September 2003, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Stefan Sharkansky  is right when he says that this is an "unconscionable example" of federal interference.  I blame the Patriot Act.    
- 1:53 PM, 15 September 2003   [link]

While I Am Helping  Mickey Kaus, I may as well add to his skepticism about the New York Times' coverage of the economy.  Kaus thought that this New York Times story was just a trifle gloomy, and wondered why they would say that "most economists predict that unemployment will remain almost unchanged at nearly 6 percent through the elections in November 2004" without quoting more than one economist, former Clinton official Brad DeLong.   Later Kaus added a slightly more positive update from an AP story, which described a survey of 35 economists.  (Scroll down to the September 13th posts.)  On the same day, the Wall Street Journal published its monthly survey of 53 economists, which was the most positive of all.  (Not available free on line.)

The Journal panel sharply increased their estimates of economic growth for the second half of this year and predicted significant gains in employment before the next presidential election:
Nearly half of the economists survey said a lack of job creation posed the biggest threat to the nascent economic expansion.  Yet most economists now expect payrolls to start rising by the end of the year.  Thirty-seven of the 53 economic forecasters surveyed expect payrolls to expand by one million or more over the 12-month period.  On average, the group expected the economy to produce almost 1.4 million new jobs between this month and September 2004.  This averages to about 115,000 a month, a clear improvement over the past three years, though still not enough to bring down the unemployment rate by much.   The jobless rate is expected to remain at 6.1 percent through November and then decline slightly to 5.9 percent by May 2004.
  If it fell a few more tenths of a per cent before the election as one would expect, it would be close to the level it was at the end of 1996, 5.4 percent.  As you may recall, the incumbent president was re-elected that year.  It would also be lower than the rate in 1984, 7.5 percent, when, again, an incumbent president was re-elected.

"Most economists predict?"  Or the New York Times engages in wishful thinking?   You make the call.
- 1:40 PM, 15 September 2003   [link]

Those Conflicting California Polls:  The polls on the California recall have been in sharp conflict.  For example, the Los Angeles Times poll has had far different results than those from Field, a long established California polling organization.  Many, notably Slate contributor Mickey Kaus, have been wondering what could explain these differences.  One possibility occurs to me; the different polling organizations may be using different weighting procedures for likely voters.

First, a brief explanation of weighting procedures.  Polling organizations begin by taking a sample of the voters and then calling them to ask them their opinions.  The pollsters then have to figure out which voters will actually vote.  (Just asking them doesn't work, because too many people will say they will do their civic duty even when they won't when the election actually comes around.)  The different polling organizations use different procedures, often secret, for weighting the different groups.  They adjust these from their experience in past elections.  The best pollsters, for example, Gallup, get pretty good at this over time, at least for routine elections.

The recall election is unique.  (There was a gubernatorial recall in North Dakota last century, but it was before modern polling.)  The polling organizations have to guess which groups are more likely to vote, and they are almost certainly using different guesses.  This Peter Schrag article, from the New York Times shows some of the complexity of the problem.  Young males are the strongest supporters of Schwarzenegger, but they are, in most elections, the least likely to vote.  Schrag provides some evidence that they may be unhappy enough with illegal immigration to vote in much larger numbers than usual.  A polling organization that used models of voting from other elections would miss this.

There are, of course, other ways polling organizations can go wrong.  For example, in a state like California, which changes so rapidly, a polling organization may have the wrong model of the population, as well as wrong weighting procedures.  For now, the best predictions will come from the bookies, as I explained here.
- 9:15 AM, 15 September 2003   [link]

More On The Al Jazeera-Al Qaeda Connection:  This MSNBC article has more of the evidence against the al Jazeera reporter who was arrested in Spain because of his connections to the terrorist organization.  Judging by the evidence given in the story, it seems clear that he was an al Qaeda agent.  Now, how will al Jazeera react to these revelations?   A real news organization would apologize and clean house.  
- 8:09 AM, 15 September 2003   [link]

Brought To You By The Tourist Board Of Italy?  When I read this offensive Washington Post column by Frenchman Dominique Moïse, "a senior adviser at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (Ifri) in Paris and a professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw", I was tempted to send Monsieur Moïse a nasty, even vulgar, email.  But then I started wondering about his motives.  Any diplomat can tell you that, if you want to change another nation's policies, it is best not to start with a lecture on just how wrong they are.  Surely a "senior adviser" and a "professor" knows that.  So it seems likely that he wanted to make Americans angry.

Why he would want to anger us is a mystery to me since I know nothing about him, but I can speculate.  American tourism to France is way down since Chirac led the opposition to Bush on Iraq.  So, too, are sales of French wine in the United States.  Could one of the countries that compete with France for tourist dollars, Italy, for example, have hired Moïse to write this column?  Or maybe his patron is an Australian wine company, since they have gained sales here, partly at the expense of the French?  (The high levels of corruption in French politics make such explanations all too plausible.)  Or perhaps he is an agent of some extremist group; the Trotskyites have planted other agents in positions of power in France.  This column may be intended to undermine NATO, a long time goal of the far left.  Whatever the explanation, it is clear that he does not favor better relations between France and the United States.

(I suppose I should add a bit about his argument, even though I very much doubt that he believes it himself.  The situation is, on the whole, improving in Iraq, not deteriorating.  The United States does not need France, despite what some American diplomat (conveniently unnamed) may have told him.  In fact, given the obstruction and, in one case, the outright treachery, of the French in our joint operations in the Balkans, we are better off without them.  At most, France can help us by not obstructing things at the UN, but otherwise, they simply don't matter.  We need—and are rapidly training—Iraqi policemen and administrators, not their French equivalents.  In brief, there is little practical that France can do for us, but they can stop being less of an adolescent nuisance.  Months ago, I argued that it was time for the French to grow up a little; this column illustrates my point.)
- 7:33 AM, 15 September 2003   [link]

Computer Hygiene:  Most of you, I am sure, are familiar with the advice that follows, but some people clearly are not, which is why I saw so many fake emails at the height of the Sobig.F virus.  I have been using personal computers for two decades now, and for most of that time I have been on line.  To my knowledge, I have had just one virus infection, and it came from a commercial program.   I am not a security expert, but I follow some common sense precautions which I recommend to others.  (I do one thing which I don't recommend to most others, which is run Linux (Red Hat 9) as my main operating system.  It is somehat more secure than the "home" versions of Windows by design and much less likely to be the target of an attack.)
  1. Back up your data regularly.  There are many ways to do this, from the simplest, copying important files to floppies or writable CDs, to automated programs that remind you regularly to make the back ups.  Even making printouts of important files helps; you may be able to scan them and restore them from the scans; at worst, you will be able to re-enter the data.  Backups protect you from hardware failure and your own mistakes, as well as from attacks.

  2. Set up a firewall to protect yourself from net attacks.  Windows XP has a fairly simple procedure for doing this.  To find it, click on "Start" to get to the help program.   In my version, it is labeled "Help and Support".  Click on that, and then enter "firewall" in the search field after the help program starts.  This will bring up a list of actions; in mine, the first is "Enable or disable Internet connection firewall".   Click on that and then follow the step-by-step procedure to find out whether you have a firewall working, and to turn it on if you do not.  If you have more than one way to connect to the Internet, you will have to do this for each connection.

    (What does a firewall do for you?  Simplifying greatly, it closes and locks some of the doors into your computer.  It should have no effect on nearly all Internet uses.)

  3. Be suspicious of all email.  If it looks wrong to you, delete it without opening it.

  4. Be very suspicious of all attachments to emails.  Attachments can be programs, as well as data files.  When you click on one of those, you run the program.  Those containing viruses usually have names to trick you.  The "Details" name, one of those used by the Sobig virus, was especially clever, I thought.

  5. Take extra precautions if you have a fast connection to the Internet, like cable or DSL.  Hackers target such computers, trying to take them over for their own purposes.  Computers that still use dial-up connections, like mine, are much less useful to them.  And cable connections have an added hazard; you are on a local net with some of your neighbors, and it is relatively easy for them to spy on what you send and receive.

    People with these fast connections should install a virus protection program and keep it up to date.  They should also keep up to date on any patches for their system.

Finally, don't panic.  As long as you have backups of your data, you should be able to recover from most problems without large costs in either time or money.  At worst, you may have to have a computer technician re-install your operating system after formatting your hard drive.  This is not difficult or expensive, and will be far less trouble than even the most minor auto accident.  Let me repeat: As long as you have backups, that is.
- 10:03 AM, 14 September 2003
Update:  I corrected the recommendation on Linux; most users, and certainly most unsophisticated users, should avoid it, but there are some who can benefit from it.  It is a good tool, for example, for learning about operating systems.  And, yesterday I saw an offer at CompUSA which shows just how easily and cheaply your computer problems can be fixed.  They will scan your computer and remove any viruses they find for just 20 dollars.
- 7:56 AM, 15 September 2003   [link]

Good Posts:  
  • "N. Z Bear" hears an interesting revelation on NPR; correspondent Anne Garrels was less thrilled by the fall of Saddam than the troubles that the American forces are now having.  And, it is worth mentioning that some of the Iraqis who forecast troubles were almost certainly working for Saddam.

  • Michael "Blowhard" gives us a thoughtful discussion of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings.  In brief, "while they're beautiful as structures, they're often absurd as buildings".   And don't miss this follow up.

  • Colby Cosh explains the correct singular form for Inuit (who are Eskimos, though not all Eskimos are Inuit).  If there is just one, he or she is an Inuk.

  • Matt Evans does some research in the social security data files to determine the most "poisoned" name, the one that fell most rapidly in popularity.  It's Hillary.

  • Joanne Jacobs makes the same connection I had intended to make, between a British journalist, annoyed that children in a Santa Monica classroom sang a harmless patriotic song, and a serious report on the decline in the teaching of American values in schools.  Considering the second, the first is a bit of a surprise, like seeing an American flag on a house owned by a supporter of Congressman Jim McDermott.

  • Orrin Judd finds an act of censorship that won't bother the ACLU.  After complaints from Muslims, a grocery chain has dropped a Christian publication.  In the Middle East?  No, in middle America, Ohio, to be specific.

  • Donald Luskin, who specializes in this pursuit, catches New York Times columnist Paul Krugman fibbing just a little.  

  • Jay Manifold gently demolishes an ABC News story on smuggling depleted uranium.  

  • The Medpundit has something surprising to say about vaccine costs: "The cost of buying the smallest supply of childhood immunizations possible is more than all the rest of my medical supplies for the start-up of my practice."  It would be interesting to know just how much of those costs cover litigation expenses.  (Scroll down to the August 5th posts.)

  • "Captain Mojo" tells about his experience at a local barbecue place, Dixie's  Unless, like him, you like very hot foods, avoid the barbecue sauce there.  (And I am grateful to him for his description of the Eastside, where I live.  Those of us who live here want to discourage visits from people who may have voted for Congressman Jim McDermott or committed other mortal sins.)

  • Robert Musil corrects the New York Times on Edward Teller.

  • Randall Parker finds a study with an interesting finding.  College basketball hurts studies, though college football does not.  Is this finding correct?  Maybe, though I haven't looked at the study myself.

  • Donald Sensing thinks that Eskimo Bert Akootchook is more right about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge than New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  (As well as having a much cooler name.)  Many of our "environmental" struggles are like this one, efforts by wealthy and privileged urbanites to take control of resources from people in rural areas.

  • Stefan Sharkansky has done some of the most effective work exposing MEChA.  Here's his most recent, with interesting comments from a Los Angeles Times editor and former MEChA member.

  • Rand Simberg imagines how the two year anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack might have been covered if journalists then had the attitudes that journalist have now.  There were few commemorations on December 7th, 1943, but much grim resolve to finish the job.

  • Andrew Sullivan translates Howard Dean's favorite song from Haitian creole.  Dean says he doesn't know what the words mean.  You'll be grateful for that after you read them.

  • "Tacitus" reviews a book by a Korean who was in North Korea's slave labor camps for a decade and then escaped to South Korea.  In some ways, what he says about the willingness of so many in South Korea to believe the propaganda from the north is even more disturbing than the description of North Korea's Gulag.

  • There were many fine summary posts on the 9/11 anniversary.   This one, by Pejman Yousefzadeh is one of the best. 
- 7:02 PM, 14 September 2003   [link]

Some Mourned On The Anniversary, Some Added To Their Grit, and some staged fund raisers.   Washington state's Senator Murray chose the exact time of the 9/11 attacks to hold a fund raiser in a fancy Washington, D. C. restaurant.  More evidence that she is simply not up to being a senator, as I explained here last January.  The timing of the fund raiser also illustrates something the devastating 1996 Seattle Times profile discussed at length; Murray is unable to work well with able staff members.  Any half way competent staffer would have noticed the political problem in the timing of the fund raiser; any sensible senator would listen to their staff to avoid problems like this.  Murray is not up to being a senator by herself, and is unwilling to let her staff make up for her deficiencies.  Despite all this, both Seattle newspapers will probably endorse this winner of the "not a rocket scientist" award next year, for the reasons I explained in the January post.
- 8:22 AM, 13 September 2003   [link]

Worth Reading:  Christopher Hitchens was right when he argued that we should use the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, not to mourn but to add to our grit, to strengthen our resolve in the war that has been forced upon us.  That is why I have had less to say about the victims and more to say about our progress in this war, which I expect to last decades.  Still, though we should look ahead, we should not forget why we fight.  This Margaret Wente column on three Candians widowed by the 9/11 attack is one of the best pieces on the victims that I have seen, anywhere.   Read the whole thing, and don't miss the contrast between Prime Minister Chrétien and President Bush.
- 8:02 AM, 13 September 2003   [link]

Bill Clinton Is Coming To Seattle  for a speech.   The organization sponsoring his speech will follow him with appearances by Molly Ivins and Al Franken, and Michael Moore.  All four have reputations for not telling the truth, well deserved reputations.  The name of the organization sponsoring these events?   Foolproof Performing Arts.

(The column by the PI's Joel Connelly is a neat capsule of his strength, an extensive knowledge of Washington state politics—though like most reporters he is quite weak on assessing policy—and his weakness, an unbridled partisanship.  He is simply unable to write candidly about the many Clinton scandals, like the disgraceful last minute pardons, exchanged for cash and votes.  Speaking of journalists, or perhaps I should say "journalists", here's some fun you can have with Molly Ivins.  Just do a Google search on this phrase: "Molly Ivins" + plagiarism.  How she gets away with it, I do not know.)
- 7:10 AM, 12 September 2003   [link]

What Kind Of Reporter Works For Al Jazeera?  At least in one case, an agent for al Qaeda, apparently.  (I say apparently because this Spanish judge is what we Americans might call a publicity seeking hot dog.)  Earlier reports provided strong evidence that Saddam Hussein had been able to buy favorable coverage at al Jazeera.  And where did the founders of al Jazeera get the training that makes them accept agents of al Qaeda and bribes from Saddam?  At least some of them worked at the BBC.
- 6:43 AM, 12 September 2003   [link]

Some Don't Want  the United States to succeed in the war on terror.  That seems to be the position of the Guardian, judging by this editorial, which pretends a fake sympathy for a man they despise, President Bush.  (It is an interesting and difficult question whether the Guardian would hope for us to succeed if we had a president more to their liking.  Perhaps.)  I say it is fake sympathy because they take such pleasure in our difficulties, and are so dismissive of our successes.  They have not, apparently, even read the progress report just issued, but they find al Qaeda claims credible.  They dabble in the absurd, judging a war by opinion polls in Europe.   (Since the Guardian has worked so hard at poisoning opinion in Europe and elsewhere, this is something like an arsonist bemoaning the damage done by fires.)  They outright lie, when they say that: "Mr Bush has broken alliances with the same abandon that he has broken lives, causing permanent damage."  In fact, none of our alliances are broken.   And the damage done to NATO was done, not by Bush, but by Chirac and Schroeder.

The Guardian relies on a report by one Paul Rogers, professor of "Peace Studies" at Bradford University, for their argument about the lack of progress in the war on terrorism, both in the editorial, and in this article.   Since I have seen Professor Rogers cited before, I looked for his report.  The full report does not seem to be openly available, but this briefing report, which I would call a press release, is.  It is not, let me put this gently, a seminal work.  Instead, it is just another example from the Patty Murray theory of terrorism, though Professor Rogers lacks the senator's gifts for a memorable phrase.  She claimed that we could stop terrorism by building more day care facilities; Professor Rogers would seem to agree but is less explicit.  Here's his list of recommendations for Britain:
  • Urgently upgrade security and development aid to Afghanistan

  • Press for the UN to take a central role in Iraq

  • Pursue more vigorous policies to deliver improved development assistance, debt relief and trade reform to narrow the global socio-economic divide

  • Take the lead in setting a pro-development agenda at the EU, G8 and appropriate UN bodies
These are not serious suggestions.  If they are typical of Professor Roger's work, then it is hard to see him as a serious scholar.  You will, I am sure, see him cited many times on terrorism by journalists.  You should chuckle every time, I suspect.

(Technical points: There is not enough in the press release for me to determine exactly how Professor Rogers does his "research".  He seems, in this latest case, to have simply made a list from newspaper articles, which exposes him to all sorts of methodological problems.  For example, it should be obvious to anyone that newspapers are now more likely to print news of terrorist attacks than they once were, so simple counts will not work to assess changes in terrorism.  And I can find nothing in the press release that shows that he has even considered the data available from the British government, much less the United States government.)
- 11:37 AM, 11 September 2003   [link]

Not Everyone Agrees  with me that we are making progress in the war on terrorism.  For example, this USA Today summary claims that "there is no clear way to gauge whether the United States is winning".   Although they then contradict themselves in their articles on the different fronts of the war.  On the intelligence front, information from captives and seized computers "has helped security forces break up plots by groups around the world".  On the military front, we have expanded our special forces.  (For reasons that escape me, USA Today does not include either the Afghanistan or Iraq campaigns in the military front.)  On the diplomatic front, "the Bush administration can point to growing diplomatic cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda and its sympathizers".  On the financial front:
The Treasury Department says that since Sept. 11, more than 170 nations have joined the hunt for terrorist money; 315 people and groups have been designated terrorists or supporters and are subject to having their assets taken; $200 million in assets has been seized or frozen, with 1,400 accounts closed down.  The global dragnet is generating a steady stream of captured terrorists and blocked assets from Texas to Thailand.
Which they immediately follow with: "Even so, it remains unclear how big a dent the effort has really made in terrorist funding." Uh, at least $200 million, just at a guess?   On the homeland security front, even Michael O'Hanlon of the liberal Brookings Institution gives Ridge's department credit for improving security, though much remains to be done.  USA Today does not seem to have a separate article on the law enforcement front, but this Washington Times article has some numbers:
Domestically, the Justice Department has charged 260 persons in terrorism investigations, including 140 who have pleaded guilty or been convicted.

"The U.S. government has disrupted alleged terrorist cells in Buffalo, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, North Carolina and Tampa," according to the report, titled "Progress Report on the War on Terrorism."
(The Washington Times article is the best summary of the progress report that I have seen, and well worth reading, especially if you still have doubts about our progress.)

No clear way to gauge?  I beg to differ with the USA Today, and point to their own articles for much of the evidence.
- 10:12 AM, 11 September 2003   [link]

More Progress:  A year ago, I summarized the war on terror by saying we had made some progress.  In the year since we have made still more.  Strategic analyst Edward Luttwak agrees, and points to the absence of al Qaeda attacks on American soil as proof.
It was widely expected that Sept. 11 would be followed at intervals by further spectacular attacks, with nuclear power stations being only the most important of a long series of plausible targets in the United States and Europe.  But instead there were only misdirected blows, which did little to attract funds and recruits to Al Qaeda.

There is a very good reason that Al Qaeda has not financed and directed well-planned operations in the manner of 9/11: It no longer exists as a functioning group with the headquarters, training camps, depots and secure bases it once had in Afghanistan.

When the United States set out to conquer that country within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks, it was said the attempt would fail because of the vastness of the country, its terrain, the onset of winter and the ferocious resistance of the Taliban, which would defeat the Americans as it had defeated the Soviet army.  When the Taliban instead collapsed with hardly a fight even before the main U.S. forces arrived in Pakistan for the planned invasion—they were defeated in three weeks by scouts, tiny advance teams and local allies—it was said Al Qaeda would merely disperse in other Muslim countries, becoming even more dangerous.
But that didn't happen either.  Instead, we now see Muslim countries like Indonesia beginning to resist al Qaeda and its allies.  Even Saudi Arabia—and here I disagree somewhat with Luttwak—has moved toward some control of the radical Islamists.

Amir Taheri gives more details, reminding us that, of the top seven leaders of al Qaeda, only Osama bin Laden is not "fully accounted for".  One is in Iran, two are dead, and three are our prisoners.  (Like most experts, Taheri believes that bin Laden is dead, though we have yet to locate his body.)  Jim Hoagland agrees with Luttwak and Taheri and says that it is now time "for the Bush administration to consolidate the gains it has achieved", particularly the diplomatic gains.

All in all, I see more reason for hope now than I did last year at this time.
- 8:48 AM, 11 September 2003   [link]

Think You Have Good Bass In Your Home Theater System?  It can't handle this note.   On the other hand, even a blue whale can't hear a note "57 octaves below a piano's middle C", so that shouldn't be a practical problem.  The note comes from a "supermassive black hole", which would not fit in most homes, now that I think about it.
- 1:50 PM, 10 September 2003   [link]

Compared To What?  In this post, I explained why Bush was the favorite to win the 2004 election, but not the prohibitive favorite.  This analysis from Roll Call shows why Bush is the favorite.  At this point, he is doing better in the polls than Bill Clinton was, at the same time before the 1996 election.
Perhaps the easiest way to get some perspective on Bush's job approval, however, is to compare his numbers to President Bill Clinton's during roughly the same time frame—the first 32 months in office.  Using Bush's job approval numbers in major media surveys for just August, we find he averaged a 56 percent approve/38 percent disapprove.  Contrast those numbers with Clinton's in August 1995, his third year in office, and we see Clinton's job approval average was 46 percent approve/43 percent disapprove.

Now for some context. Despite being 10 points lower than where Bush is today, 14 months after getting his 46 percent job approval, Clinton went on to crush former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in the 1996 presidential election.  Even more interesting, Bush's 56 percent average job approval is exactly the same as Clinton's in the last four months of the 1996 campaign.   From August to November 1996, Clinton's monthly average ranged between 54 percent and 58 percent.  Simply put, if Bush's job approval remains at this point or even slightly lower, he will face the eventual Democratic nominee at roughly the same political strength as Clinton when he easily beat Dole.
Clinton was helped greatly by the good economic news in the year before the election.   If, as most economists expect, the economic news is good in the coming year, then Bush should beat his Democratic opponent by a larger margin than Clinton beat Dole.  (Larger, because he is unlikely to go into the election with the same cloud of scandal as Clinton did.) It is the uncertainty, especially about the economy, that keeps Bush from being a prohibitive favorite now.
- 10:11 AM, 10 September 2003   [link]

What Kind Of Person  straps explosives to themselves and goes out to find innocents to kill and maim?  You and I might follow common sense and say "terrorists".  For those in the Arab press, they are "activists".   And the British Guardian uses the same term, "activists".   (The two accounts are similar in other ways as well, although the Guardian does have some small sympathy for the victims of the terrorists.  Both present the terrorist attacks as responses to Israeli actions.  The Guardian's headline says that the terrorists "hit back" at Israel, and the Arab News says that the attacks were in "apparent retaliation" for Israeli attacks.  Neither account bothers to mention the endless campaign of terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel.  Only Israeli attacks, it seems, require "revenge".)

The European Union, as the Guardian knows, has agreed to classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.  So why can't the newspaper do the same?  Those who truly want peace in the Middle East recognize that it can only be gained through the defeat of Hamas and similar terrorist organizations.  Those who refuse to face this admittedly unpleasant fact, like most of the writers and editors at the Guardian, are making peace harder to achieve.
- 9:26 AM, 10 September 2003   [link]

Robert Fulford  observes that the intellectual energy is now on the right.   Leftists have little to say, and say it badly.
Political quarterlies are even more lopsided.  The conservatives have half a dozen journals, including The National Interest (on world affairs) and The Public Interest (on social policy) for which there are no liberal equivalents.  Among writers there's no contest.  The United States has many liberal columnists, but not one of them can compete with Charles Krauthammer, George Will, or Andrew Sullivan.  The writers contributing to the conservative comment pages of The Wall Street Journal have far more to say, and say it far better, than the liberals on The New York Times.
This loss of intellectual energy on the left makes it difficult for the Democrats to formulate or explain their policies.  They are reduced to an empty hostility to their political opponents.
Now they have nothing left but enemies: If you believe their rhetoric, the main and perhaps only function of a Democratic politician today is to keep Republicans out of office.
Which is why you hear so much vituperation toward George Bush, and so little discussion of policy.

Fulford thinks, and I agree, that the shift in intellectual energy came with the takeover of the Democratic party by the McGovernites.  After that, many people, including me, concluded that those on the left, with some honorable exceptions, were simply unable to think realistically about our enemies, at that time the Communists, and now the radical Islamists.  I would add that the same lack of realism, the same indifference to results, can be found in many areas of domestic policy.  Nearly everyone on the left opposed welfare reform and now opposes educational reform, in spite of the evidence of failure in both areas.
- 7:33 AM, 10 September 2003
Update:  As if to illustrate Fulford's point, today the Globe and Mail published two badly written opinion pieces, here and here.   There are examples of poor writing all through both pieces, but I especially liked the "hootin' and hollerin'" in the first and the "ruling crusts" in the second.  And, just as Orwell told us long ago, the dismal writing in the pieces reveals the failure of the authors to think clearly.
- 7:42 AM, 11 September 2003   [link]

What Do The Iraqis Think?  Back in March, before the war started, I argued here that somewhere between 50 and 90 of Iraqis would favor a war to remove Saddam, with much stronger support from Shiites and Kurds than from Sunnis.  The American Enterprise Institute has done the first scientific poll in Iraq (though there have been earlier ones in Baghdad), and Karl Zinsmeister has this summary of their results, which both supports my analysis and gives us hope for the future.  (I'll see if I can get the entire poll for a more complete analysis later.)
The results show that the Iraqi public is more sensible, stable and moderate than commonly portrayed, and that Iraq is not so fanatical, or resentful of the U.S., after all.
. . .
Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S.  The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37% of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together.  Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28%.   Again, there were important demographic splits.  Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis.
. . .
Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized.  We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month.  Fully 43% said "never."  It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.  You can also cross out "Osama II": 57% of Iraqis with an opinion have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 41% of those saying it is a very unfavorable view. (Women are especially down on him.)
. . .
And you can write off the possibility of a Baath revival.  We asked "Should Baath Party leaders who committed crimes in the past be punished, or should past actions be put behind us?"  A thoroughly unforgiving Iraqi public stated by 74% to 18% that Saddam's henchmen should be punished.
Now this does not mean that the reconstruction of Iraq will be easy, but it does show that sensible policies will draw support from most Iraqis.
- 7:02 AM, 10 September 2003   [link]

Howard Dean  thinks we shouldn't "take sides" between Israel and her enemies, or to put it in some other ways, between terrorism and its victims, between a nation that wants peace and those who want to destroy it, or between a democracy and dictatorships.  I wonder if Dean will issue a correction or an apology?   And should we believe him if he does?  I'll find it hard to.
- 2:09 PM, 9 September 2003
Update:  In the debate yesterday, Dean weaseled away from what he had said earlier about Israel.  Lieberman tried to call him on it, but if this account is correct, Dean probably got away with it.  And, Dean is trying another weasel move, as mentioned in this clarification.   He now claims to support NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, "in principle", but wants to see it renegotiated.  (I wonder if he has ever told his wife that he supports their marriage "in principle", but wants to renegotiate the terms.)
- 1:34 PM, 10 September 2003   [link]

In This  post, I argued that relations with Canada would not improve while Prime Minister Chrétien was in power.  Although he is still in office, he is fading away and relations between the two nations are improving.   One reason for the improvement is that Canada has sent a significant force to Afghanistan to battle al Qaeda, including units like this reconnaissance unit.   Thanks to our Canadian friends for this support.

There will be many a dry eye south of the border when Chrétien leaves office for good.  I expect that many of the problems we have will get settled then.  Canadians deserve a better leader, and they soon will have one.
- 1:51 PM, 9 September 2003   [link]

Rebecca Eckler  notices something I've noticed myself.   During a courtship, a woman often thinks that his food tastes better.   And men in love seem to share without much resistance, just as she says.  Must be something fundamental, since you can see parallel behavior in many bird species.
- 9:13 AM, 9 September 2003   [link]

So Many Mistakes, So Little Time:  
  • Deb Callahan of the League of Conservation Voters says that President Bush wants more arsenic in the drinking water, to force families to breathe polluted air, and to give control of environmental policy to corporate interests.  He has, she says, the "worst environmental record of any president".  All of these, of course, are wrong.  After reviewing the last minute Clinton decision to lower the arsenic limits, the Bush administration went along with it.   The Bush administration has already proposed stringent new limits on diesel emissions which will cut those sources of pollution sharply.  The decision to allow older plants to modernize, without being completely rebuilt is in harmony with the intent of the law and will lead to lower levels of pollutants.  I call this op-ed a mistake, but I wonder whether it really is.   Environmental organizations have become so reckless and so partisan that some of their leaders must know statements like these are false.

  • Molly Ivins thinks we should "just get U.N. troops" into Iraq.  Who will bring the same help there that they did in Rwanda, I suppose.  And the mind boggles at the idea of troops serving subject to the majority vote of nations that are tyrannies, and a Security Council that includes China, Russia, and France.  (There are ways we can use the UN, but we must be cautious about it.)

  • Robert Jamieson of the Seattle PI thinks that a Marine, who claimed in court he didn't know that Marines fight, deserves sympathy.  Along with, I assume, firefighters who say they didn't know the job involves smoke, farmers who don't like dirt, and journalists who refuse to write.

  • Susan Paynter of the Seattle PI thinks that the President Bush prefers to ignore causes like education and abortion.   In fact, Bush's education bill provides a substantial amount of new federal money for education, along with some pressure for reforms.  It was passed with the help of Ted Kennedy, among others.  (To my mind, the reforms are the important part, since we have been increasing spending on our schools for decades without significant results.)  President Bush cares about abortion; he just wants to make it rarer, unlike the extremists at Planned Parenthood.  (Who earn millions of dollars doing abortions.)

  • Hugo Young of the Guardian does an "impeccable historical analysis" and finds that: "If three terms are available, only a Spaniard, Jose Maria Aznar, does not take them."  Every American president, except Franklin D. Roosevelt, limited himself to just two terms.  (After Roosevelt broke the tradition, a Constitutional amendment was passed to prevent another president from doing the same.  Bill Clinton is the only president that the amendment stopped from running, in my opinion.  Both Eisenhower and Reagan would, I think, have respected the two term tradition.)

- 8:23 AM, 9 September 2003   [link]