Wednesday, May 31, 2006


What happened in Haditha in November, 2005? It started when a roadside IED killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. According to Representative John Murtha and others, the Marines then charged the closest house killing some of the civilian occupants. Then then charged the next house and killed most of the occupants including women and children. A bit later then charged a different house and killed some more civilians.

This account bothers me more than a little. I realize that war is stressful and a group of Marines already under a lot of stress might have taken it out on the closest targets, not caring that it included civilians.

There are other possibilities, though. The insurgents have taken refuge behind civilians before and it changes the picture quite a bit if there were armed insurgents hiding among the civilians. For someone who is supposed to be pro-military, Murtha is too willing to start making pronouncements before the investigation is finished.

Similarly, someone names Jesse Macbeth posted a video claiming that he committed similar actions while in the service. The military denied knowledge of Macbeth and right-wing bloggers quickly pointed out numerous errors in his statements, his discharge form, and his uniform. Still, it became a viral video among the left.

The left doesn't really care what the truth is. They are already convinced that civilians were killed without reason. What is more, they act as though this was standard procedure and that it was personally authorized by President Bush. They want atrocities to happen (regardless of what really occurred) so that they can characterize this as typical behavior. This happened in Viet Nam and helped turn the public against the war so the left is trying to do it again.

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

McCain goes to College

Senator John McCain was invited to speak at four different college graduations. Including the religious-right Liberty College and the far-left New School. The reactions are interesting.

McCain was soundly criticized for going to Liberty. This was seen as him surrendering to the religious right. The students themselves were respectful and polite. New School was a different matter. There were protests and petitions prior to the graduation. The speaker before him, Jean Rohe, felt the need to attack McCain's speech ahead of time and many students wore armbands and booed.

The irony here is that Liberty is supposed to be a hotbed of close-minded bigots while the New School is home to multi-culturalists.

More disturbing is the way that influence is depicted. Associating with someone who is further to the right than you degrades the person from the left but in no way elevates the person from the right. No one speculated that the students at Liberty would benefit from hearing a more moderate voice and no one gave McCain credit for going into a liberal stronghold.

This is of course nothing new. Those on the left are sure that they hold the moral high ground and that this relieves them of any need for decorum.

There is also the stylish idea of speaking truth to power.

The idea of speaking truth to power is one of the most overused in today's political landscape. The term come from the Quakers but, as this link points out, the term only dates back to 1955. It was used in a pamphlet advocating a pacifist approach to the Cold War. The same article points out that the Quakers didn't even try "speaking truth to power" in Nazi Germany. If they had they would have been arrested. By staying quiet they were able to do some modest charitable works.

As currently used, the term refers to a liberal lecturing a conservative who, because of propriety, will not object. At the New school graduation this was Jean Rohe. She relates her reasons in the Huffington Post.

It should come as no surprise that Rohe disagreed with McCain's speech. He is a centrist hawk who spent years as a POW fighting against communism and she spent a year studying in Cuba. Still, it is how she acted that is important.

She admits that she had no idea that there even was a controversy until the graduation rehearsal. When she realized that she was to speak just before McCain, "... the idea for a preemptive strike began to brew in my little stressed-out brain."

Her speech was nowhere as subversive as she thinks it is. It reads like what it was - something concocted between 2 am and 3 am on the spur of the moment. Her points are feeble and self-contradictory. She glosses over the part in McCain's speech where he talks about hearing the ideas of others. This has no meaning for her. She knows that she and her class-mates alone posses the truth so people with other ideas should stay far away from her graduation.

The tragedy is that the people who think of themselves as "liberals" now live in a monoculture as intolerant of outside ideas as they insist the students of Liberty are.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ACLU against Free Speech

30 years ago I really respected the ACLU. They fought for issues, not because they agreed with them, but because it was the right thing to do. An example from the 1970s was the ACLU defending some neo-NAZIs' rights to have a parade through a predominantly Jewish section of Chicago. I understood, as they did at the time, that your commitment to freedom of speech is only proved when you support a message you disagree with. Voltaire said it this way - I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Things have changed since then. The ACLU just announced a new policy - if you are on the board of directors you give up free speech. Specifically the new standards would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization's policies and internal administration. Why?
"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising,"

So money is more important than public dissent.

What else has changed in the ACLU? For one thing, they would have taken the other side in the NAZI case:

Anthony D. Romero, the A.C.L.U.'s executive director, said that he had not yet read the proposals and that it would be premature to discuss them before the board reviews them at its June meeting.

Mr. Romero said it was not unusual for the A.C.L.U. to grapple with conflicting issues involving civil liberties. "Take hate speech," he said. "While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities."

I'll say it again, if you only protect speech that you approve of then you are not really protecting freedom of speech.

For a different (but not complimentary) take on the ACLU, see here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Democrats and Consultants

The Democrats have been having a running debate over the value of consultants. For the last couple of years, Democrats have bought into the "What's Wring With Kansas" theory - that Republicans exploit meaningless wedge issues in order to get average voters to vote against their own best interests. Now they have moved on to a new paradigm - it's all the fault of the consultants.

People who know John Kerry and Al Gore say that they are not the stiffs that they appeared to be when running for president. It was the consultants who re-made them into passionless cyphers, unable to excite the populous. The consultants approved every nuance of the campaigns ("Try it again Al, but this time try to be more wooden.").

Is this any more true than the Kansas theory? The easiest way to tell is to see how the candidates acted before the consultants got to them. Since both Gore and Kerry have long public lives, this is easy.

Let's start with Gore. Most people have forgotten but he first ran for president in the 1980s. He pursued a "southern strategy". He planned to exploit the first Super Tuesday when several Southern states voted at once. Just as Edwards did in 2004, Gore skipped the early northern primaries and caucuses, hoping to capitalize on being the only southerner in the race. Winning Super Tuesday would give him up to a quarter of the delegates and make him the front-runner, allowing him to raise enough funds to finish the race.

It didn't work. His performance on Super Tuesday stank and he dropped out of the race quickly afterward. In fact, his candidacy was over so fast that Doonesbury was running "Prince Al" strips weeks after Gore had dropped out.

This shows that Gore was uninspiring well before he ever met a Clinton consultant.

For Kerry, we can go back even further. Remember the tapes of his speech before the Senate about Viet Nam? He sounded just the same as now - pompous and full of self-importance.

Gore and Kerry have very similar backgrounds. Gore is the son of a senator, Kerry the son of an ambassador. Both went to top schools. Both went into politics fairly early in life using family connections to gain a foothold. This has left its mark on both men. They are smarter and better-educated than the majority of the country (although neither got very high grades in college).

When these men are talking to the nation, they talk down to us. They sound like professors (and not very good ones) giving a lecture. They're not trying to convince us, they are educating us. They may be animated when talking with people they consider their peers but that is a small group.

By contrast, George Bush who came from a similar background didn't enter politics until late in his life. along the way he learned how to relate to regular people which helped him win the elections.

So anyway, this goes along with why Senators are bad candidates. They have long legislative histories and they spend too much time dealing with other politicians.

What the Democrats needs is a better candidate.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Democrats and the Election

Common wisdom right now is that the Democrats will retake the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate in the next election. Polls indicate that the President is less than popular and Republicans in general are not doing much better. This is a bit misleading since the same polls show that the Democrats have their own problems. Arianna Huffington put it this way:
While 56 percent of Americans say they would prefer to see Democrats take back control of Congress, a majority of the public also said that Democrats have not offered enough of a contrast to Bush and the GOP, with just 39 percent approving of the job Congressional Democrats are doing.

In other words, if the Democrats can make 2006 a referendum on Bush, they could make significant gains. But if Republicans are able to take the focus off the president and onto the question of what the Democrats are offering as an alternative, the hopes for a 2006 Dem landside could sink faster than the box office for Poseidon.

And, from the looks of things, Democrats are playing right into the GOP's hands. Buoyed by the polls, they are already starting to sound like incumbents, and incumbents are by nature hyper-cautious. Witness Nancy Pelosi's repeated refusal to give Tim Russert a straight answer about repealing the Bush tax cuts.

This is nothing new. Polls taken months before an election usually show that the population would vote for a generic candidate but shy away from a real person. In the Spring of 1992 polls showed substantial support for a third party candidate but when Ross Perot declared that he was running this support quickly evaporated.

Currently, voters would like to see someone wise and fair running, possibly Jimmy Stewart but instead they get the same old party hacks.

It doesn't help that the Democrats have spent years refusing to define themselves. I lost count of how many times I saw a Democrat say that "We don't have to say what we would do, we just have to oppose Bush." Not an uplifting image of the loyal opposition during a time of war.

One thing that the Democrats would most certainly do is start impeachment proceedings but they are being quiet about that. Even Rep. John Conyers who held mock impeachment proceedings last year has removed any references to it from his web page.

Beyond that, what will happen? points out how split Democrats are over major issues. The most that they are likely to accomplish is stalling the President on new legislation.

This might not be all bad for the Republicans. Many conservatives feel that the party has gone mushy and needs some time out of power to regain its edge. There used to be a time when "conservative" meant "fiscal conservative" but those days are long gone. It would be nice to see the Reagan wing of the party reemerge.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wiretaps and Polls

According to a poll released by CNN, a quarter of Americans think that their phones have been tapped. In reality, the government is keeping track of what numbers were called and has been tapping suspected terrorists living overseas, even when they make calls to the US. That makes it very unlikely that the average citizen has been tapped.

So why do they believe otherwise? A combination of poor reporting, jokes by comedians who have no regard for the truth, and general carelessness by the general public. The point is that, even though the real story has been reported, what the public believes is different.

So did someone lie? Did someone deliberately mislead the public?

I'm asking because in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, most of the public believed that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and liberals continue to insist that Bush was responsible.

My point is that what the public believes does not always correspond to what they have been told. Heck, many people think that Michael Moore is just a regular guy who lives in Flint, Michigan instead of a multi-millionaire who lives in Manhattan.

Nearing the End

With only one two-hour episode left on Lost what did we learn last night?

Much of it was a confirmation of what we had already guessed. The others did snatch Michael. They did make a deal with him to release "Henry" and lead some others into a trap in exchange for Walt. From Miss Clue's questions, we got confirmation that Walt has mental powers including being able to project himself where "he shouldn't be".

A few new questions - Michael was given a list of four people to lure into a trap. Why those four? Previously the others claimed that they were only taking the good ones but how does Sawyer qualify as good? Or even Kate? Henry said that he had come for Locke - was this a lie or did they give up on him?

Michael was clearly acting irrationally (unless you knew about the list). He insisted on taking Hurley who would be low on my list of people to have in a gunfight, but he refused Sayid. Since Jack, Sawyer, and especially Hurley all have better reasons for wanting revenge than Sayid, Michael's argument falls flat on its face. I'm surprised that Sawyer didn't notice it. Jack usually notices these things, also.

The others knew Sawyer's and Hurley's real names. They might have gotten them from the passenger list, remember they had an inside man in the first season. Otherwise it raises the possibility that they were responsible for bringing the airplane to the island and breaking it up. Chilling but it explains how they could have had people ready on the spot to infiltrate the two groups of survivors.

We know that the others don't always dress in worn clothing and, except for "Zeke", the men have neatly trimmed beards instead of long bushy ones - beards about as long as the survivors. Walt confirmed this in his three minutes with his father.

Charlie kicked his habit for good, tossing the last of the statues into the ocean. Was this a sign of personal growth or a side effect of the injection he gave himself?

Did the others send the sailboat or was this another amazing coincidence?

Spoilers - Next week we are supposed to get an answer about why the plane crashed, what the Swan hatch is for and what happens if the button is not pushed (I'm betting that it isn't good). According to one interview, one more cast member will die in the final episode. I'm betting that it is Michael.

Immigration compromises

The proposals that Bush outlined Monday are an interesting combination. He is trying to satisfy conservatives but he also has to deal with some realities that they don't want to face. These include:

  • Bush really is trying to be a nice guy about this. remember when he was running as a compasionate conservative? This is what he meant (and why many conservatives didn't want him to run in 2000).
  • We cannot just round up all of the illegals and ship them home. If collecting numbers called for security purposes makes people uneasy, how will they feel when officials start asking everyone in the country for proof of citizenship? The resources required including the manpower, holding facilities, and transportation just are not there.
  • We are still trying to keep up relations with Mexico. That means that we will not have the army patrolling the border. Instead, they will take over desk jobs so that more INS agents can patrol. Mexico has also made it clear that they will be insulted by a real wall, strong enough to stop or slow the immigrants.
When you get right down to it, and I'm not the first to point this out, the real problem is Mexico in general and President Fox in particular. Mexico's economy is in very bad shape, so bad that at between 5-10% of it's population has left for work in the US (Mexico's population is a bit over 100 million. 10-12 million illegal immigrants are in the US and the majority of them are Mexican). Mexico needs economic reform. It also needs a president who does not make it official policy to send people to the US. Fox does this. The Mexican economy currently depends on money sent home from the US. Currently this accounts for Mexico's second largest source of income between oil and tourism.

Unfortunately, reform is not likely in Mexico. Hispanic America is becoming increasingly socialist. That leaves the US to handle the problem as best we can.

There are some things that Bush could propose to push people into his guest worker program. We should refuse services to people who have not registered. That means housing assistance, schooling, etc. I know it is harsh but if we are going to give amnesty, we need to have an incentive for those who take us up on it.

I realize that prior to the 20th century we did not have any limits on illegal immigrants but we did not have welfare then either. that gives us the right to be picky about who we let into the country.

We also need to push assimilation harder. If you move here you should be making an effort to stay. That means that all schooling will be in English except for classes to teach English. School-age kids learn language fast, anyway so this will not be a burden. We should also enforce English fluency requirements for citizenship. I won't even go into Spanish-language ballots.

Bush is proposing to increase the boarder patrol by 50% to 18,000. They say that they need twice that number. Give it to them, or at least give them more than 18,000. Otherwise we are just going to have to go through this again in a few years.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Dirty Secret About Phone Records

A top story today - the NSA has been keeping records of US phone calls. They know who you called but they were not listening to the conversations.

The dirty secret about phone calls is that this is nothing new. The phone company has kept these records for years, especially for moble phones. That's how the NSA can get the records in the first place. The phone companies have been selling these records to various agencies.
On occasion, ARI (Advanced Research) has done work for municipalities, banks, mortgage and insurance companies, private companies, foreign governments, law enforcement, even the FBI

A major customer is the debt collection industry.

What's more, Europe keeps these records, too, and I mean the governments, not the phone companies. This is just an example of Bush being more like the French.

Update - I nearly forgot - what would people say if they found out that Bush and the NSA were keeping video tape records of all of the subways ad most of the sidewalks? The British have been doing this in London for years. That's how they spotted the subway bombers so quickly. They had them on tape.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Colbert Conspiracies Continue

The non-story that wouldn't die. At the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, Bush and a Bush impersonator got all the headlines but no one wrote up Stephen Colbert's speech. To most people, this is how it should be. Bush is the President, Colbert is the host of a basic-cable, late-night comedy show. Also Bush's bit was funnier than Colbert's. You can see Colbert's routine here. See if you think it is any funnier than the attendees did.

So what's the problem? It seems that, since Colbert made some jokes at Bush's expense and some more at the press corps expense, some far lefties think that this is big news. ("My God, someone finally said this to Bush's face and no one is reporting it!!!!") For the last couple of weeks people have been insisting that there is some sort of conspiracy of silence. For example, last Friday
Eric Boehlert guest-posted in Eric Alterman's column pointed out that the press covered last year's routine which included Laura Bush and the 2004 routine which included a hunt for WMDs.

For those keeping score at home, when Bush joked about the missing WMDs, the press rushed to defend the president, insisting the jokes were funny.  But when Stephen Colbert joked about Bush's (and the media's) incompetence, the press rushed to defend the president, insisting the jokes were not funny.  What more do you need to know about the Beltway media mindset?

They also covered Bill Clinton's speeches. In fact, this is about the only event where a sitting president regularly makes fun of himself and he does it in front of the press. If they don't give it good coverage then he might not do it again.

But what is the deal here? Pointing out that it was not Colbert's best effort suddenly puts you in the same class as Downing Street Memo deniers. (again from Boehlert).

(Note that the same Beltway crowd that last year was telling us the Downing Street Memo was not news, is the same crowd insisting Colbert was not funny.)  What I think is interesting is that none of this should have come as a surprise.  Meaning, the press has always advertised its strongest sycophantic urges at these silly, springtime Beltway ritual dinners.

Other people have decided that it doesn't matter if Colbert was funny or not (good thing). The important thing was that he spoke truthiness to power (I'm really sick of that phrase).

So what is the deal here? Why are so many people taking this so personally? What do they want? Yes, Colbert made some jokes at Bush's expense. They were pretty mild compared to a Leno monologue. I've watched the clip a couple of times and I still haven't seen the big denouement that the far-left sees.

Maybe they think that it is a big deal because Bush lives in a bubble with no one who will say uncomfortable truths to his face. Again, there wasn't that much to Colbert's routine. It was nothing compared to Coretta Scott King's funeral. In that case, it did make the news when speakers insulted Bush to his face. No cover-up there.

The only conclusion is what I said the last time I wrote about this - liberals expect a partisan press instead of a biased one. A different example, again from Boehlert, is the way the press treated the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
By the time the Swift Boat story had played out, CNN, chasing after ratings leader Fox News, found time to mention the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--hereafter, Swifties--in nearly 300 separate news segments, while more than one hundred New York Times articles and columns made mention of the Swifties. And during one overheated 12-day span in late August, the Washington Post mentioned the Swifties in page-one stories on Aug. 19, 20, 21 (two separate articles), 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31. It was a media monsoon that washed away Kerry's momentum coming out of the Democratic convention.
In fact, most MSM mentions of the Swiftboat Vets were mildly negative and many of the charges held up under close scrutiny. The left was not interested in the truth - they knew it in their gut so they didn't need to look it up. The Swift Boat charges must be false and, by covering the ads without launching an all-out attack, the press must be Bush's lapdogs.

As far as the left is concerned, if the press is not actively working for them then it is against them. (I thought that only Sith lords dealt in absolutes.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Al the Candidate?

I have lost track of the number of columns I have seen about how Al Gore should run for president. I think that the real reason for this is that he is seen as the only candidate who can stop Hillary and still win. Liberals were upset with the Clintons during most of Bill's term and many of them will never forgive Hillary for voting to authorize the war in Iraq. Since Gore was working on his beard when that vote came up, he got a pass on making a choice.

Here are some of Gore's strong points according to one poster at Huffington and the problems with them. Some of these points are actually refuting why Gore shouldn't run.

The truth begins with one inescapable reality: even at his most-derided worst, Al Gore won the popular vote against George Bush.

Yes, Gore got more votes in 2000 than Bush but Bush and Kerry each got more votes in 2004 than Gore did in 2000. Also, Gore was running on the economic record of the Clinton administration. A lot of those voters were voting for "more of the same". That is why Bush (41) won in 1988. In 2008, Gore will be running as the candidate of change. That may or may not be enough depending on voter dissatisfaction but it will be a different mix of voters.

More important, Gore didn't get enough votes in the right places. He would have to win at least one additional red state. as Gore moves to the left, this becomes more difficult.

Then there is the claim that Gore is no longer wooden.
These are not the cold, diplomatic words of today's wary politician. This blistering outrage is what Gore's been saying now for years, far ahead of most other Democrats.
Gore has two public modes - wooden and over-the-top. He spent most of 2000 in wooden mode but he went over-the-top with Tipper and the kiss. Since then he started making some over-the-top political speeches. Among other things, he has been referring to conservative bloggers as "digital brownshirts" (this is a Nazi reference). This is Howard Dean territory. Since he has been saying this at party events, it was mainly noticed by the party faithful (Deaniacs) and conservative bloggers.

That leaves but the matter of Al Gore, inventor of the Internet. "During my service in the United States Congress," Gore said to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
By the Summer of 2000, Gore had created a reputation as a serial exaggerator (some would call it lying instead of exaggerating). He took undue credit for numerous things, both big and small, that he was not entitled to. This is the best remembered but it it stuck because of his reputation. This seems to be a long-term character flaw - he deals in truthiness instead of truth.

Someone else on Huffington (I didn't bother searching for the link) pointed out that Gore is clean. Ha! In 1997 it came out that he was violating federal campaign law. How did he get away with it? He asserted that there was "no controlling legal authority". No one was sure who should enforce this law so nothing would come of it.

Any time candidate Gore complains about signing statements, his opponent can counter with "no controlling legal authority".

Gore's biggest strength is probably his biggest weakness - the environment. recent polls have shown that Global Warming is fairly low on people's priorities. If Gore runs, he is going to be cornered on his specific policies on Global Warming. He will be countered with economic predictions showing him ruining the economy for marginal global gains. It's hard to run on a platform of economic bad times.

As candidates go, Gore has some real problems.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My Day With Immigants

Funny thing about the day without immigrants - five immigrants report to me and all showed up. Of course, all of them are here legally and most or all of them are citizens. The protest was actually a Day Without Illegal Immigrants but they don't like to admit that this their status.

My wife and I checked. We saw a couple of Mexican restaurants closed. Nothing else seemed to be affected. Granted, Columbus, Ohio is a long way from the Mexican border but there are enough Mexicans here to support five Mexican groceries (which were closed) and a weekly Spanish newspaper.

Cities with larger Hispanic populations had bigger demonstrations but no city in the US actually had to close.

So what now? Yes, the illegal immigrants have shown that they can organize and mount a protest that has a minimal effect on the economy. They cannot do this often. The whole reason that they are here is economic. If there are many of these protests then the numbers will drop significantly - either because people cannot keep taking time off to protest or because they went back home after losing their American jobs. Either way, the threat of further protests is a bluff.

I'm not sure what the point was, anyway. When a million citizens turn out to protest, politicians listen because this represents a million votes. This is not an issue with illegal immigrants.

This could change if a voting rights bill co-sponsored by Hillary becomes law. This law would allow anyone with a driver license to vote. If Democrats take control of Congress this Fall then we might see legislation like this passed. In the meantime, illegal immigrants don't offer much of a threat.

Their biggest strength is a humanitarian appeal - they are already here, they came here for jobs, can't they stay?

Mass protests demanding immediate, unconditional citizenship erode the natural goodwill that many Americans feel.

When House Republicans first passed tough new legislation, they were fighting the majority opinion. I expect people to become both more polarized and more hostile because of the protests. This could prove a godsend to Republicans in the Fall.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Touchy Liberals

Liberal bloggers have been extraordinarily touchy recently. Even for a conspiracy-minded crowd, they are seeing more than their usual number and they are attacking unusual sources.

The current issue of Wired magazine has Al Gore on the cover along with a story on his political rebirth. The story mentions, tongue-in-cheek, that Gore sort-of invented the Internet. Eric Boehlert unloaded on Wired, stating that Wired owes Gore an apology and implying that they caused Gore to lose the election.

The facts of the matter are that, in 1999, Gore said "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." By that point, Gore was already getting a reputation for twisting the truth. He told about growing up plowing fields behind a mule when he actually grew up in DC. His mule-plowing was limited to Summer visits to an uncle's farm. He said that his family stopped growing tobacco because of his sister's death from cancer but failed to mention that years passed in between the two. He talked about his experience in Viet Nam and distributed a photograph taken there where he was holding a rifle. In fact, he was assigned to be a reporter covering experiences behind the lines. He even claimed that the book and movie "Love Story" was based on his and his wife's life together. In fact, only the male lead's background was based on Gore's (rich and born to politics). When he said that he "created the Internet", he meant that, he co-sponsored legislation for the government to purchase the computers used for the original DNS (name-lookup). It is quite a stretch to go from there to creating the Internet and this comment was quickly picked up on. It was Dick Armey who changed it from "creating the Internet" to "inventing the Internet". This fit so well with the pattern of exaggeration that Gore had already established that the "invented" version was the one everyone remembered. Gore has only himself to blame for his reputation as a serial exaggerator.

Wired's response is here.
[...]whether or not you're a Gore sympathizer, it's hard to take seriously the claim that Wired News swung the 2000 election. Eric Boehlert's observations are not new. The truth about Gore's Internet claim came to light during the campaign itself, including on this website, as Gore's defenders dug into the story and pointed back to his original statement. Writer Declan McCullagh's interpretation was just that -- interpretation and opinion. That it took on a life of its own says as much about the effectiveness of the Gore campaign as it does about Wired News at that time.

The other perceived conspiracy is the coverage of the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. All of the coverage centered on Bush poking fun of himself. That is how this event is always covered. The President does something funny and, because it is the President, it makes the news.

Others see it as a conspiracy. They feel that Stephen Colbert:
Stephen Colbert delivered a biting rebuke of George W. Bush and the lily-livered press corps. He did it to Bush's face, unflinching and unbowed by the audience's muted, humorless response.

Three points here - first, a basic-cable talk show host making jokes about the President at that event is not news. Colbert may have coined the word of 2005 (truthiness) but he is not the President. Colbert would have to have mooned the President in order for it to be news. Second, I watched Colbert's bit. It was a comedy bit, not a Cindy Sheehan, in-your-face moment. Third, not everyone agrees that it was even funny.

The idea of a liberal media swings both ways. Conservatives don't expect much of the media since they are probably liberals anyway. Liberals do expect positive coverage when a story is not written the way that they want, they start accusing the press of "shielding Bush from negative publicity".

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Perverse and Socially Destructive Economy

Over the weekend, an article ran supporting the French-style economy over the American and British version. There is a copy of it here. This is a feel-good piece for why the French are doing great and have no need to reform. In fact, it charges that free market capitalism just sort of happened and was probably a horrible mistake.

The new American and British market capitalist model, which dictated deregulation of industry and privatization of state enterprises in the 1970s, and globalization of international markets in the 1990s, exists as a result of free political decisions and ideological choices that were anything but inevitable. History may one day describe them as having been perverse and socially destructive.

A few points here. The author, William Pfaff, is confusing the US and British reforms. The British did go through a major round of privatization in the late 1970s and early 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. In contrast, the US had never nationalized its industries the way that Britain had. A few industries were deregulated, most notably the airlines.

Globalization is nothing new, either.  It is a continuation of the creation of a global economy which has been going on for decades.

He then goes on to invent an idylic history in which American businesses did not exist to make money, but instead to promote social good. The results were unconscionable.

This is what underlay the transformation of American corporate culture, and of the American business corporation from an institution with national identity, constrained to reconcile interests of owners, employees and community, into the modern global corporation, effectively controlled by its managers and mandated to the single objective of producing "value" for stockholders, while handsomely rewarded its executives.

This change transformed labor into an anonymous commodity and put both blue-collar and white-collar staff into competition with an effectively unlimited global labor supply, resulting in employment insecurity, reduced or static wages, diminished or eliminated benefits and pensions, and the destructive social pressures of falling living standards.

Pfaff needs to read up on 19th and early 20th century American labor practices.

Are any of these claims true? The unemployment rate is below 5% which was once thought to be impossible. The American economy is growing much faster than the French economy. Our standard of living is also rising.

I will grant that medical benefits are an issue in the US but rising medical costs are causing cutbacks in medical coverage everywhere. It is just hidden better in other countries such as Canada (long waiting lists for treatments that are same-day in the US). Pensions are an issue with overly generous employers like GM but that doesn't help Pfaff's case. GM got itself into trouble by acting like Pfaff thinks a corporation should behave and granting pensions it could not afford.

He goes on:
In the United States, the new model of corporate business has evolved toward a form of crony capitalism, in which business and government interests are often corruptly intermingled, the system resistant to reform because of the financial dependence of both major political parties on contributed money.
Is he talking about Enron? Halliburton? Native American lobbying scandals? Probably he thinks that readers will know that some sort of scandal happened somewhere and will not look any deeper.

Europe, one would think, should be looking for social and economic evolution on its own terms. It is perfectly capable of doing so, as a modern industrial society that in aggregate terms is larger and wealthier than the United States, as well as less shackled by obsolescent ideology and entrenched special interests - its problems with union corporatism notwithstanding.

Actually, Pfaff's column indicates some really serious problems with obsolescent ideology. As for larger and wealthier "in aggregate terms", that means adding up all of the wealth on a continent with a larger population and finding that it amounts to more than the smaller US. When figured this way, China is also larger and wealthier. Anyone want to swap living conditions with the average Chinese? Worse, because of the differences in economic growth, America will soon be richer in the aggregate than the larger Europe.

This is a case of whistling in the dark.

May Day

Cinco de Mayo is four days away so why is May first the day for the Mexican immigrant protests? The answer is that today is more important to the organizers than the 5th.

For several decades, May 1 has been associated with workers' rights, especially in communist countries. A big organizer of the protests is International ANSWER which is closely related to a communist group.

Their tactics are based on revolutionary tactics. Today is a general strike. This is meant to force the US to agree to the demonstrators' demands, mainly instant legalization.
This means that non-Americans will be using the radically un-American tactic of a general strike in order to pressure Congress into acting in their interests, rather than in the interests of the American people. Yet what right do non-citizens have to influence political decisions about the American nation at all? People who are not citizens of the US do not have the right to vote or to hold office. But if we refuse to give non-citizens the traditional political rights of an American citizen, what sense can there be in extending to them the dubious right to use the streets as a path to political power: a right that the American tradition has always repudiated?
Do the marchers understand what they are doing? MSNBC has this quote:

"If I lose my job, it's worth it," said Cruz, who has a temporary work permit that is granted to many Central Americans. "It's worth losing several jobs to get my papers."

This man isn't even an illegal immigrant. He has work papers. Clearly the scope of the debate is shifting.

It is shifting in Mexico, also. President Fox has called it patriotic to continue to speak English in America. His likely successor Manuel Lopez Obrador, has proposed making the United States a 6th Mexican voting district.

Between demands for legalization of anyone who wonders over our boarder, granting driver's licenses to all residents, and proposed voting reform that lets anyone with a driver's license vote, the entire concept of American citizenship is under attack.

As I've said before, I'm all for immigration as long as it is on our terms. This includes the expectation that the immigrants will learn English and become citizens. I don't care at all for the American labor market being co-opted as a subsidiary of the Mexican economy.

Two years ago gay rights were gaining ground. Many states supported some form of domestic partnership. Had gay leaders accepted this as a temporary victory and waited for a decade, they would probably have eventually won support for gay marriage. Instead they rejected domestic partnership and pushed for full marriage to be recognized in every state. This prompted several state constitutional amendments outlawing both.

Illegal immigrants are following the same path. Political progress comes slowly and attempts to force it usually cause a matching counter movement. By making unreasonable demands, the immigrants are turning off people who had been generally supportive of them.