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July 2003 Archives

July 2, 2003

Shallow people go off the deep end

I learned to swim at the town pool when I was about 5. I remember paddling around with the kickboards and also getting water in my ears, but my most vivid memory of the lessons is being forced to jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool. The instructors stood at the side of a pool ready to extend a long pole I could grab on to if I panicked and started to drown. My fear of the deep end was largely psychological; I couldn't touch bottom in the shallow end, either. But fear is fear, and it was usually the pole for me.

When I got a little older, even after that traumatic formative experience, I grew to appreciate the deep end. So now, when I read a line such as this:

The old-style "drowning pools" won't be missed, said aquatics expert Tom Griffiths.

I immediately look for a cup of coffee so I can take a sip and spew it all over my monitor in shocked surprise. "Drowning pools"? "Won't be missed"? "Aquatics expert?" Halle Berry full of grace, what in the heck is wrong with people today?

In case you haven't yet read the article I am mocking, here's a summary: People were getting hurt jumping off diving boards in municipal pools, so the boards were removed. So fewer people used the deep end of the pools. So now the deep ends are being filled in:

Philadelphia has been filling in its deep ends over the past several years, said Terri Kerwawich, the city's aquatics coordinator. After filling in two more this spring, the city has only 10 deep ends left at its 86 pools. All but one or two will eventually be filled in.

The article quotes various aquatics experts and coordinators (who the heck knew such people existed?), along with a soccer, I mean swimming, mom who all praise the new shallow designs. They're "safer" and more "family-friendly" and yes, even "interactive" (you know, as opposed to the old pool designs that allowed no interaction whatsoever).

Well, screw friendly interactive family safety if it's come to this. Let aquatics busybodies build themselves a safe little padded cell on a safe little island away from the people in the world who want to live. Give me my childhood of deep ends and merry-go-rounds and Big Macs and pointy chess pieces and un-car-seated car trips to Florida.

(But I'll take today's adolescence. That sounds fun.)

Paul Verhoeven is still a dope

Here's an article that explains the triumph of the PG and PG-13 ratings without blaming John Ashcroft:

Of the top 20 biggest box office hits of last year, all but one were rated PG or PG-13. The Santa Clause 2 was the sole G-rated film to make the list, while 8 Mile, the R-rated Eminem (news - web sites) movie, just missed at No. 21.

The PG rating appeals to movie-savvy teens who find a G rating too juvenile. PG-13 is even better, implying the movie goes about as far as it can without kids having to be taken by parents if they want to see it.

Even so, more movies are still given R ratings than any other rating:

R-rated movies have hardly died. This summer, The Matrix Reloaded became the highest-grossing R movie ever, with $268.9 million and counting. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines opens today, and Bad Boys II on July 18. R is the most common rating, but only because so many are low-budget foreign-language films that aren't widely released, or steamy made-for-video movies.

July 3, 2003


I never fail to be awed by Victor Davis Hanson. I am not worthy to share the same internet.

Happy Independence Day.

July 4, 2003

Happy Independence Day

For July 4th, Samizdata.net reverently quotes the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

A great paragraph, no doubt. On this day, it is appropriate to also remember the great paragraph of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence which Jefferson submitted to the Congress and but was deleted. Only if it would have remained:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

July 7, 2003

Cry me a river

People whose unemployment doesn't bother me:

  • Charles Manson
  • Members of Congress
  • Jayson Blair
  • Saddam Hussein
  • Telemarketers
Though, apparently, Reuters apparently wants us to feel sorry for that last group, given the sob story they published yesterday. The essence: people with no skills will have to find another occupation besides harassing people trying to eat dinner. Gee, it doesn't sound quite so sympathetic, if I put it that way. Which I do.

But from the article:

Outbound telemarketing brings in $211 billion in annual sales in the United States, according to the Direct Marketing Association.
On the one hand, it obviously must be profitable, or why would companies do it? On the other hand, who the hell buys things from strangers who call them on the phone? I figure it must be a small, select group of morons. So why not establish a Please Call These People registry, and bother them 24/7?

July 8, 2003

Red Sox haven't won World Series since 1918; Bill Buckner solely to blame

The New York Times cites "Congressional investigators" in criticizing the Bush administration for its handling of Medicaid:

The Bush administration has allowed states to make vast changes in Medicaid but has not held them accountable for the quality of care they provide to poor elderly and disabled people, Congressional investigators said today.

The administration often boasts that it has approved record numbers of Medicaid waivers, which exempt states from some federal regulations and give them broad discretion to decide who gets what services.

But the investigators, from the General Accounting Office, said the secretary of health and human services, Tommy G. Thompson, had "not fully complied with the statutory and regulatory requirements" to monitor the quality of care under such waivers.

Damn Republicans. Always deregulating and such without any concern for the results. Right? Well, sort of...
More than a dozen state waiver programs covering tens of thousands of people have gone more than a decade without any federal review of the quality of care, the accounting office said. These programs were in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
In addition to blaming George Bush for things that happened years before he took office, the Times also significantly distorts the findings of the GAO report:
The accounting office examined 15 of the largest waivers, covering services to 266,700 elderly people in 15 states and found problems with the quality of care in 11 of the programs.
In fact, while the report does touch upon some quality-of-care deficiencies, that's not the focus of the study. The report, with regard to those eleven programs, cites problems with the states' documentation of their quality assurance programs. Got that? It's actually doubly removed from an actual problem. We're not talking about problems with care, and we're not talking about problems with state quality assurance. We're talking about the states inadequately explaining their quality assurance programs to the federal government. In short, paperwork problems. Hardly seems like a huge deal.

But none of these nuances of time or details matter, when you're the New York Times and you're out to criticize the Bush administration.

The people united can never be mass murdered!

The International Herald Tribune reports that high school seniors in Italy are being taught that communism is bad. Actually, it reports that people are complaining that high school seniors in Italy are being taught that communism is bad.

The evils of communism appear front and center in one of the themes that hundreds of thousands of Italian high school seniors could choose to write about in graduation exams given this month. That topic invited students to ponder "terror and the political repression in the totalitarian systems" of the 20th century and gives brief descriptions of fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and communism in the former Soviet Union and other countries.

Communism is blamed for the executions of about 100 million people, five times greater than the killings attributed in the exam to Nazism.

In the wording of the topic, it takes one sentence to denigrate fascism. It takes four to vilify communism.

Some historians and teachers have complained that the balance of the question is out of whack. "I teach my students that of course communism must be seen in a negative light, but the goal of Nazism was to kill people, and the goal of communism was to unite them," said Giuseppe Costantino, 61, who teaches history in a high school in Naples.

Yes, what's a hundred or so million dead anyway? Their hearts were in the right place. Still, a history teacher should know that Nazism also shared the goal of uniting people. You know, "Ein Volk" and such. So where, I ask you, are the calls for a balanced discussion on Nazism?

Coincidentally, Saddam Hussein is another chap who means well:

"Unify your ranks and act as one hand," the voice said on the Al Hayat-LBC broadcast. "Boycott the occupying soldiers ... Act and do not let the occupying forces settle down in your land."

"He who favors division over unity, and acts to divide ranks instead of unifying them, is not only a servant of the foreign occupier but he is also the enemy of God and the people," the voice said on the Al-Jazeera broadcast.

Jeebus, with uniters like these, give me good ol' fashioned divisiveness any day.

July 10, 2003

No Liberals Need Apply?

An ex-radio talk show host from South Carolina is suing her former employer for firing her.

The suit alleges that co-hosts Herriott Clarkson Mungo III, also known as Bill Love, and Hayden Hudson, also known as Howard Hudson, encouraged Cordonier to join their pro-war discussions regarding the invasion of Iraq.

The conversations became contentious on several occasions and management's tolerance for opinions decreased as war drew closer, the suit alleges. The suit also alleges that Love and Hudson belittled her both on and off the air because of her political beliefs.

"I went through hell," Cordonier told The Greenville News Monday. "I was forced out because I would not comply with their orders to be silent."

As is often the case, the facts are unclear from the news coverage, but it adds:
The suit cites a state law that declares a person cannot be fired because of political opinions.

Thought Number 1: I wonder how many people who would cite this a horrifying example of the suppression of free speech in this country also cheered the firing of Michael Savage by MSNBC?

Thought number 2: What kind of idiotic law is that? It sounds superficially reasonable -- but as written, it would apparently protect not only this radio host, but also a Michael Savage from being fired in South Carolina. In this instance, the story isn't entirely clear, so I can't be certain whether this host was fired for expressing her anti-war views on the air, or merely for holding those views. If the former -- as in the Michael Savage case -- it seems to me that there would be clear first amendment problems with applying such a law. To force a station to employ someone whose on-air views are contrary to the station's is tantamount to forcing a particular set of views on the station.

If the latter, there likely isn't a constitutional problem with the law -- but that doesn't make it less questionable. Why should an employer be forced to retain an employee who holds unpalatable political views? Should a black employer be prohibited from firing a member of the Klan? A Jewish employer be forced to keep on an avowed supporter of Hamas? (Are these extreme examples? Certainly. But, then, these sorts of laws are only needed for extreme situations. Nobody is going to fire an employee for being in favor of fireworks on the 4th of July. It's people who hold extreme views that will attract the ire of employers.)

July 11, 2003

This is funny

Go to www.google.com, type in "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.

July 12, 2003

Content of their character, shmontent of their character

Identify the bigot who criticized a civil rights activist thusly:

"It is possible for a lot of people to find his colorblind message to be superficially appealing..."
Hint: it was said in 2003, not 1963. Of course, the hint gives it away; the only people who are no longer for colorblindness in 2003 are minority interest groups, and this was said by a senior member of the NAACP. They're criticizing Ward Connerly, who, in the wake of Sandra Day O'Connor's ruling on behalf of race preferences, is campaigning for a ballot initiative in Michigan to ban the preferences, just as he has successfully done in California and Washington. The NAACP is annoyed. But so are others.
Opposition to his efforts has already begun to take shape. A Detroit News editorial on Tuesday called a potential battle over affirmative action dangerous, and called on Mr. Connerly to go home.

"The divide in understanding between whites and blacks remains wide," it said. "Toss in a ballot campaign that pits the two races against each other and all hope for finally closing that divide will be lost."

Sounds just like officials from the Jim Crow South complaining about outside agitators stirring up trouble, doesn't it? It's never the racial policies that are the problem -- it's always the people trying to end them who are accused of "pitting the two races against each other."

By the way, I know there are those who insist that race preferences are necessary because of the racism still prevalent in the United States. So what to make of this?
The leaders of both of the state's political parties also opposed the effort.
In the Michigan cases before the Supreme Court, universities, major corporations, and retired military officers (and of course the editorial board of the New York Times) all weighed in in favor of race preferences in the service of "diversity." And in Michigan now, both parties are in favor. So much for principle.

Refreshing one's memory

One of the Articles of Impeachment introduced against President Clinton concerned a set of 81 questions submitted by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde to President Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky affair. The fourth Article of Impeachment read, in part: "Clinton, refused and failed to respond to certain written requests for admission and willfully made perjurious, false and misleading sworn statements in response to certain written requests for admission propounded to him as part of the impeachment inquiry authorized by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States."

For those of you who have forgotten (and I pray that you have), question #41 was:

41. As to each, do you admit or deny that you gave the following gifts to Monica Lewinsky at any time in the past?

a. A lithograph
b. A hatpin
c. A large "Black Dog" canvas bag
d. A large "Rockettes" blanket
e. A pin of the New York skyline
f. A box of cherry chocolates
g. A pair of novelty sunglasses
h. A stuffed animal from the "Black Dog"
i. A marble bear's head
j. A London pin
k. A shamrock pin
l. An Annie Lennox compact disc
m. Davidoff cigars

Five years ago, a President was impeached. The House of Representatives was debating -- and, as you can see, I'm not making this up -- shamrock pins and novelty sunglasses. Moving to the present, we are talking about whether a President took the country to war on, in part, misleading and factually incorrect evidence.

Who thinks the current CIA/White House scandal will get one one-hundredth of the press Monicagate received? It's a shame, too.

Why ask why?

Over in National Review Online, there's an article by Clifford May providing a strong rebuttal to the sudden, weird claim that Bush's State of the Union address was a lie. While everyone has concluded that the Niger documents were phony, Bush did not mention those documents in the speech, and merely cited the British government for the proposition that Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from Africa.

May questions whether any member of Congress can honestly argue that this single minor claim was that significant to his decision making -- but May actually misses the mark on this point, because he fails to note that Congress voted to authorize war in October, three months before the State of the Union was given. So it would be pretty damn difficult for members of Congress to claim that Bush's true (if inaccurate) claim in the SOTU address is the smoking gun proving that Bush lied to get the US into war.

But what about the bigger picture? Maybe Bush's January statement didn't convince Congress to vote for war in October, but it surely convinced the American public to support the war, right? Wrong. What war opponents fail to mention is that all the administration's statements, over all the months since Bush began the full court press to "sell" the war, were ultimately irrelevant:

ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Latest: March 27, 2003. N=508 adults nationwide. MoE ± 4.5. Fieldwork by TNS Intersearch.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation with Iraq and Saddam Hussein?"

               Approve        Disapprove     No Opinion
% % %
3/27/03 69 26 5
3/23/03 71 26 3
3/20/03 65 29 5
3/17/03 64 29 7
3/5-9/03 55 38 8
2/19-23/03 55 39 6
2/6-9/03 61 37 2
2/5/03 61 32 7
1/30 - 2/1/03 61 35 3
1/28/03 58 38 4
1/27/03 57 40 3
1/16-20/03 50 46 4
12/02 58 37 5
10/02 57 38 5
9/12-14/02 65 31 4
8/29/02 52 36 12
(Data from the invaluable Polling Report, which archives poll results.)

That's right; support for (and opposition to) the war was essentially unchanged from the beginning of the process until the day the war began. Minor week-to-week fluctuations, within the margin of error. Regardless of whether you think Bush lied, this simply isn't a Gulf of Tonkin situation. Bush's factual claims didn't mislead or trick Americans into supporting the war; Americans supported the war because they agreed with the various reasons advanced for it from the beginning.

It strains credulity to suggest that these handful of words in a speech that most Americans didn't watch, that weren't seen as overly significant at the time (see, for instance, Jake Tapper's review of the speech in Salon, where he barely mentioned the uranium claim in passing) somehow constitute the proof that Bush falsely tricked us into war. In the zillions of speeches Bush and other administration officials gave over the more than six months of intensive campaigning for war, it would be shocking if everything that was said turned out to be perfectly accurate. But if these 16 words are the best that Bush's critics can come up with, then it would be difficult to conclude that Bush did anything wrong.

July 13, 2003

Six of one...

In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader declared repeatedly (to some applause and much more derision) that there was no difference between Bush and Gore, or indeed between the Republican and Democratic parties in general. Of course, by that Nader meant that Gore and the Democratic party were conservative, just like the Republicans. They both favored NAFTA and globalization, after all, and both accepted "soft money" campaign contributions, and neither one spoke about corporations the way the Pope speaks about abortion. There's some truth there. Then again, there's some truth to the argument that there's not much difference between Bush and Gore because the Bush administration is liberal, just like the Democrats. For instance, just to pick one example at random, this headline from the New York Times: Bush Administration Says Title IX Should Stay as It Is.

The reference, of course, is to the law which bans sex discrimination in federally funded programs, and specifically to the portion of it which bans sex discrimination in college sports. When Bush announced a commission to review Title IX, there had been hope in some corners that the law might be amended, and on the left, the liberal advocacy machine had already geared up to blast Bush for wanting to eliminate women's sports and make all women barefoot and pregnant. But Bush, the supposed conservative right-wing extremist who wants to destroy everything good and decent in America, ultimately did nothing.

By the way, you've got to love the New York Times' idea of balance in reporting:

The National Women's Law Center says Title IX has led to increases of women's participation in sports of more than 400 percent in colleges and of more than 800 percent in high schools. But Title IX supporters point out statistical equality has not been achieved; 56 percent of college students are women and 42 percent of the athletes are women.
They quote supporters of the law to point out how important Title IX is, and contrast them with... supporters of the law who think it doesn't go far enough. They couldn't bother to find people who think that Title IX goes too far and is seriously misguided when applied to sports?

Title IX is one of those government programs that sounds perfectly fine on its face, if one doesn't follow the news enough to know how the program has been implemented. In theory, the law (and Department of Education bureaucracy in charge of enforcing it) allows three ways for colleges to comply with the anti-discrimination provisions. One is proportionality -- having the percentage of female athletes match the percentage of females in the student body. Another is to be continually increasing the size of women's sports programs until proportionality is reached. The third is to meet all the demand of female students.

In reality, colleges have found that cutting men's sports programs (and budgets) and giving the resulting money to women's sports is the only practical way to comply with the law. Obviously, they could increase women's sports budgets without cutting men's... if they could find a source of free money sitting around waiting to be claimed. Since we don't live in the land of tooth fairies and Easter bunnies, that isn't a realistic option.

Of course, schools could address the actual wishes of students -- except that they can't. The problem is that in the most significant court case on Title IX, Cohen v. Brown University, the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Brown's attempt to show that they were meeting all needs:

We view Brown's argument that women are less interested than men in participating in intercollegiate athletics, as well as its conclusion that institutions should be required to accommodate the interests and abilities of its female students only to the extent that it accommodates the interests and abilities of its male students, with great suspicion. To assert that Title IX permits institutions to provide fewer athletics participation opportunities for women than for men, based upon the premise that women are less interested in sports than are men, is (among other things) to ignore the fact that Title IX was enacted in order to remedy discrimination that results from stereotyped notions of women's interests and abilities.
Title IX does permit institutions to provide fewer athletics participation opportunities for women than for men, if women are less interested. Brown didn't merely take that as a "premise"; Brown proved it with actual statistics. The judges, though, didn't care, substituting their prejudices for the law.
We conclude that, even if it can be empirically demonstrated that, at a particular time, women have less interest in sports than do men, such evidence, standing alone, cannot justify providing fewer athletics opportunities for women than for men.
In short, as courts have decided to enforce the law, schools have to provide opportunities for women whether women want those opportunities or not -- meaning that the only realistic option remains to cut men's programs. Which is why many people are opposed to Title IX. But the New York Times buried that argument, and the supposedly right-wing Bush administration ignored it.

July 14, 2003

Presidential Level

Call me crazy, but if the President said it, doesn't that mean it's made it to the "Presidential level"?

Unless, of course, we're not supposed to believe what the President says is presidential. That's what one is forced to believe Ari Fleischer was saying this morning.

Several of the punctuation marks were correct

There have been those who argued that blogs are inferior to traditional media because blogs aren't subject to the same standards that newspapers or magazines are. Blogs, the theory goes, don't have editors, so sloppy and misleading stories get published without the appropriate level of fact checking that editors provide. Anybody who believes that should read this appalling article-length correction in today's New York Times. The original story was so wrong that one has to wonder whether it was something left lying around Jayson Blair's desk before he quit.

From the correction:

A loan dispute between Prudential Securities and TVT Records, one of the nation's largest independent record companies, has had no impact on the control or management of TVT Records by its founder and president, Steven Gottlieb.

In a profile of Mr. Gottlieb last Monday, The New York Times reported incorrectly that Mr. Gottlieb had defaulted on a $23.5 million loan and that as a result, in February he had lost control of his company, officially called TeeVee Toons Inc., to Prudential.

In fact Mr. Gottlieb was never personally responsible for the defaulted loan and remains in full control of his company. Even if Prudential were to prevail in the dispute, which is still pending in court, its remedies would be limited to seizing certain music royalty rights that TeeVee Toons transferred in 1999 to an affiliated company called TVT Catalog Enterprises. Prudential has no claim to TVT Records itself and therefore would not be in a position to sell the company, as the article reported.

In short, they described something as already having happened as a result of a lawsuit, when in fact it hadn't happened at all, and couldn't happen as a result of the suit.

And it goes on. The Times described him as litigious; they had to take it back. The Times quoted his opponents in litigation without realizing that those people might have an agenda. The Times describes him as having sued people he hadn't sued. The Times described him as releasing albums he hadn't released. The Times described a suit as frivolous with no basis for that description, but citing yet another of its infamous anonymous sources ("People close to the case."). The Times reports that a contract was signed months before it actually was signed. The Times describes the songs as old when they weren't.

I guess the Times does get points for admitting the errors -- unusually, for them -- but that's like giving the surgeon who amputated the wrong leg credit for reattaching it. Let's wait and see what happens to Lynette Holloway, who wrote the original story. If her byline continues to appear regularly, we'll know that the recent spate of accountability at the Times is just for show.

July 16, 2003

Have You Been Distracted?

Glenn Reynolds claims that the stories about the false claims from the State of the Union address have been an attempt by "some Democrats and their media allies to distract people."

If you have, indeed, been distracted, I'd like to call the following to your attention: the federal deficit this year is going to be $445 billion.

Some of us are old enough to remember a budget surplus.

How to spend the surplus

"I want to take one-half of the surplus and dedicate it to Social Security, one-quarter of the surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who pays taxes to have their tax rates cut."
-- Governor George Bush, 1st Presidential Debate

We owe it to our children to act now

"We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now, and I hope you will join me to pay down $2 trillion in debt during the next 10 years. At the end of those 10 years, we will have paid down all the debt that is available to retire."
-- President George W. Bush, Address to Joint Session of Congress, February 27, 2001

Did I *really* see this?

I saw this on CNN this morning:

HEMMER: You're soon to be the wife of a member of the U.S. military. It comes with the territory in many ways. What have you thought about how difficult this might be going forward in the future with him, knowing that the U.S. military's engaged in so many different hotspots around the world?

HAMILTON: We have actually, since this deployment began, we have decided that we will no longer be in the army.

HEMMER: Oh, he's getting out after this tour of duty in Iraq? How do feel about that?

HAMILTON: Yes, yes. He can't stand for it.

HEMMER: Why is that?

HAMILTON: I support him 100 percent.

HEMMER: Why do you say he can't stand it?

HAMILTON: It's hard on the families, it's hard on the soldiers, and it's especially hard to know that you put your faith and trust into a president, and they continue to lie to you, they break promises, and it's hard to fight for somebody like that.

HEMMER: Do you watch the news?

HAMILTON: Yes, I do, yes.

HEMMER: You do?


HEMMER: Do you watch the news to get news from Baghdad, and if so, what is that like for you?

HAMILTON: I watch the news only to get news from Baghdad. It's good at times, when you think they're actually coming home. But it's horrible every morning when you wake up and there's another soldier killed and you don't know if it's yours.

Does anybody out there still believe that a Democratic candidate has no chance of defeating President Bush in 2004?

July 17, 2003

Advice for the Democrats

Glenn Reynolds offers advice to the Democrats.

Among his subjects are: Intelligence Failures (he thinks this is a no-go), the Saudi Connection ("lots of room" to criticize the Bush administration), Homeland Security (Reynolds focuses on the armed pilots program), Communications (which means media concentration), and lowering the drinking age. I don't know if Reynolds is attempting to be ironic in this last one, but, basically, he thinks the Democrats should be coming up with positions of their own and not just criticisms of the Republicans.

I have an idea for the Democrats. Things that, apparently, Reynolds hasn't thought of. How about running on the economy? Running on the idea of putting people back to work? How about running on health care? If everybody in America has the right to a lawyer when they're accused of a crime, shouldn't they have the right to a right to a doctor when they're sick? (Don't go running to a copy of the Consititution saying "Look, Partha, there is no *right* to a doctor written here!" -- I'm asking, shouldn't there be?). How about running on the concept of an open government that works for all its citizens and doesn't keep secrets from them? How about running on the slogan "Put People First" and insuring the United States is the United States for all its citizens.

This is a winning platform.

President Bush reviews the State of the Union address line-by-line and word-by-word

From Governor Dean's blog: Working at his desk in the Oval Office, President Bush reviews the State of the Union address line-by-line and word-by-word.

Park-Workers, Nun-Beaters, and Candy-Stealers Local 1208

I have long thought that government workers should not be allowed to form labor unions. This article does nothing to change my mind:

Budget cuts meant there was no money to plant flowers this summer in Saskatchewan's Duck Mountain Provincial Park, so a group of cottagers raised $50 and spent an afternoon planting marigolds.

Less than a day later, a dozen park workers arrived to uproot the plants, saying the volunteer action had threatened their jobs.

These are precisely the jerks whose jobs *should* be threatened. Fire them all.

Mass Destruction

According to an article in Newdsay:

Since the end of the war, dozens of mass graves [in Iraq] have been discovered -- many of them containing hundreds of bodies. The United Nations is investigating the killing or disappearance of at least 300,000 Iraqis believed murdered by Saddam's regime.

Does anybody out there still believe that we shouldn't have overthrown Saddam?

I really did see this

From today's Washington Post:

"Mary Kewatt, the aunt of a soldier killed in Iraq, saying: 'President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said 'bring it on.' Well, they brought it on, and now my nephew is dead.'"

Does anybody out there still believe that a Democratic candidate has no chance of defeating President Bush in 2004?

Why he has a staff

If Vice-President Cheney did, as Eugene Volokh claims, just "misspoke" when he claimed that Iraq had nuclear weapons, shouldn't his staff have issued a correction later that same day? Or issued a correction the next day? Or at some point?

Let's be clear; we're not talking about the New York Times misstating something. Professor Volokh is talking about the Vice-President of the United States saying that the leader of another, quite bad, country having atomic weapons in prelude to a possible war. This is very serious stuff. Every word must be measured, and if it can't be (like "in the middle of a long unscripted exchange") then it should be corrected as soon as possible.

Unless, of course, you intend your misstatement to be absorbed and believed.

How to spend the surplus

"...we need somebody to simplify the code, to be fair, to continue prosperity by sharing some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills, particularly those at the bottom end of the economic ladder.... I can't let the man -- I can't let the man continue with fuzzy math. It's $1.3 trillion, Mr. Vice President. It's going to go to everybody who pays taxes. I'm not going to be one of these kinds of presidents that says, 'You get tax relief and you don't.' I'm not going to be a pick-and-chooser. "

-- Governor George W. Bush, October 3, 2002

Re-election and predicting the future

Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, and NRO are going overboard on a recent story by Mark Steyn. Basically, Sullivan, Reynolds and NRO are really happy because Steyn says that President Bush is going to be reelected.

Let's all remember the perils of predicting a Republican future. From ABC This Week, January 25, 1998:

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, what do you think? I mean, how -- what are the steps Bill Clinton could take to survive?

BILL KRISTOL: I don't think he can survive, because he's not -- well, he really isn't telling the truth. And I don't think anyone...

COKIE ROBERTS: OK. So he is out. So then what happens next?

BILL KRISTOL: What happens is senior Democratic leaders go to the president -- and I agree with Sam; it could be in days, not in weeks -- and tell him this is insupportable, you cannot put the country through this.

James Buckley, the Republican senator from New York, in April of 1974 was the first Republican to say publicly that President Nixon had to resign. It would be ironic if the man who defeated him in 1976, Pat Moynihan, the Democratic senator from New York, stepped up and said that. But I think someone like Moynihan or Sam Nunn or Bill Bradley or a respected Democratic elder...

COKIE ROBERTS: Do you see that happening?

BILL KRISTOL:... in the next few days is going to say, Mr. President, you cannot put us through this.


GEORGE WILL: What -- what that -- what -- sooner or later Democrats are going to have their minds rolled back 24 years to 1964 when the Republican Party was annihilated because it was seemed to have been tardy in disciplining one of its own.

SAM DONALDSON: Well, I renew my question. What will President Al Gore do then?

BILL KRISTOL: He'll select -- he'll select a very respected figure as vice president, and he will have a big honeymoon. And it will -- he will actually advance legislation pretty effectively.

July 18, 2003

Sullivan on Blair's Speech

From Andrew Sullivan today:

This is what the carpers and nay-sayers still don't understand. The West is at war with a real and uniquely dangerous enemy.

I do understand this. The United States and the rest of the West is, indeed, at war with a real and uniquely dangerous enemy.

When the consequences of negligence become catastrophic, the equation of intervention changes.

I agree with this, too.

The burden of proof must be on those who counsel inaction rather than on those who urge an offensive, proactive battle.

Here is where I start to lose Sullivan. The burden of proof is on us all, not just those who, in his words "counsel inaction."

In this battle, we are the good guys. More to the point, we should always be confident that we are the good guys.

And, who counseled *inaction*? To take Iraq as an example, there were those who supported a continuation of sanctions and, if they didn't work, only then take military action. That's not "proactive," but it's not inaction.

Does it matter one iota, for example, if we find merely an apparatus and extensive program for building WMDs in Iraq rather than actual weapons?

Yeah, it does matter. If we're told that there were a bizzillon gallons of chemical weapons and then there aren't, then it does matter. In this war, as in any war, we need to be able to trust our leaders.

Or rather: given the uncertain nature of even the best intelligence, should we castigate our leaders for over-reacting to a threat or minimizing it?

I think the question of the day lies (pun intended?) within this sentence. Was it our best intelligence?

Follow-up questions are:

If it was, why was it so bad?

If it was not, why not?

Another questions are: if there are serious consequences because our leaders over-reacted, should we castigate them then? Or should we remain silent?

[Aside: Andrew Sullivan loved castigating President Clinton because the President had an affair with a member of his staff. Sullivan loves castigating Howell Raines and the New York Times because of problems at the paper. He has a thing for castigating. This situation is much more serious. Why is, on this topic, he adverse to castigation? Even if it's by people who disagree with him?]

Since 9/11, my answer is pretty categorical. Blair and Bush passed the test. They still do.

The war is still being fought. The test is still being administered.

You've got to be kidding me

Lloyd Grove reports (via Josh Marshall) that the White House has been spreading rumors about Jeffrey Kofman. Kofman was the ABC News reporter who filed a story from Iraq that the morale of U.S. soldiers has been dropping.

The White House alterted Matt Drudge that Kofman was gay and Canadian. I liked Canadian Bacon, too, but I agree with the "network insider" quoted by Grove: "Playing hardball is one thing. But appealing to homophobia and jingoism is simply ugly."

I just have to ask: if this is what carpers and nay-sayers can expect, does Andrew Sullivan still believe that "Blair and Bush passed the test?"

I don't know what to say

Read it for yourself.

Or read what Tom Tomorrow has to say: "...if this is on the level, the implications are extraordinary. I always had it in the back of my mind that Cheney was stonewalling on the energy task force to hide the corruption, the ties to Enron and so on. But what if the sons of bitches were sitting around deciding how to divvy up Iraq? What if that most reductionist of slogans is a simple statement of fact: it's all about the oil?"

July 19, 2003

On the other hand, maybe the Times would

Quick question: do you think the New York Times would have printed a boy-isn't-that-cute profile of a kid who read Mein Kampf when he was little, thought the Nazis ideas sounded really cool, and went on to lead a branch of the Aryan Nations? Somehow, I doubt it. So what's up with this New York Times puffery about Charlotte Kates, one of the organizers of the pro-terrorism conference at Rutgers?

My favorite part is right at the beginning:

WHEN Charlotte L. Kates was in elementary school, she devoured a series of books on foreign countries. One nation, however, captured her imagination. She was in the family car on her way to a children's arts festival in Philadelphia, when, she said, the utopian vision of a communist society in the Soviet Union leapt off the pages and inspired her to be a revolutionary.
Sounds like a common story for young communists in the 1930s, when the New York Times was busy covering up Stalin's crimes and many people thought the USSR was a neat idea. Only, read further, and you see this: "Ms. Kates, 23..." That's right; when she "was in elementary school," it would have been about 1990. After the Berlin Wall fell. After everyone, including the Soviet Union, had rejected communism. But she joined the Communist Party anyway. Boy, isn't that cute?

And she "agitated to loosen the dress code at her [middle] school and reduce the lunch fees." Boy, isn't that cute?

And, oh yeah, she supports Palestinian terrorism. And the total elimination of Israel. Boy, isn't that cute?


John J. Miller over at the Corner notes that: "The White House has just released a list of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.... What an outstanding group--the White House deserves an A+ for this."

I agree. It's a great group.

However, follow the link to the White House press release.

It's Roberto Walker Clemente. Not Roberto Clemente Walker.

Anyway, it's good to see that he won.


UPDATE: Look up one post to David's. My mistake. In my defense, a born-and-raised Pittsburgher am I, yet I'd never heard "Roberto Clemente Walker" before.

On further review

Actually, Partha, the White House is correct. The correct rendition of Roberto Clemente's name is Roberto Clemente Walker, and the Baseball Hall of Fame changed his plaque a few years ago to reflect that.

(Oh, and he didn't actually "win" anything; he was given an honor.)


Howard Dean has sixteen questions for President Bush. Question number 15 is:

Mr. President, we need to know what you were referring to in Poland on May 30, 2003, when you said, "For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them." (The Washington Post, Mike Allen, 5/31/2003)

For comparison and perspective, the following was question number 15 of the House Judiciary Committee's questions for President Clinton. You know, the questions which formed a major basis for Article 4 of his impeachment:

Do you admit or deny that you discussed with Monica Lewinsky prior to December 17, 1997, that if either of you were questioned about the existence of your relationship you would deny its existence?

July 20, 2003

Logic deficit

Wouldn't complaints about the deficit be more credible if they were coming from people who had ever met a federal program (other, of course, than the defense department) that they didn't like? I didn't notice Democrats who demanded a prescription drug program worrying about the deficit. I didn't notice Democrats who demanded federal grants to the states for their budgets worrying about the deficit. I didn't notice Democrats who complained about the lack of funding for No Child Left Behind, or for port security, or for aid for Africa, or peacekeeping in Liberia, worrying about the deficit. I didn't notice Democrats who demanded universal health care worrying about the deficit.

So what's with the sudden interest in the deficit? Mere partisan hypocrisy? Well, there are a few other possibilities:

  1. These Democrats want to raise taxes in order to pay for these additional boondogglesprograms. Hmm. I've heard many Democrats complaining about Bush's tax cuts; I've only heard some actually suggesting that these tax cuts be reversed. And I've heard none suggesting that taxes actually be raised from their pre-Bush levels.

  2. These Democrats want to cut other programs in order to pay for these additional programs. Okay, which? Sure, we could save a little money if there were other countries participating in Iraq. But certainly not enough to eliminate the current deficit, let alone pay for additional programs. And I've heard no proposals to eliminate other federal programs. Nobody who suggests that perhaps Medicare and Social Security ought to be means tested. Nobody (on the Democratic side) who suggests that maybe the Department of Education is a big waste of money. If they're not going to propose large cuts, then they can't create large additional spending programs (without deficit spending).

  3. Although Democrats don't like deficits, these Democrats think the new spending ideas they have are preferable to deficit reduction. Well, reasonable people can disagree on that argument; it's not frivolous. But if that's the case, then clearly they don't think deficits are that dangerous. In that case, what they're doing is using the deficit as a pretext to complain about tax cuts.
They don't care about deficits per se; they just don't like tax cuts. But since that's a losing political argument, they're citing the deficit.

Having a ball

I know that there are people out there who hate President Bush with every molecule of every fiber of their being. (Thousands of people drove that point home this past winter by taking to the streets denouncing him and supporting one of the most murderous dictators of the past fifty years.) I've learned to find their shrill rants amusing, despite their dead seriousness. And for a fine example of shill ranting, check out this lead paragraph by Matt Taibbi of the New York Press:

George Bush should be hung up by his balls. No kidding. He should be grabbed from behind, restrained, forcibly stripped below the waist, and a big hook should be pushed through his scrotum. Then the rope attached to the hook should be dragged through a pulley at the top of a flagpole, and the president should be hoisted up and left to swing in the breeze, 60 painful feet above the ground.
Ye gods. So what did the president do to earn Taibbi's wrath? He went to Africa and made a speech condemning slavery. (Gasp!) And he also changed the way Head Start and Section 8 programs are funded. (The nerve!) Mind you, funding levels haven't been reduced, they're just now being given out as block grants to the states. Taibbi describes this as "whipping out the rusty garden tools and cutting the very balls out of the black community." (Note the casual racism in implying that all blacks, and no whites, are on welfare. Apparently, he doesn't much care about the poor white men in testicular danger. And never mind the women.)

So as I said, it's amusing. What other reaction can you have? People like Taibbi aren't going to listen to reason, for their Bush-hatred is like a religion. And you can't argue with religious fanatics. But if you try (and you're a man), remember to wear a protective cup.

Who is to blame?

Q. Who is to blame for the bad intelligence concerning Iraq's supposed nuclear materials acquisition?

a. George Tennet
b. Dr. Rice
c. Dick Cheney
d. George W. Bush
e. All of the Above
f. None of the Above

The answer is, of course, f, none of the above. Because, according to the Speaker of the House, the blame lies upon -- get this -- former President Bill Clinton.

Speaking up for the Bush administration, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said on the same program that the decision to include the sentence "was made by the speechwriters and by the folks in the White House" using various intelligence sources that were thought reliable. If it wasn't, he said, much of the blame falls on former President Clinton.

"You know, intelligence is not an exact science," said Hastert, R-Ill. Before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "we had a hard time just figuring out what was going, because our foreign intelligence was decimated. The human intelligence was decimated in 10 years before" by Clinton's proclivity not to use human rights violators and other shady individuals as intelligence operatives.

"We've spent the last four years, or 3 1/2 years, trying to build up credible intelligence sources so we can get people to get the human intelligence that we need," Hastert said.

Now we just have to figure out a way to blame the deficit on Clinton.

Just imagine the dry cleaning bill

So you thought your wedding was expensive? Try this wedding dress on for size:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Syrian-Jewish bride from Brooklyn will this summer wear what could be America's most expensive wedding gown, a white dress adorned with 1,100 glittering diamonds and worth $300,000, an assistant to the designer said on Thursday.


Mindy Woon, buyer and assistant manager of the bridal salon at the upscale department store Bergdorf Goodman, said the most expensive gown it sells is for about $40,000.

"I've never heard of a gown that high," Woon said. "That's probably three times what most people spend on their entire wedding."

Probably three times? How many $100,000 weddings have you been to? I'd like to meet some of Mindy Woon's pals.

July 21, 2003

Irony didn't end on 9/11

Via Atrios:

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq," said Wolfowitz, who is touring the country to meet U.S. troops and Iraqi officials.


In this week's issue of Newsweek, Gersh Kuntzman writes about Beyonce Knowles: "although if you ask me, the only controversy is how come [Beyonce] doesn’t take off all her clothes already because, clearly, this is the actual product she is selling, and to remain clothed amounts to a particularly frustrating form of false advertising."

I think he should get a copy of Beyonce's new song, "Crazy in Love." I'm not a big Top 40 fan -- in fact, I'm not even a small Top 40 fan -- but this song is incredible.

This young woman has talent and is selling much more than skin. If you don't approve of what she did at Grant's Tomb, that's fair, and criticize her for that. But, don't say that she's just a stripper, because she's not. Her music is sophisticated, interesting, and smokingly hot.

Hospital Rankings

I'm not one who likes rankings... college rankings, business school rankings, or hospital rankings.

But, I just need to mention that the new US News and World Report hospital rankings came out today, and the #2 pediatric hospital is the Children Hospital of Boston. Pretty good. It's also the hospital where my twin sister, Dr. Mazumdar, works.

(The best pediatric hospital is, by the way, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia -- right down the street from Williams Hall and Penn's Asian American Studies program. I've got #1 and #2 covered. I'd be a lucky guy if I had a sick child. Or not, I suppose.)


If the war in Iraq wasn't about Iraq being an immediate threat. If the war in Iraq wasn't about weapons of mass destruction. If the war in Iraq wasn't about oil. If the war in Iraq wasn't about its non-existent ties with al-Qaeda...

If the war in Iraq was genuinely about freeing the Iraqi people from fear, repression, and wonton murder...

Then, forgodsakes, why aren't we in Liberia?

WAILING WITH GRIEF, Liberians lined up 18 bloodied, mangled bodies outside the U.S. Embassy after a shell hit a U.S. diplomatic compound across the street, killing at least 25 Liberians. At least 10,000 refugees have taken refuge in an abandoned area of the compound.
The barrage of mortars began as the streets were crowded with people taking advantage of a 12-hour lull in the shelling to try to find water and supplies, the BBC reported. With more than 360 people injured, it appeared to be the bloodiest single day of fighting in three rebel attempts to take Monrovia, the capital, in the past two months.
As thousands of Liberians stood outside the compound asking when troops would come to protect them, Marines of the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team, wearing green camouflage, body armor and helmets, flew into the embassy from nearby Sierra Leone and took off carrying 23 people.

July 22, 2003

To the rescue

Don't fret, we're going to Liberia. I know you've always been eager for war, Partha. It just takes time:

U.S. officials announced that 4,500 more American sailors and Marines have been ordered to position themselves closer to Liberia, if needed for an evacuation of Americans, peacekeeping or some other mission.

So where's the concern about threatening and invading a sovereign nation that is neither an immediate nor a long-term threat to us and which has no ties to terrorism? Where's the concern about the projection of American power and hegemony? Darn it, you anti-war folks, I demand consistency! Get organized! I expect thousands at a "hands off Liberia" rally this weekend on Fifth Avenue!


William Kristol

William Kristol's now oft-cited column in the Weekly Standard argues that the questioning Democrats are doing about the Iraqi-nuclear material-intelligence will end up hurting the Democrats. He writes that "it's a free country, and if the Democrats prefer instead to act as a pathologically disgruntled lunatic fringe, then it'll be their problem more than anyone else's."

Let's remember for a second what Kristol wrote about the Linda Tripp and the Starr Report (much of this is Kristol quoting Mark Helprin, but Kristol obviously agrees with what Helprin is saying):

Politicians, jittery as they are, may wish to reread the prophetic words of author Mark Helprin, in a Wall Street Journal piece from October 1997. For Republicans, wrote Helprin, "there can be only one visceral theme, one battle, one task" -- "to address the question of William Jefferson Clinton's fitness for office in light of the many crimes, petty and otherwise, that surround, imbue, and color his tenure. The president must be made subject to the law."

Thanks to Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp -- and, of course, Ken Starr -- Helprin's call to arms carries a new urgency. Starr's report will reveal, in Helprin's words, "a field of battle clearly laid down." The lines have been drawn. What Republicans now need is the nerve to fight. They must stand for, to quote Helprin again, "the rejection of intimidation, the rejection of lies, the rejection of manipulation, the rejection of disingenuous pretense, and a revulsion for the sordid crimes and infractions the president has brought to his office." (Weekly Standard, May 25, 1998, page 18.)

To make things clear:

Kristol believes questoning an administration about faulty intelligence that was used to justify a war reveals one as a "pathologically disgruntled lunatic fringe."

A woman who tapes phone conversations about an affair she's having with a married man, the woman who was taped, and the man who investigated the taping laid down a great field of battle. Kristol believed the Republicans needed the nerve to fight this important battle. Need to fight, of course, because they were revulsed by the sorrid crime of adultery.

The Republicans are glorious. They were fighting against adultery; a battle to save the county, democracy, and the rule of law. Once more into the breach dear friends, once more. However, for Kristol, question a Republican president about bad intelligence, and you are pathological and luney.

I have one question: How does William Kristol differ from Ann Coulter?

More William Kristol

This is fun...

From his September 1, 1998 column in the Weekly Standard:

"Personal loyalty is an admirable trait, and so is political loyalty. Up to a point. Government officials work for the nation, not simply for the president. They swear an oath to the Constitution, not to the president. To remain loyal to a president who lies is to make oneself complicit in his lies. To remain loyal to a man who has brought shame to his office is to make oneself complicit in that shame. At some point, blind loyalty must yield to principled honor. When?"

That's right. Kristol was criticizing members of the Clinton administration for not resigning because the President lied about having an affair. Kristol wrote: "Bill Clinton is not a man of honor. But are there no honorable men around him? Can his staff and cabinet be lied to without consequence? Is there nothing that will impel them to depart? They need not become vociferous critics of the president. They need not denounce him. A quiet, principled leave-taking would suffice. But it would be refreshing if one of them refused to be complicit any longer in the ongoing lie that is the Clinton White House. Apparently, not one of them is willing to do that."

And this was about an affair. Not a war. An affair.

Where's the outrage, now?

We won! How outrageous!

Of course, Clinton actually lied about his affair. At most, Bush was wrong about the Niger connection (although note that the British are sticking to their story). An actual lie is the suggestion that uranium purchases were the only reason for going to war, and that proving that claim wrong would wreck the entire war rationale. Sorry, but that would still leave Saddam as a very immediate threat to his people and his neighbors, an avowed threat to the United States, a flouter of multiple U.N. resoutions, and a thorn in the world's side for decades. Good enough reasons to get rid of him for me, and for most of the country, yellowcake or no yellowcake.

A related lie is that Democrats can gain by running against a war we won. Note that they were smart enough not to try that in 1992. As James Taranto puts it:

Democrats seem to be just as out of touch today. Rather than celebrate the overthrow of a tyrant and enemy of America, they are trying to discredit it by retrospectively niggling over the nuances of the argument for war. It's as if they were defense lawyers arguing an appeal on behalf of Saddam, trying to get him off on a technicality.

The Washington Times quotes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as explaining to a Senate committee yesterday: "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of our experience on September 11."

Rumsfeld is exactly right, and the Democrats will self-destruct unless they grasp the political ramifications of the national epiphany that was Sept. 11. The response that "Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11," though possibly accurate, is beside the point--the equivalent of arguing in 1942 that Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. FDR and Truman knew who America's enemies were, but many of their heirs seem not to.

Let's hope this is confirmed soon

From msnbc.com:

BAGHDAD, July 22 — Widespread and sporadic gunfire crackled across Baghdad after dark on Tuesday as word spread that Saddam Hussein's feared and hated sons may have been killed in a gunbattle with U.S. troops.

It really would have been more gratifying if they were captured alive, but why quibble?

The answer to the question: what happened to the WMDs?

Is it possible that there are no WMD in Iraq today because Bill Clinton led a coalition of the willing and disarmed Saddam Hussein 5 years ago?

The answer is, of course not. As Trent Lott said at the time: "While I have been assured by administration officials that there is no connection with the impeachment process in the House of Representatives, I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time. Both the timing and the policy are subject to question."

But, it does make sense. "U.S. and British air and naval forces have attacked more than 75 Iraqi military targets after two nights of bombing in Operation Desert Fox, Pentagon leaders said here."

July 23, 2003

What happened to the WMDs? We don't know.

It's possible Saddam was disarmed five years ago, but we didn't know that then. And we didn't know that in March. And President Clinton has just admitted he still doesn't know:

"When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for," Clinton said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

Clinton said he never found out whether a U.S.-British bombing campaign he ordered in 1998 ended Saddam's capability of producing chemical and biological weapons. "We might have gotten it all, we might have gotten half of it, we might have gotten none of it," he said.

This is not to bash Clinton - nobody else seemed to or seems to know. Pro-war and anti-war folk alike thought that there were WMDs left - remember that a main point in opposition to the war was the fear that Saddam would use such weapons against us. Perhaps the only way to find out for sure was to send in the Army. And if they come back and say "well, golly, the WMD's *were* destroyed five years ago", I can live with that. I'll leave it to war opponents who might be cheered by that news to explain why they feel bombing was justified then in the first place.

Anyway, here's another excerpt from that very same article:

Clinton confined his remarks to biological and chemical weapons, and did not say whether he would consider credible any report that Saddam had wanted to build a nuclear weapons program.

Nonetheless, he suggested that Bush's mistake was par for the course -- and that it was time to move on now that Bush had acknowledged the error.

"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president," he said. "I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to without messing up once in a while. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."

If Clinton can move on, can Clinton democrats?

Randy Barnett wants to know

Randy Barnett says that he "really want[s] to know" so, really quickly, let's find out:


The contention that George W. Bush lied in his State of the Union speech, now spreading through the media and into the base of the Democratic Party, has caused me (Randy Barnett) to think again about a phenomenon I have been noticing since the election of 2000.

If the White House knew that those now-infamous 16 words were incorrect, if the number #2 person at the National Security Counsel knew, then it is a lie. Attributing an assertion to someone else (in this case the British) when you know it's false doesn't make what you've said the truth.

As you probably know, the idea that truth is “socially constructed” has been in vogue in academia for some time. I never took it that seriously and only mention it in passing in The Structure of Liberty. I did not think very many people could possibly believe it, or at least believe that, if true, it had any practical implications. Hey, even if the world is socially constructed, if we cannot willfully reconstruct it as we prefer, then it’s pretty much as irrelevant as the old speculations that we are just a brain in a vat or that the universe exists in a drop on some cosmic chemist’s workbench.

Of course "socially constructed" has been in vogue in academia for some time. It's really nothing new and lots of people believe it. It's the entire foundation of the discipline of Sociology. It's simply the belief that we live in societies and these societies form networks, bonds, and beliefs that become ingrained within individuals. I have no idea what the last sentence means, though. Societies change all the time -- we can willfully reconstruct societies.

That 'truth' itself is socially constructed is a bit more complicated, but in this debate it really isn't. Barnett, I, and the rest of the left live in the same society. Our truths are the same. (Unlike, say, us and some hypothetical other society where, say, poor, overweight, short, clumsy men are the true emblem of beauty and attraction for most women, opposed to rich, fit, tall, athletic men.)

Since the 2000 election, however, I have begun to realize for the first time that the Left really and truly lives in a socially constructed world — a world where “truth” is their own construction. In their world:

Al Gore was elected president. Bush was selected. The Supreme Court “decided the election” (rather than reversed a rogue Southern state Supreme Court and restore the rulings of local, mainly democratic, election officials). Bush is in the pocket of the oil companies. Dick Cheney really runs the country. Bush’s energy plan would destroy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

I'm squarely on the left, so let's look at these assertions:

Well, Al Gore did receive more votes than President Bush. If both the overcounts and undercounts had been counted in Florida, it would have been clear that Gore won Florida, as well.

I don't think President Bush is in the pocket of the oil companies. He sure listens to them, though. I don't think the Vice-President really runs the country. I don't know anything about the Artctic National Wildlife Refuge. Would the energy plan destroy it?

I could go on and on. These are not disagreements about “values” or ends, but disagreements about facts. Once you notice this phenomenon, you see it everywhere. Now the Left is lying about Bush to make him appear to be a liar because they cannot catch him in any actual lies. The question is whether they believe what they are saying. Some do, some may not, but millions certainly believe what they are hearing.

I don't see what he's talking about or what the lies are. Barnett is either: (1) willfully distorting what the "left" believes, or (2) taking extreme examples of the left and positing them as being normative. With both possibilities, he's shutting down the possibility of actual and real political debate.

I know that this is nothing new. Alger Hiss was innocent. Barry Goldwater was a neo-Nazi who was looking to start WWIII. J. Edgar Hoover wore women’s clothing. In the Second Amendment debate, the anti’s make up stories about what happened at the founding to fit enough of the facts just the way defense lawyers explain away the prosecution’s evidence. When the fit gets too hard to maintain, they switch stories to another made-up but more defensible version. Evidence is largely irrelevant, unless they are in a forum in which they are directly confronted.

Alger Hiss? Does anybody this side of Ann Coutler still care about Alger Hiss? For what it's worth, I think Hiss was guilty. I don't begrudge Barry Goldwater nor do I think he was a neo-Nazi. I wish Barnett would give examples for his Second Amendment claim (examples where the judges buy these "defense lawyer" claims -- I mean, defense lawyers argue all sorts of things, even in non 2nd Amdendment cases).

These “constructions” or fabrications are not just ideological disagreements. When the Left claimed, for example, that the Industrial Revolution immiserated the masses rather than greatly improving the standard of living of ordinary people, it was easy to dismiss this as a dispute about a past we could not directly experience.

I've read about the Homestead Strikes, the Haymarket Strike, and even read my Dickens. I've even read "leftist" labor historians such as Herbert Gutman and E.P. Thompson. And, I've gotta disagree. I don't think it's a fabrication to claim that a much of "the masses" had a bad time of it during the Industrial Revolution. (And, if wage labor originated during the Industrial Revolution, how does Barnett gauge that the "masses" had their standard of living "greatly improve." What variables are at issue here? An argument is necessary, not just a blithe assertion.)

But what I am now coming to appreciate is that increasing numbers of persons on the Left create in their minds a false world in which to live — a world that better suits their preconceptions. They are not content to disagree with the goals of their opposition or about predictions of future policy results. They must make up facts about the world that fit their theories — like the “homeless” crisis that immediately vanished when Clinton took office. Their world is really and truly socially constructed. In their world Cuba really is a better place, as was the USSR up until the moment it collapsed, at which point those on the Left retroactively became anti-communists who had long struggled to bring down what they formerly claimed was a better and more just society.

I don't think the homeless crisis vanished when President Clinton took office. I don't think Cuba really is a better place. Neither do I think the USSR was, either. Did the left really believe this once? Leftists like President Kennedy and President Johnson? Leftists who would take Barnett out to the woodshed if he claimed that somehow their anti-communism wasn't genuine.

I'm not making up facts. I'm just saying what being attributed to me, as a member of the left, just isn't true. It's easy to construct a scarecrow and then attack it. It's more difficult to actually engage in a real debate.

On legal historian e-mail lists to which I subscribe, the Left took forever to abandon Michael Bellesiles (of Arming America disrepute), perhaps because his story fit their world. Or perhaps it was because the worst possible thing is to admit the evil right-wingers are right about anything. I raise the Bellesiles affair not because I think he is typical of the Left, but because of the dogged refusal to admit his story was a fabrication when the evidence of fraud was visible for all to see.

But they did abandon him when it became clear that his work was faulty, right? Is Barnett's beef that the "left" didn't just jump away from Bellesiles at the first inkling of trouble or because it waited until the facts were out before making the correct judgement?

This socially constructed reality changes all the time to fit current ideological needs. One day, Bush is a moron; the next he is Machiavelli reborn; the next he is a moron again. Flip-flops don’t seem to faze them in the slightest. They just “move on.”

Nice little dig at moveon.org, however one can believe someone is both not intellectually bright and calculatingly vindictive. I'm not (I repeat NOT) saying that I do, but it isn't a flip-flop.

And, what does this have to do with "social construction"?

I could go on and on with more examples, but you get the point. I disagree with conservative Republicans about a lot, but I just have not noticed them making up stories wholesale to bolster their world view. The closest I have seen is some of what they say about judges “making up rights,” but this sort of rhetoric has a genuinely factual basis.

Actually, I don't get the point, yet. More examples are necessary.

Still, this “social construction” phenomenon, if it indeed does exist, leaves me both disturbed and genuinely perplexed:

(1) Has it always been this blatant or extreme? I do not think so but, if not, what has changed? The perception on the Left that they have lost their grip on power? The access of so many to open microphones? Anger over Ronald Reagan’s victory and popularity? Republicans’ taking control of the House and their impeaching Clinton? George W. Bush winning the legal challenge to the decisions of local election officials brought by Al Gore?

Has it always been this blatant or extreme? Damn, that's a loaded question.

I'll have a go at it:


Maybe, Yes.

Sometimes I think it is because the format of most news-talk shows now mandates that people take adversarial positions. Producers must therefore find someone to take the other side of every issue, and cognitive dissonance leads these advocates eventually to believe what they say. Viewers then see seemingly authoritative speakers repeatedly insisting on the same “facts,” which they simply prefer to believe because they reinforce their preconceptions. On the other hand the establishment media is not even that balanced and its consumers only get information that fits their world view.

(2) How can intelligent people sustain these false beliefs seemingly indefinitely? This must take some toll on them inside. But what exactly is the price they pay internally or emotionally for living in an artificially constructed reality? Perhaps it is actually easier, rather than more difficult, to live in a world of facts that reinforce one’s predilections.

I still don't know what these "false beliefs" are. A more complete discription of the "left" was in order.

And, does Barnett actually think that what I believe... the reasons I twice voted for Bill Clinton (actually three time if you include a primary vote) and the reason I voted for Al Gore should be taking a toll on me "inside" and that I should be paying an internal or emotional toll.

I believe what I believe, and until he can show me that they are factually incorrect (which he hasn't), I'm going to sleep well tonight, thank you. I'm betting, so will the people who voted for Clinton over Bush I, Clinton over Dole, and Gore over Bush II. The left side has more people than the right in all three of these elections. Does Barnett want me to believe otherwise, or should all of us be feeling emotional pain?

(3) If this phenomenon is indeed as pervasive as I now think it is, how do I know that I am not doing exactly the same thing in reverse — thus confirming the claim that reality is indeed socially constructed? I know that is what I will hear from readers.

No, I'm not going to make this claim. I'm not that arrogant.

Perhaps everyone does do this to a certain degree. I do believe that, to some degree, “facts” and even sensory perception are “theory”-laden. The brain is such that you rarely see the theory working in the background, but sometimes it can be glimpsed. Everyone has had the experience of seeing an object on the horizon, in one’s peripheral vision, or across the room that looks like just shapes and colors, or looks like an object you know it cannot possibly be. Then you get closer or view it from a slightly different angle and what it ”really” is suddenly snaps into place. This is your brain “recognizing” the shapes and colors and then defining or redefining it.

I have no idea what he's talking about here.

Assuming we all do it to some degree — that no one is totally and completely objectively realistic about the facts — is what I am now perceiving on the Left simply a more extreme version of the phenomena, both as measured against how I think the world really is and perhaps also against how even the Left was even a few years ago?

I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Have you noticed it too? Have you noticed it getting worse? How can you know that you are not yourself equally guilty of doing exactly the same thing? And how can we settle our political disagreements if a large number of the players are living in a world of their own making? I really want to know.

I'm not living in a world of my own making. I just want people like Barnett to engage in real debate instead of mocking his opponents, instead of telling them what they believe and then pointing out that what he's just told them they believe is not just wrong, it's made up and foolish.

July 24, 2003

Iceberg, Greenberg, Goldberg, what's the difference?

Did they really say this? From a New York Times story on immigrants in Japanese society:

Though Vietnamese by origin, as fellow Asians they would be hard to pick out out in a crowd.
Yeah, they all look alike to me. All them colored people do, in fact.

July 25, 2003

Uday's Bodyguard

I found this interview with one of Uday Hussein's bodyguards fascinating. Sorry, no excerpts. Read the whole thing, as they say.

July 26, 2003

Why not the XFL?

There are many people who have criticized the Postal Service for sponsoring Lance Armstrong's team in the Tour de France. Generally, people questioned why the Post Office, as a monopoly, would need to advertise. But then there's the argument everybody except the New York Times would be embarrassed to print. In an Op/Ed piece they published -- scarily enough, by someone who sits on the Postal Rate Commission -- we see a new theory for how the Postal Service should choose its advertising strategy:

Rather than criticizing the Postal Service for supporting Lance Armstrong (although perhaps he needs far less money than when he joined the team years ago, before he was a superstar) we should demand that sponsorships reflect the diverse character of postal customers. Why, for instance, does the agency seem so partial to men's sports? Why not sponsor women's soccer or the Dance Theater of Harlem, or the American Film Institute? Why not sponsor graphic art exhibitions that simultaneously promote stamp illustration sales and stamp collecting?
Why not? Uh, I'm going to take a wild stab at it. Maybe because the purpose of sponsorship is to bring in revenues? Why not sponsor women's soccer? How about because test patterns get higher ratings?

Hmm. Affirmative action for advertising. If Lance Armstrong doesn't "need" the money, and the Dance Theater does, then give it to the latter. After all, who cares about the needs of the Postal Service? They should be spending their advertising dollars based on the needs of the recipients. Sheesh. You'd think it was a parody, if it weren't for the fact that the context, and the author's biography makes it clear that she is entirely earnest. You've got to love leftist identity politics.

Gee, thanks

Andrew Sullivan on "many Democrats": "My beef with many Democrats right now is not that they're traitors of any kind but that they have got their perspective skewed; and they need to realize more strongly that we really are fighting truly bad guys out there and our president isn't one of them."

I'm pretty sure that I'd be in Sullivan's "many Democrats" category. He's generous to believe I'm not a traitor. Gee thanks. That's not a backhanded compliment, nor is it even damning with feignt praise. Even discussing the possibility that your political opponents are traitors is a horrendous thing. We're in a democracy forgodssakes.

I don't think I have my perspective skewed. See, when "many Democrats" criticize the President, they don't think he's the enemy or a bad guy equilivant of a terrorist, they see him as one of us but someone who should be promoting a different policy.

Anybody who doesn't see this, well, has their perspective skewed.

July 28, 2003


The New York Times's Fox Butterfield is (in)famous for not being able to grasp cause-and-effect, but his myopic mindset appears to be spreading. An Associated Press story on the subject of crime pays homage to one of Butterfield's classics in the annals of liberal cluelessness:

America's prison population grew again in 2002 despite a declining crime rate, costing the federal government and states an estimated $40 billion a year at a time of rampant budget shortfalls.

Actually, down in its fifth paragraph, after the mandatory quote from the ACLU, the article actually does present the case that the causal relationship may just be there. But it does so skeptically, and immediately moves on to suggest that there's something wrong with putting people in prison, even if it reduces crime. Namely, the cost. But while the article does discuss, ad nauseam, the costs of incarceration, it never even mentions the benefits. How much money is saved due to the reduced crime? It doesn't say. You would think the benefits of a program would be an important part of cost-benefit analysis. Unless you were a reporter, in which case you'd forget all about it.

And then we get to the second aspect of liberal media bias: the implication that the criminal justice system is just a sideline, a distraction for the government from its real business of ensuring that we don't eat too many saturated fats, making sure that women can play basketball in college, and wiring homeless shelters in North Dakota for broadband internet access. We do see stories from time-to-time which depict government programs such as these as unaffordable, yes. But the focus of those stories is invariably on how the government needs to find more money to pay for these essential programs, rather than on how the government needs to find ways to cut spending on these programs. With crime control, on the other hand, we see articles like this one, in which increased incarceration is treated as an obstacle to reducing the deficit, rather than the other way around.

Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that there are problems with our criminal justice system, that people are prosecuted for nonviolent drug offenses when they shouldn't be. But the problem with that isn't the fact that it costs money, but that arresting people for victimless crimes is a bad idea at any price. If we're prosecuting the right people, then the cost is worth it; that -- not health care, or prescription drug benefits, or subsidies for farmers -- is the job of government.


By the way, think of the phrase "nonviolent drug offenses," which I used below. Aren't all drug offenses, by nature, nonviolent? If a drug addict mugs an old lady to pay for his habit, that's assault and robbery, not a violent drug offense. If a drug dealer shoots another drug dealer over a territorial dispute, that's murder, not a violent drug offense. By using the phrase "nonviolent drug offense," though, we imply that there's another kind. And this implies that some drug offenses are worth locking people up for. And once we imply that, then we're just haggling over the price of each, not arguing a fundamental point.

Without meaning to sound all Orwelly, the words we use matter. They shape (and sometimes cloud) our thoughts. That's why it's important to stop and think about what the words mean, instead of just reflexively using them. And that's why I endorse the use of the phrase "homicide bomber," which many think is silly. I endorse its use not because "homicide bomber" is more accurate, but because a change in our cliches means we have to pause and reflect on what those words refer to. "Suicide bomber" had become a one-word term, like peanut-butter-and-jelly. Nobody mentally broke it down into separate components, because people had become so used to saying it as a phrase. But by introducing the phrase "homicide bomber," people were forced to step back and consider what the words truly meant. Even if they ultimately concluded that suicide bomber was more suitable, it meant that they were thinking about it, instead of just using the phrase thoughtlessly. At least for a little while.

July 29, 2003


From Paul Krugman's column today: "Here's what Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said in a speech last week: 'To gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier.'"

Let's see about this Democratic leadership...

Ted Kennedy served three years in the U.S. Army. I don't know if he can fly, though.

Richard Gephardt, former House Minority Leader, might be able to fly; he served six years in the Missouri Air National Guard. David Bonior was a Staff Sargent in the United States Air Force. Tom Daschle was an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Senator John Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. Rangle is a Bronze Star recipient from the Korean war. The recently vocal Max Cleland is a Silver and Bronze Star recipient.

Looking at the leadership on the other side of the aisle: Hastert, Delay, Blunt, Frist, McConnell, Santorum, nor Lott are veterans.

For what it's worth, I trust the Democratic leadership on security issues. They are not out of touch. And they know what war is about.

Unless, of course, someone out there wants to do some spinning and claim that Kennedy, Gephardt, Bonior, Daschle, Kerry, Rangle, and Cleland are traitors.

July 30, 2003

I hate when things get cheaper

You've got to love the logic of desperate partisans:

But the recall provision, which was created in 1911 to thwart the corruption of East Coast-style machine politics and domination by plutocrats, has become another way big money can warp the system.

"Instead of spending $50 million to be governor," Mayor Brown says, "a wealthy person can throw in $2 million for a recall and only need 20 percent of the vote to win."

Got that? A Democrat is complaining that elections cost too little and that this lower cost is biased in favor of the wealthy. Instead of having to spend $50 million, a candidate can spend $2 million, and this drop in price is "big money warping the system."

[MAJOR caveat here: I'm citing Maureen Dowd for a quote. Jerry Brown may have actually said something slightly different, such as, "I hope the As win the World Series."]

Remembering Vincent

Over at The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes: "THIS IS SAUDI ARABIA: 2 & 4 years for murder. The husband (four years) tied up the 18-year-old maid while the wife (2 years) poured scalding hot water on their employee."

Of course, 2 & 4 years could happen here, too. Let's remember Vincent Chin. He was killed by two men... a step-father and a step-son. The step-son held Vincent and the step-father beat him with a baseball bat. The facts are undisputed. In fact, two police officers witnessed the event and both men pleaded guilty.

Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz each received three years probation and a $3,700 fine. No jail time at all. In fact, it makes the Saudia Arabia sentence seem harsh.

It's too late for Justice for Vincent Chin, but as we poke fun at others, let's keep making sure our house is in order, too.

July 31, 2003

Not Solly

It's on right after the Simpsons and it's unlike anything else on TV. It's Banzai! And it's ticking people off:

Animal rights activists were appalled. The National Council on Problem Gambling would like to see viewers urged to bet responsibly. And the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans has complained that the series showcases "the most offensive, negative Asian stereotypes." [...]

"I didn't think that was particularly funny," said Aki Aleong, a spokesman for the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans.

His group mounted an unsuccessful effort to block the show from airing in cities with big Asian populations.

Notice the contempt the professional complainers at the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans show their fellow Asians in attempting to dictate to them what television programs they may not watch. That's what *I* find offensive. Hooray for the series creator Gary Monaghan (as well as the Fox Network) for showing some sense and not backing down:

[Monaghan] pronounces himself shocked that some Asian-Americans are offended. The show has aired for two years in Britain and he hasn't heard any complaints, he said.

The show uses virtually all Asian actors who use their own accents, not exaggerated ones, he said.

"I can understand that Asian-Americans want a realistic portrayal of Asian-Americans on TV," Monaghan said. "But this isn't set in America. It's not realistic. It's fantasy. I don't quite understand it."


In a post about evolution and culture, Steven Den Beste writes "Darwinian evolution by natural selection is inelegant, inefficient, very cruel and wasteful and, it turns out, true."

I have to disagree. Inelegant it is not. Let's remember Darwin's last words of Origin of Species: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one ; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

NON-RELATED TRIVIA QUESTION: Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. Name another person who was also born on 2/12/1809.

About July 2003

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in July 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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