Archive:

June 2006, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Another Day, Another Secret Revealed To Our Enemies By The New York Times:   All right, that's an exaggeration, but there does seem to be a pattern.
Yet again, the New York Times was presented with a simple choice: help protect American national security or help al Qaeda.

Yet again, it sided with al Qaeda.

Once again, members of the American intelligence community had a simple choice: remain faithful to their oath — the solemn promise the nation requires before entrusting them with the secrets on which our safety depends — or violate that oath and place themselves and their subjective notions of propriety above the law.

Once again, honor was cast aside.
And Andrew McCarthy goes on to point out that the program is legal.

The effort, which the government calls the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Program" (TFTP), is entirely legal.
And effective.
No, the most salient thing we learn from today's compromise of the TFTP is that the program has been highly effective at keeping us safe.  According to the government, it has helped identify and locate terrorists and their financial backers; it has been instrumental in charting terrorist networks; and it has been essential in starving these savage organizations of their lifeblood: funding.

The TFTP was evidently key to the capture of one of the world's most formidable terrorists.  Riduan bin Isamuddin, better known as "Hambali" — the critical link between al Qaeda and its Indonesian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiya, and thus at the center of the 2002 Bali bombing in which 202 people were slaughtered — is now in U.S. custody rather than wreaking more mayhem
And there are other, known examples — and most likely many that we don't know about.

(Here's the New York Times article.  If you read it, you will see that it lacks balance, to say the least.  Lichtblau and Risen do not mention any of the program's successes, but they do have space for a statement from one of the farthest left members of Congress, Ed Markey, and another from Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, and of course room for lots of speculation.

And here's Lichtblau's lame defense of the article.)
- 2:59 PM, 23 June 2006   [link]


So Why Are We Just Now Learning About Those 500 Chemical Weapons In Iraq?   And why did Senator Santorum and Congressman Hoekstra have to fight to have a small part of this document declassified?

I've seen several answers to those questions.  Scott Shane of the New York Times does not say so explicitly, but appears to believe that the Bush administration did not want the issue raised again.   Why?  Because the administration, "at considerable political cost, accepted the intelligence agencies' verdict that Mr. Hussein destroyed his stockpiles in the 1990's".  If I am reading Shane correctly, he thinks that the administration did not release this information, because they would prefer to avoid the subject.

"Chester", who does not see everything in political terms (unlike the New York Times), suggests that the information has been kept secret for good intelligence reasons.   And maybe bad bureaucratic reasons.

Strategy Page is almost certain that good intelligence reasons, such as protecting informants, explains the secrecy.

And Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a former pilot and now a Fox consultant, has the most interesting explanation.  In this interview with FrontPage magazine, McInerney says that we are concealing what happened to Saddam's WMDs to protect guilty nations.
FP: So the evidence appears to suggest the Russians moved the WMD's out of Iraq, correct?

McInerney: Yes -- to three locations in Syria and one in Lebanon (Beka Valley) in the Sept — Dec 2002 time frame.  This information was provided by Jack Shaw, the former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for international technology security.  He charged that Saddam's stockpiles of WMDs were moved by a Russian Spetznatz team headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian Intelligence Chief, who came to Iraq in December 2002 to supervise the final cleanup.

Mr. Shaw found this out through a meeting in London with the head of MI–6 (UK CIA), the Ukrainian Intelligence Chief and others in the summer of 2003.  The Ukrainians were very close and supportive of the Russians at that time.

FP: This information destroys the Left's main arguments and vindicates the Bush administration.  Why do you think the administration is not talking about this?

McInerney: The President is being ill served by his Intelligence staff.  In some cases the diplomats don't want the world to know this as the three primary violators were Russia, China and France -- all permanent members of the UN Security Council and whom they need to deal with Iran and future contingencies in the war on terror.
The problem with the explanation that I have attributed to Shane is that the administration need not have released this information now, if they thought it was politically damaging.  Senator Santorum might have fumed, but I doubt that he would have released the information by himself.  All the other explanations seem possible to me, and even plausible.  And I can't say that I see any way to choose among them, given what we know now.

(McInerney also believes — and cites some Saddam tapes to support his argument — that Saddam may have had a part in the anthrax attacks that occurred just after 9/11.)
- 8:53 AM, 23 June 2006   [link]


Miracle In Memphis:  But the prosecutor doesn't think so.
Three poll workers accused of casting ballots in the name of dead voters were among six people indicted on charges of violating election laws in a state Senate race, a prosecutor announced Wednesday.

Prosecutor Bill Gibbons said his investigation found no evidence of a widespread conspiracy to throw the election to either candidate.

Democrat Ophelia Ford was certified the winner over Republican Terry Roland by 13 votes last September.  The state Senate overturned the election this year amid allegations of irregularities.
What he has found, in other words, is what I have been calling "distributed vote fraud", vote fraud committed by individuals or small groups working independently of the candidates and party officials.

And, if this web site is to be believed, the distributed vote fraud was made easy by horribly sloppy election practices.

(Ophelia Ford is the aunt of Congressman Harold Ford.   The Congressman's father is threatening to sue the newspaper that uncovered the story.)
- 5:03 PM, 22 June 2006   [link]


This Sounds Like A Joke:  And a fairly crude one.  But it's not.
Success in the search for a bull that eats and burps less is tipped to curb the nation's greenhouse emissions by more than half a million tonnes over the next 25 years.

Scientists from NSW's Department of Primary Industries have been working for the past 15 years to find a way to breed more efficient beef cattle.
. . .
Australia's livestock is blamed for about 12.3 per cent of national greenhouse emissions.  Stopping 568,100 tonnes of methane from entering the atmosphere, the scientists said, is equal to blocking 11.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Since methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Cheaper beef and lower emissions.  That sounds like a good deal to me.

(NSW = New South Wales, one of the Australian states.)
- 3:50 PM, 22 June 2006   [link]


Robert Novak Reminds us of some John Murtha history.
Murtha got into politics in 1968 as a 36-year-old highly decorated Marine and in 1974 became the first Vietnam War veteran elected to Congress.  By 1980, Murtha was a lieutenant of Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill and was moving to the top in the House when the FBI named him as one of eight members of Congress videotaped being offered bribes by a phony Arab sheik.

The other seven congressional targets took cash and were convicted in federal court.  The videotape showed Murtha declining to take cash but expressing interest in further negotiations, while bragging about his political influence.  Murtha testified against the popular Rep. Frank Thompson in the Abscam case, which created lifelong enemies in the Democratic cloakroom.  The House Ethics Committee exonerated Murtha of misconduct charges by a largely party-line vote, after which the committee's special counsel resigned in protest.
The Wikipedia article on Abscam has a different, but not incompatible, account of Murtha's actions in the scandal.

(And, yes, I do wish that Novak would name those "enemies in the Democratic cloakroom", since they would appear to deserve corruption investigations.)
- 3:28 PM, 22 June 2006   [link]


The Fight For Washington's 8th District:  This misleading New York Times article by Timothy Egan started me wondering whether the Democrats do have a chance to win Washington's 8th congressional district.  The question has more than local importance because, if the Democrats are to regain control of the House of Representatives, they will have to win some seats in districts like the 8th.  For those not familiar with this area, I will say that the 8th is a wealthy suburban and exurban district.  It does not include Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, but it does include Microsoft's first location in Washington state, Bellevue.  (Here's a map of the district if want to locate it more precisely.

Let's start with the basics.  Washington state does not register voters by party, so that means starting with the results of recent elections.  And when we do, we find a paradoxical result.   The Republican congressional candidates have never lost this district; it passed from Rod Chandler to Jennifer Dunn to Dave Reichert without a slip.  And the last time that a Republican presidential candidate won the district was 1988.  (The Republican presidential percentages in the last five elections were: 56, 34, 41, 47, and 48.)

Which of the those two strings, the Republican victories in the House races, or the Republican defeats in the presidential races, is the best predictor of how the district will vote in 2006?  Egan, a Democratic partisan, believes (or hopes) that it is the Republican defeats.

Democratic hopes of retaking the House, party strategists say, could hinge on places like Bellevue, a city of 107,000 just across Lake Washington from Seattle.  Here, a fast-growing Asian population and an influx of empty-nesters and singles living in new residential complexes have helped to make this the kind of district that, while continuing to send a Republican to Congress, has turned increasingly Democratic.
What's wrong with that?  Two things.  First, Asians are not a particularly Democratic group; they gave Bush a big majority in 1992, Dole a plurality in 1996, and Gore a plurality in 2000, according to the exit polls.  (I've misplaced the exit poll from 2004, but I think Bush did better among Asians that year than in 2000.)

Second, and far more important, Egan is ignoring most of the district.  The US population is about 300 million and there are 435 seats in the House of Representatives.  (436 if you count Washington DC's non-voting representative.)  Do a quick division and you realize that the average House district has almost 700 thousand people.  So Bellevue is about a sixth of the 8th district.  (Though Bellevue may have more than a sixth of the voters, since the population of Bellevue is probably older than the population in the rest of the district.)

Let's assume that Egan is right when he argues that Bellevue is becoming more Democratic.  We can not jump from that to a conclusion that the 8th district is, because trends in the rest of the district might favor the Republicans.  And I think that they do.  Most of the population growth in the district has been outside Bellevue, concentrated in exurbs, places like Covington and Puyallup, and along the I-90 corridor.  And, as Egan recognizes, those exurbs have become Republican strongholds.  And there is still a significant rural population in the district, a population that the King County executive, Democrat Ron Sims, has gone out of his way to antagonize.   So what Republicans may have lost in Bellevue, they have, most likely, gained back in the parts of the district farther from Seattle.

The result of the last Congressional election in the district supports that conclusion.  The Republican winner in 2004, Dave Reichert, defeated his Democratic opponent, Dave Ross, a popular local talk show host, by 5 points, even though President Bush lost ground, slightly, in the state and in the 8th district.  Reichert's predecessor, Jennifer Dunn, had won the district by larger margins, but she had the great advantage of incumbency.  This year, Reichert is the incumbent and has a weaker opponent than he did in 2004.  And Reichert has separated himself in just the right ways from President Bush.  (For example, he has voted to please environmentalists a number of times.   Since they are one of the biggest religious groups in the district, that can't hurt Reichert.)

Putting all these factors together, I would expect Reichert to increase his margin to at least 8 points this time.

Will similar districts in other parts of the United States have similar results?  You have to look at the districts one by one to make a judgment on each.  In general, I expect Republicans running in districts won by Kerry to find ways to separate themselves from Bush.  And I expect the continuing growth of the exurbs to continue to benefit Republicans.  Tip O'Neill was wrong when he said that "All politics is local."  But most politics is local, most of the time.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Those in this area may wonder whether Egan has a local connection.  In fact, he does, as you can see here.

Over the years I have often been, let me say, entertained, by Egan's articles on places that I know personally.  He once interviewed one of the Bullits in Leavenworth and presented that Seattle millionaire as an ordinary citizen of the resort town.  When I read that, I first thought that he was conning the readers of the New York Times, but since then I have begun to wonder whether he actually thought that she was a typical citizen of Leavenworth.  And I suppose that it is possible that he just didn't want to talk to typical citizens of Leavenworth.)
- 2:30 PM, 22 June 2006
Correction:  Bill Gates actually grew up in Seattle, though he did make Bellevue his first Washington state location.  (I suppose that's where he got the "Bellevue Billy" nickname.  I have corrected the text above.
- 4:16 PM, 22 June 2006   [link]


Not Surprising:  That was my reaction to yesterday's announcement by Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Peter Hoekstra that the coalition forces had found about 500 artillery shells in Iraq filled with sarin or mustard gas.  According to news reports, we had found a few such shells earlier, so it is not surprising that we have found more, with more time to search.  Those who said (and continue to say) that there were no WMDs in Iraq were always wrong, and now there is a little more evidence to show that they were wrong.  (But don't expect any of them to admit that they were wrong.)

But it is also true that much remains mysterious.  Senator Santorum and Congressman Hoekstra were able to get a small part of a very large document declassified.  I have no idea what is in the rest of the document, or why most of it has not been declassified.

There was an important, tentative conclusion in the declassified document.
Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.
In other words, whoever wrote this believes that there are more chemical munitions to be found.   Which is what I have thought the most likely conclusion since the beginning of this controversy.   The weapons are just too easy to hide for anyone to be certain that the quick searches done by the inspectors found them all.  And of course we have never searched Syria, which is where many believe Saddam secreted some weapons.

Will this new evidence change many minds?  Probably not.  When chemical shells were found in 2004, the New York Times rejected the evidence as insignificant.  I thought then that the Times should be more open minded — and still think so.

(And I have also argued, more than once, that the existence of Saddam's WMD programs is more important than the existence of the stockpiles.  Being able to make the weapons is more important, in the long run, than having them.)
- 6:54 AM, 22 June 2006   [link]


Thanks to Private Peter McKinley.
A Paratrooper who ran to the aid of a wounded American soldier while under heavy fire could be among the first British troops to be awarded a gallantry medal in Afghanistan.

Pte Peter McKinley has been praised by his commanders for a "massive display of bravery" after saving the life of the US sergeant in one of the most intense battles 3 Bn the Parachute Regiment has experienced during its deployment to Helmand province.
From me, and, I am sure, from almost all Americans.

You'll want to read the whole thing.
- 4:10 PM, 21 June 2006   [link]


It Is Hard For Me to react to the brutal murder, the mutilation, and the apparent torture of the two American soldiers captured last Friday.  It is tempting to use their deaths, as some have, to make political points about domestic opponents.  For now, I just want to offer my sympathies to their families, and to echo the point made by the "Gay Patriot".
To the terrorists' fighting our troops and the Iraq people, indiscriminate murder is merely a means of manipulating the media.
We can defeat the terrorists, and honor the memory of these two brave men, by not allowing ourselves to be manipulated.

(By way of the Instapundit, who also had difficulty writing on these murders.)
- 12:37 PM, 21 June 2006   [link]


Fisking Is A Fine Old English Tradition:  So it seems only fair that Natalie Solent gets credit for having inspired the first use of the term.

The term is new, but the practice is not, as I learned from Garrett Mattingly's The Armada.   After the main battles in the English Channel but before word had come back from the Spanish commander, the Spanish ambassador to France, Don Bernardino de Mendoza, sent reports of Spanish victories to Spain.
These formed the basis of a broadside published in Madrid on the authorization of Secretary Idiáquez, and also in Seville where it was accompanied by a spirited ballad, the work of a blind poet of Córdoba.
The English government replied with what we would now call a fisking.
. . . the privy council got a copy of the Seville edition of Mendoza's second false report, complete with the blind poet's ballad, and immediately arranged for a reply.  The pamphlet was printed in two columns, the Spanish claims, paragraph by paragraph, on one side of the page and over against them a detailed and scornful refutation usually several times as long.  The booklet was entitled A Pack of Spanish Lies and was translated into every major language in Europe.  There were editions in Low and High Dutch, French, Italian, and a very special one in Spanish, complete with a satirical reply in verse, the work, one supposes, of some Spanish Protestant refugee, to the romanze of the blind poet. (pp. 359-363)
Now that's a good fisking.

(Need to brush up on the meaning of "fisking"?  Here's a good place to start.

Mendoza kept sending optimistic reports to King Philip long after most had realized that the Spanish had suffered a disaster.  Finally, the king wrote in the margin of one of Mendoza's letters, "Nothing of this is true.  It will be well to tell him so.)
- 4:39 PM, 20 June 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  Jay Rosen explains how the Web has changed the news business.  For instance:
The "closed" system of gates and gatekeepers has been busted open.  What's the most amazing thing about the new media world?  Its low barriers to entry.  Thanks to the Internet, it is cheap and simple to launch a site that, theoretically, the whole world could be watching.

Yesterday there were a few dozen providers; today news, views and attitudes stream through millions of gates.  And the Web accepts all kinds of gatekeepers, each with unique rules for what matters, rather than the rules adopted by a class of professionals with set journalistic principles.  For the old gatekeepers that's a big disruption.  The charges made against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, claiming that his medals were undeserved, could have been held out of circulation by newsroom gatekeepers, pre-Internet.  By 2004, it was impossible to keep such a story quiet, and editors knew it.
Though they tried to keep the story quiet, anyway.

The piece is worth reading, but it does include one really silly idea.
The day after President Bush was re-elected in 2004, I suggested on my blog that at least some news organizations should consider themselves the opposition to the White House.  Only by going into opposition, I argued, could the press really tell the story of the Bush administration's vast expansion of executive power. . . .
A Pulitzer-prize winning media columnist at the Los Angeles Times, David Shaw, denounced my suggestion after reading about it at Romenesko, an online gathering spot for journalists.  He quoted CNN staffers as saying what a terrible idea opposition press would be.  Are you nuts?  It would instantly destroy our credibility!
Shaw thinks that journalists still have some credibility, not having read the polls, I guess, and Rosen doesn't believe this would destroy the last shreds of their credibility.  But then he is a professor of journalism.  Apparently, neither man is aware that conservatives think that the "mainstream" media went into opposition to the Republicans long ago.
- 3:57 PM, 20 June 2006   [link]


It Didn't Start With Bush:  Anti-Americanism, that is.  That's the main lesson in this Robert Kagan op-ed.
I recently took part in a panel discussion in London about civil conflict and "failed states" around the world, centered on the interesting work of the British economist Paul Collier.  The panelists included the son of a famous African liberation-leader-turned dictator, the former leader of a South African guerilla group, a Pakistani journalist, a U.N. official and the head of a nongovernmental humanitarian organization.  Naturally, our reasoned and learned discussion quickly transmogrified into an extended round-robin denunciation of American foreign policy.

The interesting thing was that the Iraq war was far from the main topic.  George W. Bush hardly came up.  The panelists focused instead on a long list of grievances against the United States stretching back over six decades.
. . .
As for "failed states" and civil conflict, several panelists agreed that they were always and everywhere the fault of the United States.
. . .
The Iraq war has rekindled myriad old resentments toward the United States, a thousand different complaints, each one specific to a time and place far removed from the present conflict.
. . .
The Iraq war has also made anti-Americanism respectable again, as it was during the Cold War but had not been since the demise of the Soviet Union.  People who a decade ago would not have been granted a platform to spout the kind of arguments I heard on this panel are now given star treatment in the Western and global media.  Such people were always there, but no one was listening to them.  Today they dominate the airwaves, and this in turn is helping produce an increasingly hostile global public opinion, as evidenced in a recent Pew poll.
No one should be surprised by this.  And it isn't just our foreign policy, past and present, that causes others to dislike us.  Few businessmen in other countries look forward to competing with us, and many, especially in Muslim countries, despise the values spread by Hollywood.  And the attraction of the United States to so many living in other nations is, implicitly, a condemnation of those nations and the policies of their leaders.  We can't expect those leaders to like that.

And Kagan is right to suggest that the increasing anti-Americanism is partly caused by the Western media, definitely including the American media.
- 2:35 PM, 20 June 2006   [link]


Congressman Bilbray And Immigration:  When the Congressman Bilbray was sworn in, he immediately attacked illegal immigration.
A week after his special-election victory — and six months after his predecessor pleaded guilty to bribery — San Diego Republican Brian Bilbray was sworn in to the House Tuesday to replace ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

After House Speaker Dennis Hastert administered the oath, Bilbray, 55, gave a floor speech sounding the theme he believes boosted him to victory — illegal immigration, not congressional corruption.

"We did not enjoy the situation or appreciate the problem that created the vacancy," Bilbray said.   "But let me say quite clearly — what is obvious in the last few months is the greatest scandal in America is not that one man broke the law, but that 12 million illegal immigrants are in this country and Washington isn't doing enough about it."
Illegal immigration was a natural issue for Bilbray, because he got his start in politics in Imperial Beach.  My brother and his family lived there for some years, so I know a little about the city, but not everyone does, so let me locate it for you.   Imperial Beach is just south of San Diego — and just north of Tijuana, Mexico.

The flood of illegal immigrants across the border in this area caused severe problems for Imperial Beach, problems that were alleviated when a wall was finally built.  (This is one of those areas where you see signs on the freeways warning you to watch for illegal immigrants running across the roads.)  Bilbray was elected to Congress in 1994, and immediately began to work on immigration problems.  Here's what the 2000 version of the Almanac of American Politics says:
In the House Bilbray got a seat on the Commerce Committee and, as the only member living in sight of the Mexican border, worked constructively on many immigration-related issues.  He got the Republican budget to include funds for hospitals treating illegal immigrants.  He also worked to get 1,400 new Border patrol agents and $425 million to reimburse states for costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants.  He backed reduced levels of legal immigration and a pilot program for an electronic verification system.  He sponsored a bill to allow customs inspectors at the border to impose fines and seize vehicles for violations of emission standards or failure to meet California insurance requirements.
These issues were important to Imperial Beach, because illegal immigration had (and has) such an impact on the city.  They are becoming important in many other areas of the United States, some far from the Mexican border, for the same reason.  And politicians are going to find ways to control illegal immigration, or they will be replaced by other politicians who do.  If you glance at these basic charts, you will see that immigration to the United States peaked in the second decade of the 20th century.  It declined after that because American citizens decided to limit immigration, and Congress responded.  (I don't think their response was a good one, but it was effective in reducing immigration.)

(Bilbray lost in 2000 to Democrat Susan Davis.  He had won what was then the 49th district (now the 53rd) in 1994 as many rejected Clinton; he may have lost it in 2000 in part because he voted for Clinton's impeachment.  His old district was moderately Democratic; his new district is moderately Republican.

The Almanac also says that Bilbray is an "experienced surfer" who once paddled out on his surfboard to help fight a fire on a city pier.  Anyone who knows Imperial Beach can tell you that it is entirely fitting that Bilbray, who was once the city's mayor, is an experienced surfer.)
- 10:41 AM, 20 June 2006   [link]


Zarqawi was collecting unemployment benefits?
Lucknow: Iraq's deceased Al Qaida leader, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, was registered for unemployment benefits in India, a recent report suggests.
This particular story may not be true, but terrorists often do receive welfare benefits.  That (usually) doesn't give them high incomes, but it does give them the free time they need to prepare their attacks.

So could welfare reform help reduce terrorism?  I think so.  (And, of course, there are many other reasons to favor welfare reform.  For me, the most important is the debilitating effects welfare has on the recipients.)

By way of Tim Blair.
- 7:54 AM, 20 June 2006   [link]


Chuckle:  Or, perhaps, guffaw.
In this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts, "Exhibit 1201" is a large rectangular tablet of slate with a tiny barbell-shaped bit of boxwood on top.  Its creator, David Hensel, must be pleased to have been selected from among some 9,000 applicants for the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art.  Nevertheless, he was bemused to discover that in transit his sculpture had gotten separated from its base.  Judging the two components as different submissions, the Royal Academy had rejected his artwork proper--a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite--and selected the plinth.  "It says something about the state of visual arts today," said Mr. Hensel.  He didn't say what.  He didn't need to.
The Royal Academy denies having made an error.
- 7:29 AM, 20 June 2006   [link]


The Kyoto Agreement And Chinese Coal:  In December, 1997, the Kyoto Agreement on climate change was negotiated.  In March, 1998, it was signed, and since then, 163 nations have ratified the agreement.

Kyoto had, from the very beginning, a fatal flaw.  In fact, the flaw was recognized during the negotiations by a unanimous Senate vote.
On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be negotiated, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95—0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98) [2], which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States".
But the negotiators ignored this clear warning and wrote an agreement which required industrialized nations (for example, the US), but not developing nations (for example, China) to reduce emissions.   And Al Gore, in spite of the warning from the Senate, signed the treaty for the United States.   The Clinton administration never submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification, nor did Clinton make any great effort to change minds.  Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have offered to renegotiate the agreement, but have not found many nations interested in doing so.

Thirty years ago, a treaty that omitted developing nations from such a treaty might have been practical (though perhaps not entirely fair), since they accounted for such a small proportion of the world's air pollution.  That is no longer true, and the largest single reason is $Chinese coal.  (My apologies for not getting to this when the link was free, but I have been catching up since being sick — and this is important.)
One of China's lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants.
. . .
Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad.  The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.
Which makes the Kyoto Agreement almost pointless, wouldn't you say?

There are ways to cope with this problem.  Industrialized nations could provide China (and India, where coal use is also growing fast) with more modern generating plants, which could cut the pollutants and even, possibly, provide ways to dump the carbon dioxide underground.  But so far the Chinese have shown little interest in that approach.  And there is nothing in the Kyoto Agreement that would force them to change their ways.

Some economists believe that the Kyoto Agreement fails a simple cost-benefit test, and nearly all economists think that there are better approaches.
Economists have been trying to analyse the overall net benefit of Kyoto Protocol through cost-benefit analysis.  Just as in the case of climatology, there is disagreement due to large uncertainties in economic variables.  Still, the estimates so far generally indicate either that observing the Kyoto Protocol is more expensive than the not observing the Kyoto Protocol or that the Kyoto Protocol has a marginal net benefit which exceeds the cost of simply adjusting to global warming.  The recent Copenhagen consensus project found that the Kyoto Protocol would slow down the process of global warming, but have a superficial overall benefit.

A study in Nature found that accounting only for local external costs, together with production costs, to identify energy strategies, compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would imply lower, not higher, overall costs.

Most current economic analyses indicate that the Kyoto protocol is more costly than potential alternative policies.  Many environmental economists advocate use of carbon tax or emission trading because most analyses suggest that they are considerably more economically efficient methods of emissions abatement.  For this reason, some economists advocate the Kyoto protocol as proxy policy for achieving such an aim.
So the Kyoto Agreement will do little to reduce global warming, because of Chinese coal use.  And there are better approaches to controlling worldwide air pollution, and, perhaps, global warming.   But the Kyoto Agreement has one great political advantage: It can be used to attack President Bush and the United States — and enemies of the Bush and the United States have been delighted to use it for that purpose.  That this delays a realistic approach to controlling air pollution, and perhaps global warming, does not matter to them.

(As always when I discuss global warming, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.

The horrific air pollution caused by these Chinese coal plants is causing serious health problems in many parts of China, and is beginning to have a significant effect on the western United States.)
- 5:02 PM, 19 June 2006   [link]


Congressman John Murtha, who is much in the news these days, has an opponent.  And if the voters pick brains, Diana Irey will win easily.  (Or, if they pick looks.  I don't approve of using looks to pick candidates in general, but I would be willing to make an exception in this case.)

Although the odds are against Irey, I would not say that she has no chance.  In 2004, President Bush took 49 percent of the vote in the 12th district of Pennsylvania.  And, although Murtha won easily against a token opponent, he received just 124,201 votes in the same election, hardly what one would expect if he were wildly popular.  (Bush received 133,088 votes, Kerry, 141,046 votes, so Murtha ran behind both presidential candidates.  And Irey has been winning elections in the district, against odds, for some time.
- 12:45 PM, 19 June 2006   [link]


Australia Started Paying A Baby Bonus:  And got more babies.
When Courtney Fox entered the world just after midnight on July 1, 2004, the last thing on her mother's mind was that she had just qualified for $3000.

Born at 12.01am, after a natural labour lasting about 24 hours, Courtney probably made her parents, Amanda Fox and James Laker, the first to qualify for the Government's baby bonus.

But many other parents appeared to have an eye on the money.  It has now emerged that there were more births on July 1, 2004, than on any other day in the past 30 years.  And with the baby bonus slated to rise a further $1000, to $4000, from this July 1, experts are tipping another birth bonanza.
At least temporarily.

Are these baby bonuses, and encouragement from groups like play2upnow, making a difference in Australian fertility?   Possibly.  Here's a chart showing the trend for the last fifteen years.  

(Here's my post on the attempts by the current Russian government, and the Soviet Union after World War II, to encourage more child bearing.

Trends in Australian fertility during the 20th century look much like those in the US.  Here's an official Australian paper on the subject, with lots of data, and here's my post with a chart of US fertility.)
- 8:58 AM, 19 June 2006   [link]


Worth Reading:  Cap Weinberger and Wynton Hall describe how the "mainstream" media ignore our heroes in the War on Terror.
After years of watching and reading coverage of the War on Terror, many citizens, including us, have been awestruck by the lack of balance and objectivity exercised by American reporters and news executives.   The dearth of hopeful or heroic stories reported has given viewers a lopsided perspective.

Case in point: the New York Times and their love affair with the Abu Ghraib prison abuses.  To date, the New York Times has devoted over 50 front page articles to the story!  Currently, not a single individual chronicled in our book, Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror, — some of the most highly decorated members of the United States military — has received a front-page story devoted to his or her valorous actions.  Even when Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the best the New York Times could muster was a story buried on page 13.
You can find your own examples of this bias without much effort.  In this area, the Seattle Times, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Washington state, has been disgracefully biased in its coverage of the War on Terror.  (And has probably lost circulation because of that bias.)

(For what it is worth, the Seattle Times often gives favorable coverage to mountain climbing heroes.  Now I have nothing against mountain climbers — in fact, years ago I climbed Mt. Rainier myself — but I think that mountain climbers are not in the same class as Sergeant Smith and our other heroes in the War on Terror.)
- 7:03 AM, 19 June 2006   [link]


Math Jokes In The Simpsons?  It's true, and often good ones, I would say.   For instance:
In the 1995 Halloween episode of the award-winning animated sitcom The Simpsons, two-dimensional Homer Simpson accidentally jumps into the third dimension.  During his journey in this strange world, geometric solids and mathematical formulas float through the air, including an innocent-looking equation: 178212 + 184112 = 192212.  Most viewers surely ignored this bit of mathematical gobbledygook.
Unless they had heard of Fermat's Last Theorem.
- 4:56 PM, 18 June 2006   [link]


Jerome Armstrong, the founder of an influential leftist blog, MyDD.com, has an interesting past.
Jerome Armstrong, the political strategist who followed a famous Internet fundraising effort for Howard Dean in 2004 with a book on "people-powered politics," has a sordid past as a shill for a worthless dot-com stock.

Armstrong, 42, touted a dubious Chinese software company, BluePoint, beginning in 1999, without disclosing that he accepted "below-market" shares in exchange for the glowing reports he posted on a site called Raging Bull, according to a 2003 civil suit that named him as a defendant.
And that wasn't the only stock he touted that is now worthless.

Luckily for Armstrong, if not the investors who trusted him, he has a new job.
A frequent subject of glowing media profiles on the growing role of the Internet in campaigning, Armstrong now directs Internet strategy for 2008 presidential hopeful Mark Warner.
(Here's the MyDD site, if you are curious.)
- 1:54 PM, 18 June 2006
More:  Chris Suellentrop of the New York Times appears to have been first with this story.  Suellentrop also has an important tidbit on Joe Trippi.
Wired contributor Gary Wolf described former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi as "a petty stock speculator on one of the most egregious bubble discussion forums on Raging Bull," and Wolf even uncovered a Raging Bull interview with Trippi, who posted on the site under the alias "random1."  The New Republic's Noam Scheiber suggested, in his 2003 profile of Trippi, that everything the Dean campaign manager knew about online politics he adapted from his experience as a Raging Bull poster.
The Times, as Mickey Kaus notes, buried their scoop behind the $TimesSelect wall.  (Or sort of buried it.  I was able to link to Suellentrop's blog, but not to the individual post.  Weird.)
- 7:38 AM, 19 June 2006   [link]


Which Brazilian Rally Was More Important?  The BBC thought this one was.
More than a million people have taken to the streets of Sao Paulo to celebrate the Brazilian city's tenth annual Gay Pride parade.

Revellers dressed in costumes danced through one of the main avenues, as music blared out of huge loudspeakers.
Christianity Today thought this one was.
A huge rally with 3 million evangelical Protestants has taken place this week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the country's biggest city.
. . .
The evangelical churches in the South American country have grown rapidly over the past ten years, with millions in the country of the 180 million population attracted by their dynamic services and promises that divine intervention will improve their lives despite grinding poverty affecting tens of millions.

Over the period from 1991 to 2000, the number of Brazil evangelicals grew annually by 8 percent, while the number of Catholics grew by just 0.3 percent.
Christianity Today, understandably, did not cover the gay rally.  The BBC, for reasons that should be obvious, did not cover the much larger evangelical rally.  Evangelicals, unlike gays, are not politically correct.

The BBC decision not to run a story on the giant evangelical rally was typical of most "mainstream" news organizations.  When I did a search on Google News for "evangelical + Brazil", I got just 44 hits, and only a few of them concerned this rally.

Crowd estimates are notoriously unreliable, but if three million evangelical Brazilians did get together for a rally, that's amazing.  (The equivalent crowd in the US would be about five million.)   And the surge in Brazilian evangelicals may have political, as well as religious, consequences.

(Fox News ("fair and balanced") covered both the evangelical rally and the gay rally.  Interestingly, Fox has a much smaller crowd estimate for the gay rally than the BBC has, just "[h]undreds of thousands".

If the editors at the BBC can't imagine how an evangelical movement might have poltical consequences, let me suggest they begin by reading a brief biography of John Wesley and an article on the Methodist Church he founded.)
- 1:32 PM, 18 June 2006   [link]


Happy Father's Day!  Kathleen Parker tells us why we should celebrate.
We've reached an odd place in Western history when a case has to be made for fatherhood, but here we are.

I'm a shameless "Daddy's girl" even though I'm well past the age of a "girl" and "Daddy" is 10 years in the grave. I'm even past grieving at this point and struggle sometimes to bring his face into focus.

What I have no trouble recalling is the power of his influence in my life and the utter impossibility of imagining a childhood without him.  It's not that he was perfect — who is? — but he was mine.  And because my mother died young, he was mostly mine for much of my childhood.
You'll want to read the whole thing.
- 12:53 PM, 18 June 2006   [link]


The Job Market Is Getting Tight:  I am beginning to see application forms set out at the entrances to businesses, not all of them fast food places.  And service is beginning to decline at the lower end.  Yesterday, I was wandering around several big box stores, looking for one of these, and was not approached by a clerk, even once. And the same tight job market can be found in an entirely different place, the Mississippi oil business.
The high price of oil, hovering around $70 a barrel, has brought a nearly dormant Mississippi petroleum industry roaring to life.  Wells abandoned long ago by the major oil companies are being reopened by independent operators.  Requests for new drilling permits have spiked.  Trainees for oil-field work can make nearly $14 an hour.
. . .
An experienced oil-field worker here can make as much as $22 an hour — exceptional pay for this part of the country — and a crew boss perhaps $80,000 a year.

And still employers are begging for people.
One reason they are having trouble finding people (or to be more honest, men) is the competition from post-Katrina construction jobs.

The first part of this year saw significant wage increases, nationally, and I expect to see more.

(So, how does the new coffee grinder work?  It's not bad.  It is easier to clean than my old one, which has gotten a little grungy and chipped after two decades.  The "chamber maid" feature, four little arms that sweep the chamber, does help with the cleaning.  I also considered this grinder, but decided that I was not enough of a neat freak to use one that messy.)
- 2:50 PM, 17 June 2006   [link]