March 2006, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Worth Reading: Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha fill in one of the gaps in coverage of radical Islamists with this solid article on CAIR, a group that poses as a civil rights group, but has extensive ties to terrorism.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), headquartered in Washington, is perhaps the best-known and most controversial Muslim organization in North America. CAIR presents itself as an advocate for Muslims' civil rights and the spokesman for American Muslims. "We are similar to a Muslim NAACP," says its communications director, Ibrahim Hooper. Its official mission—"to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding"—suggests nothing problematic.Not to mention the five CAIR officials who have been convicted of terrorist activities. The NAACP has had it problems, but I don't think it has ever been a front group for terrorism.
Many people who should have known better, notably President Bush, have gotten closer to CAIR than they should have.
Pipes and Chadha say that CAIR is a "media darling". That's certainly true in this area. Washington state's largest newspaper, the Seattle Times, has been not just uncritical, but positive in its treatment of the organization, giving their web site as resource for learning about Islam.
(Not surprisingly, some of those who don't care who don't care for CAIR have their own web site. I can't vouch for the truth of all the charges they publish, but most look entirely plausible to me, given what else I know about CAIR.)
- 3:27 PM, 8 March 2006 [link]
Are We Getting The Whole Truth About Radical Islam? Tony Blankley says no.
Most of the world today not only is in denial concerning the truly appalling likely consequences of the rise of radical Islam, it often refuses to even accept unambiguous evidence of its existence.And then after giving a series of examples, makes this argument:
The public has the right and vital need to have the events of our time fully and fairly described and reported. But a witch's brew of psychological denial and political correctness is suppressing the institutional voices of government, police, schools, universities and the media when it comes to radical Islam.Eric Fettmann gives us an example that strengthens Blankley's argument that the facts are being suppressed, often by our news organizations.
Of the many New York Times readers who made their way through this week's three-part series, "An Imam in America," one was paying especially close attention.The reader who was paying especially close attention was Devorah Halberstam, whose son, Ari, was killed 12 years ago by a man inspired by a sermon in that mosque, though a sermon by a different Muslim leader. But the murder of her son, which made front page news across the country, was never mentioned in the New York Times series.
Let's do one of the standard translations to get some perspective. Suppose a member of a white supremacist church — and there are still a few of them around — was inspired by a sermon in that church to go our and kill a black person. Would the New York Times omit that part of the story even twelve years later? Of course not.
I did not know this part of the story, but when I glanced at the articles, I decided not to read them because I assumed that the New York Times would leave out any really interesting material. It is a curious fact that our news organizations often act more as barriers to news than as transmitters, at least on some subjects, radical Islam definitely among them. I have begun to adapt to that curious fact, and I imagine that many of you have, too.
- 2:50 PM, 8 March 2006
Diana West has more on the striking lack of curiosity shown by that New York Times reporter. One would think that a lack of curiosity would be a fatal flaw in a reporter, but for some subjects, including radical Islam, it is almost a requirement, at least for those reporters who work for "mainstream" news organizations.
- 6:50 AM, 10 March 2005 [link]
8-0: And on the 0 side of the Supreme Court decision requiring law schools to admit military recruiters were many law schools. What does that fact say about those law schools? Not much, says George Will, with his usual light touch.
The institutional vanity and intellectual slovenliness of America's campus-based intelligentsia have made academia more peripheral to civic life than at any time since the 19th century. On Monday its place at the periphery was underscored as the Supreme Court unanimously gave short shrift to some law professors who insisted that their First Amendment rights to free speech and association were violated by the law requiring that military recruiters be allowed to speak to the professors' students if the professors' schools receive federal money.When you are finished chuckling, let me spoil the mood slightly by noting that this "vanity and intellectual slovenliness" is paid for, in part, by your tax money. That's true even for private law schools, most of which receive grants of public money and other, less direct, subsidies.
As I noted in this more general post, former Harvard president Derek Bok believes that universities can reform themselves. It would be nice to have an existence proof of that proposition, nice to have just one recent example of successful reform at a major university.
(Ann Althouse, who has read the decision so I don't have to, has this reaction: She thinks the decision is exceptionally clearly written. And that's not a small virtue, since lawyers will be spending years trying to figure out exactly what the court meant.
And Orin Kerr thinks that this decision, and other evidence, suggest that Chief Justice John Roberts may be inclined to stick to the law and the Constitution and "disinclined to cite casebooks, articles, and treatises", most of which come, of course, from those centers of "vanity and intellectual slovenliness".)
- 9:37 AM, 8 March 2006 [link]
Linda Chavez reminds us that problems at our ports aren't new.
With all the recent talk about security vulnerabilities at the nation's ports, one subject goes virtually unmentioned. The men who actually control many of the nation's docks, especially on the Eastern seaboard, are in the hip pocket of the Mafia and have been for decades.And, as she explains, there is a reason that Mafia control of our ports has not drawn much attention.
Among the top recipients of ILA [International Longshoreman's Association] PAC money in the last few elections were Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, Robert Menendez, D-NJ, Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, all of whom represent states with important ports. Some of these same senators are among the chief critics of the Dubai port deal, but they are noticeably silent when it comes to mob influence in the union that actually controls who works on these ports.As Chavez reminds us, the union, not companies, chooses who will work on the docks. Entrusting that power to organized crime families does not seem like a great idea, at least to me.
(Some will wonder about ports on the west coast. For many years those longshoremen were controlled by a union that was, at the very least, Communist influenced. Now the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is still a conspiracy against the public, but one interested mostly in getting far above market pay for its senior members.)
- 6:12 AM, 8 March 2006 [link]
Regulation And Housing Costs: By way of "Jane Galt", I learned about this New York Times article on economist Edward Glaeser, who argues that regulation has increased housing costs, sometimes quite dramatically
Glaeser has come to believe that changes in zoning regulations may be the most important transformation in the American real-estate market since the mass acceptance of the automobile. In his view, these regulations have essentially created a "zoning tax" that has pushed prices far above construction costs. Very, very far above construction costs.And he makes a politically incorrect, but undeniable, point: Areas with higher housing costs tend to be areas with leftish politics.
Still another thought: that homeowners, utilizing skills learned during the civil rights movement and political protests of the 1960's and 1970's, became much more adept at organizing against developers. (There appears to be a reasonable correlation between liberal enclaves, zoning regulations and high housing prices.) In any event, Glaeser says, he doesn't know the answer yet, and it may take years to find out.None of these arguments are new; some housing economists have been making them for decades. When I echoed them in this post and this post, I was entirely aware that I was saying nothing new. (Though I do think the first post draws attention to important data, and a vivid map that illustrates that data.) But it is good to see such a respected young economist tackling these problems, and it is good to see that his work is getting attention.
The New York Times article does not draw any political conclusions from that "reasonable correlation", so I will point out the obvious. Areas dominated politically by well off leftists have made new housing prohibitively expensive for young families and newcomers. Many of these leftists, I hasten to add, did not realize what they were doing when they backed measures such as Washington state's Growth Management Act. But they still benefitted personally, and the less well off lost from these changes.
(This amuses me, and may amuse you, as well. I learned about this article from "Jane Galt", who lives on the other side of the continent — but I could have learned about it by looking in my stack of newspapers, just a few feet away.)
- 2:34 PM, 7 March 2006 [link]
Not Everyone Liked The Song That Won The Oscar: In fact, some people despised it.
When Christine Smith heard the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" announced as the Oscar winner for best original song on Sunday night's telecast, she almost fell off the sofa in her Arlington living room.One would think that feminists would be unhappy about this particular song, as well as many blacks, but so far I haven't seen any protests from NOW.
- 10:11 AM, 7 March 2006 [link]
Should Bill Clinton Register As A Foreign Agent? Dick Morris, who has been less than friendly toward the Clintons in recent years, says probably.
Is Bill Clinton serving as a lobbyist and public-relations guru to the government of Dubai? It sure looks like it.I'd like to see a discussion of this from an expert on the applicable laws. And, regardless of the laws, this certainly looks inappropriate.
- 4:55 AM, 7 March 2006 [link]
70 Years Old: And as pretty as ever.
The British public loved Spitfires enough to donate money to buy them.
Money was raised in tins and boxes from fetes, garden parties and simple street collections. Companies not involved in aircraft manufacture organised collections and some wealthy individuals also donated.I have read about these donations, but I had not realized there were so many.
- 2:56 PM, 6 March 2006 [link]
The Seattle Times Versus The Facts: First, the Seattle Times:
(Those who have followed this subject will note that the writer of the editorial was apparently taken in by a misleading AP story, which the AP was forced to "clarify" late last Friday.)
Note carefully that last statement. Now, here are the facts:
The Times says Bush failed to deliver; the fact is that Bush helped organize "by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history". When the gap between the beliefs at the Seattle Times and reality is this large, it is hard to know what to say. The best I can do is recycle an old joke: Suppose Bush came to this area and, as part of his exercise routine, walked across Puget Sound. How would the Times headline this feat? As follows: "Bush Fails in Effort to Swim Sound".
Tomorrow I will be sending the editorial page editor, Jim Vesely, a polite email asking for a correction, with copies to everyone on the editorial board. I hope some of you will do the same.
One last wonderfully ironic point. The editorial began with this line: "The Bush administration has a substantial credibility problem." I hope they have mirrors at the Times.
(Some will wonder which editorial writer is responsible for this fantasy. My guess would be Lance Dickie, since he did a similar column last year. And when I noted that he might have a fact or two wrong, I got an angry reply noting that I had made a mistake in an entirely separate piece. I corrected my error (assuming he drove to work rather than riding the bus); he has never corrected his errors. In fact, if he is the author of this editorial, he is repeating them.)Cross posted at Sound Politics
- 1:32 PM, 6 March 2006 [link]
Those Enormous Fees For College Tuition? They may be mostly wasted. Who says so? Former (and future) Harvard president, Derek Bok.
Tests of writing and of literacy in mathematics, statistics and computer technology suggest that many undergraduates improve these skills only slightly, while some actually regress. Many corporations have to offer programs to teach their college-educated employees how to express themselves.(Though it is only fair to add that he is not as blunt as I am. But I think "may be mostly wasted" is a fair summary of the evidence that Bok presents.)
That second sentence deserves some amplification: After eight years of grade school, four years of high school, and four (or more) years of college, many American college graduates can not write well enough to fill entry level corporate jobs. And so the corporations that hire the graduates have to train them in basic composition.
If you read the whole column, you will see that, although there have been some studies on what American graduates get in return for those enormous fees, Bok would generally agree with the assertion I have made, more than once, that most college and university presidents have no idea what their graduates have learned, if, in fact, they have learned anything.
So, is Bok arguing for some national test to measure what, if anything, college students learn? No, and here is the wonderful irony of the column: Bok wrote it to oppose just such a simple and essential measure. Cynics may think that Bok takes this position because, as Adam Smith said long ago, universities are contrived for the "ease of the masters", not the "benefit of the students". And Bok and the other masters intend to keep it that way.
- 6:54 AM, 6 March 2006 [link]
You're Welcome: In which large country is George Bush most popular? India. He is popular enough so that even some Indian journalists have a kind word for him, and one or two are even saying thank you.
The truth is we have in George W. Bush a president more pro-Indian than any before him. In fact the same nuclear deal would not have been possible under Clinton or Kerry or Gore. Bush alone made it happen. And he did so despite our Parliament's well-known stand on Iraq and the ill-disguised contempt our elite have for him. If he could rise above all that then, surely, in return we could have expressed our gratitude more clearly and with good cheer. The protests should have been postponed or muted. They were hardly a suitable way of saying thank you.And, although Karan Thaper does not mention it, Bush has simultaneously improved our cooperation with Pakistan. If you had asked me in January 2001 whether better relations with both nations at the same time was even possible, I would probably have said no. The two nations were born fighting each other and have seen little reason to give up their feud since. If you get along with one, you can't get along with the other. But somehow the Bush administration was able to improve relations with both governments.
It is a fantastic achievement — and will receive almost no credit from Western journalists. (I suspect that Colin Powell deserves a big share of the credit for improving relations with Pakistan, by the way.)
(Need a review on how bad the relations between India and Pakistan have been? Take a look at this Wikipedia article on Pakistan. Among other things, the two nations have fought four wars since gaining independence, three of them major.)
- 6:17 AM, 6 March 2006
More: Rich Lowry makes similar arguments here, and Simon Jenkins supports the Bush agreements with India, though somewhat snottily.
- 9:46 AM, 7 March 2006 [link]
More On The Causes Of The Decline In Fertility Rates: As I mentioned a few days ago, and as I discussed at more length last year, some researchers think that the decline in fertility rates is advanced industrial nations is caused by the rise of pensions. In short, people began to depend on the government, rather than their children, to care for them in old age.
Here's what Richard Morin said about the size of the effect last year.
Drawing from surveys and other data collected by previous researchers in the United States and Europe, including a massive cross-cultural study of 104 countries conducted in 1997, they [University of Minnesota economists Michele Boldrin, Mariacristina De Nardi and Larry E. Jones] were able to identify the factors that most directly influenced fertility rates. They also charted the growth of the old-age pension systems in each country to determine what impact, if any, they had on fertility. The development of government pension programs accounted for between half and two-thirds of the decline in fertility rates in the United States and developed countries over the last 70 years, they concluded in a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.Letting other people's children support you in your old age is a viable strategy — as long as only a few people follow it.
One Japanese legislator has suggested that those who do not have children should receive smaller pensions. If this research is shown to be sound, then I think that some such change in pension systems is almost certain in Europe and Japan, within the next two decades.
(Minor technical point: Those familiar with statistics will guess, as I did, that "accounted for between half and two-thirds" means that their predictive equations fit the data fairly well, but not perfectly.)
- 12:42 PM, 5 March 2006 [link]
Were You Surprised by this story?
The man who for two years led Iran's nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.I wasn't, but I don't claim that shows any great insight on my part. In fact, I am sure that, if you were to search articles in the New York Times, the Times of London, and their counterparts in France and Germany for the last two years, you would find warnings that Tehran was using these talks to disguise their weapons programs. And I don't doubt that the European intelligence services gave their governments some warning that this was happening.
So why did the Europeans continue with the talks? Because they did not want to face the fact that a particularly nasty government was doing everything it could to obtain nuclear weapons. In a sense, the Europeans were duped because they wanted to be duped.
- 10:39 AM, 5 March 2006 [link]
In World War II, Hollywood made propaganda films for the American cause, of which the most famous is Frank Capra's series, Why We Fight.
Now Hollywood makes propaganda films for our enemies.
Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign film is "Paradise Now," a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is "Munich," a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday's fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.Charles Krauthammer ended this column by saying: "Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction." Let me be even more blunt. The hatred spread by Syriana will result in the deaths of Americans, civilian and military, and in the deaths of many innocents in other countries, especially Muslims, who are the principal victims of the Islamic extremists.
Will those who made this film apologize when those deaths occur? Will they even notice?
(Propaganda now has negative connotation for most Americans, but it was once a positive word, and then a neutral word. When I use it without qualifiers, I intend it in the neutral sense. There's a discussion of the changes in the meaning of the word in this extensive Wikipedia article on propaganda.
And if you want more on Frank Capra, here's that article. I have watched parts of his Why We Fight and found them quite interesting and, on the whole, accurate historically.)
- 10:05 AM, 3 March 2006 [link]
It's a good start.
The Palestinian Authority has refunded $30 million in U.S. aid, meeting Washington's demand to keep it out of the hands of a new government being formed by Hamas, a militant group on the U.S. terrorist list.But I think any humnitarian aid should also be held back until they surrender, unconditionally. That may seem harsh, but any other policy will just make their war against the Jews and the Palestinian Christians last longer.
- 6:17 AM, 3 March 2006 [link]
Does Jennifer Lane Know When World II Occurred? In today's "Best of the Web", I found a link to this curious column by a student at the University of Massachusetts. There is much that you may find amusing in the column, but what struck me were these lines:
No matter how you look at it, our society has gotten out of control. No one knows who they are anymore, and there are a lot of pessimistic attitudes walking around.The war was over during the 1940s? (And has she never heard of the Korean War, which began in 1950, or the Cold War?) Perhaps she is just being careless in her writing, but I can't help thinking that she, like many college students, really doesn't know when World War II occurred. (And may never have heard about the Korean War. Or about film noir, which was popular during the 1940s and 1950s, but was not known for its carefree stories.)
- 2:42 PM, 2 March 2006 [link]
Our Canadian Allies: No, I am not being sarcastic. The Canadians were magnificent in helping stranded passengers after 9/11, and they have committed a significant force in Afghanistan.
A majority of Canadians support the country's expanded military mission to Afghanistan, even though they realize there is a risk of casualties, according to a poll released on Wednesday.It is easy for Americans to forget, after the insults that came from some in Canada's Liberal party, that Canada has given us substantial help in the war on terror. And we should not forget that our northern neighbors just elected a party, the Conservatives, whose leaders are inclined to skip the insults and work for policies that will be best for both countries.
- 1:28 PM, 2 March 2006 [link]
What Happens When You Try To Correct Newspaper Errors? Not much, even if you are a magazine editor.
Of course, the burden of my complaint was that [Dana] Milbank was playing sophomorically with the facts of the event and misleading his readers "in matters large and small." That is what mainstream media, and Ombudsmen, in particular, are supposed to be concerned about. Several days later, in the paper's "Corrections" section, here is what was printed: "The Feb. 11 Washington Sketch misspelled the name of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., the editor in chief of the American Spectator."So the Washington Post admitted to spelling Tyrrell's name wrong, corrected his title without admitting that error, and ignored his substantive complaints. This is, in my experience, entirely typical; newspapers will correct misspelled names, but will ignore substantive complaints, no matter how well founded.
(Dana Milbank, as I have mentioned many times, is particularly error prone — which does not seem to bother anyone at the Washington Post. When he writes about President Bush, his errors are almost always anti-Bush. I would like to think that is not the reason that the Post ignores his errors, but no longer can.
For some more examples of Milbank's errors, see here, here, here, here, here, and here. And I must add, as I have before, that I do not read Milbank regularly. But when I do, I nearly always find factual errors or errors in reasoning.)
- 1:00 PM, 2 March 2006 [link]
Geography Classes have changed since I took them.
An Overland High School teacher who criticized President Bush, capitalism and U.S. foreign policy during his geography class was placed on administrative leave Wednesday afternoon after a student who recorded the session went public with the tape.According to the article, the teacher often went off on these rants.
The student who made the recording seems more sensible than Mr. Bennish.
Sean [Allen], who described himself as a political independent, said the comments seemed inappropriate for a geography class.Assuming Bennish is able to give both sides of the story, something about which I have my doubts.
- 7:10 AM, 2 March 2006 [link]
Mr. Inside And Mrs. Outside have been pursuing different policies.
Bill Clinton, former US president, advised top officials from Dubai two weeks ago on how to address growing US concerns over the acquisition of five US container terminals by DP World.But they claim there's no conflict.
[Clinton's spokesman] added that Mr Clinton supported his wife's position on the deal and that "ideally" state-owned companies would not own US port operations.Right. (I like that "ideally".)
- 6:40 AM, 2 March 2006
Senator Clinton admitted yesterday that her husband hadn't told her about his work for Dubai. And presumably she didn't consult him before she joined Senator Schumer's attack on the deal.
- 5:36 AM, 3 March 2006 [link]
One Texas Gerrymander, Or Two? This New York Times editorial sees just one:
The authoritative Almanac of American Politics sees two:
(Note that the Times erred when it claimed the first map was "tilted" in the "Republicans' favor". And the Almanac may be leaving out part of the story. As I recall, the three judge panel first drew up a reasonably fair map, but reversed itself after Democratic officials complained to the Democratic judges.)
As you probably know, Tom DeLay and the Texas Republicans decided not to put up with this and pushed through their own districting scheme, which was also unfair, but did not give the the minority party a majority of the seats. In fact, as I explained in this post, the Republicans are now getting about the number of seats one would expect them to get with a fair map. So both maps were unfair, but the Republican map somewhat less so.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me end by saying that — unlike the New York Times — I oppose all gerrymanders, regardless of which party they benefit. I much prefer the system used in Iowa and here in Washington state, in which districts are drawn by nonpartisan commissions.Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 2:40 PM, 1 March 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Ed Morrow tells us how one American leader authorized warrantless searches during a war.
It was in September when the American military intercepted a man traveling through New York. Without a search warrant and despite his bearing a letter from a high ranking Army officer giving him explicit permission to travel unhindered, the traveler was detained without being permitted to speak to a lawyer. He was unceremoniously searched, and private correspondence found upon him was confiscated. It was about to be read by a military officer when an outraged lawyer from the ACLU interceded. Faced with the threat of legal action, the military released the traveler with his private papers unviolated. Shortly thereafter, the American Revolution ended with a British victory. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and all those other troublesome Founding Fathers were rounded up and hanged. And today, we're all Canadians.With results that are known to every student of the American revolution.
Be interesting to ask a representative of the ACLU whether Washington was wrong to have Major André searched.
- 1:35 PM, 1 March 2006 [link]
Britain Tightens Controls On Mailed Ballots: Britain began using mailed ballots in 2004. They had an immediate explosion of vote fraud and are now introducing new laws to combat it.
Ministers will today propose a new offence of falsely applying for a postal or proxy vote as part of a range of measures aimed at stamping out electoral fraud.These new laws are better than nothing, but I think Britain should consider giving up mailed ballots entirely, except for those few who must have them.
- 10:27 AM, 1 March 2006 [link]
Will Britain Have A Population Surge Soon? Perhaps, if the theory that religious beliefs lead to children is correct.
More than 1,000 new Christian churches have been created over the last seven years, double the number of Starbucks coffee shops, new research has found.This part will sound very familiar to Americans.
The Methodist Church suffered a net loss of about 300 churches, and the Church of England fell by more than 100.I would give high odds that both emphasize politics more than religion.
- 10:08 AM, 1 March 2006 [link]