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September 27, 2003

APPARENTLY, IT'S DIFFICULT TO GET AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MOORE -- even when you try really hard.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Racansky points out that "four years ago Michael Moore had this guy arrested."

And, of course, Moore has admitted to, ahem, counterfactual material in Bowling for Columbine, though Spinsanity is unimpressed with his overall honesty.

GEITNER SIMMONS HAS A NICE POST on poverty and the Third World.

THE OTHER REASON (besides power outages) that I've been blogging less this weekend is Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver -- which is also the subject of an interesting collaborative annotation project here.

JEFF JARVIS IS UNIMPRESSED with Burger King's new low-fat sandwich. It's awful. And so small!

DAVID BROOKS WRITES ON THE CRUSHING OF DIVERSITY ON CAMPUSES. Juan Non-Volokh agrees:

When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I had several long discussions with my senior essay advisor about whether to pursue my PhD. My advisor, who was himself quite liberal, cautioned against it, largely because of my emerging, right-of-center political views. As he described it, succeeding in the liberal arts academy is tough enough as it is without the added burden of holding unpopular views. To illustrate the risk, he noted that one of his colleagues on the graduate admissions committee explicitly blackballed each and every candidate who had ever received financial support (scholarships, fellowships, etc.) from the John M. Olin Foundation because, his colleague insisted, the Olin Foundation only funded people who thought like they did, and Yale did not want any graduate students who thought that way. If I truly wanted to be an academic, he counseled, I was better off going to law school.

Anything but that! Follow the links in the Volokh post for more comments on Brooks' column.

UPDATE: David Adesnik agrees with Jacob T. Levy (quoted in the Brooks piece, in case you didn't follow the link) that this isn't such a big deal.

Since the piece is about arts and sciences hiring, I couldn't say, and I imagine that it varies a lot from institution to institution. Hiring at my school is pretty non-ideological, and the committees generally get along pretty well. But then, we're a pretty collegial faculty, and plenty of others, er, aren't.

And read this, too.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg comments.

QUAGMIRE IN KNOXVILLE: The power was out this afternoon. It's back on now.

EVERYBODY is getting into the Iraq-media-criticism game:

Bishop Abouna, a Chaldean Catholic, told the Catholic Herald in London that the situation in Iraq is steadily improving rather than descending into a morass resembling the Vietnam War, as often depicted by media outlets.

"It's getting better but still there are many problems," Bishop Abouna said. "The first problem is that they need security, then they need water and electricity -- and all these things are getting better."

"The media are exaggerating a lot of things. They should be realistic about the situation in Iraq. Newspapers and television are saying a lot of things that aren't true. When they go there they can see everything (is changing)," he said.

It's officially a trend now.

September 26, 2003

HOSSEIN DERAKSHAN has a post on what weblogs can do for Iran.

RED HERRING IS BACK. Well, sort of.

HERE IT IS, a major holiday, and I almost missed it!

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Glen:
Can't believe you still celebrate this overly-commercialized holiday. Ever since Bush, Cheney and their bloodsucking crew took over this country, this holiday has been turned into nothing but another day for Big Cooking Oil and Big Corn to rape the public.

Wasn't like that during the Clinton years. Those were the days when corn dogs were real; and big, too.

Bush-Cheney and corn dogs is just a way now to distract the public from the failed policies of the administration. Corn dogs and circus, that's what it is.

But you can get them with mustard! Gulden's!

DR. MANHATTAN offers a eulogy for Edward Said:

I'd argue that few if any intellectuals of his generation can truly be said to have been more devoted to "gods that fail." Said spent much of the 1970s and 1980s advocating for a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians. But when faced with the possibility that such a solution might actually be possible, Said became a fierce enemy of the concept and the means of its realization. Rather than agitating for a way to make the Oslo Accords better, he denounced Yasser Arafat as a dictator and a sellout. (The "dictator" part was certainly true, but Said's sudden discovery of those tendencies after a long history as an Arafat adviser does not speak well of his powers of observance.) Rather than trying to work against Arafat to build a better Palestinian society during the Oslo years, he became a leader of the intellectual resistance to the whole two-state enterprise. His proposal was a "secular, binational state" - an idea that only makes sense in the ivory tower. It is well known that the Palestinians supported Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept the Palestinian state offered at Camp David, believing they could get all of Israel. They were encouraged in this hope by intellectuals such as Said.

Read the whole thing.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE BLOGGER ERIC ZORN weighs in on the Bee blog brouhaha:

In reality, what needs to emerge here if the j-blog isn't going to die at birth, is an understanding on the part of editors and readers that, procedurally, a blog is much more like an appearance on a TV panel program or talk-radio show than it is a fully sanctioned, completely vetted declaration in cold type.

My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times.

And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors.

Yep.

IS THE SECRET SERVICE RESTRICTING ANTI-BUSH PROTESTS? Read this post by Eugene Volokh. And scroll up for more.

"TWENTY QUESTIONS THE MEDIA WILL NOT ASK ABOUT IRAQ:"

1. Where is all the money from the UN’s Oil for Food Program?

2. How many people have now lived at least six months longer than they would have under Saddam?

3. How many civilians were really killed in the major combat portion of the war?

4. How many civilians have been killed since the end of major combat?

5. How unreliable is the Iraqi electric distribution system in comparison to, say, the Washington, D.C., area system?

You'll have to follow the link to see the rest. I'd like to see question #1 answered. And I'd like to see Kofi Annan face some close and careful questioning on the topic.

DAVID NISHIMURA POINTS OUT that the French are now questioning themselves. As they should. I like it that Chirac's handling of the Iraq matter is being called a "diplomatic Agincourt."

PAUL JOHNSON WRITES ON THE FRENCH HEAT DEATH WAVE and related topics:

One thing history teaches, over and over again, is that there are no shortcuts. Human societies advance the hard way; there is no alternative. Communism promised Utopia on Earth. After three-quarters of a century of unparalleled sufferings, the Soviet Union collapsed in privation and misery, leaving massive Russia with an economy no bigger than tiny Holland's. We are now watching the spectacle of another experiment in hedonism, the European Union, as it learns the grim facts of life.

Meanwhile the latest total is 19,000 deaths in Europe, 14,802 in France, which Johnson identifies as the source of the EU's governing philosophy.

CHINESE PLANS FOR A MANNED SPACE PROGRAM continue to advance.

HERE'S ANOTHER PIECE ON MEDIA REPORTING IN IRAQ ("More of the media should embed themselves with the Iraqi people outside the Sunni Triangle, rather than inside the Baghdad bunker"), and here's another firsthand report from the troops hitting the mainstream media. I think we have a trend, here.

Meanwhile Jay Rosen gets it right:

In press think, journalists choose the watchdog who growls too much over the cheerleader with plastic smile, and they believe these to be the relevant choices. . . .

Maybe the complaint is not with covering the problems; it’s the narrow range of problems seen in the news. Maybe you’re not missing the positive note so much as proper warning signals about what could go wrong, if we’re not alert. Preventative journalism, (one possible alternative) talks openly about problems; it also has tacit confidence they can be solved, which is a democratic attitude.

I don’t think the press is too negative. But it is at times too unimaginative to tell me what’s going on. Personally, I want to know about problems on the ground in Iraq, a country my country has occupied; and if it takes relentless problem-scouting by special ops in the press, I want that too. But relentless problem-solving is what’s needed on the ground and in the atmosphere of Iraq. This much we know. There’s a big story in wait out there, but journalists do not necessarily know how to tell it.

Or at least, care enough to do so. But that seems to be changing. And I agree, I don't want cheerleading. But fake-toughness is just as phony as a plastic smile.

IF IT CAN'T BE FIXED WITH DUCT TAPE, it can't be fixed.

RANDY BARNETT looks at the swift passage of do-not-call legislation and asks what happened to "gridlock?"

Perhaps genuinely popular legislation is not so hard to pass after all? Perhaps the other stuff is harder to enact because significant segments of the population oppose them?

Questions worth asking.

UPDATE: And Ernest Svenson was asking them over a year ago. And invoking Father Guido Sarducci!

HERE'S A USA TODAY STORY on the explosion of consumerism and entrepreneurialism in Iraq.

Virginia Postrel comments: "TVs, refrigerators, and air conditioners--Anna Quindlen won't like this news."

Boo freakin' hoo, as they say. Here's the really good news from the story:

Hassan al-Dinwani, 53, owner of al-Yussir Trading Shops in Baghdad's Karada neighborhood, says one of his new customers was a policeman. ''This was a surprise to me,'' he says. In the past, officers couldn't buy goods at his shop because their salaries were too low.

Iraqi police Lt. Raad Rasheed says his salary is now the equivalent of $275 a month, up from $25 before the war. ''My family is happy,'' he says. ''I am also more focused on my job because I no longer have to worry about money.''

Underpaid police and functionaries, and the resultant corruption -- many literally can't feed their families without income from bribes -- are a blight on much of the world. Sounds like this isn't the case in Iraq.

September 25, 2003

AL QAEDA IS WORRIED ABOUT INFILTRATORS and engaging in mole hunts. They're also (scroll up) facing problems in Yemen. Heh. All from Rantburg, a site that's chock-full of interesting intelligence.

CONTENT ANALYSIS: "BBC reporters seemed much more sceptical about Coalition claims than they were about what the Iraqis were telling them."

You don't say.

BIG EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN: Not much news yet.

"WE'VE UNDOUBTEDLY LOST SOME OF OUR AUDIENCE, to Web sites that specialize in politically tinted news."

CALL ME CRAZY, but I'm suspicious about this: "United Nations nuclear inspectors have reportedly found traces of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at a second site in Iran."

HERE'S A REPORT from the World Congress of Philosophy, which was in Turkey this year.

EDWARD SAID IS DEAD. Here's some commentary on his work, by Adil Farooq. And here's more from Charles Paul Freund.

UPDATE: Here's more.

VIRGINIA POSTREL offers an excellent suggestion in support of Chief Wiggles' toys for Iraqi children initiative. She suggests that you order them from Toys RUs on Amazon and have them shipped directly to the Chief. Here's his address:

Chief Wiggles
CPA-C2, Debriefer
APO AE 09335

I suspect that he'll get a lot of mail. Be sure to follow the link to his site to see the kinds of things that he's looking for, and the kinds of things he doesn't want you to send. Of course, as I suggested earlier, he should definitely get at least one of these.

Her suggestion that the Chief set up a wishlist is a good one, too. If he does, I'll post a link.

PAUL BOUTIN has beaten me to the punch with a review of Neal Stephenson's new novel, Quicksilver. Of course, the publisher probably sent him an advance copy. Publishers send me books, too, but they're mostly policy-geek stuff (not that there's anything wrong with that!), not cool novels.

HUGH HEWITT contrasts editors who aren't needed with editors who are.

MORE FIRSTHAND REPORTING FROM IRAQ, via Bergen to Baghdad. Follow the links on the right -- lots of photos, too.

BEN DOMENECH is angry at how long it's taking PEPCO to get power restored. But don't get carried away, Ben!

UPDATE: Gregg Easterbrook has a lot more on this, and slams the Post for not taking the story seriously:

Right now the biggest populist story in a generation is playing out in Washington. The Washington Times and WTOP Newsradio, which care about Washington, are hitting the story with everything they've got. The Washington Post, which holds Washington and especially its suburbs in contempt, is fumbling the populist story in its backyard.

Ouch.

THE PROMISED LENGTHY POST on the death penalty, and Scott Turow's new nonfiction book thereon, is now up over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Talkleft comments.

WINDS OF CHANGE has an Iraq roundup as well as a more general war news roundup, both chock-full of links to stories you'd be likely to miss otherwise.

UPDATE: And Jim Miller has an interesting WMD item.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's another war roundup that's worth a look. And read this post on intelligence failures.

GEITNER SIMMONS has some thoughts on the whole "northern secession" issue.

Meanwhile, this John Tabin column examines the phenomenon of "South Park Republicans." Is Arnold one?

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus notes the West Virginia problem that might result from secession.

RED TED has a nice post on the essence of the Iraq question, from a responsible anti-war perspective:

Lets take the Bush team at their implied pre-war word. Lets assume that the long-term goal of the war is indeed to create a vibrant democracy on the banks of the Euphrates. Lets pass on the questions of international law, wrap ourselves in the UN resolutions, and deny our political goals even as we work to fulfil them. How then should we judge policy in Iraq and how then should we suggest alternatives.

For the record, I said pre-war and I say again now, that this is a high-risk strategy, that if it works it will work wonderfully, and that I hope that it does work. I do believe in the contagion of liberty, it has worked in the past and it will work in the future. The long term goals are positive despite the cynical way that they were implemented.

But are the policies currently being pursued on the ground in Iraq working to further and achieve those democratic goals? There I just do not know the answer. The news I see is fragmented and politicized. I have seen a number of accounts of Iraqis welcoming American troops, of setting up new local institutions, there are now hundreds of newspapers where once there were only a few state-run newspapers. So some of the infrastructure of a democratic society is beginning to appear. Iraq was one of the more secular states in the Middle East and it was also one of the more entrepreneurial. There are a few early signs that Iraq might well become a powerhouse.

There is also bad news - not just the continuing guerilla attacks in the middle of the country. Those are bound to continue as long as a few people are willing to organize them and the bulk of the Iraqi people is not willing to shame and condemn them. Beyond that, it appears that the war planning staff forgot to plan for peace - a damning indictment of the whole idea that the subtext of the war was building a democratic society. . . .

If I were giving advice to Democratic strategists, it would be to focus on the implementation of the post-war policy in Iraq. Argue from administrative competence, argue against good-ole-boy contracting, argue against people who over commit the nation without a plan, and make SURE that you have a plan yourself.

Read the whole thing. I'd like to see more along these lines. So far, it looks as if Howard Dean is taking this tack.

SYLVAIN GALINEAU has a post on the anti-anti-Americans in France.

DONALD WALTER, the federal judge whose piece on Iraq I posted here last week, now has an oped on the same topic in the New York Post. Nice to see that this stuff is making it into the mainstream media. Then there's this piece by Jack Kelly:

Last week, I covered the return to Pittsburgh from Iraq of a Marine reserve military police company. These Marines made the march of Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division, and spent the bulk of the postwar period escorting convoys between Basra and Najaf. Each of the seven Marines I interviewed said that more than 90 percent of the Iraqis they encountered were friendly.

The accounts of these Marines square with those of most other servicemen returned from Iraq, and with my own experiences as a reporter embedded with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in western Iraq, and with the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. But it's a story you hardly ever hear on the evening news.

Iraq is a dangerous place. Saddam Hussein is still at large, as are thousands of his diehard supporters. They've been joined by hundreds, perhaps thousands of foreign terrorists. Though these "insurgents" cannot challenge the U.S. military for control of any part of the country, they'll be able to conduct remote ambushes and terror bombings for months to come.

But viewed in historical perspective, things in Iraq are pretty good, and getting better. The insurgents are a tiny — and dwindling — minority. Most of the country is at peace. Nobody is starving. Signs of reviving economic activity are everywhere. In no country in the Arab world are Americans as popular as they are in Iraq.

Some more of those returning-soldier accounts that David Adesnik was asking for. And they do all seem consistent with the reports of other non-media observers, and even those of some returning reporters now. Nice to see a little perspective starting to appear.

UPDATE: Reader John MacDonald emails:

Dan Rather was on 60 minutes II yesterday from Baghdad.The scene of traffic moving behind him was revealing in its normalcy.If the media persists in focusing mostly on the negatives they are going to lose their credibility.The great unwashed aren't total idiots.

Indeed. Meanwhile Howard Veit emails that Bush is the idiot:

Bush is committing political suicide by not countering the media assault on the Iraq War. All he'd have to do is read aloud one letter per day from a soldier over there. He won't do it or hasn't the moxie to do it. Those of us who looked at the last election as one between two mediocre men are fearful that we were right. It is too stupid for words to allow a Left Wing Media to destroy this presidency but it is happening before our eyes. Bush is doing nothing to stop it. And all he'd have to do is read one letter per day from the web. You tell me, is that stupid or not?

Yeah, the vaunted White House spin machine seems to have been stuck between cycles on this one.

SPOONS THINKS that General Shelton should back up his charges against Wesley Clark:

I think it's pretty clear that Shelton either said far too much, or far too little. If he wanted to be discreet, he could easily have brushed off the question. If, on the other hand, he wanted to tell why he thinks Clark is a bad guy, he could have backed up his statement with details and facts. Instead, he made a vague, ambiguous allegation that Clark lacked integrity and character.

I think, though, that Spoons is wrong to connect this with John Burns' statements about Iraq. Shelton made an unspecified charge against a named person in the context of a converstation about that person. Burns made a specific charge against an unnamed person, in the context of a more general discussion of the media and Iraq. That doesn't mean that I don't think he should name the offender -- I do -- but it's not the same thing. Shelton might be accused of character assassination, but Burns, not having named the person, can't be.

RICHARD MINITER offers a lengthy summary of evidence for an Iraq / Al Qaeda connection.

HERE'S AN INTERVIEW WITH REP. JIM MARSHALL (D-GA), about media coverage of Iraq:

MARSHALL: Right. It's Vietnam (search) deja vu. I was a recon sergeant in Vietnam and went through this process of trying to deal with a guerrilla war. It is a very difficult thing to do and could be that things weren't going well.

Well, I came away with the impression that things are going well. Certainly a good bit better than seems to me, the overall American seems to thinks.

And the important thing is for Americans to understand that the news media tends to dwell on the negative. It happens in your own hometown, the typical TV show, the typical newspaper article focuses on murders and rapes. And that's what you're seeing right now. What you don't see is the progress. . . .

MARSHALL: Well, it is a guerrilla war. And if we don't appear to have resolve, then Iraqis are going to be a lot less likely to cooperate with us, a lot less likely to be willingly in the Army and willingly out there, going after the guerrillas.

We can't force freedom on the Iraqis. The Iraqis have to take it for themselves. They can distinguish one from another. We can't do that. We can't read the street signs. We don't know the language. They do. They can go in there and deal with this guerrilla situation.

It's not like Vietnam. In Vietnam, you had the Chinese and Russians...

HUME: Right. Behind them.

MARSHALL: Behind them. You don't have anything like that here. We can take care of this as long as the Iraqis step forward. They're less likely to step forward if we're pessimistic. We're more likely to be pessimistic if we're getting a lot of negative news coverage. And that's the connection.

I'd be interested in hearing more details about how the CPA is doing. And I'd like to know what ever happened to the Oil Trust idea.

Meanwhile here's a roundup of other commentary on the negative slant from Iraq.

THE GUANTANAMO ESPIONAGE PROBE has expanded to encompass a third suspect. This is very troubling, and makes you wonder who's doing security clearances.

Hey, but at least they're making sure there are no openly-gay people in the military!

I DIDN'T WATCH THE CALIFORNIA DEBATE, but there's lots of information on how it went at PrestoPundit, Kausfiles, and Bee serial-edited-Web-columnist and former blogger Daniel Weintraub.

Meanwhile, Republicans are figuring out something I've been saying all along: Bush is vulnerable in 2004.

UPDATE: Here's Howard Kurtz's take on the debate. And yes, I was reading Neal Stephenson's new novel instead. I'm up to page 112, and so far it's great although he's still warming up.

"WILL SADDAM'S BIGGEST SUCK-UP please come forward?" I agree with Andrew Sullivan and Jack Shafer on this.

NO, I'M NOT DYING of some dreadful disease. My "stop and smell the flowers" advice stems from a couple of things. One is that, sadly, I know some people who are -- and even beyond that, quite a few friends and family have had various surgeries lately, putting such things on my mind. The other is my sense that the Blogosphere -- like the journalistic and political worlds generally -- is too het up. (See this Roger Simon post for more.) And I realized after the second anniversary of September 11 that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and pacing is required.

September 24, 2003

IT REALLY WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY, so I took the laptop to the patio at the Downtown Grill and Brewery (free wireless Internet!) and sat outside and drank coffee while I wrote a massive post for the MSNBC site tomorrow, on the death penalty and Scott Turow's new book, Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty.

Regular InstaPundit readers won't be surprised to learn that I'm not upset with the morality of the death penalty per se, but rather regard it as another big government program that doesn't work very well. I have a few comments on social context, crime-fighting in general, and more, but you'll just have to wait until tomorrow to read them.

In the meantime, I suggest that you seize the opportunity to enjoy life. If you're reading this, you're probably not in prison, or on Death Row. If you were either of those things, your everyday life would seem pretty damn great. Keep that in mind. I will -- I'll be reading Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, which came today. Woohoo!

And, hey, at least I don't have this guy's problems! But that's because I don't have a butler. And I drink Sumatra Mandheling. Otherwise, there's a shocking similarity.

CHRIS MOONEY has a new blog! Check it out.

BRIAN CARNELL ASKS: Who is lying -- Michael Moore, or Wesley Clark?

My money's on Moore, for obvious reasons, but you never know.

UPDATE: Then again, Clark has issues too, apparently. Maybe we shouldn't believe either of them?

FIGHT OVARIAN CANCER: I'm willing to do my part to prevent this scourge. (Via GruntDoc).



IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, but I had too much work to let me run off to the mountains like last week, so I had to settle for a walk around campus. It's such a beautiful day that it wasn't too bad a second choice.


I tried to really focus on how the campus is different from when I was in college a bit over 20 years ago. Some things aren't that different -- fashions have come full circle in many departments. The student body, which was then only slightly more female than male, is now considerably more so -- I haven't seen numbers, but I've heard that it's more than 60% female and just walking around that looks plausible. And nearly every one of the female students seems to be talking on a cellphone as she walks. (The men seldom are, so I guess the women are talking to one another).

The population is far more diverse. In particular, there are far more asians -- both Americans of asian descent, and in particular actual student-visa asians from China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I suspect that the same trends apply to most universities.

For those who want to see more pictures (and there are generally some Knoxville expats, or UT alumni, who do), click here, here, here and here.

HERE'S MORE FIRSTHAND REPORTING, this about how Al Jazeera is being received in Iraq.

HERE'S A COLUMN by the Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten on the Bee blog brouhaha.

ACCOUNTABILITY DEMANDS CONSEQUENCES. Bill Clinton said it, but the NASA safety board is actually living it, resigning in light of criticism over the Columbia accident.

That's nine more than resigned from the FBI or CIA after 9/11.

LOOTING UPDATE: When you consider all the attention that Enron got in Europe, it's interesting that scandals like this one don't get much attention in the United States:

Four years after a sleaze row destroyed the previous European Commission, prompting its unprecedented mass resignation, the nightmare has returned to haunt its successor. . . .

The case, which was described as the "looting" of Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, uncovered a catalogue of failings and provoked calls for the Spanish commissioner Pedro Solbes Mira - who is ultimately responsible for Eurostat - to resign. . . .

In 1999 the previous Commission was forced to resign en masse after an inquiry concluded it was "becoming difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsib-ility". Four years later no one seems willing to take the rap.

There are differences between the cases, however. In 1999 the allegations were directed against commissioners, notably Edith Cresson who hired her dentist as a scientific adviser.

Maybe this sort of thing just isn't news because it's so common?

/ STRASBOURG - A fresh investigation by the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, has been launched into the European Commission’s technology directorate over alleged systematic theft by officials, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

This contradicts claims made by the Commission yesterday (23 September) that financial irregularities were only present in the EU statistical office, Eurostat.

A confidential letter sent to Commission vice-president Neil Kinnock, seen by the Daily Telegraph, claimed the group’s health unit, C4, had skimmed million of euros through contracts with Greek companies, and claims that alleged abuses at Eurostat were "almost insignificant" by comparison.

The newspaper says that the projects were titled Childcare, Citation, e-Remedy, HealthMarket, D-lab and Pharma among others.

It appears that Unit C4 used "friendly evaluators", who steered contracts to companies in which they had a financial interest.

I seem to remember a lot of Euro-preening about the superiority of "European-style" capitalism back when Enron was in the news. Is this what they were talking about?

MATT WELCH HAS OBSERVATIONS on the rather unbecoming whining from the Bee's ombudsman. People disagree with him! The horror!

Heh. He should have to read my email. . . .

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES -- now with 100% more socialist realism!

Meanwhile Winds of Change has a very useful (and link-rich) roundup of what's going on in the 'stans.

A GOOD START TO THE DAY: In yesterday's mail was a "test pressing" of a CD rerelease by my favorite 1980s rock 'n' roll band, The Rainmakers. It's their first album, but I never got it on CD. I saw them in a hell of a show in Washington, double-billed with the then-unknown Steve Earle, for 5 bucks. (Mickey Kaus was at that show, too, but I didn't know it at the time). And driving in to work as the fog lifted from the lake along Cherokee Boulevard, it was just too pretty not to take a picture. So, I did.

Now I'm in the office, going through my clogged inbox while Let My People Go-Go plays in the background. Not as nice as the drive in, but not bad.

You've got to enjoy stuff like this, because it's what life's about. I always knew that, to a degree, but with each passing year that knowledge gets closer to the bone.

UPDATE: You can stream some of the Rainmakers' tunes here and even see a few videos. And Rainmakers frontman Bob Walkenhorst has a solo album out, though I haven't heard it yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And while I'm mentioning favorite '80s rock and roll bands, you might want to check out the White Animals' website. And listen to "Ecstasy," a song that defines an era.

HERE'S INTERESTING NEWS:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 23 — After five months of foreign military occupation and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows.

Despite the systemic collapse of government and civic institutions, a wave of looting and violence, and shortages of water and electricity, 67 percent of 1,178 Iraqis told a Gallup survey team that within five years, their lives would be better than before the American and British invasion.

Hmm. Polls are iffy, and polls in former dictatorships moreso. On the other hand, things are better elsewhere in the country, suggesting that there might actually be more enthusiasm overall. Ambit has links to other polls from Iraq, showing generally similar sentiments.

Wonder if this will get as much prominence on the evening news as a domestic poll showing that 66% of Americans disapproved of the war would. . . .?

UPDATE: Reader Ben Dolfin adds an interesting gloss:

You make a good point about the accuracy of polls in former dictatorships, but you missed an interesting clue. Based on who they pander too with their answers we can tell they know who is in charge and who will be in charge for the forseeable future. I'd be more worried if they still wanted to sacrifice their blood and souls for Saddam, that'd mean they think he'll be back in charge soon.

So if they're telling the truth then it's a good thing, and if they're lying to us at least they are kissing our butt instead of Saddam's.

Good point.

BILL HOBBS looks at the seamy side of the record industry. And scroll up for some close readings of speeches by Bush and Rice.

MORE SCENES FROM A MALL: My TechCentralStation column for this week is up. And Megan McArdle has a piece in TCS today, too.

PROBLEMS WITH ELECTRONIC VOTING: Marc Rotenberg has a piece in Technology Review, noting:

Back in the real world, however, the evidence is mounting daily that a lot more work needs to be done before the vote counting process—truly the kernel of democracy—is turned over to devices that lack adequate auditing and operate in secret. One recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and Rice University found that the high-tech voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems allowed voters and poll workers to cast extra votes, and also that cryptographic keys, the basic element of system security, were not properly managed. The governor of Maryland has called for an investigation to determine whether the state's $54 million purchase of these so-called direct recording electronic (or DRE) systems was a wise move.

Another report finds that during San Luis Obispo County's March 2003 primary in California, absentee vote tallies were sent to an Internet site operated by Diebold several hours before the poll closed. According to election law, officials may not release tallies until voting is completed. An MIT-Caltech study found that regular test forms, which allow for verification, provide higher accuracy than DRE. Considering how much money will be spent in the next year to select the president of the United States, it is remarkable that more money is not being spent to ensure that the new technologies for vote tabulation actually work.

There's a certain amount of conspiracy-theorizing on this topic (not in Rotenberg's piece, but in general) but the fact is that electronic voting systems just aren't up to the job. I don't know enough to offer an opinion on whether they ever will be, but it seems pretty plain that they aren't right now.

Here's more from Salon's Farhad Manjoo, though you'll have to sit through an ad to read it if you don't subscribe. There is a solution, of course. But will public officials be brave enough to endorse this technology?

September 23, 2003

THE FBI WANTS NOAH SHACHTMAN'S NOTES. He mentions the Vanessa Leggett case -- here's a piece I wrote about that case for the Wall Street Journal last year.

SPACE ELEVATORS: Arthur Clarke has been pushing this idea for years. Now it's getting some support.

HUGO CHAVEZ IS REFUSING TO RECOGNIZE IRAQ at OPEC. I rather suspect that this will backfire.

NEO-SECESSIONISTS -- in the north?

These are The Crazy Years.

MARK GLASER HAS A COLUMN on the whole should-blogs-be-edited question.

Meanwhile, Matt Welch writes that ombudsmen are worthless, and Iberian Notes is close to war with the ombudsman from La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has evidence that the Bee ombudsman needs to sort out some issues. Jeez.

Drezner also has some questions for journalist blog-readers as part of a blog-study he's doing.

FRANK J. HAS FOUND SOMETHING more exciting than poking fun at me -- he wants to set up a blog devoted to publishing emails and letters from troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that people can hear their voices along with those of the Big Media types.

JAMES MORROW'S BLOG HAS MOVED (AGAIN) to this URL.

HERE'S SOMETHING FROM BUSH'S U.N. SPEECH that doesn't seem to be getting that much attention:

There's another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world's borders. . . .

We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.

If you'll follow the link, you'll see that Bush spends rather a lot of time talking about this.

UPDATE: A reader sends a link to this National Geographic article on the subject. Excerpt:

There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.

I'm for legalizing drugs to deal with the evils of the "illegal drug trade." That approach won't work for slavery, obviously.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Racansky sends a link to Antislavery.org for more information.

ANOTHER MAJOR BLACKOUT, this time in Denmark. Are we actually seeing more of these, or are they just getting more attention?

JOSH MARSHALL FINDS THAT THE TRUTH HURTS. He's not happy about Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall (whom Josh originally misidentified as a Republican) saying that negative media coverage is getting our troops killed. But Marshall the Congressman, and a Vietnam vet, was there, and thinks negative publicity is encouraging the Baathist holdouts to believe that they can pull a Mogadishu and get the United States to pull out. Marshall the pundit might want to ponder the possibility that reflexive media negativity, counted on by our foes to advance their plans, might actually, you know, advance their plans.

It's not the reporting of criticisms or bad things that's the issue -- the first-person accounts I link below all have criticisms and negative information. It's the lazy Vietnam-templating, the "of course America must be losing" spin, the implicit and sometimes explicit sneer, and the relentless bringing to the fore of every convenient negative fact while suppressing the positive ones that's the issue. It's what the terrorists are counting on, and it's what too many in the media are happy to deliver, because they think it'll hurt Bush.

And it doesn't get any lower than that.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Aubrey emails: "Do you think the journalist Marshall might want to explain what, factually, is wrong with Rep. Marshall's statement?" I hope he will.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Henry Hanks observes:

Jim Marshall could very well run to replace Zell Miller in GA and could also very well decide who controls the Senate in 2004... Democrats would be well advised not to drive him too far away...

Especially when he's, like, right.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments, and praises Howard Dean:

In fact, one of the good things about Dean's campaign has been his clear statement that we need the Iraqi liberation to work.

I agree.

HERE'S ANOTHER FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM IRAQ featuring a lot of stuff we're not hearing from the big guys.

UPDATE: Read this, too:

There is a sea change going on, right now, and CNN will be the last place to learn about it.

Remember that story early in the war about the Iraqis attacking an Al-Jazeera van and destroying it and wounding its crew? CNN barely covered it, but the Iraqis I have spoken to recently said they are sick and tired of the "old" Arab media (which strangely enough includes Al-Jazeera to them) reporting only the negatives and ignoring the progress they've made and the fact that for many, things are better...they see this as other Arabs trying to stir up trouble in "their" country. And they resent it.

They want Al-Jazeera and Manar out of there, and they want to get on rebuilding their country themselves, thank you very much. They don't need those guys making it worse by running erroneous and unretracted stories like the one a few weeks back about US soldiers raping Iraqi girls-- and thereby bringing even more violence. They want a new country.

And here's some support here for what he says about Iraqis' dislike of Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Reader Elizabeth King emails:

I'm not surprised that the media coverage of Iraq is now being reported as unduly negative. I could tell back in June that this year would be the Summer of the Iraqi Quagmire, much as last year was the Summer of Kidnapped Children, and 2001 was the Summer of Shark Attacks.

Like mad dogs and Englishmen, the media spend too much time in the heat of the day ... and it shows.

I think they're spending too much time in hotel bars with former Baathist minders, actually.

HOWARD LOVY has some interesting observations on science journalism that are occasioned by a story on nanotechnology, but that are applicable to lots of other subjects.

UPDATE: His permalinks are busted now. Here's the site link -- just scroll down.

IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T HEARD, the 9th Circuit, en banc, has reversed the panel decision, so the recall is on. Here's the opinion.

Larry Solum has a big roundup post with comments, quotations, and summaries of the opinion.

ARNOLD KLING HAS AN INTERESTING LOOK at the United Nations and American politics.

YOU KNOW, WHO NEEDS TO BASH THE MEDIA when they're so busy doing it to themselves?

Convicted child killer Joel Steinberg has a job as a television producer waiting when he's released from prison next summer after serving 17 years, his attorney said Monday.

Steinberg will work for ``New York Confidential,'' an interview show on a local cable station, attorney Darnay Hoffman said.

``He has contacts in prison,'' Hoffman said, explaining that Steinberg, a disbarred lawyer, knows some of the state's most notorious criminals. ``He knows how to go into a prison and get a story.''

Steinberg, 62, is completing an 8-to-25-year prison term for manslaughter in the death of his illegally adopted daughter, Lisa, and is expected to be released next June.

Coming soon: Eric Rudolph on the women's-health beat.

SPEAKING OF THE MEDIA AND IRAQ, the University of Tennessee's Howard Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy is having a rather impressive symposium on the subject, to judge from the guest list, and it's being webcast. You can stream it live from this page.

THE IRAQ MEDIA-BIAS STORY has hit USA Today. There's a survey of reporters with different views on how things are going, which leads Virginia Postrel to observe that "There's good news and bad news, not a single coherent narrative. . . . All of which explains why I don't, from my perch in the United States, opine on the 'real' situation in Iraq."

And neither do I, of course. But what has been obvious from here is that the bad news has been consistently overplayed and the good news consistently underplayed, as demonstrated by the mismatch between the very coherent "quagmire" narrative from the Big Media and what we've heard from returning members of Congress, federal judges, touring musicians, military bloggers, returning servicemembers and -- now, finally -- members of the press.

To make an Amartya Sen sort of point, what's unfortunate about the slanted (and lazy) nature of most of the reporting is that it doesn't point out real problems in ways that can let them be fixed, and that will bring them to the attention of people who can fix them. When the coverage continues to come from the same tired Vietnam template, applied to a very different situation, it's not terribly useful and I suspect that it's largely tuned out by folks in the White House who assume (more or less correctly) that it's intended to hurt them.

But that means that they have to rely on the reports of people in the chain of command, who have their own agendas. The press is supposed to be a check on that sort of thing, but it's fallen down on the job in postwar Iraq. Fortunately, the Internet has taken up some of the slack, and is (I'm being hopeful here) spurring the Big Media folks to take a second look at what they're doing.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Susanna Cornett offers perspective.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Drum thinks that I can't tell if the reporting is biased because I'm not in Iraq. Huh? When the media reports are contradicted by the reports from all sorts of other people in the region, and when even the reporters admit that they're not telling the whole story, and when Dan Rather is freakin' apologizing, and when we've heard the same "quagmire" stuff in the past only to have it turn out bogus, I think I can tell. (And Kevin doesn't let his own distance from Iraq stop him from offering his own opinion on what's going on there, in the very same post.)

The defensiveness that the left is showing on this issue suggests to me that it's hit a nerve. The "quagmire" political strategy is looking like a loser -- again.

STILL MORE: And here's another firsthand report:

On the ground in Iraq, I’ve caught wind of and read recent news articles back in the states. I figured I could clarify some things. As usual, the news media has blown some things way out of proportion.

The countryside is getting more safe by the day despite all the attacks you are hearing about. Imagine if every shooting incident or robbery committed in Los Angeles was blown way out of proportion. This is a country where most of the Saddam Hussein thugs are being chased around like scared rabbits by coalition forces. It is literally open season on them! We hunt them down like animals.

We just keep hearing things like this.

GERMANS TO BUSH: "Hey, buddy, we sure could use some help!"

I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED: It's France and the U.N. in a corrupt arms deal! Go figure.

CHIEF WIGGLES IS COLLECTING TOYS FOR KIDS IN IRAQ. There's an address. I think I could find a spare Barbie or two around this place, if I look, well . . . anywhere, actually.

UPDATE: Yeah, I know. The Chief says no Barbie dolls. Just wishful thinking on my part.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, it's obvious what we should be sending.

JAY ROSEN: Editors Rock Who Let Weblogs Roll. I hope they read this piece at the Bee.

September 22, 2003

MORE DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS OF CONGRESS are calling press coverage of Iraq unduly negative:

Journalists are giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq, a bipartisan congressional group that has just returned from a three-day House Armed Services Committee visit to assess stabilization efforts and the condition of U.S. troops said.

Lawmakers charged that reporters rarely stray from Baghdad and have a “police-blotter” mindset that results in terror attacks, deaths and injuries displacing accounts of progress in other areas.

Comparisons with Vietnam were farfetched, members said.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee’s ranking member, said, “The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects — from soccer fields to schools to refineries — all good stuff and that isn’t being reported.”

Skelton and other Democrats on the trip said they plan to reach out to all members of their caucus and explain what they observed. . . .

The lawmakers said they worry that the overall negative tone of American press outlets’ reports did not do justice to the progress being made by an occupying force reconstructing a country after years of neglect and in the face of remaining hostile elements that profited under the old regime.

There's plenty of criticism of the Administration's postwar policy, but it's constructive criticism, not faux-Vietnam cut-and-paste carping.

UPDATE: This post by Jay Rosen seems fitting somehow:

Many journalists have stopped kidding themselves about their ability to remain completely detached. But this thought is rarely developed because it might lead to asking: what kind of attachment to the republic—or local community—should journalists be developing today, given everything going on around them? Existing press think does not cover this ground, which is more important than ever. You can call the press a player, but what you cannot do is ask: what’s it playing for?

(Emphasis added.) Criticism's fine. It's even useful, when it's specific and factual rather than atmospheric and theatrical. But as Lileks notes, you'd just like to hear 'em say "I hope we win." Or at least not sound like they hope we lose.

UPDATE: Here's a John Leo column on the media and Iraq, too.

MARK GLASER'S ASKING ME about the Weintraub/Bee affair, and whether my MSNBC site is "muzzled" since it has an editor. That's a fair question (even if I suspect it was inspired by my cheap-but-accurate shot at most "journalistic ethics" rules, below), and the answer is, well, yes and no.

I'm not "muzzled," since nobody slapped an editor on me in response to inhouse PC complaints, as was done with Weintraub -- something that's got to have a chilling effect, I'd think. On the other hand, the MSNBC publishing platform, which imposes a substantial delay between writing and editing, and which makes updates a pain, certainly costs in terms of immediacy. (This is exacerbated by the time-zone difference, since I have to email the posts to them, and somebody in the Pacific Time Zone then has to recode them and post them. If I send one late at night, it usually isn't up until at least noon the following day. I've got one editor -- people back him up when he's on vacation, but there's not 24-hour coverage with people sitting by the computer waiting for me to mail stuff in at any hour.) I much prefer the kind of on-the-spot posting and editing that Movable Type allows, but apparently integrating that with a gigantic, sprawling web platform like MSNBC isn't easy.

I've dealt with that by doing more op-edish posts for MSNBC: things that are halfway between a blog post and a column, I guess you'd say. That works fine for me, as I can just post different sorts of pieces in different places (short stuff here, longer stuff there), with pointers back and forth as needed. Sadly, Weintraub doesn't have the same ability -- and I rather doubt the Bee would be enthusiastic about him maintaining an independent blog on the side.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Stephen Bainbridge is defending the Bee. Well, sort of:

Yes, I know it’s a newspaper. Yes, I know a lot of people (including journalists) blather on about newspapers being a quasi-utility vested with a public interest. But that’s just the nonsense they use to justify a unique constitutional privilege to libel people and invade their privacy. In the real world, newspapers are for-profit businesses.

Well, with defenders like these. . . . But although Bainbridge is right that the Bee is perfectly within its legal rights to do whatever it wants to with things it publishes, the Blogosphere is perfectly within its rights to criticize the Bee and to point out that the Bee is behaving with all the commitment to public discourse that we'd expect from a big corporation like Enron or Disney. Also, I think that Bainbridge is wrong to claim a contradiction between bloggers' criticism of the BBC's lax supervision of Andrew Gilligan and bloggers' criticism of the Bee's suddenly-intrusive supervision of Weintraub's blog. Weintraub is an opinion writer, who hasn't been accused of getting facts wrong. He's accused of stating political opinions that some people don't like. That's hardly the same thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some comments.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Bainbridge has responded to my response to his . . . oh, never mind. There's more at his post. In partial response, something that Kevin Roderick notes: Weintraub (like a lot of other print reporters and pundits) "represents" the Bee in TV and radio appearances all the time without a Bee editor being interposed, even though a lot more people see those appearances than read a blog, making the "danger to the brand" much greater. I continue to blame jealousy and discomfort with new technology. I think those factors play a much bigger role than business considerations.

STILL MORE: Meanwhile, on the underlying merits (Weintraub's un-PC comments about Bustamante), reader Jonas Cord notes that this Rik Hertzberg piece in The New Yorker basically says the same thing:

Cruz Bustamante is an affable mediocrity who has drifted upward on a combination of term limits, opportunism, ethnic ticket-balancing, and luck. Harold Meyerson, of the L.A. Weekly, calls him “the least charismatic and able of the state’s Democratic leaders.” Bustamante, whose grasp of substance often seems shaky, has been almost as unwilling as Schwarzenegger to subject himself to sustained questioning, and he has not yet demonstrated any discernible appeal for independents.

Cord notes: "Seems that the famously un-PC, right-wing, anti-Latino staff of the New Yorker agrees with Weintraub. If only they had an ombudsman to call!"

And, in answer to Glaser's original question, what I like about a Movable Type-powered blog like this one is that you can produce a post like this, bit by bit, over an hour or so as new stuff happens. I don't think you could do that with an editor involved, and certainly not if you had to email in each incremental addition. Especially after the editor has left for the day.

DANIEL DREZNER OFFERS A JOHN EDWARDS TRIBUTE and roundup. He thinks the Democrats are "prematurely slighting" Edwards' candidacy. Plus, the surprising similarity between Salma Hayek and Jacques Chirac.

AMERICA, CANADA, AND IRAN: Tim Blair compares and contrasts.

MICKEY KAUS HAS MORE on the continuing embarrassment of the Sacramento Bee:

It turns out that Weintraub wasn't saddled with a minder to placate PC forces in the state legislature enraged by his "Bustmont" crack, because he'd already been saddled with a minder to placate PC forces within the Bee's own newsroom enraged by his "Bustmont" crack! Weintruab is an editorial page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons (e.g. he's been beating the pants off them). His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. I mean, it was as if he was criticizing affirmative action! Can't have that.

Certainly not! And, as usual, complaints about journalistic ethics turn out to involve protecting somebody from competition.

MERYL YOURISH GIVES A LOUSY GRADE to disaster recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.

WHY THEY HATE US: Blog gets shoddy reporter fired. And at the Bee no less. Say, you don't think. . . .

AMIR TAHERI WRITES that the lack of a coherent policy toward Iraq is causing economic woes and serious foreign relations problems for the French.

BRYAN PRESTON SURVIVED ISABEL and is continuing to blog even without power.

MY LATEST MSNBC POST on Big Media reporting on Iraq is up. In particular, I recommend the appearance by Pamela Hess on C-SPAN that's mentioned (and linked) there. Something that I found striking, but didn't mention, was that after Hess (a UPI reporter who just got back from Iraq) said that things weren't as bad in Iraq as the Big Media coverage makes them seem, she got a lot of truly nasty emails and phone calls from war critics who called her a "whore" and a "mouthpiece for the Administration." (One also called Bush a "monkey in a man suit.")

But now even Dan Rather is admitting that the TV news is making things look worse in Iraq than they really are. Perhaps that's a sign that the tide is turning.

MEDIA BIAS ON IRAQ: I've got a followup to last week's post on media bias and Iraq, which will be up at GlennReynolds.com later. But a reader just sent me this link to a piece by Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall, who recently visited Iraq and who says that media bias is "killing our troops," and who also notes:

I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with "the rest of the story," the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

During the conventional part of this conflict, embedded journalists reported the good, the bad and the ugly. Where are the embeds now that we are in the difficult part of the war, now that fair and balanced reporting is critically important to our chances of success? At the height of the conventional conflict, Fox News alone had 27 journalists embedded with U.S. troops (out of a total of 774 from all Western media). Today there are only 27 embedded journalists from all media combined.

Throughout Iraq, American soldiers with their typical "can do" attitude and ingenuity are engaging in thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects, working with Iraqi contractors and citizens. Through decentralized decision-making by unit commanders, the 101st Airborne Division alone has spent nearly $23 million in just the past few months. This sum goes a very long way in Iraq. Hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, replumbed and reroofed. Imagine the effect that has on children and their parents.

People are catching on. If Rumsfeld accused the media of killing our troops, people would say he was browbeating and bullying them. Maybe they'll listen, when it comes from a Democrat.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

THOMAS PEARSON writes that the anti-globalization movement is in decline. I certainly hope so. The bits about Bureaucrash's anti-protester pranks are amusing, too.

IS IT PRE-EMPTIVE, OR NOT? Bill Hobbs says that Bush's critics are lying about the Administration's position on Saddam in order to make it look as if Bush lied. I remember the Bush Administration being careful -- overly so, in some cases -- to make clear that it wasn't charging Saddam with complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

The charge now, though, is that the Administration "gave the impression" that Saddam was behind the attacks, which is suitably vague and allows the chargers to point to polls showing that most Americans think so. It's also possible, of course, that people have made up their own minds, isn't it? Of course, to some, I suspect that's an even more frightening thought.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Justin Katz looks at poll data showing that Americans' belief in Saddam's complicity has actually declined over the past two years -- despite what people claim are Bush's efforts to give that impression -- and accuses Bush's critics of an outright lie. He also links to this post and this one from John Cole, on lies, misimpressions, and anti-Bush dishonesty.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Ted Kennedy, meanwhile, has gotten carried away with the Bush-bashing.

Will the lefties be calling him a liar over his unsubstantiated -- and apparently untrue -- statements?

ISABEL POWER OUTAGES CONTINUE, and this useful chart shows where and how many. (It omits the crucial information that one of them is David Bernstein, though.)

I realize that underground power lines are more expensive to install, maintain, etc. But I wonder whether they're really more expensive in a global sense if you factor in the costs imposed on consumers by the more-frequent power outages associated with overhead lines. (Not to mention the aesthetic costs of overhead lines, which are high.) This would be an interesting and useful topic for news coverage, though once their Mother of Storms hype ends they seem largely uninterested in this sort of thing. Here's a roundup of hurricane-recovery efforts, and here's a good article from the Post on electrical systems, resilience, and recovery that mentions underground lines -- but that also says that community restrictions on tree-trimming are a big source of problems.

I had some related thoughts in this column a few weeks ago. The big problem is that people want reliability, but don't want to pay for it. But when you don't pay for reliability, you wind up paying for un reliability, and I'm not sure that's cheaper in the end.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting article from the Post on how wi-fi, high-speed Internet, and other technologies mitigated the economic effect of the hurricane. (Via Bill Hobbs).

LEE HARRIS writes on war and wishful thinking.

START MAKING SENSE: The Boston Globe is comparing Larry Summers to James Bryant Conant, a legend among Harvard Presidents who remade the institution in the face of changing times, despite faculty resistance.

(Via Hub Blog).

1996, YOU SAY?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, has told American interrogators that he first discussed the plot with Osama bin Laden in 1996 and that the original plan called for hijacking five commercial jets on each U.S. coast before it was modified several times, according to interrogation reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

I guess we can't blame it on failure to ratify Kyoto, then.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I guess we can't blame it the failure of the Oslo Agreement, or Netanyahu, or Barak, or Sharon either.

Huh. You think they just hate us because we threaten their 12th century view of politics and gender relations?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that it should be "7th century," not 12th century. Fair enough. And some folks recommend Losing Bin Laden by Richard Miniter for more on the 90s activities of Al Qaeda. I haven't read the book -- the publisher sent me a copy, but it was immediately seized by the InstaWife -- but it seemed, for the brief instant that it was actually in my possession, as if it might be interesting.

LOTS OF INTERESTING STUFF ABOUT RWANDA, and French / NGO misconduct, over at Winds of Change.

MAYBE THERE'S HOPE: Peace protesters are catching hell even in The Observer:

Next weekend, the far Left will once again seek to con tens of thousands of Irish people. Earlier this year, the unreconstructed Marxist-Leninists, under the banner of pacifism, brought the masses on to the streets of Dublin, Derry and Belfast. The M-Lers even managed to fool respected, usually erudite, commentators, writers and artists into believing in the justness of their 'cause'.
But their 'cause' was, in truth, a carefully produced masquerade, a ruse to dragoon legions of genuinely concerned citizens on this island into their campaign against 'imperialism' and for that, of course, please read 'anti-Americanism'. . . .

Marching for 'peace' back in January objectively (a word often used by the M-Lers) entailed support for the retention of the Baath. Now that all the apocalyptic predictions of the Irish peace movement have proved to be wrong, the anti-American Left is now seizing on every grenade attack, shooting and roadside bomb directed at allied forces and, yes, the United Nations, in Iraq. Some of the Irish ultra-Left groups are even abusing language and truth by describing those behind these sorties as the 'resistance to occupation'. . . .

Suddenly, the Irish extreme Left portrays the Baath loyalists and the fedayeen (an alliance of Islamic fanatics and Saddam sympathisers) as the Vietcong of the twenty-first century, a libellous slur against the heroic people of Vietnam who really did have a just cause to fight for.

What this alliance of Baathists and Islamists fear more than anything (a fear shared by the Arab dictatorships) is the threat of a good example. If Iraq evolves from a one-party gangster state into a pluralist democracy, a process well underway in the northern Kurdish region with its free press and multi-party system, then it will become a beacon of hope for other oppressed people in the region.

Which would be horrible.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: I meant to link this article on Colorado bloggers from The Rocky Mountain News last week, but it got lost in the shuffle. It's good -- but where's Stephen Green?

UPDATE: Oh, he's in the sidebar. Sorry.

September 21, 2003

THE SACRAMENTO BEE HAS CAVED TO SPECIAL INTERESTS and muzzled its house blogger Daniel Weintraub. They should be ashamed -- and I don't want to hear any whining from them the next time their publisher is heckled. Utterly lame. And, as Mickey Kaus points out, hypocritical: "If Arnold had complained, do you suppose the Bee would have strapped an editor on DW's back?"

Of course not That would have been censorship.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda writes:

I vehemently oppose this decision. It ignores the entire point of blogging. As Weintraub himself noted when he introduced his new format, "Blogs by their nature are more spontaneous than traditional commentary." The Bee, as well as its readers, clearly knew that his posts would bypass the typical route to publication. With the new policies, the paper might as well just rid itself of the blog.

It also might as well just shoot itself on the foot, because it's giving up perhaps its biggest recall-coverage advantage over its competitors. One of the main reasons why the Bee has been a better source than, say, the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle is its fresh and constant updates via California Insider. The reviews will slow down the news breaks and take away the Bee's most attractive feature.

Weintraub is the only reason I've been reading the Bee.

Matt Welch observes:

Bee Ombudsman Tony Marcano has written a stinker of a column proudly explaining how his paper has caved to Latino complaints about the valuable recall-blogger Daniel Weintraub, who will now no longer be allowed to post without being edited. . . .

Weintraub is an opinion columnist. He is being paid to dispense opinion (albeit, chock full o' insidery Sacramento observations), and he is being punished in this case for an opinionated assertion, not a botched indisputable fact. And he is being punished as a direct result of an interest group complaining about his opinion. Whether it had been an auto dealer, or the English-Only crowd, or the Latino Caucus, the proper response to such a complaint, in my view, is, "He's a valued opinion columnist, and this was his opinion. We will certainly pass along your concerns, and even suggest he engage them on his blog. Please consider writing a letter to the editor. Good-bye."

Welch adds that the Bee is now "one or two notches less credible." To which I'd add three notches less interesting.

Unthinking political correctness, corporate-mandated dullness, and complete cluelessness, all in one event. If you want to know, in a nutshell, why Old Media is in trouble, this is it.

UPDATE: L.A. Observed is defending The Bee, more or less, and notes that The Bee has set up a group blog on the recall with an interesting disclaimer. Wonder if it's pre-edited?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, "defending The Bee" may be a bit too strong. Let's say "adding nuance to The Bee's position."

Roger Simon, on the other hand, wonders if this illustrates Big Media's inherent inability to take advantage of the blog format.

HMM. I THINK THAT TODAY'S DOONESBURY STRIP is probably evidence that outsourcing is likely to be a campaign issue in 2004. I'm not surprised about that.

IT'S A SUNDAY COMICS ROUNDUP over at Begging to Differ.

"DESPERATE SADDAM OFFERS AMERICANS DEAL:" I don't know if this is true, (it's from London's Mirror, a tabloid) but if so it certainly undermines the "quagmire" theory, doesn't it? I hope, though, that true or not this story is being widely circulated in Iraq:

It is believed the US authorities will simply string Saddam along, aiming to track the go-betweens until they know exactly where to find the rogue leader.

"There's no doubt the net is closing, and that his supporters' efforts to get the Americans to pull out of Iraq are not succeeding," said the source.

"They can cause disruption and problems, but this does not bring Saddam any nearer to coming back to power, and he now knows it. The negotiators will try to keep the line of communication open as long as possible, but the word from Washington is: 'No deal'."

Quick, somebody load a C-17 with copies and fly 'em to Baghdad!

UPDATE: The U.S. military says this story isn't true. Heck, that's all the more reason to spread copies all over Baghdad.

UPDATE: Jonathan Gewirtz emails:

The idea of using phony stories to weaken his hold on his followers is most plausible: great bang for our buck if it works, costs little if it doesn't. However, I don't think Saddam is likely to allow himself to be strung along or drawn out, because I think he's likely to assume that any overture from us is a trap.

It would be nice to be able to fast-forward a few decades and learn which of these stories are based on real psy-ops and which are mere rumors.

Yeah. It would.

I MENTIONED VERISIGN'S SHENANIGANS EARLIER -- now they're being sued.

BIG ELECTORAL DEFEAT FOR SCHROEDER: Medienkritik observes that "Anti-americanism doesn't help winning elections in Germany anymore..."

UPDATE: Some interesting thoughts on why Germans don't "get" 9/11 from German blogger Hans Beeman.

BACK FROM THE LAKE: Had a lovely overnight visit at my dad's. He's pretty much fully recovered now. The InstaDaughter drove the boat solo for the first time (yes, they do grow up fast).

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