Archive:

May 2003, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics



Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Anne Applebaum agrees with the argument that I have been making here.  President Bush should appeal to the European people, should try harder to make his case directly to them:
Instead of dreaming up ways to be rude to Gerhard and offensive to Jacques, the president should concentrate on the people who are going to elect their successors.  He should talk over the heads of the European chattering classes who have opposed him and speak directly to the television audiences that are listening around the world every time he so much as clears his throat.  Just because we are the world's only superpower doesn't mean we don't need to persuade people, from time to time, to listen to our point of view.  I still believe that if the Iraq war had been explained early on to Europeans -- instead of being presented to them as a fait accompli -- the United States would have attracted far more public support.
After the swift victory in Iraq, Europeans may be more willing to listen to Bush and his administration.  Leftists in the European press presented him to their publics, at the beginning of his administration, as half Hitler, half Howdy Doody, making Bush out to be both despicable and contemptible.  Although I agree that the Bush administration should have tried harder to make its case to the European public, I don't think many would have listened to a man their press had so completely caricatured.  Now, at least some may be willing to give Bush a second look.

Bush seems to be listening to this advice, as this article shows.  In an interview with French television, Bush makes a point of praising France (but not the Chirac government) for its cooperation on intelligence, and argues that both nations have benefited from that cooperation.  That's a good start.
- 4:43 AM, 31 May 2003   [link]


Oops!  The Washington Post misspelled the name of the National Spelling Bee winner.   (This, by the way, is the kind of correction that newspapers generally make.  Worth doing, but not terribly important.)
- 4:13 AM, 31 May 2003   [link]


British Conservatives gave strong support to the liberation of Iraq, Labour split with most following their leader Tony Blair, and the Liberal Democrats opposed the liberation, almost unanimously.   The latest survey on party support shows that the Conservatives have gained enough support to move into a virtual tie with Labour.  As Anthony King points out in his analysis, the Conservatives took more support from the Liberal Democrats than Labour, so the shifts in support match the positions of the parties on the war.  That is, of course, not the only reason for the shift in party support, but it is probably the strongest.
- 4:04 AM, 31 May 2003   [link]


1100 Posts:  May will set another monthly record for visits to this site.  Thanks to all who come, especially those who send me feedback, negative or positive.  Here are some of my favorite posts from this year:
  • An explanation of Washington Senator Patty Murray, after her strange remarks on Osama and day care.  She's a dope, not an ideologue.

  • A review of the evidence that the Munich agreement was quite popular at the time.  Public opinion, I concluded, is not always the best guide to foreign policy decisions.

  • Why the New York Times is probably breaking the civil rights laws.  They have almost no evangelicals, though that group makes up nearly half of the population.

  • A comparison of maps of the war in Iraq, showing massive disagreement about where our forces were.   I thought this showed we were deceiving the Iraqis as well.

  • A summary of the evidence that the early Baghdad museum looting stories were greatly exaggerated.
- 9:56 AM, 30 May 2003   [link]


The Guardian  shows, again, why British readers shouldn't trust their newspapers, either.  This Polly Toynbee column, as part of a general attack on the dossier that Prime Minister Blair presented on Saddam's weapons of mass distruction, makes a number of absurd arguments, like this one:
Saddam's non-use of the weapons even in the death throes of his regime was conclusive proof that he had none he could use.
As anyone who knows anything about chemical and biological weapons could tell Ms. Toynbee, they are not much threat to properly protected troops.  Using them would have made no difference in the military outcome, other than possibly to delay the outcome by a few days.  If Saddam had used them, he would have given the coalition a great political victory.  Even those useful idiots who denied that Saddam had such weapons would have had to admit their error.  By not using them, perhaps even destroying them, he could win a political victory, though posthumously, in all probability.

There is nothing unique about this point.  Both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan destroyed evidence of their misdeeds at the end of World War II, and neither nation used the chemical weapons it possessed, even as the end approached for each regime.  (The Japanese did experiment with chemical and biological weapons on Chinese civilians and allied prisoners, but, to my knowledge, they never used them against our forces.)  Identical reasoning to Ms. Toynbee's would prove that Hitler had no chemical weapons.  I await with interest her column demonstrating that point.

As bad as Toynbee's column is, at least it gets closer to the facts on what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said about the search for chemical weapons than this Guardian editorial, which claims he said that "there may not have been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq all along".  No, he didn't, and I suspect the editorial writer knows that.  To be that wrong, on such an important point, requires either malice or grand incompetence.   Usually I favor incompetence as an explanation, where there is doubt; in this case, I think malice is more likely.  Will Toynbee or the editorial writer correct their errors?   Experience suggests that the odds are against it.
- 9:16 AM, 30 May 2003   [link]


Iraqi Marshlands Are Returning to Life:  The overthrow of Saddam has given new life to the Mesopotamian marshlands that he had tried to destroy, so as to punish the Marsh Arabs.  Here's a Telegraph story, which gives some idea of how important the marshlands are.  Here's the UN's view on the same subject, along with some satellite pictures.   (UN links by way of the Best of the Web.)
- 8:22 AM, 30 May 2003   [link]


Americans Trust the Media Less:  Gallup has asked Americans since 1985 whether they thought news organizations got the facts straight or were "often inaccurate".  Over that time, the number thinking that news organizations are often inaccurate has risen from 34 to 62 per cent.  (It hit 65 per cent in December 2000 after the fiasco of the election coverage.)  Remarkably, the number with no opinion on the question has fallen from 11 per cent to 2 per cent.

Some have come to their distrust through personal experience.  Of those who knew about a story personally, 22 per cent thought the story was inaccurate.  Distrust is higher among those with less education, which is true for institutions generally.  I wonder whether the generational changeover in reporters may also make those with less education trust news sources less.  In the past, many reporters were working class guys who had worked their way up.  Now, nearly all have college degrees, often from elite institutions.  They are much less likely to be in touch with ordinary working people.

The public has a more positive view of news organizations than I do:
Nearly two out of three (63%) say newspapers are willing to print corrections when their stories contain errors.  By way of comparison, 36% think newspapers are unwilling to correct mistakes.
With considerable experience in trying to get newspapers to correct their stories, I can say that newspapers are reluctant to correct mistakes, other than trivial ones like spelling errors.  Television news programs rarely correct errors.

The timing suggests that competition may have caused the rise in distrust.  In the last 20 years, cable TV and talk radio have broken news monopolies everywhere.   Political blogs, which often criticize stories from news organizations, may also increase that distrust in time.  The rise in distrust is healthy, in my opinion, since I think the public now has a more accurate view of the news media.

Whether news organizations will try to improve their accuracy in response to this rise in distrust is an open question.  The New York Times will not improve as long as Howell Raines is executive editor, and perhaps as long as "Pinch" Sulzberger is publisher.   On the other hand, Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll just sent his section editors this blistering attack on the bias in this story on abortion and breast cancer.  (There's some interesting history here.  More than a decade ago, the Los Angeles Times did an exhaustive study of its abortion coverage, and was honest enough to admit that the pro-life critics were right about the bias at the paper.   The paper also found tremendous pressure on staffers to conform to extreme pro-abortion positions in their stories.)  I see no sign at all that ABC, CBS, or NBC will improve their accuracy, even though they continue to lose market share, and Fox continues to gain.

Here's the full Gallup press release.
- 7:52 AM, 30 May 2003   [link]


Worth Reading:  
  • If you are obsessed about Clinton, Robert Bartley has a point by point rebuttal of Sidney Blumenthal's book, The Clinton Wars, along with a detailed Whitewater chronology.   I have always thought that the first point about Whitewater was the essential one.  A businessman had gone into a partnership with a public official, putting up 90 per cent of the money and 90 per cent of the time.  This may not be illegal in Arkansas, but it is certainly unethical.

  • Jonathan Clark has some interesting thoughts about The Federalist, which is now being studied by those writing a constitution for the European Union.

  • Maureen Dowd loses it in this column, entertainly.  She has always tended to overwrite, to push popular culture metaphors farther than she should; in this column, she goes through a Chuck Berry song, a Nixon administration phrase, the "Age of Aquarius", "tie-dye", "Hanoi Jane", "Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds", "whatever-gets-you-through-the-night" "blue suede shoes", and "John Travolta's white polyester suit", all in the first four paragraphs.  Her panic has an obvious explanation; as Joanne Jacobs noted, the column is an attempt to make a "sort of hidden correction", to avoid admitting the error she made in an earlier column, when she distorted President Bush's meaning by leaving a key sentence out of a quotation.

  • Daniel Pipes has some useful comments on the structure of Al-Qaeda.

  • William Saletan spots the Democratic presidential candidates turning left.  Howard Dean, for one, managed to come out against prayer, the Boy Scouts, and the military in a single paragraph, somehow missing motherhood and apple pie.

  • Robert Samuelson has a sensible evaluation of the tax cut just passed, which is not as good or as bad as claimed by either side.  By one estimate, it will create 430,00 jobs in 2004, while increasing our long term debt problems slightly.  Samuelson is right to call attention to what we keep ignoring, the long term problem in social security.  The example of France shows how bad this kind of problem can get; by current estimates they will have just one worker for each pensioner as early as 2020.
- 2:26 PM, 29 May 2003   [link]


Fifty Years Ago Today, Hillary and Tenzing (or, perhaps, Tenzing and Hillary, since they never said who was in the lead) made the first climb of Everest.  The Times of London has an entire section commemorating their climb, along with links to replicas of their own coverage in 1953.  

It was, unquestionably, an enormous achievement, but it is a strange one when you think about it.  Though there have been some small useful spinoffs from mountain climbing, one can not argue that the benefits have been worth the cost in lives.  Even as a mountaineering feat, climbing Everest is less impressive than you might think.   Everest is the highest mountain, but there are many, including the second highest, K2, that are more difficult to climb.  Everest could have been conquered much earlier using "siege techniques", spending a lot of money to hire Sherpas to slowly build a string of bases higher and higher.  That so many still want to risk their lives to climb Everest tells me that we need more challenges.

Finally, one intriguing and one amusing fact on Everest.  The top of Everest is marine limestone, rock that formed under the ocean.  (In some pictures of Everest, you can see the rock layers.)  Early in 1953, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote a short story, "Everest", that gave an explanation for the failures to climb Everest.  Martians had a base there and prevented climbers from getting to the top.  Written and sold two months before the Hillary-Tenzing climb, it was published five months after it.  Oops.
- 1:42 PM, 29 May 2003   [link]


The Guantanamo Prisoners are being treated well.   They are being fed well, they are getting medical treatment, and they are being allowed to practice their religion.  They do not, in turn, treat the soldiers guarding them in a civilized way, especially the women:
Young soldiers who guard the detainees are also available to the media, including Sergeant Lisa Wells, 21, who said she was harassed "every day.  They throw water, urine, semen, toothpaste, whatever they can.  They don't like women, is my impression.  When I give an order, one of them will say: 'Why would anybody listen to you? Why aren't you home making a baby?"'
It is not obvious what should be done with these prisoners in the long run.  Prisoners of war are ordinarily held until the end of the war, and then returned to their home countries.  This war is likely to last decades, and the men have no real home to return to, since they are soldiers belonging to a terrorist organization, not a nation.   Releasing them, after we have finished questioning them, would allow them to return to being terrorists.  Some can be returned to their home nations for prosecution.   Others, I fear, we will have to keep indefinitely.  That's not a very good solution, but I don't see a better one.
- 7:13 AM, 29 May 2003   [link]


A Polar Bear  took on a US submarine, with no great harm to either.  Here's the story with a picture of both.  And, there's an odd legal twist at the end.
- 6:56 AM, 29 May 2003   [link]


Cities Are Heat Islands, warmer than surrounding areas, a difference that grows as the city grows.  This introduces a bias, known about for years, in long term climate measurements.  Now, a new study found that the bias may have been underestimated in the past, and that the "heat island" effect is even larger than thought.  If the study is correct, it would lower the estimates of global warming significantly.
- 6:42 AM, 29 May 2003   [link]


Why Do Black Americans Do So Badly in Schools?  In this review of John Ogbu's impressive study, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, Pete Wood explores three possible explanations, "low IQ, institutional racism, and black culture".  He rejects the first two explanations as unsupported by the evidence, and concludes that the third is correct, a conclusion shared by the black students in Shaker Heights:
Early in the book, Ogbu summarizes what black students in Shaker Heights have to say about their own performance.  The most striking thing is their self-awareness.  None of them seem to deny the reality that black students generally perform more poorly than white students in the schools, and most freely admit that the reason for the gap is that black students don't work very hard at their studies.
No teacher will be surprised to learn that students who don't care about academic success don't work very hard:
Ogbu continues with his list of de-motivations: poor study habits (rationalized by some as "Black learning style"); students who lacked concentration, whose attention wandered, and who talked in class, read magazines, or rested their heads on their desks instead of focusing on the class; a tendency to blame teachers for faults such as not saying what exactly would be on a test or repeating material already covered; and a diversion of effort from schoolwork to activities such as watching television and talking on the phone.
The black students got the attitudes from their peers and from their parents, who expected the students to do well, but did not participate in school activities or even monitor homework.

Unfortunately, the cultural explanation does not fit into political agendas, especially for white politicians:
If the IQ argument attracts those who are content to believe that the gap in educational achievement is intractable, and if the institutional racism argument attracts those who think that the answer lies in larger public investment and more and more vigorous government intervention, then the black self-sabotage explanation attracts those who think the solution lies in a transformation of social and cultural attitudes within the black community.
We can see just how difficult this problem is for white politicians to talk about, if we consider a parallel case, the gap between Asian students and white students.   Japanese and Chinese students outperform whites for some of the same cultural reasons that whites outperform blacks.  Yet, if Washington state's Chinese-American governor, Gary Locke, were to say this, it would be a major political blunder.  Value criticisms are always hard to take, especially from outsiders.

So what can be done?  Uniform standards will help, in time.  So, too, will the elimination of racial preferences in admissions and hiring.  John McWhorter is right when he argues that the preferences encourage black to students to be slackers.   Whites, like New York Times executive editor Howell Raines, who support racial preferences, are harming blacks in the long run, for all their good intentions.
- 8:10 AM, 28 May 2003   [link]


Another Piece of Evidence on Saddam's Weapons:  The British have found evidence that Saddam was building an illegal missile, capable of delivering chemical, biological, or nuclear payloads anywhere in the Middle East.  The UN inspectors knew nothing about it.
- 6:52 AM, 28 May 2003   [link]


Iran Has Supported Terrorists  for years, is building a nuclear weapons capability, and is meddling in Iraq.  David Warren has the story from intelligence sources.  No wonder we broke off our talks with the Mullah's regime.   That regime is increasingly unpopular with the Iranian people, especially the young, who are tired of the repression, corruption, and lack of opportunities.
- 6:42 AM, 28 May 2003   [link]


Jawad Amir  hid from Saddam Hussein in a gap between walls for 20 years.  Here's his story, with a picture of his hiding place.  Since this is a BBC story, I wonder what Amir thinks about their opposition to the liberation of Iraq, and himself.
- 9:13 AM, 27 May 2003   [link]


Cheerleader DeWayne Wickham  misreads poll evidence in this column on Clinton's renewed popularity.  It is true that Clinton now ties for third among the greatest American presidents in a recent Gallup poll, after Lincoln and Kennedy, but this shows just two things.  The poll question was poorly designed, and most Americans know little about history.  Many Americans do not even know who Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson were, much less enough about them to answer an open ended question of this sort.  When asked to answer such open ended questions, many will cover their ignorance by naming the most recent presidents, rather than admitting that they don't know enough to answer the question.  Just look at the presidents on the list:  Of those with 10 per cent or more, only Lincoln served before 1960.

Here's the key fact that Wickham does not mention, and may not know.  As early as 1996, George H. W. Bush was beating Clinton in a poll rematch (in an unpublished poll), and he has beaten him in at least one Gallup poll since.  Enough Americans still have "buyer's remorse" over choosing Clinton in 1992, so that he would lose, if the election were to be run again.  One in ten think Clinton a great president; five or six in ten wish that he had never served.  Given these poll results, some will wonder whether a better candidate than Bob Dole might have beaten Clinton in 1996.   Probably not, though Lamar Alexander, for one, would have made the race far closer.

(A glance at details in the poll should not encourage Clinton supporters.  The more that people know about the president, from the experience that comes with age or through education, the less likely they are to name him the greatest.  Partisanship plays a large part in these choices, too; even now, some Democrats have not forgiven Lincoln for being a Republican.  Today's Best of the Web has more analysis here, along with links to other sources on presidential greatness.)
- 8:59 AM, 27 May 2003   [link]


Wrong Diagnoses  can be hard to reverse when they are made by "experts".  Thomas Sowell tells how one common error, thinking something wrong with children because they are late in learning to talk, is now getting the attention it deserves.  Sometimes being slow to talk is a sign of trouble, but often it is not.  (I think Sowell became interested in the subject when his own child was slow to talk, though he does not mention it here.)

There is a general lesson here.  Diagnoses, even more than first impressions, are hard to reverse.  Once a diagnosis is made, it is all too easy for all the es perts to reject any contrary evidence.  In one famous experiment, sane people were put in an insane asylum with false papers.  After weeks and even months, the psychiatrists there did not realize that these people were sane, even though they acted sane in every way.  (If I remember right, many of the inmates figured it out, though.)   With small children and psychiatric diagnoses, we should be especially wary of errors, since the children can not communicate as well as most adults, and the syndromes are often so little understood.
- 6:42 AM, 27 May 2003   [link]


Booing at Graduations:  John Leo has it right, in this column, on why students boo commencement speakers, and how far they should go.  Students, who are far more moderate than their professors, are not going to like being hectored by an arrogant leftist one last time.   When you have had endure for years the double standards described, with considerable humor, here, you will not be in the mood to endure them one more time at your graduation, especially when the speaker says nothing about your years of effort.  Booing such speakers is appropriate, and contributes, in its own way, to political dialogs.  After several more such experiences, New York Times reporter Chris Hedges and talk show host Phil Donahue may learn something from their experiences.

Leo is also right about the appropriate limits to the protests.  Speakers should not be prevented from speaking by the protests.  The old rule is still a good one; hecklers should not have vetoes.

I part company from Leo, and many others, on one point.  He thinks that political speeches are appropriate at graduations.  I think they are almost as out of place at those ceremonies, as they would be at a marriage ceremony.  The graduates deserve recognition and should not be upstaged by a speaker, any more than a bride and groom should be at a wedding.  I can understand why those who often attend graduations might want to hear interesting or amusing speeches, but those speeches should be about the graduates being honored, not some political controversy.

Finally, because it is so rare, I must mention that Harley Sorensen, who writes a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, gets one thing right on this subject:
In Berkeley, ultraliberals have disgraced the University of California any number of times by loudly denying campus speakers the right to speak.  So liberals wanting to point an accusing finger at Rockford would do well to look into a mirror before pointing.
Of course, being Sorensen, he precedes this with a factual error, and follows it with a stupid and nasty slur.  Booing speakers did not begin here during "Revolutionary War times", but long before.  The slur is by now traditional, but no less disgraceful because it is common:
Yet the Rockford incident had a chilling aspect to it. As described in the press, it could well have been a scene out of the recent miniseries on the rise of Hitler to power in Nazi Germany.

The difference between the many incidents at Berkeley and the Rockford incident is that, at Berkeley, it's usually the rabble against an Establishment spokesperson.  At Rockford, it was just the opposite; the incident had the feel of a government protest against an outsider.
So there we are.  College students, who booed an arrogant leftist for spoiling their graduation ceremony, are like Nazis.  And, the protest, which everyone else described as spontaneous, may have been organized by the government.  Slurs like this are far more disgraceful than college students booing at a graduation.  By the way, a writer who does not realize that the New York Times is part of the "Establishment" is so confused that he should not be writing for any newspaper, much less one with the circulation of the Chronicle.  (I once asked Sorensen by email whether the Chronicle paid him for his column.  He sent a nasty email back, but did not answer.  It's still a good question.)
- 7:53 AM, 27 May 2003   [link]


Troubled by Republicans?  "Machine-gun'em":  That's the jocular advice I found in this newspaper column by Rory Laverty, who is quoting a man on the east coast.  When the man's wife objects, not to the idea, but to saying it in front of their "sweet 10-year-old daughter", the daughter suggests a compromise, which meets with Dad's approval:
"No, we shouldn't kill them.  We should just cut out their tongues."

Dad: "That's my girl!"
Laverty allows that this sweet family may, I repeat, may, have been exaggerating, but thinks they have a point.  He rehearses the usual set of complaints made by Democratic activists, unaware that nearly all those he mentions are propaganda.  For example, he asserts that "voting fraud in Florida, not to mention an unfathomably partisan intrusion by the Supreme Court, changed the course of world events forever".  He never explains exactly what he means by this sloppy sentence.  There was fraud in Florida, most committed by Democratic election boards.  Though the Supreme Court's decision was imperfect, it is hard to see what else they could have done after the Florida Supreme Court had so completely botched any chance of a fair recount.  (For an extensive discussion of these matters, see my analysis of the 2000 election here.)

Having spouted all this demagoguery, he complains that the Democrats have no one to "spout Democratic demagoguery", which makes me wonder whether he ever looks in a mirror, and even whether he lives on the same planet as you and I do.  It can't be earth since, on Laverty's planet, "The national media is so afraid of being called 'liberal' that it gives conservatives the benefit of every doubt".

From all this Laverty comes up with some advice for the Democrats.  They should get really mad, should explode like the Hulk in unreasoning fury.  (He does not say whether machine gunning and tongue removal would be mad enough to suit him.)  At this point, if I were a Republican so partisan that I put my party before my country, I would stop, delighted, since Laverty's advice is exactly what Republican operatives would want the Democrats to do.  Independent voters, who are the deciding block in most national elections, hate partisanship and extremes.  A Democratic party that followed Laverty's advice would give George Bush a 50 state win in 2004, and give the Republicans historic gains in Congress.

Since I do not put party before country, I will not stop, because Laverty's ideas, even as a joke, are a danger to our democracy.  When a journalist toys with the idea of machine gunning opponents, or cutting out their tongues, he reveals not just his own sickness, but a partisanship far beyond civilized bounds.   Political parties with extreme views of their opponents have brought civil wars to more than one nation, including this one.  In 1860, many Democrats hated the Republican party as much as Laverty does now.  More recently, the extremist parties in pre-Nazi Germany destroyed that nation's democracy.  Both the Nazis and the Communists there would have agreed with Laverty that machine guns and tongue removal were sometimes appropriate ways to treat political opponents.

Ideas like Laverty's are not found just on the left, though I think they are now much more common there.  That is where you find the frequent equation of Bush with Hitler, who, most of us would agree, deserved machine gunning.

The growing extremism and bitterness in our politics is strange since our two major parties are not separated by unbridgeable gulfs on most issues.  Nor is President Bush an inherently divisive figure.  He worked well with Democrats in Texas and hoped to do the same when he came to Washington.  The Florida election dispute did much to create our climate of bitterness.  That the bitterness has continued and even grown, after the 9/11 attack, is extremely troubling.   That a newspaper, even in the Bay area, would print this column is even more troubling, because newspapers help set the boundaries of acceptable ideas.   Many on the left, including some journalists, are moving toward the rejection of elections.  That will be good for the Republican party in the short run, but very bad for the nation.

(Like me, you may wonder what kind of newspaper publishes suggestions that political opponents be killed or have their tongues removed.  The Argus is a community newspaper serving the East Bay cities of Fremont, Newark, and Union City, near Oakland.  The column was published on Friday.  To date, the newspaper has not published an apology or even a letter of protest.)
- 4:37 PM, 25 May 2003   [link]


Banning Ham in Hume:  A town in Australia, with a 12 per cent Muslim population, has banned pork at community events.  The executive who imposed the ban said he did it out of respect for Muslims, but he may have had other reasons, since two councilors, including the mayor, are Muslim.   I'm with those who think this ban is political correctness gone mad.
- 8:32 AM, 25 May 2003   [link]


Saddam, Not Sanctions, Killed Iraqi Babies:  During the 13 years of United Nations sanctions, Iraqi propagandists claimed, endlessly, that the sanctions were killing Iraqi babies.  Iraqi doctors supported these claims publicly:
"It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr. Ghassam Rashid Al-Baya told Newsday on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn Al-Baladi hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table.  "This is a crime on Iraq."

It was a scene repeated in hundreds of newspaper articles by reporters required to be escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information.
(Most cases of dehydration do not require expensive treatment, as you probably know.)

Now, with Saddam's minders gone, Iraqi doctors are telling entirely different stories:  
Under the sanctions regime, "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed," said Ibn Al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr. Hussein Shihab.  "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA.  Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money.  But instead, he spent it on his palaces."
. . .
"Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN," said Dr. Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at the Al-Alwiya maternity hospital in Baghdad.
. . .
"I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong - that these children died from the fault of the UN," Shihab said, sitting in his hospital's staff room with his deputy, another doctor and one of the hospital's administrators.  As recently as just before the start of the war, he said, he had told visiting journalists and peace activists that the sanctions were to blame for the high death rate among infants at his hospital.

"But I am afraid if I tell the true thing ..." Shihab paused and laughed with a mixture of relief and shame.  Using the present tense in English to describe the pre-war past, he continued: "They will kill me.  Me and my family and my uncle and my aunt - everyone."
To make their propaganda shows, the Iraqi secret police abused the parents who had lost children, and broke Muslim laws that require immediate burial.
Doctors said they were forced to refrigerate dead babies in hospital morgues until authorities were ready to gather the little corpses for monthly parades in coffins on the roofs of taxis for the benefit of Iraqi state television and visiting journalists.  The parents were ordered to wail with grief - no matter how many weeks had passed since their babies had died - and to shout to the cameras that the sanctions had killed their children, the doctors said.  Afterward, the parents would be rewarded with food or money.
Kudos to Newsday for correcting their earlier accounts.  More newspapers should do the same, but few will.
- 8:13 AM, 25 May 2003   [link]


Pro-Fascist:  During World War II, George Orwell famously said that British pacifists who opposed the war were "objectively pro-fascist", that by opposing the war effort they helped Hitler.  He later, as I understand it, apologized for going too far in his argument, but he had a point.  Some pacifists, before and during the war, did help Hitler.  Similarly, some "peace" organizations in the West during the Cold War often helped the Communists.  (Some were even secretly subsidized by the Soviet Union, which has not, as it should have, discredited their leaders.)  Now, opposition to the United States and the West is so strong in some parts of the European left that we can omit the "objectively".  Tariq Ali would probably claim to be pro-peace; he is, in fact, pro-fascist, as he shows in this column advocating the restoration of the Saddam regime, or something like it, in Iraq.

As political analysis, the column is fantasy.  Perhaps in other ways, too.  Tariq Ali may be telling us more about his personal life than we need to know know when he imagines this scene:
Washington is still not satisfied. It wants to punish France further. Why not a ritual public flogging broadcast live by Murdoch TV? A humbled petty chieftain (Chirac) bending over while an imperial princess (Condoleezza Rice) administers the whip.
Fantasy, but a fantasy so attractive to many on the European left that they will ignore Ali's open support for the restoration of a fascist government in Iraq.  The price of that kind of government for Iraqis, as shown by the mass graves now being dug up, will not matter to them.
- 7:08 AM, 25 May 2003   [link]


Boom Coming?  Just Before the Taliban regime collapsed, the New York Times began worrying about a quagmire in Afghanistan.  Just before Saddam's regime collapsed, the New York Times began worrying about a quagmire in Iraq.   Now, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is worrying about an economic quagmire.   This is a good sign that growth will pick up in our economy during the second half of this year.  The New York Times is not an infallible negative indicator, but it is getting pretty good.

(There are other reasons for optimism now, which Krugman, as an economist, should know.  First, there is the simple logic of economic cycles; the downturn that started in the last few years of the Clinton administration has probably run its course.  Second, we are about to get even more stimulus from both the latest tax cut and the fall in oil prices.  Third, there has already been a sharp rise in consumer confidence after the war to liberate Iraq.  Business confidence should rise soon, too.  Finally, the fall in the value of the dollar back to where it was about ten years ago will help our exports.)
- 6:40 AM, 25 May 2003   [link]