Archive:

September 2003, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics



Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Is France Our Enemy?  That's what New York Times columnist Tom Friedman claimed last week.  And Vice President Cheney wondered about the same thing last February.  He even bluntly asked French ambassador Jean-David Levitte: "Is France an ally or an adversary of the United States?"   Naturally, the French deny the charge; just two days after Friedman's column, the International Herald Tribune (a subsidiary of the New York Times) published this reply from Guillaume Parmentier, who is the "director of the French Center on the United States at the French Institute of International Relations".  Parmentier is not himself an enemy of the United States or a blind defender of French policy, as you can see in earlier columns, here and here.   But his defense of French policy shows that France, under Chirac's government, may not be our enemy, but will often be our opponent.

To see that, please bear with me as I discuss something that may not immediately seem relevant, the game of Risk.  In the game, players, starting out with a few random countries, try to conquer the world, making and breaking alliances with each other.   You need at least five players for a good game, because the complexity of the alliance negotiation is the most interesting part of the game.  Most players will simply try to win.  In most games, the other players will combine against any player who becomes too strong.  A few players do not behave this way, however.  It took only a few games for me to realize that including a couple would usually ruin the game.  They would allow their feelings for each other, their values, if you will, to change how they played the game.  Most commonly wives or girlfriends would not attack their husbands or boyfriends when the logic of the game made that the best strategy.  Rather than play a pure game of power politics, they were influenced by their values, as well.

All nations, our own included, use a mix of power politics, or interests, if you prefer, and values to decide their actions in international affairs.  Sometimes our interests and values coincide, and sometimes they conflict.  After the 9/11 attack, most Americans thought that both interests and values required us to be more aggressive in defending ourselves from threats of terrorism.  We thought that our allies would agree because of our common interest in defeating terrorism, and our shared values.  But the French leaders had a different view of the world, a more old fashioned one, one that would be familiar to any Risk player.  Here's how Parmentier puts it:
In fact, France's policy is not determined by a desire to counter the Americans, but by a deep-seated mistrust, inspired by French history, of any excessive concentration of international power.
Now one does not need to be an expert in French history to know that Parmentier is fudging a bit here; the French, going all the way back to Charlemagne, have not objected to excessive concentrations of power in French hands.  But they do, like nearly everyone else in the world, object to them in other people's hands.  (As did Americans before we rose to world dominance.)

Despite this conflict, most Americans thought that the French would still support us because of our shared values.  But for Chirac, and I would guess, most French leaders, these values are far less important than their interest in seeing that no nation dominates the world.  This does not quite make them our enemies because, though many French citizens may not care for us, Chirac is being truthful when he says he likes us.  It just happens that, as in the Risk game, we have become too strong and he thinks France must oppose us.  Chirac, and leaders like him, think this so obvious that they were probably surprised by the American anger.  This may seem strange to us, but this is because our history is so different from Europe's.  In the centuries long sparring between the dynasties in Europe, the alliances shifted often to react to changes in the balance of power.  Since they also intermarried frequently, emperors and kings often made war on their in-laws.  They were not enemies; they were opponents.

What difference does this make in our dealings with the French, and Chirac in particular?   It means that we can gain their help when they see our interests as being aligned.   From everything I have read on the subject, that is true for what one might call the crime fighting side of the war on terrorism.  The French have helped us, and will continue to help us, find individual terrorists and to break up terrorist cells, at least the ones that threaten both countries.  They will oppose, almost automatically, anything that might increase our dominance in the world.  How much they will oppose us will depend on the costs of opposition.  Parmentier's column seems genuinely pained, as does this one by Thierry de Montbrial, "the founder and president of the French Institute of International Relations".  As the French recalculate the costs of angering us, we should see improved relations, but we should not expect too much.  They won't be working with us in the United Nations, and Chirac won't get an invitation to Crawford any time soon.
- 4:58 PM, 23 September 2003   [link]


Is The BBC Next?  The Iraqi governing council is considering expelling al Jazeera and al Aribiya for "incitement to violence".  There is no question about their guilt; both networks have been trying to incite violence in Iraq and elsewhere.  But what about the network that trained many of the al Jazeera "journalists", the BBC?  Are they not encouraging violence, though less directly?  Perhaps the governing council should look at them next.
- 7:43 AM, 23 September 2003   [link]


Worth reading:  Gregg Easterbrook's discussion of Bush's environmental record.  
Yet nothing you hear about worsening air pollution is true.

Air pollution is declining under Bush, just as it declined under Bill Clinton.  With the exception of greenhouse gases, trends in air pollution have been favorable for years or decades.
Which means that critics of Bush who say air pollution is getting worse are wrong.  Some critics, including senators Jeffords and Lieberman, should know the facts on the decline in air pollution.  If they do know the facts, they are liars.  If they don't, they are incompetent.  And the press, which transmits these false charges, is likewise either incompetent or dishonest.
- 6:51 AM, 23 September 2003   [link]


Seattle Voters, a mean lot, made me rewrite my little joke by rejecting the tax on lattes.   How was I to know they would finally find a tax they didn't like?  Others, though for different reasons, were also disappointed, as you can see from these letters, some quite entertaining, in the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI.   I was a little taken aback to see that people from Colorado, Texas, Alberta, Ontario, Britain, and Sweden all felt they had the right to tell Seattle what to do.  I can see the city from my apartment, for Pete's sake, and I don't think I have the right to tell Seattle whether or not they should tax lattes.  (If you want serious coverage of the Seattle election, see Sharkansky's site.)
- 5:06 PM, 22 September 2003   [link]


The Left Wing Is "Muffled", says Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly.   As evidence, he presents the following "facts".  There are few dissenting words on talk radio.  Debate is "stifled" by Rupert Murdoch.  And he quotes Al Franken's claims that the "mainstream media is cowed" and that reporters are intimidated by the administration's refusal to call on columnist Helen Thomas at press conferences.   (Thomas's column is carried only by the PI and her home paper, to my knowledge.   Some on the left accused former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer of calling on her too often to discredit the press, because she could be relied on to come up with outrageous questions that made the press look silly.)  To nail down his case, Connelly calls on two unbiased authorities, Christiane Amanpour, who just claimed that her network, CNN, fibbed in their coverage of Iraq, and former President Clinton—a man whose devotion to the truth has never been questioned.  Connelly's argument is so strange as to require an extensive analysis.  (Though strange it is not, I hasten to add, unusual.  While enjoying lunch and music at another Kirkland festival yesterday, I heard one of the performers tell us all, without a trace of irony, that PBS was the last bastion of free speech.  I am sure you have seen or heard many similar examples.)

First, I should introduce Joel Connelly, for those not familiar with Seattle's most influential political columnist.  I can think of no better way to do that than to adapt an old joke.

Connelly is speaking to former President Clinton on the phone, and we can overhear his side of the conversation.  Mostly, Connelly is silent, but from time to time we hear him say, "Yes, Mr. President", or "You're right, Mr. President", or "Of course, Mr. President", and the like, again and again.  At very the end of the conversation, we hear Connelly say, "No, Mr. President."  Overcome by curiosity, we ask Connelly if he could tell us what Clinton's last question was.  "Oh", Connelly tells us, "he just wanted to know if I had any criticisms at all of his presidency."   (Think I am unfair?  Then see this column.)

Now then, what about his arguments?  Talk radio is famous, as Connelly must know, for its conversations, or at least arguments.  Nearly all conservative hosts debate with callers from the left regularly.  All of them that I have heard describe the ideas of the left, if only to criticize them.  Seattle has several leftwing talk show hosts; one, Dave Ross of KIRO, often outdraws Rush Limbaugh in this area.  The local PBS station, KUOW, gives two hours of its schedule every week to the Chomsky cult, and much time to others on the left.  Though supported in part by taxpayers, it has no moderate talk shows, much less any run by conservatives.

When I saw this column, I immediately hoped that a conservative talk show host would bring Connelly on his program.  Great minds must think alike, because Michael Medved invited Connelly to be on his program the very day the column appeared.  Far from being "muffled", Connelly was given the microphone.  Connelly's newspaper, as he admitted on the program, has no conservatives covering political subjects.  (There is a business columnist, Bill Virgin, who seems to favor free markets.)  They have none on the editorial board.  This, in Connelly's view, is not "muffling", because the paper carries a few conservative columns.  Medved regularly gives time to people from the left, by the way, including Noam Chomsky, Al Franken, and Joe Conason.

Nor has Rupert Murdoch "stifled" debate.  In fact he has added to it, by publishing newspapers like the New York Post and magazines like the Weekly Standard that present ideas not found in their liberal competitors.  Similarly, Fox presents ideas you may not see on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, or PBS.  Some of these ideas are sharp critiques of leftist ideas, but that is exactly what we want in our political debates.

What talk radio, Rupert Murdoch, and others on the right have really done is challenged a leftist orthodoxy that still controls most of our sources of ideas.  They are alternatives to ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS, most of our major newspapers, and nearly all our colleges and universities.  Cities like Seattle with almost no Republican party particularly need that challenge.  Connelly, who often argues for competition in politics, as in this column, should welcome it in journalism, too.

Although the argument about being "muffled" and "stifled" that Connelly and many others on the left make is nonsensical, there is no denying that they feel there is truth to it.  I can't say that I feel their pain, but I do think I understand something of its origins.  Some of it is the natural irritation of people like Connelly, comfortable in a near monopoly over the media for much of their careers, but now finding it challenged.  He can hardly find it pleasant, after years of not being challenged, to be contradicted day after day by people whose influence is growing.

More important, I think, is one of the great differences between our two major parties.  Simplifying outrageously, we can say that Republicans are the party of business and Democrats the party of government.  This means that being out of power affects the two parties differently.  For Republicans, it may mean a chance to go back to what they are really interested in, but for Democrats, it means giving up their reason for being.  In the last four decades, the Democrats have slowly been losing their status as the natural majority party.  If anything, right now the Republicans have small advantage, nationally.  Partisan Democrats like Connelly are faced with the likelihood that their party will be out of power not just for a term or two, but for decades.  Since this will weaken their voice from within the government, they fell "muffled" and "stifled".

Issues might help the Democrats regain their edge, but as Robert Fulford said, they have lost their intellectual energy.  Connelly himself provides an example.  He seldom discusses issues in depth, and almost never mentions new ideas.  Even worse, the shift of union membership to public employee unions means that it is very difficult for Democrats to propose ideas that will threaten these often reactionary groups.  Racial groups block other reform possibilities; the humiliating backdown that Senator Lieberman had to make after he was chosen as the Democratic nominee for vice president shows just how strong these groups are.  Few new ideas, and a base that won't tolerate them.  That does not bode well for the Democrats, which is bad for all of us.  We need two effective major parties.  So, let me end with this small bit of unsolicited advice for Mr. Connelly.  Rather than whining about being "muffled" and "stifled", he should start looking for some new ideas that would be good for both the country and his party.   (I'll have some suggestions for him in the next month or so.)
- 1:40 AM, 22 September 2003   [link]


Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 12:  Faith Fippinger broke the law by going to Iraq without the permission of the American government.  The law was part of the enforcement provisions for the United Nations sanctions against the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein.  It has been used to block businessmen from making deals with Saddam that were forbidden by the UN sanctions.  Some have been prosecuted under it, and almost no one considered them martyrs.  Fippinger went to help the fascist regime in other ways, and this, according to BBC correspondent Fergal Parkinson, makes her a martyr to free speech.  Parkinson does not have the curiosity to ask Ms. Fippinger, as I would, whether she is now willing to go to Iraq to protect Iraqis from attacks by Saddam's remaining thugs.  Most likely, by the way, she'll be fined, not sent to jail, though she may prefer the latter.
- 7:42 AM, 22 September 2003   [link]


If Conservatives "Swagger", do leftists "mince"?  This otherwise unremarkable New York Times article on elections in Bavaria illustrates how reporters simply can't resist getting in a dig at their ideological opponents.  There is nothing in the article to justify the "swaggered".  Since Chancellor Schröder did not campaign in Bavaria, one could write "cruised", I suppose.
- 7:21 AM, 22 September 2003   [link]


Howard Brush Dean, III:  This first part of a Boston Globe profile of the Democratic candidate is unintentionally revealing.  His full name, with the III, tells something about his privileged, trust fund life.  We also learn how he got into medical school in spite of miserable grades; he told an interviewer—perhaps truthfully, perhaps not—that he had politically correct views.  He was an undistinguished physician, with tendency to jump to conclusions, or as senior doctor put it, in a 1977 evaluation:
His major problem continues to be one of impulsive syntheses when problems are approached—he should take care to be more deliberate in making assessments and deciding upon plans. Because of this trait, he is not quite the superior physician that he is in other respects.
Impulsiveness is not the trait one would want in someone who will have his finger on the nuclear trigger, is it?

And we learn that he is not exactly a defender of freedom of speech.
When Dean saw a billboard he didn't like and demanded that it be taken down, aides groaned even as they rushed to obey his command.
I would love to see more on that story.  Where does any governor get the legal right to just take down billboards that he doesn't like?  Even if it belongs to the state of Vermont, there should be legal steps to follow.
- 6:53 AM, 22 September 2003   [link]


There Are Real Traitors, even if Ann Coulter sometimes gets confused on the subject.  And, although the newspapers give different accounts, a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo may be one.  The Washington Times, which broke the story, says he has been charged.   The Washington Post isn't sure whether he has been charged, and the New York Times says that he is being investigated.  Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, this difference in the three stories coincides with the three newspapers' different stances in the war on terror.

There is one puzzle in the stories.  Why would a chaplain have access to classified material?  Ordinarily, only those with a "need to know" get access to classified material.

And there's a general lesson in this story, and the story of the New York state Islamic prison chaplain who made his ministry a recruiting agency for anti-American groups.   In the West, we have become accustomed to thinking that religious figures will favor peace, forgetting some of our own history and ignoring the lessons from the Muslim world.   From now on, we should give more scrutiny to Muslim clerics, not less.
- 7:19 AM, 21 September 2003   [link]


Saddam Trying To Make A Deal?  Who knows?  The report comes from a British tabloid, a bitterly anti-American British tabloid, which may or may not be relevant.
Saddam Hussein has been in secret negotiations with US forces in Iraq for the past nine days, we can reveal.

The Iraqi dictator is demanding safe passage to the former Soviet republic of Belarus.   In exchange, he has vowed to provide information on weapons of mass destruction and disclose bank accounts where he siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in plundered cash.
General Grant's "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender" seems about right to me, if this story is true.  
- 6:50 AM, 21 September 2003
Update:  The American military has issued a denial of the story, though people who do word by word examinations of the two can probably find wiggle room.  (Via the Instapundit)
- 4:36 PM, 22 September 2003   [link]


Good Posts:  
  • "Hans Beeman" gives us a picture of the German "gutmensch", the sort of person often called a "bleeding heart liberal" in the United States.  He goes farther than I have, comparing them to children, while I have only argued that too many Europeans have adolescent attitudes toward the United States.

  • "Cinderella Bloggerfeller" translates a Le Figaro interview with Andre Glucksman, who demonstrates that there are European intellectuals with adult attitudes and penetrating insights.

  • Daniel Drezner shows that academic political science can be practical, by introducing us to an essay by Robert Pape on the logic of suicide terrorism.  Very briefly, suicide terrorism continues because it has been successful.

  • Dean Esmay makes an argument that will infuriate nearly everyone.  Our two most recent presidents have had very similar policies.  Do I agree?  Not entirely, but Esmay is far closer than Paul Krugman.

  • Amitai Etzioni has an interesting set of responses from economists on the Bush tax cuts, showing a range of views.

  • Gary Farber describes the sad fate of some of the Hmong who once fought on our side.  He does not say which Americans betrayed them.  I would say that those most responsible were the members of Congress who forced an exit from Indochina, without protections for the Hmong and others.

  • "Juan Non-Volokh" corrects nearly all the news coverage on the Bush adminstration reform of new source pollution controls.  Contrary to what most environmental organizations have said, it will most likely improve the environment.

  • Stefan Sharkansky reminds us just how lucky we are that Jimmy Carter was defeated in 1980, especially those who want peace in the Middle East.  

  • Geitner Simmons surveys some important developing countries and finds that they pursue trade policies much like those they criticize in the West. 

  • "Chief Wiggles" attacks the media coverage of Iraq and describes his own touching encounter with a very poor Iraqi girl.

- 10:40 AM, 20 September 2003   [link]


1400 Posts, and this time, rather than list a set of good posts, I would like to go back to a problem I posed in my second post.  In that post, I noted that, although the Palestinian Authority fits the dictionary definition of "fascist", no one on the left or in the mainstream media ever calls it fascist.  The same can be said, as I have discussed in other posts, about Saddam Hussein's Baathist party.  The closest Western ideology to Baathism is fascism, but almost no one calls it fascist or refers to Saddam as a fascist leader.  Since then, I have noticed, like everyone else, that the opposite is true as well.  Not only is "fascist" never used when it applies; nearly every current use that I see is wrong.   It has become a generalized term of abuse used by leftists for their opponents, except for those who are actually fascists.

As Orwell told us, so memorably, in his 1945 essay, "Politics and the English Language", slovenly language has consequences:
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes; it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that bad writer.  But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.  A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.
So, the careless use of "fascism" is both a symptom and a cause of slovenly thinking.   Using it only as a term of abuse corrupts the thinking of the person who uses it, making it easy for them to avoid thinking about the particulars of a problem.

The error of using "fascism" as a term of generalized abuse has become so common that I can not recall having seen the correct use of the term, except historically, in any mainstream publication.  Some, as you can see in this New York Times article, find this mildly amusing.  I think it is another symptom of the intellectual decline of the left.  (One reason Alexander Stille may be taking this amused stance is that more than one New York Times author has, though not using the term, indirectly accused the Bush administration of being fascist or at least following fascist policies.  Stille would, I suspect, be outraged if responsible figures on the right were calling Democrats communists, or hinting that they are traitors.  It depends on whose ox is gored, a metaphor that shows us just how old this problem is.)

(While I am on the subject, I should add that, though I have used it, I think that the hybrid, "Islamofascism", is probably an error.  Putting the two together, however useful for abuse, may cloud our thinking about al Qaeda's beliefs rather than clarify them.)
- 8:53 AM, 20 September 2003
Update:  Thanks to a reminder from an alert emailer, I added an essential qualifier to "no one", changing it to "no one on the left or in the mainstream media".  Certainly there are conservatives who have used fascist for both Arafat's organization and the Baath parties.
- 5:24 PM, 22 September 2003   [link]


Ignoring Vote Fraud:  Vote fraud in increasing in the United States—as far as I can tell—after a long period of decline.  The 1993 "Motor Voter" Act has made it easier for non-citizens to vote, just as opponents charged.  And non-citizens have almost certainly tipped the balance in some elections.   For example, I am reasonably certain, just on statistical grounds, that Al Gore's narrow margin in New Mexico came from non-citizens. (For more, and some more examples of fraud, see this Q&A on the 2000 election.)

The widespread use of mail ballots also makes vote fraud much easier.   It makes it trivial, for example, to sell your vote.  In the past, machine politicians often worried that voters who had accepted money would not stay bribed.  To make sure they did, they would go into the voting booth with the voter to "assist".   Some wards in large cities would have an extraordinary proportion of voters who needed "assistance".  With mailed ballots, there is no such problem.  Someone who wants to sell their ballot can simply give it to the buyer in privacy.  Mailed ballots also alllow for intimidation, for the same reasons.

Despite this growth, vote fraud is almost ignored by most newspapers and broadcast news programs.  This story from St. Louis is unlikely to get national coverage.  (I did not find the story in today's New York Times, Seattle PI, Seattle Times, USA Today, or Washington Post.)  The cheating was blatant, and it comes from a city with an extensive history of vote fraud, including in the last presidential election.  We do see many stories on whether the "error rate" for punch card ballots is 2.4 or 2.7 percent, but open vote fraud does not interest most journalists.

It is too simple to say that journalists ignore vote fraud only because it almost always benefits Democrats, though that is the largest reason.  They also ignore it because it most often happens in ethnic groups, such as blacks and Hispanics that journalists feel should not be held to the same standards as others.  You will never see the New York Times criticize the many black churches who blatantly break the law by open electioneering, but they would be outraged to see, for example, Pat Robertson, do the same thing.   And, there is always the matter of fashion, which journalists are as prone to as any other group.  It simply isn't fashionable to inquire into the dubious ways elections are won in some communities.

(One last detail.  The ACORN organization, which is responsible for this latest case of fraud, has received grants from foundations.  None, I predict, will discontinue their support, in spite of this attack on honest elections.)
- 8:44 AM, 19 September 2003   [link]


Now Behave!  That's what I would like to say to Ann Coulter from time to time.  In her latest column, she finally responds to the reasonable request, considering the title of her latest book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, that she name someone she considers a traitor.   And she comes up with the foolish publisher of the New York Times, "Pinch" Sulzberger!   He's a dope, Ann, not a traitor.  It is stupid and self-defeating to confuse the two.  It provides protection of a sort to real traitors.  She has some interesting things to say later in the column about a subject I will discuss in another post, the "other 9/11", but by calling Sulzberger a traitor, she guarantees that most reasonable people will ignore the rest of the argument.

Is she trying to be funny and shocking to get attention, rather than making a serious argument?  I suppose so, but just as I don't think those on the left should lightly accuse President Bush of being a fascist, I don't think those on the right should lightly accuse their opponents of being traitors or communists.  From what I can tell, those on the right have been more responsible, on the whole, since the 2000 election.   Perhaps it is the responsibility of governing.
- 6:53 AM, 19 September 2003   [link]


Where Does Bush Hating  New York Times columnist Paul Krugman vacation?  In France, of course.   The Guardian interview has other interesting bits.  Oliver Burkeman shows us, without intending to, I am sure, that Krugman is a reactionary.  The world has changed and he doesn't like President Bush's attempts to cope with that change.  In this, the Princeton professor shows an intellectual close-mindedness all too common in his profession.  If you have tenure, you can ignore unwelcome facts, or, as Krugman does, rage against the bringer of bad news.

You can even, if you have tenure, hold views that are nutty without any penalty.   Here, according to Burkeman, are some of the ideas that Krugman holds about President Bush:
"The first three pages of Kissinger's book sent chills down my spine," Krugman writes of A World Restored, the 1957 tome by the man who would later become the unacceptable face of cynical realpolitik. Kissinger, using Napoleon as a case study - but also, Krugman believes, implicitly addressing the rise of fascism in the 1930s - describes what happens when a stable political system is confronted with a "revolutionary power": a radical group that rejects the legitimacy of the system itself.

This, Krugman believes, is precisely the situation in the US today (though he is at pains to point out that he isn't comparing Bush to Hitler in moral terms). The "revolutionary power", in Kissinger's theory, rejects fundamental elements of the system it seeks to control, arguing that they are wrong in principle. For the Bush administration, according to Krugman, that includes social security; the idea of pursuing foreign policy through international institutions; and perhaps even the basic notion that political legitimacy comes from democratic elections - as opposed to, say, from God.
Well, at least he adds the "perhaps".

Naturally, since this is the Guardian, there were no challenges to Krugman in the interview; Burkeman would not dream of asking Krugman whether, for example, in comparing President Bush to the mad Roman emperor, Caligula, he had not gone too far.  Nor, of course, does he challenge the former Enron consultant about his relationships with that company.
- 5:36 AM, 19 September 2003
Update:  For those who want a detailed critique of Krugman's political views, see this Pejman Yousefzadeh post.  You probably want to skip the tedious debate that follows in the comments.
- 9:21 AM, 20 September 2003   [link]


Andrew Gilligan, The BBC Reporter  whose stories led indirectly to the death of a source, David Kelly, and directly to a conflict between the BBC and the Blair government, has testified before the commission of inquiry.  Here are the good bits, taken from an article in the Guardian:
[Gilligan] was forced to retract key elements of his controversial Today programme report
. . .
[Gilligan] said he had made a "slip of the tongue"
. . .
He also conceded it was a mistake, in one of his broadcasts, to describe the weapons expert David Kelly as an "intelligence service source".  And he admitted failing to correct the Today presenter John Humphrys for making the same error.
. . .
Both [Gilligan and Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news] admitted it was a serious error of judgment for Gilligan to email members of the foreign affairs committee (FAC), suggesting questions they might ask of Dr Kelly and effectively outing him as the source for reports by the BBC Newsnight journalist Susan Watts.
. . .
Gilligan admitted errors in his 6.07am broadcast on Today on May 29,
But he is still working for the BBC, although we should not give up hope, since: "Gilligan's troubles are not over."  (For a point by point discussion of his errors, see this article from another leftwing newspaper, the Independent.)  
- 11:06 AM, 18 September 2003   [link]


Saddam Supporters In Iraq  have made a video tape of a supposed attack on American forces, which was "obtained" by Time magazine and given to ABC News.   Actually, Saddam supporters gave the tape to Michael Ware of Time magazine.  Now, why would Saddam supporters think that he would support their cause?  And was the tape passed on immediately to the American military?  The article doesn't say.  Should this lead you to treat anything from Michael Ware and Time magazine with even more skepticism?   Absolutely.
- 10:38 AM, 18 September 2003   [link]


Tentative Links:  That seems like the best summary—from what is now known publicly—for the relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda.  He seems to have been willing to work with them short term in some ways, notably the sheltering of a suspect in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.  (Author Laurie Mylroie has argued in her book, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge, that there are much stronger links between the two.  I have not read the book, but find her articles making the same argument interesting, even though her claims do not seem to have been accepted by most intelligence agencies.)  In time we will know more as we dig through the captured documents and question Saddam's men.  For now though, we know that Saddam openly supported terror and that he had some links with al Qaeda.  This is pretty much what President Bush and other administration spokesmen have been saying all along.  In the past few days, they have added that they do not know of evidence to link Saddam directly with the 9/11 attacks.  Although this was implicit in their earlier statements, they were right to make this clearer.
- 8:52 AM, 18 September 2003   [link]


"Prescient":  That's what Andrew Sullivan called my original post on the looting of the Baghdad museums.  Here's what I said then:
Let me go over these uncertainties in order.  The Antiquities museum had been closed for some time, so we do not know when the thefts occurred.  We do not know who all the culprits were, though most think they included some insiders—including, possibly, some of those now complaining about American inaction.  We do not know how big the losses are; there has been no inventory, and there will not be one for some time.  Even then, many of the losses may prove to be replaceable.  Mass production has been used for millennia; many of the objects that we admire in museums were produced in very large numbers, sometimes even in what we would call factories.  Even the losses at the library are unknown.  The fire there may have been set after the most valuable pieces were stolen.  We do not know whether most of the stolen objects can be retrieved.  My guess is that most will be, though it might take a generation for some of them.  If you follow the art news at all, you will know that some pieces of art stolen during World War II are still being returned to their rightful owners.  In more than one case, a collector's heirs felt obliged to return stolen artworks after the collector's death.

What we do know is this:  Iraqi officials, from Saddam's regime, have charged that there was extensive looting of the institutions they were obliged to protect.   Credulous reporters, many from anti-American British newspapers, have spread this story over the entire world without much effort to check on the facts.  I don't think it is intellectually responsible to go farther in our conclusions than those two points, until more facts are available.
And here is what Matthew Bogdanos, the American officer in charge of the investigation, said in a briefing.  So far, everything I predicted has come true.  Particularly interesting is his conclusion that some of the thieves were museum personnel:
Thus, the evidence suggests three dynamics at work [in the theft].  In the public galleries, the thieves appear to have been professionals, stealing the more valuable items, bypassing copies and less valuable items.  In the storage rooms on the first and second floors, the pattern [suggests] indiscriminate and random looters.  In the basement, however, it is simply inconceivable that this area was found, breached and entered or that the keys were found by anyone who did not have an intimate insider's knowledge of the museum.
(Of course those "professionals" who stole from the main gallery also could have been museum personnel.)

Some on the right went too far when the original story began to fall apart, saying that fewer than 50 artifacts had been stolen.  That is true only if you count just the losses from the main gallery.  Thousands were stolen, but most of those stolen were not of great value or irreplaceable.  Thousands have already been recovered, and we can expect that many more will be.

Dozens of journalists passed on the original false stories without any effort to check them.  If the Seattle papers are typical, thousands of people sent letters to the editors repeating these claims and blaming President Bush for the losses.  Very few of the journalists or letter writers have bothered to apologize or correct their errors.
- 7:58 AM, 18 September 2003   [link]


Edwards And Clark:  There are now, officially, two more Democratic candidates for president, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and retired general Wesley Clarke.  In this post, I explained why Edwards is unqualified, having no "relevant education, experience, or accomplishments".  Unlike Edwards, Clark does have relevant education, at West Point, and some executive experience as a military commander.  He is also, according to all accounts, a brilliant man.  Unfortunately, his career has led many to question his character, as you can see in this Washington Post article.  
One retired four-star general, who knows Clark well and represents a sentiment expressed by a number of his peers, said he fully understood Clark's ultimate clash with Cohen, Shelton and, particularly, the leadership of the Army.

"The guy is brilliant," said the general, who agreed to speak candidly about Clark only if his name were not used.  "He's very articulate, he's extremely charming, he has the best strategic sense of anybody I have ever met.  But the simple fact is, a lot of people just don't trust his ability as a commander."

While his strategic analysis is "almost infallible," his command solutions tended to be problematic, even "goofy," the general said, "and he pushed them even when they weren't going to work."

The general said Clark "needs to win, right down to the core of his fiber," which tends to make him "highly manipulative."

"There are an awful lot of people," added another retired four-star, who also requested anonymity, "who believe Wes will tell anybody what they want to hear and tell somebody the exact opposite five minutes later.  The people who have worked closely with him are the least complimentary, because he can be very abrasive, very domineering.  And part of what you saw when he was relieved of command was all of the broken glass and broken china within the European alliance and the [U.S.] European Command."
The most famous broken glass is, of course, his command to British General Michael Jackson, during the Kosovo occupation, to directly confront some Russian troops.   General Jackson refused, saying that he didn't want to start World War III, a good idea, if I may say so.  I have wondered about Clark's judgment ever since.

I am not yet ready to conclude that General Clark, like Senator Edwards, is manifestly unqualified, but I do think there are legitimate reasons to worry about his character.
- 10:24 AM, 17 September 2003
Update:  This George Will column gives an example of Clark's character problem; in less than three months, Clark changed his story three times on whether the White House had asked him to connect Iraq to the 9/11 attack.   He now more or less admits that his first statement, a terrible slur, was not true.  As far as I know, he has not apologized to the White House for the slur.
- 3:59 PM, 17 September 2003   [link]


Edwards And Clark:  There are now, officially, two more Democratic candidates for president, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and retired general Wesley Clarke.  In this post, I explained why Edwards is unqualified, having no "relevant education, experience, or accomplishments".  Unlike Edwards, Clark does have relevant education, at West Point, and some executive experience as a military commander.  He is also, according to all accounts, a brilliant man.  Unfortunately, his career has led many to question his character, as you can see in this Washington Post article.  
One retired four-star general, who knows Clark well and represents a sentiment expressed by a number of his peers, said he fully understood Clark's ultimate clash with Cohen, Shelton and, particularly, the leadership of the Army.

"The guy is brilliant," said the general, who agreed to speak candidly about Clark only if his name were not used.  "He's very articulate, he's extremely charming, he has the best strategic sense of anybody I have ever met.  But the simple fact is, a lot of people just don't trust his ability" as a commander.

While his strategic analysis is "almost infallible," his command solutions tended to be problematic, even "goofy," the general said, "and he pushed them even when they weren't going to work."

The general said Clark "needs to win, right down to the core of his fiber," which tends to make him "highly manipulative."

"There are an awful lot of people," added another retired four-star, who also requested anonymity, "who believe Wes will tell anybody what they want to hear and tell somebody the exact opposite five minutes later.  The people who have worked closely with him are the least complimentary, because he can be very abrasive, very domineering.  And part of what you saw when he was relieved of command was all of the broken glass and broken china within the European alliance and the [U.S.] European Command."
The most famous broken glass is, of course, his command to British General Michael Jackson, during the Kosovo occupation, to directly confront some Russian troops.   General Jackson refused, saying that he didn't want to start World War III, a good idea, if I may say so.  I have wondered about Clark's judgment ever since.

I am not yet ready to conclude that General Clark, like Senator Edwards, is manifestly unqualified, but I do think there are legitimate reasons to worry about his character.
- 10:24 AM, 17 September 2003   [link]


Oprah Is Pro-War?  That's what a Swedish TV watchdog has decided.  They based their conclusion on the longer time given to the arguments favoring the liberation of Iraq in a March program.  Somehow I doubt that the news programs in Sweden gave both sides equal time, but I could be wrong.
- 9:08 AM, 17 September 2003   [link]


Judge Shopping?  Yesterday, while I was half listening to the Hugh Hewitt talk show, I heard a Republican official charge that the panel that postponed the California recall election was rigged, that someone on the inside had made it possible for the case to be heard by three of the most partisan and farthest left judges on the 9th Circuit Court.  (Since I was only half listening, I missed the man's name, for which I apologize.)  This is a very serious charge, of course, and it leaves me with some questions, which I hope someone who knows more about the circuit court can answer.   First, would this be possible, and, if so, how could it be done?  Second, would it require cooperation between someone on the inside and someone on the plaintiff's legal team, or could it be done entirely from the inside?  Finally, are these judges so extreme that their choice is suspicious just on statistical grounds?
- 5:51 PM, 16 September 2003   [link]


Worth Reading:  Doug Saunders' account of the difficulties in the occupation of Germany after World War II.  Some of what he has to say is familiar:
Six months before, the world had cheered as the statues of the dictator came crashing down.  The Americans had seemed heroic. But now things were going very badly.  The occupation was chaotic, the American soldiers were hated and they were facing threats from the surviving supporters of the dictator, whose whereabouts were uncertain.
. . .
Six months after V-E Day, The New York Times reported that Germany was awash in "unrest and lawlessness."  More than a million "displaced persons" roamed the country, many of them subsisting on criminal activities.  The heavy-handed presence of American soldiers was deeply resented by many Germans, especially young men, who had come to believe that the G.I.s were stealing their women.
And some of it may not be.   It took years for us to even begin the work of reconstruction in Germany.  The Marshall Plan was not even passed until 1947, two years after the end of the war, and the Germans did not receive any money from it until 1949.  Our planning this time has been far better.
- 5:31 PM, 16 September 2003   [link]


In This   post, I compared the picture of Iraq from two left wing columnists, James Carroll of the Boston Globe and Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, to the picture from Assyrian Christian minister Ken Joseph.  Reverend Joseph, who knows far more about Iraq than the two columnists, gave a far more positive picture than they did.  Today Caroll is back with another doom and gloom picture of Iraq.  He thinks that the accidental killing of 10 Iraqi policemen was a "catastrophe" and that "every US soldier in Iraq has been taken hostage" by a "small clique of Bush administration officials".

Today the Seattle Times published an article on Marine Lance Corporal Aaron Job, who has just returned from Iraq.  He appears to have been in a different country than the one described by Carroll.  In Job's Iraq, most of the Iraqis welcomed the Marines.
Job, of Issaquah, doesn't doubt that anti-American sentiment is strong in Baghdad, but in towns south and west of the capital, where he spent most of his time after Saddam Hussein's fall, Iraqis were welcoming, warm and generous.

"They'll invite you into their homes and they'll give you anything. ... They would give us stuff off their trees, dates, limes ... and they love to make you tea."

Some residents would offer works of art or furnishings.  Job said polite enlisted men, such as himself, declined by tugging on their collars, where officers carry their insignia.   "They knew that meant it was something the officers didn't want us to do."
Another way to put this is that Job generally accepts the news accounts—except where his personal experience conflicts with them.  And he is specifically critical of CNN.

Carroll sees the troops there as "hostages", but that isn't what Job thinks.
"If America needs me to go to war, I would go at the drop of a hat," he said. "But I'm not anxious to go."
Thank you for your service, Corporal Job.
- 5:10 PM, 16 September 2003   [link]


Seattle's Proposed Tax On Lattes  has drawn coverage from all over the world, perhaps because this is an off-off-off year election.  (How so?   Off year elections are held two years after presidential elections.  Two states, New Jersey and Virginia, elect governors one year after presidential elections, so we might call those off-off year elections.  This election, three years after a presidential election has no scheduled national or state contests, so it would be held on an off-off-off year.)  The tax is, of course, a silly idea, expensive to collect and a significant burden on small businesses.  (Some will have to purchase new cash registers so they can track lattes separately from drip coffees.)  It is for a dubious purpose, subsidizing day care, as evidence accumulates that day care is not the best alternative for children.   The subsidy is not limited to the poor, but will go to the well off, too.  The tax is regressive, like most sales taxes, even though it is imposed on what many think of as a luxury drink.  Despite all this, it may well pass, for reasons I can best explain with a variation on an old joke.  (Seattle voters rejected it, probably just to make me rewrite the joke.)

Old version:  A congressman is campaigning for re-election and visits farmer Smith, who has supported him in the past, but is now said to be wavering.  The congressman begins to recite all that he has done for Smith.  "Didn't I get your mortgage renegotiated and save your farm?"

"Yes, you did", replies Smith.

"Didn't I give your son an appointment to West Point?"

"Yes, and he is doing very well there."

"Didn't I find your job for your daughter in Washington?"

"Yes, you did, and she is very happy there."

This goes on for a while, and finally the congressman asks, exasperatedly, "So why aren't you supporting me this year?"

Smith replies with his own question: "Well, what have you done for me lately?"

Seattle Version:  A city councilperson is campaigning for re-election and visits social worker Smith, who has supported him in the past, but is now said to be wavering.   The councilperson begins to recite all that he has done for Smith.  "Didn't I impose a tax on hotels and rental cars for the new stadium?"

"Yes, you did", replies Smith.

"Didn't I help pass a tax for the new library building with the innovative architecture"

"Yes, and it's very pretty, though I can't find any books there."

"Didn't I help pass a tax on automobiles for a new monorail?"

"Yes, you did, and it is only a little over budget already."

This goes on for a while, and finally the councilperson asks, exasperatedly, "So why aren't you supporting me this year?"

Smith replies with her own question: "Well, how have you taxed me lately?"

You may chuckle more if, like me, you don't live in Seattle.
- 9:59 AM, 16 September 2003
Update:  Mean Seattle voters forced a revision of the joke.
- 5:11 PM, 22 September 2003   [link]


Christine Amanpour  may be one of the correspondents that Burns was criticizing.  In an interview, she claimed that her own network, CNN, which has confessed to slanting the news on Iraq to please Saddam, was actually intimidated by Fox news and the Bush administration.  If we were to believe her—and no one should—this would be a terrible confession.  She claimed she was working for a news organization that could be intimidated by a competitor, though she didn't explain just how that might have happened.  (For a chuckle, see this Letterman style list of the top ten ways Fox could have intimidated CNN.)  Her managers were not pleased, as you can see here.

Although what she said was nonsense, it is revealing in its own way.  Here's how I interpret it.  Correspondents like Amanpour, who have long controlled the news coming from certain areas, are losing that control and don't like it.  Unable to slant the news without contradiction from other news organizations or non-journalists in blogosphere and elsewhere, they resort to wild attacks on their ideological opponents.   Even after this faux pas, will CNN investigate Amanpour's reporting?  I doubt it.
- 8:27 AM, 16 September 2003   [link]


More Terrible Than He Had Thought:  That's what New York Times reporter John Burns says about Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought.   There is such a thing as absolute evil.  I think people just simply didn't recognize it.   They rationalized it away.
Although he does not use the same phrase, it is fair to say that Burns found much of the reporting from Iraq worse than he expected.
There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives.  This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry.  By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars.  Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium.  They never mentioned the function of minders.  Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others.  He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state.  He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance.  CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in The New York Times missed that point completely.  The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us.  Of course we do.  But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq.  So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq?  It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror.  Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered.
(Here's the Jordan op-ed if you have forgotten it.)  Burns thinks there is "corruption" in the news business, a conclusion that is impossible to avoid.  And is there any reason to think that the dishonest reporters he observed have changed their ways?  I don't think so.  Have you heard of any being fired for their dishonest coverage?  I haven't.  (A few people working for news organizations lost jobs because they were caught smuggling.)  Burns' account, excerpted from an oral history, gives enough clues so that news organizations could identify some of the dishonest in their ranks.  Don't count on them doing so.
- 7:10 AM, 16 September 2003   [link]