November 28, 2004
SOME PEOPLE ARE CALLING for the arrest of Jean Chretien for war crimes prior to Bush’s Canada visit.
Seems a bit silly to me, but then there’s a lot of that kind of silliness up north lately.
SOME PEOPLE ARE CALLING for the arrest of Jean Chretien for war crimes prior to Bush’s Canada visit.
Seems a bit silly to me, but then there’s a lot of that kind of silliness up north lately.
“THE NEWS WARS OF 2010 WERE NOTABLE for the fact that no actual news organization was involved.” A short, and somewhat cautionary, history of the media future.
MICHAEL JORDAN’S BIG BROTHER is going to Iraq.
AS I SAID EARLIER, I’ve done all my Christmas shopping so far right here. Now I see that Wal-Mart sales have been disappointing this weekend. Are lots of people shopping online, or are people just buying less?
I’d report on how crowded the parking lots at the malls are, but I haven’t been there, so I can’t. But there may be a tie-in to this column from last year, too.
UPDATE: The Wal-Mart story seems to be much ado about not much, according to Kevin Brancato’s Wal-Mart blog. He links this story, too, suggesting that many people expected slower sales this year because last year people had tax rebate checks in hand.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Wink emails:
I have an alternate idea of what is happening to Wal-Mart. They have devalued their brand: Wal-Mart is a place to go for the necessities of life. Target has pulled a brilliant move in placing itself as a more prestigious and higher quality brand covering the same economic demographics. While people would be more then willing to buy milk at Wal-Mart, they would prefer to buy the better quality jewelry at Target considering the cost factor is reasonably comparable. I managed to do no shopping on Black Friday (like you Amazon got a majority of my money) and spent my morning walking that trails at Great Falls and then meeting my wife in DC for lunch.
Two years ago I did a considerable amount of shopping at Wal-Mart in the Norfolk area where their Super centers are comfortable places to shop. When I moved to the Northern VA area, where there are no Super Wal-Mart, my one trip to Wal-Mart was an exercise in claustrophobia and crowd control (and this was in September not Dec). Target represents an place that is far more comfortable to shop in: the aisles are clean and wide and there are usually enough cashiers to ensure a speedy experience. The cost is marginally more but is more then worth the psychic cost of going to Wal-Mart.
Yeah. I’ve never understood the fashionable hatred of Wal-Mart, but I’ve also never really liked shopping there.
MORE: This article from Forbes suggests that Wal-Mart’s problems are Wal-Mart’s problem: “In an effort to defend its profits, the world’s largest retailer did not discount as deeply on a wide array of products as it has in the past. That hurt sales the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the holiday shopping season, as other competitors like Sears, Roebuck and Co. lured shoppers with deeper price cuts. Customers tend to be price-sensitive and go to Wal-Mart to take advantage of the blitz of deals.”
A CRACKDOWN AGAINST PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTERS IN UKRAINE? King Banaian has a roundup at the SCSU Scholars site.
UPDATE: Veronica Khokhlova: “I wished Bono had come over here – man, wouldn’t that be cool…”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a lengthy and disturbing roundup on the geopolitics involved.
HUMAN TELETUBBIES: This is just wrong.
MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in Canada.
UKRAINE UPDATE: David Warren writes:
The damage that has been done to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, should not be overlooked. He invested more political capital than was wise by heavy-handedly supporting both President Kuchma in the Ukraine, and Alexandr Lukashenko, the authoritarian president-for-life of Belarus — the two “Little Russias” from the old Soviet Union.
Ukrainian events remind Russians of how much fraud was involved in their own last election.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: More on fraud here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, with photos, here:
WHAT HAS MADE THE SITUATION an international crisis is the heavy-handed Russian interference in the election. Russia’s involvement is so beyond the pale that two former presidents who led revolutions against Soviet-installed puppet governments in their own nations–Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Lech Walesa from Poland–have waded in on the side of Yushchenko.
Havel sent a letter which was read by Yushchenko at an evening demonstration in which he urged Yushchenko and his followers to continue their fight. Walesa arrived in Kiev two days later to support Yushchenko. He spoke twice to the crowds at Independence Square. The situation reminded him “of the struggle that we carried on with Solidarity in the 1980s,” he said.
Read the whole thing.
I AGREE: Tom Brokaw is giving bad advice.
HERE’S AN INTERESTING TIDBIT ABOUT ALEXANDER: It was subsidized by the French government:
Jeunet had pointed out that director Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Great received funding from the French government despite not being filmed in France or in French.
Judging by the reviews, I don’t think the return on that investment is going to be very good.
UPDATE: Hmm. I wonder if this Barbie movie — and matching robot cat, Serafina — got French subsidies: “Whenever her on-screen counterpart appears during the DVD film ‘Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper,’ the $40 furball starts to purr and chat — and she can do it in French, too ..” reports PrestoPundit. Hey, it would be a better investment than Alexander — Barbie’s a proven performer.
HERE’S MORE ON THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN AMERICAN ACADEMIA, and its consequences:
When John Kennedy brought to Washington such academics as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, McGeorge and William Bundy and Walt Rostow, it was said that the Charles River was flowing into the Potomac.
Academics, such as the next secretary of state, still decorate Washington, but academia is less listened to than it was. It has marginalized itself, partly by political shrillness and silliness that have something to do with the parochialism produced by what George Orwell called “smelly little orthodoxies.”
Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations — except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.
They do indeed cultivate diversity — in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought.
UPDATE: A faculty reader emails: “We just hired a new vice president of diversity on campus and he’s about to start ‘diversity conversations.’ This could be a great opportunity to talk about diversity of thought, since they’re just now defining what diversity in Oregon means.”
Sounds like it could begin a useful conversation. I suspect that quite a few states will be having such discussions.
THIS STORY from the Baltimore Sun on the future of the news business post-Rather is worth reading in its entirety. Here’s a bit:
For Socolow, the rise of bloggers is the most exciting change in electronic journalism these days. And, he says, far from upending journalistic traditions, bloggers derive their greatest strength from a mainstay of the profession.
“For all the bad things that bloggers put out there [during the election], they have one really significant advantage over the dinosaur networks, which is their relationship to accuracy,” Socolow said. “The bloggers’ power is in their ability to fact-check mainstream journalism in a new way.”
The fallout from Rather’s Bush report is proof of that power: It was bloggers – not television or print journalists – who first questioned the authenticity of the documents on which 60 Minutes II based the segment.
“What’s more basic to journalism than fact-checking and accuracy?” Socolow says. “That’s what bloggers are providing, as the Bush-Rather story illustrates. CBS News – or The New York Times for that matter – never had to worry about its journalism being independently evaluated the way it is today on the Internet.”
That’s not as dramatic a story line as the end of network news. But another layer of checks and balances – even if ideologically driven – seems like a good thing for the public.
Yes. And if I were running a Big Media outlet I’d pay someone to surf the blogs (or check links to my own stories from blogs via technorati) and then make corrections when they found errors. It’s free, outsourced error-correction.
TOM HAYDEN SUGGESTS A GOAL FOR THE LEFT: Make sure we lose in Iraq! (“The anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to leave Iraq by denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary to its strategy for dominance. “) The good news is that, even on the left, not many people listen to Tom Hayden. Karl Rove hopes otherwise, though.
UPDATE: Hayden will no doubt be disappointed to discover that Zarqawi is running scared.
THOUGHTS ON BEING A PUBLIC UTILITY, at Ghost of a Flea.
UNSCAM UPDATE: The Belmont Club has an oil-for-food roundup. Kofi no, Havel yes!
DAVID EDELSTEIN: “With Alexander (Warner Bros.), Oliver Stone has done what I never thought possible: He has made me feel pity for him.”
UPDATE: Donald Sensing offers another negative report:
Nephew said the movie was “incredibly bad.” How bad? This bad:
With about 15 minutes left to go, the projection system broke. The screen went blank and the sound quit. After a few seconds, when the audience realized that it wasn’t just a sudden gap between reels or the like, they clapped and cheered.
I felt that way about Sorcerer.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots more bad reviews here.
DANIEL DREZNER has a Ukraine roundup, with links to earlier posts.
MUSIC REVIEW: I got a chance to give a good, thorough listen to John Fogerty’s new album, Deja Vu All Over Again last week, when I drove to pick up my grandmother. Overall, I didn’t think it was as good as I’d hoped. I’ve heard a lot of people compare it to Centerfield, but it put me more in mind of Eye of the Zombie, an album that was better than most people thought at the time, but not really up to Fogerty’s best efforts.
Deja Vu seems, like Zombie, to lack a theme. Some of the songs are good — I liked “In the Garden,” with its frankly retro approach, the best — but others, like “Nobody’s Here Anymore” (a somewhat geezerish rant against the Internet and cellphones), are just embarrassing. (There are streaming samples for all of these Fogerty albums — just follow the links). Overall, it’s worth buying if you’re a hardcore Fogerty fan and have to have everything, but otherwise I’d give it a pass. And if you’re looking for a first-rate post-Centerfield Fogerty effort, I recommend Blue Moon Swamp instead. It’s much better.
UPDATE: They just corrected me on the air to say that King isn’t a guest — he’s an every-other-week cohost on the show. My mistake!
ANOTHER UPDATE: If you missed the broadcast, you can hear it here.
I HEART BELLSOUTH: Our fax line is down. I called and spoke to a robot, which tested our line and said a technician would come. Half an hour later, and the guy’s here. Pretty impressive.
BLACKFIVE suggests Pat Tillman for Sportsman of the Year, and tells you how to cast your vote.
A READER ASKS why I’m not blogging about the “disastrous economic news.” Trouble is, he’s not very clear on what he means. I don’t blog much about the economy (except on the micro, things-I’ve-noticed Andy Rooney level) because I don’t think I know enough. But I don’t see much disastrous news. The dollar has fallen against the Euro, which strikes me as potentially bad news, but probably worse news at the moment for the Eurozone than for the U.S. I believe this is bound up in an effort to force the value of the Yuan up (that’s the gist of this story, and an item (subscriber only) in the WSJ earlier this week suggested the same thing). Could it go bad? I guess so, but it’s not obviously disastrous, and I have nothing to say about it.
Is it “ballooning spending?” Spending’s a lot higher than I’d like, but it always is. Josh Bolten writes that the 2005 budget is under control: “Congress stayed within budget limits and met key priorities. While the appropriations bills are not perfect, they honor the goals President Bush set last February: Overall discretionary spending in Fiscal 2005 will rise only 4%, the same as the average increase in American family income.” Not exactly parsimonious, but not disastrous.
Then there’s global growth, which as David Brooks notes is quite rapid: “Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. . . . As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980′s and 90′s. . . . we’re in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history.”
Some of the commenters over at Pejman’s seem to think that the problem is that Americans are consuming too much and saving too little That’s probably right — just listen to Dave Ramsey’s show for half an hour — but on the other hand it’s probably behind a lot of that third-world growth, too. I’d certainly like to see us shift to a tax system that encourages savings and investment over consumption — but although such plans are out there, I doubt they’ll get much support from those commenters. But I won’t argue that, at the very least, the tax system should be neutral and that it probably ought to encourage saving and investment.
Is disaster looming somewhere? Maybe. But it’s not obvious enough that I can see it.
UPDATE: Social Security, of course, is a long-term problem, and Tyler Cowen notes that fixing it won’t be cost-free.
UKRAINE UPDATE: “Ukraine’s parliament on Saturday expressed no confidence in the Central Election Commission overseeing a disputed presidential election run-off. ”
The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute.
I hope Soros has more luck with this election than with the last . . . .
HOWARD DEAN: Bringing people together. He’s a uniter, not a divider!
PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE notices what’s really going on. I think the Saudis have, too. . . .
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH is wondering why the organizers of “buy nothing day” want poor people to starve.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up.
FOREIGN POLICY LESSONS FROM THE FRENCH: Read this, especially if you’re Condi Rice.
ERIC OLSEN looks at double standards on racism.
ANN ALTHOUSE: “If a legend is used as leverage to change the law, we need to be willing to think about whether the legend is true, and if it is not, we need to be willing to rethink our analysis. . . . Justice demands that we think clearly about criminal responsibility and not let our minds be clouded by evocative stories that mesh with our assumptions about the world and our social policy aspirations.”
UKRAINE UPDATE: Timothy Garton Ash writes: “If we, comfortably ensconced in the institutionalised Europe to which these peaceful demonstrators look with hope and yearning, do not immediately support them with every appropriate means at our disposal, we will betray the very ideals we claim to represent.”
Well, New Europe has done pretty well on this front, with active and vigorous support from Poland, Lithuania, and the Czechs. Old Europe, not so much.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Jonathan Steele, author of the second piece, may not be on Putin’s payroll — though to borrow a trope from his article, we haven’t seen conclusive evidence that he’s not — but he appears to be on Putin’s travel budget. This pre-election article by Steele contains the following disclaimer:
Jonathan Steele was a guest of the Russian Club in Ukraine at an expenses-paid conference in Kiev last weekend.
And this article from the Washington Post notes that:
The Russian Club was opened in August by Viktor Yanukovych, Russia’s favored candidate for the presidency, and Dmitry Medvedev, chief of staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin. At first, officials said the club’s opening had nothing to do with the election, but lately it has been involved in little else.
Interesting. Thanks to reader Paul Horbal for the pointers.
MORE: I’m not the only one to notice the curious lack of attention from Old Europe — note this observation from Timothy Garton Ash’s piece in The Guardian:
Who says Europe is boring? Yet until Tuesday, many west Europeans probably did not even know that there was a presidential election going on in Ukraine. We were all focused on that other crucial presidential election, in the US. And, shamingly, Americans probably have done more to support the democratic opposition in Ukraine, and to shine a spotlight on electoral malpractices, than west Europeans have. Poles, Czechs and Slovaks have been more actively engaged, understanding how much is at stake.
That’s how it looks to me, too, though not everyone agrees.
A BLOG REVOLUTION sweeps across China?
Ever since the Communist party took power in 1949, the Chinese media has been tightly controlled by the government. Online publishing is a real threat to that control, and the government is clearly worried. A crackdown in 2003 closed websites and internet cafes and saw the arrest of dozens of online commentators.
Yet this is not proving enough to stifle the pluck and ingenuity of China’s bloggers. The rise of the blog phenomenon was made possible by blog-hosting services. Just as companies like Yahoo host email accounts, sites like blogger.com, based in the United States, host blogs. . . .
Blog services are now sprouting all over China. By the end of October 2004, China had more than 45 large blog-hosting services. A Google search for bo ke will return more than two million results, from blogs for football fans to blogs for Christians.
And while the larger hosting companies have become subject to censorship regulations, smaller companies and individuals do not face the same pressures. Any tech-savvy user can download and install blogging software themselves, bypassing the controls.
Blogs play an important role in republishing and spreading information as quickly as it is banned from official websites.
Read the whole thing.
One of the next big chapters in the United Nations oil-for-food scandal will involve the family of the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, whose son turns out to have been receiving payments as recently as early this year from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program.
The secretary-general’s son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.
The importance of this story involves not only undisclosed conflicts of interest, but the question of the role of the secretary-general himself, at a time when talk is starting to be heard around the U.N. that it is time for him to resign, and the staff labor union is in open rebellion against “senior management.”
What time is it? It’s Havel time!
ROGER SIMON has found the political party for him. Unfortunately, he’s not an Iraqi.
The first indication came when the falling price of computers crossed the point where the average programmer could afford to own a computer capable of producing the code from which he typically earned his living. This meant that, for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ownership of the most critical tool of production in the most critical industry of the world’s leading economy was readily affordable by the individual worker. Throughout the first three decades of the Information Age, the individual worker was still dependent on his employer for his means of production, just as any textile worker in Manchester or Lawrence was in 1840.
Suddenly, this changed. Now it is as if a steelworker could afford his own blast furnace or rolling mill, an automobile worker his own assembly line. By strict Marxist definitions, capitalism ended sometime in the early 1990s. This is a development that has not received adequate attention.
There’s also this, which meshes with some things I’ve written on Web video:
The cost of a facility for Webcasting is far less than the cost of a facility for television broadcasting. At some point in the relatively near future the quality of the webcast will be as good as, if not better than, that of broadcast television, and the cost of a webcasting facility for high-quality production will be within the range of many individuals. Just as the personal computer capable of producing first-rate software is revolutionizing the work relations of software, the personal webcasting facility will change the nature of the broadcasting media. It also changes the dynamics of production.
I think that’s right, and the blogosphere is an early manifestation of this phenomenon.
UKRAINE UPDATE: Arthur Chrenkoff looks at a Kremlin conspiracy theory and observes: “All I can say is, I’m scared that this sort of thinking goes for a serious political analysis in Russia.”
THIS ECONOMIST ARTICLE ON THE BLOGOSPHERE and Dan Rather gets it right:
Mr Rather’s retirement epitomises two broader shifts of power. First, the old media are losing power to the new. And, second, the liberal media establishment is losing power to a more diverse cacophony of new voices.
For most of the post-war era the American media were dominated by a comfortable liberal consensus. The New York Times was the undisputed king of the print news, while the network anchors lorded it over TV news. That consensus is now under siege. The attacks are partly coming from the cable networks—particularly from conservative Fox News. (Charles Krauthammer once quipped that Rupert Murdoch had spotted a niche market—half the country. Sure enough, Fox is now America’s top-rated cable news network.) But old media also face a newer and more unpredictable source of competition—the blogosphere. Bloggers have discovered that all you need to set yourself up as a pundit is a website and an attitude. . . .
The erosion of the old media establishment probably does entail some shift to the right, if only because so many of the newer voices are more reliably pro-Republican than Mr Rather. But the new media are simply too anarchic and subversive for any single political faction to take control of them. There are plenty of leftish bloggers too: such people helped Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. And the most successful conservative bloggers are far from being party loyalists: look at the way in 2002 that they kept the heat on the Republicans’ then Senate leader, Trent Lott, for racist remarks that the New York Times originally buried. It is a safe bet that, if the current Bush administration goes the way of previous second-term administrations and becomes consumed by scandals, conservative bloggers will be in the forefront of the scandal-mongering.
VIRGINIA POSTREL PRAISES SHOPPING MAGAZINES:
For all their blatant materialism, however, Lucky and its kin actually represent cultural progress. Their unabashed presentation of goods as material pleasures keeps materialism in its place. They don’t encourage readers to equate fashion with virtue or style with superiority. They’re sharing fun, not rationing status. . . . Reading Vogue or, worse, Harper’s Bazaar often feels, by contrast, like returning to the vicious status competition of middle school. Would-be authorities arbitrarily proclaim what–and, by implication, who–is in or out. “You are only as good as your last jacket,” explains an author in the August edition of Bazaar, telling readers how to dress for other women.
NORM GERAS interviews Ann Althouse.
ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL THANKSGIVING: It’s all cleaned up now, and everyone has either gone home, or to bed, except me. The Insta-Daughter, by the way, made the rolls and the dressing this time.
I think it’s my favorite holiday, nowadays.
UPDATE: All right, all right, I’m busted. You can’t fool the blogosphere!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Heh.
Lech Walesa is “cautiously optimistic.”
UPDATE: More from Arthur Chrenkoff:
Poland is now right in the thick of things, trying to peacefully resolve the stand-off. The “Solidarity” icon and Poland’s first non-communist president, Lech Walesa is already in Kiev talking to the crowds and imploring the West to help Ukraine on its road to democracy. Poland’s current president Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to fly in on Friday, after being asked by apparently both the opposition and Ukraine’s outgoing president to mediate. . . . Poland’s support for Ukrainian democracy is sincere (albeit coupled with a desire for a democratic buffer between herself and the increasingly autocratic Russia).
I hope it works. Once again, bravo for Poland. And read this.
THE MARKET TAKES CARE OF ANOTHER DEEPLY FELT NEED, with the Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie : Practical Mind Control Protection for Paranoids. I’m going to start emailing this link to various correspondents . . . .
It’ll soon be joined by the leg of lamb that’s marinating in red wine, olive oil, and garlic right now.
UPDATE: But this turkey is much bigger.
REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST THANKSGIVING, from Jim Lindgren.
UKRAINE UPDATE: “The Supreme Court of Ukraine has barred the publication of disputed presidential election results until it can examine opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko’s appeal. The court will conduct its examination on Monday, the Interfax news agency said.”
INSTAPUNDIT’S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO CORRESPONDENT, Major John Tammes, sends this self-portrait and a Thanksgiving message:
I wanted to wish you, the Instawife, Instadaughter and all the rest of the Instafamily (even your now-blogging-historian-Instabrother) a peaceful Thanksgiving.
I spent a good part of the day tramping through fields, vineyards and farm paths examining 107mm rocket impact sites. Somebody really wished us ill this past week. At least when I got back, I was able to follow the original purpose of Thanksgiving by being appropriately thankful for all the support from you and others – I have been astounded at the outpouring of help my family and I have been offered and have been given. After being thankful, I then nearly put myself into a food coma…
Major John Tammes
Ordnance Corps, US Army
I’m thankful for Major Tammes, and those like him, every day. Here’s a list of ways you can help the troops.
Max Boot writes today in the Los Angeles Times:
It is all too easy to take the all-volunteer armed forces for granted. They’ve been around now for 31 years, ever since the draft was abolished in 1973. We have become used to having a high-quality military filled by dedicated young women and men willing to put their lives on the line for less money than Donald Trump hands out in tips every week.
It is worth remembering how extraordinary and unusual our service members really are — and how much we owe them this Thanksgiving.
He’s right. Read the whole thing.
THE HAVEL JUGGERNAUT just keeps rolling!
A SECOND STATEMENT FROM VACLAV HAVEL to protesters in the Ukraine: “‘All respected domestic and international organisations agree that your demands are justified. Therefore I wish you strength, endurance, courage and fortunate decisions,’ Havel said in a statement from Taipei where he was travelling.”
UPDATE: More developments, including an appearance by Lech Walesa:
Deputy economy minister Oleh Hayduk resigned in protest of the fraudulent vote count in the Ukrainian election, Ukrainian News reported.
“When the European Union doesn’t recognize the election results, what kind of European integration can we talk about?” Hayduk said Nov. 25 on the Channel 5 television station.
“That’s my position as a citizen. I wrote a declaration of my resignation yesterday, and now I’m confirming it,” he said.
Hayduk, 39, has been a deputy economy minister since April 21 of this year.
The news was read to the hundreds of thousands of protestors thronging Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) on this third full day of protests against Ukraine’s Nov. 21 run-off presidential vote, which has been widely condemned as fraudulent. Solidarity leader and the first post-communist Polish president Lech Walesa also addressed the crowd, which was in high spirits as it gathered under blue skies on this clear, windless day.
Much of central Kyiv is now a solid block of protestors, most bedecked in orange, the signature color of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. A carnival atmosphere predominates.
Estimates place the crowd at up to a million.
ORIN KERR is thankful for our civil liberties: “Public debates about the war on terrorism are filled with lots of delicious ironies. The fact that the French government has many powers that are orders of magnitude greater than anything in the Patriot Act surely ranks up as one of the better ones. . . . It’s also worth noting that in the French system, judges don’t serve as a check that can monitor potential abuses of the executive branch. Rather, French judges work closely with investigators and themselves are in charge of gathering the evidence. On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s all give thanks that we live in a country that respects civil liberties a lot more than that.” Indeed.
HELPING THE TROOPS: Reader Ron Ford sends this very comprehensive list of support-the-troops websites — click “read more” for the full list.
UKRAINE UPDATE: The Washington Post editorializes:
Some have described the crisis in Ukraine as a contest for influence between Russia and the West, with the West backing opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in the same measure that Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the official candidate. That is a gross distortion. For the Ukrainians who have spent four freezing nights in the streets of Kiev, the fight is not about geopolitical orientation — most favor close relations with Moscow — but about whether theirs will be a free country, with an independent press and courts and leaders who are chosen by genuine democratic vote. Mr. Putin, who has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into the prime minister’s campaign, is backing the imposition of an authoritarian system along the lines of the one he is creating in Russia — with a propagandistic regime, controlled media, official persecution of dissent, business executives who take orders from the state, and elections that are neither free nor fair.
Nice to read that the Post sees “business executives who take orders from the state” as a sign of thuggish autocracy!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I just put the turkey in the oven, and have some other preparations to make, but I’ll be back and blogging intermittently as time permits. I hope you’re having a good one. And you might want to spend a few moments contemplating the James Lileks Hummel figurine. Talk about losing control of the brand . . . .
THE WASHINGTON POST has video of Ukrainian protesters outside the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a roundup story from The New York Times.
THANKSGIVING IN FALLUJAH: Firsthand reports from Marines via email.
RALPH REED, LIQUOR LOBBYIST: “Long ago, Bruce Yandle postulated the ‘Baptists and Bootleggers’ theory of regulation . . . until now it has been thought to be metaphorical, but with Ralph Reed on the wholesaler’s payroll, it appears that it has become literal.”
CORRUPTION AS A WAY OF LIFE AT THE U.N.:
Even the much praised UN technical agencies, such as those dealing with refugees, are bastions of waste and corruption. No need here to discuss the disaster that is called UNRWA and what it has done to set back peace in the Middle East for nearly 55 years, all the while providing lucrative employment for generations of UN bureaucrats. The much-ballyhooed UN Development Programme (Note: Although the USA pays the lion’s share, the UN uses British spellings) likewise is hugely expensive, over-staffed, painfully slow in delivering meaningful assistance, and rife with anti-Americanism. These programs [or, if you prefer, programmes] generate a blizzard of statistics showing that everything, everywhere is getting worse all the time, and desperately requiring more money for more UN programs and agencies.
The American taxpayer is getting ripped off in a big way by the UN. The “need” to play the UN’s political games damages the US ability to act forcefully in its own interests. If the UN wants to stay in New York and frequent the bad restaurants and bars that have sprung up around UN HQS, that’s fine — but not with US tax money.
It’s time for the US and other serious countries (e.g., Australia, Israel) to get out of the UN.
Or to replace Kofi Annan with Vaclav Havel!
THE QUEEN OF THE SKY: Cathy Seipp writes on politically correct prudery at 30,000 feet.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP: Check out the many linked blogs. You might find some new ones that are worth reading daily. Or more often!
If CBS were a car company, Rather would be universally condemned as a business and moral failure, one who broke faith with his colleagues, his customers, and his shareholders. Fortunately for Rather, CBS is a media organization. So he will exit the scene hailed as an American legend and a hero for our time.
But nobody’s fooled.
Staff representatives adopted a resolution yesterday criticising senior management after a string of clashes during the past year with their bosses at UN headquarters. The rebellion is an embarrassment for Mr Annan, and comes as he faces intense criticism for corruption in the UN’s “Oil-for-Food” programme in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The UN chief suffered another blow yesterday when he was forced to admit that civilian and peacekeeping personnel on UN duty in Congo had committed acts of gross misconduct.
Officials plan to make public on Monday the lurid results of their investigation into UN officials having sex with under-age local girls.
Oxblog’s Patrick Belton notes that this is part of an overall crisis of moral legitimacy at the U.N., brought about by a mixture of corruption, dishonesty, and anti-democratic behavior.
We need Vaclav Havel!
UPDATE: The Havel juggernaut is starting to roll!
“CHARLIE’S ANGELS” IN IRAQ: Lileks will be pleased that there’s a Fargo connection.
JOHN PODHORETZ: “Oliver Stone’s Alexander, which opens today, isn’t just bad. It’s Springtime for Hitler bad. I haven’t guffawed this hard since I saw Airplane for the first time 24 years ago. This is one of the colossal catastrophes of all time.”
IT’S NOT PLAGIARISM — they’re “managed books:” “Managed books, Professor Gardner said, are a recent phenomenon in which some academics rely on assistants to help them produce books, in some cases allowing the assistants to write first drafts.”
I don’t think that’s good.
PEACEFUL GUIDANCE IN A WORLD OF WAR: Austin Bay has a Thanksgiving column up:
The old saw that there are no atheists in a foxhole isn’t quite true. I’ve known two or three. These men were fine, reliable soldiers. One fellow in particular had a distinct, visceral disdain for religious faith, but all were thankful when a patrol or convoy returned to base with no one killed or wounded. Instead of thanking God or even thanking goodness, they chalked it up as “a good mission.”
For me, a good mission was great, but merely noting the success was never quite good enough.
Read the whole thing.
HERE’S ANOTHER BLOG reporting on Ukrainian events.
You might think that basing a high-profile investigative report on phony documents would be a once-in-a-career event – mainly because afterwards you wouldn’t have a career to go back to. But it turns out that the fiasco over George W. Bush’s National Guard documents was not the first time Dan Rather had treaded into such troubled waters.
Read the whole thing.
DONALD SENSING has a very nice Thanksgiving photo essay.
MARK WHITTINGTON looks at space policy in the Bush Administration — and likes it much better than space policy in the previous Bush Administration.
KARL ROVE’S PAYBACKS? Hollywood stars dis Bush, and now they’re being replaced by robots: Coincidence?
THE FINAL WORD ON RATHERGATE, I think, is found in this statement from Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN program: “The media certainly is not in our hands any longer.”
THE TRANSATLANTIC INTELLIGENCER has much more on the Ivory Coast shooting incident involving French troops. “It does not require a very elaborate demonstration to be able to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it were not the French, but rather the American military that was caught on videotape firing into a crowd of civilians, it would be all over the airwaves 24/7.”
Read the whole thing.
HERE’S VACLAV HAVEL’S STATEMENT on the Ukrainian elections.
And here are more blog photos from Kiev.
UPDATE: Dan McLaughlin writes: “Is there any way to get Havel to come out of retirement to succeed Kofi Annan as head of the UN, please? I mean, if ever there were a guy with the guts and moral clarity to insist that the UN live up to its ideals, it’s Havel.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more I like the Havel-for-S.G. idea. Here’s something Havel wrote recently in the Miami Herald:
Let’s not allow ourselves to be manipulated into believing that attempts to change the established order and objective laws do not make sense. Let’s try to build a global civil society that insist that politics is not just a technology of power, but must have a moral dimension.
At the same time, politicians in democratic countries need to think seriously about reforms of international institutions to make them capable of real global governance. We could start, for example, with the United Nations, which, in its current form, is a relic of the situation shortly after World War II. It does not reflect the influence of some new regional powers, while immorally equating countries whose representatives are democratically elected and those whose representatives speak only for themselves or their juntas, at best.
We Europeans have one specific task. Industrial civilization, which now spans the whole world, originated in Europe. All of its miracles, as well as its terrifying contradictions, can be explained as consequences of an ethos that is initially European. Therefore, unifying Europe should set an example for the rest of the world regarding how to face the various dangers and horrors that are engulfing us today.
Indeed, such a task, which is closely tied to the success of European integration, would be an authentic fulfillment of the European sense of global responsibility. And it would be a much-better strategy than cheaply blaming America for the contemporary world’s various problems.
He’s got my vote.
MORE: Perhaps it’s not too late for Democrats to take Russ Smith’s advice and push this idea:
In retrospect, John Kerry could have picked off hundreds of thousands of votes—maybe in Ohio!—from lukewarm Bush supporters if he’d demanded, perhaps at his Boston convention, that Kofi Annan resign as secretary general of the United Nations. It’s not a hard case to make, given the corruption Annan has shoved under the Persian rug in his well-appointed digs, but Kerry, afraid of alienating the world community, kept mum. So did Bush, for that matter, but he already had the upper hand on foreign policy. A smart Kerry adviser would’ve counseled the candidate to angrily tell his far-left supporters to leave the “No Blood for Oil!” posters at home and replace them with the words “No Food for Oil.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Claudia Rosett has been dogged on this issue, calling the scandal (Nov. 17) “the biggest fraud in the history of humanitarian relief,” and it’s only now that attention is being paid to the hearings led by GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Rep. Henry Hyde, that will likely, even at a glacial pace, cause Annan to retire in disgrace before his term is up. His departure can’t come too soon: As the Chicago Tribune editorialized on Nov. 21, Annan was quick to call the U.S. invasion of Iraq “illegal,” and condemn the assault on Fallujah, but on the subject of Saddam Hussein funneling billions of dollars intended for humanitarian aid but instead diverted to his military and construction of palaces, the U.N. leader, who increasingly makes Al Sharpton look virtuous, looked the other way.
Kofi out, Havel in. It’s an idea whose time has come.
THE NEW Seinfeld DVD set is out. I was going to buy it, but then I looked at the several unwatched DVDs on the shelf already and decided to wait. I wish I could order up some free evenings as easily as I can order DVDs . . .
Right now in the freezing cold, almost 100 000 Ukranians are protesting against the stolen election in central Kiev, and a huge demonstration has also started in the city of Lviv. The municipal councils in both cities have said they only take orders from the liberal presidential candidate Yushchenko, the real winner of the election. At the same time, security forces have said that they are ready to put down the protests “quickly and firmly”.
Where are the concerned European politicians who should condemn the fraud, and who could be with these crowds to show their support? And where are the “human shields”? A lot of young westerners were willing to risk their lives to stop the war on Iraq. Aren’t they willing to risk some discomfort to stop one of Europe’s biggest countries from slipping back to dictatorship?
Not obviously. (Loads more Ukraine links here at this Ukrainian English news portal site.)
UPDATE: A Fistful of Euros is gathering reports of protests at Ukrainian embassies by Ukrainian expats.
THERE’S A WHITE HOUSE STATEMENT on the Ukraine elections:
The United States is deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election. We strongly support efforts to review the conduct of the election and urge Ukrainian authorities not to certify results until investigations of organized fraud are resolved. We call on the Government of Ukraine to respect the will of the Ukrainian people, and we urge all Ukrainians to resolve the situation through peaceful means. The Government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or coercion. The United States stands with the Ukrainian people in this difficult time.
READERS MAY REMEMBER New York Times reporter Chris Hedges for having been booed off the stage when he delivered an anti-American commencement speech last year. Now he’s found a friendlier venue — the Association of Opinion Page Editors, for delivering remarks like this:
We’re absolutely reviled around the world, as we should be.
And, no, he wasn’t talking about the American press after Jayson Blair, Eason Jordan, and RatherGate.
THERE’S ANOTHER short Web-video film over at Amazon, this one starring Blair Underwood. They’re putting a lot of money and effort into these, I think. That’s good, because I think they’re one of the few organizations with the resources to make a difference with this stuff.
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH (now back at his regular site) observes: “I won’t cry for Rather. He still gets to work–ironically enough–on 60 Minutes, and he has more money than he knows what to do with. Shed a tear, however, for the cause of responsible journalism–which has suffered so mightily thanks to the lack of professionalism displayed by people like Dan Rather, and hope that there may be some kind of revival of standards in the near future–especially with blogs keeping the media’s feet to the fire.”