June 2006, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Funny Presbyterians?  Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?   But they are, though unintentionally.
The father-son-holy ghost triad, long a chafing point for feminists who prefer the good old days when goddesses ruled the Earth, has about played itself out, it seems.  Under the improved sensibility, parishioners are now permitted a little flexibility with their liturgies, especially that pro-guy Trinity thingy.

Among acceptable alternatives to the dad-boy-ghost scenario are: "Mother, Child and Womb," or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend." No rock, paper, scissors. Yet.
Just in case you think I am making this up, here's a news story which gives all twelve of the alternative names for the trinity.  My favorite is "Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River", which sounds like something a hydraulic engineer might come up with.

Predictions:  Those who devised these names will not understand why most people find them funny, and Presbyterian membership will continue to decline.
- 6:53 AM, 30 June 2006   [link]

A Review Of My Thoughts On Saddam's WMDs:  Before the liberation of Iraq I thought, along with almost everyone else, that Saddam had significant stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.  After the searches by the two inspectors, David Kay and Charles Duelfer, I changed my view to one that I admit is unsatisfactory, for many reasons.
The inescapable fact is that we may never know whether Saddam had stockpiles — if we do not find them.  Because of the ease with which they could be hidden, the secrecy, compartmentation, and ruthlessness of Saddam's regime, and the vast area to search (all of Iraq, parts of neighboring countries, parts of the ocean, et cetera), it is possible that Saddam hid stockpiles — and that we will never find them.  It is also true that we may never know for certain that Saddam destroyed his stockpiles, for much the same reasons.

Although inescapable, this is also, I agree, unsatisfactory.  For many reasons, some practical, some political, we would like to know what weapons Saddam possessed and what happened to them.   But wishes are not comprehensive records, which we have not found — and might not trust if we did.
I have not changed my mind on that since I wrote it more than two years ago.

I have not changed my mind for two simple reasons:  First, we never had a complete inventory of Saddam's WMD stockpiles, or programs.  I say that because we were surprised from time to time during the UN inspections, and since, by what we found.  Even though, as part of the truce agreement, Saddam had agreed to supply us with a complete inventory of both.  Second, Saddam never accounted for some of the weapons that he had admitted were in his stockpiles.  Given these two uncertainties, we do not know, and we may never know, what happened to part of his WMDs.  Those who say we know are going beyond what the evidence permits.

This is, I repeat, unsatisfactory.  And so I, like others, have attempted to guess what may have happened.  As of now, this is my best guess — but it is no more than a guess.  First, the Swedish arms inspector, Rolf Ekeus, was almost certainly correct when he said that, after the first Gulf War, Saddam switched from producing weapons to establishing WMD programs, often programs that could be disguised as something else.  Since Ekeus made this argument, more evidence of those programs has been discovered.  The evidence has gotten less attention than it deserves, perhaps because it is often ambiguous, but there is enough of it to leave no doubt that Saddam was in material violation of UN resolutions.  (And, as I have said more than once, the programs are more significant than stockpiles.)

Accepting the Ekeus argument, that Saddam switched from producing weapons to establishing programs, does not require that we reject other possibilities.  Saddam's government could walk, chew gum, head a soccer ball, and much more, all at the same time.  So he may also have hidden some weapons, moved some weapons to Syria, destroyed others at the last minute, et cetera, even as he put his main effort into programs.

Of these possibilities, the most likely — in my opinion — is that Saddam moved some of his weapons and some of his programs to Syria.  There were reports at the time, and there have been reports since, that Saddam moved truck loads (and plane loads) of material to Syria just before the liberation.  Will we ever know for sure what was in those trucks and planes?  Not necessarily.

And the same is true of the other possibilities.

Because of this uncertainty, I am willing to consider all sorts of hypotheses, including some that may seem far fetched, such as the one held by Lieutenant General Tom McInerney.  He believes that Russian special forces moved Saddam's weapons to Syria, and that we have proof of that, but are concealing it to get better cooperation from the Russians (and the French and Chinese).  I am not saying that I believe his theory; I am saying that, since I am uncertain, I am willing to consider it, along with others that may seem, on the surface, far fetched.

Finally, here's an interesting point from Douglas Hanson of the American Thinker.  As Hanson reminds us, one of the charges made by Colin Powell was that Saddam had not accounted for 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas.  We have now found about 500 weapons of some kind, according to the information that Congressman Hoekstra and Senator Santorum were able to drag out of the Defense Department.  (We have also, though Hanson does not mention it, found many of the precursor chemicals that Powell mentioned in the same speech.)

(Another American Thinker post corrects a common mistake in many news accounts.  It is true that sarin, the nerve gas, is unstable.  It is not true that mustard gas is unstable, as a few unfortunate French farmers learn every year, when they turn up an old gas shell from World War I.)
- 4:52 PM, 29 June 2006   [link]

And Modest, Too:  David Brooks, the moderately conservative New York Times columnist, recently criticized one of the top leftist bloggers, Markos Moulitsas.  (I confess to not having read the column, or even paying much attention to the controversy.)

Today the Times printed this letter from one of Moulitsas' allies, Rachel Keating Rott.  It included these lines, which go beyond self parody.
Sadly, Mr. Brooks doesn't seem to realize that what is happening at places like Daily Kos is much bigger than one person or one ideology.

Unlike conservatives, we are a group of individual thinkers, many of whom disagree regularly and fervently with Mr. Moulitsas (and one another).
"Unlike conservatives", they are a "group of individual thinkers".  (And these leftists share a site, but not an ideology.)  I'll bet she also thinks that they are (unlike conservatives) good looking, and modest, too.

(And, yes, I do wish she would be specific about how much bigger.)
- 12:55 PM, 29 June 2006   [link]

Another UN Scandal:  This one involving a former Secretary General.
Saddam Hussein's regime paid millions of dollars to a South Korean businessman to create a "secret backchannel" to top UN officials, including Boutros Boutros Ghali, then the UN Secretary-General, US prosecutors alleged today.

The claim, formally naming Dr Boutros Ghali for the first time, was made at the start of the first US trial over the UN's Oil-for-Food scandal.

Prosecutors said that Tongsun Park received $2.5 million (£1.4 million) in cash plus promises of lucrative business deals in return for providing access to Dr Boutros Ghali and at least one other top UN official.
Many on the left tell us we should work more through the UN.  To believe that argument, you have to ignore this kind of evidence.

(Does the name Tongsun Park sound familiar? Here's why.  And here's a brief biography of Boutros Ghali.  I am not a big fan of Madeleine Albright, but she did the world a favor when she vetoed a second term for him.)
- 10:58 AM, 29 June 2006   [link]

Germany Will Try to buy some children, too.
Eight months into her term as chancellor, Angela Merkel is on the verge of raising taxes for the second time, in this case for a vast and bureaucratic health care system.

The proposal by her coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats envisions an expansion of the system to cover children that could cost taxpayers from €16 billion to €25 billion, or $20 billion to $31 billion.

Merkel hopes to spur the birth rate, an aim already given a boost when the government agreed this month on incentives to give working women generous financial help to have a family and then return to work.
The rest of the article is a muddled discussion of Merkel's proposals, which you would have to know more than I do about Germany's health care system to understand.  But what interested me about the article was her willingness to spend substantial amounts of money to encourage child bearing.

Her proposal isn't as extensive as Putin's, but will add to an already generous set of benefits.

(A roughly proportional expenditure for the US would about three to fives times as large, depending on what you use for the scale.)
- 10:30 AM, 29 June 2006   [link]

Harassing The Swiftvets:  That's what some at the liberal blog, Huffington Post, were doing.
Now these veterans are being harassed by the senator's supporters with crank calls in the night and venomous postings on the liberal website  On that celebrity-ridden site the names and personal information of more than a dozen Swift Boat veterans were posted by such "trusted" Huffington Post celebrities as "SatanLivesinUSA."
. . .
The American Spectator's indefatigable reporter, Dave Holman, found all this and reports that "Aside from one or two complaints, fellow commenters did not object to the posting of the information or the threats."  Within hours the veterans were receiving threatening calls.  In the early hours of June 25 one Swiftie, Van Odell, got three in four minutes, the last from a man who inquired, "I want to know why you lied about John Kerry . . . Traitors must die.  We will get you."  Holman notes that the Swifties have reported these calls to law enforcement but that they had no luck in getting HuffingtonPost to address the harassment.  The comments remained posted until Holman reached Katharine Zaleski, the site's news editor, on Tuesday afternoon at her unlisted telephone number.   As I say, Holman is indefatigable.
Huffington Post (and Senator Kerry) should denounce these attacks.

Such attacks are one of the reasons why, when I use material from an email I have received, I do not add the person's name, without their permission.  I like to give credit where due, but I also like to protect those who are helping me.

(As I said more than once during the campaign, I did not consider either Kerry's account of his Vietnam record, or the Swiftvets's version of the same events, nearly as important as his actions afterwards.
The third narrative, about his post-Vietnam activities, is less in doubt, since there were so many witnesses.  He did slander the American forces and the men he served with when he told a Senate committee that most soldiers in Vietnam had committed war crimes.  He was involved with extremists in the anti-war movement, including Jane Fonda.  (They did both speak at the same event at least once.  The picture showing them side by side was false, but it told a true story.)  He did contact the Communist side in Paris, during the peace negotiations.  And he was at a meeting where extremists proposed assassinating senators to force a change in policy.  Kerry did not agree with that policy, but he did not call the police, either, as far as I can tell.

Regardless of whether the first narrative (Kerry as hero) or the second (Kerry as publicity seeker) is closer to the truth, the third narrative is more important in judging Kerry's fitness to be president.   After all, in Vietnam, he was (mostly) following orders.  In his anti-war activities afterwards, he was making his own policies.  His extremism and anti-Americanism during that period tell us more about him than what he did in the war.
But I do think that the unwillingness of most in the "mainstream" media to even examine the charges made by the Swiftvets says much about our journalists.)
- 8:20 AM, 29 June 2006   [link]

At Least She Doesn't Teach Constitutional Law:  James Taranto catches political science professor Susan Roberts in an embarrassing mistake.
It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would now uphold an amendment prohibiting flag burning, even with the change in the court's composition.
As any high school graduate should know, the Supreme Court has nothing to say about amendments to the Constitution — and some amendments have been passed in order to over rule the Court.

As I have said before, our colleges and universities are in great need of reform.

(But she does teach a course on the legislative process.  And she is an associate professor, which means that, in all likelihood,she has tenure.)
- 1:36 PM, 28 June 2006   [link]

It Has Been A While Since The Antarctic Was Really Warm:  But it has been warmer, and quite recently, by geological standards.
In an Antarctic "ghost town," freeze-dried whiskers, skin, and bones provide evidence that the South Pole was a much warmer place not too long ago, a new study reveals.

The 1,000- to 6,000-year-old elephant seal remains were found in abandoned breeding colonies in a now barren region of Victoria Land on the Antarctic coast near the Ross Sea (map of Antarctica).
. . .
Today many of the marine mammals live near Antarctica, on Australia's Macquarie Island and the U.K.'s South Georgia Island.  On these islands they have suitable temperatures and ready access to open water.  The modern Ross Sea coast is much too cold for southern elephant seals to survive.   The region is so dry that there is almost no snow on the ground and the only visible vegetation is lichens and algae.
Penguins, which like colder climates, apparently vanished from the area during the same period.

(As always, when I discuss global warming, I suggest you read my disclaimer, if you have not already done so.

Could this earlier period of warmer (at least in Antarctica) have been caused by humans?   Possibly.  I have seen claims that farming, which began earlier, did warm the planet.  I don't know how strong the evidence is for that theory.)
- 10:47 AM, 28 June 2006   [link]

What To Do With A Problem Like The New York Times?  I've heard many suggestions, but this one, from Andrew McCarthy, makes the most sense.
But what action? New York Republican congressman Peter King boldly contends it's time for a real nuclear option: an investigation and prosecution directly targeting the New York Times.
. . .
Rep. King is right . . . in theory. There is a law under which a case against the press could be brought: the Espionage Act of 1917.  The pertinent provision is codified at Section 793(e) of the federal penal code.  I wrote about it here, in connection with the Washington Post's compromise of overseas terrorist detentions.

We must, however, confront a hard reality.  No one gets a medal for being right.  Being right doesn't necessarily carry the day where the law is concerned.  Getting five votes in the Supreme Court does.  And there simply are not five votes on the current Court in favor of an interpretation of the Espionage Act that would hold journalists liable.  (Caveat: As Gabriel Schoenfeld compellingly argues in Commentary, a prosecution of the Times for the leak of the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program is more promising because a different, narrower statute, Section 798, applies to wrongful disclosures of signals intelligence.)
I don't claim to be an expert on the Supreme Court's rulings on these cases, but I think it quite likely that McCarthy is right.  Which means that the best thing for the administration to do is grit their teeth, and start looking harder for the leakers.  (I do think that putting some journalists in jail until they reveal their sources — as was done with Judy Miller, to the applause of most journalists — would be a good idea.)

Some are suggesting that the administration revoke the press credentials of the New York Times.   That's tempting, but silly.  The administration should take every opportunity to get its word out, even through al Jazeera, the BBC, the New York Times, and other news organizations that view the war on terror as far less important than the war on President Bush.  And the administration should criticize those news organizations whenever they get their stories wrong, as they often do.

(The narrower law that McCarthy mentions was written after World War II partly as a reaction to the Chicago Tribune story that revealed that we knew about the Japanese movements before Midway.   Jack Kelly has more on that history here.)
- 10:21 AM, 28 June 2006   [link]

Who Loves The New York Times?  Today's Ramirez cartoon has an answer.
- 9:35 AM, 28 June 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  Paul Greenberg tries, gently, to explain the facts of war to the New York Times.
Let's hear it for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and all such stalwarts of this country's free and irresponsible press.  For they've just exposed still another program designed to protect the national security.
. . .
The Times' record of public service in this regard may have no equal since that of Colonel McCormick's old Chicago Tribune.  In its coverage of what would prove the decisive Battle of Midway in 1942, the isolationist and FDR-hating Trib revealed that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese naval code.
. . .
Just a thought: Suppose such no-longer-secret programs should fail to prevent the next terrorist attack, whether on our troops and people abroad or here in this country, what do you think the next day's editorial in the formerly good gray New York Times would say?  Here's my guess. Today's jazzy Times, pacesetter for with-it opinion, would doubtless run a searing attack on this incompetent administration for not having prevented the attack.
I sincerely hope that we do not fail to prevent another terrorist attack — and I am absolutely convinced that the New York Times would blame the administration if we did.
- 6:42 AM, 27 June 2006   [link]

French Politics Is Getting even more entertaining.
Love, sex and marriage have long been taboo subjects in France's intensely ideological politics.  In the land of Balzac and Bardot, what happened in and around the family stayed in and around the family.

But the privacy zones of the two leading challengers to succeed President Jacques Chirac in next May's election are shrinking rapidly as serious campaigning breaks out here (the early start being another U.S.-style innovation in French politics).  In Chirac's 12th and final year in power, France has mentally moved beyond a leader known both as "le bulldozer" and "le brother-in-law" for relentlessly striving for power and then failing to use it for durable accomplishments.
. . .
In this interregnum, the troubled marriage of the right's most popular leader, the effervescent Nicolas Sarkozy, has sparked lively gossip in cafes and circumspect but tantalizing accounts in the media.  ; On the left, Segolene Royal has left in the dust other contenders for the Socialist nomination, including her common-law husband, whose exasperation with his mate's more centrist politics, and more successful campaigning, shows in public.
And, a few cruel observers might suggest, even more dysfunctional.

(Some Americans might find this an odd issue for a woman who hasn't bothered with a formal marriage..
Polls now show that only Royal, the Socialist, could beat Sarkozy if the election were held today.   She has surged ahead of the "elephants," as the more familiar male Socialist would-be candidates are known, by espousing a program of family values and spotlighting her experience in setting family policy.
But that just may show that we are hopelessly old fashioned.)
- 9:55 AM, 26 June 2006   [link]

Here's a strange idea.
After years of single-mindedly championing European integration, the European Commission has finally been told that it must take into account a revolutionary new factor when drawing up policy: public opinion.

Instead of brushing aside the views of ordinary citizens as no more than a nuisance, the European Union executive has been instructed by Europe's leaders to take account of "perception by citizens" when deciding whether the EU should be further enlarged.
Strange, that is, if you are a European bureaucrat.

(What prompted this small revolt against the bureaucrats is the possibility that Turkey might be admitted to the European Union.  The admission of Turkey is opposed by very large majorities in some European countries.)
- 9:06 AM, 25 June 2006   [link]