Saturday, January 31, 2004
Book review: I just finished Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" today. I started it yesterday. It's 528 pages. Is it good? Yep. Is it fun? Yep. Should you buy it? Yep.
First off, let's get one thing out of the way. I bought the book because it was cheap for a hardback and I'd read a wire story about its author -- who is still a teenager. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has won a lot of praise and awe because she wrote the multi-million selling books as a single mother on welfare. That's difficult. But it is even more difficult to write a book of fiction as a young man without the benefit of a lot of life experience and decades of practice -- and have that book be good.
Eragon is the story of a young farmboy, already a talented hunter, who discovers a large, odd-looking stone in the forest. From there, an adventure begins involving dragons, elves, dwarves, bloodthirsty urgals, an evil king, and a number of other assorted characters. The first book isn't the end of the story, there is more to come, but it is an excellent beginning. Readers who enjoy the Harry Potter books will enjoy this one too.
If you go to Amazon.com's page and look at some of the book's reader reviews, you'll get a more in-depth idea of what the story is about -- you'll also discover there are two classes of readers of this book. Those who hate it and those who love it. I read some of the critical reviews, and concur with some of their points. Yes, Paolini has cherry-picked from J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks and others. But, with the exception of Tolkien, every fantasy writer has done this to some degree. The critical reviews remind me of the record store employees in the movie "High Fidelity"; they're elitist and arrogant.
Fantasy books are supposed to be fun. This one is fun. Check it out.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Should've been first, ends up third: Reporter Andrew Gilligan should have been the first one sacked at the BBC over his faulty reporting, instead he is the third.
Take solace, Andrew, Al Jazeera has openings.
The Judiciary memos: Two must reads on the Democrats Judiciary Committee memos "scandal." First check out the Wall Street Journal. Once you're done there, take a gander at Byron York's report over at NRO.
Krugman's memory hole: Do you remember when U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reported to the U.N. that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and that he had complied with U.N. resolution 1441? No. Well New York Times columnist Paul Krugman does.
Surely even supporters of the Iraq war must be dismayed by the administration's reaction to David Kay's recent statements. Iraq, he now admits, didn't have W.M.D., or even active programs to produce such weapons. Those much-ridiculed U.N. inspectors were right. (But Hans Blix appears to have gone down the memory hole. On Tuesday Mr. Bush declared that the war was justified — under U.N. Resolution 1441, no less — because Saddam "did not let us in.")
Maybe Krugman is referring to Scott Ritter? That's the only explanation I can come up with -- after all even Saddam apparently believed he had the weapons -- because he'd ordered his scientists to make them.
True, Mr. Kay still claims that this was a pure intelligence failure. I don't buy it: the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a damning report on how the threat from Iraq was hyped, and former officials warned of politicized intelligence during the war buildup.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has issued a "damning report." Hmmm....does it include this information?
An August 2002 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Iraq "almost certainly does have large numbers of chemical weapons and some biological weapons."
Krugman also touches on the Hutton report.
(Yes, the Hutton report gave Tony Blair a clean bill of health, but many people — including a majority of the British public, according to polls — regard that report as a whitewash.)
So, the "enlightened" British public thinks the report is a whitewash -- and that's evidence that it is? So, if I remember correctly a majority of the American public believes (incorrectly) that Saddam Hussein was definitively linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then it must be true. Unless public opinion polls are only valid when they agree with Krugman.
These people politicize everything, from military planning to scientific assessments. If you're with them, you pay no penalty for being wrong. If you don't tell them what they want to hear, you're an enemy, and being right is no excuse.
I've said before, I think CIA director George Tenet should go, but Krugman's not interested in Tenet, he's got bigger fish to fry. But it's interesting that the smear machine hasn't been cranked up against David Kay. After all, he didn't tell the Bush administration what it wanted to hear.
On the other hand, maybe Krugman is wrong -- I'm just saying it's a possibility.
Letter of the Day: Today's New York Times has a letter from a former State Department official during the Reagan administration. The writer makes an excellent point:
To the Editor:
Something has skewed what should be the obvious public take on the American intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (front page, Jan. 29).
It is a fact that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program and not only had chemical weapons but also used them. United Nations inspectors rightly concluded that Iraq had apparently terminated most if not all nuclear weapons programs. What was missing was the evidence that the chemical arms had been eliminated.
None of our intelligence assets detected significant destruction of chemical weapons, and everyone — including Hans Blix, the former chief international weapons inspector — had to conclude that until we found otherwise, we should assume that some existed. Now, David A. Kay, the former administration weapons inspector, tells us that Saddam Hussein authorized renewed nuclear and chemical weapons efforts in the last few years, but that his orders were not carried out.
The question over intelligence accuracy, therefore, is not why did we think Iraq maintained weapons of mass destruction programs but how could we have concluded otherwise.
W. D. HOWELLS
Kittery Point, Me., Jan. 29, 2004
The writer was the State Department's director of politico-military research, 1983-87.
Lots to write about, so little time: I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was looking forward to reading what Union-Tribune columnist James Goldsborough would have to say regarding the results of the Hutton Inquiry and its indictment of the BBC's "journalism."
Well, you can find his Thursday column here. The column actually takes a dual path, condemning Bush on intelligence failures (the same intelligence Clinton, Chirac, et. al., suffered) and looking at the fallout from the Hutton inquiry. I'm only going to deal with the latter, just to show you how far out of the mainstream Goldsborough is.
First, an interesting issue of schemantics:
The most damning charge made by Blair – that Iraq could deploy WMD within 45 minutes – was strongly doubted by British intelligence (MI6) agents. In unprecedented testimony, MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove – officially known only as "C" and whose face is unknown – told Hutton telephonically from a secret location that Blair "misinterpreted" the 45-minute allegation.
Asked by Hutton for clarification, Dearlove said the intelligence was meant only to refer to "battlefield" weapons, not to strategic weapons that might pose a threat to Britain.
This "clarification" is part of the intelligence problem. If they can pub "battlefield" chemical or biological weapons to use in 45 minutes, how does this not make the weapons a threat to Britain? Saddam hands over one artillery shell to some terrorists, they take a flight to Britain and drop the stuff outside parliament. Goldsborough is trapped in Sept. 10 thinking.
However, where Goldsborough really goes off the reservation we here like to call "sanity" is in an effort to tear down Blair, while minimizing the BBC's culpability.
The charges against Blair could have brought him down, and he claimed vindication Wednesday. Technically, he's right, for Hutton exonerated him of the charge of "sexing up" the Iraq danger and for Kelly's death. Kelly killed himself when caught in the middle of a power struggle between Blair and the BBC. Most of Hutton's blame falls on the BBC for its "sexing up" broadcast, and the network's chairman promptly resigned.
But though Blair was acquitted by Hutton of a "dishonorable, duplicitous, underhand strategy" for war and survives another day, he is hurt. He was caught in a lie over the "outing" of Kelly. Exposing Kelly, a man authorized to speak on background to the media, was heartless and unethical.
Hutton concluded that Kelly "did not realize the gravity of the situation he would create by discussing intelligence matters with Andrew Gilligan," the BBC's defense reporter.
Blair and a "lie" about "outing" Kelly? Where can I find some reporting on this? Well, let's try London's left-wing Guardian newspaper.
On the naming of the late weapons inspector, meanwhile, Lord Hutton concluded "that there was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media".
The law lord stated that he is "satisfied ... that throughout the period from July 4 to July 8 the government was becoming increasingly concerned that if it did not issue a statement that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had had a meeting with Mr Gilligan, it would be charged with a cover up".
"I am further satisfied that this was the principal reason why it was decided to issue the MoD [Ministry of Defence] statement on Tuesday July 8," he added.
"It was reasonable for the government to take the view that, even if it sought to keep confidential the fact that Dr Kelly had come forward, the controversy surrounding Mr Gilligan's broadcasts was so great and the level of media interest was so intense that Dr Kelly's name as Mr Gilligan's source was bound to become known to the public and that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret."
Well, the Guardian's report doesn't describe Blair as having "lied" or done anything underhanded -- and understand that the proverbial wall between editorializing and reporting is practically non-existent in the British press.
But, let's look at another report on Blair's "lie" on the naming of Kelly. This one from Mother Jones, that bastion of neo-conservative thought.
The report, though, clears Blair of any wrongdoing. The Hutton report states that the prime minister did not engage in a "dishonourable, duplicitous, underhand strategy" to leak the name of Dr. Kelly to the press. The report slammed the BBC for making "unfounded," "grave," and "false allegations of fact impugning the integrity of others," and faulted the BBC's management and board of governors for allowing the story by reporter Andrew Gilligan to air. The report calls the BBC's journalistic practices "defective" and declared that the board of governors had failed in its duty to act as an independent regulator.
If you can't even get Mother Jones to side with you when slamming Blair, then just how far out on the left are you?
Of course, Goldsborough has little vitriol left for the dishonest "reporting" done by the BBC, the bad guy in the Hutton report.
In a July 24, 2003, column, Goldsborough casually dismissed criticism of the BBC's "reporting" from the British government and others as nothing more than the right-wing trying to take over the BBC.
Blair's control freakery put into practice by Campbell -- whose head should be the first to fall -- led to Kelly's death. Whatever words he used to Gilligan -- and the BBC says Gilligan checked his quotes with Kelly and they are in his notes -- Kelly clearly believed Blair/Campbell were misusing intelligence. As a leading biological weapons expert, he believed he should inform the public.
In their obnoxious control freakery, Bush and Blair have forgotten that the role of a free press is to provide the public with access to government. Murdoch's Sun, Times and Fox want the Kelly inquiry to turn the BBC, one of the world's great news organizations, into another government mouthpiece.
Well, British Defence Minister Alastair Campbell was vindicated. Instead, two BBC heads have rolled -- but not Andrew Gilligan. Goldsborough apparently still stands behind the BBC reporter who lied on the BBC World Service radio telling listeners that the Americans were not in control of the Baghdad Airport when they were. Gilligan claimed that he was at the airport. He was not. And Goldsborough apparently he believes this "reporter" is still telling the truth, when the evidence is he lied.
If the BBC is "one of the world's great news organizations," as it continues to support Gilligan, then God help us.
Thursday, January 29, 2004
WMDs, Iraq and the world's intelligence agencies: Weapons inspector David Kay testified before Congress yesterday and said little more than what he had told various media organizations over the past several days.
Some thoughts on the issue and things to remember:
Democrats and other associated leftists have argued that the failure of the U.S. to find WMDs in Iraq proves that Hussein wasn't an imminent threat. (Not that that argument was one the Bush administration ever made.) But Kay has reported discovering numerous programs to build bio/chem/nuclear weapons. Kay also discovered missiles under construction that were in violation of the range limits set by the U.N.
Several Democrat presidential candidates have argued that we were successfully containing Saddam Hussein and that there was no need to go to war. Unfortunately, these claims aren't accurate. Both France and Russia were working hard to push the U.N. Security Council to lift the sanctions against Iraq -- regardless of whether he ever met the requirements to verifiably rid himself of WMDs. The 1991 coaltion was falling apart as Hussein wooed the French and Russians with lucrative oil contracts once the sanctions were lifted. The status quo was not sustainable. Something had to be done -- either ousting Hussein or giving in. There was no third way.
CIA director George Tenet needs to go. He should have been sacked after the 9/11 attacks, but the failure of the CIA to provide the president with accurate information in the march toward war with Iraq is unacceptable. Weapons inspector Kay is correct when he says the intelligence community needs an overhauled. There is too much emphasis on technical intelligence -- spy satellites, unmanned drones, sat phone intercepts -- and not enough on people actually on the ground. However, don't forget that everyone was wrong. Not just the CIA, but Britain, France, Russia, the U.N. -- all believed Saddam still had prohibited weapons.
When this is all said and done, this still will have been worth it. This was good for fostering democracy in the Middle East. This was god for the people of Iraq. This was good for the world.
Jews in Iraq: Fox News just had a short report on the Jewish community in Baghdad -- all 38 of them. They had video of some working to restore a small Jewish cemetery -- something that had been forbidden under Saddam Hussein's rule.
Anytime Palestinian apologists gripe about their "right of return" to Israel, remember that there used to be many more Jews in Baghdad -- and (ironically) Saddam didn't kill all of them.
Iraq's standard of living: I commented earlier this week on Democrat presidential hopeful Howard Dean's incredibly stupid statement that Iraqis standard of living was lower now than it was under Saddam. Now an Iraqi blogger has some words for Dean.
I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.
And that's just a start. Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Bad, bad BBC: The results of the Hutton Inquiry into the death of British weapons inspector David Kelly, whether the British government "sexed-up" its intelligence or the BBC "sexed-up" its reporting, are in -- and it's bad news for the BBC.
The 740 page report focused its ire on the British Broadcasting Corp. and its failure to verify "journalist" Andrew Gilligan's report. The report also faulted the BBC for, in the aftermath of Kelly's death, reflexively circling the wagons, again without investigating Gilligan's report.
A few hours later, BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned without comment.
The BBC is (finally) taking some responsibility for its orignal (false) reporting.
"The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan on the Today program on May 29 last year were wrong and we apologize for them," BBC Director General Greg Dyke said.
The "certain key allegations" were the only ones that made the report newsworthy. Without them, Gilligan would have never gotten his air time.
This incident also provides a contrast between British journalists and American ones.
When American journalists are found to have intentionally falsified their reporting, the investigation is conducted by their own publication and they are fired or forced to resign. They also are typically shunned by their colleagues. You don't find the Society for Professional Journalists coming to the rescue of disgraced reporters.
In contrast, you have the British National Union of Journalists:
The National Union of Journalists, representing Gilligan, said the BBC could face a strike if he was disciplined or fired. The union said the Hutton report was "selective, grossly one-sided and a serious threat to the future of investigative journalism."
Gilligan needs to go if the BBC ever hopes to start pretending that it's even somewhat unbiased.
It will be interesting to see what The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough has to say on this issue. As I've noted before, Goldsborough has been quick to defend the BBC's reporting and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Hutton report.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Today's must-reads: Peggy Noonan warns the Democrats against doing damage to the country by nominating Gen. Wesley Clark.
Donald Luskin takes a look at New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's campaign consultant work and finds it lacking.
WMDs and Iraq: On CNN right now, Democrat Party chairman Terry McAullife said: "They've (the Bush administration) come out and said there are no weapons of mass destruction. This should be no surprise to anyone."
You're kidding me, right?
No surprise? Tell me, which Democrats before the war were telling us that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs? Name one. Foreign intelligence agencies? Which ones were telling us Iraq had no WMDs?
No surprise to anyone? It was a surprise to everyone.
The Madness of Howard Dean: The Democrat candidates for president, with the probable exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman, are so mad at President Bush's policies that they find themselves saying really stupid things.
After Saddam Hussein's capture, Dean told reporters that he "supposed" that was a good thing, but it didn't make us any safer. That position is debatable. Dean's position is much more difficult to argue, but you could credibly attempt to make a case.
However, Dean has taken it one step further, and this one you can't honestly debate.
"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone," said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. "But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."
Iraqis have a worse standard of living now that the rape rooms and the human body shredders and torture chambers are gone? Iraqis are worse off now that the government spends money on food and medicine instead of lavish palaces?
This is not a serious argument. It is born out of hatred of President Bush and nothing more.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Gen. Clark on "Meet the Press": Fox News has Kerry, NBC gets Gen. Wesley Clark. Tim Russert followed up on Peter Jennings question at last week's debate regarding Michael Moore calling Bush a deserter. After giving Clark several opportunities to say the easy, and honorable, thing -- "President Bush wasn't a deserter" -- Russert gave up.
Clark also tells Russert that he is the only candidate who can bring in independents, moderate Republicans and "we'll even bring in people who voted for Reagan, and even Richard Nixon. And we're not even going to ask them to repent."
I was too young to have voted for either Reagan or Nixon, but the idea that doing so was so evil that it should require "repentance" is offensive.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
"Legitimate coalition": Sen. John Kerry again repeated his mantra that the United States went to war in Iraq with an "illegitimate coalition." Kerry has also used the term "fraudulent" to describe the 34 nations that have sent troops to Iraq, including Great Britain, Australia and Poland.
Someone, anyone, please get Kerry on the record of what impact his description of Great Britain, Australia, Poland, et. al., will have on the relationship between the U.S. and these countries should he become president. They casually toss insults the president's way for political gain and also end up hitting foreign countries with their slime.
Kerry should be forced to be specific about his comments. Kerry wanted France, at the least, Germany and Russia to be part of the coalition. Say that. Of course, it diminishes the impact of the charge (34 nations vs. three), and might cause it to disappear from the stump speech.
But why isn't anyone in the media asking this question?
Good for the goose, good for the gander: A dispatch today from the Associated Press on Inspector David Kay's report on Iraq's lack of WMD's (for a more complete picture of Kay's work, check out this report) contains the following dishonest quote from Vice President Dick Cheney (the quote is dishonest, not the VP):
Cheney warned in March 2003, three days before the invasion: "We believe he (Saddam) has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
That quote was uttered on "Meet the Press," hosted by Tim Russert. A look at the transcript reveals that Cheney, several times, referred to "reconstituted nuclear weapons programs" and just once, inadvertantly dropped the word "programs" -- though it's obvious from the larger context what he was saying.
Following in that line of logic, which appears to be good enough for the AP, we had Democrat Presidential frontrunner Sen. John Kerry on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Kerry stated repeatedly on the show that he "opposes marriage." That's right, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat is opposed to marriage. What's next? Mom and apple pie?
Well, of course I'm being less than honest by saying that. You have to look at the context.
WALLACE: OK. Over the years, you have voted against banning partial-birth abortions six times. You voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union of a man and woman...
KERRY: Yes, yes.
WALLACE: ... and you have voted against the death penalty, even for terrorists who kill Americans overseas — let me finish — although I know that you later changed your mind on that.
Any second thoughts about those other votes?
KERRY: No, absolutely not, Chris. They were votes of principle, and let me explain them, and I'll be able to explain them to Americans.
I don't support marriage among gays. I've said that many times. That was not my position. But I also don't support the United States Senate being used for gay bashing, for, sort of, discriminatory efforts to try to drive wedges between the American people.
WALLACE: But, wait a minute, Senator...
KERRY: The job...
WALLACE: If I may say just say, on that one, it passed 85-14.
KERRY: Yes, because a lot of people...
WALLACE: Most Democrats voted, you know, for the bill, and Bill Clinton signed it.
KERRY: Because it's an issue that scares people. I said that I do not support marriage, but I don't support the Senate being used to drive wedge issues.
There was no issue when we voted on that. That was politics. And I think it was the politics of discrimination. And that's what I said on the floor. Go read what I said. What I said was, "I don't support marriage. But I do not support..."
WALLACE: You mean gay marriage?
KERRY: Gay marriage. I don't support gay marriage.
So, do you think the media will twist the good senator's words for use against him?
Nope, I don't think so either.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Journalists and numbers: The stereotype about numbers being to journalists like kryptonite to Superman is often true. It starts early. Case in point is this article from the Daily Illini. Ignore the predictable left-wing, anti-gun bias and focus on this paragraph:
A study done by the Violence Policy Center found that one in every five law enforcement officers was killed in the line of duty between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2001.
Sounds good, but completely impossible. We'd be losing more police officers every day than they do in Iraq! (via Spoons)
Friday, January 23, 2004
The Fighting Dems: The Viking Pundit has an interesting anecdote on what the Democrats in the Senate are willing to fight for, and what they're not.
Correcting the record: The San Diego Union-Tribune publishes one whopper of a correction in its Opinion section -- and it involves a blogger.
In a Jan. 15. follow-up to his Jan. 12 column, "More deceptions to justify war actions," James O. Goldsborough stated that Fox News was the source of a bogus 1945 Reuters news dispatch that may have been the basis for a comparison of Iraq to post-World War II Germany by officials at the White House and Pentagon. Goldsborough further described the report as a "forgery" written by online columnist Rand Simberg for Fox and that it was then posted on Simberg's own Internet site two days later. In fact, Simberg originally posted the supposed news report as a column on his own site on July 28. He then submitted the column to Fox, which published it on July 30. In addition, the column was not presented by Simberg or Fox as an authentic Reuter's dispatch. Simberg labeled it as a "Routers" news article, while Fox added an introduction saying a Reuters dispatch in 1945 "might look something like this." However, the column was subsequently transmitted over the Internet by others as an authentic news story.
The Democrat Debate: Random thoughts, as they occur (on the tape I'm watching) in Thursday night's debate.
Sen. John Kerry claims that only people who make more than $200,000 got a tax cut from the Bush tax cuts. Not only is it false, but it's unbelievable that he'd try to peddle that line.
Gov. Howard Dean still doesn't get the whole federalism thing. Bush isn't responsible for the tax rates at the state level. Colorado, for example, never had a budget crisis -- so at least the residents of that state definitely did get a tax cut, even by Dean's faulty logic.
Sen. Joe Lieberman says he doesn't flip-flop -- can you say school vouchers?
Gen. Wesley Clark "looked at both parties when I got out of the military." Is he seriously trying to peddle the idea that he had no political beliefs while he served in the military on any issues of the day? That he was some tabla rasa? He's a "Democrat of conviction" -- and the joke -- and a few felonies. Everyone's welcome in the Democrat Party? How about pro-lifers? Maybe Clark will let them in the party, but he won't nominate any of them to the bench.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich wants the U.N. to handle Iraq's oil assets -- first let's see how they handled the oil-for-food program. Shouldn't the books be open? When we do it, they are. When the U.N. does it...the "U.S. should reject any privatization of the Iraq economy." What? Are you suggesting communism? Boy are you nuts.
Sen. John Edwards says Iraq isn't "international" -- 34 nations have troops on the ground. These people are killing the language. Kill the language some more -- the vote for $87 million for the troops and to rebuild infrastructure was not a "blank check." A blank check has no amount written in and/or no payee. This "check" was for $87 million. The Iraq aid part of it contained specific purchases/projects. Someone get Edwards a dictionary.
Al Sharpton on foreign policy: If we're nice to everyone, they'll be nice to us and their own people. Naive.
Kerry says President Bush is "irresponsible" in how he uses the military. Kerry says we "temporarily" need two more Army divisions. Doesn't say how he's going to create incentives to get people to join up.
Lieberman's promising free health insurance for "the poor" -- doesn't say how he's going to pay for it.
Kucinich wants to throw out "No Child Left Behind" and emphasize a new educational system that emphasizes "art, music ... to invite the participation of educational philosophers and psychologists..." So, if the kid can draw good, great. Can't make change? Who cares. Can't spell? No big deal. Wacky.
Dean: "My words aren't always precise, but my meaning is very, very clear." Yeah, Republicans get the same sort of benefit of the doubt.
Clark never "guaranteed" that another 9/11 wouldn't happen under his watch. Yeah, he never used that word, but if someone tells me that my microwave oven will never break because they made it and they made it well-- it sounds like a guarantee to me, even if they don't use the word.
Peter Jennings question to Edwards suggests that we need to somehow kowtow to Islam -- including radical Islam. Edwards is nuts. He has seen the "despair" that Arab people feel in their daily lives and how that contributes to how they feel about Americans. Bull. It's the Wahabbi Islam and Arab government propoganda that redirects their resentment from where it belongs (their own governments) to where it doesn't (the U.S.). "Root causes?" Anyone who uses the term "root causes" should be immediately disqualified from running for elective office.
Sharpton doesn't know what the Federal Reserve Board does. IMF? You weren't asked about the IMF. Back on topic -- nope, still doesn't know what the Fed does. That's sad.
Kerry's says Bush has cut the Veterans Adminstration budget. Lie. (Check page 79.) It's increased each and every year.
Question for Kucinich -- when will we have a balanced budget? Kucinich then outlines his programs -- socialized medicine, free universal kindergarten, free college education -- and then says when we get out of the deficit depends on how big a "rut" Bush gets us into.
Clark is gutless. Michael Moore accuses Bush of being a deserter in front of Gen. Clark and Clark says that Moore can say whatever he likes. Which is true, but it's also irresponsible. Good question, Peter.
Edwards doesn't understand what the Defense of Marriage Act was all about. Edwards legal opinion appears to be that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution does not apply to gay marriage or civil unions -- interesting.
Hey! Kerry's a veteran! Who knew?
Bell isn't having an effect any more. They keep going and going and going.
Is Clark actually suggesting that the Patriot Act allows police to get wiretaps without judical permission? The Patriot Act allowed roving wiretaps -- that is tapping any phone the person may use as opposed to only their home telephones. These guys are giving the Patriot Act a bad name through false information.
Ugh...getting boring. Nothing new. Same ol', same ol'.
Kerry: MTBE needs to be taken out (of gasoline) and "the companies that put it in need to be held responsible for it." First MTBE is bad stuff. It is used in gas to cut down on pollution, but it can also leak into the ground and pollute the groundwater. But Kerry wants to hold the gasoline companies responsible for it? THE GOVERNMENT ORDERED THEM TO PUT THE STUFF IN GAS IN THE FIRST PLACE! Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
Sharpton says we should press Iran on democracy using "diplomacy and trade." Ummm....we have a trade embargo in place against Iran.
It's over. Stick a fork in them.
Playing with the numbers: The New York Times most irrelevant columnist, Paul Krugman, takes on new electronic voting machines in his latest column. No big deal. Nothing egregiously partisan in the article, except for the first paragraph.
[T]he disputed election of 2000 left a lasting scar on the nation's psyche. A recent Zogby poll found that even in red states, which voted for George W. Bush, 32 percent of the public believes that the election was stolen. In blue states, the fraction is 44 percent.
Let's think about Krugman's numbers. Members of which political party are most likely to believe that Bush stole the election?
Even in states Bush carried (red states), Gore got (pick one) more than/less than 32 percent of the vote?
In states Gore carried (blue states), Gore got (pick one) more than/less than 44 percent of the vote?
So. What are Krugman's numbers really telling us? That most (but not all) of the people who voted for Al Gore in 2000 are still mad that they lost.
Is this really a "scar on the nation's psyche"? Only if you're a liberal Democrat.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Fisking Dowd: Once upon a time I really wanted to win a Pulitzer Prize, because for journalists those things are a big deal. Then the New York Times' Maureen Dowd won one. Now, I'm not willing to undergo the brain damage caused by repeatedly bashing my head into the asphalt that would be required to compete for the prize.
Dowd's column today is evidence of the fact that she is both completely nuts and not amusing.
[W]ASHINGTON ? Whoa! That was quite the steroid-infused performance. Who's the guy's political consultant ? Russell Crowe? He was so in-your-face, smirking his trademark smirk, it was disturbing to think of him in charge of the military. It's a good thing he stopped drinking and started talking about God.
Smirk? Oh, it's that inner smirk that only enlightened, professional women can sense. Maybe if Dowd stopped drinking she'd be funnier. Maybe if I started drinking she'd be funnier. Nah, the amount of alcohol required to make Dowd amusing would kill me.
You wonder how many votes he scared off with that testosterone festival: the taunting message, the self-righteous geographic litany of support? The Philippines. Thailand. Italy. Spain. Poland. Denmark. Bulgaria. Ukraine. Romania. The Netherlands. Norway. El Salvador.
How many votes? None. Anyone "scared" by that tame performance is already voting Democrat.
Can you believe President Bush is still pushing the cockamamie claim that we went to war in Iraq with a real coalition rather than a gaggle of poodles and lackeys?
Poodles were part of the coalition? Does she have a fact-checker? The French were not part of the coalition.
His State of the Union address took his swaggering sheriff routine to new heights. "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country," he vowed.
Translation: Hey, we don't need no stinking piece of paper to bring it on in other countries. If it feels good, we'll do it, and we'll decide later why we did it. You lookin' at me?
Translation: I'm scared of the French. If the French look askance at me, I wet myself. Please make sure the French say it's OK before we do anything.
Sure, Howard Dean was also over the top when he uttered the squeal heard round the world. With one guttural primary primal scream, he went from Internet deity to World Wide Wacko and remix victim, with the scream mixed in on Web sites to punctuate Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train."
My name is Maureen Dowd. I'm a professional journalist. This is what we pro-jos, as we call ourselves in Da Country Club, refer to as "burying the lede."
Yes, Howard, you know you're in trouble when Chris Matthews says you make him look like Jim Lehrer; when David Letterman compares you to a hockey dad; when The New York Post suggests you have a "God complex." (As Alec Baldwin's twisted doctor said in "Malice": "You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something. I am God.")
Dowd: "Hehehehe. They're pickin' on you."
Once Michael Dukakis got in trouble when he failed to get angry when asked how he would react if his wife were raped and murdered.
Dowd: "I'm gonna help you out here Howard, if you're asked how you would react if your wife got raped, pretend you came in third in the Iowa caucuses."
But Dr. Dean's snarly, teeth-baring Iowa finale was so Ross-Perot-scare-off-the-women-and-horses crazy that some Democrats on Capitol Hill, already anxious about the tightly wound doctor, confessed they could not imagine that jabbing finger anywhere near The Button.
Dowd: "There's a conspiracy against you Howard, I'm part of it. If you lose, run as a third-party candidate. Ralph Nader's your man!"
But Republicans were thrilled when Mr. Bush strutted up onstage on Tuesday night to basically tell the country that if you don't vote for him in November, you're giving up in the war on terrorism. "We've not come all this way ? through tragedy, and trial and war ? only to falter and leave our work unfinished," he asserted, as if all those Democrats racing from Iowa to New Hampshire in the middle of the night were crying out to the voters: "Falter! Falter!"
Actually, Deomcrats are racing from Iowa to New Hampshire crying out: "Terrorists hate Bush. We hate Bush. Terrorists won't hate us."
Dr. Dean's poll numbers are diving because people freezing in New Hampshire think he's too hot.
Dowd: "Aren't I clever. You can only turn a phrase like this if you've got a Pulitzer!"
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are better at looking cool. But their dissing the U.N. ? that palace of permission slips ? and their doctrine of pre-emption are just as hot, and so was Mr. Bush's cocky implicit defense of the idea that if you whack one Middle East dictator, the rest will fall in line. "Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not," he said. "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America."
Any middle-aged woman who uses the term "dissing" should be laughed out of town. Besides it wasn't Bush and Blair who scared Libya into giving up its nukes, it was Maureen Dowd! Yeah, she was the one who convinced him to do it! She threatened to write a "witty" column about him and lesbians if he didn't come clean.
Maybe he's right, but what about Bill Clinton's line that unless we want to occupy every country in the world, maybe our policy should also concentrate on making friends instead of targets? The president and vice president like to present a calm, experienced demeanor, but their foreign policy is right out of the let's-out-crazy-the-bad-guys style of Mel Gibson's cop in "Lethal Weapon" movies.
Clinton, wasn't he that guy who used to live in the White House when terrorists attacked the USS Cole in Yemen -- and did nothing? Wasn't he the guy who pulled out of Somalia after the Black Hawk Down incident, encouraging Osama bin Laden's misconception that we were a paper tiger? If you're a terrorist, I'd rather the U.S. be seen as a crazy Mel Gibson than a codependent battered wife who keeps on taking the beatings because she only wants to be our friend.
For proof of how intemperate their policy has been, compare this year's State of the Union with last year's. Last year it was all about Iraq's frightening weapons. This year the only reference was to "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations."
Dowd: "The president should have known what I didn't know -- what no-one didn't know before he knew it! (If Rummy can do it, then so can I!)"
Would Americans have supported a war to go get "program activities?" What is a program activity? Where is the White House speechwriters' ombudsman?
Translation: Daniel Okrent's been picking on me. Why can't he pick on someone else? I don't like Daniel Okrent. He's a meanie.
Bush lectures reporters on economics: When I saw this I just pictured President Bush doing it and started laughing out loud.
Remarks by the President to the Press Pool
Nothin' Fancy Cafe
Roswell, New Mexico
11:25 A.M. MST
THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.
Q Mr. President, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.
Q What would you like?
THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.
Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.
THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?
Q Right behind you, whatever you order.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?
Q But Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?
THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.
Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?
Q An answer.
Q Can we buy some questions?
THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.
Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.
Whoever David is, I'm happy that he asks good questions, generally.
Why we have mandatory sentencing: Former GOP congressman Bill Janklow of South Dakota was sentenced today to 100 days in jail for a crash that killed a motorcyclist. Janklow was speeding (as he has an almost legendary history of doing) and ran a stop sign before killing 55-year-old Randy Scott.
There are occasions when I think that mandatory sentecing guidelines do an injustice -- they are a blunt instrument with no capacity for nuance. But the reason legislatures have passed sentencing guidelines is because there are judges who don't have a lot of sense.
A person with a long history of speeding tickets who took pride in his lead foot runs a stop sign and kills a man only gets 100 days? If I'm the judge, I probably sentence him somewhere in the range of 3-4 years.
Told you so: Earlier this month, when Carol Moseley Braun announced she was ending her presidential campaign, I suggested that she was throwing her two supporters to Howard Dean in the hopes of getting a job in a Dean administration.
Well, I was right and I was wrong.
Braun wanted a job, but she's not waiting until Dean gets in the White House (yeah, right).
By early this week, (Moseley Braun campaign manager Patricia) Ireland was in negotiations with (Dean senior adviser Don) Haber on the details of Braun's departure. Braun's issues: She has a big campaign debt, and the trickle of money she was getting would dry up once she quit the contest. Braun also wanted an understanding on what role she would play with the Dean team. Ireland and Haber sealed the deal Wednesday evening.
"We are going to help her with the debt," Haber told me. The debt tab could be in the neighborhood of some $300,000 and Dean's camp will help Braun raise the money to pay it off.
Braun will campaign for Dean three days of the week, with the Dean campaign picking up her travel expenses. Braun will become a Dean campaign consultant and will be paid about $20,000. Up to three of Braun's staffers, including Ireland, will be hired by the Dean campaign. In the short term, Braun will head to New Hampshire and South Carolina for the Dean campaign. A large number of Democratic voters in South Carolina, which holds its primary Feb. 3, are African-American.
What's next? When Dennis Kucinich drops out, will Jon Edwards have to hire him?
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
More evidence the ICC was a bad idea: The Bush administration has been consistently attacked by Democrats, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other internationalists for shunning the International Criminal Court.
The administration's fear was that American troops could be arrested and held on politically motivated charges. Well, it once again appears that Bush was right.
British use of cluster bombs in the Iraq war could count as a war crime and justifies further investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in the Hague, a group of international lawyers say.
Seven academics from Britain, Ireland, France and Canada interviewed eyewitnesses and examined evidence to see if there was a case for referring British conduct to the court, said the pressure group Peacerights, which organised the review.
"There is a considerable amount of evidence of disproportionate use of force causing civilian casualties," one of the lawyers, Professor Bill Bowring of London Metropolitan University, told a news conference on Tuesday.
"The U.S. cannot be tried before the court because it refuses to sign up to it. The UK did."
Cluster munitions are small bomblets scattered on a target area by larger bombs, rockets or artillery shells, designed to destroy infantry or soft skinned vehicles.
Use of bunker-busting munitions had also killed civilians, Peacerights said.
"THIS ONE GOES TO TOP"
ICC officials were unavailable to comment, but Bowring said senior politicians, possibly including Prime Minister Tony Blair, could have something to worry about.
"Heads of state are not immune in principle," the law professor said. "This one goes right to the top."
Beware of Europeans bearing treaties.
The State of the Union, and the Democrat response: President Bush's State of the Union Address was like most of their ilk -- too dang long. I caught snatches of speech as I was working last night. By the time I got off work and had watched online video of the speech and the Democrat response I was to exhausted to write. Your patience shall be rewarded. Some highlights:
Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us.
And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists.
Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.
The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.
The angst over the Patriot Act among Democrats and others on the loony left isn't really about the law itself -- it's about who is enforcing the law. Janet Reno doesn't scare them; John Ashcroft does. If the Democrats were really serious about the so-called civil liberties issues, then they would also be pushing for legislation repealing the laws that allow the government to use the disputed tactics against organized crime figures.
Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands. . . .
. . . Norway, El Salvador and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq.
As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support.
There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.
It was a good thing President Bush mentioned this in such a widely disseminated speech. The Democrat presidential hopefuls (and, as you shall see, Democrats in the Congress), especially Sen. John Kerry, have been characterizing the U.S. as going it alone. Kerry's characterization of those 34 countries is that they are a "fraudulent coalition."
Apparently for Democrats, any coalition without France and/or Germany isn't really a coalition at all. Democrat candidates have made a point of saying that they will "repair" the breach Bush has allegedly opened between the U.S. and France (the breach was really opened by France, not the U.S.). But if the Democrat candidate actually wins in November, what effect will his vitriolic attacks on the coalition of the willing have on the relationship between the U.S. and each of those countries? How will British PM Tony Blair react to being part of a "fraud?"
On domestic issues, the speech was just too involved. Professional athletes' use of performance-enhancing drugs isn't really fodder for the SOTU speech.
The Democrats' response: Rep. Nancy Pelosi looked she was a hostage. The wide eyes and the unnatural smile were just creepy. I've seen her do press interviews and she doesn't look like that. The media always characterizes these speeches as "responses" though they really aren't a response to the SOTU speech. The "response" is much too important to leave it to a politician to respond on the fly.
Pelosi's portion of the speech -- on foreign policy -- shows how that sort of thing can backfire.
But even the most powerful nation in the history of the world must bring other nations to our side to meet common dangers.
The president's policies do not reflect that. He has pursued a go-it-alone foreign policy that leaves us isolated abroad and that steals resources we need for education and health care here at home.
The president led us into the Iraq war on the basis of unproven assertions without evidence. He embraced a radical doctrine of preemptive war unprecedented in our history, and he failed to build a true international coalition.
President Bush names 17 nations and leaves another 17 unnamed in his speech, and the response says it is a "go-it-alone" foreign policy and he has failed to build a "true" coalition. Oops.
Pelosi also says that we went to war without evidence. This is false. We went to war with faulty intelligence. Pelosi's statement is designed to imply that Bush lied, when the truth is the intelligence was bad -- and Pelosi knows it. She's on the House intelligence committee. Was she, or any other Democrat saying there were no WMDs in Iraq and Saddam was telling the truth before the invasion? Before Bush even took office?
Instead of the diplomatic disengagement that almost destroyed the Middle East peace process and aggravated the danger posed by North Korea, let us seek to forge agreements and coalitions, so that together with others we can address challenges before they threaten the security of the world.
There is no peace process in the Middle East -- and it has nothing to do with the United States. The Palestinians want to push the Jews into the sea. Until that changes, nothing we do matters.
We "aggravated the danger posed by North Korea"? By doing what? Not keeping the rose-colored glasses on when it came to North Korea violating the Agreed Framework? By dealing with the world as it really is and not how liberals wish it might be?
The majority of Americans realize that we're still at war. This "response" demonstrate that Democrats aren't serious about looking at the world as it is -- a dangerous place. Pelosi makes the case that -- the presidential hopefuls aside -- Congress certainly can't be trusted to the Democrats.
A good read: Australian newspaper The Age has an excellent opinion piece by Caroline Overington.
Most Americans also support Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq. They are not stupid. They know that the so-called intelligence about Saddam Hussein was wrong. Despite this, 67 per cent still believe the US did the right thing.
Because I live in New York, I rarely get to hear the voice of this majority. Instead, I get magazines such as Vanity Fair, which last month had a column by the editor angrily listing statistics from the war in Iraq. Such as: number of American soldiers killed: 500. Number of weapons of mass destruction found: 0.
But, as some readers pointed out, there were statistics missing from the list. These include: number of mass graves uncovered in Iraq: around 260, containing as many as 20,000 bodies. Number of people liberated from brutal, murderous leadership: 12 million. And number of times Bush lied about receiving oral sex from a White House intern: 0.
Overington also relates an encounter she had on an airplane in the first weeks of the war with the parents of a fallen U.S. soldier.
I was reading USA Today and, as I opened it to study a map of Iraq, one half of the newspaper fell into the lap of my fellow passenger. I turned to apologise, but he said: "No problem. Actually, do you mind if I have a look?"
Together we studied the picture, trying to work out how far the Americans were from seizing power. It was clear from the diagrams that troops were near Saddam's airport, and close to the centre of Baghdad. I turned to my seat mate and said: "I don't think this is going to be a long battle, after all."
It was only then that I noticed, with horror, that he had started to cry. And then I noticed something else: a photograph, wrapped in plastic, pinned to his lapel. It was a picture of his 20-year-old son, a young marine who died in the first days of the war. The man's wife was sitting across the aisle from us. She had a round bowl on her lap, filled with water and some drooping tulips. The movement of the aircraft was making the water slop around. She was trying to wipe her hands, and her tears.
The couple told me they had just been to a private meeting with Bush to discuss the loss of their son. [emphasis added]
When anti-war/anti-America celebrities complain about Bush having not attended the funerals of any fallen American soldiers, what they're really attacking are appearances. For them, the funerals as events are more important than the soldiers or their families as people. I'm sure that this isn't the only family that's had a private meeting with President Bush. Bush is more concerned about the people than the photo op.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Movie Review: I saw Tim Burton's "Big Fish" this afternoon. If you haven't seen it, you should. I don't often say this about many movies, but it's even worth $9.50 to see it at night. "Big Fish" is the story of Edward Bloom, a man who has lived a large life, and if you ask him about it, he'll tell even larger tales. The acting by Edward Finney, Billy Crudup and Ewan McGregor is excellent.
The heart of the story is about a man's relationship with his son. Will (Crudup) is bitter at his father because he feels that he's never had a real conversation with his father -- the tall tales building a wall between the two. By the end of the movie, a kind of understanding and acceptance is reached between the two.
The movie really makes you think about what you'll be remembered for when you're six feet under. What lives will you have touched? Will impact will you have had on others, for good or ill?
My favorite line in the movie was from Helena Bonham Carter, and it goes something along these lines: "To your father there were only ever two women in the world: His wife and everyone else."
The book reviews will have to wait until later this week.
Worth a thousand words: Dean's fatal flaw:
Facts, we don't need no stinkin' facts: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman throws a fit for all the world to see, with generalizations and vicious partisan attacks.
[A]ccording to advance reports, George Bush will use tonight's State of the Union speech to portray himself as a visionary leader who stands above the political fray. But that act is losing its effectiveness. Mr. Bush's relentless partisanship has depleted much of the immense good will he enjoyed after 9/11. He is still adored by his base, but he is deeply distrusted by much of the nation.
What president in modern times hasn't been distrusted by "much of the nation?" The same could easily be said of President Clinton -- and even more so for Bush Sr., after all, he raised taxes after promising not to. Bush Sr. was distrusted by Democrats because he was a Republican and he was distrusted by Republicans because he raised taxes.
Bush's latest job approval ratings are still above 50 percent -- ranging from 53 percent to 58 percent depending on which poll you're looking at.
Krugman, the political genius that he is, has determined that George W. Bush's re-election strategy involves solidifying his base and capturing enough independents to get the necessary 271 electoral votes. Of course, when you're Krugman it's never phrased so innocently.
But his political handlers seem to have decided on a go-for-broke strategy: confuse the middle one last time, energize the base and grab enough power that the consequences don't matter.
Oh darn, Krugman's figured it out. The horror.
What's more infuriating is Krugman's dishonest and nasty slam against Judge Charles Pickering -- and those racist Republicans.
The most sinister example was the recess appointment of Charles Pickering Sr., with his segregationist past and questionable record on voting rights, to the federal appeals court — the day after Martin Luther King's actual birthday. Was this careless timing? Don't be silly: it was a deliberate, if subtle, gesture of sympathy with a part of the Republican coalition that never gets mentioned in public.
Pickering's segregationist past? Like Sen. Robert "KKK" Byrd's. Nope, when the schools were desegregated in the south who was one of the first whites to send his children to those schools? Charles Pickering. Who testified against the clan in 1967? Charles Pickering. I'm getting sick and tired of the Times slanted coverage in its news pages -- and the slanders from the likes of Krugman really steam me.
The Times continues its downward spiral from the journalistic heights.
Monday, January 19, 2004
Iowa caucuses: The results are in and the Democrat Party in Iowa appears to have taken their meds and rejected "Angry" Howard Dean.
According to CNN, Sen. John Kerry came out on top with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. John Edwards with 32 percent, Gov. Howard Dean with just 18 percent and Rep. Dick Gephardt with 11 percent. Rep. Dennis Kucinich actually managed to get 1 percent -- evidence that there are loons everywhere.
With his disappointing fourth-place finish, Gephardt saw the octagonal, red sign emblazoned with "STOP" and quit the race. This development presents me with the opportunity to issue the first-ever "Hoystory Journalist Challenge."
The prize is a Hoystory T-shirt -- designed by yours truly. The contest is open to any professional journalist -- print, radio or television. (Sorry, fellow bloggers, but I have no doubt a blogger would do what I'm about to suggest. I'm much more skeptical that a member of the "liberal media" would do this.)
The challenge is to ask this question of Rep. Dick Gephardt: "Mr. Gephardt, would you classify your campaign as a 'miserable failure'?"
Despite the old adage: "Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it," I think that Howard Dean is the top-tier candidate that presents the highest likelihood of a Bush landslide in 2004. Both Kerry, and to a lesser extent Edwards, present a more credible -- and less insane -- challenge to Bush.
Tonight's win probably means the most for Edwards. Edwards had spent most of the Iowa campaign stuck in the middle of the pack and his surge to second-place in Iowa will give him much more credibility in New Hampshire. A strong showing there could mean a win in South Carolina.
For Kerry, this win means the spotlight that has been on Dean up until now turns to him. How Kerry deals with the increased scrutiny will be the make-or-break part of his campaign. The win also means that he should get a renewed influx of cash that is not his own. (Kerry mortgaged his home to get several million for the Iowa campaign.)
For Howard Dean, his distant third-place showing is mildly catastrophic. Dean needs to do better in New Hampshire, or he's toast. To Dean's advantage -- he's still the money-leader. To Dean's disadvantage -- his speech after his third-place finish. Dean's fury/enthusiasm was scary. Though that behavior gives the extreme left-wing a rush, it turns off too many of the "mainstream" in the Democrat Party -- as evidenced by tonight's trouncing.
That leaves Wesley Clark among the top tier candidates going into New Hampshire. Clark abandoned Iowa when the conventional wisdom was that you needed a serious organization -- like Gephardt's labor unions or Dean's youth/Internet volunteers -- to compete. Clark also must make a strong showing in New Hampshire if he's going to be a viable candidate.
With the smaller field, the debates should be more interesting, and more serious. The saga continues...
Big Monday: It's been a busy morning/afternoon for me, and I've got to do some housecleaning on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Tonight we've got the Iowa caucuses, which I'll write some observations on once the numbers start coming in. I'll also be doing a quick couple of book reviews and a movie review. I spent this afternoon at the theater with a group of friends, and a good time was had by all.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
That liberal media: Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has done some research on journalists' contributions to political candidates.
More than 100 journalists and executives at major media companies, from NBC's top executive to a Fox News anchor to reporters or editors for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, CBS and ABC, have made political contributions in recent years.
Using information found in Kurtz's article, I put together the following graphic:
I definitely want to work for The Wall Street Journal editorial page someday if Melanie Kirkpatrick can afford to toss $20,000 at a political party.
I encourage you to read Kurtz's article for some details on some of the contributions. A couple of the contributions were given to reporters' siblings, which may not be evidence of real bias -- but in both cases the siblings are Democrats. Something to ponder.
Also, a couple of the contributions to Rep. Billy Tauzin (R.-La.) may be a case of trying to buy some leniency from a powerful ideological opponent.
The bottom line, however, is the fact that far more journalists are putting their money on the liberal side of the political spectrum than the conservative side. Whether this affects their coverage...well, that's something to debate.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Bias and The New York Times: When the latest Times story regarding the recess appointment of Judge Charles Pickering came across the wires earlier this evening I had to shake my head in disgust. The version I was looking at is known as the "Times Express" version -- an early, shorter version of a longer story that would move in full later.
What angered me was the fact that the abridged version of the piece contained all of the Democrats attack points on Pickering, but no defense.
Bush said he was forced to use his constitutional authority because, "a minority of Democratic senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified individuals from receiving up-or-down votes. Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system."
Senate Democrats argued that Pickering did not deserve elevation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because he wrote an article as a young man recommending ways to strengthen Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws; left the Democratic Party in 1964 when it split along racial lines and, more recently, presided over a 1994 trial in which he took extraordinary steps to reduce the sentence of a man convicted
in a cross-burning incident.
Democrats, who have asserted that Bush has been trying to pack the federal courts with staunch conservative ideologues, blocked some nominees during his first two years in office when they controlled the Senate. When Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2002 by a narrow margin, Democrats then resorted to the threat of filibusters, or extended debates, to block the nominees. Although Republicans held 51 seats, a slim majority, they could not muster the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
What should have made it even into this abbreviated version was a paragraph like this one that did appear -- though too far down -- in the full version on the Times Web site:
Mr. Bush and Republican senators replied that the judge's record was being distorted. They said that in recent decades he had been a force for racial reconciliation in his home state and had strong support among local African-Americans. His actions in the cross-burning case, they said, were motivated by a sense that prosecutors had mishandled the case and let the principal offender off lightly.
But even this one leaves out what should be a prominent, pertinent fact. In both versions the Times refers to a legal theory paper Pickering wrote while he was a law school student -- more than 40 years ago -- outlining flaws in Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws and ways to strengthen them. Fine, if the Times believes that is evidence of some racial animosity on Pickering's part they are right to include it in every story that is written on the subject.
However, if the Times is going to go back more than 40 years to his law school days, then they should also include the fact that as district attorney in 1967 Pickering testified in a criminal trial against the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan -- and was later defeated for re-election because of it.
To not acknowledge this brave, honorable act, the Times does Pickering wrong.
Is there really any doubt that if the parties were switched, and a Democrat judicial nominee had stood up to the Klan, in 1967, in Mississippi, that it would be the first thing mentioned in his defense?
Liberal media? Yes.
Hmmmm...: On Wednesday evening, one of the building maintenance guys at my place of employ, The San Diego Union-Tribune was taking a good, old-fashioned hand saw to a wall in the newsroom that leads to a room that allegedly contains "Air Handling Equipment." How do I know this? Well, that's what it says on the nearby door.
Why is he using a hand saw? Well, because a power saw would make too much noise and kick up a lot of dust, he told me. Understandable.
Several hours later I pass by the place where this guy was cutting a hole and what do I find? He's taken a large piece of plywood, painted black with a few random strips of duct tape, and covered the hole he'd just made.
I've got no idea. It's one of those mysteries of the universe.
But, being a newsroom full of jokesters, what appears next to the plywood the next day? A small label reading:
Title: Duct tape on Black
Today, taking the joke one step further, it appears as though the art work has been sold for $25,000 to the business editor.
That they pay him enough to afford that just reinforces the fact that I'm woefully underpaid.
I can't make this stuff up: This is why lobbyists get honor guards at their funerals.
At a town-hall meeting in Hudson, N.H., Wednesday, (Wesley) Clark defended serving on corporate boards after retiring from the military in 2000 and registering as a lobbyist. "We were trying to make America safe. That's what lobbyists mostly do,'' Clark said.
Imagine if a Republican, any Republican, had said that? The howls of derisive laughter would be deafening.
Howard Dean might credibly argue that the statement by Clark proves that he really is a Republican. Of course, the relative silence in the media over this gaffe proves that he really is a Democrat. (via "Best of the Web".)
Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has identified fellow sufferers of BDS in today's screed masquerading as a political column.
Krugman outs presidential candidate Wesley Clark in The New York Times as an acute BDS sufferer.
[E]arlier this week, Wesley Clark had some strong words about the state of the nation. "I think we're at risk with our democracy," he said. "I think we're dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame."
Well, it's a less-nutty comparison than Bush=Hitler, but it's still nutty. This is the "nastiest" administration in living memory? So, the president has sexually assaulted women and then smeared them when the charges became public? Imperialistic? Talk about butchering the language.
In other words, the general gets it: he understands that America is facing what Kevin Phillips, in his remarkable new book, "American Dynasty," calls a "Machiavellian moment." Among other things, this tells us that General Clark and Howard Dean, whatever they may say in the heat of the nomination fight, are on the same side of the great Democratic divide.
The General's got it: BDS.
Krugman gets one thing right, there is a great Democratic divide -- between those who, frankly, are nuts, and those who aren't.
The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.
Honesty, motives and patriotism. That's what it comes down to. You have Democrats like Sen. Ted Kennedy, Dean and Clark who claim that Bush went to war and sacrificed American soldiers for political gain (which is just nuts -- because it's extremely risky and foolish.)
Krugman claims that it will be impossible for Democrats to run a "positive" campaign because President Bush is a meanie and will prohibit businesses from giving money to Democrats.
One is that the Democratic candidate, no matter how business-friendly, will not be able to get lots of corporate contributions, as Clinton did. In the Clinton era, a Democrat could still raise a lot of money from business, partly because there really are liberal businessmen, partly because donors wanted to hedge their bets. But these days the Republicans control all three branches of government and exercise that control ruthlessly. Even corporate types who have grave misgivings about the Bush administration — a much larger group than you might think — are afraid to give money to Democrats.
Memo to Paul Krugman: Corporations are banned from contributing money directly to candidates. The BCRA also banned corporations from "electioneering communications," aka issue ads. Democrats won't be getting money from big business, but Bush won't be getting any either -- because it's illegal.
Krugman then goes back to make a discredited charge against President Bush, but phrases it in a subtle fashion so the reader gets the feeling that Bush is dirty, but without the details.
. For example, some have said that the intense scrutiny of Mr. Dean's Vermont record is what every governor who runs for president faces. No, it isn't. I've looked at press coverage of questions surrounding Mr. Bush's tenure in Austin, like the investment of state university funds with Republican donors; he got a free pass during the 2000 campaign.
What's this about Bush and state university funds? Well, it's about UTIMCO -- and it's much ado about nothing.
So what's the answer? A Democratic candidate will have a chance of winning only if he has an energized base, willing to contribute money in many small donations, willing to contribute their own time, willing to stand up for the candidate in the face of smear tactics and unfair coverage.
That doesn't mean that the Democratic candidate has to be a radical — which is a good thing for the party, since all of the candidates are actually quite moderate. In fact, what the party needs is a candidate who inspires the base enough to get out the message that he isn't a radical — and that Mr. Bush is.
It's all a matter of perspective. To Krugman, of course all of these guys are moderates. (Kucinich and Sharpton included? Probably.) To the broader spectrum of American political thought, however, these guys are no moderates.
Some related links: Both Don Luskin and Q and O have more worthwhile Krugmania.
Recess appointment: Fox News has just reported (here's a link to the AP story) that President Bush has bypassed Congress and appointed Charles Pickering to the federal bench. The recess appointment puts Pickering on the appelate bench until the next Congress takes office in January 2005. Pickering had been one of a number of judicial nominees being filibustered by the Democrat minority in the Senate.
Bush has been encouraged by some conservatives to do this earlier, but had been hesitant to do so. Pickering was chosen for the recess appointment because, at his age, he would only be likely to spend a few years on the bench anyway, befor retiring. Making recess appointments for younger nominees (e.g. Miguel Estrada) creates a tall fence for them to vault when they return to the Senate to get confirmed the next time around.
I still think President Bush should make a recess appointment of Robert Bork to the D.C. Court of Appeals -- it would likely cause Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer to have fatal heart attacks -- and Republican Senators could take their places.
Global warming is bunk: Why do so many scientists say there is credible evidence that evil humans burning fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm blah blah blah? Simple. Money. Before scientists were concerned about global warming, they were warning us all about the coming ice age. When was that? About 25-30 years ago. The scientists trot out these public policy announcements because they wouldn't get funding for their "studies" without some sort of perceived imminent danger.
(For an excellent analysis of the problems with the global warming cult, read author Michael Crichton's speech at Cal Tech entitled "Aliens cause Global Warming.")
Former Vice President Al Gore, author of the book "Earth in the Balance," decided that today was a good day to attack President Bush for failure to act on "global warming."
(Curiously, The New York Times account of Gore's speech refers to "climate" but never uses the term "global warming." Maybe the Times writers couldn't bring themselves to use the term when it was freezing outside.)
This all occurred on a day when the high temperature in New York City reached a blistering 17 degrees. At 3 a.m. this morning, the temperature there is 1 big fat degree.
And Al Gore blames global warming.
To these global warming cultists any weather is evidence of global warming. A hot, early summer? Global warming. A monsoon in India? Global warming. The coldest day in 40some years in New York? Global warming. Some guy farts in the airplane bathroom? Global warming.
The truth is that scientists don't understand how the climate works -- but they're too proud and arrogant to admit it. Is the Earth warming? Maybe. Is it cooling? Maybe. Is human activity causing whatever is happening? Probably not.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Blah, blah, blah: Carol Moseley Braun is getting more air time for endorsing Howard Dean than she ever got when she was running herself.
Poor nations' most valuable resource: Yesterday's Nicholas Kristof column is a must-read for the anti-globalization, anti-trade, left-wing fringe.
I've written before that cheap labor is the most valuable resource of many poor nations, and Kristof vividly illustrates this point.
Cambodia has a fair trade system and promotes itself as an enlightened garment producer. That's great. But if the U.S. tries to ban products from countries that don't meet international standards, jobs will be shifted from the most wretched areas to better-off nations like Malaysia or Mexico. Already there are very few factories in Africa or the poor countries of Asia, and if we raise the bar higher, there will be even fewer.
The Democrat candidates and the pampered, grunge-loving, soap-averse anti-globalization protesters aren't really concerned about the poor of the world -- they feel guilty and hate the wealthy, Western nations of which they are a product. Hopefully, Kristof's credentials as a liberal will sway some of those on the loony left to rethink their ways -- but don't hold your breath.
Job wanted: Carol Moseley Braun has decided to drop out of the race for the Democrat presidential nomination and endorse Howard Dean.
My first thought: She wants a job -- probably another cushy ambassadorship.
So, the big question is what does Dean gain from Moseley Braun's endorsement? After all, the latest polls show she has a following of ... zero percent.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Robert Reich's other big whopper: Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich was making the rounds of the various talk shows last night commenting on former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's recent revelations.
(For the record: On O'Neill, I'm skeptical of much of what he apparently claims in the book by Ron Suskind. For a roundup on various inconsistencies between some of O'Neill's more shocking claims and "reality" check out this Instapundit post.)
Professor Bainbridge has a post on a "whopper" Reich made on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" on MSNBC last night.
Well, that wasn't the only whopper Reich made in his cable TV tour last night. On Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," Reich was on to talk about Billionaire lefty George Soros when the following exchange occurred:
Reich: You say, Bill O'Reilly, that this man, George Soros, is out of the pale.
O'Reilly: That's right.
Reich: But I don't think so. And if you measure what the right wing is doing relative to him...
Apparently Reich doesn't think comparing America today to, say, Hungary under Nazi rule during WWII is perfectly mainstream liberal political thought.
From the Nov. 10, 2003, Washington Post:
Soros believes that a "supremacist ideology" guides this White House. He hears echoes in its rhetoric of his childhood in occupied Hungary. "When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans." It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit ("The enemy is listening"). "My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me," he said in a soft Hungarian accent.
This is perfectly valid liberal political thought according to Robert Reich. Maybe the former labor secretary would also find it acceptable to refer to him, someone who claims that Bush=Hitler is OK, as Robert "Third" Reich.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Robert Geltzer, take your lawsuit(s) and stuff it: The New York Times is reporting that Geltzer, a bankruptcy trustee for the now-defunct magazine Lingua Franca has been sending letters to freelance writers threatening to sue them if they don't return fees they received in return for articles they wrote.
Joanna Smith Rakoff, a writer who worked as a Web editor and wrote for University Business Daily, an affiliated publication, had her first substantial article for Lingua Franca published just before the magazine folded. Two years later, she has been told to return the money for the work she did. The money is to be directed to "secured" creditors, rather than freelancers, who are the unsecured kind.
Ms. Smith Rakoff, who has written for The New York Times, said she had received a note demanding that her $1,550 fee be returned in 10 days - or else she would be sued and forced to pay the money back. "I feel angry and betrayed," she said. "This thing has taken over my life. I can't afford to pay it and I can't afford not to do anything about it because then there will be a default judgment against me."
Two years later? This is ridiculous. I've done freelance copyediting work before, but I never expected that if the company I worked for went belly up, that I might have to pay back money I'd rightfully earned.
Trivial Pursuit: My Christmas gift from my sister and brother-in-law was the DVD Pop Culture edition of Trivial Pursuit. We played it the other night and, unsurprisingly, I won. The thing that troubled me was the fact that both my parents and my sister and brother-in-law were dismayed by the fact that I knew the name of the bounty hunter who is killed in the Mos Eisley Cantina in the first Star Wars movie.
You grow up as a boy in the '70s and how could you not know everything there is to know about that "wretched hive of scum and villany?"
Anyway, there's not as much multimedia stuff as I would have liked to see on the DVD. We saw a grand total of one video clip during the game. The remainder of the DVD content was reminiscent of early "You Don't Know Jack" computer games with words just making their way across the screen. Unlike some of the other Trivial Pursuit games, this edition is much more party-friendly. People who have minimal interest in trivia games at parties -- the type that prefer Outburst or Cranium -- will enjoy this much more.
One day and done: After sitting in Dept. 31 of the Superior Court in Vista, Calif., for eight hours I was unceremoniously dismissed from jury duty without answering a single question during voir dire. They rounded up 60 of us for a civil case that was anticipated to last about a month. The case involved, as far as the judge explained to us, lawsuits and countersuits regarding the sale of 10 jet airplanes valued at about $50 million each.
A few things I observed:
During the questioning of Juror #4 the judge spent 15-20 minutes trying to gauge the depth of the woman's various "issues." Look, you've got 60 potential jurors, there's no reason to torture all of us by continuing to question this angst-ridden woman.
Is it customary to ask for 60 jurors when you're only going to seat 12 jurors and three alternates? Only 28 were even questioned by the judge and lawyers. You've given each side 8 pre-emptory challenges, did you really think it was possible that even get to the last 15-20 jurors? It's not like this was a high-profile criminal case.
The vast majority of the pre-emptory challenges were used to get rid of men. The final jury composition was 10 women, two men. The alternates were two women and one man. It seemed that anyone who showed evidence of education got the boot.
No more jury duty for one year for me.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Doing my duty: Blogging will likely be limited Tuesday as I report at 8 a.m. (also known as "way too early") for jury duty. I will not be using these excuses, but I present to you two surefire statements that will get you tossed off any potential jury.
For a criminal trial: "The police wouldn't have arrested him if he wasn't guilty."
For a civil trial: "No matter what happened, I don't think anyone deserves to get more than $50,000."
In the meantime, check out Don Luskin's "Poor and Stupid" blog link on the left for your daily dose of Paul Krugman/New York Times silliness.
Adobe's stupid decision: Users of the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, aka Photoshop CS, have discovered a "feature" of the software that prevents them from opening files that have images of currency.
Adobe and other makers of image-manipulation programs have, at the behest of a little-known group of national banks, inserted secret technology into their programs to foil counterfeiting, the companies acknowledged this week.
Photoshop and other programs will no longer be able to open files containing images of several nations' currencies, said Kevin Connor, director of product management for Adobe. The code to detect such images came from the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group, a low-profile association representing the national banks from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
At the request of the group, Adobe and other software companies have inserted the functionality into their programs. [emphasis added]
I love how software companies distort the language. Preventing you from opening certain files is adding "functionality."
There's no doubt that image manipulation software like Photoshop can benefit counterfeiters. But the digital copy of it is perhaps the easiest part of the process -- it is much more difficult to print a fake bill with all of the new security features.
This new "feature" can also cause problems for many Photoshop users. Whenever a new bill is rolled out, newspapers around the country print images of the bills as part of infographics or just as an art element. What program does every newspaper in the nation use for its digital imaging? Photoshop. What are newspapers supposed to do when they can't open these images to do color correction or resizing, etc.?
Photoshop 7 may be the last upgrade for many Adobe users, unless Adobe reconsiders its latest "functionality."