June 2003, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Mail Ballots Are Open to Vote Fraud, I have long argued. At the end of this routine article on Bush's hopes for carrying Oregon and Washington in 2004, there is an interesting tidbit from Oregon's Republican chairman, Kevin Mannix, showing the dangers:
For example, Mannix noted that Democratic campaigners have often collected filled-in mail ballots while campaigning door to door, a practice some Republicans have sought to ban.Democrats who are comfortable with, for example, a union official collecting ballots from union members, might want to think about a businessman collecting ballots from his employees, or a pastor collecting ballots from his congregation. There is simply too much opportunity for fraud and intimidation in this practice. We should not be giving up ballot secrecy for a minor convenience.
- 6:42 AM, 14 June 2003 [link]
John McCain tries to bring some common sense to the debate over the missing Iraqi WMDs, in this op-ed:
Like many Americans, I am surprised that we have yet to locate the weapons of mass destruction that all of us, Republican and Democrat, expected to find immediately in Iraq. But do critics really believe that Saddam Hussein disposed of his weapons and dismantled weapons programs while fooling every major intelligence service on earth, generations of U.N. inspectors, three U.S. presidents and five secretaries of defense into believing he possessed them, in one of the most costly and irrational gambles in history?It's a good question, one which those who claim that the Bush administration lied should answer.
And, Senator McCain reminds us of two important historical precedents:
After the first Persian Gulf War, the discovery of Hussein's advanced nuclear weapons program following years of international inspections surprised everyone.Years of international inspections failed to find his massive nuclear weapons program before the Gulf War. Years of UN inspections failed to find his biological weapons program after the Gulf War. So far, we have been searching for weeks.
Read the whole thing.
- 8:10 AM, 15 June 2003 [link]
More Than One Visitor to an exhibition of modern art has thought they could do just as well as the artist. Some electricians, as a prank, proved it recently.
- 7:51 AM, 15 June 2003 [link]
Art Historian John Russell Amplified the Lies told by Saddam's officials about the looting of the Baghdad museums. Is he apologetic? Does he criticize those who lied to him? No, and no. In fact, even now, he thinks the lies were for a good cause, the saving of the items so central to his own career. He asserts, without much evidence, that the lies got protection for the museum. He is not as frank about his desires as he should be, so let me fill in what he leaves out. Professor Russell believes that, in the middle of a dangerous battle, American soldiers should have risked their lives to protect artifacts mostly important to privileged specialists like himself. He does not say how many American soldiers should have died so that he could have continued to see, for example, a "marble face of a woman". If he had gone there himself to protect the objects, I would have more respect for him. As it is, it is hard to feel anything but contempt.
- 7:43 AM, 15 June 2003 [link]
- 4:07 PM, 14 June 2003 [link]
"In Iraq, Things Really Aren't That Bad", writes George Ward in this New York Times op-ed:
All major public hospitals in Baghdad are again operating. Sixty percent of Iraq's schools are open. Nationwide distribution of food supplies has resumed. Despite some damage to the oil wells, petroleum production exceeds domestic needs, and exports should begin again soon. More Iraqis are receiving electric power than before the war.Three short term steps are planned to continue the progress:
First, within two months every Iraqi police station should receive a small group of trained international advisers, armed and with power of arrest. The United States should step up its efforts to recruit foreign constabulary and military police forces, particularly from Islamic countries.For a ground level view of how these improvements are being made, read this account from the 130th Engineering Brigade. The unit looks for the neighborhoods with the worst problems, moves its equipment in, and asks how it can help. They have been so effective that an Iraqi reporter had this reaction after watching the unit for a day:
This is incredible. No one has ever cared about this neighborhood before until you Americans came.(Via Joanne Jacobs and Virginia Postrel.)
Naturally, the Guardian doesn't agree with the Iraqi reporter. I suspect he may know his country better than Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory McCarthy.
- 9:17 AM, 13 June 2003 [link]
The Warka Vase, one of the most important items still missing from the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities, has been returned. Regular readers may recall that I predicted that many of the items would be recovered. Neither the Guardian, nor the Times of London, has quite caught up with the true story, since both are still passing on the complaints of Saddam's officials, long after they have been discredited.
- 8:40 AM, 13 June 2003 [link]
New York Times Reporter Walter Duranty Lied to cover up Stalin's famine in the 1930s, in which millions died. The famine was caused by Stalin in order to crush the peasants, especially in the Ukraine. Arnold Beichman has the best brief summary of Duranty's coverage, that I have seen. Duranty knew the truth as this quotation from a private conversation shows:
What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this? Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical changes here.A little over a decade ago, the Pulitzer committee examined the Duranty award, but did not revoke his prize. Now the committee is examining the case again and may, finally, do the right thing. And the New York Times? They have been remarkably consistent over the years. In spite of doubts by some of the editors in the 1930s, the Times did not object to Duranty's Pulitzer. They did not request that the prize be revoked when the facts were revealed. Even now, they have not requested that the prize be revoked. In fact, when they list the Pulitzers they have won, Duranty's is still in the list along with all the others, some deserving better than to be grouped with Stalin's propagandist.
- 8:22 AM, 13 June 2003 [link]
Arundhati Roy Was on the Chomksy Cult Program this last weekend. The Indian novelist, best known for her book, The God of Small Things, spoke on "Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy. Buy One, Get One Free". I was interrupted while listening to it, but was able to find this transcript of her speech to the Riverside Church in New York. (Riverside is a fashionably activist church, with the emphasis on "activist" rather than "church". Even some of its members might not object to my adjective, "post-Christian", for the institution. Judging by the reactions of the audience during parts of the speech not all of them have Christian feelings toward President Bush, or even the United States.)
It is hard to decide how to reply to a speaker who begins, as Roy did, by claiming to speak as a "slave" of the "American Empire". It would be churlish to descend to her level and say, well, if she is a slave, then let's sell this foolish woman. Taking her verbal flourish seriously doesn't seem appropriate either, since by her skillful "I speak as" she is admitting that she is not really a slave. It is a clever verbal trick, one that any copywriter would admire. It is also deeply dishonest, intellectually, using the loaded word slave, while not claiming really to be one. That combination, clever verbal tricks and intellectual dishonesty, can be found all through the speech.
The intellectual dishonesty includes many dubious claims and some outright lies. She claims, for instance, that the CIA installed Saddam in 1963. Samir al-Khalil's authoritative study of the Baath regime, Republic of Fear does not even mention the CIA in the index. She claims that the United States and Britain supplied weapons to Saddam. In fact nearly all his weapons came from Russia, France, and other countries. She makes these claims for the usual reason, to distract attention from the central point, that the Iraqis are better off without Saddam, a question she never confronts in her speech. She even repeats the false claims about the looting and she says, "desecration", of the Baghdad museums.
Like most speakers on the Chomsky cult program, she is coy about her own beliefs. I suspect, though, that her choice of a quote from Soviet dictator, Lenin, near the end of the speech is a good indicator of what kind of government she prefers. I suppose we can take some comfort from the fact that, unlike other Chomsky cult speakers, she does not openly advocate terrorism, at least for now. Instead, she favors ruining the lives of the poor by massive boycots of some of the organizations most likely to improve their conditions, American corporations.
Naturally, she complains that "our freedoms are being snatched from us", while her speech is broadcast all over the United States on a program paid for, in part, by American taxpayers. KUOW, and, I suspect, most other public radio stations that run the Chomsky cult program, will not offer her opponents a chance to reply to her many false charges and dubious arguments.
- 7:06 AM, 12 June 2003 [link]
French President Chirac may have given the Bush administration fits in the run up to the liberation of Iraq, but judging by press accounts like this one, our nations are cooperating well in the pursuit of terrorists. The principle we should follow in dealing with France under its present leaders is a simple one. Where we can work with them, we should, and we should try to expand those areas. There is still far more on which we agree than on which we disagree in spite of much loose talk, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.
The background of the arrested terrorist is startling:
German officials have said Ganczarski was born in Poland and is a naturalized German citizen.And his first name is, ironically, "Christian".
- 5:45 AM, 12 June 2003 [link]
People Die trying to get into the United States, Canada, and other western countries, so it should be no surprise that some of those trying to get in will bribe officials who control immigration. This commentary on a scandal in Canada has different details, but the same theme. as similar scandals here in the United States. Terrorist attacks on US targets show us that this is not just a matter of venality; a few of those bribing officials to get into the United States (and Canada) may not be looking for work, but to do us harm.
- 5:27 AM, 12 June 2003 [link]
When Anne Applebaum, in London to promote her book on the Gulag, faced a BBC interviewer, she was not prepared for this question:
"Do you see any parallels between the security state that George Bush has created in America since 9/11 and the Gulag?"And the BBC interviewer wasn't the only person she encountered with that point of view:
Several times I was asked if Guantanamo Bay should be considered a concentration camp. One reviewer, after saying a few neutral words about my book, complained that "the author has missed an opportunity to condemn human rights violations in her own country." Another interviewer asked whether people in America are often arrested for insulting the president on the Internet.Part of the reason for this is the astonishing hatred among the European chattering classes for President Bush:
Somehow -- and the Pew results support this too -- Bush has come to stand for the hate part of the love-hate relationship, symbolizing the downside of mass culture and the pushy side of our foreign policy, rather than the economic freedom and political openness that many admire. Largely this is because Bush, as a fully paid-up conservative, is at odds with Europe's left-leaning political elites, most of whom hate not only him but also the things with which he is associated, rightly or wrongly, such as a freer rein for the private sector. What they hate, in other words, is his domestic policy, more than his foreign policy.Here I think she is partly wrong. Some of the issues used to smear President Bush were foreign policy issues, like Kyoto and the International Criminal Court. Part of it too may be their sense that Bush simply doesn't have much respect for them. He is right in that, I think, but, unlike me, should not be so obvious about it.
Applebaum wishes she had said something like this to her BBC interviewer:
What I should have done was point out, tartly, that access to information is still far freer in America than it is in Britain, that immigrants are far better treated in America than in Britain, and that democracy remains a more open affair in America than in Britain. One always thinks of these things too late.All true, but I disagree on her approach. I think that, given the level of insult, she should have asked for an apology. If none were forthcoming, she should have followed up by asking the interviewer if they had trained in Stalin's school, where similar lies about the United States were often told. And then walked out.
- 11:52 AM, 11 June 2003
Update: This Guardian article on playwright Harold Pinter is a vivid illustration of the attitudes Applebaum faced. Note that neither the authors of the article, nor the theater critic who questioned him, seem disturbed by Pinter's insane comparison of the United States to Nazi Germany.
- 7:28 AM, 12 June 2003 [link]
Saddam's Baby Killing Hospital: Every time I think I have heard the worst about Saddam, the torture of people killed by putting them feet first in a chipping machine, or the hundreds of Kurdish babies buried alive, something comes along to top it. Now, Iraqi doctors are charging that Saddam deliberately withheld medicine from babies dying of leukemia: (Registration required.)
The regime pinned the blame on the sanctions after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, using the hospital and its victims as an example of how the West--particularly the United States--allowed children to die.Saddam's Children's Hospital was run, not to cure babies, but to let them die so that they could be shown to gullible activists, journalists, and politicians from the West. Many of these babies might be alive now if people like Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott had not been so willing to transmit Saddam's propaganda. (KVI talk show host Brian Suits, who brought this story to my attention, has asked Congressman McDermott for this reactions to the story. McDermott has no comment to date.)
Before the war, some activists were suspicious that the drugs they were bringing to Iraq were not getting to the children in the hospital. The far left Voices in the Wilderness even tried to divert the drugs they were bringing to Iraq:
A grass-roots group organized to end sanctions against Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness grew weary of surrendering prescription drugs to Hussein's administrators, said Kelly, a member of the group's Iraq Peace Team.There was no need for Voices in the Wilderness to bring in drugs because the regime had "ample supplies of medicine and sophisticated medical equipment" in idn-Sina, a hospital reserved for Baath party members.
Will all those who accused the US of killing Iraqi babies apologize? Will just one?
- 8:17 AM, 11 June 2003 [link]
Michael Medved is a persistent and effective critic of Hollywood. His book, Hollywood Vs. America, argued powerfully that Hollywood's attacks on traditional values are not even good business. (His argument has since been supported by several formal studies by economists.) So, when he concludes that Hollywood is doing something right, it is news. In this column, he argues that recent films show that studios are moving beyond obsession with race:
Hollywood will no doubt continue to exploit violence, crude language and irresponsible sex. When it comes to racial issues, however, recent films deserve praise for their implicit endorsement of the welcome message that black people and white people can work together, laugh together, even love together, without making a huge fuss over their differences.
- 9:33 AM, 10 June 2003 [link]
A Court Jester for the New York Times: After the fall of Howell Raines, there have been many suggestions for reform at the New York Times, our troubled newspaper of record. My own suggestion—and I should say that I am entirely serious about the idea—is to revive a very old position, the court jester. Medieval court jesters, as well as amusing the court, often conveyed unwelcome messages to their monarchs. They warned monarchs, when their courtiers feared to do so, that they were becoming the object of ridicule. Since the jesters disguised their messages with humor, they usually survived, even when they were the bearers of bad news.
More than anything else, with all its pomposity and arrogance, the New York Times needs someone to tell them when they become, as they so often do, ridiculous. In these modern times, I suppose that it would be too much to hope for that they would call the employee a jester (Humor facilitator, perhaps?), or that whoever filled the role would get to wear a jester's costume, but that is what they need.
- 8:59 AM, 10 June 2003
Update: David Broder agrees with my charge that the press is arrogant, but does not think of this traditional solution.
- 12:01 PM, 11 June 2003 [link]
The Entertaining Seattle PI: This Seattle PI editorial has something for almost everyone. Constitutional scholars will be fascinated to learn that:
The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."Despite the quotation marks, those words do not appear in the Constitution, nor does any reasonable reading of the Constitution support that idea.
Historians will be intrigued to learn that most of our major wars were unconstitutional. The War of 1812, which occurred during the presidency of James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, was not fought in response to a "clear and present danger". Nor were the Mexican-American War in 1846-1847 or the Spanish-American War in 1898. Neither the Korean War nor the Vietnam war were fought in response to a "present danger", and the same is true of the first Gulf War. The same is true of nearly all our minor wars, as well.
Journalists will be interested to learn that the Clinton administration pursued so many unconstitutional actions, the use of force to change the government in government in Haiti, the Bosnia and Kosovo campaigns, and the 1998 air war against Saddam. None of these meet the "clear and present danger" test. Will the PI call for the prosecution of the officials in the Clinton administration who, by the PI's standard, violated the Constitution?
For the benefit of the PI's editorial board, let me explain, again, the status of our conflict with Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, the United States and Iraq did not sign a peace treaty. Instead we agreed to a ceasefire agreement, subject to conditions on the removal of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and other matters. Saddam violated the ceasefire agreement many times. We responded, as international law allows, to his violations of the ceasefire agreement with force, many times. Since 1998, after the inspectors left Iraq, it would be more accurate to say that we were at war with Iraq than that we were in a ceasefire, since the shooting, on both sides, was so frequent. The decision of President Bush and the coalition to remove Saddam did not begin a war, it ended one.
- 8:33 AM, 10 June 2003
Update: Stefan Sharkansky noted the same strange "quote", asked the PI about it, and got a weaselly response from the editorial page editor, which he demolished in this post. (If the phrase, "clear and present danger", seems familiar, that's because it's the title of a Tom Clancy book, which Clancy took from a famous 1919 Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.)
- 7:34 AM, 11 June 2003 [link]
Looting Exaggerated, One More Time: American investigators issued a preliminary report on the Baghdad museum losses and found, as I have been arguing, that the losses were exaggerated:
Initial estimates after the war ended in April suggested that as many as 170,000 pieces, including the Nimrud treasures, were lost or stolen during the sacking of the museum, according to U.S. officials. They now say 3,000 pieces remain unaccounted for and may have disappeared into the shadowy world of black market antiquities trading.Many of the thefts were from a storeroom where items not important enough to be exhibited were stored. Most likely, few, if any, of them were unique.
Many of the early false reports came from Donny George, the director general of research and study of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities, who now admits he was wrong. One expert, art historian John Russell, now says that the insiders acted correctly to protect the artifacts. Others, as you can see in this article, are still suspicious. The New York Times, which credulously printed many of the early charges, had only this AP story on the preliminary report. (Some of their columnists still have corrections and apologies to make.)
Here is my first skeptical post on the subject, and here's my most recent summary.
- 6:42 AM, 9 June 2003 [link]
David Aaronovitch of the leftwing Observer is astonished that President Bush, whom he still calls "the mad Texan oil-chimp with the rockets", is advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East. Aaronovitch is honest enough to admit that he is surprised by the progress:
The Aqaba meeting was extraordinary; I for one never thought that we'd get this far. Last summer, when Bush made his first big Middle East speech, setting his effective pre-conditions for progress (including the sidelining of Yasser Arafat), I read it as showing the lack of seriousness about Palestine and Israel that had characterised his presidency from the moment he took over from Bill Clinton. 'The President's proposals make Middle East peace impossible' was the headline to my article.Apparently, Aaronovitch still does not grasp what Bush understood shortly after taking office. Peace is impossible as long as Arafat is in power. This is not a difficult point to understand, if you study Arafat's career and statements, not to the gullible Western press, but to the Palestinians.
Like many on the European left, Aaronovitch is handicapped, I think, by the bias of the European press on both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and George W. Bush. Scientists discard their theories when the evidence requires it; Aaronovitch and others should do the same. (For a start on a better understanding of President Bush, Aaronovitch could do worse than to read my "Achievement Gap" comparison of Bush and Al Gore, written before the 2000 election.)
- 8:13 AM, 9 June 2003 [link]
Freedom in Iraq has meant that the curious Yazidis can now worship peacocks freely, and abstain from lettuce, which they consider evil, without being persecuted by Saddam. (In the case of iceberg, I can see their point, but can't agree with them on other varieties like Bibb.) The Yazidis know who to thank:
For Yazidis, at least, life has never been better and their support for President Bush and Tony Blair is unqualified. Emir Farooq Saeed Ali Beg, vice-president of the Yezidis' World Supreme Spiritual Council, said: "This is like a dream for us. The Americans liberated us and gave us our freedom. We hope they stay to protect the minorities like us."(I was amused to see that the Times used a different spelling for the tribe's name, "Yazidis", than the tribe's own council does. Apparently the Times is using a compromise on spelling of Arabic names, something like the one I have chosen.)
- 7:47 AM, 9 June 2003 [link]
Shortly After Midnight June 7th, 1944, paratroopers began jumping into enemy controlled territory. This account from a Canadian paratrooper describes both their mass confusion and their eventual success.
For more on the allied paratroopers, see John Keegan's fine Six Armies in Normandy. One section tells the story of the equally confused drop by the American 101st division. For more on the Canadian contribution, see his section on the Canadian 3rd division's landing at Juno beach. Keegan gives far more of the political background of the forces fighting in Normandy than most military histories. Until I read the book, I was not aware of the difficult political choices Canadian governments had to make in both World War I and World War II, because of the split between French Canadians and the rest of Canada.
- 7:22 AM, 9 June 2003 [link]