Archive:

March 2004, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Congratulations To The "Watchmaker" for two years of interesting and informative posts.  If you haven't checked his site recently, now would be a good time, since you can congratulate him there.
- 1:12 PM, 31 March 2004   [link]


The Bush Surge Is More Impressive Than It First Appears:  The latest Gallup poll showed that Bush had retaken the lead, narrowly, over John Kerry.  In the previous poll, Bush trailed Kerry among likely voters, 44-52, but now leads 51-47.  (Including Nader does not change the latest margin among likely voters, by the way.)

However, that Bush surge was not nation wide; it occurred mostly in states where Bush ads appeared.
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows a remarkable turnaround in 17 battleground states where polls and historic trends indicate the race will be close, and where the Bush campaign has aired TV ads.   Those ads say Bush has provided "steady leadership in times of change" while portraying Kerry as a tax-hiking, flip-flopping liberal. (Related item: Latest poll results)

The ads have been one factor in wiping away an inflated lead Kerry held in those states.   Most of them have had primaries or caucuses that allowed Democrats to dominate the news and Kerry to emerge as a victor.  In a survey taken in mid-February, Kerry led Bush by 28 percentage points in those states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in them by six points, 51% to 45%.

In contrast, there has been much less volatility in states where the ads haven't aired.   Kerry held a four-point lead in them in February; Bush holds a two-point lead now.
In other words, voters who heard Bush's side of the argument switched massively toward him.   And most of those voters lived in states where they had heard or seen Democratic ads attacking Bush.  If voters in the other 33 states had seen the same Bush ads, we would expect similar, though not as large, movement toward Bush in those states.

Given the results, I expect more states will see the Bush ads, possibly soon.  Which states?  Any states where Bush lost in 2000, but got at least 40 percent of the popular vote.  Here's the list: California (42), Delaware (42), Illinois (43), Iowa (48), Maine (44), Maryland (40), Michigan (46), Minnesota (46), New Jersey (40), New Mexico (48), Oregon (47), Pennsylvania (46), Vermont (41), Washington (45), and Wisconsin (48).  If you live in one of those states and haven't seen the Bush ads, expect them soon.  They are running here in Washington, along with Kerry ads.  You can see which party is playing offense.

Finally, poll results before the primary campaign begins are often good indicators of the final result, since they show the underlying trend.  Note that Bush was leading Kerry 57-40 at the beginning of January, among registered voters.
- 10:22 AM, 31 March 2004
Oops!  Forgot Wisconsin, which I have now added above.
- 1:37 PM, 31 March 2004   [link]


Saudis Backing Kerry?  Three weeks ago, in this post, I linked to an article from the American Thinker that makes that argument.  The author, Ed Lasky, argued that the Saudis were trying to defeat Bush stealthily by keeping oil prices high and slowing our recovery.  I saw the argument as plausible, but not proved.

Now there is more evidence for Lasky's argument.  Oil prices are high and demand is rising, but the Saudis are trying to engineer a production cut by OPEC.   The nations supporting them (Iran, Algeria, Venezuela, Libya and Qatar) are mostly hostile to the United States and Bush, with the possible exception of Qatar.  Those opposing them, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have been more friendly.

There's more evidence, as Amir Taheri explains, in the Arab media.
If elected president, will John Kerry offer the Arabs a better deal?  This is the question raised in the Arab media these days.

Many different answers are given, but a consensus seems to be emerging that a Kerry presidency will lift what the Arab elite regards as its worst nightmare during the presidency of George W Bush.

The Kerry debate was kicked off by the Saudi daily Al-Jazeera, which published a front-page photo of the Massachusetts senator with Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador in Washington.  Several other Saudi papers later ran the "friendship photo" "the history of a long and close friendship between Sen. Kerry and the Saudi kingdom."
Taheri has the same explanation as Lasky for Kerry's Saudi support.  Kerry, many Arabs believe, will end the United States pressure for reform in the Middle East.
Beyond Saudi Arabia, the assumption in Arab media and political circles is that Kerry as president will abandon Bush's "dreams of change" in the Middle East and restore Washington's traditional policy of support for the status quo in the Arab world.
Taheri thinks the Arabs are fooling themselves about Kerry.  I am not so sure.  (And it is amusing to see that Arabs, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, another Kerry supporter, are certain that he does not mean what he says.)

Don't like high gas prices?  You may be paying extra at the pump because the Saudis are trying to influence our elections, stealthily.

(Saudi manipulation isn't the only reason for high oil prices, of course.  This Wall Street Journal editorial has a graph with the recent oil prices and a description of some of the other causes.  The Saudis didn't cause all the recent increase, but they are certainly trying to make matters worse.)
- 7:19 AM, 31 March 2004   [link]


Is European Anti-Semitism Rising?  In my first post on the latest Pew survey of global attitudes, I showed that its main finding had been misrepresented, that attitudes in Muslim countries toward the United States had softened over the last year and that changes in the European countries were mixed.  (Although Pew calls this a global survey, it was actually a survey of the United States, four European countries (Britain, France, Germany, and Russia), and four Muslim countries (Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, and Pakistan).  In this post, I want to call into question one of their other findings, again using their data.

The researchers dismiss fears that anti-Semitism is rising in Europe.
Despite concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, there are no indication that anti-Jewish sentiment has increased over the past decade.  Favorable ratings of Jews are actually higher now in France, Germany and Russia than they were in 1991.  Nonetheless, Jews are better liked in the U. S. than in Germany and Russia.
Now it is not impossible that public attitudes toward Jews have not changed measurably, even while there has been a rise in anti-Semitic attacks during the same time.  The attacks may come from too few people for surveys to measure them.  If one in a thousand supported attacks against Jews a decade ago and two in a thousand do now, most public opinion surveys would not pick that up, since typical sample sizes are too small to detect such changes.

But there is another explanation that will occur to anyone who knows about the difficulty of measuring attitudes on race and religion.  If you ask people whether they are bigoted (in whatever indirect way you phrase the question), many will not tell you their true feelings.  (There are similar problems when you ask people about illegal behavior.)   There are indirect ways to ask such questions which can get more accurate results, but Pew did not use them.

They did ask one question which I think shows that European anti-Semitism is more widespread than Pew claims.  In question 11, Pew asked respondents whether the United States was "sincere" in the war on terrorism.  If the person said no or that the United States was both sincere and not sincere (Don't ask me to explain that.), then Pew asked them four follow-up questions about other motives.  Majorities in every country except Britain and the United States said to "control Middle East oil", which is not surprising.  What is surprising is how many in three of the four European countries thought that one US motive was to "protect Israel".  Just 11 percent agreed with that in Russia, the same as in the United States, but 19 percent did in Britain, 23 percent in France, and 30 percent(!) in Germany.

Now I am not saying that all who say yes to that question think that the United States war on terror is a Jewish plot, but I think many of them do.  There's some perspective in the numbers from the Muslim countries, where even Pew would admit that anti-Semitism is widespread.  In Turkey, 45 percent said one motive of the US war on terror was to protect Israel.  An almost identical 44 percent thought that in Pakistan, but 54 percent thought so in Morocco and 70 percent did in Jordan.

(I have still more to say about the report; if you would like to look at it for yourself, you can find it here.)
- 5:31 PM, 30 March 2004   [link]


We Can Fact Check You:  This Baltimore Sun column by Susan Reimer, describing another anti-Bush organization, Mothers Opposing Bush, isn't especially interesting, but the response to it at Lucianne's site is.   Reimer describes the group as just ordinary suburban mothers worried about their kids.
"We are not political animals.  Most of us have never worked on a campaign," MOB president Ginger Woolridge is saying while the crowd of more than 100 listens to Democratic Congressman Pete Stark of California speak.
(Pete Stark is one of the most leftwing members of the Congress, by the way.)  The posters at Lucianne claim — and I have no reason to doubt them — that the group was cofounded by the wife of Clinton's ambassador to Sweden, and includes others who would not fit most people's idea of ordinary suburban mothers.  They are, if the sample identified is any indication, leftwing activists rather than ordinary moms.

Now did Reimer intend to deceive, or did she really think this group ordinary?  Some of each I suspect.
- 11:41 AM, 30 March 2004   [link]


Credit Where Due:  What should a blogger do if they find another blogger beat them to a story by a week?  In this case, I'd like to give the OmbudsGod credit for beating me to the story about Richard Clarke's false Republicanism, which I discussed here.  The OmbudsGod lists eight news sources that made the error with just one correction.  You can find many more yourself.  When I searched the Google news sites with "Clarke + Republican + registered", I got more than 100 hits, including one in India.

I found no corrections at either the New York Times nor the Washington Post, when I searched their sites with the same phrase.  Dana Milbank's story in the Post was particularly inaccurate, which will not surprise Mr. Milbank's many fans.

And, besides giving credit, I have added the OmbudsGod to my blogroll, as I should have done long ago.
- 8:20 AM, 30 March 2004   [link]


How Liberal Is John Kerry?  One reason, Gallup says, that President Bush retook the lead from John Kerry is that more and more voters see Kerry as "too liberal", a number that has risen from 29 to 41 percent since January.  (President Bush is viewed as "too liberal" by 15 percent of the voters, which would astonish almost all journalists.  Don't expect to see many stories on that group.)

Whether John Kerry is "too liberal" depends on your own views; that he is quite liberal by American standards is indisputable.  This Washington Post article has the ratings from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and the conservative American Conservative Union for the last 10 years.

John Kerry's ADA and ACU Ratings, 1994-2003

YearADAACU
1994950
1995954
1996955
1997950
1998954
1999950
20009012
2001954
20028520
20038513


Here's political scientist William Mayer's summary:
In recent weeks, a number of commentators have asserted that Kerry's voting history is complicated to classify.  The evidence doesn't bear this out.  If you were to take the numbers shown here, cover up Kerry's name and then ask a sample of American political scientists, "I have here a senator who in the past 10 years has had an average ADA score of 92 and an average ACU score of 6. Is he a liberal, a moderate or a conservative?" they would have no difficulty in classifying the 2004 Democratic candidate as, for better or worse, a liberal.
In fact, he is one of the ten most liberal senators.  Why do some journalists have trouble seeing this?  Because they are so far to the left themselves that Kerry's views look centrist to them.
- 6:27 AM, 30 March 2004   [link]


How Healthy Is John Kerry?  These two articles, one from the Washington Post and one from the New York Times, make me wonder.  Each has a cheery headline; each has content that undermines that headline.   Kerry had prostate cancer, has bouts of pneumonia, and is having shoulder surgery, which will prevent him from shaking hands for weeks.

Others will wonder, too, since Kerry has not released all his medical records and has not always been truthful in the past.  The Post puts it more plainly than the Times.
But, several aides said, Kerry's bout with prostate cancer was to blame for the candidate's slow and uneven start to the presidential campaign.  After surgery in February 2003, Kerry missed several weeks of campaigning and was sore and tired for many more.

Kerry lied to the Boston Globe when asked whether he was sick.  Kerry later explained that he wanted to tell his family first.  At a news conference to announce his surgery, Kerry's staff distributed a quote from the candidate's doctor describing him as "strong as an ox." Kerry now often proudly tells audiences how he survived cancer and how ordinary Americans deserve the type of high-end insurance he, as a senator, benefited from during the operation.
He certainly isn't as healthy as George W. Bush, despite all his displays of hockey, snowboarding, and the like.

(The Times article has a misleading statement.  Jodi Wilgoren and Lawrence K. Altman write that: "Disclosure of even minor medical problems has become routine since at least the 1992 nomination race."  There are two problems with that.  Disclosure began long before then, and they omit Clinton's refusal to release his medical records at any time.)
- 5:43 AM, 30 March 2004   [link]


Remember Blaze, the English springer spaniel who was marked for a hit after he found too many explosives for the British forces?  He's back at work and is still having great success.  Oh, and the tabloid Sun has given him a medal.  Unless I am misreading Blaze's body language, he is peeved by the medal and the fuss, as a true hero should be.
- 8:49 AM, 29 March 2004   [link]


More On Judge Pickering:  I never watch 60 Minutes any more; they have been wrong too many times.  Worse, they have sometimes deliberately concocted deceptive stories, as they did when they saved Clinton in 1992.  I can and do forgive news organizations that try to get the facts right; I can't forgive those that try to fool me.  So, it is a pleasure to learn that the program got the facts right about Judge Pickering, a decent man who fought the Ku Klux Klan when that was extraordinarily dangerous, only to be slurred as a racist years later by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
President Bush himself has said, "Pickering has got a very strong record on civil rights.   Just ask the people he lives with."

60 Minutes did, and found that in Mississippi, Pickering enjoys strong support from the many blacks who know him.  In his hometown of Laurel, four of the five black City Council members say they back him, because of all he's done to improve race relations.  And many black attorneys who practice before him say Pickering is fair and first-rate.  They include attorney Charles Lawrence, who says, "I trust him because I've been in front of him.  I've had cases in front of him.  And that's not to say I've always won.  I haven't always won.  But he, he has an understanding of the law and he applies it he applies it fairly across the board.

Deborah Gambrell, another black attorney, and another Democrat, thinks Pickering got a raw deal from those Democrats in Washington.

"This man makes for a level playing field," she says of Pickering, "and that's the thing that I admire about him."

What was her reaction when Democratic senators labeled Pickering "insensitive on racial issues"?

Her reply: "As an attorney who's appeared before him year after year representing - and I have represented the NAACP on a matter before him and representing other clients - I was shocked and appalled.  Judge Pickering is not fair?  Judge Pickering is insensitive?  I was shocked."
These facts are not new to those who read conservative publications, or even this modest web site, but they haven't gotten much play on national television.  It may not be a "miracle", as the American Spectator says, that 60 Minutes gave Pickering his due, but it is a pleasant surprise.
- 8:27 AM, 29 March 2004   [link]


Methane Making Microbes On Mars?  Maybe.  Two scientific teams have detected the gas in the Martian atmosphere.  Since it breaks down within a few hundred years in Martian conditions, some process must be adding it to the atmosphere.
Scientists see two possibilities, both of them scientifically important, but one of them is sensational.

It is possible that the methane is being produced by volcanic activity.  Lava deposited on to the surface, or released underground, could produce the gas.

This explanation has some difficulties, however.  So far, no active volcanic hotspots have been detected on the planet by the many spacecraft currently in orbit.
. . .
On Earth, bacteria produce methane from hydrogen and carbon dioxide.  Terrestrial microbes that produce the gas do not need oxygen to thrive, and these are thought to be the type of microbes that could possibly live on Mars.
Methane is, like carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse gas", that would warm Mars if there were enough of it in the atmosphere.  If there are already Martian microbes producing the gas, this suggests we may be able to help them along and make Mars more like earth.
- 7:07 AM, 29 March 2004   [link]


Richard Clarke, Republican?  Real Clear Politics calls attention to Richard Clarke's attempt to pass himself off as a Republican before the 9/11 Commission:
Let me talk about partisanship here, since you raise it.  I've been accused of being a member of John Kerry's campaign team several times this week, including by the White House.  So let's just lay that one to bed.  I'm not working for the Kerry campaign.  Last time I had to declare my party loyalty, it was to vote in the Virginia primary for president of the United States in the year 2000. And I asked for a Republican ballot.
This prepared comment is intended to make you think Clarke is a Republican.  However, Clarke took that ballot to vote for John McCain, as did many independents and Democrats, some because they liked McCain, some because they wanted to damage the Republicans.  It seems likely that Clarke had the second motive since he voted for Gore in 2000, as Tim Russert found out with a direct question.  And there is much more evidence that Clarke is a Democrat.

Which party's candidates got contributions from Clarke?  The Democrats.
But what about this presidential election year?  According to FEC records, Clarke has been giving his money to Democratic friends -- not Republicans -- running for national office.

In 2002, while still on the Bush National Security Council (NSC), Clarke gave the legal maximum limit of $2,000 to a Democratic candidate for Congress, Steve Andreasen, who tried to unseat Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota.  Andreason had been director for defense policy and arms control on the Clinton NSC.  In making his donations of $1,000 on July 22 and another $1,000 on Nov. 7, 2002, Clarke listed his occupation as "U.S. Government/Civil Servant," according to FEC records indexed with the Center for Responsive Politics.

Clarke maxed out again in the 2004 election cycle, donating $2,000 to another Clinton White House veteran, Jamie Metzl, who is running as a Democrat for Congress from Missouri.  Metzl was a staffer on the Clinton NSC and worked for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) as deputy staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  With that donation, made on Sept. 15, 2003, after his resignation from the Bush NSC, Clarke listed his occupation as "Self-Employed/Consultant."
Who hired Clarke originally?  The Carter administration, specifically Leslie Gelb, who has been many things, including op-ed editor for the New York Times and head of the Council on Foreign Relations, but never a Republican.

Clarke's prepared statement was intended to make you think he was a Republican.  He may have been a Republican once, but he hasn't been one for years, in any real sense.   He knows that and he intended to deceive the commission and the American public with his statement.

(Minor point: Note that Clarke did not lie in his statement.  Very often, political actors like Clarke try to deceive us by telling part of the truth so that we reach a false conclusion.  I don't doubt that he did vote in the Republican primary in 2000, although some reporter should check, given Clarke's efforts to deceive on other points.)
- 6:02 AM, 29 March 2004
More:  Some Clarke supporters, for example, Molly Ivins, are claiming that he is a "registered Republican".  The state of Virginia, where Clarke has lived for years, does not register voters by party, so he can't be a registered Republican (or Democrat).
- 1:44 PM, 29 March 2004
Still More:  The horse should be dead by now, but I'll give it one more whack.  There was no Democratic primary in Virginia in 2000, so the only primary Clarke could vote in that year was the Republican primary.
- 3:27 PM, 29 March 2004   [link]


Hamas Leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi has ideas about President Bush that may seem familiar.
We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims.  America declared war against God.
Allowing for minor differences in theology, those are essentially the same views as those of Reverend Richard Lang, pastor of Seattle's Trinity United Methodist church, who has compared Bush to the Antichrist.  I assume that Reverend Lang got his ideas from the terrorists, rather than the other way around.  Sometimes, ecumenicism can be taken too far, Reverend Lang.
- 3:59 AM, 28 March 2004   [link]


Worth Reading Again:  Even if you read it when it first came out, this Ron Rosenbaum opinion piece, "Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee", is worth reading again.  Some samples:
And the level of idiocy one finds in knee-jerk Left oppositionalism is sometimes astonishing.   I'd like to focus on two particular examples that have led me to want to say my own goodbye-to-all-that as well.
. . .
Let's begin with the little idiocy, the later one, because I think it was the straw that broke the camel's back.  In fact, I think I came across it shortly before I had heard of Mr. Hitchens' farewell.  One irony of it is that this little bit of idiocy was penned by a former Hitchens acolyte, a sometime Nation writer now living in London who appended a cruel little addendum to what ostensibly was a review, in London's Times Literary Supplement, of Tom Hanks' Road to Perdition.

At the close of an uninspired review of an uninspired film, . . . the writer graces us with this final reflection:

"Still, if Road to Perdition ultimately fails as entertainment, it offers rich material for allegory.  Maybe it was because I attended a screening on Sept. 11, but I couldn't help seeing Hanks as an American everyman, a pure-hearted killer who will commit no end of mayhem to ensure a better life for his children.  Imagine Willie Loman with a tommy gun, and you'll see what I mean. 'You dirty rats! Attention must be paid.'"
. . .
But when I say goodbye-to-all-that, it's a goodbye that's been brewing ever since the Really Big Idiocy, the one I encountered barely a month after Sept. 11, from a more illustrious figure on the Left, an academic Left paragon.

It was a mixed gathering with a heavy representation of Left academics, and people were going around the room and speaking about the attacks and the response.  Over and over, one heard variations on the theme of, "Gee, it's terrible about all those people who died in the towers and all"—that had already become the pro forma disclaimer/preface for America-bashing—"but maybe it's a wake-up call for us to recognize how bad we are, Why They Hate Us."
. . .
Until finally, the coup de grâce—the Big Idiocy, the idiocy di tutti idiocies.  It came from the very well-respected and influential academic, who said that there was at least one thing that was to be welcomed about 9/11: It might give Americans the impetus to do "what the Germans had done in the 60's"—make an honest reassessment of their past and its origins, as a way to renewal.
There you are.  For many on the Left, America behaved like Nazi Germany and deserved similar punishment.  No wonder Rosenbaum left them, not to join the right but to search for a more honest Left.

Has the Left changed, after such criticisms?  No.  If anything, they have become worse, as this Clyde Haberman column on the latest demonstration in New York shows.
Even a few protest organizers from a coalition called United for Peace and Justice rolled their eyes over the America-bashing language from speakers aligned with a group known as Answer, short for Action Now to Stop War and End Racism.  (During Answer's part of the program, someone taped to the speakers' platform a photo of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist who peddled nuclear materials to North Korea and Libya, those noted democracies.)

In that atmosphere, interest in flying the [American] flag as a way to win new allies was near zero.  That was par for the course, said Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, who in the 1960's was a leader of the leftist Students for a Democratic Society.
Haberman's response shows why the problem continues; he sees the anti-Americanism as a tactical mistake, not a moral failure.  For Haberman and many others on the Left, the lies that Answer, a Communist group, tells are not morally wrong and a reason for any decent person to shun the demonstrations they organize, but bad strategy.
- 2:26 PM, 28 March 2004   [link]


Maureen Dowd Should Be Fired:  In this mostly sensible column, the New York Times public editor, Daniel Okrent, writes that:
And Maureen Dowd is followed faithfully around the Web by an avenging army of passionate detractors who would probably be devastated if she ever stopped writing.
As one of those detractors, let me say that I do not follow her faithfully and would be delighted if she stopped writing.  That isn't a new opinion for me, I said the same thing in this article, A Unified Theory of Maureen Dowd, in 2002.  (If you are wondering what the theory is, I say that Dowd is best understood as one of those terrible "alpha girls", who cause so much misery in high schools.)

The New York Times can have high standards, or it can have Maureen Dowd, but not both.

(Okrent's column describes the small steps that the Times is taking to make its bad children, notably Dowd and Paul Krugman, just a little more responsible.  I doubt that the steps will help much, but am pleased to see that the Times recognizes that it has a problem, or rather a number of problems.   One step they do not mention — which is long overdue — is to publish letters as vigorous in their criticism of the bad children at the Times, as those children are allowed to be in their columns.  Dowd can accuse the administration or Clarence Thomas of the most amazing things, but the Times will not print letters doubting her honesty, as so many of us do.)
- 9:53 AM, 28 March 2004   [link]


"Most Intelligence Is False":  When intelligence on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons turned out to be false, I was not surprised.  Although I don't recall seeing the Clausewitz quotation that heads this post, I have long known of its truth.  And when intelligence isn't false, it is often missing, particularly the crucial pieces.  Enemies have every reason to conceal the facts, and often the ability to do so, especially in totalitarian regimes.

You can find many historical examples of intelligence failures in this op-ed piece by code expert David Kahn.  Anyone familiar with military history can think of many more.  Let me mention two similar ones from World War II, which illustrate how even tactical intelligence often fails.  During the battle of Midway, the Japanese sent search planes to look for American carriers; they located the carriers, but because of a series of accidents, failed to do so until too late.  Two years later, during the battle of the Philippine Sea (more often known by its nickname, the "great Marianas turkey shoot"), the American carriers searched for days for the Japanese carriers and located them only at the end of the battle.  (Although American submarines located the carriers earlier and sank two.)

Kahn is right to argue that part of the problem is the preconceptions that leaders bring to intelligence.  Better leaders will be better at handling intelligence, but all will fail some of the time.  But Kahn does not think hard enough about the implications of the Clausewitz quotation, when he describes the leaders who failed to listen to intelligence warnings.  If most intelligence is wrong, then most should be ignored.  Kahn gives a list of warnings that should not have been ignored; it is equally easy to create a list of warnings that should have been ignored.  There were many false warnings of Soviet attacks during the Cold War, and we now know that the Soviets had many similar false ones of American attacks.

Kahn is wrong to believe Richard Clarke's account of the Bush administration decision making.   Clarke claims that the Bush administration was so fixated on Iraq that they failed to understand al Qaeda after 9/11. In fact, within a week, the Bush administration had decided that al Qaeda was responsible and had worked out a military plan to drive them from control of Afghanistan.   (The success of that operation shows a brilliant use of intelligence.  The planners in the Bush administration correctly judged the strength of the Northern Alliance and other forces opposing the Taliban and calculated the help they would need for victory.)  Moreover, it is still too early to know for certain that Saddam's regime had nothing to do with 9/11; even Clarke, earlier, claimed that there were many contacts between al Qaeda and Saddam.  Michael Barone goes farther, in this column, and guesses that Saddam did help the 9/11 attack.  But he admits, as any reasonable person must, that the case is still open.

Most of all Kahn (and Clarke) are refuted by events.  The Bush administration thought that Saddam may have helped the 9/11, an entirely reasonable suspicion.  When they decided &mdash correctly — that al Qaeda was primarily responsible, they attacked al Qaeda and their Taliban allies, not Iraq.  This shows, contrary to what Kahn implies, that the Bush administration dealt with reality (the attack came from al Qaeda), while looking at the worst case (Saddam had aided al Qaeda).  That Kahn and the editors at the New York Times miss this shows just how partisan the commentary on Bush's leadership has become.
- 7:55 AM, 28 March 2004   [link]


Cold Fusion Again:  What!  If, like me, you thought that everyone had given up on the idea (other than with bubbles), you are wrong.  A few scientists kept on experimenting and are still claiming results.
Despite being pushed to the fringes of physics, cold fusion has continued to be worked on by a small group of scientists, and they say their figures unambiguously verify the original report, that energy can be generated simply by running an electrical current through a jar of water.
. . .
Some cold fusion scientists now say they can produce as much as two to three times more energy than in the electric current.  The results are also more reproducible, they say.   They add that they have definitely seen fusion byproducts, particularly helium in quantities proportional to the heat generated.
One thing that puzzled me when these claims were first made was the difficulty of measuring the energy produced.  I thought it would be a simple matter to measure the energy in (from the electric current) and the energy out (from the heat produced), but apparently it isn't.
- 2:42 PM, 27 March 2004   [link]


Three John Kerry Vietnam Narratives:  John Kerry's own narrative about Vietnam is well known; he talks about it so often that it has become a bit of a joke.  Most journalists seem to have accepted it as true; there's an example in this Seattle Times column.   Not only does Lance Dickie accept Kerry's story as true, he thinks it deserves respect.   (I don't know whether he gave the same respect to Bob Dole and George H. W. Bush, who had World War II records far beyond anything John Kerry did in Vietnam.  And I think it highly unlikely that Dickie would write a column saying that Oliver North's Vietnam record, more impressive than Kerry's, also deserved respect.)

But Kerry's narrative is not the only one about his Vietnam experiences.  There is a second, competing narrative about his experiences in Vietnam and a third about his post-Vietnam activities that give us entirely different pictures of the man.

As John Kerry tells it, he was a hero in Vietnam, in spite of his doubts about the war.   Others, however, who knew him then, including one of his crewmates, describe him as a reckless hotdogger, who risked the lives of his crew, killed a wounded Vietnamese man in violation of the laws of war, grabbed medals and commendations without deserving them, and finagled the rules to get out early.  I don't know whether Kerry's story or the competing one is more accurate, or even if it is possible to know this many years afterwards.  I do find it strange that Kerry has refused to release his military records.  That Kerry had brought along a movie camera and actually had himself filmed re-enacting a combat scene makes the idea that he was a publicity seeking hotdogger hard to discount.  And one of his stories, about the miraculous survival of a dog, seems completely implausible.

The third narrative, about his post-Vietnam activities, is less in doubt, since there were so many witnesses.  He did slander the American forces and the men he served with when he told a Senate committee that most soldiers in Vietnam had committed war crimes.  He was involved with extremists in the anti-war movement, including Jane Fonda.  (They did both speak at the same event at least once.  The picture showing them side by side was false, but it told a true story.)  He did contact the Communist side in Paris, during the peace negotiations.  And he was at a meeting where extremists proposed assassinating senators to force a change in policy.  Kerry did not agree with that policy, but he did not call the police, either, as far as I can tell.

Regardless of whether the first narrative (Kerry as hero) or the second (Kerry as publicity seeker) is closer to the truth, the third narrative is more important in judging Kerry's fitness to be president.  After all, in Vietnam, he was (mostly) following orders.  In his anti-war activities afterwards, he was making his own policies.   His extremism and anti-Americanism during that period tell us more about him than what he did in the war.

Finally, I should say why we are discussing what John Kerry did thirty years ago, rather than what he did as a public official.  Though he has been in office for more than two decades, he has accomplished very little, as I discussed in this post.  Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey did not serve in World War II for medical reasons, but he was a plausible presidential candidate because, in every office he held, he had real accomplishments.  Lance Dickie and others on the left discuss Kerry's Vietnam service, because there is not much else to discuss about John Kerry.  (Excluding his ability to marry wealthy women, something that does not shed light on his ability to be president, though it does suggest ability in another line of work.)
- 2:17 PM, 27 March 2004
More:  Here are two references for Kerry's radicalism, one on his presence at the meeting where assasination was proposed and the other on his slander of American forces.   I am not a big fan of the Union Leader, but I think their conclusion, that Kerry was lying then and is lying now, is hard to avoid.
- 5:26 AM, 28 March 2004   [link]


The Corrupt UN:  Those who oppose President Bush's policies in Iraq almost always urge that the nation be turned over to the United Nations, in spite of the Iraqi preference for help from other sources.  No example of UN incompetence, no scandal, no matter how large, can touch this faith in the UN.  For some, the UN has become a church and no more subject to rational examination than the Catholic church was for people in the Middle Ages.

This small example shows the real UN.
Almost a year ago, when kitchen workers at United Nations headquarters walked off the job in a dispute over holiday pay, the cream of the world's diplomats knew just what to do.  They thronged to the site's five unattended restaurants and stole everything that wasn't nailed down.

As one witness marvelled after seeing an envoy make off with a baked turkey under one arm and a framed picture under the other, "They were locusts!"
Would you put people like that in charge of your local McDonald's, much less an entire nation?  And should we be surprised that there was massive corruption in the UN "Oil For Food" program?
- 8:04 AM, 27 March 2004   [link]


Picking On The Girl:  Chivalry may be dying, and feminists may tell us that softer treatment for women is sexist, but most of us still think men shouldn't be as tough on women as men are on other men.  More than one male politician has been hurt when he broke that unwritten rule, as "Senator" Lazio can tell you.  Because of that, I think that Richard Clarke made a tactical error when he got into direct conflict with Condoleezza Rice.

His error makes me wonder whether one of his problems with the Bush White House was that he just didn't like working for a woman.  (Given how heavily male the national security bureaucracy is, Condoleezza may have been his first woman boss.)

And given her race, as well as her sex, he can't expect the help from the media that he would get attacking most other Bush appointees.

(Not everyone agrees with me, as you can see in the Los Angeles Times analysis, but then the authors also believe that Clarke's "credibility has so far withstood the White House assault" and that the British contentions about Saddam trying to buy uranium from Africa were "not true".  I wouldn't say that if you believe those things, you will believe anything, but I would caution anyone who does to be careful about listening to offers of a bridge for sale.  And I note that Congressman Porter Goss, a moderate with great experience in intelligence matters, is talking about a perjury prosecution for Clarke.)
- 4:04 PM, 26 March 2004   [link]


System Problems:  Not mine, but my internet provider's.   I was unable to even sign on most of yesterday afternoon, and again early this morning.   This has delayed some posts.  I should add that the provider, Seanet, has been quite good in the past.
- 8:41 AM, 26 March 2004   [link]


Bush As The Antichrist, Again:  In this post, I wondered how Seattle Weekly editor Knute Berger could get any nastier toward President Bush, as he was urging the Left to do.  Those not familiar with one of Seattle's great journalists may not know that Berger has called Bush a fascist and compared his policies to communism, among other mild criticisms.  (That such attacks might not be strictly true does not seem to bother Berger, who is, as I said, one of Seattle's great journalists.  And an honorable man.)  The only possibility I could come up with is for Berger to call Bush the Antichrist.

I didn't pursue that idea much farther.  Berger has no discernible religious beliefs, and so one would not expect him to take ideas from the Book of Revelation.  But, as I said, Berger is a great journalist (and an honorable man), and so he found a way.  He quotes a local Methodist minister, who gave an interesting talk.
The view is also bleak from the other side.  Someone e-mailed me a talk given by the Rev. Richard Lang at Seattle's Trinity United Methodist Church.  The title is, "George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism."  Lang sees literal evil at work in the president's "diabolical manipulation" of religious doctrine to justify his worldview.  "It is a form of Christianity that is the mirror opposite of what Jesus embodied," Lang has written.  "It is, indeed, the materialization of the spirit of the Antichrist: a perversion of Christian faith and practice."   Indeed, he argues that it is not just Bush's mixing of religion and politics that is wrong.   The president's particular theology is dangerous.  "Whoever controls the interpretation of scripture will control the future of this nation," Lang predicts.  "In other words it's the vision of Pat Robertson or Martin Luther King."
So you see, if you are a great journalist (and an honorable man), you can find a way to call Bush the Antichrist, even if you have no religious beliefs.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer came up with a name for the syndrome affecting Berger, and many others on the left, the Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.
What else could explain Berger's latest column?

(Like me, you may be wondering how a Methodist minister comes up with such ideas.   A cursory search on the net found Reverend Lang's church and an interesting letter from him to President Bush, but no real explanation.  When I was growing up, Methodists were thought to be a little boring.  I now see that there are far worse things than being boring, for instance, being apologists for terrorism.)
- 1:55 AM, 25 March 2004   [link]


Another Failure In Pelosiville:  In this post, I compared San Francisco (Pelosiville) to Dennis Hastert's district in Illinois (Hastertland). Hastertland has better values than Pelosiville, and is succeeding while Pelosiville is failing.  Here's another failure, one that tourists should know about.
Though San Francisco has the highest tuberculosis diagnosis rates in the nation -- nearly four times the national average for a metropolitan area -- funding for the city's TB control program was reduced by about $500,000 this year, according to program director Dr. Masae Kawamura.

At a morning news conference held at San Francisco General Hospital in observance of world TB Day, Kawamura said that in 2003 there were 20.4 new cases of TB diagnosed in the city for every 100,000 people -- an 11 percent increase over 2002.

This rate is well above the national average of 5.2 new cases per 100,000 people and due in part to San Francisco's large immigrant and homeless populations, among whom rates are generally highest, Kawamura said.
Scot McKenzie's song about the city may need new words, maybe something like this:
If you're goin' to San Francisco
Be sure to wear a face mask on your nose
If you're goin' to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some TB carriers there
We have known how to control TB for almost a century, and have had antibiotics that make control much easier for a half a century.  There is no excuse for San Francisco's failure.
- 11:37 AM, 25 March 2004   [link]


For A Devastating critique of Clarke, see this Eric Devericks cartoon.
- 7:59 AM, 25 March 2004   [link]


Richard Clarke, Bureaucratic Skunk:  I don't plan to say much about Clarke's testimony.  Others, notably the Instapundit and PowerLine, have documented his contradictions, and for those who want to check themselves, the Fox transcript of his 2002 press backgrounder is the place to start.  (There were reporters from other news organizations at that backgrounder who knew, as soon as Clarke's book tour began on 60 Minutes, that Clarke had changed his story drastically, but only Fox had the honesty to expose him — after asking permission from the White House.)  Even Dana Milbank, the bitterly anti-Bush Washington Post reporter, admits that there is an "apparent contradiction" in Clarke's stories, though he seems to admire Clarke for his cool dishonesty.

But I do want to say something a bit speculative about his motives.  Clarke is a type familiar to those who have had contact with the bureaucracy.  Most bureaucrats, if we believe stereotypes, become paper shufflers over time, with no initiative and no motive other than to please the person above them.  Certainly, there are many of those in every bureaucracy.  There is another type, however, rarer but often more consequential.   Along with the mice, there are a few skunks, bureaucrats who gain power by being so nasty that no one wants to confront them.  This description, from an anonymous source, suggests that Clarke was one of those bureaucratic skunks.
Second, he was extremely skilled in the art of bureaucratic politics.  One official who saw Clarke in action -- and has no love for this administration -- described him to me as "smart, conservative, dedicated, insecure, and vindictive." I've heard stories from both friends and foes of Clarke, and they have one common thread -- you did not want this man for an enemy.  He knows how to retaliate.
Most power-seeking skunks are not simply self seeking.  They want power, but they want it because they want to pursue particular policies.  They genuinely believe that their ideas will be good for the nation, or at least their bureaucracy.  They understand that patience is a great weapon; if they can stay in place and continue to advocate for a policy, they have a good chance to win over time.  So, Clarke had no reason to leave the Clinton administration even though they were doing little about terror, or the Bush administration during the first two years.  Despite what he now says, he must have felt vindicated by the changes in policy that the Bush team made, such as quintupling the money for covert action by the CIA.

What changed Clarke's mind?  On this, I think that Clarke has been telling the truth, or part of the truth.  After 9/11, the Bush team decided to both kill some alligators (go after al Qaeda and the Taliban), and to drain one part of the swamp (overthrow Saddam).   Given his obsession with the direct fight against terrorists, it is not surprising that Clarke saw this second part of the Bush strategy as a fundamental error, a distraction from the part of the fight that he had worked on for decades.

As a bureaucratic skunk (and a man who believes in his policy arguments), Clarke made an unsurprising choice.  He sprayed something nasty on the Bush administration, hoping to drive them from office and to change the national policy.  He made the focus of his criticism the war on terror, not the liberation of Iraq, not because he disagreed with the actions Bush took before 9/11, but because an attack there would have the biggest impact on Bush.  In my opinion, he does not believe the argument he has been making since he resigned, but like more than one bureaucratic skunk, is using the best weapon available.

Finally, let me make a tentative observation.  Defenders of Clarke (and even some of his opponents) say that he is extremely knowledgeable about the war on terror.  That may be true; I don't have the specialized knowledge of the subject to judge.  But, it is more than a little troubling that even his defenders don't tell us about his victories in that war, though it is easy to find examples of his blunders.  If he is a great anti-terrorist warrior, one would think he would have some wins on his record, as well as all these losses.  Some of his wins may be secret, but all?
- 7:38 AM, 25 March 2004   [link]