Archive:

February 2004, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Kerry Wins Washington!  According to network projections, anyway, and certainly the current results give no reason to disagree, even though Dean's percentage crept up a little during the last hour or so of counting.  I am hoping that Dennis Kucinich will hold his current 3rd place since he, more than any of the other candidates, shows why the Democrats should not be allowed to control national security.

Here's an account from a Democratic caucus. (via the Instapundit)  Since the caucus was in Whatcom county, the students most likely came from Western Washington.  One tidbit: The Democrats at the caucus showed a "pervasive lack of math skills", which will not surprise many Republicans.
- 4:12 PM, 7 February 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Three items from today's New York Times.
  • Educated Iraqis have become the target of assassinations.   It is not clear who is behind the attacks.  Some think the supporters of Saddam, others think that foreign terrorists are behind the killings.  Both could be.

  • Osama's former sister-in-law has published a book on her experiences in Saudi Arabia.  Neither the nation nor her former in-laws will like her description of the "oppression and fanaticism" she found in the oil kingdom.

  • David Brooks has some fun with John Kerry's attacks on special interests.   In the past, Senator Kerry has been quite a friend of special interests, not all of them on the right side of the law.
- 10:25 AM, 7 February 2004   [link]


Fascist Symbols Are Wrong, Sometimes:  Seattle PI columnist Susan Paynter tells us about an unpleasant incident.  A young woman came out of a Seattle restaurant and found that someone had drawn a swastika on her car.   Paynter rightly condemns the incident and reminds us of the power of symbols.
That's the thing about the flash powder power of some symbols and slurs.  They freeze us in our tracks or fire our anger to a boil.
Now I don't disagree with that or anything else in the column.  But I do wonder whether Paynter is blind.  Swastikas appear in nearly every "peace" or anti-Bush demonstration in this area.  For some examples, see this post describing an anti-Bush demonstration last August.  (As many do, she thinks hate crimes depend on the race of the victim.  As it happens, a large contingent of Vietnamese veterans came out to support Bush last August, to be insulted with the anti-Bush swastikas.)   Paynter has never condemned the swastikas at those marches and demonstrations, and never will, I suspect.

From time to time, I write some of the media figures in Seattle asking them to condemn the use of "fascist" and swastikas to smear the Bush administration.  None have ever said it was wrong publicly, though a few have recognized that it is a mistaken tactic.  Now Paynter has a suggestion that I hope she follows.  When we see swastikas, she says, we should call the police.  If she is serious about that idea, we will see her with cell phone, at the next "peace" or anti-Bush demonstration, punching those buttons like mad.
- 7:46 AM, 7 February 2004   [link]


For Some Time I Have Been Arguing That The BBC  was so biased against the United States and the Bush administration that it was feeding anti-Americanism all around the world.  They often have a strange sympathy for totalitarian regimes or movements, simply because they are enemies of the United States.  The BBC, once a great pillar of democracy, now often aids its opponents.

This Weekly Standard article, by Gerard Baker, who worked for the BBC for six years, supports every bit of the argument that I have been making.
Its news is increasingly tinged by the corrosive liberal bias that permeates so much of the global media.  Its reporters and editors share a worldview that would sit perfectly with the denizens of the New York Times, and they hold the same conviction that theirs alone is an objective account of the truth.
. . .
And all the time, the BBC regards criticism or calls for accountability as acts of lèse majesté, a kind of high treason against a lovable old British institution ("Aunty," as the BBC is known) that merits the firm protection of the law.  Critics are dismissed as promoting a political or financial agenda, of aiming to destroy the BBC so its commercial rivals might feed on its corpse.
. . .
The Kelly story was not an isolated incident.  It was merely the most infamous example of a left-liberal bias that refracts all news coverage through the prism of the BBC's own distinctive worldview.

The BBC's coverage of the Iraq war itself marked a new low point in the history of the self-loathing British prestige-media's capacity to side with the nation's enemies.

Its Middle East coverage is notoriously one-sided.  Its pro-Palestinian bias is so marked that recently the London bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post refused to take part in any more BBC news programs because he believed the corporation was actually fomenting anti-Semitism.  If anti-Americanism is on the rise in the world, the BBC can take a fair share of the credit; much of its U.S. coverage depicts a cartoonish image of a nation of obese, Bible-wielding halfwits, blissfully dedicated to shooting or suing each other.

Its suppositions are recognizable as those of self-appointed liberal elites everywhere: American power is bad; European multilateralism is good; organized religion is a weird vestige of unenlightened barbarism; atheism is rational man's highest intellectual achievement; Israel (especially Ariel Sharon) is evil; Palestinians (especially Yasser Arafat) are innocent victims; business is essentially corrupt, or at best simply boring; poverty is the result of government failure; economic success is the product of exploitation or crookedness. And so on.

This will be familiar to consumers of news in much of the United States.  Liberal media bias is by now, fortunately, increasingly widely recognized.  But the difference is that BBC bias is so much more powerful and much more pernicious because the BBC is still seen by viewers and listeners, in Britain and around the world, as objective.  And when the BBC conveys its slanted views of the world, there is very little means of checking and correcting it.
The two most important points in that indictment, for an American, are that the BBC is causing anti-Americanism to rise, and that we can do little about it.  We can do more, and I will have some suggestions about that next week.  For the most part, we can only hope that our friends in Britain can do something to constrain this destructive organization.
- 6:49 AM, 7 February 2004   [link]


In Those Days, giants flew the earth, giant dragonflys to be precise.  Scientists are not quite sure how prehistoric dragonflys, some with wingspans of two and a half feet could have flown.  One guess, and it seems to be no more than that, is that the oxygen content of the air was much higher then, 35 percent instead of the current 21 percent.  This would seem to imply that flying insects get smaller with altitude, but the article says nothing on that point.

Dragonflys weren't the only large arthropods during the Carboniferous.
There were extra-large mayflies, supersized scorpions and spiders the size of a healthy spider plant.  There was an array of giant flightless insects, and a five-foot-long millipede-like creature, Arthropleura, that resembled a tire tread rolled out flat.
And of course there were the giant dinosaurs, which also pose puzzles for paleontologists.   It is difficult to understand how some of the largest, like the brontosaurs, solved some of the mechanical problems an animal that size has to face.

For example, giraffes have valves in their necks to control their blood when they raise and lower their heads.  There were herbivorous dinosaurs with far longer necks.  Did they use similar solutions when they lifted their heads 50 feet up or more?  And then one has to wonder how land animals that weighed as much as 20 elephants kept cool in hot weather.
- 1:58 PM, 6 February 2004   [link]


Clean Ups:  I have corrected some links and moved some apparently dormant sites to a new group at the bottom of the list.  If I am wrong about any of them, please let me know.
- 1:29 PM, 6 February 2004   [link]


Pay Off The Palestinians:  That approach to peace in the Middle East has never received much attention, even though it is the most sensible one.  Although there are historical precedents for divided states such as the proposed Palestinian state, with one small chunk on the West Bank and another very small chunk in the Gaza strip, they are not encouraging.  There is no reason to think such a state would be viable.

At the same time, without the West Bank, the military problems for Israel are severe.  A Palestinian state can not be viable, but it can make Israel's position precarious.  There is a traditional, practical solution to such problems, which is to pay the Palestinians to go away.  (And perhaps pay the Israelis who were forced out of Arab lands, too.)

Would the Palestinians accept such a bargain?  After years of living under Arafat's corrupt dictatorship, fully 37 percent say they would.
The 705 respondents of the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) poll were asked, "If you were to receive a job offer, a home, and $250,000, would you be willing to emigrate to a foreign country?"  Just a tad over half said no, while 37% said yes, they would be willing to leave under such circumstances.
The poll may understate how many would move, since this response is not one that Palestinians would want to admit to in public.  And, once a large group had left, many more would choose to follow them or to make peace with the Israelis.

There is one great difficulty.  The Palestinians are quite familiar with other Arab countries and most prefer other destinations.
Of those who would leave, not even a quarter would choose an Arab nation, while 60% would choose Europe or an English-speaking country.
That's quite a condemnation of Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, and the other Arab nations.

(I can not be certain that the poll result is accurate, but given the emigration from areas controlled by Arafat without incentives, it seems plausible to me.)
- 9:35 AM, 6 February 2004   [link]


More On Hume And Overholser:  In this post, I mentioned Geneva Overholser's silly resignation from the board of the National Press Foundation because they gave an award to a journalist from Fox News, Brit Hume.

Now Brent Bozell provides evaluations of Hume from both left and right.
Lost in the rage at the prime-time lineup [at Fox] is the performance of Brit Hume, who brought all the heft of his years of fairness covering Washington and politics at ABC to Fox's table.   "Fair and balanced" are not silly marketing words to describe Hume.  He earned an "A" from the Media Research Center for even-handed coverage of the Iraq war.  But we're not alone.

The radical left has trouble complaining about Hume, too.  A report by the anti-Iraq-liberation media critics at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting put Hume in the middle in its guest selection: It "had fewer U.S. officials than CBS (70 percent) and more U.S. anti-war guests (3 percent) than PBS or CBS."  FAIR's definition of "anti-war" may be ridiculously narrow (in their odd attempt to making liberal networks look conservative), but even FAIR credited Hume's show for giving air time to save-Saddam lobbyists like Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Fortney Stark.
Overholser's attack on Hume would not matter much if she were not training future journalists.

(In this area, the attacks on Fox seem especially strange.  The local Fox affiliate, channel 13, has an anchorman, Tony Ventrella, who has often flirted with seeking elective office—as a liberal Democrat.  The local news programs are not especially ideological, but I did see them do what amounted to a commercial for racial preferences recently.  I can't recall a similar segment that made a conservative point, on any subject.)
- 8:14 AM, 6 February 2004   [link]


Not Everyone In Massachusetts likes Senator John Forbes Kerry.
One of the surest ways to get the phones ringing on any Massachusetts talk-radio show is to ask people to call in and tell their John Kerry stories.  The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives.
Not everyone buys the claim that he represents the poor.
And now he's running for president as a populist.  His first wife came from a Philadelphia Main Line family worth $300 million.  His second wife is a pickle-and-ketchup heiress.

Kerry lives in a mansion on Beacon Hill on which he has borrowed $6 million to finance his campaign.  A fire hydrant that prevented him and his wife from parking their SUV in front of their tony digs was removed by the city of Boston at his behest.

The Kerrys ski at a spa the widow Heinz owns in Aspen, and they summer on Nantucket in a sprawling seaside "cottage" on Hurlbert Avenue, which is so well-appointed that at a recent fund-raiser, they imported porta-toilets onto the front lawn so the donors wouldn't use the inside bathrooms.   (They later claimed the decision was made on septic, not social, considerations).
For all his wealth, he has not been especially charitable.
At the risk of engaging in ethnic stereotyping, Yankees have a reputation for, shall we say, frugality.  And Kerry tosses around quarters like they were manhole covers.  In 1993, for instance, living on a senator's salary of about $100,000, he managed to give a total of $135 to charity.

Yet that same year, he was somehow able to scrape together $8,600 for a brand-new, imported Italian motorcycle, a Ducati Paso 907 IE.
Now all this would matter less to me if Senator Kerry had a record of accomplishment.   If he does, it has been concealed from his colleagues.
In the Senate, his record of his constituent services has been lackluster, and most of his colleagues, despite their public support, are hard-pressed to list an accomplishment.  Just last fall, a Boston TV reporter ambushed three congressmen with the question, name something John Kerry has accomplished in Congress.  After a few nervous giggles, two could think of nothing, and a third mentioned a baseball field, and then misidentified Kerry as "Sen. Kennedy."
All of the Massachusetts congressmen are Democrats, so this was not a partisan attack.  The 2000 issue of the Almanac of American Politics does mention a few accomplishments.   He helped normalize trade relations with Vietnam.  Other items they list were less significant.
On other issues, Kerry successfully worked with Richard Bryan of Nevada to eliminate the wool and mohair subsidy in 1993, and he won a fight to eliminate the Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor nuclear disposal in 1994.
Eliminating the mohair subsidy is a good idea, if only to annoy Sam Donaldson, who receives it.  But I have to add that the subsidy was revived in a later Congress.  Considering the fact that Kerry was first elected to the Senate in 1984, this is not an impressive list of accomplishments.
- 7:31 AM, 6 February 2004   [link]


Six Days Ago, the "Watchmaker" offered a $200 reward for some evidence that the Bush administration ever said that Saddam was behind 9/11.
I offer this challenge: I will pay, out of my own pocket, $200.00 to the first person who offers me a quote from a senior figure (in a legitimate news source, such as a major newpaper, network news, or newsmagazine) that explicitly links Hussein and September 11.  Not links between Hussein and Al-Qaeda, but a quote that states that Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks.  Leave me a comment (with a real e-mail address) if you believe you can prove me wrong.
Many have made this claim, including Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times.  In almost a week no one has even tried to provide evidence and claim this reward.
- 5:07 PM, 5 February 2004
More:  Bill Hobbs is upping the reward.
- 10:39 AM, 7 February 2004   [link]


The Democrats Expect To Lose To Bush:  The subjects of the two preceding posts are intrinsically important; the subject of this one is not.  But sometimes I have to cover something simply because it may have an impact politically, even though it should not.

In 2000, just before the election, not coincidentally, a story broke about Bush's conviction for drunk driving when he was a young man.  The story was nearly irrelevant to any real consideration of the presidential candidates.  Bush had been caught, after all, because, knowing he had had a drink or two more than he should have, he was driving very slowly and carefully on a rural road with hardly any traffic.  The story almost cost Bush the presidency because of the timing and the way the networks played it up—knowing that there was almost nothing to it.  Meanwhile they ignored Gore's boasting that same week about evading a policeman while riding a motorcycle with too many passengers, which is also illegal and far more dangerous than what Bush had done.

This year, an old story has been dug up and pushed by the Democrats, that President Bush was AWOL or even a deserter from his Air National Guard service.  Here's the summary from, appropriately enough, Fact Check, a nonpartisan site.
The fact is Bush was honorably discharged without ever being officially accused of desertion or being away without official leave.
Bush did miss some weekend drills after he moved from Texas to Alabama temporarily.  He made them up, and when he left the Guard he had served more hours than required.   Two other points, not in the Fact Check item, are worth noting.  When Bush enlisted in the unit, some of the its members were in Vietnam, flying the same plane that Bush was being trained to fly.  The airplane, an F-102, was an exceptionally dangerous plane to fly.  Bush's service was far more risky than Gore's work in an office in Vietnam.

If that's all there is to the story, why so much attention to it?  When it first popped up, there were two reasons to pay attention to it.  Some of the records were missing that would have shown where Bush was in his time in Alabama, and an officer there, Brigadier General William Turnipseed, said that he could not recall seeing Bush.  Neither of these is as convincing evidence as one might think.  Those with experience in the Guard say, almost without exception, that paperwork is always being lost and is often incorrect.  (It appears that we have forces that can fight but not fill out forms.  Better that than the other way around.)  And Turnipseed is no longer so certain that Bush could not have been there, telling the Washington Post that "he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time".

So why is this story being covered by the networks and newspapers?  Because the odds are that President Bush will win in November.  He will have an edge as an incumbent, from the growing strength of the Republican party, and from social issues and national security.  If the economy continues to expand, he may even win a landslide.  So the Democrats, losing on the issues and no longer able to rely on partisanship, need to find some way to tear Bush down.   It really is that simple.

Yesterday, I heard a exquisite example of the cynicism of those pushing this story.  A local talk show host, Dave Ross, admitted that he did not know the facts on the matter, and told his audience that he would not care even if the story was true.  (Ross was a shameless supporter of Bill Clinton, so he may want to avoid the obvious comparisons.)  Nonetheless, Ross discussed the story at some length and came back to it at least once during the program.   I have to give him some points for honesty.  He isn't the only Democrat pushing the story who doesn't know the facts and doesn't care if the story is true, but he is the first I have seen admit both publicly.  (Somehow I doubt that Ross would be quite as blase if he were the target of slander, rather than spreading it.)

(If you want to read more about it, start with Bill Hobbs, who has written extensively on the subject.  Here's his most recent post.)
- 4:47 PM, 5 February 2004   [link]


Congratulations To Kris and Iain Murray on the arrival of their son, George. With parents like Kris and Iain, George has fine prospects.
- 8:10 AM, 5 February 2004   [link]


Worth Reading:  Anne Applebaum draws a powerful comparison between Auschwitz and North Korean gas chambers.
Quite a lot has changed in 60 years, but the ways in which information about crimes against humanity can simultaneously be "known" and not known hasn't changed at all.  Nor have other interests and other priorities ceased to distract people from the feelings of shame and guilt they would certainly feel, if only they focused on them.

Look, for example, at the international reaction to a documentary, aired last Sunday night on the BBC.  It described atrocities committed in the concentration camps of contemporary North Korea, where, it was alleged, chemical weapons are tested on prisoners.  Central to the film was the testimony of Kwon Hyuk, a former administrator at a North Korean camp.  "I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber," he said.  "The parents, son and a daughter.  The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing."  The documentary also included testimony from a former prisoner, who says she saw 50 women die after being deliberately fed poison.   And it included documents smuggled out of the country that seemed to sentence a prisoner to a camp "for the purpose of human experimentation."
As Applebaum admits, we can not be certain about the truth of this documentary.  Worse, we may not want to know, because if we did, we would feel obligated to do something.  And we do not want to face that.

There is a tragic example from Canada of our unwillingness to face the facts about North Korea.   The Canadian national refugee board, which has allowed any number of terrorists to enter Canada, wants to send a North Korean refugee back to almost certain death.   The North Koreans have already executed the man's wife, after luring her back.  The Canadian government is willing to let the man's six year old son stay—though they are about to help make him an orphan.

I can't help wondering if part of the reason for this callous behavior lies in the support that some on the left have tacitly given the North Korean government.  Last year, Eric Margolis, who writes for the Toronto Sun, was delighted by Kim Jong-il, the man responsible for those gas chambers.  Here's my post on his column, and here's the outrageous quotation one more time: ". . . we confess a measure of amusement, even sneaking professional admiration, for North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il, for playing a really mean game of Pyongyang bluff poker."  I will write Margolis to see if, in light of the gas chambers, he is still amused and admiring, but, from past experience, I do not expect a reply.
- 7:13 PM, 4 February 2004
More:  Sadly, the BBC program on North Korea also included some of their standard America Bashing.   According to the BBC, the United States, which fought to save half of Korea from Communist rule, is somehow responsible for the tyranny in the other half.
- 8:03 AM, 5 February 2004   [link]


John Kerry and other Democratic candidates have been trashing Bush's proposals to reform NASA, establish a base on the moon, and send a manned expedition to Mars.   They have also been telling us that we should pay more attention to the Europeans (by which they mean the French and the Germans, of course).  Meanwhile what has the European space agency been doing?  Planning to establish a base on the moon and send a manned expedition to Mars.
European scientists set out a route map Tuesday for manned missions to Mars that aims to land astronauts on the Red Planet in less than 30 years.

Like U.S. President George W. Bush's proposed mission to Mars, the plan put forward by the European Space Agency involves a "stepping stone'' approach, which includes robotic missions and a manned trip to the Moon first.

"We need to go back to the Moon before we go to Mars. We need to walk before we run," said Dr. Franco Ongaro, who heads the ESA's Aurora program for long-term exploration of the solar system, at a meeting of Aurora scientists in London.  "These are our stones. They will pave the way for our human explorers."
So we see that Bush was not only paying attention to the Europeans, he was paying attention in advance, hearing them even before they spoke.  Wonder if Bush's Democratic opponents will shift now that this European plan has been revealed?

(There was one reaction to the plan that seems bizarre to me, but is all too common.
Professor Colin Pillinger, the British scientist behind the recent ill-fated Beagle 2 expedition, said it was important to determine whether life existed on Mars before pressing ahead with a manned mission.

"Would it be right for us to tamper with the ecology on another body?" he asked.  "My opinion is that it probably wouldn't."
If there is life on Mars, it would almost certainly be bacteria or the Martian equivalent.   So Professor Pillinger thinks that Martian bacteria should have a veto over our plans.   The professor is not a biologist so he may not be aware that living things, including ourselves, "tamper with" the environment merely by living.  Drink a glass of water and you "tamper with" the environment established by the bacteria in your digestive system.  Successful organisms, like ourselves, are successful precisely because they "tamper with" their environments more than the unsuccessful ones.)
- 5:38 PM, 4 February 2004   [link]


How Motivated Are The Democrats?  Some are arguing that Democratic voters are more motivated this year and that higher turnouts prove that.  There were higher turnouts in Iowa and New Hampshire, but both states also had unprecedented levels of advertising, so they may not be the best guide.

Later primaries have had more normal levels of advertising and campaigning, and so they make for a better test.  In 1996, a number of Republican candidates waged campaigns in Delaware, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, just as the Democratic candidates did this year.  If we compare the total votes in those primaries to the total votes in the Democratic primaries in the same states yesterday, we see that participation was about the same.

Total Votes in Presidential Primaries, 1996 and 2004

stateRep 1996Dem 2004
Delaware32,88132,773
Oklahoma264,542299,743
South Carolina276,741270,164


There are two factors you should consider in comparing the numbers, population growth and the partisan balance in each state.  Since all three states gained population in the last eight years, we would expect more voters at the polls from that alone.

Partisanship is more complicated.  Republicans probably have the edge in both Oklahoma and South Carolina, but Democrats have a similar edge in Delaware, which they have won in the last three presidential elections.

Allowing for both factors, I would guess that Democrats are about as motivated this year as Republicans were in 1996.  Maybe a little more, but not much.
- 11:33 AM, 4 February 2004   [link]


Kudos To Martin Kettle  of the Guardian for this column criticizing the BBC and British journalism in general.
Having read the Hutton report and most of what has been written about it, I have reached the following, strictly non-judicial, conclusions: first, that the episode illuminates a wider crisis in British journalism than the turmoil at the BBC; second, that too many journalists are in denial about this wider crisis; third, that journalists need to be at the forefront of trying to rectify it; and, fourth, that this will almost certainly not happen.
On of the worst offenders, Kettle thinks, is the former Today producer Rod Liddle, who hired Andrew Gilligan.
Liddle's article in the current Spectator exemplifies this approach, and incarnates a great deal of what is wrong with modern journalism.  Liddle's article is wrong on the facts (Lord Franks, chairman of the inquiry into the Falklands war, was not a judge, much less a law lord), sneering (Lord Hutton's Ulster brogue is mocked, and he is described as anachronistic and hopelessly naive), and unapologetic (the best Liddle can manage is that Gilligan's famous 6.07am report went "a shade too far").  Above all, Liddle's piece is arrogant, embodied in his remarkable final sentence: "I think, as a country, we've had enough of law lords."

Think about the implications of that.  To Liddle's fellow practitioners of punk journalism, it can be excused as sparky, or justified on the grounds that it is what a lot of other people are saying.  To criticise it is to be condemned as boring or, like Hutton, hopelessly naive.   To me, though, it smacks of something bordering on journalistic fascism, in which all elected politicians are contemptible, all judges are disreputable and only journalists are capable of telling the truth, even though what passes for truth is sometimes little more than prejudice unsupported by facts.
Now you don't have to be fascist to have contempt for elected officials, but everything else Kettle says is correct, and not just about British journalism.  Precisely the same faults can be found on this side of the Atlantic.  Note, for instance, that Rod Liddle, like Geov Parrish, thinks the one unforgivable sin is not being wrong, but being boring.

Does Kettle's criticism apply to his own paper?  Of course, as I have documented from time to time.  I think the Guardian is particularly bad in its coverage of American issues, but that may be because I find it easier to spot their errors on American politics.

This site exists because I saw those same faults in journalism, and because I want to make a small effort to correct them.
- 7:44 AM, 4 February 2004   [link]


Politics As Entertainment For The Media Elites:  There's not much substance in this column from the Seattle Weekly, but it does show, nakedly, what really matters to some in the media.
OK, here's the problem I have with John Kerry as the Democratic presidential nominee:

He's dull.
And that's the whole of the indictment from this poorly informed leftist.  He thinks that Kerry would be a far better president than Bush, agrees with him on many issues, but doesn't want to watch him on television for the next four years.

(He claims that he cares about this because he thinks being dull will lead to Kerry's defeat.   I don't believe him, since he ignores both the current polls, which show Kerry doing well against Bush, and much history.  Dull candidates often defeat flashier ones, and it is easy for any informed person to think of examples.)

Think about Geov Parrish's criterion for a minute.  We are in a war with terrorists, whether those on the left want to admit that or not.  We have severe problems with education.  We have a massive problem with illegal immigration.  We have terrible social problems, many stemming from the culture of welfare.  The 1994 welfare reform has helped, but we have much to do.  We have a growing problem of nuclear proliferation.  There is terrible oppression in nations like North Korea.  There is a ghastly civil war going on in central Africa.

For Geov Parrish, and many others on the cultural left, none of these issues matter.  What is important to them is that they not be bored.  Clinton never bored them, and they loved him.  That he did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda did not matter to the Seattle Weekly, which endorsed him twice.  The death of 800,000 is a boring statistic, not important compared to the pleasure Parrish and others gained from watching Clinton on TV.   That this is not a morally serious attitude is obvious.  That anyone at the Seattle Weekly will realize that, is not.
- 6:44 AM, 4 February 2004   [link]


Is He Really A Techie?  John Cusack claims to be an engineering geek, but I have my doubts.
Jon Blake Cusack talked his wife, Jamie, into naming their son Jon Blake Cusack 2.0.
Why does this make me suspicious?  Because those who know software have a jaundiced attitude toward programs with low version numbers.  They have learned, sometimes the hard way, that early versions are not worth the trouble, and so they avoid versions 1.0 and 2.0, if possible.  Microsoft Windows is the most famous example of this version number rule, but there are many others.  (Of course some say that Microsoft never gets the design right, but that's too harsh in my opinion.)

What Mr. Cusack is suggesting by his choice of names is that neither he nor his son are any good, and that we should wait for a grandson if we want someone worthwhile.  A real techie would know this.

More precisely, we should wait for a second grandson, not John Blake Cusack 3.0, but John Blake Cusack 3.1.  Often, it takes three versions to get the overall design roughly right, but 3.0 still has enough bugs to be annoying.  Version 3.1 has the design right and the worst bugs removed, so it is the first really usable version.
- 2:47 PM, 3 February 2004   [link]


No Predictions For Today's Primaries:  I have no special knowledge about the polls or the election histories in the states that are holding primaries today, so I won't make any predictions.  The latest poll results, with undecided voters allotted proportionately, are averaged here.  If the polls are accurate, Kerry will win Missouri and Arizona, Edwards will win South Carolina, and Clark will win Oklahoma.  (The last looks like the most chancy prediction to me.)   Most expect Kerry to also win the smaller states of Delaware, New Mexico, and North Dakota, and I see no reason to disagree.

There is one more contest this week where Howard Dean has a good chance, the Washington caucuses on Saturday.  As far as I know, there are no relevant polls.  Often the winner is a candidate on the extreme in his party, since party activists are more extreme than voters, which is why I think that Howard Dean has a good chance to win here.

If all that happens, then the Democratic race will be more open than it now seems.  Even a single victory will make a candidate believe that he should fight at least another round.
- 1:16 PM, 3 February 2004
Oops!  I forgot that Michigan is also holding a caucus this Saturday.  Dean seems to have given up hope of winning there, though.   I've corrected the text above.
- 5:37 AM, 4 February 2004   [link]


The New York Times Improves The Op-Ed Page by running a piece from astrologer Erin Sullivan, "the author of 'Saturn in Transit' and the forthcoming 'Astrology and Psychology of Midlife and Aging'".  I am not being sarcastic since Ms. Sullivan, unlike Maureen Dowd, is harmless.  Better obvious nonsense than malice and dishonesty.

Some may see this as more evidence of elitism at the Times.  The newspaper has refused for years to run an astrology column for the ordinary reader, but now supplies readings for the Democratic candidates.  None for Bush, though.
- 8:36 AM, 3 February 2004   [link]


Howard Dean's Racist (And Sexist) Slur  on the Republican party drew less attention than it should have.  At a rally in Seattle last Saturday, he revived a slur from the 2000 campaign.
Dean received one of his biggest ovations after a heckler asked what he'd do to reduce the abortion rate.  He suggested universal health care for children, sex education that isn't just abstinence-based, and finally, "We're going to tell all those white boys who run the Republican Party to stay out of our bedrooms."
(Attentive readers will have noted that none of those is likely to reduce the abortion rate.  Those familiar with current policies will know that very few places have purely abstinence-based sex education.)

This slur is quite close to one used by Al Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazille, who said that she didn't want the "white boys" to win.  And it ignores an obvious point, that both parties are run by "white boys", to use Dean's elevating term.  All of the serious candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are "white boys".  So, too, is the Democratic party chairman, who defeated a black man for the position.  Or should I say he defeated a "black boy", as Dean might?

If Dean, or someone like him, wins the nomination, we can expect to see and hear more crude appeals to race like those used by Gore and his allies in the 2000 campaign.  As the article says, the smear received "one of the biggest ovations" from the crowd.

(I give David Postman credit for reporting the slur, but note that he (or an editor?) buried it two paragraphs from the end of a very long article.  Racist appeals by Democrats rarely draw criticism from mainstream journalists.)
- 8:09 AM, 3 February 2004   [link]


Debka Doesn't Agree  with David Kay.
In the last 24 hours, DEBKAfile went back to its most reliable intelligence sources in the US and the Middle East, some of whom were actively involved in the subject before and during the Iraq war.  They all stuck to their guns.  As they have consistently informed DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs were present on the eve of the American-led invasion and quantities of forbidden materials were spirited out to Syria.  Whatever Dr. Kay may choose to say now, at least one of these sources knows at first hand that the former ISG director received dates, types of vehicles and destinations covering the transfers of Iraqi WMD to Syria.
The disagreement is not as large as it may seem.  Kay told the Telegraph that Saddam may have sent program materials to Syria.  He believes that Saddam's regime did not restart production, at least large scale production, of chemical and biological weapons.  But that does not mean that Saddam necessarily destroyed the stockpiles he had from earlier production, though Kay thinks he did.  (Why he thinks that is not entirely clear to me.  Though he has done many interviews, reporters seem uninterested in some questions I consider central.)

Debka notes that the CIA and other intelligence agencies do not seem afraid of an inquiry, as if they knew they had secret information that would absolve them of the worst charges.  Debka wonders why President Bush seems so stoic as the attacks on him over the intelligence estimates mount.  There may be an answer in this portrait of our first president with an MBA.  While at Harvard, he was, it seems, an accomplished poker player.
By reputation, the President was a very avid and skillful poker player when he was an MBA student.   One of the secrets of a successful poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing hand.  This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W. Bush's political career.  He is not one to loudly proclaim his strengths at the beginning of a campaign.   Instead, he bides his time, does not respond forcefully, a least at first, to critiques from his enemies, no matter how loud and annoying they get.  If anything, this apparent passivity only goads them into making their case more emphatically.
Poker players call this tactic "sandbagging".  Is that what Bush is doing?  Maybe.   If he agrees to have his commission report before the election, but seems reluctant, then the Democrats may be walking into his trap.

(As always with Debka, I must add the usual disclaimer.  Sometimes they is right and way ahead of everyone else, and sometimes they are wildly wrong.  There doesn't seem to be much dispute about their claim that Saddam sent truckloads of materials to Syria.  Officially, no one knows what was in those trucks.)
- 7:08 AM, 3 February 2004   [link]


Washington State Senator Alex Deccio, who is 81 years old, used a racial slur in an argument with another white Republican legislator.  He has apologized to the other legislator and to everyone else within reach.   Some, including Carl Mack, the head of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, think that's not enough and that Deccio should resign.

The Tulalip Casino, owned by the Indian tribe of the same name, laid off 250 workers.  All those laid off were non-members of the tribe.  
No tribal members were laid off yesterday, a fact that some nontribal members called unfair.

"Nontribal equals unemployed," read a sign one former card dealer carried yesterday during a short-lived protest near the casino.

Some former employees said they had more experience and seniority than tribal members who are still working at the casino.  But a casino press release said members of the tribes are "shareholders" in the company.  Under tribal law, members have preference at tribal businesses.
Other than the employees who lost their jobs, no one seems to care about the discrimination.   Is this kind of discrimination legal?  I'm not sure.  I do know that it would be illegal if a white "tribe" were doing it, and that this is a far more important issue than Senator Deccio's slip.

(Wondering what the slur was?  It ends in "woodpile".  I suspect most people under 30 have never even heard it.)
- 2:27 PM, 2 February 2004   [link]


What Will The Nigerians Think?  My policy of not watching the Super Bowl halftime show paid even bigger dividends than usual.  (Another rule I follow, to pay as little attention as possible to anyone in the Jackson family, would also have worked.)  The revealed boob was only one of many objectionable parts of the program, as critics on the left and right agree.

Many of the advertisements during the game were almost as offensive as the halftime program.   And you can't even excuse the advertisers because they were trying to sell beer or chips or whatever, since it is unlikely that they will succeed in that.  Budweiser became the leading beer in the United States with upbeat advertisements showing their Clydesdales in lovely scenes.  I can not understand why they now think that the crude commercials they put on yesterday will help them keep their lead.

Finally, think about this program from the point of view of a Nigerian, for example a woman who is a faithful Episcopalian.  (There are millions of them in Nigeria.)  Most such women have traditional, even old fashioned, ideas on how to behave.  What would she think of this display, especially the way in which a black woman was exhibited to a mostly white audience?  I don't think she'd like it, and I don't think this vulgar program and those disgusting ads will win us many friends abroad.

And the game?  One of the best Super Bowls ever which somehow makes it even worse.
- 1:40 PM, 2 February 2004   [link]


More Evidence That Journalism Schools Should Be Closed:  Geneva Overholser, who "runs the University of Missouri's Washington journalism program", resigned from board of the National Press Foundation because they are giving an award to Brit Hume.   Overholser objected to giving the Hume the award because he works for Fox.
Hume, the ABC White House correspondent who joined Fox in 1996 and anchors a nightly newscast, doesn't deserve the award because he and Fox practice "ideologically connected journalism," Overholser says.

"Fox wants to do news from a certain viewpoint, but it wants to claim that it is 'fair and balanced,'" she says. "That is inaccurate and unfair to other media who engage in a quest, perhaps an imperfect quest, for objectivity."
In the past, the Foundation has given awards to "David Brinkley, Dan Rather, John Chancellor, Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters and Nina Totenberg".  All of these, including Rather, Pauley, and Totenberg, pass Overholser's bias test, apparently.  (Wonder if Hume would be acceptable if he were still working for ABC?)

You might think that she was just another ideologically disconnected professor, except that she was editor of the Des Moines Register, a once respectable newspaper, and ombudsman at the Washington Post.
- 12:01 PM, 2 February 2004   [link]


Skeptics On Saddam's WMDs:  In this post, which reviews the beliefs about Saddam's WMDs before the war, Kevin Drum finds just two respectable skeptics, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and former UN inspector Scott Ritter.  Only Putin and Ritter said on the record that Saddam had no stockpiles, and even Putin hedged his position a little.  And what do these two gentlemen have in common?   Both have been accused of accepting bribes from Saddam.  (Putin is not accused of accepting bribes directly, but the Russian state and some of his supporters and allies in Russia are).

If, and it is still a big if, Ritter and Putin did take Saddam's money before the war, it strengthens Drum's argument that analysts agreed before the war that Saddam had WMDs.   Ritter and Putin would have been paid spokesmen for Saddam, not unbiased analysts.

I should add that, as David Kay has said more than once, we can not be certain that Saddam had no stockpiles before the war.  Some, who have not listened to Kay closely, or thought hard about the question, think the matter is closed.  I do not, although I now think that the Rolf Ekeus position, that Saddam had programs rather than stockpiles is the most likely explanation for our failure to find the stockpiles.  It is still possible that Saddam hid his stockpiles, moved them to Syria, or destroyed them after the war began.   We do not know for certain, and we may never know, given how easily any of those three things could have happened.
- 8:48 AM, 2 February 2004   [link]


The Spirit Was Willing:  But the flash was weak.   The Mar rover's problems were caused by too many files in its flash memory, NASA controllers believe.  They now think that they have solved the problem and that the rover will be able to complete all the planned tests.

This puzzles me a bit, since file management is a problem with many standard solutions.  It is true that real time operating systems, like the one on the rover, have requirements that can not always be met by the more common solutions.

(Pun borrowed from a commentor at Slashdot.)
- 99:99 AM, 2 February 2004   [link]


More On Saddam's Bribes:  In this post, I noted the charges made by an Iraqi newspaper that Saddam had bribed journalists and government officials all over the world.  That Saddam had bribed many over the years was certain, that the list the newspaper the newspaper provided was genuine was less so.  And, of course, some raised the possibility that Iraqi officials or other intermediaries had claimed to have made the bribes but kept the cash for themselves.   Since I wrote the post, ABC news found the story credible enough to repeat, but I think we still lack proof.

Steven Hayes of the Weekly Standard wrote a detailed article on Saddams' history of bribery last year, with much on one of the people on the list, Shakir al-Khafaji, who has connections to two well known Americans, former UN inspector Scott Ritter and Jim McDermott, Seattle's "Congressman for life".

Now that these new documents have surfaced, the Weekly Standard wants the questions raised by Hayes' article answered, which they republished, beginning with this note:
Editor's note, 1/30/04: On January 25, 2004, a daily newspaper in Iraq called al Mada published a list of individuals and organizations who it says received oil from the now-deposed regime.   Among those listed is Shakir al Khafaji, an Iraqi-American from Detroit, who ran "Expatriate Conferences" for the regime in Baghdad.  Al Khafaji also contributed $400,000 to the production of Scott Ritter's film "In Shifting Sands."  Finally, al Khafaji arranged travel and financing for the "Baghdad Democrats"--Jim McDermott, Mike Thompson and David Bonior--last fall.  Following the trip, al Khafaji contributed $5,000 to McDermott's Legal Defense Fund.  THE WEEKLY STANDARD has contacted McDermott's office about returning the contribution.  McDermott spokesman Mike Decesare said this morning that he had not yet spoken with McDermott, since it's three hours earlier on the West Coast.  Asked about the contribution and the subsequent allegations about al Khafaji and oil, Decesare said, "I don't know anything about it." THE WEEKLY STANDARD will post a response from McDermott's office as soon as we get one.  In the meantime, it's worth taking a second look at "Saddam's Cash."
Here's what Hayes pointed out last year about Ritter and McDermott:
One of those "Saddam friends" is Shakir al-Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman from Detroit.   Since 1992, al-Khafaji has served as president of the regime-backed Expatriate Conferences, held in Baghdad every other year.  The government provided subsidized travel for Iraqis living outside of the country.
. . .
Al-Khafaji first came to public notice after revelations that he gave former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter $400,000 to produce a film that criticized the United States for its role in the inspection process.  Al-Khafaji, who is listed as a "senior executive producer" of the film, arranged meetings for Ritter with high-level officials in Saddam's government, a feat New York Times magazine writer Barry Bearak found "impressive."  Ritter had previously been an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and issued dire warnings about the status of the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction.  His sudden flip--he is now a leading apologist for Saddam's regime--and revelations about Ritter's 2001 arrest for soliciting sex with minors have fueled speculation about the nature of his relationship with al-Khafaji.
. . .
Al-Khafaji told Baghdad Radio on June 14, 2000, that he hoped to arrange a delegation so that members of the U.S. Congress could "get acquainted with the Iraqi people's suffering as a result of the unjust embargo clamped on it."  He got his wish two years later, when he accompanied Reps. Jim McDermott, Jim Thompson, and David Bonior to Baghdad last fall.
. . .
On October 25 [after his trip to Baghdad and his attack on President Bush], McDermott received a check for $5,000 from Shakir al-Khafaji.  The money, first reported by Amy Keller in Roll Call, had been deposited in an account for the McDermott Legal Expense Trust, a fund the congressman set up to pay legal bills in a lawsuit brought against him by Rep. John Boehner.  (In 1996, McDermott had released to the media the transcript of a phone conversation between Boehner and Newt Gingrich, taped by a Florida couple.)
Like Hayes, I don't think Congressman McDermott was corrupted by bribes from Saddam.  As Hayes points out, McDermott has been saying stupid things for years without bribes.  But his acceptance of money from a bagman for Saddam's regime raise serious questions about his judgment, if not his loyalties.

These possible connections require a thorough investigation.  If they are innocent, Ritter and McDermott will want one, too.

Two media notes:  The BBC recently hired a journalist from one of the news organizations subverted by Saddam's bribes, al Jazeera, to help in training.  What, one wonders, do they expect to learn?  How to conceal bribes from tax collectors?  Second, both Seattle newspapers defended McDermott after he made his trip to Baghdad.  Will they even mention the evidence suggesting he got money from Saddam?  As of today, they had not.
- 7:57 AM, 1 February 2004
More:  Here's the ABC story.   ABC does not explain the origins of the list, but appears to think it is genuine.  (I think they are wrong to call it a single document.)
- 5:43 AM, 2 February 2004   [link]