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September 2003 Archives

September 1, 2003

Shoe eating

I don't get it. Conservatives really like eating their shoes. So this Kathryn Jean Lopez will be eating her shoes on August 29, 2004.

Is this Hillary talk anything more than some odd sort of conservative wish fullilment? Do they really believe if they say she's running enough times that she will?

September 3, 2003

What does he mean by that?

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Daniel Drezner writes:

Just got back from seeing Bend It Like Beckham -- destined to become this year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with all the positives and negatives that title confers.

[First off, where has he been? It's "destined to become"? It's hardly a new movie. Cripes, I saw Bend it Like Beckham in Philadelphia last November.]

I wish he would have expanded on his analysis. I mean, *how* is it like My Big Fat Greek Wedding? He's not the first to make this comparison, but, other than they're both about immigrant families and they both have happy endings, how are the two movies similar? Did Drezner find the Anglo-Indian family in Bend It comic like the Greek-American family was portrayed as being? Did he think the similarities portrayed concerning second-generation assimilation in the Chicago and London rang true?

September 4, 2003

You might not be a NASCAR Dad if...

In a promo for the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday morning on New York City's National Public Radio affiliate WNYC, Mr. Lehrer tells us that the topic of the day is "NASCAR Dads" (a term that is fast replacing "Soccer Moms" as the political demographic cliche of choice) and asks anyone who considers themself a NASCAR Dad to call in to his show later that morning.

Of course, there is an inherent contradiction in his request, for a sure sign that you are *not* a NASCAR Dad is if you listen to NPR call-in shows!!


Kos alerts us to this pre-war statement by Richard Pearle:

Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions [...]

The chronic failure of the security council to enforce its own resolutions is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task. We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognise that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the UN.

But, of course, the REAL reason we're going to the U.N. now? Not poor planning. Not poor management. Not poor ideas. No one is admitting to major mistakes because no such mistakes have been made. We're going to the U.N. because of the American Left. Stanley Kurtz writes:

The president’s decision to turn to the United Nations for assistance in the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq makes a great deal of sense. It certainly isn’t the ideal approach, but given the divisions within our country, and our general unwillingness to enlarge our military, the president’s decision is reasonable.... Our culture war is real. Now it has taken its toll. In many ways we are strong. Yet disunited we are weak. Our turning to the U.N. is not necessarily a disaster. But it is a sign that our internal divisions have finally exacted a cost.

In this era of "personal responsibility," you can't lose if you blame other people.

When was?

When was the last time you heard the phrase "coalition of the willing"?

And, do you know what alert status we're in now? Is it red, orange, yellow, or mauve?

I wonder why these have gone by the way-side?

(Actually, I'm not wondering...)

The Vietnam analogy

Amitava Mazumdar writes that one aspect of the Iraq/Vietnam analogy may be valid:

It's pretty clear to me what these men are doing. The prospect that the Iraq project will come off successfully looks increasingly dim. So dim, that the nation's most visible war proponents have begun distancing themselves from the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

But they aren't admitting that the whole idea of the unilateral occupation and rebuilding of Iraq was an awful idea. They're arguing that if only the Bush administration spent enough money and sent enough troops, things would turn out as sunny as Kristol, Kagan, Pearl, and Sullivan had always predicted.

This is, of course, what the Vietnam War hawks said after we belatedly abandoned that costly effort. The lesson we should have taken from that war was that no matter how many troops we sent, or how many more billions of dollars we spent, we could not win the Vietnam War because the Vietnamese did not want us to win it, or at least did not care who won it. The history of Western occupation throughout Asia, should have taught us the same lesson.

But Kristol, Kagan, Pearl, and Sullivan never learned that lesson. They were seduced by the myth of the inevitable success of all things American. If they were honest and honorable, they would admit their error: that the number of troops and amount of money necessary to rebuild Iraq was predictably unaffordable, and that's only after adopting the dubious assumption that the occupation ever had any chance of success at all. Instead, they are retreating to a defense that conveniently cannot be disproved: if Bush did everything their way, everything would have gone well.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Mr. Ness! I do NOT approve of your methods. Oh yeah? Well, you're not from Chicago.

In a quite disingenuous post, Glenn Reynolds provides a quote and then comments:


"Isn’t it just about time that the left was asked what its plans are for combating terrorism?
The left doesn’t want us in Iraq, where we are bringing the fight right to the terrorists’ own backyard? Okay - what’s their plan?"

Yes. Given that what we're up against is, essentially, "the Klan with a Koran," you'd think they'd have some ideas. I don't recall anyone suggesting that the FBI shouldn't have been in Birmingham just because there was a bombing there. . . .

Putting aside the fact that there were many people (not from the "left") who did not want the FBI in Birmingham after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed (see: states rights, outside agitators)...

First, YOU'RE in charge. Don't pass the buck. Don't start trying to deflect blame on "the left." Just because your plan isn't going that well, it's not time to start criticizing others for their plans (or supposed lack of plans). It sounds like a little brother whose been bad and tries to distract everybody by complaining that his sister has hit him. Suck it up and deal with what you've made. It's not too late for a successful outcome.

Second, who amongst the major Democratic presidential candidates was not for all-out war against the Taliban? Who wasn't for all-out war against the terrorists? Who didn't want to end the evil-doers? Now, that was a plan, and it was a good one.

The fear is, however, that, in Iraq, we've taken the war to the "terrorists' own backyard" but we haven't taken it to the terrorists. With no WMDs and no connections to al-Queda, are these fears not grounded?

Third, the Birmingham analogy is, to put it mildly, troublesome. Mr. Reynolds, are you implying that if one believes this war is not being fought as promised, that he is of the same moral quality of those who believed that the deaths of the four girls inside the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was no big deal? And that we believe that the bombers and those who supported the bombers shouldn't have been hunted down with all the retribution the United States had to bear?

Is it just my computer?

Is it just me or are the "comments" part of this page not working? If they are working, sorry, I haven't been able to read them for about a week so I haven't been able to respond to anything said there. And, if they're not working, well, I don't know how you'll be able to leave a comment to tell me so.

November 2004

In an Associated Press story today, we read:

"It's like your building is half built, and the contractor comes in and says that to finish the building and put the roof on, it's going to cost a lot more," said Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., a stalwart Bush supporter. "What's your choice? You've got to put the roof on."

That's a heck of an analogy. For, it's true... you need a roof, so you have to pay your contractor. You've got no choice. However, what are the odds that you'll hire this contractor again? Somewhere between slim and none, and probably you'll tell your friends and neighbors not to hire him, either.

To follow "stalwart Bush supporter," Representative Scott McInnis' analogy to conclusion, it doesn't bode well for the Bush team in 2004.

September 5, 2003

Actually, it's John Ashcroft, out to get you.

To answer Partha's question -- though the answer can be found elsewhere now -- it's not just Partha's computer. YACC, who provides our commenting service, is down, and will be down through the weekend. I would do something about substituting another service for YACC, but we're planning some big changes behind the scenes which will be unveiled shortly and make it unnecessary, so I see no great urgency to act right now. So if you want to complain about something Partha wrote (and who doesn't?) you'll have to respond to us via email.

The world turned upside down

Tyler Cowen happens to mention this odd description of the co-editor of the Almanac of American Politics:

"Michael Barone is to politics what statistician-writer Bill James is to baseball, a mix of historian, social observer, and numbers cruncher who illuminates his subject with perspective and a touch of irreverence."--Chicago Tribune
I remember, growing up, hearing Bill James compared to others all the time. Galileo and Einstein were popular choices, but my favorite was one, coincidentally from the same Chicago Tribune, labeling him "the Mozart of baseball statisticians."

James was always something of a cult figure among a small group of geekydedicated baseball fans, so it feels weird enough to see that James has so hit the mainstream that people are now being compared to him. But what makes this comparison particularly strange is that Barone has been editing the AAP since 1971; the first Bill James Baseball Abstract didn't come out until 1977, and it wasn't really anything more than a pamphlet until the early 1980s. And (though I can't seem to find the figures) Barone has to have sold many more copies than James has over the years. Plus, Barone is regularly on television; James isn't. And yet it's Barone being compared to James, rather than the other way around? It seems as anachronistic as describing CNN as "the Instapundit of television news" would be. Bizarre.

If a senator filibusters in a forest and there are no cameras, what's the point?

In the past, I've wondered why we only see virtual filibusters nowadays, rather than the real thing. Well, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Randy Barnett quotes Larry Solum's explanation approvingly as to why a real filibuster (which Solum calls a 24/7 filibuster) won't work:

The contemporary filibuster is a polite affair. Charles Schumer does not talk through the night, bleary eyed and exhausted. Why not? Couldn't the filibuster be broken if the Republicans forced the Democrats to go 24/7? No. Because the 24/7 option actually gives an advantage to the minority. Why? In order to force a 24/7 filibuster, the majority must maintain a quorum at all times, but the minority need only have one Senator present to maintain the filibuster. So 24/7 both exhausts and distracts the majority, while allowing the minority the opportunity to rest and carry on their ordinary business. No modern filibuster has been broken by the 24/7 option. For more on this, see my post entitled Update on Filibusters.
Interesting, but I'm not entirely convinced. Of course Larry's right, if the goal of forcing a real filibuster is simply literally to wear your opponents down; the filibusterers can always outlast the filibusterees, for the reasons stated.

But the point of requiring the Democrats to filibuster for real was never to wear them down until they gave in; the point was to create bad publicity for them. Republicans hoped that Democratic filibusters could be exploited in the press to make the Democrats look obstructionist, and get the voters angry with them -- but that plan never got off the ground. Why? Because the non-filibuster didn't have any legs in it. There was no reason for the media to cover the story, because it just wasn't very exciting. In particular, there was no video footage.

On the other hand, a real filibuster is sexy. (I don't mean that literally, unless Mary Carey moves on to the Senate after her bid for California governor succeeds.) It's news. It's not quite as exciting as a high speed car chase, but at least there's something to show to the public. Republicans would have something to point to while saying, "See? Look how ridiculous Democrats are being." It might have backfired; it might have made Republicans look like bullies. But at least it would have put pressure on one side or the other to resolve the situation. This way, Miguel Estrada was just strung along indefinitely, until he finally gave up. Which means that there's no reason to think this won't continue to happen unless and until one side picks up sixty seats in the Senate, which doesn't look too likely too soon.

September 6, 2003

My faith in humanity is gone

If you can't trust a murderous dictator, who can you trust? What's this world coming to?

September 7, 2003

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout? (Sorry, but how can I not use the pun?)

Gary Coleman is upset that people don't respect him.

So why is the aging action star taken more seriously than the erstwhile child actor?

"It's the height," Mr. Coleman says with a twinge of bitterness. "He's an adult-size superstar male."

Well, that might be it.

Or it might be that the littler Arnold has the IQ of, well, a sitcom actor:

He has appeared on CNN, Fox News and foreign programs. Sean Hannity, the conservative, asked Mr. Coleman to name the vice president of the United States. He could not.
Nah, it's probably the height.

Reading really is fundamental

Breaking new ground, John Zuccarini became the first person in the country to be charged with violating the recently-passed Truth in Domain Names law.

Prosecutors said that as part of the scheme, the defendant, John Zuccarini, had registered 3,000 domain names that included misspellings or slight variations of popular names like Disneyland, Bob the Builder and Teen magazine. Mr. Zuccarini used more than a dozen variations of the name Britney Spears, the prosecutors said.

A child who accidentally mistyped a name into an Internet browser would be directed to a Web page controlled by Mr. Zuccarini and barraged with X-rated advertising, the authorities said. The child would also be "mousetrapped," they said; that is, unable to exit from the Web site.


"Children make mistakes," Mr. Comey said. "The idea that someone would take advantage of that, of a young girl, for example, trying to go to the American Girl Web site to look at dolls or a child trying to visit the Teletubbies Web site, and mistypes, to take advantage of those mistakes to direct those children to pornography sites is beyond offensive."


In the misspelled domain names, Mr. Zuccarini used spellings like "Dinseyland," "Bobthebiulder," "Teltubbies" and "Britnyspears," prosecutors said.

Perhaps I'm slow, or really naive, but what exactly is the point of this? The article quotes prosecutors as assuming this is a moneymaking scheme of some sort, and Zuccarini's past activities make that seem plausible:
Mr. Zuccarini has long been the subject of complaints, including lawsuits, over his use of domain names, records and news reports show. In about 100 complaints raised in arbitration proceedings to resolve domain name disputes, panels have ruled against him almost every time, prosecutors said, and ordered him to transfer the names at issue to the legitimate holder.

In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission got a permanent injunction against Mr. Zuccarini, ordering him to end his activities, dismantle certain Web sites and pay a $1.9 million judgment. But he continued to use misleading domain names to promote advertising for pornography to minors, according to a criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

It added that Mr. Zuccarini got a referral fee of 10 to 25 cents each time a visitor to one of his Web sites moved to the site of one of the advertisers. He earned $800,000 to $1 million a year through the scheme, the complaint said.

And yet, I don't quite get it. How do those schemes translate into this one? Is there a large untapped market for pornography among dyslexic eight year olds? I would understand the plan if he took advantage of sites intended for adults, like Amazon, CNN, or ESPN. But Teletubbies or Bob the Builder (whatever the heck that is)? Where exactly does the profit come from? Not that this guy sounds like a rocket scientist, but I would think he would have thought through at least this part of his plan.

Self vs. Un

The New York Times reports on the latest unemployment data in its usual unbiased way.

The Labor Department announced yesterday that 93,000 jobs were lost in August, countering expectations that employment would finally begin to expand. The economic recovery in the United States is now in its 22nd month, without reversing constant job losses.

The unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent in July, but economists said that was apparently because of a surge in the number of people who, having lost jobs, listed themselves as self-employed rather than unemployed. The Bush administration, however, cited the drop as a positive sign.

First, note how the Times sets up the story: to begin with, it describes what "economists" say, as if there's some well-established, undisputed Economic Truth here. Only then does it describe the Bush administration position, introducing it with a "however" to make it clear that the Bush administration is in opposition to "economists" generally, and hence wrong.

Second, note the phrasing: they "listed themselves as self-employed." The Times is apparently accusing these people of lying. No evidence is presented to support this accusation, of course. Why shouldn't we believe that people who list themselves as self-employed really are?

By the way, the few people who bother to read to the end of a story like this will find, in paragraph twenty-four, the one economist the Times quotes in support of this theory of dishonest unemployed losers:

"Whenever you see a spike in self-employment in this kind of economy, you know that is involuntary entrepreneurship," said Jared Bernstein, a senior labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Ah. Count the problems with that:
  1. One economist is not "economists."
  2. The Times fails to identify the left-wing orientation of Jared Bernstein and the Economic Policy Institute.
  3. It's yet another statement made without any backing.
  4. Even if true, it doesn't support the Times' version of analysis. So what if the entrepeneurship is "involuntary"? Either the people have jobs or they don't. That they wish they had different jobs is in no way synonymous with them not having jobs at all.
I remember hearing, a few years ago, a radio interview with a self-styled advocate for the poor; he was talking about the "hidden homeless" in this country. But he wasn't talking about people who slept in sewers and couldn't be seen; no, he was talking about people living long term with friends and relatives. Well, that may not be ideal, but the only reason their homelessness was "hidden" was because it was completely imaginary. Same here; the Times and their pet economist are trying to spin possibly-less-than-ideal-employment as unemployment, because it fits their agenda. Can't the Times try not spinning things for a change?

September 8, 2003

Watch this space

Hey, everybody, Jumping To Conclusions is moving here, very shortly. A few minor bugs to work out, and we'll be here. So don't touch that dial. Wait right here.

Update: thanks to the efforts of an intrepid young Nieporent, we're up and running now. So keep watching this space.

September 10, 2003

Derbyshire Again

A sentence from John Derbyshire today: "The most left-wing U.S. administration in living memory, securely in power for 8 years, with all the revenues of the post-Cold War 'peace dividend' and the internet boom to spend, couldn't give us universal health care."

The most left-wing U.S. administration in living memory? Huh? Derbyshire doesn't remember the Johnson Administration? The Great Society? The War on Poverty?

Securely in power for 8 years? Huh? He doesn't remember, uh, impeachment?

All the revenues of the post-Cold War? Huh? President Clinton, like, ended the deficit. Started paying down the debt.

Couldn't give us universal health care? Huh? He tried. Tried real hard. It was defeated. Not by President Clinton. By the Senate.

Throw the book at the bookkeeper

Remember all those Democratic complaints about how the Bush administration wasn't doing anything about corporate crime? How about five years in prison for Enron's treasurer?

(Think that will satisfy Democrats that progress is being made? Ha! We'll hear "So what? What about Ken Lay?" And when Lay is prosecuted, and the trial drags on, we'll hear, "Why did you arrest him unilaterally, instead of working through the UN? Now we're in a legal quagmire." (Er, sorry. I watched the first Democratic presidential debate -- the Hispanic debate -- last weekend, and the second Democratic presidential debate -- the black one -- last night. My cynicism about the Democratic party is unusually high right now.))

Taking sides again

The Associated Press's version of the debate in Congress over proposed changes to overtime rules:

The 54-45 vote marked a rare defeat for business interests in the GOP-controlled Congress and left the fate of the emerging Labor Department regulations unclear. The House backed the new rules this summer, and congressional negotiators will have to resolve the issue.
Emphasis added. As I've pointed out ad nauseum, media bias doesn't generally show up in the big obvious ways caricatured by liberals and conservatives alike. It's the implicit assumptions in the stories, presented as if they were fact:

  • If it's a Republican proposal, it must be for the benefit of "business interests."
  • If it's for the benefit of "business interests," it must be anti-labor, because the world is always a zero-sum game.
  • The interests of all employees are aligned, so one set of labor representatives can speak for all.

    Here were have a set of policy proposals, which the Bush administration says will help employees, and Congressional Democrats say will hurt employees. And the reporter simply assumes that Democrats are correct -- after all, a Republican surely couldn't be motivated by a desire to help employees.

    It's this sort of bias, unstated, unmeasurable in the aggregate, which pervades the media. It's the bias which prevents a reporter from even considering the possibility that even if the policy helps "business interests," it might also help workers. This isn't malice; it likely isn't motivated by partisanship. It's just the result of ideological blinders; reporters have set views on the way the world works, and they convey them to all of us.

  • September 11, 2003


    Two years. Hard to believe it. It seems almost surreal now, as it fades slightly into the distance. Almost hard to believe that it happened. And then you remember the little things, from Barbara Olsen on the plane to the horror of watching the buildings crumble, to the amazing concept of 72 hours without commercials, and it all comes back, if not quite as vividly as before.

    But we've come so far. We've fought a war on terrorism in two theaters, while fighting a longer, more intense diplomatic war in between those two conflicts. In some ways, the world feels like it has changed so much since 9/11; we've gone from the End of History to the Clash of Civilizations. And yet in other ways, it feels as if it hasn't changed at all. Last year, 9/11 was a huge, emotional day. This year, the networks have forgotten about it -- or decided to ignore it -- and the media focus has shifted from remembrance of the events themselves to metastories about the way people are dealing with the anniversary of the events. Policywise, we've gone from "Oh my god, how should we react?" in 2001 to "What should we do? What's our long term strategy for foreign policy?" in 2002 to "Why did we do it? What did he know and when did he know it? How is this going to affect the 2004 election?"

    In a way, it's depressing; the brief period of certainty, with a widespread shared sense of purpose, is gone. No longer does the national sense of unity endure. There will be no more 420-1 votes in Congress regarding American policy. Petty partisan squabbles again predominate, and foreign policy has been displaced by, or at least forced to share space with, the Kobe Bryant story.

    And yet, in a way, it's reassuring; life does go on. The war is not over, not nearly over. There are major battles left to fight, both militarily and diplomatically. And national security will be back on the electoral agenda after completely disappearing for the 8 years of Clinton. But, we're not obsessed with it. And that's a good thing. We don't have to be. We're not Israel, constantly under siege; we can get on with our lives. We can pay attention to the campaign of the Governator and the World Series and Ben and J-Lo and the economy and the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. In the past, some -- such as Bill Maher -- have proclaimed our pre-9/11 obsession with these sorts of matters as a sign of American decadence. But it isn't; it's a sign of our strength. We can afford to pay attention to these matters, most of the time, because we focus on the important things when we need to.

    So on this second anniversary of the Day Which Changed Everything, we should remember, and reflect, and mourn, and resolve to stay the course for as long as it takes until we have won this war as decisively as we won the Cold War. As we should every future 9/11. But we shouldn't wallow, and we shouldn't feel guilty about having "moved on."



    Give Hate A Chance

    A member of a mailing list I'm on forwarded an email written by a friend of his on September 12, 2001. The friend, who was mere blocks from the World Trade Center the day before, describes her feelings on hearing the impact of the planes, running in panic from the cloud of ash as the towers collapsed, and making her way home to the Upper West Side on foot. Good letter. Until she gets home:

    My roommate and I went over to Bart's to watch television last night with him and his roommate. I could handle it by then. What I couldn't handle was watching that asshole who is calling himself our president try to lead this country.

    Forget the touchy-feely "widespread sense of purpose" talk, David. Well, maybe it was true for most people, for however brief a moment. But here's a woman who less than 12 hours earlier, while literally running for her life, witnessed the death of thousands of people in the most brutal attack on the nation in its history. Yet, in her mind, the horror of that event pales in comparison to the reality of George Bush being president. Nice.

    Mark Gauvreau Judge takes on this mindset in a sober article about the importance of hate:

    But increasingly in our culture, the rule is, psychoanalyze the sinner and explain away the sin through socioeconomics - either that or it spills vats of hate on silly targets, like the president. We are in desperate need of the real thing, saved for an appropriate target.

    On this and every September 11 - and every day in between - let's remember that the appropriate targets of our hate are the people who brought down those buildings, and more importantly, the people who given half a chance would not hesitate to do it again!

    Unintended consequences

    Over at Reason's Hit & Run, Nick Gillespie blogs about a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research which suggests that job applicants with identifiably "black" names have a tougher time than job applicants with more neutral names. The study uses the phrase "white sounding names," but gives as an example "Greg Baker," which doesn't sound stereotypically "white" to me. (I was initially confused when I read this, getting a strange sense of deja vu, but apparently this is the second such study in recent months.)

    From the study's press release:

    A job applicant with a name that sounds like it might belong to an African-American – say, Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones – can find it harder to get a job. Despite laws against discrimination, affirmative action, a degree of employer enlightenment, and the desire by some businesses to enhance profits by hiring those most qualified regardless of race, African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and they earn nearly 25 percent less when they are employed.
    Gillespie adds:
    The study has weaknesses (e.g. it only measures callbacks rather than job offers; it relies only on newspaper ads; etc.) but it raises tough questions about fairness in American society. What's worse, any sort of near-term remedy is far from self-evident. As the authors note,
    From a policy standpoint, this aspect of the findings suggests that training programs alone may not be enough to alleviate the barriers raised by discrimination, the authors write. "If African-Americans recognize how employers reward their skills, they may be rationally more reluctant than whites to even participate in these programs."
    Similarly, even supporters of affirmative action will have to acknowledge that a) these results occurred in an employment system that already has affirmative action and b) if the problem is that prospective employers worry that "race signals lower productivity," those employers will work around policies designed to ameliorate racial disparities in hiring.
    Surprisingly, neither Gillespie nor the study nor any of the participants in the long comment discussion which follows note that affirmative action, rather than being an ineffective solution, may actually be a cause of the problem. Given the existence of affirmative action, and given two applicants of similar credentials on paper, the minority applicant, on average will be less qualified, and there is no way for the decisionmaker to distinguish between the black college graduate with the 1200 SATs and the black college graduate who only had 900 SATs and needed the boost from affirmative action to get in.

    I'm not naive enough to suggest that having a name like LaKeisha might not create a subconscious effect in the mind of the decisionmaker -- though as some commenters pointed out, other identifiably non-black ethnic names such as Billy Bob might have similar effects -- but to ignore the effects of affirmative action is dishonest. A rational decisionmaker, without any racist intent, would maximize his chances of getting a better applicant even given appparently equal credentials by choosing the one less likely to be black.


    As we remember those horrible events of two years ago, it's also appropriate to remember how the rest of the world reacted to 9/11/2001.

    We weren't always alone. Or, I suppose, to be perfectly accurate, alone with the British and the Ubeckestanis.

    One thing in his favor... Andrew Sullivan never surprizes

    Andrew Sullivan doesn't like France. Yesterday he wrote:

    The French today do little intellectually but constantly circle the drain of complete ressentiment. They have no other guiding political philosophy but envy and regret. The notion that they would ever engage in a U.S.-led campaign against global terror (when they are close to the tyrants that spawn such terror and dedicated to the immiseration of Israel) is a presposterous fantasy.

    I suppose that's why the French were on our side and at our side in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

    A persposterous fantasy, indeed.

    Funny, I Don't Feel Alone

    As James Taranto puts it: "we would rather be alive and hated than dead and popular. If the rest of the world likes Americans only when we're dying, the rest of the world can go to hell."

    I vastly prefer standing "alone" today withthe Brits, Aussies, and Poles - our true friends and allies - to having the entire world's sympathies on September 12, 2001.

    September 12, 2003


    As Al Franken's new book shows, making fun of Ann Coulter is easy. Almost too easy. But since some people take her seriously, it's important that we do.

    This is from her most recent column (via Atrios).

    In the wake of Dean's success, the entire Democratic Dream Team is beginning to sound like Dr. Demento. On the basis of their recent pronouncements, the position of the Democratic Party seems to be that Saddam Hussein did not hit us on 9-11, but Halliburton did.

    I don't know who Dr. Demento is (it sounds like a Styx song), but I don't think the comparison is supposed to be a lauditory one.

    I have a feeling, though, that Coulter is partially correct. The Democratic Party, among others, does not believe that Saddam Hussein hit us on 9-11. It was, uh, Osama bin Laden. Does Coulter have any data to the contrary? Or is she, and her editors, trying to accomplish something else?

    Is There A President Named "Nychole" In Our Future?

    Speaking of names, a brave person has written an exposé on the dark, sordid world of baby-naming message boards. There are women out there who want to name their children Kesleigh, Cam'rom, CrystalLynn, and Gwennog. They must be stopped.

    We're all Americans, you know

    Tim Graham today on the Corner: "Rest in peace, Johnny Cash. For many red-staters, this resonates deep."

    This resonates deeply for many blue-staters, too.

    What kind of a person tries to make such a shallow partisan point out of the death of such a great artist? A person like Tim Graham, I suppose.

    September 15, 2003

    Abuse of power?

    Who would have thought that the government might take increased powers obtained in the wake of 9/11 and applied them to non-terror cases? Hard to believe, isn't it?

    Unfortunately, the article fails to distinguish between what seems like reasonable uses of these laws:

    In one case prosecuted this year, investigators used a provision of the Patriot Act to recover $4.5 million from a group of telemarketers accused of tricking elderly U.S. citizens into thinking they had won the Canadian lottery. Prosecutors said the defendants told victims they would receive their prize as soon as they paid thousands of dollars in income tax on their winnings.

    Before the anti-terrorism act, U.S. officials would have had to use international treaties and appeal for help from foreign governments to retrieve the cash, deposited in banks in Jordan and Israel. Now, they simply seized it from assets held by those banks in the United States.

    ...and unreasonable extensions:
    A North Carolina county prosecutor charged a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab with breaking a new state law barring the manufacture of chemical weapons. If convicted, Martin Dwayne Miller could get 12 years to life in prison for a crime that usually brings about six months.
    And then there are the silly complaints:
    And Muslim and civil liberties groups have criticized the government's decision to force thousands of mostly Middle Eastern men to risk deportation by registering with immigration authorities.
    The only people who "risk deportation" are those who are here illegally, so why on earth would "civil liberties groups" complain about this? And the people who "risk deportation" are exactly the people the law in question was designed to target, so how does it fit in with the theme of the article? Yes, non-terrorists who overstay their visas will be deported along with terrorists who do, but the law doesn't distinguish between those for obvious reasons: it can't. Terrorists rarely wear nametags.

    September 16, 2003

    Remind me again why vouchers are a bad idea?

    The New York Times, in beat-a-dead-horse mode, is continuing to cover the story of New York City schools supposedly trying to inflate their performance statistics by pushing those who might otherwise drop out into GED programs, instead. Once this happens, the students aren't counted as dropouts, even if they don't finish the GED programs.

    But some people are upset that schools are doing this, implying that the schools are cheating the students because GED programs aren't very effective.

    Those who teach at equivalency programs say that only a small minority of the high school-age students actually finish the program — while most reach an academic dead end soon after their discharge.
    This reminds me of the posters up on the walls at law school put up by the bar prep companies. They tried to scare students into signing up for their bar prep classes by pointing out the horrendous pass rate for those students who take the exam a second time. Which makes sense, since the only students who take the exam a second time are students who fail the exam the first time. And students who fail the exam are -- what's the word? Oh yeah: dumb. And dumb people don't do well on tests.

    So of course only a small minority of high school-age student finish GED programs. The only people in GED programs are people whose normal high school careers were complete failures. They're not Mensa members. It's not the fault of the GED programs.

    But the real disgrace in the story is buried near the end, and has little to do with whether the schools inflate their statistics or not:

    According to the city's statistics, slightly less than 40 percent of those who entered high school in the class of 2002 graduated on time, while 19 percent were discharged, 16 percent dropped out, 2 percent got a G.E.D. diploma, and 23 percent were still enrolled and would need more time to graduate.
    Remember, if anything these statistics have been inflated to make schools look better. And yet even so, only 40% of students in New York City schools graduated in four years. Forty percent. This isn't college; it's high school.

    I think they should worry a little less about how they calculate their statistics, and worry a little more about why almost a quarter of their students can't finish four years of high school in four years. That doesn't include the additional 16% who drop out early; it only counts the ones who actually stick it out and try to graduate. What do those teachers do?

    Equal protection, unequal situation

    A lot of conservatives are upset about the 9th circuit's decision to postpone the California recall election, finding it to be more unwarranted judicial activism -- and again, as in Florida and New Jersey, activism which coincidentally happens to benefit Democrats. There has been a lot of criticism about unelected judges taking elections out of the hands of the people.

    Since I do think the U.S. Supreme Court made the right call on Florida 2000, I can't rightly object to judges intervening in an election. Equal protection is a valid reason, as longstanding precedent as well as Bush v. Gore make clear, for the federal courts to intervene in the electoral process. And at least this intervention, unlike the Florida Supreme Court's, took place before the election, so it's not quite so obvious that they're manipulating the outcome to benefit the Democratic candidate.

    That having been said, it seems to me that the application of the Bush v. Gore precedent to this recall situation does not compel this result.

    1. Bush v. Gore held that varying standards from district to district were a problem. That is, a chad hanging by two corners might be considered a vote in one county and a non-vote in another, based on the whims of poll workers.
      As seems to have been acknowledged at oral argument, the standards for accepting or rejecting contested ballots might vary not only from county to county but indeed within a single county from one recount team to another.

      The record provides some examples. A monitor in Miami-Dade County testified at trial that he observed that three members of the county canvassing board applied different standards in defining a legal vote. 3 Tr. 497, 499 (Dec. 3, 2000). And testimony at trial also revealed that at least one county changed its evaluative standards during the counting process. Palm Beach County, for example, began the process with a 1990 guideline which precluded counting completely attached chads, switched to a rule that considered a
      vote to be legal if any light could be seen through a chad, changed back to the 1990 rule, and then abandoned any pretense of a per se rule, only to have a court order that the county consider dimpled chads legal. This is not a process with sufficient guarantees of equal treatment.

      On the other hand, the California election doesn't present that problem. It merely presents the possibility that more ballots will be discarded in some counties as a result of errors -- errors by the voters, not by poll
      officials, though those errors may be facilitated (though not caused) by the choice of ballot technology used. And, indeed, Bush v. Gore explicitly did not address that issue:
      The question before the Court is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections. Instead, we are presented with a situation where a state court with the power to assure uniformity has ordered a statewide recount with minimal procedural safeguards. When a court orders a statewide remedy, there must be at least some assurance that the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied.
      There's a big difference between mechanical error rates being slightly different and poll workers being allowed to pick and choose which ballots they wish to count without any possibility of oversight.

    2. Even if the court found that different error rates presented a constitutional problem, that doesn't justify this decision. While other forms of ballot might have a lower error rate in general than punch cards, that does not mean that a newly-implemented system in these California counties will have a lower rate than an established punch card system. Training poll workers (who, let's face it, aren't the sharpest knifes in the drawer) to use entirely new technology in a short time period doesn't inspire much in the way of confidence that they won't make mistakes.

    As to what is going to happen, I have no idea. I've got to imagine that the Supreme Court is going to be extremely reluctant to get involved. [Update: while I was writing this, word came down that the 9th circuit is getting involved, asking the parties to file briefs on whether they should hear the case en banc. Would they do so if there weren't a decent chance of reversing the panel's decision? I don't know.]

    What's on your resume?

    No matter when the California recall is held, it's pretty clear that 1984 Time Man of the Year Peter Ueberroth is going to receive fewer votes than Gary Coleman.

    September 17, 2003

    Clark = Empty Suit

    Jonah Goldberg posts this letter he received:

    Take heart, your vexation at finding Wes Clark an incomparable won't last.

    The man is an empty suit or I should say uniform complete with four stars. My father and husband were both military officers and I have seen the likes of Wesley Clark many, many times.

    Many, many times, eh? I didn't realize that there were that many 4 star generals. And that you see them all the time. Wow. (Aside: In that he achieved that rank must be exceptional, don't you think?)

    He is a political officer. That means that his main objective in his career is to be promoted and he will say and do anything to achieve that objective up to and including ruining other officers careers.

    Prey tell, whose careers did he ruin? Names, please. If no evidence, why should we believe it?

    He was promoted up the line by others of the same ilk. These guys always look good on paper---that means, they went to the right schools (usually the Academies or one of the private military schools), they went to the right wars (known as being in the right place at the right time) and had the right sponsors.

    These are supposed to be bad things? That he went to West Point? That he served his country in Vietnam? That his superiors thought he did good jobs?

    Even had the right medals.

    Uh... that he earned medals like the Silver Star and the Purple Heart are *bad* things?!?

    But they are lousy leaders of men and real leaders can spot them a mile away.

    So you, whose only qualification seems to be that your father and your husband served in the military, are one of these "real leaders" and General Clark is not?

    It is somehow fitting that Bill and Hillary Clinton would sponsor him. I'm sure they see him as one of their people and he is. Vain, shallow, looks good in a uniform and easily manipulated.

    Is he really vain and shallow? Where's the evidence other than he was awarded the "right medals."

    You will no doubt receive plenty of e-mail from people who have had the occasion to run into or afoul of General Clark. You should also look into his record as Commander during the war in Kosovo. He almost started WWIII but thankfully a British commander wouldn't follow his orders. He didn't do it out of mendacity just good old garden variety stupidity and vanity.

    Refusing to execute an order given to you by a superior? You're "thankful" about this? A military person like yourself?

    Why does Goldberg repeat this tripe? Oh, yeah, I know... It's 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000 all over again.

    Lies and the lying... well, you know

    Having failed to make any impact whatsoever on Bush administration policies, the left has come out strongly on the counterattack, with the biggest theme being that the whole administration is dishonest. That's to be expected in politics (both dishonesty and accusations thereof), but reasonable people need to learn the distinction between differences of opinion, mistakes, and actual lies. Most importantly, if you're going to accuse someone of lying, shouldn't you make sure your facts are correct first? It seems like a good rule of thumb. But if so, someone needs to explain it to The Nation. In a column entitled The Latest Bush Gang Whoppers, David Corn attempts to dissect Dick Cheney's weekend appearance on Meet The Press, where he cited the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence in Prague as possible evidence of ties between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

    Let's start with Dick Cheney. He appeared on Meet The Press and was asked by host Tim Russert if there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. He replied, "Of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack. But we've never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know." This was a deceptive answer.
    Now, the first thing to note is that Cheney was careful here not to make any claims of knowledge here. How can it possibly be "deceptive" to point out that this report is out there, unconfirmed, and that we don't know? Well, Corn has an answer:
    Shortly after 9/11, Czech intelligence officials did say they had a report from a source--a single source--that Atta had met with this Iraqi intelligence official in April 2001. Subsequent media reports in the United States noted that the source was an Arab student who was not considered particularly reliable. The FBI investigated and found nothing to substantiate the report of the meeting. In fact, the FBI concluded that Atta was most likely in Florida at the time of the supposed meeting, and the CIA questioned the existence of this meeting. (Even if there had been a meeting, one could not tell what it meant unless it was known what was said--and no one, not even Cheney, has claimed to know what might have transpired.
    Huh? Didn't Corn just repeat exactly what Cheney said? That is: there's a report of a meeting that the US hasn't been able to confirm, so we don't know. Where's the "deception"?

    Oh, here it is:

    Moreover, on October 21, 2002, The New York Times reported that Czech President Vaclav Havel "quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports" of the meeting. And it seemed that Atta had gone to Prague in June 2000, not April 2001. "Now," the paper noted, "some Czech and German officials say that their best explanation of why Mr. Atta came to Prague was to get a cheap airfare to the United States."

    For some reason, Cheney did not share with the Meet the Press audience the information about Havel's denial.

    Yes, that illustrates deception. The deception here, though, is not Cheney's, but the Nation's. The "some reason" Cheney didn't share the information about Havel's denial is because it never happened. The New York Times made it up:
    "It is a fabrication. Nothing like this has occurred," [Havel spokesperson Ladislav] Spacek said about Havel's alleged phone conversation with the White House.
    Oh. Yeah. Oops. Admittedly, it would have been tough for Nation to discover this... unless they read the Times two days later, where the Times admitted it.

    There is, of course, serious debate about whether this meeting took place, and what it would prove if it did. The evidence for the meeting is limited to a single source, and he provides no details about the substance of the meeting. But that in no way justifies calling Cheney a liar for citing this as possible evidence of a connection, and it in no way justifies citing a fabricated New York Times story as evidence that Cheney lied.

    A right if I say it is

    Several conservatives (including James Taranto, Eugene Volokh, and The Corner's Roger Clegg) have cited this op/ed by Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman criticizing the Ninth Circuit's ruling in the recall election case. It's true that as a staunch liberal, Ackerman's criticism of the opinion carries some nonpartisan weight, and that's what these commenters have noticed. (Eugene's post does distinguish between different elements of Ackerman's piece.) But Ackerman's arguments against the decision are nonetheless flawed, because they illustrate the same problem the decision itself does: policy-making in the guise of jurisprudence. Ackerman argues that the decision is bad because, inter alia:

    • It "disrupts the core First Amendment freedom to present a coherent political message to voters" because campaigns planned their strategy around a short campaign.
    • It "disrupts the First Amendment interests of the millions of Californians who have participated in the recall effort," because California issues may be "swamped by national politics" of a presidential primary.
    Now, I don't deny that the decision will disrupt careful campaign planning, or that it will annoy voters who thought they could get this out of the way before the presidential primary. But what on earth do these things have to do with the first amendment? Ackerman is simply picking his own policy preferences and then dressing them up in constitutional-sounding language.

    This ruling was wrong because there's no legal basis for it; as I noted yesterday, equal protection simply isn't implicated by using punch cards -- and even if it were, there's no good reason to believe the remedy proposed by the Ninth Circuit would actually improve the situation.

    But there's no first amendment right to have an election scheduled at a time when your campaign is "designed to reach a cliimax," and then there's no first amendment right to have a separate election so that more people will pay attention to your issues than to other issues. Californians do have a right to the latter, but it's a legal right, established by the California legislature as California policy, not a federal constitutional right. Why do legal scholars like Ackerman insist on trying to turn every policy question into a Constitutional matter? That's exactly what the Ninth Circuit did, and that -- not because of Ackerman's arguments -- is why the Ninth Circuit was wrong.

    September 18, 2003

    Multiple choice

    Who exactly deserves the most scorn in this situation?

    1. The 13 year old girl who performed oral sex on a classmate on the school bus.
    2. The two chaperones who didn't notice (!) anything was going on.
    3. The "friends" of this girl who pressured her into doing it.
    4. The mother of this girl, for not raising her child properly
    5. The mother of this girl, for having the chutzpah to make the argument in court that the school didn't tell her daughter in writing that oral sex on the school bus was unacceptable.
    6. The mother's attorney, for making that argument.
    7. Bill Clinton, because anything involving oral sex is ultimately his fault.
    Take your time.

    (via Kimberly Swigert)

    Can't they just get their stories straight

    From the NY Daily News: Hillary may run in '04.

    From the Washington Times: Hillary will be Wesley Clark's campaign co-chair.

    Such Thing As A Free Lunch

    Michele from A Small Victory is stirring up a storm over admitting that she once signed her daughter up for free school lunches:

    I did not expect the school to feed my child. In fact, I did not know about the free lunch program until a kind friend pointed it out to me. I would have made do by scrounging together a lunch for my kid, but I thought the program was there because they wanted people who needed it to use it while they had to. I didn't ask. I was given.

    I don't have a problem with needy families, such as Michele's, who get free lunches at school. I do have a problem with the associated scare-mongerers; those who regard every cut in funding as "dire", "drastic", and "devastating". Take this press release, for example:

    A new study prepared by Fiscal Planning Services, Inc. details the devastating impact that the Congressional budget plan would have on state and local budgets, particularly in the areas of health care, education and training, and the environment. The current Congressional budget plan would slash federal aid to state and local governments by $140 billion from 1997 through 2002. [...] "This study provides concrete evidence that the Congress has not actually moderated their plan to balance the federal budget on the backs of working families," said Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, which commissioned the study. [...] The impact of these cuts in such states as California and New York would be particularly dire, McEntee said [...] Cuts in funding for education and training would result in the loss of $3.8 billion in grants to school districts for basic skills training for disadvantaged children, and $2.4 billion in cuts to school lunch programs over the next six years.

    Well, it's past 2002 now, and kids have made do without going hungry. In fact, they're getting fatter. And the world hasn't ended. You'd think that someone would remind the AFSCME of this next time they paint such a doom-and-gloom picture.

    In any case, even Michele admits that without free lunches, she "would have made do". People certainly made do in my school district, where the lone public school didn't provide lunches to anyone, period. Ironically, the school district was too poor to be able to provide hot lunches! The school sold milk (and gave milk free to kids poor enough to qualify), but it didn't have a kitchen. And when a new school was built in 1979 to relieve overcrowding, it too was built without a kitchen.

    The woods and farms in the area eventually turned into big expensive houses, and as the district got richer, a kitchen was carved out of the cafeteria of each school. Presumably, hot lunches are still being served today. Yet presumably, parents today are as capable of making lunches as they were 20 years ago. Aren't they?


    When I was in grad school, I learned to ski at nearby Wachusett Mountain. I'm glad to hear that the ski area is successful and expanding, but obviously there are some who aren't:

    Environmental activists who had camped 80 feet up a pair of red oaks for more than a month climbed down early Tuesday as workers began removing trees to make way for a ski area.

    If I had a month to kill, sitting in a tree would be low on my list of things I'd want to do, while skiing would be near the top. So for me it's gratifying to hear that the EarthFirst loonies backed down. Although it would have been more gratifying to hear that workers had begun removing trees while the activists were still in them. But it's not a perfect world in which we live.

    (Hat tip, as they say, to Juan Gato)

    Bombing Iraq - Five Years Later

    James Lileks warning us away from his "screeds" is like Playboy warning us away from its centerfolds. Come on James, I'm not reading your Bleat every day for more stories about Gnat (cute though she may be). No, I demand more screeds! More righteous anger! More red meat! More centerfolds!

    In his latest Bleat, he digs through old newspaper editorials praising President Clinton's bombing of Iraq:

    I've read enough editorials from various papers from this period to reinforce something I've long suspected: the reason many editorialists hate this war is because they don't feel it's theirs.

    If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaeda, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons' brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK's call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience - the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.

    These "if such-and-such had happened" theories are impossible to prove, but this one sounds pretty plausible to me. Oh, I can hear the main objection: "But Clinton would have gone to the U.N. and gotten the support of the international community". Exactly like he didn't then. (Or exactly like he didn't when he ordered Kosovo be bombed. I heard Madeline Albright on NPR this morning admitting that, sure, the UN wasn't consulted before our Kosovo adventure, but then saying that that's OK, because at least we had NATO on our side. Apparently having 15 allies then instead of 10 allies now makes all the difference.)

    Well anyway, here are two more biting excerpts from today's Bleat:

    The naivety nearly makes you weep. These people didn't want Saddam's body bobbing ass-up in the Tigris. They wanted a world in which the fascist clique that ruled Iraq curtseyed and bowed in the lovely gavotte of international diplomacy.


    The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one.

    Then I would add "read the whole thing", but of course you've done that already. Haven't you?

    Orange Power!

    Astronaut Pete Conrad planted a Princeton flag on the moon when he was there back in 1969. (Don't worry, other Ivy alums, we came in peace.) Not nearly as cool, but cool nonetheless, is a soldier claiming Iraqi water towers for the University of Tennessee.

    September 19, 2003

    Don't be a Pander Bear

    Tip for politicians: when you consult your political advisers on a policy matter, you might want to also consult your economic advisers, to make sure that their ideas will actually work. Because when they don't, you're in trouble. Last year, the Bush Administration imposed tariffs on steel imports in advance of the midterm Congressional elections; now it turns out that the tariffs are backfiring.

    Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy.
    It's not difficult to say "Told you so" here, since everybody did in fact tell Bush so. Except Karl Rove, I guess.

    Sometimes bad economics can make good politics, but only in the short run.

    Maybe it's just a myth

    I hear that once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, people often offered to help other people in need. And when they did so, they did so without expectation of being paid. And they were known as volunteers.

    And then government got involved, and suddenly "volunteering" turned into a big government program that needed an extra $100,000,000 just so that 20,000 more people could work for free.

    It would be surreal -- if it weren't for the fact that these sorts of paradoxes are to be expected from government. The issue here is that what the program calls "volunteers" are, in fact, something else entirely, as their website makes clear:

    Eligibility and Benefits
    AmeriCorps is open to U.S. citizens, nationals, or lawful permanent residents aged 17 or older. Members serve full or part time over a 10- to 12-month period. Full-time members receive an education award of $4,725 to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back student loans. They also receive health insurance, training, and student loan deferment. About half of the members also receive a modest annual living allowance of about $9,300, along with health insurance. Members who serve part-time receive a partial education award.
    Hmm. So that can add up to $14,000 in cash, plus health insurance. So why not call them "poorly paid employees," rather than "volunteers"? Besides the fact that it would be harder to recruit workers that way, I mean?

    September 21, 2003

    Non sequitur of the day

    College students like to download music off the internet. Even though it's illegal. And they like to rationalize their behavior:

    She, like others, does not see the harm done, and remains suspicious of the recording industry.

    "How are you going to make downloading illegal when you can still smoke legally and give yourself lung cancer?" Ms. Morrissey asked. "There are a lot worse issues you could focus on."

    Say wha?

    September 23, 2003

    Why ask why?

    Gregg Easterbrook answers that imponderable question: why are there 175 candidates for the Democratic nomination?

    First, to the extent the candidates are United States senators (four are), caution-contents-under-pressure egotism is the driving factor. It matters not that it has been 43 years since a senator was elected president. All senators consider themselves Great Men -- substitute Women where appropriate--and of equal importance, all senators consider all competing senators Bloated Gasbags. So when Senator A declares for the presidency, 99 other senators instantly think, Him? I'm better than him! Senators endlessly run, and endlessly lose, because they cannot stand the thought that some other senator views himself as more qualified.
    Read the rest.

    Parlez vous doubletalk?

    Yesterday, the New York Times ran an extended interview with French prez Jacques Chirac, primarily about his views on Iraq. Daniel Drezner shreds the inconsistencies in Chirac's comments, providing a handy little quiz which Chirac has flunked.

    Drezner leaves out one other bizarre set of statements, though. The interview is filled with Chirac's comments about how Iraq needs its own sovereignty, as soon as possible if not sooner. Then he explains why:

    A: No. It’s psychological; it is a political act, to tell the Iraqis. “Your destiny” is in your hands. Now we shall help, but you are responsible. You are not under the authority of a governor who is Christian and foreign. That’s a lot, isn’t it.”
    Ah. He doesn't want someone who is "Christian and foreign." (He emphasizes this elsewhere in the interview.) So Iraqis running their own country is very important, right? Well, not exactly...
    Q: And even help to eventually resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Do you share this vision of the invasion of Iraq as a new dynamic for this region, something positive and peaceful?

    A: I’d like to think so, but frankly, I don’t believe so. I think it’s…

    Q: Perhaps you think the opposite?

    A: In fact, yes. This has been traumatic for this region and culture. [Duh. That was the idea. - DN] And I think it could have negative consequences. Let me use an example I often give to President Bush. We are told that Iraq will become democratic. Very well. This is a huge ambition. This democracy will take the form of elections. This is usually the case in other democracies. So naturally elections will as a rule give power to the majority. In Iraq the majority is Shiite. But are the Shiites in this analysis the real symbol of tomorrow’s democracy? It is not so obvious. So is possibly something a little shaky about this argument?

    So, in short, Chirac embraces Iraqi "sovereignty" but not "responsibility" -- or is it "responsibility" but not "sovereignty"? -- and only as long as the people aren't actually sovereign.

    It's impossible to read the interview as a whole without coming to the conclusion that, all claims to the contrary, the US and France do not share the same values. Yes, Chirac provides lip service to the idea that it's good that Saddam Hussein is gone -- but he doesn't sound very enthusiastic about it, and he sounds even less enthusiastic about Iraqi democracy. It seems that the ideal middle eastern state, to Chirac, is a kinder, gentler Arab dictatorship. Then you have the "symbolic" sovereignty without having to worry about the messy actual sovereignty.

    Now it's getting dirty

    Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry has accused fellow candidate Howard Dean of being a New York Yankees fan.

    Even with the low level of our recent political discourse, that's a low blow. Senator Kerry should apologize.

    September 24, 2003

    Close enough

    Once and future Oxblogger David Adesnik, guest-blogging over at the Volokh Conspiracy, notes that the Washington Post and the (shocker) New York Times seriously distort the coverage of President Bush at the United Nations.

    To begin with, there is a quick laugh to be had by comparing the NYT and WaPo ledes for the UN story. The WaPo informs us that
    President Bush got an earful of complaints from world leaders today but responded with a mild defense of his actions in Iraq and an understated request for U.N. help.
    In contrast, the NYT reports that
    President Bush challenged the United Nations today to put aside its sharp differences over Iraq and to help the Iraqi people build a peaceful and democratic country on a timetable that made sense to them.

    But he stoutly defended the United States' rationale for the war.
    "Stout" vs. "mild". An "understated request" vs. a "challenge". In my role as armchair referee, I'm going to call this one a split decision: Bush's defense of the war was absolutely unaplogetic. But his request for help in Iraq was understated.
    Oh, go ahead and read the rest; you know you want to.

    Is this what we can expect over the next year

    Mark Whitaker went to Harvard. Graduated with honors. Then he went to Oxford on a Marshall Fellowship. Obviously, he's an educated guy.

    Well, actually, it's not that obvious. He's now editor of Newsweek, and here is his idea of political analyis:

    FROM THERE, I went to dinner with a veteran NEWSWEEK correspondent who covered Clark when he was commander of NATO. When I asked what he thought of the general, my colleague made an “L” with his thumb and index finger. “Loser!” he said. Sure, Clark was very smart, he conceded, but he was also brittle and egotistical.

    That's right. A colleague made an "L" with his thumb. Wesley Clarke is, evidently, a "loser."

    It's important to ask: what's not being reported in Newsweek so it can fill its space with tales of one reporter signaling another reporter with 8th grade put-downs?

    Continue reading "Is this what we can expect over the next year" »

    May I speak to Mr...

    Victory... for evil. If you're one of the 6 billion people on the planet who were eagerly awaiting October 1st, when the national Do-Not-Call list kicked into action, you're going to be disappointed. A federal judge has just ruled that the Federal Trade Commission exceeded its statutory authority when it established the list. Hence, no more Do-Not-Call list, at least for now.

    Actually, I can't get too upset about this; while I think telemarketers are slightly below Uday and Qusay on the humanity scale, I applaud any judge who takes the Constitution seriously enough to require regulatory agencies to have legal authority for their actions. Although, frankly, the ruling (text here) seems somewhat shaky; the court found that even though Congress appropriated money for the FTC to run the list, Congress hadn't authorized the FTC to establish it. But it's not as if this will have any long lasting impact; if the decision isn't overturned on appeal, authorization should sail through Congress, given that 50 million Americans cared enough to sign up. This is exactly the sort of feel-good legislation Congress excels at.

    September 25, 2003

    Because the last Democratic secession movement was so successful...

    Paul Lewis, a professor of English at Boston College, hates the U.S. and loves Canada, but he can't be bothered to move. No, he wants to stay put and have Canada come to us In Canada's Globe and Mail, he writes:

    Can we Democrats be your next province?

    No, but you Democrats are free to move to the province of your choice!

    I wish I had more time to comment on the sheer stupidity of his article. Maybe later. For now, I will merely point out that if he really believes that Canada has, and the U.S. lacks, "good mass transit in major cities", then he's obviously never ever been to Vancouver.

    Oh, and he calls New Hampshire "odious", presumably because Bush outpolled Gore by a shocking 48.07% to 46.80%. (Having no state sales or income taxes probably doesn't do much to improve the state's image in his mind, either...)

    September 26, 2003

    Happy New Year

    Blogging is going to be on hiatus this weekend -- at least by me; my co-bloggers might have something to contribute -- because of the holiday. L'Shanah Tovah everyone. See you next year.

    Sullivan and Krauthammer

    Andrew Sullivan says "Amen" to a recent column on Iraq by Charles Krauthammer.

    But Andrew should remember that, when it comes to Iraq, by Krauthammer's own admission, he has a "crediblity problem."

    September 29, 2003

    Wilson a Clinton Appointee

    Atrios wants everybody to get off the recent kick of dismissing Joseph Wilson with the pejoritive: "Clinton appointee." He (she?) points out that Wilson was also appointed to Ambassadorships by President George H.W. Bush and worked in high level jobs as appointed by President Reagan.

    Atrios is correct, but it's also important to remember that Ambassador Wilson is a career Foreign Service officer (you can be one too). That means he was commissioned as an officer by the President as outlined in Article II, Section III of the Constitution. (In Wilson's case, he was commissioned in 1976 by President Ford. He wasn't seperated from the State Department until the late 1990s.)

    And, to the point, just like officers in the armed forces (*just* like officers in the armed forces), Wilson did not work for a specific administration. He worked for whatever administration was in power at the time -- he worked for the government of the United States. What these people are saying is much like saying: so-and-so Major in the Army or so-and-so Commander in the Navy is a "Clinton appointee" because he got his promotion to Major or Commander when Clinton was President.* Wilson's was a non-partisan job, and attempts to characterize it as one, is just, well, partisanship at its worst.

    Continue reading "Wilson a Clinton Appointee" »

    September 30, 2003


    Sheesh, leave the blogosphere for a couple of days and you're swamped by some story. The current one is the Plame affair, which went from simmering to boiling when the Washington Post published a big piece on it. The short version, for those of you too lazy to click on a simple link:

    1. A rumor appeared that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. Dick Cheney asked the CIA to investigate. The CIA sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to do so. He did, and decided it was unsubstantiated. Either his findings were deliberately disregarded, or got lost in the bureaucracy, so the claims made it into the State of the Union. Months later, when Democrats were looking for Bush vulnerabilities and settled on the "16 words" in the State of the Union, Wilson began going around telling everyone who would listen that he had researched it, found it to be false, and that Bush lied.

    2. Soon afterwards, columnist Robert Novak reported that someone in the Bush administration had hinted to him that Wilson (an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war diplomat) had been chosen because his wife, a covert CIA operative, pulled some strings. This didn't get a lot of publicity at the time, but now it has suddenly exploded.

    3. The Post is reporting that a bunch of other Washington journalists were also contacted by administration officials leaking this story to them. Now the Justice Department is going to investigate,because it's a crime to reveal the name of covert operatives, for obvious reasons.

    My reactions to the scandal (other than "wait and see what an investigation reveals"):

    • If the worst -- that Plame is a covert operative who was deliberately outed to retaliate against Wilson -- is true, the
      perpetrators should be shot, not merely for treason or for violating the law, but for criminal stupidity. What on earth did perpetrators have to gain by doing this? Supposedly it's "revenge," but where's the revenge? How is Wilson hurt by this? I suppose the theory is that his wife is hurt -- but how? (People she worked with overseas would indeed be hurt -- their lives would be in danger -- but it's rather perverse to suggest that the Bush administration tried to get overseas operatives killed in order to "punish" Wilson.)

      And if Wilson, through Plame, is indeed hurt, what's the point? To intimidate other critics of Bush, as some have suggested? That doesn't work; nobody was even paying attention to this until Bush's critics -- including Wilson himself -- brought it out in the open and turned it into a scandal. To simply get even with Wilson? For what? He was an insignificant figure before the scandal broke. His 15 minutes of fame about the "16 words" were long over.

    • A lesser version of this scandal makes more sense: some in the administration were trying to discredit Wilson, so they leaked the story that the only reason he got the assignment is because his wife pulled some strings. Naturally, the next question a journalist would ask is, "His wife? Who? What strings could she pull?" And then the accurate response: oh, she works for the CIA on WMD. In this scenario, the motive for the crime -- it is still a crime, after all -- switches from revenge to diminishing Wilson's credentials. Also illegal, but inadvertently, rather than deliberately, so. The perpetrators weren't trying to harm Wilson, Plame, or her contacts, but were just trying to make Wilson look like a beneficiary of nepotism.

    • If this story is true, it's just not going to be that hard to find out. If the perpetrator called at least six journalists, then there are gong to be phone records. There are only a limited number of people who knew and/or could find out what Plame did for a living, and there will likely be a paper trail of some sort regarding her personnel file. And that leads to my next point...

    • There's a second -- and far lesser, don't get me wrong -- scandal here. Namely, what the hell is the media doing? I understand that journalists want to preserve their access, and protecting sources is an important part of that. But supposedly we have _six_ journalists who have firsthand knowledge of a felony on the part of a senior administration official, and yet they'd all rather keep quiet? What is wrong with them? There's a big difference between not revealing who told you that the judge has a secret bank account filled with bribe money, and not revealing who illegally handed you classified information for petty reasons.

    The role of Cheryl will be played by Renee Zellweger

    Cheryl Pierson and Sean Pica. I hadn't thought of those names in years. Amazing how people so prominently in the news for months can just disappear from your memory. It was 1986. I was a junior in high school on eastern Long Island. They were juniors in a nearby high school. Cheryl was a popular cheerleader whose mom had just died and who said her dad was molesting her. She asked Sean to kill him. Sean was a shy Eagle Scout candidate who sat next to her in homeroom and who wanted to impress her. He said he'd do it for a thousand dollars.

    Sean shot and killed her father in his driveway early one morning. Then he calmly went to school.

    Cheryl was pregnant when she and Sean were arrested. She claimed that her dad was the father. Cheryl's younger sister says she's a liar. Weeks later, Cheryl miscarries, and DNA tests prove that the father is... Cheryl's boyfriend Rob Cuccio. Rob is never connected to the plot. Sean and Cheryl both went to jail. Cheryl spent three and a half months in jail, and upon release, Rob and friends pick her up in a rented white stretch limo. Rob proposes to her that day; nine months later, they marry. Nine months later, Sean is still in jail.

    Almost too good to be real, eh? As you can imagine, this real-life soap opera was all over Newsday. And then inevitably, the media spotlight faded. So what happened to all of them? It wasn't a question I considered until today, because today Newsday answered that very question. Amazingly enough, Cheryl and Rob are still married, have two kids, and are living just a couple miles from where they grew up. Cheryl and her sister have made up. Sean spent 16 years in prison and was paroled this past December. He's working towards a master's degree in social work. And he claims he harbors no bitter feelings towards Cheryl. A nice neat ending for everyone, I guess.

    (Sorry, I have no overarching point in bringing this story to your attention. I just found the article quite interesting, and re-reading some of the original articles was a fascinating, almost nostalgic experience...)

    About September 2003

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

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