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June 2004 Archives

June 4, 2004

Let Them Not Eat Cake

Paul Campos writes:

Fifty years ago, America was full of people that the social elites could look upon with something approaching open disgust: blacks in particular, of course, but also other ethnic minorities, the poor, women, Jews, homosexuals, and so on. Nowadays, a new target is required.

Sounds like another run-of-the-mill P.C. rant, doesn't it? Perhaps, but I still think it's an interesting theory as to what's driving today's "War on Obesity". It's not the entire story; the potential to bring down successful and influential American corporations is an attractive enough reason for some. But everyone can come together and believe - and feel comfortable saying so in public - that fat people are gross. The Left demonizes McDonald's, but everyone demonizes the obese.

June 5, 2004

Goodbye, and R.I.P.

Ronald Reagan has passed away. I wasn't his biggest fan at the time, though I've since come to appreciate him more, but either way, it's a sad day.

In his memory, a link to his greatest speech: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004

June 13, 2004

What's in a name?

Oh, That Liberal Media provides an example of one of those media code phrases used by journalists when they want to sneer at a colorful description of a particular group or practice:

OK. Good set up against a heinous, barbaric practice, right? Well, um, maybe not. 'Cause in the eighth paragraph we read the following (emphasis mine):
This was something her mother had done before her. She started as an apprentice while still an adolescent by holding down girls' legs for her mother to perform the rite, which opponents call genital mutilation. "I thought my mother would curse me from the grave if I didn't carry on the tradition," she said.
As James Taranto notes (to whom goes the hat tip for this entry), this is yet another example of "...the press's use of Orwellian language to promote an attitude of moral relativism--Reuters' policy that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter" and the pervasive formulation "what opponents call 'partial-birth abortion'. "
That the media uses this phrasing wouldn't be so bad, if it were used consistently. Of course, it never is; when the media agrees with a characterization, they adopt it as their own. In a New York Times piece on a campaign by death penalty opponents to punish doctors who participate in executions, Adam Liptak uses this description:
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the director of health research for the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said Dr. Rao and others like him should be disciplined. "The state medical boards should just yank the licenses of these people," Dr. Wolfe said.
(Emphasis added.) To his credit, Liptak does point out that this has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with opposition to the death penalty. But what is it with the Times that every group to the right of the ACLU is described as "right wing" or "conservative" or the like, but Public Citizen is described as a "consumer advocacy organization"? How about "Public Citizen, what supporters call a consumer advocacy organization," or "Public Citizen, the self-described consumer advocacy organization"? Or "Public Citizen, the purported consumer advocacy organization that's actually a left-wing lobbying group and a front for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America"?

It's bad enough that they pretend that Public Citizen is a neutral consumer advocacy group in articles about consumer advocacy. But Wolfe is conducting his anti-death penalty campaign not in an individual capacity, but in his role as a Public Citizen official. Whether one supports or opposes the death penalty, an honest person would have to admit that it has nothing to do with consumer advocacy. And yet the Times blithely goes on describing them as if they were an apolitical group with no hidden agenda.

June 18, 2004

Beating a dead terrorist horse

Speaking of Iraq and Al Qaeda, I see the New York Times is still pushing the story that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta never met with Iraqi agents in Prague. At least they didn't have to invent a phony claim by Vaclav Havel this time to do so. They cite the 9/11 Commission's report this time. I'll let you be the judge on whether the Times' version:

But on Wednesday, the Sept. 11 commission said its investigation had found that the meeting never took place.
is an accurate rendition of the report's statement:
We have examined the allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9. Based on the evidence available—including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting—we do not believe that such a meeting occurred.
But what I do know is that unless there's undisclosed classified information which backs it up, both versions of the claim are premature at best.

There are some facts which tend to support the claim that they met:

  1. A Czech intelligence source reported seeing Mohammed Atta meeting with Iraqi diplomat/operative Ahmed al-Ani.
  2. al-Ani's predecessor is known to have met with terrorists in Prague to target American interests.
  3. Atta previously traveled to Prague to meet with unknown people on urgent business, during which he attempted to avoid detection.
  4. Whoever al-Ani met with was described by him as a "Hamburg student."
  5. Atta was a Hamburg student.

Here's the list of facts cited by the Times and the commission which supposedly refute the theory:

  1. Atta was in Virginia 5 days before the meeting in Prague.
  2. Atta's telephone was in Florida during the time of the meeting in Prague and the surrounding days.
  3. Under interrogation, al-Ani (who is now in American custody) has denied meeting with Atta.
  4. The one report is uncorroborated.
  5. No record of Atta traveling to Prague at that time has been found.

It's not the strongest case for the meeting, certainly. Circumstantial evidence, and only a single source.

On the other hand, the case against is even weaker. That Atta was in Virginia five days earlier is about as relevant as what I had for lunch today. Who cares where he was five days earlier? Unless he was hitchhiking to get there, it wasn't going to take him five days to reach Prague, and there's no reason why he would have arrived early.

That Atta's phone was in Florida is a little meaningful, but hardly overly so. American cell phones generally do not work in Europe; he might well have left it in the US even had he travelled to Prague. And if he had, his co-conspirators may well have used it.

That al-Ani didn't admit to being part of one of the biggest atrocities in history? Since when do self-serving claims of innocence outweigh witness testimony?

The other two points are merely saying that the evidence isn't conclusive; it doesn't actually serve to refute the evidence. After all, we're sure that someone met with al-Ani. If it wasn't Atta, it was someone else. But the evidence that it was someone else is even weaker than the evidence it was Atta, since nobody has identified another person who fits. Obviously if there were travel records, corroborated eyewitness reports, etc., that pointed the finger at another person, we'd have heard about it by now. So in the absence of any other facts which haven't been presented, the strongest evidence is still for the claim that it was Mohammed Atta who met with Al-Ani.

June 22, 2004

It's called a pie and you order it by the slice

I love living in New York, except for when I'm reminded that there are hundreds of thousands of people like Maryann Ford living here:

"I don't want to be in a city with 10,000 Republicans. I wouldn't last long, especially knowing Republicans are taking up seats in my favorite restaurants."

She's talking about the Republican National Convention coming to town, apparently unaware that hundreds of thousands of Republicans live here and are enjoying Restaurant Week alongside her right this very moment. (This one will thankfully be in Las Vegas instead that weekend.)

Fortunately, not all New Yorkers are elitist scum or insufferable twits, although that's the face many New Yorkers wish to present to the world come Labor Day. No, there exist decent folk who, whatever their political leanings, only wish to spread happiness and pizza:

A lot of these conventioneers won't know our city's pizza protocol. So we're putting politics aside, hoping to find common ground in Gotham's pizzerias. To that end, we've been developing a special pizza guide for visiting GOPers. Look for it at the end of August, and forward the Slice URL to any Republican you know who will be attending.

To be fair, the pizza guide should mention that all New Yorkers are insufferable elitists about their pizza. Which, of course, is entirely justified. Pizza being one of the reasons I love living in New York. Yum.

June 23, 2004

Hassan Chop!

The first song in the wonderful Disney movie Aladdin begins like so:

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear
If they don't like your face
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home

But only if you saw the movie in its original theatrical run. Thanks to professional complainers, the lyrics were changed for the VHS and DVD release:

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where it's flat and immense
And the heat is intense
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home

To whom do we complain to get the lyrics changed back?

June 25, 2004

Where's My Happy Dragon?

Joanne Jacobs writes of a school in Massachusetts which banned cupcakes and other sweets from birthday celebrations:

Instead, the birthday boy or girl will get a cover for the back of the student's chair, a sash, a special pencil and a sticker with the school's mascot, the Happy Dragon. Preschool and kindergarten students will get to wear a birthday crown.

This was posted yesterday (June 24), which just happens to be my birthday. Only I didn't even get a sash or a crown or a pat on the back. Such is life in the adult world of work. Even in school, I often had a final exam that day rather than cake. So kids, quitcher whining and wear your sash like a man.

About June 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in June 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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