At least they’re learning something


One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today. The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys “too much freedom,” not enough or about the right amount, 32% say “too much,” and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers.

They may not learn how to read or write very well, but it’s clear that the brainwashing is proceeding according to plan. I’d guess that the same poll taken a generation from now will significantly increase the percentage that believe government approval should be required. The entire – ENTIRE – point of the public schools is to increase reliance on government; they are working precisely as designed.

Personally, I’m quite curious to know the views of the principals and teachers on the concept of press freedom. I suspect their views are even more radically pro-government than their indoctrinated little victims.


Easy, hoss

It’s still far too early to get excited about the Iraqi election in my opinion, the unsubstantiated 72 percent turnout claim of one Iraqi election official notwithstanding. DEBKA’s reports are rather more sober:


Four hours after the polls closed, a clearly relieved President George W. Bush spoke at the White House in praise of the bravery of Iraqis who turned out to vote and “firmly rejected the antidemocratic ideology” of terrorists. But the US president seemed to edge away from his usual encomiums on a “victory for democracy.” Nor did he actually commend the Iraqis for the big step they took towards establishing a free and democratic government.

The truth is that there was not much of either in this remarkable election.

DEBKAfile’s Iraq experts reveal that, while the turnout is officially estimated at 60%, the real figure will probably turn out to be quite a bit lower, no more than 40-45% – in itself an exceptional feat. The other surprising manifestation was the high proportion of Iraqi women voters – appraised at more than 55% of the total. This was most marked in the Shiite districts of the south, where local clerics ordered everyone to vote, but the men stayed at home and sent their womenfolk to perform their democratic duty.

The Shiite turnout was disappointing in other ways too. Long queues and 80% percentage of eligible voters appeared only in the two shrine cities of Najef and Karbala. Further south in the densely populated Diwanya, Mussana, Qadasiya and Amara, the proportion did not go beyond 40%. In Basra, Iraq’s second largest town, the turnout was 32-35%, although Iraqi election officials claimed 90%….

The most striking vote-rigging incident was reported in the northern oil town of Kirkuk. There, Kurdish troops and intelligence are alleged to have trucked in tens of thousands of armed Kurds from across the province to commandeer the polling stations. Cautious estimates put the figure of imported voters at 50,000. In the absence of a proper voters’ register and computers, there was no way of establishing which voters were intruders from other districts. When the non-Kurdish politicians saw the invasion, they backed off. By artificially inflating Unified Kurdish List numbers in Kirkuk, the Kurdish community substantially stepped up its representation in the national assembly.

Ballot-counting had barely begun Sunday night when the Shiites declared themselves the big winners over their Euphrates River TV station.

As I wrote in my column today, it’s the substance that matters. But the news media, regardless of whether it is pro- or con- a particular issue, isn’t exactly known for getting to the heart of things.


Mailvox: Lay down the crack pipe

Nick B gets a little carried away:


So far, 72% turnout. Compare to the high turnout in our own last presidential election…

NO, THEY DON’T WANT TO VOTE, VOX!!!

I shall be very impressed if anyone manages to discover, within the copious amount of my scribblings floating about the Internet, a single opinion expressed with regards to the likelihood of the Iraqi turnout being high or low, still less the desirability or importance of such a turnout.

There will be more on this tomorrow, but it’s important to keep in mind that voter turnout was always much higher in the Soviet bloc than it is in the United States. Of course, there the violence was threatened if you declined to vote instead of the other way around. The point is that I’ve never been interested in the turnout percentage since that’s completely irrelevant compared to the more important questions yet to be answered.

For whom are the people voting, and will the winner(s) be permitted by the occupation coalition to take sovereign power?


In case you ever wondered

If the government was trying to make whores out of women:


Once one of the most generous systems in Europe, Germany’s unemployment program has been reformed to require those out of work to take jobs for which they are qualified, or lose benefits. In the case of women, females below the age of 55 who have been out of work for a year or more must take any available job offered.

The full legalization of prostitution two years ago – with brothel owners now paying taxes and employee health insurance – has created an awkward situation at German job centers where employers can access the official government database of those seeking work, reports the London Telegraph.

When women battled for the “right” to enter the workforce, I don’t think this was quite what they had in mind.



One strawberry, two strawberry, three

Franger brings a Salon discovery to our attention:


One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, “Ethics & Religion,” appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.

I may be back in syndication before too long if this keeps up. There won’t be anyone left! Has anyone considered the possibility that the Dear Leader is actually a Democratic plant? I mean, he governs like the love-child of FDR and Woodrow Wilson and his administration is proving to be more effective in marginalizing the conservative media than Bill Clinton’s.


The Happy Hunting Grounds

Dr. Z shares his Super Bowl moments:


My favorite Super Bowl line came in the 1985 contest between the 49ers and Dolphins, the only one held in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is the big Wednesday interview session in the Amfac Hotel in Burlingame, and the ballroom doors have just opened, spilling forth a huge mass of writers with their notebooks and little carry-bags and stuff. A gigantic, lowing, mooing herd.

Two young women in Amfac uniforms are standing across the hall, and I hear one of them saying, “This is incredible … incredible … simply incredible.”

“What’s incredible?” I ask her.

“I’ve never seen so many straight guys in my life,” she says.

If you’re a heterosexual man without any obvious physical deformities, San Francisco is like paradise. Extremely attractive women will all but take a number to go out with you, since even the straight guys are metrosexually dubious. And when faced with an alpha male, they practically go into heat.

When Chilliette’s bridesmaids came out to Minnesota for the wedding – she’s a Bay Area girl – they were more than a little taken aback by Big Chilly. The idea of a man who swatted his fiance on the butt and called her “woman” in public was just completely outside their experience. When one of them asked Chiliette if perhaps he wasn’t “a little, I don’t know, macho” Chiliette just laughed.

“He’s just from the Midwest”, she said, as if that explained everything*. And perhaps it does.

*it should be noted that downtown residents of cities such as Minneapolis and Chicago may be physically located in the Midwest, but they consider themselves to be metaphorical residents of New York City and comport themselves in such a manner. New Yorkers, meanwhile, scoff at their would-be imitators while simultaneously regarding themselves as metaphorical Europeans.


Mailvox: What’s good about Iraq

Nick B is reduced to begging:


Is it possible, Vox, to actually ever express anything positive about Iraq? I dunno *what* — JUST ONE FRIGGIN’ TIME, it might be nice.

There are numerous positive things one can say about Iraq and the US occupation:

1. A brutal dictator has been removed from power and his regime has been demolished.

2. The USA has demonstrated that, for once, it is willing to force a defeated enemy to hold to the terms of the ceasefire agreement or face the military consequences.

3. The Arab nations have been given warning that their financial support for Islamic terrorism will not always be ignored.

4. The US military has had the chance to experiment with its new weapons and tactics.

5. The feminist goal of pushing women in combat has suffered greatly thanks to the exposure of the Jessica Lynch mythology.

6. The economic threat of the US dollar being replaced by the Euro as the global standard has been put off by a decade or more. No one is lining up to be the next nation to try making that move.

7. The UN has been revealed (again) as a corrupt, useless organization.

You’ll note, however, that all of these good things were accomplished in the first few months of the invasion. I was not an opponent of the war, but I was a skeptical, somewhat reluctant supporter. The reason for my skepticism has been largely, though not yet fully, realized as the administration’s justifications for its actions have continued to shift towards those that allow it to keep troops in the region indefinitely.

If the President brings the troops back after the elections next week, I’ll be forced to conclude that the administration simply made an error of timing with regards to withdrawal, which is perfectly understandable. Overstaying one’s welcome is not a sin, it is simply clumsy and impolite.

But if excuses are made to continue the occupation indefinitely and forcibly arrange the elected government to the administration’s liking, it will begin to become clear to everyone that the President was lying from the very beginning about his objectives in Iraq and that he has no more genuine interest in Iraqi freedom and democracy than does his good friend Vladimir Putin.

If the war is expanded or if the administration plays too heavy a hand in modifying the results of the election while keeping the troops to play some sort of Praetorian Guard role for its chosen premier, I will fully expect to see a serious attempt to impeach the president made during his second term.


I got your “democracy” right here

From Debka:


Projected Results

For elections held now, Hooker projects the following figures:

The Shiite Unified Iraqi Alliance list – 43.8% = 120 national assembly seats.

The Kurdish list – a surprising 36.4% (more than twice their 16-18% proportion of the general population) = 100 seats.

The Iraqi National Accord – 8.1% = 22 seats. (A formula is being actively sought to retain him as premier even if his showing is low.)

The Iraqi Communist party (the best organized) – 1.6% = 5 seats.

All the Assyrian, Turkomen and Yazdi minorities together – 4 seats.

All the rest – 5 seats.

For me, the money quote is “A formula is being actively sought to retain him [Allawi] as premier even if his showing is low.” Yes, we are fighting to bring freedom and government according to the will of the people to Iraq, except you don’t get self-determination (Kurds), the Sunnis will be given power – presumably elected offices – even if they don’t vote and no one votes for them (according to Colin Powell), and if the people elect an Iraqi would-be Ayatollah, then we’ll just declare a guy with eight percent of the vote to be the winner anyhow. Forget your emotional reaction and put your political loyalties aside for a second; admit it, it reads rather like a Python skit.

I don’t know if this is true or not, of course. I didn’t poll the Iraqi people and I don’t put a whole lot of stock in polls anyhow. But if this poll turns out to be accurate, it’s going to make the pro-democracy war justificationists look not only wrong, but downright ridiculous.


Mailvox: stylistic differences

Teddy suffers the occasional spell of MEGO:


Too often VD’s premise — which I mostly agree with — gets obfuscated by vocabulary which seems meant to impress the reader rather than being clear

A failure to write seventh-grade English should never be confused with a desire to impress the reader. I can write in simple sentences. I can avoid using complex sentence constructions. I also find it extremely boring to write like this. Even worse, I can’t think straight when I have to focus on keeping it this simple. I feel like I’m writing bullet points. Is this what it feels like to be Jerry Jenkins? The colors are suddenly so much brighter now!

Perhaps some of you operate on the mistaken assumption that my columns are conceived as miniature works of art, contemplated over cappucino, then typed in during a burst of furious inspiration after which I lovingly massage the text into the arrangement which I believe will impress the greatest number of people with the magical way in which I have strung words together.

It just isn’t like that, unfortunately. I do think about the subject ahead of time; certainly there is more mental effort than there is for the average blog post, but as Space Bunny can testify, I frequently have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write about on Sunday afternoon, only a few hours before the rough beast begins its slouch towards the Commentary page. The average piece takes about 20-30 minutes, with a little more time required if I have to look something up. It’s more than stream-of-consciousness, but not much more. No spell check, no grammar check and very often I don’t even look at it after I hit the magical 750 words.

Generally speaking, I’m pretty happy if I haven’t done my usual trick of leaving out a word in the middle of a sentence. It’s hard to explain, but basically I write because I write. It’s just something I do, regardless of whether anyone is going to read it or not. I have all kinds of random little bits of this, that and the other thing lying around on various computers, just because I felt like starting to write something. One thing I like about the column is that it forces me to get in the habit of finishing things, which has always been a real problem for me. Most of my friends still can’t believe I managed to finish writing one book, let alone four.

Speaking of which, I really do need to get that chapter on Paul Krugman wrapped up….