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March 13, 2004

DAVID ADESNIK on the New York Times' effort to shut down The National Debate:

That's just pathetic. If the NYT cared so much about its integrity, perhaps it should've kept an eye on Jayson Blair. On the other hand, this sort of vindictive behavior is an implicit admission of just how vulnerable professional journalists are to the criticism of intelligent amateurs. Viva el blogosphere!

Indeed. Go here for more.

ARE ATTITUDES CHANGING IN EUROPE? Roger Simon, Tim Blair, and Bjorn Staerk have thoughts.

UNREST IN SYRIA:

Syrian security forces killed dozens of people and injured hundred during violent clashes over the weekend, in the north of the country, according to reports that reached Haaretz on Saturday. According to the reports, by relatives of witnesses, the violence started during a soccer game and later spread to demonstrations throughout the Kurdish regions in the country.

Stay tuned.

MEMRI HAS AN ANALYSIS casting doubt on the authenticity of the letter taking "credit" for the Madrid bombings on behalf of Al Qaeda. Several readers have suggested that ETA might have good reasons to deny responsibility publicly. I have no idea, but it's a lot easier to take credit for doing things than it is to actually do them.

UPDATE: On the other hand Jeff Jarvis has reports that Islamists are behind the bombings. (The same ones who sent the letter? Or different one? Beats me). As always, early reports tend to be wrong, so stay tuned.

FIVE ARRESTS IN SPAIN connected to the Madrid bombing.

Has Kerry said anything about the Madrid bombing yet? At first I thought that this Campaign Blog entry was on point: "Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you." Sounds good at first -- but on further reading it's about fighting Republicans rather than terrorists.

His campaign website has nothing. And I can't find anything on Google News either. Does Kerry have anything to say? Or does he just think that major terrorist attacks aren't important?

UPDATE: Ah, here it is:

“I would like to express my sincerest sympathy to the Spanish people and the families of those killed and injured in today's horrific terrorist bombing in Madrid. As a country which has also experienced tragedy at the hands of these cowardly killers, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

“In addition to words of condolence and condemnation, America should offer every assistance to Spain in dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy and in bringing those responsible to justice. We must remember that all civilized nations are joined as one in the global battle against terror. While these attacks remind us that the fight is far from over, they also strengthen our resolve to stand together for the right of free people to live in a peaceful world.”

Not bad. I really did have trouble finding it, though, and a lot of people were emailing me wondering why Kerry hadn't said something. My fault: I should have found it when I looked the first time but I didn't look that hard as I expected it to get top billing -- I'm surprised it didn't.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Not everyone agrees that it's a decent response. Brian Rogge emails:

The key words Kerry uses are "bringing those responsible to justice." Kerry doesn't get it. It's a 'War on Terror', prosecuted by the military intent on eradicating an enemy, not a 'Crime Scene Investigation of Terror', prosecuted by attorneys.

I see the point. But justice can come in many forms.

JEFF JARVIS:

Donald Rumsfeld is getting crap for having a piece of the debris from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon in his office.

Well, I say he should keep it there. And he should give it to his successor, who should never forget whom we're fighting and what we're protecting. And I'll go farther:

Take a piece of debris from the Towers and put it in the lobby of the FBI under a sign that says, "Remember."

Read the whole thing.

REVENGE OF THE BLOGS: The New York Daily News has a report on the latest involving Robert Cox's parody of a (sadly nonexistent) New York Times oped corrections page on his website, TheNationalDebate.com:

Ten Web sites in the U.S. and one in Germany yesterday picked up and posted a New York Times parody that the paper had sought to remove from TheNationalDebate.com after alleging copyright infringement.

Asked if The Times planned to challenge the new Web sites, spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said, "We are evaluating our next steps."

Disturbingly, the Daily News also reports that: "Cox is facing a possible Monday shutdown of his site by Verio, his Internet service provider, unless he removes other Times-focused material." It's not clear what that means, but the Times charges seem rather grabby and unfocused. As Cox notes: "The print-out are 16 pages from my web site with no markings or specific indications of what The Times considers infringement. Am I supposed to guess?"

The Times is being a bully here, and should be ashamed. It should also, of course, be ashamed on the underlying issue addressed by the parody -- that it has failed to correct egregious factual errors by its oped columnists -- and perhaps this bullying constitutes a tacit admission that it's in the wrong there.

Note to Ms. Mathis: Your "next steps" should be an apology to Mr. Cox and to the blogosphere, and the institution of a reasonable oped corrections policy. Just FYI.

UPDATE: Uh, oh -- it's snowballing.

A LOT OF KNOXVILLE EXPATS have been asking for more pictures, but I haven't really had time to take any new ones. Sorry, but I've been busy with my real job and everything. . . .

But here's one of the Law School from last spring. (Click for a larger one). I'll see what I can do in the next few days.

It's interesting to me that people who grow up in Knoxville are often anxious to get out and see the wider world -- but once they're out there, they tend to miss the place rather intensely. Well, why not? I did. And my wife (who, like me, isn't actually a Knoxville native) wound up returning to the place after 7 years in New York. I think you appreciate Knoxville more after you've lived other places.

GEITNER SIMMONS points to an Omaha World Herald editorial accusing John Kerry and the Democrats of a smear job on Bush appointee (and Nebraska businessman) Tony Raimondo. "The claim was nonsense. But it was enough to set off a train of demagogic attacks on Raimondo from Capitol Hill Democrats."

At least they didn't accuse him of being related to Justin. . . .

RANDY BARNETT: "Blogging about the great outdoors makes me feel like Glenn Reynolds."

WINDS OF BLACK HATE: Don't miss this post from Michele Catalano.

SABINE HEROLD STRIKES AGAIN: Heh.

BOGUS CHARGES OF FRAUD directed at Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg have been withdrawn after being discredited. "No word of an apology nor headlines declaring Lomborg vindicated." Go figure.

MIKE BORELLI has some pictures from the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco, where there was a demonstration of sympathy yesterday.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time in Tampa.

March 12, 2004

POWERLINE has an amazing photo from Madrid, and also wonders if the notion of a "war on terror" makes more sense than originally thought. Eric Scheie agrees.

UPDATE: Sheila O'Malley has another amazing picture. And Jeff Jarvis notes that the Spanish seem angry, rather than grief-stricken. Yeah, I heard an NPR story today stressing the "grief," but the crowd noises sounded at least as much mad as sad. Which is certainly appropriate.

More pics here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bob Standaert emails:

The presence of 2.3 million marchers is all the more remarkable because it means 1 in 20 of the humans in Spain, showed up -- the population of the nation is about 41,000,000, and that of Madrid is about 3,000,000. Thus, the population of Spain is comparable to that of California (34,000,000), and we have never seen 2,000,000 people showing up in L.A. or S.F. to support any cause.

Indeed. Then there's this: "White Hot Anger."

THE NEW YORK TIMES' LAWYERS appear to have generated some blogospheric blowback.

POTS, KETTLES AND SMEARS: I discuss 'em, over at GlennReynolds.com.

ANTITERROR MARCHES IN MADRID:

MADRID (Reuters) - Chanting "Cowards" and "Killers," millions of protestors packed rainswept streets across Spain Friday condemning the country's worst ever guerrilla attack which killed at least 199 people. . . .

Many of the protesters draped themselves in Spanish flags or wore black crosses. Pillars that normally carry advertising were covered in black ribbons.

Protesters included the young, old and disabled. Some walked with crutches. Some carried candles or banged drums.

"The Spanish people will not give up," Madrid resident Isabel Prado, 35, said.

Good.

UPDATE: Yes, I know -- Reuters calls them "guerrillas," not terrorists. That's because Reuters is a miserable outfit devoid of moral credibility. But you knew that already. Meanwhile Steven Antler notes: "If you're keeping count, newspaper reports of the turnouts in Madrid and other Spanish cities are running roughly double the wildly inflated numbers reported by the World Socialist Web Site during the so-called 'antiwar' protests prior to Iraq liberation."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Donald Sensing has pictures of the marches in Madrid.

JAMES LILEKS ON MADRID:

I’m somewhat annoyed by the assertion that this act was “sophisticated,” and hence the work of those brilliant strategerists of Al Qaeda. My definition of sophistication is somewhat different: it’s an unmanned drone flying over Pakistan, piloted by a guy in Florida, dropping a laser-guided bomb into the passenger cab of a truck full of Taliban. That’s sophistication. Synchronizing watches on detonators is not exactly all that tough.

Nope. He also observes:

To some, the act of "resistance" has such a romantic pull they cannot possibly renounce the use of flamboyant violence - until they find themselves in a train station on an average weekday morning, ears ringing, eyes clouded, looking down at their shirt, wondering why it's so red all of a sudden.

I wonder if either of the women dressed as suicide bombers in this photo from Madrid last year was within earshot of yesterday's blasts. As Wagner James Au writes in the email reminding me of the photo:

What was striking to me then was not how morally depraved these women were (though they are certainly that. What disturbed me so much is how their little bit of performance art didn't provoke the slightest reaction, from their fellow Spaniards.

Look at the photo. They must be surrounded by thousands of people, but no one is shouting at them; no one is rudely gesturing at them; no one, in other words, seems enraged at this open glorification of terrorism. If anything, they're *blase* about it. And this seems to be reflective of a common assumption, that *of course* bombing innocent civilians in Israel is a legitimate means of protest. So what are they to make of this equally savage violence yesterday, now that it's directed at them? And what implicit message were the Spanish anti-war protesters sending to terrorist groups of all stripes, when they essentially announced that they approved of these methods as an acceptable means of pursuing grievances?

This is not a shoe-on-the-other foot observation; I'm not asking them, like many of them asked us after 9/11, to wonder, "Why do they hate us?" Rather, as we sympathize with the victims and demand justice for their perpetrators, I think we should also ask, as should they, "Why did so many of you support horrific actions like this so recently?"

The answer is simple: Those two women, like some of the other protesters, weren't antiwar. They were on the other side. I wonder if they still are?

UPDATE: Barbara Skolaut emails: "Be interesting if some enterprising reporter found them and asked them. But I'm not holding my breath."

It would be interesting.

POLITICAL CHAOS in South Korea. There's more on it here, here, and here.

FROM THE SPANISH EMBASSY, a reader reports:

I'm just leaving the silent march at the Spanish Embassy. A small crowd of two to three hundred gatheed at the embassy, and then at noon, walked across the street in silence to Washington Circle, across from the George Washington University Hospitals. Everybody filled up the Northern third of the circle, and silently faced the embassy, and the Spanish flag on front slowly flapping at half mast. A few friends greeted each other somberly, along with the inevitable quiet, nearly whispered checking. "Family alright?". "I'm okay, you?". I also heard a number of comments, to the effect that this was the most screwed up thing ever, women and children killed and maimed, a couple "Aznar was right" and of course a few "this means war" comments.

The crowd seemed mixed - a lot of younger people, probably students and World Bank interns and the like; some gray haired diplomats; Spanish expats, other Europeans, and a smattering of Americans including a few military members and a couple civil servants I know. The quiet dignity of the crowd was impressive.

I'm leaving now - gotta go back to work. There's only so much joy a man can fit in a day. The crowd doesn't seem to be abating - as some leave, others show up. It's still really quiet - touchingly so. Just a lot of people looking at the embassy and the flag. It must look odd to the oblivious drivers in the slow mid-day traffic; in this town, we're more used to giant papier mache puppets, cheerfully shouting pro-lifers and hollering anti-globalists than quiet, well turned out flash mobs.

By the way, the small garden adjacent to the front door of the embassy is packed with flowers. Nice job, bloggers.

More to come. The pictures of the flowers are cellphone pix just sent by Blaster of Blaster's Blog, who's there now. To speed page-loads, I've moved the rest of the pictures, etc., into the "extended entry" area. Click "more" to see them.

Read More ?


THE NATIONAL DEBATE'S NEW YORK TIMES op-ed corrections parody is the subject of an article in the New York Daily News, which also features tough questions for Gail Collins on the Times' correction policy relating to op-eds.

EUGENE VOLOKH is confused by press reports that Susan Lindauer, the former Democratic Congressional staffer, journalist, and "peace activist" charged with being an Iraqi agent, was a "spy."

I think this is media sloppiness. If you read the indictment, you'll see that she's charged with being an "unregistered foreign agent," among other things. I think that reporters read "agent" as "intelligence agent," meaning "spy." But there are all sorts of ways to be a foreign agent without being a spy. I don't know if she provided intelligence or not -- you could provide "political intelligence" without having access to secrets, I suppose -- but it's notable that the indictment does not charge her with espionage.

If you see other people who were being paid off by Saddam prosecuted, you may well see similar confusion. It's possible to violate all sorts of quite strict laws (many of very long standing -- this isn't a Patriot Act issue) by working for a foreign country that's subject to U.S. sanctions, without being an actual spy.

SCROLL DOWN, or click here, for a suggestion on what to do about Madrid.

THE DAILY ABLUTION is writing about Scientology, something that mainstream media, for some reason, have become reluctant to do. And here's an interview with Scientology critic Keith Henson, currently seeking political asylum in Canada.

I'VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT NEW DIGITAL CAMERAS, but there's something to be said for surfing the backside of the technological wave: Sony's former top-of-the-line camera, the DSC-F717, is now selling in the neighborhood of $600. (Yesterday it was $499 when I got the Amazon recommendation -- now the price is back up for some reason.) It'll probably continue to get cheaper, and its predecessor, the DSC-F707, is available for $400. It's certainly capable of producing some amazing photos.

I wish that everything got better and cheaper as fast as electronic gadgets do.

A DRAMATIC ADMISSION:

"If the existing assault weapons ban expires, I personally do not believe it will make one whit of difference one way or another" in "reducing death and injury." Who said that? Tom Diaz, of the pro-gun-control Violence Policy Center.

It's certainly true.

ARE THE SAUDIS USING THE OIL WEAPON to try to engineer Bush's defeat? It wouldn't surprise me.

IT'S NOT JUST THE REPUBLICANS ON INDECENCY:


WASHINGTON (AP) - The House overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday substantially increasing the maximum fine for radio and TV indecency.

The vote was 391-22. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

(Emphasis added.) There aren't 391 Republicans in the House, you know. I really think that critics of this venture misconceive just how broad the Janet Jackson-inspired sentiment is. Portraying this as a Religious-Right-inspired Bush initiative misses what's really going on.

March 11, 2004

CRUSHING OF DISSENT: Or maybe not. The New York Times forced The National Debate to take down its Oped Corrections parody page -- but it has reappeared here.

The Times could moot this, of course, simply by deigning to correct its own errors.

UPDATE: The parody seems to be spreading across the Internet. I think there's a lesson here.

OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA:

She worked for four Democratic members of Congress but what does the headline in the Seattle Post Intelligencer say about the accused Iraqi spy?

Accused spy is cousin of Bush staffer

Yep, that's the headline. Absolutely shameless.

UPDATE: Reader Jon Henke emails:

They didn't happen to mention that she'd also worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer until the second paragraph. Presumably, her distant relation to a guy who works for Bush is more important than what she's actually dirtied her hands at.

Dirtied, indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: "Card turns in someone who is remotely related to him; the press reports the relationship but downplays the fact that he helped catch her."

MORE: Alternative headline here. I'm guessing we won't be seeing that one much.

I'VE SUSPECTED FOR SOME TIME that Al Qaeda has a major Algerian component (just search "algeria" in the search window to the left). It looks like someone agrees:

US special forces are hunting for Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda along Algeria's southern border with Mali in a little-known military operation aimed at destroying a key North African recruiting hub for Osama bin Laden's global terrorist network, according to US and Algerian officials.

Small teams of elite US soldiers have been working with local security forces in recent months in the Sahara Desert in an effort to capture or kill members of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, a radical Islamic organization that has pledged its allegiance to Al Qaeda and is suspected in terrorist plots in Europe and the United States, said the officials, who asked not to be identified.

I wish them luck.

TURLEYFREUDE: Various people seem to be making fun of Jonathan Turley for his $300 / hour consulting fee. I don't see why. I charged $375/hr for my last paid consulting gig (my regular rate, except when I discount for local firms), though I didn't run up nearly as big a bill. But that's not an unusual charge for a full professor. (I raised my rate a few years ago when a former student did my will, and her hourly charge was higher than mine. . . .)

UPDATE: A law-professor reader emails: "I'm getting $475 an hour for expert witness work and nobody blinks. I think you need to raise your rates." D'oh! I'm practically giving it away! But I don't do a lot of consulting (my last project was back in November, I think) -- the project has to be inherently interesting to me, and I have to have enough time to spare from my other activities. Sounds like I need to start charging more when I do, though.

A GOOD IDEA, which I'm embarrassed not to have remembered. Reader Ann Salisbury emails:

Back during the time of the terrorist bombing in Bali you publicized someone's idea (I forgot whose) to send flowers to the Australian consulate/embassy to express sympathy and support. I'm sorry to say that now we should do the same for the Spanish. Would you mind helping to publicize the message?

Done. Here's the Spanish Embassy's address: 2375 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. - Washington, D.C. 20037.

The Embassy phone number, which you'll need to enter for Internet orders (I used 1800flowers.com) is 202.452.0100.

UPDATE: From the Spanish Embassy:

The Embassy of Spain convenes a silent demonstration tomorrow, Friday, March 12th, to express its outrage for today's terrorist attack perpetrated in Madrid, in which approximately 200 people have died and 900 have been injured.

The demonstration will take place at the Washington Circle (Pennsylvania Ave and 23rd St NW) at 12 am.

Please convey this information to others.

I presume by that they mean 12 noon. There's also this, in an earlier email:

A book of condolences will be open at the Embassy (2375 Pennsylvania Ave NW) from 10 am to 2 pm today, Friday 12th and Monday 15th.

A funeral service for the victims will be held at St. Matthews Cathedral (1725 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington DC 20036) on Monday, March 15th, at 5:30 pm.

If any readers in the DC area are able to attend any of these events, please send me an account and photos if possible.

UPDATE: Here's a list of Spanish consulates in the United States. If you're in a big city, you might want to check and see if there's one in your area.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Photos and firsthand reports from the Spanish Embassy demonstration, here.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP, with an amusing Emerson, Lake & Palmer reference.

SOME THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENTIAL TEMPERAMENT, over at GlennReynolds.com.

A BLOGGER GETS RESULTS from the Los Angeles Times.

JOHN PILGER, who as I noted below is rooting for the terrorists in Iraq (go here and scroll down to see what, exactly, he's approving) is also a professor at Cornell:

The Rhodes Class of '56 University Professorships, designed to enrich the undergraduate experience at the university, are awarded for a period of one to five years, and appointees are considered full members of the Cornell faculty. During each year of their appointment, Rhodes professors will visit the campus for a minimum of two weeks.

Cynthia McKinney is another holder of this formerly-prestigious appointment.

UPDATE: The selection process is under review, as well it should be. More here.

CONGRESSIONAL AIDE ARRESTED AS IRAQI SPY: The Smoking Gun has the indictment, and this summary:

A former Democratic congressional aide was arrested today on charges that she worked as an Iraqi spy. Susan Lindauer, 41, has been charged with conspiring to work with the Iraqi Intelligence Service and engaging in prohibited financial transactions with Saddam Hussein's government, according to the below indictment unsealed today by federal prosecutors in New York. Lindauer, arrested this morning at her Maryland home, allegedly met with Iraqi agents during several visits to the country's U.N. mission, where she "accepted various payments" in return "for services provided to the IIS in the course of her ongoing intelligence relationship with them." Lindauer, who also allegedly traveled to Iraq in early-2002 to meet with IIS agents, has previously worked as a press spokesperson for several elected officials, including former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and congressmen Ron Wyden and Peter DeFazio. (14 pages).

Many in the blogosphere have been speculating about Saddam making payoffs in the U.S., but this is the first case to materialize. It's likely not the last.

More background and links here, where we also learn that she's a former journalist, and that she signed this peace pledge. If I were a spy, I wouldn't have done that.

UPDATE: More background here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: CNN says nothing about her backgound. [Okay, actually it's an AP story on CNN.com. Still. . .]

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Charles Austin emails:

Maybe I'm just too attuned to it, but when I saw
the headline: Ex-Congressional Aide Charged With Spying

and read the first sentence:

A former journalist and congressional press secretary was arrested Thursday on charges she acted as an Iraqi spy before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, accepting $10,000 for her work, prosecutors said Thursday.

I thought immediately that it had to be a Democratic staffer. Otherwise, the word Republican would have been trumpeted loudly and I wouldn't have had to wait until the fourth paragraph to find out the accused spy previously worked for Representative Wyden and Senator Mosley-Braun. By no means am I trying to imply that Representative Wyden or Senator Mosley-Braun knew or should have known anything about this, but just noting the Big Media dog that so often doesn't bark at passing Democrats.

Indeed. See, if she had worked for a Republican who supported the war, it would be evidence of the hypocrisy of war supporters. But since she worked for Democrats, well, it's just one of those crazy things that happen, of no particular significance in the greater scheme.

MORE: More on Lindauer and Libya, here, in a report that summarizes the indictment linked above.

STILL MORE: Reader David Hines emails:

Just saw the NBC evening news: Tom Brokaw not only skipped the substantial aspects of the indictment (her being paid ten grand *and* her willingness to perform aid and comfort when she believed she was aiding the "Iraqi resistance" with Libyan help), but he neglected to mention that she was a former journalist and former Democratic congressional aide.

He did take pains to report that she was a second cousin of White House staffer Andy Card.

I didn't see it, but I can't say I'm surprised to hear this.

MAJOR AUTOMOTIVE NEWS, from the new Consumer Reports car issue:

Our latest survey of subscribers' experiences with their cars shows that vehicles from Detroit's Big Three automakers are now slightly more reliable, on average, than those from European makers. They also tend to hold up better than the European makes as time passes. It's the first time in decades that U.S. cars have done so well.

This seems like quite a big deal to me, and not just for the automotive industry. And judging from the chart it reflects improvements in American vehicles rather than a quality decline among European cars. There's even a modest closing of the gap between American and Japanese cars, though the Japanese remain well ahead.

STILL MORE ON THE UNITED NATIONS AND SADDAM'S OIL MONEY, from the Wall Street Journal.

BOMBINGS IN MADRID: 131 killed. Basque "separatists" -- the usual suspects -- say it wasn't them, but the "Arab resistance." Should we believe them? Beats me. If it is Arabs -- and that's probably the way to bet -- this is likely the harbinger of more attacks in Europe.

There's much more over at Iberian Notes and Backseat Drivers.

UPDATE: Jan Haugland has more, and notes:

Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi has stated on Basque radio that he does not believe ETA is responsible. Interestingly, Batasuna officially denies being the political front of ETA, but now they are forced to be its public front in denying ETA responsibility. So is there any credibility to the claim? What is the point of terrorism if you don't take responsibility? There has been speculations that the attack was far more successful than planned, or that the ETA had intended to issue a warning but somehow failed to do it. Alternatively, that ETA has been radicalised by a new leadership. The fact that Spanish police has foiled semilar plots by the ETA in the near past counts against this denial.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Josh Chafetz observes:

Some are skeptical that this was the work of the ETA. That's ultimately for the police and intelligence services to figure out, but I'm skeptical of the skeptics. ETA hasn't always announced its attacks ahead of time, and Spanish authorities had been worried about an ETA attack ahead of this weekend's elections. Given ETA's history, it seems to me that the default assumption should be that it was them.

I think that's probably right, though I claim no special expertise. I also think that it's entirely plausible to imagine cooperation between the ETA and Al Qaeda groups, something we were hearing about as long ago as 1996 (scroll down past the story where President Clinton talks about Iraq as a sponsor of terorrism, to the one about Islamic terror in France). Thanks to reader Sarah Gossett for the link.

The Spanish government seems convinced that this is an ETA attack. John at Iberian Notes says it fits the ETA's pattern.

Gerard Van der Leun has some thoughts that are worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Carter has many useful observations, and this important conclusion:

Finally, let us consider that the "war on terrorism" is really much larger than what even American thinks of it. Liberal society, broadly defined, is at war with the forces of terror which seek to undermine the global civil society that prizes such things as liberty, equality, interdependence, free trade, self-determination, human rights, education, and science. (This is essentially Paul Berman's thesis from his brilliant book Terror and Liberalism) At times, the values of liberal society clash with each other, such as the clash between free trade and human rights. But ultimately, I believe this society to be far better than the alternative, and to be the ideal that we all must strive for. Terrorism seeks to undermine this global order through fear and violence; it seeks to destroy liberal society in order to replace it with a far different vision of the world.

Whether you are Spanish, Turkish, Indonesian, French or American, you are a target. We have all been victims of this terrorism in the last decade; we will continue to be targeted in the next. Our challenge is to face such attacks as this and to confront them with the appropriate tools of law, statecraft and war. But we must do more. We must also beat the terrorist enemy with our ideas. It is not capitalism of democracy per se that terrorism seeks to destroy -- it is global civil society itself. To prevent that, we must make global civil society as strong and resolute an institution as possible, and to make it good enough that it will ultimately prove the fallacy of the terrorist ideology. That is the challenge.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: A possible Arab link? Hard to say. Early reports are usually wrong. All we really have to know is that this sucks, and that either Al Qaeda or ETA or a host of other groups would have done it if they could have. So there's no reason to be overly-discriminating in our response. As Tom Sawyer's Aunt Polly noted, it won't be a lick amiss, regardless.

Meanwhile Politica Obscura wonders how long it will be until someone blames Bush. It's probably already happened.

STILL MORE: Is this claim of Al Qaeda involvement credible? Beats me. Plausible, certainly. Meanwhile BoiFromTroy observes that if Al Qaeda is behind these attacks, it just underscores that "the only people in the world who believe that the liberation of Iraq was George Bush's unilateral action are the people who seek to replace him in the Oval Office."

And read Roger Simon's thoughts on what this is likely to mean in terms of European responses to terror.

MORE STILL: They're already blaming Bush at Democratic Underground. No surprise there. A lot of the folks at Daily Kos seem to think the same thing.

STILL MORE: Donald Sensing has more, and some TV screenshots.

YET MORE STILL: Mark Steyn:

As Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, neatly put it, "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." . . .

And now Spaniards. "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." And by "you", they mean not just arrogant Texan cowboys, but any pluralist society - whether a relaxed tourist resort like Bali or a modern Muslim nation like Turkey or - come to that, one day down the road - a cynical swamp of appeasement like France.

Which adds meaning to this passage from an LGF comment thread (I couldn't find it among the myriads there, but the poster, Ernest Gudath, emailed it to me):

I am an American. A Californian to be exact. From nowhere special. I have never been to Spain. I may never go to Spain. I don't even speak Spanish. But today, today I am a Spaniard. We are all Spaniards. Your country has suffered a disaster that I can not now, nor will likely ever, fully comprehend. Men of evil did this. Yes, I say evil, for there is no other word to describe the hatred, the callous disregard for human life and God granted dignity of men, of those who would commit such an act. I wish to express my greatest sympathy to the people of Spain, who suffer now because of the scourge of terrorism. This suffering shall not just die away. It shall linger, linger on in the hearts of those who must bury their dead, who must visit the graves of them each year on this day, those who must explain to their children why Mother, or Father, or Brother, or Sister will not be coming home again. To those who will mourn the passing of loved ones their whole lives, this day shall never end. My prayers are with you all. This is a wound that shall never fully heal, and that is the greatest sorrow of all. Buildings and trains may be rebuilt, but lives can not. Spain stood by America in its darkest time in recent years, something that I, or any American, shall never forget. You stood by us in our hour of darkness, now let us return that favor. Whatever it is that you need now of us, just ask. We shall be there for you. My prayers are with the people of Spain. May God bless you, and all the people of Spain, and may His justice be swift, and sure.

Well said. And if you're reading this as an individual post, go here for something you can do.

EURSOC has more observations. And so does Bjorn Staerk: " We can at least hope that warnings against terrorism will now be taken more seriously, and clever justifications of it less."

FINAL UPDATE: Look to later posts for more on this. But reader Ernest Gudath sends the link to the item posted above and notes that -- contrary to the impression I had gotten from his email -- he's not the author.

March 10, 2004

OIL-FOR-FOOD UPDATE:

In the growing scandal over the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, which from 1996-2003 supervised relief to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff have excused themselves from any responsibility for the massive corruption involving billions in bribes and kickbacks that went on via more than $100 billion in U.N.-approved contracts for Saddam to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies. U.N. officials have denied that this tidal wave of graft in any way seeped into their own shop, or that they even had time to notice it was out there. They were too busy making the world a better place.

That's fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan's own son, Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999 onward worked on contract for the U.N. monitoring the shipments of Oil-for-food supplies into Iraq. These were the same supplies sent in under terms of those tens of billions of dollars worth of U.N.-approved contracts in which the U.N. says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein's widespread arrangements to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits to Saddam's regime. . . .

But what has to be clear by now is that the U.N. itself was either corrupt, or so stunningly incompetent as to require total overhaul. There are by now enough questions, there has been enough secrecy, stonewalling, and rising evidence of graft all around the U.N. program in Iraq, so that it is surely worth an independent investigation into the U.N. itself — and Annan's role in supervising this program. If Kofi Annan will not exercise his authority to set a truly independent inquiry in motion, it is way past time for the U.S., whose taxpayers supply about a quarter of the U.N. budget, to call the U.N. itself to account for Oil-for-Food — in dollar terms the biggest relief operation it has ever run, and by many signs, one of the dirtiest.

Keep digging.

UPDATE: Roger Simon observes:

I recommended in a previous post that United States demand that henceforth all the United Nations books be open, before we continue our massive donation to that organization. I wonder where Senator Kerry would stand on that?

Somebody should ask him.

MILITARY DEATHS IN IRAQ are down significantly. Funny that it's not getting a lot of news attention. As I've said elsewhere, things are going better in Iraq, and the real proof of that "is that neither John Kerry nor Katie Couric want to talk much about events there, or about the new Iraqi constitution and what it means."

UPDATE: There's good economic news from Iraq, too.

ANN ALTHOUSE WONDERS if it's time for a Prufrock revival. No, it isn't. But she's spotted something interesting.

JAY MANIFOLD notes that major asteroid impacts may be more common than previously thought. Ouch.

SOME INTERESTING POSTS on employment and outsourcing, from Daniel Drezner and Virginia Postrel.

REID STOTT ON HOWARD STERN:

But if you want the short tame proof this is nothing new, consider this quote: “Howard Stern is Dead Man Talking. Remember where you heard it first.” And where and when did we hear it first? From Michael Harris, in Ottawa, Tuesday, November 18, 1997.

Seven years ago.

Read the whole thing.

THE WHOMPING WILLOW is a pretty cool blog name -- and I imagine that she can deliver a fearsome whomping if provoked.

VIRGINIA POSTREL NOTES more problems with the Kass council ("Get ready to hear about how authentic human beings don't take Prozac") and James Hughes writes that George W. Bush is being brain-jacked.

Meanwhile Ron Bailey notes that public attitudes have shifted in favor of new reproductive and life-extending technologies over time, as people come to understand them better:

After all, in 1969, a Harris poll found that a majority of Americans believed that producing test-tube babies was "against God's will." Christiaan Barnard was condemned by many as a "butcher" when he transplanted the first heart into the chest of 55-year-old Louis Washkansky on December 3, 1967. The contraceptive pill introduced in 1960 was outlawed by many states until near the end of that decade. And much further back, Edward Jenner's 1796 discovery that inoculation with cowpox scabs would prevent people from getting smallpox was mocked by newspaper editorials and cartoons depicting men with cow's heads.

As history amply demonstrates, the public's immediate "yuck" reaction to new technologies is a very fallible and highly changeable guide to moral choices or biomedical policy. For example, by 1978, more than half of Americans said that they would use in vitro fertilization (IVF) if they were married and couldn't have babies any other way. More than 200,000 test-tube babies later, the majority of Americans now heartily approve of IVF. Globally nearly 50,000 heart transplants have been performed, and 83 percent of Americans favor organ donation. The contraceptive pill is legal in all states and millions of American families have used them to control their reproductive lives. And smallpox is the first human disease ever eradicated.

What the polling data and history clearly show is that as people's understanding of new technologies increases, most of them overcome their initial fears and end up welcoming new technological advances rather than rejecting them.

Yes. Which is why opponents are so anxious to stop research early.

NOT ANTI-WAR, JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE:

TONY JONES: John Pilger, do you still maintain that the world depends on what you call "the Iraqi resistance" to inflict a military defeat on the coalition forces?

JOHN PILGER: Well, certainly, historically, we've always depended on resistances to get rid of occupiers, to get rid of invaders. And what we have in Iraq now is I suppose the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up. And a resistance is always atrocious, it's always bloody. It always involves terrorism. . . . Now, I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we're likely to see an attack on Iran, we're likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade, so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important.

TONY JONES: Can you approve in that context the killing of American, British or Australian troops who are in the occupying forces?

JOHN PILGER: Well yes, they're legitimate targets. They're illegally occupying a country. And I would have thought from an Iraqi's point of view they are legitimate targets, they'd have to be, sure.

TONY JONES: So Australian troops you would regard in Iraq as legitimate targets?

JOHN PILGER: Excuse me but, really, that's an unbecoming question.

With some revealing answers.

UPDATE: Lovely observation:

Perhaps the most telling comment from Pilger was that the only countries he feared the US might go after were all fascist dictatorships.

That's today's Left. Go figure.

JOHN MCCAIN ON A KERRY-MCCAIN TICKET: "Obviously I would entertain it." Just remember, you heard it here first.

UPDATE: Here's more on McCain as Veep from the Arizona Republic, here and here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bradley Pratt emails:

I'd vote for a Kerry/McCain ticket in an INSTANT. Otherwise, probably Bush.

Out-of-control spending, rising deficits, amending the constitution (!!!)... these are all troubling. But nothing is so important to me as our security, and a belief that our leaders are at least trying to do the best job possible in Iraq. Suddenly, with Kerry/McCain, I'm feeling pretty good about all of these things.

Er, well, it's not all that likely to happen, you know. . . .

UPDATE: You know, I think this is actually a brilliant Republican stroke. Floating these rumors implicitly sets a high standard for Kerry -- whoever he picks will now be compared to McCain, and fall short. And if McCain winds up Bush's VP, well. . .

THE NEW YORK TIMES is threatening a blogger for putting up this parody NYT corrections page. A Times lawyer writes The National Debate:

Your actions are deliberately designed to confuse people and are clearly illegal.

Both statements seem false to me. It's pretty obviously a parody: note the February 30 date -- er, and the URL clearly visible at the top. And the Site Meter counter! (Er, and to be painfully obvious, the disclaimer at the bottom. . . ) Sure, some people might be dumb enough to be fooled anyway, but that's true with any parody. Thus, I'd say that "clearly illegal" is, well, false. "Arguably not a protected parody" would be more honest, though in my opinion still wrong, except to the extent that anything is arguable if you pay enough lawyers to argue it.

Of course, the biggest giveaway that this is a parody site is that it's a page featuring corrections of major factual errors in New York Times oped columns. No one familiar with the Times would think that was genuine. . . . And that very fact may be what stung the Times into sending this threat, though more likely it's just the product of humorless IP lawyers with nothing better to do. (Can a "humorless" lawyer even express a valid professional opinion on whether something is a parody? Sounds like a good topic for a law review article!)

To me this looks as dumb and self-defeating as Fox News's suit against Al Franken.

And my advice to the New York Times is: strengthen your "likelihood of confusion" case by actually publishing a page like this yourselves. It's past time.

UPDATE: Hmm. It seems that the Times took a rather negative view of the Franken suit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who says he's a copyright lawyer thinks I overstate the strength of the parody defense, and put too much emphasis on the likelihood of confusion point. Could be -- this isn't my area of expertise. But it's the Times lawyer's letter that stresses likelihood of confusion, which seems silly to me. I certainly wasn't confused by the page for a second, and I think that characterizing it as a deliberate effort to confuse people is absurd.

And regardless of the legalities here, the Times is being a bully. If, say, Rush Limbaugh were doing this to a critic under the same kind of circumstances, I suspect the Times would be all over him for it.

JOHN KERRY, KILLER!


Though he always has opposed the death penalty, Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday that the Sept. 11 attacks made him realize that he would want to "blow Osama bin Laden's brains out."

I approve of the sentiment, but it kind of reminds me of the pistol-packing Geraldo's promise to "take Osama down" if he encountered him in Afghanistan.

I'M HERE WORKING on the law review article I mentioned, even though it's a beautiful day. I'd rather be off in the mountains taking pictures again, but since I can't get away I'll post this picture from Sunday.

It's a Smoky Mountain photographer-cliche -- lichen on wet rock -- but it's still kind of nice. I have to say that I'm pleasantly impressed at how well the Toshiba, which is very much a consumer-grade digital camera, does at relatively challenging stuff. This was taken at pretty close range and its macro setting does well, as you can see: Not as well as a medium-format film camera, but probably as well as a handheld 35mm SLR, allowing for the inevitable slight blur caused by camera movement and shallow depth-of-field in this kind of setting.

Somebody emailed a while back that the real news wasn't how good the top-end digital camera equipment is, but rather how good the low-end stuff is getting. I think that may be true.

This soon to appear Olympus looks pretty good. It's not out yet (Amazon says it's shipping, but I think that's wrong). I think, though, that all the 8MP cameras are using the same Sony CCD right now. I wonder if that means that this camera will have the purple-fringe issues that the Sony DSC-F828 seems to have. (Though note the mixed reports from actual users.) I'm still leaning toward a digital SLR to replace my vintage 35mm SLRs, but I do sort of wonder how much difference the increased quality will make given how happy I am with the images from the Toshiba.

Back to work. If you want more pictures, visit SmokyBlog, because I won't be taking them today. Sigh.

MORE ON SPACE: My TechCentralStation column is up.

I'm also spending my spring break writing an article on the Bush Administration's space policy and its implications for international and domestic space law, for the Journal of Air Law and Commerce. I may try to distill a bit of that into either another column or a blog post. After it's written!

COLLIN MAY notes that European governments are shifting rightward, and has some thoughts on what it means.

THE FRENCH are waffling about the desirability of a Kerry presidency.

VARIOUS PEOPLE seem to be portraying controls on broadcast indecency as some sort of Republican plot. This story would seem to offer a corrective:

Senate Panel Votes to Raise Indecency Fine, Put Limits on Violence: The Senate Commerce Committee voted 23-0 today to approve legislation that would raise fines for indecent broadcasts to as much as $500,000 and for the first time in history could subject violent TV programming whether originating on broadcast, basic cable or satellite TV channels to the same punishment.

Sounds pretty bipartisan to me -- unanimous. (Then, of course, there's Kerry's support for the dropping of Howard Stern's show.) But here's the really interesting bit:

At today's vote, Sen. Hollings also introduced an amendment that would have required cable operators to offer their programming a la carte, allowing consumers to buy and pay for only the programming they want. But he withdrew the measure after it became clear that he didn't have the votes to support it.

It seems to me that this proposal would answer any complaints (except with regard to labelling, I guess) that any parent could have about indecent programming on cable -- you don't want the channel, don't buy it. The cable industry naturally opposes this -- bundling the Celebrity Underwater Kite-Flying Channel with HBO is how they fleece consumers make a lot of their money -- but I hope that it's an idea that will come back. (And I can only attribute Hollings' failure to get enough votes to undue influence on the part of the cable industry, as I can't imagine any Senator's constituents opposing this idea.)

Yes, it's rare for me to praise Fritz, but this looks like a good idea to me. On the indecency ban, well, I think that the unanimous passage indicates that there are a lot of people out there who want this. You may think that's a bad idea (in fact, I do) but it's not a sinister plot by a theocratic Republican minority. And, in fact, I think that opponents of the indecency ban have hurt their cause by engaging in Bush-bashing instead of addressing genuine popular sentiment head-on.

UPDATE: Reader Frank Vance emails:

I have been advocating forced unbundling of the channels on cable and satellite for several years, ever since I took a serious look at my 100 channel (now 120 channel!) package and determined I have only watched maybe 20 of these channels in all the time I have had the service. And maybe 10 of the remainder I have actually locked to prevent my children or their friends from viewing.

Of course, if I downgraded service to the 50/60 channel level, I lose maybe half of the channels I actually watch.


Senator Hollings is correct, this would fix the problem. We need to make this a meme based on "Consumer Choice", and get it in front of the FCC, the House, and the Senate.

(Keep in mind a big part of the problem is that much of the bundling is forced upon the cable/satellite services by the media giants [Viacom, ABC/Disney, et al.] who use their control of local affiliates to dictate the package placement of their "cable" channels. Dish Network [Echostar] and Viacom are currently involved in a dispute over the pricing of the Viacom channel "bundles".)

Back in the days when 'dishes' were large (C band), most of the pricing was a la carte. Of course, you could get bundles for related channels from the same vendor (like all the HBO channels from Time Warner) if you were so inclined. In fact, this is the European (but not British) satellite model. SES Astra (and one or two competitors) provides the satellite, but customers subscribe to the programming (or bundled services) they want directly. The programming providers then pay the satellite company for transponder space on the satellites.

I think part of MTV's problem is they look at number of "subscribers", believe that reflects the number of "viewers", and think they are driving mainstream thought. That's why the backlash over the SuperBowl halftime show surprised them so. They honestly believe people actually watch their channels....

Kind of like op-ed columnists who believe that their readership matches the newspaper's circulation numbers, I guess. . . .

I don't know a lot about cable TV regulation, but I can't imagine a legitimate objection to unbundling here. Why should people be forced to buy things they don't want?

Meanwhile, Ed Cone notes that FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (a Democrat appointed by Bush -- can't get more bipartisan than that!) suggested in an interview in 2002 that the FCC was looking for an egregious case that it could use to reestablish decency regulation. MTV, and Stern, gave it to them.

UPDATE: Steve Postrel emails to defend cable-bundling:

Some of the econo-bloggers may get to this, but there is nothing particularly nefarious about bundling--it's an alternative to other forms of price discrimination. The idea is that if customers' willingness to pay for different products isn't positively correlated (i.e. people who like the Fishing Channel are no more likely to also like the Crocheting Channel) then charging an average price for the bundle means that the firm doesn't have to figure out which buyers love fishing and which love crocheting. Instead of charging high Fishing prices and low Crocheting to one group and low Fishing and high Crocheting to another group, you charge the same bundled price to everybody. Like price discrimination, in many circumstances this practice improves economic welfare (i.e. more mutually beneficial transactions are possible compared to a world where bundling is illegal).

Moreover, with information goods, where the incremental cost of serving another customer is near zero and where the population's tastes are very diverse, it makes extra sense to bundle. Yannis Bakos and Eric Brynojolfsson have a Management Science article in Dec. 1999 that makes this point very convincingly and even shows why you'd expect to end up with various alternative bundles being offered, as in cable TV with its various tiers and packages.

Hmm. Well, if you put the indecency bit aside this may make sense -- but when people have channels whose content they object to bundled with channels they want, it seems to me that unbundling is better than government regulation. And I'd rather choose a la carte anyway -- as, I suspect, would most cable customers.

MORE: Barbara Skolaut would! She emails:

I'd get behind cable un-bundling in a heartbeat! I have no interest in most of my cable channels, but have to take them to get the ones I want (HGTV, Food Network, Discovery, etc.).

My cable company (Comcast) used to call me periodically trying to get me to "upgrade" (pay them more money) to HBO, etc. I alway refused. One day I got irked and told them I was never taking any of the "premium" channels and I wished they'd quit calling me unless they could offer me something I really wanted - such as NO sports channels and a lower monthly cost. Haven't heard from them since (nor do I expect to).

Don't hold your breath.

March 09, 2004

BTW, THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA ad to the left is a freebie. I donated money to them a while back, so now I'm donating an ad.

OUT KIND OF LATE TONIGHT, for me anyway. My wife's documentary, Six, showed to a capacity crowd of mostly psychologists and social workers. (You can see an online trailer here.)

Interesting post-film discussion, underscoring one of my wife's points: that dealing with violent, usually mentally ill, teenagers is as much a management problem as a psychology problem. Schools, etc., tend to ignore them, mental health professionals often throw psychotropic drugs at them without sufficient followup, and law enforcement generally doesn't want to get involved in cases where mental illness is an issue. Lots of psychologists had stories along these lines. Once somebody gets killed, people pay attention (usually). But it's damned hard to get them to do so beforehand.

ROGER SIMON:

I interrupt this post for a prediction... When the Iranian mullahcracy is finally brought down (let's hope soon), its monetary relations will be revealed to be at least as corrupt as the Iraqi/Un Oil-For-Food Program.

It seems likely.

UPDATE: Just added the picture to the right, from the French Embassy protests in Washington about a year ago. It just seemed, well, generally appropriate.

I should also note that I prefer the term "mullarchy" for the Iranian political scene, since it's shorter, and has the advantage of rhyming, more or less, with "malarkey." It seems to be catching on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge has some France-related thoughts.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time via a National Nanotechnology Initiative official regarding a conference at the University of South Carolina. Here's what nanotechnology expert Eric Drexler was trying to say:

Molecular manufacturing will bring a revolution in military affairs greater than the transition from hand-made spears to mass-produced guns. It is unwise to be on the wrong side of such a technology gap. NNI policy today opposes not only research on molecular manufacturing, but open dialog on its scientific basis and potential consequences. Given its current military superiority, terrorists cannot disarm, conquer, or destroy the United States. However, in a competitive world, the denialist policies of the NNI place us on a path to unilateral disarmament. Continuation of those policies thus poses a grave threat.

Seems like a curious mistake for the national-security conscious Bush Administration. Fortunately, the dissent-crushing efforts were unsuccessful, and Drexler did speak.

FISK FISKS FISK: Heh.

SOME THOUGHTS ON IRAQ, over at GlennReynolds.com.

THE BLOGOSPHERE KNEW THIS, but it's nice to see the mainstream press noting that the "furor" over Bush's 9/11 ads was entirely manufactured:

We have no doubt that the use of the images is appropriate - given that the president's leadership in the wake of 9/11, and his conduct of the War on Terror, are under drumbeat assault by John Kerry and the Democrats.

But now it turns out that this whole furor is driven by a tiny group that's motivated by a far-left agenda and a festering hatred of the president - and has some quite dubious financial ties.

Leading the rhetorical charge has been an outfit called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows - which, the group admits, has only a few dozen members and represents relatives of no more than 1 percent of the 9/11 victims.

More to the point, the group was formed specifically to oppose the entire War on Terror: Not just the campaign against Saddam Hussein, but also the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Indeed, the group's leaders traveled to Afghanistan, drawing a detestable moral equivalence between the 9/11 attacks and U.S. bombing of the Taliban and opposing "violent responses to terrorism." . . .

And back in January 2003, the group said had it had gotten a "verbal commitment" to the fund proposal from the junior senator from Massachusetts - John F. Kerry.

Little surprise there - because Peaceful Tomorrows' parent group, the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, has received millions from foundations controlled by Kerry's heiress wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Tides gets much of its funds from philanthropists like Mrs. Kerry and billionaire George Soros - who has made defeating President Bush his top personal priority.

As Richard Berman, director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, told Congress in 2002: "The Tides Foundation distributes other foundations' money, while shielding the identity of the actual donors."

Call it charitable money-laundering.

Could this be a campaign-finance law violation? I don't know enough to tell, but it's certainly an end-run, legal or otherwise. But it's yet another reason to wonder why the finances of nonprofits don't get more scrutiny -- and why the press is so ready to take these sorts of groups at face value, instead of looking into where their money comes from.

And, once again, it looks as if another "peace" group isn't really for peace, but simply on the other side. And, apparently, on Kerry's side as well.

That should bother him, and at least some of his supporters. Shouldn't it?

UPDATE: Well, here's someone who's looking into the question of whether Theresa Heinz is covertly aiding the Kerry campaign.

Meanwhile a pseudonymous reader says that the Tides accusations are bunk:

To summarize--The Heinz Endowments, of which Teresa is chair (there's also a board that approves grants), gives money for local, mostly small-bore initiatives
here in SWPA, sometimes through the Tides Center (PA).

What Tides does is process Form 990, handle HR payroll and benefits, and provide a vehicle for grant applications and monies. It's simply a way for the
local foundation community to avoid setting up new 501(c)(3)'s merely for ad hoc projects, that they will then feel obligated to support.

That's not what the article quoted above says, but OK. (And here's a link to a generally favorable article by Dennis Roddy on the Tides Foundation and Teresa Heinz.)

Whether or not there's financial chicanery, however, doesn't account for the many other anti-Bush connections of the "spokespeople" criticizing the ads, which were ignored in mainstream press reports, but noticed by bloggers with Google. (More of that here, here, and here.)

Don't journalists, like, find out stuff about people for a living? Or have they outsourced that to the blogosphere?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Rosen writes that the "find out stuff" job description is woefully out of date.

More here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more on the press's abject failure on this subject.

MORE: Hmm. It does sound suspicious when you put it this way:

It also turns out that those anti-Bush "9/11 families" number only about 120 out of 3,000 victim families--and that they're all part of an organized anti-Bush, anti-war organization, "September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows." And it further turns out that this group, just coincidentally, also happens to be a project of an organization that gets major funding from the Heinz foundations.

Hmm. Call me crazy, but if these were Scaife-funded folks denouncing Kerry I think the media would note the connection. And Jay Caruso emails: "There's no way these reporters didn't know who these people were. Yet they deliberately left out this information, knowing it would cause controversy."

STILL MORE: Reader Erik Fortune emails:

Notice the last line of the Associated Press article about the retired
national guardsman who reported seeing President Bush on base in Alabama
(Link):

"Calhoun has not made any donations to Bush this election season or during the 2000 season, according to campaign finance records."

See? The (associated) press _does_ go look for conflicts of interest ... when the person in question supports Bush.

I'll give them credit for reporting that they didn't find anything in this case, but the fact that they looked is telling. If the press were half as, um, diligent wrt the 9-11 families, the whole incident would have had a hugely different spin.

Yes, it would have.

MORE: Still more on this subject here, from the Arizona Republic website. And Tom Perry has a long and link-filled post on the subject.

THE SEASON OF "CONFUSION." Yes. Sunday it was beautiful, until it turned cold and nasty. Yesterday it was sunny, but got colder. Tonight they're talking snow.

JAMES LILEKS reviews the Kerry campaign blog.

HALLEY SUITT thinks blog posts should be short and sweet.

I think it depends. Blogs are good at serving up short pointers and nuggets of insight. But I don't mind a longer post when people have something more substantial to say.

JOHN KERRY IS NOT BLACK, and black people have noticed:

WASHINGTON - The head of a civil rights and legal services advocacy group wants Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to apologize for saying he wouldn't be upset if he could be known as the second black president.

"John Kerry is not a black man — he is a privileged white man who has no idea what it is in this country to be a poor white in this country, let alone a black man," said Paula Diane Harris, founder of the Andrew Young National Center for Social Change.

He sure doesn't look very black in this photo! Let's be honest: Kerry has no idea what it is to be even a middle-class white in this country.

UPDATE: A reader points out that George W. Bush is rich, too. True enough. But he's not quoting André Gide and posing as black!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lonewacko notes the Toni Morrison quote from which the Clinton-as-black-President trope emerged:

...white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

(Emphasis in original). Doesn't sound much like either Bush or Kerry, does it?

MORE PROGRESS:

Syrian police have disrupted a rare protest by human rights activists demanding political and civil reforms.

At least 30 arrests were made during a sit-in before the Damascus parliament building, says a Syrian rights group.

The protest marks the 41st anniversary of the day Syrian Baathists seized power, declaring a state of emergency.

The dominoes are teetering.

VENEZUELA: Chavez is not only crushing civil rights, but is ruling outside the law.

He's a dictator.

GIZMODO has an item on gadgets that I like, mentioning the Toshiba digital camera whose photos grace this page below, and the iRiver digital audio player (which I bought based on a recommendation on Tyler Cowen's blog).

I have to say, though, that the flaw in the iRiver is that it only interfaces with a computer that has its software installed. That's a minor flaw, though a tolerable one in an audio player. (But it makes it largely useless as a general purpose flash-memory drive, though it's advertised as such.) This raises a general point.

Hardware should work, whenever possible, on any computer it's hooked up to. One thing I don't like about a lot of the high-end digital cameras is that their highest quality uncompressed files are saved in a format that needs special software to decode and convert into generally applicable formats. (Some do save as .tif files, which to my mind is better, or are capable of in-camera conversion to .jpegs. They all should be)

Most of the time stuff like that doesn't matter, but you can bet that sooner or later some incompatibility issue like that will bite you on the ass -- you'll have a camera full of great pictures, and you'll have some urgent need to email them, but you'll be stuck with having each picture in a 12MB file that's too big to email on its own and that you can neither resize nor edit because the computer with the proprietary conversion software is dead or in your lost luggage.

UPDATE: Reader Deepak Sarda points out that there's a firmware upgrade for the iRiver that makes it mass storage compliant.

TIM GRAHAM ON TV COVERAGE OF THE ELECTIONS: "And isn't it odd to accuse candidates of ignoring the issues when you spend every day chronicling Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson instead of Social Security or international trade?"

I'VE SAID THAT LOCAL-BLOGGING has a big future. Here's a guy who's doing it now, with extensive coverage of a school board election, including MP3 audio. (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

KERRY VS. KERRY ON THE WAR: Some thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.

A SERIOUS THREAT TO ACADEMIC FREEDOM at the University of Southern Mississippi. Ralph Luker has a roundup with lots of links.

Who do they think they are, Penn State?

THE BOSTON GLOBE REPORTS on a nanotech gold rush, as states chase potential future markets -- and current federal research dollars.

It's too bad that so few of those current research dollars are directed toward actual nanotechnology.

March 08, 2004

PROTEIN WISDOM is back! We missed you, Jeff!

Why? Just read this Ted Rall obituary.

INTERESTING OBSERVATION on the Martha Stewart case:

Amidst all the comment on the Martha Stewart case, I think the most important point has been missed: the law under which she was convicted is a bad law. I don't mean the securities laws--- that malicious and silly charge was kicked out by the judge. Essentially, what she was found guilty of was lying to policemen. I don't think that should be a crime-- and certainly not with a five-year sentence.

On the statute in question, 18 USC 1001, the "False Statements Act," I highly recommend my former colleague Peter W. Morgan's article, The Undefined Crime of Lying to Congress: Ethics Reform and the Rule of Law, 86 Nw U L Rev 177 (1992). The False Statements Act reaches more (a lot more) than just lying to Congress, and his article surveys its history and some of its abuses.

Eugene Volokh has more: "Cases such as Martha Stewart's may discourage people (even innocent people) from talking to federal authorities at all, because they might fear that some error on their part may be characterized as a lie, and might thus mean criminal punishment."

(Via Prof. Bainbridge).

SPACE TOURISM LEGISLATION has passed the House. Here's the CRS bill summary, and here's the bill. SpacePolitics.com has more.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has read the Time Magazine interview with John Kerry and he's not impressed.

UPDATE: More from LT Smash and Stephen Green. Sheesh.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY REVIEW OF MEDIA GUN BIAS is up, with lots of attention to last week's legislative developments. Er, non-developments.

LEE HARRIS SAYS that antiwar Democrats are suffering from cognitive dissonance.

IT'S THE BATTLE OF THE ONLINE POLL-STUFFERS! So far the pro-Bush folks are still ahead in this German poll, but their lead is eroding.

KERRY: He's everywhere you want him to be!

UPDATE: And is it really smart for Kerry to be bragging that foreign leaders want him to beat Bush so as to produce a more compliant U.S. foreign policy? ("Without naming anybody, Kerry said he had received words of encouragement from leaders abroad who were eager to see him defeat Bush on Nov. 2.")

Er, which foreign leaders are we talking about, here. . . .?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Cori Dauber wonders what Kerry's thinking -- and what he's doing -- here.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS IS UP: Don't miss it.

KEVIN DRUM RESPONDS to criticisms of Duke over a lack of intellectual diversity (see here and here) with this:

Duke — and other institutions — devote resources to the first two because America has a long and often ugly history of discrimination against ethnic minorities and women. America decidedly does not have a long and ugly history of discrimination against conservatives.

Really, is that so hard to undersand?

No. It's just not what's going on. If a university announced that "In order to remedy America's long and ugly history of discrimination against ethnic minorities and women, we're going to discriminate in favor of them now, just because we think it's the right thing to do," it would be violating the law, as a mere desire to redress America's history of societal discrimination isn't enough to justify race discrimination in the present. (This is true for state universities, and I believe it's the case for private schools like Duke, too.) It would also be deeply impolitic, since such behavior is highly unpopular, and rather hard to square with the color-blind language favored by the civil rights movement in its glory days.

As a result, universities have chosen to lie about what they're doing. It's not about skin color, or reparations, we're told, it's about diversity. They're using skin color as a proxy for different thinking.

Only it's not. As the lovely Lily Malcolm observes in her usual trenchant fashion:

Of course, ideology enters the racial diversity debate when minority professors aren't sufficiently liberal. Then they're told they don't count because they're not "authentic."

The people Kevin complains about have the temerity to hold the universities to their public justifications, when they're supposed to be too polite to mention that those justifications are bald-faced lies. What's most striking about the affirmative action / diversity debate is how unwilling its defenders are to tell the truth about what they're doing, and why they're doing it. If they took Kevin's posture, they'd at least be honest, though they'd also be spending a lot of money on lawyers.

UPDATE: Drum emails (that was fast!):

Campaigning for more conservatives in universities is fine. I think you're barking up the wrong tree, but fine.

But when you start comparing it to racism and sexism, it's like the folks who compare every offense in society to the Holocaust. It trivializes a genuinely important issue and, eventually, becomes sort of offensive. If you started complaining about discrimination against short people, which is undoubtedly real but trivial, and put it in the same sentence as complaints about racism and sexism, it would be the same thing.

If you think universities need more conservatives, that's OK -- although I think you ought to spend more time seriously thinking about why there aren't more. It's very unlikely to be due to either overt or unconscious discrimination. But really, you shouldn't pretend it's an issue on the same level as things like racism and sexism.

But I'm not the one who's trivializing things here. Rather, it's the universities who lack the courage to push Kevin's approach, and retreat into mealy-mouthed lies about diversity. If you want to justify affirmative action based on remedying historic injustices, fine -- but that's not what's happening. The reason that it's not happening is that such an approach would be massively unpopular and almost certainly illegal, and universities don't want to undertake the effort of changing either public opinion or the law. Instead they talk about salads and quilts and different experiences yielding different viewpoints. So who's trivializing things here?

And, for the record, as somebody who's been involved in academic hiring for quite a while, I do think that there's discrimination on the basis of viewpoint. A lot of it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Smith: "Let me be the first to say that when I joined the chorus of people complaining about discrimination against conservatives in academia, I had no idea that it would go on so long that Kevin Drum would get tired of it."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: John Rosenberg has more thoughts on trivialization: "One can add, and so I will here, that the real trivializers of racial discrimination are those who defend racial preferences by arguing that discrimination on the basis of race is no different from discriminating on the basis of athletic ability, musical talent, place of birth, or legacy status."

IRAQ NOW HAS A CONSTITUTION. Over at OxBlog, David Adesnik looks at weekend doomsaying by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times and Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, and observes:

So, did the NYT report today that Friday's "major embarrassment" didn't materialize? Or that Paul Bremer has been successful in encouraging Iraqis to work together? And what about the WaPo? Did it report that the Shi'ites' compromise is an indication of how ethnic and religious divisions may not be as profound as originally thought?

Since those were all rhetorical questions, I won't bother telling you the answers. The fact is that professional journalists have a remarkable habit of overlooking their own short-sightedness. Unsurprisingly, the same correspondents at the Times (Dexter Filkins) and the Post (Rajiv Chandrasekaran) covered both the Shi'ite walkout on Friday and the Shi'ite compromise earlier today. Their coverage demonstrates how committed both men are (subconsciously, I think ) to telling the story of how America is going to fail in Iraq. Of course, it's hard to tell a consistent story when the facts keep getting in the way.

Yes. Now that the good news is getting hard to deny or ignore, we'll start hearing that things are actually a lot worse than they look on the surface. Note, however, the lack of interest in looking beneath the surface back when the surface could be presented as bad.

Adesnik also engages in a bit of I-told-you-so directed at Josh Marshall. It's undignified, but I suppose it's irresistible under the circumstances.

OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA: A new blog that was, er, "inspired" by Eric Alterman.

HERE'S MORE on the growing amount of private money supporting stem cell research.

MICKEY KAUS is working toward a Unified Kerry Theory, and observes:

Kerry's positioning is often so transparently and short-sightedly self-interested that it's actually not in his long term self-interest.

Indeed.

March 07, 2004

THE WEDDING WAS YESTERDAY, and today, instead of going to the office as I usually do on Sundays, I took advantage of near-70-degree sunny weather to go to the mountains. I drove around in the RX-8, which hasn't gotten enough exercise through the winter, and hiked the Laurel Falls trail. (It was a good thing I did, too, as the weather went to hell later this afternoon, just as I was on my way home). The picture above is from Laurel Falls, with the Toshiba, at the 1/1600 sec. shutter speed, which freezes things rather nicely. (Larger version here. As you can see, even consumer-grade digicams have gotten pretty good.)

Here's another picture that shows one of the advantages of hiking during the off-season: this view will be completely obscured once the trees leaf out. It's rather pretty.

The downside of hiking this time of year is slickness. There was a woman at the Falls looking pretty unhappy, as she had sprained her ankle badly slipping on some rocks. (A bystander said it was on ice, though I didn't see any -- it was 60 degrees there, but it's still somewhat plausible as it may well have been below freezing there last night). The only ice I saw was the icepack on her ankle as she waited for rangers to haul her out. They use a rather clever stretcher that has a single mountain-bike-like wheel on it so as to navigate the trails without giving rangers hernias. I'm glad that they have it, and I hope that I never need it. . . .

JEFF JARVIS notes a suggestion that people post pictures of their blogging space. I agree with Jeff that I have too many locations for that, but you can see a picture of one of them here. I don't generally blog in a suit, though. Here's another, and I guess that this counts, too. But probably not this.

DURHAM, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Here's more on the flap over Duke's diversity problem. "What’s clear is that the present administration has pledged a commitment to racial, gender, and intellectual diversity, but actual resources are only dedicated toward the first two components." It's not just that way at Duke, of course. Meanwhile, Lily Malcolm has observations of her own.

FORMER KASS COUNCIL MEMBER ELIZABETH BLACKBURN writes in the Washington Post that the Council is getting narrower as the result of politics:

When I read the council's first discussion documents, my heart sank. The language was not what I was used to seeing in scientific discourse -- it seemed to me to present pre-judged views and to use rhetoric to make points. Still, the debates we had in the ensuing months proved far-ranging, and all comments were politely received. And, despite the betting of outsiders, 10 of the council's 17 members (one had retired) initially voted against recommending a ban on therapeutic cloning. A late change to the question being voted on turned the minority who were in favor of a ban into a majority of 10 favoring a four-year moratorium, an option the council had not discussed in meetings. But the report issued in July 2002 contained a breadth of views. It also contained a series of personal statements by council members, many of them dissenting from the report's official recommendations.

In the year and a half following that report, I began to sense much less tolerance from the chairman for dissenting views. . . .

When I read the published views of the three new members (bringing the council up to its original total of 18 members), it seemed to me they represented a loss of balance in the council, both professionally and philosophically. None was a biomedical scientist, and the views of all three were much closer to the views espoused by Kass than mine or May's were. One, a surgeon who was not a scientist, had championed a larger place for religious values in public life. Another was a political philosopher who had publicly praised Kass's work; the third, a political scientist, had described research in which embryos are destroyed as "evil."

Interesting.

THE ANNENBERG CENTER'S FACTCHECK.ORG is fact-checking a bogus anti-Bush ad from MoveOn.

UPDATE: Of course, this just echoes what James Lileks said about the ads:

Heard some of the moveon.org Soros-financed ad today, about Bush eliminating overtime. The ad made it sound as though he had signed an executive order that outlawed the practice of paying ANYONE any overtime EVER, which of course isn’t the case. It fits with the worldview of the intended audience, I guess – the people who think that once upon a time the United States strictly adhered to the Kyoto protocols, had legal gay marriage, and allowed overtime pay, and the President has undone these pillars of society one by one. Because he hates people, you know. He really wants to screw people over. That’s how you get reelected: wage unrelenting war against the electorate so they’ll vote for you in hopes that the beatings will slacken somewhat in the lame-duck term.

I don't think that Soros is getting his money's worth.

I'VE TALKED A LITTLE ABOUT JOHN KERRY'S RECENT SPEECH ON NATIONAL SECURITY and foreign policy, but this critical analysis over at Winds of Change is really worth reading.

TODDZILLA ASKS: "Where is everybody going to Spring Break? Daytona? Guantanamo Bay?"

Well, there are some similarities, according to this article in, of all places, The Guardian:

Cuba? It was great, say boys freed from US prison camp

James Astill meets teenagers released from Guantanamo Bay who recall the place fondly

Asadullah strives to make his point, switching to English lest there be any mistaking him. "I am lucky I went there, and now I miss it. Cuba was great," said the 14-year-old, knotting his brow in the effort to make sure he is understood.
Not that Asadullah saw much of the Caribbean island. During his 14-month stay, he went to the beach only a couple of times - a shame, as he loved to snorkel. And though he learned a few words of Spanish, Asadullah had zero contact with the locals.

He spent a typical day watching movies, going to class and playing football. He was fascinated to learn about the solar system, and now enjoys reciting the names of the planets, starting with Earth. Less diverting were the twice-monthly interrogations about his knowledge of al-Qaida and the Taliban. But, as Asadullah's answer was always the same - "I don't know anything about these people" - these sessions were merely a bore: an inevitably tedious consequence, Asadullah suggests with a shrug, of being held captive in Guantanamo Bay. . . .

Tracked down to his remote village in south-eastern Afghanistan, Naqibullah has memories of Guantanamo that are almost identical to Asadullah's. Prison life was good, he said shyly, nervous to be receiving a foreigner to his family's mud-fortress home.

The food in the camp was delicious, the teaching was excellent, and his warders were kind. "Americans are good people, they were always friendly, I don't have anything against them," he said. "If my father didn't need me, I would want to live in America."

No doubt an apology will be forthcoming, from those who analogized Guantanamo to Buchenwald.

UPDATE: Roger Simon notes that some people are worried about "another Guantanamo" in Iraq.

PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP: A reader emails:

A thought occurred to me as I read bloggers who have done an about-face politically, which should be a very profound, well thought-out action. George Soros has said he is spending 10 million dollars to defeat President Bush and Teresa Heinz has said she will release soft money to fight for her husband's reelection. How are we to know these about-face bloggers have not been recipients of some of this money? This could mean the end of bloggers before the concept really gets off the ground. That would be very sad. Is there some way to prevent this? I've turned to them in place of the mainstream media for my news but now I wonder if they are reliable.

I don't know what bloggers the reader has in mind, and where we've seen changes it's generally been because the Administration stepped on somebody's pet issue; I can't really think of an unexplained about-face.

But I guess people could buy off bloggers, though if there were a campaign for that I'd think that someone might have approached me, which certainly hasn't happened. [Maybe you're too obviously incorruptible! -- Ed. That must be it.] And anyway, if a blogger stops making sense to his/her readers, those readers will probably just move on, and corruption too subtle to have that effect would probably also be too subtle to be worth paying for.

At any rate, the sad truth is that bloggers, despite their growing influence, probably aren't worth bribing.

UPDATE: They say that everyone has his price, but Jay Manifold wants to be sure there's no mistake about his. And he's not the only blogger looking for some of that "sweet payoff cash." I'm sure it would turn to ashes in your mouth, er, wallet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: What price integrity? $387.42, in this case.

SORRY FOR THE BLOGGING HIATUS: We had a wedding yesterday. Well, actually it was a re-wedding. My brother and sister-in-law were actually married in Nigeria a few months ago. But health and immigration issues kept some people here from going there, and vice versa, so the solution was to have two ceremonies. (It's also easier to get married again in the United States than to have a Nigerian marriage between two American citizens recognized here.)

A wonderful time was had by all, and an impromptu blues band (including Doug "InstaLawyer" Weinstein on drums) rocked things into the night. And yes, that's the InstaWife in the background, serving as videographer for the event. The Nigerian relatives will be getting a DVD of the festivities they missed, just like the one they sent us of the festivities there.

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