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May 10, 2003

SELL YOUR ARBY'S STOCK: Mike Hendrix is Fisking the new "Homestyle Pot Roast sandwich:"

“Reminiscent.” Yeah, right. I suppose you could say it’s “reminscent” in the sense that it is in fact made from some sort of meat or meat product. I’m mildly surprised that my mom hasn’t called me in tears yet after seeing this commercial, begging for reassurance that her pot roast was never like this. I know pot roast. I’ve cooked pot roast. You, sir, are no pot roast.

Read the rest.

A READER IS UNHAPPY ABOUT THIS:

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- Position Available: Interpreter, must be fluent in Klingon.

The language created for the "Star Trek" TV series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County. . . .

"There are some cases where we've had mental health patients where this was all they would speak," said the county's purchasing administrator, Franna Hathaway.

County officials said that obligates them to respond with a Klingon-English interpreter, putting the language of starship Enterprise officer Worf and other Klingon characters on a par with common languages such as Russian and Vietnamese, and less common tongues including Dari and Tongan.

I just think it's cool. But will they get a Neo chaplain next? He can share an office with the Jedi.

FREQUENT INSTAPUNDIT CORRESPONDENT DAVID BERNSTEIN has started a blog. So has not-quite-so-frequent correspondent Greg Burch.

Be warned (er, or enticed!) -- they're both lawyers. Well, Bernstein's a law professor, but close enough.

DORIAN HO is making SARS look as good as is humanly possible. I'd award an "A" for effort, anyway.

JACOB SULLUM is writing about the idiocy of the assault weapon ban -- and the dishonesty of those who are pretending that it accomplishes anything:

To get around the fact that "assault weapons" are rarely used by criminals, the VPC is now claiming that from 1998 through 2001 "one in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon." This estimate is padded by the inclusion of weapons that Congress does not define as "assault weapons" but that the VPC does. In any case, it indicates that the vast majority of cop killers use guns that no one considers to be "assault weapons."

Notice, too, that banning guns does not prevent them from being used in crimes, which makes you wonder what good even an "improved" ban could be expected to accomplish. Even if cop killers were fond of "assault weapons" and if passing a law could magically eliminate them, it's absurd to imagine that violent criminals could not find adequate substitutes.

The "assault weapon" ban sets a dangerous precedent precisely because the justification for it is so weak. It suggests that you don't need a good reason to limit the right to keep and bear arms, and it invites further restrictions down the road. As far as the gun banners are concerned, that is the whole point.

Funny that we don't see many journalists asking the VPC tough questions about its stance on these issues.

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU'RE JAILED AND THEN EXONERATED: Damn near nothing, writes Emily Bazelon in The New York Times:

Yet when the wrongfully convicted gain their freedom, they're usually not entitled to the social services, like help with housing and jobs, that other released convicts receive. (They're not on probation or eligible for other ex-offender programs.) Just as troubling, they rarely get any money from state governments to make up for the years of lost freedom, livelihood and time with loved ones.

For what they've suffered, these victims deserve better. Since the state fractured their lives, it should help them put the pieces back together.

Most of the innocent get little or nothing because only 15 states and the District of Columbia have laws to help the exonerated collect damages. And some of the statutes aid very few people, either because they severely restrict awards — in California the ceiling is $10,000, no matter how long the unwarranted prison sentence — or limit relief to those lucky enough to get a pardon from the governor instead of relief from a judge.

I think that people who have been wrongly jailed deserve some genuine compensation. Ten grand is pathetic. A hundred grand seems modest. But nobody wants to admit mistakes, and compensation would seem like an admission of just how much harm was done.

READ THE WHOLE THING: Michael Barone writes about Hard America and Soft America, and he's onto something big.

ANDREW SULLIVAN AND MICKEY KAUS are all over the Jayson Blair affair, and Howell Raines. And it looks like they've got the goods.

It certainly appears that my earlier skepticism regarding the role of affirmative action in the Blair matter was misplaced. (See this post, too.) I suppose that's what I get for giving Raines the benefit of the doubt, but, hey, InstaPundit is all about excruciating fairness.

I MISSED THE STORY about the Case Western shooting, but Matthew Rustler has been on the case.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson notes something interesting about the shooter:

Halder was a very active and outspoken member of the loony left anti-war crowd; here is his home page. He was a signer of the Student Committee of the Iraq Action Coalition and the Not In Our Name petition.

Well, "anti-war" isn't necessarily the same as "nonviolent," of course. . . .

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh notes an interesting inconsistency.

KEN LAYNE HAS ONLINE MUSIC over at MP3.com -- and it's pretty good. Kinda like a cross between the Stones and Webb Wilder. Which can't be bad.

JEFF JARVIS HAS MORE ON COURAGEOUS IRANIAN BLOGGERS -- and "courageous" is the word. These people aren't just courting a modicum of criticism on the Internet. They're in danger of being killed by the increasingly-desperate mullahs who still sort of run that unfortunate country.

HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT WHEN JOURNALISTS ATTACK BLOGS they usually seem to make some sort of stupid, glaring error that completely undercuts their point?

That's what the Toronto Star did in attacking Stefan Sharkansky. Despite it being right there in print (well, pixels) columnist Antonia Zerbisias managed to attribute to Stefan a quote that was actually by an anonymous commenter.

Was it utter, unforgivable sloppiness -- or actual, deliberate malice?

Who cares? It's more proof that having an editor and a paycheck doesn't make you God. Or, apparently, even minimally competent.

But as Stefan points out, it can make you popular with Holocaust deniers.

UPDATE: Spoons says I'm wrong:

Zerbisias attributed the quotes as what is being said on web logs and web forums. His attributions were correct. He never attributed the quotes to any particular individuals, and I don't think he made an error at all, much less an error as horrible as you suggest.

Well, it's true that Zerbisias said that the statement appeared "on usefulwork.com," and that, literally, it did, though as a comment. But to say that something appeared "on" a blog is pretty obviously attribution to the blog's author, in my opinion. You could say that, literally, that's not necessarily the case and that everything in the comments is "on" the blog, but that kind of attribution is only fair if it's fair to attribute things said in letters to the editor to the newspapers they appear in. (Er, and I think Zerbisias is a she.)

May 09, 2003

HERE'S THE LATEST on jailed Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi. He's accused of selling "depraved" videos -- of weddings.

Note to Iranian mullahs: you're utterly pathetic. You are neither feared, nor respected for your piety. You're just a joke, in the eyes of the world and, these days, your own people.

BILL HOBBS IS ASTOUNDED BY THE REACTION to his piece on the Bush/AWOL question. He admits to committing premeditated journalism.

MORE ON THE LOOTING THAT MOSTLY WASN'T:

AMERICAN investigators in Iraq have found safely locked in vaults almost 40,000 manuscripts and 700 artefacts previously believed to have been looted from the National Museum in Baghdad.

Next we'll discover that the Jenin massacre never happened. Oh, wait. . . .

RANDY BARNETT IS DANCING ON BILL BENNETT'S POLITICAL GRAVE:

Bennett is more than a moralist; he is a prohibitionist. And he is more than a prohibition advocate, he was the drug-czar almighty. For years he defended the current policy of ruining the lives of drug users — regardless of whether their actions were harming others. Many of us still recall his condescending reply to Milton Friedman's open letter to him in the pages of the Wall Street Journal where he chided the Nobel Prize winner to be serious. From editorial page to podium, Bennett loudly and righteously defended the policy of wre[a]king havoc on his fellow citizens who indulged in different vices than he did — whether or not their vices happened to interfere with their abilities to perform their jobs or be good parents. It did not matter whether or not they had "spent the milk money." All that mattered was whether they were caught by the cops. Then off to the clink with them.

Kurtz says that Bennett is entitled to run a different cost-benefit calculation for gambling than for drugs. Then why has he now said he is setting a bad example to others and quitting? Either he has just changed his cost-benefit analysis this week, or he was a hypocrite last week.

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile Peter Beinart has a long Bennett-savaging piece, too. But although it's about hypocrisy, I find it a lot less persuasive than Barnett's take. Beinart writes:

And, while Bennett may be one of Washington's most high-profile right-wing moralists, he's surely not alone. John Ashcroft, Rick Santorum, Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Alan Keyes, Sean Hannity--they would all come in for similar scrutiny. In fact, dozens, if not hundreds, of Republicans in Congress have probably said the same things about private morality as Bennett. If this sounds like a slippery-slope argument, it is. I don't see any clear principle that justifies exposing Bennett's gambling that wouldn't justify prying into the private lives of most public representatives of the cultural right.

Sorry, but this conveniently one-sided standard, which Beinart sort-of decries but also sort-of deploys, won't wash -- at least, not until the mainstream press, and the Washington punditry, is willing to make as much of the way big-name moralizing lefties like Michael Moore treat the help as it is of the vices of right-wing moralizers. And that day is nowhere close at hand. Otherwise the scandal at living-wage-activism center ACORN would be getting the kind of attention that would be afforded to a sex scandal at Moral Majority headquarters.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel emails:

I think you read that Beinart piece wrong. It's not an attack on Bennett, though it has plenty of nasty things to say about him. It's an attack on people who've suddenly and conveniently jettisoned their alleged social liberalism to attack Bennett.

Well, I puzzled over that, but I think Beinart is trying to have it both ways here, which is what I meant by the language about decrying and deploying. He's sort-of complaining about people jettisoning their alleged social liberalism, but he spends a lot more time attacking Bennett's hypocrisy in terms that sound an awful lot like the pseudo-liberals he's talking about.

RICH LOWRY HAS A QUESTION THAT I'D LIKE TO HEAR ANSWERED -- by Bill Lockyer and John Ashcroft, for starters:

Our tolerance for prison rape, considered a subject fit for late-night TV humor, is a great mystery. We profess to abhor rape, to adore personal dignity, to uphold the rights of the downtrodden -- yet we sentence tens of thousands of men every year to the most bestial kind of abuse, without a second thought beyond the occasional chuckle.

The silence surrounding this national shame has been broken by a right-left coalition in Washington that is pushing federal prison-rape legislation, likely to pass and be signed into law this year. It will be a first step to alleviating the problem, if not the end of the vile jokes. . . .

The bill seems impossible to oppose, but that hasn't stopped elements of the Bush Justice Department from resisting. They worry that the bill trespasses on federalism principles, even though the Supreme Court has held that deliberate indifference to rape violates the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

I don't see the federalism issue here -- you've got state action, and a violation of constitutional rights. So where's Ashcroft on this?

UPDATE: Reader Ken Landa has a suggestion:

Maybe the energy of those intent on protecting those vile consensual-sodomy prohibitions could be channelled into doings something about _forced_ sodomy in penal settings.

Indeed.

UPDATE: TalkLeft has more on this.

HOWARD KURTZ REPORTS THAT everybody hates Mike Bloomberg. It's spun mostly as a failure of political savvy, but I wonder if Bloomberg's policies don't have as much to do with it as his political clumsiness. Bloomberg seems to want to turn New York into Singapore -- only without the efficiency or prosperity. It's not just that he's a political naif, it's that he's a bossy, priggish assaulter of all that New York is supposed to be about.

UPDATE: Well, Bloomberg has his defenders, as reader Clay Boswell writes:

You suggest that Bloomberg is hated because his policies are contrary to what New York is supposed to be about. Which policies are you referring to? The smoking ban--okay. What else? He's not responsible for the MTA fare increase--those are Pataki's people, though nobody seems to recognize that. The school system needs changing, and he's moved there--the only people bothered by that are the bureaucrats in the school board and the people in Albany who won't let go, whether they know what to do with their power or not. And the teachers who shouldn't be teaching--I doubt you sympathize with them. The tax increases? Is New York about low taxes? If they don't rise at least temporarily, New York is going to be about bankruptcy.

On the other hand, reader Dave O'Leary writes:

You hit the nail on the head. He wants to put training wheels on the City. Additionally, we elected him in the hopes that his business acumen could guide us through the tough economic times that obviously lay ahead. Instead he shown himself to be an adherent of everything that's been wrong with NYC economics for the ages. His solution to every financial problem is the same, raise taxes. Additionally, he destroyed much needed credibility by citing fictional statistics during his smoking jihad. The first act of his successor, anyone but Sharpton please, should be to run him out of town.

The smoking ban seems to be a special irritant, and not just among smokers.

DIGITAL COMMUNISM AND MARX'S NIGHTMARE: Arnold Kling reflects.

PAUL STAINES SUGGESTS THAT IRAQ should honor its debts to Russia, "with easily and cheaply sourced Czarist bonds."

HUGH HEWITT HAS BEEN SLANDERING JAMES LILEKS. But at least he didn't mention the underwear thing.

MICKEY KAUS wonders why Paul Krugman is keeping silent.

PATRIOT II SNEAKING IN THE BACK DOOR? TalkLeft notes that -- though the bill was "just a draft" -- it appears to be being passed piecemeal.

May 08, 2003

MARK KLEIMAN WONDERS: WHAT'S RIGHT WING about opposing reactionary theocrats?

Yeah, I've wondered that, too.

UPDATE: And Rand Simberg was wondering that quite some time ago.

MORE REPRESSION OF INDEPENDENT THOUGHT IN JOHN ASHCROFT'S AMERICA:

Animal rights protesters vandalized the home of two UCLA researchers last week, according to a police report filed by the victims.

On-campus demonstrations that coincided with World Week for Animals in Laboratories were followed by protests in some researchers' neighborhoods Monday.

John Schlag, a neurobiology professor, and Madeleine Schlag-Rey, a neurobiology researcher, two targets of animal rights activists, said their home was damaged by protesters.

At 10:15 p.m. Monday night, Schlag said they heard a lot of noise on the street, followed by loud banging and kicking on their door.

"The way it proceeded ... we felt that the door was going to be kicked in," Schlag-Rey said.

The Schlags, whose research focuses on the mechanisms of human sight, filed a police report with the Los Angeles Police Department that listed a broken street lamp and a broken door window as a result of the vandalism. Neighbors told the police that the suspects were wearing masks and dark clothing.

People told me that if Bush became President, we'd have masked thugs banging on professors' doors in the middle of the night.

And, what do you know, we do.

UPDATE: Okay, not everyone got this:

Your sense of irony may be a little TOO subtle, Glenn. When I read the entry entitled, "MORE REPRESSION OF INDEPENDENT THOUGHT IN JOHN ASHCROFT'S AMERICA:", I sat down to rip out a protest letter. I mean, Bush and Ashcroft have plenty of policies that should be opposed, but how do you hang this around their necks? Then I detected the irony (I think).

Then there was this:

Maybe I'm just a bit dim, but I don't get the connection between the animal rights thugs and Mr. Ashcroft. I understand you have concerns with civil liberties with him as AG, but to suggest some kind of link between the two is pretty far off the mark.

I think it's fair to say that the animal rights groups are very far to the left and antigovernment while Mr. Ashcroft is fairly conservatives.

The post was not consistent with your usual quality.

Apparently not. I was paraphrasing the famous joke: "They told me if I voted for Goldwater we'd have half a million men in Vietnam. And sure enough, I voted for Goldwater and. . . ."

INSECURITY AND HIERARCHY IN THE HUMANITIES: An interesting post, with links to still more, from Invisible Adjunct.

SARS UPDATE: Russia is closing down air travel with China. This worries me, since the Russians, quite probably, have a better idea how bad things are in China than I do, and I think that things in China are worse than the media coverage suggests. (Though here is a worrisome media story about 10,000 people being quarantined in Nanjing.)

I hope that I'm wrong, and that Michael Fumento is right, and that this is all overblown.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE INTERNET. Now close those pop-up ads, you asshats!

MATT WELCH HAS MORE ON WHAT CASTRO IS DOING in the unsung part of Cuba that's not Guantanamo.

HERE'S MORE on new legislation relating to nanotechnology, from The Hill.

OKAY, THIS STILL DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT, though it does make it less unique. Here's another picture of Clinton in military garb on an aircraft carrier.

I still don't think that Presidents should do this. Nor do I think that it's wise for Republicans to set standards based on what Clinton did.

UPDATE: John Cole has more. And then there's this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: All right, already! Here's more, and yet more again.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Bruce Rolston says I'm not wrong. Woohoo! He hardly ever says that!

MADONNA IS THANKING THE FRENCH for opposing the war.

I'M PRETTY WELL OVER THE WHOLE BILL BENNETT GAMBLING FIASCO, but there's lots more over at The Corner.

As a libertarian, I'm against bans on gambling. But, that said, I actually think that gambling is probably more socially destructive than many things that morals-types crusade against, like, say, sodomy.

Gambling, after all, sends the signal that the best way to get rich isn't to work long and hard, but to look for the quick score. (Even worse, that message is specifically a lie in the context of gambling, where long-term players generally wind up cleaned out.) Call me crazy, but that seems to me to do more to undermine society than gay people getting married.

Justin Katz, however, disagrees.

KEN LAYNE HAS SOME HIGH POINTS from the recent update to Salam Pax's blog.

THE E.U. -- HAVEN FOR CAT-SKINNERS? Apparently so:

BBC News has seen evidence which suggests that cats are being farmed for their skins in the European Union.

It is thought that tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of cat and dog skins are traded in Europe each year . . .

A video seen by BBC correspondent Tim Franks shows one Belgian furrier displaying a blanket he says was made from cats farmed in Belgium.

What is more, he says that stray cats and dogs are rounded up and skinned.

That would seem to contradict the assertion from the officials who help run the EU at the European Commission that there is no cat or dog farming inside the union.

You can't make this stuff up. God knows what Margaret Drabble would be saying about this if America were involved.

TENNESSEE'S LEGISLATURE IS CONSIDERING A HORRIBLE BILL, modeled on the DMCA. Bill Hobbs has been blogging about it, (be sure you read this post of his in particular,) but you should check out the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network for more information on what looks like a miserable sellout to Big Entertainment at the expense of Tennesseeans' freedom and prosperity.

HEY, thanks to all the folks who hit the PayPal and Amazon Honors buttons over the past week. It's much appreciated.

BILL HOBBS HAS A LONG POST ON THE "Bush was AWOL" story, and says it's bunk.

THE ILOO WEB-ENABLED TOILET doesn't provide much of a blogging platform, according to this report.

MORE VIDEO STUFF: Over at the University of Tennessee Law College website we've got a streaming video of interviews with students. We did a poll and focus groups on student attitudes and discovered, interestingly enough, that our students are happier than we thought, and that they generally like law school better, and for different reasons, than they expected when they decided to come. So we've got a couple of dozen of them talking about what they like and why. The rather high degree of diversity shown, by the way, wasn't deliberate: the Student Bar Association put out a call and this is who showed up.

I think we may break this down into several shorter elements, as it's a bit long, but it's not bad as a first effort.

SILENT RUNNING has moved. Drop by, say hello, and luxuriate in the fact that the permalinks will probably work now.

ROD LIDDLE WONDERS WHY THE BBC CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH:

Where did this political correctness come from, and why is it swallowed and then spat out so unquestioningly? It’s a sort of terror of the truth, arrogant in its assumptions because it believes ‘ordinary’ people cannot cope with the truth and need it either sweetened or altered entirely.

You could see it at work during the war in Iraq. Now, I was opposed to the war but I was aware that the military campaign was carried out with devastatingly brilliant precision and speed. And yet, watching television — Channel 4 or the BBC or, for that matter, Sky — there seemed a determination to present at every juncture the worst-case scenario as if the war, because it was inherently ‘immoral’, could not therefore possibly be expedited with success. Maybe it is just my imagination, but I seem to remember being told, every night, that the prospect which awaited our troops was a ‘quagmire’ of ‘hand-to-hand street fighting’. Where’s the quagmire, huh? Where are the fights? I don’t object to the speculation; just the one-sided nature of the speculation — as if it were in some way indecent to have someone suggest that the war would be over by the end of next week and very few people would be killed. . . .

This is the result of institutionalised political correctness; every bit as corrupting as institutionalised racism. It is the result of seminars and workshops (I remember them well) where journalists are instructed time and again that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are bloody important and don’t you dare suggest that they aren’t.

Yes, journalism could do with fewer seminars, and more actual reporting. And not just at the BBC.

UPDATE: Reader Chris Thornton thinks its worth noting that:

Up until a couple of months ago, Rod Liddle was the editor of the Today programme, the BBC's flagship morning news show, which pretty much sets the daily agenda for British broadcasters. He knows what he's talking about.

Good point. But will anyone listen?

WANT FRESH BLOGGY GOODNESS? Drop over to this week's Carnival of the Vanities, and enjoy its new, graphic approach.

May 07, 2003

MORE GUNS, NO DIFFERENCE? Mark Kleiman suggests that rates of legal gun-carrying neither increase nor decrease crime, not least because they neither increase nor decrease overall gun-carrying much.

I don't know what to make of this, but in my area -- where gun-carrying, legal or otherwise, is high -- I've been told by law-enforcement people that (1) a very high percentage of the populace, perhaps a third, carries guns on its person or in the car; and (2) that the permitting law caused a small number of those people to get permits, and a small number of people who never carried before to do so, to no great effect overall. I don't know how they know this (but I've heard the same estimate independently from several cops, so they at least think they know it), and the number seems high to me -- but then, I'm a professor and my friends, only some of whom carry guns, are probably not representative. Around here, though, it seems possible that changes in gun-carrying laws haven't changed behavior much. But it seems likely that they would make a bigger difference in jurisdictions where laws on the subject were more vigorously enforced.

What's interesting here, though, is that the "bloodbath" and "Dodge City" predictions made by opponents of liberalized weapons laws have not borne fruit anywhere.

UPDATE: Reader John Kent emails:

I disagree with Mark Kleiman. As long as criminals understand that their intended victims may be carrying a weapon, this is usually enough to prevent a lot of their intended criminal activity. Just look what is happening in England. The criminals know the populace is now unarmed and the crime rate has climbed. I don't have to actually carry a gun in order to benefit from the law. By having the concealed weapon law on the books, the criminals now know that I'm part of a "pack", and not just another member of a "herd".

I don't know what the crime statistics show for the states that now allow the legal carrying of guns, but I have to believe that the overall perception of the population is that they "feel" safer. Individuals are now able to protect themselves, and not just rely on the state to keep them from harm.

Well, I agree -- and on a societal level, recent experience in Britain and Australia, where crime has gone up after firearms confiscations, would seem to suggest that. My point was merely that concealed-carry laws are likely to have a modest effect on crime because they have a modest effect on behavior. If you required law-abiding citizens to carry guns, you'd probably see a greater decrease in crime, because that would be a greater change in behavior. And if you confiscated all guns, you'd probably see a significant increase in crime, because, again, that would be a major change. Complicating these things, of course, is that anti-gun legislation seems correlated with a decreased interest in enforcing laws against actual criminals (again, see Britain) and with a general opposition to self-defense whether armed or not (ditto) and vice versa, and those societal attitudes and changes in official behavior have an impact, too.

That's my take anyway, though I claim no special expertise on the criminological aspects. My scholarship is all in the area of the Second Amendment, and I'm on record as saying that, for Second Amendment purposes, these kinds of considerations are not significant, just as I regard the contentious issue of whether pornography leads to more rape as unimportant for First Amendment purposes.

A WHILE BACK I suggested that some countries might take the hint that the U.S. victory in Iraq meant that dictatorial regimes were at special risk. Apparently, some people have noticed:

Tehran, May 7, IRNA -- Some 154 members of the parliament on Wednesday called on the Foreign Ministry to adopt active diplomacy to restore relations with the United States as a "deterrent approach" to possible threats. . . .

Comparing the popularity of the Islamic Republic of Iran with
the Iraqi 30-year-old dictatorship and Iran's eight-year sacred
defense against the Iraqi-imposed war, the statement said that the
Iraqi people did not defend their country against the coalition
invasion because they no longer were willing that their national
wealth being put at Saddam's disposal.

"We believe that the progress and bright prospects will be available with safeguarding the territorial integrity, independence, freedom and the Islamic Republic and that no excuse is acceptable to ignore our recommendation," the reformist MPs said.

The ripples spread. Read this, too.

NANOTECHNOLOGY IN LIVING CELLS: Derek Lowe calls it unstoppable. Very interesting post.

MORE ON THE TOTALFINAELF CORRUPTION CASE:

An Iraqi-born British billionaire told a French court yesterday how he had paid millions of pounds in kickbacks to French oil executives. . . .

Sweating profusely in the heat of the packed courtroom at the Palais de Justice he confirmed that his company received the money and, more extraordinarily, that 1.4bn pesetas was paid back to Elf, or rather to the senior executives who had set up the deal.

This massive retro-commission, more commonly known as a kickback, first found its way into the bank account of Alfred Sirven, then Elf's head of special operations, and was then distributed in chunks to various other executives, including the company's president, Loik le Flock-Prigent.

Both Sirven and Le Flock-Prigent have already received prison sentences for their roles in the Elf affair.

Constantly mopping his brow with his handkerchief, Auchi stated that he was told by Elf representatives that the deal would be "good for Elf and good for France".

Indeed.

TESTING EXPERT KIMBERLY SWYGERT has more on the Bar Exam misgrading story. Money quote: "I'm not aware of any other large-scale testing program in which an error on the part of the testing company could ever result in scores being changed in a way that disadvantaged the test taker - not after scores were released."

MALARIABLOGGING is an occasional InstaPundit feature from way back. Now there's news of a possible genetic breakthrough against mosquitoes that carry malaria.

Question: If we could wipe 'em all out, should we? It would save a lot of lives -- and prevent a huge amount of misery. On the other hand, lots of things eat mosquitoes, and they might die off if the mosquitoes did, though perhaps other, nonmalarial mosquitoes would just step in to fill the niche.

Meanwhile here's yet another promising malaria vaccine candidate -- but we've had rather a lot of those. And malaria may be making a comeback in Europe. Ugh. I wonder if it was the dreaded transmission via mail that caused this. . . .

HR 766, THE HOUSE NANOTECHNOLOGY BILL, HAS PASSED: Declan McCullagh has a link-rich story on CNET. Here's another story from Small Times, and here's one from the Mercury News.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in John Ashcroft's America. When will this madness stop?

AHEM:

Rather I should die a thousand times, and see old Glory in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours be degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.

Sheesh. What was this guy smoking?

UPDATE: Roger Simon is pretty hard on Robert Byrd: "This man shouldn’t be in the US Senate. He should be in a soup kitchen for the homeless doing penance."

True enough. But I was really twitting TAPPED (that's the "smoking" link) for holding him up as a role model for Democrats. It's like holding Strom Thurmond up as a role model for Republicans. And that would be wrong.

ACTUALLY, IT IS A DISEASE:

I knew that the wave of anti-Americanism that would swell up after the Iraq war would make me feel ill. And it has. It has made me much, much more ill than I had expected.

My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness.

Hey, we don't call it "anti-American bile" for nothing. But admitting to the disease is the first step toward getting help.

UPDATE: Reader Gregory Taylor emails:

Hi Glenn. She vents: "A nation that can paint those faces on death machines must be insane." Well, apparently we learned that little trick from the famously insane Royal Air Force in World War 2. See: Link "The famous "shark's teeth" marking did not originate with the Flying Tigers, but was adapted from the markings used by the Tomahawks of the RAF's No. 112 Squadron in North Africa."

Actually, it's the deep loathing for Coca-cola that is the true sign of insanity. Though, personally, I'd like to see smiley-faces and "PLUR" painted on all our death machines. As with the Medes' babyface makeup, the incongruity would probably unnerve our foes.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, as the Daily Cal is shut down by people who don't like its exercise of free speech. No doubt Tim Robbins will be sounding off in its defense any moment now.

AFGHAN UPDATE: The Taliban are trying for a comeback. This is nuisance-level stuff, but (as Osama would have realized if he hadn't suffered delusions of grandeur), nuisance-level stuff is in some ways more effective than big, splashy attacks.

The way you beat it is to show that people who side with the bad guys don't prosper, and people who side with you do. That takes patience and close attention. Are we providing that in Afghanistan? I don't know. Here's a not-very-encouraging story from the Christian Science Monitor.

I think that Afghanistan was relegated to holding-action status during the Iraq buildup because attention was on Iraq. But, you know, it shouldn't stay in holding-action status because attention is on Iraqi reconstruction.

It's likely, of course, that much of what goes on in Afghanistan has to do with various diplomatic efforts involving Iran (which is surely stirring up trouble there) and Pakistan (which is likely doing the same). Russia and China are likely interested in seeing that things don't go too smoothly there, too. I don't pretend to know what's going on, but the Administration needs to make sure that someone does, and that we're providing sufficient resources to get the job done.

UPDATE: Here's more from Daniel Drezner.

COULD THE NEXT SECRETARY-GENERAL OF NATO be a pro-American Norwegian woman? She even does cheesecake in American-flag gear. (Well, sort of.)

Sounds good to me.

HE WASN'T READY TO DECLARE WAR ON SADDAM, but "antiwar" MP George Galloway is declaring "war" on Tony Blair.

Hmm. Maybe Blair should have just paid him off -- though, by all accounts, he doesn't come cheap.

DAVID PLOTZ OFFERS SEVEN SUGGESTIONS FOR REBUILDING IRAQ: The Oil Trust idea is one of them. Read 'em all.

RADLEY BALKO IS CONTRASTING conservatives' treatment of the Rick Santorum and Bill Bennett affairs.

And, to continue his hypocrisy-busting activities, he also points out a "living wage" group that's shafting its employees.

NOW HERE'S A PILOT WHO KNOWS HOW TO REASSURE PASSENGERS! Well, I'd be comforted.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST TALMUD: "Somewhere, Noam Chomsky is writing his next book." And it's coauthored by OSCAR!

(Sorry, I was channeling Walter Monheit there for a moment).

I'VE GOT SOME THOUGHTS on the Ninth Circuit and the right to bear arms, over at GlennReynolds.com.

Sorry that blogging has been so slow -- I'm home with a sick kid today.

AUSTIN BAY LOOKS AT the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

UGH: A grading screwup on the Multistate Bar Exam.

DAVID APPELL SPANKS BILL MCKIBBEN:

McKibben makes no real argument why we should stop now except that he likes his life, his running, his humanity just the way it is now. But many people do not have McKibben’s life. Some, instead, live a life of great physical pain for which medicine has no answers, or mental torment for which psychology offers no solution. Billions yearn to live at the standard McKibben lives, yet doing with today's technology--even our best technology--would wre[a]k havoc on the planet. Yet McKibben has the audacity to say that our answers can be found in the world as it exists today, as if scientists, engineers, policy makers, and technologists just haven’t been trying hard enough?

McKibben, I believe, would be making this argument whenever he happened to be alive -- 5,000 B.C., a century ago, or two thousand years from now. Preying on fears sells news, articles, and books, and offers a shot at piety at the same time. Finding real honest-to-god solutions does not do as well.

Read the whole thing.

THIS SOUNDS WORSE THAN GUANTANAMO -- so how come nobody's been howling about it?

Some of the last 59 Iraqi soldiers to be held in Iran, out of 60,000 captured, had been imprisoned for more than two decades without communication with the outside world. "Saddam gone?" one former prisoner asked.

He was dressed in a lime green sports jacket that hung from his thin shoulders, the new clothes a parting gift from his Iranian captors. As he stood, he swayed, and then said, "I'm sorry. I have psychological damage in my brain." . . .

Hassan's hands trembled so severely that he could not light a cigarette without help from a comrade. He said he was tortured routinely -- forced to squat for hours, beaten with lengths of cable and rope, shocked by car batteries and had what he thinks was dirty water injected with a syringe into his penis. . . .

Hassan, who was sent to the front for what his superiors in the police department promised would be a three-month tour of duty, described his daily rations: "Four spoons of rice. A half cup of water. A piece of bread."

He said he saw hundreds of prisoners die, most from diseases like dysentery and tuberculosis, others from heart attacks. One of the camps had previously been a stable for animals, he said.

I don't recall any of that happening at Guantanamo, which has gotten a lot more condemnation from the human-rights establishment. And don't bother sending me a link to a press release somewhere. They "go on record" deploring this sort of stuff. But they don't launch major PR offensives about it. And that's because complaining about this sort of brutality doesn't get donors to open their wallets. Criticizing the United States does.

And that's a form of corruption, no less than oil contracts are.

SALAM PAX IS BACK: Or at least, there's a new post on his blog. He was blogging while Internet access was down, and has delivered a bunch of posts to Diana Moon, which are now posted.

UPDATE: [Previous item removed, at Diana Moon's request. I disagree, as I don't think keeping Salam's parents in the doubt about his sexual orientation is in the same category as protecting him from the secret police, but I've done it.]

AIR TRAVEL UPDATE: My flights to and from Palo Alto went fine. Security was okay at this end, but at San Jose's Norm Mineta International Airport it was just about what you'd expect at an airport named for underperformin' Norman: slow, with long lines, and screeners who didn't seem very good.

Now a colleague who travels a lot -- a big Democrat, by the way, not a government-hating conservative -- just stopped by my office to rant about having to wait in a long line only to see, when she got to the gate area, 17 (she counted) uniformed TSA agents sitting in chairs watching the NBA playoffs.

She said she wished she'd had a digital camera with her so that I could post the picture. Me too.

UPDATE: This happened in Austin, Texas, for those who are wondering.

EUGENE VOLOKH is pointing out the difference between statistics and lies.

IT'S A HOWELL RAINES FEEDING FRENZY: Stephen F. Hayes is accusing the New York Times of deliberately getting things wrong in its coverage of Iraq.

And Donald Luskin is stalking Paul Krugman -- claiming that Krugman is feeling the heat over errors in his columns (Luskin calls them "lies"), but still blowing smoke. Luskin has lots of quotes and links.

Meanwhile, the Times itself is reporting that the Baghdad looting story was false:

A top British Museum official said yesterday that his Iraqi counterparts told him they had largely emptied display cases at the National Museum in Baghdad months before the start of the Iraq war, storing many of the museum's most precious artifacts in secure "repositories."

The official, John E. Curtis, curator of the Near East Collection at the British Museum, who recently visited Iraq, said Baghdad museum officials had taken the action on the orders of Iraqi government authorities. When looting started, most of the treasures apparently remaining in display halls were those too large or bulky to have been moved for protection, Mr. Curtis said. . . .

Such measures would mirror actions taken in Iraq before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, primarily as a protection against bombing of Baghdad.

Mr. Curtis's remarks may help explain recent reports by both Iraqi officials and American authorities that losses at the National Museum are less extensive than previously feared. For instance, Col. Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine reservist who is investigating the looting, said recently that Baghdad museum officials had listed only 25 artifacts as definitely missing.

So this happened in 1991, and nobody bothered to check to see if it had happened again? Why? Because they were too anxious to find a story that would make Rumsfeld look bad? It looks that way to me. There seems to be a bit of smoke-blowing here, too, as the Times now says that an undetermined number of never-cataloged items may have been stolen from the basement.

But we were told that 170,000 priceless antiquities had been looted. (Ken Layne has a nice post here.) Now the number of items considered important enough to catalog is 25. Rand Simberg's earlier prediction that this would turn into another bogus story along "Jenin massacre" lines is looking pretty good.

The Times fired Jayson Blair for plagiarism. But at least plagiarists write things that are probably true.

UPDATE: A reader notes that the Times story I quote above was buried on page 20. No surprise there. Meanwhile Jim Miller notes his early and repeated skepticism of the looting story early on. And, for what it's worth, Jonathan Foreman reports that claims that the Oil Ministry was guarded while the museum was ignored are bogus.

UPDATE: And now it's Maureen Dowd who's being savaged for leaving out some crucial truths.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And don't miss this piece from the Washington City Paper about the NYT's sniper coverage.

Hmm. Scandals, inaccuracies, falling circulation, and declining influence. Sounds like bad news to me. How long can Raines last?

MICKEY KAUS on Stephen Glass's new novel:

So Glass writes non-fiction and it's fiction, and he writes fiction and it's non-fiction! The man's a transgressive genius. Subtly subverting all Western literary categories! ... I'd say the "it's all performance art" defense is still open. Glass must be playing a deep Kinbote-like game. The book can't be as flat and cheesy as it sounds.

Heh.

NANOTECHNOLOGY VISIONS: My TechCentralStation column is up with a report from the Foresight Institute conference, and it features exclusive video interviews with Larry Lessig, Eric Drexler, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA, Science Comm.) and more. I knew that being an A/V geek would come in handy eventually. . . .

THIS is kind of embarrassing:

Canadian soldiers are back in Afghanistan, but this time, they don't have any weapons to help protect them. In Ottawa's rush to put Canadian troops on the ground, 25 elite Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan only to find that they are not allowed to carry guns. What makes the situation particularly embarrassing is that the troops have been assigned German bodyguards to protect them. A Global National exclusive report.

Ouch.

"LIKE DOONESBURY, BUT FUNNY:" Here's a story on Chris Muir's excellent Day by Day strip, which is finally starting to get the attention it deserves.

May 06, 2003

JOHN LEO WRITES about an anti-war protester who seems to have been unjustly hassled by the Secret Service.

This has been a problem for a while. I think that it started after Reagan was shot, and it seems to have gotten steadily worse over the years. And the Secret Service seems to have serious management problems, something that I've noted here before. Leo's right, though, to note that this is a problem that goes beyond the Secret Service.

ARUNDHATI ROY, ENVIRONMENTAL MENACE: Jayakrishnan Nair has the story.

HEH. Indeed.

KEN LAYNE NOTICES SOMETHING:

The New York Times' circulation fell 5.3 percent, nearly triple the drop of the next biggest loser (the Washington Post at 1.92 percent). In six months, the NYT's weekday circulation dropped by more than 60,000 copies. That means the number of papers sold dropped by an average of 10,000 every month between October 2002 and March 2003.

This was not exactly a slow news period: North Korea admitted it had a nuclear weapons program, the D.C. sniper was on the loose, a French tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen, terrorists killed hundreds in Bali and the Philippines, Republicans swept mid-term elections (save for the Democratic sweep in California), ANSWER led protests around the world, "Old Europe" fought its last battle, there were massive anti-mullah demonstrations in Iran, Trent Lott went down, UN weapons inspectors went nowhere, Venezuela went crazy, Columbia didn't make it home, the Axis of Weasels was exposed, everybody got worked up about a nightclub fire, there was that little War in Iraq, etc.

Of course the NYT was mostly busy whining about a golf tournament ....

The New York Post saw its circulation grow.

SAVE THE CHILDREN RANKS COUNTRIES on a "Mothers' Index." Power Line looks at the numbers and is unimpressed:

The problem with rankings of this sort is that advocacy groups nearly always put their thumbs on the scale by including factors that are mostly political. Thus, the data show the U.S. ranking 4th on the "Children's Index," but only 13th on the "Women's Index." (The two are combined to form the "Mothers' Index.") Why this difference?

It doesn't take long to figure out. In the "Women's Index," along with such logical items as "percent of pregnant women with anemia" and "adult female literacy rate," Save the Children includes a "political status" column, measured by the percentage of seats in the national legislature held by women. This accounts for most of the difference between the U.S. and European countries like Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, which rank at the top of the index and have more women in their legislatures.

There is also a sneakier reason. The "Women's Index" includes infant mortality as a factor--as it should, given the purported purpose of the study. But the infant mortality rate is measured as the "lifetime risk of maternal mortality." That language puzzled me for a moment, until I realized what was going on. The birth rate in the U.S. is much higher than in European countries like Sweden and Switzerland. By adding up the total "lifetime" infant mortality risk, instead of assessing the risk on a per-baby basis, as would be logical, Save the Children is penalizing American mothers for having more children. This can hardly be unintentional.

Save the children -- from bogus claims!

UPDATE: Dawn Olsen has a different take, to put it mildly.

SOME IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER CLASSICS have been sampled and turned into a song entitled "I Can't Believe What I'm Hearing." You can hear it here.

SOME BLOGGERS HAVE BEEN POSTING MACHINE-MADE BLOG POETRY, but I've got the actual, hand-crafted stuff:

I'm a San Francisco State University student who's taking a creative writing class that deals with the craft of poetry right now. Just for kicks, I used several of your entries from 04/29/03 to make a "found poem." (One takes bits and pieces from a book, another poem, or basically anything that involves text, and makes a poem out of it.) So here is the result:


INSTAPUNDIT

the Democrats' efforts
can be
an interesting thought experiment
OUCH

I hear from homesick Knoxville expatriates
in favor of censorship
taking over the 2004 Presidential Campaign
Jacques Chirac needs
this comment:
censorship is over

"Now I am a free man"

and now
tourists
have gone missing

Well, that doesn't solve the problem, but it does
dispel some of the mystery.

One of the teachers' assistants, who doesn't like W and was anti-war, actually liked it. (I thought this was rather amazing, but I guess the poet overrode the liberal inside of him.)

- Sarah Navarro

All I can say is, "Heh."

IT'S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE, OF COURSE, THAT THEY'RE BOTH TELLING THE TRUTH:

A FULL-BLOODED Italian political row echoed across Europe yesterday as the Italian Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission traded accusations of corruption. . . .

Signor Prodi and Signor Berlusconi are due to meet at the Salonika summit on June 20, as Italy prepares to take over the EU presidency from Greece. A breakdown in trust between the European Commission and the country holding the presidency would make it almost impossible to conduct business.

Interesting.

SINA MOTALLEBI UPDATE: He's still in jail, and the mullahs are pondering a China-style Internet firewall. Yeah, that'll make them more popular.

BOTH ORIN KERR AND I HAD QUESTIONS about an AlterNet story involving a "Patriot Act Raid." Chris Kelly has looked into things a bit and is inclined to find the story credible.

I should note, too, that several readers with law enforcement experience wrote to say that the raid didn't sound obviously fishy. Here's the key passage of Kelly's post:

The ACLU is mainly working with the press to get the story out, and they feel that [aside] from relatively minor disciplinary actions related to taunting by the police, there was nothing about the raid that was illegal.

That doesn't surprise me, though many readers might be surprised to learn just how much police conduct is legal -- and, sadly, was so long before the Patriot Act was passed.

UPDATE: Richard Aubrey emails:

It appears, even though the story of the raid might be otherwise credible, that the actual reason for running it, posting it, dissecting it, and lamenting it, disappeared.

The original point was how awful the Patriot Act is. Since we now know the Patriot Act had nothing to do with it, the story is useless for its intended purpose.

Whether the raid was good or bad, overdone or appropriately done, is a separate set of questions, none of which would be hitting the blogosphere if the Patriot Act piece hadn't been inserted. There are lots of raids. Why be concerned about this one?

Well, yes, the Patriot Act angle does seem to have died. I, of course, was concerned with this stuff before the Patriot Act existed. But the point is taken.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr has more thoughts along these lines.

GARY HART SAYS HE WON'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT: I hope he'll keep up the blog.

UPDATE: TalkLeft is bumming.

THE NINTH CIRCUIT IS DIVIDED OVER THE SECOND AMENDMENT -- which is news, actually, since it used to be united. Howard Bashman, whose legal blog is so indispensable that it's hard to believe it's only one year old today, has the scoop and links.

UPDATE: The opinion is so popular, I guess, that I can't seem to download it. But Eugene Volokh reports that: "Judge Pregerson, one of the most liberal judges on the Ninth Circuit -- and perhaps in the whole country -- dissents, saying that the Second Amendment secures an individual right."

I look forward to reading it, whenever I can.

THOSE IRAQI FILES just keep coming:

MOSCOW (AP) - A likely appointee to the interim Iraqi government said Belarus should be called to account for allegedly providing military aid to Saddam Hussein in violation of United Nations sanctions.

``We have documents about this, and in any case we will raise this question in the U.N. Security Council and demand punishment for those Belarusian bureaucrats who took part in violating sanctions,'' Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National Accord, was quoted as saying in an interview published Tuesday in Vremya Novostei, a liberal independent daily.

Some European politicians may come to regret the development of transnational prosecutions in human-rights cases. Meanwhile things aren't all rosy for Russia, either:

Allawi said some of Iraq's $12 billion debt to Russia was for illegal deals and would not be recognized.

Allawi pointed in particular to former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whom he accused of defending Saddam ``for personal profit.'' Primakov, a Middle East expert, Soviet-era diplomat and spymaster who was a Pravda newspaper correspondent for the region during the Cold War, knew the Iraqi leader for decades. Russia dispatched him to Baghdad several times to try to avert war - first in 1990, then this year.

``We have almost full certainty that Primakov received certain sums from Saddam for this (defending him),'' Allawi said, without elaborating.

The interview, conducted in Baghdad, did not say what Allawi's allegations were based on.

Rumors about Primakov's alleged self-interest in Iraq have floated around for years. Russian Foreign Ministry officials, including Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, have vehemently denied them.

Interesting.

JAMES LILEKS SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US, with this advice:

Note to people who feel compelled to begin talk-radio conversations with “long-time listener, first-time caller” - no one cares. Least of all the host. Nor should you say “as I told your screener . . .” because A) it eats up time and B) reminds everyone of the process that weeds out long-winded dullards, and C) how this process has failed.

Yep.

BRITISH ANTIWAR MP GEORGE GALLOWAY, accused of taking bribes from Saddam Hussein, has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation:

Mr Triesman said the suspension, effective immediately, would remain in place "pending internal party investigations".

Mr Galloway immediately hit back at the suspension, saying it was prejudicial to his libel action against the Daily Telegraph over allegations that he took money from Saddam Hussein's regime. "It is completely unjust," he said.

The Labour Party made clear that Mr Galloway was not suspended over the Telegraph allegations, but comments he made during the Iraq war.

A Labour Party spokesman said that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is to also launch an investigation into Mr Galloway and that there may be further investigations involving the Charity Commission and others.

Interesting. Here's the cover of Private Eye magazine.

UPDATE: And Galloway is facing another investigation:

The Charity Commission has said it is to undertake "further fact finding" into the misuse of funds from the Mariam Appeal founded by Labour MP George Galloway.

According to the Attorney General's office, the Charity Commission will be looking into claims that charitable funds may have been used for non-charitable purposes.

Stay tuned.

DANIEL DREZNER WRITES THAT "A benevolent hegemon needs to be benevolent, and the U.S. can do better."

HERE'S MORE ON OLYMPIC-ATHLETE TORTURE under Saddam Hussein. Excerpt:

Tramping through the ruins of the Olympic building, one finds charred letters to Uday from senior officials of the International Olympic Committee, including Juan Antonio Samaranch, the Spaniard who was long its president.

They show no trace of any effort by the international committee's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to distance itself from the Iraqi committee and its head, despite years of reports by Western human rights organizations that the Baghdad building was being used for torture and killing.

Right up to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City last year, the correspondence from Lausanne was about the need for Iraq, like other countries, to prepare for the new "disciplines," like the women's bobsled competition, being introduced at the Utah Games.

One letter, from the International Olympic Committee's Fair Play Commission, spoke of the "universal humanistic sports values" of the Olympic movement; another of the "global society" that would be represented by the Olympic Village at Salt Lake City.

As president of Iraq's Olympic committee, the president's son was the country's sports czar. According to several accounts from players, he turned his sadistic obsessions on the national soccer team. . . .

A series of poor passes, carefully counted, could result in a player's being forced to stand before the president's son in the dressing room, hands at his side, while he was punched or slapped in the face an equal number of times.

But those were the lesser miseries. Some players endured long periods in a military prison, beaten on their backs with electric cables until blood flowed. Other punishments included "matches" kicking concrete balls around the prison yard in 130-degree heat, and 12-hour sessions of push-ups, sprints and other fitness drills, wearing heavy military fatigues and boots.

And yet there are still some people who say that removing Saddam from power was somehow immoral. But then, Harry Belafonte is still defending Castro, as are quite a few others.

Are there any dictators with bad facial hair that the Left doesn't support?

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias puts me in my place for this snide remark. Touche. Note, however, the stirring defense of Saddam Hussein's "dashing" facial hair in the comments. Heh.

DONALD LUSKIN, in (yet again) savaging Paul Krugman, makes me realize that my earlier comments about Bush appearing in military garb may have been overstated. At least, he produces a photo of a similarly attired Bill Clinton.

I still think that Presidents just shouldn't dress that way, and I don't think that Clinton's having done it makes it better. But it does make the problem more widespread, something that I didn't realize when I posted on Bush.

HOWARD KURTZ has a Bill Bennett roundup. Meanwhile Richard Bennett -- who complains that his good name is being dragged through the mud -- says that the real disgrace is that Bennett (Bill, not Richard) was playing the slots, which he regards as a lame-o form of gambling.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus notes that this has all been anticipated by The Simpsons:

Homer: You know, Marge, for the first time in our marriage I can finally
look down my nose at you. You have a gambling problem!

He's got the whole bit, which seems entirely apt.

GAY MARRIAGE: Coming to Canada?

AT LARRY LESSIG'S REQUEST -- delivered with some force -- I've changed the RSS feed from 20 words to 50. Enjoy!

CELEBRITY CHEFS: Evan Coyne Maloney explains why he's not boycotting irritating stars.

ARROGANT UNILATERALISM:

The French government secretly supplied fleeing Iraqi officials with passports in Syria that allowed them to escape to Europe, The Washington Times has learned. . . .

The passports are regarded as documents of the European Union, because of France's membership in the union, and have helped the Iraqis avoid capture, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.

The French support, which was revealed through sensitive intelligence-gathering means, angered Pentagon, State Department and intelligence officials in Washington because it undermined the search for senior aides to Saddam, who fled Iraq in large numbers after the fall of Baghdad on April 9.

"It made it very difficult to track these people," one official said. A second Bush administration official said, "It's like Raoul Wallenberg in reverse," a reference to the Swedish diplomat who supplied travel documents to help Jews escape Nazi Germany in World War II. "Now you have the French helping the bad guys escape from us."

"Like Raoul Wallenberg in reverse." If that's not a good summation of French foreign policy in the 21st century, then I don't know what is.

There's also this story, less serious but still symptomatic:

The European Commission accused the French yesterday of a "lamentable" record in enforcing European Union law and pledged tough action to bring member states to book.

Despite being zealous advocates of closer European integration, the French are facing 220 open cases involving systematic violations of EU laws and are guilty of the most flagrant foot-dragging of any EU state when implanting new rules.

The long list of violations include a refusal to obey the law on biotech patents, for maintaining an illegal ban on food additives, and using obstructionist measures to prevent lawyers from other EU countries working in France. . . .

In many instances, the commission has already won the case in the European Court but has to launch a second set of proceedings under the EU's tortuous system before fines can be imposed.

Typical.

May 05, 2003

DR. MANHATTAN IS BACK after what must have been a very restful two-month hiatus.

IAIN MURRAY has some interesting poll data suggesting that British attitudes are swinging in favor of America, and against France, Germany, et al.

DONNA SHALALA DOES THE RIGHT THING: Eugene Volokh has the story.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING APPROACH TO ATTACKING ANTHRAX:

Another antibiotic approach pits a virus against anthrax. Rockefeller University microbiologist Vincent Fischetti identified an enzyme from a virus that infects only anthrax-causing and closely related bacteria. In test-tube experiments, the enzyme kills about a hundred million bacteria in two minutes or less. “It drills a hole in the cell wall, and the organisms explode,” Fischetti says. He adds that the treatment should boost the power of existing antibiotics against anthrax, as well as kill resistant strains of the bacteria. His group is currently performing animal experiments to test the enzyme further.

Very cool. (Via DefenseTech).

HERE'S ONE I MISSED OVER THE WEEKEND:

Germany reacted with dismay yesterday to America's decision not to return the 17,000-strong 1st Armoured Division to Germany, accelerating plans to relocate its troops to eastern Europe. . . .

Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has repeatedly shrugged off the prospect of a withdrawal of US forces, but officials around Frankfurt and Heidelberg, where troops are stationed, are concerned at the loss of millions of dollars which the soldiers and their families bring in each year.

(Via Vincent Ferrari).

YALE PROFESSORS DEFEND FREE SPEECH: Unfortunately, they could only get their defense published on a blog. Oh well, you still get to read it.

(Via OxBlog).

I DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS GOOD NEWS OR NOT: Sonic Foundry has been bought by Sony Digital. I'm a big fan of Sonic Foundry's Acid music software and Vegas video editing software. (I have DVD Architect, too, their pro-level DVD authoring program, but haven't actually used it yet). Sony will take over all of those, along with some Sonic Foundry folks.

On the one hand it's good: Sony makes great video cameras, but their efforts at video-editing software (Pixela and the much-despised Movie Shaker for micro-MV) haven't exactly set the world on fire. But will Sonic Foundry make Sony better, or will Sony ruin Sonic Foundry? A couple of readers seem to think it'll be the latter. I sure hope not.

RAMESH PONNURU HAS AN INTERVIEW WITH HERNANDO DE SOTO on Iraqi reconstruction. Interesting stuff. Excerpt:

But if the question is have you been doing a model study to taking over the property system of Iraq, no.

Let me remind you, though, that that's what MacArthur did. The first thing he did was set up a property system. It's very poorly documented. I was very interested [in this] when we had an up and coming politician [in Peru] named Fujimori. Why did they come to Peru and why did the de Sotos not go to Japan? What happened was that after 1945, what MacArthur wanted to do [was] to give the peasants and the poor people and the citizens the title [to land] and take it away from the feudal class.

[At the same time,] Chiang Kai-shek was suddenly losing to Mao Tse-tung . . . and the reason, as MacArthur understood, was that Mao Tse-tung had begun to title. It was collective title, but that was still closer to [the peasants] than the feudal title.

So [the Americans] had a massive title and they spread wealth enormously and millions of Japanese had property. And now it's nine times wealthier than Peru. So you've done that before.

When you went to war in Vietnam — Ho Chi Minh was also a titler. And the lessons that you learned in Japan you forgot in Vietnam. So they basically out-titled you.

I wonder what De Soto would think of the Oil Trust idea? I'd be very interested to hear.

HERE'S A STORY that stands in stark contrast to the U.N. cafeteria-looting incident that I mentioned a few days ago.

MARK KLEIMAN has a lengthy post on the John Lott / Stanford Law Review stuff, and many other things Lott-related. He's quite critical of Lott, but notes:

It seems clear that Ayres and Donohue detected a significant coding error in the response, just as Donohue had earlier detected significant coding errors in other work by Lott and Mustard. Moreover, in addition to putting a hole in Lott's earlier work, Ayres and Donohue's analyses of subsequent data suggest that the "more guns, less crime" hypothesis is, at best, true in some places and not in others, and even then to only a slight extent. There is no justification for continuing to claim that Lott has proven that liberalizing concealed-carry reduces crime.

At the end of the day, though, it's pretty clear that if "shall-issue" increases gun violence at all, it doesn't do so by very much. To that limited extent, Lott was right and the gun controllers were wrong.

There's more, and you should read the whole post if you're interested in this subject. I lack the expertise to judge on the coding error issue, and I haven't looked at the data. Kleiman, I believe, has the expertise, but it's not clear if he's looked at the data or is just taking the word of Ian Ayres and John Donohue. I regard Ayres and Donohue as eminently trustworthy -- in the sense of being honest -- but that doesn't guarantee that they're right, of course. I'd like to see some other people looking at the data, which Lott has made freely available, and addressing this issue. Ayres and Donohue have, at the very least, raised doubts that I am not competent to address, and that need to be addressed.

EVERYBODY SAYS GARY HART'S BLOG IS BORING: Maybe if he channeled Ken Layne, as in this example from Russell Wardlow, things would be better. Or maybe he's better off the way he is.

UPDATE: Or there's the Gary Hart as cam-girl approach, with a webcam and wishlist. Go for it, Gary!

THERE MAY ACTUALLY BE GOOD NEWS where India and Pakistan are concerned:

NEW DELHI – After 16 months of stony silence, interrupted by the near outbreak of war last June, India and Pakistan are suddenly making all the right moves to start peace talks.

Monday, Pakistan raised the stakes by offering to get rid of its nuclear arsenal if India followed suit.

The reasons for this spring warming trend - initiated by India - are still coming to light. But they range from the swift US victory in Iraq and mounting concern over nuclear proliferation and terrorism to a legacy quest by India's ailing prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Interesting. Let's hope it pans out.

UPDATE: Several readers suggest that this isn't as good as it sounds. Here's how Scott Draeker puts it:

Pakistan's offer to India is not exactly good news. If taken at face value, it would leave China as the undisputed regional power -- with nukes. Pakistan is a client of China, so it's no surprise that they would extend this offer. It is in the US interest to see India emerge as a counterbalance to China in the region. However a non-nuclear India could not counterbalance a nuclear China.

With regard to proliferation, Indian nukes are not a problem. While the world would be a better place without Pakistani nukes, the proliferation concern is the same whether Pakistan fields them or not. I'm afraid they would continue to sell expertise, even finished weapons, at the right price.

There are only 4 countries in the world actively fighting Islamic terrorism: US, India, Russia and Israel. Those are the folks I'd like to see the US aligning with.

Yes, the India-as-counterweight-to-China issue is an important factor here, and I should have given it more attention.

JOE KATZMAN HAS SOME THOUGHTS on where the RIAA-vs.-customers issue is going.

WHY I HAVEN'T WEIGHED IN ON BILL BENNETT MORE STRONGLY: The ugly photographic evidence is in. Well, pictures don't lie, do they?

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE:

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Thirty-one European tourists held hostage in the Algerian Saharan desert by unknown assailants are soon to be released, Algerian state radio reported on Monday.

The adventure holidaymakers -- 15 Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, one Swede and one Dutchman -- disappeared in late February and early March while traveling without guides in separate groups in the deep Saharan desert famous for its ancient grave sites. . . .

Government officials were not available for comment.

The area the tourists were believed to be heading is renowned for its archaeological sites, but also known for arms and drug smuggling and borders Libya, Mali and Niger.

After weeks of media speculation, the North African country confirmed for the first time on Sunday that the tourists were being held hostage and that officials were in contact with the kidnappers.

Authorities have declined to give the hostage-takers' motives and demands. Algerian media have reported that the armed group was seeking a ransom. . . . Government and diplomatic sources suspect the hostage-takers are armed rebels or local bandits linked to rebel groups.

Some media reports suggest the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) may be responsible for the kidnappings. The GSPC is waging a bloody war against the authorities and is suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

I'm not sure we're getting the whole story here, but I'm certainly happy to hear that these folks are likely to be free soon.

HMM. IF IT'S NEWS WHEN A MORALIZER TURNS OUT TO BE A HYPOCRITE, then why isn't this story getting more attention?

New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, an outspoken advocate of campaign-finance reform, has been hit with one of the biggest fines ever imposed on a member of Congress by the Federal Election Commission — for violating campaign-finance laws.

The FEC ruling, handed down in March, ordered Schumer's 1998 senatorial campaign to pay a civil penalty of $130,000. The campaign was also ordered to return $120,455 in illegal contributions, bringing the total of fines and restitution to slightly more than a quarter-million dollars. The campaign paid the sum in April.

According to FEC records, only three cases involving federal candidates have resulted in higher fines than the one levied on Schumer's campaign. No senatorial candidate has ever been so severely penalized.

I'm just, you know, asking.

UPDATE: Discount Blogger (Permalinks not working, scroll down, blah blah) says that I'm guilty of flawed logic here in comparing Schumer to Bennett, because Schumer, personally, didn't do anything illegal.

But neither did Bennett. Right? That's part of the comparison, I thought. Of course, if I wanted to plumb the depths of Schumer's hypocrisy further I might note his support of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, which imposes liability on corporate bigshots for wrongdoing by their underlings, and wonder why he didn't support similar language regarding campaign-finance laws. "Accept an illegal contribution: go to jail -- no ifs, buts, or maybes."

Roscoe Shrewsbury captures things well via email:

There is certainly a keen sense of the ludicrous when one calls to mind a triptych image of Mr. Bennett, during the day penning sober tomes about character and virtue, but at night - rollin' dem bones, a-callin' out, "Yowzah! Baby need a new pair o' shoes!" He says that gambling is simply what he does when he needs to relax, and conservative flacks leap to his defense, professing that they fail to see anything wrong or even unusual in his conduct. So he dropped $1.4 million on one especially adventurous foray into the dens of iniquity - some people feed pigeons, or even roller-skate.

But we find these Bennett exposés annoying and tiresome, because we all know that politicians who please the ruling Information Class are never held to this kind of accounting. The big media have yet to notice U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott taking money from Saddam's henchman, and it's hard to find even a passing reference to the firestorm in Britain over the cosmic hypocrisy of the rapacious George Galloway. Do we read article leads like, "Senator Kennedy gave his full support to the sexual-harassment legislation, even though observers have noted that within a square kilometer of his office he nails anything that moves," or is it ever mentioned that Rep. Barney Frank, flawlessly correct on every issue of New Class interest, was wont to use congressional pages as sex robots? These, er, peccadilloes are at least a ludicrous and revealing as the video-poker tics and roulette-wheel trances of the crazed Bennett, but we don't expect to read about them in Newsweek. So to hell with their articles about Bennett.

I don't think that the Barney Frank sex scandal was about pages -- I think Roscoe is confusing two different Congressional scandals here, as Frank's was about a male prostitute of mature years, wasn't it? -- but the general point stands. Here's the McDermott story.

UPDATE: The permalink works now: it's here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Allen emails:

Glenn, I've also always found Bennett tiresome, since I am a vice aficionado (anything worth doing is worth doing well, as they say) , and don't think blowing eight million on gambling is any worse than doing so on yachts, airplanes, buffalo herds, or anyway else that rich people choose to burn their cash. What is most interesting to me is the fact that apparently people in the casino industry acted against their stockholders' or employers' interests is giving documentation regarding Bennett to the press. Whales like Bennett are critical to the profit margin of an expensive-to-run, 5-star casino, so helping the media expose Bennett, and thus convincing him to become an ex-whale, harms the owners of the casino. It sounds to me as if the documents turned over to Newsweek were only available to executives fairly high up the food chain. Assuming that Bennett didn't owe money to the house, which has not been asserted by anyone, somebody at these casinos may have violated their fidiciury duties, which, if I had any interest in such a casino, would irritate me a helluva lot more than anything Bennett has done. If one of the casinos is publicly owned, call the SEC!! I smell a stockholder lawsuit!!

Interesting. I don't know where Newsweek got the documents, and neither does anyone else not directly involved, and a shareholder suit, while not impossible I suppose, seems unlikely to me. But it's worse than Will suggests, actually: they won't just lose Bennett's business, but risk losing the business of any other high rollers who fear that the "what happens here, stays here" claims aren't true. I have no idea how many people like that there are, but the revenue loss would seem likely to exceed any possible gain from releasing the documents.

SUSANNA CORNETT IS A BIT HARSH with regard to my dismissal of affirmative action as the cause for New York Times reporter Jayson Blair's travails. But my source for the correction statistics is this week's Weekly Standard, in a "Notebook" piece that isn't online yet. But here's the relevant passage:

Since Blair's name first appeared in the Times on June 9, 1998, he has had 725 total bylines there. His 50 corrections therefore constitute a 6.9 percent discovered-error rate. That's not so great. But it's not nearly so bad as the factual strikeout average posted, to take one random example, by Times Washington-bureau stalwart Adam Clymer over the exact same period: 400 bylines with 36 corrections (9.0 percent). Or how's about Times associate editor R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr., whose 327 bylines with 46 corrections (14.1 percent spoiled copy) would seem to label him -- the numbers don't lie -- less than half as reliable as the hapless youngster Howell Raines is now banishing.

So there you have it. A lot of people are jumping on the "it was affirmative action" bandwagon (Kaus is, and there seemed to be consensus on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources show yesterday, too). And it might be -- but you can't prove it by saying that anyone with that many errors would have been fired if he were a white male. Because, sadly, the white males at the Times seem to be worse.

ORIN KERR WRITES THAT record company executives are risking serious jail time via their efforts to stop file-trading.

STILL MORE LOOTING:

SHIPPAGAN – Calm has returned to the fishing community of Shippagan after a weekend crab protest caused millions of dollars in damage. Rioters burned boats and buildings on Saturday, but police say the town was peaceful overnight.

Federal Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault says he was "shocked and saddened" by the arson and vandalism, but says his department bears no blame for the unrest.

The protest began on Friday night when a mob burned about 100 crab traps on the town's wharf, and escalated on Saturday afternoon when about 250 people roamed the streets for nine hours burning boats and buildings.

The men and women were protesting Ottawa's decision to reduce their snow crab quota and increase the number of licenses allowed to fish the lucrative species.

Thibeault says his department consulted extensively with local fishermen about the plan, and suggested another meeting with DFO officials might soothe the fears of traditional crab workers.

The RCMP, who are asking people to stay home and out of trouble, say they did not anticipate the violence, and did not have enough officers to stop the destruction.

Well, there was a war on, after all. Oh, wait. . . .

BILL BENNETT: The whole Bill Bennett gambling story is of no interest to me, but it's sure eating up a lot of pixels over at Andrew Sullivan's and Josh Marshall's.

I've always regarded Bennett as something of a windbag. Now he's a windbag who gambles a lot, which makes him, in my opinion, an idiot. But, heck, it's his money. It's not like he's putting puppies in blenders or anything. Is he a hypocrite? Maybe. But the people who are jumping on this revelation with unconcealed glee don't come off very well, either.

INTERESTING STORY ON THE FALL OF BAGHDAD from The New York Review of Books:

While I was talking to the looters I met Staff Sergeant Nicholas Clark of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, who was making his way through the crowd, with his pistol drawn. He was smiling at them. I thought perhaps he would stop them, but he did not, and asked me to follow him so that he could show me why. Next to the Finance Ministry's building was another warehouse, which a couple of Marines were guarding. Inside were crates of ammunition and mortar shells, tear gas, piles of rifles and other guns. Some of the boxes were marked in Arabic, some in English, and some with Cyrillic lettering. Some boxes were labeled "Jordan Armed Forces."

Sergeant Clark then showed me another building that he said was crammed with ammunition, and then he took me to yet another warehouse a few minutes away, which was full of crates containing rocket launchers, hand grenades, and more than a dozen antiaircraft guns. To put it simply, he said, quite apart from the Marines' not wanting to get into the "police business," the problem was that local Iraqis had been asking the Marines to protect the many ammunition stores across the city. Fighting was still going on anyway, he said, and the Marines did not have the additional manpower to stop looters. They had to stop these guns from falling into people's hands; otherwise the situation would get even uglier than it was already.

Surrounded by piles of weapons in one of the warehouses, I asked Sergeant Clark, who had grown up in Lansing, Michigan, and fought in the first Gulf War in 1991, if this war had been easier than he had expected. "Much," he said. "He"—meaning Saddam Hussein—"promised us street fighting, but where we have encountered it, it has only lasted for twenty minutes or half an hour. I don't think they are doing a very good job. For me, street fighting means holding this building, for example, until there is no more ammunition left." Before I left, Clark took me through the neighboring Army Sports Club. At the bottom of the empty swimming pool was a sandbagged position from which weapons could be fired. In a small side room were trampolines, javelins, and ten white-finned missiles with red tips, each two yards long. Sergeant Clark told me he thought they were air-to-air missiles, but he said that it looked as though someone had been tampering with them, trying to adapt them for something else. He was waiting for the men from intelligence to come and inspect them. He laughed and said, "I don't know if the UN reached this site." . . .

Now some of Ahmed's friends were surrounding us and giving their opinions on what was going on, about the future, and about what they thought of various exiled politicians, including Baqir al-Hakim, who is in Tehran, and Ahmed Chalabi, who has US backing, and was about to arrive with a number of his fellow exiles in Nasiriya. There were, unsurprisingly, many conflicting opinions. Hakim was a good man, some thought; Chalabi was, or was not, a crook, others thought; the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was a traitor for making a deal with the Americans, and so on. Ahmed said he hoped the Americans would set up a transitional government without these men, and with technocrats instead. "For example the minister of health should have experience in his field." It struck me that it was a stunning event that this discussion, which already seemed quite normal, was now taking place in Baghdad. "When was the last time we could have talked openly like this?" I asked Ahmed. He took a while to reply. "When I was student in 1967," he said.

I then asked Ahmed, "Do you feel as if your country has been occupied?" His reply was, "Definitely." I said, "But you just told me you could not have talked openly like this since 1967, so don't you feel that this is also a liberation?" He replied, "Well, yes." "So perhaps there is an odd contradiction. Occupation and liberation both at the same time?" He and his friends argued about this. "Yes," he said, "that is true." "What next?" I asked, and he pointed across the street to where a house had been leveled, not by bombs but because someone had cleared away an old house. "That is where we are now. We need a shovel to build something new."

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

May 04, 2003

MORE LOOTING:

The decision to make the cafeterias into "no pay zones" spread through the 40-acre complex like wildfire. Soon, the hungry patrons came running. "It was chaos, wild, something out of a war scene," said one Aramark executive who was present. "They took everything, even the silverware," she said. Another witness from U.N. security said the cafeteria was "stripped bare." And another told TIME that the cafeteria raid was "unbelievable, crowds of people just taking everything in sight; they stripped the place bare." And yet another astonished witness said that "chickens, turkeys, souffles, casseroles all went out the door (unpaid)."

The mob then moved on to the Viennese Café, a popular snack bar in the U.N.'s conference room facility. It was also stripped bare. The takers included some well-known diplomats who finished off the raid with free drinks at the lounge for delegates. When asked how much liquor was lifted from the U.N. bar, one U.S. diplomat responded: "I stopped counting the bottles." He then excused himself and headed towards the men's room.

An Aramark executive estimated the food "removed" from the U.N.'s main cafeteria at between $7,000 and $9,000 not including the staff restaurant, the Viennese Café or the Delegate's Bar. The value of the missing silverware has yet to be estimated.

Obviously, the problem is that there weren't enough U.S. Marines to maintain order.