Friday, November 29, 2002
Awards I don't ever want to win: When you win an award, I often see it as joining a club of people who've won it before. Therefore, I'm creating a list of awards I don't want to win.
We'll start with the Nobel Peace Prize (Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter).
The Heisman Trophy (O.J. Simpson).
Time's Man of the Year (Adolf Hitler).
Editor & Publisher's Columnist of the Year (Paul Krugman).
Yep, you read it right, Paul Krugman is the columnist of the year.
The intersection of politics and economics was big news in a year of rising joblessness, corporate scandals, and soaring deficits. "So much of the political landscape is dominated by economic questions," says Paul Krugman, who was smack in the middle of that intersection as a New York Times Op-Ed writer and prize-winning economist. Now the Princeton University professor is also E&P's columnist of the year.
With a clear, nonacademic writing style, Krugman appeals to many people who normally avoid economics like the plague -- even if they disagree with his political views. This year, Krugman used his high-profile Times forum and economic knowledge to skewer Bush-administration policies in columns with such titles as "The Bully's Pulpit" and "Crony Capitalism, USA." That made him a lightning rod read closely by both liberals and conservatives.
Why is this a joke? Well, Krugman gets credit from E&P for the titles of his columns. E&P, of all magazines, should know that editors write the headlines, not the columnists.
Why is he closely read? For the liberal set he is the most vocal and visible proponent of Hillary Clinton's vast, right-wing conspiracy. Every word is either a lie, or part of a plot to control the world.
Conservatives read him because they cannot believe that such a nut managed to get a job on the New York Times op-ed page.
"I get a huge volume of mail," says Krugman, with the correspondence numbering in the hundreds some days. "It's more positive than negative, but very strong and very intense on both sides. And there's hate mail."
LA Weekly's John Powers wrote last week that Krugman is "the president's most effective establishment critic. ... Because he's a renowned Princeton economist who actually understands markets and finance, nobody has more forcefully exposed Bush's lies about his tax plan, Social Security, and corporate reform. Naturally, this has made him a bête noire of the right, subject to frequent intellectual and personal attacks."
Yeah, that's an unbiased assessment right there. Bush is lying -- Krugman is the only one brave enough to tell the truth. Of course, you can search through my archives and find numerous instances of bias on Krugman's part -- along with inaccuracies, shading of the truth and reliance on forgeries and falsehoods.
Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation conservative think tank in Washington, is less admiring of Krugman: "He's sort of a doctrinaire, left-wing, big-government type. I don't think he's terribly effective."
That's a fair assessment.
While Krugman's economic commentary probably didn't change many Bush-administration minds, it did help educate the opposition and the public -- a process that can sometimes pay dividends down the road. But why didn't he have more impact on this month's election results?
You've got to be kidding me? E&P actually thinks that a columnist (even an extremely popular one) can have an impact on national election results? Did an intern write this article?
Krugman adds that his impact was blunted also because Republicans "were extremely successful at camouflage." He notes that polls suggest many Americans favor paying more attention to corporate reform and are against tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. But Republicans were perceived as similar to Democrats on some key economic issues, says Krugman, while they diverted voters' attention with preparations for a possible war with Iraq.
There's the ivory-tower academic's disdain for the intelligence of the electorate. People voted Republican in this past election because they weren't smart enough (like Krugman is) to see pas the camouflage.
Krugman says continuing as a professor not only helps give him the knowledge that goes into his column but also makes it easier for him psychologically to take strong Op-Ed stands. "In a sense, I'm moonlighting as a columnist," Krugman says. "I'm probably willing to say unpopular things more than people for whom journalism is their solo career."
Get serious. There's no danger in taking anti-Republican stances on the Times' op-ed page. Krugman's really brave!
Compare and contrast: While Krugman sees a vast right-wing conspiracy on every channel, his colleague Nicholas Kristof does some good work exposing the AIDS crisis in China.
Since it is responsible for making these people sick, the Chinese government owes them supplies of the antiretroviral drugs that combat the virus. If the Communist Party used the money squandered on billboards glorifying President Jiang Zemin on these drugs, it could save many thousands of lives.
If it wanted to, China could mobilize a national campaign against AIDS, just like the successful Thai effort. The leaders control the news media, and every village has a family planning officer who sometimes monitors each woman's menstrual cycle. If the authorities just committed themselves to attack AIDS as zealously as they fight unauthorized births, the battle could be won.
The problem is the Chinese government is evil. It's as simple as that. An authoritarian government whose power does not derive from a mandate from the people will typically ignore the peoples' needs in order to benefit the ruling elite.
This shouldn't be a surprise.
Why do I feel qualified to rant about economics? For the same reason New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is qualified to rant about the media.
[T]his week Al Gore said the obvious. "The media is kind of weird these days on politics," he told The New York Observer, "and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party."
The reaction from most journalists in the "liberal media" was embarrassed silence. I don't quite understand why, but there are some things that you're not supposed to say, precisely because they're so clearly true.
Yeah, you couldn't tell the media was liberal by, say, looking at the Times' editorial page -- real diversity of opinion there. Maybe the reason there was "silence" is because it is so demonstrably false. Krugman seems to be able to ignore the fact that every single survey of the media demonstrates that reporters and editors are way to the left of the majority of the American people. While America, as evidenced by the most recent election, tilts ever so slightly to the right, every survey of the media shows that 80 percent plus side with the Democrats.
The most notable media watchdog organizations are the Media Research Center (on the right) and Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (on the left). Now, if the frequency of their publications is any indication of the wealth of their source material, then the media has a very definite tilt to the left. Check out both sites and take a look for yourself.
"Clearly true?" I don't think so. The fact that even the "liberal" media is to the right of Krugman, doesn't make them conservative.
The political agenda of Fox News, to take the most important example, is hardly obscure. Roger Ailes, the network's chairman, has been advising the Bush administration. Fox's Brit Hume even claimed credit for the midterm election. "It was because of our coverage that it happened," he told Don Imus. "People watch us and take their electoral cues from us. No one should doubt the influence of Fox News in these matters." (This remark may have been tongue in cheek, but imagine the reaction if the Democrats had won and Dan Rather, even jokingly, had later claimed credit.)
First, I think Hume's comment was tongue-in-cheek. People say all sorts of outrageous things when they go on Imus' show. Second, if Fox News does indeed tilt right (personally, I think if it does, it is very slight), the only reason it seems so far out there is that every other media outlet leans to the left.
But my purpose in today's column is not to bash Fox. I want to address a broader question: Will the economic interests of the media undermine objective news coverage?
Objective news coverage like in, say, The New York Times? I fear corporate influence on news coverage far less than I fear editors (can you say Howell Raines?) pushing an agenda in the news pages. Reporters and editors, by nature, are always suspicious of the motives of management. Besides, as Krugman certainly knows, large, evil corporations are more concerned that their media properties are earning profits, than any particular story or editorial direction. I'd argue that it is far more likely that a private owner, with no journalistic background would "undermine objective news coverage." Take, for instance, Wendy McCaw -- owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press -- formerly owned by the New York Times Company.
For most of the last 50 years, public policy took it for granted that media bias was a potential problem. There were, after all, only three national networks, a limited number of radio licenses and only one or two newspapers in many cities. How could those who controlled major news outlets be deterred from misusing their position?
The answer was a combination of regulation and informal guidelines. The "fairness doctrine" forced broadcast media to give comparable representation to opposing points of view. Restrictions on ownership maintained a diversity of voices. And there was a general expectation that major news outlets would stay above the fray, distinguishing clearly between opinion and news reporting. The system didn't always work, but it did set some limits.
Krugman's answer is government regulation -- simple enough. Of course, practically this would be a nightmare. Go back to the MRC and FAIR sites. Both have evidence of a tilt in the media -- which one is right? And who decides?
Of course, there's also journalistic ethics (likely something that Krugman has only heard rumors of) that most journalists try hard to adhere to. Some do better than others, but nearly every newspaper has an ethics policy that is strictly enforced.
Over the past 15 years, however, much of that system has been dismantled. The fairness doctrine was abolished in 1987. Restrictions on ownership have been steadily loosened, and it seems likely that next year the Federal Communications Commission will abolish many of the restrictions that remain -- quite possibly even allowing major networks to buy each other. And the informal rule against blatantly partisan reporting has also gone away -- at least as long as you are partisan in the right direction.
What a crock. Blatantly partisan reporting? Is it partisan if the media doesn't fawn over every pronouncement from Al Gore? If we really applied the Krugman standard to reporting, would the media be so much better? After all, this is the same columnist who last week excused nepotism only if your politics was right. Or should I say left?
The F.C.C. says that the old rules are no longer necessary because the marketplace has changed. According to the official line, new media -- first cable television, then the Internet -- have given the public access to a diversity of news sources, eliminating the need for public guidelines.
But is this really true? Cable television has greatly expanded the range of available entertainment, but has had far less broadening effect on news coverage. There are now five major sources of TV news, rather than three, but this increase is arguably more than offset by other trends. For one thing, the influence of print news has continued its long decline; for another, all five sources of TV news are now divisions of large conglomerates -- you get your news from AOLTimeWarnerGeneralElectricDisneyWestinghouseNewsCorp.
So, there are five major sources of TV news (Krugman is certainly going to hurt MSNBC's feelings) -- but when Krugman points out biased reporting, he doesn't point to the "major media," i.e. NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox News -- but Fox News alone. Krugman would like to claim that they're all the same, but any viewer knows they're not.
And the Internet is a fine thing for policy wonks and news junkies -- anyone can now read Canadian and British newspapers, or download policy analyses from think tanks. But most people have neither the time nor the inclination. Realistically, the Net does little to reduce the influence of the big five sources.
In short, we have a situation rife with conflicts of interest. The handful of organizations that supply most people with their news have major commercial interests that inevitably tempt them to slant their coverage, and more generally to be deferential to the ruling party. There have already been some peculiar examples of news not reported. For example, last month's 100,000-strong Washington antiwar demonstration -- an important event, whatever your views on the issue -- was almost ignored by some key media outlets.
Which media outlets? Seriously, was this ignored by Krugman's big five? I've got a feeling the answer is NO. Why do I think this? Because if one of them had totally ignored it, Krugman would have singled them out. You can find the Washington Post article on the event here. Notice that the Post ignored it by putting it on A1. Apparently what Krugman really wants is more coverage for his point of view. A point of view which poll after poll shows to be shared by a substantial minority of the American people.
For the time being, blatant media bias is still limited by old rules and old norms of behavior. But soon the rules will be abolished, and the norms are eroding before our eyes.
Do the conflicts of interest of our highly concentrated media constitute a threat to democracy? I've reported; you decide.
No. Media conglomerates don't, but editors like the Times' Howell Raines do.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Good news for free speech: A federal judge has allowed one of those "corrupting" issue advocacy ads to go on the air in time for a federal special election in Hawaii.
This is good news for free speech -- and likely an indication of rough waters ahead for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.
The most surprising thing? Hawaii is in the notoriously liberal U.S. Ninth Circuit. Now, the Ninth Circuit is usually wrong more often than any other, i.e. the Supreme Court overrules them more, but on this issue I think they've got it right.
But, time will tell.
Another one bites the dust: It's not Kenny-boy Lay, so it won't please a certian person I know, but you've got another former Enron executive pleading guilty.
More on New Source Review: Count on The Wall Street Journal to publish a commonsense article on the entire issue.
My carburetor analogy in the article below turns out to be amazingly apropos.
In one famous case, DTE Energy Corp., parent of Detroit Edison Co., tried to replace older, less efficient propeller blades in several steam turbines at its biggest coal-fired plant. The new blades were 15% more efficient than the old, meaning they could generate 15% more power using the same amount of energy--more power, less pollution. But the Clinton EPA threatened to invoke New Source Review anyway, so the plan was scrapped.
And it turns out, despite Krugman's contention, that industry isn't entirely thrilled about the new rules.
Last week's announcement didn't entirely please industry, which has been hoping that the whole New Source Review process would be scrapped entirely. Their concern is that it is difficult to distinguish between routine maintenance and new investment. Therefore, the New Source Review process is an invitation to future bureaucrats to abuse the regulations. This helps explain why no new refineries have been built in the United States in years, despite the danger of periodic supply disruptions that cause the price of gasoline and other fuels to spike.
Californians are certainly aware of the problems that come with a lack of refinery capacity.
Contrary to what some would have you believe, the GOP isn't interested in turning the entire planet to some sort of environmental wasteland. We just think that environmental regulation should be used to actually protect/improve the environment, rather than as another method of ensuring full-employment for lawyers.
Monday, November 25, 2002
If you listened to Krugman...: you'd believe that the state of the environment in the United States is continually getting worse.
While that's not factually the case, in his Tuesday column, Krugman argues just that.
[L]ast week the Bush administration announced new rules that would effectively scrap "new source review," a crucial component of our current system of air pollution control. This action, which not incidentally will be worth billions to some major campaign contributors, comes as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to which way the wind is blowing (from west to east, mainly ? that is, states that vote Democratic are conveniently downwind).
But this isn't just a policy change, it's an omen. I hope I'm wrong, but it's likely that last week's announcement marks the beginning of a new era of environmental degradation.
Not only is Bush plotting to make air practically unbreatheable -- he's going to smoke out all of those misguided blue states first. That'll teach 'em!
Of course, Krugman conveniently ignores Bush's environmental record up to this point. As I mentioned back in April, the Brookings Institution's Gregg Easterbrook published a piece on the real record. [Requires Adobe Acrobat]
Some background: The origin of new source review lies in a big policy mistake 30 years ago. The original Clean Air Act imposed strict rules on new sources of pollution, but it grandfathered existing power plants, refineries and so on. The idea was that over time, as old facilities closed down, strict rules would become the norm.
What happened instead was predictable: In order to keep their exemptions, polluting industries poured money into existing facilities rather than build new ones. In an attempt to close this loophole, the Environmental Protection Agency began requiring companies that invested in existing facilities to demonstrate that they were merely doing maintenance, rather than creating new capacity that was supposed to face stricter regulation.
Krugman fails to answer the real reason why industries held on to their exemptions so tightly -- the permitting, regulation, siting and other bureaucratic red tape made it, in too many circumstances, so that building a new facility was unfeasible.
So, what happens? They make changes to existing facilities to increase production, etc. The problem with new source review was the fact that any minor change was supposed to put the entire facility under the newer, tougher regulations. Instead of merely checking to see if the change would improve production and reduce emissions, if you made what would be considered an even minor change -- the entire facility had to meet the same emission standards it would have to if the facility was entirely new.
Back in the early '90s I owned a 1971 MGB Roadster that had been restored by my grandfather. One of the things we wanted to do to it was to put on a new carburetor. It would improve performance, reduce emissions and generally make the thing run better (well, as good as a British car can). Unfortunately, we couldn't do it because of California's emissions laws -- even though a new carb would have been better for the environment. The new source review was a similar impediment.
(When it comes to polluting the environment -- why doesn't Krugman mention our own Gov. Gray Davis, Tosco and Dioxin? Oops! My mistake -- Davis is a Democrat, he couldn't be doing anything wrong.)
Last week's announcement is, I believe, a signal that even Clear Skies isn't going to happen.
Aside from cynicism (which has been an almost infallible guide to administration environmental policy so far), how do I reach that conclusion?
Ooooh! Ooooh! I know! Can I answer this? Because you're a partisan hack?
Administration officials still insist, of course, that they plan to proceed with clean air measures. And it's possible that they will eventually do the right thing. But don't hold your breath waiting. In fact, it might be a good idea to breathe deeply now, while you still can.
Next on the Bush administration's plans -- drowning puppies. Remember when Krugman writes a column about it -- you heard it here first.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
Everyone can hate: In a story that has not made the national media (and may never get much national attention), a 19-year-old homosexual man named Nicholas Gutierrez has been charged with the murder of a 51-year-old woman. The woman, Mary Stachowicz, was a Christian who reportedly questioned Gutierrez about his sexuality.
Chicago Police Cmdr. Lee Epplen said Gutierrez, who has no criminal record, said in a videotaped confession that while quarreling with Stachowicz on Wednesday afternoon in his apartment he was reminded of debates with his mother.
Gutierrez "said he has issues with his mother and the way Mrs. Stachowicz talked to him gave him flashbacks to his mother," Epplen said.
Gutierrez told police he became enraged after Stachowicz questioned him about his sexual orientation, said Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Nancy Galassini during a bond hearing Sunday.
"He got upset with her," Galassini said. "The defendant punched and kicked and stabbed the victim until he was tired. He then placed a plastic garbage bag over her head and strangled her."
National Review's Rod Dreher, who called my attention to this story, noted that it was unlikely to make the major media because the victim and the perpetrator don't fit the typical stereotypes -- Christians aren't victims, and gays aren't perpetrators.
You may believe Mary Stachowicz was quite wrong in her convictions, but it is anti-Christian bigotry to believe her death should be ignored, while the death of Matthew Shepard should be marked (as I believe it should have been). The media shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. Somehow, I doubt talk radio and the blogosphere will let them.
So, I took Dreher up, and checked out the blogosphere, using Mary Stachowicz's name as the search term and discovered the following posts.
From James Wagner:
The woman who did such great evil is dead, but unfortunately the evil and the church and the society which creates it is not, and it will continue to destroy Nicholas Gutierrez and many others. I shake, safely sitting here at home, fully understanding, and fully familiar with, the horrible impact her words must have had for a man already so terribly damaged by his society, and his own mother.
Damaged by society? It reminds me of the old Monty Python skit where a man who has been murdering Catholic bishops is found out and says: "It's a fair cop, but society is to blame."
The police officer says: "Right, we'll arrest them instead."
And, lest you get the wrong idea, it doesn't appear that Mary Stachowicz was one of those Christians who emit more hate than the love that Christians are directed to show to everyone -- regardless of their sexual orientation, race, creed, etc.
Friends and family said that it would have been in character for Stachowicz, who has a lengthy list of volunteer work to reach out to someone she thought needed help.
"Those of us who knew her immediately hear her soft voice saying something like, 'God wouldn't approve of the way you're living your life,"' said Mary Coleman, a friend and neighbor. "That's how Mary did things."
I wouldn't have blamed Gutierrez for being offended by being asked about his personal life -- I don't make it a practice to volunteer my views on homosexuality. If asked, I'll tell you what I believe, but the fact that anyone can justify Mary Stachowicz's murder troubles me.
I'm always hesitant to compare anyone to the Taliban, but I think it's pretty safe to put Wagner in that class. For Wagner, it's OK to brutally murder someone who disagrees with the way he conducts his personal life.
And Wagner isn't the only one who feels this way. Barry has this to say:
Is this good for the gays?
Probably not, but maybe it will strike fear in the hearts of a few fundamentalists:
Where do I send a check for his defense fund?
Gay leaders need to speak out against this sort of attitude. It's pretty easy dismiss Gutierrez's actions as those of a mentally unstable individual, but Barry and James Wagner shouldn't be the only online gay voices on this subject.
I think Andrew Sullivan carries the most weight -- a condemnation from him would go a long way.
Friday, November 22, 2002
Knowing the U.N., this isn't surprising: U.N. Accuses Israel Over Aid Worker's Death.
It's obvious you're run out of ideas when...: You're Paul Krugman and you come up with this as the basis for your column.
In Friday's column, Krugman attacks some Republicans for having successful progeny.
[A]merica, we all know, is the land of opportunity. Your success in life depends on your ability and drive, not on who your father was.
Just ask the Bush brothers. Talk to Elizabeth Cheney, who holds a specially created State Department job, or her husband, chief counsel of the Office of Management and Budget. Interview Eugene Scalia, the top lawyer at the Labor Department, and Janet Rehnquist, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. And don't forget to check in with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and the conservative commentator John Podhoretz.
What's interesting is how little comment, let alone criticism, this roll call has occasioned. It might be just another case of kid-gloves treatment by the media, but I think it's a symptom of a broader phenomenon: inherited status is making a comeback.
Making a comeback? It's always been the case.
Look, it's a fact of life that the wealthy and powerful are able to send their kids to the best schools. The best schools give them access to the best jobs. They have more chances to be successful. They also have more pressure on themselves to succeed -- and farther to fall if they fail. All in front of the public. (Witness Noelle Bush.)
Krugman seems surprised that the children or relatives of the high muckety-mucks of the Bush Administration get some jobs. What's surprising is that it doesn't happen more often. Seriously, how are ambassadorships often passed out? By both parties. Of course, Krugman sees no evil when Democrats do the exact same thing.
It has always been good to have a rich or powerful father. Last week my Princeton colleague Alan Krueger wrote a column for The Times surveying statistical studies that debunk the mythology of American social mobility. "If the United States stands out in comparison with other countries," he wrote, "it is in having a more static distribution of income across generations with fewer opportunities for advancement." And Kevin Phillips, in his book "Wealth and Democracy," shows that robber-baron fortunes have been far more persistent than legend would have it.
But the past is only prologue. According to one study cited by Mr. Krueger, the heritability of status has been increasing in recent decades. And that's just the beginning. Underlying economic, social and political trends will give the children of today's wealthy a huge advantage over those who chose the wrong parents.
The myth of social mobility? What a bunch of hokum. Most statisticians can get numbers to say anything they want. While social mobility may be difficult, unlike most societies, it is a possibility. My grandfather rose through the ranks of the Marine Corps to retire a chief warrant officer. My father was the first member of his family to graduate from college for generations (unfortunately, his genealogical research turned up ancestors a couple of hundred years who had college degrees) -- and he also earned a Masters degree. Both of his children have bachelors degrees.
Here's another thought. Some people aren't "upwardly mobile" -- by choice. In the real world, some people choose lower-paying, lower-prestige jobs because that's what they want to do. Journalists and schoolteachers come to mind.
For one thing, there's more privilege to pass on. Thirty years ago the C.E.O. of a major company was a bureaucrat -- well paid, but not truly wealthy. He couldn't give either his position or a large fortune to his heirs. Today's imperial C.E.O.'s, by contrast, will leave vast estates behind -- and they are often able to give their children lucrative jobs, too. More broadly, the spectacular increase in American inequality has made the gap between the rich and the middle class wider, and hence more difficult to cross, than it was in the past.
Of course, this all comes down to definitions. According to Democrats, the "rich" would be a schoolteacher married to a police officer (in many areas the two would make more than $100k a year). If Krugman is speaking of the filthy rich, those like, say Terry McAuliffe, then he's certainly correct. You won't see me defending CEO salaries -- until I'm a CEO, that is. I'll be worth every stock option they give me.
Meanwhile, one key doorway to upward mobility -- a good education system, available to all -- has been closing. More and more, ambitious parents feel that a public school education is a dead end. It's telling that Jack Grubman, the former Salomon Smith Barney analyst, apparently sold his soul not for personal wealth but for two places in the right nursery school. Alas, most American souls aren't worth enough to get the kids into the 92nd Street Y.
Also, the heritability of status will be mightily reinforced by the repeal of the estate tax -- a prime example of the odd way in which public policy and public opinion have shifted in favor of measures that benefit the wealthy, even as our society becomes increasingly class-ridden.
Maybe it's because, unlike the loony left wing of the Democratic Party, many people don't think you should use the tax code to punish someone just because they're rich.
As for Grubman, well, he's a little nutty.
So, the public school education is a "dead end." Is this an argument for some system of vouchers? Krugman's surprised me before. This is an interesting development.
It wasn't always thus. The influential dynasties of the 20th century, like the Kennedys, the Rockefellers and, yes, the Sulzbergers, faced a public suspicious of inherited position; they overcame that suspicion by demonstrating a strong sense of noblesse oblige, justifying their existence by standing for high principles. Indeed, the Kennedy legend has a whiff of Bonnie Prince Charlie about it; the rightful heirs were also perceived as defenders of the downtrodden against the powerful.
Here's the rub. Krugman does recognize that people of all political persuasions are filthy rich. But people of the right (left?) political persuasion get a free pass. Never mind the failure of LBJ's Great Society program, that well-intentioned series of programs that kept the people it was intended to help in dependency.
But today's heirs feel no need to demonstrate concern for those less fortunate. On the contrary, they are often avid defenders of the powerful against the downtrodden. Mr. Scalia's principal personal claim to fame is his crusade against regulations that protect workers from ergonomic hazards, while Ms. Rehnquist has attracted controversy because of her efforts to weaken the punishment of health-care companies found to have committed fraud.
I don't know the specifics of either case, but let's just say it wouldn't surprise me if Krugman was coloring the truth a little. Just a guess.
The official ideology of America's elite remains one of meritocracy, just as our political leadership pretends to be populist. But that won't last. Soon enough, our society will rediscover the importance of good breeding, and the vulgarity of talented upstarts.
For years, opinion leaders have told us that it's all about family values. And it is -- but it will take a while before most people realize that they meant the value of coming from the right family.
What a bunch of hokum.
Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Paul O'Neil...all the children of wealthy, powerful people.
*UPDATE* Tom Maguire has more on the issue, including references to several studies on social mobility which demonstrate my point that clever people can make numbers do anything they want.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
What would I drive? Basically whatever I can afford, which happens to be a Chevy Cavalier. You've got some people who are going around with an anti-SUV campaign asking the question: What Would Jesus Drive? Isn't that clever? I didn't think so either.
But over at one of my favorite sites, Little Green Footballs, someone asked the question: What Would Mohammed Drive?
One reader's answer: Israel, into the sea.
Sad, but probably true.
Religion of Peace update: Yep, those tolerant, peace-loving Muslims are at it again. Demonstrating their capacity for restraint by killing more than 50 people.
Shehu Sani of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress said he watched a crowd stab one young man, then force a tire filled with gasoline around his neck and burn him alive. Sani said he saw three other bodies elsewhere in the city.
Alsa Hassan, founder of another human rights group, Alsa Care, said he saw a commuter being dragged out of his car and beaten to death by protesters.
Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."
If anyone can find any condemnation of this from any Muslims, I'd be interested to see it. Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.
*UPDATE* I've found this AP Photo on the Internet. It's a photo of the latest Christian martyr, Bonnie Weatherall (WARNING! The photo is graphic). This is what the "Religion of Peace" inspires.
Ledeen delivers: When I saw the latest New York Times editorial on the political unrest in Iran, I predicted that Michael Ledeen would have something to say about it. And he does!
To quote Glenn Reynolds: "ADVANTAGE Ledeen!"
Justice? The Times doesn't know what it is: An editorial in today's New York Times calls on Illinois Gov. George Ryan to commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life in prison (apparently with the possibility of parole).
[G]ov. George Ryan of Illinois, whose state has a bad record of sentencing innocent people to death, declared a moratorium on executions a few years back. Now, in his final months in office, he is considering commuting the sentences of everyone on death row. His willingness to do so may have been tested last month, by televised hearings that underscored the horror of the crimes for which these inmates were sentenced. But despite the bad publicity, Governor Ryan should do the right thing, and commute all the sentences to life in prison.
Did you catch that? The "horror of the crimes" is "bad publicity" for the Times' anti-death penalty crusade. Yes, the truth of what actually happened is so inconvenient.
It's a little tough to find accounts of the crimes these people are convicted of committing. Most of the information focuses on the hearings process that Gov. Ryan has set in motion. There is little information on the crimes. But I did manage to find a couple in the wonderful Google cache -- including information on the case of Paris Sims, who raped and killed Jo Ana Bollinger.
Bollinger's husband Jacob, also 17 at the time of the attack, was the key witness.
He said Sims entered their mobile home, held a knife to his throat, beat him in the head and raped Jo Ana Bollinger, then twisted a pair of long johns around Jacob Bollinger's throat until he lost consciousness. The baby was unhurt.
There's also the case of serial killer Lorenzo Fayne. Fayne was found guilty of murdering five children.
These are heinous crimes -- and those guilty of them deserve death. Otherwise, we devalue the lives of those who were murdered.
The Times bases the argument for a blanket commutation on the fact that several people on death row have been exonerated over the past several years.
Illinois has been at the center of the death penalty debate since it was revealed, through DNA evidence, that 13 of the people sent to its death row since capital punishment was restored in 1977 had been wrongly convicted. That's more than the 12 people who were actually executed. The co-chairman of a blue-ribbon commission appointed to study the system noted that it was unlikely that any doctor "could get it wrong over 50 percent of the time and still stay in business." In one case, a convicted murderer who had spent 16 years on death row was exonerated just two days before his scheduled execution.
The Times' numbers argument (13 exonerated vs. 12 executed) is a lame one. We can fix that by simply carrying out the executions of more of them.
I don't mean to demean the Times' argument. There are obviously problems with the way some of the trials occurred. But I will note that there is no evidence that any of the people who were executed were actually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.
Gov. Ryan's clemency hearings were a good idea. If there is any doubt that the inmate might be wrongly convicted due to prosecutorial misconduct, new evidence, or conflicting testimony that has been uncovered since the conviction, then he should commute those sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But the Times' push for a blanket commutation -- regardless of the weight of the evidence against the convict -- is an insult to the victims and their families.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Today's quote of the day: "I hate Santa Ana winds. They suck!" -- San Diego Union-Tribune Page Designer Karla Brown-Garcia.
It seemed funny at the time.
Food for thought: If you're not a regular reader of Little Green Footballs, you should be. Charles Johnson has been doing excellent work focusing on what is being said and being done by our "friends" in the Arab world. Perhaps the best attribute of Johnson's Web site is that it really is a community, where there is tons of give and take between readers.
To quote Bill Cosby: "I told you that story so I could tell you this one..."
I was reading a LGF post last night that reported that a German tabloid had accused Winston Churchill of being a war criminal.
Down in the comments section "Maine's Michael" posted a question that I've been giving some thought to. I thought I'd reproduce it here, because it was slightly off-topic and generated little response -- it probably should've had it's own post.
Suppose there's a population that believes, by force of religious conviction and / or brainwashing, leavened with a capacity for intergenerational hatred, that they are here on this earth to eliminate another people, or die trying.
They raise their children on this thought venom, and after these children grow up, their brains are found to be wired differently, and furthermore, they start to act out this genocidal intent in a relentless fashion, unswayed by the kindness and 'turn the other cheek' generosity of their intended victims.
While not all within the aggressor population are actors in this violence, the non-participant majority provide moral and material support to the participants, with very, very few exceptions.
These are the Germans of WW2.
These are the Palestinians of the 21st century.
What is the correct response on the part of the target population?
This is the question that underlies the civilized world's response to "radical Islam."
How do we respond to generation after generation being raised to hate. To generation after generation being raised to take joy in the murder of "infidels," that is anyone who does not share their faith?
There's not a simple answer. Surely the "actors" (those who actually commit violence) of Maine's Michael's question must be killed -- they are cowardly warriors who target innocents. But how do we deal with those who enable the violence?
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
When in doubt, don't trust the Times: An editorial in today's New York Times makes some interesting characterizations of the political situation in Iran. Expect the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen to take the Times to task, but I'll give you a previewof what I think he'll say.
The Times editorialists state that students are protesting the sentence imposed on Hashem Aghajari for its brutality -- 74 lashes, followed by 8 years in jail, followed by hanging. The reports I've seen, from Ledeen and others with more credibility on Iraq than the Times editorial page, the students were protesting the charge of guilt and its assault on free speech. What the Times neglects to mention is that Aghajari was sentenced to death for "insulting Islam."
The Times also suggests throughout that Iranian President Mohammad Katami is supported by the people, when, in fact, he is seen as a failure by the common people. If not as a co-conspirator to keep the people repressed.
The Times urges Iran's ayatollahs to allow reform bills to go through the rubber-stamp parliament. It is uncharacteristic of the Times to be so naive. Misguided, yes. Naive, no. The Iranian system cannot reform itself. It must be overthrown.
The Times isn't helping the Iranian people with its ignorant suggestions.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Why couldn't he take a longer vacation? The New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman has returned from a week off, and once again sees pure evil and villany in everything the Bush administration does.
In Tuesday's column, Krugman takes to task Bush's plan to privatize some of the government bureaucracy. Now, I don't feel strongly about this plan one way or another. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy whether it be in the public or private sectors.
But where Krugman really goes off the deep end is when he looks for underlying motives -- which are always sinister.
First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration -- determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses -- must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.
OK, let's check Krugman's accusations against the Krugman economic plan.
It appears as though Krugman is against the expansion of the Bush tax cuts, yet just over a month ago Krugman wrote this:
If these elements (extended unemployment benefits and aid to the states) don't add up to a large enough sum -- I agree with Mr. Madrick that $100 billion over the next year is a good target -- why not have another rebate, this time going to everyone who pays payroll taxes?
It should be noted that Krugman also wants to cancel the Bush tax cut. Apparently tax cuts are only acceptable if they're the right kind of tax cuts. Also in Krugman's plan he does not push to cut spending. Krugman is fine with deficit spending -- as long as it's the right kind of deficit spending.
I'm also surprised at Krugman's characterization of Social Security as a "middle-class" entitlement. I've been lectured by several liberals, and Krugman has noted, that Social Security is a safety net -- that's why personal accounts should never be considered.
Krugman speculates that Bush's plan is a return to the spoils system.
The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints.
We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success ? at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
It's interesting that Krugman chooses the president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to illustrate the spoils system. In California, he could've used Gov. Gray Davis to illustrate a Democratic version of the spoils system. Here, after the state prison guard's union contributed several hundred thousand dollars to Davis' re-election campaign, Davis decided not to renew the contracts for private prisons here in California. Private prisons that were shown to actually save taxpayers' money.
My point, once again, is that both sides do it.
Krugman seems to be dismayed that the party in power gets more money from business than the party out of power. Did a turnip truck just pass by here?
Iraq shoots down American plane, captures pilot
Democrats call on Bush to seek UN help
(HOYSTORY.COM) -- After nearly a decade of trying, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein declared victory over the "Zionist-backed American imperialist forces" after a Navy F/A-18D Hornet was shot down patrolling the southern no-fly zone.
The plane, flown by Commander George I. Joe of Berkeley, Calif., was apparently hit by a surface-to-air missile at 9:11 a.m. EST.
According to the Department of Defense, Joe successfully ejected from the plane, but was captured by Iraqi troops shortly after he hit the ground. American war planes later destroyed the air defense battery responsible for the shoot down.
Hussein said that his government was interrogating the prisoner, in preparation for his trial on charges of "war crimes against the Iraqi people." Hussein assured reporters that the jury verdict would have to be unanimous for Joe to be convicted.
According to Hussein, the sentence for Joe's crime, as dictated by sharia law, is death by beheading.
President Bush directed the Navy to send another aircraft carrier to Persian Gulf, and ordered the deployment of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to the U.S. base in Qatar.
"I call on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to immediately release Commander Joe or face the wrath of the United States," Bush said in a prepared statements in the White House briefing room shortly before noon.
Democrats in Congress warned the President not to take unilateral action against Iraq, and instead implored the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution requesting the release of Joe.
"It is vitally important that the president use caution," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. "The United States will further alienate itself from the international community if we do not seek consensus from the United Nations Security Council."
At the U.N., U.S. Representative John Negroponte asked the Security Council to declare the Iraqis in "material breach" of the latest U.N. resolution, and authorize the use of force.
French Ambassador Jean-Paul Surrendeaux noted that the American- and British-imposed no-fly zones were not specifically authorized in any U.N. resolution, but were a creation used to enforce Resolution 668. Resolution 668 called on Hussein not to persecute his own people.
"Because the zones were not specifically mandated, there may be some difficulty in resolving the status of the American pilot in the Security Council," Surrendeaux said.
Surrendeaux said that it would be unlikely that the Security Council would authorize the use of force against Iraq "merely to free one American."
Thank God, Gore didn't win in 2000: According to Fox News' "Special Report with Brit Hume" there is more evidence that former presidential candidate Al Gore has completely lost his mind. According to "Special Report," Gore is quoted in the upcoming issue of Time magazine as saying:
Our foreign policy, based on an openly proclaimed intention to dominate the world, is a recipe for getting our country in some of the worst trouble it's ever been in.
If Gore ends up being the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, expect a ass-whupping that hasn't been seen since 1984.
Hey! I've been called names too! OpinionJournal.com's Robert L. Bartley takes note of the knee-jerk name-calling that's being tossed about by liberal commentators.
Like I've said before, if you had to depend on the likes of Paul Krugman, Bill Moyers and Molly Ivins for fair political commentary, you'd be sadly misinformed.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
Doing business in China: It can be a very exciting ride. The Washington Post has an enlightening article on the joint ventures that are required to do business in communist China.
Friday, November 15, 2002
State Department warns Catholic Bishops on sex abuse scandal
Gov't says new rules may provoke new cases
(HOYSTORY.COM) -- The U.S. government today warned America's Catholic bishops that the proposed new rules for dealing with pedophile priests are unjustified.
"Based on the facts that are known to us, we continue to find it difficult to justify the rules, lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent danger to children," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The government voiced its concern that while there may be some evidence that certain priests could be a danger to children, a full-fledged effort purge the priesthood of pedophiles was unwarranted.
"We fear that a resort to a purge, under present circumstances ... would not meet the strict conditions in American jurisprudence for overriding the strong presumption of innocence," Boucher said. "It is one thing to try to change the unacceptable behavior of a priest. It is quite another to try to end that priest's career."
Bishops had planned to take pre-emptive action against any priest suspected of molesting children under their care. It was unclear yesterday if the admonishment from the government would have any affect on the bishops' plans.
The government also said that an effort to purge the priesthood of pedophiles, may prompt them to commit illegal acts.
"The proposed rules could impose terrible new burdens on an already long-suffering priesthood and could lead to wider crimes and instability in the church," Boucher said.
The State Department urged the bishops to find a way to step back from the "brink of a purge and work for a priesthood that is enduring."
U.S. Catholic Bishops Say Iraq War Not Justified
U.S. bishops approve policy on sex abuse
Thursday, November 14, 2002
So selfish that it kills: The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof had an op-ed piece in yesterday's paper making an argument for paying people to donate their organs.
There is an unecessary shortfall when it comes to organ donation in this country -- and its almost criminal. I have no doubt that there are many people who decline to donate a loved ones organs, thinking that they want to keep the now-useless body whole and there's nothing in it for them. If offering $5,000-$10,000 cash to the family -- to be used however they want -- in return ofr donating organs would save some lives -- it'd be well worth it.
Who supplies the cash? I don't think it'd be a bad idea for the federal government to supply the money -- after all, the government would benefit -- people living longer means people paying taxes longer.
One letter-writer to the Times even had an idea that could further increase the rate of organ donation.
As a nephrologist who has seen too many patients on dialysis die waiting for a kidney, I agree with Nicholas D. Kristof that the time has come to allow financial incentives for organ donation. The cost of maintaining altruism, already a shaky concept, is excessively high.
Mr. Kristof quotes Francis Delmonico, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, who suggests "a reimbursement of funeral expense, for consent to donation of that family member's organs and tissues."
The distinction between a cash payment and covering funeral costs is simple hypocrisy.
The fairest way to carry out an incentive plan for organ donation is through the tax code. A cadaver donation should result in suspension of the estate tax and the final year of income tax. A live donation should be rewarded by a lifetime income tax exemption.
The old saw that paid organ donation exploits the poor to benefit the rich would be turned upside down.
RICHARD AMERLING, M.D.
New York, Nov. 12, 2002
Organ donation should be the norm in this country, not the exception.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
That's a good idea: National Review Online's Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus" column has this little item:
I’m a little confused by something I read: ?Iran’s hard-line judiciary today sentenced an outspoken reform activist to death, 8 years in jail, 74 lashes, and a 10-year ban from teaching.? So, what’s the deal here? The execution comes after the eight years in jail?
The mullahs’ justice has always confused me.
I'll e-mail this little item to Jay, but what he doesn't realize is that the mullahs have an excellent idea.
When the anti-death penalty types are appealing a murderer's sentence here in the United States, one of their common claims is that keeping them in jail for so long, and setting numerous execution dates, is cruel and unusual punishment. If we simply sentenced them to 15 years in jail and death (the time in jail first), that would solve one of the complaints of the ACLU-types.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Sin of omission: Wednesday's New York Times has an article on Senate confirmations of Bush's judicial nominations now that Republican control of the chamber is imminent.
The Democrat-controlled committee, along with the Times' editorial page, has come out against many of Bush's appeals court nominees (including those who have been rated well-qualified by the American Bar Association), because they are perceived as conservatives, even if there is little evidence to back up the assertion.
A case in point is the nomination of Miguel Estrada. Estrada has little as far as a paper trail goes into his ideology, though he is believed to be a conservative because Bush nominated him. Estrada was among the first group of appellate court nominees, but has never received a hearing.
The Times explains it this way:
In negotiations this week, Republicans tried to persuade the Democrats to include a vote on Miguel Estrada, a lawyer who has argued many cases before the Supreme Court and who has been nominated for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely regarded as second in importance only to the Supreme Court. Republicans are eager to have Mr. Estrada in place on the appeals court as soon as possible to make him a more credible candidate for the Supreme Court.
Democrats had hoped to block Mr. Estrada's confirmation but now concede he should be easily confirmed next year after Mr. Bush renominates him.
Committee Democrats had asserted that Mr. Estrada is a conservative ideologue and demanded that the White House turn over to the committee his internal opinions when Mr. Estrada was an assistant solicitor general in the Justice Department.
The White House refused to provide the documents, and the ensuing dispute allowed Democrats to delay scheduling a vote. But a senior White House official said this week that the issue was now moot with Republican control of the Senate.
The documents that the Democrats were demanding were internal justice department documents. The White House rightly refused to release them to the Democrats who were on a fishing expedition.
The Times repeats the Democratic canard that these documents were the reason for the delay of Estrada's hearing. But, here lies the Times ideological sin of omission: every living solicitor general of the United States (both Republican and Democrat) signed a letter to outgoing Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy telling him that he was out of line in asking for the documents.
That simple fact would reveal the Democrats' claims that they entitled to hold up the nomination until the documents are provided to be false.
Thankfully the ideological litmus-testing that had been occurring under Democratic control will stop when Republicans take back control.
Besides, the Democrats should take solace in the fact that the last Supreme Court justice the Senate approved who had no paper trail was a guy named Souter. Maybe they'll get lucky again.
Religion of Tolerance: Memri has translated an article written by a Coptic Christian from Egypt, who described some of the experiences Christians have in Saudi Arabia, that peace-loving state.
* Saudi customs list of contraband material includes -- in addition to drugs, liquor, pornographic material and the like --anything in the shape of the cross, even if only in decorative formations, as well as any Christian books, pictures, or publications.
* A Greek young man who went to Saudi Arabia for business was harassed at Jeddah airport by the customs official who pulled off a cross pendant he wore about his neck and threw it violently in the waste basket.
* A European woman married to a Palestinian Muslim carried in her luggage an icon of the Holy Virgin that had been given to her as a child by her grandmother. Her luggage was searched, the icon confiscated and thrown into the waste basket.
* A Christian who was walking in the street in Jeddah was stopped by the Mutawa’ah [the Muslim Religious Police] and asked why he was not at the mosque for afternoon prayers. Upon replying that he was Christian, the Mutawi’ [policeman] cried out 'A’udhu Billah' [I seek Allah's protection!] and spat on the Christian's face.
* On a television programme that provides religious counseling [fatwa] a viewer asked the counseling Sheikh if he could travel to Egypt to hand an item he had in safekeeping over to a Christian friend's family. The Sheikh reprimanded the viewer for having a Christian friend in the first place ? Muslims were not permitted to take Christian friends. He then went on to advise the viewer to keep the item in question for himself, since all possessions of kuffaar [non-believers] were the rightful property of Muslims.
* The same Sheikh was asked for advice by a Saudi student who was leaving to the U.S to study, and feared for his virtue. The Sheikh advised him to marry an American as soon as he arrived to the U.S., on condition that he would not have any babies by that 'wife,' then divorce her once his scholarship was over and he was ready to head back home.
* Anyone found in possession of a Bible or known to have met with others in Christian prayer meetings is arrested, questioned, and deported.
If the Saudis are our "friends," I'd hate to see how people who hate us treat us.
The French Forget: For more than five decades, the French people have found themselves protected from external threats because of the presence of American troops in Europe. Because of the U.S. presence, Western Europe has enjoyed peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, the French have forgotten what they've received.
On the other hand, the people of Romania, recently freed from a brutal, oppressive, totalitarian regime -- appreciate what America has done.
Romania and Poland will bring a "pro-American critical mass" to NATO, said Mircea Geoana, Romania's foreign minister in an interview. Indeed, whenever Mr. Geoana's French diplomatic counterparts worry about Romania's enthusiasm for the United States, he said he tells them that "after Romania enjoys several decades of prosperity like France, then we will have the luxury of taking the U.S. for granted."
Once again, we do have allies in Europe. Unfortunately, when the talking heads talk about multilateralism, the really mean France and Germany. Romania and Poland don't count.
Monday, November 11, 2002
Terror apologists take note: "Best of the Web Today's" James Taranto points out this story regarding an Al Qaeda plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II.
Taranto then makes the following astute observation:
Is this because the Vatican is too pro-Israel, or because of the troops it stations in Saudi Arabia?
Most of us get it. Arab terrorists (or "freedom fighters" in Reuters parlance) main goal isn't a Palestinian state. Their main goal isn't removing all U.S. troops from Arab lands (even if they've been invited by the government).
They're only interested in spreading their intolerant religion -- by persuasion if possible, by violence if necessary.
CAIR and its ilk bristle when Islam is characterized as an "evil" religion. They cry "racist," "bigot," "Islamophobe." But look at Saudi Arabia -- a model of Islamic society.
Total number of Christian churches in Saudi Arabia: Zero.
Total number of converts to Christianity living in Saudi Arabia: Zero. (Conversion from Islam is punishable by death.)
Total number of Christian missionaries allowed in Saudi Arabia: Zero.
Total number of Jews in Saudi Arabia: Zero.
Where Islam is the dominant religion, people of other faiths suffer. Where Christianity is the dominant religion, freedom for all faiths flourishes.
Saturday, November 09, 2002
College football's amateur broadcasts: The major networks usually do a passably good job. ESPN and Fox Sports can be hit-or-miss. But the third-level sports networks can really stink it up. I just got done watching the decidedly ugly football game that was San Diego State vs. New Mexico. If the play on the field wasn't bad enough, the broadcast itself was worse.
Case in point, from SportsWest:
1. New Mexico blocked a SDSU punt in the first quarter. Unfortunately, no one watching the broadcast got to see it.
2. Instead of watching a play later in the game, we got to see the attendance graphic for a full 15 seconds -- informing us that roughly 28,000 people were there. The most frustrating thing was that you could sorta see the play going in the background.
3. Several times we missed the snap, and on short running plays there isn't much after that. To add insult to injury, the commentators would then encourge viewers to: "Let's watch that again" when the replay was shown.
I hope that SportsWest executives go over the game tape again -- because been years since I've seen such an amateurish broadcast.
Friday, November 08, 2002
This is funny: The latest Toles cartoon is a hoot.
Sometimes I think he does it just to goad me: I'd been avoiding writing critiques/responses to the lame columns by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently. I'd just gotten tired of his constant, inane carping and he hadn't written anything really ludicrous (for him, that is) ... until today.
Krugman decries the stupidity of the national electorate of handing over the executive and legislative branches of the federal government over to those evil, conniving Republicans.
[F]or those of us who think the nation has taken a disastrous wrong turn these past two years, Tuesday's election changed everything and nothing.
Clearly, we're going to have an extended sojourn in the political wilderness. Even criticizing the Bush administration's policies will become far more difficult. It will be hard even to find out what it's up to; the most secretive administration in the nation's history will now be even less forthcoming. And anyone who criticizes the administration, even on purely domestic issues, will be accused of lacking patriotism. After all, that strategy worked even against Senator Max Cleland, a genuine war hero who lost three limbs in his country's service.
Krugman goes back to his John Ashcroft "police state" rant. Like having the GOP in control of Senate will affect what Krugman writes in the Times' editorial pages.
Total amount of evidence Krugman has to back up his oft-repeated assertion that the Bush administration is the "most-secretive administration in the nation's history:" Zero. Krugman likes to harp on the fact that Cheney's energy task force wouldn't release information on who they talked to, what the content of those meetings were, etc.
The complaint is bunk.
If you're worried that energy corporations have undue influence on government energy policy, then you don't need the documents that Krugman and Judicial Watch would like to see. Why? Well, Bush released his energy plan to the public. He submitted it to Congress. These are smart people. Look at the plan. Figure out what companies it benefits. Of course, that doesn't really matter either. If the plan is bad, the plan is bad. The machinations behind it are irrelevant, really, to the policy.
Krugman then goes on to show how little he really understands politics. No one doubted Sen. Max Cleland's patriotism. They questioned his judgement.
Here's a short primer for Krugman on the Georgia Senate race and the legislation for creating the Department of Homeland Security.
Cleland's opponent, Senator-elect Saxby Chambliss ran commercials criticizing Cleland for voting against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The reason Cleland, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other Democrats were holding up the legislation because the president wanted the power to move, hire and fire workers without having to deal with unions. (Since the Carter administration, presidents have had the power to bar unions from government agencies if they are deemed necessary to national security. That's why there's no FBI union; no CIA union; no NSA union.) In a post-9/11 world, homeland security and national defense trump union protection. It's not that Cleland isn't patriotic. It's that his priorities are screwed up.
What hasn't changed is the fundamental wrongness of this administration's direction. Too many pundits, confusing politics with policy ? or engaging in sheer power worship ? imagine that a party that wins a battle must be doing something right. But it ain't necessarily so. Political victory doesn't make a bad policy good; it doesn't make a lie the truth.
See, the electorate is stupid. Too bad we're not all as smart as Krugman.
But what do we do about it?
Some of my friends are in despair. They fear that by the time the political pendulum swings, the damage will be irreparable. A ballooning federal debt, they say, will have made it impossible to deal with the needs of an aging population. Years of unchecked crony capitalism will have destroyed faith in our financial markets. Unilateralist foreign policy will have left us without real allies. And most important of all, environmental neglect will have gone past the point of no return.
Krugman's friends are in despair. It reminds me of the story of the New York socialite who wondered how in the world Ronald Reagan could've won the presidency, because she didn't know anyone who voted for him.
I know they often refer to the president of the United States as "the most powerful man on Earth," but damn, I had no idea that Bush had the power to totally destroy the entire planet. Environmental neglect? Unilateralism? (Let's list the countries that apparently don't count as allies: Britain, Australia, Italy, Qatar, Israel, Romania... the list goes on.)
Crony capitalism? Umm...people are going to jail. Adelphia, Enron...the list will grow. Besides -- that label can be applied to both parties equally. For every Enron on the right, there's a Global Crossing on the left.
They may be right. But we have to behave as if they aren't, and try to turn American politics around.
It won't be easy. There are essentially no moderates left in the Republican Party, so change will have to come from the Democrats. And they are deep in a hole.
I'll help Krugman out, since he's obviously been in a cave, here are some "moderates" in the Republican party: Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins, John McCain. There, four off the top of my head, out of 51 in the Senate. You could probably add Senator-elect Norm Coleman, a former Democrat, to the list too.
Of course, in Krugman's lexicon, I'm doubtful that anyone could be "moderate" and "Republican."
It's not just Sept. 11. As Jonathan Chait points out in The New Republic, the Republicans also have a huge structural advantage. They can spend far more money getting their message out; when it comes to free publicity, some of the major broadcast media are simply biased in favor of the Republicans, while the rest tend to blur differences between the parties.
Krugman certainly can't really believe what he's saying. Check out the Media Research Center's daily cyberalerts. Those will disabuse you of the "conservative" media tilt. Survey after survey also shows that the vast majority of journalists consider themselves liberal and side with the Democratic party.
Besides, I've worked in newsrooms for nearly a decade. From personal experience, I can tell you that the surveys are true, even at a fairly conservative paper like the San Diego Union-Tribune. Taped to the sides of many computers in the newsroom are photocopies of The Nation magazine cover depicting George W. Bush as Alfred E. Newman. The number of photocopies of Al Gore from Vietnam fiddling with a rifle with the barrel pointed at his head: Zero.
But that's the way it is. Democrats should complain as loudly about the real conservative bias of the media as the Republicans complain about its entirely mythical liberal bias; that will help them get their substantive message across. But first they have to have a message.
Let's use the Times as a test case. The Times has 8 op-ed columnists. How many are liberal? Seven. Safire is the lone conservative, and I'd classify him as a moderate. Nope, there's no liberal bias to see here. Move along.
Since the 2000 election, and especially since Sept. 11, much of the Democratic leadership has argued that the party must play it safe ? don't criticize the Bush administration too much, don't propose anything drastic that will offend corporations and the wealthy. What we should have realized, and what Tuesday's election disaster confirms, is that this plays right into Republican advantages. Talk radio and Fox News let the hard right get its message out to its supporters, while those who oppose the juggernaut stay home because they don't get the sense that the Democrats offer a real alternative.
No mention of CNN or MSNBC, is that where the liberals go? Oops, my mistake, in Krugman's world liberals aren't allowed on the television.
The Democrats didn't offer a real alternative in the latest election. The Democrats' message seemed to be: "Me too...only less." That isn't a really persuasive argument to the electorate against the backdrop of Sept. 11 and with national security a top priority.
To have a chance of breaking through the wall of media blur and distraction, the Democrats have to get the public's attention ? which means they have to stand for something.
It's obvious what the Democrats should stand for: Above all, they should be the defenders of ordinary Americans against the power of our burgeoning plutocracy. That means hammering the Republicans as they back off on corporate reform ? which they will. It means defending the environment against the administration's sly, behind-the-scenes program of dismantling regulation.
And it means doing what the party has refused to do: coming out forthrightly against tax cuts for corporations and the rich ? both the cuts passed last year and those yet to come. In the next few months the Bush administration will once again demand tax cuts that benefit a tiny elite, in the name of economic stimulus. The Democrats mustn't fall for this line again; they must insist that the way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the hands of people who need it.
If the Democratic Party takes a clear stand for the middle class and against the plutocracy, it may still lose. But if it doesn't stand for anything, it ? and the country ? will surely lose.
At least most of this is a valid and not-too-dishonest position to take. Krugman, as is his inclination, takes the most cynical and negative view of the GOP and the president. Don't expect an apology or acknowledgement that he's screwed up if none of his predictions regarding the next two years come about.
The Democrats do have a problem, but I don't think they're going to solve it by moving to the left, as Krugman advocates.
Thursday, November 07, 2002
Lies, damn lies: The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz pointed me to this column by Salon's Joe Conason -- and this damn lie -- a kind that is too common nowadays.
Whatever eventually happens in Louisiana, the Democrats have lost control of the Senate. The nation will return almost immediately to the Republican domination of the executive, legislative and judicial branches that existed before Vermont's Jim Jeffords turned independent last year. Now the Democratic voters who chose not to show up Tuesday are going to find out what their decision meant, in a country ruled by President Bush, Trent Lott and Tom DeLay. From drilling in Alaska to regressive taxation to unilateral war, the agenda of the corporate and religious right will shape our future. [emphasis added]
While it sounds good, there isn't a single Republican (or individual) in this country who advocates regressive taxation. The idea that the poor should pay more taxes than the rich is laughable. The idea that now that the GOP is in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency -- and that they really want to institute regressive taxation is risible.
On CNN's Inside Politics, Democratic party operative Donna Brazile claimed that because the Democrats lost on Tuesday, that it would mean a roll back of civil rights. That too is a lie.
But, if you tell a big enough lie, often enough, some people will believe it.
To quote a former German government official: "That's how Hitler came to power."
San Diego-area residents: A friend of mine, Sean Papiro, has leukemia. He's been through several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation in an attempt to treat it, and the treatments have been mostly unsuccessful. What he needs now is a bone-marrow transplant. Unfortunately, unlike blood-type matches, bone marrow is much more difficult to match.
So, this Sunday, November 10 at Fallbrook Presbyterian Church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. there is a free bone marrow registry drive. Usually this sort of thing costs $60, but on Sunday it's free. All it requires is for them to draw a little blood. If you end up being the perfect blood-donor match (sorry gals, he already has a girlfriend, so there will be on "love" match with him for you), the transplant procedure is pretty tame (as those sort of things go).
I'll be there, and it be great if you could be too.
A book report -- sort of: I finished reading Stephen Coonts' latest paperback novel America yesterday. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Coonts' work, the 1991 movie "Flight of the Intruder" was based on his novel. Where Tom Clancy has Jack Ryan, Coonts has Jake Grafton.
The reason I enjoy many of today's techno-thrillers, as the genre is commonly called, is that many times the plot offers a plausible geopolitical future. In Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon, depicted a future with an emerging China and a decaying Russia clashing over valuable natural resources in Siberia. In Coonts' America, the plot plays out against a background of a growing European Union and a struggling Russia, both resentful of America's economic and military power.
The EU was founded in order to create a counterweight to America's economic superiority. The euro was an attempt to create a currency to compete with the economic gold standard, the dollar. Airbus was created (and heavily subsidized) to compete with Boeing, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas (before they all merged.)
The EU has been competing adequately against the United States over the past decade -- despite the fact that the vast majority of EU governments are highly-regulated, socialist states. European growth was not as robust as America's was during the '90s, but it did grow. France is an excellent example. It's a country where, in order to keep unemployment down, they make it illegal for anyone to work overtime. Even if you own your own business, watch out if you spend too much time at it, the government will get you.
Looking at the EU's financial situation from the outside, it's amazing that those nations have not collapsed like the Soviet Union did. But Europe's socialist governments limp along under the weight of regulation and mandated entitlements, but do not collapse.
The answer is easy -- the American people are subsidizing it.
Not directly, mind you, but by enabling these governments to spend an exceptionally small amount on national defense. Anti-war, anti-military liberals like to decry the American military by pointing out how the United States spends as much on the military as the "next X nations combined." That makes it sound like we're spending an inordinate amount on national security, but what it really should telling people is how little our "allies" spend on their military.
The Bush administration is presenting it's final draft of the Iraq resolution to the U.N. Security Council today. Throughout the process, the toughest sell on the resolution has been France, one of our "allies" in the multilateralists' parlance.
The sad thing is, that, while the United States is continually lectured on the need to work with its allies (we can't go it alone), our allies have made themselves largely useless. Their militaries are weak to the point of being nearly useless. The main thing we ask of our allies nowadays is permission to use military bases on their soil that we built and maintain, and permission to use their airspace.
In the early stages of the war in Afghanistan, the Canadians wanted to send some troops over to help American special forces -- but they needed the U.S. to provide airlift capabilities to get their equipment over. They eventually got it over there, but it took awhile.
When our allies are able to get to the battlefield on their own, we often "let" them help us out, like a teenager lets his kid brother play with the big kids. Not that the youngster is a lot of help, but it makes him feel better. This isn't a situation that we forced on Europe -- they brought it upon themselves.
The EU and the U.N. are little more than semi-necessary evils of international diplomacy. They pretend to hold the moral high ground, but they whine and criticize when we liberate Afghanistan from a brutal, misogynistic regime. When we propose freeing the Iraqis from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and the threat of his possession of weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorists -- we get more grief, more talk, more resolutions that go unenforced.
Sometimes the United States is forced by practicality to work with regimes and leaders that, in a perfect world, we'd rather not. China, Saudi Arabia and Yasser Arafat come to mind. On the whole, our foreign policy is aimed at making the world a better place; on expanding democracy and human rights; on promoting peace -- and sometimes that means using the military to force change.
In Coonts' novel, the EU has become a competitor, not an ally, because it has sold out democratic and human-rights principles in pursuit of financial power. Unfortunately, it's not far from the truth. Objections to regime change in Iraq from France and Russia are based not on financial considerations. Russia wants $8 billion it says it is owed by the Iraqi government. France has plans for big oil contracts once the U.N. embargo is lifted. Germany (not a member of the U.N. Security Council) also has hopes of landing lucrative oil contracts. These countries all decry Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's brutal repression of his people, notably the ethnic Kurds and Shiite Muslims, but money comes first.
(Of course, you never hear anti-war protesters haranguing France, Germany and Russia with "No blood for oil" chants. That is reserved for the United States -- ignoring the fact that the United States would have quite an easy time lifting the sanctions against Saddam and letting the oil flow, if oil really was our primary foreign policy goal.)
Europe is not really our enemy, but I'm not sure they can all be classified as our allies either. When Bush came into office, he changed China's status from Clinton's "strategic partner" to the new "strategic competitor," because a Democracy can't really be a partner with a brutal communist dictatorship. France and Germany certainly aren't in the same league as China, but their growing anti-Americanism may be a sign that the friendly relationship forged in the Cold War may be changing.
The United States is far from perfect when it comes to foreign policy, but to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill: The United States is the worst country there is ... except for all the others.
What alternate universe is Terry McAuliffe in? I'm watching CSPAN's coverage of Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe Wednesday speech on Tuesday's election results, and I'm thinking -- the guy is smoking crack. He seems just like a little boy who sees something he doesn't like and who sticks his fingers in his ears, shuts his eyes tight and dances around whining "nyah, nyah, nyah ... I can't hear you."
McAuliffe says now President Bush will have to lead and he hasn't shown leadership in the past -- it's amazing when party loyalty blinds you to the extent that you make nonsensical, laughably untrue statements.
Oh, and the little background McAuliffe was standing in front of? It read: "Democratic majority in the making."
Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Saddam responds to U.S. elections: Iraqi president Saddam Hussein reacted to news of American President George W. Bush's GOP party victory in Tuesday's elections, saying that it was a repudiation of the American "cowboy" president's unpopularity.
Saddam noted that the GOP had a slim majority in its Senate and House -- whereas the Iraqi democracy showed that Hussein had the 100% support of his people.
"A true democracy is a unanimous one," Saddam said.
Shows you how much pull I have: Final results are in and it looks like it will be an interesting four years in the Grossmont Union High School District. The three nutcases won. I'm not sure how much credit/blame to give the local Republican party, but they're going to have egg on their face.
*ON A RELATED NOTE* It appears that the local school bond also lost. Proposition T would have been the first one in decades for schools that desperately need the work. The "Yes" votes totaled 63% percent of the vote -- 3% short of the two-thirds needed. If you click on the link and look at the results, you'll notice many of the other school bonds only required 55% of the vote to pass. Why? Well, a proposition passed a couple of years ago allowed for school bonds to be approved with only 55% percent of the vote if 4/5 of the members of the local school board had approved it.
What makes the Grossmont District board different from all of the others? Gary Cass, whom the voters erred in re-electing, and his ilk. Like I said before, these people aren't on the board to improve the local schools, bu tto push their misguided political agenda.
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
I voted -- have you? Well, I've successfully cast my largely-meaningless, mostly-Republican ballot in this mostly-Democratic state. There were no real lines to report. No jack-booted thugs at the polls intimidating me. And no one who seemed to have any real problems.
The woman in front of me in line was not on the registrar's list. The solution: she was given a provisional ballot.
At least in California we don't seem to incompetency apparently oft-displayed in Florida and St. Louis, Mo.
Sometimes the political parties are just stupid: Evidence of this fact for the Democratic Party was last week's memorial pep rally for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Evidence of this fact for the GOP, locally at least, comes in the form of a door-hanger the San Diego County Republican Party was handing out last week. It's what you would expect from any political party -- a list of candidates for all manner of offices from Governor to the local school board.
And that's where they get stupid. For the Grossmont Union High School Board, the Republican Party is handing out a recipe for disaster -- leaving even die-hard Republicans to shake their heads in disgust.
The local GOP suggests a vote for: Gary Cass (the man who, in a Falwell-like pronouncement, said the Santana High School shooting nearly two years ago was God's judgement on the evil public schools -- by the way, he's an incumbent);
Evelyn Wills who, much like Cass, constantly worries about all of the homosexual-indoctrination going on in the public schools. (In my four-years of public school education in the Grossmont District, homosexuality was mentioned exactly once. I think it went like this: "Willa Cather was a lesbian.");
Finally there is Jim Kelly, a former county school board member who was ousted, basically, for being an idiot. To receive certain federal grants, county school districts need the approval of the county school board. Kelly would often vote against these grants on the basis of his belief that the federal government had no business funding education. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that this is a way to get some of those tax dollars back in the schools -- and just who is he to overrule the local school boards? So much for "local control."
In short, if you live in East San Diego County and are going out to vote -- don't vote for these losers -- it would be a disaster.
The Evil Teachers Union (TM) suggests a vote for Avant, Crooks and Stine.
The right-wing San Diego Union-Tribune editorial page suggests a vote for Avant, Crooks and McGeorge.
Personally, I'll be going with the ETU's recommendations -- otherwise I'd likely be disowned -- but, whatever you do, don't take the GOP's suggestions when it comes to the school board race. I'm just wondering who the idiot is who made that call.
Scorecard to the 2002 election: The Wall Street Journal has put a useful article up on its Web site that should prove useful in helping you keep track of what the election returns mean.
Print it out and set it by the TV as you watch the returns roll in -- it will help a lot.
Sunday, November 03, 2002
Sunday School teachers to the rescue: There's an excellent article in today's Wall Street Journal by Brendan Minter on a link between fighting terrorism and men of faith.
A good omen on the horizon: I've been searching for a condo here in San Diego and there isn't much out there for someone who works at a newspaper. A second income would certainly help, but I have yet to find a woman willing to tie the knot.
Today's New York Times has an article on the affordable-housing crisis in the Northeast and -- surprise -- "nearly every major city in California."
There is a little message of hope for people like me who want to quit throwing money down a rathole -- aka paying rent.
But homeowners will ultimately be affected as well by the growing number of people priced out of hot housing areas. With fewer potential buyers entering the market at the bottom, the sharp run-up in home values may be nearing an end, not only here in Boston but also in New York, Denver, Minneapolis, nearly every large city in California, and other places where prices have greatly outstripped incomes.
Now, if the guy who's selling the condo I want would realize that and accept my very fair offer, I'd be happy.