Archive:

June 2005, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Mazurland:  There are so many blogs that I couldn't keep up with the new ones even with a high speed connection.  (Which I will probably break down and get next month.)  But this new one is special, since it is written by an old friend, Marty Mazur, and his brothers, Chris and Paul.  All three have impressive accomplishments, and the blog is off to a fine start.  Check it out.
- 2:18 PM, 16 June 2005   [link]


One More Reason Not To Trust Newspapers:  Knute Berger of the Seattle Weekly wonders, in this column, why scandals no longer have much punch.  He skirts around the issue but does say that part of the reason is that people don't trust the press.

There are reasons, good reasons, why readers don't trust newspapers.  Here's one you may not have seen in your local newspaper.
Federal agents made the first arrests Wednesday in Newsday's yearlong circulation scandal, charging that three former officials at Newsday and its sister publication Hoy were involved in schemes to inflate the publications' circulations, costing advertisers millions of dollars.
And Newsday wasn't the only prominent newspaper to have been caught in this kind of fraud in the last few years.

If Berger and other journalists want us to trust them, they will have to be more trustworthy.  (I should add that, as far as I know, the Seattle Weekly has not inflated its circulation.)

(Thanks to the "EconoPundit", Steve Antler, for spotting out this story.  He has a personal interest in the subject because he bought ads in the Chicago Tribune, which, like Newsday, had been inflating its circulation and cheating its advertisers.)
- 2:01 PM, 16 June 2005   [link]


Time To Sell Warren Buffet?  Probably not, but financial analyst John Markman notes with some pleasure that this year has not been kind to one of Buffet's investments.
Six months ago, the value of the U.S. dollar was on the firing line as it plunged to a record low vs. the euro.  Amid fears that a united Europe would surmount the spendthrift United States as a safe haven for financial assets in a tumultuous world, investors worldwide -- led by noted Nebraska sourpuss Warren Buffet -- heaped scorn on our currency and scolded U.S. lawmakers to get the federal deficit under control.

But a funny thing happened to all those dollar bears. Their contempt for U.S. economic freedoms hasn't amounted to a hill of bill of beans, and their positions have been smoked. The dollar has rallied massively since the start of the year against all other currencies, reflecting a swift, stunning paradigm shift in the way that global political risks are priced.

Buffet, who reportedly lifted his bet against the buck to a position of $22 billion and counting in the first quarter this year, isn't sounding quite so smug anymore.  Normally an equity investor with liberal social views who rarely made forays into the foreign exchange markets, he has had his head handed to him by more experienced currency players.  Although his anti-dollar attack worked from 2002 through 2004, since then he has been forced to pay for attempting to mix politics and money.
And, of course, anyone else who held Berkshire Hathaway.  (I should add that I have no idea whether the dollar will continue to rise against the euro.)
- 10:29 AM, 16 June 2005   [link]


Monty Python Fans  will like this Medpundit post.
- 10:17 AM, 16 June 2005   [link]


Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories:  Finally got around to adding a permanent link (under "References") to the fine Popular Mechanics article that debunks the most popular 9/11 conspiracy theories.  The category isn't exactly right, but it fits better there than anywhere else.
- 7:38 AM, 16 June 2005   [link]


"Death To America!"  That, according to Kenneth Timmerman (on the Michael Medved show), is how the Mullahs in Iran open their top government meetings.  Friendly bunch, aren't they?  Just the sort to be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Timmerman is on the program to plug his new book on Iran, Countdown to Crisis.

(Although, to be fair, I should add this incident, which I read in a piece by Tony Horwitz.   He was in Iran some years ago watching an anti-American demonstration.  A man who had been marching along chanting "Death to America!" with the rest broke away for a while to talk to Horwitz.  He told Horwitz that he liked meeting Americans and hoped to visit America some time, especially Disneyland.  And then he picked up his sign and joined the rest in chanting "Death to America!"

I am not sure just what adjective describes that combination.  Ambivalent seems too weak and schizophrenic seems too clinical.

If Horwitz seems familiar but you can't quite place him, I should add that he is probably best known for his entertaining book, Confederates in the Attic, on Civil War reenactors.)
- 2:55 PM, 15 June 2005
More:  Sean Penn, who is now playing a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, worries that Americans might take that pleasant little slogan literally.
The actor, who visited Iraq before and after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and wrote an account of his second trip for the Chronicle, has largely declined to talk to the media since arriving in Iran.

But he told a film student during a visit to Iran's Film Museum in Tehran on Monday that the "Death to America" slogan chanted each week at Friday Prayers hurt Iran-U.S. relations.

"I understand the nature of where it comes from and what its intention is," he said.  "But I don't think it's productive because I think the message goes to the American people and it is interpreted very literally."
Maybe even "very literally".  Sean Penn worries that we might take the slogan literally.   I worry that we might ignore the Tehran regime's sponsorship of terrorism all over the world, some of it directed at Americans.  They seem to take their slogan literally, so I think we should, too.
- 7:14 AM, 16 June 2005   [link]


Voting Machine Failures:  Suppose all these problems had occurred with electronic voting machines in one city: election officials who did not know how to operate the machines, lengthy delays, confusing instructions, and broken machines.  How would those who distrust the electronic voting machines react?   They would fear that this was deliberate, and they would suspect that the other party had created the problems.

All those problems did occur with mechanical voting machines, in New York City.  A few Republicans in New York wondered if the problems were deliberate, but if any "mainstream" journalists got interested enough to investigate, I missed it.  The New York Times reported these problems, but does not seem to have done any follow up stories.  And the newspaper's editorial board seems to have missed or forgotten the article.  If they knew about these problems in New York, how could they claim that electronic voting machines are the most serious problem in American elections?

(Since the article did not come directly from the New York Times, but was saved (in apparent violation of copyright laws) at another site, I searched for the abstract to see if it matched the article.  As you can see, it does.

In the course of that search, I learned several other interesting things.  New York City's Board of Elections claimed they did not have enough resources, but used only one third of the $27 million it had for improvements, and that one third mostly for renovating offices and a warehouse.  The Board of Elections also spent millions, over the last four years, on private car services for its employees.  Not surprisingly, nominally Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg has created a task force to look into the election day problems.

Perhaps most interesting was what I didn't find in my search on the reporter's name.  There seemed to be no follow up on these problem reports.  For the New York Times, potential problems with electronic voting machines are serious; actual problems with mechanical voting machines — in their own city — are not.

And these brief articles may help you see why I disagreed with David Broder's endorsement of more centralization and bureaucratization of our election administration.)
- 10:48 AM, 15 June 2005   [link]


We Don't Like Congress Much:  As public opinion polls show, year after year.  But we mostly love our congressmen and senators, as their re-election rates and other polls show.

Survey USA polled all fifty states in May and June and asked respondents whether they approved or disapproved of their senators.  That gives us 200 pairs of approval/disapproval ratings to look at in their tables.  In just 1 of the 200 pairs, did a senator have a higher disapproval rating than approval rating.  And even that one, for Republican Mel Martinez of Florida in May, might be a fluke, since it reversed in June.

Why do we dislike the institution but like our own representatives?  In part because, as I learned way back in graduate school, many run for Congress by running against Congress.   Candidates say, send me there and I'll protect you from the rascals running the place, or something similar.  Often we learn to dislike Congress from congressional candidates.  Even incumbents who have been there for decades often use this strategy.

That election strategy is likely to work best for candidates from small states, and for candidates who are thought to be independent of their own parties.  And if you look at the last table, where the senators are sorted by approval ratings, you'll see that senators from small states and "mavericks" predominate at the top.

(The last table also shows, I think, the effects of political bias in the news media.  For instance, take a look at the ratings for Barack Obama, who has made an interesting speech or two, but has not done much, at least so far.  Journalists have treated Obama as if he had walked across Lake Michigan to Chicago, rather than arrived by more conventional means, and his ratings show that.

And I can't help but note that, considering how Democratic Massachusetts is, John Kerry has rather low approval ratings, as I mentioned once or twice last year.)
- 8:44 AM, 15 June 2005   [link]


Who Has The Story Right?  Susan Paynter of the Seattle PI describes a Marine recruiter as a villain, and almost accuses him of kidnapping a potential recruit.
Next thing Axel [Cobb] knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works.  And before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.

"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going all the way to Seattle," Axel said.
Stephen Spruiell of the National Review gives us a different picture.
[Recruiter Staff Sgt. Ron] Marquez said this passage is flat wrong.  First, Marquez insists he was the only Marine who came to Axel's work that night.  Second, and more importantly, Marquez said that his conversation with Axel at the house ended with Axel agreeing to come to Seattle:
. . . his father had been in Vietnam and died early because, his mom said, of the physical weardown of being a Marine.  He asked me about my family and I said I don't have a father either, I have a stepdad, and I know back in 1998 I was a high school senior when I made the decision [to become a Marine].  My mom wasn't too happy about it either, but once she saw that this is what I really wanted to do she was supportive.
So then we agreed, he said "I want to do this."  So I said, "I'll pick you up after work and take you to Seattle and we can do the screenings."

Marquez maintains that, rather than being practically abducted, Axel came along with him back to the Burlington office.  Once there, Axel joined several other applicants on a trip to Seattle to register, spend the night in a hotel, then wake up early the next day and complete the mental, moral and physical screenings.
Marquez says that Paynter never spoke to him.  When Spruiell asked Paynter about this (through email), she said she had tried to contact the recruiter but had gotten no reply.

What to make of these conflicting stories?  Did Paynter accept the word of Axel's mother too easily?  Or did a Marine recruiter go too far?  Or, a little bit of both?   I don't know, but the first alternative seems the most likely.  And I would love to see follow ups from both Paynter and Spruiell.  (Sadly, it is unlikely that anyone at the Seattle Times will take an independent look at this story.  Direct competition between the two Seattle papers is quite rare.  And neither Seattle alternative paper is likely to check Paynter's work, because they might be forced to come to a politically incorrect conclusion.)

(Spruiell mentions, at the end of his piece, this touching Memorial Day column by Paynter.  He finds it hard to believe that the same person wrote both columns.  I don't, since the sympathy for mothers and wives that comes through in the Memorial Day column might easily lead to the mistakes that Spruiell thinks he has found in the recruiting column.)
- 7:30 AM, 15 June 2005   [link]


Classical Music helped me escape most coverage of the Michael Jackson verdict.   But even the local classical music station, King FM, broadcast a story from the BBC on how Michael is feeling.  (Not well, or so his lawyer says.)  I just wish the "mainstream" media would give this much attention to important stories, such as the horrific massacres in Darfur.

But since I have brought it up, I suppose I might as well give some brief thoughts on the trial.  One juror seemed to have it about right, at least on the most important counts.
Although Juror No. 1 said he had unspecified "personal feelings" about Jackson's conduct, he was guided by the judge's instructions to consider only the 10 counts, not whether Jackson slept with boys or kept girlie magazines in his home.

Later, the juror, identified on CNN's Larry King Live as Raymond Hultman, said, "I feel that Michael Jackson probably has molested boys. . . . I can't believe that this man could sleep in the same bedroom for 365 straight days and not do something more than watch television and eat popcorn.   That doesn't make sense to me.  But that doesn't make him guilty of the charges that were presented in this case, and that's where we had to make our decision."
At least not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  (Curiously, neither the Washington Post or the New York Times mentioned Hultman's views.)

So, Michael Jackson is, most likely, a serial child molestor, but the prosecution may not have proved that he molested this particular boy.  That's not a very satisfying result.

And I can't help wondering how the trial would have gone if everything were the same — except that the child was a girl.

Law professor Ann Althouse seems pleased with the verdict, and defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt seems positively gleeful.   I wonder.  Do either of them believe that Jackson is not a serial child molestor, that he has been sleeping with boys to keep warm?  And I also wonder, as I said above, how they would feel if the child was a girl.

If possible, there will be no more mentions of Michael Jackson at this site.
- 1:50 PM, 14 June 2005   [link]


It's In The PI:  As I was eating lunch today, I was surprised to see this column, by an author who will be familiar to you.  (I knew it was coming soon, but didn't realize it would be today.)

The editorial page editor at the PI, Mark Trahant, asked me to write the column, after I wrote this post criticizing a PI editorial. Thanks to him for the opportunity to make this argument.
- 1:00 PM, 14 June 2005   [link]


Meryl Yourish gets the interview everyone wanted.
MY: Lord Vader, we're curious to know what you think of the movies, and how your story has been told.
DV: You know the saying "History is written by the winners?"
There's much more, maybe enough to tempt me to go see the latest movie
- 10:28 AM, 14 June 2005
More:  Meryl inspired Natalie Solent to ask some long overdue questions about Dr. Who.
- 2:36 PM, 16 June 2005   [link]


Party Time!  Washington state governor Christine Gregoire decided her top officials were underpaid.

In many ways, Gov. Christine Gregoire's 23-member Cabinet looks a lot like her predecessor's — same number of minorities, a similar average age, even some of the same appointees.
. . .
In all, Gregoire's Cabinet will earn about $256,000 a year more than the previous Cabinet when Locke stepped down.

And that comes on top of big raises that Locke gave many Cabinet members last year as enticement to stay on through the end of his administration.

Another way of looking at it: Since 2003, the average salary for Cabinet members has soared from less than $108,000 to almost $125,000 — nearly a 16 percent increase.

Gregoire and the Democratic majorities in Washington state's House and Senate puzzle me.   I expect politicians to try to win re-election.  But Gregoire and the Democrats in the legislature act as if they wanted to lose.  There are few things that will provoke voters more than a tax increase after a politician has promised to oppose one.  But that is just what Gregoire did; she had campaigned against an increase in the gas tax and then immediately broke her promise once in office.  Equally provocative are pay raises for high officials, and she has done that.  Such pay raises can even provoke civil servants.

By comparison, rank-and-file state workers will see their wages grow by 4.8 percent over the next two years, their first pay raises in four years.

And I don't think I am the only one who has noticed that the money for these pay increases, and many other increases in state spending, come from a regressive tax package that hits the working poor hardest.  (Although I must admit that the Seattle newspapers have not exactly stressed that point when discussing the package.)

Not only have Gregoire and the Democrats provoked the voters with their taxing and spending decisions, but they raised social issues, notably gay marriage and racial preferences, that they must know are unpopular with majorities of the voters.  (Gay marriage was raised indirectly by the push to put gays on the protected list, along with racial and religious minorities.)

So what is going on here?  I honestly don't know.  Do the Democrats not understand how voters will react to tax increases, broken promises, pay increases, and leftwing social issues?  Have they forgotten what happened in 1994 when they lost their majority in the state house and saw their majority in the state senate reduced?  Do they think that they will lose no matter what they do, so they might as well enjoy their majorities for the next two years?  Or are they so out of touch that they think these policies can be sold to the voters?  Neither of these explanations make sense to me, but I can't come up with an alternative, either.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 6:12 AM, 14 June 2005
Correction:  As an alert commenter at Sound Politics reminded me, the Democrats lost their majority in the house, but not in the senate, in 1994.  I've corrected the text above.
- 10:14 AM, 14 June 2005   [link]


Party Time!  Washington state governor Christine Gregoire decided her top officials were underpaid.

In many ways, Gov. Christine Gregoire's 23-member Cabinet looks a lot like her predecessor's — same number of minorities, a similar average age, even some of the same appointees.
. . .
In all, Gregoire's Cabinet will earn about $256,000 a year more than the previous Cabinet when Locke stepped down.

And that comes on top of big raises that Locke gave many Cabinet members last year as enticement to stay on through the end of his administration.

Another way of looking at it: Since 2003, the average salary for Cabinet members has soared from less than $108,000 to almost $125,000 — nearly a 16 percent increase.

Gregoire and the Democratic majorities in Washington state's House and Senate puzzle me.   I expect politicians to try to win re-election.  But Gregoire and the Democrats in the legislature act as if they wanted to lose.  There are few things that will provoke voters more than a tax increase after a politician has promised that they oppose one.  But that is just what Gregoire did; she had campaigned against an increase in the gas tax and then immediately broke her promise once in office.  Equally provocative are pay raises for high officials, and she has done that.  Such pay raises can even provoke civil servants.

By comparison, rank-and-file state workers will see their wages grow by 4.8 percent over the next two years, their first pay raises in four years.

And I don't think I am the only one who has noticed that the money for these pay increases, and many other increases in state spending, come from a regressive tax package that hits the working poor hardest.  (Although I must admit that the Seattle newspapers have not exactly stressed that point when discussing the package.)

Not only have Gregoire and the Democrats provoked the voters with their taxing and spending decisions, but they raised social issues, notably gay marriage and racial preferences, that they must know are unpopular with majorities of the voters.  (Gay marriage was raised indirectly by the push to put gays on the protected list, along with racial and religious minorities.)

So what is going on here?  I honestly don't know.  Do the Democrats not understand how voters will react to tax increases, broken promises, pay increases, and leftwing social issues?  Have they forgotten what happened in 1994 when Washington's voters threw out Democratic majorities in both houses?  Do they think that they will lose no matter what they do, so they might as well enjoy their majorities for the next two years?  Or are they so out of touch that they think these policies can be sold to the voters?  None of these explanations make sense to me, but I can't come up with an alternative, either.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 6:12 AM, 14 June 2005   [link]


Hilarious:  This New York Times editorial, which begins as follows:
There are many problems with American elections, but none more serious than the rise of paperless electronic voting, whose results cannot be trusted.  Grass-roots reformers are in the middle of a two-day lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill in support of a House bill that would require that electronic voting machines in federal elections produce voter-verifiable paper records.  It is an important measure that should be passed without delay.
Why is this hilarious?  First, because there are much more serious problems, the greatest in my opinion being vote fraud, especially that committed with absentee ballots.  That absentee ballots are often used for vote fraud is not, by the way, just my opinion; that's also the opinion of a number of experts — as the New York Times explained in an article about a year ago.

Second, because New York state has used mechanical voting machines since 1892.  And mechanical voting machines have almost exactly the same defects as electronic voting machines.  Neither, for instance, creates a paper trail.  Both can be gimmicked by people with the right kids of technical skills.  Both are operated incorrectly from time to time.  And so on.

From this little write up, I learned that Adam Cohen of the New York Times editorial board "will be traveling throughout the country" to research election problems.  May I suggest that he go visit New York city election office and have them show him a mechanical voting machine?

(In general, though I do not share the fears of electronic voting machines common on the loony left, I am not a big fan of them either.  I am sure they can be made trustworthy; I am not sure that nearly all voters can be led to trust them.)
- 10:59 AM, 13 June 2005   [link]


Two Election Reforms?  Columnist David Broder commends two proposed changes, which he believes will improve the administration of elections.
The Election Center, led by Doug Lewis, drew on the expertise of the men and women who actually run the voting process in this country and came up with a booklet full of suggestions, too numerous to detail here.  But the big ideas -- which may be controversial -- involve extending the voting period and centralizing the locations of balloting.

The group argued that there is no need to cram these exercises in democracy into a single 12-hour span on a Tuesday when most people are at work and many children are in school.  Expand the voting period in both directions, it said: early voting, which has become increasingly popular, and late voting, in the days immediately after Election Day.

The authors of this report also call for the creation of Election Centers, far fewer in number than the current precinct polling places, where professionally trained workers -- not citizen volunteers working long hours for a pittance -- would be on hand to process people arriving to vote.
I haven't read this booklet — though I suppose that I will have to — but both ideas, at least as Broder describes them, seem more likely to make election administration worse.

Many of the problems in our most recent elections come from the extension of the voting period, especially the widespread use of absentee ballots.  Anyone who looks for vote fraud stories will learn that most vote fraud in this country is committed with absentee ballots.  Fraud is easy to commit with absentee ballots for many reasons.  One is the long time period they give to voting.  It can be difficult for parties to find enough volunteers to watch the ballots for a single election day; it is almost impossible for them to find enough volunteers to watch for days, weeks, or even, in some states, months.

The idea that more centralization would help is contradicted by most recent experience.  As Washington state voters know only too well from our last election, most problems occurred in the counties with the largest populations, the places where the voting was most centralized.  And the same was true in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, et cetera, et cetera.  If we were guided by experience, we would be decentralizing the administration of elections, not centralizing it.

Why didn't the Election Center see this?  Perhaps because it "drew on the expertise of the men and women who actually run the voting process".  In other words, they asked the bureaucrats how to improve the process, and the bureaucrats told them that giving the bureaucrats more power and resources would improve the process.  This is not exactly the first time bureaucrats have made similar suggestions.  (And I am a little disappointed that Broder, who is experienced in such matters, missed that.)
- 10:01 AM, 13 June 2005   [link]


Sometimes It's What They Don't Print, as John Leo points out.  Here, for example, is what he has to say about "Rule 18".
Mainstream media have been reluctant, in all the coverage of treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, to mention that the al Qaeda training manual specifically instructs all of its agents to make false claims of torture.  The New York Times seems to have mentioned the manual's torture reference only once, in a short report from Australia.  Several other papers mentioned it as a one-line quote from a military spokesman who pointed it out.  But until the Washington Times ran a front-page piece last week, a Nexis search could find no clear and pointed article in the U.S. press like the one by Alasdair Palmer in the London Sunday Telegraph, with the headline "This is al Qaeda Rule 18: 'You must claim you were tortured.'"  He wrote that the manual doesn't prove "that the Britons were not tortured in Guantanamo.  But it ought to encourage some doubts about uncritically accepting that they were--which seems to be the attitude adopted by most of the media."
It ought to, but it won't.  I feel perfectly safe in predicting that the New York Times will never do a front page story on Rule 18.  And neither will the Washington Post or the Seattle Times or almost any other "mainstream" newspaper.  Even though knowing about the rule provides essential context for all those stories of abuse.

Leo has more examples, including one that surprised me.
- 7:22 AM, 13 June 2005   [link]


Who Was This Politician?  Early in his life, he was an enthusiastic but not very successful, investor.
He bought two thousand shares of stock in a company that unsuccessfully wildcatted for oil in Wyoming.  He lost over $25,000 in a scheme to buy lobsters and hold them off the markets until prices rose; lobster prices failed to rise.  With Owen D. Young and others he started an enterprise to run dirigibles between New York and Chicago, but this soon proved to be, technologically, a misguided enthusiasm.  A chain of resort hotels, the harnessing by General Electric of tidal power at Passamaquoddy Bay, vending machines, commercial forestry, selling advertisement space in taxicabs — these and other schemes . . . conceived with the enthusiasm of an old-time investment plunger.
The selection is from James MacGregor Burns' biography, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox.   Yes, it was FDR who did all that speculation.  According to the same source, Roosevelt and his firm did do quite well on one speculation.  Early in the 1920s he and his firm bought German marks, which were cheap after the war, invested them in German companies, which were also cheap, and did quite well from the venture.

(As soon as I post this, I'll be posting another puzzle at Sound Politics, that one on Washington state political history.  Usually when I write a post for that site, I cross post it here, but if it is specific to this area, I may not.)
- 1:49 PM, 12 June 2005   [link]


Alan Ehrenhalt Is A Serious Man:  And I am sure he was feeling serious when he wrote this.
Millions of Americans despise Bill Clinton.  They have done so since he became a presence in national politics in the early 1990's, and they continue to do so today, more than four years after his retirement from public office.

The passion of the Clinton haters is a phenomenon without equal in recent American politics.   It is not based on any specific policies that Clinton promoted or implemented during his years in office.  It is almost entirely personal.  In its persistence and intensity, it goes far beyond anything that comparable numbers of people have felt about Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or either of the presidents Bush.  It surpasses even the liberals' longstanding detestation of Richard Nixon.  The only political obsession comparable to it in the past century is the hatred that a significant minority of Americans felt for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
But I cracked up when I read those two paragraphs.

Just consider our current president.  In this area, it is routine for demonstrators to call Bush fascist and to compare him to Hitler.  The Seattle Weekly has compared his policies to those of the old Soviet Union and twice (!) gave sympathetic coverage to local pastor who compares Bush to the Antichrist.  And you can find similar sentiments in almost any other metropolitan area in the United States, without looking very hard.

Why does Ehrenhalt believe Clinton hatred is "without equal"?  I honestly couldn't tell from the review, though he does think that Clinton mostly got the policy choices right.

(*Don't conclude from this review that Ehrenhalt can't do fine work.  He is the author of one of the more interesting books on politics that I have read in the last two decades, The United States of Ambition, and has written another book that looks promising, The Lost City: Discovering the Forgotten Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950s.   The first book helped me understand Clinton, but Ehrenhalt seems to have forgotten some of his own lessons.)
- 1:14 PM, 12 June 2005
More:  The same review drew similar reactions from Ann Althouse and Jonathan Gewirtz.  Many of the commenters make the point that there was a lot to hate about Clinton, especially his pathological dishonesty.  I recall being surprised by that during the 1992 campaign; politicians often deceive us, but they tell fewer outright lies than most think.   Clinton, however — and this is what surprised me — often told outright lies that were easy to check.

I suppose that I should add that I don't hate Clinton now and have never hated him, though I would say I despise much of what he did, and even more of how he did it.  The last minute pardons, for example, included some that were clearly corrupt and were done in a way that let him escape any political accounting.  Despite those feelings, I still see Clinton as a likable rogue, who I can imagine enjoying a beer with (as long as there were no vulnerable women present).   And I can't forget his many contributions, however unintended, to the Republican party.

Not many Bush haters have the same mixed feelings.
- 8:24 AM, 13 June 2005   [link]


Meet The Press Forgot The Token Republican:  This morning, as I was finishing breakfast, I was amused to see that Russert's panel included not a single Republican.   (Besides Tim Russert, the panel included David Broder of the Washington Post, John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal*, Gwen Ifel of PBS, and Judy Woodward of CNN.)  Usually Russert, like ABC's George Stephanopoulus, includes a single Republican on his panels.

Since they were discussing, among other things, inflammatory attacks on Republicans by Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, a Republican or two might have added to the discussion, I would think.   In their discussion, the panel agreed that what Dean and Clinton said was not true, but thought that these lies pleased ordinary Democrats and did no great harm.  Would the five have come to a different conclusion if the attacks had been directed toward Democrats by Republican leaders?  Sure.

Peggy Noonan makes that point forcefully in this column, where she tries to imagine how Democrats like Russert, Broder, Harwood, Ifel, and Woodward would react if President Bush used similar rhetoric.

Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight.  Imagine John McCain saying them for that matter, or any other likely Republican candidate for president, or Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.

Can you imagine them talking this way?  Me neither.  Because they wouldn't.

Messrs. Bush, McCain, et al., would find talk like that to be extreme, damaging, desperate.   They would understand it would tend to add a new level of hysteria to political discourse, and that's not good for the country. I think they would know such talk is unworthy in a leader, or potential leader, of a great democracy.  I think they would understand that talk like that is destructive to the ties that bind--and to the speaker's political prospects.

You can find that kind of talk on the right, but to do so you have to go to the fringes.   Those who disagree with that argument are invited to cite a single statement from George W. Bush or Ken Mehlman as extreme as those from Dean and Clinton in the Noonan column.

Perhaps Russert thinks he is working for PBS or NPR.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

(*Isn't the Journal a conservative publication that usually supports Republicans?  The editorial pages are conservative, but the news pages are about as liberal as those of the New York Times or the Washington Post.  And Harwood's comments made it quite clear that he prefers donkeys to elephants.

Fox News Sunday has more balanced panels than its competitors at ABC and NBC.  (I don't watch the CNN or CBS talk shows often enough to know whether they include more than a token Republican on their panels.)  Nearly always Fox has two Democrats and two Republicans on the panel.  Recently, they brought in Chris Wallace, who I have been unable to categorize, as moderator and interviewer, making the program even more balanced.

Here's the web site for Meet the Press.  The transcript of the program that I saw should be available soon.)
- 7:30 AM, 12 June 2005   [link]


Scientists Are Human:  Some, a little too human.
Few scientists fabricate results from scratch or flatly plagiarize the work of others, but a surprising number engage in troubling degrees of fact-bending or deceit, according to the first large-scale survey of scientific misbehavior.

More than 5 percent of scientists answering a confidential questionnaire admitted to having tossed out data because the information contradicted their previous research or said they had circumvented some human research protections.

Ten percent admitted they had inappropriately included their names or those of others as authors on published research reports.

And more than 15 percent admitted they had changed a study's design or results to satisfy a sponsor, or ignored observations because they had a "gut feeling" they were inaccurate.
I have some questions* about the design of the study with these findings, but the overall result, that a significant number of scientists cheat, seems plausible.

The authors of the study seem to believe that the scientists cheat because they are in a bad environment, not because they are naturally bad.
"Scientists say, 'This is nuts,' so they break the rules, and then respect for the rules diminishes," [Raymond] de Vries said. "If scientists feel that the process isn't fair and the rich get richer and the rest get nothing, then perhaps we have to think how we can reallocate resources for science."
Perhaps, but it seems just as plausible to think that the cheaters look for ways to justify what they would do anyway.

(*What might be wrong with the study? According to the Washington Post, the researchers sent out "thousands" of questionnaires to scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health and got back 3,247. So we are not looking at all scientists, just those that receive grants from the NIH. Most would be in fields connected to medicine, I assume.  And they are self-selected; there is no reason to believe that those who responded are a good sample even of the scientists who receive NIH grants.)
- 11:07 AM, 10 June 2005   [link]


The Ethical And Moral Collapse Of The Mainstream Media:  Ben Stein thinks he has found the perfect example.

If you wanted to see the perfect example of the ethical and moral collapse of the Mainstream Media, you could not do better than a long article in the New Yorker of May 23, 2005.  The article is entitled, "The Spy Who Loved Us."  Written by a teacher at the University of Albany, named Thomas Bass, it's about a man named Pham Xuan An.  Now very old, An was -- among many other things -- a correspondent in Saigon during the Vietnam War for Time magazine.  He was apparently considered a particularly brilliant and well-informed correspondent and very well liked by his colleagues in the Western press corps during the war.

He was also a Communist spy, working for the North Vietnamese, informing them of what he knew about American military plans, troop movements, political agendas.
. . .
When the war ended, An offered to go to the U.S. and continue spying for the Communists there.   The offer was denied and he lives quietly in Ho Chi Minh City, where, among other pets, he keeps fighting cocks -- a practice generally considered barbaric in the circles of New Yorker readers, but another sign of his cuteness to Professor Bass.  In fact, the whole article is about how cute and smart and clever and brave a guy An is.  A lovable, brilliant, brave man who sent Americans and innocent civilians to their deaths.  Bass even explains that almost all of An's former colleagues in the Western press still love the guy after learning he was a spy for America's enemy in the Vietnam War.  They even gave money to bring him here for an auld lang syne visit not long ago.

In this article, which I would guess to be about 8,000 words or more, there is not one hint, not one whisper, of sympathy for the American soldiers who fought and died or were maimed in Vietnam.  Not one sliver of anger at a man who took American money and helped kill Americans.  Not a word about the mass murder of civilians during Tet

Want to know what those Western journalists now say about An?  Ed Lasky has some examples, including these:

Bass notes that almost all the journalists who worked with Pham are united in their support of him.   Peter Arnett praises him as a "bold guy".  Frank McCulloch, who was the head of Time's Asia bureau when he hired Pham said he was "absolutely not" angry when he learned of Pham's spying and said, "It's his land, I thought.  If the situation were reversed, I would have done the same thing."

McCulloch, says Bass, remembers Pham with "tremendous fondness and respect" and says it was a great pleasure to raise thirty-two thousand dollars to send Pham's son to journalism (!) school in America.

We have become so used to this sort of thing that it no longer shocks.  But use the obvious analogy and ask whether these journalists would have had the same reaction.  Suppose An had been one of our World War II opponents, that he had worked for Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany, rather than Communist North Vietnam.  Would these journalists have at least mixed feelings about him?  Would Professor Bass?  I hope so.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 7:07 AM, 9 June 2005   [link]


So Far, So Good On The Filibuster Agreement:  In this post, I argued that it was too soon to tell which party had won in the agreement made by the fourteen moderate senators.  (That made me a member of the Coalition of the Chillin', along with other conservatives who were willing to wait for the results before pronouncing the agreement a failure.)  I mostly agreed with those who said that the Senate had "kicked the can down the road", had postponed the crucial fight.

I say mostly because the immediate result was that three of Bush's nominees, the three most controversial, were going to be confirmed.  Priscilla Owen was confirmed May 25th.   Janice Rogers Brown was confirmed yesterday.  And yesterday, the Senate voted to end debate on William Pryor, guaranteeing his confirmation.  All three won a significant number of votes from Democratic senators on the crucial votes to end debate, which will make it difficult for Democrats and their leftwing allies to continue arguing that the three are extreme.

And, there's a bonus:
As a bonus, the Senate will confirm on Thursday Michigan nominees David McKeague and Richard Griffin, nominated to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

While those two weren't part of the deal to avoid a fight over judicial filibusters, Democrats withdrew their objections to their confirmation during the back-and-forth negotiations
To date, Republicans have won the confirmation of five more judges and partially discredited the arguments used to oppose Owen, Brown, and Pryor, which is pretty much what I predicted would happen.   These Republican gains explain why some Democrats are beginning to have second thoughts about the agreement.

The Senate hasn't reached the "can" yet, so we can't make a final judgment on the agreement, but so far the Republicans have all the gains.
- 6:15 AM, 9 June 2005   [link]