February 2005, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
To The Loser Go The Spoils? Howard Dean raised millions of dollars and excited thousands of Democratic activists in his quest for the presidency. Despite his advantages in money and volunteers, he did not attract most Democratic voters. He won just one primary, that held in his home state of Vermont — after he had officially withdrawn from the race.
So why did the Democratic party just choose him for party chairman? To appease, I suppose, those party activists.
The other leadership choices made by the party seem equally dubious.
The Democrats, after a contested race, also elected three vice chairmen: Representative Michael M. Honda of California; Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.; and Susie Turnbull of Maryland, a deputy chairwoman of the party.No one from the South, where Kerry failed to win a single state. No one from the Midwest, where Kerry lost the crucial swing state of Ohio. And no moderates. In fact, of the four, Dean may be the closest to a moderate, believe it or not.
- 3:55 PM, 14 February 2005 [link]
Worth Reading: Thomas Sowell recommends a book, Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, with an unorthodox message.
To me the most staggering thing about the long history of slavery -- which encompassed the entire world and every race in it -- is that nowhere before the 18th century was there any serious question raised about whether slavery was right or wrong. In the late 18th century, that question arose in Western civilization, but nowhere else.And the British Empire did most of the fighting. The Royal Navy early established, at considerable expense, an anti-slavery patrol off West Africa to halt the slave trade, We should not forget the cost in lives of that patrol. Sailing ships were never very healthy then, and making contact with West Africa, as the ships had to do from time to time, must have exposed the sailors to many tropical diseases. I haven't seen the numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that thousands died from malaria alone. And of course Britain followed that patrol with many, many more efforts to end the slave trade, often at great expense in money and lives.
And the United States, for all our nation's sins, did take a small part in this mainly British effort. Here's how Max Boot summarizes our efforts in The Savage Wars of Peace.
Another example of humanitarian action was the effort to stamp out the slave trade, which the U.S. joined intermittently after Congress outleawed the importation of slaves in 1807. The main role in capturing slavers was played by the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron, but the U.S. Navy contributed a few ships of its own, starting with the Cyane in 1820. After the early 1820s, the American effort slacked off until the late 1830s, when the Van Buren administration sent fresh ships to the "Dark Continent." Under the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the U.S. and Britain each pledged to maintain a squadron with at least 80 guns, off the west coast of Africa.The British did most of the work, capturing 595 slave ships between 1843 and 1861, but we did capture 24 in the same period.
While giving credit, we should not forget the kingdom of Denmark, usually credited with being the first nation to abolish slavery, which Fredrik VI did in 1792 (though not effective until 1803). (Fredrik seems to have believed in freedom for all. The article on Denmark in my old Encyclopedia Britannica credits him with liberating Danish peasants from medieval controls and giving them their own plots of land.) The Danish abolition was not just theoretical, as Denmark then had possessions in the West Indies with plantations that relied on slave labor.
Finally, I should note, sadly, that the work begun more than two centuries ago is not finished. The Anti-Slavery Society still exists, and not just to honor its distinguished history.
(Thanks to Jeff Brokaw for pointing our Sowell's column.)
- 9:22 AM, 14 February 2005 [link]
Happy Valentine's Day! Unless, as I said last year, you are a resident of Saudi Arabia, a Hindu extremist, or a radical feminist.
If you fall into one of those categories, you should just ignore the holiday. But apparently it is too attractive to ignore. The Saudis are taking vigorous action to prevent even private celebrations.
The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14.But if you read farther on, you'll find that men can find red roses even in Saudi Arabia, and that many do, for the usual reason.
"The mutawwaeen are just backward," [flower shop manager] Ahmed complained. "It's the Saudi women who want these roses anyway."(Valentine's Day must be more complicated for some Saudi husbands, since they can have, legally, as many as four wives. Identical bouquets would seem to be the best plan, though I must admit I have no experience with that particular romantic problem.)
Hindu extremists have similar objections to the holiday, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle.
New Delhi, Feb. 14: Lovers thronged flower markets to select their choicest expressions of love as India celebrated Valentine's Day on Monday (February 14).All this is amusing, unless you are caught by the religious police in Saudi Arabia, or a Hindu mob in India, but I should admit that I have a little sympathy for those who resist the holiday in other nations. The attraction of Western customs is so strong that it is hard for them to resist being pulled along. But only a little sympathy, since many use violent means to protect their culture. And they should at least consider whether they might gain from adopting Western holidays, since some of them are worth borrowing. I think the American Thanksgiving would enrich any culture. And, while I am on the subject, I'd like to see us exchange our New Year's celebration for the Chinese version, which, as I understand it, is a family and community celebration, not something limited to couples.
- 6:23 AM, 14 February 2005 [link]
Jose Canseco May Be Telling The Truth About Steroid Use: That's the opinion of Seattle Times reporter Larry Stone.
Just to clarify, Jose Canseco is an opportunistic lout and all-around lowlife. He squandered away the bulk of a Hall of Fame-potential career and now is selling out his former teammates in a desperate stab at a quick buck and another 30 minutes of fame.There are reasons some in baseball suspect that Canseco might not be telling the whole truth.
"I'm starting to think that maybe Jose has something wrong with him," said Dave McKay, who coached Canseco and McGwire with the A's. "He'd tell you a story and you'd know he was making up, and he'd know it, too. A couple of months later, he'd tell it again and he believed it. You'd tell him it wasn't true. Maybe he believes this now. Maybe he believes he injected Mark McGwire."I don't follow baseball that closely, but I do follow politics. And that leads me to be suspicious of Canseco's story. If he is telling the truth — especially about drug use on the Texas Rangers while George W. Bush was managing partner — why is he appearing on 60 Minutes? Have any of the other stories that 60 Minutes has run on Bush been entirely true? Not as far as I know.
So I don't quarrel with Stone when he says that it is possible that Canseco is telling the truth, but I would say that isn't the way to bet — at least for that part of his story that concerns George W. Bush.
- 4:06 PM, 13 February 2005 [link]
Eason Jordan Is Out: The CNN executive resigned his position after he became the target of attacks from bloggers for his smear of the US military. Michelle Malkin has a summary of the events here, and a follow up on the continued spinning here. Jordan has still not apologized for his smear and only regrets a lack of clarity.
Jordan could have saved his career, some believe, if he had, early in the controversy, admitted he had been wrong and apologized. He should also have have asked the sponsors at Davos to release the recording of his remarks so as to settle any questions about what he had actually said.
Why didn't he? I don't know, but some thought that what Jordan was doing when he made the smear was trying to earn praise from the anti-American members of the audience. He was, in this interpretation, smearing the United States and the American military in order to win favor with those who hate America. If that is true, there may have been no way that Jordan could escape — once he had said those words. After all, what use is a journalist who lies? They are not just useless, but positively destructive, like a farmer who adds poison to the food he produces or a scientist who fakes his experiments.
Journalists, as I mentioned before, were mostly willing to give Jordan the benefit of the doubt. And still are. Here, for example, is Dave Oliveria's post, in which he asks: "Is the blogosphere a little too ruly and unfair? Are trained journalists better able to play the role as gatekeeper?" To which I reply, yes and no. The blogosphere is often unfair — and journalists have largely failed when it comes to criticizing the errors of other journalists, perhaps for reasons of guild loyalty, as I discussed below. (Speaking of errors, I assume he means "unruly", not "ruly". The blogosphere has many characteristics, but few would include neatness and order among them.)
Finally, I should add my praise for Barney Frank. The Massachusetts congressman is not my favorite House member, but he is honest and patriotic enough to object when the United States military is slandered. (If you haven't been following the controversy, you may need to know that Frank was at the meeting and objected immediately to the smear.)
- 7:20 AM, 13 February 2005 [link]
Is George W. Bush A Superstar? That's an odd question, but even odder is the place where I found that question, the French newspaper, Le Figaro. And the man who asks whether Bush (and Ariel Sharon) may bring peace to the Middle East is Jean d'Ormesson, a man with impeccable French credentials. He's a member of the French Academy, has written serious books and important novels, et cetera, et cetera. (To be fair, I should add that the headline writer appears to be responsible for "superstar", not d'Ormesson.)
D'Ormesson begins by reviewing the way that Bush and Sharon are despised in France, and then notes that two series of events may force the French to change their minds.
En Amérique, contrairement à toutes les prêvisions, Bush a remporté sur Kerry, qui était le candidat de l'Europe et surtout des Français, une victoire écrasante. Ce triomphe imprévu n'aurait réussi qu'à irriter encore davantage démocrates et intellectuels à travers le monde entier si, contrairement, une fois de plus, à tous les pronostics, les élections en Irak n'avaient constitué un succès indéniable pour le président contesté. La mort d'Arafat émeut en France autorités et médias ; au Moyen-Orient, elle ouvre la voie à une possibilité nouvelle de négociations entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.And those new negotiations may bring peace.
Tous les regards se tournent vers Sharon et vers Bush. Ils portent — qui l'aurait cru? — les espérances du monde.Or at least that part of the world that wants peace.
And it may be, d'Ormesson goes on to say, that Sharon is the right man to bring peace with the Palestinians. If he does, he will deserve a place in history.
D'Ormesson then turns back to Bush. He notes that underestimating US presidents is an old game among the French, and that they underestimated President Truman and President Reagan. And Bush, too, may prove himself a great man if he pacifies Iraq and helps bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Events change minds. Even in Europe, yes, even in France. Bush may not be a "superstar" now, but a few of the spectators are beginning to think that he could be.
I'll end with this mischievous thought: Wouldn't it be fun to send this column to, for instance, Michael Moore?
(Note: If you see errors in my rough translation, please let me know. I don't claim any great knowledge of French.)
- 8:45 AM, 12 February 2005
Correction: An emailer whose French is far better than mine suggests this translation for the Arafat sentence:
The death of Arafat is a cause for emotional outcries among French authorities and media; in the Middle East, it paves the way for a new possibility of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.I am sure that's much closer to the real meaning of the sentence than my try. Note, for instance, that the sentence is now in the present tense, rather than the past. (It is a pleasure to have such intelligent and talented readers.)
- 4:20 PM, 13 February 2004
And Another Correction: Another emailer whose French is better than mine suggests this translation for the sentence.
The death of Arafat disturbs French authorities and the media; in the Middle East it opens the way to a new possibility of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.Which is also better than my rough try.
- 6:31 AM, 15 February 2005 [link]
The Good Side Of Revisionist Hyenas: While doing some digging for the long post on trusting professors, I came across this story in Simon Leys' Chinese Shadows.
This reminds me of the interview given in Hong Kong in the early 1960s by a peasant who had escaped from China. The interviewer was asking him what he knew about other countries. When asked, "What do you know about Yugoslavia?" the peasant, painstaking and placid, answered, "It is a pseudosocialist country run by revisionist hyenas in the pay of American capitalism."Leys uses this story to illustrate an argument that Orwell made in 1984. Those without ideology can often escape from the worst propaganda because it means nothing to them. The peasant had learned the Maoist words, but drawn his own conclusions from what else he had learned about Yugoslavia.
(Younger readers made need some explanation of the attacks on Yugoslavia. At that time, Yugoslavia, though still a Communist nation, had taken a more moderate position in foreign affairs and in their internal policies. This had drawn the wrath of the Soviet Union and of Maoist China.
By the way, if you are at all interested in totalitarianism, you should read Simon Leys' books on Maoist China. Besides Chinese Shadows, there are The Chairman's New Clothes, The Burning Forest, and Broken Images.
There is a sad story about Leys. He is a Belgian Sinologist named Pierre Ryckmans, who chose the the pen name of Simon Leys so that he could write frankly about China. Some Maoists in Western Europe tracked him down and revealed his real name, which stopped him, at least for a time, from visiting his beloved China.)
- 1:25 PM, 11 February 2005 [link]
Eason Jordan And Guild Loyalty: By now, you probably have heard the story of Eason Jordan's outrageous charge at Davos. If you haven't, because you rely on the "mainstream" media for news, Michelle Malkin gives the essentials in this column.
For the past week, Internet weblogs ("blogs") around the world have been buzzing about outrageous comments regarding American soldiers reportedly made by Jordan, the head of CNN's news division, at a World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland. (My reporting on the controversy, with extensive links to other bloggers, is at www.michellemalkin.com.) According to several eyewitnesses, Jordan asserted on Jan. 27 that American military personnel had deliberately targeted and killed journalists in Iraq. (Jordan has since disputed the characterization of his remarks.)Various bloggers have ventured reasons for the poor coverage of this sensational charge by the "mainstream" media. Mickey Kaus, for instance, points out, as he has before, that Howie Kurtz, who covers the media for the Washington Post, is also employed by CNN. Which would explain Kurtz's limited, modified hangout column on the controversy. Others have noted that journalists often move from one news organization to another, and that few would want to alienate a potential employer. Malkin herself has speculated that the weak piece by the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens can be explained by their objections to her desire for better controls on immigration.
My own explanation, which does not conflict with those, is that journalists, like members of most professions, and many occupations, are bound in part by "guild loyalty". People in a profession (and some occupations) almost instinctively tend to protect those working in the same profession (or occupation). There is nothing novel about this idea; almost everyone knows that police officers often protect other officers, and doctors often protect other doctors. (Sometimes even when those other doctors may have been murderers. James Stewart argues, in his book, Blind Eye, that serial murderer Dr. Michael Swango escaped prosecution in part because other doctors protected him. The subtitle of the hard cover edition of the book is: "How the Medical Establishment Let a Doctor Get Away with Murder", but if you read the book you will learn that nurses in the hospitals where he committed some of the murders were often suspicious, and that he was protected by doctors in official positions.) Those who have followed police scandals know that officers protecting other officers is an almost universal part of such scandals.
So we shouldn't be surprised to see journalists acting similarly and almost instinctively protecting a fellow journalist, Eason Jordan. And we should draw this conclusion from that example of guild loyalty: journalists can not be relied on to investigate other journalists. The same arguments for civilian controls on police departments — that the police can not always be trusted to investigate their own — apply with journalists, it seems. And guild loyalty also explains why those in the "mainstream" media were so reluctant to investigate Dan Rather and Mary Mapes, after they concocted a story attacking Bush, a story that relied on obviously forged documents. (Imagine, just for amusement, how journalists would have treated a similar story about the Bush administration.)
That guild loyalty of journalists to other journalists is why the rise of the blogs is so important. If journalists are reluctant to call other journalists to account, then someone else must do that job. Those outside the guild must call guild members to account. (One can argue that, for that reason, newspaper ombudsmen should not be drawn from professional journalists. For that job, you need a person who does not identify with other journalists.) And I think we bloggers are beginning to do just that.
(For more on the Eason Jordan scandal, look at posts by Michelle Malkin here, here, here, and here. And there's a post here from Rony Abovitz, who was, I believe, the first person to publicize Eason Jordan's smear.
For more on the medieval guilds, and what they required in loyalty, see here, here, here, and here. Then as now, guilds claimed to protect the public; then as now, guilds usually protected their members against the public.)
- 12:42 PM, 11 February 2005 [link]
Don't Ask That Question: On January 26, "Jeff Gannon" of Talon News asked President Bush this question at a White House press conference.
Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock-solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?It's a partisan question, but no more partisan than many questions that get asked of President Bush — and perhaps less partisan than the average Helen Thomas question. For instance, at the same press conference, there was this attempt to trap Bush.
Mr. President, let me take you up on that, if I may. Last month in Jordan, a gentleman named Ali Hatar was arrested after delivering a lecture called, "Why We Boycott America." He was charged under section 191 of their penal code for slander of government officials. He stood up for democracy, you might say. And I wonder if here and now, you will specifically condemn this abuse of human rights by a key American ally. And if you won't, sir, then what, in a practical sense, do your fine words mean?The news organization — I think it was ABC — thought so little of this incident themselves that they had not even published a story on Ali Hatar before this question.
So partisan questions — at least partisan questions from Democrats — are hardly unusual at press conferences. But what happened to "Jeff Gannon" after he asked that question was. As it turns out, "Jeff Gannon" is not his real name and there are things in his background, a connection to gay pornography, for example, that some would find embarrassing. Several leftist bloggers, who have no objection to gays or pornography, dug up this background, published it and forced "Jeff Gannon" out of a job.
The "Instapundit", Glenn Reynolds, calls this despicable. I would agree. And it is not the first time that those on the left used such tactics. (Nor are those on the right entirely free from using personal smears to attack their ideological opponents, though it is rarer on the right, at least in recent times.) Eric, of Classical Values, calls this attack, "McCarthyism", and I can see why he would think so.
But what troubles me most about the entire affair is this: Will other moderate or conservative reporters with personal weaknesses be more likely, or less likely, to ask questions critical of Democratic politicians, knowing that they may be exposed? I think the answer to that is obvious. This will have a chilling effect on some kinds of questions — and I think it was intended to have that effect.
- 12:55 PM, 10 February 2005 [link]
Should Felons Vote? The Seattle PI, which endorsed Democrats in both 2000 and 2004 thinks so. The New York Times, which endorsed Democrats in both 2000 and 2004 also thinks so. The Seattle Times, which endorsed Bush in 2000 and Kerry last year, has not taken a position on question, but did publish this column arguing that felons should vote.
You may notice a pattern. The newspapers that always back Democratic candidates favor felons voting. Or, to be more precise, favor the automatic restoration of voting rights to felons once they have served their sentences. (There are a few places that allow felons to vote while in prison.) And you may have noticed that elected Democrats are more enthusiastic about restoring voting rights to felons than elected Republicans.
There is no secret about the pattern. Felons generally vote Democratic. I would estimate that nationally they vote Democratic by at least three to one. (If you are interested in seeing an example of the data that led me to this conclusion, read this extended analysis of the 2000 vote by felons in Florida.) So it is not surprising to see that partisan newspapers favor a measure that would help their party.
The three pieces I linked to make similar arguments, but none confront the point made in Roger Clegg's letter, replying to the New York Times editorial.
People who are not willing to follow the law - who commit serious crimes against their fellow citizens - cannot claim a right to make the law for the rest of us. Voting creates laws, either directly (through referendums) or indirectly (by choosing lawmakers). The franchise can be returned to felons, but this should be done only on a case-by-case basis.Or more briefly, people who won't follow the law should not be allowed to help make it.
That seems like a sensible principle. But I am not sure that I agree with Clegg's recommendation. I would never restore the voting rights to those convicted of first degree murder. I would probably automatically restore voting rights to those convicted of lesser felonies — after a waiting period to see whether they have gone straight. For felons in between those extremes, I would favor in between approaches. If they have had a clean record for some years after they have been released, then they should be allowed to apply for the reinstatement of their voting rights.
What standards should we use to determine whether their rights should be restored? Let me suggest one that will help clarify the matter: If we would accept a felon having the right to own and use a firearm, then we should accept their right to vote. If not, not. That idea is not original, but I do find it helps think about the problem. And it points out a certain hypocrisy common among those who want to restore voting rights automatically. Very few of them would also restore a felon's gun rights automatically. Beyond that, I think this is a matter that can be worked out over time by the states.
Finally, I should add a scandalous point never mentioned by those who favor allowing felons to vote. Some jurisdictions, especially those with Democratic election officials, have already given felons the right to vote, simply by not enforcing the state laws. I think we need to make an example of some of these officials and convict them of crimes that would, among other things, deprive them of their right to vote.
- 2:27 PM, 9 February 2005 [link]
Canadian Prime Minister Gets More Popular: And what caused the increase in Paul Martin's popularity? He shook hands with President Bush.
Shaking hands and breaking bread with U.S. President George W. Bush in Ottawa last December helped Prime Minister Paul Martin boost his personal image among Canadians but is not enough to improve his fortunes at the ballot box and deliver him a majority government, a new poll says.If the pollster is right — and, although I have not looked at the full poll results, I have no reason to doubt him — Canadians thought that relations between the nations needed repair and were pleased to see Martin and Bush make some effort to do that.
Almost two years ago, I argued that improvement in US-Canadian relations would come only after Prime Minister Jean Chrétien left office. That prediction looks pretty good right now, if I do say so myself.
(This popularity gain may seem to contradict arguments from Canadian commentators that I have quoted earlier. Some Canadian political analysts said that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was provoking a quarrel with President Bush for political gains. It doesn't really, because those commentators said that Chrétien was doing this to protect his base in Quebec, not to gain popularity in Canada as a whole. Quebec is much more anti-American than the rest of Canada.)
- 7:36 AM, 9 February 2005 [link]
Crayon Diversity* and Ideological Diversity In Law Schools: Professor Jim Lindgren favors both. He backs traditional affirmative action plans (crayon diversity) and he believes — with good reason — that white Republicans and Christians are also under represented. Way back in 1996, Lindgren shocked Yale with these ideas, and with the data he had gathered to show which groups were under represented. (He was immediately tagged, incorrectly, as an opponent of crayon diversity.)
Now Professor Stephen Bainbridge takes that data, and a book provided by the UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity, and makes this guess:
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this book, since Prop 209 presumably bars me from making use of such data in voting on hiring decisions. In any case, I note that there is no data on forms of diversity other than race and gender, such as intellectual or political diversity. No surprise there. My guess is that the highest underutilization number would be for pro-life female Republicans of all ethnicities.Bainbridge calls this a guess because we don't have many people collecting data on ideological diversity. After giving the "underutilization" data for the ethnic groups at his law school, he concludes:
The number of Republicans on our faculty is roughly the same as the number of African-Americans, for whatever that's worth, by the way. According to the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg 2004 Election Survey, 31.8% of the electorate identifies as Republican. Assuming that figure as the availability estimate, the expected number of Republican faculty should be 20.35 (I know that Republican affiliation skews lower among individuals with post-graduate degrees, but I'm having trouble finding that data). Subtracting the expected number of Republican faculty from the number of actual Republicans (5) gives us an underutilization factor of -15.35, which would be significantly higher than the factor for any ethnic group.I can help Professor Bainbridge a little with the data. In the last five presidential elections, the Republican candidate won an average of the 42.8 percent of the vote from voters with post-graduate educations, according to the New York Times exit poll. Since third party candidates were important factors in many of those elections, the Republican share of the two party vote in this group is probably about 45 percent. That's close to the share won by Bush in the last two election, 44 percent in both 2000 and 2004. There are some complications in both the definition of party that Professor Bainbridge uses, and the fact that partisanship varies greatly with the field, but I think he could safely say that he would expect at least one in three law school professors to be Republicans, without being too far off.
Professor Bainbridge, as far as I can tell, does not share Professor Lindgren's support for crayon diversity. But I like to think that both of them might agree with me on this practical point: Republican legislators are less likely to support institutions that discriminate against Republicans in hiring. That few university administrators seem to have noticed that point, which seems obvious to me, shows, I suppose, just how out of touch they are.
(*By crayon diversity, I mean choosing people for their colors — which usually results in a group of people with similar views. For a time, I used crayola diversity for the same concept, but decided to switch to a term not protected legally.)
- 1:07 PM, 8 February 2005 [link]