Archive | October, 2004

The rest of the Bin Laden tape.–

The New York Post is reporting that the unaired portions of the Bin Laden tape make clearer his opposition to Bush, the success of the Afghan election, and the success of the US military in restricting Bin Laden’s actions. Bin Laden also follows the Michael Moore-Teresa Kerry line that it’s all about oil:

Osama bin Laden’s newest tape may have thrust him to the forefront of the presidential election, but what was not seen was the cave-dwelling terror lord talking about the setbacks al Qaeda has faced in recent months.
Officials said that in the 18-minute long tape — of which only six minutes were aired on the al-Jazeera Arab television network in the Middle East on Friday — bin Laden bemoans the recent democratic elections in Afghanistan and the lack of violence involved with it.

On the tape, bin Laden also says his terror organization has been hurt by the U.S. military’s unrelenting manhunt for him and his cohorts on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A portion of the left-out footage includes a tirade aimed at President Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, claiming the war in Iraq is purely over oil.

The tape also sparked some concern that an attack aimed at disrupting Tuesday’s election may be planned.

But those who have seen the tape have said there was no specific information regarding an attack.

“We are taking this very seriously,” said one counterterrorism official. “This is cause for great concern and we are certainly going on higher alert because of this.”

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Massad Update:

Professor Joseph Massad of Columbia, accused in a film by one student who approached him after a lecture of an overtly hostile attitude toward the student as an Israeli, and by another student of responding obnoxiously when the student tried to defend Israeli policy in class, has responded: “Massad called the documentary ‘a propaganda film’ and claimed it was a part of a ‘racist witchhunt of Arab and Muslim professors.'” This response hardly inspires confidence. Anyone can cry racism about anything, but there are important issues at stake.

So I’ll ask the relevant questions again: (1) did these incidents actually occur?; (2) If so, were they momentary lapses, or part of a pattern of behavior? (3) If these incidents did happen, when you combine them with the incredibly strident rhetoric, and innacurate factual assertions, present in Massad’s writings about Israel (e.g., this one), are pro-Israel opinions welcomed, or at least accepted, in his classes? Can students with such opinions expect fair treatment? Can Israeli students expect fair treatment in his classes?

These are substantial questions, ones that can’t be brushed off with (yes, there’s that word again) strident accusations of racism.

UPDATE: More details from the Jerusalem Post, revealing other alleged incidents involving Massad: “Massad, who teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history, told a class, ‘The Palestinian is the new Jew, and the Jew is the new Nazi.’ In a separate discussion, he allegedly yelled at a Jewish student, ‘I will not have anybody here deny Israeli atrocities.'” [...]

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Glenn Reynolds’ better looking brother

joins the blogosphere. Jonathan Reynolds, a history professor at Northern Kentucky, has joined Ralph Luker’s excellent history group blog, Cliopatria. Cliopatria has been on a roll lately, particularly Luker, KC Johnson, and Jonathan Dresner.

Glenn Reynolds is back at, after a brief absence covered by a remarkably good trio of guest bloggers–Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten. Glenn says that the three will also be continuing to post some over the next few days because of some important event coming up that is generating news (I’m not quite sure what that might be). [...]

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Will They Believe Bin Laden?:

According to this site, 26% of Palestinians believe that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. The theory, apparently not uncommon in the Arab world, is that Israel attacked New York and DC to trick the United States: they wanted the U.S. to think that it was Osama bin Laden in order to trigger a backlash against him that would help Israel.

  According to news reports, the new tape of bin Laden includes a section where he admits his responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Al Jazeera quotes bin Laden as saying, “We decided to destroy [the] towers in America.” I wonder, will the conspiracy theorists claim that bin Laden is lying? Or will they just say that the man in the tape isn’t bin Laden? [...]

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Supreme Court Betting Pool:

Over at Crooked Timber, Henry links to a political science paper on a 1992 document discovered in the Blackmun papers. The document reveals a betting pool among the Justices about the outcome of the ’92 presidential election; in case you’re wondering, Justice O’Connor won. The 4-page long paper also offers some tongue-firmly-in-cheek analysis of the importance of the betting pool. [...]

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More on Ohio absentee ballots:

My student Sean Hayes writes:

Just read your post on the absentee ballot in Ohio. I voted yesterday by absentee for Ohio–I’m from Dayton, which is in Montgomery county. The same complaints from Cuyahoga are present on the Montg. County ballot.

Your student is right: the ballots are not confusing. Yes, the numbers don’t line up, some candidates are deleted, and in my voter booklet, the senate candidate race wasn’t even part of the book, but just a loose sheet of paper.

Overall though, the concept is simple: find your candidate, find their number on the ballot; punch the hole. It blows my mind that people smart enough to complain about the ballot being a violation of their rights are too stupid to figure out what amounts to a voting inspired version of Chuck E. Cheese’s Whack-A-Mole Game.

This is nothing more than the press feeding its need to have a story, and “Florida could happen again!” is much more exciting than “Voting Procedures Understood By People of Average Intelligence.”

I think well-designed ballots should be understandable even by people of below average intelligence — there are quite a few voters like that, and one doesn’t want them to be confused, either. More to the point, ballots should be understandable by people who are intelligent but who are distracted, or who don’t invest much time in following directions closely (especially on matters, such as voting, where there’s little tangible personal benefit at stake).

Still, it sounds like the ballots might well not be very confusing even to the distracted or easily confused. I’m happy to trust Sean Hayes’ and Patrick Lewis’s judgment on this, since they saw the complete ballots from a voter’s perspective, and I didn’t. [...]

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Talkleft links to this story about thieves who came back to the scene of a crime to silence a talking parrot:

  Fearing a parrot named Marshmallow could identify them, three thieves returned to the scene of the crime to silence the bird — only to be caught by police.
  After making off with a booty of DVD players, computers, radios, TVs and other electronic gear _ one of the suspects realized a parrot in the home had heard him using the nickname “J. J.” and was repeating it.
  “They were afraid the bird would ‘stool’ on them,” police Maj. Billy Garrett said. “They actually believed he could identify them.”
  They decided to go back for the bird, loading it into the getaway car as police arrived on the scene. The chase ended in just a few blocks, with the men crashing their car.

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Slow news day?

One of the items in today’s Slate begins:

Bush Speech Bush Speech
Popping a spring in Saginaw.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004, at 12:37 PM PT

President Bush gave a speech today in Saginaw, Mich., in which, judging from the White House transcript, he repeated whole paragraphs twice, like a malfunctioning Stepford wife.

The column then goes on to give four examples — but then, the author continues:

I’m told by a reporter who was there that this was some sort of hiccup in the White House transcription, and that Bush did not actually give lengthy portions of the same speech twice. The repetitions do not appear in the transcript prepared by the Federal News Service, a private company.

What I can’t figure out, though, is why the botched White House transcript shows occasional slight differences in the first and second versions of the repeated text. “The issues vary, the challenges are different every day” becomes two (more grammatical) sentences on the second go-round: “The issues vary. The challenges are different every day.” The phrase “blow in the wind” becomes “blow in the winds.” The line, “A President must follow the—must not follow the path of the latest polls” gets applause the first time, and no applause when it’s repeated. The same thing happens with “A President must lead based on conviction and conscience.”

This isn’t machine error. It’s human error. Did a White House transcriber pop a spring?

I’m not sure I quite get it. The column begins by speculating that President Bush is behaving mightly oddly. Yes, it does say “judging from the White House transcript,” but certainly my first impression was that the author thinks the transcript was indeed accurate. And otherwise the matter hardly seems terribly newsworthy, no? (Yes, I know that I [...]

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The Economist switches from Bush to Kerry:

The Economist magazine, which endorsed Bush in 2000, has endorsed Kerry in 2004. This strikes me as more significant than most endorsements, both because they endorsed Bush in 2000 (and endorsed Dole in 1996) and because they are very smart small-government types. And it is particularly striking because they supported the decision to invade Iraq. The Economist’s editor, Bill Emmott, said

“It was a difficult call, given that we endorsed George Bush in 2000 and supported the war in Iraq. But in the end we felt he has been too incompetent to deserve reelection.”

The endorsement adds that

“America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything.”

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Yogi Berra:

Dan Gifford passed along a link to a funny and sweet article about a recent appearance by Yogi Berra; here are some particularly nice lines:

It’s a lucky few who get to visit a museum and talk with the person it’s named after. As Yogi Berra himself said at the 1998 dedication of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center here: “This is a great honor. Usually you have to be dead to get something like this.” . . .

Q: “Yogi, what did Ted Williams say to you when you tired to distract him by talking?”

A: “He’d say, ‘Shut up, you little Dago.'” (“But,” adds Yogi, “Ted was a great guy.”) . . .

“Yogi,” someone asked toward the end of the evening, “is this going to become an annual event?”

“Well, yeah,” replied the Hall of Famer, “if we do it every year.”

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Speech restriction in public university dorms:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose factual accounts I’ve always found trustworthy reports the following:

The University of New Hampshire has evicted a student from housing for posting fliers in his residential hall joking that freshman women could lose the “Freshman 15” by walking up the dormitory stairs. The public university found him guilty of violating policies on affirmative action, harassment, and disorderly conduct, and has sentenced him to mandatory counseling and probation along with his eviction. See the flier here.

In appealing his sentence, student Timothy Garneau explained that the flier was intended to make light of the common frustration with people who delay the elevator by taking it for just one or two floors instead of taking the stairs. UNH rejected his appeal, and Garneau was ordered to move out of his dormitory. Garneau reports that he is currently living out of his car. . . .

The “offensive” flier included a cartoon picture of a woman in outdated workout gear and the following message:

9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10 – 15 pounds. But there is something you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor takes the stairs….Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes. [sic]

Garneau posted copies of the flier in the elevators of his dormitory, Stoke Hall. According to Garneau, a resident assistant had removed all of the fliers within less than two hours. When Garneau was approached by the Stoke Hall Director and accused of hanging the fliers, he initially denied responsibility, fearing that he would be punished harshly and embarrassed in front of his peers. However, Garneau soon admitted to posting the flier and was charged with offenses

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Rick Hasen (Election Law blog) notes the following: notes the following:

Stupidity news: One of Kerry’s electors in Ohio, Rep. Sherrod Brown, is a congressman. Unfortunately, the constitution forbids federal office holders from being electors. It is possible that if Kerry wins Ohio, Brown’s right to cast an electoral vote will be challenged in court. Whoever picked a constitutionally ineligible elector needs to get his or her mental software ungraded to the latest release.

Brown is indeed listed as a presidential elector: see here on page 11.

I assume that this would be an issue to be taken up, if necessary, in Congress when it counts electoral votes. . . .

UPDATE: A reader writes: “My understanding (from Rep. Brown’s office) is that Rep. Brown has resigned and that the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party will be able to appoint another elector.” I’ll let you know if I receive confirmation of this report.

If you wonder how clear the prohibition is on Representatives being electors, check out article II, section 1, clause 2 of the Constitution:

[N]o Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

UPDATE: Pepperdine lawprof Mark Scarberry writes (some paragraph breaks added):

3 U.S.C. section 4 provides: “Each State may, by law, provide for the filling of any vacancies which may occur in its college of electors when such college meets to give its electoral vote.” I suppose Rep. Brown could resign (or be removed?) [FURTHER UPDATE: it turns out that he has resigned], and then Ohio could fill the vacancy, if Ohio has provided for filling vacancies in its election laws.
A very quick Westlaw search suggests that Ohio has so provided, in Ohio Revised Code section 3505.39. That section treats

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The NYT‘s Politics:

Here’s the abstract to an intersting statistical study by Riccardo Puglisi of the London School of Ecnomics analyzing New York Times issue coverage from 1946-1994.

I analyze a dataset of news from the New York Times, from 1946 to 1994. Controlling for the incumbent President’s activity across issues, I find that during the presidential campaign the New York Times gives more emphasis to topics that are owned by the Democratic party (civil rights, health care, labour and social welfare), when the incumbent president is a Republican. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the New York Times has a Democratic partisanship, with some watchdog aspects, in that it gives more emphasis to issues over which the (Republican) incumbent is weak. Moreover, out of the presidential campaign, there are more stories about Democratic topics when the incumbent president is a Democrat.

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