Archive:

March 2005, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



George Soros Gets Convicted!  In France, no less.
Billionaire investor George Soros was found guilty of insider trading by a French appeals court, confirming a 2002 conviction and threatening to prolong a 16-year legal affair.

The Paris appeals court ruled that Soros's 1988 purchase of Societe Generale SA shares with the knowledge that it was a takeover target broke French insider trading laws. Odile Faivre, head of the court's three-judge panel, read out the verdict.  Soros wasn't present in the room.
Of course I haven't the slightest idea whether this verdict is correct, or even whether the French laws are reasonable.  But I can't help smiling just a bit at the result.
- 10:11 AM, 23 March 2005   [link]


Another Fake Memo?  ABC News broadcast a claim that a "Republican" memo was making a political argument for intervening in the Schiavo case and was circulating among Republican senators.  Power Line has been casting doubt on the memo, which was not signed and was not printed on a letterhead.  Now, they seem to have an admission from ABC that the network did not know where the memo came from.  The American Spectator has followed that up with a much stronger claim, that the memo was a Democratic dirty trick.
The document, which was posted online by ABC News, as well as several Democratic-leaning websites, was unsigned, bore no Senate office letterhead, and was rife with errors, including the incorrect Senate bill number and the misspelling of Schiavo's name.  For days, Republicans denied any knowledge of the document, and a number of Republican Senators claimed they had never seen it.
. . .
However, Republican leadership staffers now believe the document was generated out of the Democratic opposition research office set up recently by Sen. Harry Reid, and distributed to some Democratic Senate staffers claiming it was a GOP document, in the hope -- or more likely expectation -- that it would then be leaked by those Democrats to reporters.  In fact, the New York Times stated that it was Democratic staffers who were distributing the "talking points" document.
It does seem a little odd that Democratic staffers would be distributing a Republican memo.   (I should add, just to be fair, that the Washington Post claims to have confirmed the document's provenance.  As far as I know, they have not given us even a hint about how they did that.)
- 8:44 AM, 23 March 2005   [link]


Howard Dean Should Avoid Theological Arguments:  And I offer that advice in a friendly spirit.  You may recall that last year, during the campaign, he named Job as his favorite book in the New Testament.  In the same campaign, he said that President Bush was not his neighbor.   Earlier this year, he opined that Republicans were all evil.

Now, campaigning in Tennessee, he tries to speak the local dialect, or at least what he thinks is the local dialect.
"We need to talk about values and not be afraid of them," he said, going on to make two biblical references.

In the first he said Jesus' directive to "love thy neighbor" didn't mean one could choose which ones to love.  He then remarked that Republicans never brought up the scriptural verse saying it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.
So now he thinks that President Bush is his neighbor and that he should love those "evil" Republicans?  And there is something a little odd to hear a man with his background quote the camel line.  He may not think of himself as rich, but most ordinary citizens would.

I speak a little French (and read a little more), but when in France I don't try to impress the people there with my command of the language.  Howard Dean should exercise the same restraint in using theological arguments.  Those who actually understand French would be annoyed or amused if I were to try to impress them with my knowledge; those who actually understand biblical arguments will have the same reaction to Howard Dean's use of theological arguments.
- 4:00 PM, 23 March 2005   [link]


If You Ignore Some Of The Facts  in the Schiavo case, you'll find it easier to keep your original opinion.  That's especially easy for those on the left, since the "mainstream" media has reported this story just as Schiavo's attorney would want, giving one side of the story and neglecting the other.  (It is possible to ignore facts on the right, and there are those who have done that, too, but it is harder.)

Yesterday, I ran into two examples of intelligent men on the left, Chris Bertram and Michael Totten, ignoring inconvenient facts about the Schiavo case.  (If you are wondering why I did not comment on the Bertram post, as I did, several times, on the Totten post, I can only say that I tried several times, but was unable to.  Once, my comment appeared briefly and then disappeared.  I think that is because they have bugs in their new system, not because I have been banned at the site.)

What facts?  Let's take them in order.  (1) The "Medpundit" made a crucial point about the Terri Schiavo's diagnosis a few months ago.
When it comes to understanding the workings of the human mind, the state of the art of modern medicine is just that -- more art than science.  The diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state is a clinical diagnosis.  That is, it's based on a doctor's interpretation of signs and symptoms rather than any objectively measurable test results.
. . .
The problem is, how can we be certain that someone who can't communicate also can't comprehend?   Or that they aren't aware?  We can't.  In the few, limited studies that have addressed the issue, the rate of misdiagnosis of the persistent vegetative state hovers around forty percent.
Forty percent!  When I saw that number, I was astonished.  I could be almost as accurate by flipping a coin.

(2) Now perhaps Terri Schiavo is in such terrible condition that we can be certain about the diagnosis?   Not according to almost 50 neurologists.
In addition to the 15 neurologists' affidavits Gibbs had in time to present in court, I have commitments from over 30 others who are willing to testify that Terri should have new and additional testing, and new examinations by unbiased neurologists.  Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terri's diagnosis of PVS.  All of these neurologists are board-certified; a number of them are fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Neurology; several are professors of neurology at major medical schools.
To the best of my knowledge, neither Bertram nor Totten are neurologists, but if they are certain these doctors are wrong, they should tell them so.

(3) The doctor at the CodeBlue blog has looked at some of the physical evidence and come to conclusions you will not see in stories by the Associated Press or the BBC.  First, the CT scan.
I HAVE SEEN MANY WALKING, TALKING, FAIRLY COHERENT PEOPLE WITH WORSE CEREBRAL/CORTICAL ATROPHY.   THEREFORE, THIS IS IN NO WAY PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE THAT TERRI SCHIAVO'S MENTAL ABILITIES OR/OR CAPABILITIES ARE COMPLETELY ERADICATED.  I CANNOT BELIEVE SUCH TESTIMONY HAS BEEN GIVEN ON THE BASIS OF THIS SCAN.
And a bone scan.
It is my opinion that the most likely reason for these bone scan findings in March of 1991 is that someone either was physically abusing Terri or they dropped/mishandled her severely.
If Bertram and Totten were aware of these conclusions, would they want more tests done before allowing Terri Schiavo to die?  I think so, as both seem like decent people to me.

(4) A registered nurse and nursing assistants have claimed, under oath, that Terri Schiavo is in much better condition than Michael Schiavo says, and that he stopped treatment and openly wished for her death.  Both Bertram and Totten expressed anger at Tom DeLay's statements on the case, but he was only repeating what these women had said.  (And what they have repeated in broadcast interviews since.)  You can find links to the affidavits here, or if you don't want to read them all, a post with quotes from them here.   What I found most striking is this from Carla Iyer's affidavit:
Throughout my time at Palm Gardens [one of Ms. Schiavo's nursing homes], Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri's death.  Michael would say "When is she going to die?," "Has she died yet?" and "When is that bitch gonna die?"  These statements were common knowledge at Palm Gardens, as he would make them casually in passing, without regard even for who he was talking to, as long as it was a staff member.
Maybe Carla Iyer is lying about this case, but I do think we should test that before we allow Terri Schiavo to die.  And though this is much less important, I do not think it fair to sneer at those, such as Tom DeLay, who have accepted the truth of the affidavits.

(5) Not all the support for Terri Schiavo comes from the Christian right, or even the right.  In the Senate, Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa, backed the efforts to save Terri, perhaps because of his long support for the disabled.
Harkin is a longtime ally of disability groups and a coauthor of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.  Last week, he worked with Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, and Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, on legislation allowing federal review of the Schiavo case.

"Senator Harkin's role was very, very key in terms of Senate leadership.  Because Senator Harkin has been a leader on disability rights, Democrats were willing to give him deference," said Marilyn Golden, policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.
We'll see in Bertram, Totten, and others who share their views, will attack Harkin with the same anger they attacked House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

(6) Nat Hentoff, who is neither religious nor on the right, goes even farther than Harkin and compares the removal of the feeding tube to the actions of the Nazis.
Among the defendants at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders and their primary accomplices in the mass murder were German doctors who had gone along with the official policy of euthanasia.   An American doctor, Leo Alexander, who spoke German, had interviewed the German physician-defendants before the trials, and then served as an expert on the American staff at Nuremberg.

In an article in the July 14, 1949, New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Alexander warned that the Nazis' crimes against humanity had "started from small beginnings . . . merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians.  It started with the acceptance, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived."  That shift in emphasis among physicians, said Dr. Alexander, could happen here, in America.
And in 1984, after seeing an article advocating the removal of feeding tubes and similar actions, Dr. Alexander concluded sadly that the changes that made possible Hitler's killing of 200,000 "useless mouths" (nearly all of them German) were beginning to happen in the United States.   Given Dr. Alexander's experience, I think we owe his arguments attention.

I said that many on the left are unaware of these facts.  Even worse, many become angry when others ask them even to consider these facts.  The Medpundit reports that, merely for linking to a post by Patterico, she received "some blistering email".  To react that way, especially to someone as reasonable as the Medpundit and to something as small as a link to a post that might be interesting, shows, I fear, something sad about some on the left.
- 12:47 PM, 23 March 2005   [link]


Ryan Sager  begins his piece on "campaign finance reform" with a mild understatement.
Campaign-finance reform has been an immense scam perpetrated on the American people by a cadre of left-wing foundations and disguised as a "mass movement."
Sager has a witness for this claim.
But don't take my word for it.  One of the chief scammers, Sean Treglia, a former program officer of the Pew Charitable Trusts, confesses it all in an astonishing videotape I obtained earlier this week.

The tape — of a conference held at USC's Annenberg School for Communication in March of 2004 — shows Treglia expounding to a gathering of academics, experts and journalists (none of whom, apparently, ever wrote about Treglia's remarks) on just how Pew and other left-wing foundations plotted to create a fake grassroots movement to hoodwink Congress.
. . .
Charged with promoting campaign-finance reform when he joined Pew in the mid-1990s, Treglia came up with a three-pronged strategy: 1) pursue an expansive agenda through incremental reforms, 2) pay for a handful of "experts" all over the country with foundation money and 3) create fake business, minority and religious groups to pound the table for reform.

"The target audience for all this activity was 535 people in Washington," Treglia says — 100 in the Senate, 435 in the House. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot — that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."
This makes sense to me, since polls have consistently showed that the public supports "campaign finance reform" in the abstract, but doesn't care much about the issue.

Not having much real support from the public, Treglia needed money, and that he had:
That cash, it turns out, was the one thing about the "movement" that was massive: From 1994 to 2004, almost $140 million was spent to lobby for changes to our country's campaign-finance laws.

But this money didn't come from little old ladies making do with cat food so they could send a $20 check to Common Cause.  The vast majority of this money — $123 million, 88 percent of the total — came from just eight liberal foundations.

These foundations were: the Pew Charitable Trusts ($40.1 million), the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy ($17.6 million), the Carnegie Corporation of New York ($14.1 million), the Joyce Foundation ($13.5 million), George Soros' Open Society Institute ($12.6 million), the Jerome Kohlberg Trust ($11.3 million), the Ford Foundation ($8.8 million) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($5.2 million).
With the money, they bought front organizations:
For starters, a stable of supposedly independent pro-reform groups, with Orwellian names you may have heard in the press: the Center for Public Integrity, the William J. Brennan Center for Justice, Democracy 21 and so on.
And, press coverage.  For example:
Since 1994, National Public Radio has accepted more than $1.2 million from liberal foundations promoting campaign-finance reform for items such as (to quote the official disclosure statements) "news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making."  About $400,000 of that directly funded a program called, "Money, Power and Influence."
Naturally, NPR denies any connection.  As do the other organizations that took the money.

Treglia was worried that the role of the Pew Foundation in this lobbying might be discovered by the press, especially after George Will wrote a column revealing part of the scheme.  But no "mainstream" reporters showed any interest in the story.  They thought a conspiracy to change our election laws was simply too boring a story to investigate, I suppose.

Thanks to several emailers who sent me tips on this story.

(You can find more here, here, and here.)
- 5:02 PM, 22 March 2005   [link]


Thirteen Science Puzzles:  Here's a list of thirteen things that do not make sense to scientists, beginning with the placebo effect and ending with cold fusion.  I've mentioned number 8 in the past*.
This is a tale of two spacecraft.  Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972; Pioneer 11 a year later.  By now both craft should be drifting off into deep space with no one watching.   However, their trajectories have proved far too fascinating to ignore.

That's because something has been pulling - or pushing - on them, causing them to speed up.   The resulting acceleration is tiny, less than a nanometre per second per second.  That's equivalent to just one ten-billionth of the gravity at Earth's surface, but it is enough to have shifted Pioneer 10 some 400,000 kilometres off track.  NASA lost touch with Pioneer 11 in 1995, but up to that point it was experiencing exactly the same deviation as its sister probe.  So what is causing it?

Nobody knows.
And those aren't the only scientific puzzles around.  This issue of Discover magazine has an article on dinosaurs in which scientists admit that, after all their study, we really don't know much about dinosaurs.  For instance, no one really knows why planteaters such as the brontosaurus (now formally known as apatosaurus) grew far bigger than any land animals before or since.  Those sizes impose severe structural problems that have no known solutions in modern animals.

Some people, including an editor at the Scientific American, talk about the end of science.   I don't think so, not while we have all these puzzles yet to be solved.

(*Here's the post, in which I noted that this anomaly, along with other puzzling data, has led a few physicists to theorize that Einstein (and Newton) were wrong about gravity.)
- 9:19 AM, 22 March 2005   [link]


Checking Signatures:  There's an entertaining thread at Slashdot on credit card signatures.   Clerks often fail at checking those signatures, as many of you probably know from your own experience.

Read some of the examples and then consider this question: How do we check the validity of absentee ballots?  By having clerks compare signatures.  There is one difference in the two situations.  In most retail establishments, the clerks can be fired for failing to check signatures correctly; in most voting offices, the clerks are protected by civil service rules.

In my opinion, if signature experts were to go through the King County absentee ballots from the last election, they would find more than invalid 130 signatures.  In fact, I will go farther and say that, if signature experts were to go through the absentee ballots from King County, they would find more than 700 invalid signatures.  Those who remember Gregoire's margin in King County will see my point immediately.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.


Bob Herbert And Vote Fraud:  As Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics pointed out last year, the New York Times columnist was not entirely accurate in his discussion of vote fraud in Orlando, which I discussed, most recently, here.   I wouldn't go so far as to say that Herbert favors vote fraud and lied about the case, but I will say that he was careless about the facts, so careless that a liberal reporter in Orlando described Herbert's claims as "absolutely ridiculous".

As far as I know, neither Herbert nor the New York Times has ever corrected his columns on the Orlando vote fraud case.
- 5:30 AM, 22 March 2005   [link]


Rubella Has Been Eradicated In The United States:  It is easy, in this age of medical miracles, to overlook a great success.
The invisible "chain of transmission" of rubella virus has been broken in the United States.   With it disappears a disease that a little more than a generation ago struck fear in the heart of every pregnant woman.

Fewer than 10 people a year in this country now contract the infection known popularly as German measles.  Since 2002, all cases have been traceable to foreigners who carried the virus in from abroad.

Between those rare events, however, no rubella virus has circulated in the United States because the bug simply cannot find enough susceptible hosts.  After years of assiduous vaccination, virtually the entire U.S. population is immune.
. . .
Mild and often entirely unnoticed in children, rubella infection can be devastating to developing fetuses.  A woman infected with the virus in the first three months of pregnancy will probably suffer miscarriage, or deliver a stillborn or permanently disabled child.  In the last great U.S. epidemic of rubella -- 40 years ago, before there was a vaccine against the disease -- about 12,000 babies were born deaf or deaf and blind.
I am old enough to recall the days before the vaccine, when young women were urged to expose themselves to the disease to protect their babies from birth defects in future pregnancies.

Sometimes government programs are great successes, and those of us skeptical of government programs should not forget that.
The disease's decline began after the introduction of rubella vaccine in 1969.  The infection's virtual disappearance, however, required more than high levels of immunization in the United States.   The disease also needed to become less common in the Caribbean and Latin America, the source of most imported cases.  Mass rubella vaccination began in those regions in the late 1990s, although some countries (notably Cuba and Uruguay) had moved against rubella decades earlier.
I don't know if the United States helped with those programs, but it would have been in our interest to do so.

The disease has no hosts other than man, so it may be possible to eliminate it from the entire world, in time.

(For more on the disease, see this medical school description.)
- 2:37 PM, 21 March 2005   [link]


More On The Quality Of Columnists:  Last week in a brief post I said that I thought that, as a group, the moderate and conservative women columnists were the best, and added a bit of speculation on why that might be so.  Somewhat to my surprise, Kevin Drum (a liberal) linked to it and was quite critical of my conclusion and the sketchy argument I made.

So, for Kevin and his readers (and anyone else who might be interested), let me expand the argument a little.  First, let me expand a bit on the conclusion that offended Kevin and his readers: If we divide columnists into four groups, conservative and moderate women, conservative and moderate men, liberal men, and liberal women, I think that on the average — let me repeat, on the average — they can be ranked in that order.  I think that conservative and moderate women are the best and liberal women are the worst.  I also think that, on the average, conservative and moderate men columnists are better than their liberal counterparts.  This is not to say that there are not good columnists and bad columnists in each category, just that I think the averages are in that order.  (For instance, I think liberal Nicholas Kristof is a good columnist and agree with him often.  Ellen Goodman has written some decent columns and I greatly admire her practice of doing a yearly corrections column.)

In the original post, I mentioned Anne Applebaum as an example of an excellent moderate columnist.  There are other moderate and conservative women columnists that I also admire.  Several that come to mind immediately are Kathleen Parker, Michelle Malkin, Debra Saunders, and Linda Seebach.   In the original post, I didn't list the poor women columnists on the left — and I am not going to do that here, either.  Those who have read my site for some time can guess some of those I don't care for without much trouble, but I think it unfair to post such a conclusion without a fairly elaborate examination of their columns.  (I will note, with some amusement, that several of the commenters think that plagiarist Molly Ivins is a great columnist.)

Why would the four groups have that ranking?  I don't know, but I suspect that it corresponds to the harshness of their newsroom environments.  A columnist who has had to write for those who disagree with her (or him) will better than those who write for those who agree with them.   It is no secret that most newsrooms are liberal, nor that the women in them are even more liberal than the men.  So, a moderate or conservative women columnist would have the most hostile newsroom environment, and the the liberal woman columnist would have the most supportive.   More than a decade ago, the Los Angeles Times (to its credit) did a study of how the paper covered abortion.  They found that there was intense pressure on reporters and editors, especially women, to adhere to the pro-choice line.  Those columnists tough enough to survive pressure on that, and other issues, will be better in the long run than those who are usually in the majority.  Or, at least so I think.

Or, let's look at it from the other side and consider an example of a columnist who is in a supportive environment, Paul Krugman.  Neither Princeton nor the New York Times contain many people who disagree with his general views on politics.  That may be why he, again and again, makes a methodological error, the "ecological fallacy", as I have discussed here and here.   If Krugman were in an environment where more people disagreed with him, he might have learned to avoid that error.

This isn't a novel idea, and it has parallels in other areas.  For instance, as I noted last year, the best women's basketball teams usually have practice teams made up of men.  The coaches and the women players believe that they get better by being tested against better players, which means men, for the most part.

But I don't know for sure that the hostile environment theory explains the difference in quality that I have observed.  It seem plausible and should be testable, though not easily, at least not for a lone blogger.  If you think you have a better explanation, let me know.  Or, if you have another ranking, and a theory for it, let me know about that.  As I said, I think people gain by testing their ideas in hostile environments.

(For an alternative view, see this Michael Kinsley column.   Kinsley also has an idea about the ranking of various groups, though he can't be as open about it as I can.

Newspaper opinion sections also want diversity of political views.  In recent years, that, frankly, has led to reverse discrimination in favor of conservatives.  And an unpleasant reality is that each type of diversity is at war with the others.  If pressure for more women succeeds -- as it will -- there will be fewer black voices, fewer Latinos and so on.
What I infer from this is that Kinsley thinks that those hired to fill diversity slots (including conservatives) are not as good as those who are not.  And which group is best, in his picture of things?  Why, liberal white males, a category that includes Michael Kinsley, coincidentally, I am sure.

Several of Kevin's commenters were displeased that this site, at least so far, has not allowed comments.  There are two reasons for that.  First, the site is hand coded, and I have not gotten around to adding comments (or making some other obvious improvements).  That would take a week or so, I would guess, most of the time being spent in looking at existing code until I found some I could borrow.  Second, though I enjoy the comments on some other site, I am not entirely convinced that they would add to this one, net.  And comments do consume your time, as many who have comments have complained.  So I probably will add comments at some point, but I am in no rush to do so.)
- 11:24 AM, 21 March 2005   [link]


Dana Milbank Whines  that the "mainstream" media is losing influence.

According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the proportion of people regularly reading newspapers has fallen to 42 percent from 58 percent in a decade, while viewership of network evening news has fallen to 34 percent from 60 percent.  And with that decline comes a loss of the mainstream media's role as referee, helping to sort out fact from fiction in the nation's affairs.

The problem is that, having sorted out fact from fiction, the "mainstream" media often chooses to print or broadcast the fiction.  Dana Milbank himself provides many examples, as I have documented here, here, here, here, here, and here.  (I should add that I don't monitor Milbank regularly.  Long ago, I decided that he was so error prone and biased that it was best to just ignore him, if possible.)

The errors in those posts that showed bias were all biased against the Bush administration.   But Milbank tries to escape from the charge of bias with this weird paragraph:

This is not to say claims of bias are groundless.  Reporters aren't machines, and some prejudice inevitably finds its way into print or on the airwaves.  But our dominant bias is skepticism of whoever is in power.  Don't just take it from me, though.  In a candid admission, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer writes in his new book: "Many Republicans, especially conservatives, believe the press are liberals who oppose Republicans and Republican ideas.   I think there's an element of truth to that, but it is complicated, secondary, and often nuanced.   More important, the press's first and most pressing bias is in favor of conflict and fighting . . . No one can claim with a straight face that the White House press corps were easy on former President Bill Clinton."

All right, let's translate that:  The charges of bias have merit.   Some pieces are biased.  Ari Fleischer says that the press is full of biased liberals.   Fleischer also says that an even larger problem is that the press favors conflict.  Ari Fleischer does not think that the press was easy on Bill Clinton*.

Therefore, what?  Therefore, nothing.  At that point, Milbank evades a conclusion and slides to another complaint about the decline in the influence of the "mainstream" media.  I think he honestly does not understand that there might be a connection between the bias that he admits and the decline in influence that he deplores.

What would make Milbank notice that connection?  I have no idea, but am almost certain that facts alone will not do it.

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

(*In my own opinion, on the whole the press was easy on Bill Clinton, sometimes shamefully so.   That was not true of every scandal, but it was true of many of them.  For instance, Bill Clinton was accused, credibly, of rape by Juanita Broaddrick.  After the story came out, one White House reporter, Sam Donaldson, asked about it.  Clinton denied it and neither Donaldson nor any other White House reporter asked a follow up question.

Power Line reacts to the same piece here and gives us an example of an embarrassing error by the Washington Post here.)
- 9:41 AM, 21 March 2005   [link]

Who Benefits From Nonpartisan Elections?  James Vesely, editorial page editor of the Seattle Times, wants to limit the influence of parties in elections.

One way to get partisan politics out of public office is to force more candidates to run without party label.

The idea of nonpartisan elections makes more and more sense, especially in the public-works areas of government — those places where management of the office is more important than setting policy.

Vesely thinks there are many such places, but none of his examples seem to qualify.  (If a position is truly a management position, rather than a policy position, then the holder should be appointed, rather than elected.)

I am not wholly opposed to nonpartisan elections.  They often make sense when the electorates are small.  But they have one great disadvantage, well known to most political scientists, and unknown to almost all editors (or perhaps ignored by them).  When electorates are large, political parties counterbalance the influence of the prominent — such as newspaper editors — with numbers.  Partisan elections shift decisions toward majorities, and away from elites.

Nonpartisan elections especially increase the influence of newspapers, as Mr. Vesely must know.  So when he argues that more elections should be nonpartisan, he is saying that the unelected editors at the Seattle Times should have even more influence.  I can see why he would find that idea agreeable; I can't see why voters should grant him his wish.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(It is fun to speculate about the effects of choosing editors at our monopoly newspapers with elections.  I am not proposing that seriously, but thinking about the idea does illuminate just how much power these unelected people have.)
- 6:48 AM, 21 March 2005   [link]

Three Bloggers Have More On The Schiavo Case:  J. Bowen gives a summary of the many reasons to be suspicious of Michael Schiavo.  He reaches no conclusion but says this about his questions:
Hey, Michael Schiavo could be totally blameless, in which case I and countless others owe him huge abject apologies.  But IMO questions like the above must be answered before we can determine that.
I think so too, since they suggest that Michael Schiavo should have been removed as guardian.

"Patterico" has been following this case closely and has found what he believes to be the testimony (in sworn affidavits) of a nurse and a certified nursing assistant.  If they are the real affidavits — and "Patterico" cannot prove that they are — they tell me that Terri Schiavo's condition has been systematically misrepresented.  For example, both the nurse and the nursing assistant say that Terri Schiavo spoke from time to time.

Eric Scheie has useful summary of the issues in the case.  He has the same suspicions as Bowen, and makes an important point about how the sides have lined up.
Regarding the battered wife theory, it ticks me off to think that this might be precisely the kind of case which feminists would normally champion, but they are prevented from doing so by the heavy Operation Rescue presence.  People in this country are losing their ability to think for themselves or think logically.  Instead, they align themselves according to political affiliation or identity politics.
Which can result in some terrible injustices.

Because of that tendency to align rather than think, I should add that Scheie is not a member of the religious right, and I don't think that Bowen or "Patterico" are either.
- 5:19 AM, 21 March 2005   [link]


Leslie Gelb Says  that the Democrats need a man like Dick Cheney.
Dick Cheney sees the dark side of the world, a reality that largely eludes Democrats but not most Americans.  He understands power and knows how to wield it, as opposed to the soft-power prose of intellectual Democrats.  And the vice president does a decent job of keeping the fractious Republican foreign-policy forces in line, while Democrats fly off in all directions.

As colleagues attest, Mr. Cheney harbors a bleak view of humankind, especially of Democrats and non-Americans.  While well aware of American hypocrisies, he conveys the clear sense that other countries are worse, much worse.  He condemns those countries that condemned us for unilateralism in Iraq, while themselves failing to enforce fistfuls of U.N. resolutions against Saddam.  He reminds others who harrumph now over what we're doing in Iraq that they hardly ever criticized Saddam's monstrous behavior.  A lot of Americans just feel safer with a guy who will stick up for America, hold other countries to account, and talk about the world realistically.

Meantime, too many Democrats portray the rest of the world as just a bunch of misunderstood bunny rabbits who misunderstand us.  It's just one big misunderstanding.  Democrats often seem to say that we can cure so much of the nastiness in the world with anti-poverty programs, and by allowing more foreign students to study here.
What is strange about Gelb's argument is that he never mentions that the Democrats once had many such leaders.  Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy had a bleak views of humankind, though that view was often hidden by Kennedy's speechwriters.  Their heir in foreign policy, Senator Henry M. Jackson, shared that bleak view, but never became leader of the party.  Jackson was defeated for the Democratic nomination by George McGovern in 1972, and by Jimmy Carter in 1976.  (One can argue that, with a little better luck — and much less hostility from the "mainstream" media — Jackson could have won the nomination in both years.)  After his defeats, and similar defeats of others in the Democratic party who shared his views, many of his supporters moved first to support Ronald Reagan, and then to join the Republican party.

(Though "neoconservative" is now most often used as a curse word to attack those who do not hate Israel or the United States, historically neoconservatives were Democrats who supported Henry M. Jackson in 1972 and 1976, and then left the party after his defeats.  Full disclosure: That includes me, though I was not an active supporter of Jackson.)

When President Reagan awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously, he took note of those political shifts.
Scoop Jackson was convinced that there's no place for partisanship in foreign and defense policy.  He used to say,  "In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics."  His sense of bipartisanship was not only natural and complete; it was courageous.   He wanted to be President, but I think he must have known that his outspoken ideas on the security of the Nation would deprive him of the chance to be his party's nominee in 1972 and '76.  Still, he would not cut his convictions to fit the prevailing style.

I'm deeply proud, as he would have been, to have Jackson Democrats serve in my administration.   I'm proud that some of them have found a home here.
They found that home after their defeats in the Democratic party.  It shows something about how far left the Democratic party has shifted that, even in Washington state, where Jackson was once dominant, Democratic candidates do not run as his heir.  That would be too much of a disadvantage in primary contests here.

Leslie Gelb is right to say that the Democratic party needs people like Cheney and Jackson, but does not tell us how people with those views can succeed in a party now dominated by supporters of George McGovern.  Like Gelb, I would much rather have two parties that are serious about foreign policy, but I see no way to get there from here until the McGovernites pass from the scene and open the Democratic party to new ideas, or at least to the restoration of the ideas held by Truman, Kennedy, and Jackson.
- 6:45 AM, 20 March 2005   [link]


Colin McEvedy's Penguin Atlases:  For years, I have been enlightened and entertained by these small atlases, with their simple, diagrammatic maps.   Here, for example, is a map from The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History showing the Persian empire at its greatest extent.



And here's one from The Penguin Atlas of African History showing the second stage of the great expansion of the Bantu tribes out of West Africa.



(Before 1 AD, most of sub-Saharan Africa was populated by pygmies and the peoples traditionally known as "Bushmen", and now usually called "San".  The ancestors of Bantu tribes such as the Zulus came from West Africa and took centuries to reach their eventual homes in South Africa.)

Finally, here's a map from The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History showing the success of Emperor Justinian's efforts to reconquer many of the lands lost to barbarian invasions.



The gains made by brilliant generals such as Belisarius were soon lost, in part because the empire was terribly weakened by a plague during Justinian's reign.

In all of the atlases, McEvedy shows the same area over and over (with some exceptions), just advancing the calendar.  Each map is accompanied by a page of history (or a little more for a few maps) giving you an outline of the main changes in the period.  Such brief descriptions are, in my experience, the hardest kind of prose to write.  You must compress the material without too many distortions.  McEvedy does that very well; here, for example, is how he starts the page describing the downfall of the Assyrian Empire:
The continual revolts that plagued the Assyrian Empire imply a harshness that the inscriptions of their monarchs amply confirm: they habitually make a boast of terrorism.  Considering the over-extension of Assyrian resources, this seems short-sighted as well as unattractive.
I have three other McEvedy atlases, The Penguin Atlas of Modern History, The Penguin Atlas of North American History, and The Penguin Atlas of Recent History.   I would recommend them all.  ("Modern" history covers the time from end of the Middle Ages, just before 1500, to 1815.  "Recent" history covers the time from 1815 to the present.  This makes sense, if you think about when Europeans began writing histories again.)

For some reason I have never bought McEvedy's The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Pacific, though I keep meaning to.  And Penguin has other atlases by different authors, that may be worth a look.

(I may do some book blogging every weekend, but won't make any new promises until I get caught up with some of my older ones.)
- 9:21 AM, 19 March 2005   [link]


British Hero:  The British government has awarded the Victoria Cross, their highest award for gallantry, 1,355 times.  The latest to receive it is Private Beharry Johnson, an immigrant from Grenada who won it for two gallant actions in Iraq.  Here is the official citation describing his actions in both battles.  Private Johnson was not only brave beyond my imagining in both battles, he was remarkably clear thinking all through them.  He's a remarkable man, and remarkably modest.
The Grenada-born private was paraded by the top brass yesterday among his comrades in the 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, and other recipients of high military honours.

"I was just doing my job.  I was just thinking of the guys in the vehicle and the guys behind me," he said.
Not many of us could do that job.  We should honor those who can.

(There are sites describing the Victoria Cross and its winners here and here. The closest American equivalent is the Congressional Medal of Honor, which has been awarded 3,459 times.)
- 3:36 PM, 18 March 2005
Donald Sensing has much more on Beharry Johnson and the Victoria Cross in this post.   He even includes a fascinating bit of trivia on where the bronze used to make the crosses comes from.
- 3:16 PM, 20 March 2005   [link]


Andre Norton:  I'll miss her.
Andre Norton, a prolific and popular science-fiction and fantasy writer whose central theme was the rite of passage to self-realization undertaken by misfits or displaced outsiders, died yesterday at her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She was 93.
. . .
Donald A. Wollheim, editor of the paperback house Ace Books, saw her potential in an adult market, acquired the rights to "Starman's Son," published it under the title "Daybreak - 2250 A.D.," eliminating all references to the story and its author as being for young readers, and found himself with a steady seller.

Although Ms. Norton's subsequent books for Ace sold in the hundreds of thousands, she found herself the victim of a Catch-22: critics of science fiction did not take her seriously because she was considered a juvenile writer and critics of children's literature dismissed her because she wrote science fiction.

Her legions of readers remained loyal, however, and critics eventually came to take her seriously.   She was the first woman to win the Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy award and the Nebula Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement from the Science Fiction Writers of America.
I encountered her books as an adolescent, which is the perfect time to read them — and I still read them from time to time, which shows that you don't have to be adolescent to enjoy them.

She was born Alice Mary Norton, but chose "Andre Norton" as a pen name because she first wrote for boys and thought they would be more likely to read her books if she used a man's name.   That shows, I think, that she was paying attention when she worked, as she did for many years, as a children's librarian.  And then in 1934 she had her name changed legally to Andre Norton.   Her characters would have had no trouble understanding that decision.
- 1:39 PM, 18 March 2005   [link]


The "Sacred" Wilderness:  These two letters to the New York Times give what I believe is the most common reason for opposing oil drilling in a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife refuge.  Here are the key paragraphs from their letters:
Over the years, this generous and moral act made the refuge into a sacred space, a place where we celebrated nature as it was given rather a place we made.

Paul Wapner
Takoma Park, Md., March 17, 2005
The writer is an associate professor of environmental politics in the School of International Service at American University.


We now have a definitive answer to the old question "Is nothing sacred?" The answer is no.

Karen Loew
New York, March 17, 2005
When we say something is sacred, we are saying it deserves protection for religious reasons.   Professor Wapner and Ms. Loew want the area protected for the same reason that others want cathedrals, synagogues, and mosques protected.  I have no objection to Wapner, Loew, and others who share their views providing their own sites for nature worship — but I think it is both bad policy and unconstitutional for the rest of us to pay for those sites, directly or indirectly.

(I'll have more to say about this when I finally finish the "Green Republicans" piece.)
- 1:07 PM, 18 March 2005   [link]


Terry Schiavo:  When her case first got national attention, I was inclined to accept her husband's claim that she was in a persistent vegetative state.  He seemed, by all accounts, to be a jerk, but I thought that there was nothing that could be done for her.  If this remarkable account is correct — and I have no reason to doubt that it is — there is strong reason to believe that she is not in a persistent vegetative state.  And it appears absolutely certain that the appropriate tests have never been done, and that her care has been neglected, on orders from her husband.
Many people believe that Terri Schiavo has had "the best of care," and that everything has been tried by way of rehabilitation.  This belief is false.  In fact, Terri has had no attempts at therapy or rehabilitation since 1992, and very little had been done up to that point.  Terri has not even had the physical therapy most doctors would regard as normative for someone in her condition.  The result is that Terri suffers from severe muscle contractures, which have caused her body to become contorted.  Physical therapy could remedy this, but husband Michael has refused to provide it.

Terri has also suffered from what many professionals would regard as neglect.  She had to have several teeth extracted last year because of severe decay.  This decay was caused by a lack of basic dental hygiene, such as tooth-brushing.  She also developed decubitus (skin) ulcers on her buttocks and thighs.  These ulcers can be prevented by a simple regimen of regular turning: a basic nursing task that any certified nurse's aide can perform.  The presence of these easily preventable ulcers is a classic sign of neglect.  Bob and Mary Schindler have repeatedly complained of Terri's neglect, and have sought to remove Michael as guardian on that basis. Judge Greer was unmoved by those complaints as well.

BAD MEDICINE
And, quite apart from the question of Terri's therapy and care, it is entirely likely that Terri has never been properly diagnosed.  Terri is usually described as being in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS), and indeed Judge Greer ruled as a finding of fact that she is PVS; but this diagnosis and finding were arrived at in a way that has many neurologists expressing surprise and dismay.

I have spent the past ten days recruiting and interviewing neurologists who are willing to come forward and offer affidavits or declarations concerning new testing and examinations for Terri.   In addition to the 15 neurologists' affidavits Gibbs had in time to present in court, I have commitments from over 30 others who are willing to testify that Terri should have new and additional testing, and new examinations by unbiased neurologists.  Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terri's diagnosis of PVS.  All of these neurologists are board-certified; a number of them are fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Neurology; several are professors of neurology at major medical schools.

Why has Judge Greer ruled against Terri's parents again and again?  Because he has accepted the opinions of Dr. Ronald Cranford, a man who can fairly be described as "pro-death".
Dr. Cranford was the principal medical witness brought in by Schiavo and Felos to support their position that Terri was PVS.  Judge Greer was obviously impressed by Cranford's résumé: Cranford travels throughout the country testifying in cases involving PVS and brain impairment.   He is widely recognized by courts as an expert in these issues, and in some circles is considered "the" expert on PVS.  His clinical judgment has carried the day in many cases, so it is relevant to examine the manner in which he arrived at his judgment in Terri's case.  But before that, one needs to know a little about Cranford's background and perspective: Dr. Ronald Cranford is one of the most outspoken advocates of the "right to die" movement and of physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. today.
. . .
In cases where other doctors don't see it, Dr. Cranford seems to have a knack for finding PVS.   Cranford also diagnosed Robert Wendland as PVS.  He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could pick up specifically colored pegs or blocks and hand them to a therapy assistant on request.   He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could operate and maneuver an ordinary wheelchair with his left hand and foot, and an electric wheelchair with a joystick, of the kind that many disabled persons (most famously Dr. Stephen Hawking) use. Dr. Cranford dismissed these abilities as meaningless.   Fortunately for Wendland, the California supreme court was not persuaded by Cranford's assessment.
If you see Dr. Cranford near anyone you love, call for help immediately.  Some might find it ironic that he works in University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics — if they were not familiar with the views common in such places.  Given Cranford's views, the Minnesota facility should be renamed the Center against Bioethics.

Florida's elected officials have taken many steps in their efforts to save Terri Schiavo.   And now elected federal officials are joining their efforts.   If Reverend Johansen's account above is correct — and I repeat that I have no reason to doubt it — the elected officials are completely right, and Judge Greer completely wrong.

(You can find more on the case at Hugh Hewitt's site.)
- 7:49 AM, 18 March 2005
More:  Here's a response from Dr. Cranford (by way of Ed Morrisey).  I am, of course, not a neurologist, but I do find it significant that so many neurologists disagree with Cranford and think more tests are indicated.

Here's a column from last year, with some disturbing pieces of information about Michael Schiavo.  The most striking, at least to me, was the affidavit from a nurse claiming that he had asked, "When is that bitch going to die?"

Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said some harsh things yesterday:
Michael Schiavo's lawyer called that move [the intervention by Congress] "nothing short of thuggery." George Felos says the action reminded him of one that would be taken by the Soviet Politburo, not members of the Congress.

He said Congress' attempts to step in were "disgusting" and should alarm all Americans.
If we are looking for comparisons, the most obvious one is to Hitler's killing of many feeble minded Germans, a program that began before the Holocaust.  Those with an interest in theology will want to read this description of Felos's religious beliefs, which are unorthodox, to say the least.
- 8:03 AM, 19 March 2005   [link]


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

And there is extra reason to celebrate this year, especially if you are English (like Saint Patrick) or Irish.  The Irish Republican Army, a terrorist organization, is in full retreat and is in danger of losing much of its American support.  (One of the shames of American foreign policy for decades has been our tolerance of IRA fund raising and worse here in the United States.)  Most of that support came from Democrats, notably Senator Ted Kennedy, but there were Republicans, notably Congressman Peter King, who backed the IRA, too.

What led to this setback for the IRA after their increase in power in recent years?  A number of things.  The IRA over-reached.  They stole millions from a Belfast bank, millions that were quickly traced to them.  They murdered Robert McCartney and offended his sisters.
On the night of Jan. 30, the women's brother Robert McCartney -- a 33-year-old Catholic who voted for Sinn Fein -- stopped with a friend for a quick drink on the way to a birthday party.  About 70 people were in the pub, including about 20 IRA members.  McCartney's friend exchanged words with one of them, a fight began, and the friend's throat was cut. McCartney dragged his friend outside and was stabbed and beaten to death.  The friend survived.  According to news reports, the IRA members allegedly cleaned up the mess, took the security tape and told everyone inside to stay quiet about what had happened.

McCartney's grieving sisters and girlfriend broke the traditional code of silence and publicly blamed the IRA.  The IRA, already accused of a multi-million bank robbery in Belfast, found itself on the defensive and privately offered to shoot the men responsible for the murder.  The sisters declined, insisting that true justice could only come in an open courtroom.  Suspects and witnesses have been questioned, but no arrests have been made.
And since they have come forward so bravely, others have, too.

Finally, we should not forget President Bush's leadership on this subject.
President Bush personally ordered that Gerry Adams be frozen out of official engagements during his visit to America, furious that the Sinn Fein leader had betrayed his efforts to help to re-start the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Bush now views Mr Adams in the same unfavourable light as he did Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, a senior presidential adviser said last night. "At the White House, Adams is now regarded with the same sort of disdain as Arafat," the adviser told The Telegraph.  "The President no longer considers Mr Adams a reliable partner for peace.  He doesn't want to meet him."

Mr Bush was enraged to learn that at the same time as he was pressing Mr Adams late last year to relaunch the power-sharing deal, Sinn Fein's armed wing, the IRA, was planning the £26 million Northern Bank raid in Belfast.
How unsophisticated of Bush!  Just think.  A man lies to him and he decides he can't trust that man.  And isn't it odd that Bush's tactics seem to work?

(That clover picture isn't fancy, but it does come from my Corel image collection, so please respect their copyright.)
- 2:28 PM, 17 March 2005   [link]


Worth Reading:  Christopher Hitchens wasn't the first to make this argument, but as usual, he is one of the clearest.  The long New York Times article on the "looting" of weapons sites in Iraq undermines much of the criticism in that paper (and elsewhere on the left) about the missing WMDs.
It was eye-rubbing to read of the scale of this potential new nightmare.  There in cold print was the Al Hatteen "munitions production plant that international inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory."  And what of the Al Adwan facility, which "produced equipment used for uranium enrichment, necessary to make some kinds of nuclear weapons"?
. . .
My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction?   And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war.  So now what?  Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."

My second question is: What's all this about "looting"?  The word is used throughout the long report, but here's what it's used to describe.  "In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 . . . teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. . . . 'The first wave came for the machines,' Dr Araji said. 'The second wave, cables and cranes.'"  Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to "organized looting."

But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation.
Not individual looting.

There is a synthesis possible.  And it is the one favored by Rolf Ekeus (the good Swedish arms inspector).  As I discussed here, Ekeus has long thought — and has told anyone who would listen — that Saddam had WMD programs, not weapons.  (My own opinion is that Saddam pursued a mixed strategy, hiding a few WMDs, but putting most of his resources into the programs.)  Both weapons and programs were forbidden by the UN and by the agreements that Saddam had signed.

Which are more dangerous, weapons or programs?  In the short run, weapons, in the long run, programs.  A "complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory" worries me far more than a few thousand artillery shells filled with poisons.  And I think Saddam's WMD programs should worry anyone who thinks our security is more important than partisan attacks on President Bush.

(Rolf Ekeus recently provided another piece of evidence that Saddam was concealing illegal programs (and perhaps weapons).  Saddam's representative, Tariq Aziz, offered Ekeus a two million dollar bribe.   To his credit, Ekeus passed the information on to the UN officials, after explaining to Aziz that Swedes did not do business that way, a good thing to say though not true in every single case.)
- 8:24 AM, 17 March 2005   [link]


An Alternative To School Buses:  Third-grader Saje Beard rides her mule to school.
Most mornings, the third-grader makes the trek on Ruth the mule.

"She's called many things, but Ruth is what we call her in public,"  Saje said of the 4-year-old gray mule.  "Actually, that's my dad's joke.  She's really nice and gentle.   And she sure is smart."

Saje, 9, is an old hand at maneuvering mules.  She's been doing it since she was in first grade.
. . .
At the Manning School, about 15 miles south of the North Dakota capital, Saje "parks" Ruth by tying her with a bowline to a tree near swing sets and monkey bars.  Ruth then gets some leather hobbles attached to her front legs, a routine Saje began after her other mule, Shirley, got loose and ran home from school last year.
Saje rides Ruth unless it is too cold.  Since the school is in North Dakota, her parents define too cold as below zero, though Saje doesn't seem to agree.

Is there a political point to this story?  Yes, there is.  North Dakota combines high academic achievement with low school expenditures.  (Utah is another state with that combination.)  I think the attitudes you find in this story help explain why North Dakota succeeds and many urban schools, which spend far more per student, fail.
- 5:31 AM, 17 March 2005   [link]