June 30, 2003
What Liberal Media?

I finished reading Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media?, which I picked up to see whether "Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form".

One of the most interesting things about the book is that Alterman never once defines the term "liberal". If this were an honest investigation of the question whether there is "liberal" bias in the media, you would think that Alterman (who recently completed his PhD at Stanford and should therefore understand the process of posing and testing hypotheses) would tell us from the outset what he means by "liberal". On page 15 he asks the question "Just what constitutes a 'liberal' bias anyway?". Unfortunately, he never answers his own question. In chapter 2 he cites political philosopher John Rawls' notion of liberalism (without footnote), but never turns this into a workable definition for testing the hypothesis of liberal bias in the media, and never mentions Rawls' concepts after page 19.

What Alterman does do, is label people:
p. 28: "... the Wall Street Journal's far-right editorial page..."
p. 28: "... the extremely conservative George F. Will.."
p. 30: "... the right-wing journalists [Robert] Novak and Tucker Carlson..."
p. 30 "... the brilliant, but not-so-liberal Mike Kinsley..."
p. 33 "... extreme right-wing ideologues [Pat] Buchanan and Novak...'balanced' by the wishy-washy neoconservatism of [Morton] Kondracke..."
p. 76 "... the right's most extreme expressions, including Andrew Sullivan"

It would never have occurred to me that a person who supports gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana for medical use and abortion rights in most cases would be among the "right's most extreme" members. But under Alterman's definition of "extreme right" he apparently is. Unfortunately, Alterman doesn't include his definitions of "left" or "right", "liberal" or "conservative" anywhere in his book.

Alterman rarely labels anybody as a liberal. One exception is Wall Street Journal editor and CNN panelist Al Hunt. And because Alterman never defines "liberal", he can modify Hunt's label whenever it fits his rhetorical purpose.

To make the point that even liberal journalists favored George W. Bush in the Florida election controversy:

Alas, more [examples of "Orwellian doublespeak"] were produced, even by liberals. Al Hunt demanded of Al Gore that he "give the hook to Jesse Jackson, with his phony claims of African-American disenfranchisement" [p. 182]
So Hunt is a liberal. Oh wait, in order to rationalize the claim that "Most television pundits are strong conservatives":
Columnists Mark Shields and Al Hunt also play liberals on television [p. 45]
Is he a real liberal, or does he only play a liberal on TV?

Apparently he's not any kind of a liberal. In order not to undermine Alterman's claim that the Wall Street Journal has a "far-right editorial page" (if it were "far-right", it wouldn't include any liberals, would it?):

Al Hunt, the token moderate on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page... [p. 210]
I guess the easiest way to prove that there is no liberal bias in the media is to call the media whatever the heck you want it to be.

More examples of Alterman's "well-documented, well-argued research" are here and here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:25 PM
Lileks Live

Today on the Hugh Hewitt show, James Lileks told us that: he drinks 97 cups of coffee a day, receives four to six calls for vinyl siding every dinner hour, and sometimes suffers from spontaneous combustion; his local bank teller still uses an abacus, and computers are the worst invention ever invented.

Tune in again next week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:31 PM
Blog of the Day, Jun. 30

Today's Blog of the Day is Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs.

LGF is an indispensible resource for all things related to the intertwined evils of militant Islamism, Arab fascism, anti-Semitism, and their apologists in the western world. You will find far more timely news and honest information about the dangers emanating from the Middle East over at LGF than you will in the mainstream American media. And not only does Charles defend America and Israel with passion and good sense but he also has a wonderful sense of humor. (See for example, the ongoing series of "What's on Arafat's Desk?")

Keep up the good work, Charles, and if you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

Oh, and in honor of naming LGF Blog of the Day, I'm going to mail my check today for a Little Green Footballs T-shirt, a mandatory fashion item for all studly men, young and old.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:35 PM
Romania, Bulgaria, What's the Difference?

Associated Press:

A Romanian construction worker was killed Monday in a Palestinian shooting attack in the West Bank, only a day after the three largest Palestinian factions said they would observe a temporary truce.
Not so fast:
Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry identified the victim as Krastyu Radkov, aged 46. He was born in the Bulgarian town of Levski. He has been hit in the head while driving a construction lorry near the town of Jenin.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 AM
Judicial Activism

In 1998, the voters of Washington State passed ballot measure I-200, which stated

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting
(this explicitly applies to school districts within the state) I-200 passed with 58% of the vote.

On Thursday, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the Seattle School District may use race as a factor in assigning students to public schools. The majority opinion is a marvel of sophistry and word play that flagrantly mocks the clear intent of I-200, that the state shall not "discriminate against" anybody on the basis of race, ethnicity, etc.

The meaning of 'discriminate against' is less clear.
I guess that depends on what your definition of "is" is. But I think that the parents of any child who doesn't get into her first-choice school because she is the wrong color will understand exactly what "discriminate against" means, as did the 1.1 million people who voted for I-200.

Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court serve for staggered six-year terms. Justices Barbara Madsen and Faith Ireland, who voted with the majority to cast aside the will of Washington's voters, are up for re-election in 2004, as is Justice Richard Sanders, the lone dissenter in this case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:26 AM
June 29, 2003
Kali Orexi

We had a great dinner last night at Georgia's Greek Deli in Greenwood. Hank Bradley and his wife Cathie Whitesides play Greek folk music at Georgia's most weekends and were in top form last night. Hank is a regular reader and frequent commenter here at the Shark Blog so I was pleased to have a chance to go hear them perform. They had me nearly dancing out of my chair to the the sounds of their fiddles and bouzoukis. Other patrons really did get up and dance. Yanni joined Hank on electric guitar and vocals, and his version of Misirlou is both more Hellenic and more energetic than, say, the one from Pulp Fiction. The other highlight of the evening was watching the owner of the restaurant set the desserts on fire. I wasn't allowed to throw my plate at the ceiling, but I had a good time anyway.

And read this account of how Hank, Cathie and Georgia's helped overturn an outdated ban on music in family restaurants.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:26 PM
June 28, 2003
Newspaper Wars

The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are going to court as their Joint Operating Agreement collapses.

[Times publisher Frank] Blethen, whose company owns The Times and seven other papers in Washington and Maine, calls the P-I a "failing newspaper" and says The Times and Seattle readers would benefit from its closing.
Blethen is correct to call the P-I a "failing newspaper". The Times would certainly benefit from the evaporation of its only local competitor, but I'm not sure how Seattle readers would benefit from having a monopoly newspaper. I'd hate to see the P-I close. But it would be nice to see it get rid of the dimwits on the editorial staff and hire enough people of clue so it can turn itself into a credible newspaper.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:40 PM
Diversity in the Newsroom

Today's editorial in the Seattle Times commends the Seattle School District's "use of race as one factor in student assignments" with the specious reasoning that

Seattle operates a system in which nearly 90 percent of students receive their first- or second-choice school. Race is one of five factors used in school assignment and it only comes into play for about 10 percent of students.

In those instances when race is used, it doesn't extend a preference to one person while discriminating against another.

Unless everybody somehow gets into their first-choice school, it is mathematically impossible for a preference to give an advantage to one person without also discriminating against someone else.

This unsigned editorial promoting "diversity", is attributed to the Seattle Times's editorial board, whose members are:
James F. Vesely
Carolyn S. Kelly
Frank A. Blethen
Robert C. Blethen
William K. Blethen

You can never have too many Blethens.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:16 PM
Ruth Rosen, The Consumer's Enemy

Ruth Rosen may be best described as the antithesis of a consumer rights advocate. In Thursday's column she wants the state to prevent consumers from shopping at stores that offer selection, convenience and low prices.

WOULD YOU LIKE a Wal-Mart "supercenter" store to move into your community? Think of the low prices and the convenience of one-stop shopping! You just park once and get whatever you need -- groceries, drugs, plants, toys, dog food, even eyeglasses.
Most people think that's a great idea, which is why America's consumers have voted with their wallets and made Wal-Mart America's largest retailer. But the anti-consumer Ruth Rosen is siding with Wal-Mart's superannuated competitors who obtain government protection for their inefficient franchises
Contra Costa County has fought back. A year ago, Martinez prevented a traditional Wal-Mart store from expanding into a supercenter that could sell groceries. On June 3, the county Board of Supervisors voted to ban such supercenter stores from unincorporated areas of the county.
In future columns, Ruth Rosen will call for the elimination of supermarkets so that we can all go back to shopping at village general stores like the one that Sam Drucker runs in Hooterville. Ruth Rosen will also call for the government to outlaw personal computers, in order to save the high-paying jobs in the typewriter brush industry.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:25 AM
It's in the P-I

The big red newspaper vending boxes for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer display the slogan "It's in the P-I". But that is only the first half of the correct statement "It's in the P-I, so it's probably wrong". Friday's P-I carried a story with the headline Israelis cleared in activist Corrie's death. This refers to the conclusion of the investigation into the suicidal accident of Hamas supporter Rachel Corrie, which cleared the bulldozer driver of wrongdoing. But the P-I shamelessly focuses on Corrie's father's unfounded refusal to believe that his daughter died in an accident.

In March, Corrie died while trying to block the demolition of a Palestinian physician's home. The army said it destroyed the homes in the Rafah refugee camp to create a "buffer zone" to prevent smuggling from Egypt.

Shortly afterward, the Israel Defense Forces reported that the driver of the bulldozer had not seen Corrie and had not intentionally run over her. A report conducted by the military police told the same story.

Neither report, [Rachel's father] Craig Corrie said, seemed credible. Other members of her group, the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Movement, and other witnesses said Corrie stood 100 feet in front of the bulldozer and was in the driver's sight as he moved closer.

"The reports don't jibe with anything eyewitnesses said," Craig Corrie said. And they don't match the results of the Israeli government's autopsy, which concluded her "death was caused by pressure on the chest from a mechanical apparatus."

A photograph published by newspapers showed her in front of the bulldozer just before her death.

The P-I's report included a copy of this photograph, which is also on the website of the PLO front group "International Solidarity Movement"

Here is what the "eyewitnesses" from the ISM had to say about Corrie's death
Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body.
The P-I makes it sound like the displayed photograph "showed her in front of the bulldozer just before her death ", as if implying that it contained evidence of a crime itself. But the photograph is not consistent with any "just before death" moment in the "eyewitness report". Where is the pile of dirt and rubble? The ISM website also posts this picture, presumably of Rachel immediately after she was struck by the bulldozer.

You'll notice that in the first picture she is facing the bulldozer on the driver's right. But in this picture she is lying in the ditch on the the driver's left side. Also, there is no pile of dirt and rubble. The ISM also includes this photograph, presumably of the wounded Rachel being comforted by her friends

That would have to be a mighty big hole for her friends to have dug her out of. And it doesn't appear to be consistent with the top picture. No signs of the remains of the fence, for example.

I don't believe there is any dispute that Rachel Corrie stood in front of a bulldozer and that she was killed after the bulldozer struck her. But the P-I's photograph doesn't seem to have been taken "just before" Rachel's death, and it doesn't seem to offer any evidence of any kind that her death wasn't an accident. So why would the P-I choose to mention this photograph, adjacent to Craig Corrie's unfounded doubts about the investigation into his daughter's death, as if to imply that it contained some information that the investigation chose to ignore?

UPDATe: Note the comment from "Bird Dog" who links to several articles that help debunk the photograph story. KL duPre's comment mentions a report by ISM member Joseph Smith on the events leading up to Corrie's death. That report may be found here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:02 AM
June 27, 2003
Oxford Anti-semitism

Oxford scientist Andrew Wilkie sent this e-mail refusing to accept an application from an Israeli student for a position in Wilkie's laboratory, solely because the student was Israeli.

Oxford responded by announcing an "investigation" and released Wilkie's "personal apology":

“I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by my e mail of 23 June and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions in that document. I was not speaking on behalf of Oxford University or any of its constituent parts. I entirely accept the University of Oxford’s Equal Opportunities and Race Equality policies.”
That's not much of an apology. It's clear that the Israeli student, Amit Duvshani, is not welcome in Wilkie's laboratory. Would this type of ethnic discrimination be tolerated if Duvshani were, say, black or Arab? I would hope not, and I doubt that it would be. But it seems to be politically correct in some circles to discriminate against individual Israelis and to try to deprive them of their livelihood.

Wilkie's laboratory does research on certain kinds of birth defects, presumably with the goal of preventing them. I don't know whether Duvshani's track record would rightfully qualify him for a position in Wilkie's laboratory. But if he were a talented researcher, wouldn't it be a shame to deny these afflicted children the chance to benefit from Duvshani's research on their impairment?

Andrew Wilkie will be attending a conference in Los Angeles next January. If I were in L.A. I would stop by the conference to have a one-on-one chat with Andrew Wilkie. I would let him know that he is more welcome in L.A. than Israelis are welcome in his laboratory; I would explain the history of Israel's rebuffed attempts to make peace with its neighbors; I would also thank Wilkie for his important research and remind him that keeping qualified scientists out of his laboratory for stupid reasons won't lead to any new discoveries.

UPDATE I've been contemplating whether the suggestion to have a polite chat with Andrew Wilkie is too tepid a response to his bigotry. Would I expect it to persuade him that he made a mistake? Probably not, although I would like to think that it might. After all, he wasn't born hating Israelis, it's a position that he adopted after absorbing information about Israel. Perhaps he would change his mind after learning more about Israel's history. But the message is aimed not only at him, but at others, to demonstrate that the pro-Israel side is reasonable and constructive, while those who feel righteous in their opposition to Israel are foolish and destructive. If Wilkie held a different kind of job I might just say "fire the bastard". But he does important work that may help reduce someone else's suffering and as a researcher he is not fungible. Of course he should continue with his work. But only as a staff scientist in somebody else's lab. He has already proven himself to be reckless in making hiring decisions and that portion of his responsibilities should be taken away from him.

Roger Simon and Stephen Rittenberg also comment on Wilkie.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:15 PM
Blog of the Day, Jun. 27

Today's Blog of the Day is: cut on the bias.

This fine blog is written by Susanna Cornett, who I consider to be my Blogmother. Hers was one of the first cool blogs I started reading a little more than a year ago and she was one of the first people who ever linked to me, having stumbled across my true-life tale of getting stuck in the snow in Lake Tahoe.

Susanna continues to entertain and provoke us with her fine writing, keen insights and refreshingly honest common sense and human decency.

Keep up the good work, Susanna. If you're ever in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:41 AM
The BBC and Activists

The BBC seems fond of the word "activist". Here are some examples of people whom the BBC chooses to describe as "activists".

People who campaign for the kinder treatment of animals:

Activists welcome zoo closure
The zoo is due to close in September. Campaigners have urged the managers of Glasgow Zoo to abandon plans to create a new animal-based visitor attraction.
People who campaign for political parties in democratic elections:
BJP ministers have been asked to report to the party office and interact with grassroots party activists.
People who exercise their collective bargaining rights:
A rail union activist was unfairly demoted during a recent pay-dispute, an employment tribunal has ruled.
People who engaged in peaceful protest to end racial segregation:
As activists gather in Birmingham, Alabama, 40 years after the climatic battle of the civil rights era...
People who campaign for democracy in Zimbabwe:
MDC members of parliament and student activists were arrested by the army, Mr Chimedza said.
People who campaign to support their favorite foods:
Pie activists confident of victory
Campaigners have collected more than 8,000 signatures on a petition calling for protection of the Melton Mowbray pork pie.
People who blow themselves up while plotting to murder Jews:
Gaza blast kills Hamas activists
At least five Palestinians have died in an unexplained blast in southern Gaza City, witnesses and hospital officials say. Representatives of the militant group Hamas said the dead were Hamas activists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:49 AM
EU still protecting Hamas

Reuters reports that

The European Commission on Friday brushed off pressure from U.S. President George W. Bush for the European Union to put the Palestinian militant group Hamas on its list of outlawed terrorist organisations.
because even though Hamas has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings,
''You can't say that the whole of Hamas is a terrorist organisation and certainly that is not our position,'' said Reijo Kemppinen, chief spokesman of the executive Commission ... Kemppinen cited the organisation's social welfare activities, such as running clinics and schools, for which he suggested funding was legitimate.
Yes, but the clinics are used to repair wounded terrorists and the "schools" are little more than factories of Jew-hatred and training camps for aspiring suicide-bombers.
France has voiced the strongest opposition to completely outlawing Hamas, arguing that its political wing was a necessary player in the Middle East peace process.
Although the EU, which is the biggest donor to the Palestinian authority, does not fund any Hamas institutions with taxpayers' money, it has not barred private fundraising for Hamas-linked charities.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:22 AM
June 26, 2003
Is race a handicap?

Writing on the Michigan Law School case, Clarence Page compares racial set-asides in university admissions with handicapped parking spots. Maybe it's just me, but I find it terribly insulting to equate race with handicap.

Meanwhile, John McWhorter says that Blacks should feel insulted by the Supreme Court's recent decision and that "Monday was a dark day for getting past race in this country".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:49 PM
Blog of the Day, Jun 26

I'm proud to announce that Kesher Talk is the first Blog of the Day.

Kesher Talk is an excellent group blog, dedicated to Jewish themes -- American Jewish life, the Middle East, Jewish communities around the world, anti-Semitism, Jewish traditions and rituals, even lots of Jewish humor. Kesher, by the way, is Hebrew for "connection". The editor-in-chief is the diligent and insightful Judith Weiss. Kesher Talk was started by Howard Fienberg, who departed the blogosphere for gainful employment (so I'm told), but whose spirit continues to inspire us all.

I consider Howard to be my "blogfather" and it's fitting for Kesher Talk to be my first Blog of The Day as it was the first blog to link to me last year, before I even had a real blog.

Keep up the good work, Kesher people, and if any of you find yourselves in Seattle, I'd be honored to buy you a beer or other beverage of your choice.

[More information on the Shark Blog's Blog of the Day tradition is here]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 AM
Sodomy!

The Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay sex, ruling that the Texas anti-sodomy law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

Texas defended its sodomy law as in keeping with the state's interest in protecting marriage and child-rearing.
As a husband and a father I have absolutely no idea how other people's private behavior in the privacy of their homes could have any impact of any kind on my marriage or the raising of my children. That simply doesn't make any sense.

Oh wait, do you hear that great rushing noise? Don't you see all those dozens of married men, stampeding down the street, holding hands in pairs, running away from their wives and children, shouting "it's finally legal! we can start having sodomy now!"

I'll let you know if our civilization collapses. In the meantime, chalk one up for civil rights and decency.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 AM
Truce!

The latest update is that the long anticipated Hamas truce is "not expected until weekend". The suspense is killing me. On the other hand, the Associated Press reported yesterday that

Islamic militants agreed to halt attacks on Israelis for three months, Palestinian negotiators said Wednesday. But the tenuous deal was immediately undercut by an Israeli airstrike and Hamas threats of revenge.
[emphasis mine] I don't know where the Associated Press finds its reporters, but think about it for a moment. The only reason a military force would accept a ceasefire is if it were under pressure. If you want an army to agree to a ceasefire and it is hesitating and stringing you along, that is precisely the time to increase the pressure, not to ease off.

Never mind the fact that a "ceasefire" with Hamas makes no sense to begin with. You only enter into a ceasefire with an adversary as a step toward co-existence. But co-existence with Hamas is impossible. Hamas is committed to removing the Jews from Israel. Entering into a "three-month ceasefire" with Hamas would be like the Allied forces who liberated Auschwitz accepting a "three-month ceasefire" from the Nazis.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:43 AM
June 25, 2003
Blog of the Day

Today on the Shark Blog, we are launching a new feature called "Blog of the Day", where each day we acknowledge one of the many fine blogs that share our blogosphere.

DISCLAIMERS: Although the Blog of the Day designation does not come with a trophy, new car, cash prize, or anything of the like, it is a tremendous pat on the back for writing a fine blog. Because of the enormous prestige value, Blog of the Day designees may go on to win lucrative book deals or breakfast cereal endorsement contracts. On the other hand, the sudden fame might go to someone's head and they end up hurling themselves into a downard spiral of self-destruction. In either case, I accept my fair share of the credit but none of the liability. Undoubtedly, competition for this honor will be fierce, so here are some more disclaimers. (1) the decisions are made in my sole discretion, therefore my friends and relatives and people I want to suck up to are all eligible (2) all decisions are final, but hey, there's always tomorrow (3) becoming Blog of the Day is not unlike getting elected Pope. You may campaign for the office, but only by appearing to be humble and indifferent to it. The only sure way to take yourself out of the running is to ask me to consider you for Blog of the Day.

With further ado, the first Blog of the Day winner will be announced tomorrow. I know who it will be, but you don't, so please, no wagering.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:31 PM
Are Racial Preferences Sustainable?

George Will says that a public policy based on racial preferences is unsustainable:

demographic facts say race is rapidly becoming more and more irrational--indeed, unintelligible--as a basis for government actions...The increasing arbitrariness and unreality of official racial and ethnic categories will become apparent
Will doesn't say this, but it occured to me while reading his column -- at some point the very definitions of racial categories will have to be challenged in court. At the risk of making a prediction, I predict that the next battleground in the "diversity wars" will be over the question "who qualifies for preferential 'diversity' treatment?"

Although racial preferences have been around for a while, Monday's Supreme Court ruling will no doubt be perceived as cementing limited forms of racial preferences as a kind of entitlement. And with entitlements come eligibility guidelines, and with guidelines come challenges to stretch the guidelines. And given that the federal definitions of ethnic minority groups [scroll down to Categories and Definitions] are so imprecise, it can't be that hard to claim membership in a minority category. For example, "Black or African American" is defined as

A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
There is, of course, the trivial claim that the origin of humankind is in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, making us all African Americans. But even if we ignore that, I'm sure we all know people who look 100% white, yet have some black ancestry. Are they legitimately black for purposes of racial preferences? Who is to decide?

"Hispanic" is defined as

A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
That would have to include anybody of Spanish ancestry, including Basques (Spanish Basques, but not French Basques, I guess) and Sephardic Jews. How far down the family tree does the nearest Spanish relative have to sit in order to be considered legitimate, and who decides? According to family legend, one group of my ancestors left Spain during the Inquisition and eventually settled in Poland. All of my other ancestors are eastern European Jews. Am I Hispanic? Most people would probably say no, but I stick to my claim of "other Spanish origin", and I'm no less proud of my Spanish roots than my Lithuanian shtetl roots. So why should my Spanish heritage be any less relevant to law school admissions than that of someone whose ancestors immigrated from Spain to the new world in the 1500s?

Here's another good one. I have a friend whose biological parents are northern European, but whose adopted father is an immigrant from South America. Is she Hispanic? If you believe that nurture is more important than nature, then of course she's Hispanic and I believe that's how she considers herself. (On the other hand, a black person who is adopted by a white family will almost certainly be universally recognized as black).

Now that there is every advantage in declaring oneself to be a member of an underrepresented minority, and absolutely no disadvantage in doing so, what's to stop people from discovering that they have black, Spanish, Algonquin or Hawaiian ancestors? Only a few people will lie outright, but family legends about mysterious great-grandfathers will grow in importance until every other Norwegian Lutheran in Minnesota starts thinking of himself as part Spanish and Native American. And who is going to dispute any of these claims? At a certain point, this is all going to wind up in the Supreme Court and Sandra Day O'Connor's less fossilized successors are going to have to conclude that racial classifications are too vague to be of any use in public policy. Either that, or when the University of Michigan Law School notices that 75% of their applicant pool claims minority heritage, they are going to realize that "racial diversity" doesn't make sense. The only solutions would be to abandon racial preferences and limit any preferences to those who can document economic disadvantage. Or better yet, just maintain high standards for everybody and even those with real or perceived disadvantages will rise to meet them.

UPDATE The Wall Street Journal also asks How Far Does Diversity Go?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:53 AM
June 24, 2003
Weekly Canard

Robert Scheer's weekly canard-filled column is up at the (self-proclaimed) liberal-bias-free Los Angeles Times

The Fact That Hussein's Gone Doesn't Make Lying Right
There was a time when the sickness of the political far left could best be defined by the rationale that the ends justified the means. Happily, support for revolutionary regimes claiming to advance the interests of their people through atrocious acts is now seen as an evil dead end by most on the left.
Robert Scheer once edited the diaries of Che Guevara. Now it seems, the sickness of the political far left can best be defined by its refusal to admit that the world is better off without Saddam.
we don't know what the future holds for Iraq. Our track record of military interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere would lead any competent historian or Vegas bookie to conclude that a stable secular dictatorship is about the best outcome we can predict.
As an exercise to the reader, please compare and contrast the following:
* post-war Japan vs. Imperial Japan
* Federal Republic of Germany vs. Nazi Germany
* post-war Italy vs. Fascist Italy
* South Korea vs. North Korea
* Kuwait today vs. Kuwait under Saddam
* Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia today vs. Yugoslavia under Milosevic

Of course there is nothing that Scheer can say in Saddam's defense, so he is reduced to spreading the lie that the good guys are lying.

It was OK to lie about the nonexistent evidence of ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda.
Evidence of these ties was found in Baghdad by independent journalists. The only lie about Iraq and Al Qaeda was when Scheer lied by distorting what Donald Rumsfeld said about them.
It was OK to lie about the U.N. weapons inspectors, claiming they were suckered by Hussein.
Hans Blix Nov. 15, 2002: "[The Iraqis] certainly did not give accurate answers to the questions they should answer. It could happen again," says the Swedish dipomat on the eve of his departure for Iraq.
It was OK to lie, not only to Americans but to our allies in this war, about "intelligence" alleging that Iraq's military had chemical and biological weapons deployed in the field.
Madeleine Albright Nov. 12, 1998: "The thing to remember, Margaret, is at the end of the Gulf War, as part of the cease-fire agreement, [Saddam] agreed to dismantle all his weapons of mass destruction. That was the deal he made; and like everything else, he violates his deals."
State Dept. testimony to the Senate, Jun 23, 1999 "We have come to the conclusion, after more than eight years of effort at seeking Saddam's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, that his regime will never be able to be rehabilitated or reintegrated into the community of nations. This conclusion is based on what Saddam's record makes manifest -- that he will never relinquish what remains of his WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, and that he will never cease being a threat to the region, U.S. interests, and his own people."
State Dept. Briefing Aug. 2, 2000 "Iraq has not given up its weapons of mass destruction"
Jacques Chirac Feb. 16, 2003: "Are there other weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]? That's probable. We have to find and destroy them."

In the world of Robert Scheer, the only government that doesn't lie is the government of Saddam Hussein.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:58 PM
Unintended Consequences

An insightful, yet seldom heard observation about the consequences of the Michigan Law School racial preferences program from Erik Jaffe at the Volokh Conspiracy:

At mid-tier law schools, however, it is likely that an affirmative action policy would almost have to accept any minimally qualified candidate given the practical limits of the applicant pool, the cream-skimming by elite schools, and the need to admit a "critical mass." At some point along the scale of law schools, it will be utterly impossible to admit a critical mass of minority candidates because there will be no more candidates left to admit, their having all been pulled up to higher-tier law schools.
Read the whole thing. And read the rest of the Volokh blog for the sharpest commentary on yesterday's Supreme Court decisions you're likely to find anywhere.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:51 AM
June 23, 2003
Early preparation for Michigan Law School?

The Seattle Times reports that "Testing fails to diversify accelerated Seattle classes"

A test given this year to all first-graders in the Seattle School District failed to identify more racial and ethnic minorities for the district's advanced-learning programs, contrary to what officials had hoped.

Most top scorers on the Cognitive Abilities Test were either whites or Asians, already the two predominant groups in the district's advanced-learning programs.

The results mean the district will now consider other criteria to try to boost enrollment of underrepresented groups in those programs [emphasis added]

Results from two rounds of tests, given earlier this year, showed that of 315 first-graders who scored high enough to qualify for the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) or the second-tier Spectrum program, 91 percent, or 287, were whites or Asians. The rest were 10 African Americans [3.2%], 15 Latinos [4.8%], two Native Americans [0.6%] and one student whose ethnicity was not identified on the test form.

By way of comparison, the Seattle school district [pdf] is 40% white, 23% Asian, 23% African American 11% Latino and 3% Native American.

I see two possible reactions to the disparity between the ethnic composition of the student body and the outcome of the exam. The first is for the parents whose children did not pass the exam to try to learn from the parents whose children did pass and to find out what activities they might do with their children to bolster their academic skills. The second reaction would be to declare the test biased; to demand lower standards for the accelerated program; and to teach the children that academic excellence is not something to be earned through performance, but is instead a patronage-based entitlement for which one need only protest loudly enough.

I would like to think that more parents would choose option number one. But sadly, today's Supreme Court decision in the Michigan Law School case, and the intent of the Seattle school district to "consider other criteria" suggest that option number two is the status quo.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:56 PM
Government funded kitchen counters

The Seattle Times reports today that "Medicaid bill would force some couples to reduce assets to qualify" meaning

If Gov. Gary Locke signs the bill, the amount a healthy spouse could keep and still have Medicaid pay for the ailing spouse's care would drop from $90,660 to $40,000.
The Times interprets this to mean that
Critics say the measure could force some couples who can't afford long-term care to make a painful choice: deplete their life savings so one spouse qualifies for aid, or divorce to protect the assets for the healthier spouse.
the implicit assumption is that people should never be responsible for their own health care, which is just another "free" public good, like air or sidewalks.
The controversy provokes hard questions: Is it right for citizens — through asset transfers, divorce and the like — to use government programs for the needy to pay for costly long-term care? Should they be forced to impoverish themselves first? How much of their personal assets should be protected? Should they be expected to pay long-term-care insurance premiums for years on the gamble they might one day need it?
Actually, these questions are not hard. No, people should not spend or gift away their assets in order to qualify for safety-net programs. And we always end up paying for long-term-care one way or another. The question is whether we (a) can choose to either buy our own insurance or self-insure through ordinary savings, or (b) are forced to pay for somebody else's vision of long-term health care through higher taxes.

If the Seattle Times is trying to build support for a middle-class long-term care entitlement, they should have chosen a more sympathetic poster child. The article focuses on Nancy Doty, a 75-year-old retiree whose husband lives in a boarding home with late-stage dementia.

[Doty] used to work at the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) helping determine eligibility for entitlement programs. She already has "spent down" a lot of money — dropping her assets from $135,000 to just under the current limit of $90,660 — to try to qualify her husband for Medicaid. ... Last fall, she spent about $35,000 in six weeks to make the Medicaid asset-qualification cutoff. She anticipated her husband, Jack, 78, might need Medicaid. She got new windows, kitchen countertops and sink, fixtures for the bathrooms, a washer and dryer and painted the house. Still $10,000 over the asset limit, she traded her 1996 Honda for a newer car this year.
I hope Nancy Doty and her heirs enjoy the new car and the new kitchen. Why shouldn't they, when the government pays for Jack's nursing home care, for free!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:01 PM
Leading Question

David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asks his readers to send in their answers to his weekly Burning Question "Should every American have medical care?"

If the man were a Canadian or a citizen of any country in the European Union, his health crisis would not be accompanied by a financial disaster. He would be taken care of by a national health plan. But the man is an American, one of millions in this country who -- for a variety of reasons -- do not have health coverage.

Given that our economy is driven more and more by the interests of investors while providing less and less security for workers, is it time for Americans to get a little more security from each other? I won't claim to know the best design for universal health care. Still, I want to ask this Burning Question:

Should every American have the right to medical care?

The Constitution doesn't say anything about a right to medical care, although maybe it's one of those unenumerated Ninth Amendment rights. But a right to medical care wouldn't imply an entitlement to free spleenectomies any more than the right to keep and bear arms requires the government to hand out free bullets.

Nevertheless, Horsey is asking his readers to send heartstring-tugging pleas demanding an inalienable right to unlimited free healthcare. I rather wish Horsey would have rephrased his leading question, perhaps like this:

Given that our government is driven more and more by the interests of entrenched government employees while providing less and less value for citizens and given the well-documented incompetence of all levels of government, such as the failure of the FBI to act on its own warnings to prevent the 9/11 attacks; and California's $35 billion surprise budget deficit, do you really want to give the unaccountable bureaucrats even more power, especially over something as important as your own medical care?
or
Given that Canada and the European Union have significantly higher unemployment rates than the United States, caused by bloated out-of-control social welfare programs such as universal healthcare, and given that government run healthcare systems don't work very well (in Canada or Britain, for example), would you really be willing to give up the right to choose your own healthcare, even if it means paying higher taxes for worse healthcare and the possibility of losing your job?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:51 AM
Headline Howler

You've probably never heard of the Tri-City Herald, but it recently posted a story with the headline:
"Arafat says imprisoned lawmaker Barghouti will be released".

Yes, Barghouti might be a "lawmaker" on the basis of his membership in the "Palestinian Legislative Council". But he was not imprisoned for being a "lawmaker", he is on trial for murder.

Barghouti is a "lawmaker" in the same sense that Saddam Hussein was a jurist, Abimael Guzman is a college professor and Josef Megele was a physician

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:45 AM
Fulfilling Their National Duty

Tonight's top story from Gaza, originally reported as "Palestinians say Israeli shelling killed 3 militants"

Four Palestinian militants died late Sunday, apparently when a bomb they were planting went off in northern Gaza. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel could still build Jewish settlements in defiance of a U.S.-backed peace plan.*

At first, Palestinian security officials said Israeli tanks fired at a group of militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, affiliated with the Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah, killing three men and wounding four others, in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Another died later in a hospital, doctors said.

Later, however, loudspeaker trucks drove through the area saying that the four died while "fulfilling their national duty," a phrase used in the past to announce accidental deaths.

*Non-sequiturs seem to be permitted only when they are used to divert attention from the fact that Yassir Arafat's "mainstream Fatah" is planting bombs "in defiance of a U.S. backed peace plan". And no, the deaths were not "accidental", they were merely premature.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:00 AM
June 22, 2003
Selective Quote

The New York Times' David Rosenbaum asks "Bush May Have Exaggerated, but Did He Lie?" Rosenbaum's spin is that Bush didn't lie (about Iraqi weapons or the tax cut), he just seemed "typical of somebody trying to sell somebody something". The following was given as an example of Presidential exaggeration:

The October speech was devoted largely to the threat of banned weapons. Iraq, Mr. Bush said, had "a massive stockpile of biological weapons" and "thousands of tons of chemical agents" and was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." The president asked, "If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today — and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"
[emphasis mine] The President said in his October 7 speech that the Iraqi regime "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons", and he presented the basis for that claim. The Times left out some important context for the chosen quotes. Here are Bush's exact words:
In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, and VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September 11th. And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it has used to produce chemical and biological weapons.
That's a little different from what the New York Times implies, isn't it? The Times' quote fragment makes it sound like the President said that Iraq had these specific quantities of chemical and biological weapons at the time of the speech. But he was merely saying that Iraq had produced those weapons at a previous time and had failed to account for their disposal.

Did Rosenbaum lie about what the President said? No, he simply quoted selectively, "typical of somebody trying to sell somebody something".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:41 PM
Palestinian Non-Authority

Ha'aretz' Danny Rubinstein explains why Abu Mazen and Dahlan won't use force against Hamas

Israeli spokesmen point out that the Palestinian defense establishment in Gaza alone is paying the wages of close to 50,000 people.

On the other hand, how many armed men does Hamas have in Gaza? 400? 800? Those who exaggerate say 1,000. So what is the problem?

The problem is that
The extensive public support in Hamas is no secret. In the last elections to the UN's welfare and employment agency staff committee in Gaza, Hamas won close to 80 percent of the votes. In other words, if Abu Mazen and Dahlan were to launch a violent struggle against Hamas at this stage, they might find themselves up against real civilian insurgence and lose everything.
An example is given
a few weeks ago [there was a] demonstration of Beit Hanun residents in the north of the Gaza Strip against the Qassam missiles launched at Sderot. After the Israel Defense Forces uprooted citrus groves and fruit orchids there (the Israeli sources described it: "The IDF removed shrubbery that served as hiding places for missile launching terrorists"), the residents protested against the missile firings.

The Palestinian media almost ignored the incident. Palestinian journalists explained that they were afraid of publishing the story because the missile firings were massively supported by the Palestinian public.

In other words, the Palestinian Authority has little authority or political legitimacy. Abu Mazen is an empty suit, a fictional creation of the "international community". Whether or not he is more moderate than Hamas is irrelevant. He is both incapable and unwilling to impose his authority on Hamas. The only agreement he will be able to enforce is an agreement that carries the Hamas seal of approval, that is to say an agreement that increases Hamas's power and ability to threaten Israel.

Rubinstein's analysis contains hints at a solution to the deadlock. Israel should destroy Hamas, exterminate its leaders, demolish its facilities and dismantle its institutions. and in the process impose a high enough cost on ordinary Palestinians to undermine support for the perpetrators of terrorism. Only after the Palestinian public reaches the depths of despair and there is no rival to the peacemakers, is there likely to be any Palestinian movement towards a solution.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:05 PM
June 21, 2003
It's all theft

Former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark softened his denials of presidential aspirations to a "maybe" yesterday, amid his increasing criticism of the Bush administration.

Clark accused the president of squandering a $5 trillion budget surplus in two years, largely by borrowing to give large tax cuts to the rich.

"If it weren't for the law, you'd call that theft," he said
First of all, the IRS collected less than $2 trillion last year, so it's hard to see how "tax cuts to the rich" during Bush's two years could approach anywhere near $5 trillion. But more to the point, from 1789-2002 the federal government has collected nearly $32 trillion and spent over $35 trillion [.xls]. If it weren't for the law, you'd call all of it theft.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:14 PM
Modesto Inn

In yesterday's season premiere of the entertaining detective show Monk: Monk suspects a married prep-school teacher, played by Andrew McCarthy, of murdering his pregnant lover. The clue that cements the suspicion? Both McCarthy and the victim had souvenirs from a hotel called the "Modesto Inn".

This struck me a little odd at first, mainly because very few people vacation in Modesto. Mendocino? Monterey? Mt Shasta? perhaps, but not Modesto. Later it dawned on me. Modesto is the home of Scott Peterson, accused of murdering his pregnant wife Laci. Modesto was also the home of Chandra Levy, the murdered (rumored to have been pregnant) lover of Gary Condit. I think the Monk screenwriters were having a little fun at Modesto's expense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:42 PM
June 20, 2003
What Liberal Media?

I'm slowly working my way through Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media?, so I can decide for myself whether

Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form
Chapter 5 opens with the claim that
Conservative domination of the talk-radio airwaves is so extensive as to be undisputed
To support this claim we learn that
Edward Monks, a Eugene, Oregon, attorney, calculates that in his city, conservatives enjoy a 4,000-to-zero hour advantage over liberals on the radio. He wrote in The Register-General: "Political opinons express on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normallly be achieved only in a totalitarian society ... There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it>"
For some reason, neither Monks nor Alterman mention that Eugene has at least two National Public Radio stations, KLCC and KRVM, which between them carry at least six different listener call-in shows, including: Diane Rehm, Critical Mass, The Jefferson Exchange, Talk of the Nation, Tavis Smiley and The Connection. Maybe these shows are all hosted by conservatives. I guess it depends how you define "liberal" and "conservative", which, by the way, Alterman never does.

Only 196 more pages of "well-documented, well-argued research" to go.

A previous entry on Alterman's book is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:22 PM
"Lie" Lie Spreads

NPR's All Things Considered asked a number of people around the country "whether it matter if weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq". Reporter Tom Goldman in Portland, OR interviewed fantasy novelist Ursula LeGuin and a group of her friends, whom Goldman described as "against the war in Iraq, well-read and politically aware".

Leguin: If it was a lie, if it was a lie of exaggeration, if it was wishful thinking, all that, that's very bad news for our democracy.
(an aside: Ursula Leguin recently spoke out against the Patriotic Act
What do attacks on freedom of speech and writing mean to a writer? It means that somebody's there with a big plug they're trying to fit in your mouth and big plugs they're trying to fit in the ears of the people. Bad news again.
Was that a lie of exaggeration about the Patriotic Act? You be the judge).

Back to the NPR interview with LeGuin and her guests. There are no "if"s for book publisher Ruth Gundle. She says the administration already has lied about the weapons.

Gundle: We were not just told that they believed they were there. We were told that they knew for a fact that they were there.
Several others interrupting: That's right
Gundle: In fact Rumsfeld actually said where they were.
Goldman: On March 30 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said [on ABC's This Week] there were weapons of mass destruction in the areas around Tikrit and Baghdad.
It's interesting that this was the only example NPR came up with to support Gundle's claim. Rumsfeld's statement was not before the war while the administration was trying to build public and congressional support. It was made while the war was already underway. It's also an uncharacteristic mistake for Rumsfeld, who was normally more guarded about possible weapons discoveries. And there is absolutely no evidence that this or any other administration statement was a "lie" and not due to, say, faulty intelligence, or even correct but dated intelligence.

UPDATE Another example of Ursula LeGuin's own exaggerations in the service of, uh, democracy: In a statement opposing Oregon's Measure 87 (Nov. 2000) which would have permitted local governments to zone (but not censor) sexually oriented businesses, LeGuin wrote:

If Measure 87 is approved, instead of deciding for ourselves what we want to read, see and hear, the politicians will make those decisions for us.
Now that's what I call fantasy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:02 PM
Hamas, enemy of peace

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the militant group Hamas an enemy of peace during a troubleshooting mission to the Middle East on Friday.

Hamas Pediatrician of Death Abdel Aziz Rantisi promptly validated Powell's statement, calling Powell a "big fat liar"

"This is a statement that reflects and proves that he is a little slave to the Zionists and to his master Sharon, that he is the real enemy of peace and justice in the world,"
Hamas also claimed credit for a shooting attack today that killed one American citizen and injured his elderly parents.

Meanwhile, credulous optimists in the western media are hailing Rantisi's "peace offensive". Some free business advice to western reporters: Read the Hamas Charter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:03 AM
June 19, 2003
Downside of Diversity?

Clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch has been sued

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday by nine Hispanic and Asian plaintiffs, alleges that Abercrombie discriminates against blacks, Hispanics and Asians by enforcing a nationwide corporate policy of preferring white employees for sales positions, desirable job assignments and favorable work schedules.
[note that there are no black plaintiffs in the suit alleging discrimination against blacks]. A & F claims that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy for discrimination, but declined to comment on the specifics of the suit.
Anthony Ocampo, a Filipino-American who recently graduated from Stanford University, said he applied for a job at a store in Glendale, Calif., where he'd previously worked. After speaking with a manager, a salesperson told him, "We're sorry, but we can't rehire you because there's already too many Filipinos working here," said Ocampo, 21.
My first reaction is that a Stanford graduate should have options for any number of jobs that pay better than a sales clerk at Abercrombie and Fitch. So it's hard to believe Ocampo suffered any real damages. My second reaction, assuming that there's any truth in the claim that he wasn't rehired because the store already met some quota of Filipinos is, well, that's diversity in action, isn't it? Aren't we told that "workforce diversity is good business" because companies have to "reflect the characteristics of our customers"? And if a company makes a commitment to "serve its X customers better" by hiring more X people, it inevitably means that they have to put a cap on the number of Y people they hire. There is absolutely no other way around this.

But the article as reported by the Associated Press and published by the Seattle Times doesn't tell us, for example, how many Filipino employees the Canoga Park store already employed, or who (if anybody) was hired for the position that Ocampo didn't get. Nor does the article look behind any of the other claims in the lawsuit, such as the entirely unremarkable observation that

Posters and a television program in stores display models who are mostly white, as does the company's catalog
75% of the people in the United States are white. It is not newsworthy for a store's advertising models to be "mostly white". But the article leaves us with the dangling insinuation that Abercrombie and Fitch is a racist company anyway.

As the concept of an entitlement to "workforce diversity" continues to worm its way into the collective consciousness, people will eventually begin to realize that you can't justify workforce "diversity" programs on the basis of customer preferences on the one hand, and on the other hand to express shock when a company doesn't have any slots for your own demographic group. The rational solution is for companies to be free, without fear of frivolous lawsuits, to hire whomever they feel will best serve their customers. The market would reward and sustain those companies who cater to their customers' preferences, and the market would punish those companies who let prejudice get in the way of hiring good people. There is inevitable tension between those constraints, but it should be up to each company to figure out the right balance of workforce diversity (in its broadest sense), not for the courts or the newspapers.

But don't hold your breath. Expect more lawsuits and sensational news stories second-guessing the hiring and marketing decisions of every company, no matter how inconsequential, as the "diversity" movement endeavors to turn our free-market meritocracy into a race-based patronage system. And that's not good business for anybody. Except for the race-based advocacy groups and the lawyers who feed off of them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:20 PM
Leading and Misleading (II)

The public opinion poll cited in the previous entry about the Seattle Post-Intelligencer deserves to win an award for partisan bias in social science research. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland summarizes its latest public opinion poll on Iraq as follows:

Strong Majority Continues to Approve of War With Iraq

But Only About Half Support Policy, Not Just President;
Only Half Confident Administration Was Not Being Misleading

Now who is being misleading? Here is the more detailed summary of responses to the question "Is it your impression that when the US government presented the evidence to justify going to war with Iraq, it was being misleading or not being misleading?"
Very certain not being misleading ................21%
Somewhat certain not being misleading .......29
Not very certain not being misleading ............6
Not very certain being misleading ..................9
Somewhat certain being misleading .............19
Very certain being misleading ......................11
(No answer).................................................... 5
So while 56% said "not being misleading" and only 30% said "somewhat or very certain being misleading", the headline is "only half confident Administration not being misleading". If that's not misleading enough, don't large numbers of people usually believe that politicians are being misleading?

The PIPA conducts frequent public opinion surveys about foreign policy questions -- international trade, global warming, etc. We read here, for example, that

A very strong majority of the US public embraces the idea that global warming is a real and serious problem and a majority (though a declining one) rejects the argument that taking action is too economically onerous
we also learn that 59% said that [free trade] hurts [American workers]. But are those widely held beliefs a result of being misled by, say, environmentalists or labor unions? We don't know, because PIPA didn't ask whether any participants to the debates on global warming or free trade were being misleading. In fact, if you search PIPA's web site for a survey question that includes the word "misleading" (go ahead, I dare you!) you will only find it ... in connection with the current Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

So the question about "being misleading" is a leading question, selectively applied. And isn't that more than a little misleading?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:08 PM
Leading and Misleading (I)

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls "Ignorance a threat to nation's security". (this is from a newspaper that defiantly fabricates that "The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a 'clear and present danger.'"). Today's editorial tries to dismiss public support for the Iraq war as being grounded on ignorance

Another poll, however, raises the question of just how informed that favorable opinion is... [this] poll, conducted in the middle of May, showed 34 percent of those surveyed believed that -- contrary to fact -- the United States has already found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Some degree of self-fulfilling prophecy may be at work in this startling bit of public delusion. This belief runs highest among those who approved of the decision to go to war. Overall, 60 percent remembered "the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction" as the U.S. government's main reason for attacking Iraq.
Ah yes, those dumb yahoos who don't drink from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's fountain of knowledge every morning.

It is disappointing that so many people are not as well-informed as the P-I's editors pretend that they themselves are. But how well is the P-I doing in the war between knowledge and ignorance? Does the P-I lead or does it mislead? Take a closer look at the cited poll, whose main page is here. The full results are here [pdf]. While the facts that the P-I chooses to include in its editorial are correct, the editorial is misleading. The P-I cherry-picked an unrepresentative handful of data points to argue its case that the support for the war is largely based on ignorance. A more comprehensive review of the poll shows a very different picture.

The first question of the survey asks the respondent to indicate on a scale of 0 - 10 their opinion on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction just prior to the war. "0" means absolutely certain that there were no weapons, "10" means absolutely certain that there were weapons. The breakdown was as follows:
0 (certain there were no weapons): 5%
1-4 (probably no weapons): 13%
5 or "no answer" (meaning unsure): 25%
6-9 (there probably were weapons, but not absolutely certain): 29%
10 (absolutely certain there were weapons): 28%
In other words, the largest group thought that "there probably were weapons, but we're not 100% certain of this".

The poll also reveals that 68% of the respondents thought that going to war against Iraq was the right decision, more than 3 times the number who thought it was the wrong decision. What this means is that the decisive number of people thought that going to war was the right thing to do, even with the understanding that the existence of weapons was merely likely, but not absolutely certain. And that's exactly how Bush built support for the war all along. Go back and re-read the most recent State of the Union address. Read it carefully. Nowhere does Bush say that he knows beyond any doubt that Saddam has banned weapons, only that the evidence (such as Saddam's failure to comply with UN requirements to properly account for the destruction of his acknowledged weapons) created a strong suspicion that he possessed or was pursuing banned weapons. And the public as a whole accepted and continues to accept this argument. We agreed to take action on the basis of a strong suspicion of a potential threat and we didn't require 100% certainty of an immediate threat. No wonder then, that a majority of respondents rejected the suggestion that the government was misleading them.

I wonder what percentage of Seattle area residents would express as much confidence in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:11 PM
June 18, 2003
"End the Occupation"

When a Palestinian sympathizer calls for an "End to the Occupation", what they really mean is an end to seven-year-old girls occupying the back seats of their parents cars.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
Interview with a Vampire

Haaretz interviews Hamas vampire Abdel Aziz Rantisi

GAZA CITY - There will be no Palestinian civil war, even if Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas fails to persuade Hamas to agree to a cease-fire, senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said in an interview with Haaretz Tuesday...Senior officials in Abbas's Fatah party confirmed Rantisi's assessment, telling Haaretz that the Palestinian Authority's security services had no intention of making – as well as no ability to make - mass arrests of Hamas members as they did in 1996.
We learn that Hamas really is debating whether to accept a ceasefire. But the internal debate is about whether accepting the ceasefire, or not, gives Hamas the greater tactical advantage in its long-term plan to eliminate the Jewish state.
he did not repudiate the statement he made last week, immediately after being wounded in an Israeli assassination attempt, that "the struggle will continue until the last Jew has left the country."
and
From a religious perspective, he explained, the Jews view this land as theirs, while Muslims view it as Muslim land that must be liberated.
The difference is that the overwhelming majority of Jews are satisfied with a portion of the land, while Hamas insists on having the whole thing to itself. The interview closes
This led him to a view that has hitherto been associated with those defined as the movement's "moderates": If Israel would withdraw from all the land it captured in 1967, dismantle all the settlements and enable an independent Palestinian state, "there will be an end to the struggle, in the form of a long-term truce."
Observation: when somebody tells you that their fundamental goal is to obliterate your existence, it's not necessarily a good idea to enter into a "truce" with them that will enable them to destroy you in stages.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:15 AM
June 17, 2003
What Liberal Media?

Skeptical of the claim that the mainstream media is not liberal, I bought a copy of Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media? so I could judge for myself whether or not

Alterman delivers well-documented, well-argued research in compulsively readable form
I'm not ready to pass judgment yet, as I'm only on page 33, but here's what I found on page 22 [emphasis mine]:
Examine, for a moment, the corporate structure of the industry for which the average top-level journalist labors. Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the journalism school at the University of California at Berkeley, has been chronicling the concentration of media ownership in five separate editions of his book, The Media Monopoly, which was first published in 1983 when the number of companies that controlled the information flow to the rest of us -- the potential employment pool for jounalists -- was fifty. Today we are down to six.
Did you get that? we are down to six companies that control the information flow. And how can you get more authoritative than a dean of the journalism school at Berkeley? With a book that has been revised five times, no less? In fact, this is such an authoritative source it has its own footnote. A footnote! And the footnote says nothing more than "Author's interview, April 22, 2002".

Now there is probably a way to frame a question about media concentration in such a way that the answer to the question is "six". But I'm no dean of a journalism school, least of all the one at Berkeley (Berkeley!). I'm just some ignorant schmuck and it's beyond me to measure newsholes and count cubic-minutes of viewer span. So I'll just try to think of the first blob of news media companies that come to the top of my head. Please, no wagering. First, there is television: GE (NBC), Disney (ABC), Viacom (CBS), AOL/Time Warner(CNN), Newscorp (Fox), and PBS. There's our six! on television alone! And I haven't even gotten to radio or newspapers yet. Let's see: The New York Times Company, Tribune Company, Knight Ridder, Washington Post Company, Reuters, (mine goes up to 11!). Then there's Associated Press, Okay, you've made your point, UPI, NPR, Hearst, PRI, Clear Channel. Move on already. McGraw-Hill, Forbes, STOP it! . Hollinger International Cut it out. The McClatchy Company, Dow Jones. Uncle! Oh, never mind....

.. oops, then there are the independent newspapers... Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! ... like the Seattle Times , enough already, Newsday NEENER! NEENER! NEENER! NEENER!The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel I'm warning you. Oh, wait, I can't believe I forgot about Cox. shut up. Gannett shut up!
How many is that?
Fuck you too, buddy
And don't forget all the independent news and commentary journals - The Nation, the New Republic, Mother Jones, National Review, and weblogs and The Progressive and The Atlantic and Harper's and hello? hello? what are you doing with that lighter fluid? hello?

In any event, only 233 more pages of "well-documented well-argued research" to go. Plus footnotes.

Did I mention Scripps Howard?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:12 PM
Weekly Canard

And while we're on the subject of mendacity in the newsroom [see the immediate previous post], Robert "Mr. Canard-o-matic" Scheer is up with this week's 3-alarm column. In today's column we have the following classic canards:
The "Bush is a Criminal Canard:

The Case of the Phantom Uranium raises questions about the president that could lead to legitimate calls for impeachment.
The Imminent Threat Canard:
The president persistently claimed that the war was necessitated by the imminent threat of deployed weapons
The Big Lie Canard
We now know that the threat of deployed WMD was a blatant falsehood. What has not been established is whether the president was in on the lie.
Now we have a new canard about the forged Niger uranium document
Thus in his 2003 State of the Union address, the president intoned that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa." Scary stuff. Problem was, the document was signed by an official who had given up his post a decade earlier, and the CIA had told the White House the story did not check out.
The other problem for your fabricated "scandal", Bob, is that Colin Powell himself acknowledged that the document was a forgery only days after the IAEA dismissed its validity. Three months ago. Before the war started. Some cover-up. Hit 'em with your best shot, Bob.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:40 AM
Credibility

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer continues to stonewall my requests to either validate or retract their astonishing claim that

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."
I have sent two follow-up e-mails to reader representative Glenn Drosendahl asking for documentation of the P-I's explanation that
[the standard of] when to declare war, has developed over time, through court rulings and political discussions
Twice I have asked for either a list of the specific court rulings or a retraction, twice I have received no response. I even sent Drosendahl a list of other blogs that criticize the editorial, which include:
Xrlq, SoCal Law Blog, Sleaze Report, Jim Miller, Reductio ad Absurdum and Kathy Kinsley. At least two others have since picked up on the P-I's editorial fabrication, including The Omudsgod and WSJ's Best of the Web. Still, no indication that the P-I is interested in retracting its fabrication. The P-I's credibility hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, Xrlq points to the paper's Sunday editorial: "The case for war, case for credibility" Let's see what it can teach us about "credibility":

It may even be likely that illegal weapons will be discovered in Iraq. But the detection of such weapons might not be enough to bridge the credibility gap explaining the very reason we went to war.
The P-I is still inconsolable that Saddam Hussein was removed from power and it is so out of touch with the majority of Americans that it has to grasp at straws in its desperate attempt to discredit the Bush administration. As we've seen, the P-I is willing to compromise its integrity by fabricating "constitutional standards". Sunday's editorial demonstrates a few more feats of disreputable journalism. For exampe, the P-I distorts people's quotes with ellipses, Dowd-style, and it rewrites its own prior interpretation of events. This Sunday:
Last October, the Bush administration made the case that Iraq posed a clear and present danger. "Some citizens wonder," the president said, "after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? There is a reason. We have experienced the horror of Sept. 11. ... Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
The President's full quote is here:
Some citizens wonder: After eleven years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? There is a reason. We have experienced the horror of September 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing -- in fact they would be eager -- to use a biological, or chemical weapon, or, when they have one, a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President Kennedy said in October of 1962: "Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril."

Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.

That puts things in a different context, doesn't it? Anybody who reads this should be able to see that Bush did not portray Iraq as a "clear and present danger", but as a serious potential threat that even in the absence of certainty still had to be dealt with. In fact, that is exactly how the P-I interpreted his speech at that time.
The case for forcing Iraqi disarmament, of course, does not rest solely on potential threats of Iraq using weapons of mass destruction or supplying them to terrorists. At the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War, having suffered devastating military defeats, Iraq sued for peace and agreed to certain terms and conditions. Foremost among Iraq's obligations were disarming itself of all weapons of mass destruction and allowing inspections to verify compliance. Iraq repeatedly has failed to live up to those obligations. The United States is right to be leading the new -- and overdue -- push for compliance
The P-I can't find anything new to say, so it stoops to digging up discarded old news, and respins it as shamelessly as it can. This Sunday:
In Bush's State of the Union speech, he said Iraq sought uranium from Niger -- the materials needed to build a nuclear weapon. That intelligence report has since been discredited as fanciful
Well yes, Colin Powell himself acknowledged that the report was a forgery back in March.

And that's the credibility gap between the Bush administration and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The administration admits its mistakes and retracts disproven allegations. The P-I, on the other hand, continues to publish fabrications, lies and distortions and refuses to retract its obvious mistakes.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:07 AM
June 16, 2003
Lileks Live

On today's Hugh Hewitt show, Lileks says: It's apparently 120 degrees in the shade at Jasperwood; people in Minnesota are afraid that Gov. Gray Davis will run a railroad from L.A. to Minneapolis; He also (a) asks not to be trusted with power tools, but loves fireworks; (b) hopes to see Howard Dean capture the nomination in order to self-destruct; and (c) believes that Richard Gephardt comes from Venus; Tune in again next week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:34 PM
Repo Man

Georgia Finds Dirty Bomb Material in Taxi

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgian authorities have found highly radioactive material that could be used in a "dirty" bomb and a container of lethal Mustard Gas in a taxi in the capital Tbilisi, police said on Monday.
Police searched the taxi on May 31 and found two metal boxes stuffed with radioactive by-products of nuclear fission, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. One container, inscribed in Russian and English, weighed at least 170 pounds.
I blame society.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:27 PM
Moral Equivalence Watch

The Associated Press filed this report today, under the headline "Israel Pledges to Keep Attacking Hamas"

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to keep up attacks on Hamas, and Egyptian mediators failed Monday to persuade the violent Islamic group and other militants to call a cease-fire.
[emphasis mine]. Maybe the "and" should be replaced by "because". Oh, heck. Maybe the headline and lead paragraphs should be re-written as follows:
Hamas Pledges to Destroy Israel
The violent terrorist group Hamas continues to reject all appeals to stop killing civilians, insisting that it will not lay down its weapons until the Jewish state is exterminated. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to continue defending his nation from Hamas terror attacks which have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent Israelis and show no signs of abating.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:05 PM
Ruth Rosen, Psychic Medium

In last week's Father's Day column, Ruth Rosen channels the spirit of her departed father

Now, 10 years after his death, I can still imagine what he'd be thinking and saying today. He'd sharply criticize the U.S. Supreme Court for selecting a president; he'd excoriate President Bush for rejecting the International Criminal Court.

He would be especially outraged that prisoners are languishing in a lawless netherworld at a naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. "No right to a lawyer? No right to hear charges? And now they're going to hold secret military tribunals? This is not the country I loved."

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Ruth Rosen channeled the spirit of the slain Dr. King
If he were alive today, King probably would be reviled by many as an unpatriotic traitor. Why? Because he would oppose a pre-emptive war on Iraq. Because he would organize nonviolent civil disobedience against American military aggression. Because he would lead a march of the poor against tax cuts for the rich.
If Ruth Rosen's ideas had any validity, she wouldn't have to keep putting words in the mouths of dead people who can't refute her. Here are my predictions for some of Ruth Rosen's future holiday columns:

On July 4th, Ruth Rosen will tell us that Benjamin Franklin would have opposed school vouchers. On Purim, Ruth Rosen will tell us that Queen Esther would have favored abortion rights. On Thanksgiving, Ruth Rosen will argue that Miles Standish would have supported universal health insurance. And on President's Day, Ruth Rosen will say that if George Washington were alive today he would convert to Islam and become a suicide bomber.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
June 15, 2003
Corrections

From today's Seattle Times [print only]

Plum Creek Timber has 2,050 employees, not 800. It has 25 fewer employees than the previous year, not 1,275 fewer as reported in a chart last Sunday about companies that have lost the most employees during the last year.
and
An article last Sunday on the importance of sleep mistakenly pegged the annual number of fatigue-related traffic fatalities at about 100,000. That figure is actually the total number of pertinent police-reported highway car crashes each year. The National Sleep Foundation says those crashes result in 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
I commend the Seattle Times for diligently correcting their mistakes. I would also suggest that they expand their impressive "diversity" program
We benefit from a rich mix of ethnic diversity, cultures and perspectives, and we'll continue to diversify, striving to reflect our entire community.
Perhaps they can start by striving to hire someone who is competent at mathematics.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:45 PM
Spanish Bombs

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says that

[Ariel] Sharon accepted the road map and he, therefore, has to fully implement it. The credibility of his government relies on this."
Even though Palestinian "Prime Minister" Abu Mazen has done nothing to hold up his end of the bargain, his own credibility has not diminished in Aznar's eyes
Aznar says: "I recognize the difficulties facing a leader who must provide security to his citizens and who is suddenly required to restrain his actions. However, if Sharon continues to argue that he must act instead of Abu Mazen, it will be very difficult to move forward."
Arafat has not lost any credibility in Aznar's eyes either
Aznar believes that isolating Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is "not the solution," and rejects Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's boycott on any leader who visits Arafat in the Muqata.
Abu Mazan and Yasser Arafat have both said they would not be satisfied with a Palestinian state. They also insist on a "right of return" for the descendents of the Arabs who chose to leave Israel in 1948. Coincidentally, many if not most Israelis are descended from the Jews who were kicked out of Spain by the Inquisition. Spain does not offer a right of return to Spanish Jews who were expelled from their homeland. I wonder how many Jewish refugees Spain would be willing to accept if the Palestinians accomplished their goal of expelling all the Jews from Israel.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:55 AM
Non-intersecting versions of reality

Ha'aretz reports on a security co-operation meeting that was held on Saturday

Palestinian sources told Israel Radio that the meeting took place at the Herzliya home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, thus giving U.S. patronage to the meeting. Israeli sources however said that the meeting took place in a Jerusalem hotel.
Herzliya is about 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem. But presumably there is a diplomatic explanation that permits both sides to be right.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:27 AM
June 14, 2003
Terrorism Graduation Ceremony

Here is a news story about graduation ceremonies at the nearby Evergreen State Terrorism Training Camp. Headline "Graduation day activities to honor slain activist"

One missing graduate will loom large over today's graduation festivities at The Evergreen State College as peace groups plan events to highlight her death.
...
Hundreds of volunteers from Women in Black, an international women's group promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, will stage a vigil during graduation.
[emphasis mine]. Do you get that? People who support Palestinian terrorist organizations are described as "peace activists". Women in Black opposes the "occupation" of "Palestine", but not, for example, Syria's occupation of Lebanon, nor suicide bombings that kill Israeli women in, say, grocery stores.
Organizers are aware that some critics have expressed concern about the attention given to Rachel Corrie and see it as criticism of Israel that borders on anti-Semitism.

But Wendy Smith, a Seattle resident and member of Women in Black, said the group's agenda for ending the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is not racist or anti-Semitic.

"I'm Jewish," she said. "I want to be proud of Israel."

I'm glad that Wendy Smith wants to be proud of Israel. But one gets the feeling that she would be more proud of a pile of five million dead Israeli victims than a thriving country that defends its own existence. The article concludes that giving moral support to Jew-killing terrorists is not anti-Semitic because the reporter didn't bother to solicit the opinions of any Jews other than the lunatic-fringe activists that were already self-identifed friends of Corrie.
Simona Sharoni, executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association on the Evergreen campus, is coordinating the effort.

Sharoni, who is Jewish, said she is sensitive to criticism that honoring Rachel Corrie amounts to anti-Semitism.

"We are very sensitive to these accusations," she said.

The Israeli-born Evergreen Professor Sharoni is author of the book Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women's Resistance. I wonder how Simona "Peace, Justice and Feminism" Sharoni feels about the fact that while Israel initiates force only against (mostly male) combatants, most of the people murdered in cold blood by the very un-feminist, un-peaceful and un-just Palestinian terrorists have been innocent civilians, including a large proportion of women.

Evergreen State College received $60 million of the taxpayers' money this year.

(thanks to the formidable Erin O'Connor for suggesting the article)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:54 PM
June 13, 2003
Restraint

Reuters reports that

An Israeli air strike killed a Hamas militant and wounded 26 other Palestinians in Gaza City on Friday as the Jewish state, which later launched a second air attack, promised a "war to the bitter end" on the Islamic group.

But the United States urged restraint on its Israeli ally.

Meanwhile,
U.S. troops killed 27 Iraqis who they said ambushed a tank patrol on Friday, after killing at least 70 at a guerrilla camp the day before, in the bloodiest clashes since major combat was declared over.
I have always supported the war in Iraq and accept the loss of 97 enemy soldiers as a legitimate price to pay in the pursuit of U.S. national security. On the other hand, I can't help but notice that no Iraqi, to my knowledge, has ever blown himself up on American public transportation. It seems both tasteless and counter-productive for the administration to call on its ally to exercise more restraint in fighting terrorism than the U.S. exercises. Especially when that ally's citizens suffer proportionately more at the hands of the same Islamofascists that we're all fighting together.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:08 PM
Here and There, Jun 13

Europeaser Union Watch: EU opens debate on cutting off support for Hamas

BRUSSELS, June 13 — The European Union will consider how to cut off funding for Hamas after this week's suicide attacks against Israelis by the militant Islamic organisation, the bloc's foreign policy chief said on Friday.
''The EU will discuss this issue with a view to finding ways to end external support to Hamas,'' Javier Solana said in a statement.
An official said the statement showed the EU -- which has the military wing of Hamas on its list of banned ''terrorist'' groups but not its charitable wing -- finally opened the debate on a wider clampdown long sought by Washington.
[emphasis mine]. I wonder which will happen first: (a) Israel exterminates the Hamas, or (b) the EU terminates funding for the Hamas. Please, no wagering.

That great down-there newspaper The Age calls Hamas "spiritual leader" Sheikh Ahmed Yassin "The Hamas leader Sharon dares not assassinate". I give the crippled former gymnast (read the article) one month, tops. But please, no wagering. The Age also quotes a "commander of Hamas's military wing" as being "ready for dialogue"

Hamas is not inflexible. It is our goal to return all of Palestine to its rightful owners but we recognise that this must come in stages.
Some free business advice to The Age: Read the Hamas Charter

And this AP photo shows some young Hamas women who love America so much they are using this photo op in their application to study at Evergreen State College.

Evergreen State College is the perfect segue from the Hamas to Washington State and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Today's P-I has a front page "Analysis" piece on the recently concluded state budget. It opens with the delicious admission that

Liberals were doomed from the start.
Add to the "What Liberal Media? Oh That Liberal Media" file, the P-I's wrap-up of the budget's "Winners" and "Losers". The former including: "Republicans", "Boeing and business" and "Gov. Locke", and the latter are: "The poor", "Teachers" and "Democrats". Mysteriously, their Winners column omits "Ordinary Taxpayers".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:40 AM
June 12, 2003
Hamas, R.I.P.

Today's White House Press Briefing

MR. FLEISCHER: As I just said, the issue is not Israel. The issue is not Palestinian Authority. Israel and the Palestinian Authority want to work together and are finding ways to work together. The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas. Hamas is no friend to the Palestinian
Authority. Hamas is a threat to everything that Prime Minister Abbas and those people in the Palestinian Authority who seek to create a state stand for. It's not as if a phone call will get Hamas to stop being terrorists.

What's important is for everybody in the region to work together to defeat Hamas and violent terrorist organizations.

Did everybody get that? Apparently one reporter didn't:
Q: So you don't have any problem with Israel's comments today that they're vowing to wipe out Hamas, and that the road map may be frozen if there's any more terrorist attacks that occur similar to the bus bombing?

MR. FLEISCHER: What the President thinks has to happen is that all parties must defeat terror. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority want to work together in peace to create a state. Hamas is a threat to both. It's not as if Hamas is part and parcel of the Palestinian Authority. It's important to recognize that groups like Hamas have no interest in peace, no interest in the creation of the Palestinian state. Their goal is to kill. They are the enemies to peace, in the President's judgment.

Somebody in Jerusalem has correctly parsed the President's judgment. A Ha'aretz flash update says:
Sources in Jerusalem: There is no limitation on targeting Hamas leaders, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Meanwhile, the good folks in Ramallah are still searching for the clue button
Palestinian sources: Efforts to mediate between Hamas, Palestinian Authority to achieve cease-fire continue
Along the same lines, Kofi Annan is also desperately in need of a clue or five.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ... said that the Israelis and Palestinians are apparently unable to reach an agreement on their own, and that in the present circumstances he supports sending an "armed peace force
as a buffer zone between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
A fine idea. Arm Kofi with a blue helmet, a squirt gun and a pile of Egged tickets, and have him ride the Jerusalem city buses to serve as a buffer zone between the suicide bombers and the passengers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:22 PM
June 11, 2003
Where's Saddam?

Andrew Sullivan poses the all important question "Where's Saddam?" Isn't the answer obvious? It is the same as the answer to the equally important question "Where's the WMD?"

Saddam can't be found because he doesn't exist and he never existed. Saddam was fabricated by the CIA under orders from Dick Cheney in order to justify the theft of Iraqi oil.

You read it here first.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:00 PM
Seattle's Jayson Blair?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer does not pretend to be a newspaper of record like the New York Times. It is not even a regional powerhouse like the L.A. Times. It is at best the number 2 paper in a fairly large city. Still, it is big enough to influence local opinion in Seattle and it is owned by media conglomerate Hearst. You'd think the P-I would want to exercise a certain amount of quality control on the people it hires and the editorials that it publishes.

What then, could explain the bizarre amateurish claim in Monday's lead editorial that

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."
And what could explain the surreal incompetent defense of the editorial that was offered by editorial page editor Mark Trahant?

Who knows what could explain such a lack of professionalism, but here's one theory:

Maynard Institute Chair Mark Trahant has been named editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial page, becoming one of the few Native American journalists, if not the only one, ever to run the opinion section of mainstream newspaper.
In case you were wondering, the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
has helped the nation’s news media reflect America’s diversity in staffing, content and business operations. Through its professional development programs, the Institute prepares managers for careers in both business- and news-sides of the journalism industry.
So Trahant was a "diversity hire". Presumably the P-I also had several other good reasons to hire him. But it obviously wasn't for his knowledge of U.S. history or constitutional law or for his ability to check his own facts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:25 PM
Jerusalem Bus Bombing

A suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus in downtown Jerusalem today, killing 16 and wounding 93 others.
(photo from Ha'aretz)
Most people upon hearing such news think "how awful". For some of us the first reaction is "Oh shit. I hope my family's okay". In my case I have a father, a sister, a brother and a step-mother who live in Jerusalem. I already received a reassuring email that none of my family was near the blast and all are okay. Dozens of other families are now coping with the death or devastating injury of a loved one, or the horror of not knowing where their child or parent is.

Hamas has already claimed responsibility for this mass homicide, supposedly as retaliation for yesterday's assassination attempt on Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Israeli security sources have pointed out, however, that the bus bombing had to have been coordinated long before yesterday and that bomb attempts are a routine and frequent occurrence that are unlinked to specific military operations.

To the extent that there is a causal link between Israeli anti-terror operations and suicide bombings, the connection may have more to do not with the anti-terror activity itself (which does degrade the capabilities of the terror organizations), but with the political response that comes from the rest of world. Bush's unconscionable criticism of Israel's attempt to damage Hamas can only weaken Israel and encourage more terrorism. Yes, Bush also condemned the bus bombing in "the strongest possible terms". So what? Hamas doesn't care about Bush's approval. But Israel does. And Hamas knows that Israel does. When Bush and other western leaders counsel that Israel react to the murder of its citizens with restraint, it acts with restraint. (if you don't think Israel's ongoing response to terrorism is restrained, compare with the way that other countries, including the United States, react to the murders of their own citizens). And restraint in the face of terrorism only gives a green light to more terrorism.

Yes, we should all give peace a chance, and if and when there arises a Palestinian entity that not only wants peace (as Abu Mazen perhaps does) but also has the authority to restrain the violent elements (as Abu Mazen clearly does not) then there can be peace. But Hamas does not want peace. It is constitutionally opposed to peace". Its stated goal is to drive all the Jews out of "Palestine" (including Israel). There is no possibility for peace or negotiation with Hamas any more than there could be peace or negotiation with other ideological murderers such as Hitler or Bin Laden. The only resolution to Israel's conflict with Hamas is to destroy Hamas, or to permit Hamas to destroy Israel. If you were accountable to the Israeli voters, which option would you choose? Unfortunately this a fight that Israel has to wage on its own.

If the Bush administration can't find the resolve to fight Hamas with the same vigor that it fights other sponsors of terrorism, then at least it can refrain from criticizing Israel for stepping up to the plate and doing that which must be done. I believe the President when he says

Israel can have no better or stronger friend than the United States, and better friend than President Bush.
I do believe that to be true. At the same time it's also terribly sad.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:48 AM
June 10, 2003
The P-I responds!

The P-I responded to my inquiry regarding their amazing claim that

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."
The paper's reader representative e-mailed the response from editorial page editor Mark Trahant
"Clear and present danger" does appear in the Constitution, but not in the context of war-making. It's in Article 1, Section 1, pertaining to the states' use of militias. That is one of three ways the term has come to be used.

Another is the one you pointed out, originating with Schenk vs. the United States, and pertaining to the right of self-expression.

The third, when to declare war, has developed over time, through court rulings and political discussions. In that sense, it is a debatable standard, but its usage is well established.

It was the phrase used commonly used by opponents of the war in Iraq to question whether the war was legal under the Constitution. One example was Sen. Robert Byrd, who used it in the so-called Byrd Ammendment that failed to gain approval. President Bush, in defending the war, has used the phrase "imminent threat."

We can see how you would get the impression that "clear and present danger" is used in the Constitution as the standard for war-making. Sorry for the confusion.

The Constitution does not contain the phrase "clear and present danger" in Article I Sec. 1, or anywhere else. The Byrd Amendment does not contain the phrase "clear and present danger" either, (although John McCain used it in the debate over the Byrd Amendment). Neither John McCain nor Robert Byrd are the arbiters for what is, or is not, a constitutional standard. As Trahant mentions, it is at best a debatable standard (an aspiration for a standard, really) used by some of the war's opponents. It is hardly an established constitutional standard, which to the best of my understanding would be established by federal court rulings, not by editorial writers. Furthermore, it is not a precise standard, and if applied to the other wars in our history, it's hard to say which ones would have been justified by this fictional "standard". Of course I got the impression that the paper believes that "clear and present danger" is the constitutional standard for warfare because that was clearly stated in the editorial. Did I mention that the editorial closes with
We also need to believe that the Constitution was followed and Iraq posted a clear and present danger.
It is not "confusion" that the P-I needs to apologize for, but for irresponsibly and either ignorantly or dishonestly misinforming its readers.

UPDATE Boalt Hall Law School grad Xrlq also comments.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:09 PM
Corporate Welfare Watch

In a proud attempt to bribe the Boeing Company to stay in Washington State to build the new 7E7 jetliner , Gov. Locke has offered Boeing a one-off multi-billion-dollar tax preference. The "incentives package" includes such centrally-planned- economic-nightmare subsidies as "Business and Occupation Tax rate reduction for the aerospace industry" and "Sales tax exemption for computer hardware and software used in design and engineering of airplanes and their components". Locke's justification for this tax favoritism was that ""If they decide not to do the 7E7 here, we stand to lose much more".

I'm all in favor of giving Boeing tax relief. But I'd like to see that tax relief apply to everybody. And instead of a special purpose sales tax exemption on computers to only one industry, why not have a sales tax exemption on all tools of trade to all industries?

The P-I reports the story as if a massive tax preference for only one industry is an uncontroversial idea. The Seattle Times has a more rounded picture

Business lobbyists and some Republican lawmakers said it's unfair to give Boeing such a deep tax cut when others are being told the state can't afford tax breaks.
Indeed. I'm going to write to the governor and my legislators and ask for special treatment too. I'll let you know how far I get.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:42 PM
Weekly Canard

Robert Scheer's weekly column is up. Still nostalgic for the good ole days of unrestrained Ba'athism, apparently, Scheer continues to justify his opposition to the war by moaning about intelligence failures and "administration manipulation and mendacity". The column is one long riff on the ""Saddam not so bad" Canard". Because unless you are in the minority of Americans who still disapprove of the liberation of Iraq, why bother to fabricate stories about imperfections in the process that led us to this outcome?

Interesting to note how Scheer has backtracked on an earlier distortion. This week he wrote:

Keeping secret any information that contradicted the pro-war line of the administration allowed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to fabricate what he called a "bulletproof" connection between Al Qaeda and Hussein.
Contrast with what Scheer wrote on March 18
The United States lied to the world when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof evidence" that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks and then failed to produce a shred of credible evidence.
Rumsfeld apparently did say there was "bulletproof evidence" of "links" between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, but never anything about Iraq being behind 9/11. So Scheer and his sponsors at the L.A. Times are implicitly backing away from his earlier distortion without having the courage or professionalism to issue an explicit retraction. At least he's trying a little harder to get his facts right. I like to think I might have played a small part in this, having pointed out his earlier misquote in a blog entry that was linked around the blogosphere to the tune of 16,000 page views, including several visits from the L.A. Times. On the other hand, Scheer does exactly what he accuses the administration of doing -- ignoring facts that don't support his story. The Toronto Star produced evidence weeks ago confirming links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Scheer is either a lazy researcher or he is deliberately manipulating the truth. Either way, the L.A. Times is still behind him, in spite of his long track record of substandard work.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:48 PM
Close but no cigar

Either somebody in Ariel Sharon's office has been reading my commentary or great minds think alike. Today's attempted elimination of Hamas terror kingpin and all-around obstacle to peace Abdel Aziz Rantisi nearly succeeded. Maybe the IDF's aim will be better next time.

In the meantime, the Pediatrician-of-Death is lying wounded in a Gaza hospital. There's always hope for a nosocomial infection.

I'm puzzled by the White House reaction that

''The president is concerned that the strike will undermine efforts by Palestinian authorities and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks and does not contribute to the security of Israel,'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters
Why is the removal of one irredeemable terror boss any less justified than the attempted assassination of any other irredeemable terror boss?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:19 AM
"Clear and Present Danger" Watch

Yesterday the Seattle Post-Intelligencer made the astonishing claim that

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger."
Now that the notion of a "constitutional standard for warfare" has been planted in the minds of 160,000 people, I e-mailed this inquiry to the P-I's "reader representative"
If the P-I is informing its readers that the constitutional standard for warfare is for there to be a "clear and present danger", then I'm sure your editors have a solid foundation for making this statement. Would you be kind enough to investigate and find out what references your editors relied upon to make this statement and to publish that information for the benefit of all of your readers?
I will update this space if and when I receive a response.

Meanwhile, Nexis jockey Bill Herbert sent me some P-I editorials from April 1999, apparently before the P-I's editors discovered the "clear and present danger" standard. I excerpt:

April 14 The plight of the Muslim-Kosovar refugees is taking on another horrible dimension with the fear that as many as 400,000 of them may be hiding and starving to death in the cold, snow-covered mountains of southern Kosovo

The question is whether NATO's leaders, including President Clinton, will do anything to help these desperate people.
...
NATO seems committed to its insufficient policy to strike only from the air, which is lower-risk. But there is growing popular opinion that the alliance must move more forcefully against the Serbs, including the deployment of ground forces.
...
NATO should do whatever is necessary, take whatever risks are necessary, to help these stranded people survive.

April 30 In embarrassing the nation before its citizens and the world, the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday conducted a pathetic series of contradictory votes on U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia that produced no real effect.

(interesting footnote, Seattle Congressman "Baghdad Jim" McDermott voted to support NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia)

What has changed between 1999 and 2003 that would make the passionately pro-war-against-Milosevic P-I become equally dovish on Saddam? Did Milosevic pose a "clear and present danger" to the United States, but not Saddam? Was the "clear and present danger" doctrine only invented in the last four years? Are Iraqi lives worth less than Kosovar lives? Or does the P-I reflexively support Democrat presidents, and reflexively oppose Republican presidents no matter how high the stakes?

UPDATE My neighbor Jim Miller, similarly fascinated by the P-I's apparent invention of the "clear and present danger" doctrine, gives the P-I editorial board a history lesson.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:49 AM
June 09, 2003
Ruth Rosen's Rabid Bigotry

Ruth Rosen seems to believe that every corporation is a criminal enterprise. In today's column, Rosen writes

["Consumer activist" Jamie Court] already knows that corporations have colonized our culture. "They steal more than your money," Court said. "They take your time, because you've got to sort through all those phone messages and e-mails. They steal the ink and paper in your fax machine. To them, you're not a person; you're a potential consumer."
Nobody likes junk faxes, but the disreputable businesses that send them represent only a small minority of all corporations. Court's statement, which Rosen repeats unchallenged, is every bit as bigoted and stupid as saying, for example, "Black people have colonized our cities. They steal your cars and rape your daughters".

The most serious act of corporate malfeasance here is that the Hearst Corporation, which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle, uses the subscription revenues paid by its readers to subsidize Ruth Rosen's idiotic screeds.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:06 PM
Lileks Live!

Today on the Hugh Hewitt show, Lileks gets rear-ended by a newspaper reader, blames SHARKS for causing monkeypox (hey!), says that Jesse Ventura is not ready for prime time, expresses his preference for eating tinfoil over listening to Hilary Clinton, and Jasper gets his own show, arf! (well, almost). Tune in again next week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:49 PM
"Clear and Present Danger"?

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer contains what appears to be a doozy of constitutional scholarship in an unsigned editorial lamenting the victory in Iraq

The constitutional standard for warfare is for the United States to face a "clear and present danger." That standard was twisted by the administration's argument for a preventative war -- a war called because of a supposed imminent threat of chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons that were available to Saddam's regime and by extension, terrorists worldwide.
Never mind the tired canard that the administration called Saddam an "imminent threat", which it never did -- what's this about the "constitutional standard for warfare" requiring a "clear and present danger"?

Now I'm no legal scholar, but as far as I can tell: (a) there is no such thing as the "constitutional standard for warfare", (notwithstanding Article I Section 10, which places limits on individual states acting without the consent of Congress) and (b) the only place that I can find the phrase "clear and present danger" commonly used in constitutional scholarship is in connection with the First Amendment and a standard for imposing prior restraint on expression.

I've run this by some bona fide constitutional experts, and will report back any response. In the meantime, it seems the only "clear and present danger" involved here is the "clear and present danger" to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's reputation from publishing this sort of nonsense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:40 AM
June 08, 2003
Segway!


I just took my first ride on the new Segway Human Transporter. A new business in my neighborhood is renting out Segways by the hour. Being the sort of person who's always in the mood for a cheap thrill and always willing to try a new experience or even put myself in a slightly ridiculous situation on the off-chance that I'll get a good story out of it, I signed up for a Segway ride at the earliest chance I could get.

All first-time renters are given half an hour of training, which includes a video full of frightening safety caveats, followed by a few minutes of closely supervised live practice on the sidewalk.

The Segway itself is relatively easy to use. Once you get the hang of climbing on in such a way that the unit doesn't buck like a bronco and throw you off, the machine maintains your balance for you, by using gyroscopes or something. Steering and control couldn't be easier. You lean forward to go forward, the more you lean the faster you go. To slow down, stop or go into reverse, all you do is lean back a little. To steer, you turn the left handlebar grip, clockwise to go right, counter-clockwise to left. That is all.

Armed with a dangerously small amount of knowledge and the few minutes of sidewalk practice, I am ready (or so I'm told) to take the Segway for a solo spin on neighborhood sidewalks and streets. My game plan is to ride around Green Lake (the street, not the bike path, where the Segway is still illegal) and stop by the house so the wife can take my picture. The only skills I need to acquire are to avoid traffic and pedestrians, watch out for discontinuities in the riding surface (e.g curbs, potholes, puddles, etc.) and to have quick enough reactions to steer the thing out of harm's way. Good luck! the lady from the rental place smiles. and don't worry, it's been set so you can't go faster than 4mph, which is the speed of a slow jog.

Well, I took an hour-long tour of my neighborhood streets and I did stop by the house so I could frighten my little boy and got my picture taken, and I did get back to the store in time. Here are some of the lessons I learned, in case any of you are thinking about going for a ride on a Segway. Nothing really bad happened to me, but I did stare into the face of death enough times during that one hour that I know what to warn you about.

1) Avoid riding on narrow streets that serve as bus routes, particularly in cities where the bus drivers are municipal employees and have no concerns about job security no matter how many Segways they happen to run over.

2) Avoid riding near an assisted living center where the sidewalks are full of people who are slow moving, blind and/or deaf.

3) Avoid riding in an old neighborhood where the sidewalks are buckled by tree roots and where most of curbs are rampless, both of which are hazards that may require you to dismount from the Segway abruptly.

4) If you have to dismount from the Segway abruptly, be very careful, as the unit may accelerate and roll away from you, causing possibly tortious injuries and/or property damage.

5) You will not want to ride a Segway without adequate health insurance. Do not, for example, take your first solo ride during the one month in your life when you are uncovered due to a change in employers.

6) The control shaft may suddenly start to shake violently. This is an important safety feature, designed to alert you when you are operating the Segway incorrectly. The training video tells you exactly what to do when this happens. If you do experience "stick shake" while on your first ride, you will probably have already forgotten the instructions that were in the video. Therefore you must dismount from the Segway immediately. Hopefully you will not be in the path of an oncoming passenger bus. (see #1, #4 and #5 for related caveats).

7) If you happen to catch a nice tailwind or gentle downhill slope in the road, then just at the moment when you are coasting along and finally getting the hang of the Segway and really enjoying yourself, you will suddenly feel yourself forced into a backwards lean at an acute angle to the pavement, almost as if you were waterskiing. If you are a champion waterskier, you may actually enjoy this sensation. If you have never been on waterskis you will feel that your legs are being pulled out from underneath you and that you are certain to fall backwards and crack your skull open. Leaning forward is physically impossible. The only alternative to the terrifying waterski position is to jump off the Segway. Hopefully you will not be in the path of an oncoming passenger bus (review warnings #1, #4 and #5).

Only after you return to the Segway rental station will the lady remind you that the backwards lean is an "important safety feature" to prevent you from exceeding the 4mph speed limit. When you thank the lady for her help, be sure to say something playfully charming, such as "Oh by the way, they'll send you a copy of the police report, but don't worry, the baby's injuries weren't all that serious"

If you managed to ride for an entire hour without having destroyed any city buses or uprooted any flower beds, you may be deemed worthy of renting a Segway again some day. You will also realize that you have more expertise after an hour on the Segway than you would after your first hour on, say, Rollerblades or a helicopter, and you will probably want to try it again. An hour on the Segway is still less expensive than an hour on heroin, for example. Maybe you'll even want to buy one after the early adopters finish working out the bugs and the price comes down.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:38 PM
Replacing the UN

I strongly advocate this international forum as a more attractive alternative to the United Nations. And I further nominate this public figure and goodwill ambassador as a more persuasive messenger of peace to succeed Kofi Annan.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:34 AM
June 07, 2003
Jürgen of Arabia

Scott Hanson sent me a head's up to today's Der Spiegel report on the late Jürgen Möllemann's finances. It now appears that Möllemann may have shared a 4.6million Euro bribe from the 1991 sale of 36 German Fuchs tanks to Saudi Arabia, which Möllemann helped promote as the then federal commerce minister. These funds were kept in hidden bank accounts in Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. About 1 million Euros appears to have been withdrawn from the Luxembourg account shortly before the Sept. 2002 German federal election and used to pay for Möllemann's illegally financed anti-semitic campaign flyer.

A nice tight circle -- Möllemann, head of the German-Arab Friendship Society used his government office and friendships with Qadhafi, Arafat and others to win deals for German arms dealers to sell weapons to Arab dictators, enriched himself in the process and also used the proceeds to finance the most prominent anti-Zionist propaganda that Germany has seen since 1945.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:11 PM
Thank God for Helen Thomas

Every Friday is Helen Thomas day in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Some people might think of Helen, the doyenne of the White House press corps, as that nice old lady who's been wearing the same red dress since the dawn of color television. I think of Helen as that nice old lady who is treated with enormous reverence even though she is a wet dream of every obsessive fact checker. Helen Thomas hasn't had a kind word for a Republican administration since Chester Alan Arthur was in the White House. This week's column about the DoJ Inspector General's report on the post-9/11 detention of illegal immigrants is no exception. [the full report, a 239-page 13MB pdf file is here]. Helen gives us the most inflammatory spin possible:

The immigrants swept up by the FBI's hunt for Osama bin Laden's homicidal disciples were subjected to a Kafka-esque justice system. It was reminiscent of fascist and communist dictatorships. They were treated as guilty before proven innocent.
she closes:
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "The war on terror quickly turned into a war on immigrants."

It seems Americans are beginning to come out of their coma and to begin to question the harm that has been done to civil liberties under the huge umbrella of national security. No one can argue that we need all the foresight and protection we can get to remain a safe and secure nation.

But this is a land created by immigrants and we will be renouncing our great legacy if we allow our fears to close the doors of our open society

Helen, Helen, where to begin? First of all, the report states (p. 5) that "nearly all of the 762 aliens we examined violated immigration laws, either by overstaying their visas, by entering the country illegally, or some other immigration violation.". These were not U.S. citizens, permanent residents or even legal immigrants. "Nearly all" had broken the law. How many were actually innocent? I can't find this in the report, so I assume it wasn't very many. This figure shows the nationalities of the detainees:

This was not a "war on immigrants" nor an attack on the civil liberties of innocent Americans. This was a targeted detention of unlawful aliens from a specific part of the world, immediately after this country was attacked by aliens from that part of the world. Second, "fascist and communist dictatorships" do not publish self-critical assessments of national security measures, nor do they allow journalists to publish questioning op-eds let alone biased screeds.

Could we have treated the detainees better? Yes, we could have and I hope we would do a better job in the future. I also hope that unlawful visitors from, say, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, don't put us in such a situation again. Of all the things we have to worry about these days, the comfort of immigration criminals from unfriendly countries is not at the top of my list. If Helen Thomas is ever detained for something she has written I will join the protest demanding her release. Until then I will fact-check her wrinkled ass and expose her silly hysteria for what it is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:40 AM
June 06, 2003
Corporate Welfare Watch

Washington Gov. Gary Locke is taking a bold stand for corporate welfare. Or is he? The announcement on the Governor's website:

Gov. Locke is still reviewing several proposals regarding possible tax incentives for The Boeing Company as part of the state’s effort to win final assembly of the 7E7. No decisions have been made regarding these proposals.
Is this a special incentive for Boeing, but not for anybody else? The Seattle Times reports
Gov. Gary Locke told legislative leaders last night his plan to win Boeing's new factory includes a package of tax cuts so big it will make them gulp.

Locke's incentives for Boeing would reduce the three major taxes businesses pay in Washington: business-and-occupation, property and sales, said Chief of Staff Fred Kiga. But Boeing would get the breaks only if Washington wins the final assembly plant for the proposed 7E7 jetliner ... as the deadline for a bid to Boeing approaches, the Locke administration has decided Washington needs to offer deep tax cuts to compete with other states trying to land the plant.

So are these incentives a targeted break for Boeing, or a broad "tax cut" of "the three major taxes that businesses pay in Washington". It sounds like the former, but the Times story isn't as clear as it should be.

A tax cut is a great idea, but only if it applies to all businesses equally and not just to those who can spend the most on campaign contributions and lobbyists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:47 PM
Awards Dinner for Friends of Terrorism

MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, recently presented Craig and Cindy Corrie with

the Courage Award in memory of their daughter Rachel Corrie who was killed by the Israeli Army in Gaza Strip in March, 2003 and All victims of Israeli war crimes during Freedom Summer: Celebrating Courage Event in Orange County.
See the grotesque photo album with the beaming Craig and Cindy Corrie, the brotherhood hug with an apologist for Islamist fascism and the sisterhood hug with an advocate for the elimination of Israel and the singing and dancing in celebration of terrorism. And then go take another look at a different photo album to see who Rachel Corrie gave her life to defend.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:19 AM
Roadmap to Nowhere

Yesterday Arafat tried to undermine "Prime Minister" Abu Mazen's authority to negotiate a peace agreement. Today Hamas is breaking off "ceasefire talks" with the Palestinian "Authority" that is "headed" by Abu Mazen.

If anybody out there is compiling a list of ways to help Abu Mazen consolidate his authority to help seed the peace process -- You might want to add "Kill Arafat and the top leadership of Hamas", somewhere between "Stage a phone call with George W Bush" and "Write the guy a large check"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:09 AM
Ruth Rosen Resurges

Ruth Rosen, in Thursday's column:

THE BUSH administration faces a growing credibility gap that may turn into one of the most serious political scandals in our nation's history. Watergate may one day seem minor-league by comparison.
Yes, this so-called scandal may dwarf Watergate some day, just as Ruth Rosen may get herself elected Empress of Tasmania. But what is this huge scandal?
What I'm about to describe is not a conspiracy. It is the story of a group of men determined to implement a long-held vision.
"Please, just tell me", I moan, leaning in closer toward my monitor, "I can't bear the suspense any longer".
In 1997, years before George W. Bush entered office, Donald H. Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz founded the Project for the New American Century, a neo- conservative think tank. As part of their larger published vision for "Rebuilding America's Defenses," they repeatedly lobbied for "regime change" in Iraq in order to extend America's influence in the Middle East.
Oh, please. Is that all? That's not new. Those are just Bob Scheer's "Neocon Clique" and "Redraw the Map of the Mideast" canards that he's been pumping every week in the Chronicle for the last six months. What, did Scheer's wife drop a pile of his columns on your desk?
The selling of the war turned out to be a huge success. The vast majority of Americans believed Iraq had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction and harbored nests of al Qaeda terrorists. Many Americans also believed that the Sept. 11 terrorists had included Iraqi men.
Unfortunately for Ruth Rosen's bogus 'scandal', the Clinton administration also raised concerns about Iraqi WMD; I can't find any administration statement that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 hijackings; and any perception that Iraqis were involved in the attacks was not caused by, for example, the administration's official list of the hijackers.
So far, no WMDs have been found ... No outposts of al Qaeda terrorists have been uncovered in Iraq. No traces of chemical or biological weapons have been detected in the two trailers.
Well, no smoking gun full of WMD has been found. To which I share but two of many observations: (1) If someone were running a massive conspiracy and cover-up, you'd think that the planted bogus WMD would have been "found" and paraded around weeks ago. Instead, we've heard a number of unproductive "We have to take our time and look at it"s; and (2) Saddam, Uday and Qusay have not been found yet either. Does Ruth Rosen offer that as proof that the Hussein family never really existed?

The foreign press has accused the Bush administration of having lied to the world. In the United States, however, people have been reluctant to ask: What did the president and other officials know, and when did they know it?
That's because most Americans recognize that there were a lot of good reasons to overthrow Saddam and that both Iraq and the rest of the world are better off now that he's gone. Most Americans, that is, except for Ruth Rosen and the most partisan of Democrats who believe that Saddam Hussein should still be in office while George W. Bush should be treated like a criminal.

But keep plugging away at the scandal that's fermenting inside your head, Ruthie. You may go down in history as the Woodward and Bernstein of the 21st Century. Or, in the immortal words of Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee in "All the President's Men", brushing off a proposal to publish day-old weather reports: "Send it out to the San Francisco Chronicle -- they need it"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:53 AM
June 05, 2003
Today in the Seattle P-I

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today ran a front-page story from its reporter in Basra about the homecoming of an Iraqi exile who had been living in Seattle: 'Under Saddam, it would not be possible' -- for Yahya Al-Garib to go home that is. But Yahya was able to go home and see his 80-year-old father now that the United States has liberated his homeland. Chalk one up for human rights. The P-I's editors back in the home office, however, are not so sure. The front page of the print edition has an adjacent teaser "Pentagon denies manipulating intelligence to justify war on Iraq" with a jump to this story. No matter how spurious the accusation, the charge will always stick more than the denial. Compare with this hypothetical headline:

POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER WINS PULITZER
Reporter denies allegations of men's room sex-act with Pulitzer committee member
Am I overly sensitive to detect bias on today's actual front page? Why, no!

Today's editorial page has this unsigned editorial: Truth test for war's justification

The justification for going to war against Iraq was the imminent threat its weapons of mass destruction posed to the safety and security of Americans.
First of all, the administration never said that Iraq was an "imminent threat" to the United States -- that was fabricated by the L.A. Times and repeated into a Big Lie by Robert Scheer. Second, The United States never has nor ever will, go to war on the basis of only one "The justification". There were many good reasons to rid the world of the Saddamite menace, the well-founded suspicion of a WMD program was only of them. The destabilizing human rights abuses by the Baathist mafia was another.
But Americans remember why we were told our treasury must be depleted and our sons and daughters put at risk. Ultimately, the administration's fate may rest on whether it told us the truth.
Yes, Americans remember why we went to war (our treasury was not depleted, though), but the Seattle P-I editorial board still has no clue -- even when it's there on the front page of their own newspaper.

Elsewhere on the editorial page there is this cartoon from the in-house David Horsey, that also alleges that Bush lied.

But what would you expect from a newspaper that equates the suicidal accident of terror advocate Rachel Corrie with the suicide-bomb murders of American students at the Hebrew University?

Needless to say, I won't be paying for a subscription to the P-I after the free trial is up.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:32 PM
Howell Raines has Resigned

New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd resigned today.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:24 AM
Möllemann is Dead

Jürgen W. Möllemann died today in an apparently suicidal parachute jump.

Möllemann, 57, was a once rising German politician whose flirtation with anti-Semitism, and campaign finance irregularities led to his fall from power in recent months. Today he fell, literally, to his death. The one-time paratrooper remained a parachuting enthusiast and frequently jumped out of airplanes as a campaign stunt. Today he joined several friends for what initially appeared to be a routine parachuting excursion and made his last jump. Witnesses say his equipment malfunctioned in what could only be explained as a deliberate act of self-sabotage -- he became separated from the main chute and the reserve chute did not open. He died in a free fall, landing into a cornfield.

The fatal jump occurred only minutes after the Bundestag lifted Möllemann's parliamentary immunity amidst an investigation over violations of campaign finance laws.

This bizarre ending is sadly fitting, I suppose, to Möllemann's entire bizarre story that I've covered on these pages and on a website dedicated to him -- moellemann.com.

Jürgen W. Möllemann is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Not much on this in the English language press yet, here's one item.

(Thanks to Ralf Goergens, Christophe Kotowski and Dan Glickman for sending me a head's up).

UPDATE: Bloomberg has a report;

The always industrious Freepers are also on the case with a dpa article "ARAB WORLD LOSES FRIEND WITH GERMAN POLITICIANS' DEATH". (Moellemann had been president of the German-Arab Friendship Society)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:19 AM
What's the L.A. Times' Excuse?

The L.A. Times published Robert Scheer's latest Canard-o-matic-breaking column this Tuesday. It would be interesting to hear the Times' official defense of Scheer's work, especially in light of editor John Carroll's stated interest in combating the (unfair, in his view) perception that the Times is "a liberal, 'politically correct' newspaper"

I want everyone to understand how serious I am about purging all political bias from our coverage ... we are not going to push a liberal agenda in the news pages of the Times."
I can't imagine what the Times' excuse for continuing to publish Scheer would be. I speculate on a motivation here, but I have no idea what kind of public explanation they might offer. In any event, I know that ignorance is not the problem. My traffic log shows that I received several dozen hits for the Canard-o-matic and other Scheer-related postings from the L.A. Times proxy server (198.187.230.40) since May 21. These hits were by way of links from Hugh Hewitt, the LA Examiner, Cathy Seipp, Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and Best of the Web. There was even a google query for scheer "jessica lynch".

So there are people at the Times who read the more prominent web sites that criticize the Times and show Scheer's journalism to be both partisan and fraudulent. Still, they continue to publish Scheer anyway. Why? If there is a good reason for this, the Times' audience deserves to hear what it is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
June 04, 2003
The trains are late!

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently sent a couple of its reporters to Baghdad. Today's front page has a story about Iraq's railroad with the headline "Iraq's trains are looted, late -- but running"

Thair Al-Asad, a 24-year-old laborer, was glad to be on the green and yellow train when it pulled out of the crowded station at 9 a.m., about a half-hour late
The front page headline used the word "late" so presumably this is an important part of the story. Is this a bit of historical revisionism and nostalgia for the good old days of Baathism, along the lines of "At least Mussolini made the trains run on time"? Is half an hour late typical? Is this result better or worse than when Saddam ran the trains? How many Iraqi train operators used to be killed or tortured, volleyball-style, in the interest of railroad efficiency? The article doesn't say. Nevertheless, the P-I editors must have a hard time admitting that life in Iraq has improved under U.S. occupation, hence the headline that fixates on the lateness of the trains.

The headline was presumably written by one of the sages back at the home office in Seattle. The actual reporter on the actual train also related the following anecdote about an actual Iraqi passenger

One young man picked up an Arabic language newspaper and studied a photo of President Bush.

"I love Bush," he said in Arabic, to no one in particular.

When asked why, he said, "I love him because he got rid of Saddam Hussein."

And what about the U.S. soldiers in Iraq?

"I love them all," he said. "I am happy to have them in this country."

Go figure. Is this anecdote any more or less representative of the new reality in Iraq (and therefore headline-worthy) than the fact that a train left a station a few minutes late?

And speaking of missing the train, I wonder how long it will take for any of my neighbors to declare victory and remove the "No Iraq War" signs from their front lawns.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:46 PM
Weekly Canard

While we're on the subject of liars, whores, charlatans and fools [see below], Robert Scheer has given us his weekly column. It appears to have been written by setting the Canard-o-matic machine on auto-pilot with the volume turned up to 11.

We are treated to the following Classic Scheer Canards:
The "Big Lie" Canard:

How their big lie came to be
Hawks came to consensus that WMD myth was best tool for manufacturing urgency
The "Imminent Threat" Canard
Now that the "imminent threat" posed by Iraqi chemical or biological weapons has turned out not to be so imminent...
The "September 11" Canard and The "Redraw the Map" Canard all in one sentence!
Thus, the terror of 9/11 and the boogeyman of Iraq's supposed WMD stash became the key to pushing an ambitious plan to redraw the map of the Middle East.
The "Neocon Clique" Canard
That was the pet project of a band of neocon missionaries who had failed to convince either the first Bush administration or the Clinton administration that such a campaign was plausible or desirable.
The "Our Friend Saddam" Canard
we knew Hussein had some scary biological and chemical weapons in the '80s because he was our ally in the war against Iran, and we supplied him with some of them.
Scheer climaxes with The "Inspections Working" Canard
And though United Nations inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the Pentagon hawks found some Iraqi exiles in Washington who were more than willing to provide handy lists of the precise locations of deployed WMDs. And thus was born the big lie: There's no time for U.N. inspectors to continue their work;
Wow.

Scheer treats us to one more howler:

For Wolfowitz and friends, the 9/11 attacks were almost a gift, an opportunity to play God. "If you had to pick the 10 most important foreign policy things for the United States over the last 100 years, [Sept. 11] would surely rank in the top 10 if not No. 1," he told Vanity Fair.
Scheer seems outraged that anybody would think that the Sept. 11 attacks were a significant foreign policy event that warranted a response. I would be interested in Scheer's list of the 10 most important foreign policy events of the last 100 years. Would it contain the Wen Ho Lee case? the "Jessica Lynch hoax" hoax?

Speaking of which, you'll notice that this week's column has no mention of Jessica Lynch. If the alleged fabrication were really the scoop of the decade that Scheer seemed to play it as, why isn't he still milking it?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:27 AM
P-I Round-up

First a quiz question. Please, no cheating. Q: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is run by: (a) liars (b) charlatans (c) whores (d) fools, or (e) mendicants.

Confused? You're not alone. It is actually a trick question. The answer is: (f) all of the above.

Let's take a tour of Tuesday's P-I. In addition to the sympathetic report on a flag-burning anti-police riot, yesterday's paper contains the following bonus nuggets of unnecessary journalism:

This story, about a Pentagon research project "to develop a digital super diary that records heartbeats, travel, Internet chats, everything a person does" under the hysterical headline Pentagon wants to record every breath you take. Well they don't. At least not your breath. Unless you happen to be, say, one these guys. And if the Pentagon really was clever enough to create a massive Big Brother system to spy on the average Seattle P-I reader, you'd think they'd also be clever enough to ensure that the Seattle P-I never got wind of it.

In the front page story After long decline, state's welfare rolls surge, the poster family representing Those Who Need Welfare Most is a widowed Somali refugee with five children. But this unfortunate woman is less a proxy for the American welfare recipient as she is a proxy for those immigrants who should be admitted only if they have someone to sponsor them.

Meanwhile, over in the business section we are told that "Experts suggest bear market may be behind us with this rally"

"We're probably on the cusp of a cyclical rise in stock prices," said David Francis, head of equities for [Thrivent Investment Management], which manages $57 billion. "We think the worst is behind us for the bear market."
This is a textbook case of the sort of financial journalism that teaches people how to do stupid things with their money -- like taking seriously the market predictions of unchallenged experts and investing one's money accordingly. The sad reality is that the only expert on the market is the one who admits that there are no experts and tells you that no honest person has any idea what the market is going to do next year.

Elsewhere in the business section we find this New York Times story about the FCC's revision of media ownership rules with the prominent subhead "Too much power in too few hands, critics charge". Not that there isn't already too much power in the mere two hands of say, Howell Raines. The P-I, by the way, is owned by the Hearst Corporation which owns 11 other daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle. If Hearst is concerned about too much power in too few hands, I'll be happy to take P-I off their hands and offer some needed, ahem, diversity (of competence) on the west coast.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
June 03, 2003
Rioting for Terrorism

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on a local riot held to protest a police intelligence-training seminar on the subject "Criminal Intelligence and the War on Terrorism". In what I'm learning to recognize as the classic P-I inverted pyramid, the hilarious bias goes in the headline and the top of the article, the real story is buried somewhere in the middle:

Seattle protest turns ugly
Spray, rubber bullets used on crowd at police seminar

Police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse a downtown march and rally last night by activists protesting an annual police intelligence-training seminar.

The horrors of police brutality in Ashcroft's AmeriKKKa! Rubber bullets used against activists at a rally! Oh yeah, then we get to paragraph 7:
At about 8:30 p.m., police reported a segment of the remaining crowd was hurling sticks and bottles, police spokeswoman Deanna Nollette said. A fight broke out after police tried to arrest a protester in front of their "fence line," Nollette said, because the person had damaged property and possibly tried to start a fire. At that point, she said, the crowd surged.

Police then used pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up the gathering.

Then there are the photos, including this one of a young shahid from Evergreen State Terrorism Training Camp and this picture of giggling youngsters who are burning a flag, presumably because they love their country and want to improve it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:21 AM
Lileks the Radio Star

Yesterday on the Hugh Hewitt show, the debut of a regular Monday segment with the formidable James Lileks. You read a man's column for a year, you recognize his inner voice, but you've never heard his outer one until one day when you discover two things: (1) You've been mispronouncing his name all this time-- it's Lileks as in lie'-licks almost like lilacs, not Lileks as in lill'-ucks. This will take some time to get used to, but the adjustment will be for the better. (2) The guy is a natural for the medium, a joy to listen to. In addition to the smoov resonant broadcaster voice there is also the easy going conversation style. Hewitt asked him about current events in the Gopher state -- ths year's bear hunting season (made difficult by natural food, or something like that) and a new concealed carry law. All the news from Lake Wobegone that the other Minnesota radio guy will never tell you about. It was a slightly different persona than the one on the Bleat -- none of the elaborate surprising metaphors that can't possibly be spun extemporaneously, but the refreshing friendly irony was all there. Tune in again next Monday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:46 AM
June 02, 2003
Crayon Diversity Award

Today's Crayon Diversity Award goes to the King County Superior Court, who, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells us, is changing the jury service system because "Widening racial diversity of those serving is one of program's goals". Now I'm all in favor of making jury service more convenient for people (which the changes seem to do) and ensuring that the jury pool is as inclusive as possible, but is lack of racial diversity even a problem? The King County Courts and the P-I want us to think it's a problem, to wit the following quotes:

Glancing around the hard wooden benches in a King County courtroom last week, Richard Blair couldn't help noticing who surrounded him.

Of the 45 people assembled as possible jurors for that morning's trial, Blair was one of only two African Americans. "I looked at that and I said, 'What's wrong with this picture?' " he recalled.

County judges agree it's wrong. And improving racial diversity is one of the goals behind a new effort to broaden participation in Superior Court juries.

and
judges, lawyers and administrators agree it's a largely white group filling jury boxes day after day. That's a concern in a justice system that's supposed to provide each defendant with a jury of peers.
Only two African Americans out of 45! And jurors are a largely white group! Shocking? Hardly.

The US Census Bureau reports that 75.5% of the residents of King County are white (I guess this happens to be a largely white community) and 6.3% claim at least some African ancestry. In other words, in a group of 45 randomly selected King County residents you will find, on average, 2.8 African Americans. So only two African Americans in the jury room is more or less what you should expect.

But this unnecessarily histrionic anecdote aside, what are the actual statistics on the demographic breakdown of the jury pool?

The racial makeup of those who actually serve is unknown. The county doesn't keep track of ethnicity, income level or other juror characteristics because, according to court administrators, it's too difficult. Olney said the last time surveys were tried, most people declined to fill them out.
So even though nobody has any clue how diverse the jury pool really is, the axiom is that diversity needs to be improved.

There are also the other questions of how changing the racial composition of a jury will improve the fairness of the process, whether deliberately increasing the jury participation of, say, African Americans beyond their proportional presence in the community would itself be fair, and whether ensuring diversity of factors other than race (e.g. education, religion, family status, age, economic status, political beliefs) may be more important than racial diversity. But the lesson here for me is that when a newspaper headline bemoans the lack of "racial diversity", there's a good chance the story has no foundation in reality.

UPDATE John Rosenberg adds his thoughts on "diversity" in jury selection.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:20 AM
Here and There, June 2

Today on the Hugh Hewitt show: Lileks! at 5:20pm Central time. A list of stations that carry the program is here

I forget to mention that yesterday, June 1, was my first blogversary. Little did I expect when I started the thing on June 1, 2002 [first entry here] that I would get 300,000 page views (granted, a fair number of those are from my own mother), or that I would be cited by Andrew Sullivan in the Washington Times, and pummeled by the Guardian and the Toronto Star. Well, it's been fun. And it's still fun. If I keep making people smile and think a little, it will be more than worthwhile.

Just two words for all of you beer lovers out there: Moose Drool

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:50 AM
June 01, 2003
A David-English Dictionary

My son David, now 19 months old, has bypassed English altogether and invented his own language. A flair for language was to be expected here -- David's father is an insatiable polyglot and his maternal grandfather was a professor of linguistics. And David's language really is ingenious. No sentences or parts of speech are required. Why bother? Just a few simple words, used sparingly, spoken one at a time. Here is a glossary to help you translate:

Adrah: David's Colombian-born babysitter Adriana. Also, any colorful umbrella, because Adriana has a colorful umbrella.
ahgwah: water. From the Spanish agua, by way of Adrah
ahtsah: "I want to go outside". Normally uttered while banging on the inside of the front door.
ahmah: He says this often, but neither my wife or I can figure out what it means.
appuh: Apple, peach or pear.
ahrruh: Orange
baah: Ball; or any food that is round and smaller than an appuh, e.g. grapes, beans, peas or chocolate covered cherries.
bahbah: bellybutton. Also refers to other knobs on the torso, such as nipple or penis.
bahvah: Video tape. Sometimes yelled out at perfect strangers on the street or in restaurants accompanied by a gesture involving repeated slaps to the wrist. Can also refer to a television set, or any other device that resembles a television set, such as computer monitor or a microwave oven.
buh [pronounced like bird without the -rd] shoe
dihdih[i]: any four-wheeled vehicle, including car, truck, train, bulldozer. Also a favorite bahvah that shows some bulldozers tearing down a building.
dihdih[ii]: Strawberry
dihdih[iii]: A grown-up friend of the family, who is more commonly known as "Julie"
elbuh: the joint connecting the upper arm with the forearm
guguh: yogurt; chocolate; avocado; motorcycle
mah: "I want more of that" or "I want to play that game again". Is repeated at machine gun velocity with increasing volume until the grown-up capitulates.
nah: A kitty cat; also the sound that a cat makes.
nahnah: a long yellow fruit.
nee: "I don't like it." Always accompanied by the shaking of the head.
neeee: the joint connecting the hipbone with the shinbone
nihnyih: noodles
neenee: any other starchy food, such as cookies, crackers, rice, cereal
nnnnnn: nose
ohvuh: oval (yes, he can tell the difference between an oval and a circle. for some reason he has a word only for the former, not for the latter)
uppuh: "Take me out of my stroller/car seat/high chair right now, or I'll throw a massive temper fit"
vah: vacuum cleaner

Coming soon: David's translation into toddler-speak of the complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:01 AM
Hollywood

My friend, the up and coming moviemaker Chase Gordon made his debut on IMDB. Congratulations to Chase!

I knew Chase Gordon back when he was still called Bernard Schwarz (well not exactly, Bernard Schwarz is somebody else's birth name. Do you know who? Test yourself before peeking at the answer. But Chase Gordon was born with a name that is not any less Jewish than Bernard Schwarz). I guess this connection makes me a Hollywood insider, so now I can discuss movies with greater authority than I used to.

We saw A Mighty Wind last night. It was very funny. Go see it. Among the special moments: Ed Begley Jr. as the Yiddish-speaking goyishe public television executive and Michael Hitchcock as the uptight music hall manager.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 AM
How does Scheer do it?

Whether or not Robert Scheer is a CIA operative, he must still have some sort of "secret sauce" to explain his staying power. Luke Ford, surely one of the most entertaining and insightful writers about people and social situations, reports on a panel discussion at the Writer's Guild featuring Scheer and David Horowitz among others.

Robert Scheer Wins Writers Guild Debate On Style, Wit
...
The evening showed how politically and analytically useless Hollywood people are. There's something about being an artist that predisposes them to political and moral stupidity.

The biggest surprise of the evening was not the large number of heckling interruptions when Horowitz spoke or how rude the crowd was to him and less frequently Titley. No, for me it was the charm and humor of Robert Scheer. He was hilarious.

And I am a conservative Republican. I came prepared to hate Scheer. I'd read Cathy Seipp tear Bob to pieces. I'd read him cut up on LaExaminer.com and Instapundit.

Scheer is a man of genuine wit .... I was charmed and amused by him...[he] just comes up with zingers naturally.

[read the whole thing. Ford doesn't have permalinks, but if it's no longer on the main page, look in his archives for the entry of May 30]. The answer, in a nutshell, is that Scheer is a charming witty fellow and he panders to an audience of close-minded and intolerant jerks, of which there is no dearth in Los Angeles.

Matt Welch says he has (fondly) known Scheer for 15 years and that Ford's description rings true. In the comments: "Bob knows how to play to the home crowd, and he's got one hell of a home crowd in L.A.".

Like Michael Moore, it seems, Scheer entertains his fan base by telling them what they want to hear, the version of events that they wish were true. But Scheer's "journalism" is no more journalism than Moore's "documentary" is a documentary. So don't expect the Los Angeles Times or the San Francisco Chronicle to drop Scheer any time soon. These institutions are not in the business of disseminating news, they are in the business of selling newspapers. And Scheer must represent what their most loyal readers seem to want to buy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:34 AM