Archive for September, 2003

September 24, 2003

IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, but I had too much work to let me run off to the mountains like last week, so I had to settle for a walk around campus. It’s such a beautiful day that it wasn’t too bad a second choice.

I tried to really focus on how the campus is different from when I was in college a bit over 20 years ago. Some things aren’t that different — fashions have come full circle in many departments. The student body, which was then only slightly more female than male, is now considerably more so — I haven’t seen numbers, but I’ve heard that it’s more than 60% female and just walking around that looks plausible. And nearly every one of the female students seems to be talking on a cellphone as she walks. (The men seldom are, so I guess the women are talking to one another).

The population is far more diverse. In particular, there are far more asians — both Americans of asian descent, and in particular actual student-visa asians from China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I suspect that the same trends apply to most universities.

For those who want to see more pictures (and there are generally some Knoxville expats, or UT alumni, who do), click here, here, here and here.

September 24, 2003

HERE’S MORE FIRSTHAND REPORTING, this about how Al Jazeera is being received in Iraq.

September 24, 2003

HERE’S A COLUMN by the Los Angeles Times’ Tim Rutten on the Bee blog brouhaha.

September 24, 2003

ACCOUNTABILITY DEMANDS CONSEQUENCES. Bill Clinton said it, but the NASA safety board is actually living it, resigning in light of criticism over the Columbia accident.

That’s nine more than resigned from the FBI or CIA after 9/11.

September 24, 2003

LOOTING UPDATE: When you consider all the attention that Enron got in Europe, it’s interesting that scandals like this one don’t get much attention in the United States:

Four years after a sleaze row destroyed the previous European Commission, prompting its unprecedented mass resignation, the nightmare has returned to haunt its successor. . . .

The case, which was described as the “looting” of Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, uncovered a catalogue of failings and provoked calls for the Spanish commissioner Pedro Solbes Mira – who is ultimately responsible for Eurostat – to resign. . . .

In 1999 the previous Commission was forced to resign en masse after an inquiry concluded it was “becoming difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsib-ility”. Four years later no one seems willing to take the rap.

There are differences between the cases, however. In 1999 the allegations were directed against commissioners, notably Edith Cresson who hired her dentist as a scientific adviser.

Maybe this sort of thing just isn’t news because it’s so common?

/ STRASBOURG – A fresh investigation by the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf, has been launched into the European Commission’s technology directorate over alleged systematic theft by officials, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

This contradicts claims made by the Commission yesterday (23 September) that financial irregularities were only present in the EU statistical office, Eurostat.

A confidential letter sent to Commission vice-president Neil Kinnock, seen by the Daily Telegraph, claimed the group’s health unit, C4, had skimmed million of euros through contracts with Greek companies, and claims that alleged abuses at Eurostat were “almost insignificant” by comparison.

The newspaper says that the projects were titled Childcare, Citation, e-Remedy, HealthMarket, D-lab and Pharma among others.

It appears that Unit C4 used “friendly evaluators”, who steered contracts to companies in which they had a financial interest.

I seem to remember a lot of Euro-preening about the superiority of “European-style” capitalism back when Enron was in the news. Is this what they were talking about?

September 24, 2003

MATT WELCH HAS OBSERVATIONS on the rather unbecoming whining from the Bee’s ombudsman. People disagree with him! The horror!

Heh. He should have to read my email. . . .

September 24, 2003

DON’T MISS THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES — now with 100% more socialist realism!

Meanwhile Winds of Change has a very useful (and link-rich) roundup of what’s going on in the ‘stans.

September 24, 2003

A GOOD START TO THE DAY: In yesterday’s mail was a “test pressing” of a CD rerelease by my favorite 1980s rock ‘n’ roll band, The Rainmakers. It’s their first album, but I never got it on CD. I saw them in a hell of a show in Washington, double-billed with the then-unknown Steve Earle, for 5 bucks. (Mickey Kaus was at that show, too, but I didn’t know it at the time). And driving in to work as the fog lifted from the lake along Cherokee Boulevard, it was just too pretty not to take a picture. So, I did.

Now I’m in the office, going through my clogged inbox while Let My People Go-Go plays in the background. Not as nice as the drive in, but not bad.

You’ve got to enjoy stuff like this, because it’s what life’s about. I always knew that, to a degree, but with each passing year that knowledge gets closer to the bone.

UPDATE: You can stream some of the Rainmakers’ tunes here and even see a few videos. And Rainmakers frontman Bob Walkenhorst has a solo album out, though I haven’t heard it yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And while I’m mentioning favorite ’80s rock and roll bands, you might want to check out the White Animals’ website. And listen to “Ecstasy,” a song that defines an era.

September 24, 2003

HERE’S INTERESTING NEWS:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 23 — After five months of foreign military occupation and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents believe that the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows.

Despite the systemic collapse of government and civic institutions, a wave of looting and violence, and shortages of water and electricity, 67 percent of 1,178 Iraqis told a Gallup survey team that within five years, their lives would be better than before the American and British invasion.

Hmm. Polls are iffy, and polls in former dictatorships moreso. On the other hand, things are better elsewhere in the country, suggesting that there might actually be more enthusiasm overall. Ambit has links to other polls from Iraq, showing generally similar sentiments.

Wonder if this will get as much prominence on the evening news as a domestic poll showing that 66% of Americans disapproved of the war would. . . .?

UPDATE: Reader Ben Dolfin adds an interesting gloss:

You make a good point about the accuracy of polls in former dictatorships, but you missed an interesting clue. Based on who they pander too with their answers we can tell they know who is in charge and who will be in charge for the forseeable future. I’d be more worried if they still wanted to sacrifice their blood and souls for Saddam, that’d mean they think he’ll be back in charge soon.

So if they’re telling the truth then it’s a good thing, and if they’re lying to us at least they are kissing our butt instead of Saddam’s.

Good point.

September 24, 2003

BILL HOBBS looks at the seamy side of the record industry. And scroll up for some close readings of speeches by Bush and Rice.

September 24, 2003

MORE SCENES FROM A MALL: My TechCentralStation column for this week is up. And Megan McArdle has a piece in TCS today, too.

September 24, 2003

PROBLEMS WITH ELECTRONIC VOTING: Marc Rotenberg has a piece in Technology Review, noting:

Back in the real world, however, the evidence is mounting daily that a lot more work needs to be done before the vote counting process—truly the kernel of democracy—is turned over to devices that lack adequate auditing and operate in secret. One recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and Rice University found that the high-tech voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems allowed voters and poll workers to cast extra votes, and also that cryptographic keys, the basic element of system security, were not properly managed. The governor of Maryland has called for an investigation to determine whether the state’s $54 million purchase of these so-called direct recording electronic (or DRE) systems was a wise move.

Another report finds that during San Luis Obispo County’s March 2003 primary in California, absentee vote tallies were sent to an Internet site operated by Diebold several hours before the poll closed. According to election law, officials may not release tallies until voting is completed. An MIT-Caltech study found that regular test forms, which allow for verification, provide higher accuracy than DRE. Considering how much money will be spent in the next year to select the president of the United States, it is remarkable that more money is not being spent to ensure that the new technologies for vote tabulation actually work.

There’s a certain amount of conspiracy-theorizing on this topic (not in Rotenberg’s piece, but in general) but the fact is that electronic voting systems just aren’t up to the job. I don’t know enough to offer an opinion on whether they ever will be, but it seems pretty plain that they aren’t right now.

Here’s more from Salon’s Farhad Manjoo, though you’ll have to sit through an ad to read it if you don’t subscribe. There is a solution, of course. But will public officials be brave enough to endorse this technology?

September 23, 2003

THE FBI WANTS NOAH SHACHTMAN’S NOTES. He mentions the Vanessa Leggett case — here’s a piece I wrote about that case for the Wall Street Journal last year.

September 23, 2003

SPACE ELEVATORS: Arthur Clarke has been pushing this idea for years. Now it’s getting some support.

September 23, 2003

HUGO CHAVEZ IS REFUSING TO RECOGNIZE IRAQ at OPEC. I rather suspect that this will backfire.

September 23, 2003

NEO-SECESSIONISTS — in the north?

These are The Crazy Years.

September 23, 2003

MARK GLASER HAS A COLUMN on the whole should-blogs-be-edited question.

Meanwhile, Matt Welch writes that ombudsmen are worthless, and Iberian Notes is close to war with the ombudsman from La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has evidence that the Bee ombudsman needs to sort out some issues. Jeez.

Drezner also has some questions for journalist blog-readers as part of a blog-study he’s doing.

September 23, 2003

FRANK J. HAS FOUND SOMETHING more exciting than poking fun at me — he wants to set up a blog devoted to publishing emails and letters from troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that people can hear their voices along with those of the Big Media types.

September 23, 2003

JAMES MORROW’S BLOG HAS MOVED (AGAIN) to this URL.

September 23, 2003

HERE’S SOMETHING FROM BUSH’S U.N. SPEECH that doesn’t seem to be getting that much attention:

There’s another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders. . . .

We must show new energy in fighting back an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.

If you’ll follow the link, you’ll see that Bush spends rather a lot of time talking about this.

UPDATE: A reader sends a link to this National Geographic article on the subject. Excerpt:

There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.

I’m for legalizing drugs to deal with the evils of the “illegal drug trade.” That approach won’t work for slavery, obviously.

UPDATE: Reader Robert Racansky sends a link to Antislavery.org for more information.

September 23, 2003

ANOTHER MAJOR BLACKOUT, this time in Denmark. Are we actually seeing more of these, or are they just getting more attention?

September 23, 2003

JOSH MARSHALL FINDS THAT THE TRUTH HURTS. He’s not happy about Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall (whom Josh originally misidentified as a Republican) saying that negative media coverage is getting our troops killed. But Marshall the Congressman, and a Vietnam vet, was there, and thinks negative publicity is encouraging the Baathist holdouts to believe that they can pull a Mogadishu and get the United States to pull out. Marshall the pundit might want to ponder the possibility that reflexive media negativity, counted on by our foes to advance their plans, might actually, you know, advance their plans.

It’s not the reporting of criticisms or bad things that’s the issue — the first-person accounts I link below all have criticisms and negative information. It’s the lazy Vietnam-templating, the “of course America must be losing” spin, the implicit and sometimes explicit sneer, and the relentless bringing to the fore of every convenient negative fact while suppressing the positive ones that’s the issue. It’s what the terrorists are counting on, and it’s what too many in the media are happy to deliver, because they think it’ll hurt Bush.

And it doesn’t get any lower than that.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Aubrey emails: “Do you think the journalist Marshall might want to explain what, factually, is wrong with Rep. Marshall’s statement?” I hope he will.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Henry Hanks observes:

Jim Marshall could very well run to replace Zell Miller in GA and could also very well decide who controls the Senate in 2004… Democrats would be well advised not to drive him too far away…

Especially when he’s, like, right.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments, and praises Howard Dean:

In fact, one of the good things about Dean’s campaign has been his clear statement that we need the Iraqi liberation to work.

I agree.

September 23, 2003

HERE’S ANOTHER FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM IRAQ featuring a lot of stuff we’re not hearing from the big guys.

UPDATE: Read this, too:

There is a sea change going on, right now, and CNN will be the last place to learn about it.

Remember that story early in the war about the Iraqis attacking an Al-Jazeera van and destroying it and wounding its crew? CNN barely covered it, but the Iraqis I have spoken to recently said they are sick and tired of the “old” Arab media (which strangely enough includes Al-Jazeera to them) reporting only the negatives and ignoring the progress they’ve made and the fact that for many, things are better…they see this as other Arabs trying to stir up trouble in “their” country. And they resent it.

They want Al-Jazeera and Manar out of there, and they want to get on rebuilding their country themselves, thank you very much. They don’t need those guys making it worse by running erroneous and unretracted stories like the one a few weeks back about US soldiers raping Iraqi girls– and thereby bringing even more violence. They want a new country.

And here’s some support here for what he says about Iraqis’ dislike of Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Reader Elizabeth King emails:

I’m not surprised that the media coverage of Iraq is now being reported as unduly negative. I could tell back in June that this year would be the Summer of the Iraqi Quagmire, much as last year was the Summer of Kidnapped Children, and 2001 was the Summer of Shark Attacks.

Like mad dogs and Englishmen, the media spend too much time in the heat of the day … and it shows.

I think they’re spending too much time in hotel bars with former Baathist minders, actually.

September 23, 2003

HOWARD LOVY has some interesting observations on science journalism that are occasioned by a story on nanotechnology, but that are applicable to lots of other subjects.

UPDATE: His permalinks are busted now. Here’s the site link — just scroll down.

September 23, 2003

IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T HEARD, the 9th Circuit, en banc, has reversed the panel decision, so the recall is on. Here’s the opinion.

Larry Solum has a big roundup post with comments, quotations, and summaries of the opinion.

September 23, 2003

ARNOLD KLING HAS AN INTERESTING LOOK at the United Nations and American politics.

September 23, 2003

YOU KNOW, WHO NEEDS TO BASH THE MEDIA when they’re so busy doing it to themselves?

Convicted child killer Joel Steinberg has a job as a television producer waiting when he’s released from prison next summer after serving 17 years, his attorney said Monday.

Steinberg will work for “New York Confidential,” an interview show on a local cable station, attorney Darnay Hoffman said.

“He has contacts in prison,” Hoffman said, explaining that Steinberg, a disbarred lawyer, knows some of the state’s most notorious criminals. “He knows how to go into a prison and get a story.”

Steinberg, 62, is completing an 8-to-25-year prison term for manslaughter in the death of his illegally adopted daughter, Lisa, and is expected to be released next June.

Coming soon: Eric Rudolph on the women’s-health beat.

September 23, 2003

SPEAKING OF THE MEDIA AND IRAQ, the University of Tennessee’s Howard Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy is having a rather impressive symposium on the subject, to judge from the guest list, and it’s being webcast. You can stream it live from this page.

September 23, 2003

THE IRAQ MEDIA-BIAS STORY has hit USA Today. There’s a survey of reporters with different views on how things are going, which leads Virginia Postrel to observe that “There’s good news and bad news, not a single coherent narrative. . . . All of which explains why I don’t, from my perch in the United States, opine on the ‘real’ situation in Iraq.”

And neither do I, of course. But what has been obvious from here is that the bad news has been consistently overplayed and the good news consistently underplayed, as demonstrated by the mismatch between the very coherent “quagmire” narrative from the Big Media and what we’ve heard from returning members of Congress, federal judges, touring musicians, military bloggers, returning servicemembers and — now, finally — members of the press.

To make an Amartya Sen sort of point, what’s unfortunate about the slanted (and lazy) nature of most of the reporting is that it doesn’t point out real problems in ways that can let them be fixed, and that will bring them to the attention of people who can fix them. When the coverage continues to come from the same tired Vietnam template, applied to a very different situation, it’s not terribly useful and I suspect that it’s largely tuned out by folks in the White House who assume (more or less correctly) that it’s intended to hurt them.

But that means that they have to rely on the reports of people in the chain of command, who have their own agendas. The press is supposed to be a check on that sort of thing, but it’s fallen down on the job in postwar Iraq. Fortunately, the Internet has taken up some of the slack, and is (I’m being hopeful here) spurring the Big Media folks to take a second look at what they’re doing.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Susanna Cornett offers perspective.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Drum thinks that I can’t tell if the reporting is biased because I’m not in Iraq. Huh? When the media reports are contradicted by the reports from all sorts of other people in the region, and when even the reporters admit that they’re not telling the whole story, and when Dan Rather is freakin’ apologizing, and when we’ve heard the same “quagmire” stuff in the past only to have it turn out bogus, I think I can tell. (And Kevin doesn’t let his own distance from Iraq stop him from offering his own opinion on what’s going on there, in the very same post.)

The defensiveness that the left is showing on this issue suggests to me that it’s hit a nerve. The “quagmire” political strategy is looking like a loser — again.

STILL MORE: And here’s another firsthand report:

On the ground in Iraq, I’ve caught wind of and read recent news articles back in the states. I figured I could clarify some things. As usual, the news media has blown some things way out of proportion.

The countryside is getting more safe by the day despite all the attacks you are hearing about. Imagine if every shooting incident or robbery committed in Los Angeles was blown way out of proportion. This is a country where most of the Saddam Hussein thugs are being chased around like scared rabbits by coalition forces. It is literally open season on them! We hunt them down like animals.

We just keep hearing things like this.

September 23, 2003

GERMANS TO BUSH: “Hey, buddy, we sure could use some help!”

September 23, 2003

I’M SHOCKED, SHOCKED: It’s France and the U.N. in a corrupt arms deal! Go figure.

September 23, 2003

CHIEF WIGGLES IS COLLECTING TOYS FOR KIDS IN IRAQ. There’s an address. I think I could find a spare Barbie or two around this place, if I look, well . . . anywhere, actually.

UPDATE: Yeah, I know. The Chief says no Barbie dolls. Just wishful thinking on my part.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, it’s obvious what we should be sending.

September 23, 2003

JAY ROSEN: Editors Rock Who Let Weblogs Roll. I hope they read this piece at the Bee.

September 22, 2003

MORE DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS OF CONGRESS are calling press coverage of Iraq unduly negative:

Journalists are giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq, a bipartisan congressional group that has just returned from a three-day House Armed Services Committee visit to assess stabilization efforts and the condition of U.S. troops said.

Lawmakers charged that reporters rarely stray from Baghdad and have a “police-blotter” mindset that results in terror attacks, deaths and injuries displacing accounts of progress in other areas.

Comparisons with Vietnam were farfetched, members said.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee’s ranking member, said, “The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects — from soccer fields to schools to refineries — all good stuff and that isn’t being reported.”

Skelton and other Democrats on the trip said they plan to reach out to all members of their caucus and explain what they observed. . . .

The lawmakers said they worry that the overall negative tone of American press outlets’ reports did not do justice to the progress being made by an occupying force reconstructing a country after years of neglect and in the face of remaining hostile elements that profited under the old regime.

There’s plenty of criticism of the Administration’s postwar policy, but it’s constructive criticism, not faux-Vietnam cut-and-paste carping.

UPDATE: This post by Jay Rosen seems fitting somehow:

Many journalists have stopped kidding themselves about their ability to remain completely detached. But this thought is rarely developed because it might lead to asking: what kind of attachment to the republic—or local community—should journalists be developing today, given everything going on around them? Existing press think does not cover this ground, which is more important than ever. You can call the press a player, but what you cannot do is ask: what’s it playing for?

(Emphasis added.) Criticism’s fine. It’s even useful, when it’s specific and factual rather than atmospheric and theatrical. But as Lileks notes, you’d just like to hear ‘em say “I hope we win.” Or at least not sound like they hope we lose.

UPDATE: Here’s a John Leo column on the media and Iraq, too.

September 22, 2003

MARK GLASER’S ASKING ME about the Weintraub/Bee affair, and whether my MSNBC site is “muzzled” since it has an editor. That’s a fair question (even if I suspect it was inspired by my cheap-but-accurate shot at most “journalistic ethics” rules, below), and the answer is, well, yes and no.

I’m not “muzzled,” since nobody slapped an editor on me in response to inhouse PC complaints, as was done with Weintraub — something that’s got to have a chilling effect, I’d think. On the other hand, the MSNBC publishing platform, which imposes a substantial delay between writing and editing, and which makes updates a pain, certainly costs in terms of immediacy. (This is exacerbated by the time-zone difference, since I have to email the posts to them, and somebody in the Pacific Time Zone then has to recode them and post them. If I send one late at night, it usually isn’t up until at least noon the following day. I’ve got one editor — people back him up when he’s on vacation, but there’s not 24-hour coverage with people sitting by the computer waiting for me to mail stuff in at any hour.) I much prefer the kind of on-the-spot posting and editing that Movable Type allows, but apparently integrating that with a gigantic, sprawling web platform like MSNBC isn’t easy.

I’ve dealt with that by doing more op-edish posts for MSNBC: things that are halfway between a blog post and a column, I guess you’d say. That works fine for me, as I can just post different sorts of pieces in different places (short stuff here, longer stuff there), with pointers back and forth as needed. Sadly, Weintraub doesn’t have the same ability — and I rather doubt the Bee would be enthusiastic about him maintaining an independent blog on the side.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Stephen Bainbridge is defending the Bee. Well, sort of:

Yes, I know it’s a newspaper. Yes, I know a lot of people (including journalists) blather on about newspapers being a quasi-utility vested with a public interest. But that’s just the nonsense they use to justify a unique constitutional privilege to libel people and invade their privacy. In the real world, newspapers are for-profit businesses.

Well, with defenders like these. . . . But although Bainbridge is right that the Bee is perfectly within its legal rights to do whatever it wants to with things it publishes, the Blogosphere is perfectly within its rights to criticize the Bee and to point out that the Bee is behaving with all the commitment to public discourse that we’d expect from a big corporation like Enron or Disney. Also, I think that Bainbridge is wrong to claim a contradiction between bloggers’ criticism of the BBC’s lax supervision of Andrew Gilligan and bloggers’ criticism of the Bee’s suddenly-intrusive supervision of Weintraub’s blog. Weintraub is an opinion writer, who hasn’t been accused of getting facts wrong. He’s accused of stating political opinions that some people don’t like. That’s hardly the same thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some comments.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Bainbridge has responded to my response to his . . . oh, never mind. There’s more at his post. In partial response, something that Kevin Roderick notes: Weintraub (like a lot of other print reporters and pundits) “represents” the Bee in TV and radio appearances all the time without a Bee editor being interposed, even though a lot more people see those appearances than read a blog, making the “danger to the brand” much greater. I continue to blame jealousy and discomfort with new technology. I think those factors play a much bigger role than business considerations.

STILL MORE: Meanwhile, on the underlying merits (Weintraub’s un-PC comments about Bustamante), reader Jonas Cord notes that this Rik Hertzberg piece in The New Yorker basically says the same thing:

Cruz Bustamante is an affable mediocrity who has drifted upward on a combination of term limits, opportunism, ethnic ticket-balancing, and luck. Harold Meyerson, of the L.A. Weekly, calls him “the least charismatic and able of the state’s Democratic leaders.” Bustamante, whose grasp of substance often seems shaky, has been almost as unwilling as Schwarzenegger to subject himself to sustained questioning, and he has not yet demonstrated any discernible appeal for independents.

Cord notes: “Seems that the famously un-PC, right-wing, anti-Latino staff of the New Yorker agrees with Weintraub. If only they had an ombudsman to call!”

And, in answer to Glaser’s original question, what I like about a Movable Type-powered blog like this one is that you can produce a post like this, bit by bit, over an hour or so as new stuff happens. I don’t think you could do that with an editor involved, and certainly not if you had to email in each incremental addition. Especially after the editor has left for the day.

September 22, 2003

DANIEL DREZNER OFFERS A JOHN EDWARDS TRIBUTE and roundup. He thinks the Democrats are “prematurely slighting” Edwards’ candidacy. Plus, the surprising similarity between Salma Hayek and Jacques Chirac.

September 22, 2003

AMERICA, CANADA, AND IRAN: Tim Blair compares and contrasts.

September 22, 2003

MICKEY KAUS HAS MORE on the continuing embarrassment of the Sacramento Bee:

It turns out that Weintraub wasn’t saddled with a minder to placate PC forces in the state legislature enraged by his “Bustmont” crack, because he’d already been saddled with a minder to placate PC forces within the Bee’s own newsroom enraged by his “Bustmont” crack! Weintruab is an editorial page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons (e.g. he’s been beating the pants off them). His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. I mean, it was as if he was criticizing affirmative action! Can’t have that.

Certainly not! And, as usual, complaints about journalistic ethics turn out to involve protecting somebody from competition.

September 22, 2003

MERYL YOURISH GIVES A LOUSY GRADE to disaster recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.

September 22, 2003

WHY THEY HATE US: Blog gets shoddy reporter fired. And at the Bee no less. Say, you don’t think. . . .

September 22, 2003

AMIR TAHERI WRITES that the lack of a coherent policy toward Iraq is causing economic woes and serious foreign relations problems for the French.

September 22, 2003

BRYAN PRESTON SURVIVED ISABEL and is continuing to blog even without power.

September 22, 2003

MY LATEST MSNBC POST on Big Media reporting on Iraq is up. In particular, I recommend the appearance by Pamela Hess on C-SPAN that’s mentioned (and linked) there. Something that I found striking, but didn’t mention, was that after Hess (a UPI reporter who just got back from Iraq) said that things weren’t as bad in Iraq as the Big Media coverage makes them seem, she got a lot of truly nasty emails and phone calls from war critics who called her a “whore” and a “mouthpiece for the Administration.” (One also called Bush a “monkey in a man suit.”)

But now even Dan Rather is admitting that the TV news is making things look worse in Iraq than they really are. Perhaps that’s a sign that the tide is turning.

September 22, 2003

MEDIA BIAS ON IRAQ: I’ve got a followup to last week’s post on media bias and Iraq, which will be up at GlennReynolds.com later. But a reader just sent me this link to a piece by Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall, who recently visited Iraq and who says that media bias is “killing our troops,” and who also notes:

I’m afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with “the rest of the story,” the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

During the conventional part of this conflict, embedded journalists reported the good, the bad and the ugly. Where are the embeds now that we are in the difficult part of the war, now that fair and balanced reporting is critically important to our chances of success? At the height of the conventional conflict, Fox News alone had 27 journalists embedded with U.S. troops (out of a total of 774 from all Western media). Today there are only 27 embedded journalists from all media combined.

Throughout Iraq, American soldiers with their typical “can do” attitude and ingenuity are engaging in thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects, working with Iraqi contractors and citizens. Through decentralized decision-making by unit commanders, the 101st Airborne Division alone has spent nearly $23 million in just the past few months. This sum goes a very long way in Iraq. Hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, replumbed and reroofed. Imagine the effect that has on children and their parents.

People are catching on. If Rumsfeld accused the media of killing our troops, people would say he was browbeating and bullying them. Maybe they’ll listen, when it comes from a Democrat.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

September 22, 2003

THOMAS PEARSON writes that the anti-globalization movement is in decline. I certainly hope so. The bits about Bureaucrash’s anti-protester pranks are amusing, too.

September 22, 2003

IS IT PRE-EMPTIVE, OR NOT? Bill Hobbs says that Bush’s critics are lying about the Administration’s position on Saddam in order to make it look as if Bush lied. I remember the Bush Administration being careful — overly so, in some cases — to make clear that it wasn’t charging Saddam with complicity in the 9/11 attacks.

The charge now, though, is that the Administration “gave the impression” that Saddam was behind the attacks, which is suitably vague and allows the chargers to point to polls showing that most Americans think so. It’s also possible, of course, that people have made up their own minds, isn’t it? Of course, to some, I suspect that’s an even more frightening thought.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Justin Katz looks at poll data showing that Americans’ belief in Saddam’s complicity has actually declined over the past two years — despite what people claim are Bush’s efforts to give that impression — and accuses Bush’s critics of an outright lie. He also links to this post and this one from John Cole, on lies, misimpressions, and anti-Bush dishonesty.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Ted Kennedy, meanwhile, has gotten carried away with the Bush-bashing.

Will the lefties be calling him a liar over his unsubstantiated — and apparently untrue — statements?

September 22, 2003

ISABEL POWER OUTAGES CONTINUE, and this useful chart shows where and how many. (It omits the crucial information that one of them is David Bernstein, though.)

I realize that underground power lines are more expensive to install, maintain, etc. But I wonder whether they’re really more expensive in a global sense if you factor in the costs imposed on consumers by the more-frequent power outages associated with overhead lines. (Not to mention the aesthetic costs of overhead lines, which are high.) This would be an interesting and useful topic for news coverage, though once their Mother of Storms hype ends they seem largely uninterested in this sort of thing. Here’s a roundup of hurricane-recovery efforts, and here’s a good article from the Post on electrical systems, resilience, and recovery that mentions underground lines — but that also says that community restrictions on tree-trimming are a big source of problems.

I had some related thoughts in this column a few weeks ago. The big problem is that people want reliability, but don’t want to pay for it. But when you don’t pay for reliability, you wind up paying for un reliability, and I’m not sure that’s cheaper in the end.

UPDATE: Here’s an interesting article from the Post on how wi-fi, high-speed Internet, and other technologies mitigated the economic effect of the hurricane. (Via Bill Hobbs).

September 22, 2003

LEE HARRIS writes on war and wishful thinking.

September 22, 2003

START MAKING SENSE: The Boston Globe is comparing Larry Summers to James Bryant Conant, a legend among Harvard Presidents who remade the institution in the face of changing times, despite faculty resistance.

(Via Hub Blog).

September 22, 2003

1996, YOU SAY?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, has told American interrogators that he first discussed the plot with Osama bin Laden in 1996 and that the original plan called for hijacking five commercial jets on each U.S. coast before it was modified several times, according to interrogation reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

I guess we can’t blame it on failure to ratify Kyoto, then.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I guess we can’t blame it the failure of the Oslo Agreement, or Netanyahu, or Barak, or Sharon either.

Huh. You think they just hate us because we threaten their 12th century view of politics and gender relations?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that it should be “7th century,” not 12th century. Fair enough. And some folks recommend Losing Bin Laden by Richard Miniter for more on the 90s activities of Al Qaeda. I haven’t read the book — the publisher sent me a copy, but it was immediately seized by the InstaWife — but it seemed, for the brief instant that it was actually in my possession, as if it might be interesting.

September 22, 2003

LOTS OF INTERESTING STUFF ABOUT RWANDA, and French / NGO misconduct, over at Winds of Change.

September 22, 2003

MAYBE THERE’S HOPE: Peace protesters are catching hell even in The Observer:

Next weekend, the far Left will once again seek to con tens of thousands of Irish people. Earlier this year, the unreconstructed Marxist-Leninists, under the banner of pacifism, brought the masses on to the streets of Dublin, Derry and Belfast. The M-Lers even managed to fool respected, usually erudite, commentators, writers and artists into believing in the justness of their ’cause’.
But their ’cause’ was, in truth, a carefully produced masquerade, a ruse to dragoon legions of genuinely concerned citizens on this island into their campaign against ‘imperialism’ and for that, of course, please read ‘anti-Americanism’. . . .

Marching for ‘peace’ back in January objectively (a word often used by the M-Lers) entailed support for the retention of the Baath. Now that all the apocalyptic predictions of the Irish peace movement have proved to be wrong, the anti-American Left is now seizing on every grenade attack, shooting and roadside bomb directed at allied forces and, yes, the United Nations, in Iraq. Some of the Irish ultra-Left groups are even abusing language and truth by describing those behind these sorties as the ‘resistance to occupation’. . . .

Suddenly, the Irish extreme Left portrays the Baath loyalists and the fedayeen (an alliance of Islamic fanatics and Saddam sympathisers) as the Vietcong of the twenty-first century, a libellous slur against the heroic people of Vietnam who really did have a just cause to fight for.

What this alliance of Baathists and Islamists fear more than anything (a fear shared by the Arab dictatorships) is the threat of a good example. If Iraq evolves from a one-party gangster state into a pluralist democracy, a process well underway in the northern Kurdish region with its free press and multi-party system, then it will become a beacon of hope for other oppressed people in the region.

Which would be horrible.

September 22, 2003

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: I meant to link this article on Colorado bloggers from The Rocky Mountain News last week, but it got lost in the shuffle. It’s good — but where’s Stephen Green?

UPDATE: Oh, he’s in the sidebar. Sorry.

September 21, 2003

THE SACRAMENTO BEE HAS CAVED TO SPECIAL INTERESTS and muzzled its house blogger Daniel Weintraub. They should be ashamed — and I don’t want to hear any whining from them the next time their publisher is heckled. Utterly lame. And, as Mickey Kaus points out, hypocritical: “If Arnold had complained, do you suppose the Bee would have strapped an editor on DW’s back?”

Of course not That would have been censorship.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda writes:

I vehemently oppose this decision. It ignores the entire point of blogging. As Weintraub himself noted when he introduced his new format, “Blogs by their nature are more spontaneous than traditional commentary.” The Bee, as well as its readers, clearly knew that his posts would bypass the typical route to publication. With the new policies, the paper might as well just rid itself of the blog.

It also might as well just shoot itself on the foot, because it’s giving up perhaps its biggest recall-coverage advantage over its competitors. One of the main reasons why the Bee has been a better source than, say, the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle is its fresh and constant updates via California Insider. The reviews will slow down the news breaks and take away the Bee’s most attractive feature.

Weintraub is the only reason I’ve been reading the Bee.

Matt Welch observes:

Bee Ombudsman Tony Marcano has written a stinker of a column proudly explaining how his paper has caved to Latino complaints about the valuable recall-blogger Daniel Weintraub, who will now no longer be allowed to post without being edited. . . .

Weintraub is an opinion columnist. He is being paid to dispense opinion (albeit, chock full o’ insidery Sacramento observations), and he is being punished in this case for an opinionated assertion, not a botched indisputable fact. And he is being punished as a direct result of an interest group complaining about his opinion. Whether it had been an auto dealer, or the English-Only crowd, or the Latino Caucus, the proper response to such a complaint, in my view, is, “He’s a valued opinion columnist, and this was his opinion. We will certainly pass along your concerns, and even suggest he engage them on his blog. Please consider writing a letter to the editor. Good-bye.”

Welch adds that the Bee is now “one or two notches less credible.” To which I’d add three notches less interesting.

Unthinking political correctness, corporate-mandated dullness, and complete cluelessness, all in one event. If you want to know, in a nutshell, why Old Media is in trouble, this is it.

UPDATE: L.A. Observed is defending The Bee, more or less, and notes that The Bee has set up a group blog on the recall with an interesting disclaimer. Wonder if it’s pre-edited?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, “defending The Bee” may be a bit too strong. Let’s say “adding nuance to The Bee’s position.”

Roger Simon, on the other hand, wonders if this illustrates Big Media’s inherent inability to take advantage of the blog format.

September 21, 2003

HMM. I THINK THAT TODAY’S DOONESBURY STRIP is probably evidence that outsourcing is likely to be a campaign issue in 2004. I’m not surprised about that.

September 21, 2003

IT’S A SUNDAY COMICS ROUNDUP over at Begging to Differ.

September 21, 2003

“DESPERATE SADDAM OFFERS AMERICANS DEAL:” I don’t know if this is true, (it’s from London’s Mirror, a tabloid) but if so it certainly undermines the “quagmire” theory, doesn’t it? I hope, though, that true or not this story is being widely circulated in Iraq:

It is believed the US authorities will simply string Saddam along, aiming to track the go-betweens until they know exactly where to find the rogue leader.

“There’s no doubt the net is closing, and that his supporters’ efforts to get the Americans to pull out of Iraq are not succeeding,” said the source.

“They can cause disruption and problems, but this does not bring Saddam any nearer to coming back to power, and he now knows it. The negotiators will try to keep the line of communication open as long as possible, but the word from Washington is: ‘No deal’.”

Quick, somebody load a C-17 with copies and fly ‘em to Baghdad!

UPDATE: The U.S. military says this story isn’t true. Heck, that’s all the more reason to spread copies all over Baghdad.

UPDATE: Jonathan Gewirtz emails:

The idea of using phony stories to weaken his hold on his followers is most plausible: great bang for our buck if it works, costs little if it doesn’t. However, I don’t think Saddam is likely to allow himself to be strung along or drawn out, because I think he’s likely to assume that any overture from us is a trap.

It would be nice to be able to fast-forward a few decades and learn which of these stories are based on real psy-ops and which are mere rumors.

Yeah. It would.

September 21, 2003

I MENTIONED VERISIGN’S SHENANIGANS EARLIER — now they’re being sued.

September 21, 2003

BIG ELECTORAL DEFEAT FOR SCHROEDER: Medienkritik observes that “Anti-americanism doesn’t help winning elections in Germany anymore…”

UPDATE: Some interesting thoughts on why Germans don’t “get” 9/11 from German blogger Hans Beeman.

September 21, 2003

BACK FROM THE LAKE: Had a lovely overnight visit at my dad’s. He’s pretty much fully recovered now. The InstaDaughter drove the boat solo for the first time (yes, they do grow up fast).

September 20, 2003

HEADING OUT TO SOMEWHERE, WON’T BE BACK FOR A WHILE: Just out to the lake. See you tomorrow.

September 20, 2003

THIS is disturbing:

An Army Islamic chaplain, who counseled al Qaeda prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, has been charged with espionage, aiding the enemy and spying, The Washington Times has learned. . . .

Capt. Yee, of Chinese-American descent, was raised in New Jersey as a Christian. He studied Islam at West Point and converted to Islam and left the Army in the mid-1990s. He moved to Syria, where he underwent further religious training in traditional Islamic beliefs. He returned to the United States and re-entered the Army as an Islamic chaplain. He is said to be married to a Syrian woman.

Sounds almost as if he were planted. Sadly, this will only produce more suspicion toward loyal Muslims.

UPDATE: Phil Carter looks at the military law involved and has some links.

September 20, 2003

GO VOLS! Gator tastes like chicken. . . .

September 20, 2003

RICHARD BUTLER:

He said the United States and its allies had no choice but to invade Iraq and overthrow Sadaam Hussein’s government.

Butler likened Saddam to Adolf Hitler and said the evil dictator used the weapons on live people.

“I want to be plain about this,” Butler’s voice heightened. “The overthrow of Sadaam Hussein was justified whether or not there was reluctance to authorize it. … No one could say it is wrong to overthrow a homicidal maniac. The Security Council sat on its hands for 10 years.”

As for not finding these weapons allegedly in Iraq, Butler said he is sure Saddam had them. He said Saddam was addicted to the deadly weapons, and whether they are still in Iraq but hidden, moved or destroyed, they did exist.

“Don’t believe those who say they aren’t there just because we haven’t found them. Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Butler told the crowd. “Iraq certainly did have weapons of mass destruction. Trust me. I held some in my own hands.”

Nonsense, it’s all a Zionist-Republican plot.

September 20, 2003

IT’S A KLEIMAN VS. NON-VOLOKH SMACKDOWN! Er, or as close as you can get while discussing the intricacies of New Source Review and the Clean Air Act.

[Why isn't it a Kleiman vs. Non-Volokh "Cage Match?" -- Ed. Because it's not all on the same blog. Weirdly, that makes sense. -- Ed.]

September 20, 2003

DO THESE GUYS LOOK LIKE ROCK STARS? OR WHAT? Here, too. And don’t miss this rave review from a wholly disinterested party!

September 20, 2003

BILLY BECK IS blogging while on tour in Japan.

September 20, 2003

THIS MICHAEL BARONE COLUMN notes a lack of media perspective on Iraq:

Those inclined to make straight-line extrapolations from the events of a few news cycles should read some history. Margaret Mac- Millan’s Paris 1919 shows how the Allied leaders who gathered at the peace conference in Paris were largely clueless about how to reconstruct the defeated nations after World War I. Jean Edward Smith’s biography of Gen. Lucius Clay reveals that the first time he read the government’s plans for post-World War II Germany was on the flight over there to take charge. William Manchester’s American Caesar shows that Douglas MacArthur, however knowledgeable about the Far East, did not have clear ideas on how to rule postwar Japan. Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951. . . .

Reports from soldiers on the ground, circulating widely on the Internet but seldom if ever appearing in old media, indicate that the large majority of Iraqis are friendly and helpful and glad that American troops are there. Those may be anecdotes; data come from a poll conducted in August by American Enterprise in four major cities, including one in the so-called Sunni triangle. No one should dwell on the precise percentages, which are subject to error, but by wide margins the results show that Iraqis are optimistic about the future and unfavorably disposed to Osama bin Laden, the Iranian mullahs, and, especially, the Baathist remnants. We cannot be sure exactly how Iraqis’ minds are changing. But the evidence suggests they are receptive to representative democracy and hostile to Palestinians and other Arabs who supported their oppressor.

As Barone notes, the media have a “zero-defect standard” regarding operations in Iraq. Would that they applied such a critical view to their own reporting.

September 20, 2003

USEFUL FOOLS WRITES that the media were hyping the wrong thing on Isabel:

Contrary to popular opinion and media hype, the majority of hurricane deaths are not caused by wind, but rather by storm surge flooding (which is related to the wind strength, wind area, distance from the eye, and especially topography) or inland rains, or both. These are not necessarily closely tied to the Saffir-Simpson rating (category), which is based only on the maximum sustained winds (normally found in the eye wall).

In modern times. most deaths are caused by inland flooding from the storm’s rains.

Good point. Meanwhile, to those who accuse me of downplaying the event because I’m “safely behind the Tennessee mountains,” I ‘ll suggest that if an event of similar scale happened on this side of the Appalachians, it would barely get noticed. Look at the storm in Memphis that left over a million people without power, and several dead, and got basically no notice at all by the national media, except in the form of an oped wondering why it got no attention. One suspects that it’s because it didn’t affect the lives of Big Media types. Similarly, the D.C. sniper got a lot more attention than the West Virginia sniper because, God forbid, he might have killed East Coast journalists!

UPDATE: Here’s a roundup of blog-coverage of the hurricane, from Michael Silence of the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

September 20, 2003

RICH HAILEY accuses George Will of Dowdification. That might be a bit strong, but this does call for a correction or clarification.

September 19, 2003

DOES TERRORISM MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY? Boy, this study must be bummin’ the Al Qaeda dudes out.

September 19, 2003

I GOT THE LATEST BT ALBUM, EMOTIONAL TECHNOLOGY, TODAY. The cover photo, which shows BT in a rather Elton-Johnish white suit, made me wonder if he was going to go in a discoish — or at least Deep Dish Collective-ish — direction. But no. Overall, the new CD sounds a lot like its predecessor album, Movement in Still Life, especially cuts like “Smart Bomb” or “Madskillz.” My favorite tracks (based on listening to it once in the car) are “Knowledge of Self” and “Superfabulous.” BT sings on quite a few of the tunes, including the Boss Hitbound Single “Somnambulist.” Sadly, Kirsty Hawkshaw doesn’t appear on this album.

The production is classic BT, as are the liner notes: “This track is constructed with Logic Audio synths, EXS24, and Absynth only, and features two swing templated variants of sample accurate, time-corrected loops.” One departure from earlier albums is that several songs have vocal harmonies reminscent of Jon Brion. (You can stream some samples at the links above).

It’s somewhat more pop than Movement, and I’ll have to listen to it a few more times, but I think it’s a winner. BT’s website, by the way, is here.

September 19, 2003

DAVID ADESNIK COMMENTS on some of my news-from-Iraq posts:

While it’s nice to read these stories, I still wonder whether the frustrated and disappointed GIs are holding back out of deference to their superiors. I know for sure that officers critical of the Administration are extremely reluctant to say anything at all.

Perhaps the truth will come out only after the troops have come home and are able to speak their minds.

Uh, yeah. Like in one of the posts that David links to, which is about returning troops who say things are a lot better there than the news media make them sound. Or maybe like in this post about a report from a returning soldier that things are a lot better than. . . well, you know.

Then there are posts like this one from a Federal judge and this one from a touring musician, neither of whom would seem to suffer under the constraints that Adesnik identifies.

A more valid criticism of my posts would be that they’re anecdotal, and don’t show the big picture. That’s true — and as Daniel Drezner has noted, there may not be a coherent single narrative on Iraq right now.

But that, of course, is my point. The Big Media have created a coherent single narrative (call it Vietnam II: Reloaded) and they’re engaged in selective reporting to maintain that narrative, for reasons I explore here. I’m just trying to let a little air in, by pointing out what they’re not reporting.

September 19, 2003

REMEMBER: Music piracy hurts the artists. Heh. (Via Something Awful).

September 19, 2003

WESLEY CLARK, JR. is defending his dad in the comments section over at DailyKos. There are a lot of comments, so search “Wesley” on the page.

Thanks to reader Ali Karim Bey for the link.

September 19, 2003

PORPHYROGENITUS has a global war roundup with lots of links.

September 19, 2003

THIS DESERVES MORE ATTENTION than it will probably get: Vaclav Havel, Arpad Göncz, and Lech Walesa take on Castro:

Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalisation.

At the same time, European countries should establish a “Cuban Democracy Fund” to support the emergence of a civil society in Cuba. Such a fund would be ready for instant use in the case of political changes on the island.

Europe’s peaceful transitions from dictatorship to democracy, first in Spain and later in the East, have been an inspiration for the Cuban opposition, so Europe should not hesitate now. Its own history obliges it to act.

All I can say is, hurray for the New Europe.

September 19, 2003

RAND SIMBERG — who’s covering space so I don’t have to — has a column on Columbia, proposals for an orbital spaceplane, and what’s wrong with the NASA approach.

September 19, 2003

I DON’T HAVE A LINK, but AP is reporting that the 9th Circuit will review the recall decision en banc.

September 19, 2003

SEVERAL READERS SAY I WAS WRONG to link Gregg Easterbrook below regarding media hype and Isabel — but only Pyrojection did it while observing Talk Like a Pirate Day, a date that I have sadly neglected. [Well, it's not Blog Like a Pirate Day, now is it? -- Ed. Yeah, that's my excuse. . . .] And it’s true that lots of people are without power, etc., and some people have died. But it’s not as if Isabel wasn’t a hurricane — it’s just that, once again, it was overhyped.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe I’m wrong. The Smarter Cop points out that hurricanes are unpredictable, and often strengthen or veer at the last minute. But I have to say, the sight of all those correspondents standing on the beach, yammering, makes me wish — as Dave Barry pointed out — for a tidal wave or something.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hurricane losses may be less than thought. Which doesn’t mean there weren’t losses, of course. It just wasn’t the Mother of Storms that the coverage suggested. Rich Galen has some unflattering observations on the coverage.

September 19, 2003

MEDIA LIES, AND THE LYING MEDIA LIARS WHO TELL THEM: I’ve got a lengthy post on media distortions regarding Iraq, over at GlennReynolds.com.

September 19, 2003

THE LATEST BLOG MELA IS UP! Branch out your blog-reading and check out the various blogs listed.

September 19, 2003

JIM LINDGREN HAS COMMENTS ON THE JOHN LOTT ISSUE that are quoted over at Tim Lambert’s site:

I fairly quickly returned to being highly uncertain whether Lott ever did the survey he claimed to have done in 1997. I have told the couple of reporters who called me since February 1 (including a few weeks ago, Chris Mooney for a forthcoming story) that I still have substantial doubts whether John Lott ever did the supposed 1997 study.

I also agree with almost every point in Ayres and Donohue’s two critiques of Lott’s work in the Stanford Law Review, which I find absolutely devastating to the primary thesis of John Lott’s work. The findings of Ayres and Donohue tend to support the conclusion that more open gun laws either have no effect or lead to slightly higher rates for some crimes, a result that I find plausible even beyond the high quality of their work in that exchange.

As I wrote a while back, Lott has been the subject of so many bogus attacks that I’ve been skeptical of this one. But I trust Jim Lindgren as a neutral arbiter with expertise in the area, and it seems to me that this time Lott’s critics have him dead to rights, and he’s failed to mount a convincing response.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh, while noting that Lambert’s site is basically dedicated to criticism of Lott, comments: “Lindgren is a very smart guy who knows a lot about quantative scholarship, and who to my knowledge has no axe to grind on this; remember that he was the most prominent critic of Michael Bellesiles.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here are some posts by John Lott, responding to criticisms. And here is his main website.

Now I’m getting email from Lott supporters, complaining that I’m picking on him. I guess you can’t please everyone. What I’d like is to see an authoritative look at this by a disinterested party. I’m not qualified to provide that. I’d like to see someone who is come forward and sort all of this out.

September 19, 2003

RAND SIMBERG WRITES on why satellites are so expensive.

He also had his own Virginia Postrel moment, although unlike mine it involved lingerie and two women aged 19 and 20.

But then, that’s Rand.

September 19, 2003

PEOPLE KEEP ASKING WHAT I THINK OF WESLEY CLARK: I don’t know. People I know who were associated with operations in Bosnia tend not to like him, for reasons expressed rather pungently here. On the other hand, his aggressive response to the Russians — which some characterize, unfairly, as “nearly starting World War III” — at least bespeaks a degree of, well, aggressiveness otherwise lacking in the Democratic field.

John Ellis states the general view that Clark’s candidacy is just an effort by the Clinton/McAuliffe forces to stop the Dean insurgency. Noah Shachtman, on the other hand, says that Clark is responsible for much of today’s high-tech approach to combat.

I find myself actually sort of liking Dean, though at lunch with a (way to the left of me) colleague earlier this week we found ourselves agreeing that it’s surprising that John Edwards hasn’t gotten much traction. We both had heard him on NPR, and thought he sounded like a guy who ought to be doing better. And, of course, anything could happen between now and next summer — I don’t think Clinton had even announced his candidacy at this point in the 1992 election cycle.

September 19, 2003

THE HYPING OF ISABEL: Okay, on a preparedness basis, I believe in treating all incoming hurricanes as serious. Better safe than sorry, ounce of prevention, and all that. But when it comes to media coverage, I think Gregg Easterbrook has it right: “CATEGORY 2 STORM, CATEGORY 5 HYPE.” And as he notes, lots of bogus, inflated statistics about property damage, etc., will appear in an effort to make it sound worse than it was. Meanwhile, a reader in DC who would rather remain anonymous emails that the closing of the Metro system, etc., has drastically expanded the economic impact of what was, basically, a rainstorm with 40-mile-an-hour winds, and suggests that it’s the result of having too many underemployed disaster-agency bureaucrats around. Worth looking at, if you’re assigned to do an Isabel restrospective story.

September 19, 2003

DAVISISM OF THE DAY:

“My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state. We have the sons and daughters of every, of people from every planet, of every country on earth,” he said.

Perhaps Slate will start a feature devoted to these.

September 19, 2003

IRAQI EXILES RETURNED TO IRAQ are reporting good things, and say that the biggest fear is that Americans will leave too soon.

September 18, 2003

JOSH CHAFETZ says that things look even worse for the BBC as more information comes out.

September 18, 2003

ANOTHER REPORT FROM IRAQ sounding a common theme:

Both men said they are glad to be home visiting their families – and feel honored and grateful for all the support they received from the community while they were in the Middle East. Both of them also said things are going well for the U.S. troops in Iraq.

“Ninety-nine percent of what is going on over there is a good story,” said Callanan.

“There were a lot of reporters over there who overlooked the good stories, which may have been the only frustrating part of being there,” he said. “From media reports, it may not seem as though things are going well there but they are. There are a lot of changes taking place which will eventually pay big dividends.”

Cheung agreed that the media reports he read while in Iraq seemed so much different from what he was seeing for himself. One of the things he read that goaded him the most was that the Iraqis did not want the troops over there.

“I talked to so many Iraqis – adults and children – and they thanked me, invited me to their house, asked if they can cook a meal for me and offered me everything they have,” he said. “Because we were there, they have the freedom we enjoy in this country every day. They waved to us and a lot of times they worked with us.”

The discrepancy between what the media reports say, and what reports like this say, is starting to look like a scandal.

UPDATE: Chief Wiggles is unhappy with media bias too. And a reader notes that it’s funny how once the embedded reporters left, and we once again got our news through the usual media filters, the reports turned negative.

September 18, 2003

IS RUSSIA REGRESSING TO A “KGB STATE?” I hope not, but I’ve worried.

September 18, 2003

CHINABLOGGING: Here’s a list of China blogs, most of them unfamiliar to me.

And for more posts from an exotic region, the Volunteer Tailgate Party is up!

September 18, 2003

LILEKS:

In short: the same people who chide America for its short-attention span think we should have stopped military operations after the Taliban was routed. (And they quite probably opposed that, for the usual reasons.) The people who think it’s all about oil like to snark that we should go after Saudi Arabia. The people who complain that the current administration is unable to act with nuance and diplomacy cannot admit that we have completely different approaches for Iraq, for Iran, for North Korea. The same people who insist we need the UN deride the Administration when it gives the UN a chance to do something other than throw rotten fruit.

The same people who accuse America of coddling dictators are sputtering with bilious fury because we actually deposed one.

Read the whole thing.

September 18, 2003

OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM, I’m calling for people to appreciate the power workers who’ll be out fixing the storm damage before the storm has even passed.

Tobacco Road Fogey is blogging from the hurricane zone, at least as long as he has power and Internet access.

September 18, 2003

IT’S 1798 ALL OVER AGAIN: Tom Friedman writes that we’re at war with France. I’ve used the term “Proxy War” to describe the French strategy, and a lot of the blogosphere has been saying the same thing. It’s interesting to see it break onto the oped page of the New York Times, though.

Friedman takes the mild tone that the French should recognize that it’s not in their interest to have America do badly in the Middle East:

What is so amazing to me about the French campaign — “Operation America Must Fail” — is that France seems to have given no thought as to how this would affect France. Let me spell it out in simple English: if America is defeated in Iraq by a coalition of Saddamists and Islamists, radical Muslim groups — from Baghdad to the Muslim slums of Paris — will all be energized, and the forces of modernism and tolerance within these Muslim communities will be on the run. To think that France, with its large Muslim minority, where radicals are already gaining strength, would not see its own social fabric affected by this is fanciful.

That’s true, of course, and the French political class is in the grips of something between neurosis and psychosis to think otherwise, as some French intellectuals have been noting. But the French need to think beyond this point. Sooner or later, the United States will decide that “you’re for us or against us” applies to France, too. Proxy war can go both ways, and the French have more enemies, and fewer resources, than we do.

For a start, we should start encouraging pro-democracy movements in Francophone Africa. And arming them. But that’s just a start.

UPDATE: Sylvain Galineau writes:

France wants to get back to business as usual. For TotalFinaElf, Alcatel and the scores of French companies who coined money working for the Hussein regime for decades. As long as Paul Bremer is in charge, it won’t happen. France needs someone it can bribe and sign dodgy deals with. The UN can deliver that. The US won’t.

Read the whole thing. And then wonder why CNN, et al., have been ignoring this aspect.

September 18, 2003

I’M NOT A KRUGMANBLOGGER, but Ambit has an interesting comparison of things that Krugman said in the Kevin Drum interview I mentioned below with things said about Krugman in an Economist article that he excerpts. Meanwhile Krugman bete noire Donald Luskin reports that Krugman’s publisher misquotes him in a misleading way.

September 18, 2003

HERE’S AN INTERESTING FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM SYRIA and surrounding regions via a musician friend of Eric Olsen’s who’s touring there. Excerpt:

Another thing that she said is that ALL the Iraqis are done with the idea of Arab Unity. They hate all the other states except for Syria. They believe Saddam gave so much money to these other states, and none of them offered any support. They are particularly hateful now to the Palestinians; ordinary Iraqis were sometimes moved out of their own homes to house them, and they got jobs and pensions– and she said that the new Arabic graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is “Palestinians go home. The free ride is over.”

In any case, this tour was a lovefest compared to the last one, so god only knows what the reporters are all going on about. Another thing I heard is that 90% of all the attacks have happened in the Sunni Triangle, which if you look on a map represents all of about 1/8 of Iraq maybe (Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad– I don’t have a good map to do the math with), so you have a country 7/8 calm. This guy’s Iraqi mom (from Mosul) also said that the power is now on regularly in Baghdad but no one is reporting that.

If CNN hasn’t gotten it, it appears that Assad in Syria has. The cabinet change was a big thing even though many hoped/expected that Assad would choose a non-Baathist over Otri. Still, they think a few of the new guys will be non-Baathists which would have been unthinkable before.

They sure need it– the country is a beautiful basket case full of intelligent, kind people who could do something good if given a chance. On a more superficial, but probably important level as well, the kids military uniforms we saw last year are all gone, and a lot of the militarization you used to see in posters and monuments, etc. seems to have been toned down. The Lebanese paper, The Star, attributes this directly albeit grudgingly to the US being right next door.

Read the whole thing. And wonder, once again, why the firsthand reports we’re getting are so much more positive than those from the likes of Christiane Amanpour. But it’s been that way for a while.

September 18, 2003

COURTBLOGGING: Larry Solum’s Legal Theory Blog has a firsthand report on Prof. Randy Barnett’s oral argument before the Ninth Circuit in the medical-marijuana case. And here’s a blog entry by Barnett on the subject.

Meanwhile, both Howard Bashman and Eugene Volokh have blog entries that are cited in briefs to the Ninth Circuit on the recall case. Volokh observes: “Hope the judges don’t figure out just how little authority blog posts ought to have.”

September 18, 2003

METRO PULSE HAS A STORY on Tennesseans in Iraq. And follow the links for stories on Knoxville firms central to the war on terror: cleaning up the WTC site, and clearing oilfields of explosives.

But Knoxvillians have a special stake in the war against Islamic fundamentalists. If those guys ever get in charge, they’ll outlaw the Pigburger!

September 18, 2003

WIZBANG has some pretty good advice on how to get your blog noticed by higher-traffic bloggers. I try hard to find new and interesting blogs, but there are now far more than I can read. I do the best I can. I can’t read all my email, and sometimes people will send me an interesting link, but it doesn’t fit with the flow at the time. My advice is keep blogging, get noticed by other bloggers at varying traffic levels, and you’ll build an audience. The vaunted “Instalanche” looks impressive on your counter for a day, but most of those readers won’t stick around. Readers you build on your own will.

UPDATE: Here’s more that’s worth reading.