March 2004, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Canadians Agree With British Muslims:  A poll in Canada found that, like British Muslims, most Canadians think it was a mistake for the United States to liberate Iraq.
Two thirds of Canadians (63%) also believe that the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq (up sharply 16 points from 47% in December 2003).
Most distrust statements from George Bush and (presumably) Tony Blair and have doubts about the future of Iraq, also like British Muslims.
Further, two thirds (67%) of Canadians agree that President Bush knowingly lied to the world in order to justify his war with Iraq.  And, despite all of America's efforts in Iraq, a majority of six in ten (61%) agree a "true democracy will never come to the region."
Never seems a rather strong word, but there it is.  Canadians do largely agree (86 percent) that the world is better off without Saddam in power, a question not asked in the poll of British Muslims.

What accounts for this agreement between Canadians and British Muslims?  I am tempted to say the BBC, and surely for Canadians, that is most of the explanation.  Or to be precise, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which shares so many biases with the BBC.   The Muslims. I fear, come to most of their views in other ways.

There are differences.  Canadians seem to feel that the liberation of Iraq taught us a lesson and are in the mood to forgive their southern neighbors, something I doubt is true for British Muslims.  In another poll, 50 percent of Canadians said that the United States was their best friend among nations.   (We didn't reciprocate, more of us seeing Britain as our best friend.)  Now then, this combination of attitudes leads me to wonder: If Iraq is a success, will Canadians be pleased or disappointed?

(Technical point: I did not say much about the last two questions in the poll because they are so poorly constructed as to leave me in doubt as to the meaning, if any, of the answers.   This is not the first time I have seen poor poll questions from Ipsos-Reid.)
- 3:01 PM, 16 March 2004   [link]

More On British Muslims:  The Guardian's article today has little more on the ICM poll they commissioned on British Muslims.  It seems that once the Guardian learned that British Muslims had turned against Blair, they lost interest in the subject.

Fortunately, the entire poll is now available, as are two similar polls from June 2002 and November 2001.   The findings in the three polls are consistent and unpleasant.

In both 2001 and 2004, about 1 British Muslim in 8 approved of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.  As I have mentioned before, I suspect that is an underestimate, and that some British Muslims would not tell a stranger on the phone that they approved of terror attacks, even if they did.  A leading question supports that possibility.  When asked if they, like Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat MP, might become suicide bombers if they lived on the West Bank, fully 47 percent said yes.

Massive majorities disapproved of all military responses by non-Muslims to Muslim attacks.   In 2001, 80 percent disapproved of the war against the Taliban.  Even if the action were approved by the United Nations, 50 percent would oppose a war against the Taliban.  In 2004, 80 percent say that removing Saddam was unjustified.  It is impossible not to suspect that these views reflect that part of Islam which holds that resistance to armed attack by Muslims is illegitimate.   I cannot recall any poll of Muslims, anywhere in the world, where they accepted the right of non-Muslims to defend themselves against Muslim attacks.  In the West, we may see the famous French couplet as a joke:
Cet animal est très méchant,
Quand on l'attaque, il se défend.
(This animal is very wicked,
When attacked, it defends itself.)
Many Muslims see it as a simple statement of fact.  Those who defend themselves against Muslim attacks are wicked.

Massive majorities disbelieve Tony Blair on questions of fact and promises for the future.   A large majority (67 percent) refused to believe in 2001 that Osama's al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  An even larger majority (82 percent) refuse to believe in 2004 that the United States wants to see a sovereign Iraq.  In both 2001, 67 percent thought that the liberation of Afghanistan was a war against Islam; the same percentage thought that the liberation of Iraq was a war against Islam in 2004.  I think it fair to call this a massive "failure to communicate".  Note that these beliefs continue in spite of much evidence to the contrary, some even shown on the BBC.  And they don't for the most part, stem from bad treatment by non-Muslims in Britain; 67 percent say that neither they, nor any member of their families, has experienced any discrimination. 

Finally, there are signs that British Muslims are pulling away from the rest of Britain.   About half want their children educated in Muslim schools, and there has been a shift away from desiring more integration into British society.  More (46 percent) disapprove of the new British citizenship ceremony than approve (36 percent).  Though I have called them British Muslims, many, perhaps most, are not really British Muslims, but rather Muslims living in Britain.
- 7:57 AM, 16 March 2004   [link]

Welcome To Vistors From Niue!  (And everywhere else.)  One of the pleasures of running this web site is the visits that I get from all over the world.   I especially like getting visits from countries that restrict the Internet access of their citizens, such as Cuba and China.  And I am tickled when I get visits from some of the smaller countries, Tuvalu, Cocos, and Andorra.  But a hit from a country I had never heard of before, Niue, is not just fun, but a chance to learn something.

Niue is a South Pacific island with an area of 260 square kilometers (about 94 square miles) and a population of about 2100.  Like most similar places, it is terribly poor, with stamp sales to collectors an important source of revenue.

And now a challenge for those who think they have a universal panacea, libertarianism, Marxism, or some other set of beliefs with a universal claim.  How would your ideas help Niue?   It's worth some thought, especially for those convinced that they have the answer to all problems.
- 10:42 AM, 15 March 2004   [link]

One In Eight British Muslims Supports Terrorism Against The US:   That's the most important finding in a poll done by ICM for the Guardian.
The ICM survey also shows that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims — 73% &mdash are strongly opposed to terrorist attacks by al-Qaida and other organisations.  But a small minority — 13% of British Muslims — disturbingly say they believe further such attacks on the US would be justified.
I think it almost certain that many more support terrorist attacks on Israel.  The Guardian gives the Muslim population of Britain at 1.6 million.  If 1 million are adults, then at least 120,000 Muslims in Britain support terrorist attacks against the United States.  That is more likely an underestimate than an overestimate, since this is not something everyone would want want to confess to a stranger over the phone.

These results are similar to those found by YouGov poll done for the Telegraph more than a year ago, which I discussed here and here.  (And nearly all the caveats that I had for that poll apply to this one as well.)  For example, the YouGov poll found that 1 in 6 British Muslims would side with Iraq in a war and 1 in 4 would consider it a war against Islam.

These two polls show that there are enough British Muslims for a 5th column, especially since they are concentrated in a few cities.  I expect to have more to say about these disturbing results when more of the poll is available.

(The Guardian has its own ideas about what is important.  Their lead paragraph is about the shift of Muslims away from the Labour party, rather than the trivial question that concerns me.)
- 7:23 AM, 15 March 2004   [link]

David Brooks  has been reading John Kerry's speeches and is confused and amused.
The 1990's were a confusing decade. The certainties of the cold war were gone and new threats appeared.  It fell to one man, John Kerry, the Human Nebula, to bring fog out of the darkness, opacity out of the confusion, bewilderment out of the void.

Kerry established himself early as the senator most likely to pierce through the superficial clarity and embrace the miasma.  The gulf war had just ended. It was time to look back for lessons learned.  "There are those trying to say somehow that Democrats should be admitting they were wrong" in opposing the gulf war resolution, Kerry noted in one Senate floor speech.  But he added, "There is not a right or wrong here.  There was a correctness in the president's judgment about timing.  But that does not mean there was an incorrectness in the judgment other people made about timing."
I don't know what that means either.  Or even if it means anything.  What Sam Nunn, another Democratic senator who voted against the first Gulf War, said on the subject is clearer.  Not only did Nunn say that his vote was wrong, he thought it was so wrong as to disqualify a man from the presidency.

As I said in an earlier post, Kerry has been sheltered for many years by sympathetic media.   If he hadn't been, laughter would have driven him from office long ago.
- 4:40 AM, 15 March 2004   [link]

Why Madrid?  Many are now concluding that Madrid was attacked by suicide bombers to defeat the ruling Popular Party for the support they gave the coalition in Iraq.  Spain, in this view, was attacked to drive it out of the coalition; the next target will be another nation seen as a weak link.  Bjørn Stærk has found a Norwegian research report that analyzed a document, apparently written by terrorists or their sympathizers, that discusses just that possibility.
What we found was a 42 page strategy document, where an anonymous author discusses what strategy to use to force the coalition lead by the US out of Iraq, says researcher Thomas Hegghammer. .. It concludes that one should go for a domino effect, where one first pressures one country to pull out, so the others may follow.  The author points to Spain as that country in the coalition which it would be most convenient to attack.
Note that the terrorists now see driving the coalition from Iraq as an important goal, whatever their connections were to Saddam's regime.

All that assumes that the document is really from Islamic extremists, originally.  It could also have been written by someone on the far left, now tactically allied with the Muslim extremists.  According to the Norwegian analyst, the document shows considerable familiarity with Spanish elections, something more common on the far left than among Muslim extremists.

There is another explanation for the selection of Spain as a target, which you can find in this DEBKAfile analysis.
According to data gathered by our experts, from December 2002, three months before the US invasion of Iraq, al Qaeda began issuing a stream of fatwas designating its main operating theatres in Europe.  Spain was on the list, but not the first.

1. Turkey was first.  Islamic fundamentalists were constrained to recover the honor and glory of the Ottoman caliphates which were trampled by Christian forces in 1917 in the last days of World War I.

2. Spain followed.  There, al Qaeda set Muslims the goal of recovering their lost kingdom in Andalusia.

3. Italy and its capital were third.  Muslim fundamentalists view Rome as a world center of heresy because of the Vatican and the Pope.

4. Vienna came next because the advancing Muslim armies were defeated there in 1683 before they could engulf the heart of Europe.

These aspirations are far from being restricted to a lunatic fringe of radical Islam.  The Arab world's most popular television preacher, Yusouf Kardawi, whom DEBKAfile has mentioned before, subscribes to the same agenda in his sermons over al Jazeera — with one difference.  Whereas al Qaeda aims to "liberate" Turkey, Spain, Italy and Israel by force of arms, Kardawi who addresses the masses from a studio in Qatar just a few hundred yards from American Central Command HQ, advocates persuasion.
(As always, treat DEBKA's analyses with some caution.  But is certainly seems significant that there was a foiled attack in Istanbul on the same day as the Madrid attack.)

There is still another explanation.  Madrid was chosen because that was one of the few places in Europe where al Qaeda has (had?) an organization capable of carrying out such an attack.  Since 9/11 most of the attacks seem not to have followed a grand pattern, but to have struck when and where al Qaeda could.

The three explanations do not entirely conflict; each could be partly true.  DEBKA's analysis explains the attacks in both Turkey and Spain.  The document being studied by the Norwegians might explain the timing, just days before the election.  And the third explanation, that al Qaeda attacks where it can, explains the scattered attacks since 9/11.

(There is a separate question which I may treat in another post: Did the attack in fact swing the election?  I have not yet seen the kind of in-depth polling data necessary to answer that definitively, and don't even know if such data is collected in Spain.)
- 3:34 AM, 15 March 2004   [link]

John Leo Spots a "Three Green Suitcase" story.
Call it "three green suitcase" journalism.  Let's say a feature writer thinks green luggage is becoming popular.  So the reporter taps out a story citing three people in different states who have given up black suitcases and bought green ones.  The second paragraph begins: "All across America, people are switching to green suitcases."  This creates a media trend that might be real but is probably bogus and certainly isn't established by three sales.

The uproar over President Bush's 9/11 ads was a classic three-green-suitcase story.  The New York Daily News broke the story on March 4, with a huge headline "STORM OVER BUSH 9/11 AD."   As howling front-page storms go, this one was small.  The story quoted three unhappy members of victims' families and one fireman.  There were more bylines (four) than outraged family members (three).
Other newspapers picked it up, as did the networks, always quoting the same few people.  None mentioned that the protestors were far left opponents of Bush.  Some even had opposed the liberation of Afghanistan.  The president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Harold Schaitberger, was quoted in every story, some adding that he had endorsed John Kerry.   But Leo found none that mentioned that Schaitberger is national cochair of the Kerry for President Committee.

Leo ends with some sensible suggestions:
We ought to have some discussion of how these stories were constructed, why reporters didn't go beyond the first wall of savvy and activist family members, and why so many of the small decisions reporters made on deadline seemed to go so heavily in one political direction.  It would also be nice to learn why reporters think that three or four people constitute a storm.  Once the story line was set, of course, there was a storm.  But some of us would like an ombudsman or two to discuss where the storm arose.  Was it in the outside world or in the newsroom?
(By chance I was partially protected from the storm.  The browser that I most often use, Galeon, has many nice qualities, but it does crash on a few sites.  One is the The New York Daily News.  That may be, I realize now, a feature, not a bug.)
- 1:56 PM, 14 March 2004
More:  Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler responds to one of Leo's points, that the leftists condemning Bush were not properly identified and agrees that the article might have gone farther.  Strangely, the emailers who called this to Getler's attention seem not to have complained about the main problem with the story, that there was no storm of protest against the Bush ads.  If you would like to suggest he consider that point, you can send a polite email to:
- 3:57 AM, 15 March 2004
Correction:  Mr. Getler tells me that he had not received general criticisms of the piece, but only objections to the lack of ideological labels, and had not read the Leo column.  I have corrected the post above.  Now, I hope Mr. Getler will look at the central question: Was this story manufactured by a few extremists, with the help of the Daily News (and the Washington Post)?
- 8:56 AM, 16 March 2004   [link]

See Five Planets At Once:  There will be a pile of commentary this week, and perhaps the next, on the liberation of Iraq.  I plan to add my own bits to that pile, and have postponed some posts on other subjects because I want them to come out when they can get more attention.  But there is one subject that cannot be postponed, a wonderful sight that will not be repeated for another 32 years.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have clear weather after sunset sometime in the next two weeks, you'll be able to see five planets at once, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, with your naked eye, assuming you have good vision.   (Those of us who are nearsighted will need glasses or binoculars.)  As usual, Mercury will be the hardest to see, not because it is dim, but because it is so close to the Sun.  This article has more details on each planet.
- 8:15 AM, 14 March 2004   [link]

John Kerry And The Open Mike:  Did John Kerry mean it when he said that Republicans were "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen", or was he blowing off steam as we sometimes do when we think we are speaking in private?  Kerry refused to apologize and says he said what he meant, though he crawfished on just which Republicans he was referring to.  And one of his aides hints that Kerry meant for his words to get out.  Adam Nagourney of the New York Times notes that even some Democrats have doubts.
But Democrats, including some supporters of Mr. Kerry, were hardly convinced of that.   Indeed, considering what even Mr. Kerry's advisers acknowledged was becoming a pattern, this seemed to be less by design and more the careless utterances of a fatigued or undisciplined candidate.   That this happened yet again suggests a vulnerability for Mr. Kerry, particularly now that he has the Democratic stage — and the attention of the White House — to himself.
My guess, considering Kerry's history of such remarks, is that he did not realize the microphone was live.  And I think he meant what he said.

Decades ago, I read a careful study of voting decisions in the House of Representatives.   One finding, not stressed by the authors, sticks in my mind.  Northern, urban Democrats lived in a very agreeable world.  Almost everything they heard before votes came from those who agreed with them.  Republicans, in contrast, got a much wider spectrum of opinions.

Kerry, although a senator, has spent most of his political life in that same agreeable cocoon.   The largest newspaper in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe, has been consistently supportive.   The two great national newspapers that he probably reads, the New York Times and the Washington Post, would be almost as supportive.  The major networks hold ideas close to his own.   Most of the local politicians he had to work with would agree with him on most issues.   His aides, and those of other Democratic senators, would mostly be supportive.  With the exception of his general election campaigns, Kerry very seldom hears a critical word.

Kerry would not have been able to survive as a politician if he had not been sheltered for years.  All the stories of Kerry's arrogance and sense of entitlement that talk show host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr has collected over the years may not be true, but enough of them are so that there is even an abbreviation for them: DYKWIA (Do you know who I am?), something Kerry often says when he is demanding special treatment.

That sense of entitlement, of being a special person, leads Kerry, as David Hogberg says, to "behave as though any attack on him is wholly unwarranted".  Since Kerry thinks attacks on him are unwarranted, he concludes that those making them are lying crooks.  Expect more such reactions as the campaign goes on.

(Although it is more agreeable to be surrounded by those who share your opinions, it is not good for your thinking about issues.  One of the reasons that Democrats lost their majority in the House is that so many of their members were not hearing the many criticisms of their ideas and conduct.  They were genuinely shocked when they lost control in 1994.  Kerry may be similarly shocked this November.)
- 8:41 AM, 13 March 2004   [link]

NBC Ran An Election Poll:  And didn't like the results, as Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics notes.  They almost dismissed their own findings, which showed Bush with a two point lead over Kerry.  MSNBC headlined their article "Publics's faith in economy plummets" and followed that with a subhead, "NBC Poll: Bush, Kerry in dead heat eight months before election", even though their poll shows Bush with a two point lead.

Media Research has noted many times the reluctance of networks to use their own polls, when they don't like the results.  If Bush had been trailing in this poll, MSNBC would have written up the results very differently.

(A technical point and something unexplained.  Pollsters almost always describe their results with a sentence something like this: With this sample size, we would get results within the margin of error 19 out of 20 times.  As it happens, that description comes directly from the "frequentist" school of statistics, but there is another influential school, the "Bayesians", who would describe the results differently.  I won't try to explain their ideas; it has been years since I studied them and I can't claim I ever had a deep understanding even when I did, but they do seem more natural to me than those of the frequentists.  Here is how I interpret poll results.  The larger the margin between the candidates, and the larger the sample, the more likely that one candidate is ahead.  Even two points, in a sample this large, is meaningful.  I won't try to do the mathematics, but I would give 3 to 1 odds, if all the information I had was this poll, that Bush now leads Kerry.  (Any statisticians who want to correct my explanation should feel free to do so.)  I would never say that a race is a dead heat if one candidate has a lead, no matter how small.

And now the unexplained.  The poll reported in the MSNBC article must be the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll here at Polling Reports.  However, the article says that:
The NBC/Journal question also did not account for independent Ralph Nader, even though he had announced his intention to run almost three weeks previously.
Which is true, except that the pollsters also asked a separate question including Nader, with interesting results.  Bush still had a two point lead over Kerry at 45-43, and Nader took 5 per cent of the vote.  So much for the idea that Nader's votes all come from Kerry.

Why did the article not include the results with Nader?  I can only guess that reporter Alex Johnson didn't look at all the questions before he wrote this biased piece.)
- 3:42 PM, 12 March 2004   [link]

Did You Remember To Smile?  The Mars rover Spirit just took our picture.   I'll let you decide whether the picture shows earth's best side.  The dot in the picture that is earth is too small for me to see whether earth is in crescent in the picture, though it will be much of time, when viewed from Mars and more distant planets.

(As you probably know, Venus and Mercury both go through phases like the moon, from our viewpoint.  You can see the phases of Venus easily with field glasses, by the way.)

The other rover, Opportunity, snapped a series of pictures showing the Martian moon, Phobos, crossing the sun.  I had not realized the rovers could do astronomy, as well geology.   (Strictly speaking, geology on Mars should be called areology, after the Greek name for Mars, Ares, but it is probably too late to enforce that rule.)
- 2:26 PM, 12 March 2004   [link]

This New York Times   editorial on the Madrid massacre hits most of the right notes.  I can't put up the entire editorial, but the first and last paragraphs will show you why you should read the whole thing.
The terrorist attacks in Madrid yesterday were a monstrous crime against innocent humanity.   They were also a reminder that terrorism is a worldwide threat and that fighting it is not America's problem alone.  Combating terrorism effectively requires the fullest possible international cooperation, especially in intelligence, law enforcement and the tracking of terrorist finances.   Most of the hard work will be far less dramatic than the successful military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Indeed, each new terrorist act demonstrates that military action alone is not the solution.  Terrorism cannot be eradicated simply by driving the Taliban out of Kabul or capturing Saddam Hussein.
. . .
At a time like this, trans-Atlantic squabbling about the nature of the terrorist threat and how to fight it seems tragically misplaced.  Terrorism threatens all of us, everywhere, every morning.  Terrorists respect no national boundaries, political systems, ideologies or religions. The fight against them must be just as multinational.  We are all Madrileños now.
I say most of the right notes, because the Times uses a strawman argument in the first paragraph when they argue that military action alone can not stop terrorism.  Of course that is true, but who ever claimed otherwise?  What 9/11 taught us, most of us anyway, is that military action must be a part of the war on terror.  Some, especially on the left, are still resisting that lesson.

(The Washington Post editorial today is not as good, mostly because it begins with a partisan comment.  I have often thought that the Post, though not as far to the left as the Times, is a more partisan paper.)
- 1:04 PM, 12 March 2004   [link]

Worth Reading:  This UPI analysis with the reasons that some experts on terrorism think that al Qaeda, rather than the ETA Basque separatists, was behind the Madrid massacres:
For starters the Brussels-based World Observatory of Terrorism, an independent think tank affiliated with the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, points to five major reasons that cast doubt on the involvement of ETA.

First, ETA generally warns Spanish authorities moments before launching their attacks in which civilians are likely to be harmed.  This, obviously, was not the case on Thursday.

Second, ETA traditionally targets representatives of the government or the administration, such as policemen, the military, magistrates or even journalists who oppose them.

Third, ETA customarily selects "symbolic" targets, such as military barracks and administrative buildings.  Although ETA's largest attack to date was in 1987 against a supermarket in Barcelona that killed 21 people, this was the exception rather than the norm.

Fourth, ETA always claims its attacks.  Following any ETA bombing, ETA militants call in a claim to Spanish authorities.  This failed to happen this time.

Fifth, ETA has never in the past carried out multiple attacks.  According to some sources, at least 10 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously on Thursday.
Besides these reasons, there is the symbolism of the attack's timing, on 3/11, exactly two and a and a half years after 9/11.  Al Qaeda is known to be fond of numerical symbolism for their bloody attacks.  (Some have said that the Madrid attack was exactly 911 days after 9/11, but I haven't checked that.)

It is possible, of course, that the two worked together, or that one of the two planted some physical evidence linking the attack to the other terrorist organization.
- 8:42 AM, 12 March 2004   [link]

Accused Spy For Iraq Susan Lindauer  worked for four Democratic Congresmen, Fortune magazine, and the Seattle PI.  She was active in "peace" organizations. So how does the Seattle PI headline her arrest, and what does the AP lead with?
Accused spy is cousin of Bush staffer


WASHINGTON -- The woman charged with working for the Iraqi spy agency is a distant cousin of President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, and has held a variety of jobs in journalism and on Capitol Hill.

Susan Lindauer, 41, worked in the press offices of four Democratic members of Congress.   She also worked for Fortune magazine, U.S. News & World Report, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Fox News.

Her father, John Lindauer, was the Republican nominee for governor in Alaska in 1998.   His campaign unraveled because of charges of campaign finance violations to which he pleaded no contest.
Most of us would think that, though we may be our brother's keeper, we are not responsible for distant cousins.  Leading with that distant connection is an obvious attempt to smear Bush and Card.  Though the PI made it worse by omitting the "distant" in its headline, the worst bias comes from the AP.  President Bush, Andrew Card, and her Republican father, none of whom share her political views, are named in the first three paragraphs.  The four Democratic Congressmen, who may share some of her views, are not named until the end of the article.
- 6:06 PM, 11 March 2004
More:  There was, although it was not mentioned in the article I linked to, a reason to mention Card.  Lindauer made a number of attempts to contact him, which led to her arrest.  So, Democrats employed her, and a Republican caught her.   Card appears to see her as more a flake than a traitor, which fits other descriptions.

There's a straightforward account of the case in this New York Times article, an account of her career in Seattle in this Seattle PI article, and, most entertainingly, a description of her erratic career at the Everett Herald.  She once, I learned, got into a strange quarrel with a store called Herbal Magick.  The owner of the store claims that Lindauer asked her to cast spells on the Everett Herald.
- 7:31 AM, 12 March 2004   [link]

Diet Coke Was Conceived More Than Six Centuries Ago:  Although her parents did misspell her name.
Naming your child after a popular soft drink could be seen as a little bit faddish, but the parents of young Diot Coke might be forgiven - they gave their baby daughter the name way back in 1379.
The study that found this curiosity in Yorkshire also found unexpected popular names:
Godelena, Helwise, Idony, Avice and Dionisia were more popular than some of the names now considered traditional, such as Mary.
I am no expert on names in medieval Britain, but those look like they come from Saxon, Roman, and Greek sources, rather than Christian.
- 10:46 AM, 11 March 2004   [link]

Quotas, Preferences, And "Affirmative Action"  exist in many countries, and almost everywhere they benefit the privileged.
My research has turned up other similarities among affirmative action programs in other countries.  For example, even when they are sold as ways to help the less fortunate, they end up helping the more fortunate.  That has been true in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka — and the United States.

Black millionaires have been able to take advantage of various group preferences far better than poverty-stricken people in the ghettos.  Among the wealthy black athletes who have benefited are Julius Erving and O.J. Simpson.
And there are many others that Thomas Sowell doesn't mention, for example, Hillary Clinton.   While her husband was governor of Arkansas and she was a partner at the Rose law firm, she invested in a license for a television station, under a program that gave breaks to women and minority owned businesses.  The program was intended to encourage ownership of TV stations by women and minorities, but became a scam for the well off in both groups.  Hillary's group won the license, and like nearly every other such group, immediately sold the license to a real company.  Profit to the Clintons, $40,000, as I recall.  Help to the underprivileged, zero.

You are unlikely, as Sowell says, to hear about the actual effects of preferences either here or in other countries — as long as you get your news only from the mainstream media.
- 10:27 AM, 11 March 2004   [link]

Foreign Leaders Back Kerry?  That's what he told supporters at a fund raiser.
Without naming anybody, Kerry said he had received words of encouragement from leaders abroad who were eager to see him defeat Bush on Nov. 2.

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," he said.
Which foreign leaders?  He didn't say, which is one reason conservative columnist Tony Blankley is skeptical about Kerry's claim.
While it is certainly plausible that many foreigners don't like the president of the United States, my first question is whether Mr. Kerry is telling the truth.  When, exactly, did he meet with these foreign leaders?  Note that he doesn't merely say he talked with them (by telephone.) He claims he "met" them and "they looked at" him while they were saying these things.

Senator Kerry has been on public view almost every day since he started running for president last year (except for the period of his hospitalization, when he obviously could not have been traveling around the world).  I don't recall seeing him in Europe, the Middle East or on other foreign travel during that period.  (His campaign office wouldn't respond to my inquiry for a record of his foreign travel in the last year.)  Nor do I recall seeing or reading about foreign heads of state meeting with Sen. Kerry when they visited Washington during the last many months.
Whether Kerry actually met any of these leaders, there is not doubt that some foreign leaders would prefer him to Bush.  But which ones?  The Guardian came up with a dubious list, which the Wall Street Journal criticized here.  The Journal is right to say that Europeans tend to prefer the incumbent president, almost regardless of policies, simply because they have gotten used to dealing with him.

About one foreign leader there is no doubt; North Korea's support for Kerry has been so blatant that they have had to deny that they are backing him.  Kim Jong-Il is not the leader I would choose for a character witness, but he does seem to grasp something that John Kerry does not; a candidate's support from foreign leaders is not necessarily a plus for American voters.

Many of the other leaders that probably back Kerry are also dubious, the mullahs in Iran, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and so on.

Finally, there is this speculation from Ed Lasky.   After recounting the persistent and far too successful attempts of the Saudi regime to buy influence in the United States, Lasky points out that the Saudis have raised oil prices more than seven dollars a barrel in the last eight months, which has not helped our recovery.
The Saudis require stealth for their plan to succeed.  They cannot be seen to be suddenly, openly, and catastrophically retaliating against President Bush, as OPEC did with its 1973 oil boycott in the wake of Israeli victory in war.  The American public is in no mood to be pushed around by feudal Arab regimes.  Instead, they have opted to quietly tighten the noose on the American economy, hoping to escape public blame.
Among the many former diplomats on the Saudi payroll, indirectly, is Joseph Wilson, most famous for complaining that his wife was "outed" by the Bush administration.
Wilson has proudly declared that his goal in life is to destroy George Bush's Presidency.   It is telling that this man, who has no campaign experience, was recently hired by the Kerry campaign.   Given that Wilson is also a fierce critic of Israel, the Saudis seem to have spent their money wisely.
And it is troubling that news accounts seldom even notice his Saudi connection.
- 7:59 AM, 11 March 2004   [link]

My Sympathies To The Spanish People  for their terrible losses in Madrid.
Powerful explosions rocked three Madrid (search) train stations Thursday just three days before Spain's general elections, killing more than 170 and wounding hundreds in what officials called the deadliest attack ever by the Basque separatist group ETA.

"This is a massacre," government spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said.

More than 170 were killed and 500 injured, police said.
I chanced across another blogger who, like me, wonders whether this attack might have come, not from Basque separatists, but from al Qaeda or a similar group.  I don't know a great deal about the ETA, but I believe that nearly all of their attacks have been against government officials.  As I write this, I have not heard that any group has claimed responsibility.  And I just heard Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation on the radio, giving the same suspicion.

One practical point: Many urban planners want American cities to be more dense and to rely on public transportation, especially rail.  That provides better targets for terrorists, as this attack reminds us.  (I have other objections to the policy of concentrating people in cities, which need not be discussed here.)
- 6:56 AM, 11 March 2004   [link]

What Would Be The Effects  of gay marriage?  We don't know.
Both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage make their case with hypothetical arguments about its social effects and claims about the history of marriage.  Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the first subject, and proponents of same-sex marriage have mischaracterized the second.

The body of sociological knowledge about same-sex parenting is scant at best.  The numbers of gays and lesbians raising children are so small relative to the population, and their visibility so recent, that there are no rigorous, large-scale studies on the effect of same-sex marriage on the couples' children.

Steven Nock, a leading scholar of marriage at the University of Virginia, wrote in March 2001 after a thorough review that every study on this question "contained at least one fatal flaw" and "not a single one was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research."
The authors of this op-ed then ask:
Is it wise, then, to develop social policies that go to the heart of family life without better knowledge?
The authors' argument is similar to the precautionary principle, the idea that if we are uncertain about the outcome of a risky change, we should avoid the change.   The principle is most often used by superstitious Greens to stop genetic engineering.   Despite this, the principle is not always wrong.

There is, however, one great difference between using it to block genetic engineering and using it to block gay marriage.  Our scientific understanding is far greater about genetics than it is about human societies.  We can identify possible risks from genetically modified plants and animals and even put numbers on those risks.  With gay marriage, we are not even sure what the risks are, and we could not put numbers on them if we could identify them.

Experience shows that we should worry about experimenting on society.  Examples abound, but I will mention just two.  Fifty years ago, reformers were sure that they could improve the lives of the poor by tearing down slums and replacing them with high rise buildings.  Other reformers thought they could help the poor by making welfare a "right" and greatly expanding the payments.  Both policies were disasters, especially for those they were intended to help.

My own guess is that gay marriage — by itself — would not have large effects on society, simply because so few gays will marry.  But it is only a guess, and I will cheerfully admit that I have almost no data to support my guess.  There are, however, these two facts: No country which has legalized gay marriage has a high enough birth rate to continue as a nation.  Every place in the United States that has high support for gay marriage is a place that is failing its children, currently.  Those two correlations may not prove, as every beginning statistics is told, causation, but they do give us reason to worry about the possible consequences of a big leap into legalizing gay marriages.
- 7:33 AM, 10 March 2004   [link]

Some Of You May Have Thought  I was too harsh on journalist Robert Fisk in this post, where I criticized him for dismissing the idea of civil war in Iraq.  I was not harsh enough, as you can see in this Bill Herbert post.   Among those who have warned of civil war in Iraq is — Robert Fisk, not once but several times in the last year.  It did not occur to me that he would be so brazen as to dismiss his own columns, without at least saying that he had changed his mind.  But he was.   (Thanks to the Instapundit for the pointer.)
- 5:32 AM, 10 March 2004   [link]

More Voters Think Kerry's Attacks Unfair:  Byron York spots some interesting details in the latest Gallup poll.
Gallup asked, "Would you say that George W. Bush and the Republican party have — or have not — attacked John Kerry unfairly?"  Twenty-one percent said yes, Bush and the GOP have attacked Kerry unfairly, while 67 percent said no, they have not. Twelve percent had no opinion.

Then Gallup asked, "Would you say that John Kerry and the Democratic party have — or have not — attacked George W. Bush unfairly?" Thirty-five percent said yes, Kerry and the Democrats have attacked Bush unfairly, while 57 percent said no, they have not. Eight percent had no opinion.
As you may recall, I argued some time ago that the attacks from DNC head Terry McAuliffe on the issue of Bush's National Guard service may already have hurt the Democrats.  That's compatible with these results, certainly.

Not everyone agrees with that idea.  The editor of the Seattle Weekly, Knute Berger, thinks the Democrats have not been tough enough.
Now it won't do for the Democrats to run a noble campaign.  Moral superiority in American politics is for losers (check the encyclopedia entry under "Mondale"); moral flexibility is for winners (check entry under "Clinton").  Liberals who have an abundance of moral superiority need to check it at the door.
Berger puzzled me with this argument.  Democrats have already, as Morton Kondracke pointed out, smeared Bush in many ways, as a liar, as a hater, and as an idiot.  Howard Dean floated the speculation that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.  Supporters of the party, including Berger, have even called Bush fascist, something no one in the Democratic party has bothered to condemn.  The extreme left often links Bush (and sometimes his father and grandfather) to Hitler.  So, how could they be even less "noble" than they already are?

The only possibility I could come up with was this: The left could accuse of Bush being the anti-Christ.  I thought I had come up with an original idea, but I googled "Bush + anti-Christ" just to check — and got more than 60,000 hits.  Those I glanced at all seemed to take the idea seriously.  So, despite what Berger wishes, I don't think the left can go any lower.  Don't be surprised if you see "Bush is the anti-Christ" on a sign at the next anti-Bush demonstration.

(Berger does not realize this, but his column creates a classic paradox.  By urging those who agree with him ideologically to lie, he raises the suspicion that everything he says — including the column — is a lie.  So, do we believe him, or not?)
- 5:20 PM, 9 March 2004   [link]

Tiptoeing Past Uncomfortable Truths:  New York Times columnist Bob Herbert intends, in this column, to show that the "nation is in an employment crisis".  (The current unemployment rate is lower than the average for the last three decades.)  But, instead Herbert shows that his argument is wrong, and then tiptoes past two uncomfortable truths without noticing them.
What is happening in some sectors of the black community is catastrophic.  The Community Service Society studied employment conditions among black men in New York City.  Using the employment-population ratio, which is the proportion of the working-age population with a job, it found — incredibly — that nearly one of every two black men between the ages of 16 and 64 was not working last year.

In the current environment, even apparent good news can have its troubling aspects.  An article in The Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago indicated that Latino workers have been doing well, taking a "disproportionate share" of new jobs, especially in the construction and service sectors, since the economy began its recovery.

The article referred to a demand for young, male Latino workers.
Including, although of course he does not use the phrase, illegal immigrants.

Let me reverse the order of his two points.  First, jobs are easy to find for young, unskilled illegal Latino immigrants.  Second, unemployment is very high among young black men.

That jobs are easy to find for the least qualified shows that our "unemployment crisis" is not quite like the Great Depression.  That point shouldn't bother most, even if Herbert misses it.  Now for the uncomfortable truths.

Young black men, even unskilled, should have considerable advantages over illegal immigrants in the job market.  They speak English and, even if they did not graduate from high school, can probably read and write English as well. That illegal immigrants are taking these jobs at the bottom of the ladder instead shows that there is a mismatch between what these young black men bring to the job market and what employers want.  Some may have criminal records or poor work attitudes, while others are unwilling to work at some of the jobs that the illegal Latinos take, at least for the same pay.  These are not problems that are easy for the government to fix.

The second uncomfortable truth is that illegal Latinos are competing directly with those at the bottom of the economic ladder, a group disproportionately black.  To be blunt, poor blacks would be better off if there were fewer illegal immigrants.  (As would poor whites.)   This truth is uncomfortable because the Democratic party is, though not formally, in favor of open borders, seeing a flood of Hispanics as the only way to regain its majority.  Black Democratic leaders have chosen to defend the interests of their party, rather than the interests of their constituents.

Political correctness stops the discussion of these truths.  But it does not stop them from being true.
- 11:23 AM, 9 March 2004   [link]

How Did The United States Begin Our First Large Scale Offensive In World War II?  With a surprise attack on a neutral power, Vichy France.  After our agents tried to subvert the government in French North Africa.  The agents failed and our landings in French Morocco and Algeria were met with resistance that lasted for three days.   In those three days, the United States suffered more than a thousand casualties and had more than 300 killed.  British losses were probably similar, and French losses, since they were taken by surprise and outgunned, were almost certainly greater.

(This was our first attack on Vichy France, but it was not Britain's.  After the fall of France, Britain had demanded that the French fleet in Mers el Kébir (near Oran, Algeria) be moved to a neutralcountry or to Britain.  When the French refused, Britain attacked and destroyed much of the fleet.  A British bombing attack on a Renault plant in occupied France near Paris had killed more than 500 French civilians.  Britain had intervened in the French colonies of Syria and Madagascar and sponsored an unsuccessful attack by De Gaulle on Dakar, in West Africa.)

You probably know that soon after our landings the French in North Africa joined us and fought by our side until the end of the war.  But I am not going to recount that history here.   Instead, I am going to ask a question that continues to be raised about the war with Iraq: Was the attack on the Vichy France possessions in North Africa legitimate under international law?  France had not attacked us, and we could not claim necessity, since there were other ways we could have taken the fight to Rommel, though none as convenient.  It seems to me that those who argue that the liberation of Iraq in 2003 was illegitimate must also argue that the liberation of French Morocco and Algeria in 1942 was illegitimate.

There is an obvious objection.  After World War II, we joined the United Nations and accepted the United Nations charter, which forbids offensive wars, specifically these parts of Article I.
3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
To that objection, my reply is simple.  Roosevelt and Churchill, who ordered the Torch landings in North Africa, were also the principals behind the UN.  I do not believe that either man thought he was condemning his own actions in 1942 by approving the Charter in 1945.   (Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, just six weeks before the UN was established, but he was the single largest influence on its design.)   In their own actions, Roosevelt and Churchill construed the right of self defense very broadly.   The arguments that they used to justify the Torch landings would easily justify the liberation of Iraq.

Some who opposed the liberation of Iraq also use older arguments about just wars and self defense.   Those arguments fail because we have been in a state of with Iraq since 1991, a war interrupted by ceasefires, which Saddam did not always keep, but still a war.  When, for example, Saddam shot at our airplanes and even offered bounties for downing one, he violated the ceasefire and gave us the right to finish the war he had started.  (This is an argument that I have made before; rather than repeat myself, I will recommend that you look at this extensive post by Reverend Sensing.)

Do those making the legal arguments against the liberation of Iraq believe what they say?   Some do, I am sure.  For many others, those arguments are simply another way to condemn the United States, especially when it is led by George Bush.  This cynicism extends beyond the usual suspects, such as the French, to many on the left, even some in "human rights" organizations.
- 9:57 AM, 9 March 2004   [link]