March 2006, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Now That We've Decided That Plagiarism is wrong.
The bottom line is: I know it when I see it. And, painfully, Domenech's detractors, are right. He should own up to it and step down. Then, the Left should cease its sick gloating and leave him and his family alone.Can we get rid of Molly Ivins?
IVINS: The Southern passion for military service first astonished the rest of the country in 1898, when Southerners signed up in droves to avenge the Maine. It was the country's first war since Appomattox, and for 33 years Yankees had questioned Southern loyalty.I believe Ivins ended up paying Florence King an undisclosed amount, after this, and other bits of plagiarism. As you can see from this letter (and King's reply) Ivins admitted that she had plagiarized King's writing.
- 4:16 PM, 24 March 2006 [link]
Mountain Blogging: Last Sunday was one of those rare clear winter days here in the Seattle area, so I drove down to Mt. Rainier to do a little cross country skiing and take a few pictures.
(Click on a picture to see a larger version.)
The first picture shows a small part of the Tatoosh Range. The second shows a view of Rainier from the main parking lot at Paradise. And the third and fourth show you a bit of what I saw while I was skiing.
(How was the skiing? So, so, mostly because nearly all the trails had been created by snowshoers, who do not make the kind of tracks cross country skiers need. But the mountain was so gorgeous that I didn't mind.)
- 1:38 PM, 24 March 2006 [link]
Michael Ramirez Is The Best Cartoonist In America: You'll see one more reason for that conclusion if you look at his March 23rd cartoon, which is, currently, here.
- 10:16 AM, 24 March 2006 [link]
A Taliban Spokesman Is Welcome At Yale: But Afghan women, who were victims of that regime, are not.
A statement from Yale University, defending its decision to admit former Taliban spokesman Ramatullah Hashemi, explained that he had "escaped the wreckage of Afghanistan." To anyone who is aware of the Taliban's barbaric treatment of the Afghan people, such words are offensive--as if Mr. Hashemi were not himself part of the wrecking crew. It is even more disturbing to learn that, while Mr. Hashemi sailed through Yale's admissions process, the school turned down the opportunity to enroll women who really did escape the wreckage of Afghanistan.Disturbing to any decent person, though not, so far, to those who run Yale.
- 7:05 AM, 24 March 2006 [link]
Worst Person In The World: Would you pick Barbara Bush for that award? Keith Olbermann did. What sin prompted the award? She had donated some money to Katrina victims to be used for purchasing software from Neil Bush's company. Oh, and she had also donated other money with no restrictions.
You can find similar examples of derangement from a few right wing talk show hosts and bloggers. But Olbermann has his own show on MSNBC. That this idiocy is tolerated says something about that network, and perhaps about our "mainstream" news organizations generally.
- 6:52 AM, 24 March 2006 [link]
Noam Chomsky doesn't always practice what he preaches.
One of the most persistent themes in Noam Chomsky's work has been class warfare. The iconic MIT linguist and left-wing activist frequently has lashed out against the "massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich," and criticized the concentration of wealth in "trusts" by the wealthiest 1%. He says the U.S. tax code is rigged with "complicated devices for ensuring that the poor -- like 80% of the population -- pay off the rich."And there is much more along the same lines in the article. Some will be amused by his hypocrisy, some will be disgusted, and some, including me, will be both amused and disgusted.
- 4:40 PM, 23 March 2006 [link]
Interesting Numbers: Being in the military is dangerous.
Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)(I could have added a "sic" or two there, but didn't)
Others objected that rates were better measures, since the armed forces are now smaller. Actually, both the raw numbers and the rates are valid measures, but have different uses. The raw numbers tell us how many families have lost a loved one; the rates tell us more about the effect on our armed forces.
Did you know that more servicemen died during Carter's last year than in any single year of George W. Bush's presidency? I didn't. Granted, few were lost in combat under Carter, but deaths from training accidents were much worse then.
(In the past, disease nearly always killed more soldiers than died on the battlefield. I think that World War II was the first major war where that was not true for US soldiers.)
- 3:27 PM, 23 March 2006 [link]
Those Republicans just keep dragging religion into politics.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the Bible yesterday to criticize a stringent border security measure that, among other things, would make it a federal crime to offer aid to illegal immigrants.Well, former Republicans. As I understand it, she was, way back when, a Goldwater girl. I await with interest, but not bated breath, the attacks on her from the secular left.
(Amusingly. Richard Cohen, a strident member of the secular left, just did a column defending her. This is the same man who once called George Bush an "American Ayatollah". I doubt that he will apply the same term to Hillary Clinton.)
- 6:46 AM, 23 March 2006 [link]
Chief AP Correspondent Gets Fired: For reasons that are not entirely clear to the New York Times.
But seem clear enough to me. Although journalists and Democratic officials are often allies, Senator Leahy does not work for the Associated Press. Apparently, Graff is so used to working with Leahy and other Democrats that he forgot that small point.
The AP did not object to Graff working with Democrats, but they did object to him making it official. But none of the journalists quoted in the Times article seem to think Graff did anything wrong. And the same is true of the journalists quoted in this Burlington Free Press article and this Times Argus article.
And journalists wonder why so many Republicans, independents, and open-minded Democrats think they are biased.
Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
- 5:51 AM, 23 March 2006 [link]
Did Sudan Try To Bribe The New York Times? It sure looks that way.
(I looked for the advertising insert but could not find it. Most likely it wasn't included in the West Coast edition of the Times.)
- 2:42 PM, 22 March 2006 [link]
Here's A Curiosity: If you look at Survey USA's latest polls on governor's popularity, you'll see that governors in states carried by George W. Bush tend to be more popular than governors in states carried by John F. Kerry Twenty of the 25 most popular governors are in states carried by Bush. It isn't a matter of partisanship, because 13 of those 25 are Democrats.
Unemployment rates in the different states probably explain part of that pattern.
(If you have been wondering what Louisianans think of their governor, Katherine Blanco, you'll notice that she is third from the bottom in net job approval. Some of them must think that George Bush does not deserve all the blame for the errors in responding to hurricane Katrina.)
- 2:09 PM, 22 March 2006 [link]
A Small Victory for freedom of speech.
Laila Freivald resigned as Sweden's foreign minister on Tuesday with immediate effect, after accusations that she acted unconstitutionally by closing a far-right web site that published controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.But still a victory.
(Wouldn't it be fun to ask her if she had ever considered closing sites showing Bush cartoons, or sites showing the vile anti-Semitic and anti-American cartoons common in the Middle East?)
- 6:58 AM, 22 March 2006 [link]
It's a start.
Democratic leaders in one Illinois county have begun making very clear what other politicians might consider obvious: Party money should not be used to buy votes.Illinois has 102 counties, so this is just one small step. And some cynics will think that such impractical measures will never catch on in Cook County.
By the way, the most common way to bribe voters in such areas is to give party workers "walking around money", supposedly for expenses. The workers can then use the money as they see fit, as long as they produce the votes.
(The article leaves out the lurid details of the scandal in East St. Louis. Among other things, there were, as I recall, threats against the lives of witnesses.)
- 5:19 AM, 22 March 2006 [link]
Open Letter To The New York Times #1:
To the Editor:
In a March 15th editorial, the Times argued that campaign finance laws should "fully protect the growing legions of bloggers." As one of those bloggers, I agree entirely.
Let me take the discussion one step farther and suggest a way to protect bloggers. In my opinion, the same rules should apply to the New York Times as apply to my humble site, "Jim Miller on Politics." If that principle governs, I am confident that my free speech will be protected. And, if I am wrong and, for example, the Times and I both have to fill out disclosure forms whenever we make endorsements, that will, at least, be fair.
(Some might suggest that we should just follow the principle that "Congress shall make no law" restricting freedom of speech. But that's such a radical idea that I can not imagine it getting a serious hearing.)
James R. Miller
Kirkland, WA, March 21, 2006
(I plan a series of these letters, beginning today, and ending this Saturday. There's a general point that I will be making with them, which I will explain this Sunday.
Here's the editorial, if you are curious. Are they describing the legislative alternatives fairly? Most likely not, but I haven't looked into the matter.).
- 4:30 PM, 21 March 2006 [link]
NBC Doesn't Understand Intelligence Operations: In this article, Aram Roston and Lisa Myers (who has done better work) argue that the CIA had a source with good information on Iraq's WMDs in 2002.
In the period before the Iraq war, the CIA and the Bush administration erroneously believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding major programs for weapons of mass destruction. Now NBC News has learned that for a short time the CIA had contact with a secret source at the highest levels within Saddam Hussein's government, who gave them information far more accurate than what they believed. It is a spy story that has never been told before, and raises new questions about prewar intelligence.(Those officials are, of course, anonymous.*)
Let's play CIA analyst for a few minutes and see if we can do better than Roston and Myers. When you are putting together an intelligence estimate, you try to use as wide a variety of sources as possible, and you check one source against another. And you are skeptical about anyone who walks in, claiming to have intelligence. They may want money from you (as Sabri did), or they may be a plant.**
You would start by asking whether Sabri had the right position to know this information. Every government tries to compartmentalize information. In Saddam's Iraq, one would expect secrets about Saddam's WMDs to be kept, not by Saddam's diplomats, but by a few very carefully chosen military men.*** So we should be dubious that Sabri was even in a position to know about Saddam's WMDs. He might be, but we would have to know how he acquired this information.
And we would have to test the information he provided against information from other sources. Though the article does not mention it, we and our allies had other sources in Iraq, including some in the Iraqi military, who gave us different information. (Some of the sources were lousy, which is almost inevitable in intelligence operations.) Even this little bit should be enough to convince you that a single source, especially one in the foreign service, should not be believed uncritically.
We will never know all of the information the CIA used to come up with their estimates before the war. But it is surely significant that the intelligence services of other nations, using similar but not identical raw information, came to essentially the same conclusions that the CIA did. And that includes the French intelligence service, who had access to Sabri before we did.
On one crucial point, Roston and Meyers are simply wrong. The conclusion that Saddam had no "major programs" for WMDs is incompatible with final Duelfer report. Duelfer says, among other things, that Saddam had built dual use facilities that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons swiftly. For example:
Depending on its scale, Iraq could have re-established an elementary BW [biological warfare] program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so, but ISG discovered no indications that the Regime was pursuing such a course.And Saddam devoted quite considerable resources to rebuilding his potential for chemical and biological warfare.
Finally, I should note that, unlike NBC, I am not certain that we know what happened to Saddam's WMDs, an uncertainty shared by at least one of the arms inspectors after the war, who admitted that some may have been sent to Syria. Or may have been hidden. As I have said many times before, the volumes of WMDs are so small that we simply can not be certain that Saddam did not hide some weapons somewhere out in the Iraqi desert. And, though I am skeptical about Sabri, I do not dismiss his claim that Iraq had chemical weapons in the fall of 2002. (Curiously, Roston and Meyers are certain that Sabri was wrong about that — and that he was a great source who had all the facts. I make no effort to explain that contradiction, which they do not appear to even notice.)
(*But it is not difficult to guess their motives. This is an attack on the Bush administration, and an attack on some of the other analysts at the CIA.
**I would say, judging only by what I have read in this article, that Sabri might have been a plant or a dupe. He was certainly conveying the message that Saddam wanted us to hear. And a few of us will be bothered because our meeting with him "was brokered by the French intelligence service".
***When the United States began negotiating with the Soviet Union on reducing nuclear weapons, this caused a serious problem. The US negotiators quickly learned that the Soviet diplomats had no idea what weapons their nation had, even though they were supposed to write the treaty. And when the US team began to fill them in, the Soviet military objected, saying that the Soviet diplomats were not cleared to know about their own weapons.
For more on the problems of evaluating military intelligence, see this post.)
- 2:30 PM, 21 March 2006
David Cohen has more criticism of the article here.
- 5:50 AM, 22 March 2006 [link]
Bill Quick Asks a good question: "Is Islam Compatible With Free Societies And Individual Liberty?" Note that is not the same as asking whether Islam is compatible with democracy, though most would think that free elections are an essential part of a free society, though not the whole of it. A nation can have many freedoms, but not be a democracy, and may be a democracy without having some freedoms. (Some of you will notice that Quick is asking whether Islam is compatible with classical liberalism, but the meaning of "liberal" has changed so much in the United States that he is probably wise to avoid using the term.)
As it happens, I have already answered the democracy part of that question, with two separate posts. Islam is incompatible with democracy, in principle.
Even when Muslims are out of power, Mohammed's example makes it difficult for them to live in peace with others. Since he set up a theocracy, that must be the ideal form for society, and there is, in orthodox Islam, thus no provision for Muslims to live under a non Muslim ruler.Or for Muslims to live in a democracy.
But it is also true that Islam is compatible with democracy, in practice.
I want to end by saying that I am cautiously optimistic about the long term prospects for democracy in Muslim nations. The caution is real and so is the optimism. And don't miss the "long term". I expect that many Muslim nations will experiment with democracy, lose it for a while, come back to it, lose it again, and then come back to it again, just as many Latin American nations have done, and some European nations, for that matter. We should not expect too much, too soon, and we should not give up when setbacks happen.And, if you read the post, you will see that I have election data from 18 Muslim nations to support that conclusion. Muslims, when given a chance, vote in about the same proportions as Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or the secular — despite the fact that free elections are incompatible with the strict teachings of the Koran.
(Will elections in Muslim countries lead in time to more of the other kinds of freedoms for their citizens? That's a more difficult question, but experience in many other societies, some of them very different from our own, suggests that the answer to that question is yes, as well.)
- 8:29 AM, 21 March 2006 [link]
Some Subjects Can't Be Discussed In Polite Company: At Yale, that includes whether it was right for Yale to admit a former Taliban official. Although Yale could, in the past, discuss the pro-Nazi backgrounds of Yale professors.
One would almost think that the social climate at our universities has become more repressive, as the liberals who used to run them have been replaced by leftisis.
- 7:39 AM, 21 March 2006 [link]
One Woman's Freedom Fighter . . . is another woman's terrorist. This morning, I heard Joyce Taylor of King 5 News gleefully describe the protagonist of V for Vendetta as a "freedom fighter". Megan Basham has a somewhat different view, and, if her account of the movie (which includes some spoilers) is even roughly correct, a better term for the protagonist would be "terrorist".
I have seen the terrorist, and he is me. And you. And all of us. So says Evey (Natalie Portman), an acolyte of V (Hugh Weaving), the swashbuckling savior of future England who disguises himself as Guy Fawkes.Because, after all, he is fighting against an evil Christian regime.
The New York Times reviewer evaded the terrorist/freedom fight question, preferring to spend his time making the argument that Vendetta is not a very good movie, and definitely not a place to find deep thinking. But Manohla Dargis did tell me one interesting thing: the movie is based on a comic book. (Whose creator has disowned the movie.)
And that may explain why Ms. Taylor (and many others) are so pleased by the movie. They have comic book views of the world, and the movie confirms them. That it might encourage terrorists and even inspire killings does not matter in their comic book world, where deaths are never entirely real. Unfortunately, we have to live in the real world, where deaths from terrorists are real, and not something to chuckle over while people are finishing their breakfasts. I was offended enough by Taylor's performance so that I am going to give her a penalty. Since her attitude toward this comic book movie is so childish, she deserves a childish penalty. A week's timeout will be about right, I think.
(Those who want to see a serious review, without spoilers, can find one here by Michael Medved.
- 10:52 AM, 20 March 2006 [link]
Hollywood Oftens Offends People With Traditional Values: All kinds of traditional values
A family of New Mexico Indians is suing the producers of a Steven Spielberg television series, claiming a stylist violated tribal customs by cutting a girl's hair to make her look like a boy.(They were short of Indian boys, if you were wondering.)
If these Apaches are anything like their ancestors, Spielberg might find it prudent to settle the lawsuit.
- 5:34 AM, 20 March 2006 [link]
Students Of The Bible will find this post interesting.
What happens when a passage in the Quran is erroneous? What if it has passages which can be compared with another older sacred text? How do you clarify the mistake? Do you retreat to the doctrine of infallible revelation? (The Quran comes down from Allah, so that settles everything!) Or will you listen to reasonable evidence, using Ockham's Razor to cut out needless and convoluted explanations?And even those who don't ordinarily care about such questions may want to read the post. After all, there are entire nations where making this point would be dangerous.
- 6:49 AM, 19 March 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Though you'll have to rush. Last Saturday, the New York Times published this brief piece, suggesting that the United States may be using network analysis to track terrorists.
Recent debates about the National Security Agency's warrantless-eavesdropping program have produced two very different pictures of the operation. Whereas administration officials describe a carefully aimed "terrorist surveillance program," press reports depict a pervasive electronic net ensnaring thousands of innocent people and few actual terrorists. Could it be that both the administration and its critics are right? One way to reconcile these divergent accounts — and explain the administration's decision not to seek warrants for the surveillance — is to examine a new conceptual paradigm that is changing how America's spies pursue terrorists: network theory.Sounds plausible, though I winced when I ran across "paradigm". (The word has been so abused that I avoid it entirely, unless I want to make a bad pun.)
Since this is the New York Times — though being more sensible than usual — I should add that similar kinds of analyses are done by businesses all the time.
- 2:16 PM, 18 March 2006 [link]
This Conclusion is straightforward.
Ever since Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish gunman, shot the late Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981 in St Peter's Square in Rome, investigators have tried to solve one of the 20th century's greatest mysteries: did Agca act alone or was he obeying communist orders? This week an Italian parliamentary commission will officially conclude that Agca was part of a huge conspiracy masterminded by the GRU, the Soviet military secret service, on the orders of the politburo and Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Communist party.And you'll notice that the article was published in a moderately respectable newspaper, the Times of London.
The Soviets were suspected from the very beginning, but their cover stories kept matters confused for years — with the help of Western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, as Claire Sterling argued in The Time of the Assassins. The New York Times carried story after story, citing anonymous CIA sources that cast doubt on the theory that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt to kill the Pope. Why? Because the CIA (and the New York Times) did not want to damage prospects for detente with the Soviet Union. That behavior is something we should remember when we try to judge what the CIA (and the New York Times) are doing now.
And Sterling mentions something that still astonishes. The only major news organization that made a significant effort to investigate what can reasonably be called the crime of the century was the Reader's Digest, which commissioned her. The New York Times, and many other news organizations, decided, in effect, that there were some things they would rather not know.
- 2:22 PM, 17 March 2006 [link]
You've Heard What Jay Bennish Had To Say About George Bush: But have you heard what George Bush had to say about the Colorado geography teacher?
Q I'm from Aurora, Colorado. In our town a teacher was suspended for remarks critical of your State of the Union message, made the talk shows, et cetera -- compared you to Hitler and -- actually, I've heard the tape and he didn't, he said, "Hitler-esque," but it's not --And then Bush goes on to defend freedom generally to his audience of journalists.
There's much there to admire. Bush's good humor, his unwillingness to attack Bennish directly, and, most of all, his direct defense of free speech. It is sad that so few of Bush's opponents are willing to rise to his level. (And, should Jay Bennish be reading this humble site by any chance, let me add that it is hard to think of a speech less "Hitler-esque" than this one.)
- 9:07 AM, 17 March 2006 [link]
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
And if you would like to go beyond green beer (a treat I have been able to avoid over the years) and learn something about the man commemorated by the holiday, here's his Wikipedia biography. What fascinates me most about his life is that, having been taken as a slave to Ireland, he escaped, went back to preach to those who had enslaved him — and then fought slavery all the rest of his life.
- 8:46 AM, 17 March 2006 [link]