July 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Mars Attacks!  Have a taste for low comedy?  Then you might want to watch the movie by that name.  I wouldn't call it great, but I would say that it was easily worth the $5.88 (plus tax) it cost me at Fry's Electronics.  Many funny scenes and a plot that is only marginally sillier than the plots of Independence Day and H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

(This discussion of the current War of the Worlds movie inspired me to do this post.  As you can see, the commenters were trying to decipher the political message — if any — in that movie.   None mentioned Mars Attacks, which has many political messages, most of them nasty.   Jack Nicholson plays a liberal president, who keeps trying to get along with the Martians, even as they slaughter humans.  Nicholson also plays a ruthless businessmen, who will do anything for money.  The military men mostly understand that the Martians are a threat, but they are helpless to do anything effective about it.  And the movie takes cracks at presidential aides, scientists, reporters, New Age folks, and just about everyone else.

Though Professor Althouse pays more attention to pop culture than I do, you should not assume that she does not, often, have fine treatments of more important subjects.  In this post, for instance, she gives Nina Totenberg a well deserved spanking for getting the facts wrong on when women began to go to law schools in large numbers.)
- 3:48 PM, 8 July 2005   [link]

Kevin Drum and I have probably voted for different presidential candidates since at least 1992, but I entirely agree with his post from yesterday.  Like Kevin, I too wished that left and right would respect the losses in London enough to refrain from cheap point scoring, just for a day.  I tried to do that here, and in the post I put up at Sound Politics.

Sadly, though not surprisingly, many on both the left and right did not agree with us — as you can see in the comments to his post and to mine at Sound Politics.

The political differences between Kevin Drum and myself are trivial compared to the differences between both of us and the fanatics who bombed the subway trains and the bus in London.  And what is true for the two of us is also true for most people in this country — regardless of where they may be on the political spectrum.  We should not forget that, even while we are arguing about smaller matters.
- 9:15 AM, 8 July 2005   [link]

How Does An Insurgent Become A Terrorist?  By attacking Britons, rather than Iraqis.  As James Taranto notes, in one of the items in today's "Best of the Web", the BBC broke its own guidelines and called the bombing of innocent civilians "terror attacks".  It is probably too much to hope that the BBC will call the next bombing of innocent civilians in Iraq a terror attack, and we can be certain that it will never call any attack on Israeli civilians a terror attack.

Taranto also thinks that Reuters broke its own rules against using the word terrorist.  The Reuters example is less clear since Reuters used the word in an indirect quote, rather than directly.

(The Mediacrity site has some acid explanations for the use of "terror" in one set of attacks, but not in others.)
- 5:12 PM, 7 July 2005   [link]

This Isn't My Flag:  But today seemed like a good day to display it, anyway.

(And, if you need a brief explanation of the British flag, you can find it here.)
- 1:43 PM, 7 July 2005   [link]

Mass Transit Provides Inviting Target For Terrorists:  That's no surprise to the experts, or to anyone who has followed the news of terrorist attacks, or even to anyone who just thinks about the matter for a few minutes.  But it was good to see that point made so directly by the Associated Press.
Subway systems are inviting targets for terrorists because they are difficult to secure.

The kind of screening equipment used to check passengers at airports can't be used because it's too slow for systems designed to quickly move large numbers of people.

"Mass transportation systems will always be vulnerable to some extent if we want to keep them as efficient as they are today," said Rafi Ron, president of the Washington-based transportation security consulting firm, New Age Solutions.
And buses, as Israeli experience shows, are almost as good targets as subways.

Those who favor mass transit almost never mention this small problem.  Since I do not expect the war on terror to end in my life time, I think they should admit that increasing our use of mass transit increases our vulnerability to many kinds of terrorist attacks.
- 1:08 PM, 7 July 2005   [link]

More On The London Terrorist Attack:  The BBC is the main British source I have checked so far.  Here's their lead story, their time line, and individual accounts.  (The latter probably give you a better picture of the confusion than the stories.)

As you would expect, the Instapundit has a post with many links.  Follow them and you will learn more than you will from all the BBC coverage.  You'll find informative accounts from Tim Worstall, Josh Trevino, Michelle Catalano, "Terrorism Unveiled", and "Europhobia", among others.  And you can find pictures at "Instapunk".

Sky News is reporting that a group linked to Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility.
A terror group linked to al Qaeda says it carried out a series of terror attacks on London that have left a number of people dead and hundreds injured.

A previously unknown group calling itself "Secret Organisation al Qaeda in Europe" said it carried out the attacks as revenge for British "military massacres" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That's not proof, of course, but that is, I think the way to bet, given what we know now.
- 6:02 AM, 7 July 2005   [link]

First Madrid, Now London?  Early reports, especially that of a bus explosion, sound more like a coordinated terrorist attack than an accident, or a series of accidents.
Several people have been injured after explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London.

A police spokesman said there were "quite a large number of casualties" at Aldgate Tube Station.

And Scotland Yard confirmed one of several reports of explosions on buses in the city - in Tavistock Place - but said the cause was not yet known.
If this was a terrorist attack, then it was probably timed to coincide with the G8 meeting.  The meeting probably drew some security forces away from London and, of course, drew thousands of journalists to Britain.

Sadly, there are already reports of deaths.  I fear there is much bad news to come today.
- 3:09 AM, 7 July 2005
The Death Toll has already hit fifty, and will rise as the police recover bodies from the subway tunnel, and as some of those in critical condition die.
- 8:01 AM, 8 July 2005   [link]

President Bush  is tough.
GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) - President Bush collided with a local police officer and fell during a bike ride on the grounds of the Gleneagles golf resort while attending a meeting of world leaders Wednesday.

Bush suffered scrapes on his hands and arms that required bandages by the White House physician, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The police officer was taken to a local hospital as a precaution,
Note that it was the policeman, not the 59-year-old president, who went to the hospital.

And Bush is compassionate, too.
The president was concerned about the officer's condition, and talked with him for some time after the collision, McClellan said.  The president also asked White House physician Richard Tubb to monitor the officer's condition at the hospital.
Some commenters at thought the president's reaction compared favorably with John Kerry's reaction, after Kerry collided with a Secret Service protector, during last fall's campaign.
- 3:43 PM, 6 July 2005   [link]

Seattle Supports The Kyoto Agreement:  In its own way.
Seattle's new City Hall was designed with the environment in mind, using the most energy-efficient technologies.

But the building acts like an old-fashioned electricity hog.  It has lofty public spaces and walls of glass designed to welcome citizens and suggest an open and transparent government.  It also uses 15 percent to 50 percent more electricity some months than the older, larger building it replaced, according to Seattle City Light utility bills.

The high energy use is an embarrassment for the city at a time when Mayor Greg Nickels is urging municipalities across the country to cut their energy consumption and voluntarily comply with the Kyoto environmental protocols
And that way, as you can see from this example, is to favor cutting energy consumption in principle while increasing it in practice.  Which makes Seattle exactly like almost every other supporter of the Kyoto accord.
- 10:08 AM, 6 July 2005   [link]

Another Example Of Distributed Vote Fraud:  In a fine piece of reporting, Stefan Sharkansky finds vote fraud in a Washington state nursing home.
I now have documents from the Snohomish County Auditor confirming the reader's story.  It strongly suggests that some of the caretakers at the nursing home conspired to fraudulently vote on behalf of individuals who weren't capable of voting.
Read the whole thing and you will see that "strongly suggests" puts it mildly.  (And some of the commenters give similar examples from their own experience.)

There's no reason — at least so far — to think that party officials had anything to do with this particular case of fraud, or that any candidate had anything to do with it.  The vote fraud was facilitated by extraordinary laxness in checking signatures on mailed ballots, something I have been warning about for years.  Will anybody be prosecuted for taking advantage of these helpless old people?  I wouldn't count on it.  All of these are characteristic of what I have been worried about for years, and have been calling distributed vote fraud since last fall.

How common is this kind of vote fraud?  As I have said again and again, one of the most annoying things about distributed vote fraud is that we have such poor estimates of its extent.  But I do see similar reports about residents of nursing homes being "voted" by their caretakers in every election, so I am inclined to think that it is a significant problem.

(As always, when I mention distributed vote fraud, I urge you to read my disclaimer, if you have not already.)
- 5:47 AM, 6 July 2005   [link]

Mother Dolphins Have It Tough:  Why?  Because their newborn babies don't sleep.
Sleep is vital to the development of brain and body.  That truism comes from basic observations about humans and other mammals, that sleep is maximized at birth and declines gradually until adulthood.

But a new finding threatens to throw that common wisdom out the window.  For researchers have discovered that some whales and dolphins don't sleep after birth.  Both newborns and their mothers stay continuously active for about a month and then gradually build up their sleep to normal adult levels after four or five months.
And the same seems to be true of killer whales.

Wonder if the dolphin mothers get cranky after a week or so without sleep?

(I knew that dolphins have, by our standards, weird sleeping patterns.  As the article mentions, adult dolphins sleep with one eye open, and half their brain alert.  That trick probably helps if you live in a neighborhood frequented by sharks.)
- 4:44 PM, 5 July 2005   [link]

Not All Elections Are Peaceful:  Here's an example from Albania.
Two Albanians were killed Monday in a clash while celebrating the victory of the opposition Democratic Party in a southern Albanian town, police reported.

One man was killed as he celebrated in front of the Democratic Party office in Lushnje, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the capital Tirana, police spokesman Edlira Teferici said.

The man allegedly involved in the first killing was later shot dead by other people, she said, adding the circumstances of the incident were unclear.

An election official was shot dead Sunday during general election voting in Tirana.
Americans should not be snobbish about this Albanian violence.  Our own history has many similar examples, such as these from D. W. Brogan's classic, Politics in America.   (First published in 1948 in Britain and in 1954 in the United States, the book is, sadly, long out of print.)
It often took real physical courage to vote in primaries or even in elections in New York after the Civil War, at any rate in the rowdier districts. . . . Electoral campaigns were often marked by serious violence. . . . . Since 1932, there have been no charges of physical intimidation, on a big scale, in New York, though there has been one election murder.
There have been credible reports of physical intimidation and violence in Philadelphia during recent elections, and there was a murder threat in East St. Louis last fall, but our elections are tamer than they once were.  Brogan gives some credit for our more peaceful elections to the better controls on fraud — controls mostly introduced by Republicans.  Protecting ballot secrecy helps prevent violence at elections, Brogan believed, something we should not forget as we move toward greater and greater use of mailed ballots.

(Story by way of Gerry Daly.)
- 1:08 PM, 5 July 2005   [link]

Those Sophisticated French Diplomats:  French President Jacques Chirac provides another example of their skill.
Anglo-French tensions heightened last night after Jacques Chirac delivered a series of insults to Britain as London and Paris fought to secure the 2012 Olympic Games and faced fresh disagreement at the G8 summit.

The president, chatting to the German and Russian leaders in a Russian cafe, said: "The only thing [the British] have ever given European farming is mad cow."  Then, like generations of French people before him, he also poked fun at British cuisine.

"You can't trust people who cook as badly as that," he said.  "After Finland, it's the country with the worst food."
Finland has a couple of votes on the committee that chooses the city for the 2008 Olympics, so Chirac's remarks hit the wrong secondary target.

(Is it possible that Chirac wanted his remarks to get out?  Sure.  He wouldn't be the first French leader to try to build support by attacking his British allies, and he does have abysmally low poll ratings.  He may have decided that winning the Olympics was not as important as rebuilding his popularity.

Chirac was talking to Russia's Putin and Germany's Schröder.  Putin replied by attacking American food, suggesting that hamburgers were even worse than British food.  Chirac, who has said in the past that he likes some American foods, disagreed.  I think Putin's remark shows something about his natural hostilities.

And I have no idea whether Finnish food is any good, though I must say I can't recall ever seeing a Finnish restaurant in the United States.  Or in Paris and London, for that matter.)
- 6:15 AM, 5 July 2005
London Beat Paris:  By a small enough margin, 54-50, so that it is certainly possible that Chirac lost it with his undiplomatic comments.
- 1:10 PM, 6 July 2005   [link]

Happy 4th of July!   I liked this pair of flags when I saw them on a Kirkland apartment.  The faded, wind twisted flag has been there, I believe, since just after the 9/11 attack.  The other is new this year.   I like to imagine it is coming in to relieve the first.

Yesterday, I went down to Tacoma for the Tall Ships festival there and spotted this curious trio of flags on one of the boats.  The United States flag and the pirate flag are familiar (though it seems odd — at least to me — to combine them.); the third flag with the palmetto and Confederate theme are not.  It looks to me as though someone combined a South Carolina flag with a Confederate flag of some kind, perhaps a battle flag.

(And a belated Happy Canada Day to our friends up north, who celebrated their 138th birthday on July 1st.)
- 4:50 PM, 4 July 2005   [link]

Interesting Contrast:  Yesterday, the Seattle PI published this "Snark Attack" by their Op-Ed page editor, Kimberly Mills.
There is some justice in the world.  Henry Kissinger's still alive to have his verbal vulgarities come back to haunt him.  In newly released transcripts of Oval Office chats with President Nixon, the former national security adviser called the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a bitch and her countrymen bastards.  It's too bad that Nixon, who called Gandhi an old witch, is dead.  Oh, right, Nixon couldn't be shamed.
On the same page, the PI published a Ted Rall cartoon, which you can find here, calling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "Mystic Seer Reichsmarshal Von Rumsfeld".

So it was wrong for Henry Kissinger to call Indira Gandhi a "bitch" in secret, but it is not wrong for Ted Rall to call Donald Rumsfeld a Nazi openly.  Is that a fair summary of the PI's position?  (My own view is that both are wrong, but that the second is far worse.  I have been trying for years, off and on, to persuade one of the area's liberal journalists to say that calling Republicans Nazis is not just bad tactics, but wrong.  I can not say that I have had any great success in that effort.)

(Was that a fair description of Indira Gandhi, however impolite?  I don't know enough about her personally to say, though she could be a difficult woman.  But I can pass on this story, which may shed light on the question.  In the early stages of the Vietnam War, Gandhi told American diplomats that she supported us privately, but would have to condemn us publicly — as she went on to do.)
- 6:30 AM, 3 July 2005   [link]

Rainier Pictures:  (Or, if you prefer, "Mountain Blogging".)   I didn't spend all my time on Rainier building better ties with Europeans; I also took a picture or two.  As I drove into the park, I saw the top of Rainier above the clouds, braked to a stop, and took this picture.

Doesn't look much like the usual pictures, does it?  (If you were wondering, it was taken at Kautz Creek.)

Rainier almost unveiled completely once or twice as I hiked up the mountain.  This was about the most revealing shot.

(The picture was taken on the south side of the mountain, at about 6,000 feet.)

On the way down, I took a path that gave me a good view of this glacial valley.

(I'm not sure whether the valley is a "cirque".)

Mt. Adams, at about 12,000 feet and about 45 miles away, was visible most of the time over the ridge made by the Tatoosh mountains.

(Despite their rugged appearance, the Tatoosh mountains are much older than Mt. Rainier.)

On the way back, I stopped on the outskirts of Puyallup for a Wendy's hamburger.  When I came out, I saw Rainier, or rather, part of Rainier, floating above the clouds.  I suppose the mountain was somehow making those clouds, but I don't know enough meteorology to give you a full explanation of what you can see there.

(The picture was taken about 30 miles northwest of the top of Mt. Rainier.  I think that is a solid waste dump behind the fence.  There's so much scenery in this area that even garbage can have good views.)
- 1:44 PM, 1 July 2005   [link]

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?  Many do, enough to put that city in the top ten in population, displacing Detroit.
On Thursday, the Census Bureau will release its latest population statistics, showing that Detroit was not on the list of the top 10 most populous American cities for the first time since the 1900 census. San Jose, Calif., has taken its place.
. . .
"It's part of a pattern for the heavily industrialized cities, but I think Detroit is a specific case," said Dana Johnson, chief economist at Comerica Bank in Detroit.  "There's been an ongoing dynamic here of people, middle-class people in Detroit, fleeing the city looking for better schools, better lifestyles, better services.  So it has been a particularly hard fall."
And, though the article does not mention it, middle class people have been fleeing heavily Democratic cities for decades.  One can argue about cause and effect, but the correlation is clear enough.   Even heavily Democratic cities that don't have Detroit's de-industrialization problems often have policies that drive families out; San Francisco is the best known example, but there are many similar cities, including Seattle.

The New York Times can't quite bring itself to say that Detroit's leaders have made mistakes that have driven people away, but they do gingerly pass this along:
In Detroit, "Best Of" accolades are hard to come by.  Time magazine recently named Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick one of the nation's three worst mayors.  His office declined to make him available for comment.
But they don't even give us a hint on why Time magazine came to that conclusion.

(For much better coverage of these population changes in our cities, see this USA Today article, along with their lists of largest gainers and losers, the cities that grew in the 1990s and shrank since, and the cities with the fastest 1-year growth.   USA Today interviewed demographers; the New York Times interviewed a former Detroit mayor, Dennis Archer, and the difference shows.  For example, Joel Kotkin points out that, in the shrinking cities, "municipal red tape often hinders start-up entrepreneurs".  Is that true in Detroit?   Almost certainly.

And USA Today does not make the common error that I spotted in the New York Times article, believing that the United States has a "declining industrial base".  Very briefly, manufacturing jobs are declining, but the value of our industrial production is increasing.  That makes us all richer, but is often terribly hard on those who lose manufacturing jobs.

The Times does have an interesting graphic showing the changes in the top ten American cities over the last century.

And, though I suspect most of you know this, I should add that, for political discussions, cities are usually the best unit, but for many other kinds discussions, metropolitan areas make more sense.)
- 5:26 AM, 1 July 2005   [link]