March 2004, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Rigging Elections: Australian Professor John Quiggin came up with this helpful suggestion to the Democrats. Introduce a type of voting that cancels out Nader, such as instant runoffs. Change the rules, in other words, to help Quiggin's preferred party.
Now let me put aside practical questions about whether his idea would actually help the Democrats (maybe not) and whether it is the best way to change the rules to help Democrats (it isn't), and ask the larger ethical question: Almost every rule change in voting will help one or more parties at the expense of others, at least in the short run. How can we decide which changes are legitimate, other than simply picking the rule changes that help our preferred party?
There is a subsidiary question, somewhat easier I think, which deserves some thought, too. When should changes in election laws be made? Was it legitimate, for example, for a New Jersey court to change election laws at the last minute to save Torricelli's seat for the Democrats? (If you have forgotten that controversy, here's what happened. In October of 2002, Democratic Senator Bob Torricelli, in serious trouble because of corruption charges, withdrew after the official date for the party to replace him. The New Jersey court, in spite of the plain language of the law, allowed the Democratic party to replace him with former Senator Frank Lautenberg. Without the replacement, the Republicans would have won the seat, almost certainly.) In my view, almost all rule changes during a campaign, including the one suggested by Professor Quiggin, are illegitimate. In fact, in some cases, I think an election should intervene before new rules go into effect.
For centuries, the biggest fights over election rules were over who could vote. In most nations, that question has been largely settled. All adults can vote, with a few exceptions, which vary among nations and American states. Sometimes, mental patients are not allowed to vote, and often felons lose the right to vote, at least for a time. (Not all states exclude the mentally ill. A Democratic worker in New Jersey canvassed a psychiatric hospital in a recent election and got a number of absentee ballots, including one from a woman who had been committed as a paranoid schizophrenic. I would call the worker unscrupulous; Professor Quiggin might prefer "enterprising".)
In the United States in recent years, most fights over election rules have been — though it is almost never put this bluntly — over how much fraud to allow. In 1993, the Democrats passed, against the opposition of most Republicans, the "Motor Voter" law, which its opponents dubbed the "Motor Cheater" law. Potential voters are encouraged to register to vote when they get their driver's license, food stamps, or other government goods or services. The law also banned some common methods of cleaning up election rolls, such as dropping voters who have not voted for several elections. The sponsors of the act hoped that it would encourage voting, which has not happened. The opponents of the act feared that it would make fraud easier, which has happened.
There have been other rule changes that make fraud more likely, almost always justified by saying that they will encourage voting. Some jurisdictions, for example, do not allow election officials to ask voters for identification. The widespread use of mail ballots has made fraud easy everywhere. All such rule changes put in doubt the legitimacy of close elections, especially when won by a Democrat, since a large majority of fraudulent votes go to Democratic candidates.
One could argue that allowing a small additional amount of fraud is acceptable if many more people vote. I would not reject that argument absolutely, but think it very dangerous, since any fraudulent voting raises doubts about the legitimacy of the result in close elections. How dangerous? Some Spanish historians think that it was one of the causes of the Spanish Civil War, since the right believed that victory of the left in the 1936 elections came illegitimately. There are many similar historical examples, most less dramatic.
These dangers make me think that any rule changes which endanger the integrity of the result are suspect for those who value democracy over the immediate interests of their party. I believe that almost all changes in election rules that make fraud easier are wrong. That is not, by any means, an answer to my general question, how to judge changes in election laws, but I think it is an essential part of any answer. We seem to have forgotten that in much of the United States.
- 4:51 PM, 24 March 2004 [link]
PETA Won't Like This One Bit: Now the terrorists in Iraq have gone too far. They put out a contract on a British army dog.
AN ARMY sniffer dog was the target of an ASSASSINATION bid by Iraqi guerillas because he found so many weapons.Fortunately the dog survived and will continue his important work.
Think I am kidding about PETA's reaction? Some months ago, they made an official complaint about terrorists using donkeys to carry bombs. When people objected to this, PETA explained that killing people is not in their department.
- 2:17 PM, 24 March 2004 [link]
More On Ahmed Yassin: Compare this Guardian obituary to this Israeli account of his career highlights.
When, in October 1997, the halfblind, almost wholly paralysed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who has been killed in an Israeli air strike at the age of around 67, arrived in Gaza, after being released from an Israeli jail in exchange for Mossad agents caught redhanded trying to assassinate a colleague in Jordan, one Arab commentator likened him to Nelson Mandela.None of those violent deeds are listed in the obituary, but Arutz Sheva has a list of the most destructive:
June 1, 2001 — Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv, 21 killed — mostly new-immigrant teenagers from the former Soviet UnionAltogether Yassin oversaw 425 attacks that killed 377 Israelis and wounded 2,076, most of them civilians, many of them children, and a few of them babies.
In its obituary, the Guardian does not mention a single one of these attacks. That's like writing an obituary of Hitler and leaving out both World War II and the Holocaust.
- 10:52 AM, 24 March 2004 [link]
The Idea That John Kerry just tells people what they want to hear has spread.
CARACAS, March 23 (Xinhuanet) -- A Venezuelan government official said his country would not take seriously the criticism by US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry against the Venezuelan government and its president, saying it is just Kerry's strategy to get more votes.The Chavez government, as you probably recall, more or less endorsed Kerry a few weeks ago. After his campaign caught on to the fact that such endorsements do not help with American voters, he rejected it and issued a solid critique of Chavez's government. (Though reporting from Venezuela for this story, Xinhuanet is a Chinese news agency.)
I wonder why so many, in the United States and abroad, came to the conclusion that Kerry just tells people what they want to hear. It could not have anything to do with his record as a Senator, of course. Or his reputation for making "nuanced" statements.
- 8:36 AM, 24 March 2004 [link]
Dick Morris now thinks the election may be a big win for Bush.
I have doubted the conventional wisdom that this election would be close. If Bush continues to stay on the offensive and Kerry's responses remain as inept as they've been, the Massachusetts Democrat will go downhill faster than he is now doing on his skiing vacation.Morris thinks that, as a Massachusetts liberal Democrat, Kerry is not ready to appeal to middle America. I have made a similar argument, saying that Northern urban Democrats are often protected by a cocoon during their House and Senate careers.
Three weeks ago, I made my own prediction of a big win for Bush —assuming the economy continues to grow strongly. Morris discusses the tactics, while I explain why the strategic situation favors Bush. Different approaches, but similar conclusions.
(A general comment on Morris: In the past few years, I have come to the conclusion that you should ignore any of his columns about Hillary Clinton. He dislikes her too much to think clearly when she is the subject. On other politicians and on political tactics, he can often be interesting, and sometimes instructive.)
- 7:33 AM, 24 March 2004 [link]
Routine Vote Fraud, Plus: Regular readers of this site have seen several stories of vote fraud with a common pattern. Almost always the vote fraud benefited a Democratic candidate, was done with mailed ballots, and was done by an organization or person separate from the candidate or party. This latest story of vote fraud follows that pattern exactly. But there are two aspects that add to the story's importance.
First, there is the sheer scale. A single worker, Ezzie Thomas, after receiving substantial "consulting fees" from two candidates ($12,000 all together) witnessed 264 absentee ballots, and people working for him witnessed about one hundred more. A private investigator for another candidate collected evidence that Thomas did far more than witness some of the ballots, and in some cases filled them out after getting a voter's signature.
Second, there is the location of this apparent vote fraud — Florida. Specifically, Orlando. Now let me ask two questions to show you why this story may have importance beyond Orlando. Thomas has been collecting absentee ballots for some time, according to the article. Is it likely, assuming the charges are true, that he used similar tactics in earlier elections, including 2000? Where there are these kinds of vote manipulation, there are almost always many workers following common practices in election after election. Is it likely that other workers in Florida during the 2000 election committed vote fraud using the methods described in the article? I think the answer to both questions is yes. Not certain, but likely.
If the answer to the two questions is yes, then we have an explanation for some of the strange vote patterns found in Florida during the 2000 election, fraud by Democratic affiliated workers. We may have barely escaped having a presidential election determined by illegal votes — but just barely.
(For those interested in the nitty gritty details, here's the gist.
At issue in both races are ballots bearing the signature of Ezzie Thomas, president of the Orange County Voters League. Thomas signed as the witness to about 264 absentee ballots, according to the lawsuit.In many areas, part of the money paid to Thomas would have gone to some of the voters, so there may have been bribery here, too.)
- 5:41 PM, 23 March 2004 [link]
Do Israel's Assassinations Work? Even newspapers mostly sympathetic to Israel, such as the Telegraph and the Washington Post, thought the latest assassination, of Ahmed Yassin, was a mistake. Newspapers more critical of Israel, such as the New York Times and the Guardian, were certain that it was.
But the grim numbers, as recounted by the editor in chief of a newspaper closer to the scene, the Jerusalem Post, argue otherwise.
In the early months of the intifada, this macho pretense was sustained by the Israeli government's tacit decision not to target terrorist ringleaders, for fear such attacks would inspire massive retaliation. Yassin and his closest associates considered themselves immune from Israeli reprisals and operated in the open. What followed was the bloodiest terrorist onslaught in Israeli history, climaxing in a massacre at Netanya in March 2002. After that, Israel invaded the West Bank and began to target terrorist leaders more aggressively.Why has this policy worked? Because the Palestinian leaders, despite their bluster, love life and their children, too.
To date, there has not been a single instance in which a Hamas leader sent one of his own sons or daughters on a suicide mission. I once interviewed a Hamas leader, since deceased, as he bounced his one-year-old girl on his knee. Contrary to myth, this was not a man who was afraid of nothing. Unsparing as he was with the lives of others, he was circumspect when it came to the lives of his own.In the past, nations often exchanged hostages as guarantees of treaties. When they did, the hostages were ordinarily high ranking people, often the sons or daughters of rulers. What worked with barbarians in the past — at least some of the time — can work with our modern barbarians.
And there is a powerful moral argument for targeting the leaders of terrorist groups, rather than the lowest level of followers. They are far more responsible for the evil done by their organization than those who just carry out their orders.
- 2:12 PM, 23 March 2004 [link]
Latest From NASA: Not just water on Mars, but a salty sea. And, with great good luck, Opportunity landed on what used to be the shore of that sea.
"We think Opportunity is now parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science payload on Opportunity and its twin Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit.This makes the odds that life once existed on Mars (and may still in some crevices) much higher, as I am sure you have already figured out.
- 11:33 AM, 23 March 2004 [link]
Racial Profiling At The Olympics: The Greek police, worried about terrorist attacks during this year's Olympics, are checking on the most likely suspects.
Greek police have increased scrutiny of Muslim immigrant groups and makeshift mosques in Athens — a city with no official place of worship for Muslims — ahead of the Olympics. The surveillance, confirmed to The Associated Press by police sources, was intensified following the deadly train bombings in Madrid on March 11 and seeks to gain insights into Greece's small and often insular communities of nonnative Muslims.What interests me about this story is how frankly the Greek police say that they are checking on Muslims. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this story originated with the police or with officials who want to assure tourists that they are taking the obvious precautions. American police organizations have been watching Muslims more closely since 9/11, but would get in considerable trouble for saying that they are.
- 8:27 AM, 23 March 2004 [link]
More On Richard Clarke: When I learned yesterday that his friends called him Dick Clarke, I wondered how long it would take before someone named him "American Grandstand". The first that I saw was at PowerLine, but I think others may have beaten them to it. It's the right name for him, if John Podhoretz's portrait, drawn from Clarke's book is correct.
What Clarke reveals in "Against All Enemies" is that — not to put too fine a point on it — he is a self-regarding buffoon. But his solipsistic silliness won't give pause to the Democrat-media desperation to rewrite recent history in an effort to delude voters that the 9/11 attacks were the fault of George W. Bush's inattention.Clarke has his critics among those who have fought terror, notably Mansoor Ijaz and George Smith. Ijaz accuses Clarke of blocking Sudan's offer to send Osama bin Laden to the US, and Smith accuses him of focusing on cyber attacks while ignoring real attacks. (There is a great dispute over whether Sudan did offer bin Laden to the US, and I do not have an informed opinion on the question.)
One of the things that I admire about President Bush's response to 9/11 is that he did not blame the Clinton administration alone for inaction. Instead, he said that, for a generation, the United States had paid too little attention to the threat, spreading the blame, rightly in my opinion, over administrations from Carter to his own. There is, indeed, blame enough to go around for our failures to prepare for this threat. Now that this self-regarding buffoon's book is out during the middle of an election season, it will be harder to remember that, and harder to discuss our strategy for meeting the threat.
- 8:11 AM, 23 March 2004 [link]
Wrong On The Pew World Survey Again: Last year, in this post, I looked at data from Pew Research and found that their results had been widely misrepresented in newspaper accounts. In all the nations for which Pew had data, opinion of the United States rose, following the liberation of Iraq, after falling before the war began. Newspapers almost invariably presented this under a headline that said opinion fell after the war. (You could argue — for the countries they surveyed — that opinion of the US fell because of the war, but the decline came before the war and was partly made up afterwards, so you can't say "after".)
When I challenged the New York Times on this, I was told in a frank email that the Times had been following the Pew press release. As did nearly all other journalists, from what I could tell. So Pew had misrepresented its own data, and the journalists didn't check.
Pew did a similar study this year and I suspect the same thing has happened; Pew put out an incorrect press release, which was followed blindly by the press. Take a look at the lead paragraphs on the study from the New York Times:
During the first year of the United States occupation of Iraq, antagonism toward American foreign policy in some European and Muslim countries has hardened, with public opinion overseas swinging sharply in favor of charting a course independent of Washington, a new poll has found.And from the Washington Post:
A year after the invasion of Iraq, anti-American views have hardened in Europe and in Muslim countries, where lopsided majorities oppose President Bush and are suspicious of U.S. motives, according to a new nine-country opinion poll.Now does that look like Susan Sachs of the Times and Dana Milbank of the Post are rewriting the same press release? It does to me. If so, the press release got it wrong again.
Let's take the easy part first. Did opinion in the four Muslim countries surveyed "harden" against the United States? No. It was very hard and has softened significantly, though we still have far to go. In all four, Pew asked people whether they favored a US-led war on terrorism. In three of the four support increased over the last year, and in Pakistan it stayed the same.
Support for US War Against Terrorism, 2003 and 2004
In all four Muslim countries the "very unfavorable" opinions of the United States fell in the last year, though they are still far too high.
Very Unfavorable Opinions of US, 2003 and 2004
So, the correct conclusion is that opinions of the United States, though still very hard, softened in all four Muslim countries surveyed.
What about the European countries? In all of them, except Russia, there is less support for a US-led war on terror. In Russia, support rose from 51 to 73 percent. On the other hand, very unfavorable opinions of the United States barely changed, except in Russia, where they fell.
Very Unfavorable Opinions of US, 2003 and 2004
Putting this all together, I would say that opinion in those four European countries has softened slightly, but would not argue with someone who wanted to conclude that it had not changed.
So the overall conclusion in both lead paragraphs, that opinion has hardened against the United States over the last year, is wrong for both groups of nations. Will either newspaper correct this after I send them a note? Don't hold your breath.
(You may wonder why Pew would be wrong, as it appears, in its press releases. I don't know, but it may be relevant that Andrew Kohut, who directs these surveys, was a supporter of Democratic candidates before he became an independent pollster.
I'll have more to say about this survey in later posts. If you would like to look at it yourself, you can find it here.)
- 1:20 PM, 22 March 2004 [link]
Who Is Richard Clarke? PowerLine has the answer:
There you have it: Richard Clarke is a bitter, discredited bureaucrat who was an integral part of the Clinton administration's failed approach to terrorism, was demoted by President Bush, and is now an adjunct to John Kerry's presidential campaign.There is one thing I find encouraging about the Clarke affair, his demotion. Critics of the Bush administration on the right have argued that someone should have been fired after 9/11, an argument I agree with in principle, though many who should be fired are protected by Civil Service rules. To see that a man who had failed in the war on terror was demoted and ignored is a good sign.
- 7:25 AM, 22 March 2004 [link]
H'mm: Reverend Karen Damman, a lesbian minister who was being tried by the United Methodist Church has this to say:
God called me into ordained ministry and I just can't believe that God makes a mistake.Well, there you are. No wonder she was acquitted.
I'll leave the theological arguments about that statement to those more qualified than I, but just note that I would find this easier to believe if it had come from the other party in the conversation. And I can't help but wonder how respectfully this would be treated if it came from someone the press did not like.
- 7:10 AM, 22 March 2004 [link]
Newspaper Circulation Is Down: So is viewership for network news. The public has low opinions of journalists, according to many surveys. What does Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi say to all this? Never mind.
A sad state of affairs, no? Actually, not really. The news media have certainly had their share of scandal lately, and the exploits of alleged serial fabricators Jayson Blair, of the New York Times, and now Jack Kelley, of USA Today, have done little to bolster public trust in the media. Still, reading navel-gazing reports such as the PEJ's [Project for Excellence in Journalism] leaves me aghast not at the media -- but at the public.Not everything Farhi says about the public and its answers to polls is wrong, but his attitude is still amazing. In any other business, poll news that bad after a series of scandals would lead most in that business to think they needed to clean up their act. For Farhi, it's just evidence that you and I are silly.
Farhi does not even mention one common complaint, bias. If he were open-minded on the question of the quality of journalism, he might consider this interesting fact. There are news organizations and radio programs that have grown in popularity in the last two decades. I can think of three right off, The New York Post, Fox News, and the Rush Limbaugh radio program (along with many imitators). What do those three have in common? They are, or in the case of Fox News, are thought to be conservative. (Fox's commentary is mostly conservative, but its news does not seem to have an obvious slant to it.)
- 2:36 PM, 21 March 2004 [link]
The Patty Murray Theory Of Terrorism, that people choose to become terrorists because they are deprived, because they lack hospitals and day care centers, is impervious to evidence for most of those who hold it. You hear the theory not only from Washington state's senior senator, but even occasionally from those smart enough to know better, such as George W. Bush and Colin Powell. Those who hold the theory don't even notice when a terrorist is caught and he turns out to be a well-off software engineer in Oregon or an entrepreneur in Seattle, privileged people even by local standards and far more so by world standards.
If it is not the deprived who become terrorists, who is it? This article has some answers for Europe.
A small cadre of European scholars, mirrored by a small group of European internal-security and intelligence officials, have followed the growth of Islamic radicalism in Europe for nearly 20 years. They know, even if European politicians do not, that Europe's most fearsome Muslim true believers are not products of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, or the First Gulf War, or the American troop presence in Saudi Arabia after 1990, or the Algerian civil war, or the Bosnian war, or the strife in Chechnya, or the Hindu pillaging of mosques, or the war in Afghanistan, or the second American war against Saddam Hussein, or the globalization of American culture. These events are banners that men who are already converted to jihad wave as they march to give battle. The holy warriors in Europe do not want to see peace in Palestine any more than Hamas's spiritual chief Ahmad Yassin or Osama bin Laden or Iran's clerical guide Ali Khamenei wants to see Israelis and Palestinians solve their problems in two separate, peacefully coexisting states. They do not care about Israeli settlements.Osama bin Laden spent much of his life in Europe. The leader of the 9/11 attack became a radical after several years of schooling in Europe. The "shoe bomber" was a British convert. And the non-religious part of their attacks on the United States often comes directly from the European left. As I mentioned in this post, there are strong similarities between the ideas of Noam Chomsky, who is enormously influential on the European left, and Osama bin Laden. On the whole, ideas have moved from the European left to the new jihadists, but I have seen some signs that ideas are now moving in the opposite direction, too.
Gerecht is right that Europe is breeding Muslim terrorists; he is wrong to think that all of them will strike at the United States, if given the chance. There have been many more attacks in Europe than in the United States, and they began there at least as early as they began here. Most European governments are now moving toward the policy toward their Muslims that I described as "be loyal, or be gone". Every step in that direction, even such small, symbolic steps as forbidding Muslim head scarfs in French schools, will provoke more anger among the jihadists.
What is not clear is how long what is, in effect, a tactical alliance between the jihadists and some on the extreme left in Europe will last. Their ideas are fundamentally incompatible. As anger over the liberation of Iraq dies down, more on both sides may recognize that, at least privately. Intelligent American diplomacy can widen that breach and divide our foes — if we have a clear picture of them and avoid fantasies like the Patty Murray theory of terrorism.
(For more on Patty Murray and her beliefs, see this post. And here's an article describing some American jihadists. You'll notice that they are not especially deprived, depraved maybe, but not deprived.)
- 9:22 AM, 21 March 2004 [link]
Biased BBC, Example 3: Sometimes bias is shown by the stories that do not appear. Three days ago, in this post, I described the charges that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had made against the French government, that they had aided the genocide in Rwanda in many ways. At the time, I said that the BBC had refused to carry this story. I was right to say that, but incomplete. The BBC did carry a very complete account of the French charges against Kagame on March 11th, that he had ordered President Habyarimana's airplane shot down, the event that triggered the genocide.
But the BBC has still not carried Kagame's charges against the French. And that isn't because they do not cover Rwanda. If you search the BBC site, as I did, you will find a number of Rwandan stories far less important than Kagame's charges. These stories do not, however, indict the French government for complicity in genocide.
I think it fair to conclude that the BBC will not tell its listeners about this story if it can avoid doing so. It would raise too many questions about the French government that the BBC does not want to raise, at least until Bush is defeated, and maybe not even then. It is rather hard to present the French government in a good light after we know they may have assisted genocide.
(Which set of charges is true? One or both, in my opinion. There is no doubt in my mind that the French helped those who committed the genocide, though the extent of their help may be arguable. The French charges, that Kagame ordered the airplane shot down, seem less likely and do not fit what I have read about Kagame elsewhere. I don't know of anyone outside France who considers them plausible, though I must add that I am not, by any means, an expert on the recent history of Rwanda.)
- 3:15 PM, 20 March 2004 [link]
Worth Reading: Iain Murray's discussion of the Spanish election.
Close to 40 percent of the Spanish people voted for the PP [Popular Party] despite the attacks, despite the accusations of lies and despite the widespread unhappiness with Prime Minister Aznar's decisions on Iraq (90 percent opposition in some polls). It would be a clear mistake to say that the 43 percent of Spaniards who voted for the Socialist Party did so only because they wished Spain to leave the coalition of the willing and withdraw their troops from Iraq. In fact, it would not surprise me if polls found that more Spaniards now supported the Aznar stance on Iraq than previously, despite the election results.There are, in short, other explanations of the vote than the one immediately seized on by the BBC and other news organizations.
Now one might say that the fact that nearly all political observers took this as a vote against cooperation with the United States (or for surrender to terror, from another point of view) is important in itself. I don't quarrel with that, but I think we should remember that media interpretations of election results are often wrong. To predict future elections in Spain, we need to have the correct explanation of this one.
And it is also true that voters change their minds. There is no doubt that the Munich agreement was widely popular at first, and that much of that popularity faded quickly. The new Spanish prime ministers, Zapatero, may soon find himself in the same trap that Chamberlain did after Munich. Terrorism will not stop in Europe or even in Spain. The Spanish people may soon decide that Zapatero appeased the terrorists — without gaining peace. (I suspect that his arrogant manner will also offend many, but don't know enough about Spanish politics to be sure.)
- 8:37 AM, 20 March 2004 [link]
Washington DC Has Been Misgoverned For Years: By Democrats, including the corrupt cocaine user, Marion Barry. Washington Post columnist Colbert King has been documenting that misgovernment for years. I have been reading his columns with admiration for years. (Here's the latest, if you want a sample.) But I have become a bit impatient with Mr. King in the last year or so.
To understand why I have become impatient, consider this analogy. Suppose a columnist wrote for years about the damage done by bacterial infections, the costs to individuals, families, and society — but never mentioned that antibiotics can cure those infections. At some point, all of us would begin to wonder why the columnist never mentions the obvious solution. And that's the point I have come to with Mr. King.
When one party becomes corrupt and incompetent, we replace it with another party. Washington D. C. needs a reform Republican mayor. (If the problem were an entrenched Republican party, then Washington would need a reform Democratic mayor.) Antibiotics do not cure all infections, and replacing a corrupt party with another party does not always bring reform. But both have success rates high enough so as to be the obvious step.
And I think there is an obvious person to run as a reform Republican — Colbert King, himself. At the very least, he should organize a committee to find a candidate. He has been standing on the sideline long enough, and it is time for him to get into the game. (And if he does, I'll send him a small contribution for his campaign.)
- 8:01 AM, 20 March 2004
More: Here's a first person account of the trouble citizens in Washington, D. C. have even getting the attention of city government.
- 2:48 PM, 21 March 2004 [link]
Bringing Afghanistan Into The 19th Century: During the liberation of Afghanistan, someone (Christoper Hitchens, perhaps?) said that we had bombed the nation out of the stone age. That goes a little far, but when you read about just how primitive ideas in Afghanistan are about "birthing babies", you'll see that it is no exaggeration to say that Afghanistan is now moving into the 19th century. The numbers are horrifying.
Of every 100,000 women who go into labor in Afghanistan, about 1,900 die, according to Dr. Tessa Wardlaw, a senior program officer for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. In the US and Japan, by comparison, the number is 8 in every 100,000 women. Afghanistan's infant mortality rate, at 165 per 1,000 live births, is also among the world's highest.Superstition is widespread.
Thus [midwife Nasima] Kuchi spends a great deal of time explaining the basics, specifically what they should not do. For example: After the baby is born, don't put lipstick on its navel, where the umbilical cord has just been cut.And few know even the simplest techniques.
Using a doll — which looks more like a gingerbread man with a tube coming from its stomach — Kuchi demonstrates how to treat the newborn. She carefully shows the women how to make two knots in the umbilical cord, a distance apart, and then cut in between.Kuchi's lessons are being subsidized by a Swedish charity, which is fine. They could not happen if the United States military had not supported the Afghan rebels in their efforts to overthrow the Taliban.
(I am still hoping that some of those Afghan babies will be named George, Laura, Donald, Condoleezza, Colin, . . .)
- 2:28 PM, 19 March 2004 [link]
Down The Memory Hole: This New York Times editorial begins with a falsehood.
One year ago, President Bush began the war in Iraq. Most Americans expected military victory to come quickly, as it did. Despite the administration's optimism about what would follow, it was also easy to predict that the period after the fall of Baghdad would be very messy and very dangerous. In that sense, right now we're exactly where we expected to be.You'll notice that they modestly do not mention any of their own editorials making the prediction they now tell us most Americans believed. In fact, a Gallup poll taken a few weeks before the liberation began showed that majority of the public expected a difficult war, with a full 79 percent expecting moderate or high casualties. One in five did not expect us to remove Saddam. The public in Britain was even more pessimistic.
There were reasons the public felt this way; many "experts" were predicting a much worse war than occurred. Here's a set of failed predictions from journalists (including some from the New York Times) and here's another set from academics. Chris Matthews, for example, said in August 2002 that: "This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe." On March 28, 2003, Jere Bacharach, Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Washington, said that the war was over and the United States had lost. He went further, predicting that American tank forces would be surrounded and forced to surrender.
Why did the New York Times claim that most expected an easy victory? To diminish the accomplishment of our forces, especially their leadership, and to conceal the many inaccurate predictions from people at the New York Times, some coming when American forces were at the gates of Baghdad. Nearly everyone, certainly including me, erred in some of their predictions about Iraq. All of us, including the Times, would do better to admit our mistakes.
(That's not the only error in the editorial. I'll have more to say about it in the next few days.)
- 10:07 AM, 19 March 2004 [link]
Two Thousand Posts: After the first one thousand posts, I put up this list of some of the best posts in the first ten months of this site. Some in that list are still of current interest, notably this one describing the popularity of the Munich agreement that led to World War II, and this one estimating the Iraqi support for liberation from Saddam. A majority or Iraqis, I argued, though probably not an overwhelming one, favored the removal of Saddam, even by a war.
Here are some of the best posts from the second thousand:
- 8:27 AM, 19 March 2004 [link]
Who Knows What's Better For Iraq? The Iraqi people or Zapatero?
Only contrition followed by retreat can possibly repair the damage we have done. Now the newly elected Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has articulated this message as a threat: only a complete "revolution" in American policy could stop him from pulling out of the coalition that is occupying post-war Iraq.Janet Daly does not mention it in this column, but the Iraqis show almost no interest in Zapatero's favored solution, putting the UN in charge. When asked to name the top three nations or organizations that should help Iraq rebuild, just 6 percent of Iraqis name the UN, the same number that named Russia, but fewer than named Japan (36), the United States (36), France (22), the United Kingdom (22), Germany (17), the United Arab Emirates (9), Saudi Arabia (8), and Kuwait (7). That's not what I would call a vote of confidence in the United Nations. Perhaps the Iraqis, though not Prime Minister Zapatero, know about the evidence of corruption in the UN Oil for Food program.
It astonishes me how indifferent many on the Left are to the views of the Iraqi people, both before the war and since.
- 11:18 AM, 18 March 2004 [link]
Were The Willie Horton Ads Unfair? In every election year, there are charges that one side is unfair, making irresponsible charges or appealing to race or other forms of bigotry. Partisans like Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly will see almost all the fault in the other party. To say, as he and other Democratic journalists have, that the Republicans are beginning the attack ads is to ignore months of Democratic attacks on Bush in the primaries, brutal attacks on Bush by such Congressional leaders as Senators Kennedy and Byrd, and attacks on Bush by Democratic allies on the loony left. The anti-Bush demonstration I covered last August had demonstrators with signs accusing Bush of being a Nazi; it also attracted representatives from most of the Democratic candidates, who did not appear bothered by those signs. (To my knowledge, no one at the PI has ever condemned those signs, or similar accusations, in print.) So, contrary to what Connelly claims, Bush's team did not begin the attacks, nor do they have an advantage in spreading them.
More important, there is nothing wrong with negative attacks, if they are true. In fact, I would argue that it is more important to know what a candidate has done wrong than what they have done right.
The 1988 Willie Horton ad is one of the better examples of a fair negative attack, even though it is usually condemned. First, some background for those whose memory of the ad is vague or are too young to have seen it. Willie Horton murdered a young man in the course of a robbery and was given a life sentence for that crime. Massachusetts then had a policy of giving furloughs to prisoners, even those with life sentences. While on furlough, Horton escaped, traveled to Maryland, and savagely attacked a couple there. His crimes, and others by prisoners on furlough, led to a great controversy about the furlough program in Massachusetts, with then Governor Dukakis defending the policy. A small newspaper, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, won a Pulitzer prize for its series of articles attacking the program and Dukakis. The Reader's Digest, with a somewhat larger circulation, published an article on the controversy as well.
The issue reappeared in the 1988 campaign, beginning with the New York primary, where Al Gore used it to criticize his opponent, Michael Dukakis. (I believe that then New York Governor Mario Cuomo was the man who suggested this line of attack to Gore.) Later, the Bush campaign, following the Eagle-Tribune, the Reader's Digest, and Al Gore, raised the same issue with an ad showing a turnstile and giving Hortons's name, though not showing a picture of him. Soon after, an independent group had a tougher ad, which did show Horton's picture and revealed that he was an African-American. The Bush campaign asked the group to stop running the ad and they did.
Ever since, many Democrats and journalists have claimed that, by running its ad (that did not show Horton or mention his race), the Bush campaign was trying to use race as an issue. You can see an example from the New York Times here and an example from CBS here. You'll see more, I predict, during this campaign. The journalists who make those claims will be criticizing the 1988 Bush campaign for making the same charge that earned the Eagle-Tribune a Pulitzer Prize.
(There is just one place where the critics may have a point. Some critics say that, before the ad, Willie Horton was always known as William Horton. They argue that the Bush campaign was trying to make people think Horton was African-American by using Willie. If they are right in saying that no one called him Willie before the ad — and I doubt that they are — it still does not prove that the Bush campaign was doing anything other than try to make Horton sound more like a criminal.)
- 10:26 AM, 18 March 2004 [link]
Most Men Like Women: That's not news, but it is news that men prefer women in admissions to Oxford.
Oxford dons are biased in favour of female applicants, especially if they come from independent schools, according to a study by four eminent academics.Areas in which more women were involved in admissions did not have the same admissions bias. I have seen examples of this myself from time to time, but was never sure there was a pattern.
- 6:47 AM, 18 March 2004 [link]
Rwandan Leader Accuses France Of Facilitating Genocide: Many observers have accused the French government of helping the Hutus responsible for the genocide before it began, while it went on, and afterwards. Now, the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, repeats those charges.
M[r] Kagame claimed that the French government supplied weapons, logistical support and even senior military planners to the regime of militant ethnic Hutus responsible for the slaughter of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.Kagame made these charges after a French police report blamed him for shooting down an airplane carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, then president of Rwanda, an incident that triggered the genocide. Few outside France believe Kagame had anything to do with the death of Habyarimana.
Some think that France directly helped the killers.
In at least one case, French troops moved United Nations peacekeepers away from a college where they were protecting 2,000 Tutsis. After the peacekeepers were moved, the Tutsis were slaughtered. Mr Kagame said the police report blaming him for Mr Habyarimana's death was a politically motivated attempt to deflect blame from France.Whether they helped directly or not, there is no doubt about their indirect help for the killers. There is also no doubt that the French government paid almost no price for facilitating a genocide that killed 800,000 people, either in popular support or the respect of other nations.
One reason that France and its leaders have escaped the condemnation they deserve is the lack of attention given to the Rwandan genocide. After reading this article in the Telegraph, with its sensational charges, I checked the following sites for similar articles: BBC, CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post. None had an article with Kagame's charges, even though both broadcast sites are updated regularly, and the two newspapers are published later than the Telegraph.
- 2:01 PM, 17 March 2004 [link]
Some Families, for example the Bach family, are known for their music. Others, for example the Adams family, are known for their statesmen. Still other families produce mathematicians, or soldiers, or engineers. A Canadian family, the Khadrs, produces terrorists.
"We are an Al-Qaeda family." So spoke one of the Khadrs, a Muslim Canadian household whose near-single-minded devotion to Osama bin Laden contains important lessons for the West. Their saga began in 1975, when Ahmad Said al-Khadr left his native Egypt for Canada and soon after married a local Palestinian woman. He studied computer engineering at the University of Ottawa and engaged in research for a major telecommunications firm.Khadr was released and went back to terrorism, joining nearly all his family.
Note that the Canadian government subsidized al Qaeda, indirectly, for years. Note also another counter example to the Patty Murray theory of terrorism, that its causes are poverty and deprivation. Whatever their problems, the Khadrs were not poor or deprived.
Richard Pipes, unlike Patty Murray, knows something about the problem of terrorism, and ends with this diagnosis and advice:
While an unusual case, the Khadr's horrifying history serves as a warning, pointing to the danger of Muslim parents in North American and Europe who stray so deeply into militant Islamic currents that, Palestinian-style, they seek to turn their children into militant Islamic weapons to be turned against their own countries.And where we fail in that, we will have to be harsher. We should encourage those Muslims who can not be loyal to be gone. We should require them to be gone if they support al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
- 8:50 AM, 17 March 2004 [link]
Sometimes Polls Give Answers News Organizations Don't Like: When their poll showed Bush with a lead over Kerry, what did CBS Evening News do? They ignored it, though they had used all the previous polls showing Kerry with a lead. What did the New York Times do with the same poll? They buried the horse race part, in the 8th and 9th paragraphs of the story.
The Times/CBS News poll offered the latest evidence that the race for president was as tight as has long been predicted. Even after two weeks in which Mr. Bush has run televised advertisements promoting himself and attacking Mr. Kerry, and in which Mr. Kerry has enjoyed the glow of favorable coverage that greeted his near-sweep of Democratic primaries, the two men are effectively tied, with 46 percent of voters saying they supported Mr. Bush and 43 percent backing Mr. Kerry.And they disguised their main finding with the "effectively tied" phrase. Because, after all, Nader will be in the race, and so the main result is that, in a three way race, Bush leads Kerry by 8 percent. They even hid this result from those, like me, who ignore the text and look at the tables. The printed article includes a very large table with all the mushy questions about image — but no horse race results.
- 7:47 AM, 17 March 2004 [link]
Iraqis Agree With Americans And Britons: British Muslims and Canadians agree that the liberation of Iraq was wrong. A plurality of Iraqis think the liberation of Iraq was right. In that, they are similar to Americans and Britons. Iraqis also have very high expectations for the future, disagreeing with both Canadians and British Muslims.
I'll have more to say about this poll of Iraqis done for several news organizations, including the BBC and ABC, but here I want to discuss this strange pattern of opinion.
The opinions of British Muslims are easily explained; as I concluded in this post, many are not really British Muslims, but Muslims living in Britain. What is harder to explain is the large difference in opinion between Canada and both Britain and the United States. The three nations share history and values, and fought together in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the first Gulf War. With a (mostly) common language, ideas flow easily from one nation to another. The Beatles, who at first mostly sang American songs, were a great hit here. Michael Moore is a great hit in Britain. (I apologize to our British friends for Moore, but remind them that they did not have to buy his books.) All this is so common that we forget that most borders between nations are not so permeable.
Let me propose three explanations for the gap between Canada and the United States and Britain. I think all of them have some validity. First, opinion on foreign policy often follows national leaders rather than constrains them. During 2002, one could see public opinion in the United States moving toward Bush as he made it clear that he intended to remove Saddam Hussein. There are many similar examples. Many citizens know little about foreign problems and choose their positions mostly on their trust (or distrust) of the leaders proposing them. We think so often of politicians responding to public opinion that we forget that they move it, too, especially on issues that do not touch citizens directly. Had Prime Minister Chrétien joined Britain and the United States, some part of the Canadian public would have come with him.
Second, we tend to justify our own actions and our own nation's actions. If we want to think well of ourselves and our nation, we will try to find a way to see our actions as right. Canadians will find it easier to think well of themselves and their nation if they now think that Canada was right not to help in the liberation of Iraq. For Americans and Britons, the opposite is true.
Third, and this is the explanation I find most interesting, Americans and Britons have much more direct contact with Iraq than Canadians. All the American and British soldiers who serve there have relatives and friends. It is no secret that the picture the soldiers have given of the war is very different from that of the BBC and the CBC. If, like me, you think that portrait more accurate than the one that Canadians are receiving, then you think that Canadians would disagree less with their American and British cousins — if they were as well informed as we are.
That difference in information also explains why Iraqis, who must be the best informed of all, have opinions closer to those in Britain and the United States, rather than those in Canada. It would be a little too blunt to say that Iraqis know what is happening in Iraq, and Canadians don't, but only a little. Iraqis are optimistic about their future because they see many improvements in their daily lives; Canadians are pessimistic about that future because they do not see on the CBC, or read in most Canadian papers, what Iraqis can see for themselves.
Sadly, what is true in Canada is true in many other nations as well. We can hope that events will in time force changes in opinion, but we should not expect that to happen soon.
- 6:49 AM, 17 March 2004 [link]