May 2007, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

William Rhoden Of The New York Times Wants The Knicks To Win An NBA Championship:  So badly that he is proposing that the NBA $rig the system, that the NBA cheat, in other words.
The Knicks are one of the N.B.A.'s pillar franchises.  They have the largest payroll but probably the bleakest outlook for winning a championship statue any time soon.
. . .
The N.B.A. should act like the World Bank and treat the Knicks like a developing nation.  The league needs success in New York and there is only one way to achieve that:  The N.B.A. has to forgive the Knick's debt..
(Rhoden's comparison of the Knicks to a developing nation may be more apt than he realizes.  Many such nations have, through poor leadership, piled up mountains of debt.  When that debt has been forgiven without conditions, those nations generally continue their foolish (and often corrupt) policies.)

Those debts are the result of mistakes that the Knicks — and no one else — made.

I am no longer surprised when I see the New York Times supporting cheating in its editorial pages, or even in its news pages, but I am still a little surprised to see this forthright support for cheating in the sports pages.   Of course, in all of these places, the Times supports cheating only as long as the right party or group wins.   They are, for example, all in favor of changes in our voting laws that would increase vote fraud — as long the fraud would benefit Democratic candidates.  Similarly, Mr. Rhoden is not in favor cheating generally, just the cheating that helps his team.

(If Rhoden wanted to help the Knicks without cheating, there is an obvious fix; he should encourage the team to replace Isiah Thomas who, as president of the Knicks — is a great point guard.  The team is unlikely to prosper as long as Thomas is in charge.

This is not the first time Rhoden has argued for cheating on the behalf of his team, as you can see here.)
- 3:07 PM, 26 May 2007   [link]

Mt. Rainier Flood Damage:  The light was not as good for photography yesterday as I had hoped, but I did get a look at some of the flood damage.

Mt. Rainier flood damage

Looking in the opposite direction, at the foot bridge instead of from it, you can see a good-sized log that was carried by the flood.

Mt. Rainier flood damage

The pictures were taken on the Nisqually River, just a short distance up from Longmire, near the main entrance.

Flood damage was much worse in other parts of the park.  According to the park newspaper, Highway 123, which runs through the southern edge of the park, has one 70 foot deep washout.  In the northwest corner of the park, two miles of the Carbon River road were destroyed.  And they don't know the full picture yet, because many damaged areas are still covered by snow.

What did all the damage?  Eighteen inches of rain in 36 hours on November 6th and 7th.
- 10:00 AM, 26 May 2007
More:  The park has a detailed description of the damage here, along with many images, including three videos.
- 1:09 PM, 27 May 2007   [link]

And Now, since the weather is nice, I am off to Mt. Rainier to look at the flood damage from last November's storms, to take a few pictures, and to do a little cross country skiing.

By the way, the best month for snow play on Rainier is usually May, not one of the winter months.
- 5:45 AM, 25 May 2007   [link]

That was quick.
Long-standing rumours that the former French president Jacques Chirac holds a secret multi-million-euro bank account in Japan appear to have been confirmed by files seized from the home of a senior spy.

Papers seized by two investigating magistrates from General Philippe Rondot, a former head of the DGSE, France's intelligence service, show Mr Chirac opened an account in the mid-1990s at Tokyo Sowa Bank, credited with the equivalent of £30 million.  It is not known where the money came from, nor whether it is connected to various kick-back scandals to which Mr Chirac's name has been linked over the past decade.
It is almost as if they were waiting for President Sarkozy to take office before they made this raid.

(You can find all sorts of speculations about the source of this cash, and what Chirac might have done to earn it, here.  More than one commenter thinks that some of it might have come from Saddam.)
- 2:37 PM, 24 May 2007   [link]

Good News:  CAIR, which likes to claim it is the Muslim NAACP, is declining.
But their new 2006 Annual Report and their recently posted 2005 IRS Form 990 shows that CAIR continues to hemorrhage members. Whereas my estimates for 2004 showed that based on their membership receipts in that period they had approximately 4,761 dues-paying members, in 2005 their membership plummeted dramatically to an estimated 2,615.  This puts CAIR on the same comparative membership level as the American Indian Kaw Nation in Kansas, the Cleveland Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, the Society for News Design, the University of Texas Longhorn Alumni Band, and the South Dakota chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), none of whom are consulted near as frequently by Beltway politicians or sought after for comment by the media establishment as CAIR.
Though you might not know this from the treatment they get from the "mainstream" media.

Since CAIR likes to compare themselves to the NAACP, Patrick Poole makes the same comparison.
Since representatives from CAIR have identified their organization as "the Islamic NAACP", a comparison between CAIR and the NAACP might be helpful.  In the same period (2005) that CAIR brought in $65,377 in membership revenue purporting to represent 7 million Muslims, the NAACP received $3.317 million from a population of approximately 40 million African-Americans.  Even after adjusting for the population size differences between the two, CAIR's membership footprint amongst their constituency is still is only one-tenth that of the NAACP.  CAIR, you are no NAACP.
And, though Poole doesn't mention it, there is another great difference.  Whatever one may think of the current NAACP, there is no doubt that it has a long and mostly honorable history.

(If you want to know more about CAIR, don't check your local newspaper; instead take a look at the Anti-CAIR site.)
- 2:10 PM, 24 May 2007   [link]

Most Prosecutors Are Reluctant To Prosecute Vote Fraud Cases:  That's an argument I have been making for some time.  There's a vivid example of that reluctance in this Stefan Sharkansky interview of John McKay.   The fired US attorney concedes that the 2004 gubernatorial election here in Washington state had a "lot of stinky, nasty things" about it.  But in the same interview, McKay puts the bar against a serious investigation so high as to make one almost impossible.  Here's how another prosecutor, "Patterico", summarizes McKay's standards
In a nutshell, McKay wanted a confession (or at least an informant) before he would even investigate.  This means that there was evidence his "investigation" didn't even consider, including (surprise, surprise) Stefan's:
Among the evidence that McKay did not consider sufficient to trigger a serious investigation was this undisputed fact: "[T]here were more votes than voters."

Now suppose someone comes to you and alleges fraud at some public firm, and shows you that the firms's books do not balance.  Would that be enough evidence to warrant an investigation — even if you didn't have an informant?  It should be.

(Note: In the past I have not said enough about the effort that Stefan, a friend and fellow blogger, has put into this case.  By himself, working part time, he has done far more than all the news organizations combined.  And he deserves great credit for his mostly successful efforts to uncover this mess.

By the way, here's a follow-up post to the McKay interview that you may want to read)
- 9:36 AM, 24 May 2007   [link]

The Immigration Conundrum:  You won't have to look far to find people who are certain about how we should change our immigration policies.  But you won't find one at this site.  That's not because I don't know what I want our policies to achieve; it's because I don't know how best to achieve them.

For example:  Last year, libertarian John Tierney argued that we could end most of our problems of illegal immigration with a $guest worker program.   Tierney went farther, saying that Eisenhower had done just that in the 1950s and almost shut off illegal immigration.

Is Tierney right about the history?  Probably.  Would the same policy have the same good effects now?  Maybe.  But even if the policy did work a half century ago, we can't be certain that it would work now.  For one thing, it is far easier to get to the United States now — from all over the world — than it was then.

But if Tierney is right, and he often is on such matters, then we have an easy fix available for most of our problems with illegal immigration.  But I really don't know whether he is.

Or, consider another question:  Would the deal help or hurt the Republican party?  Talk show host Rush Limbaugh is convinced that it would hurt the party; talk show host Michael Medved is convinced that it would help the party.  (Neither, at least while I have been listening, considered a mixed result, that it would hurt the party in the short run, but help the party in the long run.)  Dick Morris, who knows a little about politics, thinks that rejecting the Senate compromise will hurt the Republicans, at least in the long run.
The Republican Party would be self-destructive (not for the first time, either) if they did not let the immigration compromise negotiated by Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) pass and become law.  The hopes of the entire Latino community are pinned to immigration reform and, if the GOP is seen as blocking it, the consequences for the indefinite future will be horrific.  The Republican Party will lose Hispanics as surely as they lost blacks when Barry Goldwater ran in 1964 against the civil rights bill (even though a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats backed the bill in each house).

If the Hispanics are not massively turned off by a Republican rejection of immigration reform, they will drift into an increasingly pro-Republican orientation just as Irish and Italian Catholics did before them.  Already Protestant evangelicalism has converted a third of the American Latino population, a clear precursor of GOP political support.
In other words, in the long run Hispanics are natural Republicans and will drift toward that party — if the Republicans don't alienate them.

Is Morris right?  Again, I don't know, though I would say that I would generally bet with him on political questions.  (Except for questions involving Hillary Clinton, where his emotions seem to over rule his judgment.)

Now, despite my uncertainty about these two questions (and many others), I will be writing about immigration from time to time — but I hope I will do so with the appropriate humility.
- 4:28 PM, 23 May 2007   [link]

Can We Trust The Answers In That Pew Poll Of American Muslims?  By now, you probably have heard about the poll of American Muslims done by the Pew Research Group.  "Mainstream" news organizations have mostly found good news in the poll; this article from USA Today is typical.
The USA's estimated 2.4 million Muslims hold more moderate political views than Muslims elsewhere in the world and are mostly middle class and willing to adopt the American way of life, according to one of the most comprehensive surveys of this segment of the nation's population.

The Pew Research Center study released Tuesday found that "Muslim Americans are very much like the rest of the country," says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  "They do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society."
In contrast, conservative talk show hosts have mostly seen the glass as worse than half empty, since a significant number of American Muslims see suicide bombings as legitimate, and large numbers support terrorist organizations.

I have not had time to study the whole report yet, but I would guess that matters are even worse than appears from the poll.

Pollsters have long known that, on some subjects, many respondents will not give honest answers.   For example, if you ask people whether they have broken laws, or done other things that society disapproves, a significant number of people will lie to the pollster.  (There are ways to poll on such questions.  For example, if you want to know whether people are prejudiced, you often ask how a respondent's "neighbors" feel about the issue.)  And most Muslims would know that certain answers would meet with disapproval from most Americans, and perhaps even a visit from the FBI.

We can see evidence that American Muslims were disguising their true feelings in the answers to some of the questions.  When faced with a difficult question, some respondents will lie and give the socially correct answer; others will lie and refuse to answer or say that they do not know.  You can see an example of that in the answers to Pew's question on whether Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks.   Forty percent say Arabs; 28 percent say it was not Arabs, 9 percent say that a US conspiracy caused the attacks — and 18 percent said they didn't know, or refused to answer.

When I see "don't know" levels that high on a subject this prominent, I conclude that most of those who said they didn't know actually didn't want to say.  And that many of those who did say were not telling the truth.
- 1:10 PM, 23 May 2007   [link]

Joe Lieberman Isn't The Only Democrat With Rational Views On National Security:  Though it sometimes seems that way.  But there are others out there, notably former senator Bob Kerrey.
Let me restate the case for this Iraq war from the U.S. point of view.  The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001.   For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there."  It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake."  But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs.  He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease.  He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.
. . .
The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.
You'll want to read the whole thing.

There are other rational Democrats out there, though we do not hear from them often.  And I think enough of some Democratic leaders — for example, Senator Charles Schumer — to think that they don't believe what they say, that they do not intend to give Osama a victory, but are simply exploiting the Iraq issue for political gain.  These leaders are, I think, deeply cynical, but not irrational.  And sometimes in politics, that's all you can hope for.

(My spell checker, showing considerable intelligence, suggested that "Schumer" should actually be "Schemer".  The program has a point.)
- 10:38 AM, 23 May 2007
More:  If you are wondering why my spell checker has that view, read this column.  Of course, Senator Schemer's plots would often fail without the cooperation of "mainstream" journalists, who are usually happy to pass on his talking points, however absurd.
- 5:05 AM, 25 May 2007   [link]

The Pelosi Democrats Want To Surrender:  And they have, but to President Bush, rather than to our terrorist enemies.
After weeks of refusing to back down to President Bush on setting a timetable on Iraq, House Democratic leaders face having to explain to their party's rank and file why they've now relented.

Party officials said Monday the next war spending bill most likely will fund military operations and not demand a timeline to bring troops home, although it will contain other restrictions on Bush's Iraq policies.
It was obvious from the beginning that the Pelsoi Democrats would surrender to Bush eventually, since they do not have the courage (an odd word in this context) of their convictions.  They want us to lose in Iraq, but are unwilling to take reponsibility for an American defeat.

So the charade is over, for a time.  The Pelosi Democrats spent months, and accomplished exactly nothing.  Nothing may be the best we can get from this Congress, but the spectacle should still disgust every decent citizen.  There is much play acting in politics (on both sides of the aisle).  But a matter this important deserves the attention of adults, not this childish play acting.
- 7:53 AM, 22 May 2007   [link]

Walking Around Money In Palm Beach County:  Remember Palm Beach county from the 2000 election?  The place of the "butterfly" ballot and the votes manufactured for Gore?  (And very possibly, the votes stolen from Bush.)  Although news accounts had much to say about the fight there over the chad, few mentioned anything about Palm Beach's history of vote fraud.  Like the other counties where most of the 2000 fight was waged, Broward and Miami-Dade, Palm Beach has a long history of vote fraud.

And it may be continuing.  A Florida Republican has caught some Palm Beach Democrats in a legal violation, and maybe in vote fraud. .
A Republican activist has filed Florida Elections Commission complaints against Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman Wahid Mahmood and three other local Democrats over the party's initial failure to itemize $5,125 in Election Day cash payments to campaign workers last November.
. . .
Mahmood wrote Democratic Party checks of $4,900 and $225 to Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Jean Enright in November and signed a campaign report in January that said the payments were for "GOTV," an abbreviation for "get out the vote."

Mahmood said the money was to compensate Enright for months of partisan effort.  But elected officials rarely get paid for campaign work, and Enright said she never sought or accepted money for herself.

Enright said she was given the money with the understanding that she would pass it along to workers to hold signs, drive voters to the polls and otherwise help boost Democratic turnout in Riviera Beach on Nov. 7.

Enright made cash payments of $75 or $100 to 65 people on Election Day.  Such payments are legal, but they must be itemized on a campaign finance report.
These payments are often called "walking around money" because, supposedly, they go to pay the expenses of precinct workers who walk around encouraging people to vote.  They are often disguised bribes; the person who receives them splits them with a number of voters, in return for their votes.   Because they are so often abused, some states and localities have outlawed them.  And when they are not reported properly, as in this case, we have even more reason to be suspicious.
- 7:23 AM, 22 May 2007   [link]

Is Beating A Man Until He Confesses Torture?  If so, then FDR approved of torture, as we can see from an incident prior to our entry in World War II.  A friend of Roosevelt's and a former governor of Pennsylvania, George Howard Earle, III, was sent to Bulgaria as our ambassador.  To say the least, Earle was not the usual ambassador.  Here's an example of his diplomatic methods from Joseph Persico's Roosevelt's Secret War.
Roosevelt was drawn to men of Earle's stripe, adventurers of the kind that he himself could no longer be.  In 1940, before the United States entered the war, FDR had sent this gruff charmer to Bulgaria as American minister because he knew Earle was a vocal anti-Nazi.  Earle quickly confirmed the President's appraisal.  On one occasion, the burly envoy beat a confession out of a suspected Nazi spy caught in the embassy. (p. 234)
According to Persico, FDR was delighted with Earle's actions overall, though Persico does not say whether he specifically approved of this beating.  But I think it likely that he did, and that neither he nor Earle saw this as torture.

(For more, see this post, in which I argue that FDR approved of waterboarding.

If you are wondering, I am reading Persico for material for the post on JFK, LBJ and wiretapping.   At this point I will just say that FDR, like JFK and LBJ, was not always scrupulous about protecting people's privacy.)
- 12:57 PM, 21 May 2007   [link]

Chuckle:  Jerome Schmidt catches some scientific illiteracy in the New York Times.   (There's another astonishing statement in the New York Times article, which I may get to later.)
- 11:04 AM, 21 May 2007   [link]

Lessons from Milwaukee:  Every once in a while, someone does get convicted for vote fraud, and I try to look at every conviction I can find, for the lessons they might give us.  This case, from Wisconsin, is particularly instructive.
Kimberly Prude is 43, a grandmother of three and the face of voter fraud in Wisconsin.

The first vote she cast in her life, in the 2004 presidential election, landed her in the middle of a political storm and put her on a road to a two-year sentence inside the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center.
Those lead paragraphs are worth savoring, since the reporter is obviously trying to build sympathy for this poor "grandmother of three".

But the reporter is honest enough to include some important facts farther down.  If we read the whole article, we learn down that Prude is a Democrat, that she was drawn in politics by demagogue Al Sharpton, that she not only voted illegally — after she was warned not to— but that she worked as a poll worker.  And I think it fair to say that she was not zealous in enforcing legal requirements.
The government said that at the polls on election day, "Prude improperly vouched for individuals she had never met.  She also signed as the corroborating witness on two on-site registration cards for the same voter."
(Shouldn't the reporter, Bill Glauber, give the name of the prosecutor, since he is quoting them directly?)

And, though Glauber does not exactly emphasize this point, we learn that Prude went to jail because she had violated the conditions of her parole.  This grandmother, it turns out, has quite a criminal record.

Most of all, we learn that prosecutions are rare:
After all the allegations of voter fraud made during the 2004 presidential campaign, federal attorneys in Milwaukee brought 14 cases.  Six of those were dismissed before trial, and only five convictions were secured, all Milwaukee residents.  Prosecutors had to prove that the voters intended to defraud the system.

Although 14 cases may not sound like a lot, they made up more than 10% of all the federal voter fraud cases brought in the United States from 2002 to 2006, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

Four of the cases here involved allegations of double voting, and 10 others involved felons accused of voting.
There are, broadly speaking, two different conclusions that one can draw from the fact that these prosecutions are rare.  One can conclude — as those who support Democrats almost always do — that vote fraud is exceedingly rare.  Or, one can conclude that prosecutors, especially federal prosecutors, are reluctant to take on these cases.  I think the latter conclusion is more accurate, but I will concede that much of the data we need is missing.  (And that, in itself says something, because this is not a subject that can not be investigated by researchers.)

(Did Kerry's narrow margin in Wisconsin come from the illegal votes of Prude and others?  Did Al Gore's even narrower margin in 2000 come from the same kind of illegal votes?  As far as I can tell, no one really knows the answers to those questions, which should dismay anyone who values honest elections.)
- 10:15 AM, 21 May 2007   [link]

Nice Work If You Can Get It:  The Wall Street Journal has some details on John Edwards' part-time job.
Let us say right up front that it's terrific that John Edwards lives in a country where he can lose an election and still land a $480,000 part-time job as a consultant to an investment firm that keeps its hedge funds in the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter for its clients.  This truly is the land of opportunity.
Now why would an investment firm pay that kind of money to a man who knew almost nothing about the hedge fund business, as he has admitted?  The most likely answer is that they did it as a campaign contribution; he was given the cash, not for what he was doing for the firm as a consultant, but for what he might do for them as president.  The deal was probably legal, but was deeply unethical — on both sides.

(Was his other part-time job, at the University of North Carolina, also a disguised campaign contribution? Probably.)
- 7:43 AM, 18 May 2007
More:  Turns out that Edwards has still another dubious connection; he set up a non-profit to fight poverty — and filled it with former staffers.   Among the ways the center fought poverty was by sending poverty-stricken John Edwards on a speaking tour.  Legal experts consulted by Business Week say that the center (which is now defunct) "may technically pass muster", that is, it may have been legal.

(By way of James Taranto at the "Best of the Web".)
- 8:39 AM, 24 May 2007   [link]

Protecting Your Sources:  This Walter Pincus article doesn't have much in the way of content, but it does show something about how journalism is often practiced, especially in Washington, D.C..

The CIA has been caught doing something indefensible:
A proposed intelligence assessment on climate change and its impact on national security will not divert analysts or collectors from working on issues related to Iraq, Afghanistan or terrorism, according to a senior intelligence official.

In a partisan, late-night debate earlier this month, a handful of House Republicans tried unsuccessfully to remove the proposal in the fiscal 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act ordering the director of national intelligence to deliver -- within 270 days of the bill becoming law -- a National Intelligence Estimate on the geopolitical effects of global climate change on U.S. national security.  They lost 230 to 185, after arguing that such an NIE could become a major task for the intelligence community and that it could divert satellites from covering war targets and analysts from dealing with terrorism.
But, as you can see from the article, Pincus defends them anyway, quoting, naturally, a "senior intelligence official involved in the process, speaking on the condition of anonymity".

Of course the CIA should not be doing this kind of estimate.  Of course, since resources are finite, this will hurt, to some extent, their ability to do their real job.

So why is Pincus making this absurd argument?  Because he wants to help a source who has often given him material.  And those familiar with the bureaucratic wars inside the CIA probably know who Pincus is helping.

But the ordinary reader doesn't and that's the point.  The real story here is the alliance between a CIA bureaucrat and a prominent reporter — and Pincus will never write that story.   Instead, he will continue to protect his source (sources) — and deceive his readers.

(In general these alliances between reporters and sources are used to undermine elected officials.   If the bureaucrat had the support of the elected officials, then he would not have to be anonymous.   So these alliances are, in general, anti-democratic.  Few reporters are bothered by that fact, but more should be.

Note, just for amusement, that 230-185 vote.  Most of us would consider 185 more than a "handful".)
- 7:18 AM, 20 May 2007   [link]

Mt. St. Helens Anniversary:  Twenty-seven years ago, Mt. St. Helens erupted.
Mount St. Helens is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980,[1] which was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.  Fifty-seven people were killed; and 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways and 185 miles (300 km) of highway were destroyed.  The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,365 ft (2,550 m), and replacing it with a mile-wide (1.5 km-wide) horseshoe-shaped crater.[2]  The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.3 km3) in volume, making it the largest in recorded history.[2]  However, the scale of the blast is considered minor when compared with past debris avalanches elsewhere on Earth.
Last year, I put up this collection of pictures from the webcam.  The best pictures usually come from the winter or early spring, when the mountain is covered with snow.  The best times to look at it are usually just after sunrise, or just before sunset.

Fun fact: Although you can't see it from the webcam, there is a new glacier, Crater Glacier, growing inside the crater.
- 4:09 PM, 18 May 2007   [link]

Competition Is Good:  As we can see in this new line of printers from Kodak.  Or to be more precise, the new line of all-in-ones, since the Kodak printers can scan and copy, as well as print.

Their great advantage is that they cost more initially, but don't gouge you for ink quite as much as their competitors.  Here's how David Pogue summarizes the new line:
So no, the new Kodak doesn't run away with the crown in every department.  But it easily holds its own against much bigger, more experienced manufacturers.  And it has its priorities straight: great-looking photos that last a lifetime; easy-to-use controls; American-based toll-free tech support; and speeds and features that are no embarrassment.

More important, it makes a world-rocking point about the razor-blades model that's lined the coffers of the inkjet industry for years.  If you're mad as hell, you don't have to take it anymore.
It will be interesting to see how Canon, Epson, and HP respond to this challenge.

(Here are the three new Kodak printers, if you are curious.)
- 3:44 PM, 18 May 2007   [link]

Facts And Falwell:  The death of Jerry Falwell gave people on the left (and a few on the right) a chance to recycle a famous story, the story that Falwell had attacked the Teletubbies for having a gay character.

The only problem with the story, at least as it is usually told, is that it is not true.
The reaction to the Rev. Jerry Falwell's outing of Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby, was widespread scorn and hilarity.  Comedians and column writers mercilessly ridiculed Falwell for his paranoia in seeing gays under the crib.

Three comments in defense of Falwell: First, he didn't write the article in question, which appeared unsigned in National Liberty Journal, a magazine he publishes.  When asked about the charge, Falwell said he had never seen Teletubbies and didn't know whether Tinky Winky was homosexual or not.  The notion of Falwell attacking a cartoon character is too appealing to liberal prejudices to be easily abandoned.

Second, if you've ever watched Teletubbies, you might well suspect some kind of subliminal messaging.  The four tubbies have aerials coming out of their spacesuit hoods, which receive programming that's broadcast on TV screens in their tummies.  As they prance out of their bunker and around the strange, apocalyptic landscape where they live, periscope speakers pop out of the ground and feed them orders.  It's both cute and creepy.

Third, the folks at Liberty College apparently got their idea about Tinky Winky not from watching the program but from reading such publications as the Washington Post and People.  On Jan. 1, the Post included "TINKY WINKY, THE GAY TELETUBBY" in its annual list of what's "in" for the New Year.   No one got excited.  The press, including the Post, then mocked Falwell as a reactionary hick obsessed with the sexuality of puppets.  Seems like a bit of a trap.
So there you are.  A Falwell staffer repeated something from the Washington Post — without the knowledge of Falwell — and Falwell became the target of endless jokes and nasty attacks.  But no one seemed to find the Post, or other publications that had originally made the claim, equally funny, or even a little bit funny.

I am not a fan of Falwell, don't even know much about him.  But I do find this story interesting for what it shows about the left.  Many on the left, including some "mainstream" journalists were willing to accept nasty gossip about Falwell without making the obvious check.  Would they have treated, for example, Barack Obama, the same way?  Of course not.
- 12:47 PM, 18 May 2007   [link]

Worth Reading:  Tom Maguire explains the latest fuss over the NSA rules and the Justice Department.  I found this analogy, where the "law firm" is the Justice Department, compelling:
A wall street firm has a reasonable complicated financing structure requiring legal opinions; a typical deal takes about two months to come together, and the firm has done twenty such deals with the blessing of their outside counsel.

Now comes the twenty-first deal, and the law firm informs the Wall Street financiers, forty-eight hours before the scheduled close, that they can't sign the legal opinion.  Has the relevant law changed?  Nooo.  Has the financing structure changed?  Nooo.  But a new partner at [t]he law firm has looked at the structure and wants the deal tweaked slightly before he can sign off on it.

Take my word for it — there would be Hades to pay for this, and serious questions would be raised about the professionalism and timing of the law firm.  Bring the problem sooner, or bring it for the twenty-second deal, but being obstructive at the last minute is not acceptable.
If the point Maguire is making is obscure, you may want to start with this Wall Street Journal editorial before reading Maguire's post.
- 4:53 PM, 17 May 2007   [link]

Can You Reason With Numbers?  Better than the average "mainstream" journalist, that is?  Then you will like this post by economist Steve Antler on the changes in the value of the dollar.

For example:
STILL MORE THEY DON'T TELL YOU: The consequences of run ups in the dollar index have been deteriorating current account trade balances.  The consequences of occasional dollar "crashes" have been improvements in the current account trade balance (a.k.a. more domestic jobs).
At, for example, Boeing.
- 4:14 PM, 17 May 2007   [link]

Does Weakness Tempt Attackers?  That's what John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address.
We dare not tempt them with weakness.  For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
And he could have added will to arms, because a lack of will is another kind of weakness.  (And there are those who say that Kennedy's weakness tempted Khrushchev into the reckless Cuban missile gamble.)

Bernard Lewis, who knows a little about Islam, thinks we are tempting radical Islamists.  Lewis begins his essay, as a historian naturally would, with a famous historical example.
During the Cold War, two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers.  If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire.  If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: "What have we done to offend you?  What can we do to put it right?"

A few examples may suffice.  During the troubles in Lebanon in the 1970s and '80s, there were many attacks on American installations and individuals--notably the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, followed by a prompt withdrawal, and a whole series of kidnappings of Americans, both official and private, as well as of Europeans.  There was only one attack on Soviet citizens, when one diplomat was killed and several others kidnapped.  The Soviet response through their local agents was swift, and directed against the family of the leader of the kidnappers.  The kidnapped Russians were promptly released, and after that there were no attacks on Soviet citizens or installations throughout the period of the Lebanese troubles.
And he ends with this sober paragraph:
More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory.  It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view.  If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.
If we are tempting them with weakness, we may soon get another lesson like 9/11.
- 2:35 PM, 17 May 2007   [link]