Archive for 2003
July 6, 2003
THE BBC IS IN TROUBLE, according to this in The Times:
For this affair has left the BBC dangerously exposed. It has served as a catalyst, allowing diverse complaints about its news coverage to resurface simultaneously. The Beeb has been accused of, among other matters, fanatical suspicion of the motives of those in power and unrelenting hostility towards the Conservative Party. It has been attacked for a wholesale scepticism about capitalism, combined with a weakness for quack environmentalism and health-scare speculation over hard science.
Reporting the Middle East, it sometimes seems so remorselessly anti-Israeli that Mr Dyke might as well be open about it and allow his reporters to appear speaking Arabic, riding a camel, stopping occasionally to suck from a long pipe in a crowded souk.
Put bluntly, the BBC, a public sector bureaucracy funded by a poll tax, with a privileged status that looks starkly anomalous in an age of hundreds of television channels and thousands of radio stations, needs more friends. It is already detested by other broadcasters, derided by the print press for squandering its vast resources and damned by publishing houses for its increasingly aggressive marketing activities in their domain.
If the BBC wants to retain its privileged position when its charter is due for renewal in 2006, then it must construct a coalition of supporters broader than the Liberal Democrats, Friends of the Earth, Friends of Yassir Arafat, the sort of people who believe that taking an aspirin will inevitably result in limbs falling off and its own staff. It requires mainstream allies as well. . . .
The old consensus that Auntie should be preserved and protected is fraying; the contention that “something must be done” about the corporation is acquiring serious credibility.
Simon Jenkins wrote about the BBC on this page recently, teasingly comparing its excesses to Cardinal Wolsey’s but vigorously defending its “right to be wrong”. This was once the stance of virtually all reasonable and respectable people (plus Simon); it is no longer. The “right to be wrong” is not the same as the liberty to be a law unto oneself.
Indeed. And where will it find those mainstream allies? Nowhere, if its narrow bias continues. This piece in The Telegraph agrees:
Whatever the outcome of the present battle between the BBC and the Government, it does serve to throw attention on the state of the BBC. The BBC has been a bad joke in its news and public affairs broadcasting for several decades, but, in the way of the world, no one notices until his own ox is gored. . . .
The BBC mandate is to be independent of the government of the day and to be objective in its reporting. For a long time, the BBC has been captured by one end of the political spectrum and, with negligible exceptions, all the people who work for it.
They have handled the corporation, especially in news and current affairs, as if it were the party organ of Labour’s Left wing or, at best, the Fabians. This would be acceptable in French public television under a Socialist government, but it is a breach of trust in Britain.
Instead of fuming about it, as Blair and Campbell are doing, or sending dossiers to Greg Dyke, as the Conservatives have, it would be more useful to work out what can be done with an organisation that has lost all even-handedness. Objectivity can’t be maintained by inviting a few Right-wingers to be guests on the many BBC programmes putting America on trial.
How about ending the public subsidy and letting the private sector take over? The likelihood that a major, state-subsidized entity with considerable political clout can actually be objective and fair over the long term is so small that it would seem better to drop the pretense, and to quit subsidizing the political views of the New Class under a threadbare cloak of public service that no longer fools anyone but the gullible.
UPDATE: Susanna Cornett comments:
It’s a classic case of how bias develops in the media, and how those who are at the center of it can’t see it – they perceive themselves as edgy and unaffected by ideology. The reality couldn’t be more different.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Shanti Mangala writes: “Pretty damning for such a prestigious news agency, I should say!”
Click below for more, from a British reader who has followed this closely:
For this affair has left the BBC dangerously…’ »
July 6, 2003
MORE ON WEBLOGS from The Times of London.
July 6, 2003
July 6, 2003
MAX BOOT WRITES on Iraq, insurgents, and small wars.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, David Warren says that Iraq is flypaper for terrorists:
While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq — the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs — President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.
This is the meaning of Mr. Bush’s “bring ‘em on” taunt from the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, when he was quizzed about the “growing threat to U.S. forces” on the ground in Iraq. It should have been obvious that no U.S. President actually relishes having his soldiers take casualties. What the media, and U.S. Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenceless civilians, both in Iraq and at large. The sore thumb of the U.S. occupation — and it is a sore thumb equally to Baathists and Islamists, compelling their response — is not a mistake. It is carefully hung flypaper. . . .
Hizbullah itself (the “Army of Allah” — Shia, and ultimately financed and armed by Iran’s ayatollahs) are directing their attention less and less towards the “Little Satan” of Israel, and more and more towards the “Great Satan” of the U.S., as events unfold.
This is exactly what President Bush wants. To engage them, away from Israel, in mortal combat. To have an excuse for wiping them out — a good, solid, American excuse, from which Israel has been extracted. The good news is, Hizbullah’s taking the bait.
It’s interesting. You may have noticed that although people are upset about acts of terrorism this weekend in Russia and Iraq and Pakistan, there were no attacks in the United States.
Amir Taheri, meanwhile, writes that the swamp-draining approach seems to be working:
Yet one thing was certain then and remains so today: The Arab world is in crisis, and change in Iraq could trigger change across the whole arc from North Africa to the Indian Ocean. While it is too soon to tell the shape of things to come in Iraq, it is clear that we are witnessing the end of a certain nationalist and socialist model developed in several Arab countries in the 20th century. . . .
The failed model is the power state, known in Islamic literature as “saltana,” whose legitimacy rests on the possession and use of the means of collective violence. In saltana, there are no citizens, only subjects, while the ruler is unaccountable except to God.
The only alternative to this failed model is what might be called the political state, whose legitimacy rests on the free expression of the citizens’ will. Such a model could be based on what the 14th-century historian Ibn Khaldoun called “al-assabiyah,” a secular bond among citizens. The key feature of this model is pluralism, known in modern Islamic political literature as “ta’adudiyah” and “kisrat-garai.”
Both the Islamists and the secular authoritarians of the Arab world have persistently opposed the idea of bonding through citizenship. Nevertheless, Islamic political and philosophical literature offers a wealth of analyses that could be deployed in any battle of ideas against both the Islamist and secular enemies of pluralism. Both Farabi (d.950) and Avicenna (d. 1037), partly inspired by the work of the Mutazilite school, showed that there need be no contradiction between revelation and reason in developing a political system that responds to the earthly needs of citizens. On the contrary, because Islam places strict limits on the powers of the ruler, it theoretically cannot be used as the basis for tyranny.
One hopes that this hopeful view of Islamic democracy bears fruit. It’s certainly the case that it stood no chance of doing so before Saddam was toppled.
UPDATE: John Weidner believes in the “flypaper” approach, and thinks that the “quagmire” crowd is once again serving as Donald Rumsfeld’s useful idiots:
I would be very angry about this, except that I have a hunch bordering on a certainty that they are unwittingly serving our cause. David Warren says that our forces in Iraq are deliberately acting like flypaper for terrorists, draining them from the whole region and bringing them right where we happen to have lots of firepower and the excuse to use it.
Which means that the hand-wringing quagmirists are performing an essential task. I’m sure they are getting lots of headlines in doubtful parts of the world. Their predictions of disaster are being heard by all. So legions of terrorists are now scratching their heads and stroking their beards and saying, “Br’er Rabbit doesn’t want to be thrown in the Briar Patch. He said so. Therefore, Brothers, it is the Will of Allah that we cast him into that Briar Patch!”
Heh. Maybe it’s more like the “tarbaby” approach.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Harley Peyton takes exception to my noting, above, that there weren’t any terror attacks in the United States. I don’t see why. If Al Qaeda could have launched a major attack, it would have. And if it had done so, a lot of people — including, I suspect, Harley, based on some of his many other critical emails — would be holding it up as evidence that the Bush Administration was bungling here. That being the case, I think it’s a small, but significant point suggesting that our strategy is working. We’ve now gone nearly two years without a major attack in the United States, despite all-out war with Al Qaeda (unless you count Mohammed Hadayet’s LAX shooting, which was terror, but not “major” in my book). That’s long enough to mean something, I suspect.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Carter thinks it’s genuine guerrilla war in Iraq. He also has some suggestions. That’s not necessarily inconsistent with the above, of course. Guerrillas basically always lose without (1) a secure base; and (2) substantial outside support.
Most likely secure bases: Syria, perhaps Iran. Most likely source of outside support: Saudi Arabia.
Question: Will those countries allow this sort of thing to go on, if doing so gives Bush an excuse to topple their governments too, something that (at least in the first two cases) he’d clearly like to do? (And that, in the case of Saudi Arabia, he ought to do?)
Given what’s going on in Russia and Pakistan, though, I think it’s a mistake to focus too much on Iraq. There’s a global struggle going on — not against “terrorism” but against radical Islam. And that’s, basically, a Saudi export. Cut of the head, and the snake will die.
Meanwhile, Tommy Franks says we don’t need more troops in Iraq.
July 6, 2003
A PACK, NOT A HERD: GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AWARENESS IS A NEW SITE put together by MIT folks who are putting David Brin’s “Transparent Society” into action:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Its creators hope it will become a Google of government, a massive Internet clearinghouse of information to help citizens track their leaders as effectively as their leaders track them.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab plans to debut a Web site today called Government Information Awareness .
GIA hopes to create an enormous but self-sustaining community where users do the work of keeping it running and credible.
Sounds good to me. Here’s a direct link to the site.
July 6, 2003
DR. FRANK looks at the Cal Poly incident and the University’s response and observes:
And of course, what tale of absurd campus censorship would be complete without an inane quote from a university administrator? This one does not disappoint. The prize goes to the Vice President for Student Affairs Cornel Morton, who told Hinkle at his hearing:
You are a young white male member of CPCR [Cal Poly Campus Republicans]. To students of color, this may be a collision of experience…. The chemistry has racial implications, and you are naive not to acknowledge those.
I can’t quite make sense of this, though it has a vaguely unpleasant, neo-segregationist flavor. But if he’s saying it was naive for a white male university student to imagine he could get away with exercising his right to free speech in a multi-racial environment without being persecuted for it, it’s difficult to disagree with him.
Sadly, the only solution to guys like Cornel Morton is to savagely make fun of their combination of thuggishness and stupidity, as an example to the others. Here’s some contact information:
Warren J. Baker, President, Cal Poly: (805) 756-6000; email@example.com
Cornel Morton, V.P., Student Affairs: (805) 756-1521; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you choose to contact them, please be polite.
UPDATE: Here’s more on the subject, from Erin O’Connor. Best bit: “In a perfect world, it would not be Hinkle who was sentenced to apologize, but the students and admins who have been hounding him who would be sentenced to attend Weaver’s talk.”
July 6, 2003
ERICA JONG IS OFFERING marriage advice.
July 6, 2003
LILY MALCOLM IS TEMPTING FATE. Being stunningly attractive, and a Yale Law graduate, can bring on hubris. (Actually, the latter alone seems to do it for a lot of folks. . . .) Stay grounded, Lily!
July 6, 2003
WHEN THE BLOGGER’S AWAY, the Photoshoppers will play. Heh.
July 6, 2003
SAUL BELLOW’S SON is defending nepotism in The Atlantic.
July 6, 2003
QUAGMIRE ALERT: There’s still fighting on Guadalcanal. See, beating the Japanese Imperial forces was one thing, but bringing order to that troubled part of the world was clearly beyond us. Obviously, we never should have gotten involved.
July 6, 2003
BBC newsgirl Jane O’Brien has dumped her fiance and run off to marry an FBI agent she met while reporting the Gulf War.
Jane, in her thirties, became embedded with the spy while sending back reports for the flagship 6 and 10 O’clock News programmes.
Just HOURS before her scheduled return to Britain at the end of the war, she stunned colleagues by saying she wasn’t coming back.
Jane then resigned her £50,000-a-year job, flew to the States with her FBI lover—and married him in a secret ceremony in New York. . . .
A BBC source said last night: “Jane was sent over to cover the war but she ended up getting a lot closer to the action than she was briefed to do.
” To say she has caused shock in the Beeb corridors is an understatement. One minute she was filing reports, the next we were told she had met some guy and was jacking everything in to run off to America.”
Love conquers all.
July 5, 2003
PROTESTS IN IRAN are still going on.
July 5, 2003
MARK STEYN WEIGHS IN on the Gray Davis recall campaign:
The last time I discussed California’s government in these pages was when their attorney general wanted to introduce Ken Lay, the then Enron boss, to the benefits of California justice. “I would love,” said Bill Lockyer, “to personally escort Lay to an 8 x 10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey’.”
In those days, Mr Lockyer and his Democratic colleagues were still doing a passable job of blaming everybody else for the state’s woes. Now, alas, voters seem inclined to believe that what the attorney general wanted Spike to do to Mr Lay, the state government has done to them, and very comprehensively.
Indeed. Read the whole thing.
July 5, 2003
A SAUDI Arabian with close connections to Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the desert kingdom’s defence minister, was among five people who were arrested in Malawi on suspicion of channelling money to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.
The five are believed to have been on a CIA watch list since the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which more than 200 people died and thousands more were injured.
The men were arrested two weeks ago in an early-morning operation carried out in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial centre, involving the country’s National Intelligence Bureau and the CIA.
Two days later they were deported in defiance of an order by a high court judge who had instructed the authorities to bring them to court instead.
They are believed to have been flown on a charter aircraft to another African country en route for Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or to another American detention centre.
The Saudi, who was named as Fahad Ral Bahli, is a director of Prince Sultan’s Special Committee for Relief, a charity set up by the minister which has offices in a number of African countries.
The other detainees were two Turks, a Kenyan and a Sudanese.
The organisation’s Malawi office, based in Limbe, was registered in March last year when Dr Faisal bin Jafar Bali, the manager of religious affairs in the Saudi army and who has the rank of major-general, was nominated as chairman. He also chairs the charitable committees in Mali and Nigeria. Another of the directors is a Saudi colonel.
Nobody at the Saudi embassy in London was available for comment.
(Emphasis added.) This has created some problems for the government of Malawi, a friendly Muslim country, which suggests that we regard it as a matter of considerable importance.
How many links between Al Qaeda and the government of Saudi Arabia are needed to justify regime change there? I’m just, you know, asking.
UPDATE: My brother emails to point out that Malawi isn’t a “Muslim country,” it just currently has a Muslim President. D’oh!
July 5, 2003
DODD HARRIS is hosting his Second Anniversary Caption Contest. Don’t miss it.
July 5, 2003
A READER EMAILS:
Remember when the opponents of the war in Iraq publicly wrung their hands about American commitment to stay in Iraq? Supposedly, the hawks were only after war and conflict and were not prepared to stay for the long haul.
Colbert I King of the Washington Post posed a typical query in February:
“Are the American people committed to governing Iraq, to having a U.S. administrator run an American-created civilian government in a Muslim and Arab country, with all that entails?”
Today, he himself answers the question in an editorial entitled, “Is There a Road Map Out of Iraq?” Shocking, but it turns out that the people whose commitment the pre-war anti-war types were concerned about were themselves!
Go figure. Meanwhile Brendan O’Neill is unimpressed with people who claim they were duped by talk of weapons of mass destruction:
Take Jane Harman, a Democrat Congresswomen from Los Angeles who sits on the USA’s House Intelligence Committee. Harman has kicked up a stink in the USA by alleging that the Bush administration’s claims about Iraq’s WMD were ‘based on circumstantial evidence rather than hard facts’, and that she and other right-thinking Democrats might have acted differently over Iraq if they had known the whole truth (4).
What a crock. This is a woman who over the past year has sat on the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security and now the House Intelligence Committee on Iraq. She had access to the bulk of the evidence on Iraq, in all its questionable glory. And she, like a majority of her fellow Democrats, voted for Bush’s war resolution in October 2002. If Harman was duped, it can only be because she wanted to be.
Being a believer in addressing root causes — by which I mean turning the Middle East upside down and shaking, hard — the WMD issue has never been my prime reason for war, but this is an interesting piece. Question: By saying that WMDs were the only legitimate reason for going to war against Iraq, aren’t a lot of people setting themselves up for (1) supporting war against North Korea or Iran; and (2) putting themselves in the position of opposing intervention in Liberia?
ERROR-CORRECTION UPDATE: Oops. Brendan O’Neill’s statement about a majority of Democrats is wrong, says Tony Adragna. It was a lot, but not a majority.
July 5, 2003
SOMEBODY HIRE TED BARLOW:
If you know of anyone in the Houston area who would be interested in a quantitative analyst with experience in health care, commodities and market research, with skills in SPSS and SQL (for example), don’t hesitate to contact me at edwardbarlow at aol.com.
Well, hire him already.
July 5, 2003
THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE: Rand Simberg has a Fourth of July column over at FoxNews about Homeland Security idiocy and the model rocketry community.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s more on how BATF nearly ruined the Fourth of July. Sheesh.
July 5, 2003
RON BAILEY WRITES that Bill McKibben doesn’t understand the Declaration of Independence.
July 5, 2003
BILL WHITTLE writes on success, failure, and creativity. It’s a nice post for the Fourth of July weekend. Best bit:
Sorry, but it’s not God, Guts and Guns. The Arabs have God, the Russians have Guts and the Colombians have Guns – you want to live there?
Nope. But read the whole thing.
July 5, 2003
I’M JUST CRAZY ENOUGH: Bill Adams emails:
Personally I think you’re crazy to look at even a word of news until the weekend’s over, but if you — or anyone outside California’s event horizon — wanted a complete recap of the gubernatorial recall drive, Davis’ history, Schwarzenegger’s chances — you could do a lot worse than my post here.
I’m the first to admit its primary virtue is the links, over a score of ‘em.
There’s an update to that post, too, here. I confess it’s hard for me to stir up a lot of interest yet, but I will note that although many people consider Schwarzenegger’s stardom his chief asset, it may well be that the discipline, and ability to psych out an opponent, that he cultivated as a bodybuilding competitor may be at least as important.
UPDATE: PrestoPundit is all over this story, of course.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Sacramento Bee blogger Daniel Weintraub has this observation:
When forces working on behalf of the governor of California try to link his opponent to the Nazi party, it has news value. Not because it’s true or might be true, but because it demonstrates the character and the judgment of the man who would allow his campaign team to make such allegations. If the governor said he thought little green men had landed from Mars and launched the recall, it would be ludicrous, but it ought to be reported, because the voters would want to know that the chief executive of their state had taken leave of his senses. The same is true here in a political context. . . . It is most definitely news when public officials lie or attempt to grossly mislead the voters, especially in a malicious way. Sometimes you have to report the lie in order to expose the lie.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Bear Flag League, a new association of California bloggers, can be expected to be all over this story.
July 4, 2003
I’M BACK FROM VACATION: The diving was great. (That’s me in the yellow fins). My favorite spot was on the East End, which I hadn’t visited before. The swell and current were a bit stiff (coming back to the boat was like a carrier landing — miss the rope and you were sailing toward Belize, waiting for the boat to pick you up, as happened to one person). The best dive was Snapper Hole, which is where these pictures are from. Beautiful canyons and tunnels (see more pictures here, here and here). I never went deeper than about 110-120 feet. Nothing, I suspect, that would impress a certain tech-diving former girlfriend and sometime InstaPundit reader, but adventurous enough for a mild-mannered law professor such as myself.
I paid no attention to the news, and have no idea what’s going on in the world, and I’m off to an afternoon of July Fourth celebrations with family, so more blogging will have to wait. Enjoy the holiday, and check back later!
UPDATE: In response to various questions:
Who do I like to dive with? My hands-down favorite, and the mainstay of most of my trips, is Peter Milburn, who runs a small but excellent operation there and has done so for 25 years. We did the East End dive with Ocean Frontiers, who I found to be very professional and knowledgeable. I’ve also had good experiences with Fisheye Tours, whose website seems to be down, and with DiveTech — though this year their operation seemed a bit disorganized.
How are things recovering from Hurricane Michelle? Last year I could see a good deal of damage remaining. This year the reef seems well on the way to recovery.
Should I start Scuba diving? I don’t know. It’s not too hard to get started. I recommend doing the “resort course” somewhere first. That’s a one-day trial that lets you dive with an instructor. If it’s for you, you’ll know. If it’s not, you won’t have wasted your time. It’s not terribly dangerous: you can die, of course, if you do something stupid, but you can die driving cross-town if you do something stupid, too.
How’s the economy there? Fair. Locals complain about the prices killing business, and it has gotten pretty expensive. There’s still a lot of new construction, but there are also a lot of condos and houses for sale. The tourist industry seems to be doing okay, but not as well as it was a couple of years ago. The high prices stem from the control of many important businesses by a rather small number of local families, which has actually produced rumbles toward political change and independence from Britain (the Caymans are a British Dependent Overseas Territory now) — though independence seems more likely to cement that dominance than to challenge it. What they really need is a WalMart. What they’re getting is telecom liberalization, which is nice, but not enough.
You stay in touch with your old girlfriends? Doesn’t the InstaWife mind? Yes, I do. My mother, in fact, says I have an Old Girlfriend Network instead of an Old Boy’s Network, and there’s some truth to that. I do stay in touch with a lot of former girlfriends, who as a group basically rock. The InstaWife, who met me through one of ‘em, has no complaints, and rather likes the ones she’s met.