Monday, July 31, 2006

Light week for blogging

The past week has been light for blogging since I've been busy with a couple of projects.
I did get around to viewing the Christopher Hitchens lecture on the "Moral Necessity of Atheism"--I'll post a review after I transcribe a few quotations from the lecture.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Whoa--Football! Bucs sign draft picks in time for training camp

I like baseball okay. Football (American football) rules.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their entire 2006 draft class signed in time for training camp. This is worth mentioning, and not only because it has to do with football.

Each team in the Bucs' division, the NFC South, improved by signing good players. The Saints picked up Reggie Bush. The Falcons picked up John Abraham. The Panthers signed Keyshaun Johnson.
The Bucs?
They signed a few lower-profile folks. That's where the draft class comes in. The Bucs are trying to employ the model employed by the New England Patriots. The idea is to find players who fit the system and the atmosphere. Every starter save one (Dexter Jackson) returns to the defense. The organization sets a premium on continuity and teamwork.

The team has a tough year ahead. The schedule is not favorable, and the would-be second-string quarterback (Luke McCown) has probably been lost for the year with an ACL injury. That said, the Bucs should improve this year after winning the division last season. The defense is a little bit older, but the team has acquired good depth on defense and the offense may see marked improvement--particularly if wide receiver David Boston flashes some of the form he showed when he was with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Achilles' heel of the team figures to be quarterback. Chris Simms showed a great deal of promise after taking over for injured Brian Griese last season. Griese opted to sign with the Chicago Bears after the Bucs cut him in the offseason, leaving the Bucs with McCown and Tim Rattay as the backups. When McCown went down with his injury, the Bucs moved to sign Jay Fiedler. Fiedler was about the best option available without trading an arm and a leg to another team for an established backup, but Fiedler isn't ready to throw as of now. He incurred a shoulder injury last season while subbing for the New York Jets, and it hasn't quite healed up yet. Late-round draft pick Bruce Gradkowski, whom I've raved about here, has reportedly been penciled in as the second-string quarterback going into training camp (he's practicing with the second-stringers), which seems to confirm rumors that Rattay hasn't wowed anybody with his practice-field play thus far.

The bottom line is that the Bucs' depth at quarterback is suspect even if Simms fulfills the potential that he showed last season. An injury to Simms may well derail the team's playoff hopes.
The Bucs are likely to watch rosters closely to see if a decent quarterback becomes available, especially if Fiedler's rehabilitation doesn't come along rapidly. As good as Gradkowski may become, the Bucs would be nuts to enter the season with him as their number two quarterback.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Paging the media: We need another legend

Powerline blog points out a Washington Post story about a recent Harris poll that found roughly 50 percent of Americans currently believe that Iraq had WMD.
Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in 2003--up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial" and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years.
(Washington Post)

The poll was conducted after Republican lawmakers Rick Santorum and Pete Hoekstra pushed for the release of documents showing that chemical munitions--probably from the Gulf
War era--were found in Iraq after the invasion, but the pollsters apparently did not speculate as to why the numbers increased.

We might expect the old media to start interviewing experts who explain to us how the Bush administration continues using "Iraq" and "WMD" in proximity to one another during speeches, though in this case the WaPo has accurately noted the coincidence involving the release of documents showing that Iraq did, in fact, possess WMDs. I credit Noam Chomsky with creating a cottage industry for conspiracy theorists. They look at the relationship between the capitalist free press and the government and see the government pulling the media's strings in order to manipulate public opinion.
The government can certainly influence public opinion via its statements, but it's not mind-control. It should shock us if speeches and the like did not have any effect on public opinion, on the other hand.

I can hardly wait for the PIPA followup poll intended to atone for laughable (.pdf) one that they produced in 2003.
Apparently they misperceived the misperceptions.

Sometimes war is the answer

Captain's Quarters points out a story by a former Israeli soldier turned longtime dove who has turned hawk again in light of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.
In the 1990s, Israelis sincerely thought that peace was just around the corner. Now, the Middle East is torn apart by war. A former Israeli peace activist explains why he has laid down his olive branch and is prepared to grab for his rifle.
(Der Spiegel)
Peace negotiations may work well when both sides have a similar idea of peace.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rays take 2 of 3 from Orioles

Devil Ray bats came alive the first two games of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays scored over 10 runs in each of the first two games (making it look like I knew what I was talking about with my analysis here) before running up against tough southpaw Eric Bedard, who extended his streak by winning his seventh start in a row.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What's with the Rays' losing streak?

Yes, I predicted a strong second half for the Rays based on the strong batting lineup and predicated on mediocre pitching.

So, what's going on? The Rays have dropped seven straight and the starting pitching has been, well, mediocre.

I hate to admit it, but I think that the trade I applauded, that of left-handed power-hitter Aubrey Huff, has been the biggest factor in the skid.

Huff had rebounded from an early batting slump to raise his average over .250. It's taking some time for the team to adjust to his absence, and the batting order is decidedly weaker with him gone. That said, the sacrifice this season probably pays off for the team in the future as they can avoid re-signing Huff to concentrate on the players who should serve as the keys to the Rays' future success (Kazmir, Baldelli).

Add to that the fact that the Rays have faced some pretty good pitching following the All-Star break. Minnesota's starting pitching is scary and the Angels threw a couple of pretty good arms out there, also.

One key for the team making good on my prediction is the play of Johnny Gomes. Gomes had a terrific start to the season but has struggled lately. The team needs for Gomes to start hitting like he did early in the season--or at least like he did last year at about this time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Switzerland Target for Jihad?

Swiss officials warn that Switzerland may be at risk from the attacks of radical Islamists despite their longstanding tradition of neutrality, according to the Washington Post.
This helps show that the ideology of radical Islam is about far more than changing US or European policies.

BERN, Switzerland -- For centuries, this Alpine nation has successfully relied on a strict policiy of political neutrality to insulate it from the wars, invasions, and revolutions that have raged outside its borders. These days, a new threat has emerged: one from within.
(read more)
Hat tip: Captain's Quarters.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Case sensitivity at "Terrorism News"

This is the second in a series of posts inspired by a commentary thread at the Terrorism News blog.
Again, my thanks to "H" of TN for granting permission to quote verbatim from the exchange posted here.

The focus of this post will be comment made to "Frank," who had posted a comment to TN.

Here is the portion of the article that TN used, leading to the URL for folks who wished to read more:

Top Ten Power Brokers of the Religious Right
Who they are, what they want, and why these American ayatollahs must be stopped.

The United States is home to dozens of Religious Right groups. Many have small budgets and focus on state and local issues; the most powerful organizations conduct nationwide operations, command multi-million dollar bank accounts, and attract millions of followers. They have disproportionate clout in the halls of Congress, the White House, and the courts, and they wield enormous influence within the political system.

What follows is a list of the nation's Top Ten Religious Groups, as determined by publicly available financial data and political prominence. Additional information describes the organizations' leaders, funding, and activities.

The story goes on to list, in order, CBN (Pat Robertson), Focus on the Family (James Dobson), Coral Ridge Ministries (D. James Kennedy), Alliance Defense Fund (Alan Sears), American Family Association, American Center for Law and Justice (Pat Robertson, Jay Sekulow), Family Research Council (James Dobson, Tony Perkins), Jerry Falwell Minstries (guess who), Concerned Women for America (Tim & Beverly LaHaye), and Traditional Values Coalition (Louis P. Sheldon).

Now, Frank probably figured that terrorism is something like the UN view of terrorism according to the "Academic Consensus Definition":
"Terrorism is the anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by a (semi) clandestine individual, group, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby--in contrast to assassination--the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and the main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought. (Schmid, 1988)
(United Nations)
Frank probably figured that it was a bit of a stretch to put those ten supposedly ayatollish organizations in common with folks who actually, say, saw people's heads off or set off bombs on double-decker buses.
The connection with "terrorism news," in other words, was so tenuous that Frank decided not to waste his time on a site that had such an extraordinarily broad umbrella under the term "terrorism."

Here is what Frank wrote:
I'm sorry that you chose to include this article in your "Terrorism-news" blog. This does nothing but show your bias. Because of this, I sadly cannot take anything on your site seriously. I was hoping to find useful, scholarly information about terrorism .... but oh well
(discussion thread)
Obviously, Frank had decided that TN wasn't his cup of tea.

The reaction of the site hosts, "H" and "DJEB" is where things get interesting.
Does Frank sound like he's coming back, judging from his post? It doesn't sound like it, to me. Some might disagree, I suppose. Here is DJEB's response (I'll be focusing on DJEB in this post):
Let's try your logic out Frank:

Terrorism News posted a story that offended my religious sensibilities.

And if a site makes a post that offends my religious sensibilities, it is incapable of 'useful, scholarly information about terrorism.'

Frank, I was hoping to find a useful, intelligent comment about the story in question, but .... oh well. [Please forgive my plagiarism there. Thanks.]
(discussion thread)

My reaction when I read the above was mild astonishment that the site hosts would bother to attack somebody whose comments had been rather mild, and who (in my view) wasn't likely to come back to defend himself. On top of that I was amused by the interpretative liberties apparently taken with Frank's post in order to try out Frank's supposed logic.

I replied:
Frank's comment was reasonable. You just absolutized it in order to attack it (straw-man style)
Placing this story did reveal more than a wish to reveal facts about terrorism. Frank is right to restrict himself from thinking that the presentation of facts will be done as fairly as possible.
You've got an agenda. There's nothing wrong with having an agenda, of course.
You run the risk of losing readers who want the straight dope on terrorism news when you broadcast the agenda.

Yeah, there might be some worthwhile nuggets (even quite a few of them) where space is shared with a strong agenda.

I don't think that's what Frank was talking about. He was, I think, talking about the issue of trust (as in trusting you to sift the information).
(discussion thread)
So, I felt that the charitable interpretation of Frank's note indicated that he was using hyperbole in saying that he couldn't trust anything at the TN site; he meant that he would prefer a site that chose information about terrorism over commentary that broadened the term "terrorism" along ideological lines (James Dobson and Jay Sekulow "ayatollahs"?).

DJEB would not have any of that, however.

Bryan, for me to have made straw man fallacies, I would have had to consciously misrepresent one of the premises in the syllogism, assuming that I did not neglect a premise. Could you point out my error, because I don't see it. If I did, it certainly wasn't conscious. I consider the use of straw man arguments such a part and parcel of right-wing thought that I avoid making them at all costs out of fear of copyright infringement.

As for the story going beyond the scope of terrorism, so do stories on global warming which have been published here. When they have been published, however, no one came on saying that they therefore ruined the integrity of the site.

We've got an agenda, you say. Thanks for pointing out what _H_ has said publicly: that this is "[a] site about terrorism viewed from a more global perspective. Are George Bush and Tony Blair 'terrorists'? well many in the world think so I try to present the 'other' side to the global war on terror." Digging that up from topblogsites wasn't even necessary. One merely need read the scrolling text at the top of the screen. Who does not have some agenda when they go to the trouble of creating a website, particularly a political one. Have a look at your site, I see you have an agenda too.
(discussion thread)

First, DJEB seems to be under the false impression that one cannot be guilty of committing a straw man fallacy without an intent to commit a straw man fallacy (or intentionally alter a premise such that the fallacy is created). I've looked at quite a few descriptions of the straw man fallacy without encountering that particular take; I'll leave that as something for DJEB to establish someday.
logic resource

DJEB claimed an inability to detect the straw man he was charged with creating. DJEB took what was probably hyperbole ("can't trust anything") and turned it into an extreme position that Frank supposedly held literally, and added on a premise that Frank had never uttered, that is, that his "religious sensibilities" were offended. On the face of it, Frank was offended by the expanded notion of what constitutes "news" about terrorism, not by any religious dimension. An atheist would be equally justified in reacting as did Frank.

Since I did not suggest that there was anything wrong with having an agenda (I said explicitly otherwise, in fact), nor with posting stories that went beyond the strict definition of terrorism, I consider DJEB's latter two paragraphs irrelevant except perhaps to illustrate a higher-than-average state of defensiveness.
Since we were all agreed that TN has an agenda, and I stated that there was nothing wrong with having an agenda, my original statement could have been the end of it.

My point was merely that Frank had said his piece; it was a reasonable statement if taken charitably, and there was no real sense in attacking his reasoning (especially via straw man tactics). More on DJEB later, and _H_ after that.

Previous posts in this series:
The role of bias in news and commentary

Rays extend losing streak to 5

After losing three straight to the Angels following the All-Star break, the Rays started the four-game series against the Minnesota Twins by losing first two games.

The Rays' radio announcers did their part, however.

After Twins' All-Star pitching phenom Francisco Liriano had mowed down the first nine Rays in order, the broadcast team cooked up a trivia question leading off the fourth inning: Who was the last Twins pitcher to throw a no-hitter?

Julio Lugo promptly led off the inning with a single.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Howard Dean claims the prize

Refusing to fade into moonbat obscurity, Howard Dean swoops down to claim the initial entry into the Barking Moonbat link column.

Contratulations to Howard, who had this to say on July 16 (2006):

"If you think what's going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn't, because we would have worked day after day after day to make sure we wouldn't get where we are today. We would have had the moral authority that Bill Clinton had when he brought together the Northern Irish and the IRA, when he brought together the Israelis and the Palestinians."
(San Diego Union-Tribune)
There's just one problem, Howard.
The Democrats would probably need to be in control of Hezbollah to ensure a Middle East unlike that of today.

There's just one problem, Howard.
Bill Clinton's moral authority is a modern fiction.
"Mr. Clinton, in turn, was absolutely clear that he would if necessary take a decision to deploy. The decision is due later this year." (BBC)
"The net effect of all this micro-management and over-management has been the over-identification of the US with a potentially open-ended and very costly peace process, as well as the fraying of support for the peace process (both in the region and as a whole) and the growing sense that such over-bearing outside leadership simply cannot be sustained." (Wilson Center (.pdf))
"In the rest of the world, military action would clearly be unpopular. Although aimed at strengthening the UN's authority, the action would be perceived as unilateral. The US and UK, rather than Saddam, would find themselves isolated." (Britain's Financial Times, via the World Socialist Website)

A weak United States will tend to be more popular abroad. Clinton wasn't quite weak enough to be truly popular, but it was his relative lack of strong action in the world that helped cement the popularity he did possess--not any mythical "moral authority."

Rally behind the Times

From Baroneblog, the blogging home of US News and World Report's Michael Barone:
There is a good post on "Phi Beta Cons" about the deans of several journalism schools coming to the defense of the New York Times's publication of information about SWIFT. The deans wrote in the Washington Post that the government's objections to the Times story were unfounded.

"It is the business--and the responsibility--of the press to reveal secrets," the deans write. "Despite the rhetoric of their fiercest critics, most journalists take secrets seriously."
The statement of the deans may be read at Editor & Publisher.
The piece at Baroneblog (Barone didn't author it, so far as I can tell) goes on to briefly compare the statement of the deans with Robert Novak's description of his role in the Plame case.
Here's the Novak column.

The deans claim that the House of Representatives "formally condemned the paper."
How does one formally condemn a paper without mentioning it by name????
The Republican-written resolution did not identify any publication by name. But many of the resolution's backers said The Times had acted irresponsibly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More tidbits from the captured Iraqi documents

Again, a grateful tip of the hat to Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters.
He's covering this issue like nobody else I know of.

First, since I have yet to do so, here is the link to the government website authorized to post the documents. The documents are typically posted in Arabic, then in English after translation has been completed. Under this arrangement, private individuals have the opportunity to translate the documents.
The US government has been marking about 1/3 of the documents as "classified" thus they will not be released to the public.
One wonders how they know to mark them as secret prior to allowing their release, of course. Perhaps they are scanned for keywords prior to being presented to the public.

Foreign Military Studies Office
Joint Reserve Intelligence Center

Links to recent notable summaries at CQ:
The Saddam-Osama Connection
Choosy IIS Agents Choose ... CNN
Loose Lips Generate Paperwork ... And Reveal Iraqi Malfeasance
Foreign Intel Had Identified WMD Sites

The first one is somewhat older than the latter three, but many still believe that Iraq could not have cooperated with bin Laden because of ideological differences so it's worth including.

Iraqi Documents: Chemical weapons, snowing UNSCOM

Captain's Quarters had done an excellent job of reporting on the continued work the public has accomplished on the captured Iraqi documents.
The latest two on which he comments are particularly interesting. The first concerns training with chemical weapons in 2001. The second concerns a set of orders commanding subordinates to hide Iraq's activities from weapons inspectors. The date on this one was 1997, before Blix and UNMOVIC.

Training Accident Or Dry Run?
Another Example Of Iraqi Cooperation

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pleasant surprise from G8

Massive hat tip to Captain's Quarters.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Group of Eight leaders on Sunday blamed extremists for an upsurge of Middle East violence and while accepting Israel's right to defend itself said the Jewish state should exercise "utmost restraint."

Setting out conditions for an end to violence, G8 leaders in summit talks in Russia put the onus on Hizbollah militants to restore peace by releasing abducted Israelis and ending attacks on Israel.
(read more)
The West needs to avoid sending the message that it will overlook this type of action. Let not the focus drift from Iran, for that's very probably where the string-pullers were located on this one.

A little help for "H"

"H" (of Terrorism News) says he has studied physics and logic for years*, but just in case (in consideration of his comments thus far in response to my previous post):

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Compare moral relativism, Aesthetic relativism, and Cultural Relativism. For an unrelated physics theory with a similar name, see Theory of Relativity

I anticipate a response (eventually) that ignores the above in favor of confusing problems of epistemology with problems of truth.
I've already covered that in my responses here, but I can always go over it again for H in greater detail.
(*more properly, that he studied physics and logic and served with the British government for years)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The role of bias in news and commentary

This is the first in a series of posts relating to a commentary thread over at Terrorism News.

H wrote: "All websites are biased. The truth is the collection of all facts from every perspective. Hence such a thing is impossible to define."

Then, as now, I agree that all websites are biased. The point of view contains bias, the choice of content contains bias, and the original writing contains bias. Yet even "H" would agree that some sites exhibit more bias than others. More on that later.

The truth is the collection of all facts from every perspective? Sorry, but perspective does not change facts, merely the manner in which a fact is perceived.
If I throw a red ball to H, then the ball is moving away from me and toward H from my perspective. From H's perspective the ball is moving toward H and away from me. The only fact that changes is the perspective itself. The facts stay the same (except for a relativist, but I don't think that H wrote to attach his wagon to relativism).

"Such a thing is impossible to define."
H may have lost me on that one. Truth is impossible to define? If that were the case, then he shouldn't be able to tell me that truth is "the collection of facts from every perspective." That would merely be his perspective on truth, thus leaving his statement short of being the truth--if we were to take his statement seriously, anyway.
Then again, maybe that's not what he meant at all.

What is the role of bias in news and commentary?
Bias in the choice of story is inevitable, but may be of negligible importance. For example, if I dedicated myself to providing access to every writing containing the term "terrorism" and I fulfill that goal, then the only bias is in the criterion of choice. There is no bias beyond that, since I am not excluding stories according to other criteria.
In the United States, the bias is primarily market-driven. The choice of story has much to do with what the reader wants to see (crime, conflict, animals, and children; not necessarily in combination). News content has also been filtered to avoid offending advertisers (publications that do not take advertising, such as Ms. magazine, would naturally be excepted).
A distinction is drawn in the United States between news and commentary, however. A news story is typically expected to be told as straight as possible, though admittedly there is no way to totally exclude bias. Crime stories that routinely identify race where one particular racial type is involved while omitting the mention of race where other racial types were involved reveal a bias, and conscientious newspeople try to avoid that type of thing. A publication that demonstrated such a pattern would be rightly criticized by blacks as reinforcing negative stereotypes; the excuse that bias is inevitable would ring hollow.
Restricting the story to one point of view would also increase bias, and the charitable reading of H's comment appears to agree. A newspaper, of course, cannot provide unlimited accounts of the various points-of-view for a story. The space is restricted, and reporters are restricted in their ability to collect information. Some people don't talk to reporters. Their points of view will not be represented as a result.
Editorials and columns, at least in the US, provide more latitude for the writer's bias. News stories are typically presented separately from commentary. If a newspaper indiscriminately mixed news stories with commentary, then legitimate complaints of bias would tend to proliferate.

The European model for news tends to be somewhat different from the US model, however. European news tends to feel less need for a separation between news and editorial content (more along these lines from Businessweek).

What's my point with all of this?
Where one wishes to communicate effectively to/with those who hold an opposing view, it is important to set aside bias to the point that the news presentation (or argument) holds some appeal for the reader. That is not to set aside one's point-of-view, but merely to take the other person's point-of-view into account in order to construct an argument that appeals to the opposition.
Otherwise, we preach to the converted while implicitly asking the opposition to leave the room while we say our piece.

I'm delighted if anybody reads something that I have written, even if they agreed with me before having read my work, but my goal is to make an argument that is persuasive to the opposition every time--without having to massage the truth.
The most effective argument, in my view, understands the best arguments in opposition and accounts for them.

Thanks again to H over at Terrorism News for permission to quote liberally (no pun intended) from the commentary at TN.

The slippery St. Petersburg Times

I'm updating the link to the Plame story that I linked (here) through the St. Petersburg Times. The link that I had previously updated was again showing the alternate story. This is a product, I suppose, of the Times' relationship with the Associated Press.

Hopefully, I'll only encounter this difficulty with AP stories picked up by the Times.

Poll added

I've added a political/media-related poll question to the sidebar, rather down near the bottom.
I realize that it will take awhile to get enough results to make things interesting, but I'm willing to leave it there for quite awhile.

The ads that show with the results are the cost of the "free" poll. I passed up a free poll service that offered kickbacks to the one posting one of their polls.
In other words, I'm not making any money off of this even if you visit the sponsors. For what it's worth.

Angels blank Rays

Close on the heels of my announcement that the Rays have a strong batting order, pitcher John Lackey routinely shut down the Rays on five hits to earn his eighth victory of the season; this was his third consecutive appearance without allowing a run.

I only witnessed parts of the game, but some of Lackey's strikeouts were bad.
The silver lining for the Rays was the pitching of Jae Sao, who gave up two runs in six innings worked.

If this goes on for a few more weeks, expect me to post about how awful the Rays' batting order is, in an effort to improve the team.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More on the Plame game

The story from the St. Petersburg Times that I quoted here has resurfaced at the Times at a different URL.
I've found another point to tease out of that story.
The CIA had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Iraq had made a deal to acquire yellowcake uranium from the government of Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa ended up in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.
"[T]o make nuclear weapons"? Up through that point, the text could have relied on Wilson's original article.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake--a form of lightly processed ore--by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's.
The "nuclear weapons" bit was just some journalistic license, perhaps.

The astonishing thing, which unfortunately isn't astonishing to everybody, is the logical disconnect that follows. Let's accept Wilson at his word that he was sent to discover the truth of whether Niger had forged a deal to sell yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Let's accept that he discounted the notion that such a deal had been completed, and that he relayed that information to the CIA accordingly.
Just how are we supposed to get from there to the notion that there is a problem with Bush claiming in the State of the Union address that Iraq tried to purchase uranium in Africa (or even in Niger specifically)?
It should be elementary to discern a difference between agreeing to sell something to somebody and entertaining a request that one sell something to somebody. Wilson played on the faint ambiguity in his article, whether out of stupidity or an intent to deceive.
Witness the doublethink in Wilson's own account:
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the President had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them.
That's fair enough, if we regard Wilson as having been a bit thick.
Again, the attempt to buy is different from the at of completing a purchase. Wilson, in fact, found evidence in Niger that the British dossier was correct. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to remember by this time.

Here's what the CIA ended up with from Wilson:
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999 [deleted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
(source) bold emphasis added
Why couldn't Wilson remember any of that by the time he wrote his article?

The old media can't seem to let go of Wilson's impression that the lack of a deal to purchase uranium somehow contradicts the claim that Iraq tried to purchase uranium. That meme is perpetuated again in the article on Plame's lawsuit, just as it has been countless times when the old media mentions Wilson or Plame.

Late note: I owe a hat-tip to Austin Bay, from whose blog I obtained the fast-track to the CIA's account of Wilson's report. See Colonel Bay's extensive comments on Wilson here.

Maybe I was too hasty

I may have been too hasty in taking the blame for a transcription error relating to the new Plame civil suit (in a post found here).
The St. Petersburg Times has changed the story at the URL substantially, such that the version that I transcribed earlier may no longer be recognized.

Publicly, I'll continue to assume that I probably made a mistake in transcription; I haven't been able to locate any version of the story (save possibly the first) that agreed with my original transcription.
Where's cut-and-paste when you really need it?

About those rockets ...

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the rockets that struck in Haifa (Israel) were Katyusha rockets--with a substantially larger payload than the ones flying at Israel from Gaza.
Whoops--here's another report of a Katyusha rocket attack.

Here's a little bit about the Katyusha rocket:
Description: Katyusha is the generic name for a family of self-propelled artillery rockets originally developed and deployed by the Soviet army. The first Katyusha was deployed in the 1940's, and the most common version is 122-caliber model fired from a BM-21 truck equipped with 40 rockets. Katyusha rockets come in light and heavy varieties that weigh between 46 and 77 kilograms, are 1.9 to 3.2 meters in length, and have a range of 14,000 to 20,000 meters. Katyushas carry fragmentation, incendiary, or chemical warheads and are fired in salvos, 'rippled' sequences, or individually.

Notes: Many nations including Iran and the former Czechoslovakia have produced indigenous versions of the rockets and launchers. Iran exports Katyushas to the Lebanese Hizbollah that have been fired against Israeli soldiers and civilians in South Lebanon and Northern Israel. During the Cold War Russia sold Katyushas to Afghanistan, Angola, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, East Germany, Hungary, Iran, North Korea, Poland, Syria, and Vietnam.
(Arms Trade News)

Cap'n Ed on the new Plame case

Cap'n Ed over at Captain's Quarters has a couple of excellent posts on the lawsuit filed by Plame against various members of the administration. Among my favorite bits is a set of questions he would like to see put to Valerie Plame as she sits on the witness stand:

1. How did Joe Wilson get this assignment?
2. Why didn't the CIA have him sign the standard agreement to keep his findings confidential?
3. Whjy (sic) didn't the CIA correct the record when Wilson leaked and then wrote himself false information about his findings?
The Captain posted later after reviewing the complaint filed by the Plame attornies, predicting a field day for the defense team (Cap'n Ed's second post).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Plame on the attack

St. Petersburg Times, via the Associated Press:

Washington (AP) -- The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to ruin her career.
--St. Petersburg Times
Note how the lead takes for granted that her identity was "leaked"--with the connotation of intentionally revealing her name even though the official investigation made no such finding.
Determined to have Fitzmas after all, Plame has initiated a civil suit. Though the burden of proof is typically lower in pressing a civil suit, I don't expect this one to go anywhere. Democrats rejoice nevertheless: The goal of enabling the old media to refer to the case will have been accomplished, and the old media is sure to oblige.

*Where "identity" appears in the quoted portion, I had earlier used "name," an apparent error of transcription on my part. My apologies for that.

Spout Off (July)

I've decided to post a comment each month simply to allow a place for comments concerning the blog, particularly those that might not seem in keeping with the topics that I choose to treat. In response to the Spout Off topic you can comment on the latest "Day By Day" cartoon, explain in detail what an idiot I am (keep profanity to a minimum, please), or tell everyone what color socks you chose to wear today.

"Moonbat" candidate update

After a pleasant e-mail exchange with "H" over at "Terrorism News" I have received permission to use the text of the commentary from that group blog.
Hopefully that release includes permission to post from their rules for comments; if any question arises over that, I'll be happy to remove material for which permission has not been granted.

My posts next week (especially starting next Thursday) will be peppered with commentary inspired by the commentary thread at Terrorism News (the one mentioned here).

Israel in the Times

Just out of curiosity, I wandered over to the St. Petersburg Times to see how they were covering the newly-escalated hostilities in the Middle East, where Israel is taking a hard-line stance against attackers from Gaza and Lebanon.

The headline tells the truth, but frames the story as Israeli aggression: "Israeli airplanes attack Beirut airport."

The article, from the Associate Press, does mention that Israel had been attacked by Hezbollah from the Lebanese sector, but in the fourth paragraph (somewhat late for an inverted pyramid, but it could have been far worse).

Those who read headlines and leads only may end up with a distortedly negative picture of Israel. Those who read the whole thing will get a decent picture of the events.

Article here.

Review of panel discussion re: captured Iraqi documents

I got around to viewing the resource that I talked about here.

The video starts with about an hour of Representative Pete Hoekstra (R, Michigan and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) speaking to the audience. Judging from the question and answer period, the audience was composed primarily of members of the press, with politically-oriented magazines figuring prominently.

Hoekstra talked for few minutes about the problem of intelligence leaks before moving on to the subject of the Iraqi documents. He reiterated that about 48,000 boxes of documents had been captured, and from those about 4,000 documents had been released to the public. In touching on the significance of the captured documents, he emphasized that by far the bulk of the interesting stuff had been deliberately destroyed by the Iraqis. The typical government office of interest had been covered in the ashes of burned documents--literally. Thus, the 40,000 boxes contain generally mundane stuff except where the Iraqis messed up and left something juicy lying around.

Hoekstra said that about one-third of the reviewed documents had received a "classified" stamp and thus would not be released to the public until they are declassified.

At about the half hour mark of the video, Hoekstra began taking questions from the audience.

The panel discussion, which featured Thomas Joscelyn among others, occupied the rest of the roughly 1.5 hour video.
The panel did touch on the documentary evidence relating to Russian duplicity in assisting Iraq while trying to appear to be the friend of the US.

Rays trade Aubrey Huff to Astros

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays pulled the trigger on a player move that had been anticipated for quite some time, peddling third-baseman Aubrey Huff and cash to the Houston Astros in return for two minor-league prospects.
While Huff is a left-handed power-hitter with something to contribute to the Rays, Huff didn't figure into the team's long-term plans.

Huff's contract was coming due, so this move makes sense if the Rays really didn't figure him into future plans. Error-prone AAA shortstop B. J. Upton has reportedly been moved to third base with an eye toward trying him a third base later in the season. Russell Branyon and Ty Wigginton will fill in at third in the interim.

The Rays picked up decent prospects for Huff, but nothing earth-shaking. The right-handed pitcher is supposed to be one of the best in Houston's minor-league system. The other, a shortstop, projects as a utility infielder. He leads his league in triples, so he apparently has some speed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Strong "Barking Moonbats" candidate

The hosts over at Terrorism News have terrific inside position on the road to being the first official Barking Moonbats (etc.) link. I encountered the site while exploring eBlogger over the last couple of weeks. From the title, I took it to be a site that consolidated reports on terrorist activities; collecting news stories and linking them--that sort of thing. Over the last few days I hit the site again (while doing another random run-through) and found an entry titled "The Top Ten Power Brokers of the Religious Right" which included the opening part of that story, with the teaser lead "Who they are, what they want, and why these American ayatollahs must be stopped." Now, the occurrence of such a story on a site that is titled in such a way that an expectation of terrorism stories is fostered intrigued me, I admit. I decided to have a look at the story, and (as expected) it didn't have anything much to do with terrorism. I saw that some comments had been made (three at the time, as I recall, but 16 at the moment), so I decided to have a look. Some lass* with the nick "betmo" had kind of a cheerleader comment (positive), and then a guy going by "Frank" made a comment expressing his disappointment with the inclusion of the story. Frank said that the story illustrated the bias at the site, and added that he would not be able to take the site seriously as a result (he said a bit more, but I intend to obtain permission to quote liberally from those comments before offering more detailed commentary). The ensuing comments were hilarious, and they constitute the strongest bid yet for placing a site in the unused sidebar category previously mentioned.
I added a comment of my own, which was apparently deemed off-topic (though all three of my comments remain in the column as of this writing).
The most perplexing line of argumentation employed by the hosts is DJEB's challenge that I read a book on argumentation to see that he is not guilty of "copyright infringement."
I hadn't been aware that copyright infringement had been at issue.

The commentary thread alone promises to give me a solid week's worth of posting material (though the current week promises to limit my posting activities).
Making my comments here makes a great deal of sense because they simultaneously criticize me for not staying on the topic of the original story and for not answering their criticisms of my posts to the commentary thread.

*Thanks to "H" at Terrorism News for providing gender information on "betmo."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Panel on captured Iraqi documents/Video link

I'm passing this along because it looks so interesting, but with the disclaimer that I haven't viewed the video as yet.

The Iraq Survey Group (yes, the ones who looked for WMD in Iraq) captured scads of documents, most of which have gone untranslated because of the lack of manpower (the US is short on Intel types who speak/read Arabic). Under pressure from some Senate Republicans, many (not all) of the documents have been made public and they are being translated piecemeal by the press and public. One mild mystery about the situation is the resistance of the administration to releasing the documents. Conventional wisdom has it that additional embarrassment for US intelligence agencies may result, though there are also suggestions that alliances may be tested (as with Russia).
The panel discussion (I presume) covers what has been learned from the documents thus far and what the findings mean in the broader context.

Go here to view.
Also available in mp3 download or streaming mp3. Click the link to see your options.

Obrador on NAFTA/Who was the hypocrite?

In reply to my post titled "Corn, Beans, and ... Hypocrisy?" Wick o' the Bailey opined that it would be a mistake to equate Obrador's policies with socialism. I'm not sure how it's supposed to be a mistake, given that Obrador is in favor of keeping Mexico's energy industry under unified government control; that's clearly a socialist position, even granting that Obrador isn't enough of a socialist to satisfy various international socialist groups. I'd be surprised if WotB refrained from calling Bush a "conservative" despite his free-spending ways.

WotB points to Obrador's own campaign website to defend from charges that the would-be Mexican president would buck the NAFTA agreement.
Well, somebody's not telling the truth (Obrador or the US press):
At stake is not just the presidential race but the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Lopez Obrador says he opposes, as well as the well-being of millions of Mexican small farmers and future relations with Mexico's neighbor to the north. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said for the first time Saturday that he would not honor Mexico's commitment under NAFTA to eliminate tariffs on corn and beans if he is elected.(Associated Press)
Maybe Obrador is just slow in updating his website.

WotB then trots out a history professor (courtesy of the New York Times op-ed page) to declare the inability of Mexican farmers to compete with U.S. agribusiness.

Why, then, would the US import agricultural goods from Mexico?

I have to rely on WotB for the content of Professor Grandin's op-ed, but what I see from him draws no distinction between white corn (favored by Mexican farmers and consumed heavily in tortillas and the like) and yellow corn (the primary variety produced in the US and used primarily in Mexico as feed for livestock).

WotB says that methods that work for the US "almost certainly will not work for Mexico."
WotB says that Mexico "must find its own way, a distinctly Mexican way"--but why?
How does Mexico go about forging a economic model that is hitherto undescribed?

Finally, WotB offers me a compliment in a context-twisting kind of way:
...see SuBlo's fine commentary on Bush's reasons for withdrawing from/not entering into some otherwise substantially international agreements) unless the agreement benefits the United States, first and foremost.
While that's a fascinating recast of my commentary, my focus was on the comparison between Obrador's willingness to ignore an existing agreement which had been compared to Bush's behavior. In the three main cases provided to ostensibly compare Obrador to Bush, we find that Bush in each case acted according to the agreement except where there was no agreement (Kyoto).
It is simply unfair and inaccurate for WotB to suggest that agreements need benefit the United States "first and foremost," though I'm sure the empty rhetoric plays well in some parts.

My use of the term "hypocrisy" in the earlier post, BTW, referred to the charge that Bush was doing as Obrador was accused of doing, which would have made the USA/Bush out to be the hypocrite.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rays salvage finale against Yankees

Rocco Baldelli bounced back from a rough day Saturday to lead the Rays to victory over the Yankees, 5-4.
Baldelli gunned down the potential go-ahead run at the plate with a strong throw from medium centerfield. Dionner Navarro received the throw as he blocked the plate from Yankee baserunner Melky Cabrera. In the bottom of the same inning, Baldelli led off with a double and scored the go-ahead run on Jorge Cantu's single.
In the 9th inning, Baldelli dove to catch a ball that Derek Jeter drove to the warning track in center, recording the second out of the inning. After Jason Giambi flied out, Brian Meadows had earned his fifth save.

Evidently this was the first time that the Rays won the final game headed into the All-Star break. So far, the pitching of Corcoran and Shields has been good enough for the Rays to compete, maybe dropping Baltimore into last place this year in the AL East.
It's a good batting lineup, though the Yankees held TB to one run in the first two games of the series (both losses). Still, it adds up to a 4-3 homestand against the top two teams in the division.

Linking Lileks

I've been remiss in not adding to the list of links.

James Lileks, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (the Strib), writes hilariously about old stuff (advertisements, postcards, '70s style) and politics. By visiting his site, you can avail yourself of such necessities as:
The Matchbook of the Week
The Gallery of Regrettable Food
The Engraveyard
and (of course)
The Comics!

On second thought, this post will have to do for now--I've run into an unexpected problem in coding the changes to the sidebar.

Problem fixed; Lileks linked.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

New to the Jedi blogroll ...

"S.P.Q.A.--The Senate and People of America" doesn't exactly roll trippingly off the tongue, but the emphasis on foreign policy issues from a veteran of the armed services (as well as a conservative and a Christian) is welcome.

I wonder if he reads the Belmont Club?

Keep up the good work, Jarod.

Corn, Beans, and ... Hypocrisy?

What's the problem down in Mexico?
Why is our resource-rich neighbor such a poor cousin economically?

Well, Mexico has a longstanding problem with corruption.
The Mexican economy remains largely under the control of the government, encouraging inefficiency through anti-competitive policies. This has improved somewhat over the past 10 years, though former president Vicente Fox was largely unsuccessful in reforming the government's involvement in the economy.

Wick o' the Bailey had this to say:
... would it be so bad if the Mexican president were a Mexican populist, more willing to adopt the point of view of the poor than the rich, and unwilling to kowtow to pressure from the US when it comes to American policy in Latin America and the rest of the world? Mr. White seems to think so, but I'm not so certain.
Hmmm. Wick seemed to have enough certitude to be willing to pray to whatever gods for Obrador to win.
It's possible, I suppose, that Obrador's promises are not empty but it does not seem that Mexico's problems have stemmed from having too little socialism. Either Mexico really is far more corrupt than is the United States, in which case chances are good that Obrador is as corrupt as the next guy, or we might expect an economic model like that of the US to lift Mexico out of its economic stupor.
That's where the ideological difference kicks in. There are always losers when the economy changes. The solution, however, is not to try to stave off changes. That just increases the inevitable pain. Loosening government controls would, I expect, benefit the poor of Mexico. There's no good reason for Mexico to lag behind China in economic progress, except for the fact that Mexico has made itself less friendly to investment.
Obrador would be a danger, I think. I do not believe that he has more than empty promises to give to the people. He is offering tried-and-false solutions (socialism, entitlements) to Mexico's problems.
Changing the culture of Mexico such that it has more in common with the aspects of US culture that lead to economic success would help the Mexican people.

Wick gave us a closing statement that was more of a parting shot (Mallonee), suggesting that Obrador wouldn't be the first to renege on the agreements made by a predecessor.
The associated link provided information about the ABM treaty, the ICC treaty, and the Kyoto Protocol--at least those were offered as the "most significant" examples.

1) ABM was signed with the Soviet Union. There is no Soviet Union any longer. Regardless of that,
Under the terms of the ABM Treaty, the United States is prohibited from defending its homeland against ballistic missile attack. We are also prohibited from cooperating in developing missile defenses against long-range threats with our friends and allies. Given the emergence of these new threats to our national security and the imperative of defending against them, the United States is today providing formal notification of its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. As provided in Article XV of that Treaty, the effective date of withdrawal will be six months from today. (source)

See Article XV, part 2 of the ABM Treaty.
It is important to note, I think, that Obrador isn't talking about withdrawal from NAFTA (which is possible along similar lines to the course that Bush took with the ABM Treaty), but rather disregarding certain provisions that permit US farmers of corn and beans to compete with Mexican farmers of the same. Rather than allowing the people as a whole to experience the benefits of lower produce prices (and encoraging farming of alternative crops that trade favorably in the other direction), Obrador seems to favor shortsighted protectionism.

2) The formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Is this really a reversal of the wishes of Bush's predecessor?

In signing ... we are not abandoning our concerns about significant flaws in the treaty.

In particular, we are concerned that when the court comes into existence, it will not only exercise authority over personnel of states that have ratified the treaty, but also claim jurisdiction over personnel of states that have not.

With signature, however, we will be in a position to influence the evolution of the court. Without signature, we will not.
--President Clinton (source)

Sounds to me as though Bush shared Clinton's specific concern about the treaty.

3) The Kyoto Protocol. This one isn't even an issue. The Senate turned thumbs down on it in '97. The US was not bound by Clinton's signature minus the approval of the Senate.

In conclusion, the apology for Obrador based on the supposed actions of President Bush carries the odor of a tu quoque ("you, too!") fallacy.
Worse than that, the implied actions were not comparable to those that Obrador apparently contemplated.

Note: This is the first time I've saved writing as a draft, which accounts for this post appearing below a post that was written later.
Add'l Note: Fixed a link under "Mallonee" that went to the wrong destination. My apologies for the mistake.

"How, Then, Shall We Live?"

One of more content-rich blogsites I've run across at eBlogger is "How, Then, Shall We Live?" The title caught my eye because of the similarity to the Charles Colson/Nancy Pearcy collaboration "How Now Shall We Live?" which was an update of Francis Schaeffer's "How Shall We Then Live?"--essentially a blueprint for Christian action in the world. A yet closer match was Wayne Muller's "How, Then, Shall We Live?"
Now, the website is not explicitly Christian at all, from what I can see, though it's hard to imagine that the title doesn't owe a debt to Muller, if not also to Colson and Pearcy. It contains material on a great variety of subjects, and one in particular that interested me was a lecture by Christopher Hitchens on the desirability of an atheist or anti-theistic culture.
Hitchens is a writer for Slate (as well as the author of quite a number of books). He is politically liberal but holds what I would call unusually clear-eyed opinions on US foreign policy, for a liberal.

I haven't viewed the lecture yet, but I have the idea of reviewing it at a later date when time permits.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Vanished Comments

There were a few comments that disappeared owing to the change to the Haloscan format. I wasn't trying to censor anyone, and only about three visitor comments were affected (by my accounting).

It's the Conservative: Calderon edges Obrador in Mexican presidential election

Thanks to The Belmont Club for the Spanish language link.

I'll be interested to see the reaction over at Wick o' the Bailey.
He posted concerning the result of the election some hours ago, but without much content regarding the meaning (not that he's required to offer such content!).
In my view, the communist/socialist trend to the south is not a good thing; even worse given our inability to establish a secure border even on paper as it currently stands. Chavez is buddying up with China and Iran, two states that are relatively hostile to the US.

I don't know how I missed this entry over at WotB:
"Let's all pray to the gods of our choosing that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador--the leftist candidate for the Mexican presidency--has won."

Here's a little blurb on Obrador from the Christian Science Monitor:
But Obrador ... is the most critical of US policies. He has also threatened not to honor Mexico's agreement to drop tariffs on US corn and beans as stipulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a leader to the south who opposed our policies and broke agreements?

Added "Fair Tax" URL to "Links"

There should, I believe, be wide agreement that the tax system in the United States is both needlessly complex and invasive.
I would expect liberal Democrats to join the most conservative Republicans and right-leaning Libertarians in that view (though not without exception, I'm sure). The "Fair Tax" plan proposed by Congressman John Linder (R, GA) ought to be on the table for consideration. In brief, the plan eliminates the IRS and all payroll taxes, replacing them with a consumption tax on all services and new goods. One striking feature of the plan is that it proposes a monthly (p)rebate to all U.S. citizens designed to reimburse (in advance) for the cost of the tax in maintaining subsistence. Live very frugally, and you can eke out a few dollars of welfare. Spend beyond the prebate amount (in taxes, that is), and you begin to pay taxes.
The plan is beautiful in its simplicity (as is the Flat Tax) but has the advantage of keeping the IRS out of people's business.
Since the plan has now been publicized for a time, it has been criticized and defended. The link I've provided updates quite a bit of information concerning the various criticisms and defenses.
I hope that people will look into it and consider it.

Rays Don't Sweep Sox

Posting a correction possessing an overwhelming property of obviousness, the Devil Rays did not sweep the Boston Red Sox as I had earlier posted. They keep scheduling those oddball four-game series where the three game sweep is an impossibility.
But it was good while it lasted!

Red Sox bats came alive in the series finale, particularly in the late innings, as the Red Sox salvaged the final game ... 9-5 if memory serves.
Still, a good series for the young Rays. Now go beat the Yankees.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Sith Blogroll Expands

Welcome Wick o' the Bailey to the Sith Blogroll.
WotB is tended by a college professor (unspecified institution). It looks like a new blog, he's fairly active in posting, and what he posts seems reasonable (considering he's on the wrong side).

Barking Moonbat Candidate

Rachael, from England, and her website "Smells Like Teen Armpits" vie for the honor of initial inclusion in the Barking Moonbat link category.
I haven't quite decided yet, but have a look for yourself.

Now, if our buds in England had French folk coming into the UK by the thousands to stay, find jobs, and establish beachheads of French culture in the British Isles I have little doubt that Rachael would change her tune in about 5/10ths of a second.
The US border controversy isn't about keeping people out. It's about having an idea who's coming in and having the capability of controlling who comes in.
England is far pickier about immigration and visitors than is the United States; Rachael needs to redirect her indignation and go fight for the right of Iranians and Palestinians to settle in London--hopefully right next to her flat.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (UK)

For what it's worth:
While we appreciate the valuable contribution that many earlier immigrants have made, we believe that the numbers have now become too great. Foreign immigration has reached 342,000 [is that a lot? --bww] a year, far higher than at any time in our history.

Our concern is widely shared by the public. According to recent polls, immigration is rated second only to crime as the most important issue facing Britain today and 76% want to see an annual limit imposed. (source)

Gitmo: France to the Rescue?

Hat tip to Captain's Quarter's.

Our ally in the Global War on Terror, France, is in the midst of defending their use of information obtained through Gitmo detainees. There's a threat in the French case that the trial will be invalidated because the interview transcripts were not provided to the defense attorneys.

A French judge had ruled the Gitmo detentions illegal (apparently French courts have international reach rivaling even that of Belgian courts).
Story here (via Reuters and Yahoo! News).

Steal of the NFL Draft?

As I mentioned over at the sister site to Sublime Bloviations, QB Bruce Gradkowski may end up being the steal of the Buccaneers' 2006 draft--maybe even one of the top steals of the overall draft once we're able to work with more than half a decade of retrospect.
I just spotted a story on Bruce at

Added "Day by Day" Cartoon in Sidebar!

Oh, how I mourn the day that "Calvin & Hobbes" ceased.

All is not lost, however. "Get Fuzzy" has its moments, and "Day by Day" (which I discovered over at Captain's Quarters blog--see blogroll @ right) has become my favorite cartoon. It's well-drawn, funny, and politically palatable for the likes of me. So I like it, already.
Click on the cartoon to transport thyself to the "Day by Day" homepage. There's a nifty little b&w graphic where you can get a quick description of the main characters by hovering the mouse over their faces (the faces acquire color as the description appears below).
Chris Muir has been doing the strip for some time. I've gone through a few weeks from the beginning--a bit more political at the start, but there's some hilarious stuff. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"James Watt & the Puritan Ethic"

On May 24, 1981, the Washington Post published a column by Colman McCarthy titled "James Watt & the Puritan Ethic." Watt had been appointed by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate in January of that same year.

McCarthy opened his column somewhat sneeringly:
Jesus may or may not be returning any day now, but either way James Gaius Watt, the secretary of interior, is comporting himself in pious watchfulness. He is quoted recently in The Wall Street Journal saying that, "My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call on us to occupy the land until Jesus returns." (the Washington Post, 24 May 1981)
From there, McCarthy fleshed out his portrait of the "pious" Watt in keeping with the title of the piece, comparing Watt's beliefs to those of the Puritans, saying that the Puritans saw themselves as conquerors of the land, "missionaries bent on converting not people but property" as McCarthy put it during one of his more moderate moments.

What did I find when I unearthed the source of the quotation of Watt?

My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures," he says, "which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns." By the same token, part of federal government's mandate, Mr. Watt adds, is to strike a proper balance between preservation and use of the country's vast "natural resources base" to ensure that"people are provided for until He does come." (The Wall Street Journal 5 May 1981)
Okay, so McCarthy's a columnist. He's not bound to the model of journalistic objectivity for purposes of his columns. He's allowed to grind his axe if he chooses (and he does grind his axe to a considerable degree in the column--I'd include more but for my respect for copyright).
My take is that the media subjected Watt to considerable spin. It makes sense to exploit a nation's natural resources, and to exploit them responsibly. People may disagree as to precisely what the right degree of responsibility is, but Watt was attacked primarily by ridicule and caricature.

It continues today:
Liberal take on Watt.
Watt has his defenders, on the other hand.
National Review on Watt
Watt interview, 2004.
Watt Op-ed, 2005
(Watt mentions that in addition to an apology from Moyers he also received one from Grist magazine, the first source listed)

*I spent a good deal of time trying to find a serious critique of the environmental policies under Reagan to provide the best possible presentation of the opposing view, but I failed to find anything better than some comments from Ralph Nader that were high in flourish but low on content. I'd be delighted if somebody can forward me something to represent the sane liberal point-of-view.

Rays Sweep Sox

Carl Crawford turned in a nifty game to support pitcher Tim Corcoran as the Rays swept the Boston Red Sox in a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Florida. 5-2 was the final.
Two highlights of note:
Kevin Youkilis hit a shot off the roof over left field in fair territory which was caught in the field of play by left-fielder Carl Crawford. Youkilis was astounded that he was called out, but the ground rules are specific at Tropicana Field: if the ball hits the roof in fair territory (apart from certain structural rings which are deemed home runs) it is a fair ball and an out may be recorded if the ball is caught in the field of play. On top of that Crawford appeared to be tracking the ball routinely before having to react to the carom to record the putout. Youkilis remained very emotional for minutes afterward, shoving the dugout furnishings violently at one point. The Rays' color commentator was hilarious, talking about how Youkilis appeared to be getting his emotions under control.
Carl Crawford had a great game, underlining the fact that he'd have made a worthy All-Star this year. He picked up a few hits and stole three bases, including a steal of home with two outs that gave the Rays their fifth run of the night.
I had never witnessed a steal of home in a live baseball game (partly a product of following the Braves for years). Crawford made it look so easy that one might wonder why it doesn't happen more often. Former Ray Jason Johnson helped out with his snail's-pace delivery from the mound.

Speaking of Boston pitcher Johnson, I note that he now pitches with an insulin pump attached to his belt to control his diabetes. I wonder if that will affect his longevity as a pitcher, since the repetitive motion places such a strain on the rotator cuff. Johnson's circulation will become impaired as a result of the disease, which (I would expect) might slow down his recovery from the routine inflammation that results from pitching. No doubt the team trainers have him using ice very religiously.
Best of luck to Jason Johnson.

Devil Rays Earn 2nd Win Against Bosox