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March 12, 2005

OOPS:

The facts seem simple enough. A rather hum-drum late nineteenth century novelist, Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins (1863-1938), finds late twentieth century cachet when she is identified as an African American author. . . .

Holly Jackson's discovery shows that Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins was white. Her family knew that all along. Her novels included no people of color. Only the scholars believed Kelley-Hawkins was an African American writer and that her novels betrayed no race consciousness became a matter for interpretation. But why would scholars not have taken the relentlessly white novels of Kelley-Hawkins as a signal that she was white? Did we read them and do the archival research about her or did we simply rely on an earlier authority's word for their author's ethnicity?

Sounds like a case of "too good to check." Or maybe Hollywood is right, and people are just easy to fool.

LIKE CIVILIZATION: Except with mirror balls.

AN AFGHAN BLOG: Via Jeff Jarvis.

IRAQI MERCHANTS BOYCOTTING SYRIA -- this is interesting:

After what we've seen on TV, we thought that it's totally unpatriotic to trade with that country; the Syrian government is benefiting from trade with Iraq and using the money they get to fund the criminals who slaughter our people. Not only that; the ordinary people themselves started to prefer products from other origins over Syrian products so we thought that it's better to search for alternatives for the boycotted items.

This is bad news for Assad, I suspect.

UPDATE: It's especially interesting in conjunction with this observation from Michael Young:

One should also observe the pragmatism of the Syrian business class. The Assads and Makhloufs are not indispensable to its survival, and any movement away from the regime will have to pass through the private sector at some stage. With the economy searching for a lifeline, and privatization and banking reforms hardly advancing at all, there is surely disgruntlement there. I'm not suggesting a coup is in the offing (who knows?), but the pillars of the Assad regime are eroding: the Alawites are worried; the business class, particularly Sunnis, were disturbed by the Hariri assassination and are, clearly, making less money today; and the political elite as a whole may soon lose a very profitable venture in Lebanon.

Hmm.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: "The Issue the GOP Simply Must Get Right."

IS DAVID HOROWITZ RECYCLING AN URBAN MYTH? Deadtree organs do that all the time, but that's no excuse.

UPDATE: Apparently, it's not Horowitz who's being inaccurate, here.

VIRGINIA POSTREL:

the spat between Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley over whether the LAT runs enough women op-ed writers (a.k.a. enough of Estrich's friends) keeps getting nastier. Estrich has revealed herself as a poorly read, though well-connected, hack--people who are interested in ideas know who Charlotte Allen is--while Kinsley has demonstrated why magazines are generally more interesting than newspapers: Magazine editors (and Kinsley is one, despite his current job) are paid to have vision and confidence, not to bend to pressure groups.

Be sure to follow the link, and read the "pink boxes" stuff.

UNSCAM UPDATE: This isn't inspiring confidence that the Volcker Report is getting to the bottom of things:

The committee probing the Oil-for-Food (search) scandal says it will correct omitting the name of a U.N. official involved in the international controversy who has a close relationship with the executive director of the panel.

It's well known that the Volcker commission's executive director, Reid Morden (search), and Louise Frechette (search) have had a "longstanding professional relationship" for 30 years, according to the Independent Inquiry Committee — dubbed the "Volcker commission" after its chief, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker (search).

Morden was Canada's deputy minister of foreign affairs in the 1990s. Frechette is U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's No. 2 at the international organization. But Frechette also was Canada's ambassador to the United Nations at the same time Morden was her boss.

Hmm.

TOM MAGUIRE ON BANKRUPTCY AND LEGAL ACTION:

Guided by the notion that sunlight is the best disinfectant, here is a simple suggestion that left and right ought to be able to accept, if not lovingly embrace: require credit card issuers and consumer lenders to prominently disclose information about (a) penalty rates and fees, and (b) the proportion of clients currently paying those fees.

For example, suppose the next letter you received saying “You are Pre-Approved” also told you, on the front of the envelope, that the penalty rate was 30%, that monthly late fees were $35, and that 8% of current card-holders paid late fees or penalty interest at some point in the last three months. Suddenly, that tired old financial planning advice to be near a wastebasket when you go through the mail sounds very sensible.

And for the credit card issuers with a “kinder, gentler” marketing strategy, there will be an incentive to waive a few fees, and to be a bit less aggressive in collecting penalties, if the benefit will be monthly numbers with better consumer appeal.

Interesting.

UPDATE: More here. I've noticed the silence of people like Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard, myself.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Rick Brady emails that Dave Ramsey hasn't been silent:

Glenn, I heard Dave Ramsey a couple of nights ago rail against the bill as being bought and paid for by predatory lenders. He had very harsh words for the Republican Party in falling for it and accused them all of having their votes bought. He's not exactly silent on this issue.

Glad to hear it, and glad to be wrong. I listen sometimes, and haven't heard him mention it, and I couldn't find anything on his website. I wonder if Clark Howard has weighed in?

MORE: Ask and ye shall receive. Reader Brian Kerth emails: "I heard Clark Howard do his own little rant on the Bankruptcy Bill on Thursday. He is definitely not a fan and urged his listeners to be cautious of the outcome. He hasn't posted anything on it that I could find."

Me neither. These guys need to get blogs!

ROB SMITH'S MOTHER HAS DIED: Please send your condolences.

PUBLIUS HAS A LEBANON NEWS ROUNDUP posted.

CULT UPDATE: My earlier post brought a lot of suggestions, but most people agreed that the iPod Shuffle is fine for audiobooks. And quite a few people reported that their 9-year-olds had no trouble with the interface. Some recommended an iPod Mini now that the price gap has closed, but I don't think it's shock-resistant enough to ride in a 9-year-old's backpack. I like the flash-memory aspect, and the cheapness, of the Shuffle. And, yes, there are other alternatives, but my daughter is fully indoctrinated into the cult, now, so they're not really alternatives at all . . . .

ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE: Here's the link to this week's Carnival of the Recipes.

MORE TROUBLE FOR WARD CHURCHILL:

University of Colorado officials investigating embattled professor Ward Churchill received documents this week purporting to show that he plagiarized another professor's work." . . .

Dalhousie began an investigation after professor Fay G. Cohen complained that Churchill used her research and writing in an essay without her permission and without giving her credit. Although the investigation substantiated her allegations, Cohen didn't pursue the matter because she felt threatened by Churchill, Crosby said.

Crosby said Cohen told Dalhousie officials in 1997 that Churchill had called her in the middle of the night and said, "I'll get you for this."

Sheesh.

UPDATE: This may scuttle a buy-out deal:

Allegations that University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill plagiarized and threatened a professor in Canada scuttled negotiations Friday for a financial settlement that would have ended Churchill's employment at CU. . . .

The News has also learned that a prominent American Indian artist told law enforcement authorities in New Mexico that Churchill threatened violence against him.

There's much more in the article. And there's more coverage in the Denver Post. (Via Cliopatria.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dave Kopel writes:

For all the ink devoted to the Ward Churchill case, the Denver dailies have done virtually nothing to investigate the dysfunctional campus academic culture which led to the Churchill fiasco.

He goes on to raise a number of questions that he thinks deserve answers.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF CORDITE -- a collection of gun-related posts -- is up. And was there a Carnival of Recipes this week? Nobody sent me the link.

March 11, 2005

MYSTERY POLLSTER OFFERS AN ANALYSIS of Gallup's new poll on blogs. Key bit:

No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.

All the more so when you look at which ten percent it is.

LAW PROFESSOR MIKE RAPPAPORT has thoughts on filibusters.

DANIEL DREZNER WONDERS why Jeffrey Sachs' plan for ending global poverty at a cost of $150 billion per year isn't getting more attention.

PROTEST PHOTOS FROM KYRGYZSTAN -- the protesters get extra points for turning out in such frigid weather.

HUGH HEWITT:

After two days of conversations in DC with leading conservatives and officials, it is clear to me that the GOP is the party of expertise and achievement abroad and innovation and new ideas at home, always the superior position in politics. The only serious danger to its leadership is a split over immigration --the sort of split that destroyed Peel's Conservative Party over the Corn Laws and Gladstone's Liberals over Home Rule for Ireland and Chamberlain's theories of imperial preference. The president's plan will stir a lot of passions, and would best be coupled with an extraordinary push for southern border security in the form of a border length fence and an easy to patrol highway along its length.

This is an issue that doesn't get much coverage in Big Media, but if you listen to the second- and third-tier talk radio shows you'll hear a lot of anger on the topic. I think that Hugh is probably right.

TANGLED BANK is a blog carnival focusing on science, nature, and medicine.

MORE LATER ON MY SPEECH (I'M BLOGGING FROM THE CAB) but in answer to a question afterward, I'm not necessarily against any regulation of campaign finances. But I think that current election law is quite bad, and that the FEC is a poor choice of regulatory instrument. More details later.

UPDATE: Wizbang is going to post a transcript and video later, so I won't try to recreate the whole thing from memory. So a few high points:

Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith's comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn't reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion -- and how little real guidance -- the FEC has on these kinds of questions.

That led me to open by saying that Thomas's remarks were the most cogent argument I've heard for the abolition of the FEC. And they were. If you think that there can be objective, predictable, and unintrusive regulation of political speech, well -- read the transcript of his remarks and see if you still think so.

Among other things, though, I noted a regulatory problem. Another agency, the FTC, has had its head handed to it when it has tried to impose intrusive regulations on industries that are dispersed across every Congressional district (like funeral homes, or used car dealers). I noted that bloggers have the same characteristic, with politically plugged-in bloggers everywhere.

My suggestion, following from this (and not in the speech) is that bloggers ought to contact their Representative and Senator and suggest legislation that will protect them from FEC regulation, just in case Thomas's assurances turn out to be inadequate. I think it's worth a thought. If you call them, and tell them that you're a blogger/constituent who's interested in this topic, I suspect you'll get a hearing.

To be fair to Thomas -- as I did note -- he's in charge of administering a dreadful statute, one that the FEC didn't write, and whose administration is sure to be difficult.

ANOTHER UPDATE: By the way, you can read some thoughts of mine on campaign finance regulation in the Newsday column from 1999 that's reproduced here.

Meanwhile, for an alternate view, here's Mike Krempasky's take on the event.

MORE: Rex Hammock has some pungent thoughts.

FREE SPEECH FOR ME, but not for thee. A look at federal election law.

TOM MAGUIRE turns lemons into lemonade on the bankrutpcy bill, but I'm still sorry it worked out this way. Apparently, the amount of bipartisanship here was surprising all around.

I'VE JUST SIGNED ON TO THIS BLOGOSPHERE LETTER TO THE F.E.C. on regulation of political blogs.

DRAMATIC DEMOCRAPHICS: Here are the blogads reader survey results, which suggest that the people reading blogs are a pretty desirable demographic.

REGISTAN has a collection of firsthand reports from Kyrgyzstan posted.

I'M IN WASHINGTON, where I'll be speaking at the Politics Online conference later today. After which, alas, I'll just head home.

THE COOLEST IPOD ACCESSORY I'VE SEEN so far: A whole-house FM transmitter. I would have loved one of these as a kid, especially as it works with everything, not just iPods.

UPDATE: Reader Jim Stanton notes that this one comes with hacking instructions in the reviews. Helpful!

And many, many readers recommend the Apple Airport Extreme with AirTunes, but that's a lot more expensive, and lacks the cool Mad Scientists' Club angle. Of course, for that, you really need one of these, which Ernest Miller (natch) reports he's built.

SGRENA UPDATE: The Italian ineptitude explanation is looking stronger:

The AP reports that the Italian story of Giuliana Sgrena's release and later wounding at an American checkpoint, which also resulted in the death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, continues to fall apart. Two Italian newspapers now say that the general in charge of the Sgrena operation did not inform the US that Calipari's mission was to free Sgrena, and one of them reports that General Mario Maroli didn't even know it himself.

And Sgrena's story is changing, again.

MICKEY KAUS wonders if the image of "mooching Boomer geezers" will affect the politics of Social Security reform:

Social Security has always been double-"work-tested"--that is 1) people who got it were seen as too old to be expected to work and 2) they'd worked and contributed payroll taxes when they were younger. But maybe Work Test #1 has now eroded--so many seniors are working that people in their late 60's aren't considered too old to work (just as, Gelinas notes, single moms are no longer not expected to work). AARP should worry about this. All those pictures in its magazine of vigorous seniors biking and hiking are coming back to bite them.

Kaus looks at Social Security reform as just another example of welfare reform. He may be onto something.

JOSHUA TREVINO AT REDSTATE calls the bankruptcy bill a "breach of faith," and observes, "When it passes -- and it will -- it will be thanks purely to the Republican Party."

NEWSPAPER CIRCULATION IS IN DECLINE, especially where "quality" circulation is concerned:

The Prudential Equity Group issued a biting 72-page report this morning on the state of circulation and found that both quality and quantity continue to decline.

Among other findings, the report said that "other paid" circulation was up 34% in the last reporting period, which it labled "troubling.". . .

In the below-average category, the L.A. Times experienced an overall circulation decline of 5.6%. Full-paid home delivery was down 10.8%, much worse than the 2.4% national average, the report said. Home-delivered copies through third party sales decreased "significantly," said the report.

The report noted a curious trend at the Times regarding other-paid circulation, calling the fluctuations and changes "peculiar." As one category drops another gains, with the rough total remaining constant. "A 158% increase in discounted copies also signals to us more trouble with circulation and selling at the cover price," the report said.

I cancelled my newspaper subscription -- not out of pique, as is probably the case with many LAT subscribers, but because we weren't reading it any more, and copies just piled up. They sent a guy to my house to offer me a free subscription. I said no, but last week they just started delivering copies again anyway. I thought it was just a mistake by our carrier, but now I wonder if it wasn't a circulation-boosting strategy . . . .

More thoughts on the subject here. Is it a "media Enron?" I don't know, but people sure seem to be doing their best to make the numbers look as good as possible.

March 10, 2005

BLOGS VERSUS MCCAIN-FEINGOLD: "One other thing, according to Technorati there are now 7,718,207 weblogs. That's a whole lot of people - and voters! Just to put a John McCain spin on it - that's about two million more people than the entire population of Arizona."

BAHRAINIS PROTEST BLOGGERS' ARREST: More here.

THIS EDITORIAL FROM THE NEW REPUBLIC echoes my democratization is a process, not an event theme:

But liberal democracy is more than just regime change and elections. It can succeed only if it is cultivated--which means devoting time and money to building civil institutions like a free press, nurturing liberal political parties and politicians, and generally inculcating liberal values through all available means, including popular culture.

Though they get in some shots at the Administration, the key point -- about the need to support democratic reforms abroad -- is clearly right.

I MEANT TO LINK TO THIS LETTER FROM A YEMENI JAIL the other day, but somehow failed to. Now a reply from an American blogger has been published in a Yemeni newspaper. There's also a petition.

PUBLIUS HAS ANOTHER LEBANON NEWS ROUNDUP that's chock-full of interesting stuff, including more reports that the Syrians were busing in ringers for the pro-Syrian protest.

DAN RATHER VISITS STATELY INSTAPUNDIT MANOR, and learns who was really behind his demise, in another Chandleresque thriller from IowaHawk.

HEH: "Fatwa issued against bin Laden."

MICKEY KAUS: "An entrenched institution of the rich attempts to influence the news ... and the craven corporate media caves!"

CATHY SEIPP LOOKS AT the demise of department stores. I wouldn't mind, if they were replaced by Samuel's.

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES, where bloggers you may not have heard of before strut their stuff. Check 'em out -- you may find somebody you like better than InstaPundit!

I SAID NOT TO GLOAT, but at first it sounds as if Jeff Jacoby wasn't listening:

The Axis of Weasel is crying uncle, and much of the chorus is singing from the same songsheet.

Listen to Claus Christian Malzahn in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel: ''Could George W. be right?" And Guy Sorman in France's Le Figaro: ''And if Bush was right?" And NPR's Daniel Schorr in The Christian Science Monitor: ''The Iraq effect? Bush may have had it right." And London's Independent, in a Page 1 headline on Monday: ''Was Bush right after all?"

Even Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's ''Daily Show" and an indefatigable Bush critic, has learned the new lyrics. ''Here's the great fear that I have," he said recently. ''What if Bush . . . has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may . . . implode."

For those of us in the War Party, by contrast, these are heady days. If you've agreed with President Bush all along that the way to fight the cancer of Islamist terrorism is with the chemotherapy of freedom and democracy, the temptation to issue I-told-you-so's can be hard to resist.

And yet, I think it should be resisted at this point, and Jacoby actually agrees:

It is being called an ''Arab Spring," and Bush's critics are right to give him credit for helping to bring it about. What his allies need to bear in mind is that cracks in the ice of tyranny and misrule don't always lead to liberation.

In 1989, a global wave of democratic fervor brought tens of millions of anticommunist demonstrators into the streets. In Eastern Europe, that wave shattered the Berlin Wall, freed the captive nations, and eventually ended the Cold War. In China, by contrast, it was stopped by the tanks of Tiananmen Square and the spilling of much innocent blood.

''At last, clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun," said President Bush on Tuesday. Let us all pray that it continues and that the long winter of Arab discontent is finally giving way to a summer of liberty and human rights. There will be time enough for gloating if it does.

We're just beginning with this. Don't get cocky.

A PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT: Here's more Ukraine news.

UNREST IN IRAN: Dale Amon rounds up a number of reports.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

SHOCKINGLY, MATT HALE MAY BE INNOCENT: A bizarre twist in the Lefkow murder case.

DOUG KERN thinks we're blurring the line between misdemeanors and felonies. But I think it's worth noting that we've blurred the line both ways, by making felonies of comparatively minor crimes.

MY DAUGHTER HAS JOINED A CULT: The Cult of the iPod. She's borrowed my iPod from time to time, and she's been listening to the audiobook version of Number the Stars, and to the Bangles' Walk Like an Egyptian, among other things. (This is a big hit with her crowd; I predict a revival of '80s girl bands.)

Now she wants one for herself, but I'm not so sure. My iPod seems a bit pricey to entrust to a 9-year-old who'll use it outside of my supervision. So my question for the Cult is, will a 9-year-old be able to handle the non-display interface of an iPod Shuffle, and will the cheap 512MB version hold an entire audiobook?

HERE'S A PROPOSAL for a cross-blogosphere coalition in opposition to the bankruptcy bill. I note that Tennessee will be one of the states most affected by it, and wonder why my local media outfits haven't paid much attention to that. (Via Tunesmith).

UPDATE: My former student Brent Snyder emails:

As you know I somehow ended up being a bankruptcy attorney at the busiest firm here in Knoxville. There has been some media coverage of the bill, attorney Ann Mostoller was on the talk radio news a week ago or so, my office was called last week as well. The sad fact is that this is a horrible law, designed to feed credit card companies more money. What is worse is that the even more diabolical provision, especially concerning attorney liability has not been mentioned in the senate debates at all.

For instance, if a client lies to me about assets and they are later discovered by the trustee or a creditor, I am personally on the hook. There are many other provisions in the bill designed to either keep people from filing or make it so that bankruptcy attorneys look for other avenues. Something is wrong when the majority of bankruptcy attorneys and trustees think it is a bad idea, Hank Hildebrand the Chapter 13 trustee for MDTN has written an article detailing all the flaws, and this is from someone that stands to benefit from the increase in 13 filings after the amendments are signed in to law.

I am concerned that Zywicki thinks the bill is a good idea, I mean I can understand his assertations that reform is needed and maybe that a means test is the way to go, but the other provisions are so one sided it 's comical.

It seems that way to me.

UPDATE: More here.

THE LONDON AND PARIS "STREETS:" They're not marching for Arab democracy:

Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?

Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?

Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?

Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions.

Some of us have, and we're not happy about the conclusions we've reached.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT: MANLY MAN: "The theorists today who say masculinity is a social construction often give the impression that there’s nothing to it; society waves a wand and a nerd is made manly. No, it takes effort to become manly, as Teddy Roosevelt says. The more manliness is constructed, the more effort it takes."

APPARENTLY, I'M INSUFFICIENTLY PRO-WAR, according to a reader from, of all places, Canada:

Tell your readers why the following can't impact on your Bush-spin sotted brain: respect for freedom of conscience does not negate contempt for the unconscionable. Islam is the most perfected form of tyranny ever concocted. You have learned to write off people like me, who would turn Mecca and Medina and Qom and Karbala into charcoal. Why don't you focus your hate - and it really is Western self-loathing, in deference to Eastern savages - on the mortal enemy of our way of life?

Impartially, objectively and properly: you are a pathetic pollyanna, who is incapable of discerning pure evil. And you are in the way.

Sigh. This is a rather inaccurate and ahistorical view of Islam. As was noted here shortly after 9/11, many American mistake Wahhabism for Islam, when Wahhabism is in fact a rather out-of-the-mainstream variety. The Saudis would like to encourage that mistake, and Osama bin Laden hoped to provoke a major religious war (though I don't think he understood the likely outcome), but I'd prefer to see neither get their way.

UPDATE: Adding to my bemusement is this email from reader John Mendenhall:

Re your reader who accused you of being of an insufficiently discerning take on Islam and the threat Islam, as a polity, poses to Western life:

A very simple, if no particularly elegant, thought exercise will isslustrate what he means. If, say, renegade Lutherans were suddenly to take to the airways, blow up big buildings in Malaysia, behead Muslim hostages, sink (what--dhows owned by Muslim governments) with maximal casualties, blow up as many innoncent Muslims as they could get their hands on--

Would the Western response be to:

a: send them money
b: build them schools
c: march enthusiastically in the streets with each fresh atrocity
d: publish blood libels in the national press, or
e: stop them in their tracks right now right away first thing this afternoon whatever it took.

If you chose any answer but (e) the reader is right is assessing your dhimmitude. Though the reader didn't say so as well as others might have, the dhimmitude of Europe and its cousin the dhimmitude of American liberalism is the Chamberlainism of our time. Except there were not very many Nazis and there are billions of Muslims.

(I am married into a Minnesota family and am keenly aware that the words "renegade" and "Lutheran" don't work so well together these last five hundred years.)

But wouldn't what the reader above suggests be the equivalent of blowing up Pentecostals and Catholics for the actions of those Lutherans?

Sorry, but being called a soft-on-terror liberal is just hard for me to take seriously. I guess I'm just one of those peace-and-love-addled Wolfowitzian idealists.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Geoff Matthews has it right, I think:

Your Canadian reader has it all wrong. The War on Terror (current phase) is being waged so we don’t have to bomb Mecca. Right now, radical Islam is not a terrible threat. But because it is a threat, and has the potential to become a terrible threat, we need the War on Terror. While radical Islam has been given a pass, at best, or supported, at worse, in Islamic countries, the whole point of the War on Terror is to change that. Basically, we need to reduce the credibility of the radical elements of Islam to the same level as white supremacists in the U.S. (ie, less than zero). The democratization of Iraq will improve the lives of more Arabs than anything Islam has done, much less the radical elements of Islam. That, more than anything, will undermine these radical elements of Islam. Young men who are building homes, programming in Java or designing Linux networks have better things to do than martyrdom.

However, if radical Islam becomes the ‘norm’ in the middle east (or at least wields enough power to be the perceived norm), then bombing Mecca may be an option. But we aren’t there yet, and given the War on Terror, and how things are developing, I don’t see it happening.

But, if the USSR won the cold war and 9/11 happened to them, would their response have been as reasoned as the coalition of the willing? Every day Muslims should be grateful that Reagan won the cold war.

Yes. And these considerations explain why I've supported the Wolfowitzian project.

March 09, 2005

"COURAGE!"

HERE'S MORE ON KYRGYZSTAN, where the OSCE folks aren't getting good reviews.

JOHN SAMPLES, IN REASON:

Bloggers were one of the big political successes of the 2004 election. This motley group of opinionated writers used their cyber soapboxes to attack and defend the presidential campaigns and the two major parties. Their websites offered a fresh look at politics and implicitly undermined the Establishment media that so many Americans have come to distrust. In other words, bloggers used freedom of speech to improve American democracy.

Naturally the federal government is about to come down hard on bloggers.

We have the word of two Senators that this isn't true.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey lacks confidence in these reassurances.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon thinks that politicians aren't dumb enough to go after bloggers.

DAN RATHER IS LEAVING, but his legacy remains. Heh.

HERE'S VIDEO of Jeff Jarvis's blog roundup on MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast. Among other things, he notes the left/right agreement that the bankruptcy bill is bad.

AS I KEEP SAYING, democratization is a process, not an event. This post from Iraqi blogger Ali makes that clear.

KOS HAS A LIST OF DEMOCRATS supporting the bankruptcy bill. No point running a list of Republicans who opposed it, as there don't seem to have been any.

Kevin Drum asks:

The more I read about the bankruptcy bill the more perplexed I get. Liberals don't like it. Moderate liberals don't like it (Bill "DLC" Clinton vetoed it the last time it cropped up). Conservatives aren't really very excited about it. And it's sponsored by the credit card industry, which is roughly the 21st century equivalent of being sponsored by the German Bund.

So how is it getting such wide support?

Why, indeed?

UPDATE: I'm getting a number of emails like this one:

I thought libertarians were in favor of respecting private property, individual rights, individual responsibilities, freedom of contract, etc. Isn't present Bankruptcy law (the fundamental purpose of which is to allow a party who freely entered into a contract to repudiate their obligations under the contract) contrary to basic libertarian values? Wouldn't the present reform proposal help correct the anti-freedom nature of bankruptcy law?

Well, as I wrote earlier, it seems to me that many of the credit-card industry's come-ons are near-fraudulent. Libertarians aren't supposed to approve of fraud. And if people are supposed to live with the consequences of their actions, then why shouldn't credit-card companies live with the consequences of extending credit to poor risks?

At any rate, if bankruptcy law is "anti-freedom." then what's pro-freedom? Debtor's prison?

VITAL ANALYSIS from the folks at InstaPunk.

MIKE KREMPASKY RESPONDS to criticism from Garance Franke-Ruta.

UPDATE: Much more from Chris Nolan.

PUBLIUS HAS A ROUNDUP OF NEWS FROM BOLIVIA: The earlier report that its government had fallen appears to have been wrong.

BLOGGER SUED BY COLUMNIST: Tom Maguire has the scoop.

UPDATE: Okay, the headline above is really wrong. It's really the publisher. And it's only a threatened suit yet -- one that I strongly doubt will proceed, as I doubt the defendant wants to answer the inevitable discovery requests regarding its marketing practices.

PROTESTERS SET UP A YURT CITY in Kyrgyzstan.

JON HENKE NOTES armor revisionism at The New York Times.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF EDUCATION IS UP: Don't miss it if you're interested in education. And you should be.

PUBLIUS HAS NEWS FROM MOLDOVA: From which there hasn't been much news lately.

MORE THOUGHTS ON LEBANON, here. It also occurs to me that with so much attention being paid to developments there, it would be a good time to do things elsewhere that might escape notice.

IT'S PLEDGE SEASON at Baseball Musings. If you've enjoyed his blog, consider donating. It's good for the environment!

IT'S BEEN IMPOSSIBLE to separate the Insta-Daughter from this book, which she keeps recommending that I read -- once she's finished. I will: It's kind of cool to have her recommending books to me now.

THE NEW YORK TIMES doesn't like the Patriot Act (well, neither do I) but it's interesting that the Times is okay with the idea of depriving people suspected of terror ties of civil rights on a bureaucrat's say-so under some circumstances.

Maybe they're just refusing to succumb to "libertarian panic!"

IT'S RAINING BULLETS -- SORT OF: Not very impressive. Meanwhile, reader Joseph Fulvio emails with further thoughts on the increasingly dubious Sgrena affair:

Europeans have long been conditioned to assume the worst about Americans. No surprise there. But it’s interesting how quickly the American Left accepted, with little reservation, the word of a politically-blinkered writer who openly crusaded against this war (no bias there!). Yet, it refused to give benefit of doubt, much less a full hearing, to its fellow citizens, members of the most highly trained and disciplined military organization in the world. But don’t question their patriotism – they support the troops™.

Here's a column by Austin Bay that's more informed and thoughtful than most of what you'll read on this. And there's some more interesting background on Sgrena on his blog.

UPDATE: More photos of the car here. If U.S. troops were firing as much as Sgrena claims, they should all be sent back to the shooting range to requalify.

ANTI-SYRIAN LEBANESE are getting support, and affection, from Iraq.

VIETNAM: THE NEXT IRAQ? Heh. I want bumper stickers that say that.

WELL, THIS HAS GOT TO HURT:

Has Powerline no shame? I can think of nothing more contemptible, really. To think, here they are posing as citizens who happen to be interested in writing their thoughts, when in reality they are Dartmouth-educated attorneys who have written for publications before!

Fortunately, they've been "outed" by a real journalist at a nonpartisan publication. The Republic is safe!

IT'S EAT AN ANIMAL FOR PETA DAY: Yum.

March 08, 2005

NEW YORK TIMES: "For Bush, No Boasts, But a Taste of Vindication."

KYRGYZSTAN UPDATE: Over at The Argus. There's a lot happening.

MY EARLIER POST ON BANKRUPTCY REFORM inspired these thoughts from Jim Bennett:

It has occured to me that the bankruptcy bill (which I detest for the same reasons that you have mentioned) would be an interesting test of blogospheric power. Here's a situation where the Democrats are planning to make a major issue out of Bolton's appointment to the UN -- where his crime is merely speaking out loud what most Americans already feel about that place -- while rolling over to the corporate lobby on something most Americans would want some opposition to. If the blogosphere could mount an effective campaign for people to write to their senators, it would mark its emergence as a genuinely independent force in US politics.

The bankruptcy bill is, indeed, a bad bill.

JEFF JARVIS:

The Boston Globe ombudsperson -- and the critics who complained to her -- get it exactly wrong when they go after Globe tech reporter Hiawatha Bray for expressing his political opinions in comments on blogs.

I say we should be celebrating his openness, his transparency, his honesty -- for now his critics are free to disagree with what he says and thinks -- not just what they think he thinks.

Oh, I know that's a minority opinion -- even sometimes a reviled one -- in the halls of journalism. But I have come to believe that journalists' refusal to acknowledge that they are human and are citizens and have opinions is a sort of lie by omission and we have to find better ways to deal with it than gagging them.

Transparency and responsibility. The Globe seems to want neither. I want both.

EUGENE VOLOKH: "[T]his is America and I'm not going to be nice to Nazis to try to get them to go away." He then proceeds to administer a ruthless taunting.

KNOXVILLE IS AN Asthma Capital, and it's also one of the most allergic cities in the U.S. Some of that is natural (we have lots of biodiversity, which --'doh! -- means more different kinds of pollen) but a lot of it isn't. TVA coal-fired electrical generating plants are the biggest villain, I think. Interestingly, though, I've noticed that the air actually looks a lot clearer. Often, driving to Maryville, I can make out the observation tower on Look Rock from 20 miles away, which certainly didn't used to happen. I guess the air can get clearer and dirtier at the same time (with ozone, for example) but it certainly seems as if that's what's happening. I wish TVA would replace those nasty, dirty coal plants with nice, clean nukes.

KIFAYA: Austin Bay says I told you so.

Grudgingly, Le Monde agrees.

NORM GERAS has a long post on the argument over Iraq.

Meanwhile, is Hizbollah desperate, and afraid of democracy? But they're certainly trying to hold their own in the "hot protest babe" category. And as means of political competition in the Mideast go, this is one that I hope we see more of. It's better than truck bombs.

UPDATE: Charles Austin emails: "If you look at the picture you posted closely, the woman in the foreground appears to be the only woman in the picture. Hmm, what does that say about the pro-Syria demonstrations? Could it be the Lysistrata effect taking hold? Like you wrote earlier, I know which crowd I’d rather be in." Indeed. Several other readers noted the same thing.

And reader George Gooding emails: "Am I the only one wondering if these pro-Syrian protests were planned by... the Syrian or Lebanese government, or Hizbollah? The democracy demonstrations I think it is safe to say were spontaneous, yet I don't believe the demonstration today was - and that makes a big difference." Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Crunching the numbers on the Hizbollah protests. Something doesn't add up. Were refugees trucked in?

MORE: Sounds possible: "At least one opposition leader said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out Tuesday and some reports said Syria bused in people from across the border."

THIS MAY BE CARRYING THE "PROTEST BABE" MEME a bit too far.

UPDATE: Many readers want a photo that's less . . . cropped. Okay, here's one, but you may find it less exciting than you hoped.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP OF MILITARY BLOGS from The Army Times.

IN THE MAIL: Three very different books. First, Brig. Gen. Ezell Ware's By Duty Bound: Survival and Redemption in a Time of War, about racism in the Vietnam war. Second, Back in Action: An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude, about the first amputee to return to active command in Iraq. And finally, Craig Symonds' Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles that Shaped American History. I don't know why the publishers decided to flood my inbox with military memoirs, but they all look pretty interesting.

ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE:

On March 31 there is an election scheduled in Zimbabwe. It will be buried beneath all of the headlines emanating from the Middle East, but this is a crucial moment for sub-Saharan Africa and for democracy. . . .

Mugabe was once a hero in southern Africa. Unfortunately, this status has lingered in some circles long after the justification for it evaporated. Whatever credit Mugabe deserves for having led the liberation struggle against Ian Smith and his white supremacists pales when placed next to his misdeeds of the last ten or fifteen years. The Mugabe of 1980 was a hero. The Mugabe of 2004 is a despot.

Yes. And though I'd like to be hopeful, I'll be surprised if these elections make a difference, given the absence of any serious external pressure, even from neighboring South Africa.

HEALTHBLOG-A-RAMA: This week's Grand Rounds is up!

HANS BETHE DIED, but the Boston Globe had, er, different priorities.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Andrews emails:

Glenn, I live in the Boston area.

You wouldn’t believe how much news coverage this electrocuted dog story has gotten. It’s not just the globe. The local TV stations have had it as one of their top stories several days now. No disrespect to the family that lost their dog but there ARE other thing going on in the world.

I don’t watch TV news very much anymore (only for the weather), but every time I do see it, I’m reminded of why I don’t watch anymore.

As to Hans Bethe, I think that it was Robert Klein who observed “What kind of world do we live in when KISS has 10 million groupies and Jonas Salk can’t get laid?”. A little dated perhaps, but still the same point.

I think Jonas Salk actually did okay.

SLASHDOT has an item on Indian software firms targeted by Wahhabist terrorists. Those guys can't make much, but they sure are big on blowing things up.

UPDATE: Reader Kevin Fleming emails:

This is more evidence supporting the idea that any idiot can be a Shiva (destroyer); it's much, much harder to be a Vishnu (creator).

But it's always puzzled me why the Shivas themselves think otherwise (e.g. rapists, serial killers, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, ...heck, even bad bosses fall into this trap). They all think it's so darn hard to be evil. Pheh. Being good is hard; being an animal is simple ...just turn off whatever self-control mechanism you have, and do whatever pops into your little head. I am certain the Instawife has a better grasp of this than I do, however.

I think this is a bit unfair to Shiva, but the point holds. As was famously observed, it is easier for civilized men to act like barbarians, than for barbarians to act like civilized men.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My combat-engineer secretary emails from Iraq, agreeing that this is unfair to Shiva:

Blowing things up is a service. I do not agree with wahhabism but I am down with blowing things up. The whole shiva/vishnu argument is pretty uninformed for a post-industrial economy.

It all depends on what, and why.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: My Hindu theology is weak -- it's mostly what I learned by osmosis as a kid hanging around the Religious Studies department, and Harvard Divinity School -- but I was pretty sure that Kevin Fleming was giving Shiva a bum rap. Sure enough, reader Srikanth Bellalacheruvu emails:

Shiva is not simply a "destroyer", and if he was, Indians wouldn't worship him. They have several million Gods to choose from - it's a free market out there.

Shiva is, to be accurate, the "Renewer". Shiva destroys a world when it is beyond all hope of reform, in order to allow creative energies to build a better world. His anger is that of a righteousness, not that of hatred.

And Vishnu is not a "creator". To be accurate, he "maintains order" in world that already exists.

If we were to use business terminology, Shiva's rage would be "gales of creative destruction" and Vishnu would be a brilliant CEO adding to shareholder value.

I like that. Quite a few other readers made the same point, if not quite so pithily.

DECONSTRUCTING DEMONSTRATIONS: Ralph Kinney Bennett has thoughts on Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the Lebanese say that Syrian agents -- not troops -- are the real problem.

More on this, here.

FINISHED THIS CHARLES STROSS BOOK last night. It took me a while, as I've been busy (sent off a book review, and an edited law review manuscript yesterday) but it was quite good -- if anything, better than the first volume in the series, which is unusual for such things.

PROTESTS IN UNLIKELY PLACES: A don't-miss roundup from Publius. "Morocco? Egypt? Kuwait? Pakistan? Incredible stuff."

KYRGYZSTAN UPDATE: Protests seem to be spreading across the country.

Meanwhile, protests are breaking out in Iran, too.

UPDATE: Much, much more on Kyrgyzstan, here.

LIKE ROBIN HOOD, ONLY WITH PARKING: I'm still not a Wal-Mart fan, but my objections are mostly aesthetic. I'd love to shop at Samuel's, though!

UPDATE: Reader Chris Greer sends this more negative take.

DAVID ADESNIK NOTES ANOTHER Evan Thomas-like admission.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting exchange.

March 07, 2005

RECIPEBLOGGING gets a writeup in The Tennessean. Including: "Cathy Seipp's Best Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake Ever!"

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO PRESIDENT BETSY HOFFMAN HAS RESIGNED: A lot of readers think that the Ward Churchill angle has been downplayed, but I really don't think it had much to do with her resignation -- the football scandal is bigger, has been fermenting longer, and much more directly implicated the University Administration. Churchill certainly didn't help, and it's possible that he was the straw that broke the camel's back, but I really think that the football scandal was the main mover here.

BOING-BOING VERSUS NORTH KOREA: My money's on Boing-Boing.

HEH: Article here. Comments here.

UPDATE: Michael Totten observes:

Sorry, I don't mean to gloat, and I shouldn't. It's still possible that the whole thing will blow up in our faces and I'll be the one who has to eat crow. I don't think it will turn out that way, but I don't know that it won't. Nobody does.

What I find interesting here is that this shows the foresight of historians like Victor Davis Hanson. He has long argued that we should stop worrying about anti-American and anti-war jackassery and just win the damn war. If things work out in Iraq and the Middle East, he's been saying, opposition to the U.S. and the war will largely evaporate. I have had my doubts about that since the opposition is often so reactionary and toxic. But this definitely belongs in his evidence column.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Scott Burgess says that, despite the cover, the Independent is ducking the main question.

RICK HASEN looks at blogging, election law, and the F.E.C. More thoughts here, from Eugene Volokh.

"I AM NOT SADDAM HUSSEIN:" Heh.

MORE FROM THE INDIAN BLOGOSPHERE: Blog Mela is up!

HERE'S VIDEO OF JEFF JARVIS'S BLOG ROUNDUP on MSNBC's Connected Coast to Coast.

GAIL COLLINS AS LAWRENCE SUMMERS? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.

SURPRISINGLY DEEP THOUGHTS from The Manolo.

ECONOBLOGGING ALL AROUND: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up.

UPDATE: The link wasn't working for some people (though it did for me). The new one should, though.

LEBANON UPDATE:

BEIRUT (AFP) - Up to 150,000 opposition supporters rallied in Beirut three weeks after the murder of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri as Syria prepared for a troop pullback in Lebanon in the face of international pressure.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Were the protesters inspired by Ward Churchill? Heh.

IN THE MAIL, II: A copy of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, coauthored by longtime InstaPundit reader Catherine Johnson. Not really up my alley, but it looks quite interesting.

UPDATE: Blog-review here.

IN THE MAIL: A reprint of a law review article by my former student Nathan Canestaro, in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, entitled: "'Small Wars' and the Law: Options for Prosecuting the Insurgents in Iraq." It doesn't seem to be online, but here's the abstract:

This Article contrasts the various bodies of law and venues under which Iraqi insurgents could be prosecuted. The ambiguous nature of an insurgency as a legal concept complicates efforts to apply traditional judicial methods. Insurgencies straddle several different bodies of law: As a limited conflict between a non-state actor and an occupying power, they are something less than a war but something more than criminal conduct. As a result, none o fthe options for prosecution is well suited to the task, and each has significant political or practical shortcomings.

It certainly looks interesting.

BILL QUICK'S FATHER HAS DIED: Please send him your condolences.

BILL RICHARDSON: Neo-Con!

HERE'S MUCH MORE on happenings in Kyrgyztan.

PREFERENCE CASCADES AND FOREIGN POLICY: I have some thoughts in my TechCentralStation column.

AN EMERGENCY SESSION OF PARLIAMENT in Kyrgyzstan.

HOWARD KURTZ has more on the seemingly endless Kinsley/Estrich L.A. Times oped sexism battle.

All I can say is that they were quite receptive to the Insta-Wife, who wrote several pieces for them on school shootings -- this one in just two hours, when they called her and asked for something to run the next day after the Pearl, Mississippi shooting. Of course, that was under the old regime.

UPDATE: Here's a suggestion that Estrich should start a blog.

FORMER SPINSANITY GUY BRENDAN NYHAN is unimpressed with Robert Byrd's latest: "The whole article is a rhetorical sleight of hand where filibusters are equated with "free speech," even though (a) legislators don't have a right to unlimited debate, (b) the modern filibuster usually ends debate on an issue, and (c) Byrd speaks for hours on the Senate floor."

THINKING OF BECOMING A LAW PROFESSOR? Some good advice, and links to much more information, here. I'll just add this: I'm either a member of, or the chair of, our appointments committee most years, and though it's undoubtedly true that where you went to law school matters (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, etc. are better launching pads than, say, Tennessee, though several of my former students are now law professors) it's come to matter to me less. Some of our best hires in recent years came from schools outside the usual feeder network, and I suspect that many other schools have had similar experience. Orin Kerr is right, too, that persistence matters. Becoming a law professor is a long, hard road no matter where you went to law school.

WE'VE HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE:

If any doubts remained about President Hugo Chávez's plans for Venezuela's destiny, they have been erased by his decree to "rescue" unproductive lands and assign them to "groups of the population" and "organized communities" from rural areas. Private property is history, so Chávez is proceeding to strengthen the failed agrarian reforms of socialist Venezuelan governments from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, renaming them the "agrarian revolution."


The new Land Law authorizes the government to expropriate land that bureaucrats consider underutilized and to do the same in those cases in which the government discovers an error in a title of land. Venezuelans already know the modus operandi of Chávez's bureaucracy. In trying to obtain a birth certificate, an identification card, a passport, a certified copy of any legal document and even in registering the elderly to receive pensions, each "mistake" represents a potential source of income for each official, and at the same time, a delay of several months for each citizen's request.

Let's hope it works out better than Robert Mugabe's similar program in Zimbabwe. But the tune sounds awfully familiar.

UPDATE: The Bolivian government has been toppled.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bart Hall emails:

Chavez's agents have been heavily involved in trying to bring about a Castro-style revolution in Bolivia for the last three years. I have worked in Bolivia a couple of times (agricultural) development, and the communist meddling is a very unfortunate situation. I could say a LOT more, but I'll leave it that the Bush administration has been dreadfully negligent in addressing the security issues to our south and remains far too focused on drugs.

It will eventually cost us some serious grief, given that Chavez, FARC in Colombia, and Hizb'allah are now working together.

I'm afraid this is right.

THE GIULIANA SGRENA STORY: I keep getting emails from snarky leftists saying that it proves Eason Jordan right. Except that if she were "targeted for assassination" by the U.S. military, she'd be, well, dead, instead of serving as an anti-American celebrity. I suspect that, beyond the accidental parts, this story is about as genuine as the Jenin "massacre." Was it shocking that she was fired at? By her own admission just before it was fired on at the checkpoint the car was going so fast that it nearly lost control. "The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell."

Of course, she also claims that she was fired on by tanks. Amazing that there's anything left. . . One needn't engage in mystery-novel speculation to be suspicious of this story, and I am. As Jeff Goldstein notes:

Who is Giuliana Sgrena that the US would care enough to attempt to assassinate her? A foreign reporter with a well-known leftwing political agenda that would color any story she told anyway? Why is she important? Why would she be targeted? Why?

Why, indeed? One suspects that a lot of people are happy to have a story they can use to take some of the bloom off events in Iraq, regardless of what liberties have to be taken with the truth.

Joe Gandelman has a lengthy and skeptical take, with far more background and context than I've seen in any of the news reports. Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus offers a constructive, non-conspiratorial critique of U.S. roadblock policy.

Meanwhile, here's a less-celebrated Italian hostage. Worth remembering, by way of contrast.

UPDATE: The story's already looking more like Italian ineptitude rather than American conspiracy:

ROME -- Italian agents likely withheld information from U.S. counterparts about a cash-for-freedom deal with gunmen holding an Italian hostage for fear that Americans might block the trade, Italian news reports said yesterday.

The decision by operatives of Italy's SISMI military intelligence service to keep the CIA in the dark about the deal for the release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena, might have "short-circuited" communications with U.S. forces controlling the road from Baghdad to the city's airport, the newspaper La Stampa said.

But it'll get the usual attention from the usual suspects.

LEBANON UPDATE:

Without much publicity, France has moved the replenishment ship Var to the eastern Mediterranean. The Var contains facilities for running commando operations, as well as facilities for about 200 commandoes and their equipment. France apparently believes that the situation in Lebanon is going to get out of control. Since World War II, France has been something of a big brother for Lebanon, especially the Lebanese Christians. This particular relationship goes back some 800 years, to the time of the Crusades. Currently, the Lebanese are out in the streets protesting the continued presence of Syrian troops in the country. If France is going to get involved, it won’t be with a lot of troops. But you can do a lot with a hundred or so commandoes.

Hmm.

UPDATE: Less strategic thoughts, at Catallarchy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It occurs to me that this will be a test of whether "people power" can manage to free an Arab country without the kind of assistance customarily provided by the U.S. Marines.

March 06, 2005

PERSIAN BLOGGING AROUND THE GLOBE: And a crackdown in Iran. And podcasting around it! (Via Bill Hobbs, who rounds up all sorts of bloggy news items).

BILL QUICK: No more Jeff Gannons!

UPDATE: Take that, Jeff Gannon: Blogger joins White House press corps!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Actually, it's another Jeff Gannon! Look at the bio of the guy who just got credentialed:

Garrett Graff is vice president of communications at EchoDitto, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based technology consulting firm. A Vermont native, he served formerly as deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean's presidential campaign and, beginning in 1997, was then-Governor Dean's first webmaster.

A partisan PR guy disguised as a "real journalist!" He's even a "dittohead!" Somebody tell Kos. I'm sure he'll be right on it . . . .

On a more serious note, Tom Maguire emails to say that the real lesson here is "Take that, FEC!" If bloggers are getting credentialed as press, the argument to treat "real" press differently from bloggers collapses.

UPDATE: Jeez, some people have no senses of humor. I'm accused of faking Graff's bio, but if you follow the link it's to his bio on the site of the blog he writes. Don't blame me if it emphasizes his political and PR skills. For the record, and for the benefit of the terminally clueless, I don't think that he's a male prostitute -- or a "dittohead" for that matter. Duh. But boy, you can't read that explosion of bile without realizing that to the folks on the left, the gay angle really was the big angle on Gannon, and all the talk about other issues was just window dressing. Not that it wasn't obvious before.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: Syria is shuddering, and we'd better plan for its collapse. I suspect that we have. I certainly hope so.

JAMES LILEKS has an evil twin.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE:

AN ACCLAIMED young American writer has received a $1m advance for a literary novel based on a child’s experience of losing his father in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It promises to be the first bestseller inspired by the emotional impact of the outrage in 2001.

Jonathan Safran Foer, 28, has drawn a fictional portrait of a nine-year-old, Oskar Schell, who is haunted by his father’s death. In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, published next month, the boy roams New York looking for a lock that fits a mysterious key of his father’s.

Foer won a string of awards in Britain and America for his debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated, in which a young man searches Ukraine for the woman who saved his grandfather from the Holocaust.

“Both the Holocaust and 9/11 were events that demanded retelling,” Foer said. “With 9/11 in particular I wanted to read something that wasn’t politicised or commercialised, something with no message, something human.”

Salman Rushdie said the book “completely earns the right to take on the Trade Center atrocity. The powerful emotions generated feel deserved, not borrowed”.

It'll be out early next month, and it's already doing very well in the Amazon rankings.

STEROIDS AND BASEBALL: A roundup from Only Baseball Matters.

And, speaking of sports, here's a case of Big Media not outshining the blogs in the accuracy and diligence category.

NOT AIMED AT: Brian Micklethwait looks at distributed governmental stupidity.

CARBLOGGING: A guide to automotive journalists' terminology.

LOGICALMEME NOTES that there's an outbreak of "Lebanese hotties" on magazine covers. He's right!

I've actually been accused of favoring attractive Lebanese women myself. Moi? Perish the thought! But when you search for photos of Lebanese pro-democracy demonstrators, you get stuff like this:

Caption: "Two Lebanese opposition demonstrators stand in a car as they flash victory signs and wave a Lebanese flag during a celebration one day after the Lebanese government's resignation in Beirut, Lebanon."

On the other hand, when you search for pro-Assad demonstrators, you find stuff like this:

Caption: "Syrian workers hold pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad as one cuts himself with a knife during a pro-Syrian demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, March 6, 2005. Man cuts himself to show his support and commitment to his president." [LATER: I didn't notice this the first time, but is it me or does the guy in the middle give the impression that he'd rather be hanging out with the hot chicks? He's my brother, he's into knives and Assad, Mom said to keep an eye on him, what can you do? So, you free Saturday night?]

So that's what I'm seeing. And I haven't seen anything to suggest that it's an inaccurate reflection. But here's a Lebanese pro-democracy guy, too, just so people won't feel like I'm playing favorites here:

Like I said earlier, which crowd would you rather hang out with? I hope a lot of Al Jazeera-watchers are asking themselves the same question.

UPDATE: Some interesting polling data from Iraq.

A BIT PRICEY FOR ME, but Michael Demmons has bought his flatscreen TV.

ARAB BLOGS DISCUSSED ON C-SPAN: Video here.

EARLIER, I MENTIONED THE IRAQ-WAR MOVIE GUNNER PALACE, which opened up on Friday. You can see if it's showing in your area here, which is kind of cool.

BLOGALICIOUS: A look at fast food around the world.

BANKRUPTCY "REFORM:" I'm deeply skeptical of the bankruptcy bill in front of Congress now, and this report on credit-card industry practices goes a long way toward explaining why. Credit extended to people who can't handle it, absurd hidden fees, high interest rates, etc.: There's a lot of scamming here. The argument, of course, is that people who sign up for credit card accounts ought to know what they're getting into. But shouldn't the companies that extend credit to people who obviously can't handle it be held to the same standard?

I was pointing out this kind of stuff back when InstaPundit was young -- and it certainly hasn't gotten any better. Is it any coincidence that the companies involved are big campaign contributors? The people behind this aren't all Republicans by any means, but this is a Republican Congress, and if it passes they'll get -- and deserve -- the blame for something that's a pure giveaway to corporate interests.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

You can be a Republican and hate bankruptcy reform. Banks are making incredible profits on credit cards. There will be a lot of downward pressure on profits if this reform is passed. And an increased number of murders and suicides. You can't use a pressure cooker without having an escape valve. You really can't.

As proof of his thesis, the very Republican Jane Meynardie emails:

Amen to your concerns re. the bankruptcy bill. I have no sympathy for credit-card companies and other lenders, including the Federal Housing Authority, who offer easy credit to people who are better off without it and then whine when they default. They price, or can price, the bad debt risk into the interest rate. They are much better equipped to assess that risk than their borrowers are able to assess the risk of doing business with them. (Sorry if that sounds a bit maternalistic.)

I don't think it does. As I say, people should have to face the consequences of their bad decisions -- but that includes their bad lending decisions, especially when the lending is, fundamentally, dishonest.

I assume that the Bush Administration is supporting this legislation, but I really don't see it as consistent with "compassionate conservatism." I see it, in fact, as consistent with the worst stereotypes about corporate-friendly Republicanism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Joseph Britt emails:

I agree completely with what you have to say about the bankruptcy bill moving through Congress. I am sorry to say it is easier to find Democrats working for the credit card companies (Joe Biden, for example) than it is to find Republicans opposing this bill. Among Senate Republicans I can't find any. Can you?

I don't know of any. Perhaps someone will let me know who I'm missing. Meanwhile, here's a long post by Todd Zywicki on credit card debt suggesting that I'm too hard on the credit card companies. But the constant mailings, such as the one I link above, that I get suggest that there's a lot of abuse here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Blue Dog Democrats have endorsed the bill, and Zywicki observes: "In an era of Washington partisanship, one would be hard-pressed to find many major pieces of legislation with such broad-based bipartisan support." Why am I not surprised . . .?

Meanwhile, John Cole is unhappy about the bill, too, showing that this really is an issue that crosses the usual blogospheric lines of disagreement. Meanwhile, here's a letter from law professors opposed to the bill. And there's more here. [LATER: Some readers think the photo on that site looks a lot like this one. Surely not.]

MORE: Ted Janger, visiting lawprof at Penn, emails:

You are right. As the signatures on the letter show, politics of this bill confound the usual party line divisions.

My sense is that many republicans are voting against the interests of their constituents here. If you take a look at this table, and look at which states have the highest bankruptcy filing rates, you'll see that the pain associated with "bankruptcy reform" will be felt most deeply in "red" states.

Hmm. I'm not sure that's to their credit.

MORE STILL: Another "right-of-center" blogger criticizes the bill:

So where does this leave us? I’m very uncomfortable allowing an industry that sends out 4 billion pieces of mail every year that say “You’re pre-approved–borrow from us” to squeeze more money out of people who plainly don’t have it by preventing them from filing for bankruptcy, which it appears will happen if the legislation passes in its current form.

Further, an industry that cynically manipulates the uninformed into getting in over their heads, and then shafts them when they do with $39 late fees, 25%-plus interest rates, and the like should not be permitted to collect their excessive charges from people who don’t have the money by peeling off a large percentage of their future income, which is what it appears the legislation will enable.

Perhaps the real problem isn't bankruptcy as such, but unaddressed abuses by the credit-card industry. And perhaps those should be looked at regardless of what happens with this legislation. I don't actually think that credit card companies are evil -- the expansion of consumer credit is a good thing -- but their marketing practices are dishonest, and their complaints that their loans to poor risks aren't panning out leave me unmoved.

JIM GERAGHTY: "Coming Monday: The Iranian Mullahs as a bunch of puppies!" Cute, floppy-eared ones.

UPDATE: Freedom for Iran via blender? Whirrrrrr!

BLOGGING IN INDIA: At a tipping point?

LOTS OF ODD EVENTS IN THE UKRAINE as witnesses to the old regime vanish: "Still, one has to wonder how someone shoots himself in the head twice."

ANN ALTHOUSE NOTICES that The Sims are going to college.

She worries: "I wonder how many actual college kids will let their actual college work and their actual social life slide while they try to make their Sims successful in their simulated college careers." On the other hand (as I've suggested in other contexts), perhaps the Insta-Daughter will learn something useful, when she (more or less inevitably) gets the expansion pack and experiences virtual college.

JEFF JARVIS has created a podcast Fisking of Ward Churchill's appearance on Bill Maher. It's devastating, though really Maher's own comments are devastating enough on their own. Churchill's, too, but Maher at least pretends not to be part of the lunatic fringe. It's a pretense that's worn pretty thin, though, as Maher's contempt for America and Americans shines through. But don't question his patriotism!

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER BIG PHARAOH notices something interesting:

Someone punch me in the face because I still cannot believe what I read today on the front page of Al Ahram newspaper. They published a picture of an Iraqi man rescuing a young girl right after a motorcycle suicide bombing in Iraq. The caption under the photo went like this: Iraqi man helps young girl after a terrorist attack in Azamiyah in Iraq.

My jaws dropped when I read this caption. This is the FIRST time Al Ahram, Egypt’s largest newspaper, uses the word terrorist to describe an attack on Iraqi civilians in Iraq!!! It never happened before. Such attacks were simply described as “bombings” without the word “terrorist”.

TigerHawk notes some other changes.

READER MARC LANDERS sends this link to a blog from Damascus. I haven't read it before, but it looks interesting.

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