Monday, March 31, 2008

Trying to put a name to the face (Updated)

Technews had the photo above included with a JLTV story. Thus far, I haven't spotted any substantial story regarding the vehicle. Just from memory, I suspect it is an Oshkosh design that has occurred in other photos (thus far invariably lacking in helpful captions) featuring a rear profile rounded by angles.


I finally located the story that featured a useful caption for a photo of the above vehicle.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blumneconomics V

Robyn Blumner, that pinata of The St. Petersburg Times, allowed her demon of demagoguery full rein this week.

In an editorial titled "Robyn Blumner: Socialism bails out a big bank," Blumner offers her analysis of one of the proposed fixes of the subprime mortgage problem. The federal reserve loans to troubled banks, she says, represent socialism.
I understand that economic disaster may have ensued had Bear Stearns simply been allowed to go bankrupt and had the machers in the investment world been left trying to pawn their collateralized securities for what they could get. But what a sweet gig it is to be a member of the master-of-the-universe class. First, you are awash in money created by risk-laden investments that disregard all warning signs; meanwhile, the rest of working America lives with stagnating wages even as the economy expands. Then, when all those investments collapse, you are considered too big to fail and the government swoops in to keep you afloat.

Socialized risk is what this is called. Heads they win, tails we lose.

So. Even though Blumner supposedly understands that the loans helping to maintain Bear Stearns' solvency may be averting economic disaster for us all, somehow "heads" simply means "they win" while "tails" simply means "we lose." Can Blumner justify the claim? Hopefully she will at least identify which aspect of the coin corresponds to which outcome of the scenario.

Hmmm. No such luck. But at least there's ample brain-dead analysis.
What I can't get out of my head is the way we've been suckered again into believing the malarkey sold by Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan and a long list of conservative think tanks, that the market is our savior. It is so convenient to make government the bad guy, the one who interferes with everyone's pot of gold, and make open markets the answer to what ails, as Reagan did so often. But the historical reality is that the free market has a dark side that causes social displacement and instability, and by its nature it is an uncaring thing.
The subprime mess has its origins in government regulation, though it would probably kill Blumner to admit it even if she was aware of it. Under President Clinton, the government made moves encouraging high-risk loans. It was justified at the time as a salve to supposedly racist lending patterns. Lower income (many black) people had trouble securing loans. President Clinton wanted to make home ownership easier. As part of being the "first black president," I suppose.

There is a problem with high risk loans.

They are risky.

So here we have those "greedy" banks. At first they're greedy because they won't share the benefits of home loans with the high risk borrowers including the poor. Then they're greedy because they will share the benefits of home loans with high risk borrowers and the poor.

So we know they're definitely greedy, at least if we share Blumner's starting assumptions.

Blumner paints right over the truth with her broad brush. No doubt some loans were made based on selling a bad financial product to a consumer who was misled. But the problem is shared by consumer "greed"--the desire to have a home that one can barely (if that) afford, which makes the consumer more apt to accept a risky loan arrangement.

The Clinton administration was right there encouraging risky loans. But the problem stemmed from the free market?
The market is not the best part of America. Not even close. Our government is the best part — or at least it used to be before the current gang took over.
Blumner should submit the above in a competition for a "Progressive Pledge of Allegiance."

America's greatness comes from its ideas and its people. The greatness of the government stems from the early recognition of what should be forbidden to the government (the right to infringe on unalienable rights, among other things). Blumner's claim simply points up a blindness to history as well as a blinding bias in favor of her own political views.
So after the government's done rescuing Wall Street, the rest of us could use some kind attention too.
"I understand that economic disaster may have ensued had Bear Stearns simply been allowed to go bankrupt ..." No, you don't, Ms. Blumner. Or else you would have recognized that "the rest of us" get attention via the loans to Bear Stearns. Heads we all win a bit more than we lose, tails we all lose a bit more than we win.

Blumner would have my vote as the worst editorialist on the planet. But maybe I'm just not sufficiently aware of her competition.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

St. Petersburg Times' triumvirate of terror, part 3

The last of the Times trilogy of error consists of (surprise!) Robyn Blumner's editorial column from last week. I regularly refer to Blumner as the pinata of The St. Petersburg Times since I often figuratively take swings at the ample target she presents.

Last week found Blumner, as she typically does, spouting the Democratic company line on voter fraud, though of course with some Bush-bashing mixed in.
With the presidential election already dominating the news, it is worth considering how the Bush administration has tried to put its thumb on the scale of the nation's elections.
Got that? Great.
Figuring out inventive ways to reduce the number of minority and low-income voters who tend to lean Democratic has been great sport for the loyal Bushies in the Justice Department and they've done a yeoman's job.
By bringing renewed focus to prosecuting voter fraud? Do tell, Ms. Blumner.
You probably know that some of the U.S. attorneys who lost their jobs in the purge did so in part because they failed to bring weak voter fraud cases.
How would we know that, when the White House can fire the attorneys it appoints for any reason? Blumner doesn't say. Apparently we can convict on little to no evidence when it comes to blaming Bush.
Republican officials like to claim that legions of people are trying to game the system by voting illegally. This allows them to justify tough voting identification measures that tend to throw up barriers for low-income and minority voters.
Is it true or not that legions of people game the system by voting illegally?

In the 2000 election, by some estimates, as many as 5,600 felons voted illegally in Florida. That's about one legion right there, and the final margin of victory was far smaller than 5,000 votes. Illegal votes could easily have affected the outcome of the 2000 election. For Blumner, restricting the ability of felons to vote probably amounts to throwing up barriers for low-income and minority voters. Seriously.

It might even be a good idea to set up polling booths in prisons, so that prisoners can vote for soft-on-crime candidates.

But back to the Blumnerian rant:
The problem is, the Republicans are making it up. Just ask Lorraine Minnite, assistant professor in the political science department of Barnard College, who did a six-year comprehensive study on voter fraud. Her findings are that it "is rare, and the cure is worse than the disease."

Minnite based her findings on voter fraud prosecutions. Prepare to be unimpressed as you view her testimony before Congress (I don't know if this represents the whole of it):

Minnite's study, "An Analysis of Voter Fraud in the U.S." was a project of Demos, an organization that received $75,000 from George Soros. That is not to say that the study, which you can read here (.pdf), is devoid of useful information. But it appears to skip issues of voter fraud that stem from conditions that remain difficult to police, such as persons with dual residence who exercise their voting privilege in more than one location.

Minnite's argument appears to amount to the assertion that if individual voter fraud is not found out it does not exist sufficiently to pose a problem.

Back to the real fraud (Blumner):
According to Minnite's recent testimony before Congress, the Justice Department found only a handful of individual offenders; and those who got snagged were people like Derek Little of Wisconsin, who didn't know that as an ex-felon on probation he couldn't legally vote.
Perhaps the above claim by Blumner is supposed to reflect the gist of this portion of Minnite's testimony:
The government won convictions or guilty pleas against 70 of the 95 defendants, a 76 percent conviction rate. However, if we dig into the data, we find that only 40 of these people were voters, the others were government officials, party or campaign workers, or election workers. Of the 40 voters charged, only 26 were convicted or pleaded guilty, yielding an average of eight to nine people a year, and a conviction rate of 65 percent. The convicted included: one person for registration fraud, resulting in the defendant’s deportation to Pakistan; five people for multiple or double voting; and 20 people for voting while ineligible to vote, including 15 non-citizens and five citizens with felony convictions who had not yet had their civil rights restored.
Your guess is as good as mine which of the above numbers is the "handful" to which Blumner refers.

Blumner used the Little example gratuitously. Charges against Little were dropped, while Minnite noted that prosecution succeeded in over 60 percent of the cases brought by the Justice Department. Saying that the cases were "like" that of Little is therefore misleading.

Blumner goes on to blast the career of John Tanner, who supported Georgia's voter ID law and encouraged ("pressured") states to scour voters who improperly appeared on their voting rolls. Tanner, according to Blumner, resigned after the politization of his office came to light.

I expect it will not have occurred to Blumner that the opinion of career DoJ employees is a political view. The career employees do not want to prosecute voter fraud because they possess the (political) view that it is more important for more people to vote than it is to prevent illegal votes.

But Blumner isn't done. She also asserts the politization of the DoJ because it no longer enforces laws intended to encourage minority voting. The kicker here is that Blumner's expert, like Minnite, is affilitated with Demos. But at least Blumner mentioned it this time.

This editorial column brought to you by the "non-profit" (forget about George Soros) Demos.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama's mouth continues to betray him

Michael Medved today suggested that it was outrageous that Barack Obama stated that Rev. Wright had acknowledged that his remarks as pastor had offended many people, and that he had expressed remorse.

I reviewed Obama's appearance on "The View" since I thought I recalled that Obama had suggested a hypothetical situation in which Wright had recanted.

Turns out Medved was right.

If Wright made the remarks that Obama claims he did, it would be a good idea to make clear when and where that happened, at minimum.

Plenty of commentators have already noted the microtomal fine-slicing of the mentor/pastor relationship with Wright; Obama delves into that as well in the accompanying video clip.

I expect Sen. Clinton will be able to make a strong case for herself in Denver despite her own problems.

Subtracted a "that" and transformed a "that" to a "the."


Chris Hedges on the new atheism

Over the years I've been known to make an argument or two to the effect that certain groups of atheists tend to present themselves in ways markedly akin to the religious fundamentalists they profess to despise (in terms of their thinking if not their person).

Earlier this week I heard author Chris Hedges on the Michael Medved radio program discussing his book "I Don't Believe in Atheists." Hedges made sure to get in a few shots at the "neocon" antiterrorism strategy in the Mideast--so his critique apparently comes from a region of the political left that might enable him to gain a hearing among those he criticizes. I say that because, with the exception of Randian Objectivists and their sympathizers (not to draw the resistance too narrowly, I hope), atheists demonstrate an affinity for progressive politics.

Hedges mentioned a debate with Sam Harris, and I have purposed to review that debate. Truthdig hosts the opening statement from Hedges, and I'll post a portion of that below.

Sam Harris has conflated faith with tribalism. His book is an attack not on faith but on a system of being and believing that is dangerous and incompatible with the open society. He attacks superstition, a belief in magic and the childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society. He calls this religion. I do not.

What he fails to grasp is not simply the meaning of faith—something I will address later—but the supreme importance of the monotheistic traditions in creating the concept of the individual. This individualism—the belief that we can exist as distinct beings from the tribe, or the crowd, and that we are called on as individuals to make moral decisions that at times defy the clamor of the tribe or the nation—is a gift of the Abrahamic faiths. This sense of individual responsibility is coupled with the constant injunctions in Islam, Judaism and Christianity for a deep altruism. And this laid the foundations for the open society.
I look forward to reviewing the debate.


March update on Force Protection

Via The Roxboro Courier-Times:
Despite an onslaught of seemingly negative publicity, Force Protection Communications Director Tommy Pruitt insisted Tuesday from his office in Ladson, S.C. that the company has no plans to abandon its Person County facility at the intersection of Boston Road and Halifax Road. The building formerly housed Collins & Aikman.

Person County Economic Development Director Glenn Newsome also said Tuesday that plans were still on go for the Roxboro Force Protection facility.

“The company has affirmed on several occasions that they plan to continue the project here,” Newsome said. “It flies in the face of common sense and good logic to suggest otherwise.”

Newsome was likely referring to the vast renovations and upgrades that have been ongoing at the facility since late last year, but the company has yet to begin production of its Cheetah-brand armored vehicle here, as it had originally projected.

Interesting information, but one tip for the reporter in this case. The publicity was not "seemingly" negative. It was just plain negative.

Force Protection faces a tough sell for its products, bottom line.

The Cheetah figures as perhaps Force Protection's best shot at making another large sale (as in hundreds of vehicles)--I should imagine that foreign governments might show an interest in it even if the U.S. military seems intent on waiting for the JLTV program to kick in. As a result I'm not surprised to see FPI keep on with its Roxboro facility.

I note that FPI has not yet gone into production with the Cheetah, belying earlier reports of the company's intent to do just that.


Barack politically raised in corruption?

Via Rezko Watch:
If he becomes the nominee, the web of corruption leading to Obama's rise to power that this investigative journalist was able to untangle in less than three weeks, will be front page news right up until election day, handing the Republicans their only chance in hell of winning the White House.

Instead of the leaders of the Democratic party doing their homework, a small group of investigative reporters in Chicago will be credited with exposing the corrupt backbone of Obama political career and the mainstream media need only follow their lead if the Democrats hold him out to be a viable candidate.
Democrats have reason to be worried. This is what Obama's political career looks like at first blush, featuring a meteoric rise in the midst of a region with a marked history of political corruption.

Is it possible for Obama to be squeaky clean coming up in Chicago politics? Sure, it's possible. But if a guy really is squeaky clean you expect him to rise in that type of political environment on a promise of cleaning up corruption--like Bobby Jindal or Elliot Spitzer (oops on the latter).


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rezko Watch watch

"Thanks to the release" of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)'s income tax records, Thomas Lifson wrote March 27, 2008, in the American Thinker (h/t Jay Rubin), "we are finally able to get some necessary perspective on the big favor Tony Rezko did for the Obamas in buying what has been termed in the press [as] 'the adjacent, undeveloped lot'. It turns out this is a seriously misleading description."
(read the rest at Rezko Watch)
The "undeveloped lot" was apparently the side yard for the home purchased by the Obamas with the help of the Rezkos. At some point after the purchase the Obamas apparently erected a fence separating the two properties.

Look at those tiny little cars out in front of that great big house.


New video promo for Lockheed Martin JLTV

This video improves considerably on the earlier version. Instead of driving it around the front yard at headquarters the promo contains some shots from testing grounds. The vehicle still doesn't look as sprightly as the Force Protection Cheetah, but as already noted the JLTV program has requirements that the Cheetah probably does not address at present.

Nice production, though the music could have been better.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

St. Petersburg Times' triumvirate of terror, part 2

The St. Petersburg Times ever treads that razor thin line between fulfilling their ad jingle "In the know" and acting as a shill for the Democratic Party. An editorial from last week helps to illustrate, as it takes John McCain's economic policies to task while ignoring the problems with the ideas of his competition.

McCain's problem, according to the Times editor, is his endorsement of the Bush tax cuts while only specifically advocating cuts in earmark spending.
McCain used to be known as a fiscal conservative and deficit hawk who twice voted against President Bush's tax cuts. As the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, however, he did an about face and favors extending those tax cuts. Now he is getting squishy on deficit reduction.
Perhaps McCain realizes that increasing taxation hampers the economy. One would think that the concept does not register with the Times. As to McCain's supposed squishiness on deficit reduction, the column limits its evidence to McCain's support of the Bush tax cuts along with his advocacy of trimming corporate taxes from 35 percent down to 25 percent.

Do Times editors have any clue at all about economics?
The Arizona senator once opposed the Bush tax cuts because the benefits went mostly to the wealthy and the cuts were unaccompanied by spending reductions. He was right. That disastrous formula turned a $120-billion budget surplus into a $400-billion deficit.
One would think from the Times account above that the terrorist attack on the WTC towers had no significant effect on the national economy. For those who are historically challenged, President Clinton handed off a slowing economy to President Bush and the economic problems were dramatically magnified by the 9/11 attacks.
Four major items have affected this $388 billion deterioration in the FY 2002 budget balance estimate. The first can be related to the impact on the budget of the 2001 Federal tax package which reduced the FY 2002 surplus estimate by $33 billion. The second change relates to the events of September 11, 2001, and the associated spending increases approved by Congress. These spending increases reduced the projected FY2002 budget surplus by an additional $61 billion. The largest impact on the FY 2002 surplus is the $197 billion of negative adjustments attributable to the slowdown in the United States economy.
(Senate Fiscal Agency--.pdf)
Don't you love the way the Times allows you to be "In the know"?

Originally, President Bush advocated tax cuts because of the budget surplus (a government taking in more money than it needs to pay for its budget is gratuitously stealing from its constituents, in a sense).

After the 9/11 attacks, Bush advocated tax cuts to help stimulate the economy, and the second round of tax cuts (2003) did correspond to economic recovery in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

You can buy the Times' analysis if you forget enough history.
Now, McCain says he not only wants to extend those tax cuts beyond their 2010 expiration date, he wants to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Those cuts would cost about $400-billion a year, and that's not counting another few billion in lost revenue from eliminating the alternative minimum tax, which McCain also promotes.
Here, the Times omits to inform its readers that cuts in corporate taxation are more likely to lead to offsetting economic growth than tax cuts to middle/lower class wage earners. In short, the tax cuts tend to result in increases in revenue that cut deeply into the estimated "cost" of the tax cut--and the tendency of the Times to assign a "cost" to tax cuts is nothing but spin. The taxpayer pays the cost of taxes. A cut in taxes reduces the cost to the taxpayer. By assigning a "cost" to the government associated with tax cuts, the story encourages the impression that the money rightfully belongs to the government.

It is true that government revenues will probably shrink with a cut in taxes, so in that sense it is fair to use the term "cost" in reference to tax cuts--but probably not the full $400 billion.
He justifies such irresponsibility as necessary to stimulate the sluggish economy. His position makes little sense. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is already flooding the economy with easy money to try to stabilize the banking system and housing market. Some 130-million rebate checks should be arriving in the mail in May. The soonest any impact from the tax cuts would be felt is in 2010, and by then the economy could have changed direction.
Here the Times is simply wrong. The economy is inseparably attached to Wall Street, and Wall Street reacts to expectation. An expectation of higher corporate taxation under a new Democrat president causes companies to lose value. They will anticipate greater difficulty maintaining profitability. For the corresponding reason, a commitment to sustain the Bush tax cuts provides a stable set of expectations in which investors can operate. That creates an immediate stabilizing effect on the economy--something one might not ever realize if one relied on the Times.
Perhaps the most dishonest position McCain staked out is how he would balance tax cuts with reduced spending. His numbers are laughable. He would end congressional earmarks. While they are wasteful, they amount to only about $18-billion a year. He would eliminate some corporate tax breaks, saving perhaps another $45-billion a year. Together those are a small fraction of lost revenue from the tax cuts.
A small fraction? Even if we assume that the Times is correct that lost revenue from tax cuts does not come back in part from increased economic activity (which is not a realistic assumption), 60/400 reduces to 15/100 or 15%. I don't think that's what most people have in mind by "small fraction." Fraction, yes. Small fraction, no. It's bigger than 1/7, for example.

Will the Times offer a critique of the Obama or Clinton economic plans, I wonder? Each wants to add billions to the federal budget (estimates for Obama hover around $300 billion, with $225 billion for Clinton).
As Presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton race toward a key electoral showdown tomorrow, updated findings from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's (NTUF's) candidate cost analysis project show that their federal budget proposals are racing ahead as well. According to neutral data, Obama's platform would boost yearly federal spending by $307.3 billion compared to Clinton's $226.1 billion -- both measurably higher totals since NTUF began examining the candidates' plans earlier this year.
(National Taxpayers Union)
Yeah, that McCain sure is irresponsible.

Obama and Clinton will either renege on their spending promises or balloon the deficit or torch the economy with increased taxes--unless they figure out a way to accomplish more than one of the options without sacrificing the others.

"In the know"?

Corrected spelling of "National Taxpayers Union"
Added clarification to my 10th graph.

Legends of the Left: Bush doesn't care about finding Bin Laden (Updated)

There's very popular assertion made about President Bush that he does not care about apprehending Osama bin Laden.

(Bogus quotation)"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."(/Bogus quotation)

The quotation draws pages of hits, until you restrict it such as by limiting the hits to .edu sites, which reduces it to one page consisting mostly of discussion board material.

Where an attempt is made to source the quotation, it is most often said to have been given during a Bush speech on March 13, 2002:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02
14. "I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." -Washington, D.C., March 13, 2002
(Daniel Kurtzman,
“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” —Washington, D.C., March 13, 2002
Eugenia's Rants and Thoughts)

Many more there are. But none of the hits appeared to offer reliable sourcing. Eventually I searched out President Bush's address from March 13, 2002.

Q Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? Also, can you tell the American people if you have any more information, if you know if he is dead or alive? Final part -- deep in your heart, don't you truly believe that until you find out if he is dead or alive, you won't really eliminate the threat of --

THE PRESIDENT: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is -- as I mentioned in my speech, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death and he, himself, tries to hide -- if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you. I'm more worried about making sure that our soldiers are well-supplied; that the strategy is clear; that the coalition is strong; that when we find enemy bunched up like we did in Shahikot Mountains, that the military has all the support it needs to go in and do the job, which they did.

And there will be other battles in Afghanistan. There's going to be other struggles like Shahikot, and I'm just as confident about the outcome of those future battles as I was about Shahikot, where our soldiers are performing brilliantly. We're tough, we're strong, they're well-equipped. We have a good strategy. We are showing the world we know how to fight a guerrilla war with conventional means.

Q But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we -- excuse me for a minute -- and if we find a training camp, we'll take care of it. Either we will or our friends will. That's one of the things -- part of the new phase that's becoming apparent to the American people is that we're working closely with other governments to deny sanctuary, or training, or a place to hide, or a place to raise money.

And we've got more work to do. See, that's the thing the American people have got to understand, that we've only been at this six months. This is going to be a long struggle. I keep saying that; I don't know whether you all believe me or not. But time will show you that it's going to take a long time to achieve this objective. And I can assure you, I am not going to blink. And I'm not going to get tired. Because I know what is at stake. And history has called us to action, and I am going to seize this moment for the good of the world, for peace in the world and for freedom.

( emphasis added)

The phrases I highlighted represent the very closest matches for what Bush is supposed to have said that day according to those critics.

I don't think the quotation is accurate.

Additionally, the context of March 13, 2002 makes clear that Bush remained concerned about bin Laden in terms of bringing him to justice (" But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore."), but less concerned about bin Laden's ability to assist in conducting terrorism operations.

If anyone knows a reliable source for the quotation, please let me know and I'll update the post accordingly after verifying it.

I have yet to pin down the origin of the quotation, but at least I found a liberal blogger who realized that it wasn't kosher (so props to the hard-to-identify blogger responsible ... could be "hclsmith" if we go by the URL):
13: GWB, in Brady briefing room: [OBL] is—you know, as I mention in my speeches—I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death. (as is W) And he, himself, tries to hide, if, in fact, he's hiding at all. (just like W hides from protestors, newspapers, etc) So I don't know where he is. I just don't spend that much time on him, to be honest with you…I truly am not that concerned about him. (The widely-repeated version I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority seems to be a mirage. =( )


In search of Bull doors

No luck finding an image of a Bull with side doors so far, but I found a brochure about the MRAP II Bull from Ceradyne.

MRAP II carries certain requirements for ingress and egress that available images of the vehicle leave in doubt.

clipped from
bull efp resistant vehicle
 blog it


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Obama-Trudeau parallel?

Lionel Chetwynd suggests a political comparison that might not occur to the average American, suggesting that Obama's campaign resembles no recent campaign more than Pierre Trudeau's ascent to the post of prime minister of Canada.
That he was completely non-specific, avoiding policy questions in favour of depending entirely on his style and panache (and goodness knows, he had a surfeit of both) would surely undo him -- or so those of us who believed him to be a hard line leftist (because we'd read his essays in Cite Libre and studied his record) reassured ourselves.

Of course, we were wrong; his very lack of specificity was his strength. A brilliant orator, he spun webs around huge crowds, proposing big ideas in obscure terms, making it possible for the listener to impose any dream they wished upon his smiling, Savile Row-suited tabula rasa. He was all things to all people. In service to "party loyalty" and civility, we held our tongues.

(The National Post)

I will confess to having too little knowledge of Canadian politics from that era to judge the accuracy of the comparison. But if the facts correspond to reality then he makes a good piece.
The following year, Pierre Elliott Trudeau become prime minister, overwhelming more experienced candidates for the party leadership with his amazing style -- and I grant, it was amazing. Once in power, he led Canada down a radical new path ...
Go read the rest.


A minor mystery for MRAP II

When photos of the Bull MRAP came to view, some of us wondered about its apparent lack of side doors--a supposed requirement for the MRAP II program.

Based on a lone photo I was reluctant to conclude that the vehicle had no side doors at all.

clipped from

blog it

This photo, unless it has been flipped in the editing room, appears to confirm that the Bull lacks side doors on the right side of the vehicle (whereas the earlier photo appears to provide similar confirmation for the left side of the vehicle).

And if that's not evidence enough, the same source that gave us the above photo states:
The Bull, made by Arlington, Va.-based Ideal Innovations, Oshkosh Truck and Ceradyne, has no side doors, just a hatch on top, so there is uninterrupted armor all the way back to the crew cab.
If MRAP II requires side doors, why did Ideal/Oshkosh/Ceradyne get a pass for the Bull?


All passengers shall be able to exit the vehicle (in full body armor) within the following time limits:

1-2 personnel (driver & truck commander or passenger)

4-6 personnel

9-10 personnel (troop transport)

1-2 personnel (driver & truck commander or passenger)

4-6 personnel (4 pax & gunner)

9-10 personnel (troop transport)


Vehicle doors shall enable the 5th percentile female to 95 percentile male in full combat gear to rapidly ingress and egress the vehicle in response to tactical needs in full combat gear. (T) Full combat gear includes helmet, Body Armor, weapons, and all body borne equipment.


The MRAP shall be equipped with a minimum of a driver and co-driver door (T), a rear door (T), and one (1) ingress/egress point on the roof for personnel. (T) Tow access/egress points on the roof. (O)

Hatch and door dimensions shall accommodate the 95th percentile male, with full body armor, to easily ingress/egress. (T)

(source [word file--see "attachment 2"])


The anomalous primary

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, 19,639 new voters signed up in the period between March 10 and 17, the latest statewide data available. Of those, 14,256 registered as Democrats.

Also, 29,060 people changed their party affiliation to Democrat in just those seven days.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" in action? Who knows? But the Inquirer editors dropped a hint that they suspect as much by titling the story "Rush to register at Pa. deadline."
I tip my hat to them. Nice touch.

Though the impact of Limbaugh on this statistical phenomenon remains uncertain for the moment, the political craze in Pennsylvania highlights an unusual primary season in which the late-voting states carry disproportionate weight. During most past primary seasons the state's primary is perfunctory, occurring after both parties' candidates have effectively sewn up the respective nominations.

The situation gets a golden touch of irony from the fact that 2008 saw a number of significant attempts by states to move up in the primary order to increase their influence. While those states may have ended up with less influence on this year's primary as a result of their jockeying for position, their actions may eventually prove helpful in forcing both parties to revise an arcane primary system that treats some states more fairly than others.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Pete Sepp, earmarks and fact-checking

Some days ago I criticized PolitiFact's treatment of Sen. McCain's statements regarding earmarks (PolitiFact graded a plausibly true statement as "not true" based on their own equivocal language). I expressed concern that Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union may have been taken out of context, particularly in the following passage:
“To the average person on the outside world, there might not be much of a difference with these things,” Sepp said.
Indeed, we agree with Sepp that the narrow Washington definition of "earmark" is less important than the impression McCain has left. It appears he was seeking pork barrel projects for Arizona, which puts a few blemishes on an otherwise pure record against pork. And so while we find there is no question that McCain has been a leading congressional voice against pork, these three examples conflict with his bold claim. So we find that claim False.
I wrote to Pete Sepp to express my concern that he may have been taken out of context and he graciously replied.
I generally respect the work that PolitiFact does in trying to get to the root of controversial fiscal issues, though I do wish there were more room for appreciating the complexities of earmarking in the fact check piece. My point is that the average voter may or may not agree with Senator McCain's assertions on earmarking, depending upon what bothers that voter the most about the issue. If the voter's primary objection to this process is that lawmakers introduce too many spending bills that benefit only narrow local interests, then that voter may not be all that impressed with McCain's stance (even though there are many more prolific practitioners of this art in the Senate than McCain). If, on the other hand, the voter's primary objection is that earmarking circumvents public debate and other budget processes, then they would likely be quite satisfied with Senator McCain's philosophy.

My hope is that will compare and contrast the sudden conversion of Sens. Obama and Clinton to the recent one-year earmark moratorium proposal (which failed in the Senate) versus their past support of blatant earmarks on behalf of their own states. This too deserves scrutiny.
Sepp's reply fell considerably short of reaming PolitiFact for careless reporting, but his summary of his intent, I would venture, does suggest that PolitiFact bent his intent to their editorial purpose. Where Sepp allows that one's point of view and level of sophistication in applying an understanding of "earmark" and "pork barrel" will influence the interpretation of McCain's remark, PolitiFact makes the less nuanced interpretation the benchmark for truth.

Suppose that a mere 20 percent of people understand the less general meaning for "earmark" while the remaining 80 percent don't understand the processes of the government sufficiently to catch McCain's intended meaning ... PolitiFact would apparently find McCain speaking false as a result.

I stick with my conclusion that the PolitiFact entry contains a distinct bias, and based on Pete Sepp's communications with me I think my sense that PolitiFact quote-mined Sepp to propel their spin was justified.


The reader may have noted, as I did, that Sepp mentioned "" near the end of his message. Because I have never noticed PolitiFact to significantly assist in helping to clarify complicated fiscal issues and because of the mention of Annenberg's, I wrote to Sepp to invite his clarification, thinking perhaps he had confused the very worthy Annenberg with PolitiFact.

I spelled out my concerns to Sepp and he promptly replied:
I'm sorry about the confusion I caused. You're right, and I agree with your assessment. I trust your judgment entirely to edit my reply as you wish.
I judged that presenting the conversation as it occurred minus salutations and pleasantries provides the reader with the most accurate picture, as I would have some difficulty in describing with certainty the degree to which Mr. Sepp agrees with my assessments.

I offer public thanks to Pete Sepp for patiently responding to my inquiries.


For the sake of completeness, the text of the message I sent to Sepp:
In your second paragraph you express respect for PolitiFact's efforts to "get to the root of controversial fiscal issues." In your final paragraph you express the desire for to delve into the Clinton/Obama shift on earmarks. PolitiFact and are not affiliated. The latter organization does an admirable job of informing the public in a relatively even-handed manner (in my humble opinion). PolitiFact, though a cooperative effort between the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, doesn't hold a candle to Annenberg's In my post, I was poised to disagree with you in your assessment of PolitiFact while agreeing with you that it would be nice for (a fine fact-checking outfit like) to look into the Clinton/Obama shift. Because it seems possible that you link PolitiFact with, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to clarify your remarks before I move to publish--it had been my intention to reproduce your reply in its entirety minus the salutations and needless apology (I'm entirely honored that you replied to me at all). I think it will tend to appear that you believe the two organizations are linked, unless you're expressing the view (which I would agree with) that it is better for to handle this type of thing than the folks at PolitiFact.
Polished my fourth graph for clarity.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

St. Petersburg Times' triumvirate of terror

Without digging too deeply, I've uncovered three skewerable editorials at The St. Petersburg Times this week.

First up is an byline-less editorial that could easily pass for Robyn Blumner's work.

Titled "Bush fights science again, and we all lose," it engages in typically Blumnerian confusion about what constitutes science and combines that ignorance with a fixation on attacking Bush.

Under legal pressure to enforce the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the ozone limit from the current 84 parts per billion to 75 ppb. The new standard would quadruple the number of counties out of compliance on smog (including the Tampa Bay area) and reduce illness and deaths related to that pollution.

So far, so good. Except EPA administrator Stephen Johnson did two things that undermined the effort. First, he ruled against his own scientific advisers, who wanted to set the allowable ozone level even lower — between 60 ppb and 70 ppb. Once again the administration showed its contempt for science.

The disinformation in this piece is staggering. First, compare a story from Reuters that appears to deal with the lawsuit mentioned in the editorial:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency toughened standards for ozone pollution on Wednesday, but these new requirements are more lax than the agency's own scientists recommended.

Stephen Johnson, the agency's chief, said he complied with the Clean Air Act and with scientific data in setting the new ozone standard at 75 parts per billion in ambient air in the United States. The previous standard was 80 parts per billion.


The Times has 84 parts per billion while the Reuters story mentioned 80 ppb as the standard. Reuters, from what I can tell, is the more technically correct. Compliance with the 80ppb standard is measured according to 84 ppb. No, I'm not kidding.

The U.S. EPA’s primary (for health protection) and secondary (for environmental and welfare protection) 8-hr ozone standards both are 80 ppb. In determining attainment and nonattainment, however, the U.S. EPA must use rounding. As a result, we consider ozone values ≤84 ppb as meeting the standard.
(Hubbell, Hallberg, McCubbin & Post)
Other than quibbling over the numbers, what's my problem with the editorial?

Two things.

First, the editorial is blindly one-sided. The Heritage Foundation has supplied a critique of the proposed 70-75 ppb standard that offers much more information than the Times ("In the know") editorial. Here's a taste of the conclusion:
It is appropriate for the EPA to consider the public health risks associated with ground-level ozone. However, the EPA should consider the tradeoffs involved in making the current standard stricter. Like reducing the speed limit to 15 miles per hour, it might save more lives but would come with extremely high economic costs.
Second, the charge that the EPA's decision amounts to fighting science displays either a lack of understanding of science or a tendency toward misleadingly hyperbolic rhetoric--and either should be a concern coming from the editorial board of a newspaper calling itself one of the 10 best in the nation.

Science makes no prescriptive statements. Prescriptive statements fall outside the domain of science, which observes nature and tries to provide an understanding of nature based on the development of a system of laws that allow for accurate predictions. As such, it is complete nonsense to say that the administration is fighting science. It's fair to say that the administration did not accept the advice of the EPA's scientists, but that should only cause an outcry if the cost/benefit analysis is clear-cut in favor of the full reduction. The Heritage Foundation addressed the cost/benefit analysis. The St. Petersburg Times engaged in hysterical rhetoric without addressing the cost/benefit analysis.

If The St. Peterburg Times is one of the 10 best newspapers in the United States then the editorial board either has little to do with it or else we're all in a heap of trouble.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Scientists in the news

Scientists believe a rope-like organism that lived on the seabed up to 570 million years ago was the first creature on earth to have sex.


The primitive love-making experience is unlikely to have been earth-moving for the animals - but it has sent scientists around the world into a fluster of excitement.

(Channel 4)
Uh ... OK.


France to the rescue in Afghanistan?

France is widely expected to boost its role in Afghanistan beyond the 1,900 soldiers currently there at a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4.

The refusal of key European allies such as Germany, Italy and Spain to send forces to join the British, Americans, Canadians and Dutch who are leading the fight in the south has led to months of ugly infighting within NATO.


I skipped the graph that talked about Sarkozy adding 1,000 French soldiers to the 1,900 already there in favor of highlighting the paragraph that reminds us how most of our would-be coalition partners don't have the stomach for heavy lifting.

Remember that when Barack Obama next opens his mouth about getting other nations to provide peacekeeping troops in Iraq.

It's a promise he can't deliver.


France to the rescue in Afghanistan?


Friday, March 21, 2008

PolitiFact hews to the ridiculous

For some reason, the professionals at PolitiFact (PolitiHack?) seem to think it significant that John McCain compared the Jewish Purim celebration with Halloween. Both involve candy and costumes, but PolitiFact rates McCain "False" with their "Truth-O-Meter."

This on the heels of their diaphanously thin claim that McCain was wrong that Iran trains al Qaida terrorists who end up in Iraq.

I wonder what news accounts the PolitiFact folks relied on. No doubt they have wire services to peruse, but Redlasso came up empty for me when I tried to find a video version that would supply the context.

Here's the version from MSNBC's "Firstread":
McCain made the incorrect statement during a press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak after touring the Israeli city of Sderot to view buildings damaged by Hamas rocket fire. McCain was discussing the numerous rock attacks on the city. "Nine hundred rocket attacks in less than three months, an average of one every one to two hours. Obviously this puts an enormous and hard to understand strain on the people here, especially the children. As they celebrate their version of Halloween here, they are somewhere close to a 15-second warning, which is the amount of time they have from the time the rocket is launched to get to safety. That's not a way for people to live obviously."
How is it flatly "false" that a holiday of particular interest to kids that also involves costumes and candy fails to have an analog in Halloween? Sure beats me, but it's as clear as mountain spring water to the media professionals at PolitiFact.

PolitiFact also displayed its Sherlock Holmes-ish attention to detail by noting that Joe Lieberman once again bailed out McCain on yet another gaffe during his overseas trip. In the last paragraph (sixteenth out of 16) they do get around to acknowledging that McCain apparently relied on Lieberman for the comparison in the first place, but you get the point. That McCain's a liar.

Again, if PolitiFact were serious they would merely have focused on any degree to which McCain's statement was offensive to those in attendance. The news reports offer some very subtle hints that was the case (that Lieberman found it necessary to explain the comparison is one). But even so, the candy/kids/costumes similarities make McCain's statement at least somewhat true.

Yet PolitiFact has the needle buried at "False"--one notch above "Pants-on-fire."

This was not a serious fact to check, and PolitiFact marks itself yet again as non-serious in the political fact-checking game. The failure to even address Barack Obama's false charge that McCain confused Sunni and Shiite (beyond PolitiFact's chorus in separately supporting the false charge against McCain) goes yet further in showing that PolitiFact is a sham. PolitiFact is little better than the fabulously biased Media Matters.


IEDs in the news

Agence France-Presse came through with a pretty good story on the armor-vs.-ied arms race, albeit with more emphasis on the latter than the former.

PARIS (AFP) — On the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and southern Lebanon no weapon poses as big a threat to Western armies' armoured convoys as the simple roadside bomb.

For more than half a decade US and European forces have been locked in an arms race with insurgent engineers, who try to build ever more sophisticated booby-traps to defeat ever stronger armour and defensive tactics.


For me, the thing that sets this story above much that I see is the emphasis on the precision required to design a working EFP. Last year my local paper published a piece that made it sound as easy as running to a machine shop and spending a few minutes modifying an existing bomb with a screwdriver.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

PolitiFact joins media disinformation campaign against McCain

We're not trying to pile on to Sen. John McCain over his misstatement on the link between Iran and al-Qaida.
clipped from

That claim doesn't pass the sniff test, so I use PolitiFact's own cheesy icon against them.

Most experts do not believe Iran is helping al-Qaida because their respective religious affiliations are at odds with each other. Both sides are Muslim, but the Iranian government is Shiite while al-Qaida is Sunni. And al-Qaida adheres to a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam that considers Shiites to be apostate. It's not likely the two groups would work together, certainly not "common knowledge."
Looks like we're safe from the mention of any specific experts as well as any reference supporting the claim. This is PolitiFact, after all.

Though it supposedly isn't "likely" according to the anonymous majority of experts that Iran would support the activities of Sunni extremists, it does happen. Eli Lake documented some of the evidence in the New York Sun today.

Here's more, via ABC News (not that the news from ABC is common knowledge or anything):
NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain.
But that's not really possible considering how unlikely it is, I suppose.

Then PolitiFact gives us seven more paragraphs explaining the difference between Sunni and Shiite as if that was truly relevant to what McCain stated ("McCain is not the first elected official to get these differences wrong").

The last paragraph is a parting shot at McCain as well as a spin on the facts:
McCain recovered quickly, but we still rate his statement False for saying everyone knows Iran and al-Qaida are working together.
McCain did not say that "everyone knows" or else PolitiFact's ignorance all by itself would disprove his statement. He said it was "common knowledge" and that claim is supported by stories in the mass media.
Well, it's common knowledge and has been reported in the media that, uh, that al Qaida is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That's well known.
(Sublovious transcript of McCain's statement)
Interesting that the attempts to call this a McCain gaffe have completely de-emphasized his reference to media reports, isn't it?

McCain probably trusted Lieberman enough to believe that he misspoke, but the facts back up McCain regardless of the anonymous experts (and assuming that PolitiFact could actually find experts willing to back up their claims about what "most experts" say, I would expect that experts with real knowledge of Iranian activities in the region would disagree with their experts).

If PolitiFlack (Maybe PolitiPantsOnFire would be a yet more apt nickname for this outfit) was serious about getting to the facts they would have spent their time giving us some quotation from real experts (representative of the alleged majority) instead of running off on the red herring of the Sunni-Shia distinction.

The fact that they went there suggests that they took a bit of a cue from the Obama campaign.
"Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shia, Iran and Al Qaeda," Obama said.
(LA Times)


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media on board with Obama against McCain--and ignoring history (Updated)

This story isn't burning up the blogosphere yet, but it shouldn't be long. The media wrongly accused John McCain of a flub, Obama appropriated it and now other media outlets are chiming in on Obama's side. And there wouldn't be anything wrong with that if if weren't for the fact that McCain is right and Obama wrong.

Joe Klein (Time/CNN "Swampland")
I was going to give John McCain a break on his Al Qaeda-Iran gaffe yesterday. After all, it wasn't a Kinsleyian gaffe--the inadvertant blurting of an unacceptable truth--it was just a plain old slip of the tongue, a brain fart. Surely, McCain knows that Iran is Shi'ite and Al Qaeda is Sunni...
Klein is too smart to confuse Sunni and Shiite like that. A very smart man.
Apparently "Swampland" is located in the fever swamp of the left.

Agence France-Presse:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain touts his foreign policy expertise at every turn, but he has given Democrats ammunition against his experience by wrongly saying Iran trains Al-Qaeda members.
The Telegraph (UK):
Democrats have seized on a slip-up by John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, in which he appeared to be confused between Sunni and Shi'ite groups in Iraq by suggesting that Iran was backing al-Qa'eda.
Hilariously, the Telegraph is one of the papers that reported the news that McCain conveyed. I guess using one's own archives to check the accuracy of a story is no longer standard practice. O-ba-ma. O-ba-ma.

The press is gaining momentum with this error. I wonder if any mainstream media sources will pick up on their mistake?

Eli Lake and the New York Sun are on the case (hat tip to Power Line). My post, though dated March 19, wasn't posted until the 20th because of some minor computer problems.


Obama takes advantage of press malpractice

Reporting by dingbat Caren Bohan:

FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized Republican John McCain on Wednesday for misidentifying Iraqi extremists, saying he fails to understand the war has emboldened U.S. enemies.
That's the lead. You don't get the details until page two of the Web version.

At a news conference in Amman, McCain said Iran supported the Sunni group al Qaeda in Iraq, until he was corrected by a colleague. U.S. officials believe predominantly Shi'ite Iran has been backing Shi'ite extremists in Iraq, not al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group.

It was the first stumble of note that McCain has made since clinching the Republican presidential nomination early this month, and Obama quickly pounced on it.

"Just yesterday, we heard Senator McCain confuse Sunni and Shi'ite, Iran and al Qaeda," Obama said.

Here's the video. The "colleague" is Independent (Democrat) Joe Lieberman.

Thanks for nothing, Lieberman.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are training hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters to carry out attacks against coalition forces throughout the Middle East.

The Iranian government has been providing a safe haven for fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror group since they were forced to flee Afghanistan in late 2001.

But Western intelligence agencies now report that the Iranians are training Al Qaeda fighters at centers that were previously used by other Islamic militant groups, such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
(The New York Sun)
This was a Reuters story. Aren't they supposed to know what's going on in the world? McCain was exactly right and they apparently didn't bother to check the facts.
Iran is seeking to take control of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terror network by encouraging it to promote officials known to be friendly to Teheran, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
(The Daily Telegraph)
Shhhhhh! Don't tell Reuters or Obama.
The official said US commanders were bracing for a nationwide, Iranian-orchestrated summer offensive, linking al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents to Tehran's Shia militia allies, that Iran hoped would trigger a political mutiny in Washington and a US retreat. "We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to Petraeus's report in September [when the US commander General David Petraeus will report to Congress on President George Bush's controversial, six-month security "surge" of 30,000 troop reinforcements]," the official said.
(The Guardian)
Some might wonder why the Shiite regime in Tehran would assist the Al Qaeda insurgency. Apparently they find it difficult to imagine that Tehran would like to see the U.S. move out of Iraq so that they can expand their sphere of influence into weakened Iraq.

Why that would be a mysterious or difficult to conceive motivation is a mystery to me.

Is it any wonder that people do not trust journalists?

This is a faux pas by Obama, not McCain, unless we count McCain correcting himself at Lieberman's prompting. Either way, the Obama attack on McCain is unfounded. Another mistake for the rookie, though the press is thus far covering for him.


"You can't figure people ..."

"... not with pencil and paper
na-na-na-na na-na-na."
-Bourgeois Tagg

I like having conversations with people who disagree with me. You could even say that I like to argue. But I'd qualify that by insisting that I prefer a reasonable opponent with a good argument.

That's where atheists/agnostics/skeptics come in. I have quite a few disagreements with that segment of the population. And some of them do a wonderful job of arguing their side even if I happen to think. Others fall astoundingly short of the type of clarity of thought for which those groups tend to pride themselves.

I ran across "The Ocelli Journal" today because the author is another who misuses a quotation attributed to but probably not stated by former Secretary of the Interior James Watt (under the Reagan administration).

And I ran across this appalling viewpoint under the title heading "Muslims, be careful what you wish for":
Americans want out of the middle east so bad they can taste it. We are tired of dealing with you (yes, the whole region) and your quirky ways. Just as soon as we can wean ourselves from your oil, your problems will be over because we will be out of your land so fast your head will spin. Just think, no more Americans (and no more American money). If China is not on board with alternative energies, they will be needing your oil. I am sure you will love dealing with the Chinese. Get pissed at the Chinese and fly a plane into one of their government buildings and you will see how reasonable they are.
(The Ocelli Journal)
As of today, the profile indicates the author as 45 year-old male.

Where to start?

First, we're not going to be weaning ourselves from an oil-based economy anytime soon, even if the Democrats do an about-face on nuclear energy.

Second, buying their oil is one of the things the Arab nations like the most about the West. What the hard-liners really don't like is the export of our culture (cable television and Hollywood) and the way we stand between them and the destruction of Israel.

Third, if China buys oil from the Arabs they'll be using it to produce products that we buy in the United States. So unless Mr. Ocelli also has a boycott on Chinese goods in the works the Arabs will still end up with their pockets stuffed full of American dollars courtesy of Chinese go-betweens. Though the Chinese could always pay for their oil with munitions that the United States refuses to provide to hard-liners (the U.S. forbids sale of arms minus a pledge of use only for self-defense--China maintains no such policy). And maybe the hard-liners will use those weapons to re-take traditionally Muslim lands in Europe.

And Ocelli will speed along on his ethanol-powered motor-scooter without a care, secure in the knowledge that all that trouble is an ocean away. And who could possibly believe that hard-line Muslims hate the image of Hollywood, anyway?


Michael J. Totten on Iraqi opinion

A recent Iraqi public opinion poll by ABC/BBC contained plenty of good news for "stay the course" conservatives. Ed Morrissey, who jumped ship at his own Captain's Quarters blog to join Michelle Malkin's enterprise at Hot Air, already noted that Sunnis were overrepresented in the poll sample and that may have made the poll seem a bit worse than it was in actuality.

Freelance reporter Michael J. Totten offers an additional caution regarding Middle East opinion polls:

Two days ago ABC News released a new poll of Iraqi public opinion, and John Burns at the New York Times made a very perceptive observation that should be taken into account when looking it over.

Opinion polls, including those commissioned by the American command, have long suggested that a majority of Iraqis would like American troops withdrawn, but another lesson to be drawn from Saddam Hussein’s years is that any attempt to measure opinion in Iraq is fatally skewed by intimidation. More often than not, people tell pollsters and reporters what they think is safe, not necessarily what they believe. My own experience, invariably, was that Iraqis I met who felt secure enough to speak with candor had an overwhelming desire to see American troops remain long enough to restore stability.

This feels right to me, not only thanks to my experience in Iraq, but also in places like totalitarian Libya where no one dared criticize the regime in public, and where everyone I spoke to did so in private where they were safe. Saddam Hussein commanded a murder and intimidation regime in Iraq, and today’s insurgents wage a murder and intimidation campaign in the streets. In Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraqi civilians were murdered just for waving hello to Americans, and for accepting bags of rice as charity. Fear should not be ignored when gauging Iraqi public opinion, and that includes fear of American guns as well as fear of insurgents.


I'll add my own two cents. Poll questions are often worthless because of their ambiguity. I'm not convinced that the problem disappears in Arabic.

32. As you may know, British forces have mainly left Basra province in recent
months. Since the British left, do you think the security in Basra has become
better, become worse, or remained the same?
We don't care if you've never ever been near Basra. We want your opinion anyway.


No do-over in Michigan, either

So says Politico.

I'm no more surprised with this than I am with the similar situation in Florida.


The media ideal of diversity?

Newsrooms have been known to display a concern over racial diversity.

And that seems reasonable to a point. It's probable that blacks have been victims of past discrimination at newspapers, so an attempt to balance that ledger by encouraging the hiring of qualified blacks makes sense.

That attempt should probably stay limited in scope and duration, however, since its perpetuation simply creates a new pattern of racial discrimination. Plus blacks might want jobs that pay better than print journalism. Drawing blacks into a economically disadvantaged career almost seems like a dirty trick.

In contrast, newsrooms care little for ideological diversity. And that makes sense to a point. Today's newsrooms are dominated by the political center-left, but that breakdown probably owes hardly any debt to a past pattern or job discrimination against political conservatives.

Where newsrooms advocate diversity for its own sake rather than as part of a reasonable (and not overtly discriminatory) affirmative action initiative, the argument for diversity runs into a problem via its failure to consider political ideology.

If blacks brought exactly the same ideology to the newsroom as any other group, what would justify attempting to achieve black representation in the newsroom other than the affirmative action rationale already mentioned?

Justification would prove difficult.

I suspect that for many newsrooms, the ultimate motivation is brand stewardship. It's OK to stock the newsroom with blacks because the brand benefits along the lines of a charitable donation. That perception will more than make up for the fact that blacks overwhelmingly tend to vote Democratic. The brand benefits.

Making an effort to hire conservatives, on the other hand, has corresponding upside for the brand. Making a public effort to hire conservatives serves as an implicit admission that conservatives are underrepresented in the newsroom. Newspapers don't care to broadcast such an implied bias. The print ideal in the U.S., after all, is "objective" journalism. An overt attempt to hire conservatives might also create the impression that the newspaper has adopted a rightward tilt to its reporting, for that matter.

Though newspapers prefer to see themselves as relatively objective centrists, they do manifest a behavioral concession that could pass for an attempt to hire conservatives: They buy op-eds from conservative columnists. In this case also, the motivation appears to have the bottom line in view. Newspapers want to sell to the general public, not just one party or the other (though that wasn't always the case). A few conservative op-eds sprinkled on the op-ed page adds a veneer of balance regardless of the positions of the home-grown editorial staff (my local paper, The St. Petersburg Times, serves as a case in point).