Archive:

July 2004, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Alligators, Panthers, Coral Snakes, Tigers, And Pythons:  You might think that Florida has enough dangerous animals without importing more, but some Floridians disagree.  You probably heard a week or so ago about the escaped tiger; now another dangerous "pet" has escaped.
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- A 16-foot-long Burmese python was captured on a city street after a passing motorist spotted about three feet of it hanging over a curb and called police.

The brown-and-yellow snake was wrestled into a body bag and taken to the home of Vero Beach Animal Control Officer Bruce Dangerfield.
. . .
Dangerfield said he has picked up dozens of loose Burmese pythons and boa constrictors over the years, but this was the biggest.
Dozens?  Then some must still be out there.  Wonder if Burmese pythons can breed in Florida's climate?
- 7:46 AM, 24 July 2004   [link]


More "Suppression Of Dissent":  Authorities in Boston don't like Mark Pasquale's sign.
A 24-foot-long ''Go Bush" banner hanging on a pizza shop across from the FleetCenter has drawn plenty of attention amid preparations for the Democratic National Convention this week.  But yesterday, a city inspector stopped by and slapped Halftime Pizza with a citation for hanging an unlicensed banner.

The 4-foot high sign reads, "Say DNC Thanks for Nothing! Go Bush."
Pasquale has his own reasons for being unhappy with the Democrats; he had hoped to sell pizza to the delegates, but learned that the party of working folks will feed its delegates at private parties.

(This kind of harassment is common around political events, and practiced by both sides.  The very worst recent example I can recall happened at the 1992 Democratic convention in New York.   A prominent pro-life activist confronted Bill Clinton with a jar containing a fetus while Clinton was jogging.  The activist had been ordered by a judge, who seems not to have read the First Amendment, not to demonstrate.  For breaking that court order, the activist, whose name escapes me, was sent to jail for six months.  The case drew no attention from civil liberties groups.

As always, try to imagine the reaction if a Republican judge had sent a peaceful pro-abortion protester to jail for months.)
- 7:13 AM, 24 July 2004   [link]


Hollywood Produces Anti-Terrorist Mini-Series:  No, really, and the villains are radical Muslims.
For the most part, Hollywood ignores the war on terror.  Since September 11, 2001, only a handful of movies and TV shows have been produced that mention the attacks on America.  The broader subject of the war on terrorism has been addressed barely at all.  And the war in Iraq has been taken up only twice, in documentaries--The Control Room and--which are largely critical of America and fawning of the Islamists with whom we are at war.

So if I told you that TNT was airing a mini-series, called The Grid, about the war on terror, you would know what to expect: Sympathetic, over-burdened Muslims and Americans who, when not fighting silly bureaucratic turf-wars, were waging brutal, destructive, real ones.  As it turns out, you would be wrong.  The Grid is the bravest, most-daring piece of entertainment in years.
. . .
Fortunately, Tracey Alexander and Brian Eastman, the executive producers of The Grid, refused to be cowed.  The Grid is not anti-Islamic propaganda.  It features several admirable, even heroic, Muslim characters.  In fact, the show's creators have gone to great lengths to present a good and moderate picture of Islam.  Smartly, they hired Khaled Abou El Fadl, one of the brave voices of moderate, modern Islam, as their Islamic technical advisor.  His important influence shows in every frame.

HOWEVER, The Grid does not pretend that all forms of Islam are benevolent.  Barely five minutes into the first episode, one character is worrying about what will happen in Saudi Arabia if "extreme Wahhabis" take over the government.  This is, to my knowledge, the first time the term "Wahhabi" has been used in a non-news television program.
This is a first since 9/11, I think.
- 7:56 AM, 23 July 2004   [link]


Chuckle:  Greenpeace is in trouble with the state of Alaska &mdash for not following regulations on oil pollution.
Alaska prosecutors Thursday filed criminal charges against Greenpeace, saying the activist group broke environmental laws by not submitting oil spill prevention documents before its ship entered state waters.
Imagine the Greenpeace reaction if an oil company tried to get away with their excuse, that it was just a clerical error.  (Which it probably was.)
- 6:03 AM, 23 July 2004   [link]


Ammonia On Mars?  Probably not.  In this post, I noted a BBC story by David Whitehouse that reported possible detection of ammonia, most likely from microbes on Mars.  Judging by this update, from the Toronto Globe and Mail, the BBC's story is not credible.
Now finding any sign of anything life-like on Mars is to space science what a cure for cancer is in medical research.  Not only is the discovery big news unto itself, it would also lose billions and billions of dollars of future research funding.

Accordingly, hundreds of journalists began telephoning ESA for more information and were referred to Guido De Marchi, an astronomer who also works as a Holland-based press officer for ESA.

His corporate-approved response to the BBC report of microbe-produced ammonia was six degrees north of damning and 12 kilometres beyond dismissive.

"It is not true; it is a hoax," he told me Friday.
. . .
He concluding by saying that this was not the first time Mr. Whitehouse had written an article based on speculation which later proved to be wrong.
As you know, I am more than a little suspicious of any BBC story on politics or international affairs.  I suppose that I will have to be suspicious of their science reporting, too.
- 8:41 AM, 22 July 2004   [link]


More On Muslim Crime:  I have often commented on the high proportion of Muslim criminals in Western countries.  Numbers on this are hard to find, for many reasons, not excluding political correctness.  Andrew Sullivan found this one startling, but it is about what I have learned to expect.
France's prison population is more than 50 percent Muslim.
The 2003 Britannica Almanac puts the Muslim percentage of the French population at 7.1 percent, as of 2000.   I should add that numbers on religious affiliation are notoriously inexact, but I think we can be reasonably certain that Muslims are not much more than 10 percent of the French population, a number one sometimes sees in newspaper stories.  Even assuming that Muslims are 10 percent of the French population, they would be five times more likely to be criminals, or at least inmates, than the average Frenchman.  Or, to put it another way, without Muslims, France's crime problem would be cut in half.
- 8:16 AM, 22 July 2004   [link]


Hard Disk Failure:  A few days ago, I began hearing unusual noises from my second hard disk, which holds Linux and all my work on this site.  I backed my work up (just in time), replaced the hard disk, and installed a later version of Red Hat.  (Fedora Core 2, for those who are interested.)

I am now back on line, have set up my email, and have started copying files from the back-up CD.  I hope to catch up on all my email tomorrow, but if you sent me something urgent, feel free to send it again.

(The hard disk was an IBM Deskstar — which replaced a previous IBM Deskstar which had failed, within the warranty.  I had bought the first one because IBM disk drives had, for many years, an excellent reputation for quality.  A reputation which they almost destroyed with the model that I, unknowingly, bought.  I suspect the failures on that model were one of the reasons that IBM sold its disk business to Hitachi.  The new drive, as you may have guessed, is from neither Hitachi nor IBM, but from Seagate.  So far, at least, it hasn't made any strange sounds.)
- 7:16 PM, 21 July 2004
Changed My Mind and switched back to Red Hat 9, after learning that the Nvidia graphics drivers for Fedora Core 2 are not ready for prime time.  (There are open source drives that handle 2-D fine, but for 3-D games you need the drivers from Nvidia.)  Rather than just copy over all my old files, I am planning to do some clean up, but should have everything done by Monday or Tuesday.  I'll still be posting, but perhaps not quite as often.
- 5:40 AM, 23 July 2004   [link]


Welfare Reform Worked:  That's the conclusion of a big study by Scott Winship and Christopher Jencks.
When President Clinton signed welfare reform into law in 1996, many observers predicted a sharp increase in poverty among single mothers and their children.  Some social welfare advocates worried that single mothers would be unable to find work, or that moving from welfare to work would boost their income while decreasing their material standard of living.

For example: A single mother might replace her $550 monthly welfare and food stamps with $800 per month from a $6-an-hour job, yet incur $650 monthly expenses for child-and healthcare.

As the welfare rolls fell to the lowest levels in 40 years, we counted ourselves among the concerned.  But our recently completed study of 25,000 single-mother families in the post-welfare reform era surprised us.  Our findings disproved the theory that welfare reform would increase hardship.  Instead, poverty and hunger among single mothers and their children have declined, even taking into account the negative impacts of the 2001 recession.
Christopher Jencks is a man of the left, the decent, honest, caring left.  (And yes, there still are many on the left who fit in that category, though fewer than there once were, I think.)   So these conclusions, and his honest admission that he was wrong, have even more force.  What he is saying, though not in these words, is that Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole were right, and that Jencks, most Democrats, and nearly all Harvard professors were wrong about the 1996 Welfare Reform act.

(What about his argument that welfare should not be further reformed?  About that, I am not sure, since it requires more knowledge of the details of the current system than I have.  I suspect some states would benefit from further tightening.)
- 9:42 AM, 21 July 2004   [link]


Passion, Authenticity, And Bigotry?  This entirely positive account of Linda Ronstadt's current tour includes this amazing bit of bigotry.
"My career has befuddled other people, and it's befuddled me," admitted Ronstadt, 58, who finds her fans are polarized by her nightly on-stage salute to "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore.

"I've been dedicating a song to him — I think he's a great patriot — and it splits the audience down the middle, and they duke it out," she said.

"This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down.  It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian.  It can cloud my enjoyment.  I'd rather not know."
Let's do one of the standard substitutions and see how that statement sounds.  Suppose she had said that finding a Democrat in her audience spoiled it for her?  Or, even worse, a Muslim?   Would the writer have noticed her bigotry then?  I hope so.  (It is not entirely clear what she means by "go to a concert".  From the context, I think she means perform, rather than attend, though most of us would mean attend.  But then most of us aren't millionaire performers.)   I think it fair to guess that it will never occur to her that she might learn something from Republicans and fundamental Christians, though she thinks they should listen to her views without dissent.

That's not the only bizarre thing in the interview.  There was also this bit.
The state of the nation: "I saw a movie recently about a camel and these people in Mongolia, and I relate to them better than people here in this country.  It looks like (Germany's) Weimar Republic to me here."
So, she is now spending her time raising camels or sheep?  No, she is performing in Las Vegas, a place which needs no lessons from the Weimar Republic in decadence.  It may be mean of me, but I can't help adding that the Nazis were big on authenticity and the values of pastoral peoples.  (I suspect Ronstadt is not familiar with Mongolia's interesting and very warlike history, or the country's current support for the coalition in Iraq.)

One last question: What's the best Ronstadt song as background for this story?  I have just three of her CDs, but see some possibilities immediately.  Her own choice, Desperado, wouldn't be bad since it includes, as I recall, a line asking the desperado (Michael Moore?) to come to his senses.  There's also You're No Good and Crazy, which seem a little harsh.  (Though the first seems like a perfect theme song for Mr. Moore.)  What about You Can Close Your Eyes or Lose Again?  Suggestions from those who know more about her songs are welcome.

As for me, I plan to play her songs from time to time — even though our ideas on politics differ.  I hope that is not too radical a thought for Ms. Ronstadt or the author of this shameless plug, Alex Varga.
- 9:16 AM, 21 July 2004   [link]


National Forests Are For Logging:  And for other uses, but mainly for logging.  Almost every American newspaper has carried a story in the last week about the Bush administration decision to reverse a Clinton policy blocking roads in parts of our national forests.  None that I have seen make the obvious point.  Bush was simply restoring the policy that had governed our national forests since they were first established.

To understand this, first a little history.   The national forests were set up to provide scientific management of our timber.  They were put under the Department of Agriculture, where they still are, for two reason, to protect against corruption, since it was thought that Agriculture would be less likely to be corrupt than Interior, and because the forests were to be managed as a good farmer manages his land.  Mostly for the yield, but also for other uses where appropriate, just as a farmer may set aside a little land for a small park.

The Forest Service mission statement is clogged with bureaucratese, but the original purpose can still be found.
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
And what are they to produce?  Timber, mostly.  Produced in a sustainable way, so that we can continue to harvest about the same number of board feet next year as we did this year.

If this is the purpose of the national forests, then roads are necessary.  So, why was the Clinton administration converting millions of acres into roadless areas?  Because they didn't agree with that purpose for many parts of our national forests.  By changing them to roadless areas, they were stopping the harvest of timber, without having to go through the long legislative struggles to create wilderness areas.  Now one can argue that some of these areas should be wilderness areas, and that in some areas the building of roads is an unjustifiable subsidy, but, if so, the policy should be changed openly, especially when so many jobs and communities are at stake.

(Confused about the other categories of federal land?  Here's a very brief summary, perhaps misleadingly brief.  National Parks are intended for recreation and are managed by the Park Service under the Interior department.  Wilderness areas are, as the name suggests, intended to preserve wild areas, though they allow some limited non-motorized recreation, hiking, cross country skiing and the like.  Nearly all (all?) the land in wilderness areas was originally part of a national forest, generally the ruggedest part.  Finally, there are national monuments, mostly small places but including some very large ones such as Mt. St. Helens.  I an not certain, but I believe that the president has the authority to establish a monument on his own, which explains why some areas are monuments rather than parks.)
- 3:57 PM, 20 July 2004   [link]


Some Thoughts On Sandy Berger:  By now, I am sure that you have heard the news.  The former Clinton National Security Adviser (and current adviser to candidate John Kerry) has admitted removing handwritten notes on secret documents and "inadvertently" removing some of the documents themselves.  (For more, see this AP story, this very full Eric Scheie post, with many links to more sources, and some interesting speculation from Debka, which thinks Berger may have been caught by hidden cameras.)

The very best explanation that his friends and supporters have for his behavior is that he was incompetent at handling secret documents, not an encouraging quality in a former national security adviser.  That's the best explanation.  The worst is that he was deliberately destroying documents that would embarrass himself, Clinton, or both.

The legal process may tell us, in time, which of those explanations is correct.  If Debka is right about the cameras, photographs may settle the matter, although I am afraid they can not remove all doubt about the extent of his guilt.

I will wait for more facts to come out to make my own judgment.  But I must say that the incident strengthens a suspicion I had when Berger was first named national security adviser.  Berger was a surprising choice, though he had served as deputy director of policy planning for the State Department.  I wondered then if Berger was not being chosen more for his long friendship with Bill Clinton, a friendship that went back to the 1972 McGovern campaign, than for his qualifications.   And I wondered if Berger was not so much the US National Security Adviser as still another lawyer protecting Bill Clinton's political position.

(As many have noted, the New York Times embarrassed itself once again by burying the story.  Even worse, whoever rewrote it from the wire service appears to have gotten many of the facts wrong, as Don Luskin and his correspondents note — unless the Associated Press story is bogus.  For example, the AP says that Berger admits losing documents; the Times says that he returned all of the missing documents.)
- 2:53 PM, 20 July 2004   [link]


What Kind Of Fools Do They Take Us For?  George Stephanopolous has been a Democrat all his adult life.  He worked hard to get Clinton elected and then served under him in the White House.  If you are one of the few people who watch his program, you know that he still favors the Democrats.  But Ted Koppel, of the same network, wants us to believe that he doesn't know who Stephanopolous will vote for.
The MRC's Tim Graham alerted me to a July 14 San Francisco Chronicle article by Tim Goodman about remarks made by top ABC News talent to the July 12 session in Los Angeles with the Television Critics Association. Goodman recounted:

"When someone wondered if, as the election approaches, Stephanopoulos won't be seen as partisan based on his past, Koppel rose up in defense: 'I'm a little bemused,' he said, 'by the fact that you would ask a question like that in a media environment in which you've got your Sean Hannitys out there, you've got your Bill O'Reillys out there.  You've got a ton of people out there who not only make no secret whatsoever of where their political sympathies lie, but feel it is their role as journalists to push that particular line of thinking forward.  What George is saying, 'Hey, no secret. You know, I've worked for a lot of Democrats over the years. You may even be right.'  And I don't know that George will ultimately vote for Kerry and not Bush.
The difference, of course, is that Hannity and O'Reilly were not hired as, and do not pretend to be, neutral journalists, unlike Stephanopolous and, for that matter, Ted Koppel.
- 8:15 AM, 20 July 2004   [link]


Apparently Some New Yorkers  have been sharing their thoughts with the French.
In a sign that relations between Washington and Paris remain a bit testy, a notice on the front door of the French Consulate in New York warns Americans applying for a visa to check their attitude before entering.

"Visas for France are not a right.  Persons applying for visas are requested to show due respect for Consular personnel.  Failure to do so will result in the denial of the application and denied entry into any of the EU countries," says the sign posted in English at the French Consulate at 10 East 74th St., referring to the European Union.
(According to a lawyer specializing in international law, the sign claims an authority over EU visas that France does not have.)
- 7:22 AM, 20 July 2004   [link]


People Don't Always Tell The Truth To Pollsters:  There's an example in this Gallup poll on Fahrenheit 9/11.
According to the most recent Gallup survey, more than half of all American adults (56%) either have seen or expect, at some time, to see Michael Moore's controversial movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, a highly critical look at the Bush administration's decision to fight a war in Iraq.  The poll was conducted July 8-11.  At the time, 8% of Americans said they have already seen the movie, 18% expected to see it in the theater, and 30% expected to watch the video.  Among all Americans, more people have an unfavorable than favorable impression of the movie, but those who have seen it are overwhelmingly favorable.
Let's try a few back of the envelope calculations on these numbers.  If there are 200 million American adults, then 16 million have already seen the movie and 96 million plan to.  Is that 96 million plausible for a movie that was the top movie (after much promotion from leftwing groups) for a single week and then quickly faded?  I suppose that a few movies — Star Wars comes to mind — have had that large an audience, but very few.  As I understand it, the proportion of the population that goes to movies has actually been shrinking, so that makes this result even less plausible.

And we can try some common sense on the results, too.  Those who have seen it are mostly on the far left.  Those who haven't, aren't.  Is it likely that they will rush to see a movie they expect to find offensive?

Two questions occur immediately.  Why did Gallup ask this question, and why did the respondents give these implausible answers?  I can't be sure about the first, but I have seen, repeatedly, evidence of anti-Bush bias at Gallup in the last year or so, something I never detected in the past.

As for the second, this is an old problem in polling.  People will try to please the pollsters and make themselves look good.  The news media have made seeing the movie something that good citizens should do, so many people will say that they plan to, even though they never will.   The people who do this are not necessarily lying; they may be deceiving themselves as well as the pollsters.  But sometimes they do lie.  There was an experiment, in the late 1940s, I believe, with a poll question on a nonexistent bill.  When asked, very large numbers of voters gave opinions on the nonexistent bill, some for, some against.  Rather than appear ignorant, they invented opinions on the spot.  The more complex the issue, the more likely poll results will include these "junk" opinions.

(Technical point: There are ways to screen out ignorant voters and the better polls use them.   One common technique is to ask people if they have "happened" to hear about an issue, making it as easy as possible for them to admit they haven't.)
- 6:40 AM, 20 July 2004   [link]


What Happens If You Commit Vote Fraud In Florida?  In nearly all cases, nothing.
Florida has spent millions in unsuccessful attempts to remove felons from voter rolls, and it waves a big stick at those who vote illegally: up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Yet felons who vote have little to fear.

Since the 1970s, fewer than 40 people have been convicted of casting an illegal vote, and only two have been sentenced to prison.  Most receive probation for voting as felons, nonresidents or noncitizens.
And that's what happens to those who get caught, which few do.

As I have mentioned before, the 1993 "Motor Voter" law made cheating easier.
In the 1990s, voter fraud grew with new federal motor-voter laws, which allow driver's license applicants to swear they are qualified to vote with a check mark and a signature.
. . .
When Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio served as elections supervisor in Hillsborough County, she pursued voter fraud, but made a deal with the State Attorney's Office to ignore illegal voters who registered through motor-voter applications, said lawyer Craig Clendinen, a former assistant state attorney who says he won voter fraud convictions that do not appear in state records.

"Am I going to prosecute this guy who went to get a driver's license, and can sit there with a straight face and say I went to get a driver's license?" said Clendinen, now a private lawyer.   "This guy did not intend to commit a crime."
Or at least it would be harder to prove.

The writer, Jennifer Liberto, does not mention the largest reason vote fraud is tolerated.  In nearly all cases, it helps Democratic candidates.  Those who get caught, in Florida and elsewhere, are almost always Democrats.  And of the three groups she mentions as problems, two of the three, felons and noncitizens, generally vote Democratic.  (The third, nonresidents, may as well.  There were reports in 2000 that both Democratic and Republicans retirees voted both in Florida and in their home states.  I would expect that behavior to be more common among Democrats, because more of them come from areas in which vote fraud was common, but I have seen no numbers.)

This morning, I learned that John Kerry is building a legal network for the election.  I hate to say this, but I must wonder, given recent history, whether he hopes to prevent vote fraud — or to protect it.
- 2:50 PM, 19 July 2004   [link]


Suppose John Kerry  had been endorsed by the American communist party.   Suppose he regularly quoted a line from a poet known as much for his communist sympathies as for his poetry.  Suppose that, as a senator, Kerry had opposed aid to anti-communist groups in Central America.  Suppose that he was treated as a hero by a Vietnamese communist museum, for his part in helping the communists win the Vietnam War.  Would it be fair to call Kerry a communist?  No.  It would not even be fair, in my opinion, to call him pro-communist, or even, a closer call, to say that he was soft on communism.  I do think that, if all those things were true, we could raise legitimate questions about his judgment and his understanding of communism.   And, if all those things were true, his opponents could ask why he was so unwilling to see and oppose the evil of communism.  But it would not, I repeat, be fair to call him a communist or even to say that he was pro-communist.

My opinion, I think it fair to say, would be shared by 99 out of 100 newspaper editors.  So why do they, more and more, permit their writers and cartoonists to call George W. Bush a fascist, indirectly and now directly as in this Ted Rall cartoon?   I should add that none of the hypotheticals that I mentioned above are true for President Bush.  He has not been endorsed by the American Nazi party, he does not quote poetry from a pro-fascist poet, and so on.  And he overthrew Saddam's regime, which could be called fascist.  Nonetheless, newspapers still carry cartoons like this one.

The Seattle PI, which carried this cartoon on Saturday, should apologize for the smear and drop Rall, if he is unwilling to apologize.  And I should add that this wasn't a matter of just plugging in the usual submission from Rall.  Rall does three cartoons a week and the PI publishes just one.   An editor at the PI selected this one from several.  Whether that editor should be dismissed is something I will leave to the management at the PI, but they should not consider the decision a plus when they do their evaluations.

This deliberate PI decision to smear Bush as a fascist is disgraceful.  And I am disappointed in Mark Trahant, the editorial page editor, who told me (in an email) that he thought it was wrong for those on the left to use such tactics.  Though I must add that he has yet to say that publicly, as far as I know, anyway.

One thing is certain.  Some wackos on the right will smear John Kerry as a communist, if they have not already done so.  I will condemn them for it.  But the PI has lost the right to do so, credibly.

(One final point:  Those hypotheticals about Kerry?  They are all true.  But he still should not be called a communist, or labeled pro-communist.)
- 1:57 PM, 19 July 2004   [link]


Here's A Curious Coincidence:  In their first tries at elected office, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and John Kerry all ran for House seats.  (Kerry ran first, in 1972, Clinton in 1974, and Bush in 1978.)  All three were defeated.   There was a common factor in the three defeats; all were a bit new to their districts and were defeated by a man with deeper roots in the district.  (That was especially true of John Kerry, whose district shopping was so blatant as to become a big issue in the campaign.  He was the only Democratic candidate to lose a House district carried by McGovern.)

I don't think there is any great moral to this except to show that none of the three is easily discouraged.  Since then, neither Bush nor Kerry has lost an election.  Clinton, on the other hand, was defeated after his first term as governor, and took it hard.

One final bit of trivia: The man who defeated Bush in 1978, Kent Hance, switched to the Republican party soon after — and endorsed Bush in 2000.
- 9:34 AM, 19 July 2004   [link]


Someone Didn't Get The Memo:  Or more exactly, didn't read Susan Schmidt's article a week ago, or any of the other pieces that have discredited Joseph Wilson.  Why else would the Kerry campaign issue this press release, with these lines?
Rice Didn't Read CIA Memo Warning of Dubious Intelligence In Bush State of the Union.  When asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether she read a memo from the CIA which had debunked the Niger/yellowcake claim, Rice responded, "I don't remember the memo.  It came after it had been taken out of the speech, and so it's quite possible that I didn't." [NBC, "Meet The Press," 9/28/03]

Bush Was Kept In The Dark About False Niger Claim.  "The official said Bush was 'briefed' on the NIE's contents, but 'I don't think he sat down over a long weekend and read every word of it.' Asked whether Bush was aware the State Department called the Africa-uranium claim 'highly dubious,' the official, who coordinated Bush's State of the Union address, said: 'He did not know that.'" [Washington Post, 7/19/03]
The date of the press release?  July 14, four days after the Schmidt article.

Last I heard, Joseph Wilson was still an adviser to the Kerry campaign.  If I were Senator Kerry, I would cut Wilson — and my losses.

(The press release is probably an effort to lessen the damage from Kerry's admission that he had not yet taken the time to listen to the latest briefing on terrorist threats.)
- 7:49 AM, 19 July 2004   [link]


William Safire Does  a little victory dance on top of Joseph Wilson's shredded reputation.
The he-lied-to-us charge was led by Joseph Wilson, a former diplomat sent in early 2002 by the C.I.A. to Niger to check out reports by several European intelligence services that Iraq had secretly tried to buy that African nation's only major export, "yellowcake" uranium ore.
. . .
Two exhaustive government reports came out last week showing that it is the president's lionized accuser, and not Mr. Bush, who has been having trouble with the truth.

Contrary to his indignant claim that "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter" of selecting him for the African trip, the Senate published testimony that his C.I.A. wife had "offered up his name" and printed her memo to her boss that "my husband has good relations" with Niger officials and "lots of French contacts."  Further destroying his credibility, Wilson now insists this strong pitch did not constitute a recommendation.

More important, it now turns out that senators believe his report to the C.I.A. after visiting Niger actually bolstered the case that Saddam sought — Bush's truthful verb was "sought" — yellowcake, the stuff of nuclear bombs.  The C.I.A. gave Wilson's report a "good" grade because "the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999 and that the Nigerien Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium" — confirming what the British and Italian intelligence services had told us from their own sources.
And then adds this interesting suggestion.
But when word leaked about the fake documents — which were not the basis of the previous reporting by our allies — Wilson launched his publicity campaign, acting as if he had known earlier about the forgeries.
The fake documents came to us, as you may recall, through an Italian journalist, in October 2003.   As far as I know, no one has established with certainty who forged the documents, or why.  The crude forgery had the effect of discrediting the rest of the case.  The Soviets often used that tactic during the Cold War, introducing fake evidence to discredit a true story.  That may have happened here, or we may just have had a con man trying to make a little money.  In either case, Safire asks a good question: Did Wilson know about these documents before they became public?
- 7:18 AM, 19 July 2004   [link]


Harriet And Martin Tour Israel's Fence:  And learn nothing.  
The Israel Defense Forces were taking foreign reporters on a tour of the "separation fence" late last month, days before Israel's Supreme Court balanced humanitarian and security considerations, ordering the army to remove a small portion of the barrier and re-route other sections that might impose undue hardships on Palestinians.

Conducting our tour was a lieutenant colonel named Shai, the former battalion commander for the area.  Also in the van: an IDF spokesman and the two Brits: Harriet, a foreign editor of the influential UK publication The Guardian, and Martin, a correspondent for the Times of London.
. . .
While Shai was in charge of the area, a terrorist had opened fire on an Israeli family returning from a wedding.  A 7-year-old girl was killed; Shai removed her body from the car.

When you take out a child with a big hole in her chest," he said, pointing to the spot where the attack occurred, "you understand why you need this wall.  We measured the angle from the highest house where a sniper might be hiding to the road and built it accordingly."

Harriet had a question, but it was not about the horror that Shai, himself a father of young children, had witnessed that day.

"So if they build something higher, you'll raise the wall?" she asked.
. . .
"Wait," Harriet interrupted, "are you trying to say that the fence is making life better for the Palestinians?"

"In some cases, yes," replied Shai, echoing recent comments by the head of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce, who said the retreat of the Israeli army following the construction of the security fence has led to a revitalization of business, nightlife and investment in that Palestinian community.

Martin was having none of it.

"This wall is killing Kalkilya economically," he said, clueless to the irony in his choice of words.  "Do you see signs of ordinary citizens turning into terrorists because of it?"
It is indisputable that the fence has cut terrorist incidents, and reduced deaths for both Israelis and Palestinians.  Martin does not know this or, I suspect, does not care.

I have been struck before by the way some British journalists have come to accept the logic of total war in their attitudes toward Israel.  No tactic by Palestinian terrorists is condemned; every response by the Israelis, including purely defensive measures such as the fence, is automatically wrong.  Harriet and Martin show complete indifference to the deaths of Israeli civilians, including a little girl.

Similar attitudes were common among the Nazis and Japanese during World War II.  Some on the allied side, though not the British and American leaders, shared those ghastly attitudes.  But to find them held toward Israel by reporters representing once respectable British newspapers is horrifying.  Harriet and Martin do not believe that Israelis have a right to defend themselves.  It is as simple as that.  And they are not alone, or even especially unusual, in their attitudes.
- 3:43 PM, 18 July 2004   [link]


Censorship In The US?  One of the persistent beliefs among leftists in other nations is that the United States has censorship, that they can see news that we can not.   Sometimes it is a matter of ignorance, as in this recent example from Elton John.
Elton John has said stars are scared to speak out against war in Iraq because of "bullying tactics" used by the US government to hinder free speech.

"There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now that is deadly.  Everyone is too career-conscious," he told New York magazine, Interview.
One example he cited, though not mentioned in this BBC article, was Slim-Fast's dropping of Whoopi Goldberg.  (Credit where due: The BBC did put censorship in scare quotes.)  The US government had nothing to do with that, nor with the criticism of the Dixie Chicks that also bothers John.  Yet many on the left outside the United States seem to think that the spontaneous reaction of fans, or a company's worry that it will be tarnished by Golberg's disgusting display are somehow controlled by the evil Bush administration.

Seattle Times columnist Kay McFadden is on the left, but she has a better take on the subject.
There is little doubt that point of view was key to recognition for all these productions.   Although "Angels" was almost universally hailed by critics, "The Reagans" actually was a rather bland biopic that opened to mixed reviews, and "The West Wing" long has been considered in decline since creator Aaron Sorkin left.

The recognition [with Emmy nominations] afforded all three shows is part and parcel of an election year in which the heavily pro-John Kerry entertainment community is launching a show-business assault on the administration of President George W. Bush.

The most high-profile examples include Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" — which Showtime will screen for TV critics here next week — and Robert Greenwald's new documentary criticizing Fox News Channel.
("Anti-Bush" would be a better phrase than "pro-John Kerry", but that's just a quibble.)

Far from being cowed by censorship, the entertainment industry is choosing to give up large sums of money and offend many in its audiences by these choices.  Some time ago, I wrote about the money that leftists in the entertainment industry and journalism were losing by their unwillingness to put out moderate or conservative material.  As astute emailer sent me the perfect example.   Do you think that since 9/11 there might be an audience for a movie with Islamic terrorists as villains?  So do I, and, to the best of my knowledge, Hollywood has not produced a single example.  That isn't censorship, since the government isn't preventing anyone from making such a movie, but it might be fair to call it "Hollywood censorship".

I don't think it is only ignorance that makes so many European leftists (and some American leftists) want to believe in US censorship, but I am not sure what the other causes are.  Fashion, I am sure, is part of the answer.  And it is hard not to think that another part may be projection, that they see their own faults in the US.

(Would Elton John approve of a movie showing Islamic terrorists as villains?  I don't know enough about him to say for sure, but I very much doubt it.)
- 10:00 AM, 18 July 2004   [link]