Archive:

October 2002, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics



Pseudo-Random Thoughts


Leftists and Fascists Together, Part 3:  It is not fair to call Pat Buchanan a fascist, though there is enough truth in the charge to make the quip, that his speeches sound better in the original German, funny.  (Buchanan admires fascist dictator Franco, advocates economic policies similar to those Hitler advanced, and seems to have a mild form of the anti-Semitism so central to Nazi thought.)  In this thoughtful article, historian Ronald Radosh shows how Buchanan's new magazine is trying to revive the "Red and Brown" alliance of those on the far left and right.  One interesting point that Radosh doesn't mention: Buchanan's favorite president, Richard Nixon, was, in some ways, the farthest left on economic policies of any of our recent presidents.
- 9:26 AM, 15 October 2002   [link]


Civil Service Failure:  Our government bureaucracies failed to prevent the 9/11 attack.  The CIA, the FBI, and the INS all failed, in different ways, to identify the terrorists in time, and to prevent them from coming to the United States.  There are many causes of that failure, but one was the effects of bureaucracy itself, in particular the way it prevents penalizing failure and rewarding success.  This thoughtful column by Philip Howard explains why the fight over the Department of Homeland Security is so important.  Some key quotes:
Assigning the best person to a new job is impossible unless you're prepared to prove in a hearing that more-senior personnel aren't up to the task.

No decision, no matter how important or how trivial, is immune from a legal proceeding alleging that it violates the rights of federal workers.

What's amazing is that anything gets done. That's a tribute to the fact that most public employees are good, and many superb.
Read it all.  The minor Civil Service reforms Bush is asking for in the Homeland Security Department may seem boring, but they are literally a matter of life and death.
- 8:53 AM, 15 October 2002   [link]


What's Up, Spock?    Leonard Nimoy became so identified with Mr. Spock that this story and this follow-up still surprise.  It seems illogical for "Mr. Spock" to be writing a book on Jewish mysticism, illustrated with female nudes.
- 8:29 AM, 15 October 2002   [link]


Details on South Dakota Vote Fraud:  Here's a bit more on vote fraud in South Dakota.   Those who believe in miracles will be pleased to see that one woman was able to vote after her death in a car accident.
- 1:40 PM, 14 October 2002   [link]


Paternity Fraud:  When blood tests got more accurate, the number of paternity suits rose.  When DNA tests came along, the number of paternity suits rose even more.   Now, we are seeing more and more of what one might call "non-paternity suits", from men who have found that they are not, in fact, the father of a child.  There is now strong pressure to change the laws to protect such men.  (In the past, as I understand it, almost all states assumed that any children born during a marriage were fathered by the husband.  Louisiana had a strange case not long ago when a mother bore a child, after being fertilized by her deceased husband's sperm.  If I recall the case correctly, Louisiana law made the child illegitimate, because of a time limit in the law.)  This Washington Post article gives a sketch of the growing paternity fraud movement.
- 8:42 AM, 14 October 2002   [link]


How France Assisted Genocide:  The American record in the Rwandan genocide is bad.  We stood by while nearly one million people were slaughtered, even though it would have been easy for the Clinton administration to stop the massacres.  We even blocked the United Nations, which had a small force on the ground, from reacting.  But the French record is far worse, as this letter in the Washington Post explains.  While the genocide was going on, the French government continued to arm those committing the massacres.  After it stopped, they protected the killers.  So far as I know, no French politician ever paid a price for their complicity in the massacres.
- 8:26 AM, 14 October 2002   [link]


Reactions to Bali:  When the explosion in the Bali nightclub killed and injured hundreds of people, there were two emotions that a civilized person should have, sorrow for the innocent victims, and anger at whoever had done it, most likely Islamic terrorists.   Australian blogger Tim Blair predicted that some in Australia would skip both of these and instead blame the Australian government.   Scroll up and you will see just how right he was.  (Warning: Blair does not spare obscenity in his reaction to this obscene act.)

It was just as predictable that some would blame the United States for the bombing, and the Guardian is among the first to make that obscene charge.  Their argument is somewhat different than that made in Australia.  The United States is at fault, not because we provoked terrorists, but because we have become distracted by Iraq and are not concentrating all our efforts on the terrorists.  So, one group of leftists blames Australia for doing too much against terrorists, and another group blames the United States for doing too little.   To be fair, I should add that the article is not quite as bad as the headline or the sub-head.

My sympathies go out to the families of all the victims, especially to the Australians, who lost so heavily.  I will do what little I can to keep my government pursuing the terrorists who make these attacks.
- 8:09 AM, 14 October 2002   [link]


The Democrats' Dilemma Again:  The Seattle PI's political columnist (and staunch Democrat) Joel Connelly, gives this example of how the Democrats trapped themselves on Iraq.  As I mentioned in this post, 2nd district Congressman Rick Larsen may lose his seat over the issue.  Connelly fills in the details in my argument.
- 9:47 AM, 13 October 2002   [link]


Suckers:  That's what the Republicans who chose Bill Simon in the California primary were, judging by this Washington Post article.   In the primary, Governor Gray Davis managed to knock out Bill Simon's main opponent, the more moderate and more politically experienced Richard Riordan.  (For what it is worth, I thought that the Republicans' best choice for a candidate was the California Secretary of State Bill Jones, who came in third.)   Davis is now using the same tactics, and an enormous war chest, raised without any scruples, to destroy Bill Simon, who is obviously not ready for prime time.  Given the disastrous Davis record, and the fact that the Democratic majorities in the California legislature are even worse than he is, I think we'll be seeing those moving trucks leaving California again, soon.
- 9:31 AM, 13 October 2002   [link]


The Net and Privacy Again:  In this post I discussed how the Net has decreased privacy, and how different the rules are in different countries.  Norwegian blogger Bjørn Stærk illustrates both points in here.   Apparently, Norway keeps all incomes and income taxes on line, available to everyone.  This would horrify most Americans.
- 8:26 AM, 13 October 2002   [link]


Election Fraud in South Dakota?  As those who have read my analysis of the 2000 election or my discussion of the narrow Cantwell victory in the Washington Senate race know, I think that fraudulent votes are a serious and growing problem.  If this story from South Dakota is correct, some of the cheaters may have been caught before the election this time.  (This could be the difference in the Thune-Johnson Senate race there.)
- 4:35 PM, 11 October 2002   [link]


The Coming Test of Deterrence:  In earlier posts, I have been skeptical about the idea that classical deterrence will work against Saddam.   Other people, including some who are very well informed, think that it will.  We will soon have a test that will give very direct evidence on that question.  Now that Congress has passed the resolution authorizing force against Iraq, Saddam will be faced with a demand that he submit to intrusive inspections.  A rational, accurately informed leader would choose inspections, however distasteful, over certain defeat and, probably, death.   If, as I expect, Saddam rejects the intrusive inspections, then there will be another strong reason to think that he can not be deterred in the long run.
- 3:57 PM, 11 October 2002   [link]


Maureen Dowd and Dr. Hager:  In her most recent column, Maureen Dowd attacked Dr. W. David Hager, nominated to a position at the FDA, for his religious views.  The medpundit takes a scalpel to the column and leaves it in fragments in a trash bucket.  As she dissects the column, she finds a large factual error, significant omissions, and much anti-religious bigotry.  Dowd claims that Dr. Hager is opposed to birth control pills (in fact he prescribes them).  Dowd ignores Dr. Hager's professional papers, though they are the most obvious measure of his fitness for the position.   Most of all, Dowd objects to the fact that Dr. Hager's Christian values influence his practice, as if any believer could do otherwise.

Although Dowd from time to time claims that she is a Catholic, it is clear from this column that she is in fact a "secularist Democrat", a group that I described in this post.  Their political views are largely formed by their hostility to believers, especially evangelicals.  You may recall from the post that the "secularist Democrats" at the 1992 Democratic convention were as hostile to evangelicals as most of us would be to Nazis and Communists.

Maureen Dowd is paid a large salary to write this kind of error-filled, incomplete, and bigoted column.   I am not even sure that this is Dowd's own work.  She has a reputation for laziness, and the column reads as if it were cribbed from the talking points of an extremist group like NARAL.   The medpundit corrects her for free.  As John F. Kennedy said, life is not fair.

One last point.  Newspapers generally make space for critical letters, especially when a person has been attacked so directly.  Yesterday the New York Times had a single letter in support of the Dowd column; today there were no letters on either side.  It will be interesting to see whether the Times ever does publish a letter in support of Dr. Hager.
- 3:29 PM, 11 October 2002   [link]


Apology for the Delay:  If you have come here expecting to see a long post on Congressman McDermott, my apologies.  I decided that I should review the press conference that he and Bonior held after his return from Iraq, and I will not be able to do that until this weekend.   So, at the soonest, the McDermott piece will be up on Monday.  I think you'll find it worth the wait.
- 8:11 AM, 11 October 2002   [link]


Dinosaur Mummy:  (Despite the proximity of the two posts, I am not suggesting anything about the Democratic party.)  A duckbill dinosaur has been found, with so much of the soft parts preserved that it is being called a mummy.  It is just the fourth dinosaur mummy to be found, and the first in many years.  The National Geographic has the full story.
- 8:03 AM, 11 October 2002   [link]


Vote Motivations:    Yesterday's vote on the resolution authorizing force against Iraq drew the support of about half of the House and Senate Democrats.  This Washington Post story suggests, in its final paragraph, what their main motivation may have been:
Among the dozen most vulnerable Democrats in next month's elections, just two -- Reps. James Maloney (Conn.) and Julia Carson (Ind.) -- opposed the measure. In the Senate, Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.) was alone among incumbents facing tough reelections who voted against it.
No doubt some of the Republican supporters also were influenced by the coming election, but since the Republicans were almost unanimous in their vote, it is not easy to identify which ones.  One Republican who voted against the resolution, Congresswoman Constance Morella of Maryland, may well have been influenced by the election.  She represents a Democratic and liberal district and is in a tough fight, since the Maryland legislature made her district even more Democratic than it already was.  Oddly, even Wellstone may have been acting in his best electoral interests.  He has a reputation, mostly deserved, I think, for acting on principle even when he is out of step with the voters.  He would risk that if he changed too sharply just before an election.  (I should add, by the way, that I don't think that it is necessarily wrong when public officials try to vote in accordance with public opinion.)

In Washington state, this vote may cost the Democrats a congressional seat.  Congressman Rick Larsen in the second district was already threatened.  Washington's primary is so late (September) that the results there are often a good predictor of the outcome in the general election.  Larsen received less than 50 per cent of the total vote last month.  In the past, most incumbents who were held below 50 per cent in the primary lost in the general election.  His Republican opponent, Norma Smith, is almost perfect for the district.   She's a moderate conservative with many contacts in the district.  Being a woman is probably a plus, too, judging from past elections in Washington state.
- 7:46 AM, 11 October 2002   [link]


The Democrats Dilemma:  Just weeks ago, the Democrats were calling for Bush to come before Congress and the UN to make the case for war with Iraq.  Now that he has done so, they find themselves in a political trap.   If they support him, they risk alienating much of their base; if they oppose him, they risk losing the swing voters.  It is curious that they didn't see this in advance.  If they had read this essay of mine from before the 2000 election, maybe the Democrats wouldn't underestimate Bush so often.
- 8:26 AM, 10 October 2002   [link]


Two Fine Posts:  Bjørn Stærk has a fascinating analysis of the Norwegian budget arguments and politics.  Norway has an unusual problem.  Thanks to oil revenues, they have too much money.   (It is too much because, if they spent it in Norway, they would cause inflation.)  Professor Volokh corrects an earlier post and explains that, for much of our history, non-citizens could vote.   Some states used this as a lure for immigrants.  No links or identification of the voting expert he is quoting, unfortunately.
- 8:08 AM, 10 October 2002   [link]


Great New Blog:  Australian scientist Aaron Oakley has just started this site, devoted, mostly, to debunking unscientific claims from environmentalists  Like many of us, he is disgusted by green ignorance, superstition, and dishonesty.  And, I have to like the attitude of a man who jokingly complains about not yet receiving any hate mail.  (By way of Tim Blair)
- 7:44 AM, 10 October 2002   [link]


Goodbye to All That:  Liberal journalist Ron Rosenbaum uses Robert Graves' "endlessly evocative" title as his theme, as he explains why he is breaking with the left.  Rosenbaum went to an antiwar rally in New York, where he saw the usual hate-America literature and a man claiming to be a New York teacher, who described Bush as a "devil".  The man carried a sign calling for Bush to keep his hands off such paradises as North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  Rosenbaum rightly identifies the unwillingness of many on the left to confront the crimes of Communism as the source of much of this confusion.  The accumulation of idiocies finally brought Rosenbaum to say goodbye to these things and much more:
So, for my part, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. "Peace" somehow doesn't exclude blowing up Jewish children.)
Read the whole thing.  Though I would not join them, I share his desire for an honest and responsible left.
- 3:37 PM, 9 October 2002   [link]


This is Weird:  This morning I wrote a brief post, just two down, mentioning a way to win the game of chicken, and used it to explain some of the problems of relying on deterrence.  At lunch, as I am browsing through today's Times I find that Thomas Friedman has misused the same concept.   Why misused?  Because there is no real way for Bush to "throw away the steering wheel", to make an attack on Iraq automatic.  In the original thinking, theorists actually suggested setting up automatic systems that would be triggered by a nuclear explosion.  In Dr Strangelove, it was just such an automatic system that led to the end of the world.  The Soviets had installed one, but not informed the Americans, wanting to save the big announcement for a special day.
- 1:39 PM, 9 October 2002   [link]


More on Vote Fraud:  The Republican party found that at least 3,500 people voted in two jurisdictions during the 2000 election.  This is a minimum, since the kind of computer matching that the party did would not catch many voters.  I would guess, for example, that it would not always catch simple name variants, like me using Jim in one jurisdiction and James in another.  In New York state, nearly all the double voters lived in New York city, and so one would expect most of them to be Democrats.   Florida is a popular place for New Yorkers to have second homes, as you probably know.
- 3:37 AM, 9 October 2002   [link]


The Game of Chicken and Deterrence:  Years ago, when I was reading some of the academic literature on deterrence, I found a peculiar idea for wining the game of "chicken".   (If, by chance, you are not familiar with the "game", it is played by two drivers who drive straight toward each other.  The first one who swerves to avoid the collision is the "chicken" and loses.)   Deterrence theorists found the game interesting because it resembled the way a nuclear power might use the threat of nuclear war to force an opponent to yield.  One suggested that you could be sure of winning the game of chicken by taking your steering wheel and throwing it out the window.  The other driver will be forced to swerve since you are unable to.  Some speculated that we should similarly follow an automatic policy, that we should design our systems so that a counterstrike was automatic, so that we would be immune from nuclear blackmail.

This bizarre idea illustrates an essential point about deterrence, that it depends on the knowledge and beliefs of those deterred.  The other driver must see you throw the steering wheel out the window, and believe that you have no other way of controlling your car.  It also shows why it can be impossible to deter someone who is uniformed or irrational.  Nixon and Kissinger used this in their dealings with the Soviets.  Kissinger, with, I assume, Nixon's approval, hinted very strongly to the Soviets that Nixon was unstable and that it would be wise not to provoke him.

It also shows a weakness in the idea that, after he acquires nuclear weapons, it will be easy to deter Saddam Hussein.  If he is uninformed or irrational, then he may, figuratively, throw the steering wheel out the window.  Do we want to risk being in that situation, knowing what we do about Saddam? (While I am on the subject of deterrence, I should mention that there have been a number of interesting posts on the subject by "Jane Galt".  If you search for them on her site, just be aware that she usually spells it as "deterrance", for some reason.)
- 9:42 AM, 9 October 2002   [link]


Times Editorials Wrong, Too:  As I mentioned in this post, Dick Morris and David Tell have shown how the New York Times slanted its own poll questions, and then misreported the poll results.  Now Josh Trevino shows, point by point, the errors in their lead editorial on Bush's speech.  The Times is wrong on public opinion at the beginning of the Vietnam war, wrong on likely economic results of a war with Iraq, wrong on public opinion on such a war, and wrong on much else.
- 9:01 AM, 9 October 2002   [link]


The Longshoremen and Double Standards:  The strike by the west coast International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union has led to some publicity for their remarkable levels of pay and benefits.  The longshoremen average nearly 100K a year in pay and another 42K in benefits.   Clerks average 120K a year.  They collect these sums because the longshoremen have a monopoly over the chokepoints of international shipping.  They gained this monopoly position by decades of violent strikes, and by agreements with longshore unions in other countries.  During much of this time they were controlled by the Communist Party.  (The east coast union was controlled by mobsters during much of the same period.)

The violence was essential to their success in gaining the monopoly position.  At that time, longshoremen had few special skills and could have been replaced easily during strikes, were it not for the threat of violence, and actual violence, against strikebreakers.  There was violence from both sides, of course, but a bit of thought will show you that their employers did not have to rely on violence.  They could simply replace strikers with other workers.  Although violence is now much less common in strikes, it still occurs, and almost always comes from the strikers, for just that reason.

Now, suppose we had businesses that had gained a monopoly by violence and threats of violence, and were now using that monopoly to overcharge the public.  Suppose those businesses had unsavory histories of control by Communists, mobsters, or both.  How would newspapers treat those businesses?  Not, I am sure, like this New York Times article or this Seattle Times article.   (The second is so biased I plan to write a letter of complaint to the newspaper.)  I would think it obvious that monopoly profits won by thuggery are bad whether they go to a business, or to a union.
- 3:41 PM, 8 October 2002   [link]


Kudos To:  John Bono and the Instapundit for catching the British Independent newspaper in an embarrassing mistake.   (According to Tony Hillerman's reporter protagonist in The Fly on the Wall, journalists often risk such mistakes for a scoop.)  And to Canadian blogger, Bruce Rolston, for his comprehensive refutation of a long lasting Internet rumor about Israeli art students as spies.
- 2:49 PM, 8 October 2002   [link]


Pounding the News Until It Fits:  The New York Times wants very much to believe, and to have you believe, that Bush is wrong to emphasize the war on Iraq, rather than domestic problems.  They want to believe this because they think emphasizing domestic issues will help the Democrats make gains in the elections.  (They may be wrong in that idea, as Michael Barone has pointed out.)  This belief is so strong that it is destroying the Times' judgment, as their Monday poll story shows.  Dick Morris looks at their poll questions in this column, and finds that the Times slanted them.  David Tell of the Weekly Standard finishes the Times off in this article, showing that, even with the slanted questions, the Times story is not supported by their own well-concealed poll results.  Isn't it time for the Times executive editor Howell Raines to find new employment?
- 2:27 PM, 8 October 2002   [link]


What Do New Jersey Voters Think?  There are now several polls out on the changed New Jersey race, and they show that the tag team maneuver is an important issue there.   Here's a summary article, and here's what Cliff Zukin, the director of the Newark Star-Ledger poll, says about the issue:
"Whether the Democrats should have been able to replace a badly damaged candidate with a more attractive one strikes some as basically unfair, and our polling shows some initial evidence of a backlash," he said. "We'll have to see how this plays out during the last month of the campaign. If resentment fades, Lautenberg will probably gain."
Democratic partisans have been denying that the tag team maneuver would be an issue.  Here's an example from blogger Josh Marshall, and another example from the Washington Post.  (Democratic partisans at a major newspaper?  I'm shocked, shocked.)   We'll see if either Marshall or the Post prints a correction.
- 8:54 AM, 8 October 2002   [link]


You're Another:  That's the claim that Democrats have been making in response to Republican criticism of the Torricelli-Lautenberg tag team maneuver.  The Democrats claim that the Republican candidate, Forrester, had used a similar legal maneuver in the primary.   Professor Volokh tentatively disagrees, concluding that:
So far, then, it seems that it's possible that Forrester was not trying to avoid a seemingly clear statutory deadline, which is what the Republicans had accused the Lautenberg forces of doing. Again, there might well be something that I'm missing here, and I'd love to hear it if there is; but it might be the case that people's original reaction to the story (and my own included) was not fully justified. Stay tuned for further updates . . . .
- 8:29 AM, 8 October 2002   [link]


McDermott Update:  The traffic is awful in Seattle this morning, as it often is, and the traffic reporter for KVI, a conservative talk station, just quipped that Congressman McDermott will probably blame Bush.  I think she had it about right.  I'll have much more on Seattle's Congressman soon, perhaps even later today.
- 8:13 AM, 8 October 2002   [link]


Sudan and Israel:  Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, asks an obvious question:   Why is there a world wide obsession with Israel, where the problems are small, and an indifference to the catastrophe in Sudan.   This is a comparison I will have more to say about in the next week or so.
- 9:18 AM, 7 October 2002   [link]


The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations:  That was the phrase Bush used during the 2000 campaign to describe the way schools often let down minority kids.  The invaluable Stanley Crouch, though he doesn't use the term, finds a similar phenomena in New Jersey's choice of a poet laureate.   There are many other examples of this same soft bigotry, like the comic strip "Boondocks", which offers racist paranoia in a badly drawn and unimaginative format.  It would never be published if the author were white.
- 9:09 AM, 7 October 2002   [link]


The Temptation of the Middle Alternative:  One standard trick bureaucrats use to manipulate their superiors, especially political appointees, is the middle alternative.  The bureaucrat presents three alternative courses of action, one too extreme in one direction, another too extreme in the other direction, and one in between, that the bureaucrat favors.  Bureaucrats do this because they know how tempting middle solutions are, apparently offering a way to avoid the worst outcomes.  There are times, however, when the middle alternative is the worst choice, when either extreme is more likely to be successful.  So it is now on Iraq, as Charles Krauthammer explains.  A plausible argument can be made for relying on deterrence and time.  An even better argument can be made for ending any threat from Saddam now.  But there is no plausible argument for an in between solution of delaying while Saddam develops nuclear weapons.
- 8:55 AM, 7 October 2002   [link]


Genetically Enhanced?  Several weeks ago, blogger Joanne Jacobs suggested that we should substitute "genetically enhanced" for "genetically modified" to reduce the fear factor.  Now, we have the first evidence that "genetically enhanced" may actually be the correct term.
- 10:23 AM, 6 October 2002   [link]


Republicans and the Stock Market:  This Slate article makes two claims, one correct, and one false.  Carol Vinzant is right that, during most of the 20th century, the stock market has risen faster when Democrats were president.  She is wrong, however, to think that the odds against this happening by chance are great.  She errs by not allowing for what econometricians call "serial correlation", a common problem in time series.  When we flip a fair coin several times in a row, we can assume that the coin has no memory, that, each time it is flipped, it has equal chances of coming up heads or tails.  This is almost never true for consecutive years of economic data, whether it is the stock market or GDP growth.  What happens in one year obviously affects what happens in another year.  The data is said to be "serially correlated" because, unlike a fair coin, the consecutive years are statistically related.

Vinzant tries to provide an explanation for the relationship between Republican presidents and the stock market and fails there, too.  The best general explanation I have found for the relationship between public policies and economic growth in democracies is Mancur Olson's The Rise and Decline of Nations.  The famed economist showed that the spread of regulations and the special privileges for interest groups gradually slowed an economy down, like barnacles.  On the whole, though there are many exceptions, the Republicans have been less attracted to those barnacles than the Democrats.  Since Olson published his book, there have been many international comparisons that support his argument.  Those who want economic growth should, in most elections, favor the Republican candidate.
- 10:16 AM, 6 October 2002   [link]


Inspector Blix, or Inspector Clouseau?  This Daily Telegraph column recounts the sorry record of the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, who has been duped, time after time, by Saddam Hussein.  
- 9:18 AM, 6 October 2002   [link]


Falwell, Half Right:  Professor Volokh criticized Jerry Falwell for claiming that Mohammed was a terrorist, and that Moses and Jesus were men of peace.  The professor goes too far in his argument.   Although Mohammed can not accurately be called a "terrorist", he can accurately be a called a "warlord", another term Falwell used.  For a brief historical summary of Mohammed's violent career, see this essay.  Nor is it fair to equate Moses with Mohammed; Moses led his people out of slavery, and Mohammed enslaved many of his neighbors.  (You can fairly compare conquerors like Joshua to Mohammed, however.)

Professor Volokh misses one intriguing aspect of the Falwell interview, his motivation.   In equating Moses and Jesus, Falwell was trying, against much Christian tradition, to put Jews and Christians together against Muslims.  This is now standard among most evangelicals and helps explain why anti-Semitism is falling among them, while it is rising on university campuses, like, perhaps, Professor Volokh's own UCLA.
- 10:10 AM, 4 October 2002   [link]


Bias at ABC?  Media Research investigators find a suspicious pattern in ABC's coverage of the Middle East.   One can't help wondering about connections to Peter Jennings' refusal to become an American citizen, after years working and living here, and his one time involvement with Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Ashwari
- 9:35 AM, 4 October 2002   [link]


Chomsky Cult Radio Program, Part 4:  Last weekend, Alternative Radio had former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter speaking on "Target Iraq".  He began by claiming that the Bush administration policy toward Iraq was about domestic politics, not national security.   He claims that a handful of neoconservatives have "hijacked" the nation's policies for their own purposes.   Then, he made a suprising admission.  If Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and he was linked to terrorists, Ritter believes that a preemptive strike would be justified.  His argument from there followed a strange path.  First, he agreed that Saddam had many chemical and biological weapons in the past, but claimed that most of them had been destroyed.  He then admitted that Saddam would be able to rebuild much of his capabilities to produce such weapons in just months.  In spite of this, he is convinced that Saddam does not have such weapons, because the evidence of such facilities would be unmistakable.  Nonetheless, he wants to send in UN inspectors to find weapons that he thinks do not exist.  At this point, my mind began to spin, and I began to wonder what this strange man would do if he were confronted with still more evidence on Iraqi weapons programs.   Deny the evidence?  Follow through on his argument and offer to lead a preemptive attack?   I honestly have no idea what he would do.

Since this was Alternative Radio, I expect factual errors and was not disappointed.  He claimed that the administration blamed the anthrax attacks on Iraq, which will come as a surprise to Steven Hatfill, among others.  He also repeated the claim made in the previous week that "no one" supported an attack on Iraq.  This drew the biggest round of applause from the audience.   I must disappoint, though not surprise, anyone who has followed Ritter's twists and turns, by telling you that he did not explain his 180 degree change of position.  Not this time, and not ever, I expect.  (Note: For your convenience, there is now an index to all the posts on the Chomsky cult radio program, bottom right.)  
- 2:21 PM, 2 October 2002   [link]


Water, Water, Everywhere:  Astronomers now think that many of the moons around the gas giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus, may have oceans underneath layers of ice.   Where there is liquid water, there may be life.
- 1:37 PM, 2 October 2002   [link]


Torricelli and Terrorism:  Senator Torricelli's withdrawal, ending his political career, is a good time to consider how he damaged the fight on terrorism.  As political analyst Michael Barone explains in this Wall Street Journal column, Torricelli saw everything, including foreign policy, as a way to raise campaign funds.  His positions on foreign policy issues were inconsistent, if you looked for a common philosophy, but consistent if you looked for fund raising opportunities.  Torricelli was tough on Castro, which pleased the Cuban community in New Jersey, but he opposed the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, who were attacking Castro's ally.  The second stand helped him raise money from Hollywood leftists. The danger in all this corruption is obvious.  If you are for sale, like Torricelli, you can be bought by the bad guys, as he was in some cases.  Or, by the naive, who haven't thought through the consequences of a decision.  The infamous "Torricelli amendment" restricted, or was intended to restrict (there is some disagreement about its effects), the ability of the CIA to recruit operatives with nasty pasts, just the kind of operatives, unfortunately, that you often need.  The amendment was quite popular with the Hollywood left, and those who share their uninformed views.  Torricelli's career demonstrates that excusing corruption, as so many Democrats did, weakens the fight against terrorism.
- 9:43 AM, 3 October 2002   [link]


Don't Help Poor Pregnant Women:  That's the message from the pro-abortion lobby, after the Bush administration extended benefits for prenatal care.   Kathleen Parker describes, with some relish, just how the Bush administration trapped its opponents in this untenable position.  
- 9:19 AM, 3 October 2002   [link]


First Sighting of "Bush Haters":  Through much of Clinton's two terms, his supporters, and many mainstream journalists, often called opponents of Clinton "Clinton haters".  Some did, in fact hate him, others, like Newt Gingrich, seemed to actually like him, and still others were somewhere in between.  The phrase was used, in my opinion, to delegitimize the opponents, and to avoid an examination of Clinton's behavior.  The implied argument in "Clinton haters" is that the people who opposed him were doing so for personal reasons, not because they objected to his conduct or policies.  Logically, it is a false argument, of course.  That someone hates another person does not, by itself, make their criticisms false.   But it is a powerful argument emotionally, as the Clinton supporters knew very well.

There are now many people who can fairly be called "Bush haters", people who despise George W. Bush and everything about him.  Anyone who spends a little time looking political sites on the net will encounter them.  In some ways this is surprising.  Bush is not an especially partisan politician; he governed with the help of Democrats in Texas and refused to campaign against Democratic legislators who supported his programs.  The 2000 campaign created some Bush haters.  The outrageous charges made by Democratic allies like the Sierra Club and the NAACP, sometimes echoed by the Gore campaign, convinced some that he was a monster.  And the Florida recount created even more.  There are many on the left who honestly believe that the Bush victory there was illegitimate.  (To believe that, they have to ignore considerable evidence of cheating by Democrats in Florida, and elsewhere, but that is not hard for a partisan to do.  If you want to see some particulars, read this essay on the election.) One mainstream journalist, Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, has finally noticed these Bush haters, as you can see in this column.   It is the only mention of "Bush haters" I could find in the last six months in either the Post, or the New York Times.

Full disclosure: I opposed Clinton from the start.  Just before the 1992 election, I wrote a letter to a newspaper noting Clinton's reckless promiscuity and predicting that the character flaws it revealed would cause problems for the country.  Despite this opposition, I don't believe I have ever actually hated Clinton.  He has often filled me with contempt and disgust, but not hate.  And, I must admit that sometimes I have given him the kind of admiration one gives a successful cat burglar.  You admire the skill, while feeling contempt for the immorality of the acts.
- 8:41 AM, 3 October 2002   [link]


Tag Team Politics:  The New Jersey Supreme Court decision that allows the New Jersey Democratic party to replace losing candidate Senator Robert Torricelli with former Senator Frank Lautenberg opens up some entertaining possibilities.  Suppose that the next poll shows Republican candidate Douglas Forrester trailing Lautenberg.  Would not the Republicans have every right to replace Forrester with, for instance, former governor Christie Whitman?  And is there any reason to stop there if Whitman takes the lead over Lautenberg?  Why couldn't the Democrats bring in still another candidate, and so on?  Tag team wrestling, which relies on the same concept, has, as I understand it, some restrictions on substitutions.  Perhaps the New Jersey Court should seek advice on the rules from Minnesota governor (and former professional wrestler) Jesse Ventura.
- 3:47 PM, 2 October 2002   [link]


Clinton's Failure:  The Guardian's Martin Kettle thinks that Bill Clinton should not receive a warm welcome from the British Labour party because he failed in an important task.  As you read the first part of the column, you might think that the important task was fighting terrorism.  You would be wrong, though Kettle does criticize the haphazard efforts Clinton made to pursue bin Laden.   No, rather it was that he did not keep George Bush out of office, and so "Clinton's most important current legacy to America and the world is the vengeful and driven administration that now occupies the White House."  Kettle might forgive failing in the war on terror, but he can not forgive allowing a Republican in the White House.  And, I should add, that "vengeful and determined" sound like absolutely the right qualities for an administration, after the 9/11 attack.
- 11:24 AM, 2 October 2002   [link]


The Critics Dilemma:  This Washington Post editorial neatly summarizes the dilemma of the Democratic critics like Al Gore and Ted Kennedy: "In other words, these leading Democrats argued that the president should do exactly what he is doing . . . only not now, or not so fast."  This is not coherent as a policy, nor is it militarily practical.   The best time for a campaign against Iraq is, of course, in the cooler months, now approaching, when American soldiers can wear their chemical and biological protective gear.  A delay of a few months would give Saddam another year to develop nuclear weapons.
- 10:57 AM, 2 October 2002   [link]


Quick McDermott Update:  This morning, having arrived in Seattle, Congressman McDermott admitted that fascist dictator Saddam is not trustworthy, contrary to what McDermott said in Baghdad.  In an airport press conference, however, he continued to make the bogus claims about the health effects of depleted uranium, and the effects of the sanctions, he had made in Baghdad.  From what I heard of the press conference (not all of it was on the air), he dodged the question of trusting President Bush, which does not surprise me.  This Friday, I plan to have a full report on McDermott and the reaction in Washington state to his Baghdad visit.
- 8:59 AM, 2 October 2002   [link]


Why I don't Trust Salon's Joe Conason:  On September 26th, Conason was dismissing the scandal in the Iowa Senate race, with the claim that a Ganske contributor made the tape of the private meeting, rather than anyone connected to Democratic senator Tom Harkin.   "So much for the cornfield Watergate" was his summary.  Well, some of the facts have come out and Conason was completely wrong.  A former Harkin aide, Brian Conley, made the tape, with the help of a current Harkin campaign staffer, Rafael Ruthchild.  David Hogberg has a summary of what is known now.  Has Conason admitted his error yet?  Not in anything I can find in the public parts of Salon.  He has had time to write an attack on Florida governor Jeb Bush, an attack that rests on zero evidence, as far as I can tell.
- 2:31 PM, 1 October 2002   [link]


The Dutch Crack Down on Muslims:  The Dutch are now requiring Muslim Imans to attend a special college to learn such unfamiliar ideas as freedom of religion and respect for women.  The current government, which includes the party of Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated during the campaign, is even thinking of requiring that services in the mosques be conducted in Dutch.  Imans who don't attend, or follow the new rules, will be tossed out.
- 1:46 PM, 1 October 2002   [link]


Leftists and Fascists Together, Part 2:  Yesterday I mentioned the Labour party MP who regretted the fall of Communism, and was now backing fascist dictator Saddam Hussein.  Thanks to Iain Murray I learned that George Galloway is now actively backing Saddam, spouting his propaganda and urging the other Arab countries to help him.  Wonder how many others will notice this farcical repeat of the Hitler-Stalin pact?  Stephen Pollard thinks that Galloway should be "denied the Whip", which I assume means thrown out of the Labour party.  (Scroll down for the Galloway post.)  Compared to Galloway, Congressman McDermott, across Lake Washington from me, doesn't look quite so bad.
- 9:00 AM, 1 October 2002   [link]


Good Posts:  Joanne Jacobs has another example of ed school follies.   James Lileks takes apart both Fidel Castro and Jesse Ventura.   The "Medpundit" tells how she came to be one of the subjects of a lawsuit for prescribing Tylenol.   (More evidence we need tort reform.)  Iain Murray notes that, in Australia, blind people are now eligible to be air traffic controllers.   And, Meryl Yourish has compiled a table showing the United Nations' obsession with Israel
- 8:39 AM, 1 October 2002   [link]