May 2006, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Volcano Blogging:  Thanks to Kate McMillan, I found another volcano cam, this one giving a view of the Augustine volcano, in Alaska.  Today, it was looking quite impressive.

(Here's the web cam I used.

And getting this picture was the most satisfying thing I did today.  I spent much of of the day re-learning something I have known for years, that it is best not to use a spreadsheet to generate charts that you plan to publish.  Time to download a copy of R and do it right.   The charts, by the way, will show some basic historical data on immigration.)
- 5:17 PM, 16 May 2006   [link]

Some People Contribute To Universities:  Some people don't.
Most universities settle for small-splash speakers such as state politicians or captains of local industry, but others aggressively enter the celebrity lottery. Generally this means bestowing an honorary degree and covering travel expenses, rather than paying a fee.  "We consider it an honor to speak at our commencement," said Penn's Kruhly.

But some offer big bucks.  Katie Couric, the soon-to-be CBS anchor, will receive $110,000 to speak at the University of Oklahoma's commencement -- all paid for from private funds, the university emphasizes.

Often, speakers discount their fees, or forgo them altogether.  Bill Clinton, who can command more than $150,000 for speaking engagements, isn't taking money for commencement remarks. Stephen R. Covey, author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," is speaking at Southern Utah University, reportedly for a small fraction of his usual fee of $50,000 to $75,000.

"There are some things, like a commencement address or a major fundraiser, where I would expect a speaker wouldn't ask for a fee," said Media Relations Director Tracy Schario at George Washington University, which gets two speakers for the price of none: Former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, aren't being paid.  The couple will give a "co-speech" at GW's ceremonies May 21 on the Mall.
(Emphasis added.)

Some might think this a little hypocritical, considering Couric's recent use of two Bible verses on wealth.

(By way of Newsbusters.)
- 8:42 AM, 16 May 2006
Corrections:  First, a minor correction; Couric was actually paid $115,000 for the speech.  Second, a correction which erases the argument made in the original post; Couric donated her entire fee to cancer research at the University of Viriginia.  Here's my source on both corrections.
- 2:46 PM, 17 May 2006   [link]

You Can See Just How Heated the immigration debate has become from this pair of posts from Lorie Byrd.
The fact is that I believe this is the last time I will be blogging at Polipundit.

I received a lengthy email from Polipundit tonight alerting us to an editorial policy change that included the following: "From now on, every blogger at will either agree with me completely on the immigration issue, or not blog at"
And from the "Polipundit".
The blog has focused on various issues, but one issue on which I cannot give in to the elites is illegal immigration.  On that, this blog's position must be clear, not ambivalent.  As a legal immigrant, I feel very, very, strongly about this.
My reaction?  I am adding Byrd's site to my blogroll (which I was thinking of doing anyway), but I am not — for now — dropping Polipundit.  And as a general point, I will just add that feeling strongly is never a substitute for thinking clearly.
- 7:49 AM, 16 May 2006   [link]

Immigrants Cause Problems In Idaho:  Even temporary immigrants from just across the border.
'Tis the time of year when Spokane residents, who have been dissing us all winter re: our bumpkinism, studded tires, latent racist tendencies, invade our beaches, waterways and downtown.  Check the license plates coming soon to the Dike Road around North Idaho College.  Their arrival is usually announced by one of them motoring the wrong way on one of the two, one-way streets in town.
And you will see in the comments that some Idahoans worry even more immigrants from California — as people do all over the West.

(Yes, I have some serious posts on immigration coming, but I thought I would start with a chuckle because I think far too many commentators, including some bloggers, are too sure of themselves on this issue.  As for myself, I know I have been wrong on the subject in the past, and that makes me just a little less certain.  In 1986, when Reagan signed an amnesty for illegal immigrants, I supported the plan, without much thought.  But the Reagan amnesty, as I see now, has contributed greatly to our immigration problem.  What I didn't think about is how amnesty would be seen on the other side of the border, as an invitation to cross illegally, which millions accepted.

And I am not impressed by the extremists on either side.  Those who favor open borders, whether they call it by that name or not, are nearly always unwilling to consider the costs of their policy.  And the same is true of those who favor sending most of the immigrants home.   I was disappointed after I wrote this post, because those who disagreed with me at Sound Politics simply refused to discuss, or perhaps even think about, the arguments I had made.)
- 6:24 AM, 16 May 2006   [link]

Just Boxes:  But, oh, what a difference they made.  In this $piece, Joseph Nocera tells the story of a revolutionary invention.
The microchip, light bulb and television are all world-changing inventions that deserve celebration.  And so does the shipping container.
The rest of the piece is behind the TimeSelect wall, but you can read more in one of the books Nocera discusses, The Box, by Marc Levinson.

Very simply, the humble shipping container drastically cut the costs of shipping almost everything, and so a lot more gets shipped.  In many ways, this simple invention was the technological foundation of globalization.  The shipping container really is that important.

(I'm not sure that television deserves celebration.)
- 3:52 PM, 15 May 2006   [link]

Still Another NYT Article On Anthony Pellicano:  Who, if the charges are true, has been a very bad boy.
Anthony Pellicano, the jailed private detective charged with wiretapping and conspiracy in Hollywood's biggest scandal in decades, conspired recently with organized-crime figures to try to assassinate a key witness against him, federal prosecutors say.

He has also made threatening statements about F.B.I. agents and the lead prosecutor in the case, federal evidence shows.
But still nothing on whether his clients included Bill Clinton, something I last wondered about here.  You'd think that question would interest the New York Times, but it hasn't, nor, as far as I know, has it interested anyone else in the "mainstream" media.

A British newspaper, the leftwing Guardian, is less cautious.
Pellicano did work directly with one president: during Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign Pellicano was hired, reportedly by Hillary Clinton, to discredit Gennifer Flowers, the woman who alleged that she had maintained a 12-year affair with the candidate.  Six years later, with Clinton into his second term, the White House, according to the New York Post, hired Pellicano, considered a respected forensic audio specialist, to look into Monica Lewinsky's background.
I wouldn't go that far.  But we do know this:  Pellicano definitely helped Bill Clinton during the Gennifer Flowers scandal — and ordinarily Pellicano does this kind of work for a fee.  I sure wish some of our "mainstream" journalists were curious enough to try to find out exactly why Pellicano did that work — and whether he has done other work for the Clintons.
- 3:20 PM, 15 May 2006   [link]

Saint Oprah?  Last week, listening to Michael Medved, I learned that some of Oprah Winfrey's fans consider her a spiritual leader.
After two decades of searching for her authentic self - exploring New Age theories, giving away cars, trotting out fat, recommending good books and tackling countless issues from serious to frivolous - Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru.

She's no longer just a successful talk-show host worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes' most recent estimate.  Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.
I am certainly no expert on Winfrey, but I suspect that's true — for many people.

And what doctrines does she preach?  There's an entire book — which I haven't even seen — that describes The Gospel of Oprah.   Judging by the young woman who called in to Medved's program, Winfrey combines the ever popular "love yourself" with "be nice to other people".  The young woman, who was embarrassingly candid, obviously preferred that, especially the first part, to the Catholicism of her childhood.

(And, if that is an unfair summation of Winfrey's theology, please let me know.)
- 1:57 PM, 15 May 2006   [link]

Our (Partly) Unguarded Canadian Border:  The Winnipeg Sun describes a section of the border that operates on the honor system.
Down a lonely gravel road straddling Manitoba and Minnesota lies a border crossing so isolated it operates on the honour system.
. . .
People heading in or out of Angle Inlet are expected to report themselves through a videophone housed in a wooden shack 13 km east of Manitoba past Highway 525.  If the device isn't working -- which is often the case, according to local residents -- travellers are instructed to use a payphone to report their arrival.
Some cynics suspect that terrorists and drug smugglers do not adhere to the honor system.

Angle Inlet is included in that central notch in the picture below, from Google Earth.  To get to the rest of the United States, you would have to take a boat or, in winter, a snowmobile.  (I am not sure why those drawing that part of the boundary added the notch.)

And I can tell you, from my own experience (without going into details), that it is quite easy to find many other places where one can cross the American-Canadian border undetected, if you are willing to wear hiking boots.

But surely we don't have to worry about terrorists crossing from Canada?  Isn't it more likely that they will cross from Mexico?  Judging by previous experience, no. Here's how Richard Miniter explains it, in Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror:
A 2004 report by Robert S. Leiken, director of Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center, examined precisely how 212 "suspected or convicted" terrorists had entered the country.   Of all the ways terrorists could enter the U.S., "terrorists stealing across the Mexican border comes last, virtually nil."  Leiken did not cite a single case of terrorists coming from Mexico; his "virtually nil" is an excess of caution. (p. 178)
In contrast, a number of terrorists have crossed from Canada, including Ahmed Ressam.

Why the difference?  Because Canada, unlike Mexico, is hospitable to terrorists, something that National Post reporter Stewart Bell has written about extensively in his book on the subject, which has this uncompromising title: Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the World.

The new Conservative government in Canada will probably be better on terrorism that the Liberals have been, but we can expect the judiciary and the bureaucracies there to continue to take the subject casually — unless Canada suffers a major terrorist attack.
- 7:20 AM, 15 May 2006   [link]

Nasty, Brutish, and probably short.  That was life in the Neolithic.
If you are worried about being attacked or killed by a violent criminal, just be glad you are not living in Neolithic Britain.  From 4000 to 3200 BC, Britons had a 1 in 14 chance of being bashed on the head, and a 1 in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.
And the survey of about 350 skulls would only detect some kinds of violent attacks.

Our ancestors were more violent and warlike than we are, though some still find that hard to accept.   For many years, anthropologists resisted that conclusion, something I discussed here and here.   But the accumulation of what Lawrence Keeley called "unambiguous physicalevidence" in his book, War Before Civilization, has forced them, slowly, to change their views on this question.

And there is another conclusion that one can draw from this physical evidence that some will prefer not to accept.  We are more likely to be descended from those who cracked the skulls, than those whose skulls were cracked.
- 5:40 AM, 15 May 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra, explains the facts of war.
We are in the first war of the Information Age, and we have a critical advantage over our enemy: We are far better at gathering intelligence.  It's an advantage we must utilize, and it's keeping us safe.

But every time classified national security information is leaked, our ability to gather information on those who would do us harm is eroded.

We suffered a setback Thursday when USA Today ran a front-page story alleging that the National Security Agency was collecting domestic phone records.  This article hurt our efforts to protect Americans by giving the enemy valuable insights into the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which has been focused like a laser beam on Al Qaeda and its known associates.
But the article helped the journalists and bureaucrats who have been besieging President Bush.   Many in the press think that's a fair trade.

If these journalists and bureacrats want to set policy, they should run for office, not weaken our war efforts through illegal leaks.
- 8:16 AM, 14 May 2006   [link]

Happy Mother's Day!  And here's a picture of a mother duck, in keeping with my tradition on Mother's Day.

You can find pictures of mother ducks from previous years here, here, and here.  And, I can't help but pass along this explanation of how ducklings manage to hatch at the same time.

(The picture could be better, but it is the best one I have of this mother duck and her mixed brood — who seem entirely appropriate at the Kirkland waterfront, where you often see mixed families.)
- 6:43 AM, 14 May 2006   [link]

How To Sell The Immigrants To Americans:  (Especially Republican officials.)  Do you have a Dick Morris hat handy?  I do, and I put it on whenever I want to think about pure political tactics, as I do now.  Now, with our Dick Morris hats in place, let's suppose a delegation of immigrants had come to us before one of the recent demonstrations, like the one I described, briefly, here, and asked us what messages should be on the signs they carry.

In thinking about their question, we would assume that the immigrants want to appeal, first, to American citizens.  To do that, a number of messages would work well.  Carrying American flags would be a good beginning, and it was interesting to see how many of the demonstrators had figured that out by the second mass demonstration.  That's not a bad start, but we would advise them to do more.  For instance, I saw one sign on May 1st that said, simply, "I love America".  Other good signs said that they worked hard and contributed to the country.  Even better would have been a sign saying that immigrants do a lot for America now, and just want a chance to do more.

Another set of signs could have appealed, not to American's self interest, but to our sense of fairness.  Perhaps the best such appeal would be to family reunification — and I did see some signs making that argument.

At the same time we advised them to use positive arguments that appeal to Americans' self interest and values, we would advise them to avoid signs that would offend American citizens.  They should have excluded the Communists and the other extremist groups.  They should have avoided pictures of Che and signs promising "Reconquista".  There were not many of those, but there were some.  And in Seattle (and perhaps other cities), they should have avoided making it a partisan and union demonstration.

And in advising them, we would note a point that should be obvious: Above all, they want to appeal to Republican officials.  President Bush will be in office until January 2009.  Odds are the Republicans will continue to control Congress at least until then, too.  (The betters, according to the current odds at Chicago Boyz, give the Republicans an 80 percent chance to keep the Senate and a 50 percent chance to keep the House.  I think the second is way too low.)  So some of the signs should have been directed at those Republican officials, who will, most likely, decide what happens in the next two years, and perhaps longer.

What kind of signs?  Here, it gets tricky, because, just as you don't want to make the demonstration a Democratic demonstration, you don't want to make it a Republican demonstration.  A sign that said "If you let us stay, we will vote Republican" would go too far.  But something more subtle might work, for example, compliments.  A sign that called President Bush, Speaker Hastert, and Majority Leader Frist good men, and asked them to do the right thing by giving the immigrants a chance, might work.  I did not see any sign that made that appeal, or anything close to it.  But there were many signs attacking Bush and other Republicans in the most extreme way — as there have been at almost all demonstrations in Seattle in recent years.  (And perhaps even at the Mariner games, for all I know.)

So the demonstrators carried, mostly, the wrong kind of signs to appeal to American citizens, and they made no attempt to appeal to the Republican officials who will actually decide what happens to them.  In fact, a significant minority went out of their way to offend those officials.

Did the demonstrators make any other mistakes?  Well, yes.  Seattle has severe traffic problems.  The demonstration began at 4 PM and followed a route that might have been designed to inconvenience as many commuters as possible.

Now, let's put that all together.  A Dick Morris would have advised the demonstrators to appeal to Americans, especially Republican officials, and not to inconvenience ordinary people.  Instead, except for the American flags, they mostly did not appeal to the ordinary citizens, and a significant minority went out of their way to attack the Republican officials who will decide this issue.  And, just to put the frosting on the cake, in Seattle, they timed their demonstration to cause maximum inconvenience.

What are we to make of this?  The analysis that I did is not difficult, though I do not think most of the demonstrators would have made it.  But some of those who organized these demonstrations must have made that analysis.  (It is, after all, not much more complicated than the old saw that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar.)  So why did those who organized these demonstrations go out of their way to offend Americans, especially Republican officials?  The most likely answer is profoundly cynical; the leaders hope to organize the illegal immigrants against Americans, especially public officials, and most especially Republican officials.  That this is not in the interests of the immigrants did not bother them in the least.  But it should bother any decent person, regardless of their views on immigration.
- 3:21 PM, 12 May 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal explains why the leaks from the CIA aren't just "dissent".
As a result, the security bureaucracies have become a confused tangle of oppositional ideas over the war in Iraq, discrete policies such as the warrantless wiretaps, and the nature of the threat from Islamic terror.  Out of this confusion of policy and purpose have fallen leaks as sensitive as the al Qaeda secret prisons and as oh-golly-gee as yesterday's "leak" about the government analyzing billions of phone-call patterns to pick up terrorist activity.

Aldrich Ames was a CIA traitor.  Is this treason?  I don't think so.  But it may be a prosecutable crime under the terms of the Espionage Act.  It certainly doesn't qualify as simple dissent, which seems to be the view in elite press circles.  Using a privileged, confidential position inside an intelligence agency to blow up a U.S. government's war policy isn't "dissent."   It's something else.
I would agree that the leakers have most likely not committed treason, especially not treason as defined in the Constitution.  But the leakers may well have committed crimes, and they are certainly violating the agreements they signed when they joined the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
- 6:58 AM, 12 May 2006   [link]

Sometimes A Career Switch just says it all.
Mike McCartney, president and CEO of PBS-Hawaii, is running for chairman of the state Democratic Party.

McCartney says he has taken a leave of absence from the statewide public television operation and will step down next month.
That's publicly funded PBS.  And note that McCartney has only taken a leave of absence.
- 12:37 PM, 11 May 2006   [link]

The Plame Leak "Investigation" becomes even more absurd.
And, although no one seems to have noticed, that case [the perjury charges against "Scooter" Libby] is descending into absurdity.

Perhaps the key moment in the descent happened last February in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.  Fitzgerald was there, along with the Libby defense team.
. . .
"Does the government intend to introduce any evidence that would relate to either damage or potential damage that the alleged revelations by Mr. Libby caused, or do you intend to introduce any evidence related to Ms. Wilson's status and whether it was classified or she was in a covert status or anything of that nature?" Walton asked.

We don't intend to offer any proof of actual damage," Fitzgerald said.  "We're not going to get into whether that would occur or not. It's not part of the perjury statute."
. . .
So there you have it. Not only does it not matter if the Valerie Plame Wilson leak did any damage, or no damage at all.  It doesn't even matter if Wilson even worked for the CIA.  What Patrick Fitzgerald set out to investigate, the alleged politically motivated, deliberate exposure of a covert CIA agent, no longer matters.
One reason it may not matter is that the person who "outed" Valerie Plame may well have been her husband, Joseph Wilson.
Lewis Libby defense lawyer Theodore Wells told a federal judge a short time ago that the Libby defense team has located "five witnesses who will say under oath that Mr. [Joseph] Wilson told them his wife worked for the CIA.
(Or perhaps Valerie Plame herself.  I seem to recall reading that she told Wilson about her job on their second date.  Very romantic perhaps, but still a violation of regulations, at the very least.)

Why the descent into absurdity?  Perhaps because, as Clarice Feldman has been arguing, Patrick Fitzgerald is not an exceptionally competent prosecutor.  For some examples supporting that opinion, see here and here.

Finally, as I have before, I suggest that if you share my inordinate interest in this story, you visit Tom Maguire's site regularly, where you will find posts like this one.
- 10:42 AM, 11 May 2006   [link]

Russia Tries to buy more children
Vladimir Putin offered women money to have more babies yesterday as he tackled a fall in population that is leaving swathes of Russia deserted and is hampering economic growth.

In his annual address to the nation, the Russian president said the country's population was falling by about 700,000 a year.  He proposed financial incentives to nudge up the birth rate.
. . .
Mr Putin proposed more than doubling monthly payouts to families for their first baby to 1,500 roubles (£30) - over half the average wage.

If they have a second then that child, under Mr Putin's proposals, will merit £60 a month.   The state will pay women who give up work to have a child 40 per cent of what they earned before.
Again.  I had just picked up a copy of Alexander Werth's Russia at War, and found that Stalin had proposed a whole set of measures in 1944 to restore the enormous losses that the Soviet Union had suffered in World War II (and his purges).
  • Medals for mothers with five or more live children.  (A mother with ten or more live children was dubbed a "Mother-Heroine".)
  • Payments to mothers for children on a sliding scale (400 roubles for the third, 5,000 roubles for the tenth and succeedingchildren).
  • Limits on divorce.
  • Support for unmarried mothers.  They could, for example, put their children in an orphanage and then reclaim them later. (Werth says this support was highly controversial, but that Stalin's government thought it better to have illegitimate children than none at all.)
  • Financial benefits for pregnant women.
  • Heavy taxes on bachelors over the age of 25.
  • Smaller taxes on families with fewer than three children.
  • A continuation of the 1936 ban on abortion.
Were these measures successful?  Hard to say.  The Soviet population did grow substantially after the war, but then so had the population of imperial Russia throughout the 19th century.  Be interesting to see a formal study of the question.  If I had to guess, I would say that they probably did make a measurable difference.

(Werth is something of an apologist for the Soviet Union, but the book is still a valuable contribution; one can learn much even from biased witnesses.)
- 5:43 AM, 11 May 2006
There's More here and here.  The New York Times article describes similar programs in other nations.  The BBC article points out that the Russian birth rate has actually risen significantly in the last seven years.
- 10:59 AM, 11 May 2006   [link]

"Clarifying" The 14th Amendment:  One of the commenters to this post argued, as others have, that we should "clarify" the 14th Amendment.  Here's the full text of the amendment, along with its ratification history.  (Which shows what a battle there was to get it ratified.)  What the commenter wanted to "clarify" is in the very first section:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Specifically, in the first sentence, which gives citizenship to anyone born in the United States — regardless of whether their parents are citizens.

You may be wondering, as I did, what that qualifying clause, "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof", means.  Here's the explanation from Wikipedia:
The provisions in Section 1 ensure that children born on United States soil, with a very small number of exceptions, are U.S. citizens.  This type of guarantee—legally termed "jus soli", or "right of the territory"—does not exist in most of Western Europe, although it is common in the Americas.

The phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" indicates that there are some exceptions to the universal rule that birth on U.S. soil automatically grants citizenship.  The Supreme Court precedent set by the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark interprets the exception narrowly to cover only the following:

  • Children born to foreign diplomats
  • Children born to enemy forces in hostile occupation of the United States
  • Native Americans born on tribal lands

Under this interpretation, the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants and tourists are automatically U.S. citizens.
The only way to "clarify" that so that children of illegal immigrants born here are not automatically citizens is to pass a constitutional amendment.  That's not just my opinion; that's the plain meaning of the amendment, and the controlling decision of the US Supreme Court.  To pretend that can be "clarified" away is foolish.

As it happens, for years I have favored amending the 14th Amendment to eliminate what I see as an unintended loophole.   Allowing, for example, pregnant South Korean women to fly here to have their babies, in order to establish a base in this country, makes no sense to me.  Thousands do just that every year, according to one news story I read, and Koreans are not the only nationality that uses this loophole.  But I am not going to pretend that the 14th Amendment means other than what the Supreme Court has plainly said it means.  (And what seems to this non-lawyer to be a fair reading of the text of the Amendment.)

(Section 1 also guarantees the "equal protection of the laws" to "any person".  "Any person" would include illegal immigrants, so some proposals to treat them unequally would fail an obvious constitutional test.)
- 10:11 AM, 10 May 2006   [link]

Every Year Is Worse Than The Previous Year In Baghdad:  Who said that?   A member of Al Qaeda, who is discouraged over their prospects in that city — and has plenty of reasons to be discouraged.  In particular, he sees Sunni forces loyal to the Iraqi government as a threat to which he has no answer.  Any conflict with them will further reduce Al Qaeda's support, but he sees no way to avoid those conflicts.

Captain Ed has a longer analysis here.  Like me, David Cohen was struck by the frank admission in the document that Al Qaeda was waging a media war in Baghdad — exclusively.

Now we should not make too much of this.  There are two main factions attacking us and our allies in Iraq, Al Qaeda and the Baathist remnants.  The Baathist remnants are a larger, if much less fanatical, force.  It would be fascinating to see a similar assessment from a Baathist.

(Fans of metaphors will note that "quagmire" would not be the right word to describe the strategic assessment in this document.  A "quagmire" implies that you are stuck, with no chance of improvement.  But the writer thinks that matters are getting worse.)
- 7:28 AM, 10 May 2006   [link]

Today Should Be A Good Day to see the "fin" growing in Mt. St. Helens.   Here's what you could see yesterday:

Here's the web cam.  And you may want to take another look at the video I mentioned in this post  Among other things, it shows a small glacier just west of the fin, something you can't see from the web cam.
- 6:15 AM, 10 May 2006   [link]

Four Strange Stories From The Telegraph:  
  • German courts gave their cannibal a life sentence.  But it took two tries.  And he's appealing.

  • Another German is becoming a father on a grand scale.
    A German man is exploiting a loophole in the law to become the legal father of 1,000 foreign children so they can claim German passports.
    And lots of benefits from the German welfare state.  (The "father" thinks he was treated unfairly when he was convicted and imprisoned for fraud.  This is his revenge.)

  • American troops think that new armor for turret gunners in Humvees makes them look "goofy"   But the new armor seems to be quite effective.

  • Britain has a shortage of sperm donors  Regulation is to blame, surprise, surprise.
None of these stories makes a large political point, but they amused me, and may amuse you, too.
- 4:15 PM, 9 May 2006   [link]

More On Bill Clinton's Arsenic Trap:  Since the Seattle Times continues to omit much of the arsenic story, I'll try to fill in what they miss.  In my first post, I noted that there was little danger from the previous standard of 50 parts per billion, and that the affair had been a political trap set by Bill Clinton for George W. Bush.  The Seattle Times has now partly caught up with me on the first point.

Dr. Catherine Karr, director of the University of Washington's Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, said the long-term risk to children would be very low.

Her rough calculation: If 1 million children, each day for five years, each drank one liter of water with arsenic slightly above the federal standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb), about 10 to 30 more cancers of the bladder or lungs would result.

But they continue to ignore Clinton's role in this fiasco, as you can see in that article and in this editorial.  And they probably always will ignore Clinton's role, since the Seattle Times, like many American newspapers, does not like to hold Democrats responsible for their misdeeds.  (I sent the reporter, Emily Heffter, an email after my first post, so she does know that Clinton was responsible; she just doesn't care to share that knowledge with her readers.)

But the Times, and their expert, Dr. Karr, are only partly right, because a complete account would include the fact that many experts do not believe there is any danger at all in this level of arsenic.  Here, for example, is what the Agency for Toxic Sustance and Disease Registry says about the research on the effects of arsenic in drinking water:

Can arsenic in drinking water affect my health?

Studies conducted in other countries found harmful health effects in persons who regularly for many years drank water containing arsenic at 100 ppb to 300 ppb.  Compared with other groups, more of these people developed several kinds of cancer (lung, liver, kidney, and prostate) and had darkening skin, thickening of the skin on palms of their hands and soles of their feet, skin cancer, and many small warts or corns.

A few studies found no harmful effects in persons in the United States who throughout their lifetimes drank water containing arsenic at levels of 50 ppb to 100 ppb.

They go on to say that reducing exposure below 50 ppb "can reduce the risk of harmful health effects", but you and I can look at the evidence they presented and add to that sentence this phrase: but it almost certainly won't.

The simplest explanation for those different results is that there is a threshold effect; arsenic can cause ill effects if your water contains more than 50 (or perhaps 100) parts per billion, but not below that.  There is nothing surprising about that explanation; many substances do show threshold effects.  For some reason, Karr chose not mention these US studies on the effects of lower levels of arsenic — or the Seattle Times chose not to report what she said.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(There is another possible explanation for these differing results: Because of "hormesis", tiny amounts of arsenic may actually be good for your health — and there is some experimental evidence to support that theory.

Some on the left, notably Ralph Nader, were honest enough to say that Clinton was setting a trap when he made this decisionr.  And, as a commenter pointed out after my first post, liberal journalist Michael Kinsley was honest enough to say that leaving the standard at 50 parts per billion was correct.)
- 12:27 PM, 9 May 2006   [link]

Worth Re-Reading:  Charles Krauthammer's classic column on "Bush Derangement Syndrome".
Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush.
I had forgotten how he suggested we help people suffering from BDS.
The sad news is that there is no cure.  But there is hope.  There are many fine researchers seeking that cure.  Your donation to the BDS Foundation, no matter how small, can help.   Mailing address: Republican National Committee, Washington DC, Attention: psychiatric department.   Just make sure your amount does not exceed $2,000 ($4,000 for a married couple).
The column would be even funnier, if it weren't so close to the truth — and if the syndrome hadn't spread since 2003.
- 11:02 AM, 9 May 2006   [link]

Thanks To All Who Visit:  Visits to this site have grown steadily, though not spectacularly, since I first made it public in July, 2002.  This March there was a sharp jump up in page views, and they have consistently averaged more than 2,000 a day since then.  Thanks to all who visit, and thanks especially to those who tell me about my mistakes.

For some time I have jokingly said that I hope this web site will eventually have "circulation" equal to 5 or 10 percent of that of the two Seattle newspapers.  Considering the trends, that's a little bit less of a joke than it once was.
Circulation fell at both of the daily newspapers in Seattle for the six months ending March 31, by a greater percentage at the Seattle P-I than at The Seattle Times and far more deeply at each than the national average.

The weekday P-I had a total average paid circulation of 131,769 for the period, down 9 percent from the same period the year before, according to figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Times reported Monday-through-Friday circulation of 220,734, down 5.4 percent.
Most journalists will tell you that ideology has nothing to do with these contrasting trends — but I don't agree.
- 8:10 AM, 9 May 2006   [link]

Speaker Pelosi?  (This is an open letter to my own congressman, Jay Inslee.)

Dear Congressman Inslee:

Sometimes it is best to be blunt and I hope you will excuse me for thinking that this is one of those times.

If the Democrats were to gain a majority in the House of Representatives this November, Nancy Pelosi, who represents most of San Francisco, would, almost certainly, become speaker of the House of Representatives, and next in line after the vice president, to become president.

What, in your opinion, makes Congresswoman Pelosi fit to be speaker, and possibly president?

I follow politics closely.  I have read her official biography, and the biography in the authoritative Almanac of American Politics.   She has a mediocre education.  She has never held an executive position.  She has been in Congress since 1987 and has few legislative accomplishments.  She routinely gets 100 percent scores from far left groups such as the ADA.  And her district is one the strangest in the United States.

Her plans, should she become speaker, do not fill me with confidence.  She has already said, though not in these words, that she intends to tie up the government with endless investigations — during a time of war.  And she has not committed herself to keeping the reforms that the Republicans brought to the House after the 1994 elections.

I did not have these same objections to her predecessor, Richard Gephardt.  There are still many serious Democratic congressmen who I could see as speaker or even president, though many fewer than there once were.  Nancy Pelosi is not one of them. If you have some reason for believing otherwise, I would like to hear it.

I have posted this letter at my own web site, Jim Miller on Politics, and at Sound Politics.   I would be happy to post your reply, if any, at both sites.

James R. Miller

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 6:44 AM, 9 May 2006   [link]