Friday, May 23, 2003

Senator Robert Byrd:

Remarks on the Senate floor about the Iraq war.
Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of longstanding International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who masterminded the September 11 attacks, to Saddam Hussein, who did not. The run-up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his Cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ-laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post-traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.
And there is more.




Thursday, May 22, 2003

Junk journalism:

Beginning Friday, 23 May 2003, John Stossel will co-anchor ABC's 20/20 program. This is not an encouraging development. We invite our readers to take a journey back in time and see what Stossel did almost two years ago:

On Friday, June 29, 2001 ABC aired a John Stossel special entitled "Tampering With Nature".

The program's message was that environmentalists' dire warnings are overblown - even false.  The special was divided (roughly) into three segments: on pollution, global warming, and genetic engineering.  Clips were shown of non-mainstream environmental activists making emotional appeals to get involved.  They looked, and sounded, silly.  Stossel contrasted this with low-key, sober interviews with people skeptical of alarmist claims.

As part of the program, Stossel promoted the skeptical-of-warming view through the use of misleading and irrelevant material.

  • One of the scientists interviewed, Richard Lindzen of MIT, said people should not be concerned with a mere degree increase in global temperature because that's the kind of fluctuation we all experience within minutes.  An absurd comment.  One could just as easily dismiss a ten-degree increase in overall global temperature.  Because after all, that's the kind of fluctuation we experience over the span of a day.  Lindzen knows better.  Why does he make such a poor argument?  And why does Stossel allow it to be part of the discourse?
  • But here's the kicker:  Stossel said,
    "You may have heard that sixteen hundred scientists signed a letter warning of 'devastating consequences', but I bet you hadn't heard that seventeen thousand scientists signed a petition saying that 'there's no convincing evidence that greenhouse gases will disrupt the earth's climate.'"

While Stossel was narrating, images of the two petitions (with highlighted excerpts) briefly flashed by on the screen.  But nowhere in the program - in the narrative or closing credits - were the petitions identified.  Stossel simply gives the viewer a 'body count', with global-warming-skeptics having a petition-signer advantage: 17,000 vs 1,600.  It's important to know more about the petitions in order to make a judgment as to their worth.   On, there is only a capsule description of the program*.  No other links or resources are provided.

Replaying a tape of the show, and slowing down the petition images, one can determine that the first one - concerned about global warming - was issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). 

What about the other petition, the one Stossel said was signed by 17,000 and which dismissed concerns about global warming?  Again, going to the tape, we find no letterhead, just text.  However, a little searching on the web brings forth a listing for a site devoted to an 'Anti Global Warming Petition'.  It's the one Stossel was referring to.   The petition's website is hosted by the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine (OISM) a tiny outfit with a faculty of 6, and with headquarters in the hamlet of Cave Junction, Oregon.  The petition itself is spearheaded by Frederick Seitz (of La Jolla, CA), and requests that individuals be part of the petition by sending in a card listing:

one's name, degree (BS, MS, PhD), field of study, and address.

That's how the 17,000 signatures were gathered.  Go to the web site, pick out some names, and see (via web searching) what their field of study is.  These were called "scientists" by Stossel - presumably ones working in the fields of climate and related fields.  Take a look at who some of them are.  They include:

Opthalmologists, Gynecologists, Dentists, Veterinarians,
Professors of nutrition, animal science, machine tools, mechanical engineering
A sampling:

  • Ara Arabyan, PhD Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UA. (PhD, University of Southern California, 1986)
  • Donald Applegate, DVM attended the University of Kentucky for pre-veterinary medicine and Auburn University Veterinary College
  • Andreas M. Papas, PhD Papas is a leading antioxidant authority with nearly 25 years of experience in nutrition research
  • Dennis N Marple, PhD Department Head of Animal Science at Iowa State University, he got his PhD in Philosophy at Purdue University: 1971
  • Robert Ahokas, PhD OB/GYN Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Tennessee, Memphis
  • Clinton Bybee, member of the Machine Tool Technology Department at Utah Valley State College / CNC Assistant Professor
  • Leonard Conapinski, Mechanical Engineering Class of 2000 Notre Dame
  • Alejandro Dopico, PhD Asst. Professor Department of Pharmacology University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Dion R Ehrlich, MD Ophthalmology Abingon Memorial Hospital
  • Michael Marchese, DDS
  • Jerome Bromkowski, MD
  • Paul C Broun, MD
  • Thomas D Brower, MD
  • Allan Briney, MD
  • Gilbert Douglas Jr, MD
  • W Campbell Douglass III, MD
  • William K Elwood, DDS
  • John Joseph Ennever, DDS

So, the next time somebody is fretting about global warming, you can reassure them that John Stossel has checked with gynecologists, veterinarians, mechanical engineers, and dentists, and can confidently assert that there is no cause for alarm.

* Excerpt from the ABC capsule description of the program:

The media imply that scientists agree with all the dire predictions, but do they?
A group of 1,600 scientists signed a letter warning of "devastating consequences" if we don't quit our lowdown, polluting ways and curb global warming.
But I bet you hadn't heard that a group of 17,000 scientists signed a petition saying there's "no convincing evidence" that greenhouse gases will disrupt the Earth's climate.
Despite what we hear from the media, there is no consensus that global warming is harming the planet. Some climatologists point to the often-overlooked fact that huge piles of funding are at stake.

And we'll end with this item from the Miami Herald story about Stossel:
... neither his wildly enthusiastic fans nor his implacable enemies should be misled: If anything, Stossel will be reporting even more stories on 20/20 -- including a coming segment that asks, why shouldn't poor people be able to sell their kidneys to the rich?

''I knew you'd like that one,'' Stossel says in a telephone interview as a reporter laughed and an ABC publicist buried her face in her hands.

It should come as no surprise that Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has a section devoted solely to Stossel. In includes a critique of the program we discussed above. Of note is this excerpt:
Though OISM's signatories did include reputable scientists, it also included dentists, nutritionists and others with no expertise in climatalogy; the only requirement for signing on was a bachelors degree in science. In fact, OISM's screening process was so lax that for a time the list also included a number of gag names added by environmentalists, including Ginger Spice and Michael J. Fox. The OISM petition also came under fire for being deceptively packaged: The petition was accompanied by an article purporting to debunk global warming that was formatted to look as though it had been published in the journal of the respected National Academy of Sciences. The resemblance was so close that the NAS issued a public statement that the OISM petition "does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy."
On the other hand, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, loved Stossel's reporting.

Here is a Salon article from February 2000 on Stossel. It's a mixed review.


Notice the words being used:

On Wednesday, the News Hour had a segment about Whitman's resignation from the EPA, and it was followed by a discussion about environmental policies under the Bush administration. We were struck by the language used by one speaker, Lynn Scarlett, the assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget in the U.S. Interior Department. From the transcript:
LYNN SCARLETT: I think we're doing a tremendous job. The president set forth when he calls a vision of a new environmentalism. And by that he meant let us build a vision based on innovation.

And so he's put the largest ever amount of resources towards climate change research, for example. We have his new car investment to try and bring new technologies for cleaner cars. It's a vision based on what Secretary Norton at Interior calls cooperative conservation. We're working with some 27,000 landowners to extend a caring hand across the landscape in partnership. I think the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. We're achieving some tremendous wetlands restoration. We are bringing those forests back to health; they need it. They are overcrowded with thin and spindly trees. We have in southern California where I'm from a terrible insect devastation. We need to get and bring those forests back to health. And that's what we're trying to do.

Later on in the segment:

GWEN IFILL: And, Lynn Scarlett, the criticism of course that's applied to the administration that you took rollbacks and you dress them up with names like the clear skies initiative which when it's actually according to the environmentalists a rollback in pollution standards. What's your response to that sort of criticism?

Scarlett did not address that question in her response.


Your heard it here first:

We read in the Washington Post:
Bush Headlines His First Political Event for 2004

"He's on track this election cycle to raise a half billion dollars for the national parties, the state parties and his own re-election campaign," said Republican consultant Scott Reed.



In this ABC News report on the tax cut, we read: (excerpts)
House and Senate tax writers struck agreement Wednesday on a $350 billion tax cut that Republicans leaders plan to pass by Memorial Day.

Voinovich, who had worked with other moderates to limit the Senate's tax cut, spent the afternoon with Vice President Dick Cheney in the private hideaway office of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., to shrink the cost of the package.

The negotiators agreed to move up the expiration date of one of the bill's most expensive provision, which cuts taxes on capital gains and dividends to 15 percent. The policy had been set to expire after 2009. It would now expire in 2007, 2008 or 2009, depending on analysis still under construction by congressional tax experts.
Why not have the policy set to expire after 7:23 AM March 18 2008? Whatever it takes to get the numbers down, right boys?

Note also that when it comes to anything of substance, Cheney is the guy calling the shots.


What are they smoking?

From the compassionate Republicans: (excerpts)
House GOP Targets Medical Marijuana States

House Republicans are pressing for legislation that would strip federal anti-drug money from local police in states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

The overall legislation, which would keep the White House drug policy office in business for another five years, would also allow the office to run ads opposing medical marijuana initiatives.

Tom Riley, spokesman for White House drug policy director John Walters, said: ``One of the duties of the drug czar is to oppose efforts to legalize drugs. ...''

The House Government Reform Committee was expected to approve the legislation Thursday, with an amendment prohibiting ads expressly advocating support or defeat of a candidate or ballot question.

Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project said his group was especially concerned about the possibility of huge advertising expenditures by the White House in an attempt to influence elections.

``This leaves them free to run ads saying medicinal marijuana is a lie and a ploy to legalize marijuana for all purposes,'' he said.

The states with medical marijuana laws are Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada and Maine.
One duty of the drug czar is to oppose efforts to legalize drugs? No matter what? Even if the drug in question is deemed harmless (or even useful)? And anyway, what's the government doing influencing elections?

Face it. The Republicans don't like democracy.


Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Bad news for some baby boys:

Surfing the web, we encountered a site promoting the Baby Name Survey Book (1998). There, we read:
A total of over 100,000 parents were surveyed to determine the most common images people hold about the most popular names for babies. For this new edition, over 300 new names were added to the original 1,400 names, and many of the names were updated to reflect the most up-to-date information about the names you're considering for your baby, including:
The new image of names associated with celebrities, such as Newt, Colin, Denzel, Selena, Winona, and Mariah;


Texas Democratic legislators walk-out update:

Just to keep the record straight, there had been accusations that the Texas Democrats who denied a quorum (by hiding out in Ardmore, Oklahoma) were somehow running up a big bill - to be paid by Texans.

This letter in the Houston Chronicle from Garnet Coleman (District 147, Houston) sets the record straight. Excerpt:
Our days away from Austin did not cost one dime of taxpayer money. We paid from our own pockets. We refused to accept any legislative pay for the days we were not at the Capitol.


Nobody cares about history any more:

Do you know what happened 200 years ago this (recently past) April?

Note: Napoleon Bonaparte is First Consul of France.
Treaty between the United States of America and the French Republic.

The President of the United States of America and the First Consul of the French Republic, in the name of the French People, desiring to remove all source of misunderstanding relative to objects of discussion mentioned in the Second and fifth articles of the convention of the 8th Vendémiaire an. 9, (30 September 1800) relative to the rights claimed by the United States, in virtue of the treaty concluded at Madrid the 27 of October, 1795, between His Catholic Majesty and the said United States, and willing to strengthen the union and friendship which at the time of the said convention was happily reestablished between the two nations, have respectively named their plenipotentiaries, to wit, the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the said States, Robert R. Livingston, minister plenipotentiary of the United States, and James Monroe, minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary of the said States, near the Government of the French republic; and the First Consul, in the name of the French people, Citizen François Barbé Marbois, minister of the public treasury, who, after having respectively exchanged their full powers, have agreed to the following articles:
  1. WHEREAS, by the article the third of the treaty concluded at St. Ildefonso, the 9th Vendémiaire an. 9 (1st October, 1800) between the First Consul of the French republic and his Catholic Majesty it was agreed as follows:

    "His Catholic Majesty promises and engages on his part to cede to the French Republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and Stipulations herein relative to his Royal Highness the Duke of Parma, the colony or province of Louisiana with the same extent that it now has in the hand of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it; and such as it should be after the Treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states." And whereas, in pursuance of the treaty, and particularly of the third article, the French republic has an incontestible title to the domain and to the possession of the said territory. The First Consul of the French republic desiring to give to the United States a strong proof of his friendship, doth hereby cede to the said United States, in the name of the French Republic, for ever and in full sovereignty, the said territory with all its rights and appurtenances, as fully and in the same manner as they have been acquired by the French Republic in virtue of the above mentioned treaty, concluded with his Catholic Majesty.

  2. In the cession made by the preceeding article are included the adjacent Islands belonging to Louisiana, all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other edifices which are not private property. The archives, papers and documents relative to the domain and sovereignty of Louisiana and its dependencies, will be left in the possession of the commissaries of the United States, and copies will be afterwards given in due form to the magistrates and municipal officers, of such of the said papers and documents as may be necessary to them.

  3. The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the union of the United States, and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all these rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the mean time, they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the Religion which they profess.

  4. There shall be sent by the government of France, a Commissary to Louisiana, to the end that he do every act necessary, as well to receive from the Officers of his Catholic Majesty the said country and its dependancies in the name of the French Republic, if it has not been already done, as to transmit it in the name of the French Republic to the commissary or agent of the United States.

  5. Immediately after the ratification of the present treaty by the President of the United States, and in case that of the First Consul's shall have been previously obtained, the commissary of the French Republic shall remit all military posts of New Orleans, and other parts of the ceded territory, to the commissary or commissaries named by the President to take possession; the troops, whether of France or Spain, who may be there, shall cease to occupy any military post from the time of taking possession, and shall be embarked as soon as possible in the course of three months after the ratification of this treaty.

  6. The United States promise to execute Such treaties and articles as may have been agreed between Spain and the tribes and nations of Indians until, by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon.

  7. As it is reciprocally advantageous to the commerce of France and the United States to encourage the communication of both nations for a limited time in the country ceded by the present treaty, until general arrangements relative to commerce of both nations may be agreed on: it has been agreed between the contracting parties, that the French ships coming directly from France or any of her colonies, loaded only with the produce and manufactures of France or her said colonies; and the ships of Spain coming directly from Spain or any of her colonies loaded only with the produce or manufactures of Spain or her colonies, shall be admitted during the space of twelve years in the port of New Orleans, and in all other legal ports of entry within the ceded territory, in the same manner as the Ships of the United States coming directly from France or Spain, or any of their colonies, without being subject to any other or greater duty on merchandise, or other or greater tonnage than that paid by the citizens of the United States.

    During that space of time above mentioned, no other nation shall have a right to the same privileges in the ports of the ceded territory: the twelve years shall commence three months after the exchange of ratifications, if it shall take place in France, or three months after it shall have been notified at Paris to the French government, if it shall take place in the United States; it is however well understood that the object of the above article is to favor the manufactures, commerce, freight, and navigation of France and of Spain so far as relates to the importations that the French and Spanish shall make into the said ports of the United States, without in any sort affecting the regulations that the United States may make concerning the exportation of t he produce and merchandize of the United States, or any right they may have to make such regulations.

  8. In future and for ever after the expiration of the twelve years, the ships of France shall be treated upon the footing of the most favored nations in the ports above mentioned.

  9. The particular convention signed this day by the respective ministers, having for its object to provide for the payment of debts due to the citizens of the United States by the French Republic prior to the 30th September, 1800, (8th Vendémiaire an. 9,) is approved, and to have its execution in the same manner as if it had been inserted in this present treaty, and it shall be ratified in the same form and in the same time, so that the one shall not be ratified distinct from the other.

    Another particular convention signed at the same date as the present treaty, relative to a definitive rule between the contracting parties, is in the like manner approved, and will be ratified in the same form, and in the same time, and jointly.

  10. The present treaty shall be ratified in good and due form, and the ratifications shall be exchanged in the space of six months after the date of the signature by the ministers plenipotentiary, or sooner if possible.
In faith whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed these articles in the French and English languages; declaring nevertheless that the present treaty was originally agreed to in the French language; and have thereunto affixed their seals.

Done at Paris the tenth day of Floreal, in the eleventh year of the French Republic, and the 30th April 1803.

Barbé Marbois
Rob. R. Livingston
Jas. Monroe
Convention between the United States of America and the French Republic.

The President of the United States of America and the First Consul of the French Republic in the name of the French people, in consequence of the treaty of cession of Louisiana, which has been Signed this day; wishing to regulate definitively every thing which has relation to the said cession, have authorized to this effect the Plenipotentiaries, that is to say, the President of the United States has, by, and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the said States, nominated for their Plenipotentiaries, Robert R. Livingston, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, and James Monroe, Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy-Extraordinary of the said United States, near the Government of the French Republic; and the First Consul of the French Republic, in the name of the French people, has named as Plenipotentiary of the said Republic, the citizen François Barbé Marbois; who, in virtue of their full powers, which have been exchanged this day, have agreed to the followings articles:
  1. The Government of the United States engages to pay to the French government in the manner Specified in the following article, the sum of Sixty millions of francs, independent of the Sum which Shall be fixed by another Convention for the payment of the debts due by France to citizens of the United States.

  2. For the payment of the Sum of Sixty millions of francs mentioned in the preceeding article the United States, shall create a Stock of eleven millions, two hundred and fifty thousand Dollars, bearing an interest of Six per cent, per annum, payable half yearly in London, Amsterdam or Paris, amounting by the half year to three hundred and thirty Seven thousand five hundred Dollars, according to the proportions which Shall be determined by the French Government, to be paid at either place. The principal of the said Stock to be reimbursed at the treasury of the United States, in annual payments of not less than three millions of Dollars each; of which the first payment Shall commence fifteen years after the date of the exchange of ratifications: - this Stock Shall be transferred to the government of France, or to Such person or persons as Shall be authorized to receive it, in three months at most after the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, and after Louisiana Shall be taken possession of the name of the Government of the United States.

    It is further agreed that if the French Government Should be desirous of disposing of the said Stock to receive the capital in Europe at Shorter terms that its measures for that purpose Shall be taken So as to favor in the greatest degree possible the credit of the United States, and to raise to the highest price the said Stock.

  3. It is agreed that the Dollar of the United States Specified in the present Convention shall be fixed at five francs 3333/100000 or five livres, eight sous tournois.

    The present Convention Shall be ratified in good and due form, and the ratifications Shall be exchanged the Space of Six months to date from this day, or Sooner it possible.
In faith of which the respective Plenipotentiaries have Signed the above articles, both in the French and English languages, declaring, nevertheless, that the present treaty has been originally agreed on, and written in the French language; to which they have hereunto affixed their Seals.

Done at Paris, the tenth of Floreal, eleventh year of the French Republic.

30th April 1803.

Robt. R. Livingston (seal)
Jas. Monroe (seal)
Barbé Marbois (seal)
Did this get little attention because of the anti-French environment that developed over the Iraq war?


Monday, May 19, 2003

Telling the truth:

Via Atrios, we learn of an interview of The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash over at Two key excerpts: (emphasis added)
We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat. We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually.

There are very few people who have expertise across the board in anything, so you have to find amateurs who can express themselves well [on television]. But I think it's unfairly derided. Tucker Carlson used to work at The Weekly Standard and now he's on CNN. He's a natural - one of the best. He can go on the air and know nothing about a subject and pull off a beautiful piece of performance art.


Why Ari left:

Nobody should be surprised to learn that Ari Fleischer is leaving the White House. It's important to note that "Fleischer, 42, got married six months ago." We're pretty sure that Ari violated Bush's abstinence-before-marriage policy, and that once the president found out, it was only a matter of time before Fleischer had to pack his bags and skedaddle.


Sunday, May 18, 2003

Something to ponder:

In center-left blogland, there has been much angst over what is seen as very poor reporting of important stories. One of the best places to go (technically, not a blog) for press criticism is The Daily Howler which has done yeoman work chronicling the errors and lack of seriousness that persists in the media. So, the public is being duped, right?

Not necessarily. Consider this story in the Los Angeles Times:
Subjects Seem Unfazed by a Reporter's Misdeeds
Many people quoted by a New York Times writer accepted his fiction as a fact of life.
Here is the interesting detail:
In a telling sign of how little Americans seem to trust the press, many of the people Blair wrote falsely about in the last seven months shrugged off his mistakes as more examples of sloppy, melodramatic reporting.
"There's a general undercurrent out there that we have an uncaring press, not particularly interested in getting everything right and not particularly interested in hearing from people who want to complain," said Bob Haiman, a senior fellow at the Freedom Forum, a nonprofit foundation that advocates for 1st Amendment rights.
"sloppy, melodramatic reporting" is what most of the Iraq war was full of - expecially with the Jessica Lynch story.

Has the nation finally got a case of "Tabloid Fatigue"?

We hope so.


Good news:

Via Ampersand, we learn that the burning of the Iraqi National Library didn't mean it was a total loss. Apparently, some people who were concerned about possible destruction took many volumes out of the building for safekeeping, the Boston Globe reports.


Bush's Western White House isn't:

Today's trivia question -

Q: What is the geographic center of the United States?
A: The geographic center of the contiguous (lower) 48 states is about four miles west of Lebanon, Kansas, at   98°35' West,   39°50' North.

Q: Where is Bush's "Western" White House located?
A: Crawford, Texas, at   97°28' West,   31° 33' North

Yet another lie. (And this isn't even counting Alaska or Hawaii - which would place the geographic center even more to the west.)