January 16, 2005
OPEN SOURCE IMAGE PROCESSING: “While ESA slowly releases images from Huygens, full collections of Huygens imagery have already been processed and refined well beyond anything ESA has done – and you can download them yourself.”
OPEN SOURCE IMAGE PROCESSING: “While ESA slowly releases images from Huygens, full collections of Huygens imagery have already been processed and refined well beyond anything ESA has done – and you can download them yourself.”
DEVELOPERS ARE BUILDING UNDERGROUND extensively, but not paying enough attention to potential disasters. It usually takes a large, multiple-fatality accident to wake people up. I hope that’s not true here, too.
Kofi Annan was once known as the “Teflon secretary general” of the United Nations, because nothing bad seemed to stick to him. But that was then. These days, pretty much everything seems to be sticking to the 66-year-old Ghanaian diplomat.
For Annan, 2004 devolved into what he called an ” annus horribilis .” No fewer than eight investigations were initiated into corruption allegations within the U.N.’s former “oil-for-food” program in Iraq. Among those stung by the allegations was Annan’s son Kojo, who was paid by a Swiss firm that held a U.N. food contract. Some in Congress called on Annan to resign. At the same time, tensions with President Bush grew over the U.N.’s reluctance to play a larger role in Iraq and over U.S. assertions that Annan was meddling in American politics. U.N. diplomats felt Bush allowed Annan to twist in the wind before reaffirming administration support in December. U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, meanwhile, were accused of raping young women. And back at headquarters, U.N. staffers were enraged over Annan’s purportedly dismissive handling of misconduct allegations against his senior aides.
He’s under fire for his handling of the tsunami, too. And don’t miss this story on UNScam, claiming that it’s about to come to a boil.
BUSH: Not that interested in the Federal Marriage Amendment.
I hate to say “I told you so,” but — Oh, who am I kidding? Like every other blogger, I love to say “I told you so!” — well, I did:
William Kelly objects that Bush’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment isn’t “vague.” He’s right. A better term would be “lukewarm.” He’s said he’s for it, but he hasn’t exactly pushed it. Kind of like, to pick one of my issues, his support for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, which was equally pro forma. In both cases, I think he’s wrong, and he’s pandering — to different constituencies, of course — but it’s awfully weak pandering, and thus not worth getting too excited about.
And so it is, and so it was.
UPDATE: Rand Simberg is doing the I-told-you-so dance on the assault weapons ban.
ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, a contrary view here: “I just see it as waiting for the right time.”
I HOPE THAT THIS IS TRUE:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.
The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.
On the other hand, the source is somewhat dubious.
UPDATE: Charles Johnson:
I’m no longer surprised that journalists lack an internal regulatory mechanism (sometimes called “ethics” or another quaint old-fashioned term that no longer applies, “patriotism”) to prevent the release of information that could damage their own country. On the contrary, they actively search for that information and release it with great relish.
But it’s discouraging that our government apparently lacks the will to prosecute leaks like this as some form of treason or sedition. Hersh is only doing what a mainstream journalist in the 21st century does—feeding off the bottom—but the ones who are really to blame are the consultants and intelligence officials who talk to him.
Indeed. And where is the journalistic outrage that accompanied the Plame story?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Forget outrage, writes reader Matt Whitney: “Where are the prosecutions?”
SOME EXCELLENT PHOTOS FROM AFGHANISTAN, by photographers Keirón Allen and Rupert Edis.
LANCE FRIZZELL: “Just in case anyone from the UN is reading, here’s what helping people looks like.”
And, really, take a look at this picture: could anyone hate Tim because he’s beautiful?
UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini has more thoughts on the Von Drehle piece, in a more serious vein.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Sullivan sends a lengthy email. Click “read more” to read it. And there are more comments here, from Ginny.
BILL QUICK pronounces his group-blog conversion a success. I liked InstaPundit’s group-blog interval, too, though reader reaction was mixed.
UNSCAM UPDATE: According to U.S. News, the oil-for-food scandal is “about to come to full boil.”
MUSIC UPDATE: A while back, I mentioned that I didn’t like Joey Kingpin’s Stereo Thriller as much as his earlier album A Beat Down in Hell Town. But I have to say that I’ve had ‘em both on the iPod (they’re good workout tunes) and while I don’t like A Beat Down any less, I’ve come to like Stereo Thriller a lot more. Maybe it’s the headphones.
DAVID HOGBERG writes that Social Security reform is a done deal. “Am I being too bold in my prediction? Maybe. But when your recent track record is so damn good, you can afford to be.”
He’s certainly laid down a marker.
Co-founded by graphic designer Mike Matas and programmer Wil Shipley, the company’s first title, Delicious Library, was launched in November 2004. It generated $250,000 worth of sales in its first month, and the company has a crowded, popular booth here at Macworld.
But its four main employees meet every day at the popular Zoka coffee shop in Seattle’s university district.
“It’s cheap rent and a fun environment,” said Matas. “We go down there every day with our laptops and work. It’s an incredible place. They have two or three of the top baristas in the country (the awards are on the wall). We pay our rent by buying coffee…. They love us. We’re some of their best customers.”
As well as creamy lattes, the coffee shop offers wireless internet access and big, bench-like tables that several people can gather around. Often, Delicious Monster’s entire seven-person staff will work there.
There’s a lot of this going on, I think.
UPDATE: Greg Piper notes that the revolution has its costs. Hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, RatherBiased.com has a transcript and video of the Saturday Night Live skit lampooning Dan Rather.
LAW PROFESSOR KENNETH ANDERSON writes that The Washington Post doesn’t understand the Geneva Conventions, and says that the Post makes a crucial error in today’s editorial:
My guess is that the editorial writers have never actually read the relevant article of the conventions, but instead have simply relied on press releases from various rights groups that tell the WaPo what it wants to hear. . . .
The point, then, is that the Post editorial repeats a error oft-heard across MSM, that by failing to provide individualized hearings, the US is in violation of the Geneva Conventions. As a policy matter, and indeed as a matter of basic fairness, it should do so. As a matter of international law, that, I’m afraid, amounts to a MSM urban legend.
I can’t say I find this surprising. Anderson is quite critical of the Bush Administration’s stance as a matter of policy, but notes that it is nonetheless not a violation. In too many minds, however, the Conventions are simply a wish-fulfillment tool, or a slogan.
UPDATE: Read this post, too.
THE NEW TIME POLL has some good news for Bush:
President Bush’s approval rating has risen to 53%, according to the latest TIME poll conducted January 12 and 13. His approval rating is up 4 points from his Dec. 13-14 approval rating of 49%. The President’s approval numbers have improved across a variety of issues, including his handling of the economy (51% approve, up from 40% approve in September), his handling of the situation in Iraq (45% approve, up from 41% approval in September), and his handling of the war on terrorism (56% approve, up from 49% in September).
Numbers on Social Security reform, however, are not as good: “When asked if they favor President Bush’s plan to allow people to invest part of their social security payroll tax in stocks and bonds, 47% oppose the plan while 44% support it.” Then again, these may well be high by historical standards.
Meanwhile, Jason van Steenwyk notes a poll that hasn’t gotten much attention — an Army Times poll of the troops:
The Army Times has published the results of the latest survey of Army Times subscribers, more than 2/3rds of whom are on active duty.
Here are the highlights:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?
No opinion: 8%
Declined to answer: 9%
Notably, Bush’s approval ratings on the war have increased substantially among this group, rising from 56% in 2003 to 63% in 2004.
Apparently, they think things are going better than the news reports would have us believe. Jason also notes that almost nobody reported this poll.
UPDATE: Matt Rustler is critical of the Army Times poll, but I suspect that it would have gotten more attention had it gone the other way.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Trent Telenko has more thoughts on the Army Times poll, and on war reporting generally.
MORE: Jason van Steenwyk responds to Rustler, noting that the survey results match a broader Annenberg study, and observes:
One can kvetch about the methodology. But there’s no getting around the yawning chasm between the way the war is perceived by those fighting it and those watching it on TV.
It does seem that way.
SOME INTERESTING demographic debunking.
N.Z. BEAR is asking for help with an Apache/PHP problem.
FRENCH TV: Praising the American military? It’s bizarro-world.
PORN HAPPY IS THE TITLE of Susannah (“Reverse Cowgirl Blog”) Breslin’s new novel. It’s also the name of the blog tracking its progress.
CASH FOR COMMENTS: No, it’s not a blog scandal — it’s something good.
BIGWIG HAS THOUGHTS on politics and politeness.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis:
As I read all the sniping and snarking and bitchslapping among the ex-Deaniac bloggers at each others’ throats, I’m mindful of one thing: If things had gone their way, these people would be running the country now. Yow.
: I keep reading more comments on the various ex-Deaniacs’ blogs and I’ll add this: No wonder they lost Iowa. No wonder Dean screamed.
Politeness actually does help groups of people work together effectively.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Zephyr responds — politely — to her critics.
SHUNNING IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD: Jim Lindgren looks at a sad episode:
In the 1960s, just AFTER Ronald Coase had done his Nobel Prize winning work in law & economics and AFTER James Buchanan had done his Nobel Prize winning work in public choice, a concerted effort was made by members of their department and the administration at the University of Virginia to drive them out of Virginia. The story has been often told and some reports say that some of the letters and memos showing that this was a conscious effort on Virginia’s part survived to be seen by more open-minded members of the department in later years. A run-in with the Ford Foundation helped to crytallize university opposition to the best scholars that the department ever had and among the best ever to teach in any department at Virginia. One view was that they were on the wrong side of history. . . .
That this was done a few years after Coase and Buchanan had done their best work is just stunning. Virginia began the 1960s as the most innovative and creative among the world’s great economics departments and ended the 1960s as just another pretty good department, no better or worse than a couple dozen other departments in the country.
Had it kept them, it might remain in a dominant position today. I’m happy to report that I’m not being shunned — in fact the number of colleagues who came by to welcome me back from leave last week was quite gratifying. On the other hand, unlike Coase and Buchanan, I’m not a “right-wing extremist . . .”
UPDATE: Of course, academia isn’t what it used to be, either.
SOMEWHAT TROUBLING NEWS:
The Defense Agency has prepared a plan to defend the southern remote islands off Kyushu and Okinawa from possible invasion amid rising security concerns about China, according to documents obtained Saturday by Kyodo News.
The agency compiled the plan in November on the assumption of an invasion of the islands located within a 1,000-km zone between the southern end of Kyushu and Taiwan.
(Via Paul Musgrave, who raises some interesting questions regarding why this is coming out now.)
LANNY DAVIS: Zell Miller was right.
MORE EVIDENCE OF INEPTITUDE IN HIGH PLACES:
Accusations by an FBI contract linguist fired after complaining about suspected security breaches and misconduct in the bureau’s post-September 11 foreign language translation program “had some basis in fact” and are supported by documents and other witnesses, a report said yesterday. . . .
“The allegations, if true, had potentially damaging consequences and warranted a thorough and careful review by the FBI, which did not occur,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.
This doesn’t make her charges true, I guess, but it does make the FBI look bad. Maybe Porter Goss could go there next?
VIRGINIA’S FORNICATION LAW has been struck down:
The state Supreme Court yesterday struck down as unconstitutional a 19th-century Virginia law making it a crime for unmarried couples to have sex.
“We find no principled way to conclude . . . that the Virginia statute criminalizing intercourse between unmarried persons does not improperly abridge a personal relationship that is within the liberty interest of persons to choose,” said the decision, written by Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy. . . .
The opinion did not deal with a separate Virginia law prohibiting sodomy. But attorneys for both parties in the case said it suggested that the court considers most laws regulating sex between consenting adults to be unconstitutional violations of the 14th Amendment’s right to due process.
WEEKEND READING FROM THE CIA, with a troubling graphic.
UPDATE: There’s quite a spirited discussion in the comments over whether the graphic in question is right or not. Personally, I hope it’s wrong.
LOTS OF UPDATES to yesterday’s WMD post. Scroll down or click here.
I’VE PRAISED CHARLES STROSS’S IRON SUNRISE AND SINGULARITY SKY. Now, via John Scalzi, I see that Stross has a new book coming out. I haven’t read it, but Scalzi has seen an advance copy and thinks it’s going to be the book to beat in 2005, which has him a bit depressed since his book is one of the ones that will have to beat it. Not having read the new Stross book, I can’t say, but Scalzi’s is very strong. And Scalzi’s gotten a lot of blog-buzz, though he’d probably get more if, like Stross, he had a warblogger as a major character . . . .
TOM MAGUIRE continues to look at Social Security reform.
INSTAPUNDIT’S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO-CORRESPONDENT, Maj. John Tammes, sends this photographic evidence that the Afghan economy is booming.
UPDATE: Humor is lost on some people, who apparently also didn’t put their cursor over the image . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: D’oh! Reader David Block emails: “Your suggestion about putting the cursor on the image does nothing for me in Firefox.” Dang. I didn’t realize that “alt” tags aren’t displayed in Firefox. You can read it if you click “properties,” but it doesn’t automatically appear as it does with Explorer. I didn’t notice.
MORE: Thanks to reader David White, who explained how to make it pop up in Firefox (title=”" is the tag).
I HAD HOPED that the hatemail would fade after the election, but that hasn’t been entirely the case. Andrew Sullivan posts an example that, I’m sorry to say, invokes my name — and misspells it. Sigh.
UPDATE: Actually, I think that Zephyr Teachout wins the “hate-filled missives of the week” award, with the comments to this post from angry Deaniacs. Excerpt: “I would not walk across the street to piss in your mouth if you were dying of thirst. Your are the most wretched scum I have ever seen. I remember meeting you in Iowa & thinking that you were not only harsh to look at but so full of yourself that you will probably always be single.” It gets worse, but it sounds to me as if the writer probably hasn’t experienced a lot of love himself.
Tim Blair observes: “These people seem unusually upset. Perhaps Canada rejected their immigration applications.” I don’t think that’s the problem with Sullivan’s hatemailer, though.
HERE’S A TRANSCRIPT of Hugh Hewitt’s defense of blogs from a full-bore Bill O’Reilly attack.
UPDATE: Ed Cone says that Hewitt and O’Reilly misstated what was going on with the Kos/Teachout affair. I think he’s right, though it’s surprisingly hard to be nuanced on TV (and especially on O’Reilly’s show in my experience.) As I’ve said before, though, I think that what’s really interesting is what was going on in the Dean Campaign’s thinking, not what was going on with Kos.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has more. When was I on O’Reilly? Back in 2000 (yes, before InstaPundit). He let me get about three words in edgewise once he saw that I wasn’t going where he wanted me to (basically, he wanted me to say that the Clinton Administration was the most unethical in history, bar none), which mystified me since I’d had long conversations with his producer and sent them a copy of the ethics book that the appearance was about. The book isn’t exactly a robust defense of Clinton, but Lanny Davis has used it as a classroom text, so it’s not exactly red-meat Clinton-bashing either.
MORE: Chris Suellentrop has an interesting piece on the Kos/Teachout affair over at Slate. One quibble: He says that some people call Kos a “liberal InstaPundit.” That’s true, people do, but as I wrote here, it’s not really an apt analogy. Kos is a political activist, while I didn’t even get invited to the inauguration (nor would I have gone if I had; I was invited to stuff at Clinton’s first inaugural and didn’t go even though I was single and living in Charlottesville at the time, just an hour or two away — that stuff just bores me).
BLACKFIVE OFFERS A WITHERING ASSESSMENT OF THE NEWS MEDIA’S IRAQ COVERAGE, from a soldier in Iraq: “Unfortunately, this sort of incomplete reporting has become the norm for the media, whose poor job of presenting a complete picture of what is going on in Iraq borders on being criminal.”
UPDATE: Related post here, from Lance Frizzell.
THE FIRST ABU GHRAIB CONVICTION: One might think that these prosecutions would undermine claims of moral equivalence.
RUSSELL BERMAN HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON LESSONS FROM THE TSUNAMI:
First and foremost, the myth of Islamic solidarity has been shattered. Even though most victims in Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country on the face of the earth, are Muslim, the support flowing from Arab governments has been pitifully small. The decades of petrodollars and the years of high gas prices have apparently not put the oil-rich Middle East in a position to afford to offer much help to Muslims in distress.
But as Islamic victims receive support from the non-Islamic world, the already dubious claim that the general opinion of Muslims in the Middle East might be predisposed to rise up against the West becomes simply untenable.
In the face of a real disaster, neither the fundamentalists nor the Baathists nor the anticolonialists have done much at all. In contrast, the energy of the Western relief effort is likely to put a deep dent in the anti-Western — and especially anti-American — propaganda of the Islamicists.
Second, the generosity of the developed world has been considerable, especially from such regional neighbors as Japan and Australia but also from the United States and Europe. The tendentious suggestion that the United States was “stingy” failed to note that the “old European” powers initially proposed relatively low offers of aid as well. Only as the real extent of the disaster became clear did these amounts grow to many times their original size.
Moreover, the outpouring of support has highlighted the importance of private giving and therefore the role of society beyond the state, just as it has shed light on the marginal standing of the United Nations.
UPDATE: Here’s a claim that the Saudis have done more than they’re getting credit for.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY: Reader Jim Herd points to this interesting look at digital photojournalism ten years ago:
It was hard to know if the NC2000e was actually taking pictures properly. It had no LCD for playing back the images it was supposedly recording and, of course, no spinning film rewind knob, nor any way — or need — to open the camera back.
In the middle of the night, somewhere around 3:00am, the shutter blew out,” Kurdzuk says, “but the camera kept working. There was no indication whatsoever that there was anything wrong. Everything I shot after three o’clock had a shutter blade straight through the middle of the frame. That kind of stuff happened all the time.” (A different NC2000′s blown shutter is shown at left.)
Kurdzuk pauses for a moment, and then figures out how to sum it all up: “The NC2000, in general, was a practice in masochistic anxiety.” . . .
There’s lots of interesting stuff. Read the whole thing.
VARIOUS LEFTY EMAILERS, mostly in rather nasty tones, have asked me to write about the shutdown of the Iraq Survey Group’s search for WMD stockpiles. It didn’t seem like big news to me, since I was actually under the impression that they had already given up. Still, I won’t invoke Tim Worstall’s remarks, because I suppose the issue still has some importance even if I have addressed it before.
But I think that the whole “the war was all about weapons of mass destruction” meme is a bit dishonest. First, it’s worth remembering (here’s a list of resolutions on Iraq) that the burden was on Saddam to prove that he didn’t have the weapons, and nobody thought he’d done that. Second, and more important from my standpoint, was that the war was about remaking the Middle East, helping to establish a democracy in a vital spot, neutralizing a longtime, and still-dangerous foe with ties to terrorists, and putting the U.S. in a position to threaten Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, not simply about getting rid of WMD stockpiles. (This was no secret. Even John Kerry said that he would have gone to war even knowing that there were no WMD stockpiles.)
The biggest criticism of the Bush Administration here is that (1) it made the mistake of listening to George “slam dunk” Tenet and the CIA on this issue; and — bigger mistake — (2) it made the mistake of trying to go through the United Nations, which required it to make more of the WMD business than was otherwise necessary. The former mistake is more forgivable, since it wasn’t just the CIA, but pretty much everyone, who thought Saddam had the stockpiles. The second mistake is less so, since it was pretty obvious that the U.N. route was a mistake. The result: Saddam was in violation, but after all the U.N. speechifying the absence of big weapons stockpiles is a major PR failure.
The Bush Administration does seem determined to fix the CIA, which is clearly called for. Whether it has learned its lesson regarding the U.N. is less clear.
That so many of Bush’s critics want to focus on the WMD issue, instead of on making Iraq work for Iraqis, and on freeing the rest of the mideast, is, sadly, typical. But the Bush Administration’s excessive solicitude toward the U.N. (which is still manifest in its soft-pedaling of the oil-for-food scandals) was a dreadful mistake, for which both the Bush Administration and, ironically, the U.N. are both paying a price.
UPDATE: Reader Michael Grant emails:
I suppose this could be included under your claim (with which I agree) that it was a mistake to go to the U.N., or perhaps the mistake in listening to George “Slam Dunk” Tenet.
But perhaps the most interesting thing I read in Bill Sammon’s book Misunderestimated was that we were originally intending to give three different presentations to the U.N. supporting our intention to go to war: WMD, human rights violations, and ties to terrorism. But for some reason the Bush administration decided somewhat late in the game to focus only on WMDs, and in hindsight that left us with nothing but Colin Powell’s discredited presentation.
I’m not sure why that decision was made, but in hindsight, it would have been good to emphasize more these other two aspects of our warmaking decisions to the U.N, and to the public at large. I know the administration always said it was about more than WMDs, but apparently they decided that the WMD argument was their most compelling one and gave it the vast majority of airtime.
Yes, that was a mistake. I imagine that diplomats thought that human-rights arguments wouldn’t have much sway at the U.N., which is probably true, but as subsequent events have demonstrated, the U.N. wasn’t the real audience anyway.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts here:
The persons who are all jumping up and down in glee because no WMD were found in Iraq (thereby, in their opinions, vindicating their position) conveniently omit one inconvenient bit of information. Those same people argued that Iraq should not be invaded and Saddam should not be removed even if Iraq possessed WMD. Thus, the full argument is that the U.S should not have invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam regardless of whether it had WMD.
Want to test this? Ask any anti-war type or Bush-hater whether he or she would support the war or Bush if WMD were found in Iraq tomorrow.
Indeed, one of the arguments we heard against invading was that it would provoke Saddam into unleashing chemical and biological weapons.
MORE: Reader Terrye Hugentober emails:
Was it the UN weapons inspectors or the US military that ascertained no weapons were in Iraq? It seems to me that many of the Bush administration’s detractors are not only ignoring the fact that most people believed the weapons were there but that most people would still believe it if we had not invaded.
We discovered the true state of our intelligence failures because of this. And it seems obvious as well that if the weapons are not there now then they might not have been there in 1998 when Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox and bombed Iraq.
So, does that make him a war criminal? I do not pretend to know where the weapon stock piles ended up. They could be destroyed or buried in Syria for all I know, but I do know that if Clinton had answered these questions and dealt with these issues effectively a decade ago we would not be having this discussion now.
After all if Bush were really as dishonest as some of the Bush haters say he is he could have planted the damn things, now couldn’t he?
And if he’d found the real thing, a lot of his critics would have said they were plants. Meanwhile, Merv Benson emails:
The debate on this issue should have been framed on the issue of Saddam’s failure to account for all his WMD, much of which he had earlier declared. If the war was about the US unwillingness to take a chance on his failure to account for weapons that would be incredibly dangerous in the hands of terrorist, then the US inablility to account for those same weapons after the war would only suggest that the dangerous weapons are still unaccounted for. The US would be in the same position as an auditor brought in to find missing money in a bank account. If it is still missing it does not mean that it was a mistake to audit the account.
STILL MORE: Reader Joe Berkel looks on the bright side:
Someone likely has made this observation before, but it flows from Mr. Benson’s comment.
One rarely gets a chance to field test a major intelligence issue; Iraq gave us the opportunity to do so on WMD. Like the past (missile gaps, Soviet economic strength, and others), the CIA and other intelligence agencies have come up woefully short. One hopes the Administration is truly serious about overhauling the intelligence community (afterwards, they can do the same with domestic law enforcement, starting with the FBI – just as dysfunctional).
Good point. And Barry Dauphin emails:
Another reason the UN route may have been a mistake is that the whole process gave Saddam and the Baathists more time to stash weapons, money and to plan for the counteroffensive that has been taking place. The UN process itself helped create the current conditions. And leaving Saddam in place after his clear abuses, bribes and lack of following resolutions would have itself weakened the UN as well as the WoT. The UN resolutions would still be sitting there in a further state of violation or they would have been lifted. In the event of the latter, Saddam would have bio and/or chemical WMD even as we speak. We wouldn’t be arguing about the democratization of Iraq, we’d be wondering how the hell we can protect ourselves from biological attack. That much is
clear from the Duelfer report.
The most telling criticism of the Bush Administration on Iraq, I think, is the one that Bill Quick is always making — that the “rush to war” was in fact too slow, robbing us of surprise and momentum.
YET MORE: James Hudnall calls this a “decent post,” but says I’m leaving out some important stuff.
CHARLES PAUL FREUND notes the further decline of free speech in Britain, and notes this from Salman Rushdie:
The continuing collapse of liberal, democratic, secular and humanist principles in the face of the increasingly strident demands of organised religions is perhaps the most worrying aspect of life in contemporary Britain.
That’s rather disturbing.
UPDATE: Justin Katz writes that Rushdie is being a bit euphemistic regarding “organised religions.”
THE KOS/TEACHOUT STORY has made Slashdot, where it has inspired considerable discussion.
TIM WORSTALL: ” I must have missed that lesson at the Blogging Academy where it is pointed out that I have to respond to every passing crank, especially when there are other posts here which explain exactly my views on such matters.”
Heh. Though I kind of like the idea of a Blogging Academy. Not quite as cool as the Starfleet Academy, it’s true, but still . . . .
UPDATE: Reader Scott Llewellyn emails: “I assume someone already wrote in that the Blogger Academy should be named ‘Blogwarts.’”
THE NEW “HISTORY CARNIVAL” is a roundup of, what else, history-blogging. Here’s the first installment.
SCALIA, BREYER, AND INTERNATIONALIZING CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION: I mentioned a Power Line post on this yesterday. Now Prof. Kenneth Anderson has much more on the subject, and says that Breyer was misquoted by the press:
I was one of the organizers of the Scalia-Breyer debate – I’m a law prof at AU law school – and although the AP quote was, so far as I could tell, accurate, it was taken sharply out of context. Justice Breyer was speaking in a very specific exchange with Justice Scalia about the narrowly judicial act of interpreting legal texts, and it is quite unfair to take that remark about who participates directly in the process of interpreting legal texts that have already been informed by constitutional and legislative and other democratic institutions – judges, lawyers, law students (and it was obvious to the live audience that he included students as a courtesy to the audience of law students) – as being somehow antidemocratic. He was just noting the fact that legal materials, once they have been created through various democratic mechanisms, then become subject to interpretation by the interactions of lawyers and judges. It was nothing more insidious than that.
There’s much more to his post, and I highly recommend it. He also has a post with comments by Prof. Jamin Raskin — though I think that Raskin makes far too much of the Declaration of Independence’s language about “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” In the context of the Declaration, that merely meant that we would explain ourselves clearly, even as we undertook an enterprise that the leaders nearly all “civilized” nations found horrifying.
I’VE BEEN VERY LAME REGARDING SPACEBLOGGING OF LATE, but maybe this post will make up for some of my omissions. First, Jeff Bezos is coming out of the closet regarding Blue Origin, his commercial space operation:
Bezos’ Seattle-based Blue Origin suborbital space venture is starting the process to build an aerospace testing and operations center on a portion of the Corn Ranch, a 165,000-acre spread that the 41-year-old billionaire purchased north of Van Horn, Texas. Over the next six or seven years, the team would use the facility to test components for a craft that could take off and land vertically, carrying three or more riders to the edge of space.
Blue Origin’s team has been laying the groundwork for the hush-hush project from a 53,000-square-foot warehouse in Seattle, but this week’s announcement fills out a puzzle that previously could only be guessed on the basis of isolated rumors. Blue Origin has been the most secretive of several space ventures bankrolled by deep-pocketed private backers — a club that also includes software pioneer Paul Allen (SpaceShipOne), Virgin Group entrepreneur Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) and video-game genius John Carmack (Armadillo Aerospace).
I love it that we’re seeing competition — and I hope that they all succeed. Meanwhile, the Huygens/Cassini probe is a success, with a landing on Titan. Miles O’Brien is blogging it.
This is a big deal, and deserves more attention than I’ve given it, but I’ve been a bit busy this week. Sorry. I’ll try to have more later.
SOME THOUGHTS ON JOURNALISM, HUMILITY, AND RATHERGATE: Over at GlennReynolds.com.
ADAM PENENBERG looks at the problems of journalist bloggers.
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT BLOGS: Frank J. offers a guide for the perplexed.
The independent investigation — clueless, uncomprehending and in its own innocent way disgraceful — pretends that this fiasco was in no way politically motivated. . . .
To what, then, does the report attribute Mapes’s great-white-whale obsession with the story? Her Texas roots. I kid you not. She comes from Texas and likes Texas stories. You believe that and you will believe that a 1972 typewriter can tuck the letter “i” right up against the umbrella of the letter “f” (as can Microsoft Word).
Did Mapes and Rather devote a fraction of the resources they gave this story to a real scandal, such as the oil-for-food scandal at the United Nations, or contrary partisan political charges, such as those brought by the Swift boat vets against John Kerry? On the United Nations, no interest. On Kerry, what CBS did do was ad hominem investigative stories on the Swift boat veterans themselves, rather than an examination of the charges. Do you perceive a direction to these inclinations?
Read the whole thing.
CASHING IN on the tsunami.
ANN ALTHOUSE: “I hate fascism, too. You know like when Sylvester Stallone’s mother, aka Brigitte Nielsen’s ex-mother-in-law, shows up unexpectedly.”
READER GINGER TAYLOR WANTS CAMERA ADVICE:
So I know that you are always reviewing them and I thought you might be a good source.
I am the mother of an absolutely beautiful autistic little boy. Getting pictures of him actually looking at the camera is difficult as his eye contact is poor and when he does look at the camera it is only for a second.
The digital I have, as well as every friends’ camera I have used, all take too long to snap the pic. The only one I have tried that is quick enough was a friends Nikon D100 which I fell in LOVE with, but I don’t have a grand or two to drop on a camera.
Any suggestions for me? I want to be able to get a good picture of my boy more than a few times a year.
She sends a picture, and he is very cute. Here’s the reply I sent:
Sadly, speed pretty much equals price. But all cameras are getting faster. My Sony DSC-93 is MUCH faster than my earlier camera, and it’s about $300. I suspect that newer Sony cameras (like the DSC100) are faster still. If you visit the DPreview or Steve’s Digicams sites on the right of my page under “recommendations,” they have a lot of reviews and usually mention speed.
But I don’t really know a cheap and especially fast digital camera that’s especially good for taking pictures of kids. Anybody got any special recommendations?
UPDATE: Reader Greg Stasiewicz writes:
I got the Canon PowerShot S1 for Christmas, and have been experimenting with it quite a lot. With the right settings it is quite good for quick shutter shots. I don’t know how it compares with the cameras you mentioned, but priced between $300 and $400, it also has excellent resolution, zoom, and image stabilization as well as the ability to record movies with sound as well which I think Ms Taylor might also appreciate for taking pictures of her son. I picked up a 512 MB flash card as well, and at 2048×1036 superfine, I’m still able to store over 300 pictures.
And another one reader sends:
I sell cameras (among other things) for a living, and this is the, hands down, number one request. Most of the newer generation of cameras are very very fast compared to even last years models. Therefore, in no particular order, my recommendations: Fuji E550 (but not the E500 or E510, which are much slower) Casio Exilim EXZ55, Konica Minolta X50,, Konica Minolta Z3, (if an ultrazoom is required), and one of the sleeper hits of the century, the Sony DSC-W1.
The Fuji is my favorite, but it was real battle of the features between that and the Sony. The Fuji won out mainly on dynamic range and lens issues, (being both wider angle and more telephoto) but the Sony has a low light focus assist lamp and a 3:2 aspect ratio mode, plus it’s a bit easier to carry around and feels slightly better built.
The best advice for her is to go to a camera shop and try them all out. Most good shops will keep a powered display with memory, ready for use.
Sorry for the absence of links to all of these; I’m going to bed now and just don’t feel up to finding and adding them. I’ll try to add them tomorrow.
UPDATE: Links added now; sorry, but I was just wiped out last night.
Several readers email to suggest that she try a film camera — still widely available, cheap, and with no lag. And you can get the pictures put on disk at the one-hour place when they’re developed. Not a bad thought.
Name the greater risk to national security: patriotic military translators who happen to be homosexual or anti-American Islamofascist terrorists who happen to be homicidal. If you picked the latter, thanks for putting U.S. safety first. Alas, the Pentagon disagrees.
According to new Defense Department data, between fiscal years 1998 and 2003, 20 Arabic- and six Farsi-language experts were booted from the military under President Bill Clinton’s 1993 “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy. These GIs trained at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. Had they graduated _ assuming 40-hour workweeks and two-week vacations _ they could have dedicated 52,000 man-hours annually to interrogate Arab-speaking bomb builders, interpret intercepted enemy communications or transmit reassuring words to bewildered Baghdad residents.
Read the whole thing. As with Lincoln, I just don’t care where they put their wing-wangs. I wish the Army didn’t, either. (Via Evan Coyne Maloney).
UPDATE: Message to Andrew: After this post, I don’t want to hear any more complaints about “wing-wang.”
POWER LINE NOTES some troubling comments by Stephen Breyer about foreign sources of law.
Breyer may or may not be accurately quoted, but I’ll note a more general point. The “internationalization” of constitutional law is often seen as a liberal project, but it shouldn’t be. Even if “international” is a synonym for “European,” the consequences of importing, say, European law on abortion wouldn’t be so liberal as the rules there are much stricter. I think that it’s a bad idea in general, but I don’t think we’ll see much more than rhetoric in this area.
A RATHERGATE POP QUIZ from WizBang.
I’VE OPENED THE BLOG ETHICS POST BELOW for comments.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has picked up on the Teachout/Kos story. It’s a free link.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Closed now. I deleted the worst comments, but the trolls were getting out of hand. Lots of excellent thoughts, though, from a lot of people.
LARRY KUDLOW SURE IS OPTIMISTIC about the economy. I certainly hope he’s right.
YOU KNOW, THIS is actually worse than my hatemail. That’s no small accomplishment.
UPDATE: On the other hand, I got this today, in response to my “thank you” for an Amazon donation:
It was long overdue. I’ve loved your blog for awhile now. You wrote previously that donations offset a lot of hate mail that you get, and considering how outrageous and hateful the posters at thepoorman.net were in response to your post about Iran contra/El Salvador, I hope my donation makes a difference (almost halfway there to the new iPod Shuffle!).
Stuck in Madison, WI and eternally grateful for you and Althouse!
Stuff like that makes it worthwhile.
I LINKED TO SOME POSTS CRITICIZING JOHN LOTT over at The Volokh Conspiracy a while back. Now Eugene Volokh has posted a response by Lott.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Greg Djerejian points to this Financial Times story saying that the U.S. was aware of oil-for-food fraud in early 2003 but did nothing. (Well, not exactly nothing — we invaded a couple of months later . . . .)
Greg is somewhat skeptical about this story, but I guess we’ll just have to see what turns up. Was Marc Rich involved somewhere?
JEEZ, HOW LAME: Charles Johnson reports that CBS has altered the PDF on their report to prevent copying and pasting. I suppose this could be a technical glitch of some kind (some bloggers have an HTML bug that does that) but it’s kind of hard to give those guys the benefit of the doubt at this point.
UPDATE: More from Captain Ed.
MORE: Jonah Goldberg: “Maybe there’s some other explanation, but if someone actually told a web-lackey ‘make it harder for the blogs to make fun of us’ then, well, then that’s just sad.”
STILL MORE: Wizbang has a handy HTML version that’s easy to link and to cut-and-paste.
PRIVACY SPOT is a blog about privacy.
“REALITY-BASED” MEANS NOT REAL, according to the Linguistic Society of America. Sort of like the difference between “grape juice” and “grape drink,” I guess.
THE ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS SCANDAL is sending shock waves through the PR world.
MORE ON RATHERGATE: From Hugh Hewitt, in The Weekly Standard.
I MENTIONED GM BEFORE, but now it’s Apple that’s having problems with the blogosphere:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said yesterday it would defend bloggers’ right to protect anonymous sources who disclosed that Apple would release a product code-named “Asteroid.” A lawyer for the group said it’s one of the first cases nationwide, if not the first case, that would address whether Web loggers, or bloggers, can protect confidential sources. Apple filed the suit last week in California.
I think that bloggers should have the same rights (no more, no less) that other journalists possess under applicable law. But I’m pretty sure that Apple wouldn’t have subpoenaed bigshot journalists at all.
This has Bill Hobbs rethinking his computer purchases. He’s looking at a Dell Inspiron 700m in place of an Apple. I have one of those, and as I noted earlier, I’ve been quite happy with it. But now when people ask me why I don’t own a Mac, I can blame Apple’s heavy-handed tactics.
UPDATE: Some readers think I’m being unfair to Apple when it was just “defending trade secrets.” But Bigwig sent a link to what he says is the post in question, and it looks like the same kind of thing, only without photos, that GM was upset about. It’s just a leak of a product announcement ahead of Apple’s PR schedule; I guess that you could call that a “trade secret,” but it hardly seems to justify such a vigorous response, and it makes Apple look bad to me even if (as isn’t at all clear to me) they were entirely within their legal rights to do so.
Robert Tagorda has more thoughts.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Eugene Volokh looks at the California shield law and remarks:
So if a blog is considered a “periodical publication” — which most blogs are (the exact “period” in the sense of interval between posts isn’t fixed, as it is for a newspaper, but they are “periodical” in the sense that they publish repeatedly, and are usually expected to have new material at least as often as many standard periodicals) — then it sounds like they have an open-and-shut case. We don’t even have to ask whether bloggers are “journalists”; so long as they are “person[s] connected with . . . [a] periodical publication,” they are entitled to disregard subpoenas that call on them “to disclose the source of any information procured while so connected . . . for publication in . . . [a] periodical publication.”
I’m not at all sure that I approve of such privileges, but if they exist, then bloggers should benefit just as much as bigshots. Here, by the way, is an article from last month’s New York Sun on how bloggers threaten special privileges for journalists simply be existing. Maybe — or maybe they broaden the constituency for such privileges.
MORE: A contrary view:
And really, does a “free society” really depend on getting out Apple’s latest product developments ahead of when they want it to get out? Not even a little. Even if PowerPage is a blog, do bloggers want to push this point as far as the EFF is doing and demand full press shield privileges? I’ll tell them the same thing I tell trademark attorneys who keep push, push, pushing their ever-growing bundle of rights on the rest of the world: Be careful what you wish for.
Hmm. I want parity, but I’m not crazy about press shield laws. And an awful lot of what the Big Media folks report is just as trivial as Apple’s latest product developments.
Meanwhile, Shannon Love says that I’m wrong to criticize Apple here.
MORE STILL: Here’s an article from the WSJ on the lawsuit (free link). Excerpt:
It will be difficult for Apple to prove that Think Secret’s coverage violated its trade secrets, says Robert E. Camors, an intellectual property lawyer at Thelen Reid & Priest LLP in San Jose, Calif. Trade secrets usually deal with the formula behind products — not simply the details about the products’ release, he says. Secondly, it would be difficult for an Apple rival to benefit from the news the site has reported. “No competitor can design and market a product in two weeks,” he says.
Seems weak to me, too, but that’s not my field.
Here’s some advice on bribery: If you’re out to corrupt a journalist, bribe one who doesn’t already agree with your position. It’s just sinful to squander tax dollars on paying off a supporter. Good press should be free.
True, Armstrong Williams is hardly a journalist, but rather a commentator with a self-described conservative agenda. He was dropped by his syndicate (as well as The Denver Post) for accepting $240,000 from a public relations firm hired by the Department of Education to promote No Child Left Behind.
Williams was greedy. The Department of Education was flat-out wrong. And the whole affair is tawdry.
Indeed. He has some thoughts on RatherGate and blogs, too.
IN THE MAIL: Varieties of Conservatism in America, a volume edited by Peter Berkowitz and containing essays by a rather broad assortment of thinkers.
Or, for a somewhat less-sophisticated example of brawling within the Big Tent, you can read this post and follow the links!
There’s also a companion volume, Varieties of Progressivism in America, that looks interesting, too.
BLOGFLUENCE: Here’s something from Zephyr Teachout that I didn’t know:
In this past election, at least a few prominent bloggers were paid as consultants by candidates and groups they regularly blogged about. . . .
On Dean’s campaign, we paid Markos and Jerome Armstrong as consultants, largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean. We paid them over twice as much as we paid two staffers of similar backgrounds, and they had several other clients.
While they ended up also providing useful advice, the initial reason for our outreach was explicitly to buy their airtime. To be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment — but it was very clearly, internally, our goal. . . . Imagine Howard Dean hiring Maureen Dowd!
Somebody tell Oliver Willis! Meanwhile, apparently, I’ve missed out on yet another gravy train. (Thanks to Ed Cone for the tip).
UPDATE: Here’s Kos’s disclosure post, sent to me by a reader who thinks it’s inadequate. I’m not so sure, but the interesting disclosure to me is the one above, about what the campaign thought it was doing by hiring Kos, rather than what Kos thought.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Blair has thoughts.
MORE: Jeff Jarvis has much more on this subject, including this observation:
The campaign used these guys. The campaign knew that. But the bloggers didn’t. The bloggers thought their wisdom was being sought out; they were paid to consult. No, they were paid to market, to flack.
Read the whole thing, which is about culture and trust. Meanwhile, Markos sends this email:
The problem with Armstrong Williams is two-fold: 1) he did not disclose the arrangement, and 2) he was paid taxpayer dollars. If Williams wants to be paid by Scaife or any other right wing think tank or funder, then It would be whole different matter.
The problem with Zephyr is that she fails to note that Jerome and I (mostly Jerome) set the Dean campaign on the path of blogging and MeetUps. Jerome had the first Dean site up on the web, the first Dean-specific blog, set up MeetUp for them, and was the catalyst for the netroots pro-Dean movement. THAT’S why we were hired by the campaign, to offer more such suggestions. Given that our relationship was with Trippi and not Zephyr, I’m not sure what jealousies or internal politics we ran afoul with Zephyr.
Note that Jerome quit blogging after he joined their campaign (at a time MyDD got more traffic than Daily Kos), so if they were paying for favorable blogging from us, that didn’t quite work out. Remember, he was the biggest Dean booster online. Instead, he worked as their Director of Internet Advertising. As for me, I disclosed the arrangement and had a link to that disclosure post up on the site for the entire duration of the arrangement, even though we were being paid essentially for Jerome’s work, not for anything I was doing.
So 1) I disclosed the arrangement, and 2) I didn’t take taxpayer dollars. If this isn’t enough to satiate you and other critics, so be it. But really, I’d like to hear what more you’d think was appropriate.
In any case, given that Daily Kos is self-sufficient now, I quit the consulting biz. Though I reserve the right to go back in if I want to help a candidate I believe in, with full-disclosure as I did before.
And Jerome emails:
I was on blogging hiatus during the time I worked on the Dean campaign getting paid, Aug to Dec, 2003. Actually on hiatus from much earlier to much later.
As I say above, I’m not actually convinced that Kos or Jerome did anything especially wrong here — not withstanding my tweaking of Oliver Willis, who seems a bit overexcitable these days — but the dynamic with the campaign interests me. I think that Jeff (and Zephyr) are right that the issue is a cultural one more than a legalistic or formally “ethical” one. I don’t want a Code, which people will promptly lawyer to death. (Trust me on this one). I want attitudes and norms.
On the other hand, Kos may want to be a little embarrassed about writing this. Or at least a bit slower to take that kind of tone in the future.
STILL MORE: In response to my comment just above, Kos emails:
What’s your point here? The administration is using tax dollars to pay conservative pundits (and crazy amounts at that). Williams says there are more. Until people own up to who is on the take, I’m willing to assume they all are.
Why that should be embarrassing is beyond me.
The point, however, is that Kos is being treated rather more generously above than he’s treating others (and, I suspect, more generously than he would treat me were our positions reversed, though I hope I’m wrong about that), and yet he is happy to presume the guilt of, basically, everyone who disagrees with him. I could just as easily ask how many other lefty bloggers (since Zephyr says there were more, too) were on campaigns’ payrolls, and pronounce the entire lefty blogosphere suspect.
YET MORE: Zephyr Teachout posts an update in a separate post:
This has to do with OUR motives, not some contract, and no compromise on their part. Instapundit gets it right — this is about the market that’s created.
Furthermore, I’m not claiming that Kos didn’t have a disclaimer — he did, we’ve talked about this for over a year, there’s no revelation here. I don’t think the disclaimer was what I’d like to see, and I really wish he — and every other blogger/consultant — had an easy to find, prominent client list of all clients at all times.
But this isn’t about Kos or a few thousand bucks, and its certainly not about a $240,000 contract to shill for the federal government. As one commenter said, c’mon, that was wild west days — this will all calm down.
My interest–and where our focus needs to be, whether you’re a little green football or a kossack — is in collectively building a culture online where we figure out norms for people who both consult and write online so that readers can have the tools to be skeptical, active participants.
I’d like to see that, too. And Kos emails to say that I’m wrong, and that he wouldn’t jump on me if the situations were reversed — in fact, he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what the DaschlevThune bloggers did. We disagree about that; I think they should have disclosed.
Anyway, in the interest of getting some reader feedback on these issues, I’m opening comments for a while, until the trolls or the spammers get out of hand, anyway. Your comments on how these things should be handled — civil and free of unnecessary point-scoring, please — would be appreciated.
MICHAEL MOORE: A Karl Rove Mole? Might as well be:
The film maker may be a big hero to Hollywood, but the legacy of his films has been to discredit the causes he champions. Just ask John Kerry.
Fahrenheit 9/11 was timed to coincide with the 2004 presidential election for the sake of maximum interest and box office — but its publicity and controversy was a distraction to the Democrats at the moment they were trying to get their message out. Taking a stance against the Iraq war became more difficult, not less, after the movie was released, forcing Democrats to distinguish their criticisms from those of the silver screen conspiracy theorists.
Who can forget how Gen. Wesley Clark’s Democratic primary campaign had to spend several days extricating their candidate from the bear hug of the radical filmmaker? In the general election, John Kerry was likewise forced to walk the Fahrenheit tightrope — distancing himself from Moore without alienating the party’s liberal anti-war base that was turning out in droves and filling movie theatres with applause.
Indeed. Cui bono?
ROGER SIMON has some tough questions for Dick Thornburgh.
BALLISTIC FINGERPRINTING FAILS, and SayUncle says “I told you so.”
I’M NO FAN OF THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES, but I don’t really have a lot to say besides “jeez, can’t the Supreme Court answer this kind of thing with a single, clear opinion?” Previous courts seemed to manage. . . .
But this is Doug Berman’s moment to shine. Just head over to his Sentencing Law and Policy blog and keep scrolling.
The one powerful selling point to me about private accounts is that they might keep some money within families, to be passed down to kids or grandkids as an inheritance. I know from personal experience (or, rather, lack of personal experience) that an inheritance of even $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 at the right time in a young person’s life can make a huge difference in all sorts of ways, from clearing out debt to providing a car (and hence employment opportunities) to a down payment on a house, and more.
It seems to me the inheritance angle is the best way to sell any reform–and it should be, because that is the one that can actually change and improve people’s lives, which is really the point of the reform effort. Nobody cares that the system is going “broke”–there are always ways to “fix” that (and we will, through pushing back benefits most likely). The whole government, despite any recent surpluses, is impervious to accounting rigor and standards. Nobody seems interested in attacking the morality of a mandatory savings system, either.
But what I think most people can get around is that a system that allows people, especially lower-middle- and lower-class people to conserve some capital over time is a good thing, regardless of any other ideological/political affiliation. . . .
Oh, and it would help to offer some specifics.
Read the whole thing, especially if you’re Karl Rove.
RAINING ON THE “DEATH SQUAD” PARADE: David Adesnik dissects the story that had some of the more excitable sectors of the blogosphere excited. So does Greg Djerejian and — interestingly, defending Rumsfeld in the process — Matthew Yglesias.
UPDATE: Here’s more from Jonah Goldberg:
Okay now, let’s clear a few things up. First of all, the “El Salvador Option” was used in — hold on, let me get my map, yes, yes, that’s right — El Salvador, not Nicaragua. Whatever the merits or demerits of American policy in El Salvador or Nicaragua, the effort in El Salvador did not lead to the Iran-Contra scandal. Newsweek seems to think that piling on negative associations with Latin American foreign policy will help dramatize a story they might not even have in the first place. After all, the substance of the initial story is that people inside the Pentagon are discussing their options. Someone reorder my adult diapers, that is scary!
What is particularly piquant — that’s right I used the word piquant — about the conflation of Nicaragua and El Salvador is that it suggests America’s entire effort “down there” was nothing but folly, hubris, and imperialism. That is, after all, what the Left believed at the time and still believes today. That’s fine, I suppose, but it should help remind all of us that the Cold War was not exactly an issue that received a lot of bipartisan consensus in the 1980s, despite the efforts of liberals today to pretend otherwise. We’ve heard a lot from liberals in recent months about how the Cold War was marked by a consensus across the ideological spectrum and how George Bush’s greatest failure is not pursuing a similar consensus on the war on terror. All of this is ahistorical and dishonest twaddle. . . .
What united opponents of American policy in Central America was a vague sense that we were on the wrong side. They tittered at Reagan’s declaration that the Contras were freedom fighters. They made movies that turned the leftists into the good guys in El Salvador. John Kerry, Pat Leahy, Tom Harkin, and other titans of international statesmanship actively worked against American foreign policy. “I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them what to do,” Kerry said about American relations with the Soviet client Sandanista regime. He lent his name to support groups aiding the Communist-controlled regions of El Salvador.
I have no doubt that opposition to the “death squads” was also based on revulsion at some of their excesses. But there can be no doubt that they were also vexed that we were fighting Communists at all. Moreover, our special forces were not sent to El Salvador to train anybody to murder people. They were sent to help stop the widespread civil chaos and murder being perpetrated by others. They largely succeeded.
He continues in the same vein, which makes me wonder if making comparisons to Central America will help the Left, or simply bring up a lot of things that a lot of people would rather gloss over today.
MORE BOOKBLOGGING: John Scalzi’s book, Old Man’s War, gets a very positive review from Prof. Bainbridge: “I was absolutely blown away; it literally was one of those ‘you can’t put it down’ books. I started reading it at lunch and had to force myself to break away two hours later in order to get some work done.”
I told you it was good. Judging by its still-high Amazon rank, a lot of people agree.
AUSTIN BAY has a RatherGate question: “If it was common knowledge that Mr.Burkett was something of a Bush-hating crank, why would someone of Ms. Mapes/Mr. Rather [ed: ilk? position?] accept information passed to him? Both people know the Texas political scene intimately; know the legitimate mantel bearers and the pretenders. It is understandable that they could have been hoodwinked by an insider, but by Burkett? ”
UPDATE: Much more in a roundup from Tom Maguire.
UNSCAM UPDATE: Norm Geras looks at Kofi’s new fix-it guy, who seems to have some grasp of reality, at least.
NOEL SHEPPARD WRITES that if the past few years have been a depression, as some have claimed, he’d like another, please.
THE DOWNSIDE OF THE lovely weather mentioned below is that my seminar room was roasting this afternoon. If my “cancel class at 80 degrees” rule applied to indoor temperatures, that would have been it.
IT WAS AN AWFULLY NICE DAY for January. I have a rule that I cancel class if it breaks 80 in January, and that won’t be triggered. But it hit the 70s and I had to take some time off to walk around campus. And, being a good geek blogger I had my digital camera with me. Here are a few pictures for the Knoxville expats and UT alumni who are always requesting such.
If you’re cold and miserable up in the dreary north, well, I’m sorry. But you can console yourself that, given the changeable quality of East Tennessee weather, we’ll probably have a blizzard next week.
But what I like about the weather here is that it is changeable. The thing I disliked about living in northern climes — like New Haven, Cambridge, or, especially, Heidelberg, was the absolutely unrelenting quality of winter once it set in. Here, it relents, and we appreciate the break.
(Other pics moved to the extended-entry area to speed loadtimes; click “read more” to see them).
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE DRUNKEN GARDENER: An interesting case of contracting around the problem.
EXTREME BLOGGING: Andrés Trevino is blogging his son’s stem-cell transplant.
SOME VERY GOOD PHOTOBLOGGING FROM IRAQ.
RATHERGATE CONTINUES: More on developments at GlennReynolds.com.
HEH. All I can say to IowaHawk is, “We’re not worthy!”
Er, and how did you know about the aviary and the smoking jacket?