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July 03, 2004

CHECK OUT THE IRAQ-AMERICA FREEDOM ALLIANCE: Fitting for Independence Day.

BLOG HUMOR: David Adesnik replies to a critic.

OUCH: I linked to Marine Corps reservist Eric Johnson's critique of Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekharan earlier, but now it's been reprinted in the New York Post. You seldom see major correspondents criticized by name this way.

DARFUR UPDATE: I don't actually trust them to do this, but I suppose it's still progress of a sort:

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan pledged Saturday to disarm Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, who have driven more than one million Africans from their homes in west Sudan's Darfur region and to accept human rights monitors in the area. . . .

Long conflict between nomadic Arab tribes and African farmers over scarce resources in Darfur intensified when a revolt broke out last year. Rebels accuse Khartoum of arming the Arab Janjaweed, a charge the government denies.

The United States raised the possibility Friday of sanctions against Sudan if the government did not stop the militia attacks in Darfur.

You get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone. . . .

UPDATE: James Moore observes the (necessary?) hypocrisy involved in diplomacy:

Now here is the irony. The Sudanese government has argued all along that it is not guilty of driving the atrocities and that it has no direct control over the janjaweeds. But if the Sudanese government’s claims are true, this same government will not be able to reign in the raiders and comply with its deal with Powell.

Powell most certainly believes that the Sudanese government does control the militias and is driving the genocide. And this assumption, in turn, is central to his current strategy—even while the same assumption is disavowed in his public statements.

Indeed.

QUEST FOR FIREWORKS: When I was a kid, I read a book (already old by then) called Henry Reed's Journey. Reed is a boy who, on a cross-country drive, is trying to buy fireworks, but they turn out to be illegal almost everywhere he goes. As I noted back when InstaPundit was new, it's a sort of metaphor for creeping nanny-statism in America, and Reed's wry commentary seems prophetic.

That seems to be changing, though. Fireworks have always been a booming business around here, but there are more and bigger stores, catering largely to tourists passing through from less-enlightened regions. And my sense is that there's a bit less hostility to the idea of fireworks in general. I hope so. Yeah, fireworks can be dangerous. But so can lots of things. A bit of danger is part of life, as is learning how to handle dangerous things without being hurt. If you celebrate the Fourth with fireworks, I hope you do so safely. But also loudly.

Celebrating with one of these, however, would be amusing:

Some Americans this Fourth of July plan to get a bang out of blowing Osama bin Laden's head off. The bin Laden Noggin, a cone-shaped pyrotechnic device with a cartoon of bin Laden's face, has been a hot seller at some fireworks stores around the country. When lit, the bin Laden cone erupts in blood-red flames and screeches for 60 seconds. Two shots blow his head off.

It is part of an Exploding Terrorists Heads four-pack that also includes Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and Moammar Gadhafi.

Of course, not everyone is happy:

Lisa Myer of Papillion was appalled when she heard about the fireworks while shopping for smoke bombs and sparklers for her son.

"What are we trying to teach our children?" she asked.

I'll bet Henry Reed could answer that question.

UPDATE: Yep, I did this, too. But we wore shop goggles for safety. Meanwhile, Michael Ubaldi is unconcerned about creeping nannyism:

If Nanny is wrapping her arms around the 4th on paper, she's accomplished nothing in practical terms. Fireworks are strictly regulated in Ohio but every Independence Day evening, as long as I've lived, I've heard and seen the incendiary stuff going off in every direction.

People have been testing their kits out around here for weeks. Given the day in question, I kind of like the irony.

Yes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: SKBubba, proud owner of a Nikon D70, offers fireworks photos taken at the Alcoa, TN duck pond last night. Very nice!

MORE: Dean Peters is collecting fireworks related blog posts. And reader Bradley Ems emails with these thoughts in response to the photograph above:

How much have I dropped in your state at the Tennessee-Alabama fireworks stands on I-24 outside of Chattanooga on our pilgrimages to Atlanta and Florida? I shudder to think. Best damn fireworks stores in the US.

Tennessee -- exporting liberty!

UNSCAM UPDATE: Paul Bremer is denying charges that he slow-footed the oil-for-food investigation: "It became clear to me that the investigation should be conducted by a nonpolitical body and the Governing Council was clearly thinking in terms of a political investigation . . . The idea that I somehow stood in the way of this is utter and complete nonsense."

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS COLUMNIST LINDA SEEBACH has a column on an interesting Yale study on media bias:

Two researchers have combined these two disparate ideas to come up with a measure of media bias that doesn't depend on journalists' own perceptions of where they fit on the political spectrum, or on subjective judgments about the philosophical orientation of think tanks. Tim Groseclose, of UCLA and Stanford, and Jeff Milyo of the University of Chicago used data comparing which think tanks various politicians liked to quote and which think tanks various media outlets liked to quote in their news stories to estimate two ADA scores for each media outlet in the study, one based on the number of times a think tank was cited, and the other on the length of the citation.

The authors say they expected to find that the mainstream media leaned to the left, but they were "astounded by the degree." So when people say, for example, that The New York Times may be tilted left, but people can compensate for that by watching Fox News, they don't take into account that the Times is much further from the center than Fox. "To gain a balanced perspective, one would need to spend twice as much time watching Special Report as he or she spends reading The New York Times." . . .

The predominance of liberals (however identified) in major media is well-documented, but there remains a great deal of controversy over how much that fact influences news reporting (this analysis looks only at news reports, not editorials, reviews or letters to the editor). Most journalists I know say they work hard to keep their personal views out of their news reporting (again, excepting people like me who are supposed to be expressing opinions). And most of them, I'm sure, sincerely believe they succeed. This is evidence that what they succeed best at is sounding like Democrats.

Here's a link to the study she writes about.

THE INSTA-DAUGHTER spent the night away, so the Instawife and I rented a movie. It was Love, Actually, a Hugh Grant / Liam Neeson vehicle that I thought was pretty weak. The Instawife (who had picked it, natch) liked it better, but she was underwhelmed, too. (Though it got pretty good Amazon reviews, except for the guy who said it was "like poo.") Oh, well; a good time was nonetheless had by all. Sometimes you care more about the company than the flick.

"THEY CRAVED PARADISE, but blew up a parking lot."

I'M PRETTY SURE that the proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment isn't going anywhere, which is fine because it's a dumb idea. But if you want to do your part to bury it, you might want to go here. (Yeah, these are the folks with the blogad on the right. I don't generally offer what the magazine world calls "editorial support" to advertisers, but I'm sufficiently against this dumb amendment proposal to give its opposition a bit of a boost).

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer is savaging me on this issue. I do not, however, share his discomfort with homosexuality. As for the ad, well, it's a typical political ad and some of his criticisms are valid, though others are rather forced. It's true that the Constitution has been amended to do other things besides expand rights, for example, but the only contraction of rights -- Prohibition -- was swiftly repealed. Other amendments have either been on unrelated topics, or have expanded rights.

On the other hand, I'm not sure but I think Andrew Sullivan may be including me among those who are "complacent" about the amendment's likelihood of passage. Maybe so, but I don't think it has much chance. The goal, I think, is to make Kerry squirm -- because he opposes gay marriage but will have trouble saying that before the Convention -- and then have it die quietly. That's no reason not to write your representatives and make your opposition known, though.

MORE: Spoons is anti-anti-gay marriage, but doesn't like the campaign against the amendment. Or something like that. Read his post.

STILL MORE: Andrew Olmsted: "While I do not support the amendment, and in fact would vote in favor of legal gay marriage were it a ballot option, I think Spoons is in the right in this disagreement. . . . Shoot down the FMA because it's a bad amendment. But don't pretend that it's bad simply because it is an amendment." Fair enough, though amending the Constitution is like brain surgery -- risky and permanent enough that proponents of the operation bear a heavy burden of proof that it's really needed.

July 02, 2004

JEFF JARVIS: "Back in my day, we volunteered for campaigns because we cared, not because we were paid."

You're still big, Jeff. It's the campaigns that got small.

MICKEY KAUS has a new Gearbox column posted, in which he reviews an "electrogothic cab of death!"

I like Electrogoth.

IF YOU CARE ABOUT FREEDOM FOR IRAN, you ought to read this.

UPDATE: Read this about Hong Kong, too.

RALPH NADER is charging that he's the victim of "dirty tricks" on the part of the Establishment.

SPINSANITY WRITES on The temperature at which Michael Moore's pants burn.

LAURA CLEVERLY writes that her 7-year-old son is going blind. She doesn't want money, but she does want you to help organizations that are working on a cure. She sends this link to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and this link to her son's webpage.

JAMES LILEKS comments on the Hardy & Clarke book on Michael Moore:

I want to get back to reading the “Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man” book. (Note: 89 pages into the book, the title remains the sole ad hominem remark. And even so it’s a winking reference to Moore’s own work, as well as Al Franken’s deathless tome on Limbaugh. I’ll say this for the Moore book: it’s brisk and deft, and avoids screedy polemics for one-on-one factual refutations of what the authors identify as Moore’s more egregious fictitions. I was piqued by the theory that Moore manipulated his confrontation with Mr. Heston in “Columbine” – the scene where he showed Heston a photo of a murdered girl and asked for comments. If the authors are correct, what Moore did was the same thing William Hurt’s character did in “Broadcast News” – manipulating a one-camera shot to make it seem as if it was a two-camera shot, and editing post-interview footage to make it look as if it was all one contiguous event.) Full review on Monday.

I look forward to reading the full review.

UPDATE: Read this post on Moore, too.

HELP A JOURNALIST! Mark Miller emails:

I'm a researcher for People magazine and I'm trying to track down anyone who has had a blog entry backfire on him or her either professionally or personally. Any help you can be is totally appreciated.

He asks that you email him here: markjmill@yahoo.com

EUGENE VOLOKH remains critical of Slate's "Kerryism" feature. I now ignore both the "Kerryism" and "Bushism" items, but for those who are interested, Eugene's critique is worth reading.

THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE: For quite a few months now I've been harping on a story of U.S. troop misconduct originally broken by Iraqi blogger Zeyad. (Most recent roundup, with links to earlier accounts, here; original post here). And now we see something is happening:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has charged four soldiers, three of them with manslaughter, over the drowning of an Iraqi prisoner while a new report criticized U.S. military detention policies, officials said on Friday.

Newspaper reports in Colorado, where the soldiers were based, said they were accused of forcing two Iraqis to jump off a bridge in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, on January 3. The men had been picked up for violating a curfew.

One of the Iraqis swam to the river bank but the other drowned, according to the reports.

For a while it looked as if there might be a coverup. I'm glad that turned out not to be the case. I don't know whether this case would have come to the attention of the authorities without Zeyad's blog, but I certainly think that it's helped to keep the pressure on. So far, Zeyad hasn't posted anything about it on his blog, but I imagine that he will.

UPDATE: Read this.

TERRY TEACHOUT HAS THOUGHTS on Marlon Brando.

A GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE FAILURE: Understandable, but it makes you wonder what else they're getting wrong.

MATT WELCH: Striking fear into Bill O'Reilly!

A MAJOR U.S. SHOW OF FORCE in the Pacific. The Gweilo Diaries thinks that the Chinese will be unhappy, but not unimpressed.

UPDATE: The Straits Times story linked above seems to have misunderstood -- it's 7 carrier groups, but in 5 different theaters, not all off the coast of China. Reader Owen Tredennick wonders if this is a mistake, or Chinese propaganda spin:

Sina.com may be setting up a "US bullying with 7 carriers, China responds, US backs down, sends one or two" story line.

Or they may just have blown it. Another reader suggests that we'll be applying a double-squeeze to North Korea and Iran. Beats me. Stay tuned.

ON THIS ANNIVERSARY, Dave Kopel remembers a hero of Gettysburg.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

When the head of the U.N.'s Oil-for- Food program got a copy of a letter in October 2002 suggesting that a bribe had been paid to Saddam Hussein's cronies as part of the program, what do you think was the first thing he did?

If you guessed "informed the authorities, particularly his employers at the Security Council" — guess again.

According to a report Monday on Fox News Channel (a Post sister company), the program's director, Benon Sevan, took the letter and went directly to . . . Saddam.

But of course.

WHAT WOULD BUGS BUNNY DO? Something like this, perhaps:

Toy stores around Baghdad are doing a quick trade in dancing Saddam dolls -- foot-high battery-powered puppets of the former president, kitted out in full insurgent regalia, who swing their hips to cheesy pop music at the flick of a switch.

Decked out with hand-grenades, daggers, a walkie-talkie, binoculars and an AK-47, Saddam dances to the "Hippy Hippy Shake" when turned on. . . .

At first it was the hip-shaking Osamas that sold best, but slowly Iraqis grew less fearful of ridiculing their deposed president and started buying the Saddam ones too.

Heh.

KEN SILBER WRITES that Arthurian legend still matters.

DAVID ADESNIK CRITIQUES THE ONION: "In the final analysis, the skewered vision of American politics presented by The Onion may be clever, but instead of educating its audience, it reinforces misleading stereotypes that embittered elitists use to justify their pessimism about America's thriving democracy."

I just wish they were funnier.

UPDATE: Ed Cone calls Adesnik "humourless," but does not attempt to argue that The Onion is especially funny anymore. I mean, they still get a chuckle now and then, but they're no Scrappleface. Heck, they're not even Jeff Goldstein.

Well, maybe occasionally.

July 01, 2004

WANT TO FIND SOME NEW BLOGS? Visit the new blog showcase!

THIS SEEMS LIKE A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT:

LONDON (Reuters) - Jordan said Thursday it was willing to send troops to Iraq, becoming the first Arab state to do so, if Baghdad's new interim government requested it.

King Abdullah, whose country would also be the first of Iraq's neighbors to send troops, was speaking in a television interview with Britain's BBC Newsnight program. He said he had not yet discussed the issue with Iraqis.

Abdullah's comments, welcomed by U.S. officials, reflect a major shift in his country's views on the international military presence in Iraq now that Washington has handed power to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's interim government.

Stay tuned.

"A GREAT DAY FOR JUSTICE, A CONFUSING DAY FOR THE MEDIA:" Arthur Chrenkoff looks at how Saddam's trial is being spun.

Hey, he may be a murderous ex-dictator, but at least he's anti-Bush! Of course, there's a risk of blowback.

Meanwhile, Jeff Soyer at Alphecca wants your help in imagining how today's media would have covered D-Day.

HUGH HEWITT:

Why is John Kerry stonewalling the release of his wife's tax returns? . . .

John Kerry is stonewalling because his fortune in benefiting from his wife's fortune surely contains the facts of a hundred hypocrisies. The media's indifference to this cover-up is number 101.

It seems like a mistake to me. Like Howard Dean's sealed gubernatorial records, this seems likely to hurt Kerry.

SEVERAL INTERESTING POSTS at Asymmetrical Information. "Dreck's Law" seems about right.

THE COMFY-CHAIR REVOLUTION claims another victim.

This is a scene from my local mall, earlier today.

They say that revolutions eat their young, but I'm not sure that's what's going on here. Whatever it is, he doesn't look all that unhappy about it.

And the chair does look rather comfy, doesn't it?

HOLLYWOOD IS GETTING BEHIND THE WAR EFFORT, according to this report. Well, sort of.

"LET FREEDOM REIGN" -- inspired by Nelson Mandela?

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH looks at the rage of the Arab Street, July, 2004 version.

BLACKFIVE would like you to help protect the troops.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: In Montana. (Via TaxProf).

Eugene Volokh has thoughts on this case.

DARFUR UPDATE: Jefferson Morley rounds up world opinion.

HERE'S AN ANALYSIS of the charges against Saddam.

KERRY'S "STEALTH STRATEGY" is looking smarter. Back to Nantucket!

UPDATE: A commenter at Pejman's says that the story linked above is wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Rosenberg responds to Oliver Willis.

MORE ON UNSCAM: Claudia Rosett says follow the money, and offers the story of one oil-for-food bribe.

EUGENE VOLOKH WANTS YOUR THOUGHTS on sex with teenagers.

Here's something I wrote on the subject (well, a related subject, anyway) a couple of years ago, which got me some flak from the right side of the blogosphere. (And here's the blog post it was based on).

UPDATE: Not everybody hated it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an interesting, semi-related essay, featuring this observation: "I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. . . . Adults can't avoid seeing that teenage kids are tormented. So why don't they do something about it? Because they blame it on puberty. . . . Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere."

Read the whole thing.

MORE: Kimberly Swygert has thoughts on the essay quoted above.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Some thoughts about what to do regarding the oil-for-food corruption scandal:

The Oil-for-Food fraud is potentially the biggest scandal in the history of the United Nations and one of the greatest financial scandals of modern times.1 Set up in the mid-1990s as a means of providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, the U.N.-run Oil-for-Food program was subverted and manipulated by Saddam Hussein's regime--allegedly with the complicity of U.N. officials--to help prop up the Iraqi dictator.

Saddam's dictatorship was able to siphon off an estimated $10 billion from the program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil, and through kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq--all under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats.

Members of the U.N. staff that administered the program have been accused of gross incompetence, mismanagement, and possible complicity with the Iraqi regime. . . .

The most effective way to ensure that the United Nations fully cooperates with its own commission of inquiry, and with investigators in Washington and Baghdad, is to threaten to reduce U.S. funding for the U.N., specifically the United States' assessed contribution. In particular, the U.S. should target funds going to the U.N. Secretariat, the political arm of the U.N. system, that had responsibility for overseeing the Oil-for-Food program.

That might get their attention.

KNOW A BLOGGER WHO DESERVES MORE ATTENTION? That's what the celebrating the underblog approach is all about.

NORM GERAS notes that another anti-war pundit has admitted she hoped for failure in Iraq, regardless of the cost to Iraqis. ("I am ashamed to admit that there have been times when I wanted more chaos, more shocks, more disorder to teach our side a lesson. On Monday I found myself again hoping that this handover proves a failure because it has been orchestrated by the Americans.") But at least Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has the grace to be ashamed.

Fortunately, Iraqis -- even Iraqis interviewed by the BBC -- seem to think it has all been worth it. Even Iraqi communists are praising Paul Bremer. Will Western pundits follow this lead? . . .

UPDATE: Interesting observations from the pro-liberation lefties at Harry's Place: "There really isn't any kind of sensible response to barely-contained nihilism like this. So I'll tiptoe away and leave Ms. Alibhai-Brown to struggle with her anti-American demons, once again shaking my head at what her segment of the Left has come to represent."

It would be nice, wouldn't it, to see these folks wishing to see the other side taught a lesson now and then?

MORE: More discussion here.

RALF GOERGENS emailed me, upset that I hadn't responded to an earlier email of his. I had just missed it. Sorry -- even a year ago I was kind of keeping afloat, but I'm getting more and more email and now if I'm offline for even a few hours I get hopelessly behind. Usually when people email me angrily about missed emails I just refer 'em to what I say in the FAQs (if I reply at all) but Ralf was actually pointing to a post saying that an item I linked to on German media was way overblown. Anyway, there's an interesting discussion there in the comments between Ralf and Medienkritik's David Kaspar, so go read it.

In general, to help minimize this problem, if you're correcting a factual error, please put something in the subject line -- like ERROR CORRECTION -- to make that clear. Note that opinions with which you disagree do not constitute factual errors. . . .

DEREK LOWE TAKES ON physician payola in the pharmaceutical industry. This seems quite sleazy to me.

DARFUR UPDATE: James Moore has a roundup on Colin Powell's visit to the Sudan.

JACQUES CHIRAC'S SOPHISTICATED DIPLOMACY:

Britain has concluded that its three-nation alliance with France and Germany is in effect over after a series of rows between Tony Blair and the French President, Jacques Chirac.

Ministers believe President Chirac has become impossible to work with, and one government source described him as a "rogue elephant". The strategy of "trilateralism" has now given way to limited ad hoc co-operation on specific issues. . . .

The UK believes M. Chirac is lashing out from a position of weakness and is playing to a domestic audience.

The Government sees the appointment of Mr Barroso as an important turning point because it proved the French and Germans could not push through their choice of Commission president. The end of trilateralism will come as a relief to many smaller European nations, which feared the three most powerful countries in the EU would set up a directoire.

It seems that arrogant unilateralism isn't paying off for Chirac. Perhaps he should have worked harder to build a coalition with Britain and smaller European nations -- like George W. Bush did on Iraq!

MICKEY KAUS on this bizarre election:

In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, "just 57 percent of the respondents say they know a lot or a fair amount about Kerry," reports NBC's Mark Murray. That's "a real drop from 68 percent in the NBC/Journal March survey." The voters actually know less about Kerry the more the campaign progresses. It's working! At this impressive rate of memory loss, most of the electorate won't even recognize Kerry's name on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Kaus thinks this is Kerry's strategy. Hey, it just might work!

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Jeff Jarvis.

If this strategy does work, I think it will be terrible for the Democrats long-term. As I've written before, if Kerry's elected solely on an anti-Bush vote, he'll have no mandate, and no base of support. He be Carterized and weak. Jimmy Carter's Presidency begat Ronald Reagan's, and politics haven't been the same for the Democrats since. Would the Dems have been better off losing in 1976? Quite possibly. Or at least electing someone who stood for something, and had the force of character to govern effectively. The country would have been better off, too -- and we can't afford a Carterized presidency right now. Kerry needs to get out and campaign for something, not hide out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bill Reece has further thoughts:

By allowing the media and the radical fringe elements of the left to act as his proxies, Kerry has done two things: he has surrendered control over his message (something Clinton would never have done), and he has set George Bush up to claim a mandate should he win re-election. The reason Bush can claim a mandate is fairly simple: his is the only coherent, and wide-ranging "worldview" which is being articulated in this campaign. Everything else is a reaction to and a criticism of that worldview. Should Bush win, even by a relatively narrow margin, I think he can claim that it is vindication of his policies, especially in light of all of the incredibly negative media treatment he has received in the past year. This is dangerous for the Democrats because it leaves them marginalized in the marketplace of ideas (a place with which they should be all too familiar) and politically, and it is less than healthy for the country because Bush's policies need to be challenged and debated on the merits. I happen to agree with many of Bush's policies, but a challenge and debate of those policies and how they have been implemented is sorely needed given the times which we face. Sadly, the "hate Bush" campaign of Kerry and the Democrats cannot and will not give us such a debate.

I think that's right.

And I think it's risky when your strategy involves echoing Saddam by saying "the real villain is Bush."

DAVID BROOKS makes Michael Moore look terrible through the simple expedient of quoting him. "The standards of socially acceptable liberal opinion have shifted. We're a long way from John Dewey." Heck, as Andrew Ferguson notes, they've changed since the Clinton years.

Meanwhile, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball do some more Michael Moore fact-checking.

And filmmaker Michael Wilson is experiencing a "bidding war" for his film responding to Moore.

UPDATE: On the other hand, in a spot of good news for Moore, the Hardy & Clarke book has fallen to number four on Amazon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Holding steady at #4! Meanwhile, Blogcritics has a roundup of reviews good and bad. But the Fahrenheit 9/11 review from Ellen Goodman is pretty negative:

Not even this alto believes that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection. Not even the rosiest pair of my retro-spectacles sees prewar Iraq as a happy valley where little children flew kites.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: Daniel Drezner observes that Moore has hired Chris Lehane, and predicts disaster. Meanwhile Dave Kopel lists "Fifty-six Deceits" in Moore's movie.

STILL MORE: Several readers remind me of this remark from Kos: "Lehane is an asshole."

LORD OF THE RINGS: The Cassini spacecraft is now in orbit around Saturn:

The first images from Cassini's close encounter with the rings were expected sometime Thursday morning, along with data on the spacecraft's performance.

Putting the first spacecraft into orbit around Saturn marked another major success this year for NASA, which has had two rovers operating on Mars since January and has a spacecraft heading home with samples from a comet encounter.

And NASA needs a good year.

June 30, 2004

ABSOLUTELY MY LAST POST FOR A WHILE ON AGING: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

PEACE THROUGH S.U.V.'s: Well, it's a bold approach. . .

ALLAWI 1, BROKAW 0: Why, oh, why, can't we have decent news media?

HARDY AND CLARKE'S BOOK ON MICHAEL MOORE is now up to number three on Amazon.

BEATS ME: Reader Michael Greenspan emails:

What I find most interesting about the column by John Keegan is its contrast with Michael Rubin's piece on NRO a few days ago. Keegan writes that "the American occupiers should not have dissolved the Iraqi army or police or civil administration, whatever the number of Ba'ath Party members they contain." Rubin writes that "[t]he failure of the Fallujah experiment undercuts the conventional wisdom that Bremer erred with his decision to dissolve the Iraqi military." I've long felt vaguely that I should have an opinion on this sort of issue, but I don't. Plain disagreement between two smart, experienced supporters reassures me that I'm right to keep out of it. If an expert can be undeniably wrong -- and either Rubin or Keegan must be -- how can I possibly know what should be done?

Yes. It's hard to know about that sort of thing -- especially when, as we've seen, the information that we get out of Iraq is fragmentary and often unreliable. In this regard, William Safire's column on the dangers of certitude is well worth reading. We can be certain about principles; about tactics, and even strategies, we have to make our best guess.

THIS WEEK'S Carnival of the Vanities is up. Don't miss it.

MORE ON DARFUR:

The US and other international actors have called on Sudan to rein in the Arab "Janjaweed" militias responsible and to provide security for the displaced. This is the political equivalent of imploring the fox to guard the henhouse. The Sudanese government has been directly involved in the killings. And it has a long history of sponsoring local militias to destabilize regions of the country and, for that matter, neighboring African countries, with which it is at odds. This "outsourcing" of military operations provides the government a low-cost and plausibly deniable device for advancing its political aims. Counting on the government to ensure the security of a population it wants to exterminate is reminiscent of recent government-sponsored pogroms in Kosovo, Kurdish northern Iraq after the Gulf War, and East Timor.

The upshot: by the predatory and abusive violation of its citizens, the dictatorial government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, like those of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, has relinquished its claims of sovereignty in Darfur.

Read the whole thing. (Via Passion of the Present).

UPDATE: Then there's this report:

Arab militiamen in Sudan use rape as weapon
'We want to make a light baby,' woman says fighter told her

"They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, 'Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,' " said Sawela Suliman, 22, showing slashes from a where a whip struck her thighs as her father held up a police and health report with details of the attack. "They said, 'You get out of this area and leave the child when it's made.' " . . .

In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child's ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.

Strange that Kofi Annan is unwilling to call this genocide.

ANOTHER UPDATE: James Moore has satellite images "consistent with 'ethnic cleansing' and genocide."

HILLARY AS VP? I'm hearing that again, though I'm skeptical. Personally, I'd rather see her at the top of the ticket. I told you that the war on terror is my number one issue, and I think she'd be tougher than Kerry. She certainly has been so far.

UPDATE: Hmm. She's certainly photographing well these days!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Some people are less enthusiastic than me regarding a Hillary candidacy.

THE HARDY/CLARKE BOOK on Michael Moore is now up to #5 on Amazon.

Bill Clinton's book is still #1 though -- but maybe he should be getting nervous. . . .

WILL BAUDE writes on Scalia and Thomas, in The New Republic.

IN THE MAIL: Two interesting books. One (nicely inscribed) is Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, The Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything, and the other, coincidentally, is L. Brent Bozell's Weapons of Mass Distortion : The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media. Though there are differences (they come from -- obviously -- different political directions) in a way they're talking about the same thing, which is how information gatekeepers are losing their hold, and how that's good for democracy.

I think they're right, and I think that trying to force the changes brought by the communications revolution into an old-fashioned left/right mode, though understandable in an election year, makes little sense. To quote from BT (who thinks the revolution will be televised):

The revolution will be fought in all forms of media

The revolution will be fought on phone lines and cable modems and cellphones

The revolution will be a war of attrition, against the great dumbing down of our people.

Attrition, indeed. I suspect that Bozell and Trippi agree on that, and -- based on a quick look at the books -- a lot of other things. (I can't find this song online, but it's on this collection that I was just listening to in the car the other day). Left/Right, Democrat/Republican -- that stuff's important (sometimes) in the short run, but the overall changes are much bigger than that.

CLAUDIA ROSETT:

"Let freedom reign," wrote President Bush as Iraq regained sovereignty Monday.

"Today, the secretary-general welcomes the state of Iraq back into the family of independent and sovereign nations," said a United Nations statement.

In the gap between those two statements, you can see the world of difference that lies between the U.S. and the U.N. in approaching the worst troubles of our time. For America, and Mr. Bush, the struggles now upon us are basically about freedom, and rule of, by and for the people. For the U.N., and Mr. Annan, it is all about paternalism, consensus, family. And I'm sorry to say that the family that springs first to mind has a lot less to do with Gramps, Grandma and the kids than with the Mafia clan of TV fiction fame, the Sopranos.

Close, but no cigar. Actually, I think it's more like this family:

The former underboss of the Bonanno crime family yesterday detailed the murders of three capos — allegedly orchestrated by his brother-in-law and boss, Joseph Massino — that called for him and a team of masked hit men to burst from a closet in a social club, armed with of pistols and a machine gun, to carry out the slayings.

But turncoat Salvatore "Good Looking Sal" Vitale admitted his job was marginalized to simply "guarding the door" with his tommy gun after he goofed up and hit the trigger as the thugs were setting up, spraying a wall with gunfire.

Criminal, and dangerous in a way, but not terribly competent.

UPDATE: Yes, it's the gang that couldn't shoot straight. "Five years after international armed intervention and UN administration, Kosovo doesn't even have an effective police force, and no one wants to speculate on its 'final status.' This past March, as ethnic violence flared up again and Albanians attacked Serb homes, businesses and churches (a reversal of 1999's violence), UN 'peacekeeping' forces essentially stood by and allowed mobs to continue their destruction. "

NEOCONS PLAN IRAQ INVASION BEFORE 9/11! Reader Thad McArthur points to an interesting bit from the John Keegan article I linked earlier:

The plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom began to be drawn up as early as 1995, when Saddam's combination of deviousness and intransigence persuaded Washington that it might not be possible to avoid a military confrontation if his determination to develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction were to be quashed.

The Clinton Administration: Just another set of marionettes for the Evil Neocon Puppetmasters!

ANDREW SULLIVAN: "Sometimes you don't need Michael Moore connecting the dots, do you?"

TOM MAGUIRE has interesting stuff. Just keep scrolling.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up. Enjoy the business- and econo-blogging from all sorts of folks.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has lots of interesting stuff, including a hot new publicity photo.

DAVID HARDY AND JASON CLARKE'S NEW BOOK ON MICHAEL MOORE is now up to #8 on Amazon.

UPDATE: Blogosphereans may be interested to know that it features chapters by Tim Blair and Andrew Sullivan.

DARFUR UPDATE: I'm not all that surprised to read this:

EL FASHER, Sudan (Reuters) - The Sudanese government has disappointed Secretary of State Colin Powell in talks on the crisis in the troubled western region of Darfur, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Powell, on the second day of a visit to Sudan, arrived in Darfur Wednesday for a first-hand look at some of the million people displaced by marauding Arab militias in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. . . .

"They are in a state of denial. They are in a state of avoidance. They are trying to obfuscate and avoid any consequences," said the official, who asked not to be named.

More here:

Human rights campaigners accuse Sudan's pro-government Arab militia of carrying out genocide against black African residents of the Darfur region.
They are accused of forcing some one million people from their homes and killing at least 10,000.

Many thousands more are at risk of starving due to a lack of food in the camps where they have fled.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has refused to use the term genocide, which would carry a legal obligation to act.

But of course.

UPDATE: Stephen Manning emails that there's a double standard here:

Imagine, if you will, that Sudan is actually a Catholic country and marauding Catholic militia were raiding, say, Muslim blacks in the region, murdering and reducing them to slavery. It might be imagineable a couple hundred years ago, but now it would be unthinkable. And the uproar would make the planet deaf. Islam is the Religion of Peace. Yeah.

And where are the fatwa's against this behavior? If people don't think the war on terror is not about a serious structural problem with the religion of Islam, they are living in PC paradise, where only white males can be bad.

Well, sort of. In fact, both the victims and the perpetrators here are Muslim. And the perpetrators are white (Arabs) while the victims are black. I suspect that the real reason for the world's disinterest is that nobody's figured out a way to blame the United States, or Israel.

Some people, however, are noting the hypocrisy.

More thoughts here.

THOUGHTS ON THE WAR, over at GlennReynolds.com. Where the John Kerry campaign is advertising!

BLACKFIVE WRITES that journalists are making fools of themselves via their ignorance of things military:

The military is not calling back discharged and retired individual soldiers. They are dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve. There is a big difference between calling up IRR soldiers and recalling retired or discharged soldiers.

When you sign a contract to enlist or get a commission, it is generally for EIGHT years. You perform four years of Active Duy, then you have four left in the Reserves or National Guard.

He dissects a number of stories that get it wrong. You know, this kind of thing might have been excusable before, but we've been at war for going on three years. You'd think somebody would have bothered to learn this stuff.

UPDATE: Here's a related post from SgtStryker.com.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Rob Matteo emails:

Kudos for your post from Blackfive and Sgt. Stryker. I am a retired Army Officer and the minute I started hearing the reports of a "backdoor draft" etc. I knew that once again, the press has no clue on all things military. Any soldier would know there is a huge difference.

How is it possible that there is no editor or writer who has ever served in the miltary? Not very representative of our society I'd say.

They've got a diversity problem.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Shaun Evans emails:

It is bad that no journalists have served in the military. But it is
inexecusable to go to press with a story that could have been corrected
with a 15 second google search (including typing the query): Link

Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a manpower pool in the Ready Reserve,
primarily consists of: Individuals who have had training, have served
previously in the Active component or the Selected Reserve, and have
some period of a military obligation remaining. IRR members are in an
active status
, but do not perform regularly scheduled training.

Indeed. It's almost like they want to get it wrong. Meanwhile Dan Williams emails that the confusion is widespread:

It's not just the media getting it wrong. Teachers and parents are taking in the info and passing it to teens. I'm a scout master and deal with a lot of teen boys. Many seem to be convinced that the draft is coming back and the Bush admin is going to draft them all into the military.

I try to explain the politics to them when I get the chance, but it's far more complex than they expect politics to be.

Charles Rangel with his Draft bill ain't a Bushie.

And everybody's happy about that, at least . . . .

THE LAST IN MY series of TechCentralStation columns on aging is up.

June 29, 2004

THE HATRED JUST GETS WORSE. (Via Petrelis, via Sullivan).

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DISCOVERS Iraq's Greg Packer. Or something like that, though this is probably unfair to Greg Packer.

ADDED SOME NEW PHOTOS over at the Exposure Manager site -- both new stuff in the Tennessee Backroads gallery, and an entire new gallery of thematic stuff. I'm still way behind in reviewing and processing (via PhotoShop) images I've already taken.

Not all the photos are as pretty as some I've posted before, but they're more in accordance with the Walker Evansish style that characterized my work some years ago.

And for those who wonder, I remain very happy with the Nikon D70. It's hard to get a bad picture with that camera, though I've risen to the challenge from time to time. . .

EVAN COYNE MALONEY has a new video online. As always, it's worth watching.

MY COLLEAGUE TOM PLANK emails this link to an article by John Keegan and comments: "I served with D Co., 1st Bn, 7th Marines, 1 MarDiv, in Vietnam. I was proud to read this. If I were a 21-yr old college grad (now and earlier with Afghanistan), I would sign up again."

AMBER TAYLOR is trying to get International Kissing Day to take off in the United States.

It's next Tuesday, so start warming up those lips.

UPDATE: I like this observation, from Amber's comments:

Y'know, if we can get a national "Talk Like A Pirate Day", we should be able to get a Kissing Day. It would be really amusing if we could get one of the two days to rotate in such a fashion that every once in a while they would overlap. Then again, "Kiss me, you scurvy wench!" might be a deal breaker for many a young lady...

Some, on the other hand, might like it.

KERRY CROSSES A PICKET LINE? Northwestern Univ. Law Professor James Lindgren sends this email:

As the New York Times reported yesterday, John Kerry refused to cross a picket line on Monday in Boston to speak to the National Conference of Mayors. He was quoted as saying on Sunday night: "'I don't cross picket lines,' he said. 'I never have.'"

Yet this morning (Tuesday) in Chicago Kerry spoke at the annual meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, which was being very actively picketed by a labor group, Voices of Morality (VOM). VOM is leading a labor discrimination protest against Daimler-Chrysler (the signs that the picketers were holding looked very much like ones in pictures on the VOM website). Jackson and the PUSH conference were being targeted because, according to a local Chicago ABC TV news report, Jackson has ties to Daimler-Chrysler. The reporter referred to the PUSH coalition conference as one on "labor," but neither the official text of the Kerry speech nor the PUSH website lists that as the topic of the conference, though of course PUSH is best known nationally for its labor activities--picketing corporations and negotiating financial deals with them.

I just watched the 11:30am ABC-Channel 7 (Chicago) coverage of Kerry's speech and the protest. The pickets were obvious and clear and were mentioned more than once in the report, but there was no specific mention in the report how Kerry entered the hotel where the conference was being held, whether pickets were present when he entered the hotel, or whether he or his staff knew of the labor picketing going on.

I hope that the NY Times and the rest of the press following Kerry will sort out the facts of this tantalizing story. Perhaps they might determine whether:

1. Kerry changed his mind since Sunday night and now does cross picket lines if the stakes are high enough (which would let mayors understand where they rate).

OR

2. Kerry always believed in crossing some picket lines (treating some sorts of labor picketing as different from others, a defensible position but one that would be inconsistent with his Sunday statement that he doesn't cross picket lines).

OR

3. Neither Kerry nor his staff was aware of the labor protest and picketing (either because it appeared after they arrived at the hotel or some other reason), in which case Kerry should answer whether he made an understandable and regrettable mistake in appearing at a conference being picketed over labor issues.

LINKS:

Kerry speaking at PUSH:
Link 1
Link 2


PUSH website:
Link

VOM website:
Link

I hope someone in Chicago will look into this. It sounds like news.

UPDATE: Nothing in this story about the picket line, but it was a panderthon!

ANOTHER UPDATE: More questions. Greg Sanders emails about Boston:

Just a question, but what happens when the Democrats hold their Convention in Boston if the picket line is still there? Does Kerry cross it then and not support the labor side of the dispute? Do they move the convention so he does not have to cross a picket line? Do they (Democrats) convince the strikers to come to a temp agreement till the convention is over so that he does not have to cross a picket line? Or they (Democrats) just do not recognize it as a picket line but view them as a show of support from labor and well wishers at the convention (anyone can believe what they want)? Just thought I would ask.

Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I may have an answer via this email from reader Gerald Dearing:

For what it's worth: Spent Monday in Boston. The buzz on the radio was that quite a few in the party were miffed that Kerry had "stiffed" the mayors. This was accompanied by speculation that there was a deal in place where the union would agree not to picket the Dem's Convention if Kerry supported their stand now. No links, no proof. But it's an interesting point: will Kerry refuse to cross a picket line if it means he fails to accept his own nomination?

Last I heard from Gerald he was stranded in Missoula with a blown supercharger, so I'm glad to get a report from Boston. This sounds interesting, anyway. And finally, reader Dave Farrell thinks he's got the formula figured out:

I guess even John Kerry would find it difficult to straddle a picket line, although this is a stout effort. I think it works like scissors, paper, rock: picket line beats mayors, Jesse Jackson ("rainbow vote") trumps picket line. Alas, how shameless politics is.

Indeed!


MICKEY KAUS busts the New York Times' horserace coverage: "But the Times coverage isn't really that bad. It's worse!"

UPDATE: Brendan Loy responds to Kaus on Dem Panic. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to lose. Not because Bush is unbeatable -- because we have a crappy candidate who can do no better than tying Bush when he's at his absolute low-point. This is all Iowa's fault."

BACK FROM IRAQ, a Marine reservist comments on the press coverage.

HILLARY CLINTON: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Hmm. Next she'll be showing up on James Lileks' doorstep.

UPDATE: A "gift" to Karl Rove? The Clinton conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this. . . .

AXIS OF EVIL:

UNITED NATIONS June 29, 2004 — The U.S. government has expelled two Iranian security guards working at Iran's U.N. mission, citing activities "incompatible with their stated duties" diplomatic language for spying.

The guards were taking photos of infrastructure, modes of transportation and New York City landmarks, a U.S. official said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. They were the third set of Iranian guards caught taking pictures.

If anything happens in New York, we'll know who to look at.

DARFUR UPDATE: Here's a link-rich post on Colin Powell's visit to the Sudan today, and on the Sudanese government's effort to keep the lid on the ongoing Darfur genocide.

YOUR DONATIONS AT WORK: I'm sending this Pentax digital camera to Iraq along with my secretary, a Marine combat-engineer reservist who's headed over there next week. It looks good for the duty: compact, waterproof (which I hope means dust-resistant), uses AA batteries and shoots video with sound. (The PayPal donation balance just about covered it.) He's a bit of a photo/video geek, so I'm hoping he'll send back some good stuff. If I get any, I'll post it.

DAVID HARDY AND JASON CLARKE'S new book about Michael Moore went on sale today, and it's already at #20 on Amazon. I got an advance copy last week, but the InstaWife immediately stole it. (She's bad about that).

Just for the record, though, I don't think that Moore is stupid.

CHIRAC, TURKEY, AND THE E.U.: Some interesting observations from George Miller.

UPDATE: EurSoc observes:

It is hard to believe that once upon a time, French was the language of diplomacy. . . . Bush, having seen Chirac explode when New European nations disagreed with him over the Iraq war ("they missed a good chance to shut up") will not take it personally. When Chirac is in a corner, as he is so often these days, he lashes out. It is a sign he is beaten.

Ouch.

SPOONS THINKS I was too easy on Judge Guido Calabresi's comparison of Bush to Mussolini and Hitler. It's just that the statement was so out of character for him that it's easy for me to believe he didn't mean for it to come out that way. Of course, as Joel Engel notes, the Mussolini comparison would better fit someone besides Bush:

Mussolini stood on street corners and shouted that Italy's war with Turkey and its 1911 invasion of Libya were an imperial grab meant to distract the people from their hunger. He organized and led protests, some of them violent, and was jailed. That made him a martyr and, when he was released, a hero of the left. As a reward, Avanti, the newspaper of Italy's socialist party, named him editor. This was where he earned a national reputation, for his nasty editorials against the government. He was a socialist, not an anarchist, but he also showed contempt for democracy, believing that most people were too stupid to know what was in their own best interests and that they were anyway too ignorant to choose their own best leaders.

Hmm. That doesn't sound much like Bush.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has posted the text of Calabresi's apology letter.

NEWS FROM SYRIA: "After four years of Bashar al-Assad's presidency in Syria, his promises of economic and political reform have not materialised. The system he inherited from his father, including a feared security service, looks very much the same." Someone tell the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Oh, wait. . .

DAN KENNEDY: "Get ready for the next John Kerry media feeding frenzy. Following the court-ordered release of Illinois Republican Senate candidate (make that former candidate) Jack Ryan's seamy divorce papers, anti-Kerry forces are now demanding the same treatment for Kerry and his first wife, Julia Thorne."

I agree with Kennedy's take on this: "If Ryan and his ex-wife wanted their sealed records to remain sealed, that should have been respected. Voters should have been trusted to make what they would of the Ryans' refusal to go public. Same with Kerry and Thorne."

I'm also pretty sure it won't work out that way.

JOHN KEEGAN ON THE IRAQ WAR:

But, however many witnesses to disaster Jon Snow succeeds in finding, witnesses willing to denounce their government and armed forces, he cannot alter the record. The war was conceived and conducted in the honest belief that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. It was legally justified by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. It was, moreover, as a military operation, astonishingly successful, probably the most successful war ever fought between a democracy and a dictatorship.

He's somewhat less positive on the reconstruction.

BLOG CENSORSHIP IN SOUTH KOREA: Go here and keep scrolling. Unless you're in South Korea, where it's blocked. More here, and especially here.

If you'd like to register polite objections, go here.

COLIN POWELL is travelling to Darfur.

Human Rights Watch seems to want military action.

UPDATE: Here's a report that the Sudanese government is trying to keep things quiet:

The Sudanese government dispatched 500 men last week to this sweltering camp of 40,000 near El Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, the refugees and aid workers said. The men, some dressed in civilian clothes, others in military uniforms, warned the refugees to keep quiet about their experiences when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visit the region this week.

Darfur has been the scene of more than 16 months of conflict between residents of the region and Arab militiamen backed by the government. Aid workers say 30,000 people have been killed by the militia and more than 1.2 million forced to flee their homes.

I guess it's not working very well.

THERE ARE NOW 254 READER REVIEWS of Bill Clinton's book. Skimming them is like rerunning the 1990s.

LIKE WOODSTOCK FOR SPACE JUNKIES: Dale Amon has a photo essay from the SpaceShipOne test flight at Mojave.

A SCIENTIST SAYS WE'RE BLOWING IT ON HOMELAND SECURITY against biowar attacks. The program, he says, is generating pork, not progress, and may actually make us more vulnerable, not less so. I don't know if he's right here, but it's certainly plausible.

A certain amount of pork and confusion is inevitable, of course, but my sense is that the Homeland Security measures have been exceptionally bad, and that the Bush Administration would be vulnerable on that, if anyone bothered to make an issue of it.

KEITH BURGESS JACKSON: "Search though I may, I have yet to find the inferential path from 'President Bush lied' to 'The war in Iraq was unjustified' -- which makes me wonder why the first of these sentences is uttered so often."

WILLIAM RASPBERRY COMPARES MICHAEL MOORE TO LOUIS FARRAKHAN. Andrew Sullivan responds.

And read this, too.

UPDATE: John Leo has thoughts on the spreading Bush-is-Hitler meme, which as he notes has moved from the lunatic fringe to the mainstream of the left.

ANOTHER INTERESTING BLOG ESSAY: Don't give up. As BT says, it's a war of attrition, against the great dumbing-down of our people.

But don't go crazy, either. Here's another good essay on that.

IF BUSH TRIED TO SUPPRESS THIS NOVEL the way Gerhard Schroeder stopped publication of a similar novel in Germany, we'd hear that Bush was Hitler. So why aren't we hearing that about Schroeder?

CANADA: Government by uncertainty.

Colby Cosh has a sum-up post, too.

UPDATE: Final results here.

June 28, 2004

SOME INTERESTING STUFF from Iraqi talk radio. Hey, if you've got talk radio, you're free!

A SPACE ELEVATOR IN FIFTEEN YEARS? I'd like to see that, God knows, but that seems pretty soon.

CHIRAC LOSES IT IN ISTANBUL, playing right into Bush's hands by isolating himself from both Turkey and Britain. Perhaps the Bush folks decided to capitalize on reports like this one:

But the increasingly volatile Chirac is in no mood for pandering to the British.

'He's tetchy, unhappy, doesn't quite know which way to go - his officials are all frightened of him and nobody's giving him any advice,' says one Foreign Office source.

Interesting development, anyway. It certainly doesn't sound as if he's brimming with delight over the results of his past two years of politicking and diplomacy. But then, as the story says (first link) "Mr Chirac's outburst reflects the unresolved tensions over Iraq and France's declining influence in the EU and Nato. " Ouch.

UPDATE: Reader Nathan Machula emails:

Another Chirac quote from the article:

"He has nothing to say on this subject. It is as if I were to tell the United States how it should conduct its relations with Mexico."

...or it's as if Chirac were to tell the US how it should conduct its relations with Iraq.

Ouch, again.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bush is hanging tough: "In remarks prepared for delivery at a Istanbul university, Bush refused to back down in the face of Chirac's criticism on Monday that Bush had no business urging the EU to set a date for Turkey to start entry talks into the union."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Yet another diplomatic success for the Bush Administration: "Schroeder Says Germany and France Plan to Back Turkey's EU Bid." A bit of, er, weasel-room if you read the whole story, but clearly a defeat for Chirac any way you look at it. Heh.

BY THE WAY, SmokyBlog may be history, but Fletch is up and running with a new Texas photoblog, Austin Country Limits. Unsurprisingly, it's good!

CANADIAN ELECTION DEADLOCK? I'm not sure what this means. Less dynamism up north? Stay tuned.

Colby Cosh is liveblogging the returns.

UPDATE: Damian Penny has been liveblogging, too, and his conclusion is mixed but disappointed:

Just two or three months ago, if you told me we'd get 90 seats and almost 30% of the vote at election time, driving the seemingly unbeatable Martin Liberals into a minority government, I would have been thrilled. But I'm devastated. If we can't win an election now, when the hell can we win?

Maybe next time.

I GOT AN EMAIL THE OTHER DAY slamming me for not having comments on my site. I get those occasionally, and they're usually nasty enough that they're self-refuting -- yeah, I really want to give you a platform, buddy. . . .

But, as Eugene Volokh noted in a discussion of this topic a while back (read it, as I agree entirely and he said it better than I could, as usual), the worst part isn't the flaming by people who don't agree with you, it's the nasty comments by people who generally agree with you.

For example, Q&O made a perfectly reasonable point about James Rubin, only to see the comments degenerate into nasty remarks about Rubin's wife, Christiane Amanpour. I don't like Amanpour, whom I regard as excessively agenda-driven, but I wouldn't want her called names like that on my blog. Which means I'd either have to edit such comments out, or live with it. I don't have the time for the former, and I'm not willing to do the latter.

Some blogs, like Daniel Drezner's or Roger Simon's seem to avoid that problem most of the time, but I think it's a scaling issue -- up to a certain level of traffic it feels like a conversation, past that it degenerates into USENET. At any rate, I'd rather blog than deal with comments.

The other problem, which I've seen both at blogs I agree with and blogs I don't, is that bloggers can be captured by their commenters. It's immediate feedback, and it's interesting (it's about you!) and I can imagine it could become addictive. My impression is that often, instead of serving as a corrective to errors, comment sections tend to lure bloggers farther in the direction they already lean. Anyway, I worry about that.

And since anybody can start a blog, I don't feel that the absence of a comment section on InstaPundit is doing much to choke off free speech. [The Blogosphere is my comment section! -- Ed. Er, yeah, something like that.]

UPDATE: Hmm. Looks like Billmon has had exactly the experience I feared:

I thought I was opening the kind of smoky little bar where the regulars outnumber the first-time customers, and, as the Cheers theme song had it, "everybody knows your name." Instead, I've ended up with something that's more like one of those huge franchise watering holes were you have to shout to be heard over the roar of the crowd.

Which means that playing the role of bartender/moderator has been sucking up progressively more of my limited blogging time, while becoming progressively less enjoyable - a textbook example of diminishing returns.

Perry DeHavilland has more thoughts, here.

INTERESTING REPORT:

Western intelligence officials are examining reports that Iran's Revolutionary Guards attempted to cover up a nuclear accident that occurred during the delivery of a secret shipment of weapons-grade uranium from North Korea.

The accident allegedly caused Teheran's new international airport to be sealed off by Revolutionary Guard commanders within hours of its official opening on May 9.

I don't know if it's true, but it's certainly plausible. I guess we'll just have to see what develops.

A DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS for the United States.

FAT JOKES ARE BEYOND THE PALE: Well, practically!

UPDATE: Not everyone got the memo, apparently.

RULE OF ECONOMIC COVERAGE: All good news is really bad news! (Both links via Bill Hobbs).

UPDATE: But this story seems to be good news:

Oil prices dropped sharply Monday as Iraq increased exports after mending sabotaged pipelines and as extra supplies from other OPEC members reassured international markets.
.
Some additional pressure was taken off the market by the resolution of a labor dispute in Norway, the world's third-largest oil exporter, late last week.
.
"You have a lot of good news out there," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

Even the antiwar folks can be happy: If oil prices rise, it's proof that Bush is helping out his oil-industry buddies. But if they fall, it's proof that the war was for oil all along. Win/win!

SMOKYBLOG, ALAS, IS GONE, but here's a nice gallery of Smoky Mountain pictures from Cindy Haggerty.

I WAS GOING TO DO A ROUNDUP of Iraqi blog posts on the sovereignty handover, but Michele Catalano beat me to it.

THE SPECULIST'S weekly roundup of good news has been posted.

And Stuart Buck has some good news of his own.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has an interesting article on operations research, and a fascinating blog post on why the press isn't covering the big productivity-gain story very well at all.

ACTUALLY, Knoxville suffered considerable damage from an earthquake on the New Madrid fault, the same one that created Reelfoot Lake. And we have earthquake drills occasionally, though we've had only very mild tremors (4.6 is the biggest) in living memory.

MORE THOUGHTS ON LONGEVITY, over at GlennReynolds.com.

JAMES LILEKS explores the heart of darkness: “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH has thoughts on John Kerry and human rights.

LARRY SOLUM has a very nice roundup on the Supreme Court detention cases.

UPDATE: C.D. Harris recalls a challenge he issued before the decisions.

TIM BLAIR is back from Malaysia, and offers readers a host of delights. Just keep scrolling.

HEH:

NOTE: Box Office Mojo asked Michael Moore and company to comment for this story, but they wanted to screen the questions in advance. As policy, Box Office Mojo does not conduct interviews under such circumstances, so there will be no comment from them.

Moore used to be a gadfly. Now he's part of the Establishment.

GINNY AUTHORS an essay worthy of Bill Whittle.

MY EARLIER POST on the Lost in Space DVD collection led a couple of readers to ask how I liked the Gilligan's Island collection I mentioned a while back. Very much. Surprisingly, the InstaWife -- who like me, grew up on the syndicated reruns -- liked it, too. The unaired pilot (featuring different actors in the roles of the Professor, Ginger, and Mary Ann, and a different, Calypsoesque theme song) was interesting, too.

THE NEW STATESMAN ON France and human rights:

When it comes to foreign policy, opinion polls as well as a sampling of Hollywood blockbusters show that Americans see themselves as the good sheriff, selflessly sorting out a strange and unpredictable world. But as they chew over the congressional report on 9/11, they are clearly struggling to come to terms with the reality of their latest foreign adventure.

In contrast, the French foreign ministry is unambiguous about its role: France is the birthplace of human rights and the cradle of the Enlightenment. Thanks to giants such as Voltaire, France inspired others - for example, in the United States - to liberate themselves from oppressive, corrupt aristocratic elites.

So much for self-image: in practice, the French are running the cash registers in a Wild West whorehouse. Not only do the French, like Edith Piaf, regret nothing: their determination to keep their arms exports booming pushes them to sidestep their own laws, not to mention the international conventions they have signed. While all countries tend to pursue a foreign policy based on self-interest, the French have a network of arms salesmen and military advisers working in concert within their perceived spheres of influence to supply mass murderers. . . .

She has a leaked memo confirming that the French supplied members of the interim government responsible for the massacres with satellite phones to direct operations across the country. "They hand-delivered them by courier," she says. "In the run-up to the massacres, the French had 47 senior officers living with and training the genocidaires. French policy is about influence and money and Francophonie," says Melvern. "They are very professional at manipulating the UN system. By controlling Boutros Boutros-Ghali, their candidate for UN secretary general, they determined what information about the Rwandan genocide reached the outside world."

Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that business interests might be tipping the balance against France's taking a stand on human rights in Sudan. Jemera Rone of Human Rights Watch explains that TotalFinaElf has oil concessions in southern Sudan that it cannot touch until the peace deal between Khartoum and the south sticks. The French are wary of giving the regime in Khartoum a hard time about its ongoing ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Darfur, in case it walks away from the southern peace deal, thus imperilling Total's prospects.

Read the whole thing.

ARNOLD KLING has problems with the Washington Post's front page.

INTERESTING STUFF on the Padilla and Hamdi cases, over at Volokh. This bit is interesting: "Scalia's dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld suggests he would be a fifth vote for the Padilla dissent's position on the merits. He says that, unless the government suspends the writ of habeas corpus (which it has not done), the government must charge a citizen it is holding with a crime. It cannot detain a citizen without charging him."

I agree. And this bit, also from Scalia, appears to be a bit of a slap at the Chief Justice: "Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it."

UPDATE: I just got out of a 90+ minute faculty meeting, but Eugene Volokh has further thoughts:

I've only read the Hamdi case so far, but here's a tentative thought (subject to revision as I read the other cases and rethink the matter) — two significant facts in this case are that Justice Scalia voted against the government, and Justice Breyer voted (partly) in favor of the government.

This is because these votes may well change the political dynamics within the conservative and liberal movements.

I think that's right. There's more on the Supreme Court at The Volokh Conspiracy, so just scroll up and down. And Marty Lederman has thoughts, too, over at SCOTUSblog. So, in a very different vein, does Mark Levin.

MIXED REPORTS on resveratrol and aging. I'm still going to keep drinking Guinness, though, just to play it safe.

A SAUDI NON-CONNECTION: Daniel Drezner has a column discussing something from the 9/11 Commission report that didn't get a lot of attention, perhaps because it undercuts Bush critics who say he's too cozy with Saudi Arabia:

If those who oppose the Bush administration want to excoriate the government for making it appear that the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda was stronger than it actually was, so be it. But it would be nice to see some of those critics acknowledge that their preferred target has been absolved as well -- and that the administration has not been lying down on the job in making life difficult for Al Qaeda.

Of course, the force of this point depends to some degree on how much faith one has in the Commission, and I have very little. In addition, the finding that "we found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al Qaeda," strikes me as rather carefully worded. But it's certainly true that those who treat the Commission as reliable in other contexts have to deal with this finding, too. Or at least they would, if anyone paid it any attention.

UPDATE: Drezner has more thoughts on his blog. Why don't I think much of the Commission? Leaving aside Jamie Gorelick's various conflicts of interest, the relentless partisan public posturing and the tendency to ignore important issues, all well-documented in the blogosphere, caused me to decide that it wasn't a serious enterprise, and was aimed at the TV cameras more than the truth.

For a somewhat different view, read Mark Steyn's column on How the September 11 commission blew it: "These poseurs have blown it so badly they've become the definitive example of what they're meant to be investigating: a culture so stuck in its way it's unable to change even in the most extreme circumstances."

Okay, it's not that different.

IN AN UPDATE to his earlier post on the new Niger developments, Greg Djerejian notes that Josh Marshall appears to be disputing the new Financial Times reports of a Niger/Iraq uranium connection, and offers some comments.

UPDATE: Reader Paul Harper thinks I'm somehow boycotting Josh Marshall. Er, he's permalinked over to the right, you know. . . But here's the link to Marshall's rather cloak-and-daggerish post (which is also linked by Greg Djerejian, of course). But I don't think you'll be able to make much of Marshall's post without reading Djerejian's first.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks he has the answer, which he says is boring, and notes a startling possible source for the forged documents -- disgruntled CIA agents? "If Josh Marshall is endorsing that, and is about to confirm that, I can not imagine how it will be presented as a Bush-basher (but it will be!)." Stay tuned.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has posted this week's Euro news roundup, where polls are telling some people things they don't want to know. And Gerhard Schroeder has successfully blocked the publication of a novel. I blame John Aschroft!

And speaking of roundups, Alphecca's weekly roundup of media gun coverage is up.

IN THE MAIL: A copy of Frank Newport's forthcoming book, Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People. Newport, the Editor-in-Chief of Gallup, is out to make the case for the importance of polling in a democracy, and he's obviously concerned that polls are losing credibility. That's because -- as Eugene Volokh regularly notes -- polls that are unscientific, or that are misrepresented by media coverage, are so common. Newport's most interesting point is that polls can uncover collective wisdom (he sounds almost like Howard Smart Mobs Rheingold in places) that other mechanisms miss.

That may be true, but sloppiness and dishonesty in polling -- and, to a much greater extent, in media reporting of polls, something Newport devotes a chapter to -- are doing considerable damage to the institution, and those who care about it should be paying more attention to that issue.

And if all this stuff interests you, you may be interested in Daniel Drummond's link-rich post on polling over at The Fourth Rail.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: More on scare tactics in the nano-wars:

We've seen this before, in the politicization of biotechnology through junk science. The European Parliament, which did so much to undermine genetically modified food, is set to join the nanowar. It commissioned a report that said nanoparticles should not be released into the environment. The message: Humanity must be saved from the technology that could save humanity.

Color me unsurprised.

OVERSTOCK.COM is now the biggest private employer in Afghanistan. (Via Virginia Postrel, who has several new and interesting posts up.)

AN EARLY TURNOVER OF SOVEREIGNTY in Iraq -- a clever way to forestall terrorist attacks planned for June 30. And a self-governing, democratic Iraq is what the terrorists dread.

Now will we see early elections for the same reason? I hope so.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has thoughts. So does Joe Gandelman, who predicts that the new Iraqi government will crack down in ways the United States has not.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Alt comments from Baghdad, and Michael Rubin has comments too. Meanwhile, for the press, it's all about -- the press! "As someone who was in the Press Room in Baghdad when the announcement was made to the Press via a phone call, I can tell you that there were flacks who visibly angry at being 'duped.'" I don't blame them for being mad. What's more important -- the future of the Middle East and America, or the care and feeding of media egos?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting list of CPA accomplishments here. As someone who's been critical of the CPA, I should note that it has actually done a lot.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Greenspan emails:

On CBS Radio's 1:00 EDT news roundup, the Iraq handover was the second story, behind the Supreme Court decisions. I was amazed at that editorial choice, and perhaps this is the explanation:

One thing I am absolutely sure about. The press is vexed, mightily vexed. They won't say it, they can't. But a zillion muckety-mucks have gone to Iraq to be there for the handover and they got scooped. Plans have been trashed, egos bruised. It will be interesting to see how or if this gets translated into coverage.

Indeed.

A READER EMAILS FROM IRAQ: "My Arabic isn't too good, but the local radio in Iraq is stating that Zarqawi has been captured by Iraqi intelligence. All our laborers are chattering about it and seem extremely pleased (most are Kurdish)." However, the U.S. military is denying it.

ROBERT TAGORDA compares Al Gore's statements with those of Bill Clinton and concludes: "I think that Gore is simply more radical than Clinton. It would benefit the public to see the divergence clearly in the news."

FISH: It really is a brain food.

June 27, 2004

IT'S NOT JUST THE LETTER I MENTIONED YESTERDAY: Ralph Nader is publicly calling for an intervention regarding Michael Moore's weight:

"I've been at him for years, saying 'you've got to lose weight,' " Nader said in the phone interview. "Now, he's doubled. Private exhortations aren't working. It's extremely serious. He's over 300 pounds. He's like a giant beach ball."

He's unhappy with his politics, too.

BALDILOCKS NOTES some non-digital brownshirt action.

JEWS IN BAGHDAD: H. D. Miller says the Times is burying the lede in this story.

BOOKS FOR IRAQ: This sounds worthy, and -- especially if you're any sort of a professor -- you should check it out.

INTERESTING THOUGHTS on security and the Iraqi transition, from Daniel Drezner and some of his commenters. I agree that the Sunnis will likely have cause to regret not coming to an accommodation with the United States before the transition.

URANIUM AND NIGER: Greg Djerejian notices some potentially embarrassing developments. Er, embarrassing for Joe Wilson, that is.

UPDATE: Djerejian has updated his post in response to a second Financial Times story, and suggests that it's not just Wilson who may wind up being embarrassed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts here, and here.

JAMES RUBIN confronts his past.

SOME INTERESTING, AND DISTURBING, news about SpaceShipOne's flight.

IS NATO A FRAUDULENT COALITION? Patrick Belton's roundup of what to expect at the Istanbul summit is interesting throughout, but this is what struck me:

Of 1.4 million soldiers under Nato arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. Then there are the problems of interoperability: there is a recurring problem of coalition-wide secure communications which can be drawn on in operations. Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.

Militarily, then, NATO just doesn't bring a lot to the table nowadays. Then, as Belton notes, "The other problem is political will, which is most in evidence on the issue of terrorism. " Indeed. Both problems call into question both criticisms of Bush for not getting the NATO allies more involved, and proposals for moving U.S. strategy in a more multilateral direction. Read the whole thing, though, for some criticisms of the Bush Administration that are more cogent, if less campaign-oriented, than that one.

UPDATE: Reader Eric Bainter says this is nothing new:

When I was assigned to NATO in the late 80's/early 90's, the standard joke was (and probably had been since NATO's inception) that "NATO" stands for "Needs Americans To Operate." (The alternate was "Needs Alcohol To Operate," which wasn't too far off the mark either). It was pretty clear that for any major event, you were gonna need a lot of Yankees doing all those things mentioned in the article -- command & control, comm, especially airlift, and of course, actual fighting troops of any significant size.

One example of this came about during the first Gulf War - NATO's response as a non-belligerent was called Anchor Guard, and was to protect Turkey from being attacked by Iraq. The NATO owned & operated E-3A Component sent AWACS planes, the Dutch sent some Patriot batteries, and the Germans sent Alpha jets. Chem warfare suits were cobbled together from American masks and German suits, because most NATO countries did not have NBC ensembles that were worth a damn (e.g. the Turks didn't have any).

However, we needed more secure housing for the AWACS crews and ground support - they were living in hotels in Turkish cities -- Turkey's bases were no where near big enough to support a surge of troops (which seems to be another problem with most of our allies' bases). The Germans offered up portable shelters that had recently come into their inventory when they took over the East German forces. However, there was no way to transport them within NATO - the US Air Force airlifters were completely booked up with Desert Shield/Storm. The Belgians had some C-130s, but had already refused to fly ammo for the Brits to use in Desert Storm (typical). NATO had three 707s, but they were maxed out rotating AWACS crews to Turkey, and didn't have a lot of cargo space. The German Transall airlifters were probably too small. The solution - Aeroflot (yes, the former Soviet now Russian airline) was contracted to move them to Turkey! I thought it was both amazing and hilarious that the Russky's were supporting NATO. Aeroflot moved the shelters to Turkey, but their airplane broke down on one of the missions and was stuck for 3 weeks while a part was located and flown in from way the heck off in the former Soviet Union somewhere.

The Russky's also gave unofficial morale support - a Russion "exotic dance troupe" was on tour in one of the Turkish cities when well over a hundred NATO AWACS personnel came rolling in...the dancers immediately cancelled the rest of their tour and stayed for the duration of the war.

Interesting.

LUNCH WITH THE SOLDIERS: An interesting report.

NOT QUITE worldwide, really.

WAR AND PUBLICITY: The Belmont Club has some reflections that unfortunately resonate with Richard Aubrey's comments on Darfur, below.

FRITZ SCHRANCK gives a negative review to Michael Moore.

I'VE WRITTEN -- both here and elsewhere -- about the importance of a decentralized response to terrorism and disasters. Winds of Change has a post on disaster preparedness, and you might also find this earlier article of mine on the subject useful. You might want to read this, too. And go here, and scroll up, for personal survival tips from Amy Langfield.

(Langfield link bad before; fixed now. Sorry!)

HERE'S THE LATEST DARFUR ROUNDUP, from Passion of the Present.

James Moore notes that concern on this issue is thoroughly bipartisan.

UPDATE: Richard Aubrey emails: "It will be bipartisan until we actually start to do something. Woe be to George Bush if he takes some forthright initiative on this." Sigh. I'd like to believe this is wrong.

CBS MAY BE IN TROUBLE WITH THE FCC for its Amazon Associates linkage with Clinton's book:

CBS is part of the Associates Program of Amazon.com. Every sale of Clinton's book -- or of any other product listed by Amazon -- will generate a commission of up to 10 percent of the total sale for CBS, according to Kristin Mariani, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com. . . .

That conflict of interest calls into question the objectivity of CBS. When it makes programming decisions about whom it interviews and how much publicity it generates for the events, without disclosing its vested interest in the book sales, it becomes ethics-challenged.

The FCC has rules about disclosure of business arrangements or other conflicts of interest.

"If there is a problem, it could be regarding the lack of sponsorship identification and payola," according to an FCC source.

"If anyone complains, we will take a look at it," said Ken Scheibel, an attorney in the FCC enforcement bureau.

"Payola" and "plugola" roughly translate into a broadcaster receiving something of value in exchange for playing a song or plugging a product, but not disclosing that information to the audience.

It's not the Amazon linkage that's the issue per se, but the tie to what's broadcast. (Via RatherBiased.com). Arguably, of course, it is disclosed at the point that matters, on the website -- if you look at the links, the Amazon referrer code is pretty obvious to anyone who knows anything. But I don't think the FCC would buy that, as they'd probably feel the relevant disclosure is in the broadcast, not on the website.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis says that this is a bogus issue. As a matter of substantive ethics, he's no doubt right. But surely he's not arguing that the FCC deals in matters of substance? They've got rules about this stuff; they're not in the business of ethical analysis. And while RatherBiased.com's campaign on the subject has an element of "gotcha" to it, Sixty Minutes would hardly seem to be in a position to complain about that. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: In an update to the post linked above, Jeff is now razzing the columnist quoted above because there's a Google Ad for Clinton's book on the same page as the column. But I think that misses the point. Any idiot can tell that the Google Ads are ads. The FCC rules are about running ads that aren't disclosed as ads -- payola and plugola, as mentioned above. The audience is supposed to know when the broadcaster is getting paid to hype a product. Nobody's suggesting that advertising is illegal or wrong, or that "commerce" is evil. I don't think that RatherBiased.com is even suggesting that Amazon referral fees are wrong, and certainly I'm not. But CBS ran what was, essentially, a commercial for Clinton's book, and CBS didn't disclose that it was making money from the book's sale. I think it's de minimis, under the circumstances, but it's wholly different from what Jeff's talking about.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Q&0 says there's no story here, and actually explains why. Seems persuasive to me.

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