Warning: include(/home/www/instapundit-archive/ad.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/joyent-copy/home/www/instapundit-archive/archives/week_2004_03_21.php on line 126
Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/www/instapundit-archive/ad.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/pear:/usr/share/php') in /home/joyent-copy/home/www/instapundit-archive/archives/week_2004_03_21.php on line 126
March 27, 2004
DANIEL OKRENT: "In the coming months I expect columnist corrections to become a little more frequent and a lot more forthright than they've been in the past."
UPDATE: Donald Luskin: "As a quick-take, it seems like a cautious but sensible stance for Okrent." But he claims another "rowback," too, though a minor one. Still, a quote should be a quote.
EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN:
Richard A. Clarke makes assertions in his book Against All Enemies that can be easily checked against external and unambiguous sources. Is Clarke truthful in verifiable assertions he makes?
No, in at least one instance Clarke totally fabricates a position he attributes to another author's book, and then use his fabrication to discredit that author's position.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn:
Does this mean Clarke is Enron - an equal-opportunity scandal whose explicitly political aspects are too ambiguous to offer crude party advantage? Not quite. Although his book sets out to praise Clinton and bury Bush, he can't quite pull it off. Except for his suggestion to send in a team of "ninjas" to take out Osama, Clinton had virtually no interest in the subject.
In October 2000, Clarke and Special Forces Colonel Mike Sheehan leave the White House after a meeting to discuss al-Qa'eda's attack on the USS Cole: "'What's it gonna take, Dick?' Sheehan demanded. 'Who the s*** do they think attacked the Cole, f****** Martians? The Pentagon brass won't let Delta go get bin Laden. Does al-Qa'eda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?'"
Apparently so. The attack, on the Cole, which killed 17 US sailors, was deemed by Clinton's Defence Secretary Bill Cohen as "not sufficiently provocative" to warrant a response. You'll have to do better than that, Osama! So he did. And now the same people who claim Bush had no right to be "pre-emptive" about Iraq insist he should have been about September 11. . . .
Bush got it right: go to where the terrorists are, overthrow their sponsoring regimes, destroy their camps, kill their leaders.
Instead, all the Islamists who went to Afghanistan in the 1990s graduated from Camp Osama and were dispersed throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, where they lurk to this day. That's the Clarke-Clinton legacy. And, if it were mine, I wouldn't be going around boasting about it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jon Henke emails:
I've noticed the Democrats are calling the Administration's response to Clarke "character assassination". Odd, considering the response has largely consisted of pointing out Clarke's own words.
Wouldn't that more accurately be called "character suicide"?
I prefer "self-Fisking," though I suppose that might sound a little racy to blogosphere neophytes. . . .
DONALD SENSING has some interesting thoughts on root causes of terror. And this one is interesting, too.
"WHY THE FEDS FEAR NANOBOTS:" Interesting article from U.S. News, though unaccountably Mark Modzelewski is not quoted.
HERE'S ANOTHER ARTICLE ABOUT BLOGADS, from the Star Tribune. Excerpt: "Advertising that would cost you $70,000 on WashingtonPost.com would cost $3,000 on blogs." Let's hear it for low overhead!
THE WASHINGTON POST is flip-flopping on Clarke, reports Oxblog: "Without admitting they ever got the story wrong, the WaPo correspondents on the Clarke beat are backing down from their initial assessment of Clarke's criticism."
March 26, 2004
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: Enough of Richard Clarke and politics for a while.
Some people were surprised that I ran an ad for the Shifting Baselines project of the Oceans Conservancy a while back. But it's actually something I care about, as the picture above may demonstrate. The main point of diving is to observe and enjoy the aquatic life. And one reason I like to dive in Cayman is that they've done an excellent job of preserving things -- though the surfeit of cruise ships there is causing even the local merchants to wonder if they're facing too much of a good thing.
And even there, people argue about how the reef is doing. I've heard people say that it's much better than it was decades ago when it was regularly fished with purse seines, and I've heard other say it's not as good. (And there are still calls for more protection) It's hard to say who's right, and it depends on exactly which parts of the reef you're talking about, too. That's what the whole "baselines" idea is about.
Anyway, as a break from the usual stuff, I've put up a short selection of dive videos, showing what a pretty damn good reef looks like. You can see 'em in high-bandwidth WMV, in low-bandwidth WMV, or in high-bandwidth QuickTime. The fellow on the right (er, I think he's the fellow) is part of a mating pair of pufferfish we observed, which is pretty rare. You can also see sharks, spiny lobsters, crabs, etc. (I make a cameo appearance or two as well, as does Doug Weinstein).
Divers have been pretty good about trying to preserve and improve the marine environment, through things like PADI's Project A.W.A.R.E. And I suspect that if more people dove, more people would care about these issues. It is seven-tenths of the planet, after all.
UPDATE: Technical and other questions answered: Shot on mini-DV using a DCR-PC330 camera and an Amphibco housing (I think, it was a renter). Edited using Vegas Video 4 (which still rocks).
VIRGINIA POSTREL has thoughts on technology and outsourcing.
IT'S GETTING UGLY: Pro-Bush blogger Matt Margolis was beaten up at an anti-Bush rally.
UPDATE: Reader Greg Miskin emails:
Something I never wanted to believe seems to be playing out daily: the Democratic party has been overrun by totalitarians. The party is marginalizing old-guard Dems who might (might!) hold differing opinions but who also could be counted on for civility and a rational basis for their arguments. . . .
There is no room for dissent, discourse, debate. My experience is that people behave this way when they hold indefensible beliefs, and they know just how weak their position is. A dog with this behavior is called a "fear-biter" and I can think of no better description for these people.
I guess it's the 1930s again in more ways than one.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Miskin's view seems borne out by this comment posted by "Hot Dem 1" on Margolis's blog:
Hitler had his beliefs, just like Matt has his. Sometimes violence is the only way to show people how devastatingly bad their ideas are. When society is so distraught about policy that individuals feel the need to take violent action, revolution is not only expected, but neccessary. I’m no union man, but I’d have probably taken a swing at you too.
As the devolution of the Left continues, it's probably a poor historical moment for leftists to assert that "violence is the only way to show people how devastatingly bad their ideas are."
MORE: A followup post, here.
STILL MORE: Willow has further thoughts.
MORE STILL: And read this response:
I think the more revealing aspect of Hot Dem's comment is what it tells us about when the left finds violence acceptable. Imagine, for example, a despot who oppresses the population of an entire nation. Women are raped. Children are murdered. Political opponents are fed into shredders or steamrolled underneath the asphalt of new road construction. Stipends are paid to the families of suicide bombers who kill and terrorize the innocent. The left's response to such a despot is that we must negotiate. Endlessly. Using force against him without French permission is a violation of international law. If, hypothetically, the despot's two sons were to be killed in a military engagement, we should put the soldiers who killed him up for war crimes.
But if someone dares to express a viewpoint that the left finds disagreeable, well then by gum it's time for a bit of the old ultra-violence!
Read the whole thing. "Ultra-violence" is a bit strong for what happened here, but the point about what gets people angry stands.
EVEN MORE: Philosoraptor: "We have very little control over what Republicans and Bushies do, but we have at least a tiny bit of control over what our side does. Perhaps Senator Kerry should give our side a good talking-to..."
THE SELF-FISKING CONTINUES:
WASHINGTON - Top Republicans in Congress sought Friday to declassify two-year-old testimony by former White House aide Richard Clarke, suggesting he may have lied this week when he faulted President Bush's handling of the war on terror.
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.
ASK AN IMAM:
A Muslim preacher in eastern Turkey says he is being boycotted for telling local men to help their wives with the housework, Turkish media reported.
"Women do all the work in this village. All I said was men should at least carry the water (from the local well)," Mustafa Platin told Sabah newspaper.
His angry flock, who stopped attending the mosque, have asked authorities to remove the preacher.
That it's an issue at all is probably a sign of progress.
UPDATE: A Muslim student from Northwestern emails:
I enjoy your website a great deal and check it frequently. I just wanted to drop a quick note regarding one of your posts. The story of the Imam who was boycotted for advising men to help in their wives' housework is most certainly a travesty. It is a well-established part of the Islamic tradition that the Prophet Muhammad mended his own clothes, cleaned his own living space, and never requested domestic assistance of anyone. The Prophet literally implored men to assist their wives and worked to elevate the status of women at a time when they were treated as chattel. Because men who call themselves Muslims today choose to flagrantly disobey a firmly established aspect of Islamic history in the name of advancing their own chauvinistic interests, does not make it Islamic (this is also painfully obvious in the communities who turn their backs on Imams who rightfully condemn suicide bombings as impermissible and sinful; again, the racism and chauvinism that bring about these feelings are not Islamic, as the Prophet prohibited the killing of innocents, use of fire in war, destruction of the land and livestock—the evidence is overwhelming, and I’d be happy to engage you on that topic as well).
I have attended, and led, many prayers here in the States and abroad, and never have I encountered a community of men who would become angry with an Imam for advising them of something so consistent with the Islamic tradition as helping their wives. That these men in Turkey did so is repugnant.
If you perceive this email to be a worthy contribution of information, feel free to post any part of it. If possible, just refer to me a as a Northwestern University Law Student.
It's certainly true that many who call themselves Muslims follow something other than the teachings of Islam, and that many kinds of sexism popularly associated with Islam -- even by their practitioners who call themselves Muslims -- are actually rooted in tribal traditions or simple prejudice.
ANN ALTHOUSE has thoughts on the gender dynamics of The Apprentice: "generally, women watching the show shouldn't really be using it as a source of tips on how to look and act in the business world."
TIM BLAIR has a new poll up. I voted for the "Sky Turtle," but "Nobel Peace Prize" seems to be in the lead.
RICHARD CLARKE IS SUGGESTING an Al Qaeda connection to the Oklahoma City bombing.
Plenty of people have suggested that, and also suggested an Iraqi connection. But given the way such suspicions have been generally pooh-poohed, it's interesting to see it coming from this source, and the domestic political implications are dramatic.
UPDATE: Roger Simon has further observations that are, as always, worth reading.
ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik:
Is there any hope of getting past partisan antagonism and coming up with a fair evaluation of what Richard Clarke has to say about the Bush administration? No, not really. At least for now. I think a big part of the problem is that the newspapers have been portraying Clarke as an immaculate hero and the President as a black-hatted villain.
Indeed. Adesnik has quite a survey of responses to Clarke's testimony. Referring to an earlier post of his defending Clarke, Adesnik observes: " I missed the real story: that Clarke was rewriting the history of what happened before September 11th."
A lot of other people missed it -- or ignored it -- too.
MORE: Here's some interesting linkage of Iraq and Al Qaeda, from Richard Clarke.
STILL MORE: Here's a 9/11 Commission hearings flowchart that illustrates Adesnik's point.
THIS CARTOON sums up the media worldview quite nicely.
HALLEY SUITT needs a vacation.
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH is fact-checking Paul Krugman.
REMEMBER THE PLANELOAD OF SAUDIS that left shortly after 9/11? Who decided to let it go? Richard Clarke!
Full article, from the Boston Herald, here. "It's too bad Clarke cuts no one in the Bush administration the same slack he so easily cuts himself."
JAMES LILEKS notes that press coverage of Richard Clarke seems to be soft-pedaling his self-contradictions and dissembling:
When I said yesterday that Clarke should have expected some push-back, I should have been more clear. I meant that he must have known his contradictory statements would be made public, quickly, and these remarks, combined with his exquisitely timed book and PR push, would have an impact on his credibility. But he’s obviously smarter than I will ever be; he expected that the climate was right for his contradictions to be explained away or ignored.
Yep, it's an election year, with a Republican incumbent. Read the whole thing, as Lileks offers rather a lot of specifics. He more or less fisks the entire Big Media coverage in one sitting.
Meanwhile Charles Krauthammer writes that Clarke is a "partisan perjurer:"
It is only March, but the 2004 Chutzpah of the Year Award can be safely given out. It goes to Richard Clarke, now making himself famous by blaming the Bush administration for Sept. 11 -- after Clarke had spent eight years in charge of counterterrorism for a Clinton administration that did nothing.
First, if the Clarke of 2002 was telling the truth, then the Clarke of this week -- the one who told the Sept. 11 commission under oath that "fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly [there was] no higher priority" -- is a liar.
Second, he becomes not just a perjurer but a partisan perjurer. He savages Bush for not having made al Qaeda his top national security priority, but he refuses even to call a "mistake" Clinton's staggering dereliction in putting Yasser Arafat and Yugoslavia(!) above fighting al Qaeda.
Clarke gives Clinton a pass and instead concentrates his ire on Bush. For what? For not having preemptively attacked Afghanistan? On what grounds -- increased terrorist chatter in June and July 2001?
Read the whole thing. But the press -- many of whose leaders quietly gathered to give Kerry a hand back in the fall -- is doing its best to soften up Bush for November now. If Clarke were attacking a Democratic president, they'd have been all over his contradictions. But this spin will only make his unravelling more damaging, and contribute to the ongoing self-marginalization of the old media.
UPDATE: Belgravia Dispatch says thta TNR's Clarke coverage is dropping the ball.
MICKEY KAUS on why the Kerry camp's self-important Vietnam analogies don't work:
The difference, of course, is that the war Johnson fought using the Gulf of Tonkin incident produced very little except massive carnage and a Communist government in South Vietnam. The Beirut attack was a total loss. But American soldiers in Iraq--whether or not there were WMDs--are in the process of freeing a nation from a dictator. This accomplishment survives the Kay report. It doesn't "cheapen the sacrifice" American soldiers made achieving this goal to admit the truth about the WMDs. Does Kerry think the troops haven't achieved this?
Kaus also has some advice for Bush that the Bush people ought to read.
March 25, 2004
HERE'S A NEW POST ON AUTHOR JOHN GRAY'S rather lame legal threat aimed at a blogger. (More on the threat, and on John Gray's rather unimpressive credentials at this link. Did Gray insist on this against his lawyer's advice? Or did his lawyer fail to advise him against this rather self-defeating conduct?)
I had never given Gray, or his credentials, much thought before. But this threat, and the information it has brought forth, has convinced me that he's a poser and a bully.
NICK SCHULZ has thoughts on the French, who are not our allies.
C.D. HARRIS ON RICHARD CLARKE AND HIS DEFENDERS:
Let no man say that Josh Marshall is not a master craftsman of the art of spin.
Not even Marshall's considerable talents, however, can save Clarke and his book from the fact that the transcript completely and utterly contradicts what he's saying now. As such, it is anything but an 'attack on Clarke's character.' It is proof - dispositive proof, from the man's own mouth - that his recent accusations are patently false. "The best they can do"? Indeed.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Roll Call notes that more people are questioning Clarke's truthfulness. Here's an excerpt that's not on the free page:
House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) said Wednesday that former White House anti-terror czar Richard Clarke, the author of a new book critical of President Bush’s handling of the al Qaeda threat before Sept. 11, 2001, may have lied in testimony to his committee, and said he plans to explore whether Congressional action on the matter is warranted.
Clarke’s “testimony to our committee is 180 degrees out of line with what he is saying in his book,” Goss said. “He’s either lying in his book or he lied to our committee. It’s one or the other.”
Yes, a number of us have been pointing this out.
"THE TOTAL COLLAPSE OF RICHARD CLARKE:" Does Karl Rove pay these guys, or is Bush just preternaturally lucky where his critics are concerned?
UPDATE: More here:
Defenders of Clarke (and even some of his opponents) say that he is extremely knowledgeable about the war on terror. That may be true; I don't have the specialized knowledge of the subject to judge. But, it is more than a little troubling that even his defenders don't tell us about his victories in that war, though it is easy to find examples of his blunders. If he is a great anti-terrorist warrior, one would think he would have some wins on his record, as well as all these losses.
TIME: "Richard Clarke, at War With Himself."
I was hoping he'd be at war with the terrorists.
UPDATE: More thoughts here.
THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY has interesting thoughts on markets and politics.
WINDS OF CHANGE has its war news roundup posted. And there are lots of other interesting posts -- just keep scrolling.
CABLENEWSER wonders about media silence and the 2002 Clarke interview.
UPDATE: Answer here.
TOM MAGUIRE NOTES that the Kerry assassination story is working its way up the media food chain, with the Boston Globe getting involved (though it's still nibbling around the edges). There's more Kerrry hedging, too, on the question of whether American troops "murdered" 200,000 Vietnamese. (He said yes back then; now he regards the word "murdered" as "inappropriate.")
UPDATE: Okay, okay, here's the link to the Globe story, and here's the lede:
WASHINGTON -- In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John F. Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being "murdered by the United States of America" and said he had gone to Paris and "talked with both delegations at the peace talks" and met with communist representatives.
Maguire has more, and additional links.
JEFF JARVIS, a survivor of the WTC attacks, is unsatisfied with Richard Clarke's "apology" -- and he's not the only one.
I'VE JUST STARTED READING Alan Shipnuck's book, The Battle for Augusta National: Hootie, Martha and the Masters of the Universe, and so far it's pretty good. I'm sure it'll be better than Howell Raines' autobiography, which Jack Shafer eviscerates. The real connection between the two, though, is that the Martha Burk / Augusta National brouhaha underscored the New York Times' growing irrelevance. As Mark Steyn noted:
In the last nine months, the New York Times has run 95 stories on Martha Burk and Augusta. So, aside from being outnumbered by police and reporters, Burk's 40 supporters were outnumbered more than two to one by New York Times stories on Burk. Every time the Times mentioned this allegedly raging furor, it attracted approximately another 0.4 of a supporter to her cause. . . .
The Times' carpet bombing of Augusta has proved a pathetic bunker-bust. This is supposed to be the most influential newspaper in America, the one whose front page all but dictates the agenda of the network news shows. And its most fiercely sustained campaign can't fill a single school bus?
That is Raines' legacy, and it appears to be in no danger from his successors.
GARY SILBERBERG looks at Bruce Ackerman's latest proposal and asks: "Do we need a clever way of bribing fifty million Americans to enroll in a politically correct university?"
But Ackerman is winning over others:
Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale Law School, received the Insignia of Commander of the French Order of Merit from the Republic of France at a ceremony at Yale Law School on March 1.
The award was presented by Madame Noelle Lenoir, France's Minister for European Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
UPDATE: D'oh! It's actually a guest comment at Gary Silberberg's blog. Sorry. No Order of Merit for me!
EVAN COYNE MALONEY has a new video up. Don't miss it!
UPDATE: Yes, he does deserve a network gig.
CHRIS MUIR'S Day By Day really deserves to be syndicated.
I NEED TO DO A BLOGROLL UPDATE SOON: If you notice any out-of-date items, please let me know, with the subject line "blogroll." Thanks!
UPDATE: Sheesh! I've gotten nearly a hundred of these already. Thanks, but no more, please. This is all I can handle.
GOOD NEWS FROM MICHIGAN, whose concealed-carry law is relatively recent, I believe:
Police Chief William Dwyer said the woman, whose name was not released, was in the parking lot of a business at 12 Mile and Drake, where she worked in the accounting department, when a man confronted her Friday morning.
When he came within about 10 feet, Dwyer said, the woman calmly pulled the gun out of her purse and pointed it at the man -- identified as Carl Walker, 21, of Detroit.
Walker did not draw his weapon, police said. Instead, he ran to a nearby car and the woman called 911. Police later arrested Walker and recovered a pistol. Two companions, Monique Bell, 26, of Detroit and Daphne Patterson, 28, of Southfield, also were arrested.
Dwyer said the incident is making him rethink his opposition to the state law that eased concealed weapons permit regulations. . . .
Two other men -- a father-son team accused of trying to rob a 65-year-old retiree -- are expected to be arraigned this morning in St. Clair County.
The men already had robbed one woman before being stopped by the home owner's bullet on Friday, police said.
The Ft. Gratiot Township home owner answered his door on Keewahdin Road about 8 p.m. and was accosted by a 20-year-old Worth Township man armed with a handgun. When the young man's attention was diverted, police said the home owner grabbed his own .38-caliber handgun and fired.
"The round ended up coming out of his buttocks, so I'm sure he'll be thinking about that old man every time he sits down for a while," said Detective Lt. Mike Bloomfield of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.
A pack, not a herd. Sadly, not everyone has caught on:
State Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, reacted guardedly to the two self-defense cases.
"We have to be careful we don't end up having the wild, wild west," she said.
"People should feel able to protect themselves in their own homes, there's some argument there," said Jacobs, who as a state representative voted against the concealed weapons law in 2002. "But do we want a bunch of vigilantes running around with guns to do the police's work?"
Absurd, disconnected from the actual facts, and cliche-filled. But also the wave of the past.
RICH LOWRY WRITES ON CLARKE'S COLLAPSE. And Greg Djerejian observes that the New York Times and Washington Post have been forced to spin pretty hard to maintain their predetermined storyline. ("The bottom line on W. 43rd St. is thus: Clinton took al--Q seriously, Bush didn't. And, frankly, I just can't take that spin seriously." Hard to, when Clarke himself said Bush increased the Clinton efforts dramatically -- but of course, now Clarke says he was lying to make his boss look good back then, but that now he's telling the disinterested truth!)
UPDATE: Reader Ted Gideon thinks I'm too hard on Clarke:
[H]asn't it occurred yet to you or your linkees that the so-called contradictory statements largely were made as an employee/appointee of the administration, and that part of his JOB was to say what the administration wanted said? When you were in private practice did you make it a habit to file briefs or argue in court that even though your client was liable/guilty, that was no reason not to dismiss? Of course not, nor would any thinking person expect an administration official to say words to the effect of, "We couldn't be bothered to attach any urgency to this issue because we were too busy working on tax cuts or whatever." If an official of an administration wishes to say the emperor has no clothes, the official should resign first.
Well, leaving aside the question of whether legal ethics are an appropriate analogy here (though in fact I never presented evidence that I thought was false), Clarke wasn't just spinning: he made specific assertions of fact back in 2002 which (1) are inconsistent with what he's saying now; and (2) that as far as I know no one has said are false. And although I mentioned them below, let's revisit them here:
JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?
CLARKE: All of that's correct.
ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no — one, there was no [Clinton] plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?
CLARKE: You got it. That's right.
Now Clarke's saying that they were too busy with tax cuts, or whatever. But -- leaving aside the problems with the "of course I was lying then, but you can trust me now!" flavor of his explanations for the discrepancy, I don't see any evidence that those earlier statements were actually untrue. Which makes his current statements even more troubling.
It's certainly true that if Clarke thought the Bush Administration was endangering the nation in 2002, he should have resigned. But he didn't, did he?
Powerline has more -- just keep scrolling.
Finally, Daniel Drezner offers a clue as to what's really going on: "it's hard not to believe that Clarke's evaluation of presidential performance is directly correlated with how well those presidents treated Clarke."
MORE: Some interesting thoughts on Clinton and Bush antiterror strategy.
STILL MORE: An important followup comment from Rich Lowry:
Let me be clear about this: it would have been theoretically possible for Clarke to give reporters that August 2002 briefing, emphasizing the positive aspects of the administration's anti-terror record, and then go and write a critical book, giving what he considers a more complete view. In fact, I think Clarke could have written a very interesting and honest book criticizing the failures in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. But that is not what he has done. There is no way to square what he said in August 2002 with the actual book he has written, because it is such a totalist critique of the Bush administration that leaves out or skates over important facts he recounted in 2002. The Clarke who said in 2002 that nothing important had moved in U.S. counterterrorism policy since the end of 1998 simply cannot be squared with the Clarke of Against All Enemies.
Indeed. A good critique would be a service. This isn't.
VIA ROLL CALL, INTERESTING POLL DATA: "A Year after Iraq War, Most Americans Say Stay the Course." Read the whole thing.
PHILOSOPHICAL DIVISIONS IN THE WAR ON TERROR: Donald Sensing offers a must-read post on the big picture:
Yet asking the question, "What causes Islamist terrorism?" does not make one a de facto leftist by any means. In fact, that was exactly the question that the Bush administration started asking on Sept. 12, 2001. And its framing and answering points out the sharp divide between those who claim the Iraq campaign was a diversion from the War on Terror and those who claim - as I do - that the Iraq war was absolutely essential to succeeding in the WOT.
Read the whole thing.
APPALLING IGNORANCE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT -- on the part of college students and, far more appallingly, of administrators.
March 24, 2004
THERE'S A SAVE BOB EDWARDS COALITION?
A GENUINE HERO: Tomorrow is the birthday of Norman Borlaug, who unlike many recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize has actually done something significant to help humanity.
Here's a wonderful article about Borlaug -- and his rather unsavory critics -- from The Atlantic Monthly. Why did Borlaug win the prize? He "may have prevented a billion deaths." Strangely, some people don't admire that.
RICHARD CLARKE -- NOT JUST FLIP-FLOPPING, BUT WRONG, as Michael Young writes in Reason:
By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.
This is where Clarke's allegations, and those of critics who see a disconnect between Al Qaeda and Iraq, are misleading. Iraq always was essential to the anti-terrorism battle precisely because victory there was regarded as necessary to transform societies from where terrorists, spawned by suffocating regimes, had emerged. One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic. . . .
Lest some find this argument—that autocracy breeds terrorism—deceptive, it is worth recalling it was one that America's most vociferous critics floated after Sept. 11. But that was before they realized that such an opinion placed them in the same boat as Bush administration hawks. Once they did, they preferred to backtrack, on the assumption that anti-Americanism is always more rewarding than consistency.
Indeed. The good news is that -- used as a plan for action, rather than a formula for hair-shirted American inaction -- this approach is actually working.
UPDATE: This story has more examples of Clarke flip-flops. Clarke's current explanation -- he was lying then, not now:
"When you are special assistant to the president and you're asked to explain something that is potentially embarrassing to the administration, because the administration didn't do enough or didn't do it in a timely manner and is taking political heat for it, as was the case there, you have a choice," he said.
One "choice that one has is to put the best face you can for the administration on the facts as they were, and that is what I did."
This guy's working for Rove. By the time he's done imploding, Bush will have discredited the media and all his critics. It's the only thing that makes sense.
The other possibility is that Clarke held an important national security job for years while being dumb as a post, so dumb that he would write a book making explosive accusations against the White House while knowing -- or forgetting? -- that all sorts of contradictory evidence was on the record and bound to come out. Otherwise, wouldn't he at least have tried to explain this stuff up front?
As I've said before, I think there's a lot to complain about regarding pre-9/11 antiterror policy, by both Clinton and Bush. (Read this piece by Gerald Posner). And a lot of people probably should have been fired. But Clarke is now saying that his real problem is with the invasion of Iraq, even as he focuses on pre-9/11 events.
A useful critique would be nice, but Clarke seems to be producing incoherent grandstanding.
ANOTHER UPDATE: It just gets worse. Here's a report that Clarke was linking Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda back in 1999:
Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at El Shifa or what happened to it. But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.
There's a lengthy excerpt from the Washington Post story (it's pay only now) at the link above. I looked at the whole thing on NEXIS just to be sure it was in context. The excerpt does omit this passage, which perhaps weakens the Al Qaeda WMD point (but not the Iraqi connection) a bit:
Clarke said the U.S. does not believe that bin Laden has been able to acquire chemical agents, biological toxins or nuclear weapons. If evidence of such an acquisition existed, he said, "we would be in the process of doing something."
On the other hand, it's followed immediately by this howler:
Assessing U.S. counterterrorism policy to date, Clarke said it's no accident that there have been so few terrorist attacks on American soil.
"The fact that we got seven out of the eight people from the World Trade Center [bombing], and we found them in five countries around the world and brought them back here, the fact we can demonstrate repeatedly that the slogan, 'There's nowhere to hide,' is more than a slogan, the fact that we don't forget, we're persistent -- we get them -- has deterred terrorism," he said.
Clarke thought our limp response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was scaring Al Qaeda?
We know better today. He should have known better then. Or maybe he was just trying to make his boss look good, which he's admitted is a major consideration in his public statements.
So who's his boss now?
MORE: Not Rep. Christopher Shays, who writes: "Clarke was part of the problem before September 11, because he took too narrow a view of the terrorism threat. His approach was reactive and limited to swatting at the visible elements of Al Qe'eda, not the hidden global network and its state sponsors. " That description certainly fits with Clarke's comments about the 1993 bombing response! Read the whole thing, along with the attachments, dating back to 2000. (Via Poliblog).
STILL MORE: Stephen Green observes:
Surely, there's enough blame for 9/11 to go around the Washington Beltway once or twice at least. (How many times do I have to say George Tenet and John Ashcroft needed to be fired on September 12, before the usual fools stop accusing me of being a low-rent shill for the Bush Administration? Ugh. Anyway.) But to claim that Clarke was some kind of maven is just a desperate attempt to keep the blame all in one little pile.
And we all know how those stink.
Indeed. Meanwhile Eric Scheie looks at Clarke's Y2K record and observes, "hype is nothing new to Richard Clarke." Read the whole thing, which offers the kind of interesting background you seldom find in newspaper accounts.
A MAJOR CIVIL RIGHTS VICTORY in Ohio:
West Toledo resident Barb Korn grinned yesterday as she picked up a silver Smith & Wesson revolver - holding it with both hands and aiming it.
"I like this," she said, staring down the gun's sights.
Ms. Korn, 60, was among nearly 25 people taking a 12-hour class at Cleland's Outdoor World on Airport Highway. The training is required in order to carry a firearm under Ohio's new concealed weapons law.
"I was mugged previously and I want to be able to defend myself," she said. "I will feel safer."
The law, which goes into effect April 8, requires sheriffs to approve a concealed-handgun license if the applicant completes 10 hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire training, pays a fee, and passes an exam.
Unfortunately, an essential human right -- self-defense -- is being denied elsewhere:
A man who stabbed to death an armed intruder at his home was jailed for eight years today.
Carl Lindsay, 25, answered a knock at his door in Salford, Greater Manchester, to find four men armed with a gun.
When the gang tried to rob him he grabbed a samurai sword and stabbed one of them, 37-year-old Stephen Swindells, four times.
I'm deeply disappointed at this barbaric infringement of human rights.
UPDATE: Several readers send a link to this story, which unlike the report above says that the defendant was a pot dealer. I'm not sure why that makes a difference in terms of self-defense. The wounds are from behind, which could make a difference, but the facts recited are otherwise largely consistent with the account above.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Rustler notes that while the English shooting may have been good or not, it's not clearly a bad call based on the additional available evidence. [LATER: Er, stabbing, not shooting.]
ROGER SIMON HAS MORE ON THE U.N. OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL and the United Nations' reluctance to come clean. Actually the word used is "stonewalling."
Why don't we have Congressional hearings on this?
UPDATE: In an update, Simon notes that we will have hearings next month. Good! And Baldilocks asks: "I wonder what the first clue was. Was it the palaces or the ever-rounder cheeks of Saddam and his cronies?"
THE LINUX USERS' GROUP OF IRAQ wants computer books -- and not just books about Linux. If you can help, give 'em a hand.
TRENT TELENKO HAS thoughts on military communications.
Meanwhile, Cathy Seipp has thoughts on the civilian variety.
JAN HAUGLAND writes that the success of the Bush anti-terror strategy is demonstrated by the latest from Hamas: An urgent effort to make America feel unthreatened.
Well, they did seem rather anxious to make that point.
STEVEN ANTLER offers an interesting chart of poverty rates over the past several decades.
"WE WANT DEMOCRACY LIKE THE OTHERS:" Here's some more evidence that the freeing of Iraq is sending ripples across the Arab world, to the discomfort of despots:
Kurdish residents claim the government responded to what they call peaceful protests with violence as an excuse to say Syria remains too unstable to introduce the kind of democratic reforms that are helping their brethren in Iraq.
"We want democracy like the others," said Hoshiar Abdelrahman, another young shopkeeper in Malikiya, 60 miles east of Qamishliye.
Many of those present had relatives and friends in northern Syria and were in cell-phone contact with them hour by hour. In and around the city of Kamishli, in the past few days, several dozen Kurdish protesters have been shot down by Baathist police and militia for raising the Kurdish flag and for destroying pictures and statues of the weak-chinned hereditary ruler, Bashar al-Assad. In tussling with local party goons who shout slogans in favor of the ousted Saddam, it is clear, they are hoping for a rerun of regime change.
It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein's. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position.
And that's not all:
In Syria, and tomorrow in Iran, there are forces at work who intend to take these pronouncements with absolute seriousness. It would be nice if American liberals came out more forcefully and demanded that the administration live up to its own rhetoric on the question.
Yes, the Administration shouldn't chicken out now. The dominoes are teetering, and we should be giving them a shove.
BELGRAVIA DISPATCH is live-blogging Clarke's testimony.
UPDATE: John Lehman: Clarke has a "real credibility problem." And Clarke's answer tells you what the political strategy here is.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: "Clarke implodes."
IT'S CLARKE V. CONASON NOW: This is almost starting to look like a Karl Rove setup.
UPDATE: Or maybe Clarke set himself up. Here's what he said in 2002:
January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.
And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent. . . .
The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.
So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda. . .
JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?
CLARKE: All of that's correct.
(Emphasis added.) So Clarke in 2002 says that the Bush Administration picked up the Clinton ball and ran with it, redoubling (er, quintupling!) effort. Clarke in 2004 -- an election year, with a book to sell -- says the opposite, that the Bush Administration ignored the problem.
Which Clarke do you believe?
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out this excerpt from the same transcript:
ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no — one, there was no [Clinton] plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?
CLARKE: You got it. That's right.
It's hard for me to see how this leaves Clarke with any credibility at all.
BUSH CAN'T GET A BREAK: Now he's being blamed for not invading Afghanistan in 1998! Here's the relevant passage from MSNBC:
The report revealed that in a previously undisclosed secret diplomatic mission, Saudi Arabia won a commitment from the Taliban to expel bin Laden in 1998. But a clash between the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Saudi officials scuttled the arrangement, and Bush did not follow up.
Damn him -- governing Texas while Rome burned! Why didn't he send the Texas Rangers to finish off Bin Laden? ("One mullah, one Ranger!") Sheesh. Can you say "Freudian slip?"
It's not as if anybody has the storyline on this figured out from the get-go or anything. . . .
UPDATE: Then there's this from another story:
One event that panel members found galling was why there was no retaliation by either administration for the bombing of the destroyer Cole in early 2001.
Maybe because the Cole was bombed on October 12, 2000? It seems like people are trying awfully hard to make it sound as if all this stuff happened on Bush's watch.
Coming soon: Complaints about why the Bush Administration didn't do anything to prevent the assassination attempt on Harry Truman at Blair House. And what about the Maine, huh? Why didn't Bush do something about that?
MEGAN MCARDLE: Soon to be a hot TV star! I just want to note that I spotted her potential long ago.
TOM MAGUIRE has an interesting collection of Richard Clarke links. Read this, too, in which we see that Clarke's report that Condi Rice had never heard of Al Qaeda before he briefed her is in error.
Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis cuts to the chase:
The terrorists came within a matter of yards of killing me.
But I don't blame the Bush or Clinton administrations for that. I blame the terrorists.
Could we have stopped them? Only with some damned lucky breaks. We can't make believe that any system would have guaranteed catching them before the act. For we have to remember that these are pathologically insane and evil beasts and it's impossible to guess how low they will stoop.
If we were lucky enough to have intelligence inside their devil's cult, then, yes, we might have foiled their plot. But that's obviously hard to do.
If we were lucky enough to have stopped one of them for speeding and locked them up, then might have foiled their plot. But that's like counting on a lottery ticket.
What matters now is learning the lessons we can learn -- and to that extent, the hearings are valuable -- to protect us as best we can.
But I find the blame game going on now unseemly and divisive and unproductive and distracting and just a little bit tasteless.
UPDATE: Clarke claims that Condi Rice had never heard of Al Qaeda when he briefed her as she took office. But here's what she said in the interview referenced above, which took place before the election:
During an interview on Detroit radio station WJR the year before the Clarke briefing, Rice mentioned bin Laden by name, then recommended: "You really have to get the intelligence agencies better organized to deal with the terrorist threat to the United States itself. One of the problems that we have is a kind of split responsibility, of course, between the CIA and foreign intelligence and the FBI and domestic intelligence."
Then, in a chillingly prescient comment, Rice named bin Laden a second time, warning, "There needs to be better cooperation because we don't want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory."
Sounds like a pretty good diagnosis of the problems with Clarke's anti-terrorism operation to me. Compare that statement from 2000 with this postmortem from George Tenet at the 9/11 hearings:
He said the problem in part was operational and in part systemic. "We didn't integrate all the data we had properly, and probably we had a lot of data that we didn't know about that, if everybody had known about, maybe we would have had a chance," Tenet said.
He also pointed to the "wall that was in place between the criminal side and the intelligence side" of law enforcement domestically and internationally as an impediment. "Even people in the Criminal Division and the Intelligence Divisions of the FBI couldn't talk to each other, let alone talk to us or us talk to them," Tenet explained.
Sounds like Condi was on top of things back then, not clueless as Clarke is claiming now. To add to Jeff Jarvis's take: distracting, tasteless -- and dishonest.
MORE THOUGHTS ON DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY: My TechCentralStation column is up.
March 23, 2004
HERE'S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW with Eugene Volokh, by Will Baude.
LOOKING FOR A NANOTECHNOLOGY JOB? Here's a new nanotechnology jobs website. More information here.
CLAY RISEN says that the next Enron will be in Europe, and notes that the Euro-sneering that greeted the Enron scandal in 2002 has, er, shifted its tone. You can, by the way, get a free 4-week subscription to The New Republic Digital by clicking on the ad to the left.
CHANGING TUNES? Belgravia Dispatch notes a Clarke quote that isn't getting much attention:
Richard Clarke, the country’s first counter-terrorism czar, told me in an interview at his home in Arlington, Virginia, that he wasn’t particularly surprised that the Bush Administration’s efforts to find bin Laden had been stymied by political problems. He had seen such efforts fail before. Clarke, who retired from public service in February and is now a private consultant on security matters, has served every President since Ronald Reagan. He has won a reputation as a tireless advocate for action against Al Qaeda. Clarke emphasized that the C.I.A. director, George Tenet, President Bush, and, before him, President Clinton were all deeply committed to stopping bin Laden; nonetheless, Clarke said, their best efforts had been doomed by bureaucratic clashes, caution, and incessant problems with Pakistan."
--Richard Clarke, per the August 4th 2003 issue of the New Yorker.
"Frankly," he said, "I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."
--Richard Clarke, on 60 Minutes, March 21, 2004.
Follow the link and read the whole thing. (Emphasis in original). I'm ready to believe that the Bush Administration dropped balls on terrorism before 9/11. Clarke seems to be grinding axes though.
And the big question is, what would today's critics have had Bush do back then? What if Bush had invaded Afghanistan in February of 2001, going after Bin Laden in a serious way? He would have gotten the same kind of criticism he's getting now -- from many of the same people who are accusing him of not being preemptive enough against Bin Laden -- for going after Saddam. And such an attack probably wouldn't have stopped the 9/11 attacks, which were outside-Afghanistan efforts. And if the 9/11 attacks had happened anyway, those people would be blaming Bush's targeting of Bin Laden for "triggering" the 9/11 attacks.
You want a revolution in antiterrorism? Fine. We'd all love to see the plan.
Where is it?
UPDATE: This Clarke statement would seem worthy of more attention.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Wonkette, as always, is amusing.
READER TOM BROSZ EMAILS:
Anybody notice how many people are, almost simultaneously, berating George Bush for not taking out bin Laden, and berating Sharon for taking out Ahmed Yassin?
Yes, I have.
HERE'S A PICTURE of the UT Agriculture Experimental Campus across the river, taken earlier this morning as I drove into work. You can't tell from the image, but the odds are that some of those cows (barely visible under the trees) are clones. You can see more here, though the picture isn't as pretty.
JONATHAN RAUCH offers actual good news about the U.N. No, really!
THE BLOVIATOR is back and blogging about public health, vaccinations, and more.
MORAL BLIND SPOTS: One of my regular email critics sent this, which I think is the first non-critical email I've received from him. It's pretty revealing:
I realize you generally assume that the vast majority of reporters are praying to their pagan gods for our failure in Iraq and the war against terrorism (I am not one of them), and are now crafting their stories to reflect and facilitate such a thing. While I think you are dead wrong on this, I have to admit I was taken aback by a conversation I had recently with a colleague.
I work as a freelancer for a major national publication, and was talking to my editor as we were closing a piece last week. It was Thursday, and the reports were coming out of Pakistan that we might have Ayman al-Zawahiri surrounded. I passed this news on to the editor, who was crestfallen: "Oh, no. I don't want anything good to happen for Bush before the election," was the reaction (P.S., this editor does not edit foreign or political stories).
It was a sickening moment. This is a man responsible for thousands of American deaths. So while I have no desire to see Bush re-elected, and I disagree with our attack on Iraq, to hope for our failure in capturing one of the deadliest people in the world is a moral blindspot.
Yes, it is. And -- based both on reports like this one, and on the obvious slant of some stories -- I don't think that editor is alone, though I doubt an actual majority of his colleagues feel that way. But some clearly do, letting their Bush-hatred trump their patriotism. This is no surprise, I suppose: there were plenty of Romans who played politics with the barbarian attacks, and sometimes even secretly allied with the barbarians, in the hopes of gaining political advantage at home. This isn't on that level. But it's nothing admirable. And it's naive to think that such attitudes don't influence coverage where they're present.
UPDATE: Roger Simon comments.
ANOTHER UPDATE: I kind of figured that my correspondent would rather remain anonymous, though he didn't request that. (Don't count on me getting this right with your email -- if you want to be anonymous, say so!) But I found this later email from him disturbing:
A word of thanks for leaving my name out of that post.
Realized after I sent the email that if my name were posted it might easily make its way back to the editor. I'm barely making enough money at the journalism thing as it is... the last thing I need is to be blacklisted.
Blacklisted by Big Media? For wanting us to win the war? An appalling thought.
PAUL KRUGMAN'S 400TH COLUMN: A milestone that I missed, but it has not gone unremarked.
CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS IS UP: Don't miss it!
WITH A NAME LIKE THIS, it's got to be a good blog.
THERE ARE LOTS OF KERRY QUESTIONS THAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND: Tom Maguire is looking at some of them. And here's a report of Kerry hedging. Go figure!
Was Kerry at a meeting in 1971 where people talked about assassinations? Does it matter now? I'm really not sure what I think about this story, which seems rather complicated to me. Hedging on Kerry's part probably won't help, though.
UPDATE: Trying to get witnesses to change their stories is probably a bad idea, too.
TIMOTHY PERRY has a new URL, and is offering helpful advice for John Kerry regarding outsourcing.
STIMULATING THE ECONOMY: We got our tax refund recently -- much larger than it would have been, thanks to the tax cuts and particularly the abolition of the marriage penalty -- and while some of the money has gone to the college account, it has also funded some home improvements: a new gas grill (not as fancy as these luxury models advertised on Bill Hobbs' site but it has 6 burners!), new blinds for the upstairs, etc. The Insta-Wife remains quite enthusiastic about President Bush. I wonder if this effect is widespread?
UPDATE: Here's a similar account, and reader Nicholas Sylvain emails:
I had a very similar reaction. Upon completing my return, and being surprised at a substantially larger than expected refund, I thanked George Bush & promptly paid off my student loans and bought season tickets to the local minor league hockey team.
The grill I bought, BTW, was a Kenmore Premium. I didn't spring for the rather-pricey "Elite." I like the features, and since I do most of our cooking on the grill for 6-8 months out of the year I'm happy with the upgrade.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Gabe Posey emails:
My wife and I were so shocked on seeing how much we were getting back we actually asked the preparer to double check it. If people vote with their wallets, W is a shoe in. Personally, I recently donated some of my refund to bloggers like you and Lileks. It seemed only right to do so, given the service you provide to others with like ideals. I'm curious, though, how John Kerry plans on leaving the tax cuts permanent _and_ raising taxes. I think it will make for an interesting debate point no matter what.
And Greg Schwinghammer reports:
When I did my taxes in January, I was also thrilled by the large refund. I use TurboTax, which had an interesting feature. When the taxes are done, TurboTax shows a chart with side-by-side comparison of your tax payments with 2002 versus 2003 rates. Were I so minded, I might think a vast right-wing conspiracy convinced TurboTax to add this feature.
Interesting. I'd like to see some of those figures. Kim Breuer also emails:
We paid off a major credit card bill, bought a general all-purpose computer for our younger children (to be used for educational purposes only, no internet/email) and are having a new kitchen floor installed with our tax refund.
No Internet? What about blogs? We're educational! On the other hand, reader Jeff Redman sends this:
The Insta-Wife remains quite enthusiastic about President Bush. I wonder if this effect is widespread?
With half the country earning $35,000 or less and unlikely to receive any refund (remember, all us poor people don't pay taxes), I'd say probably not. Count yourself among the lucky, bub.
Oh, I do. Or at least among the better-off. Though (pace Virginia Postrel) the Insta-Family isn't actually "rolling in dough." We are, however, located in a place where housing prices are exceptionally low, which translates into more disposable income than we'd have in, say, Los Angeles or Boston.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Stan Smith emails:
I doubt that your reader Jeff Redman is correct in saying that "half the country" earns "$35,000 or less", given that the median income is somewhere around $42,000 (figures from the US Census website). And, while I don't doubt that many earn salaries that aren't very high, most of those wage earners are entry-level workers like my daughter who earns only the minimum. And of course, if you don't earn much, you don't pay much (if any) in taxes, so naturally, you don't get a big refund (if any). Also, if you're like me, and want to keep most of the money you earn for yourself, you have minimal withholding, so you don't get much of a refund either (we have to pay this year, in fact). However, *I* got the use of my money this year, rather than the government, who pays you no interest at all on the excess that they confiscate from you throughout
Reader Jonathan Michael Hawkins disagrees with Redman:
I don't know what your reader Jeff Redman is talking about. I made about half of that 35,000 dollars last year (yes, I'm a poor voter with Republican leanings), and I got much more of a refund this year. I'll finally be able to pay off some debts, which makes me much more comfortable this year than I was last. Moreover, I am in the IT business and will be able to afford more professional certifications, likely leading (long-term) to better employment and higher tax revenue for the government due to my higher paycheck. Win-win.
Indeed. And reader Wendy Cook observes:
I just have to say this because that last gentleman [Redman] seemed to be veering into the "tax cuts for the wealthy" mentality: Getting a backyard grill, installing a new kitchen floor, buying a computer for the kids, paying off a student loan--these are things that wealthy people don't have to wait for a tax refund to do. These are nice, middle-class purchases that otherwise may not have been possible. I know some people have had a tough year, but your readers' comments really put the lie to the term "tax cuts for the wealthy."
MORE: Gabe Posey writes back in response to Redman:
I'm not sure if this guy is being sarcastic or serious, but I earn in that income bracket and still did very well. I think saying any blanketed tax refund or tax owed is just not plausible. On the whole, though, mainstream America pays enough taxes to receive a refund. Those who do not pay 'enough' taxes are often the self-employed or contractors. Even so, these people see the benefit of lower taxes. They may not get a check from the government like most of us, but it still trickles down. This again puts a heaping helping of bunk on John Kerry's idea of taxing only the rich. As Bill Whittle has argued, the poor and the rich have a vested interest in the same economy. If the rich get richer, the poor get richer too.
By the way, Posey has a blog, which I probably should have mentioned earlier. And reader Mary Pat Campbell writes:
When my sister got her first full-time job in 2000, when she got her first paycheck and noticed all the taxes and withholdings she called up my mother to tell her: "You know, I was thinking about voting for Bush. Now that I've seen my first paycheck, I =know= I'm voting for Bush." At the time, I thought her selfish and short-sighted (I was a protest voter that year -- I hated both Bush and Gore.)
Now 4 years have passed, and I've come around to my sister's way of thinking though lower taxes are just one of many reasons I will vote for Bush). My main complaints are protectionism and overspending, but both of those would obviously be worse with Kerry.
I'd hold all nondefense spending flat if it were up to me. (Okay, actually I'd roll most of it back if it were up to me). But that's not going to happen. And the war is priority one for me at the moment, though I don't mind having my taxes cut.
STILL MORE: Joseph O'Brien writes:
Just wanted to drop you a quick line regarding being pleasantly surprised with an unexpected or unexpectedly high tax refund. My wife and I adopted our foster daughter this year. We had expected to write-off some of the associated expenses (i.e. legal costs) and get the extra $500/child deduction (We were able to take her as a deduction in tax year 2002).
Well we were completely blown away with a 10K tax credit we were able to claim because our daughter is "special needs". You can google "tax credit adoption 1993" or check here : http://grassley.senate.gov/won/2001/won01-08-3.htm. I was pretty much in Bush's camp prior to this revelation, but this sealed the deal.
Stephen Bainbridge has a post on this, and observes:
As for us, we got a very nice 4-figure refund, which we then turned around and applied to our first quarter 2004 estimated tax payment. Not quite as satisfying as seeing that check come back from Uncle Sam, but my already blooming enthusiasm for President Bush likely will spike even higher when I write a much smaller than normal estimated tax payment check in a few weeks.
Yes, the hidden news is that withholding is down, too. But not everyone is happy. Reader Mostafa Sabet emails:
I'm happy as a clam that I got a bigger refund, but I know it's short lived no matter who gets elected. I'd be perfectly happy if Bush cut spending along with taxes (dollar for dollar would be best). Deficit spending is just money future taxes will have to cover, with interest. I'd rather have higher tax brackets now than in 5 years when I'll be making more. Kerry's not better, but gridlock is a great way to keep spending from going up. Maybe he'd be forced to cut spending to get those across the aisle to agree. Of course, I'm the kind of person that puts everything on my debit card to keep my spending in line without incurring high interest, so I'm just projecting my own fiscal preferences. We may not be paying taxes now, which is nice, but we'll have to foot the bill later (I'm 25 and don't want to get stuck with the bill).
I'd like to see the spending cuts, too. The real question, though, is probably between deficits from spending and deficits from tax cuts. If that's the choice, I prefer the latter. In this, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I guess I agree with Milton Friedman: "Raise taxes by enough to eliminate the existing deficit and spending will go up to restore the tolerable deficit. Tax cuts may initially raise the deficit above the politically tolerable deficit, but their longer term effect will be to restrain spending."
DONALD SENSING COMMENTS on permissible racism in sportswriting.
THIS SOUNDS LIKE GOOD NEWS:
MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday secured a stunning personal triumph, reversed a so-called green tide of Islamic fundamentalism, and energised his anti-corruption and corporate transparency drive. . . .
Analysts noted some clear trends: the Front has decimated the Islamic clerics of PAS in their own backyard; captured the fortress seat of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Kota Melaka for the first time in 35 years, and crushed Parti Keadilan Nasional - Anwar's political vehicle.
There's a Wall Street Journal story sounding a similar theme, but it's subscription-only.
RANDY BARNETT has been looking over the Bush Administration's response to Richard Clarke's charges, and has some thoughts.
VIRGINIA POSTREL has been on a hot streak lately. Just keep scrolling.
March 22, 2004
JAN HAUGLAND NOTES THAT RICHARD CLARKE spent his career warning about a digital Pearl Harbor, not attacks like 9/11. He observes: "It is rather ironic when Clarke, who had a reputation for his obsession with cyberthreats, accuses the Bush administration of being obsessed with Iraq. His past history clearly puts the accusations in a new light."
To be fair, however, Clarke has had some worthwhile things to say on the subject of cyberterrorism.
UPDATE: Here's what Clarke was saying in 2000: "I think the largest threat is obviously posed by international narcotics smuggling, which costs a number of lives and costs an enormous amount of money." If you read the report he's discussing, you'll see that drugs and intellectual property issues get a lot more attention than terrorism, and the discussion of terrorism isn't as prescient as his current interviews suggest.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.
THE PRESS GETS IT WRONG AGAIN -- from Slashdot:
When the President and NASA announced the agency's new space initiative, including sending humans back to the Moon and on to Mars, many news reports claimed that the plan could cost as much as $1 trillion. According to this Space Review article, that trillion-dollar price tag is a myth: it was based on erroneous data and analysis, in large part by a single Associated Press reporter, and propagated by many other reporters too busy -- or too lazy -- to check on the facts. Could this kill the plan before it has a chance to start?
Read the whole thing. Note that blogosphere fave, AP reporter Scott Lindlaw, makes an appearance.
A WHILE BACK, I mentioned Leon Kass's views on eating ice cream in public (uncivilized, offensive, and animalistic, he says). Now Elisabeth Riba notes that Miss Manners feels otherwise. As I noted earlier, Kass's views on this subject, while not specifically relevant to bioethics, "suggest a more generalized discomfort with the messy, physical side of life" that may explain his views in the bioethics arena. And it's a discomfort that puts him to the right -- if that's the proper characterization -- of Miss Manners, no less.
UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost says that I'm being unfair to Kass by not noting that his objections to eating ice cream in public are religious in nature.
But Kass doesn't say that, and EO's claim is rather thinly sourced. Anyway, I'm not sure it matters. Assume it's true: Does the President's Council on Bioethics gain in credibility if it turns out to be headed by a man who has religious objections to eating ice cream public? Somewhow, I doubt it. And, regardless of whether Kass's views are informed by religious or personal idiosyncrasy, this whole issue seems to call into question Kass's core argument: "The wisdom of repugnance." Kass finds eating ice cream in public repugnant. Hardly anyone else does. Sounds like aesthetics masquerading as moral reasoning to me.
MICHAEL TOTTEN has a gallery of photos from antiwar protests around the world. Here's another, from San Francisco.
UPDATE: More here, plus a sign calling for U.S. troops to mutiny. Treasonous isn't really too strong a word for this sort of thing, you know. For all the talk of dissent-crushing, this is the sort of thing that would have led to arrest, or mob violence, in most previous wars. Now it's barely noticed. That says something for the openness of American society, or the inconsequential nature of the antiwar movement. Or maybe both.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Highly observant reader John Hohman notes that you can see one of the guys with the "mutiny" sign, above, in this video by Evan Coyne Maloney from the January protests, beginning at about 2'15" time. He seems to be right. Keep watching, as the same guy appears again later on.
HERE'S AN AMUSING PHOTO of Doug "InstaLawyer" Weinstein from, er, earlier in his musical career. I'm pretty sure I took this one.
MATTHEW HOY has some thoughts about the Jack Kelley scandal (which I had missed), and about pressure groups and fabrication in journalism.
UPDATE: David Adesnik says it's not as big as a New York Times scandal:
I don't really expect the Kelley affair to get that kind of attention either. But ask yourself the following questions: How often do you read USA Today? Does anyone consider USA Today to be the United States' paper of record and its standard-bearer of journalistic integrity?
(You don't have to answer those questions. They were rhetorical. Oh, and one bonus question for all you bloggers out there: How many times have you linked to a USA Today story in the past six months?)
A few. But not many.
LARRY LESSIG'S NEW BOOK, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, comes out on Thursday. I haven't read it yet, but I expect that it'll be interesting.
BRYAN PRESTON notes odd omissions at the L.A. Times.
UPEATE: Captain Ed says there's serious spin going on.
HERE'S A BLOG REPORT from the anti-war protests over the weekend, with links to others:
When I arrived at the College, I easily picked out the throng of about 70 demonstrators gathering on the front lawn: they were the ones waving the Palestinian flags. But wasn’t this protest was supposed to be about Iraq? . . .
An organizer with a megaphone railed against the “corporate media.” “They’re gonna tell you that turnout today was low!” He screamed. “Don’t believe them!”
I looked around. Turnout was definitely low, and I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a member of the “corporate media.”
Read the whole thing. And if you didn't go earlier, note the protester pictured here with the sign cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. As James Lileks observes:
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a traitor. He may be an idiot, a maroon, a 33rd degree moonbat, but he’s still a traitor. That is a man who celebrates the death of Americans (and others) and supports the people who killed them. Oh, sure, he’s nuts. But he fits right in. So what were all these people against, exactly?
A free press in Iraq. Freedom to own a satellite dish. Freedom to vote. A new Constitution that might actually be worth the paper on which it’s printed. Oil revenues going to the people instead of Saddam, or French oligopolies. Freedom to leave the country. Freedom to demonstrate against the people who made it possible for you to demonstrate. . . .
These people want “freedom,” but only for themselves. Freedom to preen. Freedom to flatter themselves that they are somehow committing an act of bravery by Speaking Truth to Power. But they’re speaking Nonsense to Indifference. Pictures of Bush as Hitler sieg-heiling away would get them killed if this was truly the country they insist it is. Nothing will happen to them. They know it. They would be killed for doing this in Saddam’s Iraq, of course; they know that too. Doesn’t matter.
When Palestinians blow up Israelis school buses, that's understandable anger. When America defends itself, that's indefensible. When dissent is crushed with secret police and torture chambers, that's not worthy of comment. When some people point out that traitorous behavior is unadmirable, that's the recapitulation of Nazi Germany.
To people of no moral standing. Which is what these people are. Fortunately, there aren't very many of them. (Read this, too.)
BELGRAVIA DISPATCH is admonishing Josh Marshall for letting his hostility toward Richard Perle get the best of him. And this seems about right:
[W]hat Marshall misses is that Arabs and Muslims, while often deeply humiliated, resentful and suspicious with respect to U.S. policy and motives in the region--are also fascinated, curious and eager to see how Bush's huge Iraq gamble develops in the coming months.
Put differently, they are intrigued to see if a democratic, unitary Iraqi state can rise from the ashes of Saddam's Iraq. The democracy exception policy, at least with regard to Iraq, just took a body blow.
And many Arabs/Muslims are busily digesting this complex reality--and waiting to see how the Iraq project proceeds--without yet having formed a definitive view.
This, at least partially, explains why American favorability rankings in the Muslim world have actually improved since the Iraq invasion per the Pew poll.
That seems right to me. (Emphasis in original). Note, too, Iraqi bloggers' war-anniversary sumups (linked here and here), and Adam Curry's firsthand observations on what's going on in Iraq.
ANOTHER HATE CRIME HOAX, this time at Claremont. Meanwhile there's genuine crushing of dissent, with apparent support from the Administration, at U.C. Berkeley.
UPDATE: Here's another one. I think that these hoaxes should be treated as hate crimes themselves. The argument for special "hate crime" rules, after all, is that hate crimes promote fear and division. So do fake hate crimes.
THE OUTSOURCING BOGEYMAN: Daniel Drezner has an article in Foreign Affairs arguing that concern over the outsourcing/job loss question is misplaced:
Outsourcing actually brings far more benefits than costs, both now and in the long run. If its critics succeed in provoking a new wave of American protectionism, the consequences will be disastrous -- for the U.S. economy and for the American workers they claim to defend.
As is his custom, he has also placed a bibliography, etc., on his blog, something that I suspect many reporters, etc., working on this topic will find very useful.
UPDATE: Here, on the other hand, is a potentially genuine worry about outsourcing in the tech field: sabotage.
JOURNALISTIC ETHICS: I've missed the Richard Clarke hype, but now Drudge is reporting that CBS, which pumped Clarke's book hard on "60 Minutes," didn't disclose a financial stake in the book's success.
UPDATE: Well, I haven't been following it, but somebody has:
Richard Clarke is a bitter, discredited bureaucrat who was an integral part of the Clinton administration's failed approach to terrorism, was demoted by President Bush, and is now an adjunct to John Kerry's presidential campaign.
Ouch. Roger Simon says it's all about the Benjamins for Clarke, and Stephen F. Hayes wonders why Clarke is giving Clinton -- who had a lot more time than Bush to focus on Al Qaeda, but didn't -- a pass.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Clarke seems to have had trouble deciding who to worry about, despite his claims now. And here's Condi Rice's response. Meanwhile Hugh Hewitt observes:
Al Qaeda took root in Afghanistan and metastasized during the Clinton party. Repeated strikes on the U.S. abroad, culminating in the bombing of the Cole, went unpunished except for the symbolism of tossing some cruise missiles into the Afghan mountains. The attempt to pin blame on the eight months of Bush Administration control on the basis of "warnings" delivered is transparent posturing from the same gang that gave Osama a pass for eight years while his camps trained and dispersed thousands of fanatics throughout the world.
The political operation on the Democratic side is in chaos, repeatedly attempting to rewrite the national security situation and repeatedly failing. Their focus groups and polls must be telling them that they have to move public opinion on this issue or lose big in the fall. But that's like trying to move Mount McKinley from Alaska to Hawaii. The perception that the Democrats are weak on defense and hesitant to engage the terrorists is out there because the Democrats are weak on defense and hesitant to engage the terrorists.
Well, I'd give Clinton a bit more of a pass on this than Hewitt does. I think a lot of people -- including me -- viewed Islamic terrorism in the 1990s as a minor threat that could be contained until it collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity. That was wrong, but I don't blame the Clinton people for getting it wrong. (Clarke, by the way, spent the 1990s worrrying publicly about cyberterrorism). I do, however, blame them intensely for trying to rewrite history now for partisan political reasons while a war is going on.
I'd also like to believe -- as Andrew Sullivan is hoping -- that a Kerry Administration would be more serious about this sort of thing. But so far, "hope" is the operative term.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Carter is skeptical of the White House's response to Clarke. That's reasonable enough -- I myself have been repeatedly skeptical of the absurd claim, made earlier but happily not repeated this go-round, that no one could have foreseen the 9/11 attacks. In fact, some people (and not just Tom Clancy) did. On the other hand, Clarke wasn't one of those people, and his assault seems rather political in nature.
MORE: Reader T.J. Lynn emails:
We've finally managed to find the guy who actually lost his job over 9/11.
And now he's written a book blaming everyone else for what he was specifically charged with preventing.
Heck, is there any wonder why Bush didn't clean house? Can you imagine the breathless coverage?
FROM THE BE-CAREFUL-WHAT-YOU-ASK-FOR DEPARTMENT: Author John Gray was apparently unhappy with this rather stale blog post regarding his credentials. So his lawyers sent a letter demanding a retraction and threatening a libel suit. (Blog discussion here, letter from lawyers here.)
One advantage of the blogosphere is that corrections often get more attention than the original error. But whether that's a bug or a feature depends on where you stand From John Gray's perspective in this case, I don't think it's a feature. I had never seen the original post, and I doubt that many other people saw it either, when it was originally posted. But now -- assuming that the representations of Gray's lawyers are true -- I learn that he's a graduate (B.A. and M.A.) of "Maharishi European Research University." Color me unimpressed. And while I previously had the vague idea that his Ph.D. was from Columbia University, it turns out that it's from Columbia Pacific University, which is, er, not really the same. Although Gray's lawyers proudly note that it was a "State of California-approved university" at the time Gray attended (I'm not sure if that's the same as "accredited" or not -- there are California law schools, at least, that are California approved but not fully accredited) no matter how you cut it things don't work out in a way that makes Gray look especially good in terms of academic credentials.
Does this mean that it's always a mistake to send lawyers after bloggers? I suppose not. But I have to say that so far that's how it looks. The ill-fated Luskin / Atrios dispute, the New York Times / National Debate facedown, and now this all suggest that sometimes it's better just to let minor things go by than to issue threats that give the subject matter a much higher profile than it otherwise would have had. At the very least, a polite message pointing out the error, and requesting a correction without threats and bluster, is likely to do more good, and generate far less blowback. Bloggers are, in my experience, quite willing to correct errors of fact, but not impressed with threats and bluster.
UPDATE: More blowback. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but bloggers are from another planet entirely.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Here's a California state press release on the shutdown of Columbia Pacific University for, among other things, having:
awarded excessive credit for prior experiential learning to many students;
failed to employ duly qualified faculty; and
failed to meet various requirements for issuing Ph.D. degrees.
This was, of course, after Gray attended that institution, but it's still not that impressive. (Via Quackwatch). Here's a link to the injunction shutting down Columbia Pacific University -- and ordering refunds to students, though Gray's attendance was too far in the past to qualify.
Is it really wise of John Gray, or his lawyers, to be calling attention to this stuff?
MORE: Jeff Jarvis is calling for a legal defense fund for bloggers.
I'M BACK: Regular blogging will resume shortly. In the meantime, go read Lileks, right now.
UPDATE: Mudville Gazette is back from hiatus, too.