Archive for May, 2004

May 24, 2004

VIRGINIA POSTREL has a column on gay marriage in The Boston Globe.

May 24, 2004

THE SIMPSONS’ SEASON FINALE was a sort of tribute to the blogosphere, Steven Jens reports. (Spoiler alert).

May 24, 2004

WHEN NPR HAS GUYS LIKE JEFF JARVIS SHOUTING AT THE RADIO it’s a pretty good sign that the “public” isn’t behind public radio anymore.

May 24, 2004

MARK STEYN WEIGHS IN IN IRAQI ELECTIONS:

There are some 8,000 towns and villages in the country. How many do you hear about on the news? For a week, it’s all Fallujah all the time. Then it’s Najaf, and nada for anywhere else. Currently, 90 percent of Iraqi coverage is about one lousy building: Abu Ghraib. So what’s going on in the other 7,997 dots on the map? In the Shia province of Dhi Qar, a couple hundred miles southeast of Baghdad, 16 of the biggest 20 cities plus many smaller towns will have elected councils by June. These were the first free elections in Dhi Qar’s history and ”in almost every case, secular independents and representatives of nonreligious parties did better than the Islamists.” That assessment is from the anti-war anti-Bush anti-Blair Euro-lefties at the Guardian, by the way.

That policy of ad hoc, incremental, rolling devolution needs to be accelerated. Towns and provinces should have as much sovereignty as they can handle, on the obvious principle that the constituent parts of ramshackle federations rarely progress at the same pace. In the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now an advanced Western economy, Kosovo is a U.N. slum housing project. If one were to cast the situation in rough British terms, the Kurdish areas are broadly analogous to Scotland, Dhi Qar and other Shia provinces are Wales, and the Sunni Triangle is Northern Ireland.

Even in the Sunni Triangle, remove Fallujah and the remaining 95 percent is relatively calm. And, while Fallujah hasn’t been removed, it has been more or less quarantined. There have been fewer lethal attacks in Baghdad in recent weeks in part because many of the perpetrators were Fallujah residents who used to drive up to the capital for a little light RPG work in the evening. Now they’re pinned down in their hometown.

We need more of that. The best bulwark against tyranny is a population that knows the benefits of freedom, as the Iraqi Kurds do. Don’t make the mistake of turning Iraq into a dysfunctional American public school, where the smart guys get held down to the low standards of the misfits and in the end they all get the same social promotion anyway. Let’s get on with giving the Kurdish and Shia areas elected governors and practical sovereignty, province by province.

Read the whole thing.

May 24, 2004

MY COUNTRY, RIGHT OR WRONG? Cathy Young more or less takes me to task in this Boston Globe piece. While agreeing that some members of the press’s “obscene gloating” over U.S. problems in Iraq is “repugnant,” she quotes me from this post: “It’s wrong to root for your country’s defeat.”

To be fair, she more or less includes the entire quote, which reads:

It’s wrong to root for your country’s defeat. Especially when that defeat would mean the death of innocents. And surely it’s worse still when it’s merely for domestic political advantage.

But, she asks: “Yet what if your country, or your government, is engaged in a war that is unjust and immoral?”

(Note that she explicitly says she doesn’t think that’s the case with the current war: “it is an indisputable fact that, for good or bad reasons, we went to war against a brutal, sadistic regime in Iraq — a regime that was the worst enemy of its own people.”)

I’m not a “my country, right or wrong,” guy. But I do think that if patriotism means anything it means giving one’s own country the benefit of the doubt — of which, in the case of this war, there’s not really much need for — and that the people I was discussing in that post are doing quite the opposite and adopting a “my country — of course it’s wrong” attitude. To root for your own country’s defeat is to separate yourself from its polity, to declare it not worth saving or preserving, to declare the lives of its soldiers less important than your own principles. It’s not always wrong, but it’s a very a drastic step, as drastic as deciding to mount a revolution, really, and yet it’s often taken by superficial people for superficial — and, as in this case, tawdry and self-serving — reasons.

If Bush really were Hitler, it would be different. A Nazi America wouldn’t be worth saving, and its polity would be worth separating oneself from. But we’re so far from that situation, as Young herself notes, that such discussions are entirely academic, and those who are rooting against America in Iraq have hardly demonstrated the moral courage and personal sacrifice that such a serious step demands, if it is to be taken seriously. If Bush is really Hitler, is filing slanted copy a sufficient response? But the real problem isn’t that Bush is Hitler — just that he’s a Republican, which puts a very different face on things. I don’t think that Young is one of those Libertarians who denounces the very concept of patriotism, but (though I could have been clearer in my post, I guess, but this seemed painfully obvious to me) I think that she should have thought this column through a bit more.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Bocking emails:

Rooting for the other side is also tacitly saying that the person next to you is your enemy and a legitimate target. The Bush/Hitler comparison would be hilarious if it were not so insultingly ugly.These people can only say this precisely because Bush is not Hitler; their ignorance ensures that if history does repeat itself they won’t recognise it.

I don’t really think they want the terrorists to win the war. But they don’t take the consequences of their winning in Iraq seriously, compared to their desire to get rid of Bush.

May 24, 2004

MOVING THE GOALPOSTS: Reader T.J. Lynn notes this passage from an article in the New York Times: “No stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found since the invasion.”

(Emphasis added.) So that’s the new standard, I guess — and a tacit admission that WMD have been found. But unless Bush can produce “stockpiles” now, it’ll have all been a lie, you see. . . .

UPDATE: More here.

May 24, 2004

READER MIKE BRANOM writes with a question about something I said in this post:

And here’s a question: Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn’t exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority — or even a large and angry minority — of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?

He says it “sounds dangerous.” Well, it is. I’d planned to write a longer essay on this, but since plans like that often fail to bear fruit, here’s the short version.

Press freedom as we know it today is a rather recent innovation. The First Amendment didn’t really do much work until just before World War Two. In World War One, people were convicted of sedition for publishing things that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today. Libel suits were easier, and in general the press enjoyed much less of a special status. (For a good history, especially of the World War One and Civil War eras, read this article by Geoffrey Stone).

And it wasn’t really until the 1960s and 1970s, after cases like Brandenburg v. Ohio, and the Pentagon Papers case, that what we think of as press freedom today came into existence.

So the question is, is that a coincidence — did the United States just happen to make progress in free expression over that period — or is that expansion of press freedom tied to the fact that regard for the press, and in particular its fairness and objectivity, was (rightly or wrongly) at unusually high levels by historical standards during those decades?

And, either way, what happens if the public comes to regard the press as untrustworthy and un-American? Will the First Amendment continue to be regarded expansively? Maybe. Maybe not. And if you look at the various journalistic scandals, from Jayson Blair to fake Iraq photos, and at polls like these, coupled with others showing decreased respect for journalists, and reduced viewership and readership for major media outlets, the risk seems genuine.

Press freedom is in the Constitution, but so are a lot of rights that don’t get nearly as much actual protection out in the world. Members of the press have often warned business people that malfeasance and self-serving behavior puts capitalism at risk. Malfeasance and self-serving behavior by the press puts free expression at risk, too.

UPDATE: Chicago Report, responding to this post, suggests that growing ideological diversity in the media may be an answer to this concern. Maybe (though we’ve got some distance to go on that front). But I’m not so sure. The media were far more diverse, and openly partisan, a hundred years ago, and press freedom was less revered. I don’t know that there’s a connection, but to the extent that people think of newspapers and TV news as being more like unpaid political advertising than like journalism, it’s hard for me to see that outcome producing more respect for press freedom.

If anything saves free expression, I think it will be the expansion of personal publishing (blogs, web video, etc.) over the next few years, which may lead a lot of people to think of the press as “us” rather than “them.” That, of course, will lead to more diversity, too. And, I suppose, it’s another reason why the establishment press should embrace the media explosion.

May 24, 2004

THE FOLKS AT CRUSHKERRY.COM offer a memo to Karl Rove.

May 23, 2004

GEORGE W. KERRY: Over at GlennReynolds.com, where I’ve looked at comparisons between John Kerry and former Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, I look at claims that if he is elected his foreign policy will wind up resembling that of President Bush.

May 23, 2004

I NEVER GET INVITED to the really good parties. Sigh.

May 23, 2004

EITHER I’VE BEEN TRANSPORTED TO SOME SORT OF BEARDED-SPOCK PARALLEL UNIVERSE (er, or maybe from one) or things are looking at least a bit better in the mideast. Check out this story: Arab Leaders Promise Democratic Reforms:

TUNIS (Reuters) – Arab governments, responding to a U.S. campaign for Arab democracy, have promised to carry out political and social reforms in an oil-rich region which includes some of the world’s most repressive rulers.

In documents read out at the end of a two-day Arab summit in Tunis on Sunday, the 22 Arab League members promised to promote democracy, expand popular participation in politics and public affairs, reinforce women’s rights and expand civil society.

It’s not all peace and love, but this is progress. And it’s amazing how much easier it is to address “root causes” once you’ve dragged a Maximum Leader out of a spider hole for his colleagues to see. True, this is mostly lipservice so far, but so were the Helsinki Accords at the time.

Then there’s this: Arab League to Condemn Attacks Against Israelis:

Arab leaders meeting in Tunisia Saturday for a summit on political reform and the Arab-Israeli conflict are expected to adopt a resolution condemning attacks against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

If the resolution is passed, it will be the first formal condemnation of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis in the Arab world.

That they’re even talking about this is a big deal. And from reading both stories in full, it’s clear that there’s a lot of diplomatic horsetrading going on. I hope the State Department gets it right.

May 23, 2004

OMAR IS REPORTING FROM BAGHDAD and offers quite a few pictures of subjects ranging from sidewalk cafes to construction sites. There are a lot of the latter. He reports:

You can’t walk in any street now without seeing piles of bricks or small hills of building sand or gypsum.

It’s also interesting to know that the prices of construction materials have considerably increased since the liberation; for example, the price of 4,000 bricks (the default load of a 6-wheel truck which are usually hired to carry bricks) was about 60,000 ID in 2002, compared with about 100,000 ID in May 2003, now, the same number of bricks cost about 400,000 ID. The same thing applies to cement as the price of one ton has increased from 50,000 ID in 2002, to about 200,000 ID in 2004. This is mainly a result of the increased demand of the Iraqi market for these materials.

Interesting.

UPDATE: Don’t miss this interesting Iraq roundup by Jeff Jarvis. It’s a must-read.

May 23, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: From the MEMRI News Ticker: “DIPLOMATIC SOURCES CONFIRM THE EXISTENCE OF 150 RECORDINGS OF SADDAM’S CONFESSIONS WHICH INCLUDE INFORMATION ON BRIBES PAID TO HEADS OF STATE AND POLITICAL LEADERS IN ARAB AND FOREIGN STATES.

Interesting.

May 23, 2004

AP IS REPORTING VIDEO of the “wedding party.”

Michael Moynihan is skeptical and notes reports that some of the video was recorded in Ramadi, far from the site.

UPDATE: This report says that there was no evidence of a wedding, and lots of evidence that terrorists were present.

May 23, 2004

NOT YOUR FATHER’S COLLEGE CAMPUS:

E.L. Doctorow, one of the most celebrated writers in America, was nearly booed off the stage at Hofstra University Sunday when he gave a commencement address lambasting President George W. Bush and effectively calling him a liar.

Booing that came mainly from the crowd in the stands became so intense that Doctorow stopped speaking at one point, showing no emotion as he stood silently and listened to the jeers. Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz intervened, and called on the audience to allow him to finish. He did, although some booing persisted.

Of course, one thing’s the same — the old fogies are surprised that things have changed, and that the formulas of their youth no longer hold.

May 23, 2004

I’M NOT BLOGGING MUCH THIS WEEKEND: But Bill Whittle has a new post. That’s all you need anyway.

May 23, 2004

ZEYAD NOTES MORE SENIOR SHIITE CLERICS CRITICIZING SADR.

Read the whole thing. Cicada flags an interesting passage, and observes: “Sounds like the US are doing something remarkable. They’re successfully fighting a radical Islamic army in the religion’s holiest cities while gaining the respect and support of the resident clerics. If that’s not a blow to al-Qaeda I don’t know what is.”

I could be wrong, but it looks that way to me, too. Note that Sadr’s forces appear to have been driven out of Karbala.

Hey, wasn’t the press treating Sadr as the leader of a mass popular uprising not long ago?

May 23, 2004

ANTISEMITISM AT BERKELEY:

Weinberg graduates this month as a student whose days at Cal were marked by what he calls “pinnacles of horror,” in the pinched tone of a man betrayed. He remembers pro-Palestinian protesters insisting that Israeli border crossings are as bad as Nazi death camps. He remembers the glass front door of Berkeley’s Hillel building — where he attends Friday night services — shattered by a cinderblock, with the message FUCK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, “Die, Juden. “ . . .

Such anti-Semitism has always seemed the sinister province of fascists and neo-Nazis, Spanish Inquisitors and tattooed skinheads. How topsy-turvy, then, to discover that some of the most virulent anti-Semitism in America today seethes amid the multicultural ferment of American college campuses. And at UC Berkeley, which owes as much of its allure to radical rhetoric as to academic excellence, it thrives.

No surprise, as this is “topsy turvy” only by the standards of our parents’ generation, but it’s insufficiently condemned.

May 23, 2004

ROGER SIMON HAS OBSERVATIONS on Iranians and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

May 23, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE is defending Kerry from charges of training-wheel meanness.

He also has an amusing report on Plame subpoenas: “And apparently news organizations are fighting the subpoenas – this ghastly national security breach must be investigated, but not with their help. The schizophrenic quality of this scandal – the Administration must determine the identity of a leaker already known to the Big Media – has long been part of its charm.”

May 23, 2004

SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS ON SYRIA by Lee Smith:

A colleague in Cairo, Raymond Stock, notes an item from the April 23 issue of the Egyptian daily Al Ahram where Assad confessed that “weapons are being smuggled from Iraq into Syria.” This is both very odd and very tantalizing. While it’s unlikely that the president meant to confirm suspicions that Saddam Hussein moved his WMD supply to Syria before the war began last spring, it’s equally unlikely that someone is sneaking arms past the Bedouins and their boss.

So, what’s going on—in Assad’s head and more generally in Syria itself?

The most important thing we know about Syria is that we really don’t know what’s going on in Syria.

Seymour Hersh comes across as credulous.

May 23, 2004

A MIXED REVIEW FOR “AIR AMERICA” — Franken gets positive marks, Rhodes gets miserable ones:

Freed from the pretense of impartiality, talk radio hosts (like newspaper columnists) provide the audience new frames for understanding the news. The best columnists and hosts do not just talk about the events of the day, but advance the story.

Like Rush Limbaugh, Franken is unabashedly ideological but brings enough new information to his program so as to be persuasive to some moderates, and worthwhile listening even for ideological opponents.

Unfortunately, Franken is followed by four hours of The Randi Rhodes Show. A good radio host knows much more than the average caller, but Rhodes does not. . . .

For someone with such a smug sense of intellectual superiority, Rhodes is remarkably ignorant. Monday, for example, brought the bizarre claim that United States bombed Dresden after the Germans had surrendered in World War II. Actually, the bombing was three months before the Germans surrendered.

Ouch.

May 23, 2004

I DON’T SUPPOSE THIS STORY actually explains plummeting European fertility rates: “A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless – they weren’t having sex.” It does, however, seem fitting, somehow.

UPDATE: Snopes think this story is probably bogus.

May 22, 2004

PRISON MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS AND A DYSFUNCTIONAL CULTURE OF ABUSE in the California prison guards’ union.

May 22, 2004

NEW JERSEY IS LOOKING LIKE A BATTLEGROUND STATE FOR KERRY, and Jeff Jarvis says the reason is taxes.

Related material here.

May 22, 2004

ANN ALTHOUSE has thoughts on coyness, coverage, campaign finance, and political conventions.

May 22, 2004

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Howard Lovy has an interview with Sean Murdock, the new executive director of the Nano Business Alliance.

May 22, 2004

CULTURALLY-APPROPRIATE BIAS AT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: MedienKritik has an interesting example of headline tailoring to suit a German audiience:

The biased agenda of AP Germany is in full display in this headline, referring to a speech by Yassir Arafat broadcast live on Palestinian television:

Arafat Confirms Willingness to Peace (Arafat bekräftigt Friedensbereitschaft)

Compare this to the headline of AP’s English version, referring to the same speech:

Arafat Makes Call to ‘Terrorize’ Enemy

Even the Palestine National Authority’s press center makes no attempt to identify a “willingness to peace” in Arafat’s speech:

Well, that would be hard.

May 22, 2004

BILL QUICK IS RUNNING A CONTEST: Be creative.

May 21, 2004

TYLER COWEN WRITES ON BLOGGING BURNOUT. Meanwhile Salam Pax has succumbed to it.

Actually, his blogging was never the same after he got the Guardian gig. I don’t blame him for that — he’s obviously a follower of Samuel Johnson’s dictum on writing for free.

May 21, 2004

SOMEONE TELL 60 MINUTES about this secret underground prison:

‘It starts off by being stripped naked in front of 10 police officers including two women, gratutious humiliation is used to break you down.’ ‘… worst jail that you can possibly imagine.’ ‘Not even a hole to go to the bathroom. You have to piss against a wall and you sleep in piss on the concrete floor.’ The torture victim demands ‘the immediate shutdown of this secret underground prison’. It’s not at Abu Ghraib, it’s in Marseille, France.

No doubt Ted Kennedy will be condemning it soon.

May 21, 2004

TIM BLAIR HAS AN INTERESTING NEWS ROUNDUP. Check it out.

May 21, 2004

MORT KONDRACKE OFFERS A MUST-READ WARNING TO CONGRESS AND THE MEDIA:

The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic. . . .

By now, Abu Ghraib has been a lead story for weeks. And Congress has gone so far as to pull top U.S. commanders back from the battle zone to grill them about it – just as America’s enemies are launching what they hope will be the Iraqi equivalent of the 1968 Tet offensive, hoping to undermine the June 30 handover of power to Iraqis.

(Maybe they should read this poll, and think about what will happen if, in a year or two, the American public concludes that domestic politicking lost the war.) Read the whole Kondracke column.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has comments.

May 21, 2004

HERE’S AN AMUSING MICHAEL MOORE FILM TRAILER.

More information here.

May 21, 2004

BLOGADS’ READER SURVEY RESULTS ARE OUT: Interesting reading.

May 21, 2004

THIS POLL suggests that the media really are out of touch on Iraq. Note these questions:

20. On the situation in Iraq today, where do you think most of the problems are being created?

1. In Iraq 23%
2. In Washington, DC, or 18
3. In the news media 27
4. (Combination) 21
5. (All) 8
6. (None) -
7. (Not sure) 3

27. Which of the following news stories upset you more?

1. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners
by U.S. soldiers 8%
2. The beheading of an American
civilian by Muslim terrorists 60

3. (Both equal) 29
4. (Not sure) 3

28. Do you think the media spent an excessive amount of time covering either of the following news stories?

1. The Iraqi prisoner abuse story 34%
2. The beheading of American Nick Berg 9
3. (Both were covered excessively) 35
4. (Neither was covered excessively) 15
5. (Not sure) 7

Seems like my emails are more reflective of general sentiment than the front pages of major newspapers.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing notes a report that mothers of Marines have “had it up to here with news media coverage.” Here’s the Tennessean report by Tim Chavez that he links to. Excerpt:

These local moms get their perspective from the telephone and from pictures sent home or over the Internet. They’ve quit watching and reading the news. They say the coverage doesn’t provide the full story. . . .

While the rest of us have seen the picture of the Army reservist holding the Iraqi prisoner on a leash a thousand times, these mothers talk about all the pictures showing Marines holding children, laughing with children and even an old man kissing the hand of a Marine.

”My son calls at 3 or 4 in the morning, and he once told me, ‘I don’t care who you vote for, but vote for someone who is going to let us finish the job,”’ says Nancy Hayden of Nashville about her son, Justin. He is a Marine private.

Funny that we’re hearing less from them than from other parents who are saying bad things about the U.S. Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here. And here. And, though less narrowly focused, here.

MORE: Nick Berg, by the way, tops the list of Google search queries for last week. Abu Ghraib — which has gotten more coverage — isn’t in the top ten unless you count (as you probably should) “lynndie england” for number 5.

STILL MORE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

Really good info on the poll and reactions to media. To add a bit to the mix, listening to NPR this morning was like all Abu Ghraib all the time. Story upon story about the intricate details of the process, repeating the same talking points again and again. Of course, it’s an important story and we need to understand as fully as possible what led to this. But NPR has it as virtually the only story. Any microscopic new detail (even ambiguous or hard to interpret details) are pushed zealously. The bottom line is America is the evil empire. The abuse discussed so far happened in approximately the same time window as CPA agreement with IGC. The fact that corrective measures were well under way before Sy Hersh seems completely lost on these folks. It is a minor, irrelevant detail. Other stories get pushed to the side because any program only has so much time to offer. Nada on Sudan. What UN oil-for-food scandal? Never a word about unrest in Iran. The prison shame is the only news. Unless it’s about higher gas prices. Curious how the “it’s about oil” folks don’t take the gas prices as evidence that it wasn’t about oil. Instead it’s evidence that the Bushies are incompetent. Jon Alter revealed the new meme which I see in the comments in other blogs. Incompetence will be the next indictment of Bush until something else can serve as evidence of how effectively evil he is.

Indeed. By contrast Mickey Kaus has constructive suggestions.

MORE STILL: Reader Tom McCobb emails:

I think all that is really needed is some plain talk from George Bush, regularly, frequently, and in a high profile medium. I long to see him on the t.v. saying “The media is not giving you the straight story and here is how….” What, is he afraid he will make someone mad? Andrew Sullivan is ‘spot on’ about this. All we get is unchallenged prattle from the media, and no riposte.

Indeed.

May 21, 2004

“ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE” that Chalabi spied for Iran? This is likely to embarrass some people.

UPDATE: Including some at The New York Times, apparently.

May 21, 2004

JON ALTER COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET. On Air America, no less. “For many of us, this validates what we think of media types like Alter: they pretend to be sober, restrained, and sometimes even ‘balanced’ — but in private they are all shrill partisans. (Strictly speaking, Alter wasn’t in private while on Franken’s show, but he was on Air America, which is close enough.)”

UPDATE: This sort of thing makes reports like this more credible, doesn’t it?

May 21, 2004

STACY TABB IS DEEPLY UNHAPPY with the “Little Miss Hooters” contest.

May 21, 2004

BERG KILLERS ARRESTED? “BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi police have arrested four people in the killing of American Nicholas Berg, an Iraqi security official said Friday.”

May 21, 2004

MORE STORIES OF ARAB PRISONERS BEING ABUSED:

ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire – another damning human rights report.

But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.

The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.

It highlights numerous incidents of torture of prisoners and refers to the killing of civilians in gunbattles between Palestinian factions.

It is another blow for Mr Arafat’s organisation, which was recently accused of misusing £134 million of European Union funds. Mr Arafat was accused of signing cheques to people linked with terrorist activity.

I’m sure Ted Kennedy will have comments.

May 21, 2004

JONAH GOLDBERG has thoughts on liberals, conservatives, and intellectual roots.

May 21, 2004

DONALD SENSING is claiming vindication.

May 21, 2004

JAMES LILEKS:

Listening to a radio host discuss this column by Fritz Hollings. What caused the war with Iraq? Simple! Charles Krauthammer used his super-powerful Jew Beams to cloud the minds of hapless pliable goyim. Then Bush realized he could win reelection by getting that overwhelming number of Jewish voters.

I know this sounds naive, but I still expect better from Senators. Better writing, better thinking. But I am coming to believe that the Senate is one of the biggest dunce-clubs around.

As Hollings famously noted, there’s no IQ test. More on Hollings here, with this observation: “I’m glad that the Jesse Helms, Fritz Hollings, and other holdovers from the bigoted, reactionary South of yesteryear are finally leaving the Senate. They have been a stain on the institution.”

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more on Fritz Hollings and his history of racial remarks.

May 21, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: More charges of an oil-for-food coverup at the U.N.

May 21, 2004

THIS JUST WON’T DO: If I’m going to read about Matt Yglesias and a handful of busty Mexican hookers I want it to be on Wonkette, the natural home for that kind of thing.

Note to those too lazy to follow the link: the hookers are the subject of a recommendation, not a report.

May 21, 2004

GOOD NEWS in Fallujah. I do believe that the Marines know what they’re doing.

May 21, 2004

STUART BUCK has an oped comparing abortion photos to those from Abu Ghraib:

Abortion protesters have commonly publicized photographs of aborted fetuses, and one famous short film (The Silent Scream) even shows ultrasound images of an actual abortion. Yet these tactics typically result in criticism aimed not at the abortion providers, but at the protesters themselves.

Typically, these protesters are accused of sensationalism and exploitation. And it’s not always just criticism: Two political candidates were even arrested in Britain last year simply for peacefully displaying a picture of an aborted fetus.

In a sense, this is understandable. Pictures of abortion are gory and upsetting. No one finds them pleasant. As a result, the reality shown in the pictures is ignored, while displaying the pictures is treated as an offense against good taste.

But how does this square with the reaction to the pictures of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Recall that a few American soldiers forced prisoners to pose for sexually explicit pictures, images that were graphic and distressing.

Yet, disturbing as the photos were, opponents were adamant that they should be made public. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said the photos “absolutely” should be released, and that “any effort to hide this kind of material will not work.”

Unlike Stuart, I’m pro-choice. But he’s right about the double standard. (But I’ve come to the conclusion that pictures like this one should never be published. Ugh.)

May 20, 2004

MORE ON SARIN: Read this.

May 20, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: CLAUDIA ROSETT IS ON WABC talking about Oil-for-Food right now. Click to listen live.

May 20, 2004

OKAY, I’VE ALWAYS ARGUED THAT NEWS MEDIA SHOULD SHOW THE UGLY SIDE OF LIFE: So I guess I can’t really argue that this picture shouldn’t have been published. But still, there should be some standards of decency.

May 20, 2004

READER JOHN FREDERICK wonders if the Bush Administration is launching its P.R. offensive beneath the traditional media radar:

As I flipped past John Boy and Billy this morning (don’t ask) I was surprised to hear them introduce a CPA spokesman on the phone from Iraq. Other than a few previous “serious” Q&As with the local AM yak station, this was the first time I had heard something like this. Is this the beginning of the Bush PR blitz? The show reaches 10 million+ every day – I believe that’s on par with the evening network news (per network). He’s reaching the southern NASCAR crowd which is VERY patriotic and pro-war. Best of all from the government perspective, John Boy and Billy were lobbing the guy the easiest softballs for him to smash out of the park (think Katie Couric interviewing someone like Hillary).

Given the ‘positive story = bury it’ mentality of the press, maybe we can expect more of this end around strategy.

Interesting.

May 20, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: Looks like it’s gaining traction:

NEW YORK — A key lawmaker sent a letter Wednesday to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) asking for the immediate release of 55 internal audits of the controversial Iraqi oil-for-food program (search).

Rep. Henry Hyde (search), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sent the letter after Fox News reported on a leaked audit from April 2003 that found significant problems with the program. Specifically, the audit raised questions about a company that employed Annan’s son as it prepared to bid an oil-for-food contract.

Hyde wrote to Annan that he had a “deep concern” about the audit’s conclusions and he noted that Congress “should not be required to depend on media leaks for source documents.”

The story has several interesting links. Plus this tidbit: “Sevan refused to answer questions about whether he profited personally.” Hmm. Why would he refuse to answer, if he hadn’t?

May 20, 2004

SEYMOUR HERSH: Some surprising people have been criticizing him. Arthur Schlesinger: “the most gullible investigative reporter I’ve ever encountered.”

Jules Witcover: “Hersh’s attributions generally fall short of normal journalistic yardsticks.”

Ted Kennedy: “”Scurrilous.”

Who knew?

May 20, 2004

CRUSHING OF DISSENT AT EMORY: Another administrator embarrasses a school.

May 20, 2004

GAY DAY IN RHEA COUNTY: I posted on this a while back, but now here’s a lengthy report from Joe Tarr, who was there.

In my earlier post, I suggested that public opinion is moving faster than the courts. By contrast, Howard Kurtz wrote this earlier this week:

I’m not saying that these and other news organizations have ignored the other side. You can go through the stories and the sidebars and find plenty of critics quoted.

But the overall vibe of most of the headlines and leads is that this is a step forward. Which, in the view of many liberal-leaning people and journalists, it is, comparable to the Brown v. Board of Ed ruling whose 50th anniversary was celebrated yesterday. But what is overshadowed, and what fuels the perception that the press is out of touch, is that many people consider this a negative step that violates the traditional concept that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I’m not sure this is inconsistent, though. As I said quite a while ago, there’s opposition, but the intensity of the opposition isn’t all that high. In fact, I just heard Rick Santorum on Hugh Hewitt complaining that he can’t even motivate Republicans in the Senate to act against gay marriage. And that’s what’s making the difference.

May 20, 2004

“PENDULUM PUNDITS” — nice turn of phrase, and a good piece.

May 20, 2004

JUST HEARD HUGH HEWITT on the radio, dissing Lileks’ dog. That’s mean, Hugh.

May 20, 2004

RAND SIMBERG has a pithy response to Susan Sontag.

May 20, 2004

KATE MCMILLAN WRITES:

The chatter and concern of the past few weeks about Iraq being too insecure for a July transition of power is going to change.

As the countdown to June 30th begins, and there is no sign that the Bush administration is going to move the deadline, the talking points and the media coverage will shift. Holding to the deadline is going to be revised to running away. (Watch for mention of the deadline to be buried deeply, or even dropped from news reports.)

Yes, there’s only one strand of consistency in the news coverage.

UPDATE: More thoughts on constantly moving goal posts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: By the way, here’s the November 15, 2003 agreement that sets the date to hand over sovereignty at June 30, 2004, adherence to which Kate expects will soon be portrayed as some sort of cut-and-run. And here’s the Countdown to Sovereignty website.

May 20, 2004

SPINSANITY is unimpressed with David Brock’s new Media Matters organization.

May 20, 2004

MARK CUBAN, MEDIA CRITIC:

We are now in an era where media searches for stories that will generate media coverage of the story. Stories are written not for the value they bring the readers, viewers or listeners, but rather the volume of coverage they will bring.

And, coincidentally, people are increasingly tuning them out.

UPDATE: Reader John Calapa writes:

Concerning the media and the value of the product they are creating today. The last time I saw this type hubris and wrong-headedness from an industry about what the customer wants and the value of quality, it was the American car industry in the ’70′s. Are you Blogonians the Toyotas of modern media?

I don’t think so, exactly. But I think you’re dead-on about the industry. They’re churning out Granadas and Chevettes and telling us that we’re idiots for complaining.

May 20, 2004

BOMBS, CHAOS, AND PEOPLE WHO HATE US — I think we should pull out of the Olympics.

May 20, 2004

IRAQI BLOGGER UPDATE: The Carnival of the Liberated, a roundup of Iraqi blog posts, is up.

May 20, 2004

RICHARD MILHOUS KERRY: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

May 20, 2004

I THINK THAT THE NANOTECHNOLOGY WARS are settling down:

Melody Haller of the Antenna Group, a public relations firm that represents a number of nanotech companies and Small Times, also raised concern that “marginalizing” people such Eric Drexler and others who believe in the feasibility of molecular manufacturing might create “heroic martyrs” for nanotech opponents to exploit. Drexler is founder of the Foresight Institute and author of the influential 1986 book, “Engines of Creation.”

Modzelewski, normally an outspoken Drexler critic, was unusually courtly toward the group. “Foresight has created some frameworks and guidelines for going forward that people should be looking at,” he said.

In an interview after the policy panel, Sean Murdock, the NanoBusiness Alliance’s incoming executive director, said that with respect to dangers, real or potential, the nanotech world must be proactive about studying safety issues. He also said he believed such risks can be quantified and protected against.

This represents quite a change from earlier attitudes, and I think it’s quite a wise one.

May 20, 2004

RON BAILEY: “Paul Ehrlich has never been right. Why does anyone still listen to him?”

May 20, 2004

BARCELONAN BLOGGER FRANCO ALEMAN has his own weblog now. It’s bilingual, though all-Spanish at the moment.

May 20, 2004

THE DECLINING PRESENCE OF THE BLOGROLL?

I’m not sure about that. Though big ones like mine are a pain to keep up.

May 20, 2004

SCHWARZENEGGER’S 75% TAX ON PUNITIVE DAMAGES: TaxProf has more.

May 20, 2004

IT’S “WEDDING PARTY” NEWS ANALYSIS AT THE BELMONT CLUB and it’s quite interesting.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters writes that the U.S. military has to get inside its enemies’ response curve. And he has an interesting analysis of who the enemies are.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

I read the Peters article-thanks for the link. 1) I wonder if that’s why the Pentagon wanted such a speedy entry into Baghdad last year, i.e., Rummy gets it as far as need for speed. 2) The worrisome part of the analysis is that he implies our enemies understand our collective psyche better than we understand theirs. If that is accurate (and I’m afraid it is), we have to catch up in that department. The problem is it will mean dispensing with much political correctness which probably isn’t going to happen any time soon or until something significantly more tragic than 9/11 happens.

I’ve also felt that we don’t understand our potential friends in the Middle East either. I think we grossly underestimated the long term toll living under a totalitarian regime would have on the people (despite the recent collapse of the Soviet Union). Mass passivity is one possible outcome from that. Although many Iraqis are becoming active in many ways, a great deal of the population probably just wishes the trouble to all go away without taking any risks themselves. Saddam butchered so many and terrorized the rest. How many Iraqis survived by looking for ways to not cause trouble? That would be a hard habit to change. Second it could also feel shameful that one’s liberators are infidels.

Interesting points.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This military blogger says that Ralph Peters is right on the problem, but dangerously wrong on the solution.

May 20, 2004

COLLIN LEVEY WRITES on the rush to ignore WMD discoveries.

And Neal Boortz observes:

The latest? It was only a “very small trace” that was discovered. About one gallon of sarin, in liquid form, is a “very small trace” to the Times. Yesterday on the Neal Boortz Show we learned that there is enough sarin gas in four liters to kill over 60,000 people. That would make just one gallon of this stuff an arsenal. To the Times, though, it was just a small trace.

Remember the template.

It’s pretty obvious that they’re working from one.

May 20, 2004

MARINE SGT. PAUL LAVEN sends this link to a photo of more anti-New York Times graffiti.

By one of Kaus’s rules of punditry, two examples constitute a nationwide trend! It’s a popular revolution against Big Media!

Well, if the target were different, I’ll bet Maureen Dowd could write a column with no more basis than this.

If you see any more, send me a photo. Maybe I’ll start a gallery.

UPDATE: Ted Barlow emails:

Aren’t you concerned that you’re encouraging your readers to create anti-New York Times graffitti and then photograph it? Honestly, that was the first thing that I thought of.

That hadn’t crossed my mind. Don’t do that! I’m only interested in found graffiti, not made graffiti.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Freudian slip from the Times is delightful.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Quite a few readers say that it’s probably lefties, or more specifically Anarchist / antiglobo types, spraypainting the Times. I guess that makes sense — such disrespect for private property is their hallmark, after all. I guess that’s why it didn’t cross my mind that InstaPundit readers might do that.

MORE: On the other hand, maybe it’s not anarchists, as reader Kipp Mohr sends this email:

It was my picture that you posted today of the graffiti of the New York Times today, and I just wanted to thank you for doing so.

I took it at the Medical Center stop on the red line of the DC Metro while I was visiting Sgt. Laven across the street at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. I can only assume it was one of the families or friends of a soldier wounded or killed in battle that attempted to deface a paper that has shown so little respect for their loved ones’ efforts and valient bravery. The only improvement in the effort I would’ve make would be to cut out the middle-man–spray it right across Ted Kennedy’s face!

Needless to say, InstaPundit does not approve of spray-painting Senators.

May 20, 2004

CHALABI’S HOUSE RAIDED: No, I’m not sure what to make of this either, though this may be a clue:

U.S. officials declined to comment on the raid targeting a longtime ally of the Pentagon. Privately, however, American authorities have complained that Chalabi is interfering with a U.S. investigation into allegations that Saddam Hussein’s regime skimmed millions of dollars in oil revenues during the U.N.-run oil-for-food program.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Reader George Peery emails: “The raid by US forces on Chalabi’s home may finally give him the “legitimacy” among Iraqis that he has so notably lacked. (Is the fix in?)” Such cynicism.

I’m not sure how to reconcile these events with this stuff.

May 20, 2004

BLOG HAIKU? Why not?

May 20, 2004

TIM RUSSERT: Censor?

May 20, 2004

KERRY BLOWS IT ON GAY MARRIAGE, according to Eugene Volokh:

Kerry apparently wanted to make a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages seem momentous and pregnant with threat to our Bill of Rights protections. (I take it that’s the chief argument against “touch[ing] . . . the Bill of Rights” — if you lessen some Bill of Rights protections, then you’re making it easier for others to lessen still other such protections.) The trouble is that his claim was inaccurate, and if it impressed people rhetorically, it did so by misleading them.

Maybe he was just tired. On the other hand, he’s not doing very well on judicial appointments, or Iraq, either.

May 20, 2004

A MARINE WRITES FROM IRAQ:

RAMADI, Iraq — This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East.

This is the third time I’ve heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal.

This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. . . .

Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the “Sunni Triangle” was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt, and the country was nearing civil war.

As I write this, the supply lines are open, there’s plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.

Read the whole thing.

May 20, 2004

MILT ROSENBERG has a sleek new blog design.

May 20, 2004

“A TRAVESTY OF A MOCKERY OF A SHAM:” James Glassman says that the Bush Administration is blowing the war of ideas:

This job — promoting the national interest by informing, engaging and influencing — is called “public diplomacy.” We used to be the best at it. With institutions like Radio Free Europe and the USIA, public diplomacy helped win the Cold War, and it has the potential to win the war on terror, saving American lives and money.

But, after the Berlin Wall came down, the U.S. started to dismantle the apparatus of public diplomacy, or P.D. The worst blow came when we disbanded the U.S. Information Agency. Today, the State Department spends just $600 million on public diplomacy — a joke. Some in the administration even see P.D. as sissified, not for tough policymakers. . . .

“A year ago,” said Mark Helmke, key aide to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind). “I reported that American public diplomacy was a mess. I said it lacked a strategy, a vision, and money. Today, that situation is worse. American public diplomacy is a disaster.”

Read the whole thing.

May 20, 2004

VIRGINIA POSTREL looks at diminishing returns for highway spending.

To which I’d add that I often wonder how long it takes for the time saved by improved highways to make up for the time lost due to delays during the construction phase, especially if you discount to present value.

UPDATE: Via email from Bill Hobbs, an answer to my question:

A new report finds that motorists can lose more time in road construction delays than they will save in years of driving on the newly “improved” road. The national report, Road Work Ahead: Is Construction Worth the Wait? by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, is being released Thursday and uses case studies to examine whether road expansion projects are ultimately worth the wait for drivers.

The study found that construction delays can be so long, and the time savings from the expanded road so small, that it can take years for commuters to break even. In the case of the Springfield Interchange reconstruction outside of Washington DC, commuters are projected to never make up the time that they will lose during the eight years of construction. Drivers now sitting through the construction of I-15 in Salt Lake City are not expected to break even on their time investment until 2010, eight years after the project is completed.

This makes sense to me. More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, here’s a further perspective:

I agree that we should consider time lost due to construction in the cost benefit analysis of highways. There are a couple of other things to consider as well. First and foremost, a highway bill is a jobs bill. $300 billion being spent on highways puts a lot of people to work. Don’t forget to include the multiplier effect. In addition, the reduced cost of maintenance on a vehicle saves every person who drives a considerable sum each year. Those reduced costs, along with reduced fuel costs (in cases of new highways) are also realized in either higher profits or lower costs for any product shipped by truck in the US.

There was a study out about a year ago, (sorry, I couldn’t find a link) that showed the increased cost of vehicle maintenance for Missouri residents compared to Kansas residents. As a Kansas City native, it is obvious that Kansas spends considerably more on roads than Missouri does. Anyway, the study had a range of $500 to $2000 per year in lower maintenance costs for Kansas residents.

Duane Simpson
Chief of Staff
Kansas House Majority Leader

I’d like to see more analysis of these factors. I find the “jobs bill” bit unpersuasive, though, as I suspect that the same amount of money, left in taxpayer pockets, would actually create more jobs. They’d just be jobs that elected officials couldn’t take credit for. . . .

May 20, 2004

I DON’T THINK POLLS MEAN MUCH this far from election day, but this Daschle / Thune poll can’t be making the Daschle folks very happy.

I’m sure that Thune’s shrewd use of blogads is what’s closed the gap. . . .

UPDATE: More in this column from Jon Lauck.

May 20, 2004

IDIOTARIAN ALERT: Yeah, that word’s so 2002. But the underlying reality is still there! And what else do you call someone who says we should ban gay marriage because allowing it will make terrorists mad?

Sheesh.

May 19, 2004

AUSTIN BAY, a columnist well-known to the blogosphere and also an Army reservist, is heading to Iraq and posts a goodbye column noting that “Everyone is Part of the War”:

For a short time, the U.S. Army will make me part of the minute-by-minute, ground-level effort in Iraq. I specify in Iraq, for every American, in some form or fashion, is part of this war. It is sad that some people do not realize that.

America’s wealth makes it easy to create the perception of distance, that “here” and “over there” aren’t intimately linked.

Bay’s column reminds me of what Rudy Giuliani said today to the 9/11 Commission:

Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us….
The blame should be put on one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones.

Read both. And you can see Giuliani’s testimony on C-SPAN.

May 19, 2004

IT’S THE LAST CALL for the Blogads blog survey. If you take it, please enter “instapundit” in line 22.

May 19, 2004

MORE WEIRD STUFF IN NORTH KOREA: Very odd.

May 19, 2004

A JOURNALIST I KNOW emails that the loss of credibility his profession is suffering is “seismic,” and that he’s considering quitting. What’s more, he’s hearing depressed comments from quite a few colleagues.

Another reader — who probably doesn’t want his name used because he works for a major newspaper — emails: “I’ve tuned out the MSM and rely on the ‘Net — bloggers, Lucianne.com, etc. — to keep me informed, which it does quite well. That way I get all the info but don’t have to endure Dan, Tom and Peter, Wolf, etc. I miss nothing that’s happening but I gain all the stories that the mainstream media simply ignore.” If you saw his address line, you’d know how striking a statement this is.

Perhaps, as this bit of graffiti I photographed outside the UT Main Library today suggests (or at least illustrates), the loss of credibility suffered by mainstream journalism is at a tipping point. (Actually, I first saw it on Sunday but — pace Adam Groves — I didn’t have the camera with me then.)

I think the trend is too bad — I’d much rather have trusted and trustworthy mainstream journalism than the reverse — but, frankly, the loss of credibility is well-earned, as pretty much any blog reader knows. But if you’re still wondering, go read Cathy Seipp’s column on John Carroll of the Los Angeles Times, and his comments on journalism. Excerpt: “Every single thing we read in the paper, including hard news, is the product of other people’s opinions about what we should know. Problems happen when those in charge believe in their own objectivity so much they no longer know that one simple fact.”

Read this, too.

UPDATE: Hey, but there’s a positive side. A reader who signs her email “Maggie” sends this:

It’s all YOUR fault. :)

I have been “gainfully” unemployed for the past four years with no results in all of the jobs that I have applied for. And they number in the hundreds.

But next week on Tuesday morning I am going for an interview with the local newspaper to work as a reporter. I think it’s all your fault, because after 9.11 I started reading the news on the internet, and that’s when I discovered you. Since, I have studied your format of writing which is very easy to read. I then decided to try my hand at blogging, which didn’t last too long, but was a good exercise.

When I sent in my resume to the newspaper, I also sent an article I had written and posted to my old blog. And who influenced me? YOU. Thank you, for being online.

The blog giveth, and the blog taketh away.

May 19, 2004

I LOVE THE INTERNET: An interesting letter from an American soldier, on an Iraqi blog.

May 19, 2004

A BREAK IN THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF POLITICIZATION: Larry Solum has an interesting post on the judicial-selection compromise.

May 19, 2004

IRAQI EMIGRES ON ABU GHRAIB: This is interesting:

Hadi Kazwini is an Iraqi engineer who moved to Australia in 1997 and lives in Sydney with his wife and three children. He is amazed at the gullibility of those Australians who have taken the Arab response to the photos at face value.

This sort of brutality goes on all the time, it is happening now in jails right through the Middle East, he says. But of course there are no photos. This is selective outrage.

Kazwini believes that the behaviour revealed by the photos is awful and the US soldiers involved should be punished. But he says some of the Iraqi prisoners shown were Saddam’s killers and torturers. They have been responsible for far worse violations of human rights than the Americans.

Where is the outrage about this, he asks. I haven’t seen it referred to in one newspaper.

Kazwini has a different perspective to most of us here in Australia. Seven people he knew disappeared during Saddam’s time, never to be seen again. Some were members of his family. No one knows what happened to them. No bodies were ever found.

Kazwini himself was once arrested for a poem he wrote. He was interned for six days and beaten and humiliated. Men were stripped and forced to crawl before their guards.

These days Kazwini uses e-mail and the internet to communicate daily with people in Iraq. He is amazed at the persistent claims in the media here that most Iraqis have responded to the photos by turning on the American occupation.

The main concern of the people he talks to is that the photos, and the beaten-up outrage from the rest of the Arab world, might encourage America to leave.

Read the whole thing.

May 19, 2004

THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up. Don’t miss it.

May 19, 2004

HERE’S MORE ON THE VACCINE / AUTISM ISSUE:

An examination of scientific studies worldwide has found no convincing evidence that vaccines cause autism, according to a committee of experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine.

In particular, no link was found between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or vaccines that contain a mercury preservative called thimerosal. The committee released its eighth and final report yesterday in Washington. . . .

As for the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, 14 epidemiological studies have shown no evidence of a link. The committee dismissed two studies that did show a link as flawed. The committee examined a number of possible biological mechanisms to explain how vaccines might cause autism, but said that all were theoretical and that there was not sufficient proof.

Fewer children today receive vaccines that contain mercury, Mr. Blaxill of SafeMinds said, so if the mercury hypothesis holds true, rates of autism should fall in the next couple of years. The number of cases in California, where autistic children are carefully tracked, declined slightly in the last six months, he said, but it is too soon to know if the drop is a trend.

Stay tuned, though the case for a connection is looking pretty weak.

May 19, 2004

THIS IS INTERESTING:

MADRID, May 19 (Reuters) – A Spanish judge accused three Algerians on Wednesday of belonging to al Qaeda and forming part of a network that recruited Islamists across Europe to go to Iraq and fight the U.S.-led occupation.

High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon said the mobilising of insurgents was directed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group has claimed responsibility for the beheading of a U.S. hostage and the assassination of the head of the Iraqi Governing Council. . . .

Garzon said the Spanish al Qaeda cell included Heidi Ben Youssef Boudhiba, who is in jail in Britain. He said Boudhiba formed part of a network that was attempting to attack London with the deadly toxin ricin in January 2003. Garzon has asked British authorities to hand him over.

Garzon also linked Boudhiba to members of the cell based in Hamburg which supplied three of the suicide pilots for September 11. He said Boudhiba and another cell member left the port city and flew to Istanbul eight days before the attacks.

Not entirely a surprise. Note the Algerian connection, which keeps coming up.

May 19, 2004

MICKEY KAUS offers “an example of why it’s so difficult for a blogger, or any other ordinary citizen in the U.S., to figure out how things are going in Iraq even with the aid of the Internet.”

He’s absolutely right, and his point extends to the entire war. It’s hard and — as various bizarre news stories seem to indicate — we’re in a situation where it’s likely that lots of stuff is going on beneath the surface that we don’t and can’t know about. Add to that the tendency of the media reporting from Iraq to focus on superficially bad news, at the expense of both good news and non-superficial bad news, and it’s really hard to tell what’s going on.

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this topic, the temptation is to apply Kentucky windage and assume that things are better than the reports make them sound. And that may be true, but we can’t know that. (On terrorism, for example, the media in the 1990s stressed the threat of domestic terrorism from “angry white men,” while largely missing the growth of Al Qaeda. So things were better than they sounded where domestic terrorism was concerned — but worse somewhere else, and an important problem didn’t get enough attention until it was too late.)

I think, though, that it’s a mistake to assume that “how things are going” means much right now. People want a narrative line: “we’re winning,” or “we’re losing,” when things are up in the air. My own sense, drawing on admittedly inadequate data, is that things are, in fact, going better than the day-to-day drumbeat of negativity makes them sound. But that could certainly be wrong. And those narrative lines are imposed later, in retrospect — at the moment, we need to be dealing with the problems in front of us.

Is the Administration screwing things up in Iraq? Maybe. Is it because they’re too harsh, as the left says? Or too soft, as the right says? (Does the fact that they’re getting criticized from both sides make them, Goldilocks-like, just right? If only it were that simple.) I find this as frustrating as Mickey does, but we can only work with what we’ve got.

What’s most bothersome to me is that the anti-Bush stance adopted by most media organizations makes their reporting less useful to those of us who are trying to figure out what’s going on, and makes the Administration, and its supporters, tend to tune it all out, possibly causing them to miss important information. I don’t know what to do about it, except to try to point out the stuff that it seems they’re missing.

UPDATE: Some readers are unfamiliar with the term “Kentucky windage.” In this context it means putting your finger in the air, making a guess, and aiming left or right to correct for the presumed breeze on the way to the target.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, maybe someone should ask Iraqis how it’s going!

May 19, 2004

OVERMATCHING THE GODS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

May 19, 2004

WILLIAM SAFIRE says that the Sarin story has been soft-pedaled by the media. So does this coverage survey from The Fourth Rail.

I could put this down to caution, except that — as we’ve seen — they’re quick enough to pick up unconfirmed stories that suit their preferred storyline.

More on this phenomenon here.

UPDATE: Here, too.

May 19, 2004

RAND SIMBERG HAS THOUGHTS on NASA, the Hubble telescope, and a policy disconnect.

May 19, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: The New York Post is unhappy with Paul Bremer’s foot-dragging:

Members of the governing council suspect that Bremer’s motive is to protect the U.N. from adverse publicity in the run-up to the June 30 “handover of sovereignty.”

Of course, it’s no secret that powerful elements in the State Department have actively opposed efforts to investigate the U.N. Oil for Food scandal.

And it may be that the Bush administration itself wants to go easy on the U.N., and Secretary General Kofi Annan, now that it is seeking to have the U.N. help shape a new Iraqi government.

But it is a terrible mistake for America to thwart the Oil for Food investigation for any reason — let alone to preserve the U.N.’s ragged credibility.

Never mind that Kofi & Co. appear (to put it charitably) to have permitted one of the most breathtaking embezzlements in the annals of crime.

The fact is that the United Nations is viewed widely in Iraq as a principal Saddam-enabler — if not a collaborator in his crimes — and is despised for it.

I agree. It’s possible, as Thomas Lifson writes, that there’s more to this story. But if the Bush Administration is quashing this investigation in an effort to get UN support, I predict that they’ll wind up being snookered.

UPDATE: But stuff is leaking out. Claudia Rosett has lots of interesting information on oil-for-food misconduct from internal U.N. audits. Kojo Annan’s company Cotecna figures prominently.

May 19, 2004

ANDREA SEE encounters Xiamen’s unfavorable business climate. Sheesh.

May 19, 2004

JUSTIN KATZ is getting ahead of a story via Google. He emails that “Jimmy Massey” started showing up in his search term referrals, so he looked the guy up and found a veteran who’s “slandering the troops” in John Kerry (1971 version) style. He’s got a long post on what he found.