Friday, December 30, 2005

Michael Crichton Speech On Media Accuracy

In early November, Michael Crichton gave a speech at the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy concerning media reporting accuracy. Actually, that wasn't the advertised topic of his speech. His speech is titled "Fear, Complexity, & Environmental Management in the 21st Century." The text of the speech, along with images of important slides, can be found on Crichton's web site. Its main focus is how the reporting about environmental concerns is fear-based. But my take-away from reading the speech (and I highly suggest you do--the whole thing is fascinating) was about media accuracy.

Explaining why he wrote his book, State of Fear, Crichton says:
The book really began in 1998, when I set out to write a novel about a global disaster. In the course of my preparation, I rather casually reviewed what had happened in Chernobyl, since that was the worst manmade disaster in recent times that I knew about.

What I discovered stunned me. Chernobyl was a tragic event, but nothing remotely close to the global catastrophe I imagined. About 50 people had died in Chernobyl, roughly the number of Americans that die every day in traffic accidents. I don’t mean to be gruesome, but it was a setback for me. You can’t write a novel about a global disaster in which only 50 people die.

Undaunted, I began to research other kinds of disasters that might fulfill my novelistic requirements. That’s when I began to realize how big our planet really is, and how resilient its systems seem to be. Even though I wanted to create a fictional catastrophe of global proportions, I found it hard to come up with a credible example.
When I read this, I must admit I was shocked to hear that only 50 people died at Chernobyl. The source for this number is a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which can be found in a large PDF file here. So why was my impression of Chernobyl so wrong? Perhaps it was the media.
The initial reports in 1986 claimed 2,000 dead, and an unknown number of future deaths and deformities occurring in a wide swath extending from Sweden to the Black Sea. As the years passed, the size of the disaster increased; by 2000, the BBC and New York Times estimated 15,000-30,000 dead, and so on…

Now, to report that 15,000-30,000 people have died, when the actual number is 56, represents a big error.


But, of course, you think, we’re talking about radiation: what about long-term consequences? Unfortunately here the media reports are even less accurate.

The chart shows estimates as high as 3.5 million, or 500,000 deaths, when the actual number of delayed deaths is less than 4,000.
As I said up top, there's a lot more to read in the full text of the speech that is quite eye-opening. But the section on Chernobyl was the most intriguing to me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Let's talk about Quebec

Back to posting on the ensuing Canadian election...

Quebec is somewhat of an anomaly in Canadian politics. In the rest of Canada (and much of the rest of the democratic world) a voter's choice is between left and right. In Quebec, however, the choice is essentially between the Bloc Quebecois, and the Liberals - between a free, soverign Quebec, and a Quebec as a province of Canada. In the last federal election in 2004, the Bloc got 49% of the popular vote, and the Liberals got 34% of the popular vote, with the remaining 17% being split between the Conservatives (9%), the NDP (5%), and the Greens (3%). None of the latter three won any seats in 2004, and the Bloc got 54 seats, and the Liberals got 21 seats.

Fast-forward to 2006. Two years later, the Gomery inquiry has been bad for the Liberals in all of Canada, but particularly in Quebec. The Bloc are up to 60% in popular support in Quebec, and the Liberals are down to a staggering 20%. Things are BAD for the Liberals in Quebec right now. I would think that the Liberals will hang on to the ten seats that they won by 5,000+ votes last time around - other than that, the Bloc will hang on to every seat and pick up all the other Liberal ones. Bloc +11 to 65 seats, Liberals -11 to 10 seats.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Letter From Father Whose Son Was KIA In Iraq

The Mudville Gazette has published a letter from a father whose son was killed in action in Iraq. I won't comment on the content and will only say the following. Mr. Stokely wanted his thoughts heard and I can only hope that by linking to his letter here, a few more people will indeed hear them.

You can read his letter here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Reactions to President Bush's Iraq War Speech

I didn't feel the need to watch the speech by President Bush last night for the simple reason that I didn't need any convincing that leaving Iraq prematurely was a bad idea. From reading reactions on the web, however, it seems that I missed a good speech.

Two good collections of reactions can be found at Instapundit and by Michelle Malkin.

One of the more interesting comments came from Glenn himself:
But one big thing struck me: In this national televised speech, Bush went out of his way to take responsibility for the war. He repeatedly talked about "my decision to invade Iraq," even though, of course, it was also Congress's decision. He made very clear that, ultimately, this was his war, and the decisions were his.

Why did he do that? Because he thinks we're winning, and he wants credit. By November 2006, and especially November 2008, he thinks that'll be obvious, and he wants to lay down his marker now on what he believed -- and what the other side did. That's my guess, anyway.
I think this analysis is spot on. I've said before that Iraq does not seem to be the best issue for the Democrats to rest all their election hopes on. Taking the stance that young American men and women soldiers are akin to terrorists and doomed to failure will never be a popular view, regardless of situation.

Apparently the speech was written and delivered well enough to convince proud Bush haters, who once wrote this:
There seem to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche. Nor is this phenomenon limited to my personal experience: Pollster Geoff Garin, speaking to The New York Times, called Bush hatred "as strong as anything I've experienced in 25 years now of polling." Columnist Robert Novak described it as a "hatred ... that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching."
and reacted to last night's speech with this:
I am not, to say the least, a fan of President Bush. But a portion of his speech tonight genuinely moved me and made me think more highly of him. It was the part where he addressed opponents of the Iraq war, said he understand their passion but asked that they think of the stakes of defeat now that the war had happened and asked that they not give in to despair. I cannot remember this president ever speaking to his political opponents except to mischaracterize their views and use them as a straw man. (His post-Florida speech did to some extent, but it was so vague and struck me as so patently disingenuous that it didn't produce any similar reaction in me.)

This may be easy for me to say because I supported the war and oppose withdrawal. But even Bush's prior pro-war speeches mostly struck me as simplistic, ugly and demagogic, reminders that I supported the war despite the administration rather than because of it. But this moment in his speech tonight really struck me as some kind of symbolic or emotional break from the past for Bush--a genuine attempt to unify Americans rather than polarize them. Bush and his supporters (both inside and outside the administration) have made it so damn hard to support them on this war. It just got a little easier tonight.
So again, all in all, it seems I missed a good speech. It does worry me that a political junkie such as myself decided not to watch the speech. If I chose not to watch it, how many people actually tuned in?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Update: Women's Rights In Iraq

In the past I've written about the prospects for women's rights in Iraq. The Iraqi public opinion poll that linked to yesterday provides some additional insight. The last question of the poll deals with the roll of women in the new Iraq society.
Q44 - Thinking about the role of women in public life, do you think that women should…
  • Vote (99.3%)
  • Be able to stand for Moukhtar (37.9%)
  • Be able to stand for public office such as member of a local council (77.2%)
  • Be able to stand for public office such as member of the national assembly (80.1%)
  • Be able to be Governor (50.7%)
  • Be able to be President (45.9%)
  • Be able to instruct men in their work (77.9%)
  • Be a (medical) doctor (98.5%)
  • Drive a car (84.1%)
The numbers in parentheses indicate 'yes' responses. I was unfamiliar with the term Moukhtar. My understanding (though a formal definition eludes me) is that it a cultural title, somewhat akin that of a village elder. The position is traditionally held by males, so it is unsurprising to me to see such a low percentage of respondent supporting women in that role.

Overall, I would say the results are mixed, but not surprising, except for one particular question. Almost unanimously (99.3%), respondents thought that women should have the right to vote. This result is so high that it makes me want to question the methodology of the poll. I doubt the number would be that high even in the U.S. or any western European countries.

A disappointing (in my opinion) percentage of people are in favor of women holding public office, especially a national post such as president. Still, for a heavily Islamic country, the results could have been far worse.

Finally, note that far more people are in favor of women voting (99.3%) or being doctors (98.5%) than driving cars (84.1%). Bad jokes aside, I really don't understand that result. Some people would be comfortable going under the knife of a female surgeon, but wouldn't trust driving home on the same roads with them? That makes little sense.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Iraqi Public Opinion Poll

Glenn at Instapundit has twice (here and here) posted links to people discussing a poll by Oxford Research International that attempts to measure Iraqi public opinion. A pdf file of the poll results can be found here.

The poll was rather extensive, and I'm still looking through the results. A few things jumped out at me during the first scan. (Sorry about the formatting, blogspot and tables don't mix it seems.)
Q34 - How safe do you feel in your neighbourhood. Do you feel very safe, not very safe or not safe at all?
  • Very safe (63.2%)
  • Not very safe (30.4%)
  • Not safe at all (5.5%)
  • Difficult to say (0.9%)
Well over half of the respondents feel "very safe" in their neighbourhood. I find this shocking. Imagine a similar poll of Americans; can you imagine 63% of people in America feeling "very safe" in Iraq?
Q33 - How long do you think U.S. and other Coalition Forces should remain in Iraq?
  • They should leave now (25.5%)
  • They should remain until security is restored (30.9%)
  • They should remain until the Iraqi government elected in December is in place (19.4%)
  • They should remain until the Iraqi security forces can operate independently (15.6% )
  • They should remain longer but leave eventually (3.2%)
  • They should never leave (1.3%)
  • Difficult to say (4.1%)
Note that the 2nd and 4th options are somewhat similar. Security is unlikely to be restored if the Iraqis cannot operate independently. In the same vein, there is little chance at security without an elected government in place (the 3rd option). So a vast majority of Iraqis are in favor of the security forces remaining until some measure of stability has been achieved.

Updates are likely as I study the results in more detail.

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Elections In Iraq

Voting has begun again in Iraq. Here are stories I could find at first glance.

Photoblogging from an Iraqi living in Omar. (Hat tip Instapundit.)

Michele Malkin, as usual, has a great list of links covering the story. I won't repeat all the links here, but I found this (somewhat unrelated) post particularly interesting.

Hugh Hewitt links to a list of Iraq polling places open in the U.S.

FoxNews covers the elections with a collection of links boxed on the left-hand side of the front page. The main article is here.

MSNBC doesn't cover the election specifically, but has a picture of President Bush with the headline of "Turning Point, Bush hails Iraq vote, denounces torture." Clicking on the picture leads to this article.

ABC news and CBS news had no mention of the elections.

CNN covers the elections by showing a picture of President Bush with a headline of "Bush: 30,000 Iraqis dead in war." The actual article is less biased than the headline, though. No media bias by CNN. Nope, none at all.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The biggest gaffe of the Canadian campaign so far

I was going to continue blogging about what the polls mean in different areas of the country, but we might have to throw out all the old polls after Scott Reid, the The Director of Communications for the Prime Minister of Canada made probably the worst mistake of any senior party operative during the young Canadian election campaign.

The issue behind this is child care. The Liberals have, as a policy in their platform, promised to legislate into existence a government-run child care system. Basically the government will fund a health care system that is either free or really cheap for working parents. The Conservatives have countered with a child tax credit, on the order of a $1200 credit per child given back to families to spend on their own on child care.

In a telephone interview today, Scott Reid criticized the Conservatives's plan, inferring that the Liberals care more for children than their own parents do, and therefore that the money is better in the hands of the government. Reid said in part: "Don't give people $25 a day to blow on beer and popcorn."

Wow. Just, wow.

The Canadian Election - who's going to win this, anyways?

Greetings – first, a big thank you to Dan Karipides for inviting me to blog in this space. Whether or not this is what he intended, for the next couple of months I’ll be primarily blogging on the upcoming Canadian election. As Dan indicated, on November 29th, the Governor-General of Canada dissolved the 38th Parliament, and issued a writ of election with a polling day of January 23, 2006.

I’m going to talk mostly about the recent polls, what they mean, and what we can expect in the general election. As in any Westminster system of government, should a party win greater than 50% of the seats (155 seats in this case), they’ll have a majority and will basically control the entire legislative agenda, as well as the entire cabinet, for the next four or so years. If no one gets 155 seats, then the Governor-General may ask some group of parties to try to form a coalition to govern, or she may simply ask the party with the plurality of seats to attempt to govern until they lose a “confidence vote”, meaning a money bill or an outright vote of non-confidence, which happened to the Liberals on November 28th. There are a number of polls out there, mostly giving a national breakdown of party preference, but since Canada uses a first-past-the-post system like the American Electoral College, regional voting preferences mean everything.

There are 308 ridings across the country. We’ll start in the east:

Atlantic Canada consists of the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador. There are 32 seats in total up for grabs here. In 2004, the Liberals got 44% of the popular vote in the region, the Conservatives got 30% of the popular vote, and the NDP got 23% of the vote. This got the Liberals 22 seats, the Conservatives 7 seats, and the NDP 3 seats.

SES Research currently has the Liberals polling at 50%, the Conservatives at 36%, and the NDP down to 11% in Atlantic Canada. Let’s start with the NDP, who are down by 12% from their last outing. Two of their three seats are in very NDP-safe areas where they aren’t vulnerable at all, Acadie-Bathurst (New Brunswick), and Sackville-Eastern Shore (Nova Scotia). Alexa McDonough just barely won Halifax (Nova Scotia) for the NDP last time around, and since they’re polling so much lower this time, I’ll give this seat to the Liberal challenger.

Since the Liberals and Conservatives are polling close to the same relative to each other, I’ll say the other 29 ridings are a wash at this point. The biggest unknown at this point is what will happen the rest of the campaign – just as in the United States, six weeks in a political campaign is an eternity.

My prediction (for now): Liberals +1 to 23 seats, Conservatives even at 7 seats, NDP minus 1 to two seats.

Stay tuned for my predictions in Quebec, Ontario, and the rest of Canada!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Welcome Stephen Young

No, I'm not referring to Steve Young the football player; the Internet Freedom Trail is not branching out in to the world of sports blogging. I do, however, want to welcome Steve Young to the Internet Freedom Trail team.

You'll find out more about Steve via his posts, but as a quick introduction, I think the following quote will tell you all you need to know. Steve is Canadian and I asked him once how many conservatives there are in Canada. His answer? "There are about 12 or so conservatives in Canada and I think I have 10 of them on my ICQ list." I'm not sure what exactly a conservative Canadian will choose to write about, politically, but I am interested to find out.

Welcome, Steve.

Afghans Optimistic About The Future

There's a fascinating report at ABCNews (hat tip Instapundit) that investigates the opinions of the citizens of Afghanistan 4 years after the fall of the Taliban. (The poll is the first national survey sponsored by a news organization.) The entire report is interesting, so I suggest you read the whole thing. Particularly noteworthy were these two poll question results:
Public Attitudes in Afghanistan -- Current Direction?
Right Direction: 77%
Wrong Direction: 6%

U.S.-Led Overthrow of Taliban
Good Thing: 87%
Bad Thing: 9%
Now remember, two or so years ago, Michael Moore and company were making movies about how Afghanistan was a quagmire, and would only get worse.

Remember this report the next time you hear some politician argue it is time to cut and run in Iraq. Remember this report the next time Howard Dean says the war in Iraq is not winnable.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Positive Coverage of President Bush At CNN

No, you didn't read that subject line incorrectly. After Howard Dean's inflammatory comments yesterday, President Bush immediately countered with a speech of his own. I'm still shocked at the manner in which CNN has covered the response. They chose the headline "Bush: 'Amazing Progress' in Iraq." The following four links are available under the article:
Interactive: Highlights of Bush strategy for Iraq
Normally I would expect you could watch the Democratic response, the chart would be of U.S. casualties by month, and the interactive would have something to do with his sinking approval ratings. What exactly is going on here?

As the last piece of evidence, CNN is infamous for using unflattering pictures of Bush, featuring odd hand gestures and awkward open-mouth captures. However the one they chose today looks quite presidential.

Perhaps the outrageous comments by Kerry and Dean have called for a more subdued response by CNN. I have my doubts if this type of coverage will continue, but even the single occurence was noteworthy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Battle Lines Drawn Over Iraq Politics

It would appear that the leading members of the Democratic Party have gotten together and decided to step-up the anti-war, anti-Iraq rhetoric. On December 4, John Kerry was on Face the Nation on CBS where he called U.S. soldiers terrorists.
You've got to begin to transfer authority to the Iraqis. And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the--of--the historical customs, religious customs.
Yesterday, Howard Dean was a guest on a Texas radio station where he stated that the U.S. cannot win the war in Iraq.
Dean said he wished President Bush "had paid more attention to the history of Iraq before we had gotten in there."

"The idea that we are going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," he said.

How politically brain dead can someone be? There are many valid reasons that one might oppose the war in Iraq. Or oppose any war, for that matter. I know many people that truly are pacifists, and firmly and passionately believe that war is never the answer. I don't agree with these people, but they are free to believe, think, and say what they will and I respect their right to do so.

Why is it that others can't stop there? Opposing the war in Iraq doesn't make U.S. soldiers evil terrorists. Opposing the war in Iraq doesn't mean that it has to be doomed to failure from the beginning. Do they really think they can gain political favor with the majority of the country by making statements like the ones above? I'm sure parents whose children are serving in Iraq are most pleased to hear Kerry call their sons and daughters terrorists.

From a political junkie's perspective, I'll be fascinated to see if this approach is as disastrous as I think it will be. It is interesting to note that the Democratic Party as a whole can't seem to get aligned on this issue. Murtha put forth a withdrawal deadline bill, but when a vote was forced everyone voted against it. Lieberman wrote about the progress he has witnessed in Iraq and now there is a bizarre call by Democrats for Bush to replace Rumsfield with Lieberman.

Perhaps I have too much faith in the U.S. population as a whole, but I can't believe these hyperbolic, negative rants by some members of the party mixed with supportive statements by other members and a lack of consistency from all is an effective strategy for the Democratic party.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The 4th Annual Warblogger Awards

John Hawkings, at Right Wing News, has posted the results of the 4th Annual Warblogger Awards. In addition to just being interesting to see what blogs are popular, I found it a good source for some new blogs to read. In particular, I'm always on the lookout for palatable left-of-center blogs, finding Kos and such to be unreadable. So this category was intriguing to me:
Favorite Left-Of-Center Blogger
3) Matthew Yglesias (3)
3) Harry's Place (No blogger specified) (3)
3) Norm Geras from Normblog (3)
2) Mickey Kaus from Kausfiles(7)
1) Kevin Drum from Political Animal(8)
I did find it interesting the Instapundit won "Best Blog Round-Up Site" and "Best Linker", came in second in "The Best Blog Overall", and yet also won "Most Overrated Blog". I don't understand.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

MoveOn Caught Altering Photos In Anti-Iraq Ad

A couple of days ago, MoveOn was caught with a silly mistake in an anti-Iraq ad shown over the Thanksgiving holiday. The ad bemoans "A hundred and fifty thousand American men and women are stuck in Iraq," while showing this scene.

It turns out that these are British soldiers, not U.S. troops. Note specifically the one soldier in shorts, which is not a typical U.S. combat uniform. I did find it humorous that the good people of MoveOn, who are so concerned with the welfare of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq, can't even take the time to identify them. However I didn't consider it blog-worthy until I saw this follow-up (hat tip Instapundit).

It seems that MoveOn posted a still of the video on the web site and digitally altered the soldier in shorts to be wearing pants.

I detest digitally altered photographs used in news stories. But I find this alteration baffling. Why did they remove shorts? Did they know the still wasn't of U.S. troops? If so, why didn't they find some footage of U.S. troops--it can't be hard to acquire.

MoveOn has pulled the anti-Iraq ad admits the criticism.
James Taranto, the author of the column, wrote that the Army captain was "an old friend" of his who emailed with his criticism. The captain was quoted as calling the TV ad "completely offensive" and "a Bush-bashing ad" that "shows turkey and crying wives and blames Bush for it all."

As "the idiots from ... pretend to argue on my behalf, they show a group of soldiers standing around a table in the Middle East," the captain reportedly wrote and added that the individuals in the photo were "actually British soldiers.

"One is in shorts (we don't have shorts as a normal combat uniform), and the others are all clearly wearing British pattern fatigues," the Army captain wrote, noting that people at "don't even know what an American soldier looks like!"
The Opinion Journal wonders if MoveOn's dishonesty is simply pathological. I'm tempted to agree.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Congressional Views Of Iraq

A couple of congressmen have made their views on Iraq known in the past few days and both cases are unusual. First up is Joe Lieberman who, after returning from a trip to Iraq, wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal titled, "Our Troops Must Stay." The whole thing is a fabulous read, so follow the link and read it now. If nothing else, read this section--and remember Lieberman is a Democrat who was once a vice-presidential candidate.
Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
This wouldn't be shocking if written by a Republican, of course. They could simply be labeled as a party-man, echoing what the White House wants them to echo. What would be Lieberman's alterative motive, other than an honest assessment?

The second quote comes from a Representative from Georgia, Jack Kingston. Kingston had this to say:
We just left Iraq. As expected, the trip was a great success.

First and foremost: the war that we saw is not the same war that we are reading in the media everyday. In fact, our soldiers are very frustrated that the media is only reporting the bad news instead of highlighting the progress being made.

Our troops are in high spirits and are doing well. Their morale is high, and they are proud of the work that they are doing.
The first thing to note is that the link for this quote goes to Kingston's own blog. It is interesting to see a Congressman author a blog. What I found more interesting is the Kingston is a guest blogger at Redstate, where the full text of his quote can be found. Note that the blog entry doesn't link to the full quote of the Congressman--it is the source of the full quote. If any mainstream media outlet chose the cover the story (unlikely, of course) we would have MSM referencing a blog instead of the other way around. You might find that surprising; I call it foreshadowing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Canadian Government Falls

Imagine my surprise, just two days ago, when I was having lunch with a Canadian friend and he tells me, "The Canadian government is set fall this week." Excuse me? There was a little media attention given to the scandal the ruling Liberal party suffered a few months ago, but they seemed to weather the storm with little damage.

Of course, not 24 hours later, CNN was announcing that scandal had toppled the Canadian government. As with the situation in Germany, I find myself in the interesting position of trying to understand a notable event in a country whose politics I am woefully ignorant.

To understand the details of Canadian politics, a good place to start is Captain's Quarters Blog, where Ed has commented on the fall of the government here and here. In the second post, I learned that Canadian politics are much like U.S. politics in one way--contradicting and biased polls. The commentary suggests that the lead in popularity the Liberals have enjoyed for many years is shrinking; time will tell if this analysis is correct.

One detail that I cannot find in articles about the event is something my friend mentioned to me. Because of the no confidence vote, a general election will be held, likely near the end of January. If the Conservatives win a plurality, they will of course be asked form a new government (partnering with a minority party). But there is a tradition that if a party looses a no confidence vote and then fails to get a majority in the subsequent election, then the party with the second most votes is asked to form the government. Thus, if the Liberal party gets a plurality but not a majority in the January elections, the Conservatives will still be asked to form the government.

I have yet to verify how binding this tradition is. As of yet, I have been unable to find any mention of it in mainstream media news articles or blogs. It would seem an important point, so I would expect to read more about it. In any event, the whole system makes the Electoral College seem simple, at least to this American.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Book Signing

Over at a blog called Sweetness & Light, there is a post about a Cindy Sheehan book signing, held in Crawford, Texas. I think it is safe to say that Ms. Sheehan's 15-minutes of fame are up.

There are more pictures at the original post. There, the author wonders why the AP let such pictures out, expecting them to crop the picture to hide the reality of the situation. Later, this update was posted, showing the picture Reuters used to cover the story:

What media bias?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Anti-Bush Insanity From A Teacher

I've said it before but it bears saying again: the Democrats obsession with being anti-Bush is going to cost them elections in the future. Bush is no longer going to run for public office. He is President for the next three years, and then his political career is over. Continuing to hammer on Bush is a waste of money and energy. A focus on different ideas and policies would be much more effective in gaining seats in the coming elections.

Case in point--a teacher in Vermont whose choice of words in a vocabulary quiz have caused an uproar.
One example: "I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes." "Coherent" is the right answer.
The superintendent, Wesley Knapp, is acting professionally:
School Superintendent Wesley Knapp said he was taking the situation seriously.

"It's absolutely unacceptable," Knapp said. "They (teachers) don't have a license to hold forth on a particular standpoint."
The teacher, Bret Chenkin, is continues to be clueless:
Chenkin, 36, a teacher for seven years, said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students as a way of prompting debate, but said the quizzes are being taken out of context.

"The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek." But he said he would change his teaching methods if some are concerned.

"I'll put in both sides," he said. "Especially if it's going to cause a lot of grief."
Perhaps if Chenkin would think about it, he would realize that childish insults do not foster real debate. And promising to insult each side equally is not the solution.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CNN X's Dick Cheney

I originally was going to ignore this story, but it is has gotten interesting enough recently to merit a mention. At 11 am on Monday morning of this week, CNN was airing speech by Vice President Cheney live when this image was seen.

This was first reported, I believe, at the Drudge Report. As one might expect, this appears to have been a technical malfunction. (If you look closely under the X, you can see some black text.) A follow-up has been posted by Drudge, with this quote by CNN:
It involved a switcher, something we call a switcher. It's a machine that we use to switch between visual elements.

Now, that glitch resulted in that 'X' that you saw being flashed briefly across the screen as the vice president was speaking.
There would be little more to say, except for additional developments being covered at Daily Pundit. There's a whole timeline of events to read there if you are so interested. The quick summary is that a viewer called into CNN asking for an explanation of the X. The response she received was staggering. The CNN representative claimed that X'ing out the Vice President was defensible and an example of free speech. This representative has since been fired by CNN.
A Turner switchboard operator was fired today after we were alerted to a conversation the operator had with a caller in which the operator lost his temper and expressed his personal views -- behavior that was totally inappropriate. His comments did not reflect the views of CNN. We are reaching out to the caller and expressing our deep regret to her and apologizing that she did not get the courtesy entitled to her.
I'm of the mind to believe that everything is as it seems; the appearance of the X was the result of a technical glitch and the switchboard operator that claimed otherwise did not speak the truth or speak for the network.

The entire incident does not improve my already weak impression of CNN's professionalism.

Monday, November 21, 2005

France Is No Longer Johnny Depp's Utopia

I saw this story about Johnny Depp linked from Ann Althouse this weekend. If you will recall, Johnny Depp moved to France because he couldn't stand life in America. He has been quoted as saying this:
France, and the whole of Europe have a great culture and an amazing history. Most important thing though is that people there know how to live! In America they've forgotten all about it. I'm afraid that the American culture is a disaster.
and this:
America is dumb, it's like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive. My daughter is four, my boy is one. I'd like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out.
After the riots in France, he is now saying this:
I went there (to France) to live because it seemed so simple

Now it's anything but. I don't know how they'll recover from this.
Apparently, he's now considering moving from France. I'm not sure where he'll move next, but I feel genuinely sorry for Mr. Depp. I've sometimes described extreme modern liberalism as naivete. (I've yet to come up with as succinct and hopefully just as unflattering description of extreme modern conservatism.)

Many idealistic people such as Depp are looking for a perfect society, where people treat each other well by choice, where there is no crime, no violence, and where everyone is accepted for who and what they are. Sadly, such a society does not exist. Differences in race, religion, socioeconomic standing, and countless other factors lead to many unpleasant things in society that Mr. Depp wishes weren't true.

I wish him luck in finding his Utopia. The rest of us would be better served trying to make a difference in the real world in which we live.

Friday, November 18, 2005

CNN On Housing Prices

CNN has an article about October home sales, the effects of higher interest rates, and the possible end of the housing boom. I'm not as interested in the article as I am in this one paragraph (bold emphasis mine):
The housing starts report contains no information on home prices. A separate government report last month showed that the median price for a new home fell 6 percent in September to $215,700. Half the homes sold for more than the median and half for less.
Really? This quote is classic for two reasons. I can't tell if the author, Chris Isidore, is trying to define the term "median" for his readers or he doesn't understand it. Additionally, after pointing out half the homes sold above the median price, he feels the need to tell us how the other half of the homes sold.

Anyway, a little math humor to brighten you day. (For the half of you, at least, whose math skills are above the median.)

FEC: Blogs Are Press

I haven't posted much on this subject, but there has been great fear that internet traffic would be regulated in ways that other media are not. I was therefore very happy to see this report at Redstate that details a recent FEC decision which puts many of these fears to rest.

I have not followed the case in detail; if you are interested in the finer points, the Redstate article has a number of links. The quick summary is that an internet web site (Fired Up!) was found to be entitled same press exemption to campaign finance laws as the more traditional media outlets such as print and television.

This is one more example, in my opinion, of blogs chipping away at the old media. What you are seeing is just the beginning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Frustration In Being A Moderate?

One thing that has struck me since I've started blogging is how much energy people on the extremes of the political spectrum have. For example, the media just doesn't push its agenda once and a while. It pushes it every day, in multiple ways. As soon as one biased story looses public appeal, another way to push the agenda is found. And the phenomenon isn't limited to the left. People on the right don't cry out against abortion occasionally; they do so every day, at every opportunity. Their stance seems to grow from performing abortions is immoral, through talking about abortions is wrong, all the way to thinking about abortions must be stopped.

As someone in the middle (right of center, but still way in the middle) of the political spectrum, I find it hard to keep up. How many times can I point out media bias? It isn't going to stop and most people don't seem to care or even much notice. For every logical argument I can put forth, there are a hundred people spewing forth biased arguments to the contrary.

I've thought about this for a while, but decided to write about it today when I noticed this post over at Instapundit. In it, Glenn responds to criticism he has received for (in Glenn's words): "...having the temerity to suggest that it's wrong for the press to peddle falsehoods about the war." While I agree with Glenn that the criticism is ridiculous, what struck me was the nature of Glenn's response. It was two large paragraphs, hastily typed as he was getting on a plane, complete with a "taht" instead of "that" typo. This from a man who can usually get his point across with a well-timed "Heh." I can't help but think that Glenn gets at least a little frustrated being the Libertarian in the middle, as it were.

I have no real solution for myself other than to keep on blogging and see how it goes. I'm sure showing weakness isn't a good tactical move, but I must admit that it does get tiring, day-to-day, keeping up with people with extreme views with a seemingly limitless energy to push them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Continued Pushback Against Democrats On Iraq

It is now becoming evident that Bush's speech criticizing a revisionist's view of Iraq was not a one-time event. (Some feared this would be so.)

Thoughts and updates from: Instapundit (here, here, and here), Polipundit, Michele Malkin, Ankle Biting Pundits, BlogsForBush, and RedState.

Not surprisingly, Kos is mute on the subject. He does suggest Kerry is the wrong choice to debate the President on Iraq. It is rare that I agree with Kos on something. Kos picked this quote:
On Friday, Bush challenged Kerry to answer whether he would support the war "knowing what we know now" about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that U.S. and British officials were certain were there.

In response, Kerry said: "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have."
No mention of this story on CNN, MSNBC, or ABS news. Odd isn't it? Every Democratic slam of Bush makes front page news for them. But when the slams are revealed as lies, it's time to talk about Alito and abortion. Props to CBS news which has this editorial linked on their front page. What about FoxNews you ask? Surely they are trumpeting Bush's message, right? After all, they are nothing but cheerleader for the Republican Party. Right? Wrong. Their only mention of Bush's round of comments is an editorial that rips the President for trying to shift the blame to the Democrats. It is under the "Only on Fox" section. Fair and balanced, indeed.

My biggest fear with this counterattack is that it is all based on actual quotes and reminders of what really happened. It doesn't have any catchy rhyming slogans like "Bush Lied, People Died." And if you can't chant it in a protest, can it really be true?

Monday, November 14, 2005

African-American French Rioters

As noted by Michele Malkin, CNN anchor Carol Lin referred to two teenage rioters in Paris as African-American. This would be OK, except that they are French, not American.

LeShawn Barber wishes people would stop calling him African-American (scroll down, it is an update on the linked post). He is proudly American and doesn't appreciate the term.

This all reminded me of a discussion on a college hockey mailing list some years ago. Someone asked how many African-American college hockey players played for Division I programs in the U.S. The immediate answer was four. Then some one pointed out that the correct answer was actually one, as three of the "African-Americans" were actually "African-Canadians".

Senator Rockefeller And Lack Of Personal Responsibility

I'm often asked by friends if I want to "get into politics". It's a subtle suggestion that I should stop writing about it and start getting involved in a more direct way. When I see the behavior of other politicians, however, I can't help but think that these are people that I don't really want to work with on daily basis.

Case in point is Senator Jay Rockefeller. Senator Rockefeller was interviewed by Chris Wallace. You can read the exchange at Power Line, and reaction at Captain's Quarters and Just One Minute. I highly suggest you read all the details there, but the quick summary is that Senator Rockefeller seems to have no regard for taking responsibility of his actions.

From Oct 2002:
There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources -- something that is not that difficult in the current world. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.
At this point, America’s best opportunity to move the United Nations and Iraq to a peaceful resolution of this crisis is by making clear the U.S. is prepared to act on our own, if necessary, as one nation, indivisible. Sometimes the rest of the world looks to America not just for the diversity of our debate, or the vitality of our ideals, but for the firm resolve that the world’s leader must demonstrate if intractable global problems are to be solved.
These aren't quotes of President Bush, though I imagine if you told 1000 people that they were, 99% of them would agree with you. So what is Senator Rockefeller saying now?
WALLACE: But you voted, sir, and aren't you responsible for your vote?


WALLACE: You're not?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: No. I'm responsible for my vote, but I'd appreciate it if you'd get serious about this subject, with all due respect. We authorized him to continue working with the United Nations, and then if that failed, authorized him to use force to enforce the sanctions. We did not send 150,000 troops or 135,000 troops. It was his decision made probably two days after 9/11 that he was going to invade Iraq. That we did not have a part of, and, yes, we had bad intelligence, and when we learned about it, I went down to the floor and said I would never have voted for this thing.
This exchange shows why some people are just not cut out to be leaders. He freely admits he had access to mountains of intelligence and, after careful review, came to the same conclusion that President Bush did. When the intelligence turned out to be incorrect, he wishes he could go back and change what he decided. Being a leader is not about agonizing over past decision when you get new information. Being a leader is about acting in the most appropriate manner with the information you have available at the time. Being a leader is having the faith and confidence to make difficult decisions and acting when actions are needed.

I am glad to see this continued strategy of "Bush tricked us!" by the Democrats is being questioned by the media. I'm sure it won't get the attention of a good sex scandal, but it's a start at least.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush Slams False Iraq Accusations

I've been baffled as to why President Bush hasn't called out the crazy accusations regarding the Iraq war. He's finally done so, in a speech he gave today.
While it is perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.

These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs. They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: 'When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security.' That's why more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.
The response appears to have been positive, even outside the right-wing cheering section. Notably, Glenn an Instapundit reacts, noting he has been calling for this for a long time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Agenda By The Media

I just had to laugh at the top headline this morning:
Today's elections could reflect GOP struggles
If that headline doesn't seem strange to you, let me suggest an alternate headline.
Today's elections could show GOP struggles were largely fabricated by the media
I wonder what stories they will choose to cover tonight. They wouldn't focus primarily on elections where the Republican candidate lost, would they? Why are you laughing?

DARPA Funding Solar Cell Research

So many scientific and engineering advances have their roots in either military or space programs. I was excited to read that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is funding research in to solar cell efficiency.
The Darpa program calls upon the consortium to develop and produce 1,000 Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) prototypes that are affordable and that operate at efficiencies of at least 50 percent. Currently, high-end solar cells operate at a peak efficiency of 24.7 percent, and solar cells off the production line operate at 15-20 percent efficiency.

The consortium’s goal is to create solar cells that operate at about 54 percent efficiency in the laboratory and 50 percent in production.

The VHESC would have immediate application in the military, which increasingly relies upon a variety of electronics for individual soldiers and the equipment that supports them. As well, it is expected the solar cells will have a large number of commercial applications.
DARPA's informational page on the program can be found here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More On New York Times And Starr

I'm pleased to see that the NYT is continuing to receive criticism for its blatant manipulation of Corporal Starr. The story is being covered at Instapundit, so hopefully many more people are aware of the NYT's behavior.

Michele Malkin notes that the Times continues to refuse to apologize for its misleading quotes.

I really have nothing more to add except to repeat what I've already said. If you have a subscription to the New York Times, please cancel it now.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

CNN Wishes About Alito Clear From Headline

On the right side of today, in the More News section, is this ominous headline, "'Gang of 14' tries to avoid break-up over Alito." Sounds like the Alito nomination is headed for trouble, right?

Of course, if you click the link, the actual headline of the article is, "Two of 'Gang of 14' say Alito filibuster unlikely."

In the actual article we find:
After the group's first meeting on Alito, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colorado, told reporters there was "a sense that we're still together and keeping this a civil and orderly process at this point."

He said the Gang of 14 "is not going to blow up."

"I don't know a single Democrat who is saying that it's time for a filibuster, that we should really consider it," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said after meeting with Alito on Wednesday. "It's way too early."
It doesn't seem there is a break-up to avoid at all. Careful CNN, your agenda is showing.

President Carter Agrees With President Bush

Well, at least he use to. I found this bit of investigative blog reporting fascinating (hat top Instapundit). Over at the Generation Why blog, Jason has found two quotes by President Carter that are quite revealing. The first is a more recent quote:
"The Bush Administration's prewar claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction were manipulated, at least to mislead the American people."
That is what President Carter said yesterday, November 2, 2005. But what did he have to say about Saddam Hussein two and half years ago?
"We want Saddam Hussein to disarm but we want to achieve this through peaceful means. He obviously has the capability and desire to build prohibited weapons and probably has some hidden in his country."
That quote is from President Carter on February 18, 2003. So obviously President Carter has changed his mind. But it is hard to take his new criticism seriously when he agreed with President Bush earlier.

The saddest part of this is the he seems just to be recanting the "Bush Lied, People Died" nonsense. President Carter had always been a man of principle and a man of peace. I emphasized the word "peaceful" in the second quote, above. Even back then, when he agreed that Saddam Hussein had the "capability and desire" to use such weapons, he was urging a peaceful solution. I may not agree with that approach, but I can certainly respect it. It was an approach that was very consistent with how he led his life and I find it genuine.

This latest attack on President Bush I do not.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Misplaced Criticism of Bush's Avian Flu Plan

When Bush announced his plan for preparing the U.S. for an avian flu pandemic, which called for Congress to approve $7.1B, I expected to hear an outcry. Bush spends money too freely! What about a balanced budget? He's going to have to raise taxes! The war has cost too much!

Well, there's been an outcry and criticism. Only it wasn't what I expected. The problem with the plan, it seems, is that it is too little, too late.
Critics said the U.S. government was slow to act. "It should have happened five years ago," said Dr. Allan Rosenfield, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York.
Hillary Clinton also has decided that Bush hasn't been spending enough money.
U.S. Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton noted that the United States has struggled to cope with the annual influenza outbreaks. "Since 2000, we have experienced three shortages of seasonal influenza vaccine," she said in a statement.

"While it is welcome news that the administration is focused on vaccine research and stockpiling in the event of a pandemic flu, the question is how will the administration handle distribution and communications with a system that has failed to meet seasonal flu vaccine demands in three out of the last five years?"
I realize that people are genuinely concerned about the avian flu. But one can't complain the government is too big and at the same time complain that not enough is being done.

NY Times Refuses To Apologize For Starr Misquote

A few days ago, I was shocked at the Times, where they mangled the quote in a letter of a fallen U.S. soldier, Corporal Starr.

Michelle Malkin continues to follow up on the story and the NY Times refuses to apologize for their behavior. Their response is snide and treats the issue with a "you don't understand" attitude.
It is true that the article did not quote everything that Corporal Starr said in his e-mail, like his reference to Iraqi freedom, any more than it quoted everything said by all the others quoted in the article, who represented all sorts of shades of opinion. But the article was completely fair in its representation of the views of Corporal Starr and his father.
Their attempt at a justification lies, oddly, in this part of the original article:
"Mrs. Jones, 26, said she struggled at first to contain her anger that her husband was sent to Iraq instead of Germany. But she has consoled herself with the conviction that he died for a cause he supported. And she firmly rejects the antiwar protests of Cindy Sheehan, saying they dishonor the fallen. ''I hope she doesn't have my husband's name on a cross,'' Mrs. Jones said. ''My husband, if he had a choice, that's how he would want to die. As a soldier.''
The point is, apparently, that the views of a different family (the Jones family) are pro-war and were represented accurately. Thus, the article was fair because it showed both sides of the issue. Excuse me? What the reporter found were two soldiers, both dead, that both supported the cause for which they died. So he twisted the quote of one of them so that he could present both sides of the issue. This is good journalism?

I stand by what I said in my original post. Please cancel your New York Times subscription. They deserve none of your money or your support.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Harry Reid's Confusing Supreme Court Comment

There's been a lot of comments leading up to and since the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court, but none so baffling as this gem for Harry Reid:
"I think the American people can see through this so clearly. The president should come forward with some middle-of-the-road person, somebody that is going to be a good Supreme Court justice, not somebody that's going to be writing the law from the bench," Reid told ABC's "This Week."
Does he really mean this? This is the number one conservative requirement for a nominee. It is the basis for their attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. More justices with this philosophy mean a reduced scope for the federal government.

Does Reid really want these things? Does he speak for all Democrats? If so, why do both sides talk and act like they are preparing for war?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Media Continues To Sink Lower

Quote from CBS's John Roberts (no, not the chief justice):
So, Scott, you said that -- or the President said, repeatedly, that Harriet Miers was the best person for the job. So does that mean that Alito is sloppy seconds, or what?
Does it help that they are apologizing now?

Jason, over at Polipundit, is fond of calling the Democrats the Mediacrats, in a not-so-subtle swipe at the Democratic Party and the mainstream media often working together on most issues. I usually think such comments are childish and just server to lower what should be a meaningful debate over political issues. But maybe he's on to something...

Reaction To Alito Nomination: How Times Have Changed

By now I'm sure you've heard that Samuel Alito has been nominated by President Bush. I'm still reading reactions and biographical information on Judge Alito, but one thing has struck me initially.

The left is going ape over the nomination, with Harry Reid threatening a filibuster. Not all of the Gang of 14 agree with that view, so it is unclear at this point whether Reid's comments are once again an empty threat. But what I find amazing is how much the tenor of the debate between Republicans and Democrats has changed in the last 15 years. The Bench section of the National Review (which has pages and pages on the nomination) had three quick posts here:
Approved unanimously for the federal Court of Appeals judge by Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, and unanimously by the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee, in 1990.
and here:
Ted Kennedy on Alito, from 1990

Alito has “a distinguished record” ... “[w]e look forward to supporting you.”
and here:
Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.): Alito is “the kind of judge the public deserves — one who is impartial, thoughtful, and fair.”
Things will definitely different this time around. How times have changed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

NY Times: Completely Biased And Utterly Despicable

Michelle Malkin has a truly frightening post about the depths to which the New York Times will sink to push its agenda. I highly suggest you read the whole thing, but just in case you don't, I'll summarize here.

When the NYT celebrated the death toll in Iraq hitting 2,000, they published this quote from a letter that Corporal Jeffery Starr sent to his girlfriend before his death:
"I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."
Seems horrible, doesn't it? A young man who feels his own death approaching. However, Starr's uncle wrote to Malkin, asking if she would publish the more complete quote from the letter. She did so in the post above. Here's the complete quote:
"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
His uncle then added:
What Jeffrey said is important. Americans need to understand that most of those who are or have been there understand what's going on. It would honor Jeffrey's memory if you would publish the rest of his story.
Michele Malkin's blog will reach far more people, but I'm happy to do what I can to make sure Jeffery's true thoughts are known to as many as possible.

The unmitigated gall of the New York Times to take the dying words of a proud fallen soldier and twist them to their own design is disgusting. There are many people who think that the war in Iraq is unjust and doomed. To the New York Times, I say quote those people in your worthless tabloid. Leave the writings of honorable men and the truth alone.

Rarely do I agree with Bill O'Reilly, but I must say I have had enough. If you have a subscription to the New York Times, please cancel it now. If you are a member of their moronic pay-to-view online version, please cancel it now. The only thing the editors at the times care about more then shoving their agenda down the throats of every reader is money. Don't give them any more of yours.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Media Capitalizes On Miers Withdrawal

My initial reaction to the Miers nomination withdrawal was a prediction that the media (and the Democratic Party) would point to it as an indication of a critical weakness in the Republican Party.

It took about 6 hours for my prediction to come true.

Miers Withdraws Nomination

Harrier Miers has asked that her nomination to the Supreme Court be withdrawn and President Bush has accepted.

Reactions are everywhere of course: BlogsForBush, Polipundit, Redstate, Hedgehog Report, Althouse, Instapundit, Powerline, Captain's Quarters and Hugh Hewitt. I'm sure the moonbats at Kos are going ape, but I've long since gone to that site.

Most of the reaction has already turned to who the next nominee will be. People are calling for another Roberts or someone to unite the base. The problem with that last one is that the Republican base (just like the Democratic base) is not a monolithic block. For some an ultra religious, ultra conservative who will cause an epic fight in the Senate will unite them. Fiscal conservatives who call themselves Republicans might not feel unity in the face of such a nominee.

The most important part of this story has been for the most part ignored. Conservatives are so happy the nomination has been withdrawn they yet to see the gigantic opportunity this has created for the Democrats (and the media). Expect to see the word lame duck being used frequently in the coming articles. If Bush picks an explosive nominee that is successfully filibustered, many will suggest (gleefully) that nothing else he wants to accomplish for the next 3.25 years will be passed by the Senate. The media won't suggest this weakens the Republican Party; it will print as fact every day that this has destroyed it. Conservative bloggers will express outrage at the articles, but they should hardly be surprised.

The only potential upside to the Republican Party is this scenario. The seeming weakness in the Republicans (and Democrats will see it as much larger than it is) will allow those in the far left of the Democratic party to push things farther left. Every indication is that a more moderate Democrat is much more likely to be successful. So if a Kos-supported candidate gets a nomination, this whole Miers nomination debacle could end up helping the Republican Party.

But it is going to be a long, ugly road in either case.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

USA Today Alters Condoleezza Rice Photo

This is now common practice, but bloggers have caught USA Today altering a photo of Condoleezza Rice to make her look, well, demonic. Many people have covered the story in the blogosphere; one person who took up the fight the hardest was Michelle Malkin.

The good news is that under pressure from Malkin and others, USA Today has switched the photo to the unaltered version. An editor's note now precedes the article:
Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.
I'm a photographer in my spare time and there really is no way that sharpening can have this effect. Here's the unaltered photograph:

Here's the altered version:

Just to check, I loaded the unaltered version and applied way too much sharpening to it.

These are small images, but you can see that while there are horrible artifacts, you don't really get the demon eyes. The altered USA Today image has more pronounced eyes and none of the other sharpening artifacts (look at the cheeks, for example). More on how this can't be sharpening in the Malkin post. Maybe USA Today uses a special Halloween sharpening algorithm? Or maybe, just maybe, the story in USA Today was about the war and the media has an agenda? Nah, can't be.

Blacks in Baseball

The same week that civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks dies, the Associated Press provides a report on the number of black players in Major League Baseball. The headline is "Astros first W.S. team in 52 years without black player".

First off, this article shows how far we have come in this country. The last World Series team without a black player was the NY Yankees in 1953. At that point, just six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, the team had never employed a single black player. Half a century later we're no longer concerned about prejudice preventing an individual from taking full advantage of his gifts and participating in society. No serious person believes that the Astros have no black players because they are racist. Today the concern is whether we have the "right" number of each group in a given profession and how to achieve that elusive goal, even when the causes may have very little to do with race.

Second, I fail to see how the lack of blacks in MLB is a "huge, huge problem for baseball", as Astros GM Tim Purpura is quoted as saying. At this point in time professional sports are about as close to a meritocracy as anything is in our society. People of all races have the opportunity to play if they're good enough to be there. Even if there are pockets of lingering racism in sports (and no doubt there are) there are enough open minded executives to sign and play anyone who can hit a ball, or throw a pass, or shoot a basket.

I agree that if there truly is "a perception among African-American kids that they're not welcome here, that baseball is not for inner-city kids," as Joe Morgan says then this is a problem. You want your talent pool to be as broad as possible and the same goes for your customer base. But I wonder if the lack of interest in baseball in cities has more to do with the development of organized youth sports in this country than anything else. Growing up in the city I played stickball or pickup games in the streets or school yards. These days there is more of an emphasis on organized leagues, with uniforms and coaches and facilities and away from pickup sports for fun. It's a lot harder for a kid growing up in a city, where space is short, to play baseball when there's a perception that you have to have all of the trappings rather than just playing with what you've got.

I can also understand how a great ballplayer like Morgan can be very disappointed when the community he identifies with doesn't embrace the sport that he loves. I hate the fact that baseball is no longer the prime sport in this country. But this is a marketing problem, not a race problem.

CNN's Online Poll on Casualties

In a post yesterday, Dan pointed out CNN's online poll on how many casualties did people expect when the war in Iraq began. I think it's worth pointing out that as of Tuesday morning with 227,445 votes cast 73% say they did expect this many casualties. There's no way to determine how many of these people expected the doomsday scenarios in 2003 (house to house fighting in Baghdad, massive US casualties from the start) or how many simply understand that deaths are inevitable in wartime. Either way it's clear that a large percentage of respondents are not shocked at the number 2000 in the way that the folks at CNN no doubt hope.

CNN Celebrates 2,000 Deaths In Iraq

CNN was in rare form yesterday. The news of 2,000 U.S. fatalities in Iraq was meet with a blitz of seemingly preplanned stories that--there is no other word for it--seemed to celebrate the death of 2,000 U.S. soldiers. Or perhaps more specifically, to celebrate another chance to push their agenda and attack President Bush.

The main story on CNN is filled with subheadlines such as "Journal chronicled fears" and snippets such as:
Jones, 45, had volunteered to deploy to fill a vacancy in the 48th Brigade. His jailer's wage didn't always cover the bills, and Jones hoped hazard pay from Iraq would help his family's financial struggles.

But no pay could compensate for these hazards. The June 26 explosion that jolted Kinlow left Jones with a scratched cornea. Then, a few weeks later, came Kinlow's death.
No mention was given to the accomplishments made while he was in Iraq.

Along the pushing the agenda lines, the results of two polls were released at the same time. The first was entitled, "Poll: Few doubt wrongdoing in CIA leak," found the surprising results that prepped with continuous stories about the leak by the media and no official information, people thought something bad had happened. Shocking. The second was even more contrived, stating "Poll: Bush would lose an election if held this year." Two things to note about the poll. One, Bush loses to a Democratic candidate, not John Kerry. So the results discount any of the negatives about John Kerry that caused people to vote for Republican instead of Democrat. Given the number of anti-Kerry votes that occurred in 2004, this fact alone makes the poll meaningless. But there is also this gem:
However, all the numbers are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, so it's possible that the public's opinion has not changed at all.
Excellent. So the results of the biased poll are inconclusive, yet they are published right next to the headline and melodramatic story of the 2,000 death in Iraq. A coincidence, I'm sure.

Finally, the QuickVote of the day was "When the war in Iraq started, did you believe the U.S. would suffer so many casualties?" I guess gives everyone the opportunity to see that no only was Bush wrong, but we all knew he was wrong from the beginning.

It would be nice to see CNN (and the bulk of the rest of the media) show an ounce of professionalism. Given their recent behavior, I think it is safe to put your scales away as there is sadly no need to even check.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Casualty Counting

U.S. military deaths in Iraq have reached the 2000 mark, the AP reports here. To his credit, the reporter devotes significant space to the military spokesman's email remarks:
"The 2,000 service members killed in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom is not a milestone. It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives."
"Celebrate the daily milestones, the accomplishments they have secured and look to the future of a free and democratic Iraq and to the day that all of our troops return home to the heroes welcome they deserve."
But naturally, this only follows typical anti-war boilerplate:
The grim milestone was reached at a time of growing disenchantment over the war among the American public toward a conflict that was launched to punish Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for his alleged weapons of mass destruction. None were ever found.
As with most MSM accounts of U.S. casualties, no context is provided. It is only reported that
Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas, died Saturday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, of wounds suffered Oct. 17, when a bomb exploded near his vehicle in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, the Defense Department said.
Nothing is said about what Sgt. Alexander was doing in Samarra on the 17th, or what his unit has and is accomplishing. Nothing is provided to even hint that Sgt. Alexander may have given his life for a cause worth fighting for. This is so expected by now as to be almost not worth pointing out. Reports like this do a disservice to the soldiers who have died by painting them as helpless victims and to the American people who are not receiving the whole story. Thankfully there are alternative media sources to get the rest of the story out.

Thank you Sgt. Alexander for your service to our country and sacrifice for the cause of freedom

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thoughts On The Gorbachev Speech at Miami University

Below, I posted that Gorbachev would be speaking at Miami University tonight. I did manage to listen to the speech and wanted to post some quick reactions here.
  1. It was difficult to concentrate during the speech. Gorbachev spoke in Russian and a translator provided the English translation. Both microphones were at the same volume and it was hard to discern the English. I suppose I'm just not accustomed to hearing a translated speech but it was distracting. Particularly when Gorbachev--a dynamic speaker--would deliver a section of the speech with energy and the translator would continue in a dull monotone.
  2. Gorbachev said that he never knew whether his translator was faithfully translating his words, or giving his own speech. In the end, he said he decided to go with an approach President Reagan had taught him: trust, but verify. The comments received big laughs from the audience.
  3. Much of the speech was a history lesson. He did his best to downplay his importance, stating that the living conditions for the people were so bad under the communist system and that the system was so fundamentally broken, that change was inevitable. He related an anecdote where a high-ranking member of the communist party canceled a meeting where talk turned critical towards the government. Gorbachev's lesson was that a meeting could be canceled; you can't cancel the events and realities that were driving the change.
  4. Gorbachev praised President Reagan and Schultz for their dedication and professionalism during the U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms (and other cold war) negotiations. In a very Russian moment, he also praised Reagan as being a "worthy opponent".
  5. He was very critical of Yeltsin, saying that he moved too fast with reforms after Gorbachev left office.
  6. He ended with a critical rant against President Bush. Specifically he disagreed with the invasion of Iraq without U.N. approval. He thought that it was wrong to demean and marginalize the U.N., as they are all the world has. He did acknowledge that the U.N. has problems, noting that he suggested many reforms to the U.N. during his presidency.
  7. On a more personal note, I stopped by the a local pizza place that was a frequent hangout in college. While I was there, a number of people involved with bringing Gorbachev to campus stopped in for a slice or two. I heard them say they had offered to "buy him as much vodka as he wanted" but he declined to go out with him in the evening. If Gorbachev has shown up in my favorite pizza place in Oxford, OH...well, let's just say it would have been blog-worthy.
Overall, I liked the speech, except for the end. The beginning of the speech discussed the fall of communism and the process by which he initiated change in great detail. The end seemed hurried and offered little explanation other than "Bush bad, U.N. good." As Keith notes, below, the way the U.N. handles Syria will be a good test to see if they can reclaim some legitimacy in international politics. I have severe doubts, but I'm willing to give them a chance, to see how they do. (I think the change in leadership in Germany, coupled with Chirac's reduced popularity could allow for more definitive action.)

A Telling Statement From the UN

The United Nations recently issued a report accusing the Syrian government of direct involvement in the murder of Rafik Harin, former Prime Minister of Lebanon. A report in the Times of London says that the initial version of the report implicated specific members of the Syrian government, including family members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the names were redacted after a meeting with Koffi Annan. (Thanks to today's Best of the Web for the pointer.)

The Financial Times reports that the US and France are jointly calling for UN Security Council action on this issue. The US seeks full cooperation from Syria with real consequences if the allegations can be proven. Specifically, there is call for action under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, "which deals with threats to international peace and security and can eventually lead to the use of force." (FT)

But will the United Nations actually do anything about this? The a quote from the Chinese ambassador shows how useless the UN is as an institution:
We have to be very careful with chapter 7. It is the dog that will bite, not just bark.
In essence he's saying that we should be very careful about actually taking actions beyond making statements and issuing warnings, because real actions might upset the commercial interests that the member states have in the region. Hopefully the case against the evil eye doctor's regime will be so clear cut that the UN will have no choice but to take real action. But anyone who expects action or results from the folks in Turtle Bay is hopelessly naive.

Gorbachev Speaks At Miami University

I'm home in Ohio and just found out that Gorbachev is speaking tonight at Miami University, my Alma Mater.

In a change for writing about things I read about elsewhere, I thought I'd go listen to the speech and blog about it later. Blog reporting?

Update to follow.

Harriet Miers is Tony Womack

Thinking about the Harriet Miers nomination has given me some insight into my own political leanings. But not in a substantive sense, but rather on an emotional level. During the weeks since the White House announced the nomination the questions, gaffes and missteps have continued to accumulate. The inadequate Senate questionnaire, appeals to her religious background to indicate conservative bona fides, concerns about her dealings with Ben Barnes (the source of the National Guard memos last year) while head of the Texas Lottery Commission. All on top of the obvious questions about her qualifications and charges of cronyism. I've become increasingly frustrated both with the choice of Miers and the way the White House has gone about defending her. As this has gone on I've had the urge to tune the story out, just to avoid the frustration.

I realize the reaction is very much akin to the one I have when my baseball team goes through a bad stretch. Even though I'm a huge baseball fan, when the team goes through a period where nothing seems to go right it's just not as much fun to turn on the ballgame. Even more so when the reason for the losing is the fact that they're pitching Kevin Brown every fifth day or hitting left fielder Tony Womack in the lead off spot - choices that anyone paying attention could have predicted would turn out poorly.

Make no mistake - Harriet Miers is a Tony Womack. Womack is a lousy hitter and a merely adequate fielder whose only redeeming attribute was basestealing ability. Miers has only moderate professional credentials, minimal government service, no judicial or meaningful appellate experience and her only "redeeming" quality is how well the President knows her. This season Womack played as well as one would have expected given his record - he was one of the worst everyday players in the league (87 out of 994 according to VORP). The Miers nomination is similarly going in a way that someone (or more specifically the White House) could have predicted. According to VORP, Womack was rated 9 runs worse than a replacement left fielder, with replacement meaning the generic player that any team could find in the minors. Miers appears to be a worse SCOTUS nominee than a generic appeals court judge nominated by a Republican president.

The question is what happens next? The Yankees saw the error of their ways mid-season and relegated Womack to the bench for pinch hitting duties. This was one reason (out of many) that the Yankees turned their season around and ended up finishing atop the American League East (well, tied anyway). Will President Bush see the error of his ways and withdraw this nomination in time to save it? Is the George in the White House more or less stubborn than the George who is the Boss in the Bronx?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More Evidence Against Global Warming

Greenland's ice cap is thickening. What is most amusing about the article is that it does it's best to say that thickening ice is consistent with global warming.
However, they [scientists at Global Ocean Studies and Operational Oceanography in Norway] said that the thickening seemed consistent with theories of global warming, blamed by most experts on a build-up of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.

Warmer air, even if it is still below freezing, can carry more moisture. That extra moisture falls as snow below 32 Fahrenheit.
I really don't follow this. It's warmer air, but still below freezing, so how can this cause the melting that some fear? My favorite phantom fear is this one:
Most models of global warming indicate that the Greenland ice might melt within thousands of years if warming continues.
A thousand years? Certainly there won't be any technology or societal changes in the next 1000 years, so it makes sense to run models based on current conditions out for ten centuries. Global warming theories would be easier to take seriously if they weren't based on scientific theories that so often ignore good scientific practice.

Positive Iraq Reporting By The AP

I point out negative Iraq reporting by the AP frequently, so it is only fair to point out the rare positive piece. But I did notice this article about high morale for U.S. troops in Iraq.
"This is what I do for a living," said Sgt. Maj. William Doherty of Boston, just minutes after being awarded a Bronze Star for his response to an insurgent attack where shrapnel from a grenade tore through his thigh.

The military's efforts were slowly stabilizing Iraq, he said. "This place is a lot better for these people to live in," he said of Baqouba, where he was injured this spring. Doherty said most soldiers from his unit, in the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, had re-enlisted and that morale remained "very high."

There are a few negative remarks scattered throughout the article, but overall the tone is a positive one. I wouldn't have guessed the AP capable of such an article, but I'll enjoy it as a pleasant surprise.