October 2005, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Score One For Pittman Construction:  Those who have been following my posts on the failures of the floodwalls in New Orleans will recall that Pittman Consruction, a firm no longer in business, warned the Corps of Engineers that the foundations for the floodwalls were inadequate, that they were built figuratively (and perhaps literally) on sand.

Now, independent experts, looking at the pattern of failure, have concluded that Pittman may have been right, at least for some of the failures.
The first independent experts to examine the New Orleans levees said on Friday that the walls on two critical canals gave way as the pressure from the floodwaters ripped through the soil beneath them, shoving one of the earthen bases as far as 35 feet into a nearby neighborhood.

The engineers said the findings, which they warned were preliminary, raised questions about the design of the levees and the testing of the relatively fragile soil during the construction of the walls.  They also said that on the 17th Street Canal, the source of the flooding in much of the main part of the city, the flood wall broke in an area where a contractor had complained to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers that the soil that anchored the wall was dangerously soft.
(The article says "levees", but they are actually discussing floodwalls.)

If these experts are right — and their findings are preliminary — then much of the flooding was the result of errors made by some Corps of Engineers bureaucrat.  Or perhaps the Corps was just unlucky.
[Berkley engineering] Professor [Robert] Bea suggested that the Corps might well have missed soil problems in its core samples, since the soil appeared to vary in quality.  "You can't take borings every inch," he said.
Many were ready to assign blame within hours after Katrina hit.  I continue to think that we should find out what happens before we start finger pointing.  And this little nugget from the article gives me one more reason for that position: "[E]ngineers now say were at least 10 separate breaches."  As I understand that, engineers are not even sure how many breaches there were, much less what caused each breach.
- 1:08 PM, 8 October 2005   [link]

Massive Failure:  That's how I would describe the "mainstream" media's coverage of Katrina.  As I said from the almost the begining, I found the coverage infuriating.  What I should have added to that post was that one reason for my anger is that so many rumors were being printed, or put on the air, without any one asking whether they were even plausible.  When I heard, for instance, Mayor Nagin's wild claim that 10,000 had died in New Orleans, I knew immediately that he was almost certainly wildly wrong.  Why didn't highly paid journalists know the same thing?

And one can give many more examples of the same rumor mongering; the "Gateway Pundit" has some of the more famous examples here, and I mention another particularly nasty example here.

This rumor mongering was not harmless.  Here, from the Washington Post is what many officials — at every level of government — have concluded.
Five weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, some local, state and federal officials have come to believe that exaggerations of mayhem by officials and rumors repeated uncritically in the news media helped slow the response to the disaster and tarnish the image of many of its victims.

Claims of widespread looting, gunfire directed at helicopters and rescuers, homicides, and rapes, including those of "babies" at the Louisiana Superdome, frequently turned out to be overblown, if not completely untrue, officials now say.

The sensational accounts delayed rescue and evacuation efforts already hampered by poor planning and a lack of coordination among local, state and federal agencies.  People rushing to the Gulf Coast to fly rescue helicopters or to distribute food, water and other aid steeled themselves for battle.   In communities near and far, the seeds were planted that the victims of Katrina should be kept away, or at least handled with extreme caution.
If these reports delayed rescue attempts, can we say that the "mainstream" media lied and people died?   Not quite, because for their statements to be lies, the journalists would have had to known that they were not telling the truth.  And I think they didn't know &mdash but I also fear that they didn't much care whether the stories were true.

So I am not saying that "mainstream" journalists lied and people died.  But I am saying that "mainstream" journalists recklessly put out wild rumors and that people probably died because of this recklessness.

Why did they behave this way?  When you look at the errors, you can see several patterns in them.  First, and most obvious, the journalists saw this as an opportunity to attack President Bush.  Some almost said as much, as you can see in this story.   Last year, blogger Steven Green made this prediction as to what would happen if George Bush won the election:
But Big Media is going to be angry.  Stark raving, foot stomping, breath holding, going-to-bed-without-dessert mad.  That's just how some people get when their man loses, and as Newsweek's Evan Thomas noted last month, Kerry is the media's man:
And I think the coverage of Katrina shows that they haven't ended the temper tantrum that Green predicted.  So am I saying that people may have died because "mainstream" journalists can't accept Bush's victory?  Yes, I am.

There is a second pattern in the coverage that also needs discussion; "mainstream" journalists were all too willing to believe tales of horror — if the subjects were poor black people.  Does this reflect a class bias, and perhaps a racial bias?  I suspect so.  Journalists are less likely to have come from poor or even working class families than they once were, so they are out of touch with many of our citizens.  And not expecting much from black people has an old history among our liberals — and some eerie similarities to attitudes once common in the South.  So am I saying that people may have died because "mainstream" journalists are out of touch with poor people, especially poor, black people?  Yes, I am.

There is a third pattern that has drawn less attention from bloggers, but may be almost as important.  Journalists covering Katrina made many errors from ignorance.  For example, many seemed not to understand the role of FEMA, which is not a first responder but a coordinator.  Many seemed not to understand our federal system and the restraints it puts on a president's actions.  And almost none seemed to know something as basic as the recent history of our responses to hurricanes.  As Jack Kelly argued, in columns I linked to here and here, the Katrina relief operations may have been the "the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in history".  It wouldn't be hard for any of the journalists who attacked Bush to check Kelly's evidence.  So far as I know, none have done so.  So am I saying that people may have died because our "mainstream" journalists are ignorant?  Yes, I am.

There are more patterns that we might discuss, such as the indifference to hard hit rural areas, but that's enough for now.  Let's summarize:  The bias and ignorance of journalists in our "mainstream" media distorted coverage so badly that it handicapped rescue efforts and may have cost lives.

So how do journalists feel about these trivial failings and these possible lost lives?  As far as I can tell, they feel fine.  The Post gives us several reactions, including this one:
Keith M. Woods, faculty dean at the Poynter Institute for journalists, is willing to cut reporters some slack.  "Every institutional source for quality information was uprooted," said Woods, a New Orleans native whose father's and sister's homes were flooded.  "It was different than 9/11 because everything was underwater, and you are relying totally on word of mouth.  In that situation, invariably, we will get some things wrong.
And if people died because of those mistakes, that's their tough luck.

These failures were, collectively, far worse than "Rathergate" or the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times.  But I don't know of a single "mainstream" journalist who recognizes that they failed during Katrina, much less how badly they failed.  They are still so pleased that they damaged Bush that they have not even thought about that question.

(There's a separate question about the broadcast media that deserves answering: Did they give people the right warnings before Katrina hit?  I don't know the answer to that, but it deserves a solid study.)
- 10:03 AM, 7 October 2005   [link]

Worth Reading:  Part 1 of Reverend Sensing's analysis of Bush's speech on terrorism.  Sensing is not President Bush's biggest fan, but he begins with this:
As I posted earlier today, I think this morning's speech by President Bush was one of the finest (probably the finest) he has given on this subject, and really on any subject.  It was lucid, well organized and detailed.
Reverend Sensing gives four possible outcomes of our war with radical Islam.  I think the fourth, a decades long struggle with no clear victory, is by far the most likely.  How costly will that struggle be?  It depends on how we learn to fight our enemy.  We can learn from analyses like that in Bush's speech (and Reverend Sensing's many posts on the subject) — or the terrorists will teach us.  Tuition will be far higher in the second case.

(I suppose that someone will have to do a similar analysis of the Democratic response.  If you see a good one, let me know.)
- 8:24 AM, 7 October 2005   [link]

Scalia And Thomas, Roberts And Miers:  During his 2000 and 2004 campaigns, President Bush promised to nominate justices to the Supreme Court like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.  Now Bush has done just what he promised he would do and he has sparked a remarkable display of anger from some on the right.  John Roberts is, like Scalia, a solid conservative and a man with a reputation for legal brilliance.

And Harriet Miers is like Clarence Thomas, as Kevin Martin, a former law clerk to Scalia, explains.
Justice Clarence Thomas is among the justices currently revered by conservatives for his service on the Supreme Court, and deservedly so.  Yet at the time of his nomination, it would have been difficult to finger Thomas, only recently appointed to the Court of Appeals, as the nation's preeminent jurist, legal scholar, or advocate.  He likely was selected in part because his judgment was trusted and in part for political reasons, and the same is likely true of Miers, a woman and evangelical Christian hailing from the underrepresented (on the court) red states.
Those on the right who have been attacking Miers so fiercely should be consistent and should now argue that George H. W. Bush's choice of Clarence Thomas was a mistake.  Somehow I don't think that will happen.  And they should also explain why they think George W. Bush should break his campaign promise.  And I don't think that will happen either.

In the rest of the column, Martin explains, patiently, that the requirements for a Supreme Court justice are rather different from those for a law school professor, an advocate, or even a judge in a lower court,

(Martin is not the first to make the argument that Miers is like Thomas, but I can't recall on which blog I saw it.)
- 5:43 PM, 7 October 2005   [link]

New Constitutional Amendment Discovered?  Paul Mazur has the story.
Constitutional scholar and San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, has discovered that there was an 11th amendment in the original Bill of Rights.  The text of the amendment has faded so much over time that it is nearly invisible.  After a closer look, experts have made out the faded text to be:

"Congress shall provide Wi-Fi access to all citizens within ten years of the invention of Wi-Fi.   Congress shall make no laws to prohibit access to Wi-Fi"
Sounds good to me, and I don't doubt that theologians are already combing through the Bible to find even earlier support for this "right".

(For more on this proposal, see this Debra Saunders column.   She's a grumpier about it than Paul, perhaps because she works (and may live) in San Francisco, and perhaps because she thinks the city has bigger problems.
A fundamental right?  I'm impressed.  About one-quarter of students at San Francisco Unified School District score at "below basic" or "far below basic" on state reading tests.  Those poor kids may not be able to read a book, they might not be able to afford a computer, but Newsom thinks they have a fundamental right to wi-fi. At least they can access free porn.
Judging by other recent happenings in San Francisco, not everyone there will realize she is being sarcastic.)
- 1:19 PM, 6 October 2005   [link]

Fill It Up:  And this time I think I would like the French Chardonnay.
The worldwide glut of wine has become so huge that for the first time in history, France is distilling some of its higher-rated wines into fuel.  It is a painful proposition in a land where winemaking is a labor of love and the fruit of that labor is celebrated as much as any art.
. . .
The ethanol is sold to oil refineries, which use it as an additive that they mix into their gasoline, part of a European campaign to increase the use of renewable fuels.
. . .
Because France exports gasoline and one of its biggest markets is the United States, by sometime next year, some Americans may be pumping their cars full of gas that includes a bit of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
So the French will be subsidizing our driving.  Fine with me.  But I do wonder whether we will hearing evaluations like this: "It's a simple little gasoline, but it has a distinguished heritage."

What this example shows, once again, is that agricultural policies in Europe are even sillier and more wasteful than ours.  Favorite example: About a decade ago, when I was traveling in Europe, I learned that Europe was getting rid of some of their surplus butter — by feeding it back to the cows.  That their farm policies are even worse than ours is not much comfort, but it is some.
- 12:48 PM, 6 October 2005   [link]

As A Reminder that there are some fights it is best to avoid, there is this story.
Alligators have clashed with nonnative pythons before in Everglades National Park.  But when a 6-foot gator tangled with a 13-foot python recently, the result wasn't pretty.

The snake apparently tried to swallow the gator whole — and then exploded.  Scientists stumbled upon the gory remains last week.
(Think Fox New is trying to figure out how to get video of the next fight between python and alligator?  I do.  And I must admit I'd watch it.)
- 9:57 AM, 6 October 2005   [link]

You've Probably Heard The Joke that ends with this punch line: "Is this a private fight, or may I join in?"  The joke reminds us that some people, most of them guys, like fights.  And as it happens, most political activists are in that category.  They may not like physical fights, but they almost all like political fights.  On both the left and the right you will almost always see activists complaining that their elected officials have avoided a fight.

Some on the right are unhappy over the Miers nomination because they fear that they will not get fight they have been looking forward to for so many years, a point that Mickey Kaus makes seriously and Scott Ott sarcastically
President George Bush, in an effort to calm the Republican party's conservative base after his appointment of the relatively-unknown Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, today promised that he would "make things right by picking a fight" with Congressional Democrats in early 2006.

"I know my fellow right-wingers were hoping for a big ideological brawl over this nomination," said Mr. Bush in a letter to supporters.  "I guess for some of us, this feels like winning a baseball game by forfeit when the other team doesn't show up.  You still get the win, but it doesn't get your blood going."
In general, I think that elected officials have better judgment than activists about when to get into political fights — and when to avoid them.  Elected officials with poor judgment on this point tend to get defeated, but nothing similar weeds out activists with poor judgment.   (Some activists won't care for this argument.  They can prove me wrong by running for office using their strategies.)

But the politicians aren't always right.  Sometimes they avoid fights that they should have taken on.  Did George Bush do that with the Miers nomination?  Would it have been better if he had chosen a nominee that would have provoked a fight?

Let me start by noting that we do not know whether there will be a fight over the nomination.   There are certainly many activists on the left who want one, and they may get one, though Democratic senators are likely to find Miers harder to attack than some other nominees because she lacks a paper trail, and for the reasons I noted here.

But let's assume that there will not be a fight.  Will that be better?  To answer that question we have to say would benefit from a fight.  Would the Republican party benefit?   That's what a a Republican friend of Mickey Kaus believes:
Conservatives, a D.C. Republican friend tells me, wanted a fight over the O'Connor seat for its own sake--and not just for tacky fundraising and self-promotional reasons.  They think they represent the majority position on judging; they needed a confrontation to draw the line and prove it.   Plus a confirmation battle would be "consciousness-raising," as we used to say on the left, serving (in theory) to actually increase their ranks.
According to this theory, such a fight would have been good for the Republican party — and for the country.  But the history of recent fights does not provide much support for the idea that a fight, if there were one, would be good for the Republican party.  Those who can recall the fights over Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas should ask themselves whether they thought those fights clean and edifying.  I certainly didn't at the time and have seen no reason to change my mind since.

Those fights weren't edifying because Democrats realized they would lose if they fought on Republican ground, and so they didn't.  Robert Bork was slandered and made to look weird, and Clarence Thomas was hit with a last minute smear.  And both fights should remind Republicans of another unpleasant fact: the "mainstream" media will be in the fight — on the other side.  It is naive to assume that the case made by a Republican nominee in such a fight will be fairly reported.

So history does not give us much reason to believe that a fight now would have helped the Republican party or the conservative cause.  In fact, there is strong reason to believe that Republicans (and conservatives) were hurt politically by both fights.  In contrast, the easy win for John Roberts seems to have helped Bush.

And there is the larger question: Would a nomination fight have been better for the country?   I don't think so.  Some of my conservative friends may have forgotten this temporarily, but we are in a war.  And we are a sharply divided country, which makes it harder to prosecute that war.  A nomination fight would worsen our divisions, which is exactly what we do not want during a time of war.

(Missed that joke?  Here it is:
There's a fight going on in a bar.  A bystander taps one of the fighters on the shoulder and asks, "Is this a private fight, or may I join in?"
The bar is often Irish, at least when Americans tell the joke.

For examples of conservatives spoiling for a fight, look through the comments following this post.  For some testimony (unfortunately anonymous) about Miers' abilities from those who know her, see this post.)
- 8:11 AM, 6 October 2005   [link]

Molly Ivins Wants A Religious Test For Justices:  Oh, she doesn't say that, in fact she claims not to want to discuss religion at all, but it is clear from this column that she thinks that Harriet Miers' religion should disqualify her from the Supreme Court.

The column is cleverly written in parts and includes this gem of a paragraph:
I have said for years about people in public life, "I don't write about sex, drugs or rock 'n' roll."  If I had my druthers, I wouldn't write about the religion of those in public life, either, as I consider it a most private matter.  Separation of church and state is in the Constitution because this country was founded by people who had experienced both religious persecution and state-supported religions.  I think John F. Kennedy's 1960 statement to the Baptist ministers should stand as a model of how public servants should handle the relation between religious belief and public service.
And we will understand what Ivins means better if we note, that, before saying that she did not want to write about the religion of those in public life, she had written five paragraphs discussing Miers' religious beliefs, and she follows the paragraph with three more, all on Miers' religious beliefs.  I don't think I am being cynical when I conclude that, at least in this case, Ivins does want to "write about the religion of those in public life".

It isn't hard to understand why Ivins says she doesn't want to discuss Miers' religion even as she discusses it.  The Constitution, as even Ivins knows, has these words in Article 6.
. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
So, if, like Ivins, you favor a religious test for justices, you have to be sneaky in your argument.
- 4:32 PM, 5 October 2005   [link]

Chuckles:  I got them from this word play by Joanne Jacobs, and this story from Ireland by the Medpundit.  (The story made me think of a Humphrey Bogart line in Casablanca.   Can you guess which one?)
- 7:59 AM, 5 October 2005   [link]

Support For The Idea That Judges Should Be Boring:  You can find it here and here.

I've never seen a poll on the subject, but I suspect that we are in the majority on this.   Law professors and journalists like interesting judges, both for obvious reasons, but most citizens are more likely to think the old Holiday Inn slogan has it right: "The best surprise is no surprise at all."
- 6:58 AM, 5 October 2005   [link]

Two Days Later, the Washington Post and the New York Times catch up to what I said on on Monday.  If you want to understand Harriet Miers, you have to look at her religious beliefs.  (I suppose that was less obvious to them than to me because people of faith, any faith, are so rare in newsrooms.)

And to give them credit, both realize a recent split in her church is important.  Here's what the Times says.
Apart from the questions about abortion and other issues Ms. Miers will face in confirmation hearings, the strong tie she and Justice [Nathan] Hecht have to their church is undergoing a test.  The congregation at Valley View is in the middle of a schism, and Mr. Hecht said he and Ms. Miers are siding with the splinter groups that are forming a new church under Valley View's longtime pastor, Ron Key.
And both note that she and Hecht have been close for years, and are still close, but don't explain why they never got married.
- 5:51 AM, 5 October 2005   [link]

Worth Reading:  Liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen concedes the obvious.
Because I came of age in the McCarthy era, I have always thought of the Democratic Party as more protective of free speech and unpopular thought than the Republican Party.  The GOP was the party of Joe McCarthy, William Jenner and other witch-hunters.  Now, though, it is the Democrats who use the pieties of race, ethnicity and gender to stifle debate and smother thought, pretty much what anti-intellectual intellectuals did to Larry Summers, the president of Harvard University, when he had the effrontery to ask some unorthodox questions about gender and mathematical aptitude.  He was quickly instructed on how to think.
There were Democrats then who did not support free speech, and there are Republicans now who do not (Senator McCain of Arizona being the most obvious example), but Cohen is right about the shift in the Democratic party.

I think much of that shift is explained by the changes in our universities.  Years ago, they were mostly dominated by liberals, who supported freedom of speech, regardless of the poltics of the speaker.  Now our universities are mostly dominated by leftists, who think freedom of speech should be protected for people with poltically correct ideas, but not for others.

(For a recent example of that intolerance at universities, see this post.)
- 1:38 PM, 4 October 2005   [link]

Professor Mandle Didn't Answer My Questions:  But then I didn't expect him to do so.  More than a week ago, philosophy professor Jon Mandle attacked the Bush administration for inconsistencies in our campaign against slavery.  I don't, for the most part, quarrel with his particulars, but I did think the post lacked perspective, and so I asked these two questions:
1. What nation has done more than the United States to end slavery while Bush has been president?

2. Did Bill Clinton (or any other recent president) do more to end slavery while he was president than Bush has done while he has been president?
Professor Mandle never answered those questions and neither did any of the commenters.

Why didn't Professor Mandle answer my two simple questions?  Perhaps because he suspects, as do I, that the answers to the two questions are, respectively, "no nation" and "no".  US efforts to end slavery while Bush has been president have not been perfect, but, to the best of my knowledge, the United States has done more to end slavery than any other nation during that time, and Bush has done more than any recent president to end slavery.  Once you concede those two points, Mandle's post looks awfully silly, especially coming from a philosophy professor.

And, just in case Professor Mandle is inclined to tackle this subject one more time, I'll add one more question for him:
3. If John Kerry had been elected president would he have done more to end slavery than President Bush is doing now?
From my own study of Kerry's career, I think the answer to that question is "probably not".

(For more on John Miller, who is leading the American anti-slavery effort, see this post.)
- 9:10 AM, 4 October 2005   [link]

Would Harriet Miers Be The First Evangelical On The Supreme Court?   The first in modern times, certainly.  And this list of the religious affiliations of all the justices doesn't include many that one would think would be evangelicals.  (Currently, the Court consists of four Catholics (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy), two Episcopalians (Souter and O'Connor), two Jews (Breyer and Ginsburg), and one justice (Stevens) who just calls himself a Protestant.)

And how many evangelicals are there in the American population?  The answer to that depends very much on how you ask the question.  A Gallup survey found that 44 percent of Americans call themselves "born again" or evangelical.  Other ways of asking the question get different answers, generally much lower.  For political purposes, I would guess that white evangelicals are about 15 to 20 percent of our population.
- 7:33 AM, 4 October 2005   [link]

The Politics Behind The Choice Of Harriet Miers:  I don't want to reveal a dark secret, but presidents sometimes choose judges for political reasons.  And I don't want to offend delicate sensibilities, but I must admit that I do not entirely disapprove of politics playing a part in those choices, perhaps especially for the Supreme Court, which has become, thanks to two generations of judges, a sort of legislature.

To understand why I have this unfashionable opinion, let's consider the case of Harriet Miers, beginning with Miers' most important political qualification: she is a woman.  Why is this important?  Because, and excuse me for belaboring the obvious, the Court will be considering abortion cases.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg holds extreme views on abortion and will vote against all restrictions, no matter what the Constitution or the federal and state laws say, and in spite of the long history of restrictions on abortion in the United States (and in Europe).   When these restrictions are upheld, it will be essential — for political reasons — to have a woman justice voting against Ginsburg.

And being a woman will give Miers an advantage in gaining confirmation.  It will be much harder for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to attack her in the same way they attacked, for instance, Robert Bork.  Nearly all of us still share, whether for good or ill, the belief that women should be treated more gently than men.

Miers has a second advantage; she is not just a woman, but an older single woman with a long history of good works and faithful church attendance.  She is, in fact, a church lady*, the very hardest kind of adult to attack without seeming unfair.  It will be difficult for Ted Kennedy, for example, to attack her without offending both women and those who share Miers' religious beliefs.

Finally, just to make it exquisitely difficult for the Democrats on the committee, Miers was the first woman to join her Texas law firm, and the first to head the Texas bar association.

So there are good political reasons for this choice.  But will she make a good justice?   That's hard to say, but then I have that same opinion about Chief Justice John Roberts.   Records are not a perfect predictors of judicial behavior.  But that is all we have for now, and I do see several encouraging things in her record.

First, she has a degree in mathematics.  That tells me that she can think in statistical terms, something essential for understanding the consequences of many policy choices.  That's not something you would learn in most law schools, or in the typical pre-law major.

Second, she has a history of personal good works and charitable contributions.  I am much more comfortable with those who do good with their own time and money.

Third, she has experience as both an elected official and as an appointed official.  The late Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, worried that the Kennedy administration lacked that kind of experience despite the brilliance of many Kennedy appointees.  For similar reasons, I would be more comfortable knowing that at least one justice has that kind of practical experience.   Roberts may be better at describing a dozen legal precedents, but Miers may be better at understanding the consequences of a decision.

Finally, she seems to annoy, at least mildly, most law professors.  Why do I find that a plus?  Because law professors are drawn, quite naturally, to interesting judges who write interesting opinions.  But I think most citizens share my preference for boring judges who write boring opinions.

(*Which church?  This may just show my lack of skill in searches, but I spent much of the morning trying to learn that and failed.  Her choice of Southern Methodist University suggests that she is a Methodist though, even back in the 1960s, there were many students there who were not Methodists.  And it may also show how out of touch our journalists are with the majority in this country.  Once they know a person is devout, they don't feel any further questions about that person's beliefs are necessary.

A caller to the Michael Medved show, who claimed to know her, said that she is a member of the Valley View Christian Church, but I haven't been able to confirm that.)
- 1:38 PM, 3 October 2005
More:  She was raised a Catholic but about 1980, after some drifting, joined an independent evangelical church, the Valley View Christian Church, to which she has belonged for 25 years.  There's more on her religious beliefs from Marvin Olasky in a series of posts here.  And Olasky's description of her good works make her sound more like a saint than a trial lawyer.  As I said yesterday, she will be hard for Democrats to attack.  And her religious beliefs are going to drive people at organizations like MoveOn nuts.
- 6:14 AM, 4 October 2004   [link]

Brilliant Suggestion For Krugman Columns:  The New York Times finally, after much agonizing, published a correction on one Paul Krugman's worst mistakes.   (They first tried, as you may know, to get away with publishing it only on the net and not in print.)

That inspired Orrin Judd to suggest that, from now on, the Times should "just run the corrections to Paul Krugman" instead of the column.  Bob Hawkins, commenting on the post, came up with an even better idea.
Make it a feature like the crosswords.  It should be possible to reconstruct a Krugman column from a complete set of corrections.  Then you publish the column the day after the corrections, so readers can check their answers.
That would be interesting enough to get me to read the column regularly, something I have not done for some years.  And those who don't want to think could skip the corrections and just read the column.
- 8:02 AM, 3 October 2005   [link]

The Los Angeles Times Agrees With Me:  Along with many other critics, I have been arguing for some time that the LA Times could improve their circulation by moving toward the center.  Now, according to this bit, their telephone sales representatives are making just that promise in their scripts.

I understand the newspaper lost thousands of subscriptions after their last minute hit piece on Arnold Schwartzenegger during the California recall.  Maybe that, and similar episodes, finally got their attention.

(By way of Mickey Kaus.)
- 3:57 PM, 2 October 2005   [link]

Did President Bush Straighten Out Mayor Nagin?  The New Orleans mayor, as we all know, did not perform brilliantly during hurricane Katrina.  And he was the main source for many of the wildest tales about what was happening in New Orleans.  But he has settled down since, and he gives us a hint about why that happened, in, of all places, 60 Minutes.
[Correspondent Scott] Pelley asks Nagin if he unloaded the anger he expressed on the radio program toward Mr. Bush.

"No, I didn't, but he was well aware of it," Nagin says.  "And I pulled him on aside with the governor.  I said, 'Look. That was uncharacteristic for me.  But consider being in my shoes.   What would you have done?  And if I said anything disrespectable, disrespectful to the office of the president or the governor, I apologize.  But tell me, what we gonna do now.'"

Nagin adds, "The president basically said, 'Mr. Mayor, I know we could've done a better job, and I, we're gonna fix it.'"

Nagins [sic] says Mr. Bush asked him to be honest.  "He said to me, he said, "Look. I think I've been hearing a lotta stuff that's, may not be true.  I wanna hear from you.  Tell me the truth, and I will help you.'

"And I looked in his eyes, and he meant it," Nagin says of Mr. Bush. "And when he meant it, I told him the truth."
And since then, Mayor Nagin has calmed down and has not, so far as I know, told any more wild tales.

Was Bush responsible for the change in Mayor Nagin's behavior?  From this account, it would apppear so.  And students of persuasion will want to study just what Bush said.  He didn't attack Nagin, as many of us would have been tempted to do, for telling wild stories.   Bush said he had heard a lot that "may not be true".  And then Bush asks Nagin to tell him the truth — in return for help.  That strikes me as exactly the right thing to say to get Nagin to settle down and to work with Bush — as he has since that encounter.
- 1:47 PM, 2 October 2005   [link]

When I Saw this story, about how an officious ward sister (whatever that is) was trying to stop visitors from admiring and cooing over babies in a British maternity ward, I thought about writing an appropriately snarky post.

Luckily, I didn't get around to writing the post, because Natalie Solent said it far better than I would have.  To discourage visitors, the hospital staff had put up a display with a baby doll and this message: "What makes you think I want to be looked at?"  To which Natalie replies:
Since you ask: the custom and practice of all cultures past and present; the massed opinions of psychologists, paediatricians, doctors and midwives; and the instinctive and joyful reaction of every new parent that I have ever met.
(By the way, one of the many things I admire about her site is her adherence to principle, rather than partisanship.  Just a few posts up, she offers a conditional defense of the Labour Party for removing a heckler from their annual conference.  A partisan would have been tempted to exploit the embarrassment of the party, since the heckler is 82 years old.)
- 7:56 AM, 1 October 2005   [link]