Archive for August, 2003

August 31, 2003

JOHN MCCAIN:

America’s mission in Iraq is too important to fail. Given the stakes, we cannot launch this “generational commitment” to changing the Middle East on the cheap. The administration should level with the American people about the cost and commitment required to transform Iraq.

Americans must understand how important this mission is and be prepared to sacrifice to achieve it. Without an intensive campaign now to explain what is at stake and absent the necessary political and financial commitment, we raise the potential for a defeat that will deal a lasting blow to American interests and freedom’s progress.

Having liberated Iraq, we must demonstrate the tangible benefits of occupation, which the Iraqi silent majority will tolerate if it successfully delivers services, law and order and a transition to Iraqi rule. The danger is that our failure to improve daily life, security, and Iraqis’ participation in their own governance will erode their patience and fuel insurrection.

We do not have time to spare. If we do not meaningfully improve services and security in Iraq over the next few months, it may be too late. We will risk an irreversible loss of Iraqi confidence and reinforce the efforts of extremists who seek our defeat and threaten Iraq’s democratic future.

This isn’t news to the blogosphere, of course, but it’s nice to see that both John McCain and Howard Dean get it. That substantially shrinks the cut-and-run constituency, I’d imagine. McCain is, of course, right about the importance of what’s going on in Iraq. What’s frustrating is that the reporting from there is simultaneously biased and incomplete, for reasons already elaborated all over the blogosphere. But that’s a real disservice, given the importance of the situation.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

You link to McCain’s speech sounding the call for openness about the cost, in time and money, of the war on terror. Then you say this is no news to the blogosphere. Is it your belief that Bush has failed to get this message across? Is the blogosphere really so savvy that it’s the only group of people who can understand the president’s message? I know I’ve heard him mention many times that it will take years and billions. I also know that I’ve heard liberal pundits pretending that, far from having said that, Bush has instead said it will be quick and cheap. It’s dishonest for McCain to speechify as if that was actually the case.

What I found interesting was the commitment to staying the course, not the sniping at the Administration. I agree that Bush has made plain (at least to those who actually listen to the speeches) that this will be a long and expensive struggle. It’s interesting to note, though, that to the extent Bush’s critics are moved to go after him on these grounds, they’re forced into a position of hawkishnes.

August 31, 2003

LOOKING BACKWARD: Bruce Hill has a conversation with a descendant. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

August 31, 2003

IS CALIFORNIA THE NEW EUROPE? This raises troubling issues.

UPDATE: Los Angeles reader D. Spangler emails:

Actually, Glenn, I think California is on a fast-track to becoming the “old Europe.” And therein lies the problem … and why I am counting the days until I can make my escape from this place!

Good point. Say, perhaps Davis should build a wall to keep them in. . . . Most were educated at state expense — it’s not fair for them to take their expertise elsewhere!

August 31, 2003

THIS COULD BE A BOMBSHELL:

When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where “two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces,” pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.

Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, “his reaction was not fear, but utter relief.” Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, “tell you what to do.” The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd’s and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002. To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden triangle.

Zubaydah, writes Posner, said the Saudi connection ran through Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom’s longtime intelligence chief. Zubaydah said bin Laden “personally” told him of a 1991 meeting at which Turki agreed to let bin Laden leave Saudi Arabia and to provide him with secret funds as long as al-Qaeda refrained from promoting jihad in the kingdom. The Pakistani contact, high-ranking air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir, entered the equation, Zubaydah said, at a 1996 meeting in Pakistan also attended by Zubaydah. Bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (isi), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was “blessed by the Saudis.”

As I’ve said before, they’re not our friends. Assuming that it’s true, this would seem to support that.

UPDATE: Hmm. This is interesting, too:

Paramilitary forces on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan have arrested an Iraqi national suspected of links to the shadowy al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, a senior security official said on Sunday.

Hmm. Meanwhile Tim Blair asks:

By the way, where are all the Western protests about foreign forces invading Iraq in order to kill innocent Iraqi civilians?

Missing in action, as usual.

UPDATE: Fred Pruitt has some incisive comments over at Rantburg.

MORE: There’s this report from Pakistan:

Pakistan’s army confirmed yesterday that several officers have been arrested on suspicion of being linked to Islamic extremist groups.

The move will raise renewed fears that the security organs of Pakistan, a nuclear power and important Western ally in the war on terrorism, have been infiltrated by allies of the former Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan is almost important a source of Islamist fundamentalism as Saudi Arabia.

August 31, 2003

A NICE TOUCH: I mentioned liking the new Simpsons Third Season DVD earlier — but here’s something I like about it that’s relevant to all sorts of other things: the DVD menu design.

The temptation in setting up DVDs is to create fancy, creative menus. (And it’s a temptation I’m aware of now that I can author ‘em myself). And those are cool and impressive for about 30 seconds after you open the DVD, after which they’re usually a pain.

The new Simpsons’ release has a selection that basically lets you play each disc from beginning to end, like a video tape, without having to deal with menus. That’s a great idea, and all DVDs should have that option, easy to implement and up front. Or maybe all DVD players should have it.

August 31, 2003

MICKEY KAUS is all over the Bustamante / MEChA story:

Is the L.A. Times a) “objectively’ reporting on a campaign controversy or b) bending over backwards to exonerate Latino activists, either out of political correctness, or because it’s terrified of alienating a large group of potential readers, or as part of its near-monolithic Bustamante-boosting coverage? You make the call! … Would the Times show similar tolerance for, say, an anti-bilingual site that reprinted a document containing the slogan, “For Anglos, Everything. For non-Anglos, Nothing”?”

But that’s different, because, well, it just is, okay?

August 31, 2003

JOHN SCALZI has figured out that Wi-Fi at home is a huge productivity booster:

At the moment, I’m writing this in Athena’s room, on the floor the computer propped up on my lap; Athena is behind me on her bed making up a Powerpuff adventure. Three weeks ago I would have to be in my office to type this and Athena would be coming in about every six seconds to ask me something or to ask me to do something or whatever, which means I would actually have a difficult time getting work done when she was around; now she’s happy to let me work because I have proximity to her. . . .

Interestingly, this also works with Krissy; she’s more content to let me do work if I’m in line of sight. There’s a real psychological difference between being in the office all the time, away from the family while I’m doing work, and being in the room, doing work while the family is doing stuff around me.

Being in the room on wireless is more like reading a book, which nobody minds; being in your office is more like work.

August 31, 2003

TACITUS IS TRACKING CRUZ BUSTAMANTE’S DODGES regarding the MEChA story.

The mainstream media have largely ignored this, making very clear that there’s a serious double-standard where racist organizations are concerned.

August 31, 2003

THIS IS INTERESTING: A reader from Iraq emails that the U.S. authorities are distributing leaflets offering rewards for turning in saboteurs. Apparently, some Iraqis have added a sticker reading as follows (translated):

Iraq is for Iraqis

Arab national should leave Iraq

If they don’t they will bear the consequences

The Iraqi people won’t tolerate their remaining here.

Gee, you think this mosque-bombing stuff could be backfiring?

August 30, 2003

MORE UNILATERALISM:

Eleven years after France signed the Maastricht Treaty it has decided it has had enough of its obligations. The straitjacket of the stability pact, which paved the way for the euro, is bound too tight for an economic downturn, it has told Brussels.

So instead of suffering for the common European good, President Chirac has decided to bust out, to let his deficits soar and try to spend his way to an economic recovery.

It is hard to know what lesson Sweden is to draw from this as it prepares to vote on Sept 14 on whether to start using the euro. Is every country that uses the single currency allowed to behave like this?

Of course not. Only those indispensable nations at the center of the Empire Union.

August 30, 2003

ED DRISCOLL OFFERS A DELIGHTFUL APPRECIATION OF LES PAUL, over at BlogCritics.

August 30, 2003

TOM MAGUIRE HAS THE DEMOCRATIC TICKET COVERED:

OK, dream ticket – Dean-Clark? The fiscally responsible / socially irresponsible Governor, the General, two guys that gun nuts could love – why not?

Well, it beats Kucinich-Sharpton! Meanwhile David Adesnik has more over at Oxblog, where he’s winning praise from Kevin Drum for his vivid prose.

UPDATE: Jim Henley thinks that libertarians might bolt the Republican party for the right Democratic ticket. He may be right. Bush hasn’t exactly stood for small government — and yeah, I know, there’s a war on, but the war, ironically, is where the big-spending tendencies seem to be most restrained — and while he hasn’t been any worse than Clinton on civil liberties other than gun rights, he hasn’t been much better, and the gun-rights talk has mostly been just that, talk.

August 30, 2003

I’M NOT SURE THAT I WOULD HAVE MADE THIS CONNECTION, but Josh Claybourn writes that Mel Gibson’s movie proves that the motion picture industry is heading in the same direction as the record industry.

August 30, 2003

MORE BILL O’REILLY NONSENSE ABOUT THE INTERNET: O’Reilly seems awfully worried about Internet accusations. Even true ones.

August 30, 2003

THE BA’ATH / AL QAEDA CONNECTION is looking pretty strong:

NAJAF, Iraq – Iraqi police have arrested four men in connection with the bombing of Iraq (news – web sites)’s holiest Shiite Muslim shrine, and all have links to al-Qaida, a senior police official told The Associated Press on Saturday. . . .

The police official said the men arrested after the attack claimed the recent bombings were designed to keep Iraq in a state of chaos so that police and American forces would be unable to focus attention on the country’s porous borders, across which suspected foreign fighters are said to be infiltrating.

The four men arrived in Najaf three days before the bombing and were staying with a friend who did not know their intentions, the official said.

American officials believe militants from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran are infiltrating Iraq to attack Western interests.

Meanwhile, it appears that it’s not just the Blogosphere that is suspicious of Al Jazeera activities in Iraq:

A defence official in Washington, who asked not to be named, said two people who had identified themselves as journalists working for Al Jazeera had been detained.

He said an investigation was underway as to why they were in the area and whether they were really journalists.

“They had videotape of the attack, and tape of a possible earlier attack,” the official said.

“An investigation will determine whether they were journalists and were legitimately covering the news.”

Given Al Jazeera’s friendly relations with — and outright spying for — Saddam, it wouldn’t be surprising to find terrorists or agents of hostile Arab governments operating under Al Jazeera cover.

UPDATE: Tacitus has a number of observations on the mosque bombing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Maybe I should have just said “Advantage: Adragna.” Meanwhile Tom Maguire has noticed a Rumsfeld comment on “flypaper.”

August 29, 2003

JEFF JARVIS:

The anti-Fox craze also reveals (pardon my standard screed here) an essential snobbiness to the left these days. The left used to be the people’s cause, the Democratic party the people’s party. But with the age of disapproving, PC snips, the left became a culture of snobs. Labor ties aside, they look down upon the mall masses. And that’s why they don’t understand the popularity of Fox and its balls-out opinions. That’s why theirs has become a smaller movement.

Indeed.

August 29, 2003

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON WRITES that an American success in Iraq will threaten a lot of people. “Most nations and institutions will see themselves as losers should we succeed.”

That’s okay. We see them as losers already!

And speaking of losers, Mark Steyn writes that the secret to success in Iraq is keeping the UN out. That’s the secret of success in most things. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Peter Ingemi expands on Hanson’s point:

Here is my theory:

Our Islamist friends know (as the CSA did in 64′) that they won’t be able to beat us in the field and what they are doing in Iraq is only postponing the day of reckoning.

In addition the Saudis, Syrians, Iranians, North Koreans know that if there is a Bush 2nd term that it will be the end of their way of life.

Islamists have already declared Bush the world’s greatest foe of Islam. Unless Lieberman wins the nomination these people will POUR money into the campaign. And if HILLARY runs expect even more cash in that direction.

These people know it is their best shot to stop us, so watch the money roll in.

Just my theory. Cynical isn’t it?

Yep. But a reason for enterprising journalists and bloggers to pay close attention to campaign donors.

Robert Dean has more thoughts: “What a sad commentary on the state of humanity at the dawn of the Third Millenium, that creating freedom and prosperity in a formerly oppressed nation should evoke such widespread opposition.”

UPDATE: But this is encouraging. Plenty of people do want to see Iraq free and prosperous.

August 29, 2003

WANT TO SPICE UP YOUR BLOG SELECTION? Check out the selection of Indian blogs featured at this week’s Blog Mela. If you’re reading the same old blogs day in and day out, drop by — you may find some new blogs worth bookmarking.

August 29, 2003

ROBERT TAGORDA WONDERS if Cruz Bustamante isn’t using the MEChA issue to energize Latino voters.

Hmm. Makes the parallel to race-baiting Southern politicians of previous generations all the stronger, doesn’t it? Bustamante may indeed be trying to use racism in an effort to win election. The question is, why are the Democrats going along? The answer, I guess, is that they care more about winning than they do about racism.

UPDATE: Charles Austin makes a Vietnam analogy.

August 29, 2003

DAVID ADESNIK IS DEFENDING HOWARD DEAN FROM THE LIBERAL MEDIA. No, really.

I spoke the other night with a friend in Nashville who’s quite well-wired in Democratic circles. He thinks that Dean is likely to win the nomination, and that he can give Bush a tough ride in the election. He may be right.

August 29, 2003

AMERICA WON: Heh. (More here, via The Corner).

August 29, 2003

ROD DREHER WONDERS why the media are more interested in Arnold’s 25-year-old consensual sex than with Cruz Bustamante’s present-day embrace of an openly racist organization.

August 29, 2003

MOSQUE BOMBING: Hmm. I wonder if any Al Jazeera people were around?

August 29, 2003

ARNOLD KLING HAS SOME THOUGHTS on the need for diversity training in academia.

August 29, 2003

WINDS OF CHANGE OFFERS THE TRENT TELENKO I-TOLD-YOU-SO ROUNDUP on the Air Force Academy scandals, which look to be quite bad.

I was out there to give a speech something over ten years ago, and the place seemed very nice. Maybe it was, then, or maybe the problems just didn’t show. The challenge will be to clean house without crippling the place.

The lesson is — and should be — that it’s a lot easier to deal with these problems early on than to let them fester and then clean up the resulting mess.

August 29, 2003

AN OSAMA DEAL? I’m deeply skeptical, but here’s the link.

August 29, 2003

JAMES LILEKS is offering some, er, creative approaches to North Korea.

UPDATE: Here are more Korea links, and don’t miss the Free North Korea blog. And, of course, if you’re interested in Korean goings-on, the Marmot is a must-visit.

August 29, 2003

MICKEY KAUS, who’s all over the California recall, has a lot of interesting stuff. And he agrees with RealClearPolitics that Davis’s goose isn’t quite cooked yet. I guess Mickey feels he has to do a good job covering this topic to make up for missing the real scoop of the year.

August 29, 2003

OH, THAT LIBERAL MEDIA: Cathy Seipp captures a delightful example:

Still, the murmurs of pretty much blanket disapproval I’d been hearing from colleagues about Chetwynd’s doing the movie did come to a head during one truly absurd exchange:

Question: “You did contribute to [Bush's] campaign?”

Chetwynd: “Yeah, the limit was $1,000…Would it make a better film if I’d given $1,000 to Gore?”

Question: “Yes.”

“Chetwynd: “Why?”

“Question: “Because it would show less potential bias.”

The questioner was absolutely serious. If you donate money to Bush, you’re biased towards Bush, but if you’d donated money to Gore you wouldn’t be biased AGAINST Bush. Supporting Gore is just the normal default position, as everyone knows. Chaw! I actually think that sometimes the liberal-media-baiters can be a little obsessive. This wasn’t one of those times.

Heh. I guess not.

August 28, 2003

JEFF JARVIS SAYS that people should expect wi-fi at the Republican and Democratic conventions!

I agree. It’s either that, or admit that our political parties aren’t even up to fast food standards.

August 28, 2003

BUSTAMANTE WON’T RENOUNCE MECHA: Hey, Strom Thurmond’s dead, and Trent Lott apologized, but we’ve still got at least one public official who’s not afraid to associate with racist groups!

August 28, 2003

IT’S KIND OF LATE FOR THIS INVESTIGATION:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The FBI internal affairs office is investigating the crime lab’s chief of scientific analysis about his conduct in the Oklahoma City bombing case, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The Associated Press reported last spring that a transcript of a Justice Department interview showed that FBI scientific analysis unit chief Steven Burmeister initially had alleged in 1995 that his lab colleagues performed shoddy work in Timothy McVeigh’s case, but then retracted several statements before appearing as a prosecution witness at the trial. . . .

The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates allegations against agents, recently opened an internal investigation into Burmeister’s conduct in the McVeigh case, including his recantation, according to persons familiar with the investigation.

One of Burmeister’s former colleagues said the FBI internal affairs office had contacted him in the past month.

Stay tuned.

August 28, 2003

JOE USER wonders if we should want the world to like us. He says it’s worked out badly in the past. . . .

August 28, 2003

RAND SIMBERG HAS AN ARTICLE in National Review Online on the post-Columbia space program.

UPDATE: And he’s got more on the subject over at FoxNews.com. Both pieces are must-reads if you’re interested in the subject. Or even if you’re not!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Burch has some thoughts, too.

August 28, 2003

“ONE MORE DESPERATE SALVO:” There’s more on Bjorn Lomborg.

August 28, 2003

RX-8 UPDATE: Just got the same letter mentioned below, offering to repurchase the car, or to give me $500 plus free scheduled maintenance for 48 months/50,000 miles, in satisfaction for overstating the horsepower.

That’s a very handsome offer. I’m quite happy with the car, so I don’t think I’ll go for the repurchase.

August 28, 2003

I FIRST SAW THE STORY ON SAMIZDATA, but there are now news reports of a blackout in London.

August 28, 2003

NOW THAT’S, ER, CHUTZPAH: Christopher Hitchens is Fisking the Ten Commandments.

August 28, 2003

THE BBC’S CORPORATE CULTURE:

Why is the BBC so reviled at the moment then? It is all simply a matter of envy? No. Everyone knows someone richer than themselves but if that person is polite, friendly or agreeable, it doesn’t bother you.

The problem is that the BBC of today is an incredibly arrogant organisation – and that gets people’s backs up. As the BBC has grown more and more out of touch with the world around it, it has desperately clung to its culture. And that refusal to change has seen it faced with frustration and anger, which in turn has seen it tighten up in indignation.

The National Union of Journalists recently revealed that the BBC was the worst media organisation in the UK for bullying. Numerous examples of blame culture have emerged in recent years. People from outside the organisation have been appalled by the politics and cliques within the BBC. Tales abound of petulant, unpleasant, even sadistic, producers and middle-managers lashing out to disguise their all-too-real fear of discovery.

Comic of the moment Ricky Gervais said on his radio show recently that he was amazed at the number of hopeless executives within the BBC that are highly paid but don’t appear to do anything. “It makes you want to wander up to them and say ‘What do you actually do?’,” he said.

The arrogance extends throughout the organisation. . . . Unfortunately, this has led in many cases to disparate news arms of the BBC using precisely the same contacts each time. The fact that the entirety of the BBC appeared to have only source regarding the Iraq war dossiers is testament to this self-defeating approach.

Not surprising. Read the whole thing, which offers a lot of interesting background on the UK media wars.

UPDATE: This is interesting.

August 28, 2003

JAMES MILLER IDENTIFIES a case of environmental market failure, and calls for government action.

August 28, 2003

ARNOLD AND IRAQ: Roger Simon finds similarities in the media coverage of both subjects:

So we were, in essence, lied to by a nebulous, self-serving consortium of media types anxious to have us read their papers and watch their TV shows. No surprise there either—and harmless enough. In fact, they seem to have done Arnold a favor—it was so easy to prove them wrong. Not that he appears to need this. His campaign seemed like a winner from the outset and still does.

But what is far more serious is the media lying on Iraq, which is similar in its need to sell newspapers but has other reasons and consequences, which are considerably graver. These profound geo-political thinkers pretend to be shocked that a Middle Eastern country, which, as we know and have been told repeatedly, was not really a country to begin with, and which spent thirty years under the most brutal of dictators, has not been turned into the Netherlands in four months. If the issues weren’t so important, this could be the source of a great opening sketch for Saturday Night Live. (In fact it should be the opening sketch for Saturday Night Live – “Gay Marriage in Baghdad!”)

Now I know the media were aided and abetted by the President’s junior high school triumphalism on that aircraft carrier, but still this approach appears almost deliberately misleading. The endless body counts we are subject to (horrible as they may be) are scarcely shocking and miniscule by comparison to almost any wartime situation (and, yes, this is still a wartime situation and likely to be for sometime to come). In fact, if you parse those statistics you find that a great number of the deaths were accidental and not from enemy fire.

Judging by this Gallup poll, support on Iraq remains strong:

Americans are increasingly likely to say things are not going well for the United States in Iraq, but the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds no decline in the past month in public support for the U.S. presence there or in public approval of the way President Bush is handling the situation. Bush’s overall job approval rating — at 59% — is also little changed across the four Gallup Polls conducted since mid-July.

Interesting. It’s as if people weren’t paying attention to the tone of the media coverage, or something. . . .

UPDATE: Matt Welch says that the latest Schwarzenegger developments just prove that journalism was better in the seventies!

August 28, 2003

NEAL BOORTZ’S NOTES PAGE is looking more like a blog these days. I’m calling him a blogger.

August 28, 2003

THIS STORY ABOUT A CANADIAN AL QAEDA CELL hasn’t gotten as much attention as I’d expect:

TORONTO – Suspected members of a Canadian al-Qaeda sleeper cell who may have tested explosives and plotted attacks were told yesterday they will have to remain in custody for at least another month.

Immigration judges ruled there were sufficient grounds to hold the Pakistani men while counter-terrorism investigators examine 25 boxes of documents and 30 computers seized during recent raids. . . .

Members of the group were caught at the Pickering Nuclear Power plant at night, while another flew over the reactor while training at a flight school in Durham. Other members were linked to the theft of radioactive material and one had ties to a fundraising front for al-Qaeda.

Documents seized from their apartments suggested they may have been scouting Canadian landmarks such as Toronto’s CN Tower and law courts, as well as buildings in the United States.

It’s especially interesting in light of this information:

TORONTO — Several of the 19 men being probed as a possible al-Qaeda sleeper cell moved between Ontario and the United States — a fact not lost on U.S. investigators. . . .

At a detention hearing last Wednesday, a government lawyer went so far as to note that some of the men were on American soil at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., according to a hearing transcript.

Of course, about 300 million other people were in the United States on September 11. But these guys appear to have Al Qaeda connections. This would seem like bigger news to me.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Brophey sends this story, which casts some (though it’s not clear just how much) doubt on what is going on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, this editorial from the National Post suggests that Canada still isn’t taking terrorism seriously enough.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Bruce Rolston of Flit thinks this is overblown.

August 28, 2003

MERDE IN FRANCE REPORTS:

The sad part is that while the neoleftists are worshipping symbols, McDonalds is taking care of Paris’ poor. Many French retirees and low income workers go to McDonalds to buy a coffee or just a bottle of water because it is so much less expensive and they can drink it sitting down.

Hmm. Would more Paris McDonalds restaurants mean fewer heat deaths? If it saves just one life, it’s worth it!

August 28, 2003

BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT? Hard to say. But we sure enjoyed the Simpsons’ Third Season DVD last night. Not that the Frank J. rug doesn’t have its charms.

August 28, 2003

THE SAUDIS ARE THE PROBLEM:

In a fresh setback to Kremlin policy in the troubled Caucasus region, a top official in Dagestan known as an opponent of radical Islamic ideology was assassinated Wednesday, authorities said. . . .

Ali Temirbekov, a spokesman for the Dagestani prosecutor’s office, said in a telephone interview that Wahhabism was being actively exported to the region from Saudi Arabia.

“Unfortunately there are many rich people there with radical ideas and more money than they know what proper use to put it to,” he said. “So they try with their money to build a base for radical Islam in the Caucasus. Gusayev was their ideological enemy No. 1 in Dagestan, and they must have been waiting only for a suitable moment to settle their score with him.”

Aslambek Aslakhanov, an ethnic Chechen member of Russia’s lower house of parliament and a candidate in a Kremlin-sponsored Chechen presidential election in October, described the assassination as “apparently the vengeance of the Wahhabis.”

Iraq is just the first step in addressing the export of Islamic terror from Saudi Arabia.

August 27, 2003

AUSTIN BAY WRITES THAT WE’RE WINNING:

Iraq’s success has frightened autocrats throughout the Middle East. Autocrats in Taliban caves, in Iran, in Syria, fear Iraqi democracy. Coalition success in Iraq is forcing the House of Saud to choose between democratic evolution and fatal revolution.

Defeatist hotheads who natter about “root causes of terror” must understand the taproot of terror is tyranny. Theft and brutality by local dictators are the leading causes of Third World poverty. UC-Berkeley faculty resolutions don’t stop gangsters. Cutting the taproot usually requires the explicit presence and sometimes the precious lives of Western soldiers.

August has been a hot and horrid month in Baghdad. Fascist and Islamo-fascist thugs are testing the collective will of America, the Iraqi people, Britain, and their coalition allies.

There will be more wretched months. It’s war.

It’s also a war we are winning.

Meanwhile, John Hughes writes in The Christian Science Monitor that Iraq isn’t Vietnam, even though domestic critics — and Al Qaeda thugs — would like it to be.

But we knew that.

UPDATE: Read Phil Carter on body count journalism:

I do not think that death makes a good metric of success in war — or nation building — for at least three reasons. First, focusing on death as your metric of success gears every effort towards producing death, or avoiding it. That strategy is not necessarily consistent with our goals in Iraq, especially today. On the inflicting side, we do not want to inflict maximum casualties on a population that we are trying to win over. On the avoiding side, too much emphasis on casualty avoidance and force protection can frustrate a commander who is trying to accomplish his/her mission.

Too many journalists, pundits, and politicians are still stuck in the Vietnam era.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Paul Shelton emails:

I’ve been getting tired of the lame body counts, like: now MORE have died since Bush declared….as did during actual fighting.

Well, is it just me, or before the war didn’t at least a couple of those ex-generals on CNN with some kind of ax to grind with Rumsfeld make body count predictions of between 3,000 and 5,000? And that was with no mention of “occupation” or guerilla war.

Chicken-little generals lied, many fewer died.

Yes, the number is more a reflection of the astonishingly low death toll during “major combat” than of any especially high death toll during occupation.

MORE: Reader David Hurwitz emails:

Obviously, we all hate to see any Americans killed in war. But the media has focused intensely on the ‘post-war’ bodycount exceeding the bodycount during the war. But the media are missing two important points: 1) how is the bodycount compared to what was predicted before the hostilities began? Certainly as compared to the predictions of thousands to tens of thousands of American deaths, the military operations have been executed superbly. Amid all the criticism the administration and Rumsfeld are receiving, the original benchmark seems to have been lost. 2) Since the operations were executed so well, the number of American deaths during the war were extremely low. This very success has set a benchmark for post-war hostilities that is impossible to beat. Imagine a prediction that among 150,000+ peacekeepers safeguarding a previously hostile region, surrounded by currently hostile regimes, that deaths would total less than 200.

Yes. A prediction of actual casualties to date, made in February, would no doubt have been denounced as absurdly optimistic. But the goalposts keep being moved.

STILL MORE: Kamil Zogby offers some perspective on the numbers:

While I too am concerned about the welfare of every US soldier, I think the way US casualties in Iraq are being reported has to be put in the proper perspective. 140 deaths since the end of major combat operations is roughly 10% of those “1,350 violent, non-combat related deaths (that) occurred each year in the armed services.”

Indeed.

August 27, 2003

LOOKS LIKE EARLIER REPORTS ARE TRUE:

The RX-8 officially went on sale in early July and customers who already have taken delivery or who ordered the car prior to August 26 will be offered free scheduled maintenance for the new car’s entire warranty period – worth an estimated $US1,200 – and be given a $500 debit card, WardsAuto.com said. If owners still believe they’ve been irrevocably wronged, Mazda will buy back the car for the original purchase price, the report added.

Apparently, some people have already gotten letters.

August 27, 2003

TODAY’S MY BIRTHDAY, the InstaWife has various activities planned, and blogging will be limited at best.

But my TechCentralStation column is up, and it’s about disaster preparedness.

I’ve got more on the same subject over at GlennReynolds.com, too, where I’m also soliciting suggestions for improvements. Have a nice day — I’ll be back later. (And visit Virginia Postrel, who’s blogging up a storm.)

UPDATE: I’m still gone — but don’t miss all the swell blog posts collected at this week’s Carnival of the Vanities. If you’re looking to broaden your blog-reading horizons, this is a good place to start.

ANOTHER UPDATE: What presents did I get? Quite a few, including this lovely rug. Then there’s the visit from Mars, of course.

August 26, 2003

DAVID WARREN:

The question on my mind is thus, will the Americans funk out? And the only thing I can say for sure, is that if they do, it will be an unparalleled disaster. For 9/11 itself was the payback for the last U.S. funk-out from its responsibilities as a superpower.

Yes. The good news is that even anti-war candidate Howard Dean seems to have figured that out:

We have no choice. It’s a matter of national security. If we leave and we don’t get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States. . . . bringing democracy to Iraq is not a two-year proposition.

Howard Dean is right. And he’s the leading Democratic candidate at the moment. And that’s bad news for the terrorists, whose only hope is that we’ll fool ourselves into thinking otherwise, and give up before the job is done.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen says 5 years is the necessary interval, citing RAND data. Advantage: Dean!

And read this, too. Reconstruction is expensive and dangerous. . . . Meanwhile here’s praise for the anti-war movement.

August 26, 2003

APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL VIA BLOG? Tacitus is giving it a shot.

August 26, 2003

I NEVER GOT UP TO SPEED on the Plame/Wilson affair, which heated up while I was on vacation. But Mark Kleiman has more.

August 26, 2003

DALE AMON WANTS FOLLOWUP on a couple of stories from before the Iraq invasion.

August 26, 2003

THE MIRROR offers a list of top blogs. Tim Blair’s comment: “In your face, John Pllger!

August 26, 2003

WE CAN’T BE MURDERERS. THAT WOULD BE UN-ISLAMIC!

The Iranian Government has rejected the findings of a judicial inquiry into the death in custody of journalist Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian national.
It emerged on Monday that the judge investigating the case had charged two officials from the intelligence ministry with “complicity in semi-intentional murder”.

But a government spokesman on Tuesday cast doubt on the legitimacy of the inquiry, describing its findings as having nothing to do with reality.

Well, that’s settled, then.

August 26, 2003

IT’S FREEDOM OF RELIGION, not freedom from religion, we’re told. So I guess this would be okay. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Ben Gibbons emails:

If most of the Founding Fathers of our nation had been followers of Cthulhu (and even those who weren’t devout recognized his importance); if they had specifically mentioned Cthulhu in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as the fountainhead of all liberties and freedoms; if our laws, culture, and customs were based in large part upon the principles found in the teachings of Cthulhu; then you might have a point. As it is, you’re just full of it.

Hmm. So the real question here isn’t whether we have a state religion. Rather it’s the claim that we do, or should, have a particular state religion. I’d certainly prefer Christianity or Judaism to the Elder Gods, if that’s the choice. But I don’t believe that the Constitution requires me — or even permits me — to make that choice.

ANOTHER UPDATE: To my surprise, this post is generating less email than my dissing of White Castle and Krispy Kreme, below. But Michael Gebert writes:

I have to wonder which Founding Fathers Ben Gibbons thinks were so determined to see Christianity sewn into the very fabric of our government and society.

Was it John Adams, who said of the framers, “It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”

Or maybe it was Jefferson, who said “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law”?

Or Franklin, who said “When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

If there’s a reason why Iran is terrorized by corrupt mullahs and we aren’t, I think it starts here. We forget that at our peril.

As George Washington noted, “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

I’m willing to ignore, as de minimis, things like “In God We Trust.” But there’s nothing de minimis about what Roy Moore was attempting. He wanted to make a statement, to the effect that George Washington was wrong, and that the United States is a Christian nation. He wanted, in other words, to establish Christianity as the officially sanctioned religion. And that’s not, er, kosher. It’s quite obvious that Moore has more in mind than merely making a cultural/historical statement about the role of the Judeo-Christian tradition in law. And to suggest otherwise is either to be completely clueless or to, er, bear false witness.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Boy, while I was on my birthday break, the mail poured in on this post. Some messages didn’t get read — like the one with the subject line “You are a serious dumbfuck regarding the Living God and this country ” Well, actually, I did read that one. It continued:

Wet nosed bloggers afraid of God. “Oh, look at the muslims!! That’s what happens when people get religion!!” The muslim are fucking devils, boy. They worship the devil. They want to put the world off on the Living God of Creation. Atheist fucking bloggers. Fucking “I’m correct on this, see, am I correct? I am correct and everybody can see that. I’m part of the correct, intelligent people.” Fucking two-digit I.Q. comic book fucking genius atheists.

Uh, right. On a more civil note, Clayton Cramer says that many of the above quotes are wrong. (Though in an earlier post he seems to regard me as one of the “intellectual shock troops” of the left.) [Well, you have written for The Guardian, after all! -- Ed. Just call me Atrios! I think he just did. -- Ed.] At any rate, I apologize for the errors — I didn’t check the Gebert quotes, and I’ve always regarded Liberty magazine as trustworthy — and as it’s published by the Seventh Day Adventists, it can hardly be called a shill for secular humanism.

Quotes or not, the notion that what Roy Moore was trying to do is either constitutional, or consistent with American ideals, is just wrong. Adopting a particular religion’s tenets — and any reading of the Ten Commandments makes clear that they’re religious tenets, not general guides to living as some maintain — is establishing a religion. That’s forbidden by the First Amendment. Interestingly, it also appears to be forbidden by the Alabama Constituion, which Justice Moore presumably swore to uphold. It’s hard to be sure with web searches, but I believe this is the current text:

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

Those who think that America should be run according to religious principles are entitled to their opinions, of course. But they shouldn’t pretend that they’re asking for anything less, or that doing so isn’t an establishment of religion.

MORE: The Krispy Kreme issue, however, is provoking outright lawlessness. Can’t we all just get along?

August 26, 2003

THE COLUMBIA ACCIDENT REPORT IS OUT. The cause is damage from a foam strike on launch causing burn-through on reentry, essentially. That’s what it looked like at the time.

I looked over the report quickly to see if I could find discussion of the issue raised by Brian Carnell back in February: the reformulation of the foam for environmental reasons, said by some to make it less robust. There’s a bit of discusison in Chapter 3, (p. 3), which notes that the foam was reformulated for environmental reasons, but I can’t find any discussion of whether that had any impact. I may have missed something, though — the report is very long, and I’ve just skimmed it.

Here’s a news story summarizing the report.

August 26, 2003

LT SMASH IS HOME.

August 26, 2003

MOSTLY AFRICA REPORTS that the freed Algeria hostages are being told not to sell their stories to the media.

August 26, 2003

JAY SOLO: “Isn’t it funny how wrong near future SF can get things?”

August 26, 2003

INSTAPUNDIT gets results.

August 26, 2003

HOWARD VEIT PREDICTS HIGHER GAS PRICES by the end of the week, and says the Bush Administration has dropped the ball. I guess a lot of folks will be singing those Gas Hog Blues again.

August 26, 2003

JEFF JARVIS OFFERS SUGGESTIONS for 9/11 anniversary coverage.

UPDATE: Reader Steve Mytyk emails:

The best thing that any network could do, from both the public service aspect, and adding to their own bottom line, would be to replay their exact video coverage of that awful morning, from 8:45 am ET until the fall of the second tower. I guarantee it would have every TV eyeball riveted to their station.

I guarantee it won’t happen. There’s too much investment in forgetting all that stuff. The networks didn’t even show most of the jumpers at the time for fear of making America angry.

August 26, 2003

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG:

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – U.N. inspectors have found traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility, a senior diplomat said Tuesday, citing a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The find heightened concerns that Tehran may be running a secret nuclear weapons program.

Gee, do you think? Of course, the Iranians offer a variation on the “some other dude must have left it there” explanation:

Iranian officials did not contest the finding by the IAEA inspectors but said the equipment was already contaminated by traces of enriched uranium when purchased by Tehran.

I think they should demand a refund immediately from the original seller. Er, and who might that be?

August 26, 2003

THE KRYSTAL PICTURE BELOW seems to have inspired nostalgia in some Knoxville expatriates, who want more pictures of Knoxville. Here’s one from in front of the law school. Click on the image for a larger version. (Here’s another.)

Quite a few people seemed to be offended by the notion that Krystals are better than White Castles. Well, I know there’s regional pride and everything, but what can I say: Krystals are better than White Castles.

I’ve eaten both, and, well, there’s just no comparison at all. I don’t see what makes Krispy Kreme so appealing — to me they’re just donuts — but Krystal has White Castle beat hollow.

And they have FREE WI-FI! I’d like to see White Castle beat that!

August 26, 2003

FREE WI-FI SEEMS TO BE SPREADING!

Hey, maybe I am right about free wi-fi being the way to go.

For those of you from Knoxville, this is the Krystal located on “The Strip” next to campus (famous for 3am Bob Dylan performances, etc.). For those of you who don’t know what a Krystal is, it’s like a better version of White Castle: more flavor, less grease.

Though still not haute cuisine by anyone’s standards. But hey, add the wi-fi and they could be the South’s next export to the rest of the country: a sort of high-tech Krispy Kreme for the 21st century.

Er, or something like that.

UPDATE: Starhawk notes that Houston’s public libraries are getting free wi-fi hotspots. Cool.

August 26, 2003

MORE UNRAVELLING AT THE BBC:

The claim that Iraq could deploy “chemical and biological munitions” within 45 minutes was made in a classified email issued by a member of the joint intelligence committee (JIC) – but with both sender and recipient blacked out for security reasons.

It was distributed to Downing Street and Whitehall staff six days later on September 5 as new drafts of the September 24 dossier were being prepared.

The email stated that “forward deployed storage sites of chemical and biological munitions could be with military units and ready for firing within 45 minutes”.

That revelation, presented on day nine of the inquiry by Sir John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, appears to blow out of the water the original suggestion by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan that the claim was made up.

Stay tuned. The Guardian is all over this story.

UPDATE: Boy, when it rains it pours: Here’s more embarrassment for The Beeb, which just can’t seem to avoid sexing up weapons stories.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon is comparing the BBC to Nixon and to The New York Times, a comparison in which the Times comes off best.

August 26, 2003

AL GIORDANO IS taking on censorship at Indymedia. Of course, the real news is that someone at IndyMedia cares about anti-Semitism.

UPDATE: Michele has more on IndyMedia’s devotion to free speech, here, here, and here.

August 26, 2003

VIRGINIA POSTREL IS BLAMING SOCIALISM for the French heat deaths.

August 26, 2003

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TODD STEED!

August 26, 2003

I MENTIONED A WHILE BACK that North Korea was probably realizing that it couldn’t expect the Chinese to bail it out of any trouble it got itself into. And here’s a story from the Korea Times that seems to support that:

A Chinese scholar who is also a key Communist Party member in Shanghai, has said Chinese President Hu Jintao through his top envoy informed North Korean leader Kim Jong-il of a possible United States invasion.

Shen Dingli, professor at Hudan University in Shanghai and who was visiting Korea for an international seminar, was quoted by sources as saying that Hu¡’s message was very clear about the possibility of U.S. military action against the communist country that is defying international calls to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Attending a workshop held on the sideline of the 12th Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations last week, the Chinese expert on international relations said, “Hu told Kim, `If you make a problem, the U.S. will attack you. Don’t expect any help from us.”

He said that words of advice by the leader of Pyongyang¡’s only ally apparently scared the North Korean leader into accommodating Beijing¡’s suggestion that Pyongyang should engage in talks with the U.S. under whatever format.

Interesting. And encouraging.

August 26, 2003

A FRENCH QUAGMIRE in Cote d’Ivoire?

August 25, 2003

MARS APPROACHETH: And Jay Manifold is covering it.

August 25, 2003

HOWARD DEAN: Imperialist? (Is there a hidden Dean / Ledeen connection?) And scroll down for more on Fumento and the Atkins Diet.

As I say, I’m an Atkins skeptic. But — having stuck to the “eat less, exercise more” plan fairly effectively, though not to the point of having a 33-frickin’-inch waist — I don’t speak from firsthand experience.

August 25, 2003

INDIA IS A QUAGMIRE!

No one had taken responsibility for the blasts as of late afternoon, and it was unclear how the bombs were detonated. Suburban Bombay, whose official name is now Mumbai, has been the site of five explosions — two on buses, two at markets and one in a train — in the last eight months that have killed a total of 15 people. The most recent was in July.

Officials have blamed the Students Islamic Movement of India for the attacks, saying the group operated in conjunction with the Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Both groups are banned in India. The Bombay police commissioner, R. S. Sharma, said tonight that law enforcement authorities suspected that so-called jihadi groups were also responsible for the blasts, although he offered no specific evidence for that assertion.

We’d better pull out the U.S. troops! Oh, wait. . . .

The other possibility is that it’s just a war of Islamist expansionism against civilization, I guess.

August 25, 2003

VIRGINIA POSTREL SAYS that I might be right about wi-fi after all. Hey, it could happen!

August 25, 2003

I’VE NEGLECTED SPACE ISSUES OF LATE. Sorry — I’ll try to do better. But in the meantime, visit this link-filled post by Joe Katzman.

August 25, 2003

MORE UNILATERALISM:

France is about to break another of the cardinal rules of the euro stability pact – allowing its accumulated national debt to exceed the limit of 60 per cent of GNP imposed on euroland members.

Since France and Germany are already breaching the ceiling on annual deficits (3 per cent of GNP), the euro stability pact risks looking like a fiscal dead letter by the end of this year.

Shocking disrespect for international agreements.

August 25, 2003

THIS IS INTERESTING: More evidence of the Administration turning up the heat on Saudi Arabia?

August 25, 2003

BRIAN CARNELL LOOKS AT a BBC story on guns in America, and pronounces it biased.

August 25, 2003

JUST REMEMBER: Red wine from California, Australia, or Chile works just as well.

UPDATE: Yes, I know — some wines purportedly have more good stuff in them than others. My advice: just drink more to make up the difference.

August 25, 2003

BBC CORRESPONDENT ANDREW GILLIGAN has been relieved of his reporting duties:

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC correspondent at the centre of the storm over allegations that the Government ‘sexed up’ intelligence to make a stronger case for war against Iraq, has been removed from reporting duties. . . .

BBC executives denied that Gilligan’s departure from day-to-day reporting on the Radio 4 Today programme was linked to revelations last week that he sent emails to two MPs on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee suggesting questions they could ask Kelly that would be ‘devastating’ for the Government.

Then there’s this:

Far from unequivocally backing his reporter, Richard Sambrook, the head of news, told Mr Hoon that Gilligan was “a particular sort of journalist” and said the BBC was “thinking about an appropriate use of him”.

His admission – which is in stark contrast to the BBC’s robust public defence of the reporter – came after Mr Hoon summoned him to the Commons, told him the defence correspondent shouldn’t work on the programme, and complained: “Andrew Gilligan is essentially a tabloid journalist”.

Interesting. And this:

In a Guardian/ICM poll, 52% of respondents questioned the integrity of the corporation. The BBC needs to show that it is committed to telling the story in as straight and thorough a manner as it would any other, says Bennett. Radio 4, as the broadcaster of Today, is particularly worried that its image will be hit. . . .

Alastair Campbell gave a tantalising insight when he told Hutton how he turned to Birt for advice in brokering a deal. Birt, according to Campbell, said: “Everyone knows the Today story is wrong.”

This could be the problem:

But the BBC news hierarchy is enclosed and makes few external appointments. It is axiomatic that mistakes do not lead to sackings: the false report last year by the 10 O’Clock News that the owner of the Oryx company was helping to fund al-Qaida has not damaged careers.

Read it all. The BBC seems to have boxed itself in here. I should also note that all of these stories are from The Guardian, which is doing an excellent job of covering the BBC story despite what I have to assume is general ideological sympathy with the BBC’s slant.

UPDATE: Read this, from Blog-Irish, too:

Now lets see. Clare Short claimed that Iraq had “no doubt Iraq has rebuilt much of its military power since the 1991 Gulf War”. At her insistence, she had direct access to Intelligence information. Prior to the war, she did not oppose it on a claim that there was no WMD threat. She was concerned only about UN sanction, as Toynbee says most were.

She told the House of Commons “that there was a serious risk that the UN Food-for-Oil programme would collapse in the event of war. Oil fields could be set alight, chemical weapons released and the country split asunder” all of which we know, of course, has not occurred.

But despite these misgivings, Short thought that she was too important, the reconstruction of Iraq couldn’t get on without her. She struggled with her conscience and won and, humiliated by a chorus of condemnation from both left and right, resigned.

But people as important as Short don’t stay down. After exposing herself as an utter fool and fraud, she lept on the BBC bandwagon to demand an independent inquiry. Dr Kelly, a decent man with a lower tolerance for “embarassment” took his own life, cannon fodder in Clare’s war.

But now that the Hutton inquiry seems to be exposing BBC claims to be, as Toynbee so delicately puts it, “not true”, the Hutton inquiry does not matter. We should not allow it to distract us from “the real politics of this war.”

Whose politics would those be, Polly?

Indeed.

August 25, 2003

JEFF JARVIS is inviting people to subscribe to The Week.

August 25, 2003

GOOD NEWS:

A blind man can see again after being given a stem cell transplant.
Mike May, of California, had been blind for 40 years since an accident at the age of three where he lost one eye and was blinded in the other.

During that time he had some ability to perceive light, but could not make out form or contrast.

He said he had no visual memories from his early childhood

The operation transplanted corneal and limbal stem cells into his right eye.

Interestingly, his brain has had trouble processing the images, though he is doing better with time. (Via Samizdata).

August 25, 2003

TERRORIST BOMBING IN INDIA: Hawken Blog is following it.

UPDATE: Shanti Mangala has more links.

August 25, 2003

DANIEL DREZNER ON LARRY SUMMERS — He says I was wrong to say that Summer’s biggest prolem is ideology. He says the real issue is power, which is probably true (but read the comments to his post for suggestions that the two overlap a lot, which I think is also true). He also says:

Those dumb enough not to recognize Summers’ smarts are headed for a great fall. The next few years are going to be fun for those who write about Harvard.

Read Drezner’s whole post, which is very interesting.

August 25, 2003

WE ARE NOT MARXISTS AT THE BBC: And don’t listen to those capitalist imperialists who say otherwise!

August 25, 2003

IS NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN COLUMNIST LARRY DAUGHTREY behind the times, or ahead of them? He calls Frank Cagle an “internet columnist and former spin master for Van Hilleary.” (Hilleary was the GOP candidate for governor in the last election).

Now Frank Cagle does have a website, FrankCagle.com (in fact, his blog predates InstaPundit, and was one of the models I drew on when I started), but he also has a regular column in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and a talk radio show. So why the dis? I would say that somebody needs to show Daughtrey how to use the Internet, but he’s obviously found Frank’s page. So somebody show him how to use a newspaper!

August 25, 2003

WHAT THEY’RE DOING INSTEAD OF CHASING TERRORISTS AND MURDERERS: Launching bogus kiddie-porn busts. Lame:

One of the jurors’ first actions was to send out a note suggesting that they didn’t understand the law under which Grady had been charged. And then, after considering more than a year’s worth of evidence — photos and testimony and thousands of pages of documents — the twelve jurors returned their verdict in less time than it takes to watch most movies.

James Grady, they agreed, was not guilty. Of anything.

A free man for the first time in almost twelve months, Grady had lunch with his lawyers and then went home to live in his mother’s basement.

In examining how this massive child-porn ring evaporated into thin air, one thing stands out: how little law-enforcement authorities understood the law.

But this is what happens when you chase headlines instead of, you know, criminals. As Jesse Walker notes:

It turns out the teens on Grady’s website all had their clothes on, and all their pictures were taken with both the models’ and their parents’ permission. It’s entirely possible that the photographer understood the law better than police and prosecutors did.

But will any of these guys lose their jobs, or suffer public humiliation?

They should.

August 25, 2003

BEN HAMMERSLEY IS BLOGGING FROM KABUL now.

August 25, 2003

JIM BENNETT’S LATEST COLUMN IS ON IMMIGRATION AND THE CALIFORNIA ELECTION, and contains this observation:

Many restrictionists argue that the high numbers we experience now are so high that we will not be able to adequately assimilate and integrate them into American society, thus setting the stage for inter-group strife and the degradation of civil society.

I tend to think they state the problem the wrong way around. It is rather the strength of our assimilation policy that determines how many immigrants we can welcome. Certainly America welcomed a higher percentage of foreign-born during the height of the immigrant boom in the years before World War I, and successfully assimilated them. This should be an existence proof that we can, given the right circumstances, do the job again.

However, this does not mean that the economic reductionists who make every social issue a matter of employment figures and economic benefits can assume that assimilation will be automatic. A closer look at the experience of 1890-1920 shows that America experienced many of the problems with immigration that we do again today: public health challenges, concerns about integration into civil society and the sharing of democratic discourse and values with people who had no previous exposure to such things, and rising levels of crime and corruption in high immigration areas.

As a response to these challenges, many reformers and activists of that era expended much effort on integrating immigrant groups, fighting the crime, poverty, and corruption that came with them, and in promoting an assimilationist agenda. This effort was in the end successful, culminating perhaps in the successes of World Wars I and II, where Americans of every immigrant group, including nationals of the states with which America was at war, gave a high degree of support to the war effort, and receiving in return a genuine acceptance from the general population.

The point is, and this is a point now usually ignored, that it was neither automatic nor effortless to assimilate these people.

Unfortunately, multi-culti pieties make it hard to even talk about these issues.

August 25, 2003

LIGHT BLOGGING THIS MORNING — but be sure to check out the Winds of Change war news roundup, which even notes a new Iraqi blogger.

Meanwhile Mickey Kaus has the Arnold recall covered.

UPDATE: Oh, and the Oxblog / Josh Marshall feud continues.

August 24, 2003

I’M NOT SURE WHAT I THINK ABOUT THIS STORY:

U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a covert campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces here after months of increasingly sophisticated attacks and bombings, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

These guys know a lot of useful stuff, but we can’t trust them. It’s not as obvious a risk as using them for guards, as the U.N. did, but it’ll be a real challenge to handle them well. The record of doing this with Germans after World War II was rather poor — the “Gehlen Organization” of ex-Nazi intelligence officers was heavily penetrated by the Soviets and probably did more harm than good.

August 24, 2003

CHIEF WIGGLES HAS MORE, and you should be reading it.

August 24, 2003

INDYMEDIA — Independent, free speech, except when it isn’t. Or something like that.

August 24, 2003

HERE’S A SURPRISINGLY UPBEAT STORY ON IRAQ FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES:

American soldiers, without helmets or flak jackets, attended graduation ceremonies of the Diwaniya University Medical School. At ease with the Iraqi students and their parents, the American marines laughed, joked and posed in photographs. One by one, the students walked up to thank them, for Marine doctors had taught classes in surgery and gynecology and helped draw up the final exams.

“We like the Americans very much here,” said Zainab Khaledy, 22, who received her medical degree last Sunday. “We feel better than under the old regime. We have problems, like security, but everything is getting better.”

Such is the dual reality that is coming to define the American enterprise in Iraq, a country increasingly divided between those willing to put up with the American occupation and those determined to fight it. While the areas stretching west and north from Baghdad roil and burn, much of the rest of the country remains, most of the time, remarkably calm. . . .

Rather than fight the Americans, most Iraqis appear to be readily accepting the benefits of a wide-ranging reconstruction.

The two faces of the occupation give American policy makers something to take solace in and something to worry over. Four months into the occupation, the rebellion against American forces, though fierce, is still largely limited to the Arab Sunni Muslim population and its foreign supporters and confined to a relatively limited geographic area.

That last point is one that quite a few bloggers — including some blogging from Iraq — have been making, but that the mainstream media have tended to miss. Nice to see the Times getting it right.

August 24, 2003

ANOTHER BOMBING IN IRAQ:

A crude bomb constructed from a cooking gas cylinder exploded outside the residence of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Said al-Hakim in the holy city of Najaf today, slightly wounding the leading Shiite Muslim cleric in the neck and killing three of his bodyguards.

Senior religious officials were quick to blame the attack on members of the deposed Baath Party trying to use violence to foment schisms within the Shiite community

Well, that’s interesting. Of course, this bit is entirely predictable:

They also criticized the American-led occupation for failing to provide better security.

As Mark Steyn points out — see below — whatever happens, it’s always America’s fault.

August 24, 2003

MARK STEYN:

Well, that’s the luck of the draw at the UN, where so far this year Libya, Iraq and Syria have found themselves heading up the Human Rights Commission, the Disarmament Committee and the Security Council. The UN’s subscription to this charade may be necessary in New York, but what’s tragic is that they seem to have conducted their affairs in Baghdad much the same way. Offers of increased U.S. military protection were turned down. Their old Iraqi security guards, all agents of Saddam’s Secret Service there to spy on the UN, were allowed by the organization to carry on working at the compound. And sitting in the middle of an unprotected complex staffed by ex-Saddamite spies was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the individual most directly credited with midwifing East Timor into an independent democratic state. Osama bin Laden (or rather whoever makes his audiocassettes) and the Bali bombers have both cited East Timor as high up on their long list of grievances: the carving out, as they see it, of part of the territory of the world’s largest Islamic nation to create a mainly Christian state. Now they’ve managed to kill the fellow responsible. Any way you look at it, that’s quite a feather in their turbans.

Read the whole thing. And read this Ralph Peters column, too:

An active-duty U.S. Army officer, Lt.-Col. Jack Curran, was in charge of local medevac operations. Weeks before the truck-bomb attack, he, too, recognized the vulnerability of the hotel compound. Diplomatically, he asked if his pilots and medical personnel could “practice medevac ops” at the U.N. headquarters. “Just for training.” With the security officer’s help, he got permission.

As a result, there had just been two full, on-site rehearsals for what had to be done after the bombing. Thanks to this spirited, visionary officer, our helicopters and vehicles knew exactly how to get in, where best to upload casualties and where a triage station should be set up.

With impressive speed, the U.S. Army medevaced 135 U.N. employees and Iraqi civilians from the scene, saving more lives than will ever be known for certain.

U.S. Army Reserve engineers and Army mortuary personnel moved in to do the grisly, demanding work of rescuing any trapped survivors and processing the dead.

Now that the damage is done, the U.S. Army’s welcome. A company of our 82nd Airborne Division took over external security for the site last week.

But what were the first complaints we heard from the media “experts”? That the U.S. Army was to blame, because it failed to provide adequate security.

In fact, we offered the U.N. armored vehicles. They told us to take a hike. U.N. bureaucrats put more trust in the good will of terrorists and Ba’athist butchers than they did in GI Joe.

But when the U.N.’s own people lay bleeding, they were glad enough for our help. As one U.N. employee, speaking from inside the Baghdad compound, put it to me, “It was a proud day for the U.S. Army.”

Funny this wasn’t more widely reported.

August 24, 2003

ONE THING THAT WE’VE LEARNED SINCE 9/11, and again during the Great Blackout, is that the cellphone network isn’t just a luxury for rich guys and soccer moms anymore: it’s a vital part of emergency infrastructure.

Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that it isn’t up to the job:

Less than two years after the cellular network faltered following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the cellular system — which the wireless industry promotes as a safety net during emergencies — choked again.

The system broke down as a flood of nervous callers overloaded the network for some carriers; there wasn’t enough capacity to handle the excess calls. Complicating matters, many cellular sites, which depend on electricity, had inadequate backup power.

Cell-phone carriers say the electrical outage was an event they couldn’t possibly foresee.

I don’t think that’s much of an excuse, and I think that cell-phone technology is mature enough that it’s fair to start expecting the kind of robust reliability that we’ve seen from landline services. This is too important to ignore.

No backup power? Puhleez. Well, okay “inadequate” backup power, as the story illustrates. Still, the cell network is vitally important, and yet it still has the reliability standards of a rich man’s toy, which it hasn’t been for a long time.

Of course, it’s not just cellphones. Backup power for traffic lights — at least at key intersections — would help deal with the traffic problems often associated with disasters, and even an hour or so of that would help clear the worst of the traffic.

There will be more about this in my TechCentralStation column this week.

UPDATE: Reader Ari Ozick emails:

Your note on Cell Phones and emergencies was right on target. It may surprise you to know that even in Israel, we have the same problems with our cell phone networks. When a terrorist attack happens, you can’t get a line on the 3 major networks for a good 15 minutes to a half hour. The fourth network, which is much smaller, currently can handle the overload, because it’s system doesn’t carry as much capacity as the other three regularly do.

The cell phone saturation in Israel is much more then that of the United States, and yet almost everyone I know keeps a telecard (good for a certain amounts of credit on a public phone, sort of like carrying a few quarters in your pocket) in their wallets, so that if they are out during an attack or an emergency and the cells are down, they can still call loved ones and reassure them.

Hmm. It seems that we should be sure not to let payphones die out, since they’re more reliable than cellphones. It also seems that we should educate people not to immediately call loved ones to “reassure” them when other folks may need something more concrete than reassurance.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Steve Sandvik emails:

I work in power generation, and I think that although this is a big black eye for the power industry (especially transmission), the difference in response and apparent level of concern between the cell phone industry and the power industry is very enlightening. They’re selling themselves as part of your disaster response toolbox, but they don’t want to pay for it.

That’s right. I’ve noticed that power workers have a sense of mission that cellphone people definitely lack.

MORE: A reader emails that Verizon wireless was up throughout the blackout, unlike other companies. Bravo!

STILL MORE: Solar-powered traffic lights are apparently feasible, at least in sunny San Antonio. Read this, too.

MORE STILL: Steven Den Beste, who knows a lot more about cellphones than I do, has a post on this subject. He says it’s a difficult problem — though I think regulation could ensure enough excess capacity to address the situation. But to the extent I’m wrong it’s yet another reason to keep those payphones around, I guess.

August 24, 2003

HERE’S A NICE ARTICLE ON WEBLOGS from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Here’s another in The Bulletin, and here’s one from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Cory Doctorow is writing that the Internet may elect the next President. Well, maybe.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And bloggers are already snarking. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. . . .

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Oh, and here’s a profile of Dodd Harris from a while back that I neglected to mention earlier. But better late than never!