June 2005, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

HOV = HAR?  Do HOV lanes increase accidents on our highways?   I've wondered for years whether those lanes, so popular with planners, cause more problems than they solve.  Now a Texas study has found that one kind of HOV lane, the kind without physical barriers separating them from other lanes, has a higher rate of accidents — and so do the lanes right next to them.  Here's a summary of the main findings.
A newly released Texas Transportation Institute study suggests that High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes that are not separated from regular lanes with a physical barrier experience a 41-56 percent increase in injury accidents. Almost all new freeway lanes are set aside for HOV use only because federal environmental regulations strongly favor their use.

The main benefit promised by HOV lanes -- faster travel for carpoolers -- is what causes the accidents, according to the study. During peak traffic times, the speed differential between the regular lanes and HOV lanes ranges between 21 and 35 MPH.  For example, a slower car trying to merge into the HOV lane may be rear-ended by faster moving HOV traffic that cannot slow down in time.  Overall, the general purpose traffic lane closest to the HOV lanes experienced a 153-188 percent increase in injury accidents.
I've been referring to them sarcastically as "low occupancy lanes" for years, since that's what they generally are when I drive.  Maybe I should call them "high accident rate lanes", or even "killer lanes", instead.

After the Texas study was done, Maryland looked at their data and found similar effects:
The [Wall Street] Journal also reports that Maryland's top transportation engineer looked at accident data in light of the Texas study and found the HOV lanes on I-270 have an accident rate double the statewide average.
(Washington state has not done a formal study.  According to a local paper, the King County Journal, a state traffic engineer, Mark Leth, had his staff look at part of the data for two local freeways and found it "inconclusive".  Leth describes himself as a "proponent" of HOV lanes.)

Will this research result in the elimination of that kind of HOV lane?  It should, but I very much doubt that it will.  Carpooling is a sacred goal for many of our transportation planners.   Mere accidents and even deaths may not change their minds.  Meanwhile, you would be wise to stay away from those lanes, at least when the speed differential between them and the other lanes is large.

(I assume the findings are limited to accidents that resulted in injuries because those result in official crash reports, which is what the researchers used for their data.

You can find the full study here.   I glanced over part of it and saw nothing suspicious.  You can find a longer article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal, if you happen to have a subscription.)
- 3:26 PM, 30 June 2005   [link]

"Progressive Social Legislation":  Ever wonder why gay marriage now has so much support on the left, when just a few years ago, it was viewed as a radical idea?   The BBC accidentally answered that question, at least for me.  This morning that's how a BBC reporter described gay marriage, in a story on Spain's legalization of gay marriage.   And the reporter and the announcer both seemed to think that settled the argument.  Once something has entered the category of "progressive social legislation", it is a good thing that needs no justification — at least for these two BBC journalists.

That there might be legitimate arguments against gay marriage, or that, considering Spain's low fertility rate (about 1.2 children per woman), gay marriage was not the most important change Spain needed to make in its marriage laws, did not seem to occur to either man.

In fact, I would go farther and say that they seemed genuinely incapable of thinking about the question.  Once gay marriage had become "progressive social legislation", the argument was over for them, and their minds closed on that subject.  And I don't think the two are alone in that transformation.  In fact, I suspect it is rather common on the left.

(For my own mixed feelings on gay marriage, see this disclaimer.)
- 11:33 AM, 30 June 2005   [link]

And Now  off to Mt. Rainier.  I need a break, and Accuweather is promising that it will be "nice this afternoon", which is the best forecast they have for Rainier until the middle of next week.  The Paradise web cam shows that, unlike yesterday, it will not be foggy all day.

(The official Mt. Rainier site does not have as much information as one would like.  When I checked yesterday the trail reports were weeks out of date, as was the snow report for Paradise.   Unfortunately, the web cam doesn't show any of the foreground, but I am fairly certain most of the snow is gone from the trails, at least where I will be hiking.  You can get weather reports by entering the zip code there, 98398, or "Paradise Inn, WA", in the local box with the weather sites I tried.)
- 9:33 AM, 29 June 2005
More:  It wasn't as clear when I got down to the mountain as it was when I left.  In fact, Rainier was being downright coy all afternoon, hiding behind clouds most of the time.   Got some pictures I liked anyway.  (Tomorrow, I'll post a few.)  And I had some interesting talks with some European tourists, not about politics, just about the mountain.  I met so many Germans that you would have thought we were celebrating German-American friendship week on the mountain.  By the end of the afternoon, I had the metric conversions almost memorized, so I could rattle off facts like: "Mt. Adams is about three thousand meters high and about 70 kilometers from here."  Or, "Mt. Rainier has gotten more than fifty meters of snow in a year."

This would be a good time to visit — assuming the day is clear or mostly so.  The flowers are beautiful, perhaps a week or two from their peak.  There are still snow banks within walking distance of little kids, so they can still have their snowball fights.  And the glaciers are relatively clean looking.  Best to go mid week if you can.  Near the base of the mountain (Longmire), there's a sign that warns you when the Paradise parking lot is full.
- 8:15 AM, 30 June 2005   [link]

Bush Said Nothing New Last Night:  Which is good if you think he has the right strategy in the war on terror, as I do.  Many criticized the presentation for being too soft.  I think he had the right approach.  This war with Islamic terror began long before Bush was in office and will last long after he has office.  If I had to guess how long I would say perhaps a hundred years.  To win that kind of long struggle, we need gritty, long term determination, not a temporary rush of support.

We have been able to sustain long conflicts before.  The Cold War lasted decades and some of our Indian wars lasted years (and sometimes included what we would now call terrorist attacks).  It may be harder in this war to keep our eyes on victory because so much of the media and a significant fraction of the Democratic party has already chosen the surrender option.   On the other hand, both the media and that part of the Democratic party have sustained many defeats in the last few decades.  I expect their influence to continue to decline.  It was no accident that Bush's speech contained these sentences:
They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras.  They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001.
(More:  Kevin Drum agrees with me that the speech offered little new.  Tom Maguire passes on some reactions from the young, who think that Bush has big ears and that Nancy Pelosi is "scary", a tradeoff that the Republicans will be happy to accept.  David Adesnik live blogged the speech.   And, if you would like to read the speech yourself, here it is.)
- 8:45 AM, 29 June 2005   [link]

Teachers Versus Parents:  David Broder describes the split
The good news is that the American public values education so highly that it is prepared to support almost any sensible reform that promises to improve the quality of grade schools and high schools.

The bad news is that the people teaching in those schools are deeply opposed to current reform efforts and skeptical of the basic premise that all students should be measured by the same high standards.
. . .
When given a brief description of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush administration's school reform program, parents, by 45 percent to 34 percent, viewed it favorably.
. . .
But high school teachers were decidedly more negative, rating the legislation unfavorably by a ratio of 75 percent to 19 percent.
. . .
More troubling, from the viewpoint of reformers, is the gap between teachers and the public on the question of performance standards for students.
. . .
More than half of the parents favored the single standard, but only one-quarter of the high school teachers agreed.
Which group is right, the parents or the teachers?  All the research I have seen supports the parents.  If we want our kids to learn more, we need performance standards.  That so many teachers disagree shows why school reform is so difficult.

But I wouldn't give up on either reform or the teachers.  There was a similar split over bilingual education in California.  A few years after the voters forced the schools to drop it (mostly), many teachers and principals were admitting that they had been wrong.  Success can change minds.

(Yes, Broder did use "ratio" incorrectly, perhaps unintentionally illustrating the point that our education system can be improved.)
- 7:45 AM, 28 June 2005   [link]

Deleted Post:  Last night I had second thoughts about the post I put up yesterday afternoon on whether we were winning in Iraq.  I didn't think my argument was wrong, but I realized that it had serious gaps.  But when I started thinking about filling them, I realized the post was way too long already.  So I have decided to pull it temporarily and rewrite it as two separate posts.  The first will be up today or tomorrow, the second within the next week.
- 7:14 AM, 28 June 2005   [link]

Is Chicago An "Intractable Quagmire"?  Consider the evidence.
Shots rang out across the city Saturday night and Sunday morning -- from the Far North Side to the Far South Side -- with preliminary reports of nearly two dozen people shot.

The overnight tally -- which is unofficial -- included two shootings on the same corner, a fatal shooting near the Taste of Chicago and several on the West Side, where detectives were swamped.
Someone should ask Senator Kennedy whether his not very original phrase fits Chicago better than Iraq.

And the United States has been occupying Chicago for a lot longer than we have been occupying Iraq.   Since 1804, if you start from Fort Dearborn.  Since 1833, if you start from the founding of the city.
- 3:05 PM, 27 June 2005   [link]

Jay Nordlinger Catches the New York Times tripping over its own political correctness.
I noticed a weird headline in the Times: "An Unborn Fetus With a Message for Mom."  Unborn fetus.  My gosh, has it gotten that bad?  I know the Times can't say "unborn child" (which is what a fetus is).  But now they can't even say "fetus" — it has to be "unborn fetus."

Here's the article, if you want to check for yourself.  I wondered how common the phrase was, so I googled it and got 31,700 hits.  So the New York Times isn't the only one to say "unborn fetus".

What's worst about this is that the editors at the New York Times are, most likely, not embarrassed by this nonsense.

(By the way, fetus has a technical meaning, as this second definition from my American Heritage dictionary shows:
In human beings, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth, as distinguished from the earlier embryo.
So you were an embryo for two months and a fetus for, in most cases, seven months.

Of course, in ordinary conversation, almost all of us say "baby", not "embryo" or "fetus".  I suppose there must be a few politically correct pregnant women who say "fetus" for unborn baby, but I've never met one.)
- 11:32 AM, 27 June 2005   [link]

Tom Friedman Versus Karl Rove:  Karl Rove's suggestion that conservatives wanted to wage war on the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and liberals wanted to understand the terrorists and, at most, pursue them as lawbreakers, has drawn much criticism, especially from Democrats who thought he might be talking about them.  But Tom Friedman's much harsher comment on liberals has drawn almost no criticism.  As I mentioned here, Friedman wrote this.
Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed.
Deep down most liberals don't want the Bush team to succeed in Iraq.  That's right; New York Times columnist Tom Friedman really did write that most liberals want the "Bush team" to fail in Iraq, with all the losses to the United States and the Iraq that would result from that failure.   That's a terrible charge, one that goes a bit too far, as I said in my original post.

If I had to summarize the difference between Rove and Friedman, I would say that Rove thinks liberals are foolish, and Friedman thinks liberals are evil — at least in their attitudes toward Bush and Iraq.

Why did Rove's charge draw so much criticism, while Friedman's much harsher charge drew so little?   Some of the difference, of course, is just due to their positions.  However prominent Tom Friedman may be, he is not a presidential advisor.  He may try to negotiate in the Middle East, as he has from time to time, but he has no authority to make agreements for the president.  Some of it is just partisanship.  Democrats think this issue has hurt them with the voters — as it has — and will hate almost anything said by a Republican on the subject.

Partisanship might explain why Democrats (or liberals) reacted so sharply to what Karl Rove said, but what explains their near silence on what Tom Friedman wrote?  Here, I am going to agree with Friedman, in part.  I think his terrible charge has some truth in it; some on the left really do want us to fail in Iraq for what that would do to George Bush — in spite of the terrible costs that failure would impose on the United States and Iraq.  (I would exempt many Democratic politicians from that charge, including John Kerry.)

There is some indirect poll evidence for Friedman's charge.  In discussing Rove's attack on liberals, Michael Barone notes these findings:
On the one hand, there are those who believe that this is a fundamentally good country and want to see success in Iraq.  On the other hand, there are those who believe this is a fundamentally bad country and want more than anything else to see George W. Bush fail.

Those who do not think this split is real should consult the responses to pollster Scott Rasmussen's question last year.  About two-thirds of Americans agreed that the United States is a fair and decent country.  Virtually all Bush voters agreed.  Kerry voters were split down the middle.
Or to put it another way, about half of the Kerry voters shared the view held by most of the European left, that the United States, especially under George W. Bush, is a bad country and should fail in Iraq.  Given where Kerry's support came from ideologically, it is certain that many liberals, perhaps most liberals, want us to fail in Iraq, just as Friedman said.

And that explains why there was so little reaction to Friedman's charge.  Many on the left want Bush and the United States to fail in Iraq — and see nothing wrong with that, as long as there is no cost to them, politically.

(Is Rove's charge true?  I think he went too far, just like Friedman.  In his talk, he used MoveOn as an example; Byron York thinks that what Rove said is accurate — when applied to MoveOn.
Critics have suggested that at the very least, Rove's "liberals" charge was overbroad.  That's a fair criticism. But as far as MoveOn is concerned, Rove's words were accurate and fair.

Finally, some may wonder what Rove was doing talking to the Conservative party in New York.   New York has odd election laws that allow minor parties to endorse the candidates of the major parties and even give them the party's line on the ballot.  So the Conservative party in New York is mostly an adjunct to the Republican party there, usually endorsing Republican candidates.)
- 9:06 AM, 27 June 2005   [link]

What's The Biggest Threat To Europe?  Is it the Polish Plumber?

Or is it wolves?

Given the now almost inevitable decline in European population, I would say it's the wolves.   And the Polish plumber looks like he might be part of the solution.
- 7:34 AM, 27 June 2005   [link]

Where Did George W. Bush Grow Up?  You probably think he lived in a house like the ones shown here.   (Click on the picture labeled "Kennedy compound" for a larger view.)

In fact, while Bush was growing up, he mostly lived in quite modest places.  He was born in New Haven while his father was attending Yale, so he probably spent his first year or two in a student apartment.  When the family moved to Texas, their first place was a "shotgun" house.  Or, rather half of a shotgun house, since the other half was being rented by a pair of prostitutes, something the Bushes had not known when they moved in.

Their first house in Midland, Texas was not much, and even their second house, which you can see here, was not what I would call fancy.  And, if you read the post, you will learn that Bush's first place after college was a "garage studio apartment" and that the first place he and Laura lived in after they married was a "small townhouse".

Why these modest dwellings?  Because his grandfather, Prescott Bush, and his father, George H. W. Bush, thought that their boys should work for a living.  This doesn't mean that the family wasn't far more privileged than most of us, but it does mean that the Bushes have had much more direct contact with ordinary people tha, say, the Kennedys.

(By way of Dean Esmay, who got if from neo-neocon, who got the pictures from "Pancho".)
- 10:20 AM, 26 June 2005   [link]

Which Story Is More Important?  This one?

On June 14, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin compared the military's interrogation techniques at the prison camp at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to that of the Nazis and other murderous regimes.

(Senator Durbin is the second ranking Democrat in the Senate.)

Or this one?

The White House Deputy Chief of Staff, speaking at a dinner Wednesday night of the New York State Conservative Party, had a few words on "state of liberalism."  In particular, Mr. Rove compared the conservative reaction to September 11 to the liberal reaction.  "Conservatives saw the attacks and prepared for war," he said.  "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

(The Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, is an unelected advisor to President Bush.)

If you said the first, you should not look forward to a job with the "mainstream" media, particularly the networks.  Here's how James Lakey summarizes the reactions to the two stories.

Major news outlets that largely ignored the controversial comments of the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate last week immediately reported on a fiery speech by White House adviser Karl Rove, giving the story front-page prominence and the lead of newscasts.

Early yesterday morning, NBC's "Today" show, the CBS "Morning Show," and ABC's "Good Morning America" all featured the Democratic outrage over Mr. Rove's comments that after September 11 liberals "wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers" while conservatives "prepared for war."

Each network's nightly newscasts on Thursday also ran stories on Mr. Rove's speech, delivered Wednesday night
. . .
Yet CBS did not broadcast a single story on the Illinois Democrat's comments.  "Today" and "Good Morning America" and those networks' nightly news programs didn't air anything about it until the senator apologized after a week of complaints by Republicans, the Anti-Defamation League and veterans groups.

(Click on the first link in this post to read the whole article, which is well worth reading.   You'll be struck by the number of news organizations that refused to comment on this disparity in coverage.)

Cross posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

(Did the media fall into a trap set by Rove by reacting so strongly, as some have speculated?   Quite possibly.  If you read the commentary on his speech here, you'll see that Rove was discussing the far left organization MoveOn just before he made his controversial comments.   Republicans would much rather run against MoveOn than moderate Democrats.  By emphasizing the issue, the media force the Democrats to either break with some of their strongest supporters, or to identify with the far left views of MoveOn and similar groups.)
- 7:36 AM, 26 June 2005   [link]

The Terrorists In Iraq  are getting help from the European left, not just sympathy and ideological support, but material help.
Who's funding the insurgents in Iraq?  The list of suspects is long: ex-Baathists, foreign jihadists, and angry Sunnis, to name a few. Now add to that roster hard-core Euroleftists.

Turns out that far-left groups in western Europe are carrying on a campaign dubbed Ten Euros for the Resistance, offering aid and comfort to the car bombers, kidnappers, and snipers trying to destabilize the fledgling Iraq government.  In the words of one Italian website, Iraq Libero (Free Iraq), the funds are meant for those fighting the occupanti imperialisti.  The groups are an odd collection, made up largely of Marxists and Maoists, sprinkled with an array of Arab emigres and aging, old-school fascists, according to Lorenzo Vidino, an analyst on European terrorism based at The Investigative Project in Washington, D.C.  "It's the old anticapitalist, anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd," says Vidino, who has been to their gatherings, where he saw activists from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Italy.  "The glue that binds them together is anti-Americanism."
And that glue is strong enough to hold together groups that disagree on nearly everything else.

This support for Baathists and radical Islamists, just because they are anti-American, reminds me of the support many on the left gave to Communist dictatorships for decades.  That support, Paul Holland reminded us in his brilliant book, Political Pilgrims, did not come from a careful study of Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, or Castro's Cuba, but from an unhappiness with their own societies.  And now some are supporting the Baathists and radical Islamists for the same reason.

(Why do I call them terrorists?  Because many of them are, by standard definitions.   Almost anywhere else in the world, an attack on place of worship would be considered an act of terror.  (Though not in Israel.)  Almost anywhere else in the world, an attack on school children would be considered an act of terror.  And, so on.  But the world's journalists have chosen to say that those who make these attacks are "insurgents" or something even milder.)
- 4:13 PM, 25 June 2005   [link]

Art?  Pornography?  Or maybe both?  When I encountered one of David Hamiton's books years ago, that's what I wondered.  Now a British court has answered the second question in the affirmative.
David Hamilton — the photographer whose images hang in the US Library of Congress, Carnegie Hall and the Royal Danish Palace — has had his multi-million-selling images of young, naked women and girls officially branded as indecent in a landmark British ruling.

Anyone owning one of his coffee-table books now risks being "arrested for possession of indecent photographs", following a ruling at Guildford Crown Court.
I don't consider myself qualified to judge the artistic qualities of his photographs.  As I recall, his photos were mild as pornography goes, mostly pictures of nude adolescent girls in suggestive poses.   But, despite what the prosecutor said, I see no reason to think the pictures can't be both artistic and pornographic.

Just for fun, imagine the reaction if this decision had come as the result of a prosecution by the US Justice department, especially when John Ashcroft was Attorney General.

(Want to get some sense of what's in his books?  You can see some Amazon descriptions here, here, and here.   According to the article, a big British bookseller, W, H. Smith, will no longer offer the second for sale on its web site.)
- 3:39 PM, 25 June 2005   [link]