Monday, January 31, 2005

I wondered how long before the Democrats noticed that Barack Obama was a moderate centrist? 26 days.

Both Barack Obama (D-Ill) and Ken Salazar (D-Co) had excellent opportunities this week to strike a blow for America. They appear, instead, to have limited themselves to a narrow view of their roles. At a crucial time, both failed to stand up and be counted -- one sparklingly, and the other bumbling. The lone black member of the current senate could not bring himself to vote against Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State. Obama, who took only a minute to take apart Condi Rice's high rhetoric conflating tyranny and terror, stopped short of ascribing mendacity, and even if he thought doing so was discourteous, there was no compulsion to end up voting for her confirmation anyway. This was sad enough. But any allegation that he let Ms. Rice's color influence him is probably untrue. For he exploded this canard, stopping at the perimeter of political risk, or as Clinton famously called it, "maintaining viability within the system". We didn't, after all, see Obama stand with Barbara Boxer to challenge the Ohio vote and a decry an election where thousands of black people were effectively denied the vote.

Dumbest comment since Michael Moore:

Given that the resistance is a war of symbology as much as anything, a war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi populace - you have to wonder if indeed there is any meaningful level of resistance anymore when the level of violence displayed across all of Iraq at a crucial juncture for mindshare amounts to so little. It's hard to take the resistance seriously after this when most of the violence they warned the populace about turned out to be bluffing on a grand scale.
The insurgents are not trying to win hearts and minds. They are trying to create such a level of violence against ordinary Iraqis that anything including a theocratic dictatorship would be preferable.

To be fair, he continues:

My thought is that perhaps the much lower than expected levels of violence point to how greatly the resistance does, in fact, rely on outside support to continue. With the influx of willing marytrs from outside the country to stop the spread of democracy in the east shut off for the last few days, we have a clearer picture now of how much real Iraqi resistance there is (of at least the violent sort). Or, perhaps a lot of the resistance has opted to take the peaceful route and support the elections as a path to change. I don't think it's just that a lot of the resistance forgot to get the flu shot and were feeling a bit too sniffly to blow themselves up today.

When around 60% of the populace willing to mark themselves with an indelible stain to proclaim which side of the violent aspect of resistance they are on, I think that speaks volumes about where the majority is really headed. Perhaps as you say it was only to vote in people against the U.S., but even if so it would not matter as it has still been done peacefully instead of through further bloodshed. As others have said, the people of Iraq have indeed given violence the finger regardless of how they feel about the US.
How about that, an admission that the "insurgents" are outside terrorists.

I really shouldn't take shots at the Democratic Underground. Enough people post that you can find almost any opinion as long as it is anti-Bush. Still, many in the Left have a romantic view of the terrorists in Iraq as being some kind of anti-occupation resistance that wants nothing but good things for Iraqis. To some extent, they fall for the fallacy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. These people are not the patriots that this poster and Michael Moore need them to be. They are violent killers.

Glenn Reynolds has one of the most popular blogs at Instapundit. In addition to this, he has a blog on MSNBC and wrotes columns for TechCentralStation and, occasionally, the Guardian. He thinks of himself as libertarian/conservative. Since that is similar to my own views, I read him a lot.

Recently he had some bad things to say about how the redical left has taken over the Democrats.

"When Ted Kennedy can make an absurd and borderline-traitorous speech on the war, when Michael Moore shares a VIP box with the last Democratic President but one, when Barbara Boxer endorses a Democratic consultant/blogger whose view of American casualties in Iraq is "screw 'em," well, this is the authentic face of the Left. Or what remains of it."
This attracted some attack dogs from the left including MaxSpeak:

The references to Kennedy and Boxer are self-evident tripe. The blogger in question, for anyone who is new to blogs, used the phrase in reference to a particular incident involving mercenaries (taking exception, what I called military contractors), not to U.S. military casualties in general. Not quite the same thing, is it? And he happens to be an actual military veteran, unlike the wingnutty professor.
To explain this in further detail. problems in Fallujah started when a supply convoy was attacked, four security guards killed, and their bodies burned, dismembered, strung up on a steel bridge—and the whole atrocity was caught on videotape. Footage of this was made public. The DailyKos made the statement that, since these men were contractors rather than military, they were nothing but mercinaries to "screw 'em." Apparantly, any American doing contract work in Iraq deserves nothing less.

Conservative bloggers never forgave KOS for this. Liberals never cared. Some, including MaxSpeak, seem to agree.

So this is the basis of the attack on Glenn Reynolds. He objects to the Democrats embrasing fringe elements.

They go on:

Speaking of American casualties in Iraq, unlike Markos and other critics of the war, Reynolds has hyped every piece of duplicitous, discredited bullshit floating from the Pentagon down the Potomac. Few on the Internet can claim more credit for greasing the skids for this debacle of a war, nor for the attendant deaths of over 1,400 American soldiers.

"If you had your way, Saddam would still be in power." Yes, if I had my way, Saddam would probably still be in power. And ten thousand American families would not be suffering. That's an easy call.
I'm not sure quite what all is included in this sweeping statement. He probably means that Reynolds often quotes and links to people who have been to Iraq and have stories about good that we have done there - something that seldom makes the MSM.

Personally, I felt for years that anothe war with Saddam was inevitable. The only question was whose terms would it be on? Clinton would have invaded if he had the political capitol and the stomach for it but he had neither so he settled for constant air strikes and a major missle offensive.

It is usualy ignored but the final report on Saddam's WMDs said that he had every intention of rebuilding them as soon as the sanctions were lifted and that he was using Oil-for-Food money to lobby for this. In the meantime he was a blatant sponsor of terrorism.

Kennedy, Kerry, and MaxSpeak may think that we would have been safer if Saddam was still in power. I think that this would have been a temporary illusion.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hoping for Failure. Bush is seldom given credit for it but he is a long-term planner. His election strategy has been to leave a Republican majority in Congress after his tern ends. In Iraq, he hopes to replace a repressive dictatorship which threatened Arab stability with a functioning democracy. If he succeeds then we will all be safer. This would be a good thing. Today's election was a big step in that direction.

So how do the Democrats respond? Ted Kennedy already called for a complete pull-out by the end of the year. An unconditional pullout would certainly lead to civil war.

The Daily Kos has this to say:

This Election is simply, in my estimation, an exercise in pretty pictures. Why? Because Elections are to choose governments, not to celebrate the day. Are the people elected capable of governing Iraq at this time? Without 150,000 U.S. soldiers? Or even with them? I have been accused of gloating by people right HERE because of my focus on the continuing violence. But my focus has been on the realities of governing a land in chaos, in the midst of civil war, with 150,000 U.S. soldiers the only force with the ability to provide security. And this is 2 years after the invasion. A week before the election, an Alternet columnist proclaimed This Election is No Good and The Election Cul-de-sac.
"The Americans and Allawi insisted on having these elections to prove they are in control of Iraq," said an unnamed guerrilla leader. "We intend to prove them wrong. The resistance will intensify after the elections and will never cease until the American occupiers leave Iraq."

So the forthcoming poll will likely provide another example of the cure proving to be worse than the disease.

The Center for American Progress says
True to its record, the Bush administration seems more concerned with how Iraq's election is perceived than with its execution or legitimacy. As the White House spins away and prepares to once again claim that "freedom is on the march," it's worth remembering the facts.
Most of these were written before the election but the message is clear. They are hoping for failure. They would rather see Bush fail than see Iraq succeed.

For balance, Lean-Left has some good things to say about Iraqis who voted in defiance of death threats.

UPDATE: John Kerry has some bad things to say about the election:
The failed presidential candidate questioned the historic referendum's legitimacy, saying, "It's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't vote and doesn't vote."

Kerry also pooh-poohed reports of a surprisingly high 72 percent turnout by Iraqi voters, insisting instead that the election has "gone as expected."
As was always he case during the campaign, Kerry does not offer any ideas for how the election coul have gone better, only critisism of Bush's handling. (To be fair, after the election, Kerry did give some specifics for how Iraq could have been handled better. These had already been dismissed by experts which is probably why he waited.)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ever since September 12, 2001, America-haters have been saying that we need to address the root causes for anti-American terrorism. If we just made some adjustments in policy - negotiate an equitable settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, close some military bases in Saudi Arabia - then al would be forgiven. They argued when Bush said that they hate our freedom. Surely they are reasonable people who are justly outraged with America's policies, especially Bush's.

A couple of recent events brought up how different we really are.

First Abu Musab al-Zarqawi denounced democracy. This is no surprise. The Islamic terrorists want the world to be ruled by a theocracy like the Taliban. The idea of letting people choose their own destiny is against everything that al-Zarqawi and bin Laden believe in.

The other event is the publication of a book saying that prisoners at Guantanamo were broken by being exposed to women in miniskirts and thongs. Images of half-naked women are common in our culture. Women in miniskirts can be seen on any college campus (at least in the Summer). But these men's religion makes them so afraid of women's bodies that this becomes an interrogation technique. Think about it. It is legal in the US (or at least Ohio) for a woman to walk around in nothing but a thong but these prisoners react like Dracula to a cross. What if they saw a girl wearing this prom dress?

It isn't government policies that separates us. It is out entire culture. We live in a liberal, permissive culture and we export it. American values travel the world through movies and TV. We could close all of our military bases in the Arabian peninsula but our corporations still run the world.

And there is no compromise possible on Israel, either. They don't want the Palestinians to have a homeland, they want the Jews dead.

Now Ted Kennedy is pushing for a troop pull-out from Iraq starting immediately and to be completed by the end of the year. I thought that liberals were supposed to be the compassionate ones but Kennedy and the other anti-war crowd don't care what happens to Iraq.

The militant Islamists hate us and they see retreat as weakness. We will not win anyone over by pulling out of Iraq before it is stabilized.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Deadliest day in Iraq — 37 U.S. troops killed. 31 die in helicopter crash, six others in separate attacks.

Yes, it was a bad day but I don't like the spin that the media put on the story. This is not an Iraq story, it is a Super Stallion story. Those things are dangerous. I found this article from August, 2000 which was written after a Super Stallion crash.

But the MH-53, one of the Western world's largest helicopters, has a history of lethal mechanical failures and has been grounded at least once since it began service in the early 1980s. It is also one of a number of military aircraft that critics have denounced as part of a aging fleet, with design origins that date back to the 1960s.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dawn Cutler said Thursday's crash represents the first MH-53 accident this year. The exact number of crew fatalities in accidents involving the helicopter was unavailable Thursday, but at least 30 have been killed, including those on Thursday, and 15 wounded since 1984, according to news reports.

In June of 1996, the U.S. Navy grounded 200 of its H-53 Super Stallion and MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters after a crash killed a crew of four at Sikorsky's testing facility in Connecticut. Sikorsky recommended the aircraft be grounded following the crash so inspectors could examine the parts that connect the rotor blades to the body of the helicopter.

The CH-53 Super Stallion, a helicopter similar to the Sea Dragon, was grounded twice - once in 1984 following a crash in North Carolina that killed six Marines and again in 1987 after five Marines died in a crash in California, United Press International reported.

After the Super Stallions were grounded, the Secretary of the Navy ordered flight restrictions to be placed on the CH-53 because of design deficiencies found during an investigation of the aircraft, UPI reported.
Back in 2000, there was no reason to spin the story any way except as dangerous equipment. Now it becomes a "death in Iraq" story. Too bad. There's probably a real story about why they are still flying.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why do Democrats love Social Security? If the current program, exactly as it now exists, had been proposed by Bush or Reagan they would have hated it. It violates two core complaints that they have made about Bush and Reagan policies:

1) It is a regressive tax. The tax is only applied against the first $88,000 that you earn. If you make $100,000 then the last $12,000 is untaxed. That means that you only paid 5.4% tax instead of 6.2% on your total income. If you earn $880,000 then your Social Security taxes are only .62% of you income. Since when are Democrats in favor of taxing the rich at a lower rate?

2) It pays more benefits to the rich than the poor. Your benefits are based on your highest earnings. Social Security keeps you in the same general bracket when you retire that you were in when you worked.

How is this system any different that the "tax cuts for the rich" that the Democrats have been complaining about for the last four years? What's really going on? The answer is the deep dark secret of Social Security - the Social Security Trust Fund.

When I was a child I asked an adult what Social Security was? She told me that the government takes some of the money that you earn, invests it, and pays it back with interest when you retire. Many people believe that this is how the system works. They are wrong.

What really happens is that Social Security brings in a surplus. This surplus is "invested" by buying US bonds. The government lends the money to itself at interest. The money is then transferred to the general fund and spent. If the government ever needs to "dip into the trust fund" then the money will have to come from the general fund. This will be doubly painful since it will represent a reversal of the current cashflow.

Let me repeat that - in order to use the "trust fund", general fund money will have to be used to redeem the bonds (or the government could issue more bonds, essentially borrowing money in order to pay off loans, a practice that is illegal for individuals).

We could reduce the current Social Security tax to the level needed to cover current payments and it would not make the slightest difference to Social Security's viability. Eventually the general fund would have to cover the difference between income and outlays.

I should mention that the reason that the surplus will not last is demographics. Between Baby Boomers retiring and people living decades longer, eventually the demands in the system are growing.

In the meantime, though, we have a nice surplus padding the general fund. Bush proposes letting people invest some of their taxes, just like it was originally promised the government would do. This will divert money from the surplus and therefore from the general fund. This will require spending cuts.

That is what this is all about. Democrats are not worried about future retirement benefits, they worry about current spending. They don't want to lose that money.

Pay close attention to any alternative plans that the Democrats float. Raising the Social Security rate right now will accomplish nothing since the surplus goes down a rat hole. The only alternatives are to reduce benefits, either through actual cuts or by raising the retirement age, or to let in a flood of new legal immigrants to bolster the workforce.

Cutting Social Security benefits is political suicide and Democrats are against immigrants. My guess is that they will continue to insist that everything is fine just as it stands and plan to retire before the system has problems.

BTW, did you know that Congressmen have their own pension system?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Why is it so important to re-write the Bush narrative? In my last entry I pointed out that the point of the CBS forged memos was to show that Bush couldn't have gotten into the Guard or stayed in without outside help. This is part of a general outlook on Bush's life by the anti-Bush crowd. They feel that he is too stupid to have accomplished anything on his own so it must have been given to him.

From there it is a short step to Michael Moore Land - Bush owes favors for everything he has and this drives every decision he makes. Remember the loony theory that we invaded Afghanistan for an oil pipeline?

Speaking of Moore, he let it be known that he didn't want an Oscar for best documentary. He wanted best picture or nothing. He got nothing.

The Academy Award nominations are out. What I think were the two most influential movies of the year were passed over. These are "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and "Polar Express". A decade ago Toy Story was the first computer generated movie. This went from oddity to industry mainstay. The three nominees for best animated picture (The Incredibles, Shark Tale, and Shrek 2,) are all computer generated. And this is a year when Disney released what may be their last hand-animated movie.

Sky Captain was shot on a green screen. The actors are real but everything else is computer generated (and gorgeous). This is probably the wave of the future. More and more, film makers will substitute computer backdrops for real ones, especially in science fiction and fantasy movies. The TV show Babylon 5 used this technique ten years ago for limited scenes, a process they called a virtual set.

Polar Express tried to go one better. They put hundreds of sensors on their actors and used these to cue computer generated characters. The jury is still out on this. Basing an animated character's performance on a real actor can work. Lord of the Rings' Gollum proves that. But LoTR was still done by animators. They used the actor's face and hands as reference points but they still moved the models by hand. By contrast, Polar Express was totally automated, or so they said. This put more of Tom Hanks on the screen but something was lost in the process. Many viewers complained about scenes looking like zombies.

It will be interesting to look back in ten years and see how the technologies have progressed.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A few scattershot thoughts...

All three networks felt the need to tell us that Bush's approval ratings are lower than anyone except Nixon. Why? First, this should not be a surprise. Bush's margin of victory was pretty close. You would expect that to be reflected in his approval ratings. The obvious reason is to undercut his mandate.

It turns out that when CBS asks for your resignation, you can say no. The three Memogate executives are still employed. Their lawyers are negotiating.

The whole Memogate fiasco probably happened because of the liberal narative for Bush. To them, everything that George W. accomplished in his life happened because his father pulled strings. There were a lot of complaints fro the left in 2000 and 2001 that H. W. Bush's campaign workers had pushed W. Bush on us as a political favor. The idea that W. needed help to get into the guard and to get out of trouble simply extended this narative.

Barack Obama got good reviews for his conduct in Rice's hearings. That's good for him, but... the good reviews were from conservatives. During his speech at the DNC, much of what he said would not have been out of place at the Republican convention. The problem for him is that the Democrats don't seem to want moderates any longer. How long before the Democrats realize that Barack is a moderate (or at least talks like one) and disown him.

Note to Ted Kennedy - it's Obama, not Osama.

Robert Byrd is leading the attack against Condi Rice. He is also the only former member of the KKK in Congress. Does anyone else see a problem here? Will this lead to a high-tech lynching?

Michael Powell is resigning as head of the FCC. Good. The over-reaction to Janet Jackson is bad enough. He also approved the broadcast flag. This will allow broadcasters to control what you can and cannot record from TV.

There was a wire-service story about Michael Moore's bodyguard being arrested on a gun charge. Actually, he had guarded Moore but that was not his assignment at the time. He reported the unloaded gun in his luggage as required by law. Because he was at JFK, they decided to arrest him for passing through New York without a NYC gun license. This probably will not stand up in court.

Feminists have been telling us for years that women think differently from men (and are therefore better able to run the world). Suddenly the suggestion that this might handicap women in science s sickening.

Yes, there were a lot of protestors at Bush's inauguration. Many of them were not protesting Bush personally. They would have been there to protest Kerry since his position on Iraq is about the same as Bush's.

Common wisdom among Democrats currently says that Kerry lost because he did not answer the Swift Boat Vets fast enough. As is often the case, common wisdom is wrong. An analysis done at the time shows that only 40% of the country even heard about the Swift Vets prior to Kerry's counter attack and only half of those who heard about it believed it. The split probably is along Bush/Kerry voters.

Actually, Kerry was the best of a poor field of candidates. It was unlikely that a northern liberal Senator could win. Democrat presidents since Kennedy have been southerners. The Democrats don't have any southern governors to draw from and their stock of senators is getting pretty thin. Where are they going to find new candidates?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bloggers have been coming down hard on Sarah Boxer's NYT column on Iraq The Model. Boxer went looking for Iraqi blogs and found one that is pro-American. After digging around a little more, she found some aspertions on the character of the brothers who write the blog. This fit her own pre-conceptions.

There are so many problems here it is hard to list them all. Boxer's main research on Iraq the Model seems to have been limited to reading the Martini Republic, an anti-Bush blog. Comments there made her so suspicious of Iraq The Model that she assumed that it is nothing but a CIA front.

When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet.
The proof, according to Martini Republic:
One of the principal bloggers there, Joseph Mailander, had some questions for the Iraqi brothers. He wanted to know whether someone in the United States government or close to it had set up the blog. (The Web host, based in Abilene, Tex., is called CIATech Solutions.) And what about the two brothers' tour of the United States? Did the American government "have a shadow role in promoting it?"
The "CIA" stands for Complex Internet Applications. Iraq The Model is hosted by Blogspot which in turn is owned by Google. Blogspot is a free blogging service and is used by a lot of blogs including this one. (For the record, I am not part of the CIA, either).

A strange bit of reasoning reported by Boxer:
What kind of frauds? One reader suggested that the brothers were real Iraqis but were being coached on what to write. Another, in support of that theory, noted the brothers' suspiciously fluent English. A third person observed that coaching wasn't necessary. All the C.I.A. would need to do to influence American opinion was find one pro-war blog and get a paper like USA Today to write about it.

Martini Republic pointed out that the pro-war blog was getting lots of attention from papers like The Wall Street Journal and USA Today while antiwar bloggers like Riverbend, who writes Baghdad Burning, had gone unsung. Surely Iraq the Model did not represent the mainstream of Iraqi thinking?
This all gets a little surreal when you follow the link to Baghdad Burning. If the brother's fluency in English is suspicious then what are we to make of Baghdad Burning's fluency?

Boxer gets hung up on the fact that Ali, one of the three brothers left Iraq The Model. Her interpretation is that Ali felt used by the American right. She never got a quote from Ali to confirm this, though.

After the article came out, some bloggers including Jeff Jarvis unloaded on Boxer:

Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel -- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).

How dare you? Have you no sense of responsibility? Have you no shame?

I think that this is an overreaction. Boxer starts out with the CIA speculation but eventually admits that the blog is the real thing and the Washington Post did at much to put the brother's lives in danger by running a story about the other two brothers meeting Bush but, like I said, Boxer's story has lots of problems.

What it comes down to is that there are Iraqis who think that America setting up a democratic government is a good thing. There are also Iraqis who worry more about current conditions. Right-leaning and left-leaning sites each quote the side that supports their own views. What seems to confuse Boxer is that both are valid views. Having a say in your government is a good thing but it is also nice to have reliable power.

The real question - does Boxer get paid for this lazy trash?

Iraq the Model has a few choice things to say about the article.

Over on Capitol Hill, Barbara Boxer was publicly humiliating herself at the Rice hearing.

Well, you should read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that, you know, particular vote.

If you didn't read when you voted on it then you should have at least found out what was in it before you quoted it. has the entire text. They come up with seven reasons including WMDs. Some, such as Saddam's suppression of the Kurds and his efforts to hinder arms inspectors, cannot be argued against.

Barbara Boxer is also the only senator who supported questions about the election. I wonder if she bothered to read anything on this before voting on it?

Nightline did a piece on the election last night. Their conclusions? Nixon won in 1960 and Bush won in 2004.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It turns out that we are living in an authoritarian dictatorship. At least that is the lesson that the Guardian learned from Memogate.

The role of the media corporations in the US is similar to that of repressive state regimes elsewhere: they decide what the public will and won't be allowed to hear, and either punish or recruit the social deviants who insist on telling a different story. The journalists they employ do what almost all journalists working under repressive regimes do: they internalize the demands of the censor, and understand, before anyone has told them, what is permissible and what is not.

So, when they are faced with a choice between a fable which helps the Republicans, and a reality which hurts them, they choose the fable. As their fantasies accumulate, the story they tell about the world veers further and further from reality. Anyone who tries to bring the people back down to earth is denounced as a traitor and a fantasist. And anyone who seeks to become president must first learn to live in fairyland
note: I think that the "fable" they are referring to is the Armstrong Williams story.

The whole article is a mish-mash of history. They bring up a 1998 story on the use of sarin nerve gas Viet Nam. The story was later retracted.
But after four weeks of furious denunciations, the network's owner, Ted Turner, publicly apologists in terms you would expect to hear during a show trial in North Korea: "I'll take my shirt off and beat myself bloody on the back." CNN had erred, he said, by broadcasting the allegations when "we didn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt".
Clinton was still president in 1998 so I'm not sure how that shows the media being biased for Republicans.
It's true, of course, that CBS should have taken more care. But I think it is safe to assume that if the network had instead broadcast unsustainable allegations about John Kerry, none of its executives would now be looking for work. How many people have lost their jobs, at CBS or anywhere else, for repeating bogus stories released by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about Kerry's record in Vietnam?
The Swift Boat Vets have become the standard defense for CBS. No one in the press was fired for repeating their stories. Now, when the SwiftVets ads started running I was watching the media and the blogs. I didn't see any positive coverage of the story. The best that anyone did was to have people representing both sides.

Also, I don't remember anyone doing a real investigation into the SwiftVets' allegations. I do remember some prominent columnists wondering why no one had dug enough to discredit the SwiftVets.

So the two are not at all similar.

The Guardian also says:
The incident couldn't have been more helpful to Bush. Though there is no question that he managed to avoid serving in Vietnam, the collapse of CBS's story suggested that all the allegations made about his war record were false, and the issue dropped out of the news. CBS was furiously denounced by the rightwing pundits, with the result that between then and the election, hardly any broadcaster dared to criticism George Bush. Mary Mapes, the producer whom CBS fired, was the network's most effective investigative journalist: she was the person who helped bring the Abu Ghraib photos to public attention. If the memos were faked, the forger was either a moron or a very smart operator.
Funny thing, the Viet Nam service issue finally died out but I remember a lot of other negative coverage of Bush between the CBS story and the election. The worst that can be said is that it made reporters check their sources, something that Mapes neglected to do.

Of course I don't expect much from the Guardian. This is the same paper that was hoping for an assassination.

Normally the loser of a presidential race has the grace to refrain from public comment about the winner. Gore bent that tradition, coming back to campaign against Bush. Not Kerry has broken the tradition. First he went to Iraq and told the soldiers how HE would have handled the war had he been president (except he would never have invaded int he first place). Then he used Martin Luther King Day to alledge voter suppression.

"In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans [went] through in 10 minutes. Same voting machines, same process, our America," Kerry said.
This isn't even true. The waiting lines were uneven across party lines and Democrats were as responsible as Republicans for allocation of voting machines.

The Captain's Quarters shows that there is as much likelihood of cheating in Wisconsin as in Ohio but no one cares. I suspect that this is a baseless as the Ohio and Florida stories. Never the less, where is Keith Olbermann on this one?

Part of the Story. CBS's news site is running a story on the wage gape between whites and blacks:

In 1999, during a boom economy, Shapiro said, black middle-class families on average had one-fourth of the wealth of similarly educated, similarly employed white middle-class families.

The disparity was even starker across all income groups — black families as a whole had only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar white families had, according to government figures.
Why is this so? According to the story:
There are historical reasons — generations of poverty, a legacy of slavery and laws that kept them from education, housing and good jobs. But advocates say there also is persistent discrimination in mortgages and other loans.
There are other factors at work that CBS chooses to hide. Statistically, a much larger percentage of blacks families are headed by a single mother than white families. This has a huge effect. Single, working mothers just don't earn as much as a two-income family. If you take this difference into account and only look at two-parent families or only look at single-parent families then the differences between whites and blacks are much less stark.

But then CBS couldn't run a Martin Luther King Day story on white discrimination against blacks.

I just heard George Stephenopolis tell a lie on Nightline. He said that the Bush administration put a ban on showing flag-draped coffins shortly after the war began. The policy actually began under his father during the Gulf War and was continued during the Clinton administration. But the truth doesn't make Bush look nearly as bad.

Speaking of Bush, Newsweek's cover story on Bush s at odds with the way Bush is normally portrayed. Typically Bush is depicted as the front man for Dick Cheney or Karl Rove. This story says that he is a tough, hands-on administrator who hates yes-men. Among other things, Bush was the one who decided that a number of cabinet members had burned out. Rather than purging the White House of dissenting opinions, Bush is clearing the decks for a second-term agenda.

The official story was that many of the cabinet officials were ready to move on; members would volunteer their own resignations. But as the election neared, several began to waver; it became clear they'd need to be shown the door. Other presidents might leave the tough stuff to subordinates, but Bush wanted to do the job himself. When it came time to say farewell, the exchanges in the Oval Office were surprisingly emotional. "They were shocked and really hurt, and that hurt him," says one confidant.
As he starts his final four years in the White House, President Bush is by far the biggest agent of change in his own cabinet. Whether he's remaking his team or plotting his second-term policies, Bush's leadership style belies his caricature as a disengaged president who is blindly loyal, dislikes dissent and covets his own downtime. In fact, Bush's aides and friends describe the mirror image of a restless man who masters details and reads avidly, who chews over his mistakes and the failings of those around him, and who has grown ever more comfortable pulling the levers of power.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I know that this story is going to be quoted endlessly to show how bad Bush is.
Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.
Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."
However, buried near the bottom is this assessment:
Among the report's major findings is that the likelihood of "great power conflict escalating into total war . . . is lower than at any time in the past century." However, "at no time since the formation of the Western alliance system in 1949 have the shape and nature of international alignments been in such a state of flux as they have in the past decade."
This is a "major finding". The world is in less danger of another world war than at any time in the last century. And it is hidden in the second to last paragraph. Even the subhead ('May lose its edge') misdirects the reader.

What is bias and what is not? The story above is biased. A major finding that is good news is hidden so that the anti-Bush can take precedence. The CBS national guard story went beyond bias because they knew at the time that their sources were questionable (or at least, they were told and refused to listen).

Mary Mapes was biased in believing that there must be something more to the Bush National Guard story. She went past bias when she bypassed all of CBS's standards for verification. She lied and misrepresented her sources to her superiors To this day, she insists that the content of the memos is true, even if the documents themselves are not.

Firing Mapes and the others will not get rid of bias but it will at least insure that outright lies are less likely to be aired. That's really about as much as we can hope for.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Wonder what George Soros has been doing since he failed to buy the election? He's been keeping busy but keeping a low profile. Last month he and some other progressive billionaires had a private meeting in San Francisco to plan the future. The results are secret - even their assistants were ordered out of the room. The rumor is that they are hoping to build a progressive think-tank to match the conservative ones.

He's also trying to take over the world, one election at a time.


Specifically, he has branches of the Soros Foundation all over the world. Each branch has a different mission. Many of these branches are having problems, especially in the former USSR. Here are some examples:

CENTRAL ASIA: Soros Foundation to continue despite setbacks. "...Her comments follow a report by a Turkish newspaper that Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov had accused some organisations, and in particular the Soros Foundation, of acting to destroy Tajikistan's unity."

A branch of the Soros Foundation in Kazakhstan has strongly denied charges of tax evasion by the authorities, describing the allegations as politically motivated.

In rapid sequence, Uzbekistan kicked out SOROS, Kazakhstan issued a back-taxes notice that is likely to lead to closure of SOROS offices, President Askar Akayev of Kyrgzstan whipped SOROS for interfering in the society and President Imomali Rakhmanov of Tajikistan told his cabinet of ministers that he considered SOROS a destructive presence for the society.

One of the declared aims of Soros Foundation and its downstream organizations is to create ‘Civil Society’ in Central Asian nations. This noble intention is quite possibly based on the assumption that Central Asia is inhabited by barbarians and uncivilized creatures – ‘natives’ in short.

LEFT-WING billionaire and Bush-hater George Soros was not content to spend millions to thwart a Bush victory in last November's presidential election. Now his Open Society Institute in New York is joining forces with pro-Tehran lobbying group to promote the interests and the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In tandem with the American-Iranian Council, an industry-supported group that favors opening trade and diplomatic ties with Iran, the Open Society Institute will host Iran's ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday at the Open Society Institute's offices in New York
Bias can be good in reporting. At some point, you just have to make up your mind and say what you think happened. Reporters do this. The authors of the CBS Memogate report did not. They carefully spell out their findings but carefully refrain from drawing conclusions. Even Eric Alterman has a problem with this.

The internal CBS panel, led by former Republican politician Dick Thornburgh, have given CBS News a clean bill of health on the charge of political bias because, well, they asked and Rather says, “No.” They can’t possibly expect right-wing witch hunters to buy that. Instead, it merely compounds the evidence of some sort of conspiratorial cover-up and the whole game starts again.
The panel gives the benefit of the doubt to CBS News. They admit that there is the appearance of bias but other people were persuing the same story and everyone involved insists that there was no bias.

The same thing happens with the memos themselves. The report spells out in detail all of the problems with the memos. These include the typeface and superscript, the deviation from military usage, and problems that the memos have meshing with the verified records. They even quote Killian's clerk who did all of the typing as saying that she did not type the memos.

Still, at least one document expert said that they could not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the memos are forged unless the originals can be tested. On this basis, the report gives CBS a pass and says that no one knows for certain.

If the panel wasn't bending over backwards to appear fair they would come out and say that CBS showed bias and that the memos are fakes.

This was enough of a wedge for Keith Olbermann to assert that the liberal media is a myth. He also managed a drive-by smearing of the Swift Boat Vets and Fox News. As with Alterman, Olbermann if you are far enough to the left, everything looks conservative by comparison.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is the CBS report a whitewash? Yes and no. No, it is not because it documents cases of bias. Yes because it refuses to make judgments about them.

I've seen arguments for and against declaring your biases up front. The theory is that a trained reporter will only report what actually happened. In this case, what happened ran up against a brick wall. Mary Mapes is certain that she knows what happened - so certain that she ignored a host of red flags. To this day she still maintains that the memos are accurate, even if they are not original. In other words, she is so certain that Bush got preferential treatment that mere facts will not dissuade her.

And there is the problem with fair and balanced reporting. Mapes is certain that she is reporting the unbiased truth.

That's why I named my blog "The Truth According to Mark". I could be wrong. I admit it. My own biases tell me that Bush didn't need favors to get into the Guard. They were short on pilots at the time. Being a pilot required significantly more time than other duties, not even counting the college degree. Outright draft dodgers preferred to take their chances with a waiting list rather than signing up to be pilots.

Mapes, on the other hand, sees the open slots as something sinister. Places that were kept open for favored sons.

We both have biases but she reported hers as the unvarnished truth on national TV during the presidential campaign.

Anyway... The report shows all of this. Mapes' biases are there for anyone who reads the report. But they never come out and say that she is biased.

Maybe they are right. Maybe she just got caught up in the hunt for a big story. Or maybe the panel's own biases are showing and they went overboard in giving her the benefit of the doubt.

It is also possible that CBS insisted that they take out explicit mentions of bias. In this case it would be a whitewash.

In any case, as the panel sees it, Mapes got a hot story and was afraid that someone else would break it first so they rushed through the vetting process. Along the way she totally misunderstood what the experts were telling her about the authenticity of the documents. She insisted that document experts were like medical experts in a court case - you hired one who would say what you needed said. To her, it was more important that people who knew Killian agreed that he might have written the memos than that the memos themselves were authentic. Even here, she heard what she wanted to hear. The people she quoted did not have personal knowledge of the memos.

She also insisted and continues to insist that the memos mesh perfectly. She is wrong here, also. The report has a section on this.

One big problem that come out in the report is that Mapes makes up facts in order to keep her story going. There is nothing in the record to suggest that pilot seats were reserved for VIPs or that General Staudt had any influence 18 months after his retirement but the report quotes her making these assertions.

Mapes is history now, at least at CBS. The report also shows massive problems in CBS's response to challenges to the story.

The first wave of challenges was dismissed as being from biased right-wing sources. This was balanced against the number of congratulatory emails the story received. Even the report dismisses the initial attacks although that is what fed the mainstream media stories.

It is interesting that all of the points that bloggers first picked up on were also pointed out by one of the document experts. She even noticed how easy it was to reproduce one of the memos in Word. Mapes covered this up.

CBS's response to the challenges was to stonewall. The producers were supposed to come up with more experts. Instead they re-edited footage already shot and represented it as new. They made other statements that came close to outright lies.

The closest the report comes to saying that the documents are forged comes on page 184 when it discusses Peter Tytell. Tytell is a typography expert and is convinced that the memos were forged. The report admits that, had Tytell talked with the right people at CBS then the 60 Minutes Wednesday management probably would not have continued to support the story.

Instead though, CBS shopped for experts who supported their story. If someone came forward as a sympathetic expert they were put on the air with little vetting. The fact that CBS News was allowed to act this way shows a lot of institutional problems. The report had specific recommendations for remedies. Time will tell.

None of this will eliminate bias. As I said at the beginning, if you are convinced that you are telling the truth then you don't see your biases.

All of which argues in favor of announcing your biases up front and letting your audience decide.

Monday, January 10, 2005

I've been going through the CBS report. Part VII (starting on page 43) gets interesting. This part describes Mary Mapes's history on the Bush TexANG story. It seems that she started investigating it in 1999. At that time she was unable to find anyone who could or would say that favoritism had been involved. In fact, she was told that there was no waiting list for the unit (page 46). Rather than take this at face value, she assumed that this meant that spots were being kept open "to take in children of propelled . . . while maintaining deniability." She admitted to the panel that she never found any proof for this theory.

Major General Bobby Hodges, the group commander at the time, even told her that they were hurting for pilots.

This matches something I had heard when the story broke (I probably have a link but I don't feel like searching my archives) - that flight duty was a tough dangerous assignment and that, at minimum, you had to have a degree in order to get in. Consequently, there was no waiting list and no need for favoritism. Mapes was told this but refused to listen.

Later (pages 61-62) the report talks about credibility problems with Lt. Colonel Burkett but says that Mapes was too busy at the time with other stories to have noticed them. She failed to do a Lexus-Nexis Google search on Burkett to check his credibility.

I'm going to assume that Armstrong Williams already believed in the No Child Left Behind Act before he took money to promote it. Regardless, it confirmed what left-wing blogs have been saying - that conservative bloggers are all paid hacks. The Daily Kos has already jumped on this:

Until names are named, we can assume every conservative pundit is on the White House's payola rolls.
According to the New York Times, this has been going on for some time and the Clinton administration did it even more often. Regardless, people remember who got caught, not who got away with it.

The CBS Memogate report is finally out. It never comes out and says that Rather and Mapes were trying to influence the election but it does point out a heads-up call to a senior Kerry campaign official prior to the broadcast.

It should be no surprise that CBS's vetting procedures were almost non-existent and that their conduct after the report aired was terrible. Among other problems, they went looking for experts who would verify the documents instead of looking for top experts and asking their opinion.

So, what does the Kos have to say? You would think that they would have some comment. After all, they insisted at the time that the documents were authentic. They even mentioned the Columbia Journalism article which dismissed any problems with the documents.

As of this time, Kos has said nothing.

I consider it a sign of character for someone to admit when he is wrong. I guess that Kos has no character.

CBS has fired four executives including Mary Mapes, the segment's producer. At least they show some character, even if it is four months late.

DOS attacks have been going on against conservative blogs. A while ago I could not get to instapundit, Powerline, LittleGreenFootballs, or Michele Malkin. At the same time, the Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground were working fine. This has been going on for a few days. Instapundit and Michele Malkin both had entries about attacks earlier this weekend. This is childish. If you think that your side's arguments are so weak that you have to silence the opposition then it is time for serious self-examination.

If you could get to it, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit points out that George Soros has yet to be heard from about the tsunami. I checked some of his PACs like and and verified this. There is no word about trying to raise relief money, not even a link. The same is true for the DailyKos. This site functions as a fundraiser for Democratic candidates but all they have to say about a huge humanitarian disaster is critisism of Bush. No one seems to have thought to have included a link to charitable donations.

For the record, here is Google's collection of links. Here is Amazon's.

I guess that, to a liberal, all aid must come from the government or it does not count.

I believe that Soros has said before that he only makes donations that will give him a return. That means that he will donate millions to politics because it could give him a direct line to the White House. I doubt that he cares about influence in Sri Lanka.

Humor site Scrappleface has a good take on the election challenge.
Just minutes after failing to halt the certification of President Bush's electoral victory, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, announced her resignation from the Senate today, saying she is "wracked with doubt" about the precise margin of her own victory in November.

While the official vote count showed that Mrs. Boxer trounced Republican Bill Jones by nearly 2.4 million votes, she said today that if even one voter was disenfranchised in California, then her "election is tainted and American troops in Iraq are dying in vain."

Even though this is a humor site, they have a good point - an elected official complaining about the election process.

Columbus was worse than Hitler. Bush = Hitler, therefore Columbus = Bush = bad. Here is a clip from the Daily Show rewriting history this way.

BTW, there are a lot of references to Las Casas but this is not what Las Casas said. He was a monk who was the first advocate for Indians but he was also a great admirer of Columbus. The only known copy of Columbus's log is from a book that Las Casas was working on.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm tired of hearing about how stingy the US is. No one made this complaint during the Clinton years and Bush has raised foreign aid spending since then. Once again, what was normal under a Democrat becomes an outrage under Bush.

The Democrats staged their electoral protest. Bush was elected anyway. During the last two months I heard a lot about how Bush stole the election by allocating voting machines but no one has explained how he got the Democrats on the election boards to go along with this.

Here's two takes on Lord of the Rings. The first one is Rings as it might be seen by Noam Chompsky. The second was written by a real follower of Chompsky. In this one, the corrupting ring is global trade and the fellowship of the rings is the courageous band of terrorists who crashed into the World Trade Center. Sometimes the loony left is so far out there that you cannot parody them.

For good measure, here is an analysis of the book debating its red state/blue state status.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Nightline just pointed out something interesting - amid all the charges of who is stingy and who is generous, the other Muslem countries qualify as stingy by any measure.

The Scandal that wouldn't die. The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism has a piece defending CBS and Dan Rather's use of the forged memos. Somehow such a prestegious school completely misunderstood the typographic proof that the documents are forged.

This is what they are teaching in journalism schools now? Among the problems in the article:

They completely misunderstand the significance of reproducing the memos using the default settings for Microsoft Word. While individual features of the memos can be argued, the idea that someone would use rare and expensive typesetting equipment to type a private memo and that it would happen to match Word's default is inconceivable. They also gloss over Killian's secretary's statement that she did all of Killian's typing and that she never used any of this equipment.

Later they mention David Hailey who perported to have recreated the memos on a typewriter but who actually used a typewriter-inspired computer font.

They also misunderstand when to be sceptical. The source of the memos and the story was Bill Burkett. They say about Burkett's web postings:

[...] Burkett says corporations will strip Iraq, obliquely compares Bush to Napoleon and “Adolf,” and calls for the defense of constitutional principles. These supposedly damning rants, alluded to in USA Today, The Washington Post, and elsewhere, are not really any loonier than an essay in Harper’s or a conversation at a Democratic party gathering during the campaign. While Burkett doesn’t like the president, many people in America share that opinion, and the sentiment doesn’t make him a forger.
It may not make him a forger but it neither does it paint him as a neutral citizen who is only interested in the truth.

Burkett was making an extrordinary claim, contradicting four other officers. That means that his claims have to be verified. The memos were supposed to have provided this verification but Burkett lied about their source and the form, as mentioned before, is too close to MS Word's default to be accepted without further documentation.

Columbia should be teaching these kids how to do it right. That includes dropping a story if you cannot substantiate it no matter how much you believe it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Democratic Underground. The Democratic Underground is upset because of the articles about them and the tsunami. They feel that the Times and Fox news are not represting the truth about them. So, how do they represent the truth themselves?

Let's look at this article which was posted earlier this week. The name of the article is " It's Time to Support the Troops". How? By firing Rumsfeld. Here are some examples of outrageous statements:

Their boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, says although the troops might not have been the ones he wished for when he went to war, they were all he had. Recently, when asked about a draft, he even said he'd continue to work with what he had. "God bless 'em - because they volunteered," he said. "They want to be doing what it is they're doing."
Lies, all. Rumsfeld was talking about unarmored Humvees, not troops, when he made the statement about "what you have, not what you wish."

After a stunned and confused moment, Rumsfeld first blamed the quality of the troops, then blamed the manufacturers for not having "production capacity," before finally pooh-poohing in true Rumsfeldian fashion the need for having armor at all. "If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he blustered. "And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up."

At least three humvee manufacturers were quick to call Rumsfeld on his blatant lie. Executives at Armor Holdings, Jacksonville, Fla., said the company was ready to go, and has been waiting for purchase orders from the Pentagon. Those from AM General in Indiana and Ohio's O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt echoed Armor's remarks. All three manufacturers were adamant that no orders had been placed.

Again, lies and misrepresentations. The armor manufacturers said that they could increase production slightly if the army requested it. That's a long way from no orders.

t's easy to conclude that Bush and Rumsfeld are either sadistic liers or they are totally out of touch with reality. Or both.

Someone here is a sadistic lier or out of touch with reality.

It was all lies. Congress had to know Saddam Hussein posed no threat whatever to America; that he had no connection to 9-11, and that Iraq was broken by 12 years of sanctions, by the disease and death resulting from our relentless bombing of Iraqi infrastructure and the withholding of medicines and food.
How many times to we have to quote President and Senators Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Senator Kerry saying that Saddam presented a clear danger? In the rewritten version of the war, Bush elevated a benevolent Saddam into a monster in order to help the military industrial complex or something similar.

Speaking of which, here's a congress woman who is actually saying this stuff.

Rep. John Conyers says that at least one senator will back his challenge to the Ohio Delegation. Conyers is so busy challenging the election that he cannot explain what he did with charity turkeys.

Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn't get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers' staff.

[...] A Conyers staff member who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal told the Free Press that Grubbs and her cousin, Conyers' Detroit deputy chief of staff Marion Brown, along with a former Conyers aide, DeWayne Boyd, picked up the turkeys and later gave contradictory accounts of what happened to the birds.

The unnamed staff member raised concerns in a memo sent to both the FBI and House ethics committee. Conyers was the target of an informal ethics committee inquiry last year following a Free Press investigation about use of staff members during work hours for political campaigns.

Boyd, who was fired from Conyers' Detroit office in 2002, was convicted on seven counts of fraud last month in U.S. District Court in connection with a scam he ran from Conyers' office in 1999.

And this is the man who is investigating election irregularities.

Possibly as many as 200,000 people will die because of the tsunami. This should unit the world in sympathy for the victims and the homeless survivors. Instead, the left is using it as an excuse to bash Bush. The last I heard, US relief efforts were going to be in excess of $150,000,000 (liberals mange to avoid mentioning this figure). This isn't enough for Eric Alterman who ignores the total amount and only looks at the amount per capita (not including private donations). Alterman also ignores the value of the military equipment we have send over.

A columnist at the Democratic Underground criticizes Bush for being on vacation when the disaster hit. That Kofi Anan was also on vacation is ok.

Others at the Democratic Underground insisted that Bush had personally caused the quake itself - possibly by dropping bombs on Iraq.
"Since we know that the atmosphere has become contaminated by all the atomic testing, space stuff, electronic stuff, earth pollutants, etc., is it logical to wonder if: Perhaps the 'bones' of our earth where this earthquake spawned have also been affected?"

The cause of the earthquake and resulting killer wave, the writer said, could be the war in Iraq. "You know, we've exploded many millions of tons of ordnance upon this poor planet," the writer said. "All that 'shock and awe' stuff we've just dumped onto the Asian part of this earth - could we have fractured something? Perhaps the earth was just reacting to something that man has done to injure it. The earth is organic, you know. It can be hurt."

Granted others jumped on this post but the message is clear - anything bad that happens in the world is Bush's fault.

There have been a few attempts to tie in global warming. The same UN official who said that the US could be more generous if we just had higher taxes also pointed out that the next tsunami will be worse because George Bush allowed global warming to raise the sea level.

This is kind of sick.

For more bad examples, look here

When you look at the Left's rush to judgment against the Bush administration for not reacting precisely according to its expectations (demands) concerning the tsunami disaster, you just have to wonder what kind of psychological forces motivate this group.

It's instructive that the very people who constantly call for a spirit of collegiality and bipartisanship have somehow managed to politicized the most apolitical of all events.

and for a rational view look here

In this largely godless age, we have a more subtle interpretation of the relation between human excess and natural disaster. Our new high priests are the environmentalists and, when the icebergs calve early or the swallows fly the wrong way, it is they who cry woe and say that it is a judgment on us all, and our wicked ways; and that is why, in the case of a colossal undersea earthquake, you can sense the silent frustration of the told-you-so scientists.

Whatever you say about the slipping of tectonic plates on the sea-bed off Sumatra, it had nothing to do with global warming. It was not caused by decadent use of Right Guard, or George W Bush, or the flouting of the Kyoto Protocol, or inadequate enforcement of the Windows and Doors Regulation of April 2002.

There may now be six billion of us crawling over the crust of the Earth, but, when things move beneath that crust, we might as well not exist for all the difference we make.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Two different views.

Here's how we see it:

Sunday's attack in Balad occurred when a car blew up alongside a bus carrying Iraqi National Guard troops as it was passing a U.S. base. Police Lt. Haidar Karar said 22 guardsmen were killed along with their driver.

It was the deadliest assault on Iraqi security forces since October, when insurgents gunned down about 50 Guardsmen at a fake checkpoint.

Here's how they see it:
Resistance fighters carried out a martyrdom attack between Balad and ad-Dujayl at about 8:30am yesterday that has killed at least 29 Allawi national guardsmen. Two fighters in a vehicle packed with several tons of explosives veered into a bus carrying the Iraqi soldiers, ignited it in flames. Earlier, the US military admitted that 18 puppet guards had been reportedly killed in Balad however eyewitnesses told Mafkarat al-Islam that at least 29 were killed.
They in this case is Jihad Unspun, a pro-militant Islam web site hosted int he US. The site's mission is ostensibly to provide balance by giving both sides of the news. The site is divided into three hard-to-read columns. The left-most is the "mainstream news" which tends to be stories that make america look bad fromt he MSM. The center and right columns are hard-Islamist. Not only do they use weighted terms (suicide-bombing=marterdom operation, Iraqi security forces = "Allawi national guardsmen/puppet guards) but the accounts seem to be written by the Iraqi Information Minister. In one account, US troops dropped their weapons and ran from Fallujah leaving 80 Abrams tanks behind. You would think that an anti-war American press would have picked up on that. The following day's dispatches made no mention of this victory.

Khadija Abdul Qahaar aka Bev Kennedy, the woman who runs this web site, used to do web hosting work for the Pentagon at the same time that she ran a web site cheering the deaths of American military. What happened when the Pentagon found out? She ended up divesting that part of her business. Nothing else.

This is why we are better than they are. Had Khadija been discovered to own a pro-American web site while working for Saddam's Republican Guard we would have found her bones in a mass grave. She would not fare any better in most Moslem countries where censorship is harsh and goverments unforgiving.

I am not calling for any actions against Jihad Unspun. They have a right to be heard no matter how vile their message. I just wish that they acknowledged the dicotomy. The government that they say is evil allows them a voice that they would lose if their side ever won.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Representative John Conyers of Michigan plans to challenge the Ohio electors and is looking for at least one senator to join him. This is a disgrace. No matter how much he says otherwise, this is nothing more than a partisan attempt to damage the credibility of Bush's second term.

Yes, there have been minor problems in Ohio. The same is true for all states. The Democrats are more to blame than Republicans for this.

After Florida in 2000 it was obvious that newer voting machines were needed. Then the Democrats noticed that the manufacturers of all three voting machine companies were Republican donare. Suddenly the Dems. were convinced that voting machines would be programmed to assure a Bush victory unless special measures were taken. Never mind the numerous problems in setting up voting machines to cheat. So the voting machines on the market were suddenly unaceptable. They had to be redesgned to print a paper trail (I still don't understand how you can have an audit trail and a secret ballot). That stopped voting machine upgrades.

Now, remember that elections are only held once per year (plus primaries) but that most voters only turn out for governor and presidential races. So you have people who have not voted in 204 years. Some have not voted in a much longer time. Some have never voted before.

Then there are the officials. They are part time. Some are new or are only needed for big turn-out elections. Keith Olbermann once asked why so many Ohio election officials are also party officers. The obvious answer is that Ohio only has a few dozen full-time election people and the rest are part-time or volunteers. The people who care enough about the process to take these positions are party members.

So we have millions of voters and thousands of election officials who seldom get to practice. What a surprise that there are problems here and there.

Then there are special cases. I don't think that Ohio has done a presidential recount before so no one has experience.

Given all of this, there are going to be mistakes. It's just going to happen. There is no way to avoid it and no cause for making it into a federal case.

So why are they doing it? One reason is what I said before. The Democrats already descided that the voting machine companies were going to throw the election. All they needed was proof.

What proof do they have? A flawed exit poll and some minor complaints. Plus the surprise that, even when they do everything "right" they still lost.

Do these amount to anything? No. Ohio's election procedures are designed to stop fraud. It is truly bipartisan and ballots are never handled unless two Republicans and two Democrats are present. Throwing the election would require the assistance of thousands of Democrats.

But, every single mistake in Ohio is being magnified and pointed out as positive proof.

Last night I saw The Aviator. Near the end a senate panel was investigating Howard Hughes for war profiteering. Hughes was being questioned about two planes that had been commissioned but never delivered. He defended himself by pointing out how many other planes and other weapons had been commissioned but never delivered, amounting to $8 billion. But Hughes was the only manufacturer being investigated. Why? In this case it was because Pan Am wanted to keep the Hughes-owned TWA out of the international market.

In Ohio's case, it is to make Bush look bad.

Is it possible that Conyers isn't a party hack? That he is a public-spirited official who simply wants to be certain that elections are fair and honest?

If that is the case then why does he ignore problems occurring in his own state?

If Conyers was so concerned about voting problems, where was he in 1998 when election officials in his hometown of Detroit took a disgraceful two weeks to count ballots due to lost poll books and miscounting of precinct totals?

Where was he in 2001 when the counting of absentee ballots in Detroit had to be halted in midstream by state officials after it was discovered that the city clerk was simply ignoring state requirements for the use of software that would eject ballots that couldn't be read by machine?

And where was he when a memo allegedly drafted by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's aides in 2002 claimed that Detroit's voter rolls were overstated by about 150,000 people -- a strong hint that something may be seriously amiss in the Detroit election process, threatening the value of the ballot for people who are genuinely qualified to vote?

Over at Olbermann Watch, they have asked why so much attention has been paid to Ohio but none to Pennsylvania. There are a lot of similarities. Both states had a close vote and many pre-election polls showed Bush taking Pennsylvania. There would seem to be as much chance of fraud there as in Ohio... unless you start with the assumption that only Republicans cheat.

Regardless, I am against investigating further into either state unless a smoke gun shows up - a real one, not a statistical abnormality or a repairman who had to reconfigure a bios.

Democracy only works when people trust the process. Questioning the process without proof for political gain weakens our country.

Back when Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court, the Democrats mounted a major attack on him. It was unprecedented and uncalled for. The result was to turn most nomination hearings into major political fights. The country is worse off because of it.

The next time a Democrat wins the presidency the Republicans will undoubtedly do to him what they are doing to Bush right now. Short-term political interests will turn into long-term policies and the country will continue to polarize.

It would be nice if Conyers and the other Democrats just shut up and accept that they lost. The Republicans were in that position in 1992 and things changed. The Democrats will eventually come out on top again. They should take care not to poison the fields in the meantime.