July 2007, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What's North America?  That dark green continent in the map below, right?

North America

That's what this Wikipedia article says; that's what I learned in grade school geography, but that's not the definition everyone uses.

I discovered that when I was digging into a column by a retired journalism professor.  He had written something about North America that struck me as obviously false — which it was if you use the usual definition of North America.

But when I looked in my copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, I learned that journalists do not use that definition.  Instead, they say North America is:
Canada, Mexico, the United States, and the Danish territory of Greenland.  When the term is used in more than its continental sense, it also may include the islands of the Carribean.
But not including, you will notice, Central America, which they put in a separate category.  And some literary authorities limit "North America" even further, to just Canada and the United States.   The last definition makes some sense historically and linguistically, but the AP definition fits only the North American Free Trade Agreement.

(Geographers disagree about how many continents there are.  I'm with those who combine Europe and Asia to get six.

Fun fact:  When Panama was part of Columbia, it was considered part of South America.  When it became independent, with a little help from a country we won't name, it was moved to North America by most geographers.

The North American plate is even larger than the geographers' North America and includes part of Siberia.

And the journalism professor?  Oh, using the AP definition of North America, he was still wrong, but not quite as wrong.)
- 6:21 PM, 24 July 2007   [link]

Liberals And Genocide:  Jonah Goldberg wonders about their reversal on that difficult subject.
Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home.
. . .
Conservatives are at least still arguing about the national interest -- but they're also the ones touting the moral imperative of preventing genocide and even the need for nation-building.  Where is the principle in the hash of liberal foreign policy today?  How does liberalism recover?  If you can justify causing genocide in order to end a nation-building exercise that -- unlike similar efforts elsewhere -- is fundamentally linked to our national interest, then how can you ever return to arguing that we should get into the nation-building and genocide-stopping business when it's explicitly not in our interest?
How, for instance, can Barack Obama justify supporting intervention in Darfur — as he did just two years ago — to prevent genocide, and now oppose protecting Iraqis from the same evil?   Morally, those two stands conflict.  (And they conflict too, if Obama claims to care about our national interest.  We have much at stake in Iraq, but almost nothing at stake in Darfur.)

There is, of course, a simple and cynical explanation for the reversal; in each case the liberals are taking the politically popular stand.  (Not all of them, of course.  There is still Senator Lieberman, and you can find a few others if you look hard.  And I suspect that at least a few of the Democrat senators who are posing on this issue would hesitate to take the final step of leaving the Iraqi people to the killers.)

(Earlier posts on this subject here and here.)
- 2:42 PM, 24 July 2007   [link]

Why Did The Democratic Candidates Agree To Debate?  Jay Cost has one answer.
So, all in all, there is probably no net benefit from these debates, at least for the top-tier candidates.  "Winning" the debate carries with it no net benefit - the meager benefits are probably outweighed by the costs in time, money, and opportunity.  Meanwhile, the chance of defeat - and the major costs it entails - further diminishes a candidate's expected net benefit.

Why, then, are the top-tier candidates doing all of these debates?

The answer, I believe, is that there is no coordination between them.  What the top-tier candidates have on their hands is a collective action problem.  If all of the top-tier candidates coordinated their actions, and collectively reduced the number of debates, all of them would be well off.
But they can't coordinate without getting caught, and so we have foolish events like the one last night.

And, of course, such events don't do much for voters either.  If a voter wanted to know more about the candidates, they should skip watching these shows and instead spend that time reading brief biographies of the candidates — and making lists of each candidate's stands and accomplishments.

(These events can be entertaining; Colby Cosh caught one funny bit.)
- 1:48 PM, 24 July 2007
More:  Tony Blankley notices what the candidates didn't say.
Most remarkably of all, not one of the candidates even mentioned the danger of Islamist terrorism the entire night.  The Democratic candidates seemed pretty cocky on Monday.  But they may have an Achilles heel: national security.  Their manifest indifference to the nation's security may yet cost them public trust come next year's election.
Though it is only fair to add that the questions that CNN chose did not give the candidates much opportunity to discuss national security.
- 10:21 AM, 25 July 2007
Still More:  Cal Thomas gives us some follow-up questions that weren't asked, but should have been.  And he observes, with only a little exaggeration, that Democratic candidates are never asked follow-up questions.
- 8:12 AM, 26 July 2007   [link]

"Inches Up":  It's hard not to conclude that the headline writer really didn't like these results.
Poll: American Support for War Inches Up

American support for the war in Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until General David Petraeus files his report in the fall.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted over the weekend, 42 percent of Americans said taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq.

Support had been at all time low in May, when only 35 percent of Americans said the United States' involvement in Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.
If it "inches up" another 7 percent, supporters of the war will slightly outnumber opponents.

Nothing in the post explains why opinion has shifted.  One possibility:  The Harry Reid all night stunt may have given Republicans a chance to get their message out.   Another:  Some of Petraeus's victories are slipping through the "mainstream" media embargo.

(Amusing thought: I don't think this is likely, but it would be funny if the supporters did outnumber the opponents in the next poll.  Would congressional Democrats who have been arguing that they are only going with the majority of Americans switch sides?)
- 4:07 PM, 23 July 2007   [link]

First Obama, Now Kerry:  Barack Obama casually dismissed the possibility of a genocide in Iraq as no big deal.

Now John Kerry is saying that after we left Indochina nothing serious happened.
In snatches, on the Senate floor and at news conferences, Kerry will return to his point of reference, Vietnam.  Opponents of the withdrawal proposal argue that Iraq would be left in chaos and that genocide would occur as a result.

"We heard that argument over and over again about the bloodbath that would engulf the entire Southeast Asia, and it didn't happen," Kerry said, dismissing the charge out of hand as he argued that the American presence only makes the situation worse every day.
Estimates of the death toll in Cambodia alone range between 1.7 and 3 million people.  And John Kerry says that there was no bloodbath.  Amazing.  And disgusting.

That the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and one of the leading candidates in the 2008 contest can be so casual about genocide, or potential genocide, should horrify every decent person.  But these comments don't seem to have even interested the reporters who took them down.  And if any of Obama's rivals criticized him for his thoughts, I missed it.

(By way of James Taranto, who has more numbers on the losses in Indochina after we left.)
- 2:19 PM, 23 July 2007   [link]

Has The CIA Always Been Terrible?  That's the argument made by New York Times reporter Tim Weiner in his new book, Legacy of Ashes, reviewed here by Newsweek's Evan Thomas.
Tim Weiner's engrossing, comprehensive "Legacy of Ashes" is a litany of failure, from the C.I.A.'s early days, when hundreds of agents were dropped behind the Iron Curtain to be killed or doubled (almost without exception), to more recent humiliations, like George Tenet's now infamous "slam dunk" line.  Over the years, the agency threw around a lot of money and adopted a certain swagger.  We went all over the world and we did what we wanted," said Al Ulmer, the C.I.A.'s Far East division chief in the 1950s.  God, we had fun.  But even their successes turned out to be failures.  In 1963, the C.I.A. backed a coup to install the Baath Party in Iraq.  We came to power on a C.I.A. train," said Ali Saleh Saadi, the Baath Party interior minister.  One of the train's passengers, Weiner notes, was a young assassin named Saddam Hussein.  Weiner quotes Donald Gregg, a former C.I.A. station chief in South Korea, later the national security adviser to Vice President George H. W. Bush:  The record in Europe was bad.  The record in Asia was bad.  The agency had a terrible record in its early days — a great reputation and a terrible record."
Though Thomas does not say so, Weiner is a leftist, who would be inclined to be critical of any use of American power, whether it was successful or not — and to see failure in any success.  There is no doubt that the CIA has failed many times, but there is also no doubt that we should expect failures from intelligence agencies, especially in a democracy.  And we must remember that the record available to the public is likely to be unbalanced, since failures are more likely to become public than successes.

For a more balanced look at the CIA, you may want to look at Gabriel Schoenfeld's essay, which I discussed, briefly, here.

Finally, there is an ironic point.  One of the things that makes the work of the CIA harder is the irresponsibility of journalists like Tim Weiner and Evan Thomas.  They handicap those trying to learn our enemies' secrets — and then attack our agents for having failed.

(Thomas is wrong when he says that the "intelligence community manufactured evidence of a Communist attack on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin".  In fact, historians agree that there was an attack on an American destroyer on August 2, 1964.  There was a second, disputed attack on August 4th.  According to Guenter Lewy, in America in Vietnam, although the radar sightings of the second attack have been questioned, there is other evidence of the second attack, including radio transmissions from the North Vietnamese boats during the battle.

And Thomas is most likely exaggerating the support, if any, we gave to the Baathists.)
- 7:06 AM, 23 July 2007   [link]

There Are Two Iraqs:  So says Peter Beaumont, writing in the leftist Guardian newspaper.   And life is improving in one of the two.
For there are two Iraqs in evidence these days: not just the one where weddings are bombed and young women murdered in reply.  The other Iraq is harder to dramatise but it is equally real.  It is a place where boring, ordinary things take place.  And in taking place become extraordinary in the context of conflict.
. . .
And while in Iraq it has usually been the best policy to deal with officials with a strong dose of scepticism following the years of pronouncements of victory around the corner, for now at least there appears to be corroborating evidence that in the north, the war may be drawing, ever so slowly, towards some kind of close.

In Mosul, which once hosted 21,000 US soldiers in the city, now only a single battalion, in the mid-hundreds, remains inside the city, matched by an equivalent drop in attacks.  And it is not only in Mosul that security is improving.  The sense that things are getting better is reflected in Nineveh Province.  In two years US troop levels around Tal Afar, once the heartland of al-Qaeda, have been reduced from 6,000 to 1,200.

The general trend for acts of violence - despite some spikes - also has been steadily decreasing.   Indeed, until Jamil Salem Jamil detonated his human bomb there had not been a suicide vest attack in Tal Afar since 14 January.
Those "boring, ordinary things" don't make good television — but they may be the most important part of the Iraq story.
- 5:28 AM, 23 July 2007   [link]

This Comparison would be funnier — if it weren't so infuriating.
- 4:18 PM, 22 July 2007   [link]

So That's Why Harry Potter is so popular.
My favourite book when I was 12 years old was about a bunch of neocon crypto-fascist rabbits.   Almost every book I read until the age of 14 was about right-of-centre British mammals - aristocratic water voles, moles and toads battling legions of ill-mannered proletarian stoats; neo-Nazi otters; complacent bourgeois dalmatians and so on.  After that I moved to the left a little and read books about German stormtroopers and skinheads.

It seems almost certain that I would have adored the work of J K Rowling, at least until the age of 15 - largely because Harry Potter is, as the French newspaper Libération puts it, a "sexist neoconservative autocrat".  And, according to Le Monde, "inherently capitalist", who exists in an environment (they mean Hogwarts, I would guess) where "social sciences are as useless and obsolete as state regulation".
At least with boys 15 and younger.
- 8:27 AM, 22 July 2007   [link]

Genocide?  No big deal, says Barack Obama.
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

"Well, look, if that's the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now—where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife—which we haven't done," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done.  Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said.
He also says that he thinks genocide is unlikely in Iraq.  But then he would say that, wouldn't he?

It may seem bizarre, but I have to admit that I admire his honesty.  In saying that he accepts a possible genocide as the result of his policies, he is saying what many in the Democratic party believe — but are unwilling to say openly.

Note the sleight of hand in his argument.  He is saying that we should not save one group of people unless we commit to saving all groups of people who might be in similar straits.  That's like a life guard refusing to act because there are two people drowning — and he can't save both.

It is unfortunate that the Associated Press did not follow up Obama's remarkable statement with more questions.  (Or perhaps they did and chose not to publish his answers.)  But one gets the impression from the article that the AP agrees with Obama that genocide is no big deal — at least compared to the task of putting Obama, or another Democrat, in the White House.

(Incidentally, there are UN forces in the Congo, as Obama must know.  Isn't it their responsibility to stop the fighting?  And doesn't their failure show something about the weakness of most "international" forces such as the one he wants to put in Iraq?)
- 1:50 PM, 21 July 2007   [link]

Apollo 11:  Thirty-eight years ago today, Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.   Their landing was watched by an estimated 700 million people and was seen as a great victory for the United States in the Cold War.

If another such landing were made, the audience would be far smaller, and few would see it as showing much, one way or another, about the United States.

The reaction in 1969 was wrong, and the likely reaction to a new moon landing would also be wrong.   There is a universe to gain from becoming a space faring nation; there was much less to gain from the stunt of putting two men on the moon, however impressed folks were at the time.

We can and should celebrate the first moon landing, but we should also recognize that we chose the wrong space strategy back in the 1960s, and we have yet to correct that mistake.  As I said in 2002, we should have worked first on making it less expensive to put payloads in orbit, worked first to become a space faring nation.  Had we followed that policy, we would still have gotten to the moon, a few years later and much less expensively, and we would be far ahead of where we are now.

(For a good explanation of the strange thinking behind the Apollo project, I suggest Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.   For innovative ideas on how to make the next big jump, you may want to read Robert Zubrin's The Case for Mars.

Rand Simberg has an interesting symposium on space policy here.  James Lileks tells us about his reactions to the moon landing here.)
- 3:08 PM, 20 July 2007   [link]

No Special Reason for this.


I just liked the picture.  (And it looks even better at full size.)
- 1:39 PM, 20 July 2007   [link]

Blood For Oil?  The New York Times is in favor of that trade; in fact, they say it's a "no-brainer".
The centerpiece of a generally constructive energy bill passed by the Senate last month was the first meaningful increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in 30 years.  The House version does not include such a provision, a serious shortcoming that Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts will try to remedy with an amendment when debate begins.  His amendment is vital.   It is also a no-brainer.  Without it the bill will fall embarrassingly short of what it could and should do to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil as well as its contribution to global warming.
How is this blood for oil?  Because, as I explained back in 2005, the simplest way to improve gas mileage is to make cars lighter, and making them lighter makes them more dangerous for their occupants, everything else being equal.  That's what happened after the 1970 fuel efficiency standards were imposed.   A National Academy of Science study estimated that the 1970 CAFE standards caused between 1,300 to 2,600 fatalities in 1993, alone.  And if you follow the link, you will see that I learned about that estimate from a well-known newspaper — the New York Times.  (The Times has since moved the article, but you should be able to find it with a little searching.)

For a more serious discussion of this issue, you may want to look at this Charles Krauthammer column.  Unlike the editorial writers at the Times, he understands that imposing higher CAFE standards imposes costs.
You get what you pay for.  When you build lighter cars with more fuel efficiency, you know that ultimately -- even with the best (let alone Chinese) technology -- safety is compromised.  That happened three decades ago when U.S. mileage efficiency rose dramatically in response to the oil shocks of the '70s.  It will probably happen again.

Now we may, as a society, decide that the trade-off is worth it.  We may reason that fuel inefficiency leads to dependency on foreign oil which in turn leads us to lives lost in other ways -- such as wars to defend our interests in the oil-rich Middle East and elsewhere.  But what we cannot deny is that there are trade-offs.  What is fundamentally wrong with the energy bill the Senate passed last week and with the debate leading up to it is the chronic, almost pathological, refusal to recognize that there are such trade-offs.
Higher CAFE standards are not, in short, a "no-brainer", but something that we should think about, carefully.

(To be fair, I have to add that the Times does claim that the "National Academy of Sciences has said that this target can be achieved in a cost-effective manner without loss in performance or safety".  I am not sure that the Academy did say that, given the casual way the editorial writers have with facts, and I am nearly certain that it is not true.)
- 1:21 PM, 20 July 2007   [link]

A Journalist Gets Fooled By A Democrat, gets caught, and refuses to correct the error.
We wrote here about a story in the Chicago Sun-Times by columnist Jennifer Hunter, reporting on a plaintiffs' lawyers convention in Chicago.  The five principal Democratic presidential candidates addressed the convention, and Hunter's story was on the lawyers' reaction.  Her article was headlined "GOP Lawyer Sold on Dems;" it featured Jim Ronca, a well-known plaintiffs' lawyer from Pennsylvania, who told Hunter that he was a Republican.  Hunter breathlessly reported that this "staunch Republican" was so impressed by the Democratic candidates that this year, he would not only vote for a Democrat, but would actually contribute to the Democrat's campaign.

Trouble was, it turned out that Ronca is in fact a long-time Democrat who has contributed mostly, although not quite exclusively, to Democratic candidates for a long time.
Read the rest of the post for what happened when readers told Hunter about these contributions.

What makes Hunter's refusal to make a correction even stranger is that she missed an opportunity for a great follow-up story.  She could have gone back to Ronca and asked him to explain how he could be a "staunch Republican" and make all those contributions to Democrats.  No matter what he said, she would have had a great story.  Almost everyone enjoys seeing a liar caught in a fib, and many of us especially enjoy seeing a lawyer caught in a fib.

This refusal to make corrections — when those corrections come from outside the newsroom — is not unusual, but it is foolish.

(It is just possible, in spite of these contributions, that Ronca has generally supported Republicans in the past.  If so, a story explaining that would be even more fascinating.)
- 7:41 AM, 20 July 2007   [link]

Sabotage:  That's the title of Rowan Scarborough's book.   That's also the charge that he makes against the CIA in this interview with Jed Babbin.
JB: In Sabotage you make the case that the CIA is a rogue agency, not answerable to the president.  That they're not following his policies or trying to support him in this war -- What in the world is going on?  Is the CIA really that bad, really that rogue?

RS: Well, about three years ago John McCain became probably the first politician who declared the CIA a 'rogue agency.'  And it is because inside the CIA, the bureaucracy at Langley had a priority of leaking and stopping Bush administration programs, rather than following the policy directives of the White House.  And we've seen that in countless leaks about terrorist surveillance programs, the prisons where they were trying to interrogate top-ranking al Qaeda prisoners, in station reports from Baghdad.  When Porter Goss took over the CIA in 2004, really trying to reform it, what happened?  He died by a million leaks.  It was a cut every day, until Porter Goss by 2006 actually was forced out.
Or to be more blunt, some in the CIA see President Bush as their main enemy, rather than Osama bin Laden.

Scarborough is not the first to make this charge; Laura Mylroie said similar things in Bush vs. the Beltway, as did New York Times columnist David Brooks, in a column published just after the 2004 election.  At least once, the Washington Post was candid enough to mention the CIA's war against Bush, in an offhand way.  And just today I saw this article from the Guardian, in which a European legislator admits (boasts?) of the leaks from CIA insiders that undermined our position in Europe.  (He appears not even to have considered the possibility that these leaks may not have been accurate.  At one time, most Europeans were more suspicious of the CIA.)

But, judging by the descriptions of the book, and this brief excerpt, Scarborough may have done the best job of documenting the case against the factions in the CIA who prefer undermining Bush to fighting bin Laden.

(More here, here, and here.)
- 1:26 PM, 19 July 2007   [link]

Computer Bat?  Hard to think of a better name for it.
While most computer mice have feet planted firmly on the mouse pad, it takes a special mouse to truly fly.  The Logitech MX Air can be wielded in the air and become a gyroscopic pointer with just a flick of your wrist.
Last year I predicted that the Wii game machine might inspire controllers for PCs like this computer bat.  This one sounds a little complex for my tastes, but it is good to see that designers are working on this problem.

(Fun fact:  Some designers have built "computer moles", which you control with your foot.   They have some advantages over computer mice; for example, you can use a computer mole and both hands at the same time, but they never caught on.)
- 12:24 PM, 19 July 2007   [link]

Are Filibusters Bad?  For many, it depends on which side you are on.
Senate Democrats are hauling out cots and preparing for an around-the-clock session tonight to bash Republicans for blocking a vote on a proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq.  They're solemnly intoning that the all-nighter is a critical way of calling attention to obstructionist Republicans who are blocking the will of the majority by refusing to end the debate and vote.  And the Republicans are blasting right back that the all-nighter is nothing more than a stunt that will solidify their resolve.

Sound familiar?  It is.  We heard it all in 2003, when Republicans (then in control of the Senate) used a similar ploy—right down to the cots--against Democrats who were blocking President Bush's judicial nominees.  Ineffectual Republican leaders had sat by for months while energized Democrats picked off Bush's judges—until the Big Night when they had the sleepover on the Hill.  They hammered those irksome Democrats in the minority who were mounting the first-ever filibuster of appellate court judges.
Greenburg is amused by these partisan switches on the filibuster, as everyone should be.  In contrast, the editorial writers at the New York Times are certain that this filibuster is evil, even though they backed the Democratic filibusters against judicial nominees.  The Times has become so partisan that they even misrepresent their own past positions, as well as Republican arguments.
Republicans have the right to filibuster under centuries-old rules that this page has long defended.  It is the height of hypocrisy for this band of Republicans to use that power since only about two years ago they were ready to unilaterally ban filibusters to push through some of Mr. Bush's most ideologically blinkered judicial nominees.
In fact, the Times opposed filibusters for many years, principally because filibusters were often used — by Democrats — to block civil rights measures.  And it is incorrect to say that the Republicans threatened to ban filibusters; in fact they threatened to ban filibusters on judicial nominees, not filibusters in general.  Republicans argued that the rule change was necessary because filibusters had not been used in the past to block judicial nominees, and they were correct in that argument, with one possible exception.

My view?  I would like to see more limits on filibusters, but not to see them banned entirely.

(In 2005, the New York Times was honest enough to admit that it was changing its position of filibusters.  Now that fact has disappeared down their memory hole.)
- 7:43 AM, 19 July 2007   [link]

Why Is The McCain Campaign In Trouble?  George Will gives a reason that will not occur to most journalists, McCain-Feingold.
McCain, whose reservoir of righteousness is deep, thinks the parlous condition of his campaign is the price of his principled behavior in supporting an immigration reform that is intensely unpopular with the Republican base (read: the party's nominating electorate) and the war, which is intensely unpopular with almost everyone else. Both positions are principled; both have taken a toll on his collapsing campaign.  But years before the immigration controversy reached a boil, and before the war even began, McCain-Feingold had generated more, and more intense, opposition to McCain than he or his supporters in the media comprehend.  Being exempt from the McCain-Feingold leash, the media like the law's restraints on rival voices.
But many citizens, especially Republicans, don't like those same restraints.  Many of us believe that "Congress shall make no law" means what it says — and is a fine principle.

Those three issues aren't the only reasons that McCain is having problems, but Will is right to say that many have never forgiven McCain for his attacks on freedom of speech.  (President Bush is also guilty for signing a bill he had said was unconstitutional, in part.  That he may have expected the Supreme Court to throw most of it out (as they should have) is no excuse.)

There is much about John McCain that I admire, but McCain-Feingold is enough, by itself, to stop me from backing him for president in the Republican contest.  (Of course I would vote for him against any likely Democratic nominee, were he to win the nomination.)

(Will's crack that the "media like the law's restraints on rival voices" is exactly right.

Some of the decline in McCain's support (and Giuliani's) is the result of all the Fred Thompson talk.  As Thompson has risen in the polls, it is only natural that other candidates will lose support.  Those declines mean less than they seem to because, in the end, there will be just one nominee.)
- 5:40 AM, 19 July 2007   [link]

Zogby Says Bush Up, Democratic Congress Down:  Though he doesn't make that his lead.
An even bigger majority, 83 percent, say the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing only a fair or poor job -- the worst mark for Congress in a Zogby poll.
. . .
In the national survey of 1,012 likely voters, taken July 12 through July 14, about 66 percent said Bush had done only a fair or poor job as president, with 34 percent ranking his performance as excellent or good.

That is up slightly from his low of 30 percent in early March and in line with other national polls showing Bush's approval ratings lingering at or near historically low levels amid continued chaos and bloodshed in Iraq.
In fact, the slight gain for Bush is in the eighth paragraph of the article.  Wonder what Zogby will say if Bush makes another small gain in the next poll?

It is likely, I think, that Bush is gaining a little from the comparison to the Democratic Congress; many voters who thought matters could not get worse with the Democrats in control of Congress are learning that they were wrong.

(As in many recent polls, most respondents say that their own lives are going well — and nearly two-thirds think that life will be better for their children.  As Zogby notes, this gap between estimates of our own lives and the country is far larger than at most times in the past.  I blame the "mainstream" media for this gap; people get their views on their own lives mostly from their personal experiences, but their estimates of the state of the nation mostly from the "mainstream" newspapers and networks.)
- 2:21 PM, 18 July 2007   [link]

We Had Another Reason To Celebrate on July 4th, though we didn't know it at the time.
The highest-ranking Iraqi leader of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested and told interrogators that Osama bin Laden's inner circle wields considerable influence over the Iraqi group, the U.S. command said Wednesday.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who was captured in Mosul on July 4, carried messages from bin Laden, and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, to the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayub al-Masri, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

"Communication between the senior al-Qaida leadership and al-Masri frequently went through al-Mashhadani," Bergner said.  "There is a clear connection between al-Qaida in Iraq and al-Qaida senior leadership outside Iraq."
And this detail is fascinating.
In Web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a name indicating Iraqi origin, with the Egyptian al-Masri as minister of war.  There are no known photos of al- Baghdadi.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a "fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor with an Iraqi accent is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.

"In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al-Qaida in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq," Bergner said.
Creating a fake Iraqi suggests that they don't have a real Iraqi, at least not one that they can trust, to play this part.

Incidentally, it is good that we did not hear this news immediately.  When you capture one of their leaders, you want to keep that a secret for a time while you run down the best leads.
- 10:23 AM, 18 July 2007
More on the capture from Bill Roggio.
- 12:24 PM, 18 July 2007   [link]

Is This Story too good to be true?  Probably.  At least the last part about those two well-known clients is probably too good to be true, though it is amusing that only one of them is on record denying the story.
- 9:45 AM, 18 July 2007   [link]

Don't Show Their Propaganda Videos:  That's Charles Dunn's advice to our networks.
You have seen it.  We have all seen it.  Worst of all, the families of the heroic soldiers killed, have seen it.

"It," is a video montage of American military vehicle after American military vehicle, getting blown up in Iraq by Improvised Explosive Devices, or IED's.  Some of our television "news" networks will show one or two vehicles getting blown to bits, while others will ghoulishly show ten or more American military vehicles in a row, getting decimated by explosives hidden in the roads by cowardly terrorists.
. . .
Each and every aired roadside bombing was planned, executed, and filmed by Al Qaeda or other terrorists operating in that theater.  Each and every one.  Think about that for a moment.  American network executives are eagerly showing "snuff" films of American soldiers so they can go after Bush, beat their competition, or both.  In the most heinous way possible, our very networks have willingly entered into a relationship with those who mean to exterminate us all.  Why?  Because of ideology and money.
Imagine the reaction during World War II if our radio networks had regularly run propaganda from Hitler or Tojo.

(Dunn thinks the networks are showing these videos, in part, for money.  The executives at our networks may believe that they gain market share by showing this enemy propaganda, but I think that it hurts them, especially in the long run.)
- 6:44 AM, 18 July 2007   [link]

Insult Them:  That's one of the ways Carlin Romano thinks we should fight terrorists.
Let's mention just one key goal: the education of the world's Muslim youth.  Instead of hearing moral praise and encouragement for terrorism from jihadists, which then gets mixed in their minds with the nonjudgmental, tactical talk of Western officials and media, they'd have to absorb a steady stream of insults of terrorists' intelligence, morality, decency, and reasoning.  Young Muslims would have to get used to hearing jihadist heroes described as savages, scum, and uncivilized losers, along with the reasons why.  It would intellectually force them, far more than they are forced today, to choose between two visions of the world.

We should not minimize the thirst for respect among terrorists and their potential sympathizers.  When we treat terrorists only as tactical foes, as though we're too jaded for moral talk, we raise the self-respect of terrorists and their appeal to young people.
He's right, of course, and the sensitivity of radical Islamists to insults shows how powerful they could be.

(Could our rap "artists" help in this part of the struggle?  Maybe.  I'm not familiar enough with their work to know for sure, but I believe they are often expert at insults.)
- 6:10 AM, 18 July 2007   [link]

Because We Say So, That's Why:  The Seattle Times, perhaps inspired by a strange New York Times editorial, calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

There is no good time to get out of Iraq, but once we know we must leave, there is no excuse to put off the decision.  Delay is also a decision, the wrong one with enormous costs in human life.

But does not give us a single reason why immediate withdrawal would be a good decision, though they hint at one in the last line.

Here's a suggestion for the editorial writers at the Times:  If you want serious people to take you seriously, make an argument and support it with evidence.  Don't just tell us your conclusion.   For example, if, as it appears, you believe that an American withdrawal would reduce the killing, tell us why you think so — and why you disagree with most experts on that point.  Or, if you think that Iraqi deaths do not matter, be frank enough to admit that.

And while I am lecturing, I will go a little farther with my suggestions.  Tell us what you expect to happen in Iraq, and around the world, if we do what you say we should.  Support your predictions with examples from history, such as the success of the UN withdrawal from Rwanda.  (Oops!  That example doesn't work very well, does it?  Though our withdrawal did help protect President Clinton's political viability.)  Or perhaps you could use our withdrawal from Indochina, with all the wonderful consequences for Cambodia.  (Oops, there are problems with that example, too.)  Despite my failures on those two examples, I am sure that the editorial writers at the Times can think of some historical examples that support their argument — and I am even more sure that they should try.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 4:43 PM, 17 July 2007   [link]

Welcome To The Augean Stables:  That's my message to the latest public editor at the New York Times, Clark Hoyt.

The findings in a recent Rasmussen poll show just how large his task is.
A Rasmussen Reports survey on perceptions of media bias found that Americans tend to believe that the New York Times, Washington Post, and their local newspaper all show a bias in favor of liberals.  A plurality believes that the Wall Street Journal delivers the news without bias.
. . .
Among the print publications in the survey, the New York Times is perceived as being furthest to the left.  Forty percent (40%) of Americans believe the Times has a bias in favor of liberals.   Just 11% believe it has a conservative bias while 20% believe it reports news without bias.
. . .
One of the more startling details concerns the perceptions of liberals towards the New York Times.   Liberals tend to see all broadcast outlets and most print publications as having a bias in favor of conservatives.  A plurality of liberals (40%) believes the Times delivers news without bias.   However, 25% of liberals see a liberal bias at the New York Times while only 17% see a conservative bias.  This makes the New York Times the only media outlet that liberals are more likely to see as having a liberal bias than a conservative bias.
We should take the exact numbers in this survey with a grain of salt.  For one thing, far more people should have said they have no opinion, or don't have enough information to have an opinion, simply because not that many people read the New York Times regularly.  But I think that the overall pattern we see is correct;  Americans do think that the New York Times is biased, and most of them see it as biased to the left.  (As do almost all* honest media watchers.)

Anyone who is familiar with columnists Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich, or who reads the Times' editorials regularly, will know why so many Americans think the Times is biased.

And the efforts of the Times to reveal our secret programs to our enemies have led some to go even farther and accuse the newspaper of being in an alliance with the terrorists.  I would not go that far, though the arrogance of executive editor Bill Keller tempts me in that direction, but I would say that the Times — and other "mainstream" news organizations — often act as if they were allies of the terrorists.

The Times has made matters far worse by cutting itself off from much feedback.  It does not publish the email addresses of all its staff, so the worst sinners are much less likely to hear from those who disagree with them.  Worst of all, the New York Times letters editor, or, as I call him, the New York Times censor, Thomas Feyer, excludes most letters critical of the Times.  (As far as I can tell, Feyer is unusual in his approach; most letters editors prefer to publish critical letters.)  Feyer is not helping the Times by his policies; in general, we learn of our mistakes from our opponents.  By censoring so many letters from opponents, Feyer robs the Times of opportunities to learn about its mistakes.

As any engineer can tell you, when you eliminate feedback, you are likely to get a system that behaves strangely.

Or, to return to my original metaphor, we could say that Feyer prevents those working in the stable from knowing that the citizens are complaining of the stench.

So far, Hoyt has done nothing to reduce the piles in the stables; in fact, if anything, he added a little, in this column.   And the fact that he was hired by Bill Keller, who is the source of so many problems at the Times, does not give us much reason to hope that Hoyt will do better in the future.  We should expect that the pile of manure will grow and that fewer and fewer citizens will see the Times as unbiased.  Of course, I will be delighted if I am wrong in those predictions.

(*In a poll like this, you can not ask very sophisticated questions.  Some on the far left might honestly consider the Times conservative, because it is not as far left as they are.  What you really want to ask is whether the Times is to the left of the average American voter, but that is a much trickier question.

Cleaning the Augean Stables was one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules.)
- 3:56 PM, 17 July 2007   [link]

A Small Step Forward:  And the Washington Post is honest enough to credit the Bush administration.
International inspectors yesterday confirmed that North Korea had shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor -- and that nearly four years of multilateral diplomacy by the Bush administration had achieved a tangible result.  Though some Western experts believe that the aging facility was already inoperative or close to it, the shutdown and readmission of inspectors is still significant: It will provide some assurance that North Korea's stock of nuclear bombs and plutonium will not grow
They follow that with a number of warnings not to expect too much, as they should.

Many critics of the Bush adminstration attacked the president for using a multilateral approach to North Korea, while at the same time criticizing him for being too unilateral everywhere else in the world.  That would be funnier, if the subject were not nuclear weapons.

There is no reason to automatically prefer either unilateral or multilateral approaches in diplomacy; it all depends on the circumstances.  Sometimes one will work better, sometimes the other.  And when dealing with North Korea, I have always thought that circumstances favored a multilateral approach, since Russia and China have so much more influence on the regime than we do.
- 2:29 PM, 17 July 2007   [link]

Professor Althouse doesn't approve of men's shorts.   Wonder what she would think of this?

(I assume that she means as everyday wear, though she doesn't say so.)
- 8:22 AM, 17 July 2007   [link]

LBJ's Millions?  They came from "honest graft".

(You can find a more complete explanation of "honest graft" here, where I suggest that Speaker Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, have been engaging in "honest graft" for years.)
- 7:48 AM, 17 July 2007   [link]