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April 26, 2003

HEH:

IRANIAN REGIME WORRIED BY PEOPLE’S PRO-AMERICANISM

By Afsane Bassir Pour

PARIS, 25 Apr. (IPS) As President George W. Bush has also warned the Islamic republic to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs, an influential French daily says Iranian officials are worried by the "obvious pro-Americanism sentiments" of " the Iranian people".

Iranian officials are worried. Worried of the American presence next to their doors, on the East as well as to the West, worried of the invasion of Iraq "with so little popular resistance", worried of the fast fall of the Baghdad regime, worried of the sidelining of the UN, worried of the total disillusion of the Iranian people that, since the beginning of the Iraqi crisis, has resulted in a fierce pro-Americanism of the population... but, especially, worried of the vox populi, that asks for "a change of the regime with the help of the American marines", the daily "Le Monde" wrote.

This demand is taken enough seriously in the political circles so that the resumption of the relations with America –a 24 years-old taboo – had moved forward on the political agenda in Tehran. These relations had been broken on the eve of the establishment of the Islamic Republic and the hostage taking of 55 American diplomats in 1979.

Did I say "heh?" Oh, yeah, I did.

UPDATE: The reader who sent this says he found it here, where there's this wonderful comment:

If the wanton exercise of America power were ever to lead to general acceptance of this idea, [that] "the best defense...against the Americans would be to reinforce...democracy in order to deprive them of their arguments", we'd have won.

Indeed.

DOCUMENTS SHOWING THE SADDAM / BIN LADEN CONNECTION: Found by The Telegraph. (Via LGF).

Meanwhile Drudge says that "In the SUNDAY TIMES reporters allege docs found at the Iraqi foreign ministry show Paris gave regular updates to Baghdad on diplomatic dealings between France and the U.S.... Developing... " Developing, indeed.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the Telegraph story. And here's the story on French intelligence briefings to Saddam:

FRANCE gave Saddam Hussein's regime regular reports on its dealings with US officials, The Sunday Times reported, quoting files it had found in the wreckage of the Iraqi foreign ministry.

The conservative British weekly said the information kept Saddam abreast of every development in US planning and may have helped him to prepare for war.

Of course, it didn't help him prepare very well. . . .

TRAFFIC'S MORE OR LESS BACK TO NORMAL. I thought it was the war being over, but apparently it's because someone's spreading more filthy lies about me. But I can't argue with the photograph: I really am going to murder Satan and worship a hobo.

I seem to recall some guy telling me to do that in church once, even, more or less.

UPDATE: Oh, well, at least cool blog chicks think I'm hot. But then, they always go for the bad boys. . . .

TALKLEFT IS DOWN: Some sort of server problem. Jeralyn Merritt says it'll be back up Sunday or Monday.

IT'S NOT JUST SANTORUM: Josh Chafetz points out that lots of Democrats voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act." And President Clinton signed it. Not quite the same thing, but those who voted for the bill would be well advised to avoid high horses.

KRUGMANBLOGGING isn't part of InstaPundit's regular diet -- in fact, this site has been Krugman-free for weeks, if not months. It used to be Kaus and Sullivan who did most of it, but lately Donald Luskin seems to have picked up the ball. I can't vouch for this post's veracity, as I haven't followed the debate. But its ferocity is certainly something to behold.

SO WHAT IF LEGALIZING SODOMY LEADS TO POLYGAMY? There are some very fine polygamists out there, I'll have you know:

Hatch said, "I wouldn't throw accusations around unless you know they're true.

"I'm not here to justify polygamy," he said. "All I can say is, I know people in Hildale who are polygamists who are very fine people. You come and show me evidence of children being abused there and I'll get involved. Bring the evidence to me."

Yeah, it's not as if polygamy leads to child abuse. You just have to avoid the canards being thrown around by narrow-minded people, and realize that perfectly fine folks can nonetheless live as polygamists.

YEAH, I KNOW, I promised a followup on the Iraqi Oil Trust idea. Unfortunately, I neglected to file the massive quantities of email that I got on that idea separately, and now the stuff is buried. If you sent me thoughts on that, will you resend them with "Iraqi Oil Trust" as the subject line? Sorry about that.

In the meantime, this post by Jeff Jarvis asks why charities aren't lining up to help Iraqis. Telford Work, along with some others (read the comments to Jeff's post) says that quite a few Christian charities are in high gear. Howard Owens, meanwhile, offers a charitable effort that he personally vouches for.

Several people have emailed me to say that the usual NGOs are basically boycotting Iraq as part of an ongoing war with the U.S. government. I don't know if that's true or not. I have to say, though, that the internationalistas of the NGOs don't seem to do all that much good. In fact, they seem rather, well, colonialist, really. I suspect a lot of people agree, and would like to see a better alternative.

UPDATE: And in a sort-of-related note, Tacitus has some thoughts on the Iraqi political scene. He says we're demonstrating way too much forbearance toward fundamentalist Muslim clerics. The Turks, meanwhile, seem a bit nervous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Eric McErlain emails:

I've been exchanging email with a friend of mine currently working out of Amman as part of a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART. A number of these teams were dispatched by the U.S. Government to the region (Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia , Jordan) in anticipation of the flood of refugees that never came. She's mentioned in a number of emails that the NGOs are refusing to work with anyone or anything attached to the governments of any of the countries in the coalition that invaded Iraq.

Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I'm hearing, though I haven't seen much news coverage on it. There's a good story for someone in this if it's true: "NGO's put politics before people," etc. McErlain goes on:

One other note -- she also mentioned that the only folks she encountered fleeing Iraq were something she called "third-country nationals" -- which I'm guessing means citizens of countries not directly involved in the conflict. You have to wonder if those folks are simply non-Iraqi terrorists just getting out of Dodge through Jordan.

I suspect that quite a few people were keeping an eye on those folks.

ONE OF THE SUBJECTS I TEACH IS ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, and I always have the students draft comments on a proposed regulation, which are then actually filed with the agency in question and become part of the rulemaking docket. I don't tell them what position to take, but just grade them on the quality of their work, which is often very good. (One of my students some years ago actually got a job offer out of her comments.)

The topic from last year (well, year-before-last now, I guess) was hours-of-service regulations for truckers. Now the new rules have been released and InstaPundit reader (and trucker) Gerald Dearing observes:

They slipped this in "under the radar", so to speak, while we were all distracted by other events. But these are not as bad as the Clinton era reform proposals that had the whole industry up in arms.

Of course the teamsters complain. That's what they do. But their routes are negotiated by contract, and I don't see their routines changing much.

And of course the "safety experts" will bitch. That's what they do, too. Will the average truckers life change? Very little. I rarely take just an eight hour break. When I stop, it's often for ten or twelve hours.

And I don't hit the maximum ten driving hours every day. Now I won't hit the eleven maximum every day. The big limitation is the "Seventy Hours in Eight Days" rule, and that's virtually unchanged. (If you take 34 hours off, you then have hours to run anyway. Why bother!) I don't foresee the savings in lives predicted by the D.O.T. nor do I foresee the dramatically increased carnage forecast by the "safety groups".

Notice that there is still no requirement that the driver actually sleep. Ten hours playing Video Poker (or 'net surfin') makes one eligible to drive another eleven hours. ;-)

"Net Surfin'?" Hmm. InstaPundit: Menace of the motorways!

UPDATE: Reader Skip Oliva emails:

I think it's great you have your students submit actual comments to the agencies. I pretty much draft public comments for a living (more on agency consent orders than rulemaking) and I find a lot of ignorance even among the bar about this process. I'm always looking for law students to help with research and writing, but most of the students I have spoken to didn't even realize there are public comment processes in administrative proceedings.

Yeah, I'm surprised how many lawyers don't realize this -- or, even if they do know it at some level, don't act on it. I drafted comments on a matter I was interested in back when I was a law student (not as part of a class, just on my own) and learned a lot from the process. Then I did a lot of work relating to the rulemaking process when I was in law practice, where I found that useful. That led me to try this out when I first started teaching Administrative Law, and it's worked well enough that I've kept it up.

DIXIE CHICKS VS. TATU? Yep. And Daniel Drezner has been inspired to offer a suggestion to other antiwar celebs.

UPDATE: Randal Robinson has more.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm not sure where these guys fit in.

ROGER SIMON has some thoughts on blogging from a novelist's perspective that are kind of interesting. Even if you're not a novelist!

OKAY, IT'S FROM THURSDAY, but this Online Journalism Review piece about imprisoned Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi is still worth reading if you haven't seen it already.

It's also interesting in that it uses the term "blogosphere" without any explanation or self-consciousness at all. Bill Quick should be pleased.

GOOD GRIEF: The Santorum affair has inspired Saturday morning blogging from Andrew Sullivan. Not unprecedented, but unusual.

People have been emailing me saying that Andrew's gone over the edge on this one, and apparently they've been sending him the same thing because his post is in reply to those concerns.

Perhaps because I'm not gay, or perhaps because I'm more cynical, I haven't been as exercised as Andrew. Santorum's comments were dumb, and so, in my opinion, is support for sodomy laws. But it's not a surprise to me that there are people in the GOP who think that way. (Actually, there are Democrats who think that way, too, they just keep their mouths shut.)

My own feeling is that when I look at certain Democrats I like the Republicans, and when I look at certain Republicans I like the Democrats. That's why I'm a proud member of the anti-Idiotarian party.

UPDATE: This post by Virginia Postrel is worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader wonders why I'm "sniping" at Andrew with regard to things like Friday-night and Saturday-morning blogging. I'm not "sniping" -- I'm "ribbing." Kind of like the post I meant to put up earlier suggesting that Stephen Green enjoy his rest.

THE VOLUNTEERS WHO FLOCKED TO DEFEND SADDAM from various places in the Arab world don't seem to be returning home now that the war is over. The suspicion is that most of them are dead. Those who have returned home report that they were surprised at the rather unenthusiastic response they received from actual Iraqis.

MORE TROUBLE FOR JOHN LOTT? In the latest installment of a back-and-forth debate over John Lott's more-guns-less-crime hypothesis, Ian Ayres and John Donohue accuse John Lott of making systematic errors in support of his hypothesis. (Pp. 1397-98; see also 1392-93). By "systematic" errors, I mean that, according to Ayres and Donohue, the errors appear to all produce results that support Lott's hypothesis. They don't accuse him of fraud, and make a point of noting that it's very easy to make mistakes in this area, but nonetheless the language is, by academic standards, rather strong. They also note (1374) that Lott removed his name from a response that relied on the data in question. (This seems odd to me -- if he removed his name because the data were bad, why would the coauthors go ahead? I have no idea, and no knowledge of what's going on there beyond what Ayres and Donohue say.)

This sort of statistical analysis is beyond my competence, and I'd really like to see what people who know more than I do have to say, but as I read this article it looks to be a substantial blow to Lott's position. I hope that someone will check the analysis against Lott's data and see if the coding errors that Ayres and Donohue point out are present. If they are, well, it certainly undercuts the thesis of Lott's book, at the very least.

Here's the original article by Ayres and Donohue, and here's the response by Plassman and Whitley (which Ayres and Donohue say Lott removed his name from; here's what seems to be an earlier version of the same paper with Lott as the first coauthor). The piece linked at the top is Ayres and Donohue's reply to the Plassman and Whitley response.

By way of full disclosure, I went to law school with Ayres and Donohue, and regard them both as honest, straight-up guys notwithstanding that they have a political position that in many cases would be different from mine. Unlike some of Lott's other critics, these guys are real scholars, writing in the Stanford Law Review, which gives their criticism considerable weight. I am, however, entirely incompetent to judge the underlying dispute on its merits, and hope that people who have the relevant expertise will weigh in.

UPDATE: Tim Lambert has a lengthy post on this now, too. One thing I'm not clear on: I believe that these are all new data, not the data presented in Lott's earlier book "More Guns, Less Crime." Lambert's post implies otherwise, but it's not entirely clear, and looking at my post above, I guess I imply the same. But unless I'm mistaken, the data in question are all new. (It's the "more guns less crime" hypothesis in question here, not the book of the same title.) Lambert also has this post on a page he's set up to deal with a different Lott issue -- the 1997 survey that Lott was accused of not performing. It's worth noting that this new Ayres/Donohue issue is a distinct question, with as far as I know no connection to the 1997 survey issue beyond the author. And it's a question that has a direct substantive relationship with the core of Lott's scholarship in a way that the survey issue, or the Internet pseudonym issue, did not.

UPDATE: John Lott sends a lengthy email, of which this is the meat:

When I agreed to do the paper for the Stanford Law Review that responded to Ayres and Donohue’s attack on my work, I got a promise both verbally and in writing that “any reaction to your responses won't be incorporated into their article, but rather will be part of their reply” (see e-mail below dated August 29, 2002 from Ben Horwich). However, after we completed our piece, Ayres and Donohue insisted on making changes to their original paper. Initially, I declined letting them make the change. The Stanford Law Review (due to pressure from the authors) would not take “no” for an answer. In response, I offered a compromise where we could make one change in exchange for allowing them to make their change. That was turned down. We were then given an ultimatum where we either agree to the change being made or Ayres and Donohue’s paper would be published without ours. (Not surprisingly, the issue of a new change for Ayres and Donohue was revisited yet again when Plassmann and Whitley dealt with the final galleys, but I don't have the e-mails on this.)

I talked with Jeff Parker at George Mason University about this and he suggested that we withdraw the paper from the review and send it someplace else. That seemed fine with me, but I knew that my younger co-authors would be more risk averse and also wanted the Stanford Law Review’s name. As a second alternative, Jeff suggested that I withdraw my name from the piece and hopefully use it as leverage to get the editors to do the right thing. After communicating with my co-authors that is the response that we agreed to take, and I thought that would be the end of the story.

However, the Stanford Law Review allowed Ayres and Donohue to add an addition to their piece commenting on all this.

There's more, but that's the gist, I think. Lott adds: "Just for the record, I still believe that 'Ayres and Donoue have simply misread their own results.'"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence compares John Lott and Paul Krugman. He has more thoughts here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Lambert has posted an email from the Stanford Law Review. On the one hand, it makes clear that Lott didn't take his name off the article because of the data-coding issue. On the other hand, it seems that the data-coding issue still isn't resolved. There's an article (subscription require) in the Chronicle of Higher Education on this. Here's the most important bit:

In the years since Mr. Lott's first publication, at least six scholars have published studies that tend to confirm his findings, while at least four other studies have tended to cast doubt on his findings. Mr. Donohue noted in an interview that Mr. Lott's research has convinced his peers of at least one point: No scholars now claim that legalizing concealed weapons causes a major increase in crime. Even Mr. Donohue's analysis, which is highly critical of Mr. Lott's, finds only "modest pernicious effects," in his words.

Mr. Lott's 1997 paper on gun policy was, "to that point, the most important piece of empirical research that has ever been done in the social sciences," says Jeffrey S. Parker, a professor of law at George Mason University. "I doubt that even Ayres and Donohue would dispute that point."

Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue's critique of Mr. Lott's scholarship runs as follows: The models used by Mr. Lott and his co-authors have not taken sufficient account of the broad differences between states that permit the concealed carrying of guns and those that do not.

In particular, Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue suggest that the spike in murders associated with the crack-cocaine epidemic of the late 1980s was concentrated in urban areas in states with restrictive gun laws, while states that permitted people to carry concealed weapons in the 1980s tended to be relatively
rural and unaffected by drug violence. That imbalance, Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue say, has given the right-to-carry states an artificial boost in studies by Mr. Lott and his allies.

In their reply, Mr. Plassmann and Mr. Whitley argue that their opponents' own data, when properly read, demonstrate immediate state-level benefits from the legalization of concealed weapons. They also present new county-level data for the period 1977-2000, which they say further supports the more-guns, less-crime thesis, whether one uses their opponents' preferred statistical techniques or their own.

It is here, in this new 1977-2000 data set, that Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue claim to have identified a serious set of coding errors. Mr. Plassmann and Mr. Whitley failed to assign dummy variables (which researchers use as place holders, to stand for meaningful variables that they may have neglected to
identify) for the states of Alaska, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania for certain years in their calculations.

Correcting those errors, Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue write, "completely reverse[s]" the paper's conclusions and "restore[s] the conclusion that concealed-carry laws were associated with increases in crime (or no effect) for all crime categories." . . .

Mr. Lott replies that the alleged coding errors are irrelevant to the larger debate. "Whether one believes the regressions in the Plassmann and Whitley piece or not, just looking at Ayres and Donohue's own results -- you can't look at the graphs that Plassmann and Whitley have of Ayres and Donohue's results and not see a significant drop in violent crime."

"The basic results are not fragile," Mr. Whitley writes in an e-mail message. "Minor errors in coding would not undermine them (and an entire literature)." Mr. Whitley says that he could not reply to the charges in detail because he had not yet had time to carefully review Mr. Ayres and Mr. Donohue's comments. Because the allegations appear in a law review rather than a peer-reviewed academic journal, no third-party scholars have reviewed the claim of coding errors.

Six tables that derive from the same allegedly miscoded data set appear in Mr. Lott's new book, The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong (Regnery, 2003). James Lindgren, a professor of law at Northwestern University, says, "If Donohue and Ayres's account is as it appears -- and I'm not in a position to judge that -- then Lott should withdraw the book for revision."

Mr. Lindgren adds that he believes it extremely unlikely that any coding errors were the result of a conscious intent to distort the study's findings. He notes that Mr. Lott has not only shared his data sets with other scholars, but has made them generally available to the public on his Web site. "You tend not to do that if you've intentionally miscoded your variables," he says.

So that's where we stand now.

April 25, 2003

SODOMY LAWS? NOT EVERYONE IS AGAINST THEM:

A UN vote on homosexual human rights was yesterday derailed at the last minute by an alliance of disapproving Muslim countries. . . .

UN sources said Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were doing everything they could to stop the resolution. . . . the sentiments are anathema to many UN states; almost half outlaw gay sexual relations and more than 70 countries keep a total ban on homosexuality - in some cases it is punished by death.

See -- proof that banning sodomy doesn't prevent polygamy!

UPDATE: Reader Michael Dirmeier emails:

How can the Left hold such divergent views in its collective head without having that head explode?

They effectively want the US to give up its sovereignty to the UN, so that we can be ruled by Kofi Annan and a crew of cut-throat kleptomaniacs. And now, the UN has found that it can't quite agree on laws that would allow sodomy. At the same time, the Left is crying for Santorum's head, for his comments on sodomy laws.

I have a theory that will explain this, but I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

DANG. I MISSED THIS PANEL ON WARBLOGS. Of course, to judge by the program, so did everyone who actually has a warblog. Nothing wrong with the folks he's got, but they're observers, not participants, in the phenomenon.

(Via Bennett).

BRYAN PRESTON:

The Santorum deal has me steamed because it proves that Republicans haven't yet figured out how to make their points in ways that don't draw fire from everyone in the center and left, uniting them against us. It also proves we can't win big without immediately squandering that win on something trivial. Yes, trivial. The whole thing is trivial. Win the war, drag your party down because you let some AP hack trap you. Santorum may have ruined his political career over a law that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't matter much. It's hardly enforced, and doesn't stop anyone from doing anything. It's just there, like laws about buggy whips and Helen Thomas. It's not really worth the political capital being invested to save it, for the simple reason that it has zero effect on behavior and because it's utterly unenforcable. Unless you really do want police in every bedroom, which no one does.

According to my email, it's not quite "no one." I like the Helen Thomas line, though. And this issue is hot enough to get Andrew Sullivan to do some rare Friday-night blogging. That alone makes it non-trivial, doesn't it?

STAR TREK AND THE HOPES FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE: I discuss the connection over at GlennReynolds.com.

HERE'S MORE on the Iranian Mullahs' crackdown on bloggers, the Internet, and basically anyone or anything else that might threaten their theokleptocracy.

Jesse Walker writes (in USA Today, no less) that the mullahs will have their hands full.

HERE'S SOME INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE on SARS in Toronto. Meanwhile Colby Cosh has this observation on the hostile reaction to the WHO:

For the individual traveller Toronto is obviously still a safe place to visit, but avoiding large gatherings there is probably not a bad idea; and the WHO has no mandate or reason to protect the economy or the reputation of any individual city. Isn't that sort of the idea behind having a World Health Organization? Funny how Canadians love squishy institutions of global governance until one of them acts the least bit peremptory towards them.

Indeed.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Given that the SARS situation in Toronto is undoubtedly being overblown by the WHO, this would be a great time for the Canadians to have a big, rich, well-connected friend to give them a hand, wouldn't it?

Too bad they don't have one.

Yeah, I can't see Bush overexerting himself on Chretien's behalf with the "morons" at the international bureaucracies.

BIG FILE-SHARING WIN: Grokster and Morpheus win in court.

I think this is interesting, too.

MORE GALLOWAY FALLOUT: Daniel Drezner writes:

In the run-up to Gulf War II, I'd commented and linked to comments on the historical parallels between the anti-war movement and the nuclear freeze protests of the early eighties.

Well, another one is emerging -- the financial link between these protest movements and totalitarian dictatorships.

Read the whole thing.

JAYAKRISHNAN NAIR WRITES that secrecy about SARS is costing the Chinese dearly: "The Chinese may value secrecy above the life of their citizens. But the Capitalist who trades with China values his life more than money."

Then there's this: "One wonders why China was not more proactive in this affair? Its reputation is not actually stellar among fellow Asian countries, many of whom see China as a hegemonic power. But this case will reaffirm the view that China is not to be trusted."

DID THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SUPPRESS DATA about its affirmative action program? Joanne Jacobs has the scoop.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT. How come the Dixie Chicks get all the attention?

I DON'T DO "EQUAL TIME" HERE -- people who want equal time can get their own damn blogs -- but so as not to be completely one-sided (even if it's the right side, in my opinion) on the whole sodomy-law argument here's a link to Clayton Cramer's defense of sodomy laws.

I find it unpersuasive -- both because sodomy laws were seldom enforced anyway, and because I find this argument absurd:

A rare disease [AIDS] --one that had been kicking around Africa and even a bit in the West for decades--took off because California, in the mid-1970s, decided to repeal its laws against sodomy and oral sex.

The notion that sodomy laws prevent AIDS is ridiculous. Saudi Arabia has quite an AIDS problem -- they just don't talk about it. That's what sodomy laws accomplish.

There is, by the way, much, much more on this stuff over at The Volokh Conspiracy, where Santorum's remarks have precipitated much discussion of sodomy, bestiality, incest, etc.

JEFF JARVIS SLAPS DOWN TED TURNER:

Ted Turner complains that too few companies own too much of U.S. media.

But, Ted, you sold your media company to a media company; you singlehandedly reduced the number of media owners in the U.S. Seller's regret, I guess.

He has some choice words for media-monopolist Greg Dyke of the BBC, too. I think I'm noticing a trend, here. But not, I fervently hope, here.

Tim Blair's take on Turner and media concentration is hilarious, too.

DAVID CARR OBSERVES THAT "The BBC has yet to undergo Perestroika." The Fisking he administers to BBC Director General Greg Dyke's recent pronouncements on "objectivity," however, may bring that day just a bit closer.

GUESS WHO'S TRYING TO SILENCE A JOURNALIST! In Ashcroft's America, nobody's freedom of speech is safe from assault. Oh, wait. . . .

Washington - The Illinois journalism program that had students try to find the identity of the Washington Post's "Deep Throat" informant "should be disaccredited" and the teacher who oversaw the project "should be spanked," said Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters whose stories on the Watergate scandal led to President Nixon's resignation.

"The last thing students in a journalism class should be doing is trying to find out who other reporters' sources are," said Bernstein, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine who broke the stories with colleague Bob Woodward. "They should be learning how to protect sources."

Heh. Free speech for me, but not for thee. As usual.

ZIMBABWEANS SAY "PLEASE SADDAM US!"

Among the businesses paralysed by the strike was Zimbabwe's most profitable vehicle company. Its workshops were locked up, 10 new Mercedes Benz E240 saloons inside them awaiting delivery to Mr Mugabe's cabinet. A further 22 are due to arrive later this week. The total cost of the order has been estimated to be equivalent to two weeks' fuel supply for the entire country. On the eve of the strike workers at the firm had been seething. "If only George Bush would come here and Saddam us," said one. "But he won't and so we will have to strike, and be arrested and beaten. We have no choice. The ministers break the cars that we pay for and get new ones and we pay for those too. We have no fuel, no food, no medicines at the hospitals, and Mugabe doesn't care."

It would be better, of course, if South Africa -- regarded by many, at least until recently, as a responsible nation -- would address this genocidal thugocracy in its backyard. But Thabo Mbeki doesn't seem to mind the goings-on in Zimbabwe, which makes me wonder about his vision for South Africa's future.

I know we're kind of busy right now, but how hard would it be to bring down Mugabe? Liberating Zimbabwe would have the salutary advantage of being obviously not for oil (though Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk could probably come up with some sort of conspiracy theory) -- and it would be enough of a surprise that it would make dictators around the world even more nervous, and oppressed populations even more restive.

And it's interesting, isn't it, that these guys aren't looking to the U.N. for liberation?

VIRGINIA POSTREL on sodomy:

A liberal society ought not to use criminal sanctions to punish actions merely because a particular religion, or even many religions, may deem them sinful. Eating live animals and shellfish--hence, eating oysters--is a sin in my religion, it's damned gross, and it can kill you. But I don't want to make eating oysters a crime.

Indeed.

MISSING TOURIST UPDATE: StrategyPage reports:

The 31 lost Europeans are now thought to be held by a group of Islamic rebels fearful of a government crackdown. The Europeans were grabbed for use as human shields. The Europeans are thought to be held outside the town of Illizi, 1,700 kilometers southeast of the capital.

There's some weird stuff going on in the Saharan region, all across Africa. Someone should pay attention. Or perhaps someone already is, and that's what's prompting this behavior in response.

ANDREW SULLIVAN on the Galloway case: "When I first mentioned the possibility of a fifth column, I presumed it would be fueled by ideological fervor. I didn't contemplate it could be fueled by the mighty dollar. You've got to love these Marxists, don't you?"

IRAQ SANCTIONS WATCH: Tony Adragna's on the ball, and he's noticed an interesting slip-up by Kofi Annan.

April 24, 2003

MICKEY KAUS wonders why Rupert Murdoch has been outperformed by Matthew Hoy's weblog.

Read this article, too.

And here's a good story from NPR on the mass resignations at the formerly accommodationist Cuba Policy Foundation in response to Castro's latest depredations.

It's kind of lame when Rupert Murdoch is outperformed by NPR on something like this. Good God, there are even French protests over Castro's actions, while Murdoch's empire remains silent. How embarrassing is that? Bill O'Reilly, call your office!

UPDATE: A friend at Fox tells me that Brit Hume did cover this issue last night on "Special Report," and that they want to send reporters but that Castro isn't letting them into the country. I guess he doesn't feel he can trust them the way he can trust CNN, whose reliability in such matters was so recently demonstrated in prewar Iraq.

THE TENNESSEE TAILGATE PARTY is kind of like the Carnival of the Vanities only, well, different. Check it out.

MORE LOOTING?

BERNADETTE Chirac, wife of the French president, Jacques Chirac, has been accused in court of illegally taking a 17th century rug from Paris’ city hall to the Elysée Palace.

The accusation was made by the Association of Jews Despoiled during the War which brought a lawsuit against Mrs Chirac, saying she illegally removed the rug from the city hall, where her husband was mayor, and took it with her when he became president.

The association said Mrs Chirac should face thousands of euros in fines. The organisation says the rug was looted by the Nazis from a Jewish family during the occupation of France during the Second World War.

Maybe we'd better get the 82d Airborne in there pronto and put a stop to this.

TACITUS IS BACK!

NOW ISN'T THIS INTERESTING: A Turkish special forces team caught by U.S. troops in Kurdistan.

The Turkish Special Forces team put up no resistance though a mean arsenal was discovered in their cars, including a variety of AK-47s, M4s, grenades, body armor and night vision goggles. "They did not come here with a pure heart," says U.S. brigade commander Col. Bill Mayville. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk."

Is it just me, or does it seem like nobody in the region actually wants to see a free, prosperous Iraq?

(Via The Command Post).

JAY FITZGERALD REPORTS that the Christian Science Monitor is set to release a big story on anti-war MP and Iraq, er, "sympathizer" George Galloway. No fair asking how he obtained a copy early.

Josh Chafetz reports that Galloway probably can't be charged with actual treason under British law. Sounds like Galloway had better hope Chafetz is right.

UPDATE: The story's up now at this link:

BAGHDAD - A fresh set of documents uncovered in a Baghdad house used by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay to hide top-secret files detail multimillion dollar payments to an outspoken British member of parliament, George Galloway.

Evidence of Mr. Galloway's dealings with the regime were first revealed earlier this week by David Blair, a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in London, who discovered documents in Iraq's Foreign Ministry.

The Labour Party MP, who lambasted his party's prime minister, Tony Blair, in parliamentary debates on the war earlier this year, has denied the allegations. He is now the focus of a preliminary investigation by British law-enforcement officials and is under intense scrutiny in the British press, where the story has been splashed across the front pages. . . .

The three most recent payment authorizations, beginning on April 4, 2000, and ending on January 14, 2003 are for $3 million each. All three authorizations include statements that show the Iraqi leadership's strong political motivation in paying Galloway for his vociferous opposition to US and British plans to invade Iraq.

The Jan. 14, 2003, document, written on Republican Guard stationary with its Iraqi eagle and "Trust in Allah," calls for the "Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only."

The document states that the money is in return for "his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people...."

Read the whole, damning, thing. I'll bet there are a lot of people worrying about what else will turn up in those Iraqi files.

And yeah, I guess these could turn out to be fakes. For Galloway's sake they'd better be, and he'd better be able to prove it. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here's a Galloway overview from the New York Times, which offers a broad perspective though it isn't as up to date as the CSM piece.

UPDATE: Well, Galloway must be guilty. Scott Ritter is defending him. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, but maybe this guy will vouch for him!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: And the Arab News is taking his side!

ONE MORE: Zach Barbera emails with the suggestion that someone match up Galloway's travels to Iraq with the dates in these documents.

MICHAEL MOORE'S NEXT DOCUMENTARY. If it saves just one life, it's worth it.

UPDATE: Personally, though, I favor spotlighting this. (Via NetMarcos).

THE FOX WEBSITE says that Tariq Aziz is now in U.S. custody. No story yet, just a banner.

UPDATE: Here's a story.

ABBOTT, COSTELLO, AND SARS:

"There has been a humorous side, though. Mr Lastman, in his rage, mistakenly criticised the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC). A doctor, standing beside him during his speech, prompted him with: 'WHO'. The Mayor repeated: 'the CDC'. The doctor repeated: 'WHO' – trying to correct him. But he kept thinking it was a question. She eventually spelt out: 'No, the World Health Organisation'. The Mayor said: 'Yeah them too.' "

Heh.

SPEAKING OF READY TO "ROOMBA" -- Meryl Yourish got some porn spam aimed at women and has, er, Fisked it.

EUGENE VOLOKH IS READY TO ROOMBA: Actually, he's Roomba-ing right now, and reporting on the results. I bought one of those automated vacuum-cleaners and returned it after a week. We have a lot of hardwood floors with pretty thick oriental rugs on them, and the Roomba seemed to have trouble with the transition. It was also pretty noisy. The result: you couldn't leave it to clean in your absence, and it was no fun having it clean in your presence. I think they'll eventually solve these problems, but this model didn't do the job for me. It did seem to clean quite well in the spots it could get to.

LILEKS IS BACK, (at least, this link works for me) after what was apparently a domain-renewal problem.

I was afraid he was off having a beer with Salam Pax.

F.I.R.E., THE FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION is launching a massive assault on campus speech codes:

A civil liberties group has filed a lawsuit challenging the speech code at Pennsylvania's Shippensburg University, the first move in what the group says will be an all-out assault on speech codes at public universities nationwide.

The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed the suit Tuesday in federal court in Harrisburg. It alleges that the school's speech code violates students' rights by, among other things, outlawing speech that is "inflammatory, demeaning or harmful toward others."

"It is time for somebody to say to public colleges and universities that the First Amendment is the law of the land," said Alan Charles Kors, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and president of FIRE.

The codes, which FIRE said are in place at two-thirds of U.S. colleges, gained popularity in the 1980s and are intended to foster diversity and civil debate.

I suspect that external pressure over antiwar statements from faculty members will produce a new enthusiasm for the First Amendment and academic freedom at many campuses.

ERROR-CORRECTION UPDATE: Yesterday I posted an update to this post on that controversial NAS gun study, with an email from a then-insider who said that his proposals to add balance to the panel were sneered at. Well, though they were sneered at, he notes in a new email that I've added to the post that they were also followed up on later, something he hadn't realized at the time he emailed me. That suggests a laudable degree of open-mindedness in deed, if not in word. ("In sneer?" Whatever).

OIL FOR FOOD: THE U.N.'S ENRON? No, I think it's bigger than that:

The oil-for-food program is no ordinary relief effort. Not only does it involve astronomical amounts of money, it also operates with alarming secrecy. Intended to ease the human cost of economic sanctions by letting Iraq sell oil and use the profits for staples like milk and medicine, the program has morphed into big business. Since its inception, the program has overseen more than $100 billion in contracts for oil exports and relief imports combined. . . .

Initially, all contracts were to be approved by the Security Council. Nonetheless, the program facilitated a string of business deals tilted heavily toward Saddam Hussein's preferred trading partners, like Russia, France and, to a lesser extent, Syria. About a year ago, in the name of expediency, Mr. Annan was given direct authority to sign off on all goods not itemized on a special watch list. Yet shipments with Mr. Annan's go-ahead have included so-called relief items such as "boats" and boat "accessories" from France and "sport supplies" from Lebanon (sports in Iraq having been the domain of Saddam's Hussein's sadistic elder son, Uday). . . .

And then there is this menacing list of countries that supplied "detergent": Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Sudan. Maybe all that multisourced soap was just a terrific bargain for doing the laundry. But there is no way for any independent parties — including the citizens of Iraq, whose money was actually spent on the goods — to know.

Maybe we'll find out more, from those Iraqi documents.

THE FARMER WHO SHOT DOWN THE APACHE HELICOPTER? Turns out it was a hoax, according to the BBC:

"A large number of [Ba'ath] party members and security men came with me to investigate. They told me that it was an American Apache aircraft and made me stay with them until someone who they said was a senior official arrived. I didn't know who he was.

"They asked me to say what you have heard on the TV satellite channels - that I shot down the plane with an old gun, a Brno."

What? Lies from the Iraqi Information Ministry?

THOSE BOXES: Jim Miller has an interesting observation regarding the Telegraph's document find.

DANIEL DREZNER IS WORRIED ABOUT AFGHANISTAN, and presents some reasons why other people ought to be, too.

HAS AL QAEDA BEEN BROKEN? That's what this story suggests:

Analysts who track al Qaeda for the intelligence community believe that evidence is mounting that the terrorist organization may lack the command and control, the resources and coordination to conduct an operation of the same magnitude as 9/11. . . .

There is little question that the network has the capacity to conduct low-level operations involving one, or possibly two suicide bombers, but analysts are increasingly dubious that it can commit large scale, coordinated, high-impact attacks that would cause mass casualties such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Not everybody agrees with this analysis -- and the story also says that Osama bin Laden is still alive and is communicating his displeasure to subordinates. I remain deeply skeptical that bin Laden remains alive and uncaptured, and it almost seems as if the U.S. government is going out of its way to tell people that he is. But hey, I'm just a guy with a blog, what do I know?

(Via Timatollah, who also asks this very penetrating question: "Sure there are and always will be new and remaining challenges, but does the Patriot Act II address any of them?")

INTERESTED IN NANOTECHNOLOGY? Then read this. Larry Lessig will be there, and so will I.

UH-HUH: Now that journalists are doing it, it's not so bad:

Whether it is called souvenir hunting or looting, bringing back items from a war is a time-honored practice. . . . Reporters also have a long tradition of carrying back mementos from overseas assignments.

Yeah, when reporters do it, it's a time-honored tradition! But when it's impoverished Iraqis claiming back a bit from the tyranny that has oppressed them for decades it's anarchy!

MSNBC'S WILL FEMIA has more about the arrest of Iranian blogger and journalist Sina Motallebi. I wish they'd do a TV news story on it, too.

SHOCK AND AWE: David Warren writes:

The sight of Iraqis in Baghdad pulling down the statue of Saddam, beating its face with their shoes, and kissing photographs of President Bush thus arrived like a missile into what Fouad Ajami has so discerningly called, "the dream palace of the Arabs" -- the collective fantasy into which powerful media such as Al-Jazeera had been playing. It was no mere surprise; it was a profound shock to the entire nervous system of the Arab world. It was the first shock on anything like this scale since June 1967, when another generation of Arabs woke to the discovery that tiny Israel had destroyed the massed armies of all the most powerful Arab states, in just six days. But that did not happen with the immediacy of live television.

And it is precisely the same story everywhere, the same audience reactions when the joy of the liberated Baghdadis was presented on screen, and almost without commentary. Wherever this spectacle appeared, there was weeping, anger, then flicking off the TV. But the anger previously concentrated by the Arab world 's media and leaders upon the United States, Britain, and Israel, was suddenly deflected upon the same media and leaders; or else meaninglessly against the euphoric crowds in Baghdad. Those who swore were suddenly swearing not at CNN but at Al-Jazeera, not at George W. Bush, but at Saddam, and Saudi sheikhs, and Hosni Mubarak. Suddenly, all at once, this terrible recognition that they had been lied to -- lied to by everyone; lied to on an extraordinary, systematic scale; told the biggest Lie that had ever been told.

But it's not just the Arabs:

Take, for comparison, the situation in Russia, and put yourself in the position of Russian TV viewers, taking in the same scene from Baghdad.

They know what their army does to Grozny, in Chechnya, and how little thanks they get for it. The Russian military brass had moreover been telling pan-Slavic TV audiences that the Americans only do "non-contact" wars, that they are sissies who rely on technology and get locals to do the icky ground fighting for them, as in Afghanistan. I've seen the same message repeated endlessly in Russian media websites. Imagine the shock, for people accustomed to this view, of now seeing plainly the U.S. on the ground, in Baghdad, taking fire, with very low casualties -- and in charge, after barely three weeks of war.

The obvious questions present themselves to the more independent Russian mind: "How come Brits and Yanks can pull this off, and all Putin's soldiers can do is spread carnage? How come Putin's special-op elites kill more civilians re-taking one lousy concert hall than the Yanks do taking Baghdad? Are we really so well served by that old KGB officer?"

Yep. The ramifications of this will be interesting and, I think, largely positive. Steven Den Beste thinks so too. Er, and was Aziz Poonawalla really expecting a terse list of bullet-points from SDB, of all people?

UPDATE: Note: the Den Beste link above went to the wrong post. Fixed now.

THE IRANIAN MULLAHS ARE NERVOUS, and are trying to stir up trouble in Iraq. Meanwhile they're facing trouble at home. Heh.

"PAID TO BE A TRAITOR:" The Sun is all over the Galloway story. And Galloway's own version is now shifting from "this is a lie" to "there may have been some wrongdoing by my staff."

It's looking bad for Galloway. Tim Blair has a roundup.

April 23, 2003

I CAN STILL GET THERE, but people are emailing that when they try to reach Lileks' site they get sent here:

https://secure.registerapi.com/order/renew/auto.php?domain=LILEKS.C
OM/bleats/

I tried to email Lileks and the email bounced, marked:

all relevant MX records point to non-existent hosts:
it appears that the DNS operator for this domain has installed an invalid MX record with an IP address instead of a domain name on the right hand side

So, James, if you're reading this you now know what I couldn't tell you by email.

ANOTHER PERK FOR INSTAPUNDIT READERS! Thanks to my superior clout, the Foresight Institute is offering a last-minute conference discount for InstaPundit readers who are interested in nanotechnology. Or, for that matter, those who aren't interested in nanotechnology, but think that the Foresight Institute's annual conference would be a great place to meet dates!

Use this special registration form and you'll get $100 off the registration fee. I plan to be there, where I'll be emceeing a bit and participating in some discussions.

["Another" perk for InstaPundit readers? -- Ed. Er, well, besides uh . . . free access to InstaPundit! And, um, free Dr. Frank downloads! Yeah, that's it! Good enough for me! -- Ed. Shouldn't you be over at Kaus's? He's doing car stuff again, and I get carsick easily. -- Ed. I might have known.]

I'VE GOT A POST ABOUT RICK SANTORUM'S REMARKS UP OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM -- but what really struck me about his remarks was their near-total incoherence. Yeah, I know, it's a transcript and most people don't speak in clean sentences. But still, I read this passage several times:

We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.

Now what in God's name does this mean? We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now -- what, the state, or the law? -- that has sodomy laws -- okay, I guess it's the state, Texas, he's talking about, since it's the one with the sodomy law before the Court -- and they were there for a purpose -- the states? the laws? I guess he means the laws -- Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. -- Who? The states undermine the basic tenets of our society? No, that can't be what he means, he thinks Texas is right. The laws? No, he likes those. So what does "they" mean here? Gays? People who commit sodomy? I guess -- but they're not even in the passage.

Am I jumping too hard on this bit of incoherence? Probably. When you read the whole passage, it's possible to figure out, more or less, where he's going with this. But I watch politicians on C-SPAN and I'm astounded by how bad most of them are at extemporaneous speaking. You'd think that would be part of their job, but it's obvious that the system doesn't select for that sort of skill. I guess that means it's not important to the job, but I just finished watching a bunch of my law students present papers, and a bunch more do video interviews for our website, and all of them were better than this.

UPDATE: Reader Martin J. Burke emails:

It is painful to listen to him, and to many other office holders, mangle the language. Among the undergraduates that I teach at CUNY, a sizeable minority are immigrants or children of immigrants. I insist that they read, write and speak college-level English. Might we not hold members of the House and Senate to such standards? While the Constitution prohibits religious tests, I don't see any prohibition for fluency tests.

Those used to be imposed by the voters. I don't mean to make a big deal out of this, and I don't really think that politicians should be required to speak college-level English. And everybody stumbles from time to time, and it's especially hard for politicians, who have to watch every word for PC-ness of various varieties. But this just really caught my attention. Heck, if you quoted those two sentences out of context it would sound like he was saying that sodomy laws undermine the family -- and that's what they're meant to do!

MATT WELCH HAS A GREAT ESSAY ON VACLAV HAVEL in Reason.

LAST WEEK I WROTE ON DOUBLE STANDARDS in the treatment of Baghdad's looting incidents. (That was before I knew that journalists were among the looters, or it would have been triple standards!) But now Andrea Harris identifies more doublethink:

I am intrigued by the idea that the column's author, one Philip Hensher, apparently thinks that 1) it is possible to fight a "caring" war (how? Drop sympathy cards and flowers along with bombs?) and 2) that the best way to show "caring" would have been to shoot more civilians. The ways in which the minds of anti-Americans work never cease to cause amazement.

Yeah. And that's why it's been hard for me to take the looting complaints all that seriously, even before it started to seem likely that at least some of the media types doing the complaining were also pocketing Saddam's silverware. As I wrote in my earlier piece, if it can be shown that the United States was in a position to stop the looting, and deliberately or callously let it happen, then that should be a big embarrassment and those responsible should be punished.

But, really, the complaints just seem so much like desperate efforts to find something to complain about that it's hard to take them seriously, even though perhaps we should. (Jay Manifold calls this the bitter fruit of incompetent criticism, noting that the antiwar folks blew their credibility earlier, and now people aren't listening even to valid complaints.)

A reader wrote me to say that it was worth risking American (and Iraqi) lives to protect the National Museum, even if it meant diverting resources from elsewhere. Well, maybe to some people, but not to me. Mickey Kaus says that the United States should be held to a "strict liability" standard here, with us responsible for anything that happens regardless of whether we actually did anything wrong.

I'd disagree with that. I think a lot of these criticisms underestimate the "fog of war" and the (rather high) likelihood that the Museum was looted before American troops even arrived. To make out a case that goes beyond carping, you have to show (1) that the Museum was un-looted before Baghdad fell; (2) that it would have been comparatively safe and practical for the United States to prevent looting; and (3) that the United States knew all of this, but just refused to act.

There is some evidence that Jay Garner sent a memo on this before Baghdad fell, but that doesn't really answer the question. I'd have to call the case for negligence here "not proven." Or as Roger Simon puts it: "It was only a teeny tiny bit our fault."

Of course, as a mystery writer, he's a beneficiary of the looting, which will provide MacGuffins aplenty for future works. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Rajat Datta emails:

I wonder how many of those who blame the coalition troops, and Bush and Rumsfeld in particular, for the looting would have held Clinton responsible for the mass expulsions of Muslims from Kosovo by Milosevic and the Servs when we liberated Kosovo. The Serbs were at fault then, and the looters are at fault now, despite the fact that they obviously took advantage of an oportunity that opened up because of our military operations.

Art historian David Nishimura, meanwhile has posts here, here, here, and here. His latest sum-up:

Points to note: the robbers have been heavily armed, quick to shoot, and not easily deterred; there has been extensive insider involvement; and finally, the most secure vaults have successfully defied all break-in attempts. This emerging picture (along with the report noted here that armed intruders had been firing at US forces from the national museum) poses a further challenge to the assumption that the looting of Baghdad's museums and libraries could easily have been prevented, and was thus the direct result of American negligence.

Stay tuned.

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR HAS BEEN SIFTING THROUGH SADDAM'S FILES. Unlike The Telegraph, the Monitor hasn't found evidence of Western corruption. But it has found evidence of Saddam's Stalinist-style horrors -- and more signs of an Al Qaeda link:

Abu Sakkar breaks down in tears at night just thinking about the murder of his fellow Shiites, which he sometimes assisted and sometimes tried - in his own way - to prevent. Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, estimate that 200,000 to 300,000 Shiites were assassinated in the past two decades by Mr. Hussein's government, which used a network of militias, secret police, and military security forces to create a pervasive police state in Iraq. . . .

"We were trained to ambush and kill American forces in Baghdad," he says. "The government wanted unmarried people like myself, and we were chosen by Abbas al-Dulami, the police chief. They told us not to talk about the course with anyone. When the war started, we were taken to the camps with these Arab fighters, but they had been told not to talk to us. Some of them were being trained for operations outside Iraq."

The young officer, curious as to whom he had been sent to work with, asked a more senior Iraqi intelligence officer present at the time, who the strangers were. He was told that they were members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization, he says, though his report could not be confirmed.

Fascinating.

FORGET SARS: We should really be worried about the Martian Death Flu. Sounds painful.

WIZBANG WONDERS if MSNBC is deliberately shifting rightward. My web-column for them doesn't get me any special access to corporate strategy, but my guess is that yes, it is. The question is why? You'd think that Fox would have that territory sewed up, making left-angled counterprogramming smarter. But MSNBC tried that and it didn't work very well.

One possibility: Fox isn't as far right as people think, at least as compared to the cable-news viewing audience.

WOULD YOU REALLY DIE FOR AN IPOD? I don't think so.

JOHN SCALZI WEIGHS IN on the Santorum matter.

INVISIBLOG purports to offer anonymous weblog publishing. Can you trust them? I don't know.

DAWN OLSEN interviewed the InstaWife about her documentary and about kids who kill in general. The results are posted over at BlogCritics. Judging by the length of the phone conversation and the amount of laughter that I overheard, they were talking about other subjects that didn't make print, too.

("Didn't make print?" Shouldn't that be "Didn't make pixels?" Whatever.)

HERE'S A LINK TO THE CATO INSTITUTE'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON PROTECTING THE SECOND AMENDMENT via Congressional action. The Cato folks are pretty hard on Ashcroft for not living up to his statements on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING POST by Trent Telenko on the political fallout from SARS in China.

And scroll down through the comments for a harrowing description of Chinese hospital conditions.

JEFF AT ALPHECCA has his weekly table on bias in gun reportage up, plus much more.

LOOTING UPDATE! LAST WEEK I WROTE:

So how come the ever-so-inquisitive Big Media folks in Baghdad didn't even mention the possibility that something like this was going on in their [looting] reports? Perhaps CENTCOM should check their luggage as they leave town. . .

Today, we read this:

WASHINGTON -- A television news engineer faces smuggling charges after attempting to bring into the United States 12 stolen Iraqi paintings, monetary bonds and other items, federal officials said Wednesday.

Advantage: Oh, hell, you know the routine.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn has more.

And more priceless cultural treasures have just turned up!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Then there's this:

Of interest to Customs agents was a 5-foot painting that was rolled up in a tube, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Ornamental kitchen items were also confiscated. Crittenden told the agents he got the painting from a building on the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces.

The painting was examined by authenticators, but the value was deemed to be under the $15,000 level that would merit prosecution under Customs laws, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The souvenirs will not be returned to Crittenden, and eventually will be transferred back to Iraq, officials said.

And here's my favorite part:

''He didn't think it was a big deal,'' the official said of Crittenden. ''He said all the embedded reporters were doing it.''

Heh. And I wonder how many of them wrote stories denouncing the looting?

(Via Romenesko).

THE TROTTS ARE TAKING MOVABLE TYPE TO THE NEXT LEVEL. I wish 'em well. I upgraded to 2.63 a couple of weeks ago, and it's even better than before.

SO I TAKE A LIGHT-BLOGGING WEEKEND and Jeff Jarvis makes fun of me. But Dr. Weevil takes off for a week and nobody picks on him.

MATTHEW HOY HAS PRODUCED this list of Cuban dissidents and journalists imprisoned by Castro. Here's an html version just in case the graphic isn't displaying for you.

Funny that while Tim Robbins and Michael Moore are claiming that they're being repressed by the system, you don't hear many celebrities talking about real repression.



THAT NAS GUN STUDY: I got an email from an insider who says it's biased, or at least the studiers are.

We'll see. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but this one has smelled funny from day one.

SADDAM NEVER REALLY EXISTED, writes Bill Hobbs. After all, we can't find him or his remains. And the kvetching remnants of the antiwar movement are claiming that the fact that we haven't found WMDs yet proves that they never existed. So. . . .

More seriously, Hobbs goes on to note:

We know Saddam had the WMDs 12 years ago. Heck, we've got video of the stuff. And we know he didn't destroy his WMDs because neither he nor the UN inspectors ever provided evidence that his WMDs were fully eliminated and his WMD programs fully shut-down. Even Hans Blix says Iraq can't account for tons of the stuff. So we know it was there, and know it hasn't been destroyed. The only we don't know is where, exactly, it is right now.

I predict a new meme: if it was there, and we can't find it now, it'll be presented as proof that we should have left it in Saddam's responsible hands, instead of invading. Hobbs, however, thinks the blame goes the other way.

UPDATE: Hey, I just noticed that Dr. Weevil made this argument first. Great minds think alike -- but all I can say is, advantage: Weevil. Which sounds kind of weird when you say it out loud.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an even earlier instance.

ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES at the University of Tennessee is doing an online survey of bloggers and blog-readers. Follow the link and tell 'em about yourself. It's confidential.

AUSTIN BAY SAYS IT'S THE SAME OLD SONG where media coverage of Jay Garner's reconstruction effort is concerned:

According to his critics, Jay Garner is already Tommy Franks. No, I don"t mean the Gen. Franks of April 2003, but the Gen. Franks of March 2003 and -- for that matter -- of October 2001.

Garner's reconstruction effort is already in trouble with media fingerwaggers. Never mind that gunfire continues to sputter. Why, Garner lacks sufficient personnel, there's infighting at the Pentagon -- shucks, his plan is flawed.

Heard it before? Sure, track back three weeks with the likes of The New York Times' R.W. Apple excoriating Central Command. Reconstructing Iraq has barely begun, but the critical piling-on is already in progress. One horror among the usual cranks is Garner has oil industry contacts and he's retired military. Of course, anyone with a knack for the obvious knows both knocks are welcome assets, given Iraq's petroleum reserves and the iffy security situation. The cranks appear to prefer Garner be a Marxist sociology prof with a 'stop the war" tattoo on his tongue. . . .

Bay also notes:

Garner's and the Iraqi people's task is truly a 21st century endeavor. Their sweat, vision and spine must surmount some of the 20th century's worst fascist and socialist depredations, while finessing 12th century religious attitudes. They must accomplish this under the harsh gaze of an insistent, antsy media with biases to feed and ratings to spur.

For the sake of Iraq's people, better put some patient, credible minds behind that media gaze. How many critics got Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom dead wrong? Where are the massive civilian casualties and the quagmire in the sand? Spin it to me again, about Vietnam in Baghdad?

Patient, credible minds? Does Howell Raines have any of those at hand? I think it's the media that needs more, and better, troops.

I'M SOMEWHAT SKEPTICAL ABOUT THIS STORY but if it's true it's the kind of thing I'm criticizing in my TechCentralStation column today:

Civil rights advocates demanded today that the federal government explain how hundreds of people — some of them vocal critics of the Bush administration — have ended up on a list used to stop people suspected of having terrorist links from boarding commercial air flights.

In a lawsuit filed in San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union said government officials had improperly withheld information about how people wind up on the "no fly" list, what steps are taken to ensure its accuracy and how people who are erroneously detained at airports can get their names off the list.

"Without even basic information about the no-fly list or other watch lists," the lawsuit said, "the public cannot evaluate the government's decision to use such lists."

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the F.B.I. and federal transportation officials have generated secret lists of people suspected of having terrorist ties who should be stopped and questioned if they try to board an airplane.

I'm skeptical because these stories remind me of the long-debunked (and obviously dubious) Nancy Oden story, (here's the Snopes debunking page) in which a Green activist claimed to have been detained because of her opposition to the war. (The Afghan War, not the Three Weeks War.)

I hope, of course, that there is a list of suspected terrorists who are questioned when they try to fly. And I note that a lot of people were pretty damned critical of the fact that the Bush Administration didn't have that sort of list operating before 9/11.

The separate question is whether people are being targeted based on their opposition to the Administration's policies, rather than suspected links to terrorists. I rather doubt that, but I certainly think it's a subject on which we should let the sun shine in.

UPDATE: Here, on the other hand, is a truly worrisome arrest.

ANOTHER WAR PROFITEER is unmasked.

WHY FREEDOM ISN'T A LUXURY, but a source of strength: This week's TechCentralStation column looks at the home front, and suggests that the Bush Administration's penchant for secrecy is a source of weakness, not muscularity.

IF YOU ONLY READ INSTAPUNDIT and a few other blogs, then, well, you should branch out. Try visiting the Carnival of the Vanities, a traveling blog-roundup that's at The Kitchen Cabinet this week. You'll find links to posts on a lot of other blogs that are worth reading.

THE TELEGRAPH is now reporting that anti-war British MP George Galloway asked Saddam for more money.

Saddam was rejecting two specific requests allegedly made by Mr Galloway, as recorded in the intelligence chief's memorandum. The first was for a greater share of the profits from oil exports.

The memorandum said that Mr Galloway was already receiving between 10 and 15 cents per barrel of three million barrels exported every six months: an annual sum of at least £375,000.

Mr Galloway's second reported request was for "exceptional commercial and contractual" opportunities with three ministries and the state electricity commission. These requests for more sources of income fell on deaf ears, but Saddam's decision not to allow them did not apply to Mr Galloway's existing deals.

This is incredible stuff, suggesting a degree of corruption that is, in fact, hard to believe. Galloway is denying the charges with increasing vigor. I imagine that the truth will come out, one way or another, on this.

Tim Blair has a nice roundup of coverage and reactions to this story.

AMERICOONING: Hmm. Trend-flack Faith Popcorn may have something right here. A friend with business interests in China writes:

Looks like no China trips in the near future. SARS is really going to be a downer for the economy if not controlled soon. No one that I know feels its worth the risk to travel there now. We had planned a family trip to France for the summer, but none of us wants to go now. It is incredible that things have changed so much in such a short time.

Indeed.

FAREED ZAKARIA A "CONSERVATIVE?" Well, not exactly, writes Virginia Postrel.

TONY ADRAGNA'S IRAQ SANCTIONS WATCH has identified yet another hidden agenda from the French.

April 22, 2003

I MEANT TO POST THIS DAYS AGO, but CalPundit has moved to a spiffy new Movable Type site, with permalinks that work and everything.

KEN LAYNE HAS AN ASSIGNMENT for people covering the Columbia disaster. Heck, he's practically written the story for someone. And it's a good angle.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time at the University of Wisconsin.

WHAT'S THE WORD for the enjoyment that I and others feel in seeing the various predictions of doom go wrong? Why, it's "Fehlervorhersagefreude" of course.

THE 82D AIRBORNE, protecting mosques from terrorists:

The event was peaceful for the most part, although the U.S. military said Tuesday that police in Karbala arrested six men who had been planning to blow up two of the city's mosques.

Five of the detainees claimed to be members of Saddam's Baath Party, and one said he belonged to al-Qaida, said Capt. Jimmie Cummings, spokesman for the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The men were arrested Monday and have been handed over to the 101st Airborne Division in Karbala, Cummings said.

Al Qaeda and Ba'ath trying to blow up mosques; the "All-American" 82d Airborne standing in their way. I wonder if this story will make Al Jazeera?

UPDATE: Al Qaeda and Ba'ath working together? Pejman Yousefzadeh notes that before the war, we were told by some that such things were impossible.

HERE'S A PROPOSAL FOR A REVERSE BOYCOTT, encouraging Americans to buy English beer to show our gratitude. I've been drinking Newcastle and Foster's lately, so I guess I'm ahead of the curve.

UPDATE: I posted this last night, and the email I got suggested that people understood what I meant. This morning I'm getting emails hotly informing me that Foster's is Australian. Uh, yeah. But they're our allies, too, see?

As for those who tell me that Victoria Bitters is better -- yeah, I know. But I've only had VB in Australia. Is it even available in the States? I've never seen it.

MATT WELCH IS ALL OVER THE BUSH / SAUDI CONNECTION:

LOS ANGELES - Under a draft law being circulated in Washington, D.C., right now, Americans could be stripped of their citizenship if they provide "material support" to groups that carry out "terrorist" activities. Non-citizen residents could be deported on mere suspicion of threatening national security.

Should these odious measures pass, I hereby nominate the first candidates for expulsion from the country: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi ambassador to the United States, and his wife, Princess Haifa al Faisal.

Washington's most senior diplomatic couple -- Bandar has been ambassador for 20 years -- have been ladling out "material support," indirectly or directly or both, to suspected terrorists or their families for years. . . .

Barbara and George H. W. Bush have all but adopted Bandar and Haifa. "The Bushes are like my mother and father," Haifa told The New Yorker. "I know if ever I needed anything, I could go to them." In the May issue of The Atlantic, Robert Baer, a retired CIA agent, wrote that, around the Bush family Kennebunkport, Me., compound, the prince is known as "Bandar Bush."

Read the whole thing. It's pretty damning. I remain astonished that the Democrats haven't made an issue of this. Could it be that they've been bought off?

JACK BALKIN has a long post on Rick Santorum's remarks about gay sex, and bestiality, etc.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh, on the other hand, calls this a "faux scandal."

ERIC S. RAYMOND IS BLOGGING AGAIN.

THE BEER OF THE MOMENT? It's not German.

MERYL YOURISH LOOKS BACK on two years (!) of blogging.

THE BBC'S SCIENCE REPORTING gets a brutal Fisking from NasaWatch over basic and obvious factual errors in a story about Burt Rutan's new private space venture.

Note that the BBC has fixed the errors without any indication that they were ever there, something that we also saw earlier in its coverage of Abu Abbas and Leon Klinghoffer. I'm not sure whether I'd condemn that or not -- you want people to fix things, after all. I often fix posts shortly after they're posted without indicating it. If they've been up long enough that it's not an on-the-spot fix, and if the fix is of the sort that might turn someone else's link to it nonsensical, then I indicate it in an update. If it's just cosmetic, like fixing a typo, I don't.

A PACK, NOT A HERD: Very cool story on the role that amateur video and photos have played in reconstructing the Columbia disaster. Here's the slogan of one of those guys: "Life is unpredictable, so keep a camera nearby and catch it." Good advice for bloggers, too.

NOT IN OUR NAME -- Three UCLA Law School faculty members condemn the UCLA faculty senate antiwar resolution, which was achieved, it seems, via procedural flimflammery:

We were mugged by about 200 of our faculty colleagues at UCLA. These colleagues condemn the liberation of Iraq and wanted to say so publicly. But they were not content to speak out in their own names, as they had every right to do. Instead, they insisted on speaking in our names — and in the names of the more than 3,000 people on the UCLA faculty. . . .

According to the rules of the academic senate, 200 members can convene a special meeting by signing petitions. Two hundred members did so, and the meeting was held last week, at a time when many on the faculty were busy teaching or preparing for class.

By the time they voted, the 200-member quorum had apparently vanished, but they went ahead anyway: 180 for the resolution, seven against and nine abstaining.

The resolution they adopted puts the academic senate on record as saying "to our fellow citizens, to the president of the United States and to our senators and representatives" that we "deplore the administration's doctrine of preventive war and the U.S. invasion of Iraq."

The academic senate includes us. A rump group of our colleagues put these words — words that we find loathsome — into our mouths.

A "rump group," indeed. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy).

FRANCE HAS DONE AN ABOUT-FACE ON IRAQ SANCTIONS:

But the French ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said the sanctions issue was now linked by past Security Council resolutions to a certification of Iraqi disarmament.

"So meanwhile, we could suspend the sanctions and adjust the oil-for-food [programme] with an idea of its phasing out," he told reporters following a briefing by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Under the oil-for-food programme the UN has managed the use of funds generated by limited Iraqi oil sales to pay for humanitarian goods.

The French ambassador did not link a suspension of the sanctions to a return of the UN inspectors to Iraq.

Interesting.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus suspects that the about-face may have been occasioned by threats to release information from Iraqi archives. Heh. I kind of hope so.

SARS AND SMS: Just got an email from Conrad at The Gweilo Diaries with the following additional information from ReOriented:

Miss Q. is pretty much immune to scaremongering on communicable diseases. Nevertheless, the admission by the government that they’d lied about the true number of SARS cases in China and the subsequent scapegoating of two saps up north did make for an interesting interlude. The rumour mill has as a consequence gone into overdrive, one indicator being a deluge of text messages to Miss Q’s mobile phone; 21 and counting when I left on Monday afternoon. All of these were forwarded messages that had in turn probably been forwarded hundreds of times. Origins have been lost in the mist of Chinese SMS space. Most were pretty innocuous, but a few stood out as truly stupid.

Here's my favorite: "If you have received this message, you now have SARS! To cure yourself, send this message on to at least ten friends." It's also interesting, as he notes, to compare the text messages on SARS that are circulating with the official government statements.

THE MULLAHS ARE CRACKING DOWN IN IRAN: Bloggers and independent journalists seem to be major targets.

BIOTOXINS in the mail? I'm skeptical, as these early reports are almost always wrong.

UPDATE: Just got an email from someone who says CNN is reporting that the tests were false-positives.

AZIZ POONAWALLA mostly agrees with Steven Den Beste's assessment of where France is going.

That's bad news for France.

JIM DUNNIGAN WRITES ON SYRIA'S TENUOUS TERROR CONNECTION. Syria does have longstanding terror-group connections, but -- unlike Iraq -- it doesn't seem to have been trying to run a proxy-war against the United States with them.

My sense is that Syria is a late-stage corrupt kleptocracy. Unlike Saddam's Iraq, there's more power in the oligarchy than in the dictator himself. As Dunnigan writes:

When Bashar took over at age 34, he initially talked of reform and cleaning up the endemic corruption and turgid economy. He soon changed his tune as he realized his father had surrounded himself with a bunch of thieves and cutthroats. These guys ran the police state, and expected to be paid. Or else. So Bashar is a dictator who can dictate a lot, but can't touch any of the private empires his father's cronies have set up. It's all about money.

I'd still like to see the Ba'ath regime collapse, or be knocked down, and replaced by something better. But it's not an immediate threat, and it's likely that it will respond to pressure in a way that Saddam didn't. In a way, it's the difference between the Stalinist Soviet Union and the Krushchev- or Brezhnev-era Soviet Union.

REPORTS IN THE TELEGRAPH that British antiwar MP George Galloway was paid off by the Iraqis seem almost too thrilleresque to believe. On the other hand, The Telegraph must feel strongly about its case, given the obvious risk of a libel suit, which Galloway now says he'll bring. Tim Blair has a roundup of links and observations.

Galloway, meanwhile, needs to ponder the old lawyer's warning: "If you sue someone for libel, they're liable to prove it."

UPDATE: A reader emails: "On the other hand, Galloway might be able to prove that he didn't have to be paid to be an apologist for Stalinist regimes."

Yeah, that would improve his moral position. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lionel Mandrake has some observations, and some links.

ONE OF MY BLOGCHILDREN is expecting, and is setting up a baby-blog. I think that the gene pool needs more bloggers to reproduce.



If you aren't reading Day by Day, well, you should be.

HERE'S AN ARTICLE ON WAR HUMOR ON THE INTERNET. Blogosphere favorites Day by Day and ScrappleFace are mentioned.

I CONFESS that I haven't followed the Josh Marshall vs. the Neocon Conspiracy story very closely. But Scott Wrightson has a pretty extensive set of links.

NOAH SHACHTMAN has more on Los Alamos security problems, a story that he's following closely.

THIS PAST WEEKEND, Jim Bennett asked where all the European Fascists had gone. Apparently, they were standing in line to read this book, which argues that Franco wasn't such a bad guy after all:

A controversial, revisionist history of the Spanish civil war which claims it was sparked by a leftwing revolution and that Winston Churchill was crueller than General Francisco Franco has proved a surprise publishing success.

The Myths of the Civil War, by the former communist guerrilla turned Franco apologist Pio Moa, has outraged the Spanish left and many mainstream historians with its attacks on the icons of the period.

But it has become the second most popular non-fiction book in Spain as it is snapped up by former Franco supporters and those curious to see a different interpretation of a civil war which most historians agree was started by a rightwing military uprising against a democratic government.

Humph. Wait until you read my soon-to-be-bestseller about how Marxism was actually a plot by British Intelligence to hobble Britain's adversaries with a self-destructive ideology. Hey, weren't you always a little suspicious of how a guy like Marx worked so freely in the bowels of the British Empire, with support from a wealthy industrialist?

A PACK, NOT A HERD? Hmm. Xeni Jardin reports in Wired News that people in Hong Kong are using text-messaging to avoid SARS:

Launched by Sunday Communications, the service allows subscribers with SMS-enabled phones to identify the "contaminated" buildings within a kilometer of their calling location. Subscribers can also learn which buildings visited recently by patients suspected of having SARS, or "atypical pneumonia," as the disease is known throughout much of Asia.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I can see something like this working as a sort of "smart quarantine." On the other, given that the data it's based on are incomplete and likely often inaccurate, I wonder if it really does any good at all. Quality of information is the key here, it seems to me. Of course, given that rumors, etc., are already flying around the nets, this may represent at least a small improvement in that department. If you read the whole story, you'll see that both good and bad information are playing a role here. And there's an interesting bit of technological influence:

"Because SMS notes are terse anyway, disinformation seems to spread even faster because you don't get the whole story."

Yeah, text-messaging isn't good at nuance.

WEIRDLY, THIS ALMOST MAKES SENSE:


Well, u-- um, can we come up and have a look?


What Monty Python Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Hmm. Nice but not too bright, doesn't like the French. . . .

UPDATE: I'm not surprised to see how Daniel Drezner's score came out.

THE QUOTE THAT WON'T DIE: Back in August of 2001, Dave Kopel and I wrote
this column about a National Academy of Sciences study panel on guns that seemed rather biased to us. We noted that the study was funded by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation, the anti-gun Packard Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control, noted for anti-gun junk science. We also noted that the panel appeared stacked, with no obvious pro-gun scholars, with anti-gun non-scholar Benjamin Civiletti and others. And we noted that one panel member, Steven Levitt, had been described to us by another scholar as "rabidly anti-gun."

Levitt emailed me to say that he wasn't anti-gun, and I posted that here the very same day. Levitt seemed happy with that, and I've never heard from him since. A few days later I noted a report by Sam MacDonald of Reason who attended the first meeting of the panel and who thought it seemed reasonably fair.

Over a year later, Brad De Long and Mark Kleiman noted the original piece but didn't notice that it was a year old. I posted on that here.

Now John Lott's new book apparently recycles the quote about Steven Levitt without mentioning my followup post. (I haven't actually read the book, but this has been the subject of considerable discussion on an email list that I belong to.). Lott shouldn't have done that, since he should have been familiar with the whole Levitt flap (he was reading InstaPundit at the time, I believe, since he emailed me a link to an oped he had on the same subject), and to mention the NRO article, but not Levitt's response, is rather disingenuous. Perennial Lott critic Tim Lambert has been spamming me trying to get me to say whether or not Lott is the source of the Levitt quote, but of course I can neither confirm nor deny that, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has ever played "Twenty Questions." Accidentally outing someone who asked for anonymity is, as Henry Copeland notes, a serious breach.

Kopel has already sent NRO -- over a week ago -- an update to the original piece making clear that he has great admiration for Levitt's non-gun scholarship, something that repeats an email that he sent Levitt at the time, and responding to the rest. I don't know why it's taking so long, but NRO still hasn't made the update, so I'm going ahead and posting this now.

Personally, I think it's entirely proper to look into the makeup of important policy panels of this sort, and I still think that -- entirely aside from Levitt, who was hardly the subject of the article to begin with -- there is reason for concern where this panel is involved. The equivalent would be a panel on, say, purported links between abortion and breast cancer, funded by the Catholic Church, the National Right to Life Committee, and a government agency that had been consistently and openly anti-abortion, with a membership that seemed unbalanced and about which some people were voicing suspicions. Wouldn't that be relevant? I certainly think so. Kopel talked to the panel head, who admitted that such concerns were reasonable, but promised a fair study. I certainly hope so.

UPDATE: Kopel has more over at The Corner.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dr. Brendan Dooher, a reader and engineer, emails:

I worked with the study director at the National Academy of Sciences (he is actually in the National Academy of Engineering) when I was a Fellow there last year. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the study is heavily biased. I made myself persona non grata there over my year because of my conservative (but always scientifically based) views. The committee's first meeting had multiple speakers from Hand Gun [Control] Inc and other anti-gun types giving testimony - but no one to speak of the positives. I asked him if he would have Professor John Lott speak and the reply was a sneer. [Unrelated remark removed later at Dooher's request.]

Interesting. I don't know Dooher, but I checked him on Google and found this, which would seem to establish his bona fides.

We shouldn't let the Levitt side-issue distract us from the real question, which is whether the study is an honest one.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Now Dr. Dooher sends this email:

It has been pointed out, correctly, that an NRA spokesman and Dr. Lott did
indeed speak to the committee. I cannot apologize enough (and am somewhat
embarrassed) for not checking the web site. I am often the first one to
tell my friends to look at snopes.com to make sure that what is being
stated on the web is accurate. I should have done so with my own
memory. My comments to the responsible staff member were upon seeing the
first (and draft) meeting agenda. At the time, there were none from the
NRA. I asked at the time why there were no speakers from the NRA and also
asked why Dr. Lott was not invited (initial meetings at the NAS often set
the tone for the later meetings and the final product). His response was
non-committal. I didn't follow up on it, as I had my own program on energy
systems to work on. I still believe that the study had a bias at its
creation. I apologize for misleading anyone, and for perhaps placing Dr.
Reynolds in a bad light.

Well, there you have it. Perhaps Dooher's comments actually changed things, which would suggest a degree of open-mindedness that I, for one, would welcome.

At least blogs make updating this stuff easy, which -- with this story in particular -- seems to be an especially useful thing.

IN AN EFFORT TO PROMOTE CONFIDENCE, Beijing has a new spokesman for issues relating to SARS.

UPDATE: I think that this is where that image originated.

April 21, 2003

HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on the redistribution of honor in 21st century America.

JEFF JARVIS HAS A LOT MORE INFORMATION about imprisoned Iranian weblogger Sina Motallebi, and the interesting role that weblogs are playing in support of a liberalized Iran.

It's enough to worry the mullahs, apparently.

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE UPSET about this quote from Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA):

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum, R-Pa., said in the interview, published Monday.

Perhaps this is all simply a misunderstanding, and Santorum was just staking out a strongly libertarian position in advance of the Supreme Court's ruling. . . .

UPDATE: Bill Quick's views on Santorum's statement are, um, a bit more pungent.

H.D. MILLER DOES THE MATH, and concludes that the war killed fewer Iraqis in a month than the peace did:

Saddam was killing hundreds of his own people every day. Even Iraqi Body Count, using the most biased methodology possible, can only come up with 2,325 civilian deaths in Iraq over the past month. Compare this astonishingly low number with one supplied by John Burns of The New York Times who estimates that during Saddam's reign "figures of a million dead Iraqis, in war and through terror, may not be far from the mark."

Now do the math: One million Iraqis killed over the past 23 years comes out to something around 3600 deaths per month, or 50% more per month than were killed during the most intensive bombing campaign conducted since World War II. And the result is that the Iraqi people are less oppressed, less terrorized than they've been in decades.

I'm not so sure about this calculation. I'm pretty sure that the million-deaths number includes Iraqi soldiers killed in various wars. The 2,325 number is "civilian deaths," though given the source I suspect that it is quite highly inflated. I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows, how many Iraqi soldiers were killed, but I suspect that it was more than enough to drive the total number of dead over 3,600.

It wouldn't surprise me, though, to find out that (using non-Heroldized numbers) fewer Iraqi civilians died in the past month than died in a typical month under Saddam. And, of course, the war is pretty much over, while Saddam's terror was an ongoing phenomenon.

A CONSPIRACY SO VAST: This neoconservative cabal behind the liberation of Iraq looks to be huge -- according to this report, it even includes Bill Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

No wonder the anti-war movement couldn't get any traction. Does Josh Marshall know about this?

BLOGCRITICS has a new design. It's a little bit like the new design for The Command Post.

FRENCH WISHFUL THINKING: This is hilarious. Soon to be a collector's item.

PIZZA HUT AND BURGER KING ARE OPERATING IN BASRA, which is sure to upset, well, the people you'd expect.

Prediction: Soon the complaints will shift from "Iraqis are starving because of American actions," to "Iraqis are getting fat because of American actions." There will be no intermediate, "just right" phase, either.

Yeah, I know -- this is just on bases now. But for how long?

BRUTAL KNUCKLEHEADS: H.D. Miller writes on Saddam's thugs, who combined ineptitude with savagery.

MORE NEWS FROM ZIMBABWE:

A member of Zimbabwe's opposition has died as a result of police torture, according to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Tonderai Machiridza, 32, died after six days in police custody, according to the MDC, which issued photographs of the unconscious Machiridza being carried to hospital.

Armed police took him from his home in Chitungwiza, on April 13.

But Mugabe's pals with Jacques Chirac:

22 February 2003 Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and his wife, Grace, left their five-star Paris hotel last night at the end of the France-Africa summit, praising French hospitality and President Jacques Chirac's role in "uniting the world.

"We've had tremendous hospitality, we felt at home," said Mr Mugabe, who woke up yesterday, his 79th birthday, in the palatial Plaza Athénée hotel. "We leave with very good impressions about France."

Mr Mugabe spoke of himself in the third person to Radio France Internationale: "Chirac was insistent that we attend because some members of the European Union did not want Mugabe to attend."

Sheesh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Then there's this.

MARK STEYN ECHOES a point made here earlier -- though, being Mark Steyn, he's much funnier about it:

In the last nine months, the New York Times has run 95 stories on Martha Burk and Augusta. So, aside from being outnumbered by police and reporters, Burk's 40 supporters were outnumbered more than two to one by New York Times stories on Burk. Every time the Times mentioned this allegedly raging furor, it attracted approximately another 0.4 of a supporter to her cause. . . .

The Times' carpet bombing of Augusta has proved a pathetic bunker-bust. This is supposed to be the most influential newspaper in America, the one whose front page all but dictates the agenda of the network news shows. And its most fiercely sustained campaign can't fill a single school bus?

Nope.

KANAN MAKIYA REPORTS FAVORABLY on a meeting in Iraq regarding a post-Saddam government. He is, it should be noted, a participant, and not simply an observer.

JUST LEFT A LONG FACULTY COMMITTEE MEETING. Now I'm going to hear a visiting faculty member speak. Then class. Then another committee meeting.

In other words, blogging will be light this afternoon. Sorry.

But you can always read this sophisticated exegesis of the legal ramifications of "Fisking." And don't miss this stirring tale (and no, it really is) from Germany.

I DON'T ORDINARILY LINK TO PEOPLE who write bad things about me in the hopes of encouraging traffic -- you don't feed trolls. But sometimes you just have to notice when somebody's spreading filthy lies about you. (And it is a lie -- actually, I use one of these.)

But at least I'm not dead, as "reported" here. . . .

THIS IS COOL:


MOJAVE – A private manned spaceflight program was unveiled Friday at a desert airport where it has been in secret development by famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan for two years.

A rocket plane, dubbed SpaceShipOne, and the White Knight, an exotic jet designed to carry it aloft for a high-altitude air launch, were shown off in a hangar at Mojave Airport, where Rutan developed Voyager, the airplane that made the first nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world in 1986.

The stubby-winged SpaceShipOne, built by Rutan's Scaled Composites LLC, is designed to carry three people on a suborbital flight to an altitude of 62.5 miles. Rutan set no date for the first attempt, which will come after captive-carry flights and drop tests.

"I want to go high because that's where the view is," Rutan said.

But there's no picture!

UPDATE: Of course, many cool readers immediately sent this link! Many cool pix.

ANDREW SULLIVAN quotes Michael Oakeshott: "I've always thought that the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder."

Yeah, and I have to say, that goes right to the core of what's hard about blogging: you have to pay attention to the news. I've always been a news-junkie, but before InstaPundit I tuned it out sometimes. I did that this weekend, too, and I have to say I enjoyed it. It's not so much the thinking or the writing that's the strain. I'd be doing those anyway. It's the constant exposure to news with all its (real or hyped) stress and gloom.

ANOTHER INTERESTING PIECE from the Arab News:

To a large extent, the Arab media was characterized by selectivity, and it was decidedly on the side of the Iraqi regime. Our intellectuals took over the line and constantly repeated it. Our media then devoted special programs to disseminating and repeating the falsehoods of Sahaf. Their biased point of view was imposed on listeners. Our media attempted to increase the degree of hatred against the coalition by concentrating on the degree of the destruction and the number of civilian victims, without making clear that this was because the regime positioned its forces and tanks in civilian areas. The army of Saddam of which they were so proud because it was the only army which could protect civilians in fact used the civilians to protect itself.

It was the Arab media itself which claimed that the aims of the war were to destroy Iraq, put an end to its capabilities, and, in the end, to occupy it. It did not for a moment consider the role of Iraq’s ruler in the destruction and ruin of the country over a period of more than thirty years. It did not consider how he had destroyed the country’s environment, education, health and legal systems. He also set oil wells on fire and destroyed bridges, and he transformed the cities, especially in the south, into wretchedness, deprived even of clean drinking water.

The Arab media attacked the Iraqi opposition and imposed a collective boycott while satellite stations played host to everyone but the Iraqis who were, after all, the ones most concerned. The Kuwaiti media was the sole exception to this rule. Not one satellite channel had the courage to transmit scenes of welcome to the coalition troops in the liberated cities. . . .

The musings of a simple Iraqi from a liberated area caught my attention. He said: “The Arabs left us and did not liberate us. Why are they attacking the coalition which wants to liberate us?” Why is this simple fact not realized by our men of culture, our intellectuals, our men of the media and our religious leaders, the men who call for participation in “jihad?”

Reality continues to sink in. Read the whole thing to see just how far.

UPDATE: Shanti Mangala wonders when we'll see the same kind of introspection from the BBC. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon sees a sports connection.

DR. FRANK is best-known in the Blogosphere as, duh, a blogger. But in the wider world he's better known as a pioneering punk rocker. Now he's written a song called Democracy, Whisky, Sexy and put it up for free download here. I listened to it, and it's very cool -- kinda reminds me of Balboa, if you've heard those guys. Give it a listen and, if it floats your boat, drop a buck in his tipjar.

Here, FYI, is a link to the webpage for Dr. Frank's band, The Mr. T. Experience.

UPDATE: The link above now goes to a new, industrial strength server, which seems to work. Just in case, here's an alternate link for the song. It seems Dr. Frank's server wasn't up to the load.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ken Layne notes that everybody's downloading this song, and suggests: "Also, if you're a radio host, make sure to play this all the time."

Yeah.

EVEN THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY is angry at the United Nations Human Rights Commision for being a joke:

Human rights organisations are protesting at the inclusion of countries with some of the worst records of abuses on a list of candidates for election to the main United Nations watchdog.
North Korea, Iran and Nigeria are likely to win membership of the UN Commission on Human Rights in an election either at the end of this month or early next. Egypt is another candidate and, even though its abuses are not on the same scale as the others, it has been conducting a vigorous campaign against homosexuals.

The chair of the commission, which is holding its annual meeting in Geneva, is held at present by Libya, another member with a list of deplorable violations.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are among the organisations which are complaining that the inclusion of these countries makes a mockery of the organisation, and are urging reform of the process.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch described the list of candidate countries as "a Who's Who of the worst human rights abusers."

Seeking re-election are other countries with poor records: Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I disagree, however, that including these countries makes a mockery of the organization. Rather, I think it makes its true nature plain.

April 20, 2003

JIM BENNETT WONDERS: "Where have all the Fascists gone?"

After the Germans invaded and occupied most of the rest of Continental Europe, this myth contends, they recruited a few isolated losers and opportunists to form puppet governments, which were hated by the great mass of the population, most of whom supported the resistance.

After the war, goes the myth, this handful of collaborators was punished, and in Germany and Italy themselves, the great mass of the population who had gone along realized their errors and became ardent democrats.

What this myth (promoted partly to allow the construction of NATO) ignores is the fact that fascism, and the proto-fascist movements from which the historical fascist parties emerged, was an integral part of the Continental European cultural and political scene for several generations prior to its political-military victory of 1940, and represented a major current in Continental political and social thought. . . .

Integral to the fascist message were the hatred of individualism and free markets and hostility to the Anglo-American culture that they saw (accurately enough) as the source of those values in the modern world. They hated the popular culture that they saw as eroding respect for the traditional forms of European cultural authority. Of course, they despised the Jews as agents of modernism among them, but that current was muted in post-war Europe, since the fascists had successfully achieved their agenda of destroying the Jewish communities as significant economic and cultural forces on the European continent.

Well, if you want the answer, you'll have to follow the link and read the whole thing.

HERE'S A STORY OF A RALLY AGAINST THE PATRIOT ACT IN UTAH, featuring a rather diverse group of people from across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile here's a somewhat less diverse group that's also opposed, and librarians are also unhappy.

And you can find critical newspaper editorials in the Roanoke Times, the Denver Post, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Palm Beach Post, to name just a few.

More posting later -- but it's a beautiful day, and I don't want to get sucked in. And if you've emailed me, I haven't checked that since Friday, since I know I'll get sucked in if I do. Later.

A WELL-KNOWN IRANIAN BLOGGER AND JOURNALIST HAS BEEN ARRESTED: Jeff Jarvis has more on this. Hmm. I wonder who people could contact about this.

BLACKENED RAINBOWS, a psychologist's blog about teenagers, goth culture, and more, has a rather nice review of my wife's documentary, Six.

(Yeah, I'm taking the weekend off, more or less. But I stopped by the office, and the computer's right here, and, well. . . .)

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