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December 17, 2005

I'M NOT SURE IF THIS IS A REAL SCANDAL, but it doesn't look very good:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit. . . .

World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans _ Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.

The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

On the other hand, it may not be that unusual:

"One of the things people who are running for president try to do is keep their fundraising staff and political people close at hand. And one of the ways you can do that is by putting them in some sort of organization you run," said Larry Noble, the government's former chief election lawyer who now runs the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that studies fundraising.

Nonetheless, it seems a bit iffy, to say the least.

UPDATE: Reader Justin VanNingen is skeptical:

The AP story about Bill Frist's charity giving money to groups with "Republican Ties" makes this look more like a hit piece than decent reporting.

First off, a simple Google search on "Esperanza USA" shows (3rd listed!) that Howard Dean met with Esparanza USA's head Rev. Cortes and endorsed them. This happened just over one month ago.

Second, Samaritan's Purse is an Evangelical group whose head is Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham -- a Democrat. SP does not have a track record of getting into politics like Focus on the Family or CBN.

If this is what counts as a scandal in DC these days, the country must be doing alright. Either that, or the AP is desperate.

Either of those is possible, of course. Joe Gandelman, meanwhile, is more critical, and has a big roundup on the subject. Lots of politicians have semi-captive nonprofits, though they're more often think-tank-like operations. To some degree, of course, this is just more evidence that the nonprofit sector needs more scrutiny; whether there's more to this story, well, we'll see.

WE KNEW IT ALREADY, but it's still news that he's saying it:

The chief U.N. investigator into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said in remarks published Saturday that he believed Syrian authorities were behind the killing.

It was the first time that Detlev Mehlis has unequivocally accused Syria of responsibility for Hariri's assassination since opening the U.N. probe in June.

Stay tuned.

TOM MAGUIRE has questions for the New York Times.

UPDATE: Lots more here. And there's this: "I cannot remember the last time, or first time, this newspaper reported a leak that was helpful to our war effort."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more here. Plus, "Frog-marched to the hoosegow?"

And Sen. John Cornyn is criticizing the Times rather harshly. In a later post, Tom Maguire finds some other members of Congress "annoyingly hypocritical," and observes:

News flash - we are still a representative democracy, despite the evident unwillingness of our opposition party to bestir itself. If this secret program was so outrageous, the Senate and House Democrats who had been briefed on it should have spoken up. Instead, we get profiles in courage as, per the Times, Reid, Rockefeller, and others are unavailable for comment.

My take: This story was bad for Bush on Friday, but it'll be bad for a lot of other people by next week. My earlier post on this topic is here.

MORE: Glenn Greenwald says that the Cold Fury post to which I link above misquotes the statute. [LATER: Al Maviva of Cold Fury says that Greenwald is misquoting him.]

I'm still hoping for a lengthier analysis by Orin Kerr. I've taught FISA in the past, but it's been a couple of years and I'm busy grading Administrative Law exams. Of course, Orin's probably got his own stack of bluebooks. In the post of Orin's that I linked to before, he noted that the area is very complex and unclear, and suggested that people read this District Court opinion. But note that it's only a District Court opinion.

It's also worth noting that there are two distinct issues here: Whether the wiretapping (or other interception) was legal, and whether the leak was legal. The leak almost certainly violated the law. The wiretapping is not so clear: Most people fail to appreciate how limited their protection against government surveilliance is, both under statutes and under constitutional law. And that's doubly so where international communications are concerned. (And, except for the small possibility of a constitutional-tort action, the main remedy for unconstitutional surveillance can be found in the exclusionary rule, which only comes into play if someone is prosecuted and the government tries to introduce the surveillance into evidence -- meaning that, as with the exclusionary rule in general, the remedy is worthless if you're never charged with anything, say because you're innocent.) Nor is this a phenomenon that can be blamed on the Patriot Act or the Bush Administration, particularly -- the protections are just quite limited indeed, and prone to technical parsing on such questions as whether the communications were "stored," even momentarily, en route. (For a non-FISA example of that kind of parsing, read the Steve Jackson Games opinion from 1994, long before the Patriot Act). You may find these legal interpretations offensive -- I do -- but they're the law as it is.

And this observation seems to be correct: "What is clear is that this is not some Watergate-type rogue operation, as seemingly hoped by some. In addition to repeated congressional notification, the program has been heavily lawyered by multiple agencies, including the Department of Justice and NSA and White House, and is regularly reviewed. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of State Condi Rice have both insisted that program is legal. The fact that some might disagree with whatever legal advice and conclusions the president has received does not make them right or the program illegal. But at this point, we, the public, don't really know what these news stories are really about, do we?"

MORE: Dafydd Ab Hugh has more questions for the Times. I think that there will be a lot of those.

FINALLY: Matt Rustler has advice for people on the left and right.

CHRISTMAS/HOLIDAY ADVICE to blog readers: Don't do this here, as I don't need it, but go to one of your favorite blogs and make a donation or send an appreciative email. Especially one of the smaller blogs, where the attention is especially likely to be noticed and appreciated. There are a lot of blogs out there, and the bloggers with low traffic often work just as hard as the ones with big numbers. Let 'em know if you like their work.

DO IRAQIS WANT DEMOCRACY? David Adesnik looks at the polls.

UPDATE: This report sounds like good news, too:

Although no official vote figures have been released, authorities estimate just under 70 per cent of Iraq's 15 million registered voters cast ballots Thursday.

The big turnout - particularly among the disaffected Sunni Arab minority that boycotted the election of a temporary legislature last January - have boosted hopes that increasing political participation may undermine the insurgency and allow U.S. troops to begin pulling out next year.

Democratization is a process, not an event. But it's a process that seems to be moving ahead.

SOME INTERESTING NOTES on the spread of democracy in the mideast.

WTO UPDATE:

Protesters opposed to lowering trade barriers swung bamboo sticks at police Saturday and tried to storm a convention center where World Trade Organization delegates were negotiating a global accord on farming, manufacturing and services. At least 70 people were injured.

Security forces scattered the crowd with tear gas and pepper spray, and 900 people were detained after the worst street violence in Hong Kong in decades. The injured included 10 police officers.

The protesters included South Korean farmers, Southeast Asian groups and activists from the United States and Europe. They are concerned that WTO efforts to open up global markets will enrich wealthy nations at the expense of poor and developing countries.

Actually, of course, they have this exactly backwards.

Daniel Drezner is blogging from the middle of all this: "The result is that I've spent this evening looking at policemen sheathed in protest gear -- gas masks, body-length Plexiglas shielding, truncheons, etc. -- while drinking and dining at the hotel buffet along with a healthy number of WTO delegates. It's more than a bit surreal."

He adds, however: "The truly bizarre thing is that, having ventured out earlier in the evening, I'm quite certain that the number of curious onlookers outnumbers the actual protestors, the press contingent outnumbers the protestors, and the police most definitely outnumber the protestors. The Korean protestors are certainly causing inconveniences beyond their numbers, but this is a much smaller contingent of activists than were present at either Seattle in 1999 or Cancun in 2003. And any press report suggesting otherwise is full of it."

Nice to know. And as Drezner notes, Hong Kong blogger Simon World has much, much more on the topic.

MORE: Stephen Spruiell was there, and reports of the protests: "It was one of the most appalling things I've ever witnessed."

GREG DJEREJIAN chides me on the torture issue, and I have to say that he makes a strong case. As my uncharacteristically heated response to Andrew Sullivan the other day illustrated, Sullivan's needling long ago got my back up, and has led me, consciously and unconsciously, to affirmatively avoid writing about this topic in response, as Djerejian suggests. That no doubt represents a flaw in my character, but then, I am not without flaws.

UPDATE: I somehow thought that Arthur Silber had stoppped blogging, but he emails this rather lengthy post.

IF I HAD TO BET, I'd say that this was another Nancy Oden case (i.e., bogus) but if this report is true, it's time for more shakeups at DHS. I find it doubtful, however, that the DHS is spending much time looking for signs of incipient Maoism. (Via Brian's Study Breaks).

SO I SHOULD HAVE BEEN grading Administrative Law exams last night, but I made the mistake of starting John Scalzi's new book Ghost Brigades yesterday afternoon, got totally sucked in, and read until I finished it about midnight last night.

As that might suggest, it's really good. It's only sort of a sequel to Old Man's War, though it takes place in the same world and with some of the same characters. Perhaps for that reason, it doesn't suffer from the slowed pace and inconclusive action that many second-of-series books do: It's a self-contained story, and you could read it and enjoy it even if you hadn't read Old Man's War, though you'd miss out on some of the background. At any rate, I liked it very much, and I think that anyone who enjoyed the first book will like this one just as much.

Various people have asked for other science-fiction recommendations, but I don't have time to post that now. I'll try to do something up later.

POPULAR MECHANICS has been doing an in-depth investigation of the Katrina disaster, and posting reports to its blog in advance of a big forthcoming article. Here's one:

To understand the full impact of Katrina, you have to make a distinction between New Orleans and the rest of the region. New Orleans suffered devastating inundation due to the various levee breaks, but wind damage was moderate. When you fly over the city, you see a patchwork of blue FEMA-supplied tarps on roofs. But the real damage came from below as floodwaters from failed levees rose and quietly soaked homes through and through. Only in areas where the levee failures were particularly sudden and intense—like the Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Levee—were houses physically demolished.

Outside the city you see a different story. We drove east out of the city on I-10, crossing over the famous twin-span bridge across Lake Ponchartrain. (Today it is a crowded single span as crews install temporary roadways across the destroyed portions of the northern span.) For the next eight hours we drove in a big loop through Slidell, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pass Christian. In all that time we never left a zone of hurricane destruction that ranged from moderate damage to total annihilation. And this is after three months of clean-up operations. . . .

Biloxi ought to be Exhibit A in any discussion of whether current coastal development regulations make sense. The beachfront properties were devastated, but only a few hundred yards inland, damage was moderate. Maybe there’s a lesson there for developers? Apparently not. Compared to New Orleans, where whole neighborhoods remain deserted, Biloxi is crawling with construction teams. Most of them are busy rebuilding hotels right at the water’s edge.

Read the whole thing, and scroll down the blog for other reports.

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

I take some issue with the portrait painted by Popular Mechanics. I don’t dispute what they saw in Biloxi, etc. But they are under reporting the wind damage. There are lots of blue tarps all over the greater New Orleans area. Damaged roofs are not caused by flood waters. There is no question that the levee breaches were the cause of the most substantial damage and the reason the city is a semi-ghost town. But having been in New Orleans at Thanksgiving, I think Popular Mechanics is minimizing the damage from the storm other than flooding (I have pictures). The rest of what is written seems accurate.

And Mississippi reader Jane Meynardie emails:

I agree that floating casinos are stupid. But as for the notion that Biloxi ought to be Exhibit "A" for how not to develop a beachfront, I must protest. Many of the homes that were destroyed on Biloxi's beach (and in Pass Christian, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis) were over 150 years old. (One in Bay St. Louis was over 200 years old and was built with axe-hewn wood prior to our first sawmill.) They took everything nature threw at them better and for longer than most of the crap that builders are putting up today under current codes (including our brand new $50+ million federal courthouse well off the beach). Many were built of cypress designed to withstand the water if it got wet. Beauvoir (the retirement home of Jefferson Davis, given to him by my great-aunt's sister-in-law) survived this storm, although it took a battering, and still commands the beachfront. There was NOTHING wrong with those homes and nothing stupid about their location. Some acts of nature are simply too ferocious and too freakish for anything short of concrete pilings to withstand, and God help us if we turn that beautiful beachfront that He has given us into a wall of concrete condos. Biloxians and Biloxi's architecture could teach the rest of the world a good bit about how to survive these things. We've been doing it for generations.

So noted.

DARFUR UPDATE: As usual, alas, it's bad news:

Darfur has fallen into anarchy, with army troops, pro-government tribal militias, bandits, anti-government rebels and AU peacekeepers all fighting one another. It's a low key war, with the main objective being to rob, rape and kill civilians, or loot UN relief operations, or trying to stop the all the lawlessness. There are only about 7,000 AU peacekeepers, and, technically, they are only supposed to be observing, not protecting. Such is the chaos, that few countries are willing to offer more peacekeepers. Historically, this sort of widespread tribal warfare is nothing new. But in the past, news of the atrocities took a lot longer to get out to the rest of the world. Getting the news faster has not made it any easier to stop the violence. Since Arab Sudanese run Sudan, they have the rest of the Arab world to protect them in the UN, and make it difficult for sanctions or war crimes investigations to get anywhere. Officially, the Arab world denies that there are any Moslem-on-Moslem atrocities being committed by Sudanese Arabs.

Here's a big Darfur roundup from AllThings2All.

BLOGGER-TURNED-WAR-CORRESPONDENT BILL ROGGIO has an article on the Iraqi elections in the new Weekly Standard. Read the whole thing. He's also got a followup post on his blog. And here's a Flash presentation of photos he took.

ROBERT NOVAK is leaving CNN for FoxNews: I think he'll be happier there.

JOHN SCALZI says we need more entry-level science fiction:

And this is the point: Fantasy literature has numerous open doors for the casual reader. How many does SF literature have? More importantly, how many is SF perceived to have? Any honest follower of the genre has to admit the answers are "few" and "even fewer than that," respectively. The most accessible SF we have today is stuff that was written decades ago by people who are now dead. You all know I love me that Robert Heinlein as much as anyone, but why does my local bookstore still have more of his books than anyone else's in the genre? The most effective modern "open doors" to SF are media tie-ins, which have their own set of problems: They're fenced in grazing areas that don't encourage hopping into the larger SF universe, and also, no one but unreconstituted geeks want to be seen on the subway with a Star Wars or Star Trek book in tow.

Good point. And, by the way, I finished Ghost Brigades (late) last night. I'll post a review later today.

December 16, 2005

MIKE KREMPASKY says there's good news at the FEC.

TYPEPAD IS BACK UP: It's to their credit that an outage like this is rare enough to be big news.

UPDATE: Slashdot reports that this is a symptom of how the growth of the blogosphere is straining data centers.

HUGH HEWITT thinks the non-reauthorization of the Patriot Act is a big disaster. I'm not so sure.

UPDATE: There's some unhappiness at The Corner, too. And there's also a sense that Bush has lost a lot of legislative battles lately: Harriet Miers, the McCain Amendment, the Patriot Act renewal, etc.

Well, he has. The Miers nomination was a mistake from day one. The McCain Amendment and Patriot Act renewal defeats -- which I'm not convinced are bad things in and of themselves -- are defeats for Bush, but even if you think they're bad on the merits, they're certainly proof that despite claims of impending fascism we actually live in a country where checks and balances work. The Administration (which won far too easily on the Patriot Act the first time around, in my opinion) can't be charged with running roughshod over its opponents, and only an idiot can claim that we live under the iron rule of the Bushitler regime. The system may or may not be producing the right answers, and that's often hard to tell until later anyway, but it's working as designed. Meanwhile, in light of these losses the White House might want to look to its legislative operation, and ask if it needs revamping. I think the answer is yes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kathryn Diamond emails:

I think President Bush recognizes he has weak support among the Republicans in the Senate.

One specific, concrete example is John Bolton's nomination. The conduct of the Republicans in the Senate ranged from feckless to disgraceful.

And, now that Bolton is proving to be a very effective UN ambassador, we need to worry about the Senate Republicans' judgment.

I believe the Senate Republicans fear the media more than their local constituents. Or fear the national media might make them look foolish in front of their local constituents.

Good point.

STEM CELL UPDATE: This report says that "If South Korean cloning hero Hwang Woo-suk falls from grace in what could turn out to be one of the biggest scientific frauds in years, he might take U.S. stem cell researcher Gerald Schatten with him." On the other hand, this report says that Hwang is standing by his research: "South Korea's best known scientist said Friday he stands by his breakthrough stem cell research despite a barrage of fraud allegations, and vowed to prove the findings within days."

Meanwhile, here's an article from Slate by Daniel Engber on the investigation of scientific fraud. And here's a piece I wrote a while back that looks at some past experience in the area.

ANDREW SULLIVAN says he never called being wrapped in the Israeli flag "torture." But in this post he listed it under the heading of "Anti-Islamic Torture," along with a variety of nasty behaviors with nothing to suggest it's not of the same order. And see this post, too. He says he doesn't think fake menstrual blood is torture, but he sure has paid a lot of attention to the subject in that context for someone who doesn't.

Sullivan's heart has been in the right place on the issue, most of the time, at least, but his head has been sorely absent. Nor do I understand why he's thought it useful to pick at me regularly, as opposed to, say, the bloggers who actually support torture.

Perhaps he'll improve. As others have noted, "Tomorrow is always another day at andrewsullivan.com."

UPDATE: James Taranto emails: "I wonder where Sullivan gets the idea that I 'concede' he never said 'fake menstrual blood'--i.e., red ink--is torture. I did use the phrase '"torture" and "abuse,"' but I certainly didn't indicate that I thought he made the distinction, and indeed my impression is that he uses the terms more or less interchangeably. Oh well, go figure." Or not.

A DELL BATTERY RECALL: Happily, my Inspiron 700m isn't affected, but a lot of models are. Applel and HP notebook computers have recalls, too.

JOHN HINDERAKER IS QUESTIONING THE TIMING of the New York Times' story on NSA surveillance -- and calling for an investigation of the leaks, and prosecution of the leakers. "Under the Plame precedent, this case is a no-brainer. The intelligence officials who leaked to the Times should be identified, criminally prosecuted, and sent to prison."

UPDATE: Peter Schramm: "There will be more on this, you can count on it. '

OP-EDS FOR PROFIT: A disappointing story about Doug Bandow and the ubiquitous Jack Abramoff. I've had PR people offer me considerable sums to write op-eds, going back before InstaPundit, but I've always declined. That fact, and the fact that the topics in question weren't political in an obviously partisan sense, makes me think that there's a lot more of this going on out there.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler reports similar experiences.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ronald Stack emails:

I used to work at a PR/public affairs agency. Soliciting op-eds, letters to the editor, etc. in support of the client's position was SOP. We only solicited people who we determined actually to support our side, because (a) they could withstand follow-ups from reporters and (b) they didn't ask for money.

Note that in many cases the authors were public officials or others who could not legally accept payment. Note also that the agency would often draft the articles that were to be submitted under the supporter's byline. The client paid us for those, but we did not pay the supporter.

Despite "PR ethics" being a classic oxymoron, my recollection is that we saw a difference between renting someone's expertise (and paying them as we would any freelancer) and renting their prominence or reputation.

Indeed. I've written about that phenomenon here. And Rand Simberg has questions.

THE ROLL CALL VOTE will be useful in 2006:

For the second time in as many months, the House rejected calls for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq with a vote Friday that Democrats said was politically driven and designed by Republicans to limit debate on the war.

In a 279-109 vote, the GOP-controlled House approved a resolution saying the chamber is committed "to achieving victory in Iraq" and that setting an "artificial timetable" would be "fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory."

Democrats voted against the resolution by a roughly two-to-one margin, underlining splits within the party over alternatives to President Bush's Iraq war policies.

Stay tuned for the political ads. Is this starting to feel like a setup?

MORE FAKE NEWS? Well, sort of.

ATRIOS, OF COURSE, has been warning people about this for years. But no one listened, and now it's too late.

TYPEPAD UPDATE: Anil Dash emails:

I saw your post on TypePad's downtime, and since I work with the team, I just wanted to send you a quick update. We're verifying all the data before we restore it, and just put up the older pages in the interim while that happens.

Once we're sure we can turn everything back on, we should have the application running by 1pm PST. If any recent posts don't show up on the blog pages then, people can republish their blogs and they'll be current.

Thanks for saying you'll assume we'll have it fixed -- that's not always the default assumption people in the blogosphere make. :)

Yeah, I know, everybody's a critic. . . .

THE PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZATION HAS FAILED:

The 52-47 roll call by which the Senate voted to reject reauthorization of several provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a filibuster of the bill.

Voting "yes" were 2 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

Voting "no" were 41 Democrats, 5 Republicans and one independent.

Follow the link to see how people voted. I think this is a good decision. While my earlier fears about the Patriot Act haven't really been borne out, my earlier instinct that this was a bureaucratic wish-list masquerading as antiterrorism seems to have been well-founded. Are these things necessary? I don't know, but the proponents of the bill haven't met their burden of proof.

UPDATE: Here's more from Orin Kerr:

For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it's not immediately obvious to me whether we'll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire.

The Patriot Act's supporters, and its detractors, could both do a better job of arguing their cases. But the burden of proof is on its supporters and, as I say, they haven't met it. Of course, I didn't think they had met it the first time around, when it passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support.

TYPEPAD IS CURRENTLY BELLY-UP, which is why you're not able to reach your favorite TypePad blogs. I assume they'll have it fixed as soon as they can.

THE SINGULARITY IS NEAR: The Insta-Daughter got one of these gadgets for her birthday and it's surprisingly smart. This would have been an amazing example of artificial intelligence a few years ago. Now it's a kid's toy.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

HOW TO SAVE MONEY: Over at Asymmetrical Information, Winterspeak and Megan McArdle offer a bunch of cheap and easy things to cook.

SOME POST-ELECTION THOUGHTS from Iraq, at Iraq the Model.

JIM BENNETT on the Sydney riots: "Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two."

ANDREW ROTH looks at how protectionism is killing an American industry and may lead to jobs being sent overseas.

IN THE MAIL: An advance copy of John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades, the sequel to his blogospherically-acclaimed Old Man's War.

I was going to make Wonkette's new novel my next read, but I think Scalzi may take priority: I prefer science fiction to Washington politics, these days.

CARNIVAL-O-RAMA: The Carnival of Education is up. So is the Carnival of the Vanities. And don't miss the Tangled Bank science carnival. And there are lots more blog carnivals here.

UPDATE: The second edition of Fair Tax Friday is up, too.

MAX BORDERS: "No one wants to see a family of four killed by a drunk driver. But the United States has veered way out of the lines in its DUI laws, and it’s time to rethink them from bumper to bumper."

I blame the influence of M.A.D.D., which has morphed from an anti-drunk-driving group into a neoprohibitionist anti-alcohol group.

DOMESTIC SPYING BY THE NSA? If this report is true, it really is a major shift in U.S. surveillance policy -- though I'm not sure whether snooping on international calls that originate or end in the U.S. is such a big departure. Orin Kerr has more. "While the statutory privacy laws have an exception for this type of monitoring, see 18 U.S.C. 2511(f), and the constitutional limits on e-mail surveillance are uncertain even in traditional criminal cases, the constitutionality of warrantless interception of telephone calls in situations like this is really murky stuff. "

I can't see any very compelling reason to bypass the courts here, especially given that warrants in these cases are almost always granted. Which makes me wonder what's up.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (free link) has a big article on the growth of videoblogging. I think there's more to the phenomenon, but it's nice to see it getting some attention.

HALEY BARBOUR is reportedly getting a "red-carpet reception" in Washington as he asks for Katrina relief money.

I wish he'd turn at least a bit of his attention to the Cory Maye case.

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE: Ed Morrissey wonders why the New York Times editorial page isn't excited about Iraq.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson has a related observation:

For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”). But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence. Our Katrina was hardly as lethal as the Tsunami or Pakistani earthquake. Thousands of Arabs are not rioting in Dearborn. American elderly don’t roast and die in the thousands in their apartments as was true in France. Nor do American cities, like some in China, lose their entire water supply to a toxic spill. Americans did not just vote to reject their own Constitution as in some European countries.

The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on. Instead, the general impression is that our veteran and battle-hardened forces are even more lethal than was true of the 1990s — and engaging successfully in an almost impossible war.

Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever.

Read the whole thing.

GREAT NEWS FROM IRAQ, but Charles Krauthammer notes the bad news in Iran:

Lest you get carried away with today's good news from Iraq, consider what's happening next door in Iran. The wild pronouncements of the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have gotten sporadic press ever since he called for Israel to be wiped off the map. He subsequently amended himself to say that Israel should simply be extirpated from the Middle East map and moved to some German or Austrian province. Perhaps near the site of an old extermination camp? . . .

Everyone knows where Iran's nuclear weapons will be aimed. Everyone knows they will be put on Shahab rockets, which have been modified so that they can reach Israel. And everyone knows that if the button is ever pushed, it will be the end of Israel.

As far as I'm concerned, in light of these statements the Israelis are entitled to launch a first strike of any magnitude, whenever they choose.

December 15, 2005

THE ARAB NEWS editorializes:

It was the voice of the Iraqi people that was being heard yesterday, not the bomb blasts of the terrorists. What little violence there was as millions crowded toward their local polling stations only served to demonstrate how incoherent and pointless are the efforts of the men of violence to change the country through further bloodshed.

Indeed. Nice that they're noticing it.

POWER LINE has video of Iraqi election commercials, which is pretty cool.

JULIAN SANCHEZ looks at NPR's notorious right-wing bias.

THE JAWS OF KARL ROVE'S TRAP TIGHTEN:

House Republican leaders drafted legislation on Thursday that rejects calls for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as "fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory" and said they would force a vote on Friday.

It would be the second time in five weeks that GOP leaders maneuvered for a vote on the war in the face of Democratic calls for a timetable for withdrawal.

The resolution expresses the commitment of the House "to achieving victory in Iraq."

It'll be interesting to see who votes against it.

MARK STEYN was on the Hugh Hewitt show tonight, talking about the Iraqi elections, Rep. Murtha's latest comments, and more. The transcript is here.

SOME KATRINA FOLLOWUP:

The interviews, combined with Thursday's testimony, indicate vast confusion about who was ultimately responsible for the levees.

Regulations show that the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for building levees and conducting annual inspections, and the state is charged with training and overseeing New Orleans levee district officials.

The Orleans Levee District, headed by a board of politically appointed commissioners, is responsible for day-to-day maintenance and repair of levees _ usually by staff engineers. An Aug. 16 work order released by the Senate panel, for example, shows that inspection crews did check the levees but also cut nearby grass and green space.

The former president of the commission described a lax _ if festive _ inspection process by its appointed members.

"You have commissioners," former president James P. Huey told investigators in a Nov. 29 interview. "They have some news cameras following you around, and all of this stuff. And you have your little beignets, and then you have _ you go do the tourist and that and you have a nice lunch somewhere or whatever. They have this stop-off thing or whatever. And that's what the inspections are about."

Read the whole thing, which also shows that nobody seemed to know who was in charge.

CAYMAN ISLANDS UPDATE: I've written before about the debate over whether to construct a Dolphinarium on Grand Cayman to attract tourists. Now there's a poll on the Cayman Compass (lower right) if you'd like to express your view.

MORE ON TORTURE: They're still wrangling over the McCain bill, but I think it's pretty much certain to pass, with at most minor modifications. And at the risk of sounding like an Alexander Bickel proceduralist, I think that's a good thing even aside from the merits: This sort of thing is Congress's duty. I'm not sure, however, that the bill is specific enough, and I think that an unclear bill will either chill legitimate interrogations, or leave gray areas that will permit conduct that's tantamount to torture or -- likely as not -- both. But I'm not sure about that, and at least Congress is making some sort of move to address its constitutional responsibilities.

Meanwhile, I think there's an excellent discussion of the topic by Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright over at their very cool Blogging Heads TV site.

And Andrew Sullivan -- pursuant to his apparent brand differentiation strategy, I guess -- is bravely standing up to the "NRO-Reynolds chorus," whatever that means. I don't think I really agree with Mark Levin, Rich Lowry, et al. on the specific subject at hand, though I confess that I haven't followed that particular pissing match very closely. However, I do agree with them that Andrew has been consistently, pompously, and annoyingly moralistic and irritatingly unspecific. So if that's the chorus, well yes -- but it's a song that has a lot of notes, most of them struck by Andrew himself. And I'm irritated with him, not for the reason you might think -- because I disagree with Andrew -- but more the contrary, because every time I read one of his preening posts, I find my opposition to torture weakening in response, even though I've been consistently in opposition to torture since 2001 (and before). God help me if he ever starts blogging in support of nanotechnology and bans on cloning -- I'll probably start looking at Leon Kass more sympathetically. It's like listening to Robert Bork talk about original understanding jurisprudence.

AUSTIN BAY has questions the media should ask Howard Dean and John Kerry.

WIKIPEDIA WARS UPDATE: With all the criticism of Wikipedia, here are two interesting stories. First, a study claims it's as accurate as Brittanica.

Second, my brother (the history professor one, not the budding rock-star one) notes that after a bunch of academics criticized Wikipedia for being inaccurate, some of them came up with a novel idea: Help make it better!

He's got posts on that shocking phenomeon over at Cliopatria, here and here.

RUSS FEINGOLD is offering some pretty compelling reasons to oppose the Patriot Act renewal legislation. Read the whole thing, but this excerpt is telling:

Let me make one final point about sneak and peek warrants. Don’t be fooled for a minute into believing that this power is needed to investigate terrorism or espionage. It’s not. Section 213 is a criminal provision that could apply in whatever kind of criminal investigation the government has undertaken. In fact, most sneak and peek warrants are issued for drug investigations. So why do I say that they aren’t needed in terrorism investigations? Because FISA also can apply to those investigations. And FISA search warrants are always executed in secret, and never require notice. If you really don’t want to give notice of a search in a terrorism investigation, you can get a FISA warrant. So any argument that limiting the sneak and peek power as we have proposed will interfere with sensitive terrorism investigations is a red herring.

As I say, read the whole thing. (Via Jacob Sullum, who observes: "Now even the senators who haven't bothered to read the legislation cannot credibly pretend to believe this law enforcement wish list is all about fighting terrorism.")

Here, by the way, is what I wrote on September 11, 2001:

It's Not Just Terrorists Who Take Advantage: Someone will propose new "Antiterrorism" legislation. It will be full of things off of bureaucrats' wish lists. They will be things that wouldn't have prevented these attacks even if they had been in place yesterday. Many of them will be civil-liberties disasters. Some of them will actually promote the kind of ill-feeling that breeds terrorism. That's what happened in 1996. Let's not let it happen again.

Yeah, I can call 'em.

CURTIS LEMAY AND JOHN MURTHA: An interesting comparison.

KERRY DECIDES TO HELP SHORE UP BUSH WITH HIS BASE:

MA. Sen. John Kerry said last night that if Dems retake the House, there's a "solid case" to bring "articles of impeachment" against President Bush for allegedly misleading the country about pre-war intelligence, according to several Dems who attended.

Kerry was speaking at a holiday party for alumni of his WH '04 bid.

I first heard this theory right after the '04 election, from Limbaugh or Hannity or someone else I dismissed; it seemed dumb to me. But obviously, I was wrong -- or at least, my "too dumb for the Democrats" threshold was set too high. What's funny is that lots of Bush supporters would be okay with the GOP losing the House as a way of teaching the Republican House a lesson for its pork-laden profligacy -- but not if it's going to let the Democrats bring a politically-motivated impeachment resolution over the war. (Will those who voted for the war, like Kerry, resign, too?) So by making this statement, Kerry makes a Democratic recapture of the house notably less likely, by motivating GOP'ers who might otherwise stay home to turn out.

Of course, you can count on Kerry to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, as quite a few of those "alumni" could probably attest. . . .

UPDATE: Donald Sensing emails: "Don't you really mean your 'too dumb for the Democrats' threshold was set too low? Because they sure jumped over it with ease!"

I stand corrected.

MORE COMMENTARY on today's press coverage:

There is an interesting disconnect in the U.S. media, and it goes beyond the usual complaints of pessimism or hostility to the American war effort. Go back and look at the transcript of NBC's "Meet the Press" for Nov. 27, which we noted the next day--and in particular the journalist roundtable, which features five senior Washington journalists, all of whom seem to agree that democracy in Iraq is a dead letter. The only mention of Iraq's then-forthcoming election was in a setup quote from the White House press secretary. To hear the journos talk, it was as if they hadn't even heard that Iraqis were going to the polls.

And yet the producers at CNN and Fox appear to have regarded a genuine election in Iraq as such a routine event that it didn't merit continuous live coverage. (Both stations did break into the recorded fare for occasional live updates.) It's quite a striking indication of just how out of touch with the outside world are those within the Beltway media bubble.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Here's a roundup of Iraqi blog coverage from The Seattle Times.

I'M ON A PODCAST for the ideablog SinceSlicedBread along with Amy Sullivan of The Washington Monthly. I'm not sure I was all that sparkling, but she gets good reviews. . . .

MATT POTTINGER: "Why I gave up journalism to join the Marines."

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE looks at the Iraqi elections, and what some people were saying not long ago. Plus, this cool opener:

CNN International's front-page headline: "Ballots counted in Iraqi election"

Think about how mundane that sounds on one level - and the amazing story it tells for just that reason.

Read the whole thing.

RADLEY BALKO has more on Cory Maye.

WELL, THIS IS BAD NEWS:

A doctor who provided human eggs for research by cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk said in a broadcast Thursday that the South Korean scientist agreed to withdraw a key research paper because most of the stem cells produced for the article were faked.

Roh Sung-il, chairman of the board at Mizmedi Hospital, told KBS television that Hwang had agreed to ask the journal Science to withdraw the paper, published in June to international acclaim. Roh was one of the co-authors of the article that detailed how individual stem cell colonies were created for 11 patients through cloning.

Roh also told MBC television that Hwang had pressured a former scientist at his lab to fake data to make it look like there were 11 stem cell colonies.

In a separate report, a former researcher told MBC that Hwang ordered him to fabricate photos to make it appear there were 11 separate colonies from only three.

This piece of mine on scientific fraud would seem to be timely again. This sounds a bit like the Summerlin mouse case.

AS OMAR REPORTED EARLIER, turnout in Iraq appears to be quite high -- with Saddam's hometown showing 80%. And overall it was up substantially from the last election. (Via ATC).

That's great news, though not everyone seems to be as excited about it as I am. But hey, we've all got our priorities. [LATER: Some of the lefty blogs linked above have commented now.]

IN THE MAIL: Joel Miller's Size Matters : How Big Government Puts the Squeeze on America's Families, Finances, and Freedom. My blurb says it should be a political call to arms. I hope that it will be, as it's a virtual manifesto for the PorkBusters movement, and it doesn't just stop there.

Miller has also been my editor on An Army of Davids, and in fact I was attracted to the publisher by the chance to work with him, since I was a big fan of his drug-war book, Bad Trip, which seems especially insightful in light of the Cory Maye case.

AUSTIN BAY offers an analysis of the New York Times' coverage of the Iraqi elections.

OMAR REPORTS that voter turnout in Iraq is quite high. Tom Smith says the atmosphere is like a block party. (Though one where you still have to watch out for crazed Islamist suicide bombers. . . .)

Meanwhile, an embedded reporter visiting Iraq for the first time notes the difference between media accounts and reality on the ground:

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A little informal exit polling in Najaf.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gateway Pundit notes that the BBC says we've achieved stability in Iraq, and observes: "that headline has more shock value than a bomb in Baghdad!" He's got a big roundup, with photos and links to video.

WRITING IN THE L.A. WEEKLY, Michael Totten reports on partying with Hezbollah: "Hezbollah’s South Lebanon Commander Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said the militia wants to build strong relations with American journalists and academics. Yet its attempt to make a good impression on me failed spectacularly."

ARNOLD KLING: "Policy pundits are unhappy with the state of health insurance. What is the problem? After considering some alternative theories, I believe that the best explanation is simply that most people do not want health insurance." I do! But Kling says I'm in the minority.

pj-iraq180x150.gif
NEWS FROM IRAQ: Over at the Pajamas Media site, Omar & Mohammed of Iraq the Model, plus stringers from all over Iraq, are posting reports and photos from the Iraqi elections. This will go on all day.

It's a bit of an experiment still, but I hope that we'll see a lot more of this kind of coverage from all sorts of places, on all sorts of topics, as things progress.

If you have any comments on the coverage, email me and I'll pass 'em on -- or you can use the email form in the left-hand column on the main Pajamas page.

UPDATE: Here's a blog-report from Bill Roggio, too. He's in Barwana and notes: "The poll site sits right beneath the now-destroyed Barwana bridge, where Zarqawi terrorists routinely executed residents for not conforming to their perverse interpretation of Islam." Note the past tense. He concludes: "Barwana, once part of Zarqawi self declared 'Islamic Republic of Iraq,' is now the scene of al-Qaeda’s greatest nightmare: Muslims exercising their constitutional right to chose their destiny."

Heh. Indeed.

December 14, 2005

AUSTIN BAY: "With Iraq's latest trip to the polls, the great revolt continues. . . . Democratic politics, emerging in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, are providing an alternative to the afflictions of war, terror and tyranny."

BRITAIN AND THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER: Potentially a major foreign policy disaster, and bad for the GOP: "Because the reason things have reached this point lies in the US Congress, and it's Republicans not Democrats who have created this situation." Reps. Henry Hyde & Duncan Hunter are singled out. But read the comments for some interesting discussion.

EUGENE VOLOKH ENDORSES John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars. He's right, of course, that it's not as "meaty" as Old Man's War, but it has a charm of its own.

Among its charms, I guess, is that you can read it for free online here, if you want.

MORE DRUG WAR STUFF being slipped into the Patriot Act renewal.

IRAQIS VOTE: A multimedia presentation from the Detroit Free Press.

STINGINESS UPDATE:

Donor fatigue? Not this year. Even after the outpouring of donations for the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, holiday giving is robust this season and 2005 could well set an overall record, U.S. charity officials are reporting.

"It seems to be a phenomenal year," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "Donor fatigue is something not many charities are seeing."

Which is good, because it's been a big year for disasters.

TONY SNOW wants the Barrett report released.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Schiavo emails: "Everything else gets leaked in D.C. Why not this report?"

JACOB SULLUM: "How big a boob is Ted Stevens? So big that the Alaska Republican has me defending the Transportation Security Administration. Stevens and several other senators are in a tizzy about TSA's plan to let passengers carry small tools and scissors (up to four inches long) onto airplanes. . . . I'm guessing that when Stevens flies someone else takes care of his bags."

UPDATE: Ted Stevens needs to hear from the tweezer people.

Air security is a joke. Stevens is a joker.

I MISSED BUSH'S SPEECH TODAY, as I was in a faculty hiring meeting this afternoon, but it gets a good review at RedState.

Here's the text of the speech. My only (perhaps overly hopeful) interpretation: Bush's comment about accepting responsibility for intelligence errors -- and for fixing the problem -- is not so much an apology as an announcement that he's going to do some housecleaning at the CIA. I certainly hope so, anyway.

AN IRAQI VOTER explains things. Ian Schwartz has video.

UPDATE: Here's a report from Basra.

TRUTH ON THE GROUND: Interesting oped in the Washington Post from a Marine who's headed back to Iraq. Read the whole thing.

DAM BURST: Jim Hoft is all over the story.

CLAUDIA ROSETT: "My conversations with the latest victim of Syrian terror."

RADLEY BALKO has a big Cory Maye roundup posted.

Digital Camera Carnival!

WELL, HERE IT IS: There are lots of entries in the digital camera carnival. (You can read my earlier posts here and here.) Also, here's an earlier post of mine on printers, and one on slide-scanning for those with big collections they'd like to digitize. My HP wireless printer, by the way, is also a scanner and comes with a negative carrier, though it won't scan mounted slides. I haven't tried it out in that application yet, though. But lots of people around the blogosphere have experience I lack in all sorts of areas.

For those who sent email, but no blog links, I'll try to do something with those later, but a blog carnival consists of links to blog posts, so if there wasn't a link to a blog post, I didn't include it. Here's the roundup:

Brian Leon writes on the joys of normal lenses.

Bill Hobbs, on the other hand, takes a non-normal approach.

Nathan Brindle likes his Nikon D70 and passes on some things he's learned.

Mattazuma's Revenge likes the Panasonic Lumix and explains why. My brother has one, and it's great -- except that the smooth finish is so smooth that it's easy to drop. Use the lanyard.

Paul's Perspective wants to put together a massive spreadsheet-comparison of digital camera features and prices, and wants help.

The Planning Blog likes the Canon Ixus 50, and has some sample photos.

Mein Blogovault offers winter photoblogging.

Sissy Willis offers a post on homemade photo-Christmas Cards.

Jason Coyne writes on what comes after "camera suicide." A newer, more expensive camera!

Kevin Menard is blending old and new.

Almost Average reviews the Canon Powershot G6.

Chuck Pace takes an assignment from his wife.

Matt Gordon notes that his digital camera blog has a whole category on how to buy digital cameras and printers.

Ryan Cousineau posts an essay on digital photography for the non-professional.

Brian Frye posts some examples of what you can do with a cheapie digital camera. Lots!

Matthew Hoy sings the praises of the Olympus E-500, and posts a picture.

Robert McNickle sings the praises of the Canon Digital Rebel XT.

Over at DailyPundit, praise for a truly waterproof digital camera.

Cathouse Chat notes how much you can do with a cheap Sony.

But Dr. Melissa Clouthier says that size does matter! Well, yeah.

Pete the Elder looks at what can be done with a cheap Kodak.

Rick Lee compares his old pocket camera with his new one. Lots of interesting photos.

The just-married SarahK posts happy thoughts and cat pics.

Chuck Simmins takes a plunge.

And Mark Draughn writes on the joys of upgrading.

Finally, there are lots of good resources at Steve's Digicams and DPreview.com, both linked on the right of this page. Check 'em out if you have more questions.

UPDATE: Eric Scheie sent his entry to the wrong email, but here it is now.

BIG TORTURE ROUNDUP: I'm in the process of giving my Administrative Law exam, so I guess it's a good time to address this topic again . . . .

Writing over at Winds of Change, Tom Holsinger worries about that the McCain amendment will judicialize national security in destructive ways:

The danger here is less that captured terrorists will sue for money damages concerning alleged mistreatment as that they will sue for class action injunctive relief, i.e., judicial oversight of the facilities in which they are held. The state of California’s prison system is rightly subject to such a class action federal civil rights lawsuit right now concerning its disgracefully ineffective medical care for sick and injured prisoners.

He's wrong, however, about 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, which does not apply to the federal government, among other legal details, though I think he's probably right about the dangers inherent in judicial micromanagement here, which is quite possible.

Max Boot, meanwhile, thinks that we need to work on our definitions:

I've discovered that the use of torture by the U.S. government is far more pervasive than previously believed. There are major facilities all over the country where thousands of men and women who have not committed any crime are held for prolonged periods while subjected to physical and psychological coercion that violates every tenet of the Geneva Convention.

They are routinely made to stand for long periods in uncomfortable positions. They are made to walk for hours while wearing heavy loads on their backs. They are bullied by martinets who get in their faces and yell insults at them. They are hit and often knocked down with clubs known as pugil sticks. They are denied sleep for more than a day at a time. They are forced to inhale tear gas. They are prevented from seeing friends or family. Some are traumatized by this treatment. Others are injured. A few even die. Should Amnesty International or the International Committee of the Red Cross want to investigate these human-rights abuses, they could visit Parris Island, S.C., Camp Pendleton, Calif., Ft. Benning, Ga., Ft. Jackson, S.C., and other bases where the Army and Marines train recruits.

Boot notes that quite a few people are playing fast-and-loose with definitions on torture, and I think that's right. There's true torture -- involving, as Boot says, "fingernails pulled, electric shocks applied, sharp objects put where they don't belong" -- and then there's other stuff. Complaints about U.S. forces basically involve "other stuff."

In the interest of some clarity, Andrew Sullivan invokes a legal definition of torture, which is progress. But does he think it includes things like fake menstrual blood, and being wrapped in the Israeli flag?

Because he's made much of those things. If he thinks they fall within the legal definition, then he's not very serious. If he doesn't think they fall within the legal definition, then -- given his repeated treatment of those subjects as "torture" -- he's not very serious.

Real torture, as I've written since way back in 2001, is wrong, and counterproductive. But the point-scoring and line-blurring hysteria with which posturing critics have addressed the topic has made things worse and -- as I've suggested before -- may account for recent polls in which majorities around the world say that torture isn't always so bad.

This is a war that has been overlawyered from the beginning -- see this piece by Tom Ricks from 2001 about how the Pentagon's requirement that lawyers approve airstrikes let leading Taliban and Al Qaeda figures escape: "The Central Command's top lawyer -- in military parlance, the judge advocate general, or JAG -- repeatedly refused to permit strikes even when the targets were unambiguously military in nature, an Air Force officer said."

I love lawyers. I am a lawyer. But there are plenty of places where the role of lawyers should be limited, and war is certainly one of them. I think the McCain Amendment is an appropriate use of Congress's authority -- and, indeed, a case of meeting, if way too late, Congress's responsibilities -- but if it's to do more good than harm it needs to be quite specific about what is permitted and what is not, and it needs to avoid creating a lawyers' full-employment act in the process. I'm not sure that we're there yet. The military is actually getting more specific in a new set of guidelines, but they're classified so I can't say much about them. But this bit is on target:

One Army officer expressed exasperation that senior military and civilian officials were failing to articulate a coherent approach toward interrogation, saying much of the confusion centered on disparate definitions of abuse.

"Everybody's talking past each other on this," the officer said. " 'Cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment' is at the crux of the problem, but we've never defined that."

Meanwhile, Michael Kinsley (a lawyer!) takes on the ticking time bomb argument and observes: "There is yet another law-school bromide: 'Hard cases make bad law.' It means that divining a general policy from statistical oddballs is a mistake. Better to have a policy that works generally and just live with a troublesome result in the oddball case." But that, of course, cuts both ways.

UPDATE: Related post here. And Bryan Preston has some thoughts, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a transcript of a Brookings discussion on interrogation.

MORE: Further thoughts here.

Gregory Scoblete looks at the subject from a foreign-policy perspective, while John Cole debates his commenters.

FINALLY: I'm going to close this post out with this piece by Victor Davis Hanson, which (typically) is better than most anything else on the subject. Excerpt:

The question, then, for a liberal democracy is not whether torture in certain cases is effective, but whether its value is worth the negative publicity and demoralizing effect on a consensual society that believes its cause and methods must enjoy a moral high ground far above the enemy's.

Nor can opponents of torture say that it is entirely foreign to the U.S. military experience, at least from what we know of it even in so-called good wars like World War II. There were American soldiers — sometimes in furor over the loss of comrades, sometimes to obtain critical information — who executed or tortured captured Japanese and German prisoners. Those who did so operated on a de facto "don't ask, don't tell" understanding, occasionally found it effective and were rarely punished by commanding officers. Even so, G.I.s never descended to the levels of depravity common in the Wehrmacht or the Soviet and Imperial Japanese armies.

There is also not much to the argument that our employment of torture will only embolden the enemy to barbarously treat Americans held captive. What a silly idea! Captured Americans have already been filmed being beheaded — or shot or burned — and their mutilated corpses hung up for public ridicule. . . .

Our restraint will not ensure any better treatment for our own captured soldiers. Nor will our allies or the United Nations appreciate American forbearance. The terrorists themselves will probably treat our magnanimity with disdain, as if we were weak rather than good.

But all that is precisely the risk we must take in supporting the McCain amendment — because it is a public reaffirmation of our country's ideals. The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.

Read the whole thing.

GLENN GREENWALD is unhappy with the European reaction to the Tookie Williams execution: "Somehow, Europeans have managed to transform the atrocities which they committed and which occurred in their countries from a badge of shame (which, arguably, it need not be any longer) into some sort of badge of moral superiority and entitlement to sit in judgment."

IRAN TRIES to make trouble:

Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.

How pathetic.

UPDATE: Pathetic, but maybe not true, as Iraqi officials are denying that this ever happened. (Via Newsbusters).

AUCTION CULTURE and the future of shopping: My TechCentralStation TCS Daily column is up.

December 13, 2005

THE CARNIVAL OF GERMAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS IS UP: But the real story has to do with German-Russian financial relations:

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder faced criticism Friday over plans to take on a leading position at a consortium building a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

As chancellor, Schroeder enjoyed a close personal and professional relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But now critics question the ethics of him standing to gain personally from a major financial deal that he supported in his role as chancellor.

As one of the critics says, it stinks.

ADVICE FROM STEPHEN GREEN: "Vote for hawks, not parties."

GHOSTWRITERS at medical journals? Not cool.

TAMMY BRUCE writes on why Hollywood has seen "its worst boxoffice receipts in 15 years."

CLIVE DAVIS: "I'm always struck by the uniformity of views among the artists and literati I've interviewed. For almost all of them, the notion that there might just be another point of view simply doesn't exist."

HERE'S MORE ON THE CORY MAYE CASE from CBS's Public Eye blog.

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL UPDATE: Get your entries in soon -- and be sure to put "digital camera carnival" in the subject line, as I'll be searching that phrase on Gmail and will miss stuff without it. And if you haven't posted on printers, you should. Reader Matt Lindner emails: "Any thoughts on a device to print out all those digital shots? I’d like to buy the Mrs. a photo printer for the 'Holiday.' Something with the ability to print 8x10 glossies of her favorite husband."

Favorite husband? I blame the gay marriage movement for the spread of polygamy!

I've been quite happy with this wireless photo printer from HP, and there's also a Canon wireless printer, though I don't have any first-hand experience with it. But I'm not fully up to date. So feel free to send me links to blog posts with your experiences.

DINNER WAS DELICIOUS: But then, I'm married to a domestic goddess. She even looks a bit like a less-zaftig Nigella Lawson!

MORE KOREAN CLONING SCANDAL NEWS:

The validity of Hwang Woo-suk's pioneering human cloning work in South Korea is in question as a former collaborator tries to distance himself from the groundbreaking research.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten has demanded that the journal Science remove him as the senior author of the highly publicized report published in June that detailed how individual stem cell colonies were created for 11 patients through cloning.

Schatten's highly unusual demand, in a letter that Science confirmed receiving Tuesday, adds significantly to the growing skepticism over Hwang's findings and places the entire cloning and stem cell field under a cloud.

Unlike the earlier discussion about donated ova, this apparently goes to the merits of the research.

THE OFFICERS' CLUB has more on the Iraqi elections.

IN THE MAIL: Ana Marie Cox's new novel, Dog Days. I'm expecting it to contain a lot of sex.

DANIEL DREZNER is blogging from the WTO.

N.Z. BEAR is asking for help with the ecosystem.

MORE ON CORY MAYE: Orin Kerr has a lengthy post on the subject, and so does Kieran Healy. And Alan, Esq. wonders why the Maye case is getting so much more attention in the blogosphere than in the mainstream media.

KEVIN AYLWARD WRITES that he forgot to email me regarding the Weblog Awards, and asks me to mention them. I think I already did, but at any rate, go vote. And don't vote for me -- InstaPundit has had its share of attention already. Vote for someone who hasn't.

MICHAEL YON gets some recognition. And follow the link to find out how you can get him more.

MARSHALL WITTMAN: "There is only one force that can save the Republican Party and it is called the Democratic Party. The truth of that axiom has been reinforced over the past three weeks."

MICHAEL TOTTEN has more from Lebanon, where Syrian skulduggery continues to claim lives.

THIS IS COOL:

Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space, and New Mexico announced an agreement Tuesday for the state to build a $225 million spaceport. Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.

Bring it on.

JAMES LILEKS: "There was something of a peevish quality to 2005." I've noticed that myself.

I GOT AN EMAIL for one of those end-of-year roundups about bloggers' favorite books. I answered, but there's no reason why I can't tell you my faves, too.

For fiction, my big winner of the year was John Scalzi's Old Man's War. I also liked Charles Stross's Accelerando, but I think that Scalzi gets the edge, and the book seems to have found favor with a lot of bloggers. (The Scalzi sequel, The Ghost Brigades, is coming out soon, and he's promised me an advance copy so I'll report.)

For nonfiction, the big winner is Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology, which I think is definitely the most important nonfiction book of 2005. Honorable mention to Hugh Hewitt's book Blog, and Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution.

Of course, I'm pretty sure I know what will be my favorite book of 2006 already. Well, one of 'em, anyway.

HAPPY FESTIVUS: Andrew Roth engages in an airing of grievances against the Republican Party. He invites you to join in. This will be followed by the Feats of Strength.

DRIVING HOME FROM TAKING THE INSTADAUGHTER TO SCHOOL, I was listening to Wall Street Journal Radio and noted two back-to-back stories: One about the Vioxx litigation, and one about widespread sales of the "herbal appetite suppressant" Hoodia despite universally dishonest label information about dosage, and no evidence that it's safe. My thought was that Merck should have just sold Vioxx as a "nutritional supplement" and everything would have been fine. . . .

I haven't really followed the litigation closely, though having taken Vioxx myself on numerous occasions, and having known plenty of others who did it's hard for me to take some of the claims seriously. All drugs have dangers after all. But I certainly share Henry Miller's worries:

Regulators’ increasing sensitivity to safety concerns -- sometimes at the expense of the availability of essential drugs -- may have become contagious: Drug manufacturers, too, seem to have begun to “err on the side of safety” to a degree that causes safe and effective drugs to be taken off the market voluntarily.

Read the whole thing. Risk / reward here is asymmetrical: If excessive litigation causes people to die because treatments are taken off the market, there's nobody to sue. Something's broken.

GRAND ROUNDS is up!

HERE'S A REPORT on the Global Voices Summit in London, and here's another report from Global Voices' blog.

December 12, 2005

VIDEO GAMES FOR DISASTER TRAINING: I've got a chapter on this kind of stuff in the book, but it's too late to add a reference to this cool article, I'm afraid. But that's no reason why you shouldn't read it.

A REASON TO VOTE AGAINST THE PATRIOT ACT EXTENSION: Mission creep.

A conference report by Senate and House negotiators to extend for four years provisions of the USA Patriot Act includes a comprehensive anti-methamphetamine package restricting the sale of products containing ingredients needed to cook the drug and providing new tools to police and prosecutors to combat dealers.

Sens. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said the Combat Meth Act -- together with anti-meth measures championed in the House -- were included in the Reauthorization Conference Report filed Thursday.

Okay, see, the problem with this is that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Putting it in the Patriot Act just reinforces my fears -- present since the beginning -- that this had more to do with finding an excuse to enact bureaucratic wishlists into law than with protecting us from terrorism. And Feinstein's presence, alas, indicates that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans on this. Nonetheless, this is a dumb idea, it undercuts the entire rationale for the Patriot Act, and it's a reason to be suspicious of the whole renewal enterprise. (Bumped to top).

More on the Patriot Act here.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Glenn -- not for attribution, because of my position, please.

As a lobbyist with a passing involvement in anti-meth legislation, attaching the Combat Meth Act to the Patriot Act does not represent "mission creep" of the Patriot Act. Sponsors of the Combat Meth Act had been looking for several months for an appropriate -- i.e., popular and bound-to-pass -- bill to attach their provisions to in order to speed passage. The Patriot Act reauthorization is the vehicle, but not the impetus. Anyway, it's SOP, for better or worse.

My trouble with the Combat Meth Act is that state legislatures have been enacting their own anti-meth laws, reflecting local wisdom, experience and policy choices. Passage of a federal bill preempts those decisions. The feds get into the act because fighting meth is politically popular, not because the new law is particulary well-considered.

Well, yes. It's another piece of dumb symbolic legislation aimed at getting incumbents reelected. And I realize that attaching a dumb bill to a bill that's sure to pass so that people don't make as much of an issue of its dumbness is standard operating procedure. But bills about the war, in a time of war, call for a degree of self-discipline that's lacking here.

UPDATE: Jeralyn Merritt is also unimpressed.

IS CITIZEN JOURNALISM TAKING OFF? "After the London bombings this past summer, apparently the BBC received about 1,000 images from the public. After this weekend's oil depot explosion, they received well over 6,000." Read the whole thing. More here.

DAVID ADESNIK calls on President Bush to take a tougher line in favor of Egyptian democracy. I agree.

I'M SHOCKED, SHOCKED, to see the E.U. misrepresenting things.

SIMON WORLD is covering the Hong Kong WTO conference. And here's a Reuters roundup.

VARIOUS PEOPLE wonder why I haven't blogged about the Republican Party's new "white flag" commercial on the war. I dunno -- I watched it, but I didn't have a lot to say about it. I guess I agree with Ann Althouse that it's "very powerful and effective," though honestly I'd give it about an 8/10 overall. But, you know, sometimes I just don't blog about things because I don't have anything terribly interesting to say about them, and this is one of those times. Sorry -- no deeper meaning than that.

FROM LISTENING TO THE COMMERCIALS on Talk Radio, one thing I know is that it's always a good time to buy gold. But Econbrowser has a lot of reasons why a gold standard isn't as great as some people suggest. (Via Megan McArdle).

CALIFORNIA is reportedly unprepared for a tsunami: "The bleak study being released Monday found gaps in the state's readiness to handle a tsunami, including flaws in the existing warning system, lack of evacuation plans by coastal communities, and building codes that don't take into account tsunami-strength surges. In addition, many residents are unaware of the potential danger of tsunami waves and wouldn't know how to respond, the report said."

JUDITH KLINGHOFFER looks at the poll of Iraqi attitudes I linked earlier, and observes:

When asked what would be the worse thing that could happen to Iraq in the next 12 months, only 8.9% chose "occupation not leaving Iraq."

When asked what would be the best thing that could happen to Iraq in the next 12 months, only 5.7% chose American forces leaving Iraq.

One thing is sure, American media fails to reflect the reality reflected in this poll.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Pierce Wetter has done some helpful pie charts.

THE CARNIVAL OF TRIBUTE is a new obituary blog.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER has denied clemency for Tookie Williams.

UPDATE: Reactions rounded up here.

BEHOLD THE POWER OF THIS FULLY OPERATIONAL BLOGOSPHERE -- in India! Amit Varma reports on a sting operation by Indian bloggers that has cost some parliamentarians their seats. That's pretty funny. Sepia Mutiny has more.

UPDATE: Reader Ravikiran Rao emails:

Much as we bloggers would like to take credit for this, the blogosphere's involvement in this is only peripheral. The sting was carried out by a media outfit called Cobrapost (www.cobrapost.com) which you'll notice, looks a lot like Drudge report. But it is no blog. They aren't exactly mainstream media either. The best description would be "Internet journalists". They've done gutsy things earlier too when they were running a webzine called Tehelka, when they exposed corruption in defence deals.

The only connection to the blogosphere is that one of the trainees reporters involved in the whole episode is a prominent blogger (Shivam Vij - www.shivamvij.com) and all indications are that the hilarious question planted - one involving blogs -was his idea.

I stand corrected.

SADDAM'S TRIAL, THE RULE OF LAW, ETC.: I'll be having an online discussion with Austin Bay, Kenneth Anderson of the Law of War Blog, Jim Bennett of Albion's Seedlings, David Corn, and Omar of Iraq the Model. Starts in just a couple of minutes.

YOU COULD WRITE A BOOK ABOUT DUMB ETHICS LAWS -- and I have! -- but this seems particularly stupid even by the relaxed standards applicable to Congress:

But the Senate had a different idea, Even before he was sworn in, Dr. Coburn was handed a letter from the Senate Ethics Committee chairman informing him that he cold not "receive compensation for practicing a profession which involves a fiduciary relationship." The fact that Dr. Coburn wouldn't have made any financial gain from delivering babies was immaterial. Ethics member Craig Thomas, a Wyoming Republican, summed up the committee's stance: "When you go into Congress, that's your job. When you come here, this is your commitment." . . .

As for the notion that Mr. Coburn will be corrupted by having his expenses delivering babies compensated, it's common practice for senators to be whisked away, all expenses paid, to exotic locales where they give speeches to special-interest groups. Sen. Coburn is clearly no slouch when it comes to keeping his nose to the grindstone. Even though he has maintained a part-time medical practice so far this year, he has written 10 bills and 72 amendments and presided over a dozen committee hearings.

Read the whole thing.

THE VOTING IN IRAQ HAS BEGUN: Iraqi blogger Omar has a report, with photos, posted.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has much more.

HALEY BARBOUR CALL YOUR OFFICE: More on the Maye case from Mississippi, over at GlennReynolds.com.

CARNIVAL OF THE DIGITAL CAMERAS: I'm going to host one. Put up your digital-camera posts and send me a link by Tuesday night -- with the subject line "Digital Camera Carnival" or it may get buried -- and I'll put together a post on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, people are asking me questions about digital cameras. I've loved the photos from my Nikon D70 (now replaced by the D70s model) but I've had autofocus problems with mine, though that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon. There's also a battery recall, which kind of bugs me -- I bought Nikon because I expected high reliability. If you're starting fresh, without any legacy lenses, you may want to go with Canon instead as they seem to have had fewer problems.

Sticking with Nikon for the moment, for most people I think the cheaper D50 is good a choice, and you can put the savings toward more lenses. If you like Canon, you can't go wrong with the Digital Rebel or the fancier EOS 20D.

Among compact cameras, the Sony DSC-W7 is 7 megapixels, shoots video, and uses AA batteries. I believe it's what Pajamas Media is sending its correspondents in Iraq and elsewhere. It's pretty much the newer, fancier version of the Sony I've used for blog pix and video.

Going cheaper (under $200), this Samsung camera looks really cool: 5 megapixels, 30fps full-frame video -- with stabilization -- and even in-camera video editing. All for under $200. I haven't used one, but on paper at least, it looks like the perfect blog-journalism camera: Capable, small, and cheap enough that you're not afraid to take it out and use it. (It uses AA batteries, too, which I favor since if the rechargeables die you can pretty much always find AA alkalines).

Well, that's my advice for now. But let's put the blogosphere to work and see what other people say -- send those carnival entries in!

SALON'S CARY TENNIS TALKS REVOLUTION:

At a certain point in the near future, if the current oligarchy cannot be removed via the ballot, direct political action may become an urgent and compelling mission. It may then be necessary for many people in many walks of life to put their bodies on the line. For the moment, however, although pressing and profound questions have arisen about whether the current government is even legitimate, i.e., properly elected, there still remains a chance to remove this government peacefully in the 2008 election. (Or am I living in a dream world?)

I do think this regime's removal is the most urgent matter before the country today. . . . This is all terrible and rather fantastic to contemplate. But what assurances have we that it is not all quite plausible? Having discarded the principles that Jefferson & Co. espoused, the current regime seems capable of anything. I know that my imagination is a feverish instrument. But are we not living in feverish times, in times of the unthinkable?

"Feverish," indeed. Apparently, Tennis is ready to join a militia, since he's saying the kind of stuff they were saying in 1995.

My advice: you could try something radical like winning elections instead of losing them, by putting forward candidates capable of attracting support from a majority of the electorate. But that would require a commitment to democracy, something that seems rather weak in this piece.

UPDATE: More on Cary Tennis's remarks from Ace of Spades:

when disaffected, no-account fantasy-race-warriors joined militia movements in the nineties, the media was all a-twitter at this dangerous threat to our nation's stability. Nevermind that the movement was decidedly fringe and small, and that a lot of the people involved weren't particularly hard-core politically. They just liked running around the woods with guns (which, I have to admit, sounds kind of fun).

But when mainstream left-liberals write of violent revolution in not-at-all-fringe left-liberal magazines, no one in the media seems particularly bothered.

Suggesting they're not bothered by the idea of violent revolution, so long as the right people wind up with their backs up against the wall.

Well, and Salon readers usually don't own guns. More commentary from Rob Port: "This would also explain their willingness to undermine any sort of progress in Iraq with overly negative reporting and a total refusal to acknowledge the progress made there and the positive implications that progress has for the whole region. Because if removing the current regime is the most pressing issue for them right now what does losing a little war in Iraq matter?"

Clayton Cramer notes the unarmed-revolution irony: "What are they going to use? Super Soakers?"

Well, the potato guns are sold out! (To be fair, Tennis at some points seems to be advocating Gandhiesque nonviolent resistance, though in other places he seems to be advocating more violent means. It's a bit of a muddle.)

Finally, Ed Morrissey offers a short refresher on the Constitution and regime change:

First, let me state the obvious. George Bush and his "regime" will be out the door on January 20, 2009. Bush cannot run for a third term in office, and Dick Cheney is as likely to run as he is to get elected -- in other words, almost no chance at all. Even middle-school students know that Presidents can only serve two terms.

It's not about thinking, it's about feeling. Me, I'm almost sorry that my "Salon Sexwatch" periodic mockery drove Tennis into writing about other stuff.

MORE: Jonah Goldberg offers thoughts on "regime change."

And Bill Peschel notes the difference between real and faux repression.

PUBLIUS has more on Lebanon's latest pro-Syrian assassination. "The pattern of car bombings has always been apparent. They all target anti-Syrian leaders mainly from the Christian and Sunni communities." More here.

SOME RATHER PROMISING POLL DATA FROM IRAQ, though the news isn't all rosy.

MORE BLACK FAMILIES, reportedly, are home-schooling. Kind of ties in with this post by Shavar Jeffries from last week.

IS IT THE DEATH OF TRADITIONAL BOOK PUBLISHING? Some interesting thoughts.

What's also interesting is that this blog post is by Michael Hyatt, who's president of my publisher Nelson Current's parent company, Thomas Nelson (which also published Hugh Hewitt's book, Blog) and I didn't know he had a blog until an InstaPundit reader sent me a link.

I think that paper book technology is still hard to beat -- much as I love Charles Stross, I didn't much enjoy reading his Accelerando on the computer and liked it much better when I reread it in paper form -- but that's book-delivery technology. The overall apparatus of book-publishing, and distribution, on the other hand, is in for some big changes. Actual books will be around for at least ten years, I'd guess, and maybe longer.

MICHAEL SILENCE: "Memo to Target: You have a bunch of check-out counters. Open them up!"

POTATO GUNS: A full report, plus some thoughts on why kids are fat, from the Insta-Wife.

IS MCCAIN winning over conservatives?

MORE SYDNEY BEACH RIOTS: It's like Paris Down Under.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: "I hate to say this a mere week before my wife will join me in Beirut, but the car bombs have started again. This time Gebran Tueni was murdered in a town called Mekalis above Beirut. Of course he was anti-Syrian. And of course he was a journalist."

TECHCENTRALSTATION is now TCS Daily, to reflect its focus on Technology, Commerce, and Society. There's a new look, too.

MAYE CASE UPDATE: Radley Balko has done a lot more reporting on this case of a no-knock raid tragically bungled. If you missed the earlier posts, read this one first.

December 11, 2005

TECH QUESTIONS: First, is the Video iPod really as good as Warren Bell says it is? I mean, he's a TV guy and everything, but still ...

Second, I'd like to interview people by phone for podcasts. Is one of the various computer-based VOIP setups -- e.g., Skype, Vonage, Google Talk, etc. -- easier to use? I'd like to call people on Skype or whatever, record the results to a .wav file, then edit it in Adobe Audition. Will Skype or whatever let you record your calls, or are there third-party solutions to do that? (Is it reWire compatible?)

And is there something that makes it easy to do the same kind of thing with video, to create a video podcast? I've been meaning to research this, but why not cut out the middleman and ask you folks . . . .

UPDATE: Spoons emails:

It's every bit as good as you've heard. There are other machines that might be better pure video devices, but iPod is hands down the best MP3 player around, due largely to its integration with the phenomenal iTunes. With the ever-expanding library of video and TV offerings there, not to mention some fantastic video podcasts, there's plenty of video content available. While flying to Texas for Frank J and Sarah K's wedding, I watched the entire first season of "The Office", one of several shows available through iTunes.

As for the gadget itself, the screen is phenomenal. It's incredibly bright, clear, and crisp. It's also amazingly easy to watch a screen of that size, even for semi-extended periods of time. If you're already familar with iPods, you know the controls are simple and intuitive.

I bought the 60GB version not because I think I'll ever fill more than 30 gigs, but because the battery life is significantly better. Video does suck juice quickly, but even on the 30 you ought to be able to get about 2 hours. I can get at least 3 with the 60. Of course, if you stick to music, the battery will last much longer.

If you're tempted to buy the video iPod -- buy it. You won't be disappointed.

Dang. I was afraid of that. And Rob Port emails:

First, the video iPod is amazing. My girlfriend and I got each other one (using my PJ Media money) for Christmas. Its my first iPod, and I'm blown way. I wasn't sure I'd like watching video on the small screen, but its actually pretty good. And hooking the iPod up to my TV is even better. The picture is about what you'd get over an antenna. Perfectly acceptable.

As for podcasting using Skype, I've been using a program called Mix Cast Live to record my podcasts with a state Rep. here in ND over Google Talk. It works pretty great. A little bit of echo on the person I'm calling's end, but that doesn't show up on the recording and can be minimized by adjusting volume. It works good. Not broadcast quality, but good enough for my purposes.

Thanks.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Don Wolff sends a link to this review from G4TV -- they like the Creative Zen Vision better in many ways.

MORE: Evan Coyne Maloney emails:

You ask: "is the Video iPod really as good as Warren Bell says it is?"

One word answer: YES!!!

Also, as a provider of video content, I am impressed with how easy it is to add video podcasts to the iTunes Music Store. There's a little bit of a wait before the entry appears, but other than submitting the podcast URL and picking a category for it, you really don't have to do anything. As someone with virtually zero musical talent, it is pretty cool to be able to type your name into the iTunes Music Store and see a listing come up.

Very cool. I'm weakening . . . . Especially as Ian Schwartz emails:

By the way, about the video iPod. I got one about 2 weeks ago and am extremely happy with it. I just ordered a nice skin at www.iskin.com, which I strongly suggest getting if you like to keep your product clean. I used to own an iPod, an old one, and the back of [the metal part] is stained with every finger print on it. Also, tonight I just got this program that lets you convert .wmv to .mp4 (the file type that is used to put video on an iPod) .. so now with videos I put on my site, I put a download link for .mp4 so people can put video on their iPod. Pretty cool if you ask me.

So, basically, all the cool video guys like it.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING REPORT:

Saddam Hussein loyalists who violently opposed January elections have made an about-face as Thursday's polls near, urging fellow Sunni Arabs to vote and warning al Qaeda militants not to attack.

In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find. . . .

But Saddam loyalists have turned against Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant whose fighters travel to Iraq from across the Arab world to blow themselves up in a bid to spark sectarian civil war.

"Zarqawi is an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation," said a Baathist insurgent leader who would give his name only as Abu Abdullah.

Well, dang. They've finally figured that out. Next they'll catch on that Al Jazeera is a CIA front . . . .

But this can't be making Zawahiri very happy:

Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri said the global Islamic community had "no hope for victory" until all Muslims signed on to the al-Qaida-led jihad.

Oops. Sorry, pal.

Much more on what's going on among the various factions in Iraq can be found in this piece from StrategyPage, which has been noting this split for a while.

UPDATE: More bad news for Zawahiri: "Moderate Muslim clerics in about half a million mosques across Bangladesh on Friday preached that suicide bombers are the enemy of Islam." Heh. Indonesia isn't looking so good for him either: "Volunteers from Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation will guard churches across the world's most populous Muslim nation on Christmas amid fears of terrorist attacks on those places, the group said on Friday."

Did I say "heh?" Well, I'll say it again. Heh.


A PACK, NOT A HERD:

A Mexican national is in federal custody in Honolulu after witnesses said he threatened a sleeping baby and lunged toward the cockpit during a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu Saturday night.

Passengers arriving on Saturday night's Northwest Airlines flight told authorities they were scared when Santiago Lol Tizol, 37, raged through the aisles, ignoring the flight crew and threatening to kill the baby.

He was believed to have been traveling alone, authorities told KITV-TV in Honolulu.

Passengers tackled and restrained Tizol when he lunged toward the cockpit.

Another air-safety success, without the involvement of the Homeland Security folks.

CATHY SEIPP offers advice to the L.A. Times: "Staff writers at The Times often turn in very little copy (one story a week is not atypical), which means some are getting paid around $2,000 per mediocre, grudging piece. Wouldn't it be better to spend that money on freelancers (or bloggers!) who, if they can't work themselves up into something worth reading, don't get paid? Let the heads roll, I say."

Read the whole thing. It certainly seems clear that bloggers know more about the L.A. Times than the L.A. Times knows about bloggers . . .

UPDATE: Meanwhile, way back in 2001, Matt Welch was writing:

What I mean to say is that there's a new wind blowing, friends, and people who have been domesticated in mono-daily newsrooms these past 30 years will not be the ones to detect it first. . . .

It's not just a question of underappreciated genius anymore. Something has been going on these past three months (not to mention the five years before that), yet 95% of large media companies – especially monopolist newspapers – seem utterly ignorant of it, or at best powerless to react to it. Have you ever been the hiring man at a newspaper? I have, twice. One of the fundamental duties of that job, it seems to me, is to be hyper-aware of the talent fermenting in your own back yard, and nimble enough to make room for it on your staff. Think that happens at any dominant newspaper in the country? This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we mean by the term "uncompetitive industry."

And yet, they still haven't learned.

MORE: Reader Michael Gebert emails:

I think you're being unfair to staff writers at the LA Times. If Mickey Kaus is right about the layers of editors at that paper, writers may only write one piece a week, but I'd bet they write it ten times before it runs.

Glad I don't own stock.

GATEWAY PUNDIT has photos and video from the Dongzhou massacre in China.

THE MEANING OF "GOOD NEWS:" Phil Bowermaster does some research and learns some things about the press.

RACE RIOTS IN SYDNEY: (Via NewsAlert).

Tim Blair has much more.

UPDATE: Bill Quick has a question.

THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!

TOM MAGUIRE looks at Viveca Novak's tale.

THE POTATO GUNS arrived yesterday. I'll post a report later.

UPDATE: A smashing success. I wish you could have seen the Insta-Wife and Insta-Daughter chasing each other around and giggling.

TIGERHAWK looks at the geopolitical significance of the Miss World contest.

MORE MEMORIES OF RICHARD PRYOR. And Bill Quick remembers Eugene McCarthy.

FROM CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES THIS MORNING:

On the media and U.S. v. insurgent propaganda

[UPI CORRESPONDENT] PAM HESS: If there's a criticism to be made of the American media…[it] is that we are quite vigilant about U.S. propaganda. We are less so about insurgent propaganda. The 24-hour news cycle feeds into that, but we don't quite know what to do with the information that they send us, so it becomes he said-she said reporting.

It's not online yet, but they emailed it to me.

UPDATE: It's online now, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ian Schwartz has video.

GEORGE WILL on law schools and the Solomon Amendment:

A striking alteration of America's political landscape since 1960 has been the marginalization -- actually, the self-marginalization -- of the professoriate. An inhospitable campus climate has prompted the growth of public policy think tanks and publications that sustain a conservative intelligentsia that helps elect and staff conservative administrations. And faculties have adopted increasingly adversarial stances toward an increasingly conservative public and its institutions.

Today's schools bristle with moral principles that they urge upon the -- so they think -- benighted society beyond their gates. But as Roberts blandly reminded the schools regarding their desire to bar military recruiters: "You are perfectly free to do that, if you don't take the money."

Somehow it makes me think of Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters:

Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*.

Too many people in academia don't seem to realize that the money has to come from somewhere. And you hear people talk about how academia needs to adopt an "adversarial stance" toward the larger culture, without thinking much about why the larger culture would want to pay for that.

KOS TAKES A BOLD STAND AGAINST AFFIRMATIVE ACTION and in favor of pure merit.

Hey, maybe he really is the voice of moderation in today's Democratic Party . . . .

THE TROUBLE WITH THIS REPORT is that you have to ask yourself: Would you have relied on the French?

More importantly, the persistence of the whole issue demonstrates the colossal folly of the Bush Administration's effort to take the United Nations seriously in 2002, something that -- like Bush's failure to fire a lot of people at the CIA following 9/11 -- has led to considerable grief and no discernible benefit.

UPDATE: On the "would you have relied on the French?" point, reader Betsy Gorisch emails: "Well, that's one trouble with the report. The other trouble with it is, why would you believe them about it now?"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader George Gooding emails:

If the French knew in 2001 and 2002 that the Niger reports were baseless, why was the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Nonproliferation telling the United States on November 22, 2002 (per the SSCI report) that they had intelligence showing that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Niger?

For more on this, and some pertinent questions that need to be answered Link

There are a lot of questions.

OIL DEPOT EXPLODES IN BRITAIN: Here's a big roundup, and Sean Hackbarth has more, including photos.

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