Archive for September, 2003

September 30, 2003

MATT WELCH CONTINUES in his role as scourge of the ombudsmen.

September 30, 2003

VICTORY BY THE NUMBERS? Dale Amon says we’re winning. Within the context of the overly-narrow concept of victory involved, I think he’s right.

September 30, 2003

I’VE GOT MORE ON THE MEDIA AND IRAQ over at GlennReynolds.com — a post that I wrote in the lovely Starbucks-catered “Study Room” in the University’s main library. Free wi-fi, overstuffed chairs, and foamy cappucino. Today’s students have it pretty good.

CNN called to ask if I’d debate this topic on Paula Zahn’s show tonight, but I suggested that they call Jeff Jarvis or Jay Rosen instead. I haven’t heard back, so I guess one or the other will be on (8:30 ET, I think), no doubt doing a better job than I would have.

UPDATE: They wound up with John Leo, who seemed to me to be too much of a gentleman in his dealings with Michael Wolff of New York magazine, who was the classic TV Shouting Head, interrupting and spouting non sequiturs. The result was that the show — which the producers wanted to be conflict-ridden so as to produce excitement — was actually quite dull, and very little that was new got said. That’s too bad, as the topic was important — but in a way, the formula, and its failure, illustrates the point.

September 30, 2003

COULD ROBERT NOVAK BE FORCED TO REVEAL HIS SOURCES? Yes, writes Eugene Volokh. Volokh is more of a First Amendment expert than I am — I teach it, and I’ve written a couple of articles, but he’s got a well-regarded book — but I agree with his analysis.

UPDATE: Am I serious? Why not? Subpoena him and the other reporters. Find out what happened. If somebody leaked, fire ‘em. It’s easy and it’s fast, and it’s legal. What’s wrong with this idea? Why have a special rule for the press? Who else is allowed to go around saying that they have knowledge of a crime but won’t talk?

You can’t have a special rule on this for journalists, because journalists don’t have special First Amendment rights, and anyway everyone is a journalist now, thanks to the Internet. This will be disturbing to professional journalists, but I don’t see an alternative. And this is a national security leak, in wartime, right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Surprisingly little negative reaction to the above. Except for this. Heh.

September 30, 2003

THE REAL WILSON SCANDAL: Forget Valerie Plame, the big scandal is why anyone in the Bush Administration would ever have tasked a guy with Wilson’s views with an important mission.

Regardless of the rest of the story, heads should roll for that.

UPDATE: Darren Kaplan wonders if Wilson’s hiring was legal in light of anti-nepotism laws. I don’t know, but surely his publicly expressed views made him unsuitable regardless of his relations.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Randy Paul emails to suggest that I’m “smearing” Wilson above. But it’s an attack on the competence of the White House, not on Wilson. Wilson’s free to hold those views. But only an idiot would pick someone like that for a politically sensitive mission of great importance. Either (1) Wilson had a sudden epiphany on the war, which I strongly doubt; or (2) He felt this way when they picked him, and they either didn’t know (bad) or didn’t care (bad). Regardless, this reflects very badly on the White House’s judgment. And unlike other parts of this affair, we don’t need additional facts to figure it out.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon agrees:

Who were the Adminstration leakers but, more importantly, who in the CIA authorized Wilson’s strange, off-budget, journey to Niger and why? Why is this more important? Because it could show people in our own intelligence agencies working against the wishes of our government, not just standard-issue partisan battling that goes on every day inside the Beltway.

Indeed.

September 30, 2003

COLBY COSH is right to condemn this latest bit of drug-war stupidity.

September 30, 2003

IS THE SENATE UNDERMINING IRAQI RECONSTRUCTION? Sure looks like it.

If things go badly as a result, I promise to publish the pictures, names — and home phone numbers, if I can get ‘em — of the Senators voting for this bill.

I’ll also publish weblinks so that people can give money to their opponents, regardless of party. This is near-criminal stupidity.

September 30, 2003

DAVE KOPEL WRITES that Arnold Schwarzenegger reveals his ignorance of gun laws when he talks about the subject. He appears, in fact, to be shaky on the state/federal distinction.

September 30, 2003

MORE ON THE HUGO CHAVEZ / TERRORIST CONNECTIONS:

Middle Eastern terrorist groups are operating support cells in Venezuela and other locations in the Andean region. A two-month review by U.S. News, including interviews with dozens of U.S. and Latin American sources, confirms the terrorist activity. In particular, the magazine has learned that thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon.

No big surprise, to those who have been paying attention.

UPDATE: Winds of Change’s Latin America roundup has more on Chavez.

September 30, 2003

I WAS WONDERING ABOUT THE IRAQI OIL TRUST IDEA, and this WSJ editorial contains the following nugget:

Plans are also well under way to give all Iraqis a stake in the success of their new society through the creation of an oil trust, some of which would go to fund public goods like education and some of which would be paid out directly to individuals on a regular basis (in a version of the Alaska oil trust). That strikes us as an enlightened way to show Iraqis that they have a stake in this transition to self-rule.

I’d like to read more about this.

UPDATE: Well, in the paper edition of the Wall Street Journal, there’s a bit more, in the form of an oped by Fareed Yasseen. He’s critical of the oil trust idea, on the plausible grounds that (1) it’s a disincentive to work; and (2) it will, in effect, enhance the power of patriarchs and clan leaders.

These are plausible objections, though I don’t know if they should carry the day. But that I’m reading about this — really important — stuff on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and not in news accounts that instead stress the latest pinprick attack by Saddam’s holdouts (and miss the real story even there) simply illustrates what a dreadful job the press is doing in reporting what’s going on in Iraq.

Yasseen also thinks that Bremer is pushing privatization too fast. This is a real issue. In a place like Iraq, there are two kinds of people likely to be able to buy privatized assets: Baathist leftovers and collaborators, and foreigners. Both pose problems — though the Iraqi expatriate community, which I think should be given preferential treatment, is a different kettle of fish.

Again, why isn’t this kind of stuff getting the above-the-fold treatment? Because it matters.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Weidner thinks Iraq needs a good dose of federalism, along the Swiss model. Are they talking about it in Iraq?

I’d like to know.

September 30, 2003

DANIEL DREZNER HAS MORE on Wilson/Plame, and quotes some pretty strong words from The Note about prejudgement.

Meanwhile Howard Kurtz notes that the press isn’t looking too good, and quotes a reader:

“Do the reporters, Andrea Mitchell and five others, who were contacted by the two ‘Bush senior administartion officials’ have any obligations to these sources since they did not report the story about Joseph Wilson’s wife? Would it be unethical for them to comment about which ‘Bush senior administration officials’ contacted them about stories that were not reported?”

“Why is it that lower echelon reporters like Jayson Blair at the New York Times get fired for plagiarism, but at the same time syndicated columnists like Robert Novak, and by complicity Fred Hiatt, your editorial page director, can destroy a career and risk a life with impunity?”

It is a bit odd to see journalists running around pronouncing a scandal and — by implication, and sometimes explicitly — calling for an investigation when they know the truth and won’t report it. Isn’t it? And Roger Simon is worried:

If you think I’m wrong, just reflect for a second on all the yelling and screaming about this matter that appeared in the media and on the Internet yesterday, and from politicians of course, before any of them knew the facts. Imagine what will happen when they think they do.

I think that was what The Note was getting at, too.

September 30, 2003

WESLEY CLARK ON TIME TRAVEL: I’m with him on this. And against the critics I invoke Clarke’s (not Clark’s) Law.

On the other hand, there’s still Niven’s Law to contend with.

Continue reading ‘WESLEY CLARK ON TIME TRAVEL: I’m with him on this. And against the critics I invoke Clarke’s (not …’ »

September 30, 2003

SPINSANITY says that ad hominem attacks on Ashcroft are unfair, but widespread among Democrats.

I don’t think that ad hominem attacks on Ashcroft are inherently unfair: when you have an executive official of power and discretion, questions of character matter. (Ad hominem arguments may be logically invalid, but that’s a different topic.) The real problem with the attacks on Ashcroft — whom I don’t especially like myself, to be honest — is that they’re absurdly over the top. He’s not Torquemada, pace Walter Cronkite. He’s not even Janet Reno, whose record on civil liberties was dreadful but who got a pass because she was a woman appointed by a Democrat.

In fact, what’s interesting is that Democrats can — and Clinton did — get away with far worse civil liberties assaults, while Republicans can (and Bush is) get away with spending far more money, because the pigeonholes used by the press include “Republicans who hate civil liberties” and “Democrats who are wasteful spenders,” but not the reverse.

September 30, 2003

WOULD ARNOLD BE GOOD FOR SILICON VALLEY? Beats me. But Sonia Arrison has some thoughts.

September 30, 2003

VIA JOHN ELLIS, here’s another article on outsourcing, featuring a list of jobs most and least at risk. Ellis thinks that health care will be the big issue of 2004, but I think that this will have a lot of traction, too — especially among voters who tend Republican, but who might be lured away by Democrats over this issue.

September 29, 2003

ROB SMITH had better never go to Indonesia.

Me, I want a country that offers tax breaks for oral sex, not jail time.

Note to 2004 presidential candidates: here’s your winning issue!

September 29, 2003

THIS JUST IN: DUCT TAPE IS GOOD FOR EVERYTHING — except, apparently, sealing ducts.

September 29, 2003

STEVEN DEN BESTE HAS A LENGTHY POST on Iraqi reconstruction that’s worth reading: “We will eliminate our enemies not by killing them in hordes, but by infecting them with ideas which will convert most of them to friends. That process has now begun.”

September 29, 2003

DRIVING WHILE TIRED — NOW A CRIME IN NEW JERSEY. I agree with the commenter who says: “This is further proof of my theory that any law named after a person is a bad law.”

September 29, 2003

REPORTERS ENDANGERING IRAQI CHILDREN:

The missiles are filled with volatile rocket fuel and two hundred kilograms of high explosives. Locals fear their children could be injured or their homes destroyed by these deadly weapons.
- ABC TV News, 19 August 2003

Gina Wilkinson: Mr Saadi?
- Yes.
Gina Wilkinson: Can we get these two kids to walk around underneath the missile?
Just around it?
- Mohammad. Mohammad.
Gina Wilkinson: And this one?
- (trans) Come here. Go up there. Go with him. Casually, casually. Walk behind him. Go with him. . . .

You want to show the children on there?
Gina Wilkinson: Yeah, that would be good. Yeah, if they don’t mind.
- (trans) You want them to stand over there to be filmed?
- (trans) Come on sweetie. What’s her name?
- Noona
- (trans) I’m worried about them.
- Sit. Sit on this.
- (trans) I’m worried about them.
- (trans) Sit on the edge.

Gina Wilkinson: Please God, don’t let this thing explode now.
- ABC Camera Tape

This is the Australian equivalent to the BBC (in more ways than one!) not the American Broadcasting Company.

UPDATE: Tim Blair: “I clearly underestimated the ABC’s willingness to harm kids.”

September 29, 2003

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH thinks that the air is going out of the Plame/Wilson affair as Robert Novak says it wasn’t leaked by the Administration.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner is skeptical, too, if not quite as skeptical as Pejman.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a story from July in which Novak seems to say that someone called him with the information, which would seem to contradict what he’s saying now. So which Novak is telling the truth? The July Novak or the September Novak? (Is either?) Say, maybe his source was George Tenet. . . .

Maybe they should just subpoena Novak. Although Peter Jennings said tonight that courts have consistently held that journalists don’t have to disclose their sources, that’s not true. Novak has no more right to refuse to testify about a crime than anyone else does.

Yeah, I know, that’s probably a non-starter. But that’s because of the political power of the Journalists’ Guild, not because of the First Amendment.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who says he’s a former CIA employee sends this:

Regarding Pejman Yousefzadeh’s analysis of the Plame/Wilson issue, I thought some information from a former CIA analyst might be useful.

I was an analyst at the CIA from 1990-92 working in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI). I was in training for the first year and some of my colleagues were training to be case officers in the Directorate of Operations (DO: the real spies). As a result, my colleagues from the DI and the Directorates of Science & Technology and Administration (DS&T, DA) and I were required to be undercover. The idea was not to blow the cover of the DO folks by association with us during training.

Once I completed my training, I was allowed to drop my cover and be an overt employee. Other DI, DS&T and DA officers chose to maintain their covers. Some DI officers do that so it’s easier to go overseas on Agency business–in which case you travel under cover. Others do it to preserve the option to return to a covert role.

My point is that Valerie Plame, while not in the DO or a traditional covert role, might still indeed have been under cover. On the other hand, the CIA spokesperson that asked Mr. Novak not to use her name may have been operating under standard procedures: CIA officers are encouraged–even if overt employees–to avoid revealing their employment. It helps reduce the chances of being targeted by opposing intelligence services or being the target of terrorist attacks (as happened in 1993 outside the Agency’s gates).

Hope that helps. In keeping with standard procedures (even 11 years later!), please withhold my name.

I have friends who were non-covert types at the CIA, and they do tend to keep that quiet. Eric Kolchinsky has more on this subject.

Meanwhile Mark Kleiman writes that Pejman is wrong, in the item cited above, though weirdly Kleiman also seems to think that this post is my first on the Plame/Wilson affair, which it’s not. In fact, I’ve even linked to Mark on this before. And there’s this rather long post (1,860 words) from yesterday, too. If this is a “wall of silence,” Mark, well. . . .

Unfortunately, that aspect of Kleiman’s post, like the excessive gleefulness and point-scoring of the anti-Bush bloggers in general on this topic, only serves to make this matter look more political, and less serious, than it perhaps is. More and more, these guys remind me of the anti-Clinton fanatics of the 1990s. Which doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, any more than the anti-Clinton fanatics were always wrong. It just makes them a lot less persuasive. (Kleiman also quotes Drezner’s earlier post on this, but not his more recent, and more skeptical, one linked above. Perhaps he missed that one, too, but you shouldn’t, as it offers some perspective.)

Helpfully, Henry Hanks emails:

Actually a close reading of Novak’s statement doesn’t really contradict what he’s saying now…

“I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me,” he said. “They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.”

versus:

Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson’s report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.

He never said he was called. The article says, without quoting Novak, that they came to him, which cannot be inferred from his words.

Hmm. Stay tuned, as we keep saying. (Hanks has more, here). One sure-fire prediction: some people will wish the Independent Counsel law hadn’t been repealed, before this is all over.

And in a surprise come-from-behind move, Megan McArdle, who already said something like that, wins the pundit-of-the-week award with this McLaughlin-worthy item:

Question of the day: is the Plame affair good or bad for Wesley Clark?

You’ll have to follow the link to find out. And there’s lots of good stuff, generally, on this and related topics at Tom Maguire’s blog — he’s been covering this for some time.

MORE: Reader Ed Paul emails:

I may have missed this but I have not seen anyone compare the Wilson matter to the disclosure of Linda Tripps personnel and medical records by her boss in DOD to the media. Although it could be argued that revealing a spy’s identity is more serious, both cases involved allegations of a Federal felony. A Justice Department investigation just kind of petered out even thought the guy (Bacon?) admitted enough in public to at least create probable cause. I have too much Clinton scar tissue to be outraged at the hypocrisy but some Democrats ought to at least be made to jump through the hoop of explaining the difference.

I vaguely remember this, and it seems about right.

MORE STILL: Here’s a roundup of the scandal to date. And here’s another.

EVEN MORE STILL: Eugene Volokh responds appropriately to people who want him to blog more about the Plame affair.

Meanwhile, Doug Payton is unconvinced that this story has much to it.

And Charles Johnson links to a speech by Wilson that makes me wonder who thought he could be trusted with the Niger mission to begin with.

September 29, 2003

MESSAGE TO TED TURNER: It’s best if you don’t open your mouth. Because Jeff Jarvis notices when you do.

UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster has a more polite response to Turner’s concerns.

September 29, 2003

I’VE GOT MORE ON THE DEATH PENALTY over at GlennReynolds.com, including a response to my post by Jeralyn Merritt.

September 29, 2003

ARE JOURNALISTS INFORMATION SERVICE PROVIDERS who have to cough up records on demand from the FBI? No.

But that’s not what the FBI thinks, apparently.

September 29, 2003

A READER POINTS OUT that the Engineering News-Record — an engineering and construction publication — has a lot of stories on reconstruction in Iraq. Here’s their story index on that subject.

September 29, 2003

RONALD BAILEY IS COMPARING Wesley Clark to Chauncey Gardiner. But would he still say that if he had read this?

September 29, 2003

MICHAEL BARONE writes on zigs and zags.

September 29, 2003

MY SPACE-BLOGGING HAS BEEN SHAMEFULLY INADEQUATE lately, but here’s a good piece on the X-Prize competition, in which people are competing for a prize for a manned private space launch:

In a race to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, two teams of rocket engineers are poised to compete for the $10 million X Prize by launching people to the edge of space and bringing them back safely twice within a two-week period. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, said he expects that one of the two teams will launch within the next few months.

Good news, and I wish them success.

September 29, 2003

WHEN PANTS ATTACK: I’ve seen the Jimmy Neutron nanopants episode that Howard Lovy describes.

September 29, 2003

JOHN LEO has a column on how Internet fact-checking and bypassing demonstrated problems with media coverage of Iraq. “The Internet campaign is another example of the new media going around the old media, in this case to counter stories by quagmire-oriented reporters.”

We’ll see more of that, I expect.

September 29, 2003

FISKING GOES MAINSTREAM in this point/counterpoint column by James Pinkerton using colorcoded interjections to respond to a column by Yuval Levin.

September 29, 2003

WINDS OF CHANGE has a roundup of Iraq news and a separate roundup on the wider war. As always, both are full of interesting stuff that you’re likely to miss otherwise.

UPDATE: Here’s another roundup that’s worth checking out.

September 29, 2003

THIS IS INTERESTING:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy yesterday split from the recent harsh criticism that his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, leveled against President Bush for attacking Iraq and said the country is better off without Saddam Hussein.

“I don’t agree with his stance,” the Rhode Island congressman said of his father. “I believe that the U.N. needs to be a viable international organization and the only way it is viable is if its proclamations and resolutions are enforced.”

The elder Kennedy stirred a storm of controversy recently by saying that the reasons for war were “made up in Texas” to help the GOP at election time and calling it “a fraud.”

But Patrick Kennedy, who voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, said Saddam Hussein had “the worst track record of any international leader in the history of the U.N.” for violating human rights and inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

“If he didn’t have (the weapons), then how come he gassed all his people with them?” the younger Kennedy asked. “The fact is, he definitely had them. Whether he destroyed them or not is up for debate. But he had them and he’s got a propensity for invading neighboring countries and causing instability in a part of the world (where) we can’t afford to have a lot of instability.

Patrick Kennedy doesn’t agree with Bush’s approach, but this is a refreshing change from the mindless “Bush lied” agitprop we’re hearing from too many.

September 29, 2003

DEBORAH ORIN IS PRAISING TOM BROKAW in a story on media reportage and Iraq:

When NBC anchor Tom Brokaw went to Iraq, it was as if he was visiting a different country than that any other TV journalist had reported from, because he left Baghdad and many of his reports actually had an optimistic tone.

Why? Perhaps because Brokaw has chronicled the Greatest Generation and World War II, a time of patience instead of attention deficit disorder and a demand for overnight success. Nowadays, one can imagine critics instantly howling for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s head over the deaths on D-Day.

It’s worth remembering, as critics revive their Vietnam quagmire comparisons, that over 57,000 U.S. troops died in Vietnam and so far the U.S. death toll in Iraq is 308, fewer than the 343 firemen who were killed on 9/11.

Every death is a tragedy. But that doesn’t make the war a failure. In fact, it is a success.

Read the whole thing.

September 29, 2003

HERE’S A NEW YORK TIMES story on the Bee blogging brouhaha. It’s pretty good overall, and features Weintraub saying that his Bee editors have committed to being available whenever he wants to post. I suspect that they’ll find that a bit of a strain, but maybe not: the Bee is big enough, I suppose, to have someone on duty at all hours. Weintraub also says that this may detract somewhat from the immediacy and spontaneity of his writing, and I think that pretty much has to be the case.

September 28, 2003

JETBLUE PASSENGERS are unhappy about it sharing their personal data.

Interestingly, Wesley Clark is on the board of Acxiom, the company involved, according to this story in the Post. Clark didn’t have a specific role with JetBlue, it says, but he was behind the development of the passenger-information database involved.

Does this tell us anything about the privacy policies of a Clark Administration? I don’t know. Somebody should probably ask him. At the moment, he’s getting beaten on pretty badly:

“The privacy impact of anti-terrorism initiatives is certain to be a major issue in the presidential campaign,” said David L. Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group in the District.

“The public is extremely skeptical,” he said. “He owes the public an explanation as to how, if elected, he would limit the government’s expanding collection of personal information about citizens.”

Others believe that Clark faces skepticism about the money he took to represent Acxiom, even though many former military leaders have done the same thing.

“There’s something unseemly and, yes, mercenary, about a distinguished general lobbying for a company trying to get government contracts,” said Charles Lewis, executive director for the Center for Public Integrity.

Think Howard Dean might make an issue out of this?

UPDATE: There’s more on this at Cryptome, along with the question: “Will Wesley Clark do the right thing and disavow Acxiom?”

September 28, 2003

A PACK, NOT A HERD: An interesting lesson on disaster preparedness from Japan, via Virginia Postrel.

September 28, 2003

MICKEY KAUS has more on the California recall, which I haven’t been covering much. But, then, he actually understands California politics.

September 28, 2003

CHRISTOPHER LYDON is comparing Wesley Clark to Hadrian, and George Bush to Trajan. I’m not sure that this works (in fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t), but you can read it and decide for yourself.

A few angry readers have asked what I like about Howard Dean. I thought I was pretty clear about that. It’s that Dean recognizes (at least he says he does, and he seems sincere to me) that bailing out isn’t an option in Iraq — we have to succeed, or the backlash will be far more damaging than the backlash from our timidity in response to Beirut, Mogadishu, and Tehran.

UPDATE: Reader William Lemmon emails:

As a big ol’ Roman history geek and a fan of historical comparisons to current events, I was fascinated by the blog you linked to last night in which Christopher Lydon equates Wes Clark to Hadrian and President Bush to Hadrian’s predecessor, Trajan.

You write that the comparison doesn’t work, and I would agree that it doesn’t work in the sense that the author thinks it does. However, it may be apt in a way that Mr. Lydon doesn’t intend, and wouldn’t like.

Mr. Lydon seems to assert that Hadrian’s consolidation of the Empire’s borders and cessation of expansion was unquestionably beneficial. But this interpretation is far from unassailable.

The Roman Empire was always at its strongest when it was on the offensive, pushing its borders ever further into barbarian territory and carrying the benefits of civilization with them, just as President Bush asserts that America can only triumph in the war on terror by staying on the offensive and bringing the fight to the enemy’s heartland. There’s no reason to believe that the Democratic strategy of going on the defensive (by focusing on homeland security rather than regime change in hostile nations) will work any better for America than it did for Rome, which found it difficult to maintain static borders against the constant encroachments of barbarian tribes (again, just as our porous borders would be almost impossible to seal against terrorist infiltration).

In fact, it’s arguable that Hadrian’s reforms contributed to the eventual fall of the empire by sapping Rome of its drive and ambition for expansion, leading inevitably to decadence and decline. It’s hard to avoid drawing unfavorable parallels to Democratic pacifism and provinicialism.

All in all, I think that Hadrian, with his passion for reform and centralization, his ivory-tower intellectualism and his weakness for sensual pleasure (for which he was widely mocked and derided in his own day) compares rather closely to too many of today’s Democrats. Perhaps more to Wes Clark’s patron, Bill Clinton, than to Clark himself – although, happily, Bill didn’t erect hundreds of statues of Monica, as Hadrian did of his (male) lover Antinous.

For that matter, Bush as Trajan – a man of action from a province considered somewhat backwater by the Roman elites – is a pleasing comparison as well.

Trifle with history geeks at your peril.

September 28, 2003

MORE ON MEDIA REPORTING AND IRAQ: Jay Rosen looks at the reporting on Ground Zero and observes:

There’s no script for what’s happening in Iraq; there was none for Ground Zero. “Did Bush and Rumsfeld have an adequate plan?” is good for point-scoring; but it’s a naive expectation for action and upheaval on this scale. I expect Americans to be good at problem-solving when there is no plan, when the bosses don’t know what to do, or aren’t around, when only an unscripted experiment can work.

So one thing I want to know from the press is: how have these virtues figured in the struggle to rebuild Iraq? That isn’t a negative story or a positive story; it’s just an interesting one… and “probably profound.” It’s not that there haven’t been such reports; there have. (See this, for example.) But in the master narrative for post-war Iraq, problem-solving could have a larger place, which might address some of the concerns about “negative” news.

I’ve seen a little reporting along those lines, but not much, and generally buried.

Rosen also offers this interesting observation:

On a speaking trip to The Netherlands two years ago, I noticed that every time I used the word “experiment,” my Dutch hosts would give me a blank look or reach for their beer. So I finally asked some Amsterdam friends about it. The Dutch think that if you start an experiment it means you don’t know what you’re doing, one of them said. The most likely outcome is to make things worse. “Oh,” I replied, “well, Americans have a different attitude.” “We know,” said my hosts, in unison and now laughing.

I think that ties in with the point noted by Scott Turow (quoted here) on the comparative fragility of European institutions and the political attitudes it produces. And I wonder if the attitude of many in the press — in which trying something that doesn’t work is a “failure” even if you learn from it, because it didn’t work the first time — isn’t something similiar.

Well, I’m not sure what the profound sociological point there is, though I think there is one. But I definitely think that there are a lot of good stories — not cheerleading, but interesting, and informative, and useful at getting things right in the future — that aren’t being reported because people are sticking to a tired Vietnam-era template.

UPDATE: Tim Blair has it all figured out.

September 28, 2003

MEDIENKRITIK offers an example of German pro-Americanism that wasn’t widely reported — but also notes that Der Spiegel managed to report on European blackouts without the “spiteful gloating” displayed in reporting the New York blackout.

September 28, 2003

MARK STEYN WRITES ANOTHER EULOGY FOR EDWARD SAID, whose death appears to have inspired new discussion of his scholarship.

UPDATE: And here’s one by Nelson Ascher.

September 28, 2003

HOW THEY TREAT WHISTLEBLOWERS AT THE E.U.:

Robert McCoy has brought to light fraud and corruption within the EU. Now, in a letter seen by David Wastell, he reveals how he was vilified by Brussels for his efforts

He has worked for the European Union for more than 30 years. His friends regard him as an upright and loyal bureaucrat, keen to uphold the EU’s name against its critics, whether in Brussels or back home in Britain.

Yet Robert McCoy must steel himself before he walks the corridors of his own EU institution. If he is lucky, senior colleagues at the glass and concrete headquarters of the Committee of the Regions – a Brussels talking-shop for local government representatives, set up under the Maastricht Treaty – merely ignore him, turning their heads ostentatiously as he passes.

If not, he may be on the receiving end of abuse. “Gestapo! Gestapo!” angry fellow workers once taunted him. One manager spat on the floor as he walked by, friends say. . . .

Mr McCoy’s offence – as it was apparently regarded by some EU staff and politicians – was to stumble upon, investigate and then seek to correct a series of financial irregularities within the Committee of the Regions (CoR), whose annual budget is €38 million (£27 million).

Last week the European Union was thrown into a frenzy when a trio of official reports confirmed the existence of secret bank accounts, bogus contracts and other accounting malpractices at Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, over the past five years.

Shocking treatment. You’d almost think that sort of corruption was regarded as acceptable, and even defensible.

September 28, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH has some thoughts on today’s Doonesbury and campaign finance “reform.”

Seems to me that this is just what the “reformers” wanted.

September 28, 2003

EVAN COYNE MALONEY managed to interview Michael Moore on camera — and got some advice. You can see it here.

Sorry for the limited blogging. Power’s out again at the Insta-home. No idea why, as the weather’s perfect today. [It's a conspiracy! -- Ed. Possibly.] I’m at the office, but just briefly. Back later.

September 28, 2003

THE PLAME/WILSON STORY remains, in Roger Simon’s words “too complicated” for me to feel I really understand it. But here’s the Washington Post story, and here’s a roundup of commentary by Brian Linse. My big question on all of this is “why?” I’m not sure I find Brian Linse’s “pure revenge play” theory plausible, though I’m not sure I find Roger’s crime-writer instinct that it was a setup to embarrass the Bush Administration plausible either.

Meanwhile, Josh Chafetz sounds a cautionary note, and Tom Maguire has perspective, while Daniel Drezner is more upset than some of his commentors.

UPDATE: Reader Matthew Brown emails: “I don’t believe for a second that the Plume story is ‘too complicated’ for you. It’s about intimidation of whistleblowers, no?”

Well, that’s what some people say. But it doesn’t make sense to me. First, if you want to “intimidate” someone, committing a felony at which you can be caught — and which doesn’t hurt the target — doesn’t seem to be the way to do it. What possible benefit was there to the Bush Administration in saying that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA? When what they could have said is what the British did say, which is that Wilson was gullible and inept? Had Plame been fired on a pretext, or Wilson’s taxes been audited, or some such, then there’d be an “intimidation” argument. But this? Perhaps I’m too missing something here, but this seems like a rather tepid version of intimidation — or, for that matter, revenge. I can’t help but feel that there’s either more to this, or less, than we’re hearing. And I guess if it weren’t for the palpable desperation on the part of people looking for a scandal with which to tar Bush — reminiscent of numerous right-wing Clinton critics from about five or six years ago — I might be more inclined to say “more” instead of “less.”

I suppose I should just be happy to see such solicitude on the behalf of a reputed CIA agent from people who aren’t usually so solicitous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Donald Sensing writes:

I happen to have been a seminar attendee in 1993 in which Wilson was a speaker one day. There were only about two dozen attendees, some of us military and others civilian government factotums from all branches of government. So we had very informal and engaging discussions with the daily speakers.

I found Wilson to be expertly knowledgeable on the Middle East and quite sober-minded. I rate his credibility extremely high, so I find the charges he has made very credible and very disturbing.

Sensing’s view makes this more credible and disturbing to me. But I still wonder why, exactly, anyone would do this, even if they were trying to intimidate a whistleblower. And read the comments to Sensing’s post.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kori Pirouz emails:

Shockingly, you really don’t get what is intimidating about blowing the cover of a CIA agent. What could be more intimidating than putting an agent’s life at risk? I’m curious to know.

I don’t think that Valerie Plame is undercover in Islamabad, so I don’t quite see where the risk is. There may be risks to contacts she developed in the past, which would be bad — but why would that intimidate Wilson? This seems like a case of manufactured outrage to me. I rather doubt that most of the people who are so exercised here were condemning that hero of the antiwar left, Philip Agee, who really did put lives in danger.

But if somebody did endanger Valerie Plame as a means of intimidating Wilson, that would be contemptible. But once again, I don’t see the reason for taking this approach, even if your goal was to intimidate Wilson. Surely the White House could do a better job, if that were the point, without violating the law or endangering national security. Unless you buy this theory from reader Stephen Galbraith:

W. Post says that “two Senior Administration officials” informed 6 journalists of Plume’s CIA connections/work. Hmm, one must be Ari Fleischer. The other is? Rove?

That doesn’t make sense. It sure doesn’t smell of any larger orchestrated effort. The White House, according to all sources I know of (Woodward et al.), is very secretive and squashes leaking. We don’t see this M.O. operating in any other way.

Fleischer and Rove late one night after a couple of beers? Wonder if they initiated the calls or the press?

I’m not sure why one has to be Fleischer, but the beer thing doesn’t ring true, either.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: This bit from reader Robert Jeffers makes more sense than anything else I’ve read:

Wilson himself does not think that the exposure of his wife as a CIA agent (something he has been careful to neither confirm nor deny, in every interview with him that I’ve heard or read) was meant to intimidate him. He obviously discounts the idea that it somehow impugns his credibility or integrity (the reason Novak gave for identifying his wife’s status with the CIA; i.e., that he was asked by the CIA to go to Niger because of her connections, not his reputation/background). But he understands that it intimidates anyone else who might come forward. A warning shot across the bow to other whistle-blowers, in other words: don’t embarass us (as Wilson did) or we’ll ruin your careers, too (as Ms. Plame’s “undercover” career has been ruined). Which, of course, is the classic response to whistle-blowers: it is too late to intimidate
the one who has blown your secret. All you can hope to do is to send a message to anyone else with secrets to tell. That’s where the intimidation comes in.

As for the revelation itself, it really isn’t necessary that Ms. Plame now be in mortal danger (“in Islamabad,” as you so artfully put it) to be a felony. Obviously her career is at an end, at least the one she (probably) enjoyed. That’s intimidation enough for anyone else who needs the paycheck. Now Ms. Plame cannot travel anywhere without being suspect, perhaps even subject to revenge (who knows? It sounds a bit “James Bond-ian” to me to even type such a thing, but then again, the law doesn’ t require that disclosure place the agent’s life in danger to be a felony). The law is meant to protect national security. According to a source who spoke to the Washington Post, that concern was trumped by political concerns. The fact that it may be petty is not the issue, any more than it made sense to send the burglars to the Watergate complex. This isn’t, after all, a mystery novel. It is real life, and truth is usually more petty than fiction.

Well, that last is certainly true — just read my email! The whole notion seems a bit farfetched to me: transferring Ms. Plame to clerical duties in Ougadougou would have been just as effective a punishment (and intimidation), and not a felony, wouldn’t it? If the “outing” claim is true — and at the moment it’s rather thinly sourced — it involves behavior that’s contemptible, and (I think, based on what I’ve read on other blogs and in news stories) illegal. Not to mention phenomenally stupid. Nor is it clear to me what “whistle” Wilson actually blew, when you actually look at the Niger uranium story’s facts — the White House, after all, never said anything specifically about Niger. But assuming that it is true, Jeffers’ explanation of the “why” makes more sense than anything else that I’ve read on the subject. Perhaps Roger Simon will weigh in.

MORE: Megan McArdle:

When liberals start championing the CIA as a beacon of truth and justice, something is amiss. I’m suspicious of both sides, especially since, if this were Clinton, 99% of the liberals would be telling us that the CIA are a bunch of lying bastards who can’t be trusted to tell you that the sky is blue, and 99% of the conservatives defending Bush would be declaring that the CIA are the watchdogs of our liberty and how dare you impugn their motives?! So for now, I’m just going to wait and see.

Read her whole post.

UPDATE: Reader Patrick Dunne emails:

I don’t understand why, if outing a CIA agent is so outrageously terribly awful, these anti-Bush people aren’t more incensed at Robert Novak. Wasn’t he the one who actually published her name for the “evil-doers” to see? Wasn’t he a dupe, if these people are to be believed, who became a tool for nefarious schemers in the Administration? Where are the questions about his judgment and journalistic integrity? If they Administration actually approached six journalists, doesn’t this mean five of them had the integrity and judgment to decline to break the law and endanger this woman and Novak didn’t? How does Novak retain any reputation if this thing is such a humongous scandal?

The whole thing smells of a cooked up scandal a la BBC v. Tony Blair if you ask me.

I don’t know if Novak comes under the statute or not, but that would have no bearing on the moral status of his actions. I have to wonder why anyone in the Administration would shop a story like this to Novak, who doesn’t like Bush and has notorious Arabophile tendencies that would make him seem a dubious choice to me. But then, there’s obviously something going on here that I don’t fully understand.

STILL MORE: Did the CIA do the leaking?

MORE YET: John Hawkins writes:

However, there is a big flaw in much of what’s being written about this story. That flaw is that it is being treated as a given that this story was leaked by a member of the Bush administration. While that may turn out to be the case, there is little at this point beyond a leak from an anonymous source to indicate that is what happened. . . .

In any case, a felony was committed here. If someone in the Bush administration did the crime, then they should be fired and put on trial. That’s the law and it applies to everyone. However, before people start leveling wild accusations against the Bushies they ought have better sources than an “anonymous aide” and a bitter husband who has already had to eat some of his own words about this very matter. There is going to be an investigation and if what that anonymous aide & Wilson said is true, there’s are an awful lot of people who know about this — far too many to cover it up.

Stay tuned.

EVEN MORE: Clifford May says everyone knew Plame was an agent. That’s typical (as lefty critics of the Agency are usually pointing out). He’s got more background on Wilson, too. Here’s a link to the statute in question, too, though I’m not at all familiar with its actual application.

And Roger Simon has responded to my invitation to comment further. He’s suspicious.

FINAL UPDATE: I’ve updated this thread a lot, rather than posting new items, because a lot of people were linking to it, but enough is enough. I actually counted the words before adding this update and it came out 1,860. That’s two or three op-eds worth. There’s a later post here, and I’ll update more as needed. (I’ll try to remember to always use “Plame” in the post, so it’ll be easy to find on a search, too.)

Reading the stuff above, it seems to me that one reason why this is so confused is that the nature of the charges is vague and shifting. Was Plame put “at risk?” Or not? Was the purpose to intimidate Wilson? Or someone else? I’d like to see more specificity. The trouble is, at this point we don’t know enough.

Follow the link (way up top) to Tom Maguire’s page, where he’s got a chronology. That helps some, but things are all rather maddeningly vague.

September 28, 2003

UPI CORRESPONDENT PAMELA HESS has an interesting piece on media coverage of matters in Iraq. It’s long, and complex, enough to defy simple summary, but here are some excerpts:

It is an important debate to have. Coverage out of Iraq is largely negative, and the surprise to me upon arriving there in July was that it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as I thought it was going to be. People are on the streets evening and morning, eating at restaurants and doing their shopping. They swim in the Tigris to keep cool. They play soccer. . . .

If the CPA feels that its successes are not getting appropriate media attention, they might ask themselves why.

On my first day in Baghdad, I submitted the required written request for more than a dozen interviews and briefings, knowing many would not be granted. Four weeks later, when I left Baghdad, my requests had never even been formally acknowledged — although a CPA spokesman confirmed they had been received — and none were ever acted upon. . . .

These Marines, from Gen. Mattis down, understood what Keane talked about Thursday: that the deaths of American soldiers (not a single Marine has been killed by hostile fire since April 12) are statistically small but play into the hands of the enemy, who depend on the daily news report of the grim statistic for psychological victory. They want Iraq to seem lawless and ungovernable and most of all dangerous, so the Americans and the 20,000 other troops will leave.

There is another reason they are dismayed by the media coverage: It gives way too much credit to the enemy. The attacks on U.S. soldiers are relatively “cheap” — they are remotely detonated bombs or mortar or grenade attacks conducted from far off. They don’t require much in the way of expertise or bravery. Each news report of each hostile death — and there have been 81 since combat operations supposedly ended May 1 — contributes (the military says unjustly) to their image as a credible fighting force.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Rapid response!

Just read the Pam Hess piece you linked to about media coverage in Iraq. Given that I am sitting squarely in the middle of the CPA press shop in Baghdad as I write this, I feel qualified enough to comment.

First, Hess completely leaves out one of the reasons for the easier time the Marines (and the Army’s 101st Airborne in the north) are having with the population. Namely, the Shia and Kurds were more favorably disposed to the Americans deposing Saddam and hence more likely to “give peace a chance” once the Americans settled in to rebuild. Not so in “the triangle” and in Baghdad proper, and it is Army units that got that assignment.

This is a critical point because it explains some of of the Army’s skittishnes about reporters. This isn’t to say that the Marines didn’t approach this correctly right from the start, they have. It’s just to highlight that the (Army) units in and around Baghdad got the tougher assignment and hence are a little more strained in their daily effort. Which in turn tends to mean they are more restrained with reporters roaming around. . . .

Her piece here is just one long apologia for the press who are now being rightly) assailed for letting their biases choose what actually makes it into print and this seems to be in line with her previous work and reputation.

Finally, Hess fails to mention how understaffed the CPA itself is and thus by extension its public affairs effort. It’s tough to give all the media everything they want when you lack the manpower to do it. Sure, more people would be great. But more people come with more logistical and other problems and, while I am not privy to this decision, I would not be surprised if there was a conscious decision to limit the “footprint” of CPA in order to avoid the perception that the CPA is here to stay. Already you can find grumbling on the Iraqi General Council that they are ready to take on more governing responsibility. Increasing the footprint of CPA would tend to send a signal that we’re overly paternalistic here. Not an image we are trying to foster.

Not sure if any of this is interesting to you or not. But I just thought I’d take 5 minutes to point out just a SMALL part of the other side. I’d appreciate being anonymous if you use any of this.

Done. I must say that I’ve found Hess’s commentary on this pretty balanced — but then, I’m not square in the middle of things in Baghdad, so I can only compare it to what I’m hearing from other reporters.

In a related vein, read this.

September 28, 2003

LIES ABOUT WMD: A rogues’ gallery.

September 28, 2003

STEFAN SHARKANSKY is back, after recovering from a “catastrophic hardware failure.” Check out his peace prize nominations!

September 28, 2003

NICK KRISTOF WRITES:

In reality, the wave of activity abroad by U.S. evangelicals is one of the most important — and welcome — trends in our foreign relations. I disagree strongly with most evangelical Christians, theologically and politically. But I tip my hat to them abroad.

Read the whole thing.

September 27, 2003

APPARENTLY, IT’S DIFFICULT TO GET AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MOORE — even when you try really hard.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Racansky points out that “four years ago Michael Moore had this guy arrested.”

And, of course, Moore has admitted to, ahem, counterfactual material in Bowling for Columbine, though Spinsanity is unimpressed with his overall honesty.

September 27, 2003

GEITNER SIMMONS HAS A NICE POST on poverty and the Third World.

September 27, 2003

THE OTHER REASON (besides power outages) that I’ve been blogging less this weekend is Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver — which is also the subject of an interesting collaborative annotation project here.

September 27, 2003

JEFF JARVIS IS UNIMPRESSED with Burger King’s new low-fat sandwich. It’s awful. And so small!

September 27, 2003

DAVID BROOKS WRITES ON THE CRUSHING OF DIVERSITY ON CAMPUSES. Juan Non-Volokh agrees:

When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I had several long discussions with my senior essay advisor about whether to pursue my PhD. My advisor, who was himself quite liberal, cautioned against it, largely because of my emerging, right-of-center political views. As he described it, succeeding in the liberal arts academy is tough enough as it is without the added burden of holding unpopular views. To illustrate the risk, he noted that one of his colleagues on the graduate admissions committee explicitly blackballed each and every candidate who had ever received financial support (scholarships, fellowships, etc.) from the John M. Olin Foundation because, his colleague insisted, the Olin Foundation only funded people who thought like they did, and Yale did not want any graduate students who thought that way. If I truly wanted to be an academic, he counseled, I was better off going to law school.

Anything but that! Follow the links in the Volokh post for more comments on Brooks’ column.

UPDATE: David Adesnik agrees with Jacob T. Levy (quoted in the Brooks piece, in case you didn’t follow the link) that this isn’t such a big deal.

Since the piece is about arts and sciences hiring, I couldn’t say, and I imagine that it varies a lot from institution to institution. Hiring at my school is pretty non-ideological, and the committees generally get along pretty well. But then, we’re a pretty collegial faculty, and plenty of others, er, aren’t.

And read this, too.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg comments.

September 27, 2003

QUAGMIRE IN KNOXVILLE: The power was out this afternoon. It’s back on now.

September 27, 2003

EVERYBODY is getting into the Iraq-media-criticism game:

Bishop Abouna, a Chaldean Catholic, told the Catholic Herald in London that the situation in Iraq is steadily improving rather than descending into a morass resembling the Vietnam War, as often depicted by media outlets.

“It’s getting better but still there are many problems,” Bishop Abouna said. “The first problem is that they need security, then they need water and electricity — and all these things are getting better.”

“The media are exaggerating a lot of things. They should be realistic about the situation in Iraq. Newspapers and television are saying a lot of things that aren’t true. When they go there they can see everything (is changing),” he said.

It’s officially a trend now.

September 26, 2003

HOSSEIN DERAKSHAN has a post on what weblogs can do for Iran.

September 26, 2003

RED HERRING IS BACK. Well, sort of.

September 26, 2003

HERE IT IS, a major holiday, and I almost missed it!

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Glen:
Can’t believe you still celebrate this overly-commercialized holiday. Ever since Bush, Cheney and their bloodsucking crew took over this country, this holiday has been turned into nothing but another day for Big Cooking Oil and Big Corn to rape the public.

Wasn’t like that during the Clinton years. Those were the days when corn dogs were real; and big, too.

Bush-Cheney and corn dogs is just a way now to distract the public from the failed policies of the administration. Corn dogs and circus, that’s what it is.

But you can get them with mustard! Gulden’s!

September 26, 2003

DR. MANHATTAN offers a eulogy for Edward Said:

I’d argue that few if any intellectuals of his generation can truly be said to have been more devoted to “gods that fail.” Said spent much of the 1970s and 1980s advocating for a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians. But when faced with the possibility that such a solution might actually be possible, Said became a fierce enemy of the concept and the means of its realization. Rather than agitating for a way to make the Oslo Accords better, he denounced Yasser Arafat as a dictator and a sellout. (The “dictator” part was certainly true, but Said’s sudden discovery of those tendencies after a long history as an Arafat adviser does not speak well of his powers of observance.) Rather than trying to work against Arafat to build a better Palestinian society during the Oslo years, he became a leader of the intellectual resistance to the whole two-state enterprise. His proposal was a “secular, binational state” – an idea that only makes sense in the ivory tower. It is well known that the Palestinians supported Yasser Arafat’s refusal to accept the Palestinian state offered at Camp David, believing they could get all of Israel. They were encouraged in this hope by intellectuals such as Said.

Read the whole thing.

September 26, 2003

CHICAGO TRIBUNE BLOGGER ERIC ZORN weighs in on the Bee blog brouhaha:

In reality, what needs to emerge here if the j-blog isn’t going to die at birth, is an understanding on the part of editors and readers that, procedurally, a blog is much more like an appearance on a TV panel program or talk-radio show than it is a fully sanctioned, completely vetted declaration in cold type.

My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times.

And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors.

Yep.

September 26, 2003

IS THE SECRET SERVICE RESTRICTING ANTI-BUSH PROTESTS? Read this post by Eugene Volokh. And scroll up for more.

September 26, 2003

“TWENTY QUESTIONS THE MEDIA WILL NOT ASK ABOUT IRAQ:”

1. Where is all the money from the UN’s Oil for Food Program?

2. How many people have now lived at least six months longer than they would have under Saddam?

3. How many civilians were really killed in the major combat portion of the war?

4. How many civilians have been killed since the end of major combat?

5. How unreliable is the Iraqi electric distribution system in comparison to, say, the Washington, D.C., area system?

You’ll have to follow the link to see the rest. I’d like to see question #1 answered. And I’d like to see Kofi Annan face some close and careful questioning on the topic.

September 26, 2003

DAVID NISHIMURA POINTS OUT that the French are now questioning themselves. As they should. I like it that Chirac’s handling of the Iraq matter is being called a “diplomatic Agincourt.”

September 26, 2003

PAUL JOHNSON WRITES ON THE FRENCH HEAT DEATH WAVE and related topics:

One thing history teaches, over and over again, is that there are no shortcuts. Human societies advance the hard way; there is no alternative. Communism promised Utopia on Earth. After three-quarters of a century of unparalleled sufferings, the Soviet Union collapsed in privation and misery, leaving massive Russia with an economy no bigger than tiny Holland’s. We are now watching the spectacle of another experiment in hedonism, the European Union, as it learns the grim facts of life.

Meanwhile the latest total is 19,000 deaths in Europe, 14,802 in France, which Johnson identifies as the source of the EU’s governing philosophy.

September 26, 2003

CHINESE PLANS FOR A MANNED SPACE PROGRAM continue to advance.

September 26, 2003

HERE’S ANOTHER PIECE ON MEDIA REPORTING IN IRAQ (“More of the media should embed themselves with the Iraqi people outside the Sunni Triangle, rather than inside the Baghdad bunker”), and here’s another firsthand report from the troops hitting the mainstream media. I think we have a trend, here.

Meanwhile Jay Rosen gets it right:

In press think, journalists choose the watchdog who growls too much over the cheerleader with plastic smile, and they believe these to be the relevant choices. . . .

Maybe the complaint is not with covering the problems; it’s the narrow range of problems seen in the news. Maybe you’re not missing the positive note so much as proper warning signals about what could go wrong, if we’re not alert. Preventative journalism, (one possible alternative) talks openly about problems; it also has tacit confidence they can be solved, which is a democratic attitude.

I don’t think the press is too negative. But it is at times too unimaginative to tell me what’s going on. Personally, I want to know about problems on the ground in Iraq, a country my country has occupied; and if it takes relentless problem-scouting by special ops in the press, I want that too. But relentless problem-solving is what’s needed on the ground and in the atmosphere of Iraq. This much we know. There’s a big story in wait out there, but journalists do not necessarily know how to tell it.

Or at least, care enough to do so. But that seems to be changing. And I agree, I don’t want cheerleading. But fake-toughness is just as phony as a plastic smile.

September 26, 2003

IF IT CAN’T BE FIXED WITH DUCT TAPE, it can’t be fixed.

September 26, 2003

RANDY BARNETT looks at the swift passage of do-not-call legislation and asks what happened to “gridlock?”

Perhaps genuinely popular legislation is not so hard to pass after all? Perhaps the other stuff is harder to enact because significant segments of the population oppose them?

Questions worth asking.

UPDATE: And Ernest Svenson was asking them over a year ago. And invoking Father Guido Sarducci!

September 26, 2003

HERE’S A USA TODAY STORY on the explosion of consumerism and entrepreneurialism in Iraq.

Virginia Postrel comments: “TVs, refrigerators, and air conditioners–Anna Quindlen won’t like this news.”

Boo freakin’ hoo, as they say. Here’s the really good news from the story:

Hassan al-Dinwani, 53, owner of al-Yussir Trading Shops in Baghdad’s Karada neighborhood, says one of his new customers was a policeman. ”This was a surprise to me,” he says. In the past, officers couldn’t buy goods at his shop because their salaries were too low.

Iraqi police Lt. Raad Rasheed says his salary is now the equivalent of $275 a month, up from $25 before the war. ”My family is happy,” he says. ”I am also more focused on my job because I no longer have to worry about money.”

Underpaid police and functionaries, and the resultant corruption — many literally can’t feed their families without income from bribes — are a blight on much of the world. Sounds like this isn’t the case in Iraq.

September 25, 2003

AL QAEDA IS WORRIED ABOUT INFILTRATORS and engaging in mole hunts. They’re also (scroll up) facing problems in Yemen. Heh. All from Rantburg, a site that’s chock-full of interesting intelligence.

September 25, 2003

CONTENT ANALYSIS: “BBC reporters seemed much more sceptical about Coalition claims than they were about what the Iraqis were telling them.”

You don’t say.

September 25, 2003

BIG EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN: Not much news yet.

September 25, 2003

“WE’VE UNDOUBTEDLY LOST SOME OF OUR AUDIENCE, to Web sites that specialize in politically tinted news.”

September 25, 2003

CALL ME CRAZY, but I’m suspicious about this: “United Nations nuclear inspectors have reportedly found traces of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium at a second site in Iran.”

September 25, 2003

HERE’S A REPORT from the World Congress of Philosophy, which was in Turkey this year.

September 25, 2003

EDWARD SAID IS DEAD. Here’s some commentary on his work, by Adil Farooq. And here’s more from Charles Paul Freund.

UPDATE: Here’s more.

September 25, 2003

VIRGINIA POSTREL offers an excellent suggestion in support of Chief Wiggles’ toys for Iraqi children initiative. She suggests that you order them from Toys RUs on Amazon and have them shipped directly to the Chief. Here’s his address:

Chief Wiggles
CPA-C2, Debriefer
APO AE 09335

I suspect that he’ll get a lot of mail. Be sure to follow the link to his site to see the kinds of things that he’s looking for, and the kinds of things he doesn’t want you to send. Of course, as I suggested earlier, he should definitely get at least one of these.

Her suggestion that the Chief set up a wishlist is a good one, too. If he does, I’ll post a link.

September 25, 2003

PAUL BOUTIN has beaten me to the punch with a review of Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Quicksilver. Of course, the publisher probably sent him an advance copy. Publishers send me books, too, but they’re mostly policy-geek stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), not cool novels.

September 25, 2003

HUGH HEWITT contrasts editors who aren’t needed with editors who are.

September 25, 2003

MORE FIRSTHAND REPORTING FROM IRAQ, via Bergen to Baghdad. Follow the links on the right — lots of photos, too.

September 25, 2003

BEN DOMENECH is angry at how long it’s taking PEPCO to get power restored. But don’t get carried away, Ben!

UPDATE: Gregg Easterbrook has a lot more on this, and slams the Post for not taking the story seriously:

Right now the biggest populist story in a generation is playing out in Washington. The Washington Times and WTOP Newsradio, which care about Washington, are hitting the story with everything they’ve got. The Washington Post, which holds Washington and especially its suburbs in contempt, is fumbling the populist story in its backyard.

Ouch.

September 25, 2003

THE PROMISED LENGTHY POST on the death penalty, and Scott Turow’s new nonfiction book thereon, is now up over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Talkleft comments.

September 25, 2003

WINDS OF CHANGE has an Iraq roundup as well as a more general war news roundup, both chock-full of links to stories you’d be likely to miss otherwise.

UPDATE: And Jim Miller has an interesting WMD item.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s another war roundup that’s worth a look. And read this post on intelligence failures.

September 25, 2003

GEITNER SIMMONS has some thoughts on the whole “northern secession” issue.

Meanwhile, this John Tabin column examines the phenomenon of “South Park Republicans.” Is Arnold one?

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus notes the West Virginia problem that might result from secession.

September 25, 2003

RED TED has a nice post on the essence of the Iraq question, from a responsible anti-war perspective:

Lets take the Bush team at their implied pre-war word. Lets assume that the long-term goal of the war is indeed to create a vibrant democracy on the banks of the Euphrates. Lets pass on the questions of international law, wrap ourselves in the UN resolutions, and deny our political goals even as we work to fulfil them. How then should we judge policy in Iraq and how then should we suggest alternatives.

For the record, I said pre-war and I say again now, that this is a high-risk strategy, that if it works it will work wonderfully, and that I hope that it does work. I do believe in the contagion of liberty, it has worked in the past and it will work in the future. The long term goals are positive despite the cynical way that they were implemented.

But are the policies currently being pursued on the ground in Iraq working to further and achieve those democratic goals? There I just do not know the answer. The news I see is fragmented and politicized. I have seen a number of accounts of Iraqis welcoming American troops, of setting up new local institutions, there are now hundreds of newspapers where once there were only a few state-run newspapers. So some of the infrastructure of a democratic society is beginning to appear. Iraq was one of the more secular states in the Middle East and it was also one of the more entrepreneurial. There are a few early signs that Iraq might well become a powerhouse.

There is also bad news – not just the continuing guerilla attacks in the middle of the country. Those are bound to continue as long as a few people are willing to organize them and the bulk of the Iraqi people is not willing to shame and condemn them. Beyond that, it appears that the war planning staff forgot to plan for peace – a damning indictment of the whole idea that the subtext of the war was building a democratic society. . . .

If I were giving advice to Democratic strategists, it would be to focus on the implementation of the post-war policy in Iraq. Argue from administrative competence, argue against good-ole-boy contracting, argue against people who over commit the nation without a plan, and make SURE that you have a plan yourself.

Read the whole thing. I’d like to see more along these lines. So far, it looks as if Howard Dean is taking this tack.

September 25, 2003

SYLVAIN GALINEAU has a post on the anti-anti-Americans in France.

September 25, 2003

DONALD WALTER, the federal judge whose piece on Iraq I posted here last week, now has an oped on the same topic in the New York Post. Nice to see that this stuff is making it into the mainstream media. Then there’s this piece by Jack Kelly:

Last week, I covered the return to Pittsburgh from Iraq of a Marine reserve military police company. These Marines made the march of Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division, and spent the bulk of the postwar period escorting convoys between Basra and Najaf. Each of the seven Marines I interviewed said that more than 90 percent of the Iraqis they encountered were friendly.

The accounts of these Marines square with those of most other servicemen returned from Iraq, and with my own experiences as a reporter embedded with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in western Iraq, and with the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. But it’s a story you hardly ever hear on the evening news.

Iraq is a dangerous place. Saddam Hussein is still at large, as are thousands of his diehard supporters. They’ve been joined by hundreds, perhaps thousands of foreign terrorists. Though these “insurgents” cannot challenge the U.S. military for control of any part of the country, they’ll be able to conduct remote ambushes and terror bombings for months to come.

But viewed in historical perspective, things in Iraq are pretty good, and getting better. The insurgents are a tiny — and dwindling — minority. Most of the country is at peace. Nobody is starving. Signs of reviving economic activity are everywhere. In no country in the Arab world are Americans as popular as they are in Iraq.

Some more of those returning-soldier accounts that David Adesnik was asking for. And they do all seem consistent with the reports of other non-media observers, and even those of some returning reporters now. Nice to see a little perspective starting to appear.

UPDATE: Reader John MacDonald emails:

Dan Rather was on 60 minutes II yesterday from Baghdad.The scene of traffic moving behind him was revealing in its normalcy.If the media persists in focusing mostly on the negatives they are going to lose their credibility.The great unwashed aren’t total idiots.

Indeed. Meanwhile Howard Veit emails that Bush is the idiot:

Bush is committing political suicide by not countering the media assault on the Iraq War. All he’d have to do is read aloud one letter per day from a soldier over there. He won’t do it or hasn’t the moxie to do it. Those of us who looked at the last election as one between two mediocre men are fearful that we were right. It is too stupid for words to allow a Left Wing Media to destroy this presidency but it is happening before our eyes. Bush is doing nothing to stop it. And all he’d have to do is read one letter per day from the web. You tell me, is that stupid or not?

Yeah, the vaunted White House spin machine seems to have been stuck between cycles on this one.

September 25, 2003

SPOONS THINKS that General Shelton should back up his charges against Wesley Clark:

I think it’s pretty clear that Shelton either said far too much, or far too little. If he wanted to be discreet, he could easily have brushed off the question. If, on the other hand, he wanted to tell why he thinks Clark is a bad guy, he could have backed up his statement with details and facts. Instead, he made a vague, ambiguous allegation that Clark lacked integrity and character.

I think, though, that Spoons is wrong to connect this with John Burns’ statements about Iraq. Shelton made an unspecified charge against a named person in the context of a converstation about that person. Burns made a specific charge against an unnamed person, in the context of a more general discussion of the media and Iraq. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think he should name the offender — I do — but it’s not the same thing. Shelton might be accused of character assassination, but Burns, not having named the person, can’t be.

September 25, 2003

RICHARD MINITER offers a lengthy summary of evidence for an Iraq / Al Qaeda connection.

September 25, 2003

HERE’S AN INTERVIEW WITH REP. JIM MARSHALL (D-GA), about media coverage of Iraq:

MARSHALL: Right. It’s Vietnam (search) deja vu. I was a recon sergeant in Vietnam and went through this process of trying to deal with a guerrilla war. It is a very difficult thing to do and could be that things weren’t going well.

Well, I came away with the impression that things are going well. Certainly a good bit better than seems to me, the overall American seems to thinks.

And the important thing is for Americans to understand that the news media tends to dwell on the negative. It happens in your own hometown, the typical TV show, the typical newspaper article focuses on murders and rapes. And that’s what you’re seeing right now. What you don’t see is the progress. . . .

MARSHALL: Well, it is a guerrilla war. And if we don’t appear to have resolve, then Iraqis are going to be a lot less likely to cooperate with us, a lot less likely to be willingly in the Army and willingly out there, going after the guerrillas.

We can’t force freedom on the Iraqis. The Iraqis have to take it for themselves. They can distinguish one from another. We can’t do that. We can’t read the street signs. We don’t know the language. They do. They can go in there and deal with this guerrilla situation.

It’s not like Vietnam. In Vietnam, you had the Chinese and Russians…

HUME: Right. Behind them.

MARSHALL: Behind them. You don’t have anything like that here. We can take care of this as long as the Iraqis step forward. They’re less likely to step forward if we’re pessimistic. We’re more likely to be pessimistic if we’re getting a lot of negative news coverage. And that’s the connection.

I’d be interested in hearing more details about how the CPA is doing. And I’d like to know what ever happened to the Oil Trust idea.

Meanwhile here’s a roundup of other commentary on the negative slant from Iraq.

September 25, 2003

THE GUANTANAMO ESPIONAGE PROBE has expanded to encompass a third suspect. This is very troubling, and makes you wonder who’s doing security clearances.

Hey, but at least they’re making sure there are no openly-gay people in the military!

September 25, 2003

I DIDN’T WATCH THE CALIFORNIA DEBATE, but there’s lots of information on how it went at PrestoPundit, Kausfiles, and Bee serial-edited-Web-columnist and former blogger Daniel Weintraub.

Meanwhile, Republicans are figuring out something I’ve been saying all along: Bush is vulnerable in 2004.

UPDATE: Here’s Howard Kurtz’s take on the debate. And yes, I was reading Neal Stephenson’s new novel instead. I’m up to page 112, and so far it’s great although he’s still warming up.

September 25, 2003

“WILL SADDAM’S BIGGEST SUCK-UP please come forward?” I agree with Andrew Sullivan and Jack Shafer on this.

September 25, 2003

NO, I’M NOT DYING of some dreadful disease. My “stop and smell the flowers” advice stems from a couple of things. One is that, sadly, I know some people who are — and even beyond that, quite a few friends and family have had various surgeries lately, putting such things on my mind. The other is my sense that the Blogosphere — like the journalistic and political worlds generally — is too het up. (See this Roger Simon post for more.) And I realized after the second anniversary of September 11 that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and pacing is required.

September 24, 2003

IT REALLY WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY, so I took the laptop to the patio at the Downtown Grill and Brewery (free wireless Internet!) and sat outside and drank coffee while I wrote a massive post for the MSNBC site tomorrow, on the death penalty and Scott Turow’s new book, Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty.

Regular InstaPundit readers won’t be surprised to learn that I’m not upset with the morality of the death penalty per se, but rather regard it as another big government program that doesn’t work very well. I have a few comments on social context, crime-fighting in general, and more, but you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to read them.

In the meantime, I suggest that you seize the opportunity to enjoy life. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not in prison, or on Death Row. If you were either of those things, your everyday life would seem pretty damn great. Keep that in mind. I will — I’ll be reading Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, which came today. Woohoo!

And, hey, at least I don’t have this guy’s problems! But that’s because I don’t have a butler. And I drink Sumatra Mandheling. Otherwise, there’s a shocking similarity.

September 24, 2003

CHRIS MOONEY has a new blog! Check it out.

September 24, 2003

BRIAN CARNELL ASKS: Who is lying — Michael Moore, or Wesley Clark?

My money’s on Moore, for obvious reasons, but you never know.

UPDATE: Then again, Clark has issues too, apparently. Maybe we shouldn’t believe either of them?

September 24, 2003

FIGHT OVARIAN CANCER: I’m willing to do my part to prevent this scourge. (Via GruntDoc).