Archive:

May 2007, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



John Edwards' Vilsack Rating:  Let me begin with what Edwards says on his campaign site:
In Congress, Senator Edwards quickly emerged as a champion for the issues that make a difference to American families: quality health care, better schools, protecting civil liberties, preserving the environment, saving Social Security and Medicare, and reforming the ways campaigns are financed.

As a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Edwards worked tirelessly for a strong national defense and to strengthen the security of our homeland.  He authored key pieces of legislation on cyber, bio, and port security.
Those two paragraphs are all he has to say about his accomplishments as a senator.  Since he has held no other office, that's all he has to say about his accomplishments as a public official.

If you look at those two paragraphs carefully, you will see that Edwards is not claiming that he accomplished anything; he is claiming that he tried to accomplish things.  And there's a reason for that. As the authoritative 2004 Almanac of American Politics says, there "was little in Edwards' brief Senate record to make him a national figure", and: "Edwards emergence as a presidential candidate is based more on his persona than his achievements."  As far as I can tell, only one bill written by Edwards even passed the Senate, and that bill, which would have helped trial lawyers, was defeated in conference committee.

Edwards isn't claiming that he accomplished much in Senate — because he didn't.

Edwards did have impact in the Senate in another way; he was one of the most effective advocates for Bill Clinton during the impeachment trial.

What was Edwards doing during his six years in the Senate?  Not much.  So little, in fact, that Vice President Cheney claimed never to have seen him there.  (Cheney was probably wrong, but it is still true that Edwards did not work hard at the job.  One reason he did not is that he was an active investor during that time.  And his investments, as Jim Pinkerton points out, did not match his political rhetoric.)

Edwards' Senate career was a small part of his life.  Did he do anything before then that had an impact on the public, generally?  Yes.  In a number of cases that he tried, he argued that cerebral palsy could be caused by obstetricians failing to do cesarian deliveries.   Although there was some doubt about this claim at the time, almost no expert now thinks he was correct.  And his cases have had a damaging impact, as Michael Fumento has shown.
Edwards' specialty was cerebral palsy, a set of permanent conditions affecting control of movement and posture that usually appear at toddler stage.  There is no cure, although stem cell studies in both humans (umbilical cord cells) and rats (neural cells) have produced promising results.  More than 10,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with it yearly.  Edwards claimed the disease developed because negligent doctors ignored fetal heart monitors indicating the child might not be getting enough air during birth and thus failed to deliver it immediately through cesarean surgery.

Yet Edwards won his cases not because scientific evidence favored him but because of his smooth-talking "trust-me" demeanor -- and heart-wrenching pleas in which he ghoulishly sometimes pretended to be the voice of the unfortunate child crying out for justice.
. . .
Now here's the horrible kicker: A Swedish report released in December found that emergency cesarean delivery increased the odds of cerebral palsy by a statistically significant 80 percent.  It's bad for the mother, too.  Another 2006 study, in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that moms with cesareans had more than three-and-a-half times the chance of dying shortly after childbirth than those who had vaginal delivery.
The success of Edwards, and other trial lawyers, in these cerebral palsy cases has almost certainly increased the number of cesareans — and, very probably, the number of cerebral palsy victims.   That's an achievement to be credited to the Vilsack rating, but not an achievement that most of us would admire.

(Incidentally, Edwards and his supporters often say that, as a trial lawyer, he fought for the little guy.  In fact, he fought for both little guys and big guys during his career.  For instance, he represented a brake shoe company after a train derailed, causing an explosion that killed 16 and injured 100.)

What about after his Senate career?  Has he done anything since he left the Senate?  He has acquired a little executive experience, running something called the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina.  The Center appears to have no significant accomplishments.

Let's put this all together.  Edwards did have some impact on the public during his legal career, probably making births more expensive and more dangerous.  He did little during his six years in the Senate.  He has no significant achievements since then.

Adding these achievments together, I would give Edwards a 0.1 score on the Vilsack meter.  In other words, I believe that John Edwards has achieved one tenth as much, publicly, as Iowa governor Tom Vilsack.  (But if I had a dubious case, I think I would like to have Edwards as my attorney.)

For your convenience, I have added a link to this post under the Vilsack meter on the right side.   I will be adding other candidates as I have time, so you will be able to compare them.

(Here's his Wikipedia biography, which exaggerates his achievements, but has some useful links.  Here's my first Edwards post, a post on an Edwards smear, and a post on his modest home.

Finally, no comprehensive post on Edwards would be complete without this famous video.  I will resist the temptation to say that it shows what Edwards does well, but I will admit that he is better than I am at this particular task.

And a reminder:  The Vilsack ratings measure whether a candidate has achieved anything, not whether what he or she has achieved has made us better off.  I do that to keep the ratings nonpartisan.)
- 4:38 PM, 8 May 2007   [link]


Suppose The Bureaucrats Who Run PBS put on shows as leftist as they think they can get away with.  Then, we would expect that, after the Democratic takeover of Congress last November, they would lurch to the left in their programming.

And that's just what they have done.  They have, for example, brought back the far left Bill Moyers, whose first big effort was so biased that even the leftist PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, had qualms.

Getler begins with this:
Like a lot of people who have followed the war in Iraq closely, and like a lot of journalists who understand that the press, with few exceptions, failed in its obligation to challenge tenaciously the administration's case for war before it began, I looked forward to the airing of the new "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS and his 90-minute special, "Buying the War."

This is a very important story and Moyers did a good job with it.  Actually, he did more than a good job; he provided a powerful indictment of an institution that is central to American democracy yet slipped at a crucial time, and Americans, who watch television more than they read newspapers, need to see this.
But then admits:
At the outset, Moyers says, "The story of how high officials misled the country has been told."   Certainly it has been made clear that almost everything the country was told about the reasons for going to war and how it would likely unfold has been shown to be wrong.  Did the leaders intentionally mislead the country?  People will argue about that.
And he defends the "mainstream" media against Moyers' charges.
But I don't think it adds up to a case of compliance, at least as it applies to newspapers at the heart of the nation's news-gathering forces; rather a case of, in my view, truly bad news judgment at a couple of very important newspapers that never was addressed or corrected, as far as I could tell.  It seems to me that all news organizations need to take a no-holds-barred look at how they performed, and not just at how the reporters performed, and where, specifically, they fell short.
(By the way, Mr. Getler, that paragraph could benefit from some editing.)

So, if we are to believe Getler, Moyers was wrong about the administration (perhaps) and certainly wrong about the "mainstream" press — but nonetheless did a great job.  Some of us are weird enough to think that being wrong on one's central points is not doing a great job, but then those views may disqualify us from working for the new PBS.

If the key thing at PBS is to work for leftist causes, not to be correct, then Getler's strange assessment makes sense.  I expect we will see more of this kind of thinking from PBS until at least the 2008 election.

(For more examples of the new nastier, farther left, PBS, see this post.

To his credit, Getler catches some of Moyers' errors; to his debit, he makes some of his own.  If I get time, I may go through the entire column making corrections.

And one strange fact: Unless I am completely blind, Getler's site does not include his email address or his print address.  He does have a link to a contact form, but surely an ombudsman should make it easier for people to contact him than that.)
- 2:16 PM, 8 May 2007   [link]


Just When You Think Our Colleges Couldn't Get Any Nuttier, they prove you wrong.
The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has placed a professor on forced administrative leave and has recommended that he be terminated for e-mailing a Thanksgiving message to his colleagues last November.  On the day before Thanksgiving, Professor Walter Kehowski sent out the text of George Washington's "Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789" and a link to the webpage where he'd found it—on Pat Buchanan's web log.  After several recipients complained of being offended by the e-mail, MCCCD found Kehowski guilty of violating the district's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy and technology usage standards.  Kehowski then contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

"It simply boggles the mind that a professor could find himself facing termination simply for e-mailing the Thanksgiving address of our first president," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said.  "This situation is an embarrassment to MCCCD and would be laughable if a professor's most basic rights and very livelihood weren't on the line."
By the way, Professor Kehowski has tenure.  I don't know what protection that gives him at Maricopa, but at most colleges, that would make it almost impossible to fire him.  That Maricopa is trying to do so anyway shows how seriously the administration there takes this incident.

(More here from Joanne Jacobs.   I especially like her conclusion:
If instructors can't handle a link to Pat Buchanan — let's assume they weren't objecting to George Washington — then they must be delicate souls indeed.
Too delicate, perhaps, for the rough and tumble of a community college.
- 9:24 AM, 8 May 2007   [link]


Sometimes Analyses By Region Work:  And sometimes they don't.  Michael Barone takes the data he has on the French presidential election, aggregates the voting by departments into regions, and speculates on the differences among regions.

On the whole I found his analysis unsatisfying, because it was not a regional election.  What we would really like to know are questions that can not be answered by regional data, at least in a nation as unified and homogenous as France.  For example, we can not tell from this data how Muslims voted.  Nor, can we really tell from the data whether voters support Sarkozy's plans for economic reform.

Exit polls could help answer such questions.  I don't know whether any are available, but I will be looking for them in the next few days.
- 9:10 AM, 8 May 2007   [link]


What Happens To American Cities Governed By Leftists?  The natives flee.  That's a crude, but not inaccurate, way to summarize Michael Barone's op-ed on patterns of growth.   For example, here's what happened to Detroit:
In 1950, when I was in kindergarten in Detroit, the city had a population of (rounded off) 1,850,000.  Today the latest census estimate for Detroit is 886,000, less than half as many.
In contrast, some cities are booming:
You see an entirely different picture in the 16 metro areas I call the Interior Boomtowns (none touches the Atlantic or Pacific coasts).  Their population has grown 18% in six years.  They've had considerable immigrant inflow, 4%, but with the exceptions of Dallas and Houston, this immigrant inflow has been dwarfed by a much larger domestic inflow--three million to 1.5 million overall.
. . .
This is another political world from the Coastal Megalopolises: the Interior Boomtowns voted 56% for George W. Bush in 2004.  Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Nevada--states dominated by Interior Boomtowns--are projected to pick up 10 House seats in the 2010 Census.
The "Coastal Megalopolises" — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Washington, and Boston — are growing slowly, as a group, but only because of heavy immigration.
Here is a pattern you don't find in other big cities: Americans moving out and immigrants moving in, in very large numbers, with low overall population growth.  Los Angeles, defined by the Census Bureau as Los Angeles and Orange Counties, had a domestic outflow of 6% of 2000 population in six years--balanced by an immigrant inflow of 6%.  The numbers are the same for these eight metro areas as a whole.
Immigrants, for reasons that should be obvious, have fewer choices than native Americans, so it is not surprising to find them moving to the cities that Americans, increasingly, disdain.

I am not saying that the Americans fleeing these big cities leave because they can't stand leftist governments, though I am sure some of them do.  But I do conclude that leftist policies often make cities unattractive, and that those who have choices will often move elsewhere.  Higher housing costs and higher levels of crime are common in cities governed by leftists, and it is not surprising that people, especially young working people, would move away from cities with those afflictions.
- 8:27 AM, 8 May 2007   [link]


Jimmy Carter And Dirty Arab Money:  Alan Dershowitz, who supported Carter for many years, makes some serious charges.
Recent disclosures of Carter's extensive financial connections to Arab oil money, particularly from Saudi Arabia, had deeply shaken my belief in his integrity.  When I was first told that he received a monetary reward in the name of Shiekh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and kept the money, even after Harvard returned money from the same source because of its anti-Semitic history, I simply did not believe it.  How could a man of such apparent integrity enrich himself with dirty money from so dirty a source?
. . .
The extent of Carter's financial support from, and even dependence on, dirty money is still not fully known.  What we do know is deeply troubling.  Carter and his Center have accepted millions of dollars from suspect sources, beginning with the bail-out of the Carter family peanut business in the late 1970s by BCCI, a now-defunct and virulently anti-Israeli bank indirectly controlled by the Saudi Royal family, and among whose principal investors is Carter's friend, Sheikh Zayed.  Agha Hasan Abedi, the founder of the bank, gave Carter "$500,000 to help the former president establish his center...[and] more than $10 million to Mr. Carter's different projects."

Carter gladly accepted the money, though Abedi had called his bank, ostensibly the source of his funding, "the best way to fight the evil influence of the Zionists."
As Dershowitz goes on to note, the Carter Center does not examine human rights problems in Saudi Arabia, but is endlessly critical of human rights problems in Israel.

It would, I suppose, be too strong to say that these Saudis have bought our former president.   But it is hard to think of a weaker way to put it that does justice to this informal partnership between Carter and some of the worst of the Saudis.

(This is an example of a general problem that has bothered me for years.  When two nations with different value systems interact, the values almost always spread both ways.  If we deal with nations where bribery is routine, we should expect that some in those nations will try to bribe our leaders (and journalists) — and it would be naive to think that those offering bribes will never succeed.

Here's more on BCCI, or as Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it, the "Bank of Crooks and Criminals".  Incidentally, Democratic Senator John Kerry deserves considerable credit for helping shut it down.)
- 7:53 AM, 8 May 2007   [link]


The Vilsack Meter:  As I have said before, perhaps to the point of boring some readers, I think what a candidate has done is more important than what a candidate says.   Since many people, especially journalists, don't agree with me on that, I have decided to provide a nonpartisan measure of what each candidate has accomplished.

I will use the achievements of Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as my measuring stick.  A candidate who has achievements equal to those of Vilsack will get a 1.  A candidate who has accomplished half as much as Vilsack will get a .5.  A candidate who has achieved twice as much as Vilsack will get a 2.  And so on.

The achievements can be good or bad.  Let me repeat that:  The achievements can be good or bad.  I do that to make it a nonpartisan measure, since Republicans and Democrats often disagree on whether what a candidate has done has made us better or worse off.

The achievements must, however, be public achievements.  For example, Mitt Romney made a pile of money for himself and others as an investor.  I wouldn't count that toward his Vilsack score, because it had little or no effect on public policy.  I would, however, count his work on the Winter Olympics, though I would weight it less than what he did as Massachusetts governor.

The Vilsack meter is mostly a joke.  But not entirely.  Someone should point out that some of these candidates have not accomplished much in their public lives.  Since no one else is doing that, I'll fill in, and the Vilsack meter seems like a good way to identify the candidates who just haven't accomplished much.

If all goes well, the first Vilsack score will be up tomorrow.
- 4:51 PM, 7 May 2007   [link]


Signs Of The Religious Left In Kirkland:  Last week, I saw this sign in front of a church just a few blocks from where I live.

Oemig Unitarian sign

The "Sen. Eric Oemig" on the sign is Washington state senator Eric Oemig, who ran on a moderate platform last year.

My top three issues are:

  • Improve and support public education, so every child can succeed.  All Americans deserve the opportunity to compete, and that requires access to excellent education.
  • Heal our health care system, starting with ensuring that every child has access to quality health care, especially preventative health care.
  • Fix our transportation system, for both people with cars and people without cars.

But on taking office has devoted most of his time to trying to impeach President Bush.  There are people in this state, cynical people, no doubt, who think that Senator Oemig may have misrepresented himself during the campaign.  (There are even people who wonder why he wants so much to make Dick Cheney president; others suspect that Oemig does not understand the rules of succession.)

Since that is what Oemig has been doing, I have to wonder whether his appearance at the Northlake Unitarian Universalist church was part of his campaign.  If it was, would the church have been breaking tax laws that limit what a tax-exempt organization can do, politically?  (I considered attending the "service", but was not sure that a Bush supporter would be welcome.  More important, I don't know enough about the tax laws to look for violations.  But if this church keeps running these events, I suppose that I will have to do the research.)

This wasn't the only curious sign I saw associated with this church.  There were also signs around town promoting a documentary shown last Saturday at the church, The Iron Wall.  Now, I'll admit that I haven't seen the movie, but I must say that it looks like a piece of pro-terrorist propaganda.

Both are strange things for a church to be doing, at least a church that values harmony and peace, and opposes fascism.  (Although "fascism" is not a perfect word to describe the beliefs of Arafat's heirs, it is the closest Western word for them.  And anyone who doubts that point need only note that one of the most popular books in the area they control is Hitler's Mein Kampf.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:41 PM, 7 May 2007   [link]


The Friend Of My Enemy Is My Enemy?  That's the logic Democratic leaders appear to using toward the president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe.
In a region where populist demagogues are on the offensive, Mr. Uribe stands out as a defender of liberal democracy, not to mention a staunch ally of the United States.  So it was remarkable to see the treatment that the Colombian president received in Washington.  After a meeting with the Democratic congressional leadership, Mr. Uribe was publicly scolded by House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose statement made no mention of the "friendship" she recently offered Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.  Human Rights Watch, which has joined the Democratic campaign against Mr. Uribe, claimed that "today Colombia presents the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere" -- never mind Venezuela or Cuba or Haiti.  Former vice president Al Gore, who has advocated direct U.S. negotiations with the regimes of Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently canceled a meeting with Mr. Uribe because, Mr. Gore said, he found the Colombian's record "deeply troubling."
The Washington Post gives other reasons for this disgraceful treatment of a democratic leader and an ally, but ends with this:
Perhaps Mr. Uribe is being punished by Democrats, too, because he has remained an ally of George W. Bush even as his neighbor, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, portrays the U.S. president as "the devil."   Whatever the reasons, the Democratic campaign is badly misguided.  If the Democrats succeed in wounding Mr. Uribe or thwarting his attempt to consolidate a democracy that builds its economy through free trade, the United States may have to live without any Latin American allies.
Let's see if I have this right.  Democratic leaders think we should be friends with Syrian dictator Assad, who even now is helping those who murder our troops.  (And whose regime is one of the biggest obstacles to restoring democracy in Lebanon.)  At the same time they think we should treat the democratically elected leader of a friendly nation with disdain, perhaps because he has been too friendly with President Bush.  If the consequences were not so serious, this would be funny.

(Nancy Pelosi is the speaker, of course, not the majority leader.  Steny Hoyer is the majority leader.  With this kind of behavior, we must hope that neither keeps their positions after the 2008 elections.

The comments after the editorial fall, mostly, into two categories, hostile comments from American leftists, and supportive comments from Colombians.  None of the leftists appear to be bothered by the fact that the people of Colombia do not agree with them.)
- 7:21 AM, 7 May 2007   [link]


It's Sarkozy!  Unless four polling firms are wrong.
Nicolas Sarkozy est élu président de la République, selon la moyenne des estimations de quatre instituts de sondages (Ifop, CSA, Ipsos, TNS-Sofres).  Il bat Ségolène Royal avec 53,5 % des voix, contre 46,5 % pour la candidate socialiste.
Rough French translation:
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president of the Republic, according to the mean estimate of four polling institutes (Ifop, CSA, Ipsos, TNS-Sofres).  He beat Ségolène Royal with 53.5 percent of the vote, against 46.5 percent for the socialist candidate.
(You can find more coverage at ¡No-Pasarán!, and from Nidra Poller at Pajamas Media.)
- 11:11 AM, 6 May 2007   [link]


This Anti-Sarkozy Cartoon has to be seen to be believed.  (And I found it hard to believe even after looking at it many times.)

(Rough French translation:  While walking on water(!), Royal is saying, "Let us love one another."  Sarkozy is saying, according to a commenter, "Let us be Zen to one another."   But he is thinking: "I have to calm down for the debate, I have to calm down for the debate, I have to calm down for the debate, I have to calm down for the debate, @#%$&$")

The cartoonist, Plantu, may be the most famous French cartoonist, and the cartoon was published in France's most important newspaper, Le Monde.
- 9:16 AM, 6 May 2007   [link]


If Your Side Loses An Election, How Should You React?  According to some "surburban youths" in France, you should react violently.
Tony Essono, 32, an unemployed economist whose parents emigrated from Cameroon before he was born, said that despite years of anger and discrimination, people in La Courneuve were willing to put their faith in the ballot box "because they understand they can change something" by voting.  But, he added, "if Sarkozy is elected, it means we haven't been heard, and we'll trash everything."
Sarkozy's opponent, Socialist Ségolène Royal, is trying to play on these fears, predicting violence if she loses.

The French riot police are taking these threats seriously.
Thousands of riot police will be deployed in Paris tonight after warnings that victory for Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative candidate in today's presidential election, could spark violent protests.

Fears of a repeat of the rioting that swept France two years ago intensified as the final opinion polls pointed to an overwhelming victory for Sarkozy.  A crowd of up to 40,000 Sarkozy supporters was expected on the Champs Elysées in central Paris to celebrate the result.  Police believe that gangs of youths from the suburbs might confront them.
There is a fine line between predicting violence if the other candidate wins, and encouraging it.  Royal may have crossed that line, though you would have to have followed her campaign more closely than I have to be sure.

(Americans my age and older will recall similar threats — and similar exploitation by politicians — back in the riotous 1960s.)
- 8:56 AM, 6 May 2007   [link]


Yesterday, The British Held Local Elections:  There isn't much doubt about which party won.  At the time of this post, the Conservatives had won 875 seats on local councils, Labour had lost 485, the Liberal Democrats had lost 242, and "others" had lost 140.

The Conservative gains were in England.  In Scotland, the Scottish National Party made big gains at the expense of everyone else, and in Wales, Labour suffered small losses, most to a Welsh nationalist party.

(Here are maps of the results in Scotland, Wales, and England.   Don't forget that the British color code the parties correctly, so the red is for the socialist Labour party and the blue is for the Conservatives.  The yellow is for the Liberal Democrats, which I find appropriate.  Minor regional parties have their own colors.)
- 2:20 PM, 4 May 2007
Oops!  I put up an old map from a previous election, not noticing the date.  I have corrected the post above.
- 4:04 PM, 4 May 2007
More:  Here's the interactive Guardian map.  The Guardian uses orange for the Liberal Democrats.
- 8:11 AM, 6 May 2007   [link]


What They Say, Or What They Have Done?  Did you watch the Republican candidates "debate" last night?  I didn't, and I wouldn't have, even if I had cable TV.  (Might have been able to watch it on the net, I suppose.)

I didn't watch it because I think I can understand more about how fit a candidate is for an office by looking at what they have done, not what they say.  This seems obvious to me, but it is clear that my view is not shared by many journalists (and talk show hosts).  Journalists tend to over value words because they make their living from words.  (And also, I fear, because they are often poor with numbers and so find it difficult to evaluate many policies.)  But that doesn't mean that we should make the same mistake.

And I think we should judge a candidate who has been in public life for more than a decade, and has no significant public accomplishments, harshly.  Again that seems obvious to me, and again it is clear that many journalists do not agree with me.

There isn't much I can do to get journalists to examine the accomplishments of candidates, but I can to some small extent, fill in for them.  (And have already done so for one minor candidate, a man who has already dropped out, even though he has accomplished more than most of those still in his party's race.)

(Incidentally, the debate last night showed that Republicans, unlike Democrats, are not frightened by a "moderator" of the other party, even one as foolishly partisan as Chris Matthews.  That's quite a contrast to the Democrats who ran from Fox like vampires from a wooden cross.

Confession:  I probably will look through the transcript for amusement — but I don't think you should waste your time doing the same.)
- 1:19 PM, 4 May 2007   [link]


Worth Reading:  Lawrence Kaplan is not pleased by the congressional leaders.
When Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every al Qaeda operative and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true.  (When I questioned him about Pelosi's assertion, a U.S. officer in Ramadi responded, incredulously, that al Qaeda had just held a parade in his sector.)

Perhaps the House speaker was alluding to the discredited claim that al Qaeda operated in Iraq before the war.  Perhaps.  But the insinuation that al Qaeda's depredations in Iraq might be something other than what they appear has become a staple of the congressional debate over Iraq.

Thus, to buttress his own case for withdrawal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We have to change course [away from Iraq] and turn our attention back to the war on al Qaeda and their allies" — the clear message being that neither plays much of a role there.

What is going on here?  Two possibilities: First, Reid and Pelosi could be purposefully minimizing the stakes in Iraq.  Or, second, they don't know what they're talking about.  My guess is some combination of the two.
Which is similar to what I said yesterday in the post just below this one.

And Kaplan goes on to criticize, specifically, Senator Biden, Congressman Murtha, and Senator Levin — all of them leaders in Congress — and all of them Democrats.  (He also takes a crack at Republican Senator McCain, and makes a general criticism of Bush administration ignorance, but he makes, in this piece, no specific criticism of either.

He ends with these grim points:
Where all this leads is clear.  Piece together a string of demonstrably false "facts on the ground" from a suitably safe remove, and you're left with a scenario where we can walk away from Iraq without condition and regardless of consequence.

You don't need to watch terrified Iraqis pleading for American forces to stay put in their neighborhoods.  You don't need to read the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which anticipates that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal will end in catastrophe.  Why, in the serene conviction that things are the other way around, you don't even need to read at all.  Chances are, your congressman doesn't either.)
If your congressman is a Democrat, that is, something Kaplan, who is no friend of the Bush administration, prefers not to mention.

I'll repeat a point that needs repeating:  The Democrats could not get away with this without the cooperation of most "mainstream" journalists.
- 8:21 AM, 4 May 2007   [link]


Jack Kemp On The Iraq War:  Last week, on the Michael Medved show, I heard the former congressman (and 1996 vice presidential candidate) make what I consider an irrefutable argument.  Although this is not well known, Kemp had opposed the Iraq war.  (I'm not sure just how openly.)  But he now believes we must win it.

And so do I.  I had (and have) mixed feelings about the war, but I have no doubt that we can not accept defeat in Iraq, for reasons that should be obvious.  The reasons are so obvious, in fact, that those who oppose President Bush often do not even speculate on what will happen if we do lose.  Instead, they simply appeal to the will of the American people.  (There are exceptions; Barack Obama has said (and may believe) that a magical signature on an appropriations bill will end the fighting in Iraq, but most who oppose Bush's policies do not bother to predict what will happen if we lose.)

It is not clear what will happen if we withdraw in defeat from Iraq.  The worst possible outcome — from our point of view — would be to have Al Qaeda take over the country, as they took over Afghanistan.  With control over Iraq's resources in oil and people they could cause us far more trouble than they already have.  The other likely outcomes, such as a massive civil war, are not ones that any decent person would want to accept.

And, of course, by withdrawing we would have once again demonstrated that it is more dangerous to be our friend than our enemy, which could have consequences all over the world.

Kemp's argument is, as I said, irrefutable.  It is also the argument almost every expert on Iraq would make, regardless of their feelings about President Bush.  So, why aren't the Democratic candidates making the same argument?  Some, I am sure, recognize the force of the argument, but think they can please their base, while hoping that President Bush can put off any actual defeat until they are in office.  They are cynical, but not totally irresponsible.

Others — Gravel and Kucinich come to mind — truly believe that the United States is the main source of evil in much of the world, and that if we withdraw from Iraq, the consequences will be mostly good.  They are delusional, but not totally irresponsible, either.

Our "mainstream" journalists, in contrast, are almost totally irresponsible.  Many of them know about the dire predictions of the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq from those who know something about Iraq.  But these "mainstream" journalists have, with a few honorable exceptions, chosen not to ask the Democratic candidates about the likely results of their policies.  These journalists are simply too giddy in their hopes for a Republican defeat in 2008 to bother with such trivial (and unpleasant) matters.

(Kemp was on Medved's show to promote the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick's book, Making War to Keep Peace.  You can find out more about the book from this Jack Kemp column.)
- 4:29 PM, 3 May 2007   [link]


Why 4 PM?  That's what local talk show host Kirby Wilbur was wondering about the latest pro-illegal immigration demonstration.  Why, he wondered, were they having this demonstration at the most inconvenient time for commuters?   Another local talk show host, David Boze, also wondered why the demonstrators seemed to be going out of their way to offend possible supporters.

As it happens, I answered their questions when I was discussing last year's demonstration.

So the demonstrators carried, mostly, the wrong kind of signs to appeal to American citizens, and they made no attempt to appeal to the Republican officials who will actually decide what happens to them.  In fact, a significant minority went out of their way to offend those officials.

Did the demonstrators make any other mistakes?  Well, yes.  Seattle has severe traffic problems.  The demonstration began at 4 PM and followed a route that might have been designed to inconvenience as many commuters as possible.

Now, let's put that all together.  A Dick Morris would have advised the demonstrators to appeal to Americans, especially Republican officials, and not to inconvenience ordinary people.  Instead, except for the American flags, they mostly did not appeal to the ordinary citizens, and a significant minority went out of their way to attack the Republican officials who will decide this issue.   And, just to put the frosting on the cake, in Seattle, they timed their demonstration to cause maximum inconvenience.

What are we to make of this?  The analysis that I did is not difficult, though I do not think most of the demonstrators would have made it.  But some of those who organized these demonstrations must have made that analysis.  (It is, after all, not much more complicated than the old saw that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar.)  So why did those who organized these demonstrations go out of their way to offend Americans, especially Republican officials?  The most likely answer is profoundly cynical; the leaders hope to organize the illegal immigrants against Americans, especially public officials, and most especially Republican officials.  That this is not in the interests of the immigrants did not bother them in the least.  But it should bother any decent person, regardless of their views on immigration.

Wilbur and Boze need, I am sorry to say, to be a little more cynical about the motivations of the organizers of these demonstrations.  Those organizers chose 4 PM for their demonstration last year and this year, precisely because that time would maximize the inconvenience for commuters.  And many of those organizers must have understood such tactics make the kind of immigration reform that would help many of those in the marches, less likely.

It is an old strategy on the far left, and those who are opposed to the far left should not fall into their trap.  They want to separate immigrants, illegal and otherwise, from most Americans; we should try to separate immigrants from those cynical, destructive organizers — and the politicians who support them.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(You can find pictures of this year's demonstration in Seattle here and here.)
- 9:30 AM, 3 May 2007   [link]


Men and Women Are Different:  For some, that's such an obvious statement that they will wonder why I say it.  For others, the same statement leads to immediate suspicion of sexism.  (For an example, see comment 15 in this post.  By the way, I would let the commenter know that I am replying — except that they left no name and used a false email address.)

For me, it is both obvious, and fascinating, because the difference shows up in so many ways.   For example, in the books men and women choose to read, even the novels.
The novel that means most to men is about indifference, alienation and lack of emotional responses.   That which means most to women is about deeply held feelings, a struggle to overcome circumstances and passion, research by the University of London has found.

Professor Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins of Queen Mary College interviewed 500 men, many of whom had some professional connection with literature, about the novels that had changed their lives.  The most frequently named book was Albert Camus's The Outsider, followed by JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.  The project, called Men's Milestone Fiction, commissioned by the Orange prize for fiction and the Guardian, followed on from similar research into women's favourite novels undertaken by the same team last year.

The results are strikingly different, with almost no overlap between men's and women's taste.  On the whole, men preferred books by dead white men: only one book by a woman, Harper Lee, appears in the list of the top 20 novels with which men most identify.
But that actually understates the difference because:
She was also surprised she said, "by the firmness with which many men said that fiction didn't speak to them".  The historian David Starkey said, for instance: "I fear fiction, of any sort, has never worked on me like that ... Is that perhaps interesting in itself?"

In addition, some men cited works of non-fiction as their "watershed" books, even though they were explicitly asked about fiction.
. . . .
"On the whole, men between the ages of 20 and 50 do not read fiction.  This should have some impact on the book trade.  There was a moment when car manufacturers realised that it was women who bought the family car, and the whole industry changed.  We need fiction publishers — many of whom are women — to go through the same kind of recognition," Prof Jardine said.
Though I was fascinated, I was not, unlike Professor Jardine, surprised by these results.

(Most feminists argue that the differences between men and women are trivial, but difference feminists see large differences, differences that show the superiority of women.

My own view is quite traditional and, I think, supported by modern science.  Men and women are, I think, not just different, but complementary, each supplying things the other can not, or can not supply as well.)
- 1:14 PM, 2 May 2007   [link]


If Environmentalism Is A Religion (and for many people it is), then what book goes in hotel rooms?  You have probably already guessed the answer.
Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won't find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer.   Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth," former Vice President Al Gore's book about global warming.

They'll also find the Gaia equipped with waterless urinals, solar lighting and recycled paper as it marches toward becoming California's first hotel certified as "green," or benevolent to the environment.  Similar features are found 35 miles south at San Francisco's Orchard Garden Hotel, which competes for customers with neighboring luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont.
And if the hotel chain wants to cater to this religious group, I have no great objection, though I sincerely doubt whether they will do much to improve the environment.

(I'm not sure just when I ran across the idea that environmentalism was a religion (for many people).  It may have been in John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid.   But the idea is much older.  From William Tucker, I learned that literary critic Irving Babbitt had made this point long ago, in his book, Rousseau and Romanticism.

But that it is a religion, for many, is indisputable.  And some environmentalists, notably Lynn White, recognize this.  That's why White attacked Christianity in an article originally published in, of all places, Science magazine.  (It is also available in this collection, if you don't happen to have back issues of Science available.))
- 9:37 AM, 2 May 2007
More:  And a few are trying to combine Christianity with the religion of environmentalism, including, I learned from Kate McMillan and Tim Blair, Al Gore.   (Some of his environmentalist supporters are shocked to find religious material in his slide show.   Christian religious material, that is.)
- 8:36 AM, 3 May 2007   [link]