July 2007, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Keep Me In Guantanamo!  That's what one inmate wants.
An inmate of Guantanamo Bay who spends 22 hours each day in an isolation cell is fighting for the right to stay in the notorious internment camp.

Ahmed Belbacha fears that he will be tortured or killed if the United States goes ahead with plans to return him to his native Algeria.

The Times has learnt that Mr Belbacha, who lived in Britain for three years, has filed an emergency motion at the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC asking for his transfer out of Guantanamo to be halted.   He was cleared for release from Camp Delta in February and his lawyers believe that his return to Algerian custody is imminent.
I believe that Belbacha doesn't want to go back to Algeria — the prisons there are not noted for being pleasant — but I wouldn't believe anything else about his story without independent proof.
- 3:54 PM, 31 July 2007   [link]

Aspiring To Be A National Nuisance:  Almost all politicians have ambitions, from passing a measure they believe will help the public to winning a higher office.   Some of their ambitions are honorable, and most of them are at least understandable.   So, why I am I stuck with a congressman, Jay Inslee, whose ambition is to move from being a local nuisance to being a national nuisance?

Rep. Jay Inslee will introduce a resolution today directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be impeached.

Five co-sponsors have joined Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, in backing the resolution.

At issue, said Inslee, is whether Gonzales lied to Congress in testimony about secret government wiretapping and about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, including John McKay, the former federal prosecutor in Seattle.

Those interested in the facts of the case may want to read this Washington Post column by leftist Ruth Marcus.

I find myself in an unaccustomed and unexpected position: defending Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales fans, if there are Gonzales fans left, except for the only fan who counts: Don't take any comfort from my assessment.

In his Senate testimony last week, Gonzales once again dissembled and misled.  He was too clever by seven-eighths.  He employed his signature brand of inartful dodging -- linguistic evasion, poorly executed.  The brutalizing he received from senators of both parties was abundantly deserved.

But I don't think he actually lied about his March 2004 hospital encounter with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.  I certainly don't think he could be charged with -- much less convicted of -- perjury.

And don't miss what Marcus says about the motives of those attacking Gonzalez:

Consequently, the calls by some Democrats for a special prosecutor to consider whether Gonzales committed perjury have more than a hint of maneuvering for political advantage.  What else is to be gained by engaging in endless Clintonian debates about what the meaning of "program" is?

That's you she's talking about, Congressman Inslee.

As a leftist, Marcus does not go as far as she should in her argument.  We are engaged in a war with terrorists, a war in which intelligence is crucial.  Those facts are indisputable.  But most Democrats and most "mainstream" journalists act as if their main enemy is the Bush administration and do all they can to disrupt our intelligence operations — if that will hurt Bush.   Congressman Inslee's proposal to start an investigation of Gonzalez may not be the most irresponsible thing these leftist allies have done (that dishonor probably goes to the New York Times for some of its leaks), but it is one of the most irresponsible.

If Inslee succeeds, we will be, in effect, without an Attorney General for the next eighteen months.  And, since so many of the threats come from within, the Attorney General is a key figure in the war on terror.  But that doesn't matter to Congressman Inslee, a local nuisance aspiring to be a national nuisance.  And, as far as I can tell, a local nuisance completely indifferent to the effects of his actions on our national security.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(Incidentally, I learned from the article that Inslee had been a (part time?) prosecutor early in his career.  Given his weak relationship with the facts, I think an investigation into his actions as a prosecutor is warranted.  A man who will believe, for example, Joseph Wilson, IV, will believe anyone and may well have been a Nifong in that part of his political career.

Since Inslee is interested investigations, let me suggest that he might want to begin with Congressman Conyers.  If, that is, Inslee is interested in crimes, rather than "maneuvering for political advantage".)
- 2:52 PM, 31 July 2007   [link]

Sunday On Rainier:  Last Sunday, I drove down to Rainier for a quick hike with some of the family.  The weather was a little too cloudy for the best views, though we did get glimpses from time to time.

Emmons Glacier

That's the Emmons glacier, so those familiar with Rainier will know that we went to Sunrise, on the northeast side of the mountain, rather than to Paradise, which is on the south side.  There are other tourist destinations, but those two get most of the traffic.  (For a picture that shows almost all of the glacier and much of the mountain, go here.)

The wild flowers were lovely, better than I had expected, and we saw more marmots on this trip than I have seen in all my other trips in the last three years, put together.


We even saw a mother with two babies, though I did not react quickly enough to get a picture of the three.  The marmots — at least those that live along the popular trails — are used to people and let you get quite close to them.

There was snow close enough to the main trails so that we had a chance to throw a snowball or two, something our ten year old enjoyed.  (I think I have his age right.)  Incidentally, while we were hiking, he asked a great question.  I had mentioned in passing that some thousands of years ago, in the last ice age, where we were had been covered by enormous glaciers.  He wanted to know how we knew that, which is, as I said, a great question.  (Follow the link, if you want a review of the evidence.)

(If you visit Rainier, it is best to get there early to avoid the traffic, and best, if you can, to visit on a week day.  And, again, if you can, it is best to schedule your trip using a "now" cast, rather than a forecast.  If it looks like a great day early in the morning, leave for the mountain.

In the summer, you should bring sunglasses, sun screen, a hat, and water.  If you plan to hike any distance at all, you should bring hiking boots or shoes.  This advice may seem obvious, but I would say that at least half of the people I see on the mountain are missing one of those items, and some are missing all of them.

And if you are driving to Paradise, you should know that the parking there is very limited this year, while they are building a new visitor's center.  Get there very early on weekends, or be prepared to ride the shuttle bus.)
- 12:52 PM, 31 July 2007   [link]

Do You Believe In Magic?  You do if you are Nevada Senator Harry Reid.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada sent a letter this week to four companies telling them not to build planned coal-burning power plants in his state.
. . .
"Because I believe that developing renewable energy in Nevada is far preferable to coal for the sake of our economy, public health and the environment, I will use every means at my disposal to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Nevada that do not capture and permanently store greenhouse gas emissions," Reid wrote.

Reid said he'd rather have the state focus on renewable power and energy efficiency.  He also opposes nuclear power for Nevada and the Yucca Mountain site in the state for storage of nuclear waste.
In the next decade, we will have to build base power plants that burn either coal or uranium; Reid opposes both.  If he is successful in blocking both, Nevada should start planning for power blackouts — or should shut down all growth.
- 2:03 PM, 28 July 2007   [link]

Not Sure Whether To Believe this study.
A single joint of cannabis raises the risk of schizophrenia by more than 40 per cent, a disturbing study warns.

The Government-commissioned report has also found that taking the drug regularly more than doubles the risk of serious mental illness.

Overall, cannabis could be to blame for one in seven cases of schizophrenia and other life-shattering mental illness, the Lancet reports.
But you it would help explain why our politics often seem so crazy these days — especially on the left.
- 2:24 PM, 27 July 2007
More reasons to be skeptical about these results here.
- 10:02 AM, 1 August 2007   [link]

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Is that all dictators need?  It is, according to the Washington Post's Sally Quinn.

(It is a pleasing idea.  Crazy, but pleasing, as crazy ideas often are.)
- 2:12 PM, 27 July 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  Stanley Kurtz explains how the Saudis are infiltrating our schools.
Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we're going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror.  I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan.  Unfortunately, I'm talking about K-12 education in the United States.  Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America's K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East.   While we've had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America's Middle-East studies curriculum at home.

How did they do it?  Very carefully . . . and very cleverly.  It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education.  Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach.  That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America's K-12 teachers.  These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes.  Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).
Two examples from Harvard's outreach program:  It took months for Massachusetts to persuade the outreach program to include a single book by our preeminent scholar of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis.  But the outreach program made a piece of propaganda, "The Arab World Studies Notebook", a key resource for teachers.

Read the whole thing.  And if you are a teacher or principal, you may want to read the study by Sandra Stotsky, as well.
- 9:32 AM, 27 July 2007   [link]

Why Do People Buy A Prius?  (Or, as I like to call it, a Pious.)   Robert Samuelson explains.
My younger son calls the Toyota Prius a "hippie car," and he has a point.  Not that Prius drivers are hippies.  Toyota says that typical buyers are 54 and have incomes of $99,800; 81 percent are college graduates.  But, like hippies, they're making a loud lifestyle statement: We're saving the planet; what are you doing?
. . .
The Prius is, I think, a parable for the broader politics of global warming.  Prius politics is mostly about showing off, not curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Even funnier than the Prius is how Elizabeth Edwards wants to fight global warming.  Are she and her husband giving up their mansion?  No, but she is willing to give up $tangerines.
John and Elizabeth Edwards were sitting a a camera-friendly spot along a coastal creek in South Carolina the other day, talking with environmentalists about global warming, when Mrs. Edwards mentioned that she was prepared to give up tangerines.
Why tangerines?  Because, for most of us, tangerines have to be shipped a long distance before we can buy them.  If energy prices go way up, so would shipping costs, and so would the price of tangerines.

Samuelson and Gail Collins don't think much of this posturing, of these promises to save the environment with Priuses, or by giving up tangerines.  And neither should anyone else.
- 1:06 PM, 26 July 2007   [link]

Moderate Democrats aren't getting much respect from the Democratic presidential candidates.
Bill Clinton will be there.  So will 300 officeholders from more than 45 states.  But one thing will be missing when Democrats gather in Tennessee this weekend to discuss how to appeal to moderate, independent-minded voters in 2008: the Democratic presidential field.

Not a single one of the eight presidential candidates plans to attend the Democratic Leadership Council's summer meeting, a snub that says less about the centrist DLC than it does about a nomination process that rewards candidates who pander to their parties' hardened cores while ignoring everybody else.
The DLC is more accurately described as center-left, rather than "centrist", but that just strengthens the point.

One reason for this neglect of the center is that the Democrats are more confident than they should be about their prospects in 2008.
- 7:37 AM, 26 July 2007   [link]

What Happens If You Get A Poll Result You Don't Like?  You do the poll over, just to check.
The war in Iraq is the single most important ongoing news story right now.  Public opinion about the war is a critical part of that story.  That's why when we had a poll finding about the war that we could not explain, we went back and did another poll on the very same subject.  We wanted to make sure we had gotten it right.

It turns out we had gotten it right.  Support for the initial invasion of Iraq, as measured by a question The New York Times/CBS News poll has asked since December 2003, increased modestly compared to two months ago.
To some extent, this is a good decision.  The poll result was modestly surprising, so it makes sense to run a check.  But some of us may wonder whether they would have done the same check had the surprise been in the other direction.

Janet Elder, who is their survey editor, was honest enough to report this clue:
There was also a drop in the number of people who said the war is going badly.  In the latest poll, 66 percent of Americans said things are going badly for the United States in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq.  That is down from 76 percent who said the same thing in May.
Though she seems not to understand how important that change is.

(My original post on the poll is here.)
- 4:14 PM, 25 July 2007   [link]

Credit Where Due:  In this post, I suggested that Sun-Times columnist Jennifer Hunter, who appears to have been fooled into thinking that trial lawyer James Ronca was a "staunch Republican", should go back to Ronca and ask him how he could be a Republican, given all those contributions to Democratic candidates.  Hunter didn't take that advice, but she did print a letter from Ronca, arguing that he was too a Republican.

As I predicted, what he said was quite interesting.  He gave a long list of services to the Republican party, none recent, and no explanation of his contributions to Democrats.  He also said these things:
Even though I am a long-term Republican I am not a fool.  Naturally I opposed candidates like George W. Bush and Rick Santorum who have vilified plaintiffs trial lawyers.
. . .
This campaign against you and me is ridiculous and I think evidence of how the Republican Party works.   They make an effort to pressure journalists to print what they want and avoid what the Republican Party does not like.  No free thinking or free press is allowed.  They smear everyone who opposes them from big fish like Joe Wilson to small fries like me.
Not quite the views of a typical Republican, in my opinion.

Ronca may have been a Republican at one time — perhaps to gain influence in a state where Republicans often had the edge — but he is no longer one, even if he is still registered in the party.

(Ronca's argument is quite entertaining and might fool some people.  Judging just by this letter, I could imagine hiring him as my attorney — if I were guilty and the evidence showed that beyond a reasonable doubt.)
- 3:22 PM, 25 July 2007   [link]

More Good News:  This time on traffic safety.
The nation last year saw the largest drop in traffic deaths in more than a decade, which led to the lowest highway fatality rate ever recorded, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Monday.

Last year, 42,642 people died in traffic crashes, a drop of 868 deaths from 2005.  That 2% decline contributed to the historic low fatality rate of 1.42 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, Peters said.
The fatality rate is now just a little more than half what it was in 1988.

Be interesting to see a statistical study of the effects of different measures, to see how important, for instance, air bags are, or what difference more enforcement of laws against drunk driving makes.

(Any political point?  Not much of one.  When you have a trend that has lasted this long, it is hard to credit any particular politicians or measures.  But I do know that President Bush would be blamed if the trend had reversed.)
- 1:56 PM, 25 July 2007
More:  Michael Barone is also impressed by this decrease, and has more to say about it, going all the way back to 1937.
There were 37,819 traffic fatalities, nearly 90 percent of the 2006 figure, as long ago as 1937, and the rate per million miles of travel was 14.00, nearly 10 times the rate for 2006.  The peak years for traffic fatalities were 1969, 1972, and 1973, with 55,043, 55,600, and 55,096.  But a lot more people were driving then than in 1937, and the fatalities per million miles driven had fallen to 5.18, 4.41, and 4.20, respectively.  Now it's down to 1.42 per million miles driven—a huge change.
Barone credits many for these enormous improvements in highway safety.  And he could have added two more: Our trauma centers are much better at saving accident victims than they were 70 years ago, and our emergency services are much better at getting victims to those centers.  (As I understand it, some of those improvements came directly from what our military learned in Vietnam.)
- 9:33 AM, 31 July 2007   [link]

This Poll is bad news for Ron Paul.
The first national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports of Republican Congressman Ron Paul's presidential candidacy shows him trailing New York Senator Hillary Clinton by fifteen points and Illinois Senator Barack Obama by twenty.

Overall, the numbers show Clinton getting 49% of the vote when matched against Paul while the Republican hopeful picks up just 34%.  Obama leads Paul 50% to 30%.
And for Hillary Clinton.  She's getting less than 50 percent of the vote against a candidate who is not well known.  (And many of those who know him regard him as a joke.)
- 10:06 AM, 25 July 2007   [link]

Goat Milk Can Protect Against Nerve Gas:   Genetically modified goat milk, that is.
Goats have been genetically modified to produce milk containing chemicals that protect against deadly nerve agents such as sarin and VX.

Goats have been modified so their milk can protect against nerve gas.

The US Department of Defense has granted £105 million to biotech company PharmAthene to carry out the research.

If the work is successful the drug could be used to protect troops against exposure to nerve agents on battlefields, or stockpiled for use in the event of a chemical weapon attack on a city.
(Actually just one chemical, butyrylcholinesterase.)

There are still many tests to be done, but this is a hopeful development.

(Genetically modified goat milk has also been used to produce spider silk.)
- 7:05 AM, 25 July 2007   [link]

Ward Churchill has been fired.
The first, very long chapter of the Ward Churchill saga ended this afternoon as just about everybody — including Churchill — had predicted: He was fired from his job as ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado.

The next chapter is set to begin Wednesday, when the controversial academic and his civil rights attorney, David Lane, sue the university in Denver District Court.
. . .
CU President Hank Brown had earlier recommended the dismissal.  In the end, there really wasn't much choice, Brown said.

Churchill "falsified history and fabricated history."  And Churchill "did not express regret, apologize or agree to refrain from this behavior in the future," Brown said.

Some 25 faculty members on three committees had looked at the evidence against Churchill and found truth in the allegations he violated academic conduct standards, said Pat Hayes, regents' chairwoman.
About time.  And if I were running the University of Colorado, I would look very hard at those who hired and promoted him.

More here.  And don't miss this fine editorial.
"Ward Churchill is a far more profound, original, knowledgeable, productive and important scholar than any of his critics," University of Colorado sociology professor Tom Mayer insisted as recently as last month.

Mayer is correct to this extent: Yes, Churchill was original and productive.  He was original to the point of inventing his material and productive to the point of lifting the work of others.  The voluminous evidence is all available, for anyone to see, in the 124 pages of the "Report of the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct" that was issued in May 2006.
That he still has academic defenders, in spite of this evidence, shows just how corrupt (or deluded) some in academia are.

(Those familiar with Mary McCarthy's novel, The Groves of Academe, will see parallels to Churchill's career.  Her protagonist, Henry Mulcahy, an obnoxious literature instructor, saves his job at a liberal college by claiming, falsely, to be a Communist.   Churchill made an academic career by claiming, falsely, to be an American Indian.)
- 6:39 AM, 25 July 2007
More on why those who hired and promoted Churchill should answer to the university administration from Linda Chavez.
But the University of Colorado has been engaged in perpetrating its own, albeit more subtle, fraud as well.  When the university hires faculty members or admits students on the basis of skin color, when it grants degrees in pseudo-academic fields, when its obsession with "diversity" overrides its devotion to learning, it, too, is acting fraudulently.  The Ward Churchills of the academic world could not exist without the complicity of the universities that hire them.
Many people at our universities know about this fraud — and choose to say nothing.
- 6:15 AM, 27 July 2007   [link]