January 9, 2005
WHODUNIT? Crimlawprof looks at grand jury leaks in the baseball-doping probe and has some ideas.
WHODUNIT? Crimlawprof looks at grand jury leaks in the baseball-doping probe and has some ideas.
LENS-BLOGGING: My biggest Christmas gift was this 12-24 zoom lens for the D70. Sadly, a combination of bad weather and various family duties kept me from doing much with it until today. But just to experiment, I took it with me when I went for a walk on Cherokee Boulevard. As you can see, it’s good for giving your car the long-hood look.
For anyone who’s interested, I put up a gallery of photos over at Exposure Manager. Overall, it seems quite good. I’ve never been a huge fan of wide-angle lenses. Feature photographers like them because they make things look unnatural (the human eye sees things in a manner akin to an 80 or 90mm telephoto lens), and hence “interesting.” And, of course, they’re very useful shooting in cramped quarters. But I really wanted this lens, because I wanted to change my style a bit from my traditional telephoto-intensive approach to something different, and because I’ve been in a number of situations where I wished I had a wider lens. Anyway, it seems quite excellent, and I look forward to giving it a proper workout.
UPDATE: Reader P.J. Swenson emails:
Well, you are going to hate me for this, but giving you a link to this photo/snorkling article will make you travel to this destination. All I ask for is a postcard.
And this is a funny but oh-so-true travel story:
I bought a 28-200G in part on your recommendation, in part because it is a very versatile lens. Now I am going to switch from a d100 to a d70 in part to the DSLR ratings by thom who wrote the articles above, and also because it has a 1/500 flash sync. I highly recommend his books on the d100 and d70.
And when I bought the lens, the adorama seller almost pressured me into buying the d70 at the same time because he said the rebate was expiring at Nikon on the last day of December. It turns out, Nikon extended the 100$ rebate for the d70, and they upped the d100 rebate to $200.
The rebates are good until March 31, so if you wind up buying a camera, or one of several lenses, be sure not to let ‘em slide. That’s real money. And here’s an interesting item on wide-angle photography.
ANOTHER UPDATE: David Nishimura emails:
If you haven’t tried it, PTLens is an amazing freeware Photoshop plug-in (works with Elements, too) that will correct the distortion and vignetting so common in digital camera lenses — though it can also be used with digitized images from film cameras. Installation and use is incredibly easy. Won’t work with Macs, however, just Windows and — by command line — Linux.
I haven’t tried it, but I guess I should.
HERE’S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW WITH JEFF BEZOS from Wired.
Do physical bookstores have anything to offer that Amazon doesn’t?
One thing is face-to-face meetings with authors. And what Howard Schultz at Starbucks likes to call a third place, where people go and sit and spend time. We humans are a gregarious species; we like to mingle with other humans.
It’s a little late for your Christmas shopping, but if you think that you should buy the way you vote, check out BuyBlue.org, which tracks corporate donations to American political parties. Hint: if George Bush wasn’t your choice for president, you may decide to shun Amazon.com in favor of Barnes&Noble or Borders.
I’m rather skeptical of BuyBlue, though.
JON HENKE HAS LOTS MORE on the Armstrong Williams story mentioned below. And I’ll have more still in my TCS column this week.
VARIFRANK WAS UNPROFESSIONAL:
Today, during an afternoon conference that wrapped up my project of the last 18 months, one of my Euro collegues tossed this little turd out to no one in particular:
” See, this is why George Bush is so dumb, theres a disaster in the world and he sends an Aircraft Carrier…”
After which he and many of my Euro collegues laughed out loud.
And then they looked at me. I wasn’t laughing, and neither was my Hindi friend sitting next to me, who has lost family in the disaster.
I’m afraid I was “unprofessional”, I let it loose -
“Hmmm, let’s see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want?
Something with its own inexhuastible power supply?
Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water?
Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it?
Something with 4 hospitals and lots of open space for emergency supplies?
Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier?
Well “Franz”, us peasants in America call that kind of ship an “Aircraft Carrier”. We have 12 of them. How many do you have?
And before geeks email me, I think the 900,000 gallons is for the entire carrier group, as I seem to recall that the carrier itself can produce only about half that much. The point still holds, however.
Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did, and in the long war between humans and mosquitoes it looks as if mosquitoes are winning.
One reason is that the U.S. and other rich countries are siding with the mosquitoes against the world’s poor – by opposing the use of DDT.
“It’s a colossal tragedy,” says Donald Roberts, a professor of tropical public health at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “And it’s embroiled in environmental politics and incompetent bureaucracies.”
PATRICK RUFFINI has come clean on his hidden agenda.
WHAT WOMEN WANT: In Iraq, anyway:
94% of women surveyed want to secure legal rights for women.
84% of women want the right to vote on the final constitution.
Nearly 80% of women believe that their participation in local and national councils should not be limited.
The most unexpected result of the survey is that despite increasing violence, particularly violence against women, 90.6% of Iraqi women reported that they are hopeful about their future.
EVERY WEEK, NEWSWEEK SPAMS ME with press releases about its new stories. I usually ignore them because by the time they’re out they’re already old news to blogosphereans. But this piece, with its combination of blatant bias and factual inaccuracy, seems so typical that it’s worth a comment. Excerpt:
Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.
Er, maybe because the Iran-Contra scandal had to do with overthrowing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, rather than the guerrilla war in El Salvador? I mean, I know all those people look alike to the folks at Newsweek, but this is either inexcusable sloppiness, or simply a stretch to try to bring in more stuff that might make it look bad.
The whole piece is like that, and it’s unfortunately typical. I don’t know whether this sort of thing is a good idea or not — I can see arguments both ways — but this story goes out of its way, as usual, to get the digs in before getting around to mentioning the actual arguments.
I guess I should be glad, though: Usually it’s all about Vietnam. At least this story is bringing things 20 years closer to the present.
UPDATE: This article from StrategyPage is, as usual, much more useful and complete than the Newsweek treatment, and suggests that the El Salvador parallel isn’t really apt. And Silent Running offers more corrections. Finally, reader Ron Wright notes this rather different parallel with the El Salvador experience:
Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation’s territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places.
Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. “This nation may be falling apart,” one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, “but by voting we may help to hold it together. . . .
The elections achieved something else: They undermined the insurgency. El Salvador wasn’t transformed overnight. But with each succeeding election into the early 90′s, the rebels on the left and the death squads on the right grew weaker, and finally peace was achieved, and the entire hemisphere felt the effects.
As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.
UPDATE: Various lefty emailers, and some lefty bloggers are calling me an idiot for not recognizing that the struggle against communists in El Salvador and the struggle against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were connected. Of course they were, and it’s nice to see people admit that there really was a global struggle against communism, something that wasn’t so readily admitted back in the day. But my point, as should be obvious, is that the Newsweek piece goes out of its way to drag in Iran/Contra, which had nothing to do with the El Salvador “death squads,” which themselves have a rather tenuous relationship, at best, to what’s going on in Iraq, so as to make Bush look bad. If the Newsweek story had offered that perspective, this defense might be worth something. But it didn’t, because its goal was a cheap smear. Bad publicity relating to Iran/Contra has nothing to do with Iraq, except for Newsweek’s effort to tie the two together.
I’ll also note that guerrillas who kill people are called “insurgents” and compared to Minutemen when they’re anti-American, and “death squads” when they’re not. Typical.
The path of the tsunamis tracked the arc of the Muslim world, from Sumatra to Somalia; the most devastated country is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and the most devastated part of that country is the one province living under the strictures of sharia.
But, as usual, when disaster strikes it’s the Great Satan and his various Little Satans who leap to respond. In the decade before September 11, the US military functioned, more or less exclusively, as a Muslim rapid reaction force – coming to the aid of Kuwaiti Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Somali Muslims and Albanian Muslims. Since then, with the help of its Anglo-Australian allies, it’s liberated 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That’s not how the West’s anti-war movements see it. I found myself behind a car the other day bearing the bumper sticker, “War Is Costly. Peace Is Priceless” – which is standard progressive generic autopilot boilerplate, that somehow waging war and doing good are mutually exclusive. But you can’t help noticing that when disaster strikes, it’s the warmongers who are also the compassion-mongers. Of the top six donor nations to tsunami relief, four are members of George W. Bush’s reviled “coalition of the willing”.
DAVID FRUM NOTICES the United Nations’ lack of moral authority, and, for that matter, utility:
The helicopters are taking off and landing now in the tsunami-shattered villages and towns. The sick are being taken for treatment. Clean water is being delivered. Food is arriving. Soon the work of reconstruction will begin.
The countries doing this good work have politely agreed to acknowledge the “coordinating” role of the United Nations. But it is hard to see how precisely the rescue work would be affected if the UN’s officials all stayed in New York – or indeed if the UN did not exist at all.
The UN describes its role in South Asia as one of “assessment” and “coordination.” Even this, however, seems to many to be a role unnecessary to the plot. The Daily Telegraph last week described the frustration of in-country UN officials who found they had nothing to do as the Americans, Australians, Indonesians, and Malaysians flew missions.
It will be the treasury departments of the G-7 missions that make decisions on debt relief, and the World Bank, aid donor nations, private corporations, and of course the local governments themselves that take the lead on long-term reconstruction. And yet we are constantly told that the UN’s involvement is indispensable to the success of the whole undertaking. How can that be? . . .
Nor finally is the UN really quite so hugely popular as supporters such as Ms Short would wish it believed. The Pew Charitable Trusts – the same group that conducts those surveys on anti-Americanism worldwide – reports that the UN carries much more weight in Europe than it does in, say, the Muslim world. Only 35 per cent of Pakistanis express a positive attitude to the UN, as do just 25 per cent of Moroccans, and but 21 per cent of Jordanians.
The UN’s authority is instead one of those ineffable mystical mysteries. The authority’s existence cannot be perceived by the senses and exerts no influence on the events of this world. Even the authority’s most devout hierophants retain the right to disavow that authority at whim, as Ms Short herself disavowed its resolutions on Iraq. . . .
Whence exactly does this moral authority emanate? How did the UN get it? Did it earn it by championing liberty, justice, and other high ideals? That seems a strange thing to say about a body that voted in 2003 to award the chair of its commission on human rights to Mummar Gaddafi’s Libya.
Read the whole thing.
I’LL HAVE A MCSHWARMA, PLEASE.
THE SITZPINKLER PHENOMENON is explained as an artifact of German toilet technology. When we lived in Heidelberg, our house had those toilets. I remember thinking that when the Soviets looted Berlin at the end of World War II, and carried off thousands of toilets (as they did), it represented a sort of final revenge on the part of the Germans.
VISITED MY GRANDMOTHER at the rehab home, where we improved her evening by, among other things, bringing fresh barbecue. She’s eaten barbecue at least weekly since some time in the Wilson Administration, and it seems to have done her some good.
UPDATE: Ed Cone emails to ask if it was North Carolina-style barbecue. As if! My grandmother’s health and longevity probably stem from all the healthy lycopene in the tomato-based Alabama/Tennessee-style barbecue she’s consumed.
And, jeez, going to that place is just proof of how well she’s doing. At 90 she’s one of the older folks there (though she’s already found a friend in a feisty 93-year-old woman who, like her, is rehabbing from an orthopedic injury), but she’s in so much better shape, physically and mentally, than most of the people there that it’s amazing. Still, she likes to point out many touching scenes, such as an man who comes three times a day to feed his mostly-paralyzed stroke-victim wife, and who sits holding hands with her in the lounge “like newlyweds,” she says.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Janet Nickell emails: “How about some grandmother blogging? She sounds like a wonderful woman.” She is. I’ll see what I can do.
And I’ll see if I can dig up the picture of her in a swimsuit, on a motorcycle, in Daytona in 1932.
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: I mentioned a while back that I had given this compact photo printer to my brother for Christmas, but that he hadn’t used it yet. They’re now in the new house, and he reports that they’ve been printing out massive quantities of baby pictures, and that they’re very happy with the quality and ease of use.
ROGER SIMON NOTES TWO VIEWS on bias and reporting.
ARTHUR CHRENKOFF ROUNDS UP STILL MORE DUMB TSUNAMI QUOTES: It’s a tidal wave of idiocy — and, sadly, the U.N. isn’t trying to take a lead role in remedying this wave.
HERE’S AN UPDATE in the case involving Zeyad’s cousin:
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — An Army sergeant took the stand and tearfully apologized to his family, commanding officers and subordinates Saturday, a day after being convicted of aggravated assault for ordering his soldiers to throw Iraqis into the Tigris River.
“If I had to go back, I would definitely do something different on those days,” Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins said, wiping away tears.
Perkins, 33, was convicted Friday of two counts of aggravated assault, a charge of assault consummated by battery and a charge of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of one of the men. . . .
Perkins and another soldier were accused of ordering soldiers to push the two Iraqis into the river in Samarra in January 2004. Prosecutors say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river.
Marwan Hassoun testified that he tried to save his cousin by grabbing his hand, but the powerful current swept Zaidoun away. Marwan said the body was found in the river nearly two weeks later.
I don’t know whether this verdict is just or not, but at least the matter wasn’t swept under the rug. Directory of earlier posts on this subject here.
UPDATE: The story I link above has been updated, and says that the sentence is 6 months, which seems to me to be very light.
ANOTHER IRANIAN CRACKDOWN ON THE INTERNET: I’m really starting to dislike the mullahs.
Boy, people at CNN do not like Jonathan Klein! Doesn’t he realize it’s hard to be a highly unpopular boss in the Web era, especially at a big media enterprise the press will pay inordinate attention to? Ask Howell Raines. … Expect lots of anti-Klein anecdotes to be leaked to the obvious outlets in the weeks ahead.
I told you that Klein’s selection was a blogger’s full-employment act!
CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: Bill Adams notes that the Los Angeles Times is actually backing Arnold Schwarzenegger on his plan to eliminate gerrymandering.
YEAH, I WAS OFF THE AIR for a while. Hosting Matters was the subject of a DDOS attack that took down InstaPundit and quite a few other blogs. I noted that over at the backup site (which you should bookmark, since the link on this page won’t work if InstaPundit is down), and went to bed. Things seem to be fixed now; no word on where the attack came from or why.
BLOGGING ETHICS: Alarming News writes:
The story of Armstrong Williams allegedly taking cash from someone in the Bush administration to promote the No Child Left Behind Act is bizarre. I have no doubt that Williams truly supports the Act, but taking money for publicizing it without disclosing it seems very wrong to me. I agree with Jonah Goldberg that if the Clinton administration did this, conservatives would be outraged. This is no different.
I’m somewhat struggling with similar issues in relation to my work and my blog.
Read the whole thing. I’ve never had anybody offer me money in exchange for blog posts (bogus claims regarding Wonkette notwithstanding), but I have been offered substantial amounts of money to author opeds furthering the agenda of some people. I declined; even if it were an opinion I already held, undisclosed third-party payola just seemed wrong to me. I think the same thing’s true for blogs, which is why I think that the DaschlevThune folks should have disclosed the money they got.
On the other hand, payola for opeds of the sort I describe above isn’t so unusual that people should think the blogosphere is more likely to suffer from undisclosed payments than other areas — something that the Armstrong Williams case illustrates, too, of course. I’m rather skeptical of the notion of some sort of Official Blogger’s Code of Ethics, with blogs that sign on displaying the seal of approval. Kind of reminds me of the Comics Code Authority, and I’m generally skeptical of those kinds of ethics codes anyway.
I think that overall, the best protection against that sort of thing is for people to read a lot of blogs. Astroturf blogging is likely to ring false, and at any rate a blogger, however popular, doesn’t enjoy the kind of quasi-monopoly position that a newspaper journalist or a broadcaster does, making efforts to shape the debate via sub rosa funding far less likely to be successful.
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg notes an inappropriate response.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has a thoughtful response:
He screwed up and it’s all the more amazing because it would have been so easy not to. It’s all about transparency.
Yeah. Ethical flaps are very often contrived, and — as noted at great length here — we should be as skeptical of those making (or contriving) ethical charges as of their subjects. But this doesn’t seem to be such a case. Jarvis also offers some excellent advice for businesses wanting to use blogs for PR:
If a marketer wants to get consumers to try a product and talk about it, everyone should be transparent about that as well: Send out samples of the product and if people like it — or don’t or don’t care — they’ll say so. If you have a good product, you’ll win. If you don’t, you’ll learn. I, among many bloggers, now get publishers emailing me asking whether I’d like review copies of books (which would be great if I weren’t so busy reading and writing blogs that I don’t have much time for books anymore). If I write about a book I got for free, I should say so.
Hmm. I do get books for free sometimes, but though I’ve mentioned that in general I don’t always mention that in all of the the posts (I use “in the mail” to indicate that it came unsolicited, usually, but free review copies are such a well-established custom that it seems implicit). Generally the nonfiction books come from publishers, and the fiction I buy myself, though there have been a few exceptions (e.g., John Scalzi’s book). Sadly, nobody sends me samples of digital cameras, iPods, etc.; when I blog about my new Sony digital camera or whatever, it’s one I bought myself. If people did send me samples, I’d certainly mention that.
But free samples aren’t the big question; it’s outright payola. There’s a lot of that out there in the Old Media (usually disguised slightly in terms of free travel or gifts, but not always) — much more than is reported on by the Old Media, or even by bloggers — but we should try to limit it in the blogosphere. But the ultimate lesson is that you’ve got to make up your own mind. Every successful system attracts parasites, as Thomas Ray once said, and the blogosphere is a successful system.
On the other hand, some people are embracing payola. Reader Rick Horvath writes:
If you have not already been offered money to post on your blog since your post last night, how about I make you your first offer?
What would it cost to post something like:
“As a customer service to all the single women out there, I wanted to point out that there is a stunningly handsome (okay, the stunningly may be an overstatement), intelligent and funny 27 year old attorney working in the Philadelphia area by the name of Rick Horvath. Right now, he’s looking for a similarly funny and intelligent woman who would enjoy port and classical music, especially opera. Ladies, grab him while you can!”
Instapundit personal ads… the wave of the future!
I don’t think so, but consider this one a freebie, Rick. Good luck!
MORE: Further thoughts from La Shawn Barber.
STILL MORE: Eric Scheie has a rant that is both amusing and informative.
MORE STILL: Just noticed this post by Mitch Berg on blogging, credibility, and ethics that’s relevant, though it predates the Armstrong Williams business.
TSUNAMI HELP REQUEST: Reader Mike Weatherford emails:
I’ve been working since Saturday with the folks from the Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog, trying to do my bit to help reduce the suffering of the people suffering from the tsunami disaster. I don’t have any loose cash, so I’ve been donating the only thing I can give – my time and my knowledge of imagery analysis. We’re trying to do two major tasks with the Ground Zero Information page: provide a single reference point for information on the extent of damage – including photographs – of the tsunami impact areas, and to provide information on what’s being done, and what still needs to be done, to help those affected. The one thing the group needs desperately is more willing hands, especially people knowledgeable in HTML, XML, and the Internet. We also need more imagery. I know the military is working on the same issues, but their imagery is classified (I know, I’ve worked enough of it!). Anything that you – or anyone – can do to give us a hand would be appreciated – not only by us, but by the thousands of people that our effort may help, even if it’s a small amount.
If you can help ‘em out, drop by and let ‘em know.
JOHN HINDERAKER OF POWER LINE has been reading the Gonzales transcript and says that there’s much more there than the news stories captured.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (free link) reports on the Bush Administration’s second-term Second Amendment stance. It sounds somewhat promising, which would certainly represent an improvement over the rather weak efforts of the first term.
POLITICALWIRE: Dead people were voting in Washington State.
IT’S ANOTHER UKRAINE UPDATE over at Le Sabot Post-Moderne.
STEPHEN GREEN IS BACK, and offering literary advice to Paul Krugman.
LIGHTER READING: Some people want to know what I’m reading since I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Not enough, since I’m busy with getting ready for the new semester and various family duties. But I got the new Harry Turtledove book, Homeward Bound, the other day, and I’ve started it. I’ve read enough to be confident that if you liked the other books in this series, you’ll like it.
A PRETTY GOOD YEAR FOR SPACE: Jim Muncy looks at two significant victories in 2004.
A CORDLESS PERCOLATOR? Well, not really when you read the fine print, but the most amusing part to me is where percolator-partisans hold forth on the obvious superiority of percolation over drip. It’s like Mac vs. PC in a different setting.
Yeah, I know: From stew-blogging to coffee-blogging. But it can’t all be about torture and deadly natural disasters, after all.
UPDATE: My secretary-turned-combat-engineer emails from Iraq with combat-coffeeblogging:
It is interesting the things that one is introduced to in a forward deployed environment. European coffee brewing techniques were not in the recruiting literature. I have been using a French press (freedom press?) while here in Iraq. I brew Community Coffee’s (a brand from Baton Rouge) Dark Roast and it takes about fifteen minutes. The “3 cup” capacity fills my 16oz travel mug. Normally, in the field, I use a Coleman backpacking stove but on larger operations we have a member of my platoon who brings along a two burner white gas Coleman stove. (Who knew the many ways Scouting would prepare me for the Marine Corps!)
While waiting for instapundit to load, a dog-handler friend of mine noticed me playing “minesweeper.” He remarked, “Don’t you get enough of that?”
The House and Senate yesterday passed by unanimous consent legislation (H.R. 241) to permit taxpayers to claim charitable deductions in tax year 2004 for donations they make for tsunami disaster relief until January 31, 2005, instead of having to wait until next year’s filing season. Only cash gifts made specifically for disaster relief are eligible.
That seems like good news.
JOHN COLE notices something odd from Ted Kennedy.
UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette offers a ten-question Abu Ghraib quiz that I’d like to see the Senators take. And, for that matter, a lot of the journalists writing on this subject.
And questions about line-blurring are raised here. Is wrapping someone in the Israeli flag comparable to rape?
COINCIDENCE? OR A SWIFT-ACTING PUBLICIST at Oxford University Press? I mentioned Sandy Levinson’s new book, Torture: A Collection, (including essays by people ranging from Alan Dershowitz to Jean Bethke Elshtain) the other day, and yesterday a copy appeared via FedEx. Looks pretty interesting, and obviously topical at the moment.
HERE’S A GUIDE to decoding CBS’s forthcoming RatherGate statements.
ALEC RAWLS notices a parallel between Ted Kennedy and Kiefer Sutherland that had not occurred to me.
UPDATE: This, on the other hand, is a perfectly natural confusion.
SOCIAL SECURITY: I haven’t been blogging much on social security reform, but Tom Maguire has been covering the subject like white on rice. And Arnold Kling has more, including this: “In fact, a reasonable test to give each political party is this: what specific proposal do you have for eliminating the Social Security funding gap? If the Democrats propose a specific tax increase plan, such as the Diamond-Orszag proposal (see the analysis by Victor Davis), then they will be acting responsibly. Conversely, if the Republicans were to back away from their proposal to change the indexing formula, they will be acting irresponsibly.”
ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has posted another link-rich tsunami news roundup.
Just as we get rid of Scott Peterson — well, once Matt Lauer stops airing his daily Amber Frey shows — we will get the Michael Jackson trial and it will take over all available media, knocking the dead in the Indian Ocean off the front page and the lead story on the evening news. It will be all-Jacko-all-the-time and I, for one, am dreading it.
WIKIPEDIA, and its trustworthiness, has become a topic of considerable discussion. This entry on InstaPundit does little to inspire confidence. Okay, the picture with the “I had an abortion” t-shirt and the reference to blended puppies might be humor (is Wikipedia a Frank J. production now?) but InstaPundit was never hosted on UT servers, and I don’t know where anyone would get that idea. [LATER: The entry has been changed; screenshot of original version here].
UPDATE: Hmm. In the discussion section are unsupported (and false) suggestions that I took money from Nick Denton to push Wonkette, thus paying for my sports car. Actually, Nick never gave me a dime to push Wonkette, nor did anyone else. (Wonkette, however, is married to somebody I know, and I like Nick, who’s visited us in Knoxville.)
I didn’t mean for the original post to be a big slam on Wikipedia, just a comment on a not-very-reliable post. And I realize that a wiki needs this “backstage” space for discussion, and that other posters cast doubt on these allegations. Still, I’m not pleased, or terribly impressed, with this treatment, which seems rather juvenile. I mean, it’s not as bad as Frank J.’s filthy lies, and I’d certainly ignore stuff like this if it appeared on a blog somewhere, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly encyclopedia material, either. Presumably it will be corrected in time, but unlike a blog, users are unlikely to engage in repeat visits to the same entry. In my case that’s not terribly significant, I suppose, but still . . . .
THE BIG PICTURE:
THE tsunami’s devastation on the Indian Ocean’s shores offers a strategic lesson of incomparable importance. Whether or not the Pentagon’s current leadership is capable of grasping that lesson is another matter.
The Indian Ocean and its adjoining seas and gulfs form one crucial, integrated strategic theater. The region has been critical to Western dominance for five centuries. Yet, when our intelligence services or military planners consider this vast, densely populated region at all, they poke at the different parts and miss the whole. . . .
We have failed to see the forest for the palm trees. Nature recognized what our government consistently fails to understand. The earthquake centered off the coast of Sumatra triggered deadly waves that struck Thailand and Somalia, India and Indonesia, Burma and the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Africa’s Swahili coast.
The tsunami drew a strategic map of the 21st century. It took a tragedy to inspire serious American involvement in the region (apart from the Middle East, with which we remain rabidly obsessed). While cognizant of the horrors that brought them to Indonesia, U.S. Navy officers are relieved to have a mission at last. Largely excluded from participation in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the reactionary choices the service made, our Navy has suffered from a perception of fading relevance.
Read the whole thing. It seemed a bit indecent to focus on geopolitical matters in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, but those things don’t go away just because I’m uncomfortable talking about them.
A “GOLDILOCKS ECONOMY?” I hope that Kudlow is right, though he seems a bit optimistic to me.
MAX BOOT IS REVIEWING MOVIES about the war on terror:
“Osama,” the first film made in liberated Afghanistan, opens with a scene of Taliban enforcers breaking up a demonstration by burka-clad women upset about their inability to work. The action then shifts to a hospital that is being closed, throwing a female doctor out of work. Without a male wage earner in the family — both her husband and brother have been killed — starvation looms. So she cuts her 12-year-old daughter’s hair and sends her out to work disguised as a boy called Osama. . . .
Ultimately, Osama’s masquerade unravels, and she faces a gruesome punishment from an Islamic court. The ending, which I won’t give away, is enough to make anyone shudder — and give thanks that U.S. troops have toppled the Taliban. Yet I don’t recall a single Hollywood feminist expressing gratitude to the U.S. military or its commander in chief for the liberation of Afghan women. No doubt Streisand, Sarandon & Co. were too busy inveighing against the horrors perpetrated by John Ashcroft.
“Voices of Iraq” is one of the most gripping documentaries I have ever seen. Most of the footage was created by distributing 150 digital camcorders to let ordinary Iraqis record their own lives and thoughts from April to September 2004. . . .
While “Fahrenheit 9/11″ presents antebellum Iraq as an idyllic place where children cavorted with kites, “Voices of Iraq” shows the grim reality: Hussein’s henchmen throwing bound prisoners off buildings, raping girls, massacring Kurds. One horrifying video clip (shot by Hussein’s own people) shows a man’s hand being cut off for the crime of being caught with an American $5 bill.
Funny that these aren’t getting more attention.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias says that Boot isn’t giving the American feminists enough credit, though the gratitude he outlines seems to have been short-lived.
TOM FRIEDMAN gets it right, here:
It needs to be clear that these so-called insurgents are not fighting to liberate Iraq from America, but rather to reassert the tyranny of a Sunni-Baathist minority over the majority there. The insurgents are clearly desperate that they not be cast as fighting a democratically elected Iraqi government – which is why they are desperately trying to scuttle the elections. After all, if all they wanted was their fair share of the pie, and nothing more, they would be taking part in the elections.
We cannot liberate Iraq, and never could. Only Iraqis can liberate themselves, by first forging a social contract for sharing power and then having the will to go out and defend that compact against the minorities who will try to resist it. Elections are necessary for that process to unfold, but not sufficient. There has to be the will – among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – to forge that equitable social contract and then fight for it.
In short, we need these elections in Iraq to see if there really is a self-governing community there ready, and willing, to liberate itself – both from Iraq’s old regime and from us. The answer to this question is not self-evident. This was always a shot in the dark – but one that I would argue was morally and strategically worth trying.
Because if it is impossible for the peoples of even one Arab state to voluntarily organize themselves around a social contract for democratic life, then we are looking at dictators and kings ruling this region as far as the eye can see. And that will guarantee that this region will be a cauldron of oil-financed pathologies and terrorism for the rest of our lives.
UPDATE: Some people think Friedman’s column is a bit derivative. That’s okay. Better than being original, and wrong.
IN THE MAIL: Interesting new text, International Law and the Use of Force, by Mary Ellen O’Connell. I’ve just spent a few minutes looking through it, and you don’t really know a book like this until you’ve taught from it, but it looks good, and is likely to find some interested readers both within and without the academy.
TSUNAMI UPDATE: “Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia (Jan. 5, 2005) – Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jack Hooker helps transport medical patients in need of special attention, at the Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia airport. Medical teams from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) set-up a triage site located on Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, in Banda Aceh, Sumatra. The two teams worked together with members of the Australian Air Force to provide initial medical care to victims of the Tsunami-stricken coastal regions. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance.”
Lots more relief is flowing in, to the point where Kate McMillan emails: “I’m starting to think that the best place to send donations for Tsunami [relief] may be to the United States Department of Defense. Do you know if this is possible?” No, I don’t.
Even more importantly, Diane Sawyer is on the job! “Journalist Diane Sawyer walks with Commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine (CSG 9), Rear Adm. Doug Crowder, on the flight deck aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Sawyer came aboard Abraham Lincoln to report on the aircraft carriers role in the humanitarian assistance efforts.”
FRACTURED FAIRY TALES: An embarrassing correction for the Star Tribune’s Nick Coleman.
THE GUARDIAN has an interesting article on the role of citizen journalism in a disaster.
Allied soldiers liberated Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe, bringing an end to the nightmarish Nazi system that utilized factories of mass death to eliminate enemies and despised ethnic and religious groups. The pledge “never again” was heard then, and various agreements were solemnly made by leaders to ensure genocide never occurred again.
Over the decades, much has happened to cheapen the lofty rhetoric of the victorious World War II leaders. Genocide or something close to it has happened in the Congo, Burundi, Uganda, East Timor, Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and most recently the Darfur region of Sudan. In all but Kosovo, the international community ignored the horror of mass murder. The few interventions were thrown together haphazardly with peacekeepers whose hands were tied by weak-willed mandates that did more to aid the perpetrators of slaughter than the victims.
Darfur was supposed to be different. It came in the wake of successes by leading nations who intervened to halt conflict and potential mass murder in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. President Bush had achieved more towards peace in Sudan than any previous leader. The United Nations, troubled over failures in the past, seemed eager to apply the painful lessons learned, and committed to true reform. The African Union appeared ready to accept the challenge of ending war on its territory, and the European Union claimed it was ready to support admirable goals like ending the slaughter in Darfur.
All have failed miserably.
Sigh. It’s enough to make me want to start a blog about stew.
JOHN COLE FORGOT HIS ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR. Er, actually it was his three-year bloggiversary.
GONZALES, ETC.: I kind of shot my wad with the 2000+ word post below, which has gotten me slammed as both an accomplice of modern Mengeles and a pointy-headed terrorist sympathizer. Besides which, I tired of confirmation battles after Bork (whom I opposed) and don’t generally blog them. But, as always, Greg Djerejian offers a thoughtful take, with which I largely agree.
UPDATE: In a response, Andrew seems to think that I’m supporting torture. But I’ve never said that, and I don’t; I keep saying that torture is wrong, and that it’s counterproductive, and apparently that message has gotten through to the folks who think that opposing torture makes me some sort of weakling, if not to Andrew. I simply think that histrionics don’t help, and partisan opportunism — of which there’s a lot here — may actually make things worse, a point of mine that Andrew does not engage, though Greg Djerejian certainly recognizes it. I’ve certainly been happy to call attention to misbehavior where I thought it needed it, and wasn’t getting enough attention. But I think that trying to make this question emblematic of the entire war effort — one that Andrew supported at its inception quite vigorously, I should note — strikes me as highly dubious. Opponents of the war are doing this, and Andrew seems to be perilously close to doing it, too. (As Roger Simon notes, “rendition” goes back to the Clinton Administration.)
As Eugene Volokh said quite some time ago: “This is a hard question that reasonable people can and should debate. But it seems to me that abstract arguments about moral high grounds or stooping to the enemy’s level do more to weaken the argument against torture than to strengthen it.”
And speaking of Volokh, today he points to this Scrappleface item, which seems to fit the facts all too well:
Alberto Gonzales, President Bush’s Attorney General nominee, told the Senate Judiciary Committee today that he would state only his name, rank, date of birth and Air Force serial number, which is all that is required under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. . . .
Mr. Gonzales’ refusal to answer Senators’ questions did not affect the committee’s inquiry, which consists primarily of speeches to a gathering of journalists.
That’s pretty much what I feared. Likewise, this report suggests that we’re getting the worst of both worlds: bad press over torture combined with ineffectual interrogation:
A master narrative—call it the “torture narrative”—sprang up: the government’s 2002 decision to deny Geneva-convention status to al-Qaida fighters, it held, “led directly to the abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq,” to quote the Washington Post. In particular, torturous interrogation methods, developed at Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan in illegal disregard of Geneva protections, migrated to Abu Ghraib and were manifest in the abuse photos.
This story’s success depends on the reader’s remaining ignorant of the actual interrogation techniques promulgated in the war on terror. Not only were they light years from real torture and hedged around with bureaucratic safeguards, but they had nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib anarchy. Moreover, the decision on the Geneva conventions was irrelevant to interrogation practices in Iraq.
No matter. The Pentagon’s reaction to the scandal was swift and sweeping. It stripped interrogators not just of stress options but of traditional techniques long regarded as uncontroversial as well. Red tape now entangles the interrogation process, and detainees know that their adversaries’ hands are tied. . . .
To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the military has been in its approach to terror detainees—and how utterly false the torture narrative has been. Here’s what the interrogators assumed they could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to eat—vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators promised that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, pending local approval and special training.
I don’t know which narrative is true, but I’m sure that the Gonzales hearings won’t do anything to enlighten us. Which was, you know, my point.
MORE: From the boy-you-sure-can’t-please-everyone-department comes this email:
You seem to agree with Andrew Sullivan that we should afford all terrorist prisoners Geneva Convention rules treatment.
To make the issue crystal-clear: if Mohammed Atta and say 5 of his co-terrorists (comrades in terror?) had been apprehended on say 2 September 2001, would you approve of the application of some duress on them to make him speak? To save those 2800 lives, I mean. There were 4, possibly 5 planes and at least 18 co-conspirators.
What do you say, then? If you truly want to follow the Geneva Conventions with non-military combatants, you would be sanctioning the planning for the WTC Memorial – by letting Mr Atta stay “heroically” mum.
Fortunately, I didn’t start this blog in order to please everyone, and I’ve certainly succeeded in avoiding that. . . . Still, this email illustrates several problems. First, whether or not torture is okay doesn’t depend on the Geneva Conventions; one might decide that torture isn’t okay even regarding those to whom the Conventions do not apply, after all. I also wonder whether torture would be effective in getting the likes of Mohammed Atta to offer truthful information. I’m skeptical, which is one reason why I oppose torture.
I do not agree that the Geneva Conventions apply in all cases, of course, nor do I regard them as Holy Writ. They’re international agreements arrived at among specific parties, at a specific time, for specific purposes, and whether either the agreements themselves or the principles they contain should govern in other circumstances is hardly beyond the bounds of reasonable discussion, as Andrew — who in other circumstances seems less deferential to existing law simply as law — seems to suggest.
Request for citations here.
MORE: Others weigh in:
Yet, at today’s confirmation hearing for Judge Alberto Gonzales, both of the two legal experts called by Senator Leahy to testify against Judge Gonzales conceded that al Qaeda fighters are indeed not POWs. Due to the extensive questioning of Judge Gonzales, the two legal experts did not begin their testimony until very late in the afternoon.
Following that testimony, Senator Cornyn asked the two professors: if someone is determined to be an al Qaeda fighter, “would they be entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention?”
Dean Harold Koh gave a somewhat wordy response that eventually concluded with this clear, unequivocal statement: “they are not POWs.” Following Dean Koh’s response, Dean John Hutson said: “I take the same view.”
This doesn’t, of course, mean that torture is okay. Which illustrates why this is more than simply a legal question.
Meanwhile, Michael Totten observes: “Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest.” Yes.
SCHWARZENEGGER AIMS HIGH:
In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday night, the governor called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to enact a fundamental overhaul that would include that most sacred of political cows, the way Congressional and legislative districts are drawn. . . .
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted that of the 153 seats in the California Congressional delegation and Legislature that were on the ballot in November, not one changed party hands.
“What kind of a democracy is that?” he asked in his address.
“The current system is rigged to benefit the interests of those in office and not those who put them there,” he said. “We must reform it.”
You know, it really is too bad that he’s not eligible to run for President.
UPDATE: Here’s the text of Arnold’s speech.
“THE STRENGTH OF THE BLOGS IS THE STRENGTH OF THE FOX:” That’s what I was talking about here.
UKRAINE UPDATE: Another roundup from Le Sabot Post-Moderne. Yanukovych is still refusing to accept the election results as valid. What a loser.
TSUNAMI UPDATE: Thais still want tourists, and say that news reports are sensationalizing the damage:
Much to our dismay there are many unsubstantiated news stories about “total destruction” of Phuket’s coral reefs. Even our own effort to bring a CBS team to the Similans for a first hand look turned into a nightmare when they broke their promise and turned it into yet another “spectacular disaster” story. Our crew and passengers were quoted out of context and our underwater video footage used incorrectly. Never again!
UPDATE: From New Zealand’s National Business Review:
While the United Nations appears to be adept at having meetings, the organisation is hopeless on the ground say career foreign service officers in tsunami-affected regions.
As news media are increasingly dominated by footage of US, Australian and regional military forces actually delivering aid to stricken survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami, UN officials are carping about housing in major cities far removed from the front lines and passing around elaborate business cards. . . .
A close reading of the UK’s Department for International Development’s (DFID) brilliantly detailed daily reports of activity in the affected regions also reveals that UN officials are working hard at planning to work — and estimating the need for work — rather than actually delivering aid on the ground.
All of which is a bit chilling, since the UN is positioning itself as the primary carrier of aid relief to the region and has been critical of the “core group” response led the the US and Australia.
OVER AT THE BECKER-POSNER BLOG, Richard Posner writes on the economics of catastrophes. “The Indian Ocean tsunami illustrates a type of disaster to which policymakers pay too little attention—a disaster that has a very low or unknown probability of occurring, but that if it does occur creates enormous losses. ”
AND SOME OF THEM ARE DOOZIES: Arthur Chrenkoff rounds up the twelve most stupid tsunami quotes.
I wound up serving my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece, all of whom decided to have dinner with us when they heard the menu, and who were very excited to have stew — moreso than lots of fancier stuff that I cook. Now, the lamb stew is pretty good, but it’s still stew. But it got me thinking about relative scarcity.
A hundred years ago, nobody got excited about stew. Ingredients were expensive, but time was cheap, so cooking something that had to bubble on the stove all day was no big deal. Stew was a staple.
But now ingredients are cheap, while time is expensive. Stew isn’t really a lot of work, but you have to be home all day. So now homemade stew is a delicacy, while, say, grilled salmon and other stuff that’s expensive in terms of ingredients but can be cooked quickly is common. Go figure.
UPDATE: I woke up this morning to a torrent of stew-related email, surprisingly enough. (How much? I got more on stew than I got on my big torture post from the other day. Go figure.) Most of it, like this one from reader Richard Zeien, boiled down to “Get a CrockPot already!” (He sent the link to this one, so I guess he likes it, but I’ve never used one. Seems like cheating). But maybe I should lighten up. Another reader who asks to be anonymous (hiding from the stew police?) sends this:
If you want to eat great stew on a regular basis, the secret is Crock Pots.
Sainted Wife and I make stew about every 10 days. We both work and have a kid in day care. You throw the fixin’s in the Crock Pot at night, set it on the “hi switch to lo” setting, and let it go. You get home the next night at six, and it’s ready to go. It’s easy and the stew always turns out great.
Here is our patented recipe for Booze Fighter Stew – prep time is 10 minutes, plus a day or so to allow it to cook:
1 bottle Guinness, or a couple cups leftover red wine. (a 12 oz bottle of barley wine works really well too) 2 lbs beef, lamb or pork – preferably a cut with good marbling, but without huge veins of fat. (hint: you need to leave a bit of fat in for flavor). Cube the meat, brown it really quickly in a dab of olive or vegetable oil (just sear the outside) and then throw it in the pot. carrots celery, 1 lb mushrooms (critical ingredient like the booze or meat) 3 – 4 appropriately flavored stock cubes spices – salt and fresh ground pepper – but also toss in a healthy whack of rosemary, cilantro, mint (with lamb), bay leaves, celery salt, and tarragon – all are excellent parsnips (optional) 2-3 medium onions, quartered couple cloves garlic 3-4 medium quartered potatoes (optional for low carb types – you can substitute a chopped up swede/turnip) plus a pinch of anything else your heart desires. Add enough water to just about cover the ingredients.
Turn the pot on “hi switch to lo” and let it cook for a day.
If the stew is a little thin when you get home the next day, throw in a cup or two of sour cream 20 minutes before you eat it to thicken it up and give it some tang. A dash of hot sauce when you serve it is also nice, and it goes great with a fresh stick of French bread or some dark rye. Best enjoyed with friends over a hearty red “peasant” style wine (Languedoc, Portuguese or Chilean), or a strong ale.
Sounds yummy. A lot of people wanted my recipe, but there isn’t really one to give. I just throw things in the pot and taste ‘em until it’s good.
Reader Robert Kern, meanwhile, sends this economic analysis:
It’s the Law of Competitive/Absolute Advantage at work.
As an example : Today my sewer is blocked. I can pay a plumber $100 to take care of the problem in 1 hour, or I can do it myself in 3 hours (including renting the equipment and travel time). So, if I make more than $33/hour, it makes sense for me to perform my regular activities and employ the plumber. It’s a net gain for me, and it keep another person working.
That’s why a good-old crock pot is and economic bonanza — cheap ingredients and it cooks while you are making a living. And the consumption of cheap ingredients (flank, shoulder, chuck) makes the more desirable cuts more affordable, as it balances the supply & demand.
Gosh, it’s practically my humanitarian duty to buy a CrockPot now!
ANOTHER UPDATE: There is controversy even in stew-land, as reader Jody Landis emails that I should stick to my guns on CrockPot avoidance: “I have a crockpot, and I’m disappointed every time I use it. Food doesn’t taste at all the same as when it’s cooked by conventional means.” Sigh. No easy answers here, either, I guess . . . .
She had work to do. But as she removed her materials from her backpack, it became clear that the energy she was seeking could not be found in a cup. She had a more pressing need: to find a power outlet for her laptop computer, whose battery had died. . . .
Every day, millions of people are finding themselves scurrying about in search of wells of electricity they can tap so their battery-powered mobile devices can remain mobile. Dependence is growing on laptops, cellular telephones, digital music players, digital cameras, camcorders, personal organizers, portable DVD players and the latest hand-held gaming devices – most of which operate on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – and finding available electrical outlets away from home and office has become more urgent.
Starbucks and other establishments catering to wired customers appear to do little to discourage or regulate customers who plug in, either to work on AC power or charge up. In large part, the power seekers seem to negotiate their needs among themselves with cooperative grace, following a series of unspoken rules.
It’s the blooming of a spontaneous order.
UPDATE: Several readers suggest a high-capacity external battery for laptop users. I bought an extra high-capacity battery for my Dell, but this has twice the capacity that it does, so it should be good for about 10 hours. Kinda cool, though it’s one more thing to carry with you.
PIMP: But I mean that in a good way.
ALEX BEAM writes on tragedies and statistics:
There is an old, politically incorrect saying in newsrooms: How do you change a front-page story about massive flood devastation into a 50-word news brief buried inside the paper? Just add two words: ”In India.”
But it hasn’t worked out that way this time, has it? We had massive flood devastation in India, and it’s made the front pages. And more, as Mickey Kaus notes:
By the side of the road yesterday in the non-rich Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles, earnest teenagers in the pouring rain covering themselves with plastic sheeting while they held up signs trying to flag down cars and raise donations to benefit the Asian tsunami survivors. … The effort seemed futile on several levels, but also touching–and something new. I’ve never seen this sort of thing in L.A. before.
For the first time, powerful coverage of a huge news event was not brought to you purely by established media. An army of “citizen journalists” played a new role, perhaps all the more vital considering the effect vivid reportage, online and off, has had on the subsequent fundraising efforts.
It’s not just blogs, of course, but all the new media — making parts of the world that used to seem distant seem much closer. And so I think that Beam’s analysis, while not entirely wrong, isn’t nearly as right as it would have been ten or twenty years ago.
UPDATE: Read this, too.
NICK COLEMAN HAS cost the Star Tribune an advertiser.
VENEZUELA: Emulating Zimbabwe?
AND THESE STOLEN TURKEYS WEREN’T PLASTIC, EITHER:
The director of a Detroit food bank wants to know what happened to 60 turkeys — 720 pounds of frozen birds — that his charity gave to members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ local staff two days before Thanksgiving to give to needy people.
Conyers’ Detroit office promised an accounting of any turkey distribution by Dec. 27, but the Gleaners Community Food Bank had received no paperwork as of Tuesday, said the charity’s director, Agostinho Fernandes.
Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn’t get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers’ staff.
Sounds embarrassingly scrooge-like.
So goes it at the Columbia Journalism Review. The university’s motto may still be “In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen,” but over at the j-school they have a new slogan: You can’t prove anything.
AMERICA: FULL OF STARVING FAT PEOPLE! Megan McArdle notes that Reuters has problems with math.
UPDATE: No, the link’s not bad — the site seems to be down at the moment.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP, with posts from all sorts of blogs and bloggers. Check it out — you may find some blogs you like better than this one!
MY SECRETARY, a Marine Combat Engineer reservist, sends this report from Iraq. It’s a bit long, so I’m putting it in the “extended entry” area. Click “read more” to read it.
SEX, MONEY AND HAPPINESS: Jim Lindgren looks at a popular study and finds it’s been misrepresented.
IT’S A SPECIAL TSUNAMI MEMORIAL BLOG MELA, with comments from all over the Indian blogosphere.
The distinction between “professional” producers and “amateurs” is blurring and may in fact be ultimately irrelevant. We make not just what we’re paid to make, but also what want to make. Both can have value. Once, with high barriers to marketplace entry, only the professional work found an audience. But now those barriers are dropping.
Indeed they are.
TSUNAMI UPDATE: The French resent the prominent American role.
OPTIMISM on the Sudanese peace agreement, at Blogicus. This has to do with the war in the South, not the other war in Darfur.
MICKEY KAUS: “The prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism could use this meandering, weak piece–which fails to deliver the goods in support of whatever its vaguely delineated thesis is–as a case study of an article that desperately needs editing before it’s published. … Oh, wait. The piece was published. By the prestigious Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. ”
That Corey Pein piece isn’t getting much respect: “Pein thus joins Wonkette as the only commentators who, to my knowledge, have tried to argue that the bloggers’ exposure of CBS’s fraudulent documents was unfortunate. If the documents were fakes, their position is simply untenable. Recognizing this, Pein tries half-heartedly to show that the documents might have been genuine after all. But this effort is an utter failure.”
HOWARD KURTZ IS SAFE, because he’s got Tom Maguire on his side.
DON’T THROW ME INTO THAT TORTURE PATCH: Andrew Sullivan hopes for a public debate on torture, “coercive interrogation,” and related issues. But I caught a few minutes of Limbaugh when I was out running errands today and my sense is that the GOP is thrilled with the idea of Congressional hearings in which Democrats can be characterized as soft on terror. It’s the old “soft on criminals” routine revisited. How did that work out again?
I’ve been against torture since Alan Dershowitz was pushing it back in the fall of 2001. (Okay, actually I was against torture even before Dershowitz was pushing it). But I think the effort to turn this into an anti-Bush political issue is a serious mistake, and the most likely outcome will be, in essence, the ratification of torture (with today’s hype becoming tomorrow’s reality) and a political defeat for the Democrats. And the highly politicized way in which the issue is raised is likely to ensure that there’s no useful discussion of exactly how, in terms of incarceration, etc., we should treat potentially very dangerous people who do not fall readily within the laws of war.
For more on this subject, I highly recommend this post and this post by Eugene Volokh. This post from Eve Tushnet is worth reading, too (actually, it’s several posts, just keep scrolling). And for a contrary (more or less pro-torture) view, read this post by Radley Balko and this post by Oliver Willis, clarified somewhat here.
UPDATE: A reader sends a link to this post by Steven Den Beste.
Another reader suggests Sanford Levinson’s new book on the subject, which I haven’t read. It is, however, discussed here. Based on Levinson’s other work, it’s likely to be excellent, and highly useful.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Sturm, who has criticized my anti-torture position in the past, is now saying bring it on regarding the torture debate, further underscoring my fears. Meanwhile reader James Somers emails:
The political reality is that the GOP would love to have a debate on this, with the New York Times, the Democratic Party, and assorted left-wing interest groups expressing deep concern about the use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists. Take a poll. How many Americans support harsh interrogation methods, including non-lethal torture, to get information from terrorists? I bet it’s a majority. Oh, and for political bonus points, the debate on this issue will force the Democrats to oppose a GOP-nominated Hispanic candidate for Attorney General. Somebody get Ruy Teixeira on the phone.
That’s how it looks to me. Bonus to Karl Rove if any Democrats connect Gonzales to the “Spanish Inquisition.” I don’t really expect that, but then nobody ever does.
MORE: A lengthy and thoughtful post at The Belmont Club:
The danger is that the confirmation hearings of Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales will in the end leave the entire question of interrogating prisoners undefined or stuck in the 19th century idealisms of the Geneva Convention. There must be definite guidance on whether it is permissible to require more than the name and rank and serial number of a captured terrorist; and if so how far one may go. It should be understood that any restrictions imposed must be carried out to the letter, even if these restrictions almost certainly result in the deaths of American soldiers and innocents, because that is what rules of engagement do. That realization should make policy makers craft their restrictions very thoughtfully; something alas, which they rarely do. Just as the torturer who claims that he serves a higher cause stands on false ground so too must the man who advocates gentleness with terrorists accept that the pursuit of his moral good will often be bought by the suffering of children. On every battlefield men have tried to strike a balance between saving their lives and saving themselves; and the choice though hard is before us.
Read the whole thing. And here’s a post by Porphyrogenitus, that’s worth reading:
Frankly, I’m against torture. But I’m not against harsh interrogation techniques, intimidation and the like. What’s the degree? In some ways it’s a matter of degree. It’s a difference in the level of physicality. On the practical side, I’m not sure it’s effective in getting accurate information – getting people to say what they know rather than just tell you what you want to hear. I’m certainly not sure it’s better than other methods of getting them to talk, psychological pressure and tricks and the like. Sure, you can make anyone talk – almost anyone – and say what you want them to say. But that’s not the same as getting them to tell you the truth.
Read the whole thing.
STILL MORE: So here I was feeling pretty good about the comprehensiveness and sophistication of this post, when I get this email from reader Jeff Cole that, I think, illustrates how the issue is likely to play out politically:
Leave it to a bunch of lawyers to get all tangled up in the Theory of Torture without addressing the facts on the ground. The ONLY previously proscribed interrogation techniques that have been sanctioned at the highest levels of our government post 911 are coercive in nature and specifically not intended to do bodily or psychological harm. Sleep deprivation, loud music, kneeling, withholding blankets. THIS is torture? Nowhere in any of your recent posts or links on the issue do you even qualify the many allegations of torture as being simply about these techniques of creating discomfort. Nor do you nor any of the linked legalists cite any case of actual physical torture. Abu Ghraib was an aberration. If anything, the internal memos produced during the Abu Ghraib “exposes” and erroneously cited as existence of a “smoking gun” showed that Rumsfeld et al were intent on keeping the threshold at the discomfort level. And about that Abu Ghraib “torture”, I can only hope that my Jihadi captors subject me to live sex shows while cloaking my head in a woman’s panties. Then if they would only put in solitary for a few minutes I could work out my frustrations about their horribly coercive techniques in private. If you know what I mean. And I think you do. Margaret Hassan was shot in the head, de-limbed, beheaded and disemboweled (not necessarily in that order). I think our non-Geneva captives can sustain a little Barry Manilow.
It’s certainly true that many Administration critics are adopting a broad-brush view of “torture” that I think is likely to backfire. In fact, my fear — as noted in the original post — is that a big brouhaha will be made about torture, with various mild issues swept in to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the problem. Then, when those who raise the issue lose, as I suspect they will, we’ll see people thinking that real torture has been, in essence, ratified.
And here’s more evidence that the Democrats are playing into Karl Rove’s hands.
MORE STILL: Sullivan replies: “The point is not ‘an anti-Bush political issue.’ It’s about whether the United States condones torture of prisoners (many of whom have turned out to be innocent) in its care. Since president Bush shifted U.S. policy to one which allows what any sane person would call torture, any criticism of the policy, by its very nature, has to be ‘anti-Bush.’”
Well, no. The tone seems to me to be quite partisan. And critics — and I’m explicitly including Andrew in this — don’t seem very interested in outlining what conduct is appropriate and what isn’t, but rather in blurring the lines. It’s one thing to say — as is correct — that there’s real torture here, not just frat-house hazing. It’s another not to make the distinction between the two clear. And I fear that this will backfire, as the email quoted just above illustrates.
If members of Congress wanted to raise this sort of thing in a more constructive, less partisan, fashion, they might try introducing legislation to provide guidance on the subject. They could then discuss what sort of behavior is appropriate in what circumstances, when people deserve to be treated as “unlawful combatants,” what the military should do with those who don’t qualify, and so on. Doing that outside the context of a political nomination that was, for purely partisan reasons, sure to be controversial anyway would be considerably more constructive, it seems to me. This would, however, require members of Congress to take positions and draw distinctions, which they may find unappealing to do.
What would I do? Ban anything that causes injury or outright pain. I’m not so sure about sleep deprivation and things like that. I’d permit playing Barry Manilow, too.
Here are some thoughts — going farther than I would — on what should be in such legislation.
Nor need this be a partisan debate — after all, the strongest proponents of torture linked above, Dershowitz, Balko, and Willis, are all anti-Bush. Which is why turning all discussion of this subject into disquisitions on the inherent degeneracy of the Bush Administration misses the mark so thoroughly.
AND EVEN MORE: Law Professor Kenneth Anderson has some useful observations:
One thing that is missing in the whole torture-interrogation debate is the question of who you are interrogating. Can you use a different level of interrogation on Zarqawi, for example – knowing it is Zarqawi – than you could on someone who might indeed turn out to be the peasant shepherd? In my view, the answer must plainly be yes. But this would require a regime that assigned different levels of possible roughness of interrogation – while remaining above an agreed-upon standard of torture – depending upon what is known about levels of involvement in terrorism. That, in turn, would really require a separate legal and intelligence regime for dealing with terrorists. Many countries have exactly such laws, and they are found extensively in Europe. I have reluctantly come to believe that the United States should enact such a regime for dealing with non-US citizens believed involved with terrorism. For the same reasons that many European states have enacted such special regimes, I believe that the United States needs such a special regime as well – although, among other limitations, I would confine it to non-US citizens.
I’m not sure whether I agree with that, though I definitely agree that if such a regime is created it should apply only to non-citizens. That removes the temptation to use it against domestic political opponents. Anderson has much more, and you should read the whole thing.
Meanwhile, a lot of readers think I’m a namby-pamby pointyhead lawprofessor type. Well, I’m at least one out of three. Here’s a typical example:
I must confess, I don’t for the life of me understand your position on torture. While you are correct in saying that one must be careful not to torture someone so badly that they tell you what you want to hear, we are in a brave new world that requires re-thinking the old paradigms. The people we are talking about have no qualms about butchering innocent civilians, including women and children, in order to achieve their aims. If we have to do something that would heretofore have been considered barbaric in order to extract information that will save innocent lives, so be it. Why do you think that we should tie our hands in this regard when they operate in another universe entirely?
Should we just throw up our hands and accept the deaths of thousands, perhaps millions of innocent people because we don’t want to “descend to their level,” or out of some quaint adherence to outdated (when it applies to this issue) norms of civilized behavior? I forget which justice said that the constitution is not a suicide pact, but that sentiment is eminently applicable here.
We need to figure out that we are in a different reality, and steel ourselves to do the work that needs to be done to save our civilization from the very real threat of Islamic extremism.
I think the threat is real, but I don’t think that torture is the way to deal with it. On the other hand, I don’t think that turning the question into a partisan political weapon (or an opportunity for posturing) helps either — and, what’s more, I think that the people who are doing that are likely to produce an environment in which torture is more, not less, likely.
FINAL UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has thoughts on this subject which are very much worth reading. He echoes my point that the Gonzalez confirmation hearings are unlikely to be a good place to raise these points. And I have a bit more here in response to a later post from Sullivan.
I’VE UPDATED THE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY POST BELOW with lots of reader comments. Scroll down or click here.
I GOT MY HAIR CUT TODAY, but I wasn’t clever enough to photoblog the process. Then again, I doubt it would have turned out as well if I had.
VIA VANITY FAIR, a collection of links to New York City photobloggers.
ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has another massive roundup of tsunami news, with many, many links.
IRAN WANTS NANOTECHNOLOGY. Just in case the nukes weren’t enough to worry about.
KRUGMAN: Save Social Security last!
A FLY, SWATTED.
EUGENE VOLOKH FACT-CHECKS HARRY REID.