power.  Having three opposing parties may have helped the Liberals survive their scandals.  Those who wanted to protest could vote for the NDP or the Bloc, as well as the Conservatives.  And all three parties increased their share of seats and, I think, their share of the popular vote.

This table of votes and seats shows the great advantage of being a regional party.  The NDP won 15.7 percent of the vote but just 19 seats, while the Bloc Québécois won 54 seats with just 12.4 percent of the vote.

The overall results followed a simple regional pattern; the Liberals won most of the seats in the Atlantic provinces, lost Quebec to the Bloc, held most of Ontario, and lost most of the seats to the west.

Why didn't the Conservatives do better?  This is speculation, but I would guess that the last week or so of the Liberal campaign, which painted the Conservatives as weirdos, worked.  And it wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that the CBC put its thumb on the scale.

(Canada has had minority governments after eight previous elections.  Here's an explanation of the procedure for choosing a government when no party has a majority, and here's a brief history of Canada's minority governments.)
- 7:26 AM, 29 June 2004
More:  There's more analysis in this post, along with an interesting prediction,  The author appears to agree with my speculation that the Liberals saved themselves by their attacks on the Conservatives.  (Unless the Globe and Mail is wrong, he gives the incorrect number for the popular support for the Bloc; it should be 12.4 percent, rather than 7 percent.  And the latest results give the NDP 19 seats, not 20.)
- 8:34 AM, 30 June 2004   [link]


The Canadian Election:  There is a general principle worth noting in Canada's election, even if you aren't interested in the election itself.  (Though you should be, given the importance of our northern neighbor.  I know I will be checking the returns in just a few hours.)

I can explain the principle best with a parallel, drawn from a stock market story about the famous financier J. P. Morgan.  I have seen various versions of the story, but this one sounds about right.
Asked by a much younger man what he thought stocks would do next, J,P. Morgan "never hesitated for a moment.  He transfixed the neophyte with his sharp glance and replied 'They will fluctuate, young man, they will fluctuate," And so they will."
I am no J. P. Morgan, but I would like to suggest a parallel in politics.  In democratic nations, the parties will alternate.  One party may hold power for years or decades, but they will eventually lose out to another party or coalition.

The reasons for markets fluctuating are well known; the reasons for parties alternating are almost equally well known.  A party too long in power makes mistakes, attracts corrupt individuals, and even begins to bore the electorate.  When it continues to hold power in spite of these factors, it is usually because the opposition is not credible to a majority of the voters.  Tony Blair's Labour party won control of the government only after Blair had promised a moderate path, and the party had discarded much of its ideological baggage.

A year ago, it looked as if the Canadian Liberal party might prove to be an exception to the rule that the parties will alternate.  Their main opposition, the Progressive Conservatives, had broken into two, with the Canadian Alliance (which began with a different name) strong in the West and the remnants of the PCs holding on to some strongholds in the East.

But the very weakness of the two made the solution for the conservative parties obvious.  They needed to unite, and a shared ideology and a shared desire for power would lead them to do just that.  So they have under a new name, Conservative, and a dynamic new leader, Stephen Harper.  Harper is an economist who reminds me more than a little of two other academics who moved into American politics, history professor Newt Gingrich and economics professor Dick Armey.

The Canadian polls show just how attractive the new party under its new leader is.   Different polls have given different results and the same polls have fluctuated over the last few weeks, but it is probably fair to say that the two main parties, the Liberals and Conservatives, are tied, or close to that, in popular support.  I won't make any predictions on the results, since I don't have any special knowledge of Canadian politics or the polls there, though I have read that the polls have underestimated the conservative vote in the past.   (If you want to see predictions, the superb Canadian blogger Colby Cosh has a whole set here.  There are 308 seats in the Canadian parliament, so a majority is 155.)

Whichever major party wins the largest number of seats, the result is likely to be improved relationships with the United States.  Harper is openly friendly to the US and even George Bush, and Paul Martin, the Liberal leader, is a great improvement over his predecessor, Jean Chrétien.  Even if the Liberals retain power, their arrogance will be curtailed and we are less likely to hear the nasty comments we so often did from Chrétien's government.

(Need a scorecard?  Roughly speaking, the Conservatives are equivalent to our Republican party and the Liberals to our Democratic party.   There are two other significant parties that do not have American equivalents, the New Democratic Party (NDP), which has a mixture of socialist and "Green" ideas, and the Bloc Québécois, which represents the separatists of Quebec.  (I was pleased to see that the two main parties are correctly color coded, with the Conservatives using blue and the Liberals using red as their main colors.)

Because there are four significant parties, predicting the results is more difficult than in the United States.  You really need a seat by seat, or as they would say, riding by riding, analysis.  Here's an article on some key ridings.  From the table at the top of the article, and other things I have read, I gather that parliament has been expanded from 301 to 308 seats.  (Bad idea, having an even number, of course.)

For a summary of recent events, see this article by Colby Cosh.  For some history of the parties, see this Wikipedia article on the Liberals.  Their nickname, "Grits", may confuse Americans.  I had wondered why the party was named after the Southern delicacy, until I looked it up and learned that "Grits" comes, not from the food, but from the idea in the title of the John Wayne movie, True Grit.)
- 4:34 PM, 28 June 2004   [link]


"Pot Of Gold" On Mars?  The Spirit rover has found a rock on Mars that doesn't look like any of the other rocks they have found there, or, so they say, any rocks on earth.  The scientists have dubbed it the "Pot of Gold" rock, but from the description, I would call it the "Bush of Gold" rock, instead.
NASA's Spirit rover has found a Martian rock unlike anything researchers have seen before -- on Mars or Earth -- but they hope it may finally hint at a watery past of the Gusev crater landing site.   Mission engineers are also pushing the rover Opportunity to its robotic limits inside a crater on the other side of the planet.

Sitting at the foot of Gusev's "Columbia Hills," Spirit is studying "Pot of Gold," a softball-sized rock covered in knobby nuggets atop short rock stalks.
. . .
So far, the rock's most telling quality is its composition. According to Spirit's science instruments, "Pot of Gold" contains hematite, a mineral known to form in water, though it can also be produced through volcanic processes.
I don't have the credentials to dispute their claim that this rock is unlike any on earth, but there are biological processes on earth that can produce branching rocks.  Corals are the most obvious example, but there are others as well.  I have no idea whether any of them would produce hematite as a by-product.
- 11:13 AM, 28 June 2004   [link]


Our Petulant Press:  One of my guilty pleasures is watching the annoyance felt by anchors at the major networks when the voters choose politicians the anchors don't like.  My favorite is probably Peter Jennings, although I also like to watch Dan Rather flounder and throw out those weird lines.

This morning, after I heard the news about the early transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, I guessed that the anchors would be unhappy at this victory for Bush and so I tuned in to NBC's Today show, hoping that Katie Couric would show her displeasure at this great event.  Couric was not there, but her substitute, whose name I did not catch, more than made up for the absence.  Rage would be too strong a word for her reaction, but her face showed, all through the first segment, just how unhappy this good news for the Iraqis and the United States made her.  Matt Lauer did not show his feelings so openly, but you could see that he was not pleased, either.

The moral failure shown by these reactions is deep.  This is not a victory by one party in an election, but a victory in the war on terror for our nation, for the Iraqis, and for the entire civilized world.  That this displeased the anchors at the Today shows what strange values they have.
- 7:41 AM, 28 June 2004   [link]


Illicit Uranium Exports From Niger?  Ambassador Joseph Wilson, IV, after sipping tea with some of his acquaintances there, concluded that there had been none.  This was, somewhat illogically, taken as a refutation of the Bush administration claim that British sources had told us that Saddam had sought uranium from Africa.  If this Financial Times story is correct, the Ambassador Wilson may have been as inept an intelligence agent as his account suggested.
Illicit sales of uranium from Niger were being negotiated with five states including Iraq at least three years before the US-led invasion, senior European intelligence officials have told the Financial Times.

Intelligence officers learned between 1999 and 2001 that uranium smugglers planned to sell illicitly mined Nigerien uranium ore, or refined ore called yellow cake, to Iran, Libya, China, North Korea and Iraq.
There's more in this post, and an interesting theory in the comments following this post.   The false Italian document may have been deliberately concocted for political effect, to make the whole story look false.  I have seen that speculation before and must say that it looks more plausible all the time.
- 9:48 PM, 27 June 2004   [link]


Two Takes On Michael Moore:  First, Christopher Hitchens takes a sledgehammer to the director of, as the Slate headline puts it, "Unfairenheit 9/11: The lies of Michael Moore".
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability.  To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental.  To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious.  Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness.  It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
Then David Brooks takes a scalpel, and tells us just how Michael Moore has been pleasing all those foreign audiences.
Like Hemingway, Moore does his boldest thinking while abroad.  For example, it was during an interview with the British paper The Mirror that Moore unfurled what is perhaps the central insight of his oeuvre, that Americans are kind of crappy.

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned.  "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance.   We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

It transpires that Europeans are quite excited to hear this supple description of the American mind.  And Moore has been kind enough to crisscross the continent, speaking to packed lecture halls, explicating the general vapidity and crassness of his countrymen.  "That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich.  "You can see us coming down the street.  You know, `Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down."
Can we call him anti-American, now?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  What both Hitchens and Brooks make clear is that Moore says what he says for the applause.  Does Moore believe what he says or puts in his movies?  Some of it, I suppose, but how much is hard to tell.

As Hitchens points out, Moore has — apparently — changed his position completely on Osama bin Laden; at one time he considered him innocent until proven guilty, but now he regards the failure to kill Osama as proof of the Bush administration's incompetence, malevolence, or both.  (As I have said more than once, I think that bin Laden is probably dead.  Which raises an interesting question for Moore.  If bin Laden was killed in an air strike, or something similar, would he reluctantly give Bush credit or would he revert to the earlier argument that bin Laden deserved a trial?)

Hitchens, an open minded man on the left, and Brooks, a moderate conservative, agree on one point; the popularity of Moore shows the intellectual decline of the left.  Brooks puts it best, I think.
In years past, American liberals have had to settle for intellectual and moral leadership from the likes of John Dewey, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr.  But now, a grander beacon has appeared on the mountaintop, and from sea to shining sea, tens of thousands have joined in the adulation.

So it is worth taking a moment to study the metaphysics of Michael Moore.  For Moore is not only a filmmaker; he is a man of ideas, and his work is based on an actual worldview.
There is an interesting fact about this decline in the intellectual quality on the left.   It coincides with the rise of the left in the professoriate.  In the last half century, American universities have become far more politicized, far more dominated by leftists.  There are now entire fields in which it is unwise to admit to conservative, moderate, or even what might be called old-fashioned liberal ideas.  Is it a coincidence that, as the left has come, more and more, to monopolize university departments, that the quality of the thought on the left has declined?  I don't think it is, and I will have more to say about that subject in the future.
- 11:10 AM, 27 June 2004   [link]


Speaking Of NYT Headlines, here's a strange one.
Kerry's Campaign Theme Is Leaning Toward Center
Now does the Times mean that Kerry is edging toward the center, or that he is pretending to?

(As usual, visualizing a metaphor helps.  First, try to picture a campaign theme, which is, I grant, difficult.  Now imagine it leaning toward the center.  Are you beginning to think that it might tip over?  I know I am.

Is Kerry moving toward the center?  As far as I can tell — and the article isn't much help — that depends on the issue.  On foreign policy, he seems not to have moved much at all.  He believes that the Bush policies have failed, and he intends to continue them, with much less support for democratic movements.  On economic issues, he may have moved to the center since the primaries.  On social issues, he appears not to have moved from a position about as far left as there is in the Senate.)
- 7:57 AM, 27 June 2004   [link]


We Were Wrong - NYT:  But we don't need to apologize.  Public editor Daniel Okrent agrees that the June 17th headline was wrong.
Stretching across four columns of the front page, the June 17 headline "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11" caused some readers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to accuse The Times of "outrageous" (Cheney's word) distortion of the 9/11 commission's staff report.   I don't buy "outrageous," but "distortion" works for me — specifically, the common newspaper crime of distortion by abbreviation.
But since it was just the usual crime, no apology is needed.
While headlines may be short, their impact is large.  Willful distortion?  I don't see it.  Misstep?  Sure.  Is an apology needed, as Internet columnist Bob Kohn, one of the paper's most forceful (and, often, most incisive) critics on the right, demanded by e-mail?   No.  Good reporting and careful presentation are what's needed.  If out-of-tune headlines required apologies, the newspaper business would soon turn into a cacophony of confession.
So there you are.  We do it so often that we don't have time to apologize for all the distortions, willful or not.

Suppose the Times was producing auto parts, rather than news stories, or, as Mr. Okrent confesses, often "news stories".  Using Okrent's reasoning, the Times could manufacture many defective parts — but not apologize because it makes too many of them to have time for the apologies.  If that seems reasonable, you probably have a degree in journalism.
- 7:31 AM, 27 June 2004
More:  When you don't enforce standards, the behavior gets worse and you get disgusting headlines in the New York Times such as this one:
The Best Goebbels of All?
And the answer to that question?  For the headline writer, Attorney General John Ashcroft.   (Frank Rich's column is pretty bad, but doesn't quite justify the headline.)  The New York Times should apologize and, more important, should fire whoever wrote that headline.
- 10:36 AM, 27 June 2004   [link]


The Editorial Side At The New York Times may have been in the dark about the most recent documentary evidence of connections between Saddam and al Qaeda.  (It may even been kept in the dark deliberately, as I speculated below.)  But what explains this?
A week ago, the New York Times reported, in a screaming page-one headline, that the 9/11 Commission had found "No Qaeda-Iraq Tie."  Today, in a remarkable story that positively oozes with consciousness of guilt, the Times confesses not only that there is documentary evidence of at least one tie but that the Times has had the document in question for several weeks.  That is, the Times was well aware of this information at the very time of last week's reporting, during which, on June 17, it declaimed from its editorial perch that the lack of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden's terror network meant President Bush owed the nation an apology.
The kindest explanation is that the reporter(s) who were working on this document did not tell the rest of the newsroom what he had.  There's nothing impossible about that; reporters at the same newspaper often compete fiercely with each other.  But that does not excuse the way the Times has treated its own scoop.
Even now, the Times feebly endeavors to minimize the importance of the collaboration evidenced by the newly reported document.  It says the information indicates "that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered.  There is no further indication of collaboration."   (Emphasis added.)  Nevertheless, the reader who has the patience to wade through several paragraphs of the Times disingenuously letting itself off the hook for refusing for weeks to report on this document will learn that what the newspaper really means when it says bin Laden's suggestions "went unanswered."  In actuality, "the document contains no statement of response by the Iraqi leadership under Mr. Hussein to the request for joint operations[.]"  Translation: Maybe there was a response and maybe there wasn't, but this document does not tell us one way or the other.

Why is this important?  Because it is the continuation of a pattern — another instance of an effective but misleading tactic repeatedly used by the Times, the intelligence community, the 9/11 Commission staff, and all the Iraq/Qaeda connection naysayers.  To wit: When they can't explain something, they never say they can't explain it; they say it didn't happen — even if saying so is against the weight of considerable counterevidence.
McCarthy ends with a summary and a question.  I agree entirely with the summary, and the question is inevitable, considering the delay in this story.
The Times has been against the Iraq war from the start.  Its relentless propaganda, in conjunction with its media allies, has taken a sizable toll.  President Bush has taken a ratings hit, and a poll out this morning suggests that a slim majority of Americans now believes the war was a mistake.  But that could turn around in a heartbeat.  No one is more aware than the "newspaper of record" that if the American people become convinced Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots, the national perception of the necessity for this war will drastically change, and the president's reelection will be a virtual lock.

That's what this is about.  And who knows what else the Times is not telling us?
(Doesn't the tone of the story refute your speculation that some one on the news side was deliberately keeping it from the editorial side?  Not necessarily, though I must repeat that I was only speculating.  A news editor might have kept the story from the editorial pages, even while a reporter was writing this tendentious account of the document.

Those who wonder, as I do, about the Prague connection will want to read what McCarthy has to say about that.  He gives several interesting bits of evidence for the theory that the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, did meet with Iraqi intelligence.  As I have said, I think it unreasonable to consider the case closed — on the basis of the publicly available evidence.)
- 10:38 AM, 26 June 2004   [link]


Infighting At The New York Times?  The most likely reason that the New York Times editorials claimed bluntly that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, is that they had not seen the (additional) documentary evidence that their own reporters had, which finally made it into a story yesterday.  The Times, like most major newspapers, keeps a barrier between the news side and the editorial side that is supposed to keep the latter from contaminating the former.

But there is another possibility.  Howell Raines, the disgraced former executive editor at the Times, ran the editorial pages for many years before he took the top position.  It is likely that many of the people on the editorial side are his choices, particularly Gail Collins, the editorial page editor.  It is not impossible that someone (Bill Keller, the new executive editor, perhaps?) is trying to discredit Collins and company so they can be replaced.  (Because Collins is a woman, it will be very difficult to simply remove her, in spite of her obvious incompetence.)  Rather than warn the editorial side that they are going out on a limb about to be sawed off, the news side may be encouraging them to go farther.

The limb has now been sawed off.  I don't think that Collins will admit that, and I am not even sure that she realizes it.  There was no editorial admitting error today.   We'll see what happens in the next week.  Neither Collins nor her bad children columnists (Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, et cetera) are good at admitting errors, though they are very good at making them.
- 9:55 AM, 26 June 2004   [link]


The Reaction To Fahrenheit 9/11:  From what I can tell, the most common reaction on the left is to find the movie dishonest and unfair, but useful propaganda.  That's how I read this cynical Slate review.  The headline and subhead are enough of a summary so that you need not read the review.
Proper Propaganda: Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is unfair and outrageous.  You got a problem with that?
The reviewer, David Edelstein, has a somewhat romanticized view of the left's behavior, finding much that is outrageous from some on the right, but missing much that is equally or even more outrageous on the left.  (As I have mentioned before, this idea that the other side is much nastier and tougher than our own is very common on both the left and the right.  I think a slightly better case can be made for the idea that the left in America is nastier, partly because they draw so little criticism from the press when they do cross the line.)

There is a price for this attitude, however, which Edelstein misses.  If you do not care whether the argument you are using is true, then neutrals, or even open minded people on your own side, will know that they can not trust you.  (That's why, for example, I distrust local talk show host, Dave Ross.  He simply does not care whether what he says is true.   And made that clear again when he discussed the movie this morning.  As those in this are know, he is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 8th district.  I will leave it to others to decide whether his indifference to the truth is a desirable quality in a Democratic nominee, or not.)  Edelstein has told me, indirectly, that I should not trust him — and I won't.

(Credit where due:  Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who is on the left, favors telling the truth, though he and I would disagree about what that is in may cases.

He believes, for example, that the New York Times is our "most respected paper".  That may be true among journalists, or on the left, but in the center and the right, the predominant attitude toward the New York Times is scorn.

Today provides an example you probably have seen; the Times printed an article on an Iraqi document — which the newspaper has had for weeks — showing the connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  One would hope that the New York Times would retract editorials such as this one, which claimed there was no connection, but no one I know expects them to.  As I have said many times, one of the reasons that so many have lost respect for newspapers is that they are so poor at making corrections — and, yes, that includes the Seattle Times.)
- 2:49 PM, 25 June 2004   [link]


How Does The Captain Of The Queen Mary 2 steer his ship?  With joysticks.
Between trips to the restaurants, the casino, the theater, the spa and the jazz club, passengers aboard the Queen Mary 2 often flock to another popular spot: the ship's bridge.  But their view of the captain at work often leaves them deflated.

"Most passengers are disappointed that there's no big spoked wheel," said Capt. Gerry Ellis, director of new builds and special projects for Cunard Line, which launched the QM2 on its first trans-Atlantic voyage in January.

Instead, the captain and his officers control the ship from consoles bristling with L.C.D. screens and joysticks, more "Star Trek" than "Titanic.
Even worse for traditionalists, the Queen Mary 2 has no rudder, instead using thruster "pods" for both propulsion and maneuvering.

(For more on the ship, including a virtual tour, see this site.)
- 10:40 AM, 25 June 2004   [link]


Digital Brown Shirt?  That's your humble correspondent, according to Al Gore, unless I misunderstand him completely.
In an hour-long address punctuated by polite laughter and applause, Gore also accused the Bush administration of working closely "with a network of 'rapid response' digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops."'
Well, I have urged reporters, editors, and columnists to criticize this kind of outrageous charge from the left.  I find that few journalists disagree with the general argument that smears (such as this one) have no part in politics.  And I have also found that journalists are, almost to a person, unwilling to condemn smears — when they come from the left.

More than ever, I am glad that Al Gore was not elected president in 2000.

(I can only speak for myself, but the only way in which the Republican party works with me is to send me an occasional email — just as my Democratic congressman, Jay Inslee, does.  I don't pay much attention to either, though perhaps I should.)
- 8:58 AM, 25 June 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Laurie Mylroie has been arguing for years that there is a close connection between al Qaeda and Saddam's regime.  Here's her latest, in which she makes a number of interesting claims.
The claim of the 9/11 commission that "no credible" evidence exists linking Iraq to Al Qaeda's assaults on America, including the attack of September 11, 2001, is itself not credible.  Iraq was almost certainly directly involved in those attacks.  After 1996, when Osama bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan, Iraqi intelligence became an integral part of Al Qaeda, or so it would seem.
. . .
Since September 11, 2001, American authorities have learned a great deal more about Al Qaeda.   As they now understand, a clan lies at the heart of the major acts of Islamic terrorism directed against America from the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center though the September 11 strikes.   That family consists of the person known as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and a number of his "nephews."   So far, five such individuals have been publicly named, and there are probably more.
. . .
This whole "family" of terrorist masterminds is, quite arguably, a construction of Iraqi intelligence: While Iraq occupied Kuwait, Iraqi intelligence tampered with Kuwait's files to create legends for elements of its Baluch network.  That is why these people appear to be a family.
Could she be right about this and her general argument of close ties between Saddam and al Qaeda?   I don't know enough about the subject to have an informed opinion.  I can say that I have not seen any obvious flaws in her case — and that it would be putting it mildly to say that it is not accepted officially.
- 5:49 AM, 24 June 2004
More:  An alert reader of Powerline, which had linked to this same story, asks Mylroie whether DNA tests had been done to determine whether the members of this "family" are, in fact, related.  As far as Mylroie knows, no, they haven't.  And I agree that they should be, for all sorts of reasons.
- 9:42 AM, 25 June 2004   [link]


What Kind Of People Get Hired To Sign Up Anti-Bush Voters?  Not necessarily people you would like to have knock on your door.
A Democratic group crucial to John Kerry's presidential campaign has paid felons — some convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary — to conduct door-to-door voter registration drives in at least three election swing states.

America Coming Together, contending that convicted criminals deserve a second chance in society, employs felons as voter canvassers in major metropolitan areas in Missouri, Florida, Ohio and perhaps in other states among the 17 it is targeting in its drive.  Some lived in halfway houses, and at least four returned to prison.
There are jobs that are suitable for felons.  What those jobs are would depend on the felon and the crime(s) they have committed, but it seems crazy to hire people who have committed assault, rape, or even burglary to go door to door.

(Felons, as I have mentioned here before, tend to be Democrats — though not to as great an extent as journalists, or even college professors.)
- 9:48 AM, 24 June 2004
More:  ACT is now going to do background checks to "weed out any employees convicted of violent or serious offenses", as they should have done from the beginning.
- 5:25 PM, 24 June 2004
ACT is (was?) using felons to conduct door-to-door registration to help the Democratic party.  From the "Watchmaker" I learned that Democrats in Arizona are trying to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot — because of the credentials of those who gathered the signatures for Nader.
- 9:17 AM, 25 June 2004   [link]


How Hard Is It To Control The Bureaucracy?  In this column on the resistance of the State Department bureaucrats to Bush's policies, I found a striking example from the past.
But when it comes to the State Department, common sense doesn't apply.  Even most senior positions are filled by careerists, people who do not change from one administration to the next.  And because of union rules that even Jimmy Hoffa never would have had the guts to demand, State's career Foreign Service employees can’t be fired by the Secretary of State — even for a felony conviction.

Sounds crazy, yet it is sadly true.  Clinton's Secretary of State Warren Christopher ignored personnel policy and fired a woman who had plea-bargained to a felony count — of defrauding the State Department.  She sued, she won, she got her job back, and got back pay.  Why? Because, the court ruled, the Secretary of State can't fire even a convicted felon.

To add one more level of institutionalized insanity, the Secretary of State does not even have any authority over personnel decisions, except for the small percent that are considered politically-appointable.  All hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting is done by a panel of senior Foreign Service Officers (FSOs).
If it sometimes seems that our diplomats (below ambassadors) are working against President Bush, that's because some are.
On people's desks and doors throughout the State Department are political cartoons mocking and pillorying the President.  The openness of it suggests that lambasting their ultimate boss is not simply tolerated, but encouraged.  Could you imagine a Fortune 500 company with that sort of flagrant insubordination?

Yet as tempting as it would be to point a partisan finger at the Foreign Service, many of the ones who loathe President Bush are, in fact, Republicans.  What they all have in common, though, is a worldview entirely antithetical to that of the commander-in-chief.

State Department diplomats view the Holy Grail of foreign policy as "stability."  Stability is great for people living in free societies, such as the United States or the United Kingdom.  But for those under the thumb of oppressive despots such as North Korea's Kim Jong-Il or the Iranian mullahs, stability is simply a promise of continued tyranny.
That preference for "stability", even the stability of a tyranny, is shared by John Kerry.  As I have said before, I think he got those views from his late father — a career diplomat.
- 9:23 AM, 24 June 2004   [link]


Does Teresa Heinz Kerry Want Her Husband To Win?  It's hard not to wonder about that, after you read these quotations from a recent speech.
"He actually does feel at ease in the world," Heinz Kerry said.

"He likes people, in spite of whatever people might think.  He'd make the best nursery school teacher in the world, bar none."

Heinz Kerry also called her husband "magical with children," adding, "That's a new revelation to me."
. . .
Heinz Kerry took veiled aim at Bush, saying if Kerry is elected, he will go to the United Nations and "represent this country with great pride, but no arrogance."

"He will never, ever, ever send any children, or men — as he was with young men in Vietnam — into harm's way without being the first one to go out on the boat," she said.

Addressing terrorism, she said, "We're not going to fight terrorism with missiles, we're going to fight terrorism with ideas. And I think that John knows that, deep down."
Let me take these in order.  In the first set, she admits that there is reason to think that Kerry might not be at "ease in the world" and reason to think he does not like people.  She suggests he would be great at a job with entirely different qualifications than president, nursery school teacher.  But then she admits she doesn't know him well.  She just found out that he is great with children.

In the second set, she makes a series of campaign promises, none of which would please the political tacticians in Kerry's campaigns.  Kerry will try to appease the corrupt UN.  Kerry will personally lead any military campaigns.  When president, Andrew Jackson threatened to take direct command of the army (in response to a threat of succession from South Carolina) but I can't recall any other presidents even going that far, perhaps because the idea is crazy.  And, worst of all, she promises that Kerry will stop military responses to terror.  We must fight terrorism with both missiles and ideas, not one or the other.

The other possibility is that she has no sense of what American voters might want.  She is so out of touch that she is defending John Kerry to the public as she might to another socialite in private.  But that's just a guess, since I have no idea how women in her circles talk about their husbands.
- 7:58 AM, 24 June 2004   [link]