Archive:

November 2005, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Worth Reading:  Senator Joe Lieberman proves that at least one Democrat is willing to put country above partisan advantage.
The danger is that by spending so much attention on the past here, we contribute to a drop in public support among the American people for the war, and that is consequential.  Terrorists know they cannot defeat us in Iraq, but they also know they can defeat us in America by breaking the will and steadfast support of the American people for this cause.

There is a wonderful phrase from the Bible that I have quoted before, "If the sound of the trumpet be uncertain, who will follow into battle?"  In our time, I am afraid that the trumpet has been replaced by public opinion polls, and if the public opinion polls are uncertain, if support for the war seems to be dropping, who will follow into battle and when will our brave and brilliant men and women in uniform in Iraq begin to wonder whether they have the support of the American people?  When will that begin to affect their morale?

I worry the partisanship of our time has begun to get in the way of the successful completion of our mission in Iraq.  I urge my colleagues at every moment, when we do anything regarding this war that we consider the ideal and we are confident within ourselves.  Not that we are stifling free debate.   Free debate, as Vandenberg said, is the necessary precondition to the unity we need to maximize our authority against those who would divide and conquer us.  But the point is to make sure we feel in ourselves that the aim of our actions and our words is national security, not partisan advantage.
Senator Lieberman thinks that defeating the terrorists is more important than defeating President Bush.   One can only wish that more Democrats, especially in the Senate, shared that view.
- 6:59 AM, 16 November 2005   [link]


What CBS Owes Its Viewers:  Mary Mapes is now on her book tour, and with almost every interview, the fired CBS producer makes it clear that she should never have been a journalist, much less a producer for one of TV's most famous figures, Dan Rather.   Consider just a few of the points made by Jim Pinkerton (along with many others).
But if CBS has learned a lesson, at least for the time being, Mapes, and her remaining facilitators in the MSM, have not.  Now she is out with a book, for which she reportedly received a $250,000 advance -- an enormous sum that seems more like a gift to Mapes from the publisher, as opposed to a shrewd investment -- entitled Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power.  In addition, Vanity Fair showcased an excerpt in its December issue.

In contrast to her ex-employer, Mapes is completely uncontrite.  In addition to telling her side of the story, she attacks her blogger-detractors.  Why?  Because they are "right wing," "hard right," and "anonymous."  As Mapes describes them, "They hate in unison, they speak with one angry voice."  Mapes' choicest comments, of course, were immediately posted online.
Now that she has come out, we can see that she is just the kind of person we suspected she was.  She is capable of ignoring inconvenient facts, however obvious.  For example, in most cases, the bloggers who attacked were not anonymous.  She is dogmatic and partisan, just as her father said she was.  She is, in short, not open to ideas that do not fit her rather narrow world view.

What kind of programs would such a person produce?  Biased programs, obviously, and programs with factual errors.  And there is every reason to believe that is just what she and Dan Rather did produce, for years.  And it seems likely that she reinforced Dan Rather, instead of checking him.  Here, for example, is a false Rather story that was done the year before Mapes joined CBS.  
On June 2, 1988, Dan Rather hosted the CBS News special, The Wall Within. In the special, Dan Rather interviewed six individuals who presented themselves as Vietnam veterans, each purporting to have witnessed horrible acts in Vietnam.  Some said that they killed civilians and others said that they saw friends die.  Each man talked about the effects that the war had upon their lives such as becoming mentally depressed, becoming unemployed, using drugs, and becoming homeless.

While researching for the book Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History, authors B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley claimed they easily obtained the service records of all six men, that documented where each was stationed during the Vietnam War.  According to the records, only one of the six men was actually in Vietnam; he had claimed to have been a 16 year-old Navy SEAL but records had show was only an equipment repairman.  Neither CBS nor Dan Rather have retracted any of the claims made in the program.
(She joined CBS in 1989 and worked exclusively for Rather beginning in 1999.)

So we had two people, Rather and Mapes, who are dogmatic and unwilling to make even simple checks on their stories — if those stories fit their rather narrow ideological view.  It is easy to see why the two got along; it is equally easy to see that many of the stories they created (and I use created intentionally) must have been false, at least in part.

So this CBS team almost certainly created many false stories.  But they were fired for just one, and, as far as I can tell, CBS has no one going through their older stories looking for errors.   But CBS should look at all those stories, for the same reason that the New York Times looked at all the Jayson Blair stories.  The mistakes made by Blair and Mapes are so bad as to call into question everything else they did.

(For some examples of the wild things Mapes has been saying on her tour, see here, here, and here.   For some background on Mapes, see here.   And for reactions to her tour from some bloggers, see here, here, here, and here.)
- 3:45 PM, 15 November 2005   [link]


More Missing WMDs:  This time, Canadian.
Undisclosed amounts of mustard gas and phosgene were dumped into the Pacific Ocean 160 kilometres off Vancouver Island in 1947, the Department of National Defence has confirmed.

"We received credible information that there is a site there," Judith Bennett, an environmental engineer with the Department of National Defence said in Ottawa on Monday.

The quantity of chemical warfare agents and their location will not be precisely known until further study is carried out.  The Department of National Defence has notified the Canadian Hydrographic Service and will also do a risk assessment, even though it believes danger from the long-discarded chemicals is low.
What interests me about this story is that these dumps seem to have been a secret even from the current Canadian government.  Although dozens must have been involved in dumping this material, they kept their secret for years, in a free country.  It is not hard for anyone with an open mind to realize that such secrets could be kept far more easily in a dictatorship.

The conventional wisdom is that Saddam no longer had WMDs by the time of the liberation,.  Yet it is simply a fact that Saddam has never accounted for some of the weapons he claimed he had.  And it would have been so easy for him to hide them in a country the size of Iraq, or perhaps even in another country, such as Syria, that we must conclude — however unpleasant this may be — that we simply don't know whether he hid many of his WMDs, or not.
- 10:23 AM, 15 November 2005   [link]


The Christian Science Monitor Correspondent In Denmark has an curious background.   To begin with, is his name "James Brandon" or "Andrew Nassim"?  And exactly what did happen when he was, supposedly, taken captive by the terrorists in Iraq?  Henrik of the Viking Observer dug up enough background on this reporter, or perhaps we should say, "reporter", to make anyone suspicious about stories with his byline.
- 10:06 AM, 15 November 2005   [link]


How To Fire A European Bureaucrat:  In most European countries, it is hard to fire an employee who has been in the job more than a year.  In most bureaucracies, it is hard to fire an employee who has been in the job more than a year.  So, as you would expect, it is doubly hard to fire a European bureaucrat.

But some people do need to be fired — at least so their supervisors think.  And that is even true of some European bureaucrats.  So, at least a few of them have been fired, not by the normal methods, whatever those may be, but by getting them declared crazy.
The European Commission has been accused of trying to have troublesome staff declared mentally ill in order to provide an excuse for giving them the sack.

Critics claim that the commission has resorted to tactics "worthy of the KGB" by pronouncing staff unfit for work after grillings from psychiatrists.

The practice is alleged to have developed unofficially because the commission's generous employment terms make it all but impossible to dismiss staff.  In the past, employees who have had run-ins with the commission, or simply underperformed, have generally had to be persuaded to leave by offers of expensive early retirement packages.
If these stories are true, that's disgusting.

But the problem of permanent employees is a real one.  And the people hurt most by these protections are job seekers, especially young job seekers.  
- 1:08 PM, 14 November 2005   [link]


Catching Up:  What with my disaster area tour and my recent, brief illness, I forgot to mention that September set a record for page views here, thanks to an "Instalanche", and that October had the second highest number of page views.  The numbers are modest compared to some of the largest sites, but it is gratifying to see the growth in traffic.   Thanks to all who visit here.  And thanks especially to those who recommend this site and those who take the time to send me your thoughts.

While I am on the subject, I should add that I hope to catch up with some of my email in the next few days.  My apologies for the delays.  (And this weekend, I may get a chance to update my blogroll, something I haven't done for some time.)
- 10:26 AM, 14 November 2005   [link]


Maureen Versus Judy:  You won't see this story in the New York Times.
It has erupted into one of the great catfights of American journalism: Judith Miller, the veteran reporter who went to jail because she refused to reveal a source's name, and Maureen Dowd, her equally outspoken long-term colleague on the New York Times.

The pencil-thin Miller, who quit the newspaper last week after being criticised by her editors, has launched a fightback after being denounced by Dowd.

In an article entitled "Woman of Mass Destruction", the flame-haired columnist flayed Miller for inaccurate reports on Iraq's pre-war weapons programmes and said she was known on the newspaper as "Miss Run Amok".

Miller, 57, has now delivered her riposte. In an interview with the New York Post she repeatedly referred to Dowd, 53, as having once been a great reporter.  "She used to combine brilliant reporting with her rapier wit," Miller said.  "Now you just get her rapier wit.  She was brilliant.  I really do think that.  That's what made it worse."  She added that her former colleague "has a book to sell", a reference to Dowd's Are Men Necessary?
At least not with these details:
Miller, who has been touring American television studios and newspaper offices to put her case, also spoke of her anger when Bill Keller, the newspaper's editor, wrote about her "entanglement" with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the source she said she was protecting.

The word is commonly seen as suggesting that Miller had become personally involved with Mr Libby, who resigned last month as a senior White House aide after being indicted in a CIA leak investigation.   Miller, who is married to Jason Epstein, 77, a founder of the New York Review of Books, said: "My poor husband!  He was stunned and even angrier than I was — and he doesn't get angry."

Newsroom colleagues say that Miller has a history of romances with public officials — she has lived with a former Democrat congressman and a senior State Department official.  Miller is furious when asked about this.  "What male reporter would be asked whom he went out with 25 years ago?"   she said.
In almost any other business, these relationships would be seen as worrisome conflicts of interest.   A salesman cousin once told me that, when a store bought way more of an item than it could sell, the other salesmen automatically suspected that a personal relationship (to put it delicately) explained why the (usually) female buyer had done this favor for the (usually) male salesman.  Stories get written — or not written, which may be worse — because of these personal relationships, but we almost never see them even mentioned publicly.

Who do I back in this fight?  If I have to pick one, it would be Judith Miller, and not just because she shares my last name.  (Though we are, I am nearly certain, not related.)   Whatever her faults, Miller has tried to commit journalism, while Dowd's favorite subject is always herself.  You can see the difference just by glancing at the books written by the two.   Miller's most important books are here and here.   And you can see two of Dowd's books, which I can not call important, here and here.

Kathryn Harrison, who reviews Dowd's latest book for the New York Times, appears to share my opinion of their star columnist.
But what makes Dowd an exceptionally good columnist on the Op-Ed page - her ability to compress and juxtapose, her incisiveness, her ear for hypocrisy and eye for the absurd - does not enable her to produce a book-length exploration of a topic as complex as the relations between the sexes.  Consumed over a cup of coffee, 800 words provide Dowd the ideal length to call her readers' attention to the ephemera at hand that may reveal larger trends and developments.  But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it.
In other words, at best, Dowd is an amusing lightweight.  At worst, she discourages thought.

(Could some of Dowd's nastiness be explained by the fact that Miller found a husband, and a prominent one at that, while Dowd did not?  I wouldn't be surprised, and it would be consistent with my "Unified Theory of Maureen Dowd", which explains her as an "alpha girl".)
- 9:05 AM, 14 November 2005
More:  Paul Greenberg has some wise observations on Judith Miller and special protections for journalists.  As he points out, shield laws for journalists require the government to determine who is a journalist, which means "letting government license the press", something he condemns as "un-American".
- 9:21 AM, 16 November 2005   [link]


Another Great Katrina Story gets ruined by inconvenient facts.
It may have been the most disturbing story of death that emerged after Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans and its suburbs.

A week after Katrina hit, Knight Ridder and other media outlets reported on Sept. 5 that 22 bodies had been found tied to a single rope near Violet, La., in devastated St. Bernard Parish.  The parish, or county, is east of New Orleans.
. . .
Last week, St. Bernard Parish Fire Chief Tom Stone said the reports were not true.

"It's a hurricane urban myth. It's fictitious. It never happened. Thank God," he said.

While news reports about the rope of death contained purported confirmation from a top police official, Stone said that early on, parish rescue personnel had no reliable way to confirm or deny the story.   Travel was by boat only, and radio communication was spotty at best.
Now that the reporters and police can check, they have found no evidence for the story — as has happened with so many Katrina stories.  Perhaps we should assume that all "mainstream" media Katrina stories are false until proven otherwise.

And here's what boggles my mind:  As far as I can tell, "mainstream" journalists are still enormously pleased by their performance during Katrina — even though they keep being forced to admit that they got many stories wrong.  And they wonder why we don't trust them.
- 6:21 AM, 14 November 2005   [link]


A Reckless Disregard For Facts And Fairness:  This morning, listening to Weekend Edition Sunday, I heard a whole series of errors from Daniel Schorr.  He claimed that Valerie Plame was a covert agent.   She may have been formally covert when Robert Novak used her name in his column, but there is great doubt about whether she was really covert.  Schorr said that her husband, Joseph Wilson, found no evidence that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa.  In fact, Wilson has told two stories, one secretly to the CIA, and one to the media.  In the first story, he described a trade mission to Niger from Iraq, which most believe was an effort to buy uranium.  In the second, he said he found no evidence that Saddam had bought uranium in Niger.  The first story, for many reasons, is more believable.

Schorr said that President Bush had said that Saddam was an "imminent danger".  In fact, Bush said, several times, explicitly, that Saddam was not an imminent danger, but should be dealt with before he was.  (The only administration official to come close to that phrase was Ari Fleischer, and he did it only by answering "yes" to a long and involved question from a reporter.)

Schorr said that President Bush has never provided a rationale for the liberation of Iraq.   (Although, since Schorr opposed the liberation, he did not use that phrase.)  In fact, Bush has given a whole set of rationales, for example, in his speech to the United Nations before the liberation.  Schorr may not agree with Bush's rationales, but it is simply false to say that Bush has not given a rationale.

Finally, all these statements came because Schorr was objecting to our overseas prisons for terrorists, which were revealed in a disgraceful Washington Post article.  Schorr was completely indifferent to the fact that some officials broke the law and injured our relationships with allies.  Instead, he seemed convinced, on no evidence, or at least no evidence that I am familiar with, that these prisons are used for torture.  This seems unlikely for a number of reasons, and it is certainly an accusation that should not be made without clear evidence — which Schorr did not give.

(There are so many media myths about the war on terror that Richard Miniter has written a short book, Disinformation, purely to refute 22 of the most common myths.  It is unfortunate that such a book is necessary, but it is.)
- 3:06 PM, 13 November 2005   [link]


"Scooter" Libby Is No Einstein:  But there's a story from Einstein's life that shows that the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney may not have committed perjury.
But then, with the theory of light crashing around him, Einstein arrived to save the day.   Completely dismissing the idea of the ether, Einstein rewrote our understanding of light by introducing both the special theory of relativity, eliminating the idea of a stationary background to the universe, and the concept of the photon, suggesting light might not even be a wave.

It's a good story, this fairy tale, and while it helps illuminate the myth behind the man, only in real life can we truly understand the nature of Einstein's personality and the source of his brilliance.   While it's comforting to think the scientific method always follows a neat, linear path from hypothesis to failed experiment to new hypothesis, it's rarely that easy.  In fact, no one is sure Einstein had even heard of the Michelson-Morley experiment before he wrote the special theory of relativity. Einstein contradicted himself on the subject, at times saying he hadn't, at times saying he had, and finally saying that he didn't remember.
Memories are imperfect, even Einstein's.  And it is not as if this were an unimportant matter; the results of the experiment shocked physicists all over the world, so Einstein would have good reason to remember when he heard about it.  But almost no one thinks that Einstein was fibbing when he went back and forth on when he had heard about it, finally concluding that he wasn't sure.

Similarly, as a lawyer who has been on both sides of perjury cases tells us, we should not be sure that Libby is guilty of perjury.
Second, even if [Patrick] Fitzgerald is able to persuade the jurors to accept [Tim] Russert's and [Matthew] Cooper's recollections of events, the fact that Libby testified falsely does not, by itself, make him guilty of anything.  Under the law, Libby cannot be convicted of perjury, making false statements or obstruction of justice unless the prosecutor can persuade the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Libby knew he was lying at the moment those words left his mouth and that he uttered those words with the intention of deceiving the FBI and the grand jury.  It's not nearly enough to prove that Libby got it wrong.  Fitzgerald's team must prove that he did it on purpose.
. . .
In fact, based on my experience both as a prosecutor and a white-collar criminal defense attorney, it is nearly impossible for any busy corporate executive or public official to complete an interview with FBI agents without getting some fact or another wrong.  Memory is a tricky thing, and that's why the boilerplate language trial judges use to advise juries says that "two or more persons witnessing an incident or a transaction may simply see or hear it differently.  Innocent misrecollection, like failure of recollection, is not an uncommon human experience."  It happens so often, in fact, that prosecutors routinely let such inaccuracies go without challenge.
(And there is another fact about this case that has gotten less attention than it deserves; Russert and Cooper both have strong ties to the Democratic party.  Russert worked for many years as an aide to a number of Democratic officials, and Cooper's wife currently works for the Democratic party, or for an interest group associated with the party.)

It is possible that, despite the conflicting statements, neither Libby nor the reporters committed perjury; they just remembered events differently.  And I think I am correct when I say that our memories tend to shift toward explanations that make ourselves look better, so it would not be surprising if Libby's — and the reporters' — memories shifted in ways that made each seem more innocent to himself.

Regardless of whether Libby (or the reporters) committed perjury, it will be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that — unless he has some evidence we have not seen.  Since a conviction looks unlikely, we must wonder whether Libby should have been indicted, and whether the case even would have been investigated at length — if it were not for Libby's position in the Bush administration.

(If you have forgotten, the Michelson-Morley experiment was a failed attempt to locate the substance that that physicists believed, transmitted light, which they called "ether".  Much to the surprise of physicists, the experiment found no evidence for ether.)
- 3:09 PM, 12 November 2005   [link]


Veteran's Day:  Or, as it is still called in Great Britain, Armistice Day.   Or, as it is called in many other countries, including Australia and Canada, Remembrance Day.  As you would expect, veterans such as Reverend Sensing and Lieutenant "Smash" have the best posts on the subject.   Smash has a whole set of posts on the subject; scroll down to see them all.

For some background on our veterans, see this CNN article on the few remaining World War I veterans.  The exact number isn't known, but is estimated to be between 30 and 50.   And, to my surprise, I learned from a sidebar in the article that there are more surviving veterans of Vietnam than of all our other wars combined.  (The article is more neutral than I would be on the causes of World War I; for a better discussion, see this Guardian article — first published on November 12, 1918.)

(I've written three previous posts on Veteran's Day, which you can find here, here, and here.  My favorite is still the first, where I sketched the enormous losses suffered by our allies in World War I.)
- 4:58 PM, 11 November 2005   [link]


Remember The Campaign Against I-912?  If you live in Washington state, you certainly do.  We voters were told, again and again that, if we voted to repeal the gas tax slipped through the legislature, then the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle would fall down, and so would the 520 bridge across Lake Washington.  When that didn't seem to move enough voters, the opponents of the initiative began to claim that projects paid for by the gas tax would reduce congestion — a claim they had not made at the beginning of the campaign.

Yesterday, the Seattle Times, which opposed the initiative, published this matter-of-fact article on what the Washington Department of Transportation plans to do with the new gas tax money.  Do they plan to begin work immediately on these hazardous structures?  No.

The defeat of Initiative 912 unlocks an $8.5 billion tax package and clears the way for hundreds of transportation projects around the state.  But don't expect work to start soon on the Alaskan Way Viaduct or other multibillion-dollar projects in the Seattle area.

The state and city are still arguing over whether to rebuild the viaduct or replace it with a tunnel.
. . .
With $2 billion dedicated to it, the viaduct is the biggest project funded by the gas tax.  The state has said that if the city can't come up with another $1 billion for the tunnel, it will proceed with rebuilding the viaduct.

State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said he hasn't given the city a deadline to raise the extra money, but a chunk may come Friday when the Port of Seattle Commission is expected to consider whether to contribute $200 million to the tunnel.

A cynic — and I try not to be one — would have to conclude that Secretary MacDonald does not think repair or replacement of the viaduct is urgent.

What project is first on the list?  The article answers that question, too.

The first project to be completed with the new tax money is an $800,000 bicycle lane on Potato Hill Bridge crossing Interstate 90 in Moses Lake.

Which should do wonders for congestion in this area.  (A digression on bicycle lanes:  I like to ride a bicycle for exercise and sometimes use the bicycle lanes in this area.  But I think we could serve bicycle riders far better if we built these lanes separate from the highways, where possible.)

Editorial writers often bemoan the cynicism of the voters.  Sometimes, as this article demonstrates, that cynicism is all too warranted.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I'm not the only one who noticed these points.  So did letter writer Jim Hardtke.)
- 1:58 PM, 11 November 2005   [link]


Mountain Blogging:  Four weeks ago, on my disaster area tour, I crossed the Cascades into eastern Oregon and began to explore the area around Bend.  In that part of central Oregon, the volcanoes are closer together than they are elsewhere in the Cascades.   Here's how Stephen Harris describes the area in 1988 edition of Fire Mountains of the West:
Throughout most of the length of the Cascade Range, large volcanic peaks are spaced about 40 to 80 miles apart.  This distribution of the higher peaks allows a particular mountain to reign visually over a wide domain, of which it is the chief peak.  In central Oregon, however, the usual pattern is broken.  Instead of a single snowy cone dominating the immediate countryside, a whole cluster of closely grouped volcanoes creates an impressively crowded skyline.
Which you can see from many places near Bend.  The picture below, taken looking out from the Newbury Caldera, shows three of those volcanoes.  From left to right, they are Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, and the South Sister.


How big a danger are these three volcanoes?  Here's what Harris says:
The number and variety of post-glacial eruptions in The Three Sisters vicinity make it seem unikely [sic] that all the recent vents are extinct.  The brief period of quiescence during historic time, which in this part of Oregon goes back less than a century, is probably only a hiatus in a long history of intermittent volcanic activity.
So, if you plan to ski Mt. Bachelor, you may not want to put it off, since volcanic ash does not improve ski runs, at least in the short run.

(Here's a map, if you want to locate the three mountains.

I haven't seen any explanation for the greater number of volcanoes in this part of the Cascades.  But I have noticed this fact:  The area is about in the middle of the Cascade volcanoes.   Is it possible that the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate — which creates these volcanoes — is more intense at the center of its impact?  I don't know enough about geology to even guess at the answer that question.)
- 12:58 PM, 11 November 2005   [link]


Yesterday Was the 230th birthday of the US Marines.   Here's the conclusion of the official message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General M. W. Hagee.
The sense of honor, courage, and patriotism that epitomized those who answered that first call to arms 230 years ago is still indelibly imprinted on our ranks today.  In commemorating our anniversary, let us strengthen our ties to the past by paying homage to those who have gone before us.  As we honor the sacrifices our our wounded and fallen comrades, our commitment to one another remains unshakable.  We take special pride in the actions of the Marines now serving in harm's way, and rededicate ourselves to the service of our Nation and our Corps.

Happy Birthday Marines, Semper Fidelis, and Keep Attacking!
Donald Sensing, though not a Marine, had good reason to celebrate that birthday.  Michelle Malkin, as she often does, provided a link-filled post honoring the birthday.  And, if you would like to learn something about the history of the Marines, you may want to read Max Boot's fine book, The Savage Wars of Peace.   It is not just about the Marines, but they did fight most of our "small wars", and in those wars they learned many lessons that are still valid today.
- 7:32 AM, 11 November 2005   [link]


French Unemployment (And US):  The Econopundit has a graph showing French unemployment from 1959 to the present.



By way of comparison, here is a graph of US unemployment for the same period.

The French graph shows increasing unemployment until about 1985.  Since then, unemployment has fluctuated, but has never gotten below 8.4 percent.

In contrast, the US graph shows three periods, a decline in unemployment from 1961 until 1969, probably because of the stimulus from the Kennedy tax cuts and the war in Vietnam, an increase in unemployment from 1970 to 1983, and a decline in unemployment from 1983 to the present.   Overlaid on the last two periods are cyclical changes in the economy.

Now let's make the obvious comparison*.  During the last two decades, the officially measured unemployment in France has never gotten as low as our officially measured highest unemployment rate.   For two decades, the best that France could do, as far as unemployment goes, has not been as good as our worst.

And there's another lesson in those two charts.  When unemployment began to rise in the United States, we changed our policies.  France has not changed its policies, at least not in any way that would get their unemployment back to the levels of the 1960s.

(*Important technical point: Since different nations measure unemployment in different ways, you should not make exact comparisons of those numbers.  That's why I added that "officially measured" qualifier.  There are ways to make the numbers roughly comparable between nations, and when you make such adjustments, you get roughly the same results.   A set of standardized unemployment rates (from 1997-200) that I found in my 2003 Britannica Almanac actually had larger gaps between the French and US unemployment rates.  The Almanac cites an OECD publication, the 2001 November Economic Outlook, as the source.

Here's the source that I used to generate the US unemployment graph, if you want to explore further.)
- 10:26 AM, 10 November 2005
Update:  With the permission of the Econopundit, I added his graph to this post, which should make the discussion easier to follow.
- 2:40 PM, 10 Nobember 2005   [link]


Quick Looks At The Election Results:  Here's one from Michael Barone and another from John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics. Barone has this to say about the elections in New Jersey and Virginia.
What strikes me most about the two state elections is how similar the results were to those in 2001 in the same contests.
And McIntyre begins by noting the same point, argues that Bush can recover, and then ends with this:
This isn't meant to be all happy talk for Republican prospects.  The table is set for a very good 2006 for the Democrats.  And the Republican recruiting woes and Democratic successes provide an early indication that the Bush election run may be coming to an end.  But everyone should take a deep breath and remember it is November 2005 not November 2006.  And because the Democratic "success" these last few months has come almost exclusively from Bush's woes and nothing the Democrats are pro-actively offering, the President has it in his power to turn things around for the GOP.  But he better get out there and fight, because he is not going to catch a break from his political enemies, and he better get that job approval back above 40%.
I'll post my own thoughts on the elections in a week or so.  One reason I am waiting is that, believe it or not, Washington state accepts absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked on the day of the election or earlier.  So the state's election offices haven't even received all the votes, much less counted them.

(Newsbusters notes a striking contrast between the coverage of these elections and those in 1997, when Republicans kept the governorships of both New Jersey and Virginia.  Republican wins that year got little attention, and the results were not considered a repudiation of Bill Clinton.)
- 7:23 AM, 10 November 2005   [link]


Enemies?  Or Opponents?  This John Quiggin post on Chirac's problems drew my attention, not for its substance, but for its language
I haven't got enough information on the riots in France, to make any useful comment on what's happening, except an obvious one, that the Chirac government has made an awful mess of things.

In this context, there's an expectation about that leftists should defend Chirac and his government, and therefore be embarrassed by his failures.
And why should leftists do this?  Because Chirac opposed the liberation of Iraq and thus is an enemy of President Bush.  And when I say enemy, I am using Quiggin's own language, since he titles the post: "Mine enemy's enemy".

(If you are curious, Professor Quiggin goes on to say, though not this clearly, that one can be an enemy of both Bush and Chirac.)

Now even granting Quiggin some artistic license, this is not impressive thinking.  Let's review some basics:  In general, candidates in democracies do not view each other as enemies, but as political opponents.  The candidates want to win, but they do not view the election as a zero-sum contest.  Instead, most* candidates accept that a win for either is better than other ways of filling the office.

Similarly, because democracies have many common values and interests, they seldom see each other as enemies.  And I think that's true in this case.  I think that Bush and Chirac are telling the truth when they say that they do not consider each other enemies.   (And, in many areas, the two have cooperated.  As I understand it, there is very good cooperation between France and the United States in the efforts to hunt terrorists.  And there is very little difference between Bush and Chirac on the effort to remove Syria from Lebanon.  Not sure whether Professor Quiggin opposes that effort, as well.)

The idea that Bush is an enemy is not limited to Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, George Galloway, or Australian professors of economics.  It has become all too common here in the United States, as a poll over at the leftist site, Daily Kos, showed.
Using the results of this survey created by Iraq War Was Wrong Blog alumnus Iraqwarnotright, we can objectively compare the wrongness levels of different people and events, as evaluated by the trained observers at Daily Kos.  As can be seen from the results, 56% of Kos participants rated Bush's Iraq War at a wrongness level of 100, exceeding Hitler's wrongness level of 90 - 99 by a comfortable margin.   Therefore, we can conclude that Bush is exactly 56% more evil than Hitler.
And since most would consider Hitler an enemy, it is only fair to conclude that they would have the same opinion of President Bush.

Having come this far, it is only fair to add that it is not hard to find some on the right who think of Democratic leaders in this country, or President Chirac, as enemies.  And when they do, they make the same mistake as Professor Quiggin.

I may see far fewer enemies than Professor Quiggin does.  John Kerry is certainly not my enemy, nor is any of the other leaders of the Democratic party.  And I would have to look hard to find a democratically elected leader of another country that I would consider an enemy.  Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is the only one I can think of, offhand, and that is mainly because he has done so much to undermine democracy in that country.

I say "may" because Professor Quiggin does not seem to consider some people enemies that I would.   On the same day that I saw his post at Crooked Timber, I also saw, thanks to Tim Blair, this one at Quiggin's own site.  Here's how Quiggin begins:
Sixteen people have been arrested in Sydney and Melbourne and charged with terrorism offences.   While the individuals involved are legally entitled to a presumption of innocence, the police were right to act when faced with evidence suggesting a threat.

What's important here is that the threat has been dealt with under criminal law, rather than through the use of arbitrary powers of secret detention, as proposed in the new anti-terror laws.
And he continues, pretty much along those lines.  But he never says anything that would lead the reader to conclude that he thinks that the men who were arrested might be his enemies. If you read the post carefully, you will see that Quiggin is, shall we say, dispassionate about the capture of the terrorists who were planning to kill some hundreds of Australians.  He sounds, at least to my ear, like a referee judging the conduct of the government team.  He is mildly pleased that they did not commit — as he would see it — a foul, but he appears indifferent to the intentions of those arrested.

I would prefer to think that Professor Quiggin, and the other contributors at Crooked Timber, do not really think that President Bush is their enemy, and that they recognize that at least some of the terrorists are their enemies.  But if that is what they believe, then they should say so.   And, in the future, they might avoid the careless use of "enemy", when they really mean "political opponent".

(*Candidates representing totalitarian parties are the obvious exception and are sometimes excluded from elections for that very reason.)
- 1:43 PM, 8 November 2005   [link]


Numbers On the "Car-B-Q" In France:  The Belmont Club has a graph showing the spectacular rise in cars torched as the riots went from the first day to the eleventh.

And the New York Sun says that the cars torched are not being chosen at random.
The fact also remains, according to many witnesses, that the rioters torch only "white" cars, meaning white owned cars, and spare "Islamic" or "black" ones.  One way to discriminate between them is to look for ethnic signs like a sticker with Koranic verses or a picture of the Kaaba in Mekka or a stylized map of Africa.  Further evidence of the animating influence in the riots lies with the French rap music to which the perpetrators listen.  Such music obsessively describes White France as a sexual prey.
Be interesting to know if American rap music — a subject about which I know almost nothing — has similar themes.
- 8:02 AM, 8 November 2005   [link]


Warren Buffett Bet Against The Dollar:  And has begun to lose big.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway reduced a bet against the US dollar after losing more than $US900 million ($1.23 billion) from foreign currency investments this year.

Mr Buffett, who has said the US trade deficit would weaken the US dollar, cut his foreign-currency forward contracts to $US16.5 billion in September from $US21.5 billion in June, Berkshire said in a statement.  The US dollar in July reached a 13-month high against a basket of six major currencies.
Even for Warren Buffett, a billion dollars isn't chump change.  As we see once more, Bush Derangement Syndrome can be expensive.  And the French troubles most likely aren't helping Buffett's current bets against the dollar.

Buffett made his fortune as a value investor, finding companies that were worth more than their current market prices.  I was surprised to see him venturing into currency speculation, something that requires entirely different skills and knowledge.

(It would be interesting to know whether George Soros, who made his fortune in currency speculation, has also been betting against the dollar.  His case of Bush Derangement Syndrome may be even worse than Buffett's.)
- 7:31 AM, 8 November 2005   [link]