July 2007, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Hamas Takes Over Gaza: And loses public support.
The violent takeover of the Gaza Strip has cost the Islamic Hamas some support there and bolstered its rival, Fatah, according to a poll released Sunday.The poll has a small sample and was taken in a place where we must be careful about trusting polls, but it still may tell us something. The violent takeover — and the resulting disruption — almost certainly do not have the support of a majority of those living in Gaza.
This is not great cause for celebration, since Fatah is only marginally less horrific than Hamas.
- 3:32 PM, 16 July 2007 [link]
Worried About Pesticides And Cancer? Then you won't want to read this John Tierney post. But you should. And you may feel better after you do.
The post is follow-up to Tierney's criticism of Rachel Carson, which I discussed here.
- 1:29 PM, 16 July 2007 [link]
Worth Reading: Victor Davis Hanson eviscerates a New York Times editorial.
On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled "The Road Home," demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but "The Road Home" pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism.And he does just that.
- 10:00 AM, 16 July 2007
More, along the same lines, from British columnist David Aaronovitch.
But there is something else about the New York Times editorial that turned it from an honest and courageous cri de coeur to a disingenuous and disreputable bit of moral cowardice. One could jib at the blitheness of its assumptions about postpullout Iraq such as "Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must share the burden of hosting refugees" and "the nations of Europe and Asia have a stake and should contribute". One could smile at the absurd sentiment that "Washington also has to mend fences with allies. There are new governments in Britain, France and Germany that did not participate in the fight over starting this war."Not the first time we have seen some on the left ignore the Iraqi people completely, and it won't be the last, either.
- 8:51 AM, 17 July 2007 [link]
Bin Laden Dead, Or About To Die? The publication of a five year old video of the terrorist leader leads some to conclude that he is dead, and leads others to conclude that he is about to die.
I have thought for years that the lack of current Bin Laden videos showed, at the very least, that he was not well. More likely he is so disfigured that he would make a terrible impression on a video. (I changed my mind about him being dead after our intelligence agencies said that more recent audio recordings are authentic, though I don't know how certain they are of that conclusion. Or how certain they should be, given the evidence.)
I won't miss him.
(Incidentally, the Associated Press believes this video is current, in spite of the evidence. Be interesting to see if they make a correction.)
- 7:23 AM, 16 July 2007 [link]
Novak On Libby's "Perjury": Last week I said that "Scooter" Libby was probably innocent, and that the differences in recollections were what one should expect. In this New York Times interview, Robert Novak, whose column set off the whole investigation, comes to a similar conclusion.
But as you well know, he lied under oath to the grand jury investigating the leak of Plame's name to the press. I think he got mixed up. It was not a lie. I think he got confused. That's why you need lawyers — to make sure you don't get confused. I was very careful in my testimony to the grand jury and before that to Mr. Fitzgerald to make sure that I didn't fabricate anything.If Deborah Solomon is interested in the possibility that Libby might be innocent, she does not show it in the rest of the interview.
Incidentally, Novak says that he lost a lot of money as the result of the investigation, partly because it dragged on so long. It is easy to forget that out-of-control prosecutors often damage the lives of bystanders, as well as those they are pursuing.
- 6:38 AM, 16 July 2007 [link]
Learning From Houston: The New York Times begins a light-hearted article on parking spaces with these two paragraphs:
At that point, a person from Mars would expect the rest of the article to explain what Houston is doing right, and what Manhattan is doing wrong. (Or even a person from Houston.) But that question does not interest the reporter, Vivian S. Toy, because she continues blithely on with a discussion of these high costs, without ever considering why Houston does so much better.
For those with more curiosity than Toy about this question, there may be a hint in this Wikipedia article on Houston.
Houston has, in other words, one of the least regulated housing markets of any large American city. It also has some of the cheapest housing of any large American city. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Perhaps Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times might learn something from Houston's combination. He has noticed that housing prices are high in this area, but thinks that the solution might be either more regulation, or virtuous landlords, who do not seek maximum profits. I don't think that landlords in Houston are notably more virtuous than those in this area, so I would suggest that Westneat might want to search for a different solution, perhaps less regulation, or even repealing part or all of the G----- M--------- A--.)
- 3:29 PM, 15 July 2007 [link]
Lightscribe Burners: For several months I have been using an external Lightscribe drive for routine back-ups, and have been pleased with the drive's ability to burn a simple label on the reverse side of the disc. I have tried several methods for labeling CDs and DVDs, but think this the best, except for collections of photos. (For photos, I prefer to print a label on the CD or DVD, using an Epson printer. Usually I make a collage for the label, so that whoever I send it to will have a clue about the contents.)
You can print a simple label in a few minutes, but fancier patterns take longer to burn, sometimes much longer.
The drive I use is the 16X predecessor to this drive, though mine cost about half that much. You do have to buy special blank disks for Lightscribe drives, but their cost has been coming down over the last year.
You can find more info at, naturally, the Lightscribe site.
- 2:51 PM, 15 July 2007 [link]
Battery Included: In fact, battery soldered in so that it can not be replaced by most users. Joe Nocera complained about that feature of Apple's iPhone in an an earlier column; yesterday he repeated his complaint, with $more information.
Because the iPhone lacks a replaceable battery, you will have to send you phone to Apple. If your phone is under warranty, the new battery will be free. If it is out of warranty, it will cost a heft $79, plus 6.96 for shipping. Apple will also lend you another iPhone while your phone is in the shop, which will cost you another $20, warranty or no.Nocera believes Apple made this design choice because Steve Jobs and Apple's design head, Jonathan Ive, are "design snobs who care more about form than function", which sounds plausible.
I'm not sure how much of a problem this will be for most users, because I don't know how long a charge lasts for an iPhone's battery. Apple says that the battery will take about 300 charges before it dies, but I don't know whether 300 charges would be good for a year or ten years.
(Here's a set of pictures of the iPhone's innards, with cost estimates for the parts. You'll notice that the battery is cheap, so almost all the replacement cost comes from the delicate work of removing and replacing the battery.
Here's Apple's policy statement.)
- 2:28 PM, 15 July 2007 [link]
What Do New Jersey Democrats Do With Crooks? They put them in leadership positions.
The state Senate now has two Democrats facing federal corruption charges, the men who directed the influential Senate budget panel for more than two years as chairman and vice chairman.Did the New Jersey Democrats know Sharpe James was a crook? It would have been hard to ignore.
Not surprisingly, others greeted the news even more harshly. Tom Wilson, chairman of the Republican Party in New Jersey, said in a statement that the charges were as surprising as "the sun rising in the morning."(Note that the New York Times reporters, Kareem Fahim and Ronald Smothers, think it is harsh to disapprove of a man who appears to have been robbing the city of Newark for decades. They seem to be a forgiving pair, I must say.)
For the record, I knew Sharpe James was probably a crook years ago, and I don't live in New Jersey, or pay much attention to the politics there.
(Here's the New York Times story on the indictment, and another story on his latest (and most expensive?) "companion", Tamika Riley.)
- 2:14 PM, 13 July 2007 [link]
Perjury? If you get your news from the "mainstream" media you might not know who has just been accused, indirectly, of committing that crime.
Rep. Issa (R - CA) suggested that Valerie herself might be a candidate for a perjury investigation and Presidential pardon one day:Valerie Plame, that is, best known as the latest wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, IV. Congressman Issa appears to believe that Plame did not tell the truth about her part in Wilson's trip to Niger — even when she was under oath.
You might think that a charge this sensational would get some coverage, but all I could find, using Google News to do a casual search, was this bit from an Associated Press story.
At one point the hearing degenerated into name-calling, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused Plame of lying to the Judiciary Committee during testimony in March when she said she had not tapped her husband to travel to Niger for the fact-finding mission that led to his op-ed questioning Bush's Iraq war claims.It isn't hard to see which side the AP reporter, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, is on, is it?
(Did Plame commit perjury? Well, her testimony has been inconsistent, but I have not followed it closely enough to have an opinion on that question. And I note that Tom Maguire, who has followed this far more closely than I, added a question mark to this post's title: "Liar, Liar, Skirt On Fire?" But I don't think the possibility that she committed perjury can be dismissed as just "name-calling".)
- 1:33 PM, 13 July 2007 [link]
Chuckle: Today, Diane Sawyer was explaining what happened to her when she was called for jury duty.
You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, "Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?" And I said, "That's what journalists do."Click here for the reaction from the people in the courtroom.
(Did I get too much pleasure from that reaction? Maybe. But if broadcasters were not so arrogant, I wouldn't get any pleasure from it.)
- 12:59 PM, 12 July 2007 [link]
Advice On Immigration from two Muslim journalists: First, Tariq Hemo:
. . . The Western countries are currently reaping, in these terrorists, what they sowed when they flung their doors open wide to every malevolent fundamentalist and failed in putting in place a mechanism for managing and controlling immigration in an appropriate manner . . .Next, Khudayr Taher:
The legitimate question is this: Since the security services cannot sort out the good immigrant from the bad terrorist . . . why don't these countries deport all Muslims, of all races, from Europe and America, and [thus] find rest from the danger of terrorism, and protect their peoples?Now I am sure that their views are atypical, but it is interesting to hear these politically incorrect ideas from Muslim journalists, however atypical they may be.
(MEMRI found these statements on a liberal (in the old fashioned sense of liberal) web site, elaph. Or at least MEMRI says it is a liberal web site, but you will have to be able read Arabic in order to see for yourself.)
- 6:16 AM, 12 July 2007 [link]
Local Warming: Yesterday was hot here. Not as hot as it routinely gets in Phoenix or Las Vegas, but hot, and hot in a place that is less prepared for heat than most of the country. (For example, many older apartments, including mine, do not have air conditioning — and usually do not need it for more than a week or so each year.) But our brief heat wave is not expected to last, for which I am grateful.
(The highest temperatures in this area usually occur in areas next to the mountains, which may puzzle those who live in flatter areas. Here's the explanation:
Usually, the coast or the far northern areas are the place to head to escape the heat. But Tuesday, it was role-reversal -- the coast was even hotter than the Puget Sound area.More commonly compressional heating hits towns on the west slopes of the Cascades, especially along I-90.)
- 5:47 AM, 12 July 2007 [link]
Was The Italian Election Stolen? In Australia? Maybe.
Australian voters are at the centre of a beer-for-ballots scandal involving alleged electoral fraud in last year's Italian national elections.But the evidence is disputed, so for now we should go no farther than maybe.
(Incidentally, that was an amazingly close election.)
- 2:28 PM, 11 July 2007 [link]
More On Weather Stations: Yesterday, in the post on the McKitrick paper, I mentioned that it was difficult to calibrate weather stations and to adjust them for changes in their surroundings. Because of those problems, Anthony Watts has begun a volunteer effort to document the physical surroundings of those stations. The two examples on his main page should show you why this effort is needed. (And may make you wonder the US government isn't doing this, considering the importance of the data from these stations.)
- 12:57 PM, 11 July 2007 [link]
Can't Anyone Here Play This Game? That's the question Casey Stengel asked about the original Mets, and that's the question that came to mind when I read this Bruce Ramsey column. Here's what the Seattle Times columnist says about an old controversy:
(Ramsey means, I assume, not "soils", but "yellowcake", that is, processed uranium ore.)Here are the facts.
Because those sixteen words have been so often misstated, let me give them again:
Read those carefully. See any mention of Niger? Not there, is it? So, as a matter of simple logic, Wilson could not use his junket to Niger to contradict what Bush had said because Niger is only one country in Africa, and by no means the only uranium producer there. Wilson's absurd claim to have refuted what Bush said in the State of the Union speech is equivalent to a murder investigator claiming that he had proved there was no body in a house, after he had glanced at a single room. That Wilson made that claim anyway shows something about his honesty; that so many journalists took him seriously shows something about their credulity. (And, perhaps, their skill at simple logical puzzles.)
Moreover, as the investigation by the Senate intelligence committee learned, some of Wilson's informants in Niger mentioned that Iraqi diplomats had visited Niger, and since Niger has almost nothing to sell except uranium, CIA analysts took that visit as evidence that Saddam was shopping for uranium in Niger. (Christopher Hitchens has done a series of columns on this question and has concluded that Iraq did go shopping for uranium in Niger.)What is infuriating about Ramsey's paragraph is that it recycles an old mistake, a mistake that should have been spotted immediately because of the logical error, and a mistake that has been corrected many times in major newspapers. So why is Ramsey still getting this wrong? I have no idea, but this may be a hint:
All this fascination with "Scooter" Libby leaves me bored. Several of my colleagues say the Libby story is big, big, big, and obviously lots of editors agree with them.
In other words, Ramsey thinks he has the story correct because he dissents, in a small way, from the consensus among journalists. But if he is describing that consensus correctly, he has just made a blistering criticism of those colleagues because he implies that they are even more confused than he is on this subject.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(For more, see this post from three years ago, and the Washington Post article it links to. And you may want to look at this early post, in which I noted that Wilson's trip to Niger could not have proved that Saddam was not seeking uranium there — judging by Wilson's own description of the trip. By the way, a detail surfaced later that shows how little the CIA thought of the trip: The spy agency did not require Wilson to give them a written report.)
- 11:37 AM, 11 July 2007 [link]
McKitrick's Criticism Of Global Warming Theories: This morning, while surfing around the net, I ran across this op-ed by Martin Durkin, who made The Great Warming Swindle, a film with a title that leaves little doubt about its main message.
I wasn't going to pay much attention to the op-ed, but then I noticed that Durkin linked to a web site where we could find references supporting some of his arguments. At that web site, I found a paper by Canadian economist Ross McKitrick (An Economist's Perspective on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol). In that paper I found some remarkable claims, claims that, regardless of your views on the subject, you will want to consider.
Two examples; First, McKitrick claims that the recent jump in temperature occurred right when we lost a very large number of weather stations, in part because the Soviet Union collapsed. Reading his bar graph, I found that we had about 15,000 weather stations in 1970, about 12,000 in 1990, and about 5,000 in 2005. The jump in temperature occurred just as we had a big drop in the number, between 1990 and 1991. You don't have to be a climatologist to see why that might be worrisome. There are, in principle, ways you could adjust for the loss of stations, but they are not trivial, especially considering that you have to make other adjustments all the time. (For example, if an area around a weather station urbanizes, it will begin recording higher temperatures, not because the climate has changed, but because the station is now in a city.)
Second, McKitrick comes up with a devastating quotation from the IPCC:
Is the climate chaotic? You would think this would be a question of great interest to the Intergovernental [sic] Panel on Climate Change, for it defines the limits to their useful prediction horizon. And indeed they have expressed a view. They accept that the climate is chaotic and consequently future climate states cannot be predicted:That key point deserves repetition; according to the IPCC, "long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible". Which is something I have suspected for a long time. So, according to the IPCC, it is foolish to make predictions about the climate, decades in advance, accurate to a tenth of a degree, or even a degree.In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system's future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions.
Now, having said that I was struck by the arguments in the paper, I will add that I have not looked for critiques of the paper and I don't plan to accept McKitrick's arguments entirely, until I have. But I do think the paper is worth reading, especially if you know a little math.
As always when I discuss global warming, I suggest you read my disclaimer on global warming, if you have not already done so.
(I did notice one possible mistake in the paper. On page 17, McKitrick says that "CO2 cannot be 'scrubbed'", that is removed from exhaust gases. As I understand it, CO2 can be removed from the exhausts of large power plants; you can find a discussion of the subject here.) .
- 5:02 PM, 10 July 2007 [link]
How Do Your Senators Vote On Earmarks? You can find the answer here. Not all earmarks are pork, nor do earmarks include all the different kinds of pork. But earmarks are often pork, and the attitude toward earmarks tells us something about a senator's willingness to control wasteful spending.
As one would expect, in general the worst senators are Democrats and the best are Republicans, though there are exceptions in both parties.
Washington state voters will be interested in the scores of our senators. Our senior senator, Patty Murray, scores a dismal 16.7, and our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, did only slightly better at 25.0. (I was actually surprised to see Murray score that high, because she sometimes gives the impression that she thinks her job is wasteful spending — as long as most of the beneficiaries are Washington voters.)
By way of the Instapundit.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(You can find a definition of earmark here.)
- 11:14 AM, 10 July 2007 [link]
Worth Reading: Richard Littlejohn describes the growing, and dangerous, anti-Semitism in Britain.
That certainly bears out my own findings. After three months filming across Britain, I reached the conclusion: It's open season on the Jews.Littlejohn's film, as he explains at the beginning of the piece, was originally commissioned by the BBC, which dropped it. But he was able to find another outlet, Channel 4. Many will wonder whether the BBC was repelled by his thesis, that most British anti-Semitism now comes from Muslims and leftists, two groups that often receive favorable treatment from the BBC.
By way of the Biased BBC.
(Channel 4 is a commercial network in Britain, though it was created by the British government. If I understand that Wikipedia article correctly, Channel 4 does not have an exact American equivalent.)
- 9:42 AM, 10 July 2007
More: Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has posted the video here, in six parts. The first part is definitely worth watching, but you may want to just skim the other five.
- 9:22 AM, 11 July 2007 [link]
Rational Discrimination? Theodore Dalrymple makes the case.
Now, despite friendly and long-lasting relations with many Muslims, my first reaction on seeing Muslims in the street is mistrust; my prejudice, far from having been inherited or inculcated early in life, developed late in response to events.That conclusion distresses Dalrymple, as it should anyone who believes in religious tolerance, but it is a conclusion that I came to years ago. Neither Britain nor America needs Muslims, and some small, but significant, fraction of Muslims want to harm us. Since we do not have sure ways of identifying that fraction, we should discourage Muslims from coming to our countries, particularly to live here.
The actions of Islamic extremists hurt moderate Muslims almost everywhere. Moderate Muslims are, as I am sure you know, the most common victims of the extremists. But many of those moderate Muslims are not without fault; some sympathize with the goals of the extremists, even though they condemn terrorism as a tactic, and many want to be fence sitters rather than join in the fight.
- 7:50 AM, 10 July 2007 [link]
Learning From Idaho (and Hawaii, Montana, and Utah): Lynne Varner of the Seattle Times is convinced that Democratic governor Chris Gregoire is doing a fine job, in part because unemployment in the state is about average for the nation.
If that's a good performance, how should we grade the performance of the Republican governors of Idaho (Kempthorne, Risch and Otter)?
Do those four states have anything in common? Well, three out of the four, all except Montana, have Republican governors. And it may be significant that Hawaii was doing badly economically until Republican Linda Lingle won the governorship in 2002. (She may have been cheated out of a victory in 1998.) For more evidence, take a look at the graphic that accompanies that brief New York Times article. You will see that, in general, states that voted for President Bush in 2004, that is, Republican states, have lower unemployment rates than states that voted for Senator Kerry, that is, Democratic states.
This pattern would not surprise the late Mancur Olson. In his book, The Rise and Decline of Nations, Olson argued that special interest groups in democracies carve out special deals for themselves and, over time, slow growth and even cause stagnation. Though Republicans are imperfect, they are better than Democrats at turning down special interest groups, especially unions. It is no accident that the state with highest unemployment, Michigan, is also a state where unions have been extraordinarily powerful, for many years.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Regulation is also the most likely reason that Idaho (and other Republican states) have less expensive housing than Washington (and other Democratic states).)
- 3:51 PM, 9 July 2007 [link]
Tracking Your Searches: If you were to watch the web pages that I have been looking at over the past few days, you would have seen ads for budget motels and cell phones, from which you could conclude — correctly — that I was planning to take a trip soon, and that I was thinking of buying a cell phone.
Does this invasion of my privacy bother me? Not much. But then I grew up in a small town, where it was best to assume that your neighbors knew what you were doing — if they wanted to know. But it is a little strange that we accept, routinely, all this information gathering by those trying to sell us things, and worry so much about information gathering by those trying to protect us from harm. We should not be indifferent to the loss of privacy to either, but I sometimes wonder if we worry too much about the second, and too little about the first.
(The trip I am planning is to Bumpass Hell, and scenic points in between here and there. And yesterday I bought a prepaid cell phone, the Motorola V195, from T-Mobile, mostly as emergency equipment for long trips. The price seems right; since I plan to make few calls on the phone, it will cost me just a little more than eight dollars a month to have it. Virgin has a similar plan, which is even cheaper, but their phones won't work in Europe, and I may want to take the phone with me when I visit Europe during the coming year.)
- 1:33 PM, 9 July 2007
Some Limits: I probably should have added, for those not familiar with prepaid cell phones, that the provider often puts limits on the use of the phones that you would not have in most standard plans. For example, the phone I bought has an internet mini-browser, which I can use for checking my minutes at T-Mobile, and similar matters, but not for ordinary browsing. Why they cripple their prepaid phones this way, I'm not sure. They may do it to encourage you to switch to regular plans, or perhaps to limit their losses from users who are too fond of the net. Whatever the reason, T-Mobile has similar limits on all their prepaid phones, except the Sidekick 3, which has much higher costs.
Virgin Mobile has more flexible policies on net access; you can get it with your prepaid plan, but it will cost extra. I haven't looked at the policies of other providers.
- 3:35 PM, 13 July 2007 [link]
Optimist? The new British security chief thinks that the war with radical Islamists could be over in as little as 10 to 15 years.
The battle to deal with radicalisation in the fight against terrorism could take at least 15 years to achieve, the UK's new security minister has said.Or, at least so the BBC says, but I am not sure they have interpreted what the admiral said correctly, because he also said this:
Sir Alan told BBC News the campaign against terrorism using the "four Ps" - prepare, protect, pursue and prevent - was going in the right direction.Now, as I read that, West is saying not that the battle will last 15 years, but that it will take 10 to 15 years to make the changes needed in Britain in order to fight it successfully.
I hope that is what he meant, because I can not envision any way this struggle could be over in less than 50 years, and think it likely that it will last at least 100. And there are many more expert than I who share that grim forecast.
(If the BBC reporter who did this article misunderstood West, then that reporter may be revealing his own unwarranted optimism. Whoever wrote this article seems to think that 10 to 15 years is a pessimistic forecast, but most experts would say that it is optimistic.
The basic reason for the longer time estimates are not hard to understand. We are not fighting a nation that can be deterred or conquered in the usual way, but men in the grip of a religious fervor. Typically such men do not give up their ideas during their life times, and they often succeed in transmitting their beliefs to their sons. Just two generations of recruits would mean that we should expect a 100 year war.)
- 6:26 AM, 9 July 2007 [link]