December 2003, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Worth Reading:  From the very beginning, efforts to fight AIDS have been hobbled by political considerations.  Randy Shilts, who himself died of AIDS, described vividly how difficult it was to close or regulate the bath houses in San Francisco, in his book, And the Band Played On.   Often the hobbles come from an overdone emphasis on privacy.  Even now, as I understand it, physicians are not under any obligation to tell the sexual partners of a person with AIDS about their risk.  Somewhat similar considerations made it difficult for years to stop the transmission of AIDS from mothers to their babies at birth.

One of the persistent controversies has been over how big a danger AIDS is to the heterosexual, non IV-drug-using population.  Michael Fumento suffered severe damage to his career and saw his book, The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, almost suppressed because his argument, that few were likely to acquire the disease through heterosexual contact, was politically incorrect.  The book was so toxic for a time that, even though it had sold well, it could not be purchased in a bookstore anywhere in the states of Washington and Oregon.  (All the evidence that I have seen since has supported Fumento's argument, at least in the United States.  For example, researchers found that, even after years of exposure, most wives of infected hemophiliacs did not get AIDS.)

That same argument has been transferred to Africa.  The apparently high levels of AIDS in many African countries has been taken by some to show that AIDS was a danger to the general population, and by others to show that there were factors in Africa that made the course of the epidemic different there.  Still others have argued that the numbers are wrong, that AIDS is not nearly as prevalent as claimed.  South African Rian Malan makes an impressive argument for that point of view.  He shows, for example, that the populations of affected countries have been increasing, not decreasing.
Really?  Botswana has just concluded a census that shows population growing at about 2.7 per cent a year, in spite of what is usually described as the worst Aids problem on the planet.   Total population has risen to 1.7 million in just a decade.  If anything, Botswana is experiencing a minor population explosion.

There is similar bad news for the doomsayers in Tanzania's new census, which shows population growing at 2.9 per cent a year.  Professional pessimists will be particularly discomforted by developments in the swamplands west of Lake Victoria, where HIV first emerged, and where the depopulated villages of popular mythology are supposedly located.  Here, in the district of Kagera, population grew at 2.7 per cent a year before 1988, only to accelerate to 3.1 per cent even as the Aids epidemic was supposedly peaking.  Uganda's latest census tells a broadly similar story, as does South Africa's.
Malan has more statistical evidence, and a strong critique of the computer models that have been used to estimate the size of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  Now one might ask, as many do, including Malan's wife (!), why one should worry about the numbers when the epidemic is indeed so terrible.  The answer is simple.  As in a war, choosing the best strategy depends on accurate estimates of the enemy.  I am no expert on this subject, but Malan persuades me that our task, though horribly difficult, may not be quite as bad as commonly believed.
- 10:33 AM, 16 December 2003   [link]

Was Saddam Working On Nukes?  That's the claim made by one member of the Iraqi governing council.
Saddam Hussein had a team of scientists working on a nuclear weapons program, according to Yonadam Kanna, the Assyrian Chaldean (Christian) representative of the temporary Iraqi government.

"One nuclear engineer out of the team of 14 on this project is now on our side," he said Monday. "We know they were working on an nuclear weapon."
That's quite a lead for David Kay and his team, I would say.
- 8:56 AM, 16 December 2003   [link]

Why We Have To Keep The Prisoners At Guantanamo Indefinitely:   For some time, I have argued that we had little choice but to keep most of the prisoners at Guantanamo until the end of war, which will not come in my lifetime and may not come in theirs.  This example of a prisoner who was released shows why.
A Taliban commander held at the US military base in Guantanamo and released by US authorities in July is now back in Afghanistan in charge of attacks against US forces there, according to a report released Sunday.
Keeping them for years is not a great alternative, but I don't see a better one.  Of course, those who reform can be released, but so far there don't seem to be many that do.
- 7:11 AM, 16 December 2003   [link]

Spider Holes:  Saddam Hussein was found in one, but where did the name come from?  William Safire passes on this guess:
This is Army lingo from the Vietnam era.  The Vietcong guerrillas dug "Cu Chi tunnels" often connected to what the G.I.'s called "spider holes"—space dug deep enough for the placement of a clay pot large enough to hold a crouching man, covered by a wooden plank and concealed with leaves.   When an American patrol passed, the Vietcong would spring out, shooting.  But the hole had its dangers; if the pot broke or cracked, the guerrilla could be attacked by poisonous spiders or snakes.  Hence, "spider hole."
That's a plausible guess, but I am fairly certain that Safire is wrong on the origins.  This Washington Post article gives a more likely explanation of the origin of the phrase:
Of course, "spider hole" was not concocted to describe Hussein's hideout.  According to two historians, the term goes back at least to World War II, when it was used by Marines and Army troops fighting in the Pacific.

"It was very common for Japanese troops to dig very small, one-man concealed foxholes," says William L. Priest, who wrote "Swear Like a Trooper: A Dictionary of Military Terms and Phrases."  The man in the spider hole would wait for an enemy soldier to pass by and then would pop up, often shooting the soldier in the back.
"Spider holes" may have been used by the Japanese for suicide missions, but most of the time the soldier in them is expected to survive.  Their use imposes drastic changes on the tactics of the other side, as you can easily imagine.

This site has descriptions and pictures of the trapdoor spiders that invented the spider holes.
- 6:31 AM, 16 December 2003   [link]

More McDermottism:  In this October post, I noted that Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott is a demagogue who uses the same methods as the late, unlamented Senator Joe McCarthy.   Today the Congressman tossed off this smear on the Dave Ross show.
In an interview Monday with Seattle's KIRO-AM Radio, McDermott said the U.S. military could have found the former Iraqi dictator "a long time ago if they wanted."

Asked by host Dave Ross if he thought the weekend capture was timed to help Bush, McDermott chuckled and said, "Yeah, oh yeah."
Does McDermott have any evidence for this disgusting smear, this example of McDermottism?   Of course not.

Here's the interview if you want to listen for yourself.  If you do, you will find that, like Joe McCarthy, Jim McDermott is not constrained by logic.  The United States, he claimed, went into Iraq "unilaterally", and we are now "isolated".  As evidence for that, McDermott listed some of the losses our allies have taken in Iraq.  What can one say to someone who makes an argument like that?  That they need to see a psychiatrist?  But McDermott is a psychiatrist.
- 6:00 PM, 15 December 2003
More:  You should not think that McDermott's views are unusual in Seattle.  I listened to the talk show that follows Ross's on KIRO and heard a whole series of people call in with similar conspiracy theories.  This morning, the Seattle PI put up a poll asking people to vote on whether they believed Saddam or Bush on the WMDs.   Until a conservative talk program mentioned the poll, Saddam was leading by about 60-40.   Most Democratic officials have been trying to distance themselves from McDermott's latest smear, so not all the news is bad.
- 9:02 AM, 16 December 2003   [link]

China Helped Saddam:  The Telegraph's sensational story on the memo linking Saddam to the 9/11 attack and the capture of Saddam overshadowed another important Telegraph story.
Chinese military advisers played a key role in helping Saddam's air defences withstand coalition air strikes in the months preceding Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Iraqi colonel who last week revealed details of Saddam's programme of weapons of mass destruction.
Is it true?  Again, I don't know.  I am certain, however, that other nations, including some officially allied to us, helped Saddam before and during the war.  And, I think in time we will know for certain about much of this undercover support for Saddam.
- 5:25 PM, 15 December 2003   [link]

Politicians And Parasites:  Saddam Hussein's looting of his own country has thousands of years of precedents.  In fact, the looting began with the beginning of civilization in Mesopotamia.

About ten to twelve thousand years ago, mankind began the revolutionary shift from hunting and gathering to farming.  Over the millennia, we learned to raise wheat and barley, and to keep cattle, goats, and sheep.  In time, these developments allowed some people in the Middle East to raise enough food so that that there was a consistent surplus.  This surplus made civilization possible.  Even now, nearly all that we have rests on the ability of our farmers to grow more than they need for their own use.

This surplus created an opportunity for two kinds of parasites, microparasites and macroparasites.  Microparasites flourished because people began to have stable living places and to gather in large numbers.  Macroparasites flourished for the same reasons.

When people live in small hunting and gathering bands, they avoid most diseases because there are not enough of them to keep a transmission chain going.  Measles, for example, requires a population of about a half million to keep it going.  Parasites from lice to liver flukes have similar problems; if there is not a dense and continuing human population, they may die out.  (There are exceptions, of course, such as sleeping sickness.   The trypanosome that causes it lives in many antelope species, without causing them any harm, but is deadly to humans and other predators on antelopes.)  The larger, stable population is one requirement for parasites; the food surplus is another.  If a group of humans has no surplus of food, any losses to parasites will cause that population to die out.  You can't rob a man who is broke.

The same considerations apply to macroparasites, men who live off the labor of other men.   Unless a group has a surplus of food, there is no point in conquering them.  Without that surplus, they can not consistently supply tribute or taxes.  And it is far easier to demand tribute from farmers than from a hunting band that has no fixed place to live.

Over time, as you probably know, most microparasites tend to become less harmful to their hosts.   The microparasites will usually benefit if the population that supports them grows and prospers.   The trypanosome—in the antelope—is an example.  It does not hurt the antelope; in fact, it provides some protection against predators.  The same is often true of empires.  Over time, the conquerors may realize that they are better off if they take care of the conquered.  In the Middle East, the Assyrian empire was succeeded by the Persian empire partly because the Persians were not so unremittingly cruel to their subjects.   To continue the biological metaphor, the best long term strategy for an empire is to become symbiotic with its subjects.

That may be the best long term strategy, but thugs commonly have short time horizons.  Saddam is a recent and extreme example, but any student of history can supply you with hundreds more who refused to move from being parasites to symbiotes.  Democracies are one way to make that transition, but not the only one.

(I learned this way of thinking about history from William McNeill's Plagues and Peoples, the most brilliant historical study I have ever read.)
- 4:02 PM, 15 December 2003   [link]

What Really Happened To Jessica Lynch?  Shortly after she was captured, a dramatic story, with anonymous sources, appeared.  Lynch, according to the story, had fought valiantly against odds.  After her rescue, we learned that she had not even gotten off a shot.  Many on the left declared that the Bush administration had invented the whole story for public relations purposes.  In fact, it was simply an intelligence mistake of the kind common in war, as David Lipsky explains.
(Though [author Rick] Bragg does not say so, the early error had a simple explanation.   According to later news reports, the Army was intercepting Iraqi radio chatter, and overheard that a yellow-haired soldier from Lynch's unit had indeed fought bravely and fallen; that soldier turned out to be a sergeant named Donald Walters.  Interpreters confused the Arabic pronouns for "he" and "she" and thought it was Lynch.)
Perhaps now Sergeant Walters will get some of the credit he deserves for his bravery.

Judging by Lipsky's review, Jessica Lynch is a class act, far more honest than the media figures who swarmed around her.
- 12:34 PM, 15 December 2003   [link]

Worth Reading:  Joe Klein's discussion of the changes in the Democratic party.  He exaggerates the changes, in my opinion, but he also captures some of the problems the Democrats have, especially the Deaniacs.
The New-News borrow from all three factions [of the Democratic party], but they most resemble the radical liberals.  They are defined by their opposition to the war.  They are militant on most civil rights and civil-liberties issues, especially support for gay rights and opposition to the Patriot Act.  They are overwhelmingly secular.  Indeed, they seem to have replaced religion with cybercommunity; the monthly Meetup is their church.  One of the strangest but most telling passages in Dean's recent stump speeches comes when he indulges in a romantic vision of 1968--a terrible year when America seemed to be falling apart but a time he remembers fondly as a moment of misty social communion.  That, he says, is the America he seeks to re-create.
This should horrify anyone who knows what happened in 1968, either from memory or just a little study of history.  It was a year of race riots, violent protests at the Democratic convention and elsewhere, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the rise of George Wallace.  If that is what Dean wants to re-create, he's nuts.  If his followers believe that 1968 was a wonderful year, they are, at best, misinformed.

I take some solace in Klein's earlier conclusion, which I have also reached.
Dean's anger is tactical, not visceral. His brash, peremptory manner has camouflaged the fact that he is by far the best politician among the 2004 Democrats—which is one reason Republicans should postpone the champagne if Dean wins the nomination.  The doctor diagnosed the Democratic electorate before any of his opponents did, and he shaped his candidacy to fit the mood,which was, in a word, ballistic.
In other words, Dean is conning the Democratic activists, giving them what they want to hear.   That isn't something that bothers Klein who is, as you may know, a long time fan of Bill Clinton.  But it should bother anyone who does not want to see our politics further corrupted.

Why do I take some solace in thinking that Dean is conning the activists?  Because, though I would rather not be limited to that choice, I prefer a liar to a fool, as a leader.
- 9:31 AM, 15 December 2003   [link]

That Was Quick:  Five days ago, I suggested in this post that excluding France, and countries with similar Iraq policies, from being prime contractors for the American aid projects in Iraq might help James Baker negotiate reductions in the debt that Saddam had piled up.  Today, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that France is willing to forgive some Iraqi debts.   And, he is promising some French aid projects for Iraq, though they do not sound very extensive.   (The article does not say whether American, British, and other coalition nations will be able to bid on those projects.)

It is probably just my imagination, but I seem to remember seeing editorials saying that the reverse would happen, that excluding France and the others from prime contracts would make it more difficult to negotiate these reductions.  Those who prefer to think I imagined those editorials will not want to look at this editorial from the Seattle PI, or this one from the New York Times.
- 8:37 AM, 15 December 2003   [link]

Saddam Hussein Sent Millions Into Exile , as dictators almost always do.  It was pure pleasure seeing the exiles celebrate in Everett, Washington, Dearborn, Michigan, Shepparton, Australia, and elsewhere around the world.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to start the crass discussions of the political effects here in the United States.  For now, let the Iraqis celebrate, without those distractions.
- 8:03 AM, 15 December 2003   [link]

Saddam And 9/11?  The Telegraph has documentary evidence of a link between Saddam and Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attack.
Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
If true, and we should be cautious about a claim based on a single document, this would explain Abu Nidal's convenient "suicide".  You may recall that Saddam's regime claimed that Nidal committed suicide—after he was found with many gun shot wounds.

And this claim, in the same memo, actually makes me a little more suspicious.
The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.
Even though an Iraqi official vouches for the document.
Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.
Here's the Telegraph's analysis of the document.  We'll just have to wait for to see if US and British intelligence can confirm this, or prove it false.
- 8:27 AM, 14 December 2003   [link]

"We Got Him!"  Congratulations to the American forces who captured Saddam Hussein.   This is a great day for the world, for the coalition forces, and most of all for the Iraqi people.  I just heard that December 13 may become a national holiday.

Not everyone was celebrating.  I was up early and heard the news on the BBC.   Judging by the tone, no one there was planning to break out the champagne after work.   One correspondent seemed positively unhappy that Saddam had not fought to the death or committed suicide.  The Arab propaganda network, al Jazeera, has a similar tone in its story, and they use much the same experts as the BBC (and the Guardian) would for their reactions to the story.

The capture should encourage some of his supporters to give up, and many of those fearful of his return to talk to the coalition forces and the new Iraqi government.

- 5:23 AM, 14 December 2003   [link]

Getting The Facts Wrong:  Two current stories show how hard it is to get the basic facts from news organizations, especially from television news organizations.

First, Halliburton's "overcharges".  The short version of the story is that Dick Cheney's old company is cheating the American taxpayers by profiteering on gas in Iraq.  You can find that charge in this Paul Krugman column, and in this Dana Milbank article.   If you watch television news, I'm sure you have heard this story.  Even President Bush accepts that it might be true.

But is it?  This Reuters article gives Halliburton's defense, which I find persuasive.  The Pentagon told Halliburton to buy the gasoline in Kuwait and set the standards for the Kuwaiti bidders.  Only one firm met those standards; not surprisingly, its bid was very high.  Halliburton paid the price, but began immediately to look for other sources of supply.  Whose fault was this?   You can blame the Kuwaiti firm for ripping off the American taxpayer, or the Pentagon for setting rules so rigid that they excluded all but one competitor from bidding, but you can not fault Halliburton for following the Pentagon's rules.

Second, you have no doubt heard that the Bush administration has excluded France, Germany, and Russia from contracts to rebuild Iraq.  And you have also heard that this is unprecedented, perhaps even as Chancellor Schröder suggested, against "international law".  In fact, what the Bush administration did was exclude companies from these countries from being the prime contractors for projects funded by United States aid.   They are not excluded from being subcontractors, nor are they excluded from bidding on the contracts funded by international aid.  There is nothing unusual about this; as this opinion piece from a German publication reminds us, nations commonly tie aid to purchases from the country giving the aid.
When Europeans hand out development aid, they usually require the recipient to do his shopping with them.  "Old Europe" also sulked less than a year ago when the "new Europeans" in Warsaw used EU funds to buy U.S. planes.
In this dispute, as in others, the Bush administration has committed the diplomatic sin of telling the truth.  David Brooks, the new token conservative at the New York Times, has it exactly right when he says, tongue in cheek:
I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs.
I disagree with Brooks' suggested solution.  He thinks the Bush administration should bring in Al Gore to help with the back stabbing.  There is a far more successful back stabber available, a man who betrayed his wife, his friends, and his party, and got away with it—Bill Clinton.

These are not difficult stories to get right; that so few in the media bothered to do so shows how lazy, and perhaps biased, most journalists are.
- 7:46 AM, 13 December 2003   [link]

How Big A Drag Is The European Union?  In this post, I noted that our economy was hurt by slow growth in Europe.  How slow?  In the Wednesday Wall Street Journal, I found a chart giving the quarterly numbers for growth in the "euro-zone", the nations that have adopted the euro as their currency.  Since 1999, the highest quarterly growth was 1.2 percent and the total growth, if my eyeball estimates are right, has been about 8.5 percent.   A developed economy should be able to grow at about 3 percent a year, in most circumstances, so the euro zone has grown about 7 percent less than one would expect since the beginning of 1999.  That's quite a drag.

Have these results led any of the euro supporters to change their minds?  Very few, from what I can tell.  This may be another example of the power of theories that I discussed two posts down.  And, I should add that the trend in the data is even worse news for the supporters of the euro.  Growth was mediocre in 1999 and 2000, but it was dismal in the three following years.

Bad as it was, it would have been worse without the US expansion.  As the Journal notes, their latest growth is all from exports.
The euro zone is the world's second largest economy after the U.S,  But unlike the the U.S.'s recent stellar growth, third quarter expansion was a poor-to-piddling annualized 1.5 %.   Within that, domestic demand fell 2.4 %—the steepest decline since 1993 and the sixth-worst quarterly performance in 30 years.  The only thing that kept the region from sinking back into recession was exports, which expanded by an annualized 8.8%.
- 9:22 AM, 12 December 2003
Correction:  I managed to mix up the "annualized rate" with the actual increase, as an alert emailer reminded me.  I have rewritten the post to correct the error.  My apologies.
- 10:46 AM, 13 December 2003   [link]

For A Realistic  picture of our progress in Iraq, see this Austin Bay column, which gives grades for different aspects of our efforts there.
- 8:47 AM, 12 December 2003   [link]

Do The Media Want Us To Lose?  Some do, according to Noah Oppenheim, writing in this Weekly Standard article.   (Now available only to subscribers.)  It is an easy charge to believe, especially in the last few months.  There is far more coverage of discouraging stories than of encouraging stories.  Events like President Bush's trip to Baghdad on Thanksgiving draw furious (and often silly) attacks.  Important positive stories, like the mass demonstration against Saddam in Baghdad, get little coverage.

I am not a big fan of the media, as you know, but I think that for most in the "mainstream" media, the charge is false.  Instead, I see two things producing the slanted coverage, their underlying beliefs, especially about Vietnam, and next year's election.

After Vietnam, many in the media adopted a theory about American military power that emphasized its uselessness.  They genuinely thought, not that we had withdrawn, but that we had been defeated, and that similar defeats were likely in almost every military operation.  Men and women who had thought, after World War II, that the American military could do anything, now think that it could do almost nothing.  Some of the same people who had cheered Kennedy's reckless lines in his 1961 inaugural speech about bearing any burden and paying any price, now saw quagmires everywhere.  You saw this theory in the remarkably foolish predictions before the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq.  You are seeing it again in the over estimates of the strength of Saddam's remaining forces.

Most people—and I don't exclude myself—find it difficult to give up long held theories.  There is a quip, common among scientists, that new theories triumph only when those who hold the old theories die.  For journalists to realize that the lessons they drew from Vietnam do not apply to Afghanistan and Iraq (and perhaps not even to Vietnam) is hard.  They find it far easier, as most of us do at least occasionally, to fit the facts to their theories, or at least to pay attention only to those facts that fit.  Is there a cure for this, short of waiting for a new generation of journalists?  I fear not.

Most in the media are partisan Democrats, as well as believers in universal quagmires.   For partisans out of power, good news for the nation never brings pure joy, since the good news makes it less likely that incumbents can be replaced.  I am sure that the Democratic candidates want the economic recovery to continue.  I am also sure that, in their hearts, they share St. Augustine's qualifier.  At one time, Augustine prayed for chastity, but added "not yet".  Howard Dean and company want the economy to recover, but not yet.

And that, I think, is the same attitude most in the media bring to the conflict in Iraq.   Few defend the Saddam regime.  They want its remnants defeated, but not yet.  This is not an admirable attitude, but it is far from a desire for an outright defeat.

If, by some chance, Howard Dean were elected president next year, then by early 2005 you would be seeing stories on the success of his policies in Iraq.  Or at least a decline in negative stories.  Novelist Mark Helprin predicted in 1992 that, if Clinton was elected, there would be far fewer stories on the homeless.  He was right, though the number of the homeless did not decrease notably.

There's a Seattle example, leftist talk show host Dave Ross, who illustrates both factors perfectly.  He knows little about US military history and brings quagmires to every discussion.  He honestly seems to think that the minor (by historical standards) attacks by Baathist remnants are a serious military problem.  And, though I would not say that he is pleased by our losses, he is quite open in his hope that they drive President Bush from office.  Those may not be commendable attitudes, but they are not the same as wanting the US to lose.

I don't deny that there are at least a few in the media that desire a US loss.  Far more, I think, are trapped by their theory about Vietnam into an unwarranted pessimism.  And, I think, the majority would be happy if success in Iraq came after Bush had been driven from office.  They are partisans with a bad theory, not traitors.
- 8:19 AM, 12 December 2003   [link]

Prostitution Is Illegal In The Seattle Area:  Who knew?   I'm not surprised that there is a law on the books against it; many places have laws that are almost never enforced.  Gary Ridgeway, the Green River killer, was able to find prostitutes to kill for years without any difficulty.  One of Seattle's alternative newspapers, the Seattle Weekly, has two full pages of advertisements from people offering phone sex and prostitution.  And the Weekly is not the only publication that accepts such ads.

From time to time, you even see small articles about child prostitution in this area.   About six years ago, for example, there was an Associated Press story about the boys, some under the age of consent, hanging around gay nightclubs looking for "dates".  (The Seattle newspapers had an interesting reaction to the story.  They were slow to pick it up and then emphasized only the AIDS worry that had prompted it.  No one at the newspapers seemed much interested in the fact that this was not the best way for the boys to grow up, or even that statutory rape was being committed regularly.)  But, even child prostitution stories don't get much attention from the media or the authorities in this area.  Complaints from neighbors do, at least in wealthier areas.

So, I was startled to hear about, and then see, this front page story about an arrest in a "major King County prostitution ring".  But then I saw what led to the arrest.  The former boyfriend of the woman accused of running the ring had lost his dog, Joker, to her when they broke up.  He had enough solid information so that the King County sheriff's office almost had to make arrests.  I'm not sure this story has a moral, but if it does, it must be this: Prostitution is acceptable here, but not stealing a man's dog.
- 12:53 PM, 11 December 2003   [link]

Gore And Lieberman:  There has been enormous wave of speculation about why Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean.  Most explanations are cynical; Gore is doing it to attack the Clintons, or to position himself for the 2008 race.  I am not as sure about his motivations as many columnists, but I do find some clues in the 2000 election.

In the 2000 election, Gore's best move was to name Joe Lieberman as his running mate.   Lieberman's reputation as a defender of standards, mostly deserved, helped lessen the damage that Clinton had done in his affair with Monica Lewinsky.  Lieberman served Gore loyally, even dropping many of his own long term positions to satisfy the extremist groups in the Democratic base.  From what one can tell, they became friends during the campaign; certainly their wives did.

Gore's worst move was to let us see what a jerk he is.  I don't recall any substantive lines from the debates between Gore and Bush, but I do remember Gore's theatrical sighs in the first, and his silly stalking of Bush in the third.  Gore was foolish to engage a consultant to rework his image, or at least to let that be known, but he was right to think that voters might not care much for the real Al Gore.

Gore's adolescent behavior in the debates explains his endorsement of Dean better than more complex ideas about positioning.  Gore was being ignored by the Democratic candidates, and, like any other petulant adolescent, looked for a way to get attention.  The attention was so important to Gore that he did not put off his endorsement until he had made a courtesy call to Joe Lieberman, as everyone agrees he should have.  He may also have ideas about 2008, but the timing of his announcement, and the lack of a courtesy call, show what is really important to this adolescent jerk, not political strategy but attention.
- 8:07 AM, 11 December 2003
More:  Debra Saunders comes to similar conclusions in this column.
- 8:39, 11 December 2003   [link]

Global Warming On Mars:  Scientists think that Mars is getting warmer.  
Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars might be undergoing some sort of global warming.  New data points to the possibility it is emerging from an ice age.
If both Earth and Mars are warming, could there be a common cause?  Of course, and there is evidence that the Sun has been increasing its output slightly.

As always, I immediately add some of the usual caveats.  We know even less about the climate of Mars than we do about our own.  And, it is entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that both the Sun and the greenhouse gases we produce are warming the earth.

(And the latter may have been happening for thousands of years.  A recent study suggests that the invention of farming prevented an ice age here.  (No sign of farms on Mars, which may explain the ice age there.)
Beginning 8,000 years ago, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide began to rise as humans started clearing forests, planting crops and raising livestock, a scientist said Tuesday.   Methane levels started increasing 3,000 years later.

The combined increases of the two greenhouse gases implicated in global warming were slow but steady and staved off what should have been a period of significant natural cooling, said Bill Ruddiman, emeritus professor at the University of Virginia.
The conclusion found in many research reports, "more study is needed", seems exactly right on climate change.)
- 6:52 AM, 11 December 2003   [link]

The Muslim DC Snipers:  This Michelle Malkin column illustrates vividly two points I made yesterday, the connection of Muslim beliefs to crime in the West, and the unwillingness of most journalists to write about the connection.
Now it is time for [Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard] Roeper, CAIR and the militant "Religion of Peace" propagandists to face the facts once and for all.  A chilling stack of evidence, introduced by Malvo's own lawyers last week at his capital murder trial, exposes accused sniper [Lee] Malvo as an unrepentant Muslim extremist.
Malkin describes Malvo's anti-American and anti-Semitic drawings; you can see them for yourself here.   To read his writings, you will need Adobe Acrobat or some other program that can read .pdf files.
- 6:40 AM, 10 December 2003
More:  Here's the AP story on Malvo's drawings and writings.  They mention almost nothing about Malvo's Muslim beliefs and ignore completely his more inflammatory drawings.
- 8:04 AM, 10 December 2003   [link]

President Bush Asks James Baker  to negotiate reductions in Iraq's debts, and just a few days later, the Defense Department announces that France, Germany, and Russia will not receive contracts to rebuild Iraq.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but those nations just happen to be some of Iraq's biggest creditors.  Where could Baker have gotten a cynical view of such idealistic countries?  Perhaps when he was serving as Secretary of State or Treasury.
- 5:49 AM, 10 December 2003   [link]

Muslims And Crime:  Muslims in most Western countries have high crime rates.  (Perhaps all.  I have not seen statistics for all Western countries, but the rates are high for every country I know about.)  Their crime rates are high in Australia, Britain, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States.  The rates are high among Muslims from Algeria, Bosnia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and "Palestine". They are high among converts to Islam in the United States.  There is a comparative estimate, unfortunately unsourced, in Theodore Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom of the size of the problem in Britain, and perhaps elsewhere.
. . . the Muslim population has a crime rate six times that of the Hindu and three times that of the Sikh . . . (p. 122)
For rape, the Muslim crime rate is sometimes spectacularly high.  In this post, I noted that Norway's Muslims, who make up less than 1 percent of the population there, may be responsible for 65 percent of the rapes of Norwegian women.

I have not seen any estimates of the crime rate for American Muslims, who make up about 1 per cent of our population.  I did see an estimate that 40 percent of our prisoners were Muslim, but that seems much too high.  However, even if it were too high by a a factor of 10, there would still be a disproportionately high number of Muslim convicts.

Now we come to the difficult part.  Why are the Muslim crime rates so high in the West?   Let me illustrate the two simplest possibilities.  First, being Muslim might make it more likely that a person will become a criminal.

Muslim → criminal

Second, being a criminal might make it more likely that a person will become a Muslim.

criminal → Muslim

Life is seldom that simple, and there are many other possible patterns of causation.   The little bits of data I have are not sufficient to test more complex patterns, so I will limit this discussion to these two.  (I do think these two are by far the most likely, but will listen respectfully to anyone who has data that shows otherwise.)

Dalrymple thinks that, for Britain, the first pattern is the principal one.  Muslims are more likely to become criminals.
Muslim parents are more reluctant than Sikh and Hindu parents to recognize that their children, having been brought up in a very different cultural environment, inevitably depart from their own traditional ways and aspire to a different way of life.
In the United States, the opposite pattern seems more common.  Criminals tend to become Muslims.  Specifically, convicts, most of them African-American, convert to Islam, most often the Black Muslim variant, while in prison, or shortly afterward.  Malcolm X is the most famous example, but there are many others.

These two patterns appear to be in stark opposition.  In Britain, too rigid Muslim families, Dalrymple tells us, cause some of the children to revolt and become criminals.   In the United States, as everyone familiar with crime statistics knows, it is broken families that produce criminals and, eventually in some cases, Muslims.  Is there a unifying principle behind the patterns?

I think there is.  Viewed in the most general way, a criminal is someone who refuses to abide by the rules of society.  Religious views common among Muslims make it difficult for them to accept Western governments as legitimate.  Conversely, for those who have already broken society's rules, Islam provides a system that allows them to stay in opposition to Western society.

There has been a centuries long debate among Muslims about whether a devout Muslim could live under the rule of a non-Muslim.  Even now, as I understand it, many Muslim religious teachers believe that they can not.  A Muslim in the West will often see the government as lacking legitimacy.  A survey in Britain last year, which I discussed here, found that 1 in 5 Muslims in Britain admitted that they felt no loyalty to Britain.  Even more may have felt that way, judging by the answers to other questions in the poll.  A man who does not accept a government as legitimate will find it easy to slip into crime or even terrorism.

There is another aspect of Islam that also makes criminality attractive, the different status given to believers and non-believers.  In many ways, as I mentioned here, Muslims are like a "super tribe", with different moral rules applying to those inside and outside the tribe.   A Saudi supported school in Virginia was caught recently teaching its students that it was acceptable to plunder non-Muslims.

You see that even more clearly in the high levels of rapes by Muslims.   The young men making these attacks often target non-Muslim women.  This column describes the problem in Sydney, Australia—and condemns the resistance of some feminists to admitting that there is a problem.

Australian feminists are not the only ones who resist seeing the problem of Muslim crime in the West.  So have French authorities, in spite of some spectacular crimes there.   And so have most American journalists.  NPR will describe the convicted DC sniper, John Muhammad, as a veteran, but will not mention that he is a Muslim.  (One would think the name he chose might be a hint.)  We need to confront this problem of Muslim criminality in the West honestly and openly, but we will find it hard to do so as long as political correctness rules our news organizations.

Finally, I should add that, to the best of my knowledge, most Muslims in the West are still law abiding.  Some, though not nearly enough, even condemn the crimes committed by their fellow Muslims.
- 5:56 PM, 9 December 2003   [link]

Feelings And Howard Dean:  As political scientist James Harrigan argues here, many people now think that feelings are their own justification.  He gives some examples, and then concludes:
One is hard pressed to see how any of these are properly understood as racial issues, but the feelings of the offended are all that matters.  And these feelings are valid, in beautiful circularity, simply because they are felt.  In the end, common sense, civility, and language are held hostage when all feelings are equally valid, and we are all slaves to our unthinking, if sensitive, masters.
In the past, making feelings rather than thoughts central was more common on the right than the left.  Marxists, after all, claimed to be "scientific", and moderate socialists usually claimed to be champions of rationality.  On the right, especially among nationalist parties, you could sometimes find defenses of feelings.  There were exceptions on the left.  Many anarchists, then and now, proclaimed the supremacy of feelings.  But most on the left said "we think", not "we feel".

That began to change in the United States with the rise of the New Left in the 1960s.   Those old enough will recall the slogan, "If it feels good, do it."  As I understand it, there were somewhat similar changes in Europe at the same time, though as usual the Europeans emphasized violence more than the Americans.

Now we have a presidential candidate who is nearly all about feelings, Howard Dean.   David Brooks caught a remarkable line from Dean.
My moment of illumination about Howard Dean came one day in Iowa when I saw him lean into a crowd and begin a sentence with, "Us rural people. . . ."

Dean grew up on Park Avenue and in East Hampton.  If he's a rural person, I'm the Queen of Sheba.  Yet he said it with conviction.  He said it uninhibited by any fear that someone might laugh at or contradict him.
In Dean's mind, if he feels he is a rural person, he is one.  Even if he doesn't know enough about rural people to know that none of them talk like that.  (Since I grew up on a farm, I can say that with some confidence.)

Since his feelings make reality, he can ignore his record.
The old Dean was a free trader.  The new Dean is not.  The old Dean was open to Medicare reform.  The new Dean says Medicare is off the table.  The old Dean courted the N.R.A.; the new Dean has swung in favor of gun control.  The old Dean was a pro-business fiscal moderate; the new Dean, sounding like Ralph Nader, declares, "We've allowed our lives to become slaves to the bottom line of multinational corporations all over the world."
And his lack of military experience.
The newly liberated Dean is uninhibited.  A normal person with no defense policy experience would not have the chutzpah to say, "Mr. President, if you'll pardon me, I'll teach you a little about defense." But Dean says it.
And he can speculate wildly, without any evidence at all, that President Bush knew of the 9/11 attack was coming.  Evidence?  Who needs evidence when you have feelings.

His supporters are into feelings, as one would expect.  I have mentioned several times that he appealed to them because they felt powerless and he promised to change that.   Some even have feelings expressed so strongly as to make Dean uncomfortable.
Antiwar comedians raising campaign cash for Democrat Howard Dean last night blasted President Bush as a "piece of living, breathing s - - -"at an angry X-rated fund-raiser in New York.

"We have to get this piece of living, breathing s - - - out of the office," said comedian Judy Gold whose performance - like those of Janeane Garofalo and David Cross - was liberally larded with the F-word.
His campaign workers are attracted to him because of how he makes them feel.
Tune into the Dean culture for a while and it feels like you're in a motivational seminar with everyone reading from the same script.

Here's a woman who called C-SPAN early one recent morning when Karen Hicks was on: "This campaign makes me feel proud, empowered.  I'm 44 years old and for first time in my life I feel involved, invigorated.  It's like a tonic."
She didn't say, you'll note, that Dean would be good for the country, or even the world, but that he made her, personally, feel good.

You can see more examples in this article from the New York Times magazine.  I would feel sorry for people like Clay Johnson, who hooked up with the Dean campaign to get over being dumped by his girlfriend, were it not for the damage these people, whose own feelings are all important to them, are doing to our politics.  (His girlfriend doesn't have as much sense as her first decision suggests; she recently tried to get back together with him.)

Let me end with one very nasty, but necessary, comparison.  There is a famous set of political movements that emphasized leaders and feelings over rational thought.  These movements drew support, like Dean, from the middle class and those who thought their nations had been betrayed.  The name for these movements?  Fascist.  Those who think their feelings are an infallible guide might think about that for a moment, or even longer.
- 7:38 AM, 9 December 2003   [link]

All Right, NOW  Howard Dean is the Democratic frontrunner, with support from 25 percent of the Democrats, nationally.   Though I still say that he can be hurt or even defeated by several of his opponents.   (Hint to John Kerry:  Using foul language to attack Bush is not the way to do it.   Right now, you are running against Dean.  Direct your fire at him.)

There's been considerable argument about how liberal Dean was as Vermont governor.  His record may no longer matter, politically.  His support is drawn disproportionately from self described liberals, so that is how he is being seen by the public.  And this in spite of competition from Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, and Al Sharpton for the leftmost votes.
- 6:16 AM, 9 December 2003   [link]

Euroskepticism  is increasing in Europe.  
Less than half the population in the European Union's member states now support the EU project, according to polling results yesterday.

The latest Eurobarometer to be released this week found that just 48 per cent of EU citizens viewed membership as a "good thing", down from 54 per cent last spring.
That does not matter to those drawing up the constitution, according to Labour MP Gisela Stuart, Britain's representative on the drafting committee for the new constitution.
Not once in the 16 months I spent on the convention did representatives question whether deeper integration is what the people of Europe want.

The debates focused solely on where we could do more at EU level.  Any representative who took issue with the fundamental goal of deeper integration was sidelined.
Her criticisms of both the process and the product can fairly be described as "scathing".
- 5:51 AM, 9 December 2003   [link]