IT'S BEEN VERY DIFFICULT for me to take the various "where are the weapons of mass destruction -- Bush lied!" conspiracy theories seriously. The desperation with which they're offered is indication enough of their bogosity. But in any event, Robert Kagan points out just how absurd it is to argue that Bush swindled the world into believing in nonexistent weapons:
The absurdity of these accusations is mind-boggling. Start with this: The Iraqi government in the 1990s admitted to U.N. weapons inspectors that it had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax, as well as a few tons of the nerve agent VX. Where are they? U.N. weapons inspectors have been trying to answer that question for a decade. Because Hussein's regime refused to answer, the logical presumption was that they had to be somewhere still in Iraq.
That, at least, has been the presumption of Hans Blix. Go back and take a look at the report Blix delivered to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 27. On the question of Iraq's stocks of anthrax, Blix reported there existed "no convincing evidence" they had ever been destroyed. On the contrary, he said, there was "strong evidence" that Iraq had produced even more anthrax than it had declared "and that at least some of this was retained." Blix also reported that Iraq possessed 650 kilograms of "bacterial growth media," enough "to produce . . . 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax."
On the question of VX, Blix reported that his inspection team had "information that conflicts" with Iraqi accounts. The Iraqi government claimed that it had produced VX only as part of a pilot program but that the quality was poor and therefore the agent was never "weaponized." But according to Blix, the inspection team discovered that the Iraqi government had lied. The Iraqi government's own documents showed that the quality and purity of the VX were better than declared and, according to the inspection team, there were "indications that the agent" had indeed been "weaponized."
Blix reported as well that 6,500 "chemical bombs" that Iraq admitted producing still remained unaccounted for. Blix's team calculated the amount of chemical agent in those bombs at 1,000 tons. As Blix reported to the U.N. Security Council, "in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for."
Today they are unaccounted for. But the answer to the continuing conundrum is not that Bush and Blair are lying. The weapons were there. Someday we'll find them, or we'll find out what happened to them.
Unless, of course, you like your conspiracies to be as broad and all-pervasive as possible.
Well, it's better than admitting that if you'd had your way, Saddam Hussein would still be shoveling children into mass graves, I suppose. And that's what this is really all about. Having lost the argument about the war, and having had Saddam's brutality proven beyond any reasonable doubt, the anti-war folks have to do something to regain the moral high ground -- because, to them, the moral high ground is theirs by right, regardless of the nature or consequences of their actions.
But as Kagan notes, if Bush is lying, so are a lot of other people:
One would have to assume as well that the German intelligence service was lying when it reported in 2001 that Hussein was three years away from being able to build three nuclear weapons and that by 2005 Iraq would have a missile with sufficient range to reach Europe.
Maybe French President Jacques Chirac was lying when he declared this past February that there were probably weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that "we have to find and destroy them."
And then there's Al Gore, who declared last September, presumably based on what he had learned as vice president, that Hussein had "stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Finally, we get to Bill Clinton. In a speech delivered at the Pentagon in February 1998, Clinton described what he called Iraq's "offensive biological warfare capability, notably 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs." Clinton accurately reported the view of U.N. weapons inspectors at the time "that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons."
People are changing their tune now -- but it's about ass-covering, and nothing more.
If I understand correctly, the British, having won the war, are now demanding a recount. Across the length and breadth of the realm, the people are as one: now that the war's out of the way we can go back to bitching and whining that Blair hasn't made the case for it.
This is all very odd. In Kirkuk the other day, they found another mass grave, this time with the bodies of 200 children who had been buried alive. Yawn. Doesn't count. Wake me if they find a toxic warhead among the teeny skulls. The naysayers were wrong on so much - millions of refugees, Vietnam quagmire, Stalingrad, etc - you can't blame them for clinging to the one little straw that hasn't shrivelled up and slipped between their fingers: Come on, Tony, where's the WMD?
Or as Iain Duncan Smith put it in the House of Commons: "The truth is nobody believes a word you say now." Well, I do. Because what Mr Blair said is not only in line with what American officials told me, it is in line with what Continental officials told me - as recently as two weeks ago, when a big-time Euro paused midway through his harangue about the illegality of the war to assure me that "of course" Saddam had been up to WMD monkey business.
That's why, if you notice, the axis of weasels (France, Germany, Russia) and its short-pants league (Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada), while undoubtedly enjoying Mr Blair's discomfort, have nevertheless declined to join in the show-us-the-sarin taunts. They know what their intelligence services say (assuming, for the purposes of argument, Luxembourg has an intelligence service), and it's the same as the British and Americans.
You might also want to read Colin Powell's speech to the UN, which makes clear what the war was about, and that exposes the "it was all about WMD being about to be used" spin that we're hearing now. Excerpt:
I asked for this session today for two purposes. First, to support the core assessments made by Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei. As Dr. Blix reported to this Council on January 27, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it." . . .
My colleagues, Operative Paragraph 4 of UN Resolution 1441, which we lingered over so long last fall, clearly states that false statements and omissions in the declaration and a failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute -- the facts speak for themselves -- shall constitute a further material breach of its obligation.
We wrote it this way to give Iraq an early test, to give Iraq an early test. Would they give an honest declaration and would they, early on, indicate a willingness to cooperate with the inspectors? It was designed to be an early test. They failed that test.
By this standard, the standard of this Operative Paragraph, I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations. I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable.
Iraq has now placed itself in danger of the serious consequences called for in UN Resolution 1441.
Iraq was required by the U.N. resolutions in force to prove its innocence, something that it did not do. This, in my opinion, is irrelevant. The UN is a body of no moral or -- really -- legal standing in such matters. But if you're going to play that game, then it's important to recognize that the question isn't whether we find WMD. It was whether Saddam produced adequate evidence that they were destroyed. As Steyn notes:
The moment [Blair] prevailed upon Bush to go the extra mile with the UN, it was inevitable that there would be a fair amount of what I believe the British call "total bollocks". That is, by definition, the official language of multilateralism, and one reason why I have little time for it. For 18 months, my position on Iraq was consistent: I was in favour of whacking Saddam because the price of leaving him non-whacked was too high for America's broader interests. But once you get into auditioning justifications in front of a panel comprising France, China and Guinea, you're in for quite a tap dance. In the end, Britain officially went to war on a technicality, and given that that technicality - Saddam's technical non-compliance with Resolution 1441 - still holds, the WMD song and dance is irrelevant, both de facto and de jure. And as politics, two months after victory, it's pathetically immature.
"Pathetically immature?" It's worse than that, actually, but that will do. As Dean Esmay notes:
Now the spin is that we had an "intelligence failure?" It was the UN that said Saddam wasn't cooperating, and the UN that said Saddam probably still had Weapons of Mass Destruction. . . .
The responsibility for proving that there were or were not Weapons of Mass Destruction fell to the United Nations and Saddam Hussein. They failed to prove his innocence. We had our reasons, some of which we gave the UN and some of which we didn't.
Arguments finished, allies secured, we then went and freed the Iraqi people from a monster.
That's what happened. It's what the history books will record. I just wonder where some of you were during that whole thing. I really do.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Owens has an excellent roundup of arguments on the WMD topic. It's far more balanced than my coverage above, and more in line with what I planned to write before I got terminally irritated with the nasty emails I've gotten on the subject. That's either because Howard doesn't get those emails, or because he's a better man than I am. Or both. Anyway, read it. Read this, too, and follow the links.
I don't have complete research facilities here in the Kuwaiti desert (nor unlimited Google time), but I'm pretty sure that the original reasons for the French and British Armies to fight in WWII was because of entanglements in treaties that required declarations of war for infractions. The reasons the US entered WWII were many and varied, but I would not be out of line to say they included the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Anglophilism (is that a word?), and fear of a resurgent Germany. At the time we joined in, there were many patriotic Americans who believed that Europe was only getting itself into another one of it's wars, for which it had a long inglorious history, and that the US had no reason to choose sides. Given what we knew at the time, they had every reason to believe they were right. I am pretty sure that there were only a few people, if any at all, who said that Hitler represented an evil that should be destroyed.
Now, in retrospect, the clearest most recognized reason for celebrating the Allied victory over Nazi Germany was because, in fact, Hitler was evil and he was bringing his nation to ruin because of his psychotic, unrestrained capacity to inflict harm on Germans and people of other nations. ALL of the original reasons for defeating Nazi Germany, ALL of the reasons that people understood at the beginning of the war, ALL of the reasons that the soldiers who fought the war knew of as they boarded the transports to cross the English Channel, or as they lay shivering in their foxhole in the cold Ardennes winter night, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE REASONS, pales in comparison to what we now accept as the real reason we should celebrate that great victory. Our world is better because Hitler is dead, the evil he was, is gone.
Now we, as a nation, are faced with the same dilemma. Will the Second Gulf War be viewed as an unnecessary conquest of a benign nation, as some of the pro-Saddam morons would have us believe? I say that one only needs to look into a mass grave, filled with the bones of children scattered among dolls and toys, to know that this war was necessary. Time will show that we did the right thing, and those who opposed it, fervently, completely and eternally, were wrong.
We may never find WMDs in Iraq, and I don't give a shit if we ever do. My world, my children's world, my grandchildren's world (when it comes) will be better because we fought this fight and won.
I will never change my mind on this, I have seen the graves.
Major Diggs Cleveland
Camp Doha, Kuwait
Indeed. Read this, too. As Dean Esmay says in another post (not the one linked above), "There are good questions to be raised by this affair, but they can't be asked until the 'Bush lied' people get over themselves."
Yes. In a way, of course, the "Bush lied" stuff serves the Administration's interests, by muddying the waters so that less dramatic, but more pointed, questions are hard to ask. It's Karl Rove's useful idiots, all over again.
I think the experience may be particularly difficult for journalists who tend to have a sense of righteousness that often comes without self-awareness. The truth is that journalists are used to judging others and not being judged.
When politicians or corporate executives have their integrity questioned, they often bristle. Journalists never understand this. They think it is arrogance or ignorance. But when the reputation of a news organization is at stake, the defensiveness is usually even greater. . . .
And unlike people in most other public companies these days -- companies that have had to become increasingly adept at dealing with the public, their stockholders and the press -- journalists and media companies remain quite insulated. There is more reporting about the media than ever before, but still, the average newspaper editor is less likely to face press scrutiny than the average CEO.
Yes. And this is what the bloggers keep pointing out, and what the pro-journos keep misunderstanding.
One of the . . . keys to Reynolds' success is the large number of folks who send him links from around the globe at all hours; basically, Instapundit is a group blog with a strong editor.
I never quite thought of it that way, but it makes sense.
posted at 08:59 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HUNDREDS OF PRICELESS ARTIFACTS LOST, due to the ineptitude or indifference of the authorities. In Toronto.
posted at 08:53 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE EVIDENCE that neither the EU, nor those who are pushing it, can be trusted:
Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP, reacted with fury to efforts by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who heads the drafting team, to sneak through new clauses that would change the character of the European Union.
"These issues had never been discussed before by the praesidium, and there was no justification for adding them now," she said. "I told them this was getting silly, I had a plane to catch, and I wasn't even going talk about them."
The offending clauses were a back-door move to allow future treaty changes to be made without requiring ratification by national parliaments.
ROBERT PRATHER points to more bias at The New York Times.
posted at 06:57 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THERE WAS AN ANTI-WARBUSH RALLY in Atlanta. Michael Demmons has pictures.
Isn't it a bit late for those "Hands off Iraq!" signs?
UPDATE: Kathy Kinsley emails:
In regards to: "Isn't it a bit late for those 'Hands off Iraq!' signs?"
Nope. If they can get us to leave too soon, Iraq might well end up as another basket case like Somalia, a religious tyranny like Iran or having a civil war.
If that happens, of course, it will be all America's fault for going in there in the first place. It would actually be our fault for leaving too soon -- but that would never be mentioned.
(Yes, I'm cynical, why do you ask?)
Oh, I wasn't asking. . . .
posted at 05:04 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JEFF JARVIS echoes a call from Brian Linse for constructive debate about improving the media in the wake of the New York Times scandals.
I guess I'd take Brian's call for reasoned, constructive debate more seriously if the post below it didn't describe NRO this way: "Can anyone argue that this pathetic site is now anything more than a convenient meeting place for neocon circle jerks where K-Lo usually has the biggest dick?" It's kind of hard to ride the civil-and-constructive high horse when you say things like that. . ..
But, actually, I do have some constructive suggestions for the Times and other Big Media. Here they are:
1. Diversity: By which I mean real diversity in the kinds of people it hires -- not the faux-diversity that the Times practices. Where are the Ken Laynes, the Mark Steyns, etc. at the Times? The Times has been an intellectual and political monoculture for a long time, and that makes it hard for it to engage in the kind of critical evaluation of its own coverage that's necessary if it wants to be a real national paper, rather than a northeastern city paper with national aspirations.
2. Accountability: Follow up on stories. Do an after-action interview with sources and subjects. Accept feedback. And make sure that corrections all appear on the Web versions of the stories where the errors occurred. (And keep those archives open!) Get an outside ombudsman. Give him/her power to really do things -- including investigate reporting practices -- not just an occasional column for airing lame non-apologies, which is all you get from most ombudsfolks. I'll bet I know someone who can provide more advice on how to do this.
3. Feedback: Get RSS feeds from a bunch of blogs. Filter them to highlight references to stories in the Times. Hire somebody smart to read those posts about Times stories, and give him/her the power to recommend followups, corrections, etc. (This is a trivial effort, technically, and I'm sure Dave Winer or somebody would be happy to help). Make the corrections, etc., credit the blogs that spotted the problems, thus encouraging more scrutiny and -- in essence -- enlisting a free army of fact-checkers. (Did you hear that, Pinch? "Free!")
Okay, that's a start anyway, and with no genital references. I'm sure that other people can do better.
UPDATE: Jonathan Swerdloff emails:
Your RSS feed idea is a good one. A correlate idea would be opening their articles for trackback pings. When an article gets commented on by a blogger, he or she can ping the site, and the ombudsman can check the ping. I'm a little surprised that no major media outlets have taken advantage of trackback - it's a good way to drive traffic. Bloggers ping because they want the link back, and the Times wants the links for "eyeballs" to increase ad revenue. It's a win win.
Yep. And this is so easy, so simple, and so likely to be effective that I'm amazed at how unlikely the Times is to actually do it.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Lindgren emails:
The reason that the NY Times won't decide to allow routine comments to articles on its sites is a version of the same reason that you don't have comments turned on at Instapundit.
The Times reasonably fears that, while some good would come of it, the time spent on wasted leads and pointless controversies could be better spent on other stories. Even in the midst of a campaign of supposed correction, the Times initially ignored a reader's complaint about Dowd's intentionally misleading quotation of George Bush. It took the blogs to bring it to the Times' attention. I think appointing someone to monitor blogs for disclosures of bias or errors is a good idea because (somewhat ironically) the "unedited" blogs actually collectively perform some of the sifting duties of a good editor. Open comment pages do not.
That's true -- though trackback isn't exactly the same as open comments. But it might become unmanageable where the Times is concerned, I suppose. God knows that when I open comments here it tends to. The RSS-monitoring idea would be easy, though.
STILL MORE: Reader Lewis Wagner has an excellent suggestion:
I think you missed an important point ... references. It should be a requirement that the online versions of all reports link to source material.
For example, if there is a report on a speech, it should be a requirement that the speech be linked, even if this means that the news outlet types up the
speech and puts it on a local page. No link to source material should mean that neither the online nor paper version of a story should be published at all. The
same should hold for discussions of scientific articles or policy papers. This should be as basic a requirement as spell checking.
Good point. While there are times when that wouldn't be feasible, it's a good general rule.
posted at 01:17 PM by Glenn Reynolds
DANIEL DREZNER CALLS FOR the "international community" to take action against the "Axis of Autocrats." Unfortunately, there's rather a lot of overlap. . . .
posted at 12:48 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'VE DONE SOME BLOGROLL MAINTENANCE, updating links to blogs that have moved, removing links to blogs that have died, etc. If you notice anything I've missed, let me know.
posted at 12:41 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I WONDER IF THIS IS A SIGN that Burma's thugocracy is getting nervous?
One of Burma's most powerful leaders blamed Aung San Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy for violence last week in which at least four people were killed, a sign that the military regime may not be willing to release the Nobel laureate from detention.
The comments by military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt are the first by a senior member of the junta on the May 30 violence.
"The recent course of confrontation taken by the NLD led to creating the untoward incidents, causing a great loss to the state," Mr Nyunt was quoted as saying in a speech to officials at an airport opening ceremony on Friday.
"Corrupt practices and the organisational work of the NLD instigated by foreign nations will not benefit the country."
That they're admitting this is, I suspect, a sign that there's a lot more of this going on than we're hearing about. That they're trying to blame it on Aung San Suu Kyi suggests that they're feeling heat about her disappearance.
posted at 11:09 AM by Glenn Reynolds
THE GUARDIANEXPLAINS ITSELF on the Wolfowitz matter, which it calls a "nasty slip."
I have to say that although the Guardian's publication of that story -- and of the erroneous Jack Straw story the same week -- demonstrated a certain over-eagerness to believe the worst about people it doesn't like on the basis of extremely weak evidence, its response has been very admirable.
UPDATE: Roger Simon says I'm too kind to The Guardian.
posted at 08:32 AM by Glenn Reynolds
INSTAPUNDIT'S PARIS CORRESPONDENT CLAIRE BERLINSKI sends this report:
For the past few days, helicopters have been circling noisily above the center of Paris. No one I speak to knows why -- there are dark murmurings that something, somewhere has been tipped to explode, or that the water supply is scheduled to be poisoned, but no one knows for sure. The choppers are making a huge racket outside my window and driving me nuts. But that's not the big story, at least not yet. The story, which isn't getting much attention outside of France, is that the trade unions' protests over the government's pension reform scheme have become outrageously violent, and France is in chaos.
The scale of the lawlessness and thuggery would generate endless anguished editorials in the English-language press if France were Iraq, and if somehow the United States could be blamed for it. The demonstrators have barricaded roads and railway tracks, ransacked and occupied administrative buildings, set fires, reversed over one another with their cars, sealed off city centers, emptied garbage onto the streets and rendered public transportation throughout the country unusable. Air traffic has been brought to a halt. Demonstrators cut off power lines at the Gare de Lyon. Tourists have been stranded everywhere. The national railway company, the SNCF, has lost $140 million in six days.
This is not a loss the shaky French economy can tolerate. And why? Because the government has proposed to increase the number of years public sector employees must work to receive full retirement benefits, from 37.5 years to 40 years -- a move that would bring them in line with the private sector. Are these reforms necessary? You bet. Will France go broke if they're not implemented? Without a doubt -- retirees will account for a third of the French population by 2040, and the best projections suggest that if the reforms aren't implemented, France will be running a 50 billion Euro annual deficit by 2020. Have the reforms been proposed by a democratically-elected government? Indeed. Are they supported by the public at large? Yes. Pretty much everyone, save the demonstrators themselves, acknowledges that pension reform is necessary.
What's interesting, sociologically, is that the account given by the demonstrators of their behavior simply doesn't correspond to reality: There is no objective grievance commensurate with the scale of the violence. An especially interesting fact is that the violence has been whistled up and spearheaded by the transport workers, who are for the most part unreconstructed communists, and who would not be affected by the proposed reforms. Given that the ideology championed by the leaders of these protests has been, over and over again, completely discredited, how should we account for their influence? The only conclusion I can draw from this is that a segment of French society can be easily inspired to smash things for the fun of it. I wonder why.
France, even more than the rest of Europe, is suffering from a serious political illness. These are the symptoms. Meanwhile you can show your appreciation for this firsthand reporting by ordering Claire's book, Loose Lips, which is doing pretty darned well on Amazon considering it won't actually come out until next week.
UPDATE: Claire fact-checks her own ass:
I just re-read my own words, and realized one line is slightly misleading. The SNCF has lost $140 million in six days, but these have not been consecutive days. Rather, the loss has occurred in six separate days of striking since March 18. This is a small point, but but with all you bloggers fact-checking our hapless journalistic asses, one can't be too careful. God, I long for the good old days when I could just commit any old shit to print.
At this opportune point, I have to ask my American friends who were shocked by France's behavior and foreign policy regarding Iraq : what in the name of all that's Holy were you expecting ? They can't even deal with trade union blackmail and political street terrorism, and you want them to fight al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein ? Hello !?!McFly ? Anybody home?
There's more on trade unions and violence. He adds:
But when the French wake up -and they sometimes do, as odd as it might sound these days - Bastilles are stormed in a hurry and long-established vested interests are soon parted from their pretty powdered heads.
I am not holding my breath. But nobody will see it coming.
It's always been a mystery to me why the French put up with that sort of thing. But then, it's obvious that we see the world differently on many levels.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Den Beste has more news from France. And here's a roundup of press coverage, such as it is. Den Beste wonders if this hasn't been downplayed because of Poland's vote on joining the EU this weekend.
DAVID ADESNIK OF OXBLOG (whose freakin' permalinks aren't working) says that the blogosphere should be flooding the zone on the plight of Aung Saan Suu Kyi -- who has vanished in the custody of the thugs who rule Burma. He's right, of course.
UPDATE: From David's blog to Colin Powell's ear: The United States is threatening sanctions against Burma.
Raines is gone, but the blogosphere isn't. The NYT - and the rest of Big Journalism - are now being watched, 'round the clock, by bloggers from the political Left, Center and Right, and errors, bias and spin will be exposed.
It's often said that the press is a free society's watchdog on its government. But who watches the watchers? Thanks to the Internet and blogging software that has lowered the cost of publishing almost to the vanishing point, the answer to that question is We, The People. As it usually is when things are set right in America.
Let's hope that the blogosphere does not become known as nothing but a land of destruction.
Tearing down people can be deserved. It can be fun. It can be righteous good work.
But if all you do is destroy -- and complain and carp and snark -- you don't build, you don't contribute.
He's right about that -- though the Times and other media outfits are in no position to complain about such an attitude. But as one of the commenters to Jeff's post notes: "These people destroyed themselves. Nobody went on a witch hunt for Raines or Lott, they dug their own graves and made a lot of enemies all on their own." (You may want to read all the comments, actually, as there's an interesting debate going on.)
It’s right that Iraq should be run by its own people, but national politics is no place to start. It’s easy to imagine an Iraq with three regional parliaments in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, harder to foresee a single legislature filled by members of nationwide parties. But if it ever happens it will be the very last piece of the puzzle. Americans understand this: the original colonists learned self-government in their towns and their states and eventually applied it to an entire continent.
By contrast, those European sophisticates sneering that Washington won’t stay the course are often the same crowd who’ve found it easier to elevate the friendliest local strongman than create a durable constitutional culture. Dominique de Villepin, the ubiquitous Frenchman, declared the other day that Paris was indispensable to postwar reconstruction because it had so much experience in Africa. I don’t know about you, but I think Iraq deserves better than to be the new Chad or Ivory Coast.
I think we need to be pushing for freedom in Francophone Africa, too.
posted at 02:33 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WHO SHOULD THE TIMES HIRE as a new op-ed columnist? Roger Simon has been running a contest and the results are now in.
More significant, the Times scandal — which began a little more than a month ago when it was revealed that 27-year-old reporter Jayson Blair had fabricated and plagiarized news stories — was the first institutional crisis of its kind to unwind in real time. Just as live combat reports from the Iraq war transfixed a global audience, so too did reports on events inside the New York Times transmitted via Internet media news sites, online magazines and newspaper editions, blogs and e-mails.
Every significant turn in the entire sequence and every memo issued by Sulzberger, Raines and Boyd was immediately posted on the Internet. When Rick Bragg, the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer and a Raines favorite, was suspended for turning in a story based on an unsalaried freelance writer's uncredited work, he defended his conduct as standard among the Times' national correspondents. For 24 hours or so, that defense caromed around the Internet, uncontradicted by Raines or Boyd. . . .
And, in the end, it was the new world of Web sites, blogs, online editions and e-mails — not Raines — that set the pace of his exit.
UPDATE: Rand Simberg notes that Rutten wasn't always so impressed with blogs. Well, live and learn.
France's exhaustion with its unions has found its voice in a 21-year-old student, Sabine Herold, who is challenging the silent majority to revolt against the strikes crippling her country and causing havoc for British travellers.
With schools and government offices closed yesterday, Channel ferries halted, and airlines cancelling most of their flights to and from France, Mlle Herold called the union members 'reactionary egotists'
They "claim to defend public services but are just defending their own interests", she said.
With her pale blue mascara and long eyelashes, she makes an unlikely Joan of Arc. But her words have found an echo in large protests by students and parents against repeated strikes by teachers and threats to disrupt this summer's exam schedule.
She has also become an emblem for the many in French society who believe that economic reforms are long overdue. She blames President Jacques Chirac for caving in repeatedly during his career to union pressure.
Now the paper can go back to posing as an objective arbiter of the truth rather than the spirited ideological publication it's always been. By taking the white gloves off the Grey Lady, Raines did truth in advertising a great service. Now he's gone and the Times gets to go back to pretending. 'Tis a pity.
They can pretend -- but that's about all. I think it's going to take more than a name-plate shuffle in the editorial offices to restore confidence in the Times. It will take an obvious recommitment to good, honest, reporting. And, as Andrew Sullivan and Collin Levey have both noted (see below), people are watching.
ANDREW SULLIVAN'S WRAPUP on the Howell Raines scandals is worth reading in full. But here's an excerpt:
It's worth reviewing that the blogosphere was there before the mainstream media caught on and long before the Jayson Blair revelation. First, blogs revealed how many of the NYT's polls were skewed in the way they presented or spun data. They exposed the anti-Bush fervor of the Enron coverage. Then they broadcast the revelation of how Paul Krugman had once had lucrative former ties with Enron. We exposed blatant lies on the front-page - from allegedly soaring temperatures in Alaska to the fabricated cooptation of Henry Kissinger into the anti-war camp in August 2002. The process was relentless. In the end, even fabulist Maureen Dowd couldn't get away with doctoring quotes from the president to make a partisan point because a relatively little known blogger caught her, and passed it on. And in all this, we were helped by hundreds of readers who found errors and bias where others didn't - meta-bloggers, if you will.
It's that horizontal knowledge at work! (And Collin Levey, writing in the WSJ, agrees.) The irony is that professional journalists -- even though some have gotten their backs up over all this criticism of the revered Times -- should appreciate this. The way for Big Media to respond to the blogosphere's criticisms and competition is to do a better job, which means largely reversing the past couple of decades' trends toward downsizing, bureau-closing, homogenization, and substitution of "analysis" for reporting.
UPDATE: Lileks, being a genius, goes to Fark to collect his NYT reax quotes. And there's this:
10:03 Andrew Sullivan just floated six inches off the ground and gently revolved in mid air, and when he touched down he said to himself: Howell Raines has just resigned. I can feel it.
"There is an endemic cultural issue at the Times that is not a Howell creation, although it plays into his vulnerabilities as a manager, which is a top-down hierarchical structure," Linda Greenhouse, a veteran Times reporter who covers the Supreme Court, said in an interview last month. "And it's a culture where speaking truth to power has never been particularly welcomed."
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 5 — Belgian authorities arrested an Iraqi man Thursday after 10 letters laced with toxic powders were sent to the Belgian prime minister, the American, Saudi and British embassies and other offices. . . .Belgian media reported the envelopes included a card signed in English by the ''International Islamic Society.''
JIM MILLER WRITES that the widely-reported Pew survey on international attitudes toward the United States is also widely misreported:
The most important pattern that I see is this: In every single nation for which we have March and May data, the image of the United States improved in that period. In other words, the trend is in our favor. Would you have guessed that from reading the lead paragraph I quoted?
There's a New York Times problem, too.
posted at 08:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
LOOSE LIPS, the new novel by InstaPundit Paris correspondent Claire Berlinski, will be out in less than two weeks. You can pre-order a copy here -- and you should!
The Guardian’s lie about Paul Wolfowitz was even more egregious and disgraceful than it first appeared—because the accurate quote from Wolfowitz was published on their own web site last weekend, in a context that makes it unmistakably clear what Wolfowitz was saying: U.S. to Put Economic Pressure on N. Korea.
North Korea would respond to economic pressure, unlike Iraq, where military action was necessary because the country's oil money was propping up the regime, Wolfowitz told delegates at the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore.
“The country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse,” Wolfowitz said. “That I believe is a major point of leverage.”
“The primary difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options in Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil,” he said.
This really shouldn't be a sign of a revolution, but it is. In any other business, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd would have resigned weeks ago. And a few years ago, they would have been able to ride out the storm, using the Times' enormous media power to protect themselves. But the Internet has changed things. It means that the errors and biases of the new NYT could be exposed not just once but dozens and dozens of times. It means that huge and powerful institutions such as the New York Times cannot get away with anything any more. The deference is over; and the truth will out.
No word from Kaus yet, but he's bound to weigh in soon. And if this is your first time here today, scroll down for lots of news about the NYT and the Guardian.
UPDATE: Kaus has posted now. Best bit:
If this had happened 10 years ago, when the Internet didn't exist, Raines would still be running the place. The Times staff would be just as unhappy, but they'd be unable to instantaneously organize and vent their displeasure on Romenesko and elsewhere.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, Donald Luskin is dancing about on Raines' grave, and Roger Simon wants to know who you'd pick as a new oped columnist if you were the new editor of the Times.
A READER ASKS IF I USE "STRINGERS." Nope. I use a different resource, called "readers." A lot of my links come to me from readers, along with firsthand reporting, sometimes. (I've especially gotten excellent reports from Paris correspondents Nelson Ascher and Claire Berlinski over the past year). I think I've got an Afghan correspondent lined up, too.
posted at 02:00 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S A PRO-HOWARD DEAN BLOG from Memphis. Dean's campaign, as has been noted earlier, is relying heavily on horizontal communication: blogs, Meetup.com, etc. It will be interesting to see how it works.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, June 5 — Up to 40 Taliban guerrillas and seven Afghan government soldiers have been killed in the Taliban's worst defeat since it was driven from power by an American-led coalition in 2001, officials said today.
The big news is that they were killed by Afghan soldiers. Keep it up.
HAVANA - Dissident journalist Manuel Vazquez Portal tells of rats, bad food and a tiny cell in a diary smuggled out of prison by his wife, providing a rare look at life behind bars in Cuba.
Vazquez described his cell's furnishings as a rickety cot, a dirty mattress without sheets and pillow, a fetid toilet bowl. Rats scurry across the floor and water drips down the walls, he wrote.
"The cell is a space of 1 1/2 meters wide by 3 meters long (about 5 feet by 10 feet)," Vazquez wrote in one entry. "A barred door partially covered by a plate of steel. A barred window, through which enters the sun's rays, the rain, the insects."
Is America the only country in the world that could run a prison camp where prisoners gain weight? Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Joint Task Force returned to Afghanistan 19 of the approximately 664 men (from 42 countries) who have been held in the detention camps at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay. Upon leaving, it has been reported, each man received two parting gifts: a brand new copy of the Koran as well as a new pair of jeans. Not the act of generosity that it might first appear, the jeans, at least, turned out to be a necessity. During their 14-month stay, the detainees (nearly all of them) had each gained an average of 13 pounds.
Guess which one the international human rights folks have made the bigger stink about. Plus, the story on Castro's prison has the "perspective" paragraph comparing its conditions to other prisons in Latin America; coverage of Guantanamo doesn't do that.
posted at 01:41 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THE GUARDIAN now has a correction on its main page regarding the Wolfowitz oil story:
A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil" misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the department of defence website, "The ... difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq." The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed.
UPDATE: Best of the Web notes: "Still, cheers to the Guardian for correcting its mistakes, something a certain New York Times columnist has yet to do."
posted at 01:10 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HOWELL RAINES AND GERALD BOYD HAVE RESIGNED from the New York Times. Joseph Lelyveld will take over on an interim basis.
UPDATE: I wonder if this had anything to do with it? Probably not. Meanwhile Roger Simon says that there will probably be more journalistic scandals.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Noemie Emery says the Times' problem isn't diversity, but dynasty.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's the Times story on Raines' and Boyd's resignations.
MORE: Howard Veit says it's a revolution in journalism.
STILL MORE: Matt Welch and Arthur Silber have noticed some funny things about the New York Times press release on the subject.
posted at 11:09 AM by Glenn Reynolds
BAD NEWS AND GOOD NEWS FOR THE GUARDIAN:
First, the bad news: It's retracted and apologized for a story that cast doubts on whether Jack Straw and Colin Powell believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And now, the story -- widely debunked in the Blogosphere -- that Wolfowitz said the war was all about oil has vanished from its website, though no retraction has appeared so far. Presumably one will be forthcoming, as the story was pretty obviously bogus.
The good news: Now The Guardian can call itself the New York Times of Britain! They were just Dowdifying, you see. . . .
ALONE in a national newspaper industry congenitally reluctant to correct its mistakes, the Guardian has an exemplary record: its famous "corrections and clarifications" column has even been turned into a book.
All the more mysterious, therefore, that it has yet to correct or clarify its Saturday page-one splash which alleged that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, met in New York’s Waldorf Hotel just before a crucial UN session on Iraq on 5 February and moaned to each other about the poor quality of their intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Some sort of clarification, at the very least, is surely in order because no evidence has yet been produced to show that the alleged meeting between Mr Powell and Mr Straw ever took place, much less that they said what the Guardian alleges. . . .
The story’s provenance is not helped by the joint byline: Richard Norton-Taylor is an experienced correspondent on intelligence matters, but his name comes after Dan Plesch, who is not even a journalist but a "defence expert" who was opposed to the Iraq war and whose commentaries at the start of hostilities have not stood the test of time.
Indeed. The correction has been made, but the mystery remains.
It seems to me that lately, so many journalists are running around trying to make every quote from an administration official into an indictment of the Bush Administration. It's happened twice this week, both to statements made by Paul Wolfowitz. The first time it happened, it was Vanity Fair. I was even sucked in by the reports made on CBS Radio news that said that he'd admitted they'd manufactured an acceptable reason to go into Iraq. I thought it sounded just awful. Then I read the transcript which showed that Vanity Fair had clipped the quote to make it condemning.
Now it's a story in the Guardian that's causing hullaballoo all over the blogosphere. It seems that in their hurry to condemn the Bush Administration for something, anything, they're manufacturing evidence, which, if memory serves, is just what they're accusing the Bush administration of doing.
Well put. Sometimes, in a feeding frenzy, the sharks get bitten too. Sometimes they even get so excited that they bite themselves. Something similar seems to be going on here.
Meanwhile Roger Simon wonders if these attacks on Wolfowitz are because he's Jewish, making him "a natural target for the upper class hit men of the so-called British Left, who for many decades have often had a certain, shall we say, disdain for my co-religionists."
Why are we unpopular at the United Nations? Consider the U.N.'s membership list. Most of the so-called nation-states are anything but. Sure, they have Rand McNally borders, but they aren't modern states rooted in legitimate, popular authority. These hoaxes are areas controlled by the primitive sovereignty of tyranny, empires of fear where autocrats (often backed by a favored ethnic group, a tribe with a flag) call the shots.
Yeah, they hate us. The autocrats running the fake states hate us because they fear the liberty that empowers us will encourage their oppressed to topple them.
IMPRISONED IRANIAN BLOGGER SINA MOTALLEBI was released from prison a while back. He's doing fine, but still not blogging. Thus do the mullahs hope to cover up the nature of their regime. But really, of course, they're just making it clearer.
Zimbabwean police raided a private Harare hospital yesterday, the third day of a week-long national strike, beating and arresting several patients, according to doctors.
Ten police accompanied by youths from the ruling Zanu-PF party stormed into the Avenues Clinic, Harare's largest private hospital, and assaulted many of the 150 people seeking treatment for their injuries sustained in anti-government protests. Police herded several patients into a van.
Many of the patients were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries received at peaceful public protests against President Robert Mugabe's regime.
The police surrounded the hospital and ordered away injured people coming in for treatment, said health workers.
Government hospitals have refused to treat anyone suspected of being hurt in the demonstrations.
Somebody should kill Mugabe. Sooner rather than later. Of course, Mugabe's gun control program has made that more difficult, and given him a free hand to -- surprise -- arm his thugs and be sure they won't meet serious opposition.
posted at 07:43 AM by Glenn Reynolds
THOSE "CONSERVATIVES" who are celebrating the passage of partial-birth abortion legislation in the House are guilty of Congressional Activism. Constitutionally, Congress lacks the power to regulate abortion, and it's very difficult to style oneself a defender of limited government and federalism while supporting this legislation.
posted at 07:39 AM by Glenn Reynolds
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: The Guardianretracts a story:
In our front page lead on May 31 headlined "Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims," we said that the foreign secretary Jack Straw and his US counterpart Colin Powell had met at the Waldorf Hotel in New York shortly before Mr Powell addressed the United Nations on February 5. Mr Straw has now made it clear that no such meeting took place. The Guardian accepts that and apologises for suggesting it did.
A reader emails that Staw wasn't even in New York when the meeting was supposed to have happened. I suppose that would account for the apologetic tone.
posted at 07:36 AM by Glenn Reynolds
June 04, 2003
MICKEY KAUS UNVEILS the Howell-o-Meter, which currently estimates Howell Raines' chances of being shown the door at 70%.
posted at 09:07 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ORIN KERR WONDERS if blogs and SSRN will change legal scholarship by breaking down the law-review hierarchies. I think the answer is yes, but as I wrote a while ago, email lists and LEXIS have already changed things rather significantly.
The Guardian's version of events in such a ludicrous distortion of Wolfowitz's words that it falls into the "useful idiots" category. By apparently relying on a German translation/distortion of Wolfowitz's words -- when multiple English-language sources of the actual comments were available -- I have to wonder if the Guardian is guilty of libel in this case.
posted at 08:04 PM by Glenn Reynolds
"YOU CAN'T TRUST A NEWSPAPER THAT DOESN'T HAVE CARTOONS"
posted at 08:02 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S GRAPHIC PROOF that I'm a centrist. Told you so! And fancy graphics don't lie!
posted at 06:56 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MICKEY KAUS'S GEARBOX REVIEW OF THE HONDA ELEMENT is terrific -- full of useful information and witty Kausisms:
This would be a good vehicle to drive across the country, if you were accompanied by a bunch of entertaining friends and a vast array of salty snacks. . . .
The longer you live with the Element, the more its Honda-esque virtues--reliability, stability, fit & finish, efficiency--grow on you. It's what I think I'd be like as a husband!
You know, we've had three or four of this type of thing in rapid-fire succession over a period of little over a week (scroll to "The NYT Against Ashcroft"), massive, willful distortions of what people said, printed in (supposedly) reputable newspapers. . . .
"Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war.
The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.
The latest comments were made by Mr Wolfowitz in an address to delegates at an Asian security summit in Singapore at the weekend, and reported today by German newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt.
Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."
"The United States hopes to end the nuclear standoff with North Korea by putting economic pressure on the impoverished nation, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Saturday. North Korea would respond to economic pressure, unlike Iraq, where military action was necessary because the country's oil money was propping up the regime, Wolfowitz told delegates at the second annual Asia Security Conference in Singapore."
"The country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse," Wolfowitz said. "That I believe is a major point of leverage." "The primary difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options in Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil," he said. Wolfowitz did not elaborate on how Washington intends to put economic pressure on North Korea, but said other countries in the region helping it should send a message that "they're not going to continue doing that if North Korea continues down the road it's on." [my emphasis]
Now it might not have been smart of Wolfowitz, on the heels of the Vanity Fair interview imbroglio (however much the press distorted his comments there too) to describe Iraqi oil supplies using evocative language like "the country floats on a sea of oil." But any judicious analysis of his comments begs the conclusion that he was making an explicit reference to his contention that there were no viable punitive economic options with regard to pressuring Iraq on compliance with relevant U.N. resolutions given the monies the Baathist regime could access because of its oil supplies. This is patently different than the Guardian's spin (no, lie) that Wolfowitz said the U.S. had "no choice" regarding going to war in Iraq because of a too-tempting-to-pass-up-neo-imperialistic-oil grab-opportunity.
It is hugely irresponsible of the Guardian to run such a distorted, tabloid-style headline.
I predict, however, that a lot of people will jump on this false report and keep repeating it -- because that'll save them from having to talk about mass graves full of children. To coin a phrase: "Pheh."
ACCORDING TO THIS CATO PAPER, coauthored by two Knoxville attorneys, federal grand juries have too much power. I'm no expert on this, but my sense is that the real problem isn't just the power, but rather their lack of independence. Federal grand juries are mostly just arms of the prosecution, whose nominal -- but not real -- independence is useful for prosecutors.
Make 'em genuinely independent, and, well, the politicians would be running for cover, I suspect, which is why they aren't.
posted at 02:16 PM by Glenn Reynolds
READER JOHN KLUGE EMAILS FROM IRAQ:
I am in Irbil in Kurdistan northern Iraq. Someone explained the history of this place to me today. The mountains here are bare and devoid of trees. They used be forested. Covered with trees. There used to be so many trees in Irbil that you couldn't see around corners. Now it looks like Kansas or really more like parts of Montana.
The reason is that Saddam cut down all of the trees in Kurdistan in 1988. He bulldozed 4000 of the 5000 villages in Kurdistan and the Kurds ran to the mountains for safety, so he cut down all of the trees on these mountains and killed all of the game, so that the Kurds would have no wood for fires and no food to eat. He was incredibly effective. The Kurds are now replanting the trees. You can see hundreds of tiny trees if you look closely at the mountains. I didn't notice them until they were pointed out to me. In Kirkuk they found a mass grave of Kurdish children. One of the U.N. guys offered to take us out and show it to us. I haven't taken him up on it. I have no reason to go there and I feel like it would be disrespectful to go and gawk. I guess some of the children were buried with their toys and dolls.
It makes me sick everytime I surf the net and see all these people in Europe and back home saying that the war was not justified because we haven't found 50 tons of sarin gas yet. I wish those people would come to this country and look at ruined villages between here and Kirkuk and the bare mountains. Anyone who protested against this war and defended Saddam ought to be ashamed of themselves. Its just unimaginable the things that went on here.
And largely unmentioned, by those who are still kvetching.
posted at 01:31 PM by Glenn Reynolds
FOUR BLOGS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD? I think that Hugh Hewitt overstates InstaPundit's influence. I think, though, that he's right to spot the growing power of the blogosphere, and he's dead-on with this point:
Theodore White began his account of the 1964 presidential campaign this way: "Every man who writes of politics shapes unknowingly in his mind some fanciful metaphor to embrace all the wild, apparently erratic events and personalities in the process he tries to describe."
It is crazy to try and develop a metaphor for the new politics--a politics of a 24/7 news cycle, cable land, talk radio, FreeRepublic.com, and DemocraticUnderground.com , and thousands of blogs-- but the opening scene from "Gangs of New York" comes to mind. Campaigns would be well-advised to designate a team just to keep track of and respond to web-generated stories and opinion, starting with the Big Four.
Howard Dean seems ahead of the curve on this.
UPDATE: Thanks, Hugh -- for one more reader:
Brief demographics: 18 years old, female, Florida, headed come September to the University of Chicago. I was introduced to weeklystandard.com perhaps two months ago and have rejoiced daily since then in the discovery of a sort of news forum I had no idea existed.
Hugh Hewitt's article today is doing the same thing for me with blogs. I've just spent a good hour browsing through the four he mentions, and I just got a real kick after reading your entire TechCentralStation article, then returning to your site at precisely 11:45 to find a new posting. Thanks; this is fun.
In the Blogosphere, we naturally tend to forget how few people (in relation to the population as a whole, or even the population of Internet users) actually know about blogs. Given that most people still haven't heard about blogs at all, the kind of growth that John Dvorak is now predicting seems plausible.
THE INCONCEIVABILITY OF GOOGLE, and the lessons to be drawn from that, are the subjects of my TechCentralStation column today, which carries the somewhat racy-sounding title Horizontal Knowledge:
Just try this thought experiment: Imagine that it's 1993. The Web is just appearing. And imagine that you - an unusually prescient type - were to explain to people what they could expect in the summer of 2003. Universal access to practically all information. From all over the place - even in bars. And all for free!
I can imagine the questions the skeptics would have asked: How will this be implemented? How will all of this information be digitized and made available? (Lots of examples along the line of "a thousand librarians with scanners would take fifty years to put even a part of the Library of Congress online, and who would pay for that?") Lots of questions about how people would agree on standards for wireless data transmission - "it usually takes ten years just to develop a standard, much less put it into the marketplace!" - and so on, and so on. "Who will make this stuff available for free? People want to be paid to do things!" "Why, even if we start planning now, there's no way we'll have this in ten years!"
Actually, that final statement is true. If we had started planning in 1993, we probably wouldn't have gotten here by now.
BUT IT'S TOO BAD WE INVADED UNDER "FALSE PRETENSES:"
A MASS grave containing the remains of 200 Kurdish children has been discovered in the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk, the Kurdish newspaper Taakhi reported today.
"Citizens discovered on May 30 a communal grave close to Debs, in Kirkuk. But this is different from other mass graves discovered since the fall of Saddam Hussein's terrorist regime because it contains the remains of 200 child victims of the repression of the Kurdish uprising" in 1991, the paper said.
"Even dolls were buried with the children," it said.
Dozens of mass graves have been uncovered all over Iraq since Saddam's ouster by invading US-led forces on April 9.
Krugman's right: It's unfortunate that we interfered with Iraq's internal affairs, preventing more of these.
SALAM PAX'S GUARDIAN COLUMN IS UP, and it's very interesting reading. Things don't sound great, but they don't sound as terrible as some would have us believe, either. I won't even try to excerpt it -- just go read it.
UPDATE: Oh, okay, I can't resist this one bit:
I got five papers for 1,750 dinars, around $1.50, it felt like I was buying the famous bread of bab-al-agha: hot, crispy and cheap. When the newspaper man saw how happy I was with my papers he asked if I would like to take one for free. Newspaper heaven! It turns out that no one is buying any copies of the paper published by the Iraqi Communist workers party; he just wants to unload it on me. Look, I paid for the Hawza paper so why not take the commie one gratis?
Although the ministry of information has been broken up and around 2,000 employees given the boot, the media industry, if you can call it that, is doing very well. Beside all the papers we now have a TV channel and radio; they are part of what our American minders have called the Iraqi media network. My favourite TV show on it is an old Japanese cartoon (here it is called Adnan wa Lina). It is about what happens after a third world war when chaos reigns the earth. Bad choice for kids' programming if you ask me. Some cities have their own local stations and there are two Kurdish TV channels. But the BBC World Service killed in one move a favourite Iraqi pastime: searching for perfect reception. The BBC Arabic service started broadcasting on FM here and it is just not the same when you don't hear the static.
The staff of the ministry of information is being given $50 as a final payment these days: lots of angry shouting and pointing at al-Jazeera cameras. Other civil workers had better luck - the people at the electricity works got paid by the new salary scheme suggested by the Bremer administration (the range is from 100,000 to 500,000 dinars, $100-$500: the people at the lower end got a raise and the people at the top got the cream taken off their pie) and as if by magic the electricity workers try a bit harder and the situation gets better.
On Friday's NBC Nightly News, Avila reported that hospital staff "say the so-called blanks were actually flash-bang grenades used to stun and frighten hospital workers and potential resistance. No bullets or blanks were fired inside the hospital. And the Americans had every reason to expect trouble. Hospital workers confirm the Iraqi military used the basement as a headquarters." A doctor told Avila that "what he calls the big heads of the Iraqi army left just six hours before the raid." Avila added that "the Iraqis told NBC News the American soldiers' behavior was humane." For instance, when one of the physicians said the handcuffs "hurt and they were too tight," the "soldiers immediately loosened them."
WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- As the U.S. media still digests the shock and lessons of the Jayson Blair affair at The New York Times, a far older and far worse journalistic wrong may soon be posthumously righted. The Pulitzer Prize board is reviewing the award it gave to New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty more than 70 years ago for his shamefully -- and knowingly -- false coverage of the great Ukrainian famine.
The Clinton administration is preparing a cowardly attack on the people of Iraq in which countless innocent lives will be sacrificed to further the interests of American big business. This is the reality behind the efforts of the president and his top advisers to create the illusion of a popular consensus for savaging an already shattered nation. . . .
In so far as the address was an attempt to justify the impending assault on Iraq, it consisted of a series of half-truths and outright lies. It began with a fantastic depiction of America and the world on the eve of the 21st century. The cold war was over, democracy was on the rise, peace and prosperity for all were around the corner. Only one obstacle stood in the way--what Clinton called "outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals."
He continued: "We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century they will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
posted at 07:16 PM by Glenn Reynolds
LARRY LESSIG OFFERS SOME INTERESTING HISTORY on the public domain -- in the year 868. And scroll to learn about the petition he's sponsoring.
posted at 06:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds
RAND SIMBERG WILL BE ON THE RADIO talking about space beginning at 7 p.m. PDT tonight. Follow the link to find out how to hear him, on or off-line.
The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran- contra.
I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.
Heh. Of course, Krugman needs to address all those statements about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that the Clinton administration made -- or maybe he figures that, since they didn't do anything about the problem, it doesn't matter?
Meanwhile David Hogberg notes that Krugman is engaged in Maureen-Dowdesque selective quotation.
UPDATE: Roger Simon says the problem isn't the mistakes, but the heavy-handed politics:
But Krugman must get the demon Bush, using any pretext he can, the WMDs in this case. But let’s give Paul his due. Let’s stipulate, even though we have no way of knowing at this point, the presence of these weapons was exaggerated by the administration; I still say—so what? Saddam’s gone. It was worth it. And I ask Krugman this simple question: What if some leader had used a similar ruse to get rid of Hitler in 1940? What would he think of that?
Prediction: We won’t be hearing a Krugman answer to that one any time soon.
That's a safe one, I think.
UPDATE: Andrew Philip Winerman emails:
Roosevelt DID use something of a ruse. He used Pearl Harbor to get us into the war (with Japan) and then attacked Germany first. Granted, Germany declared war on the US two days after we declared war on Japan. Still, the public was demanding Japanese blood in the weeks after Pearl Harbor, not German, and Roosevelt made Europe his first priority.
True enough. And that's why FDR is reviled by -- oh, wait. . . .
posted at 03:18 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S AN INTERESTING BBC TRANSCRIPT on weapons of mass destruction. Excerpt:
Not only that but they also didn't say that they were working on the basis of an assumption, did they? In fact, if I remember that Tony Blair told Parliament that Iraq could actually use its weapons of mass destruction within something like forty-five minutes. It was that kind of specific information which gave the impression of a clear and imminent danger to western society.
Yes there is two parts to that. One is that we know and the United Nations knows - and even the UN inspectors of Hans Blix etc. were unable to discover what had happened to all the weapons or the capability of making weapons - the raw materials for it - that we know Iraq had had and Iraq had failed to give a good explanation. Forty-five minutes - I always read that as not as if there was going to be a missile firing at us in forty-five minutes time. That some of this material - chemical and biological, but certainly chemical, was for use on artillery shells, and these artillery shells, equipped in this way, could be distributed to front line Iraqi army units within that time, if necessary. . . .
Dr M.V. Diboll, United Arab Emirates asks: Why is it that in the 80s, when it was no secret that he had and was using chemical weapons, Saddam was a tyrant we were more than happy to do business with? Why did Britain and America suddenly decide that Iraq's alleged possession of WMDs was a casus beli - a reason to go to war?
Well I think the questioner there is rewriting history. It's not the way that I remember the 1980s. The 1980s - and I ended up writing a biography of Saddam Hussein in 1990 - I did a lot of work in Iraq in the 1980s and the people who were supplying military equipment to Saddam's Iraq were noticeably the Soviet Union and the other parts of the Soviet bloc - China, France. And Britain and the United States supplied extremely little military equipment to Saddam because we realised what a diabolical regime it was. And so your questioner is pointing his finger in the wrong direction in terms of blame. . . .
Iraq is a huge country. For European viewers, I believe it's twice the size of France and France itself is the biggest country in western Europe. It is the size of California, if you are an American. It is huge. It is not difficult to hide things in such places. You don't just pour it into the sand. I suppose some of it might have been hidden in that way but you store in some way and eventually it will be found. There were not just hundreds, there were thousands of technicians, scientists, engineers working on these projects when we knew that existed back in the '80s. Some of them were retained into the '90s and they will have stories to tell. Perhaps they haven't come forward yet, or their debriefings haven't been released.
Read the whole thing, which I suspect won't get the attention it deserves.
UPDATE: Rich Lowry points out that it's rather dishonest for people to pretend that the Bush Administration somehow invented the notion that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were a major threat, and he has scads of quotes from Clinton Administration officials to prove it. He adds:
The failure so far to find WMD in Iraq is a major embarrassment for President Bush, and congressional hearings into the intelligence prior to the Iraq War are welcome. But the post-Iraq debate shouldn't proceed on false pretenses: Everyone this side of famed Iraqi prevaricator Baghdad Bob believed that Iraq had WMD. In the run-up to the war, the United Nations, the "axis of weasel" (France and Germany) and high-profile Democrats all agreed about WMD.
The specific figures in Secretary of State Colin Powell's U.N. presentation about Iraq's unaccounted-for WMD came from U.N. inspectors. France and Germany didn't argue that Saddam had no WMD, but inspections could rid him of them. Clinton and Al Gore dissented from aspects of Bush's policy, but agreed about WMD. "We know," Gore said, "he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons."
The question was what to do about a dictator with ties to terrorism who for 12 years had defied the procedures set out by the world to confirm that he no longer had dangerous weapons. For the Bush administration, Sept. 11 meant erring on the side of safety, and so continuing to accept Saddam's denials and defiance wasn't an option.
As someone once warned: "This is not a time free from peril, especially as a result of the reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals. We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century." Even if the rhetoric was shrill, Bill Clinton had a point.
Q: How do you confuse a blonde?
A: Tell her that the same people who predicted hundreds of thousands of casualties and a massive refugee crisis are now condemning US intelligence for supplying inaccurate information about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Q: How many New York Times writers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Ten. Nine to change the bulb, and one to claim the byline.
Pretty funny but, uh, don't quit your dayjob, kid.
KEN JOSEPH, the Assyrian peace activist who went to Iraq before the war and then left when he realized what Saddam was all about, has returned to Iraq and offers a distinctly positive view of the situation there:
The answer is very complicated while at the same time very, very simple. It is the "politically correct" thing to do to complain about the Americans, say they are not wanted and tell them to "go home."
The reality, though, is very different.
As usually happens throughout Iraq, people look around before they tell their true feelings. Simply put they are still afraid to speak the truth. Before it was Saddam, now it is the Shiites and others who frighten them.
"The Americans are doing wonderfully. We want them to stay forever," I hear.
I am not surprised. It is exactly like I thought. When I was in Iraq before the war, the reported feelings were that while the people of Iraq did not like Saddam, they would fight for their country and were against the war.
As I said then, the people wanted the war to come so they could be liberated from Saddam but were not free to talk. The same situation with a different twist exists today.
It is not widely reported, nor fashionable to say the Americans are loved and wanted in Iraq, but in fact as they were wanted before the war, they are wanted now.
"We hope they stay forever" is the true feeling of the silent majority in Iraq, contrary to what is reported.
The logic is very simple -- the Iraqis do not trust their leaders. Faced with a very complicated situation of a 60 percent Shiite majority, a former police state, Iran at their doorstep trying with all its might to destabilize their country, and desperately relieved and happy to be finally liberated from nearly 30 years of Saddam, they want the United States to stay.
They're afraid that if we leave, the "crazies" will take over, as in Iran. Read the whole thing, as they say. This suggests to me that one of the most important things we can do is make clear that we won't be chased out, a la Somalia.
UPDATE: Virginia Postrel doesn't think this is a positive account. I disagree. The story we're hearing is that Iraqis hate us, and crazy Shiite clerics are in charge. This says Iraqis don't hate us, and crazy Shiite clerics are having to threaten people to get any traction. That seems better than the conventional wisdom to me.
Virginia seems a bit miffed about Tim Blair's New York Times jokes, too. But if the Times had more writers like Virginia, people wouldn't be joking.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's why people are all over the Times, Virginia. And, sadly, lots of other places are just as bad. Reporting may be hard -- but lying is easy. Guess which one they choose, sometimes.
posted at 10:07 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JON REISMAN WRITES that state efforts to, in essence, adopt the Kyoto Protocol are assuming powers that belong to the federal government, not the states, under the Constitution.
He's pretty clearly right about this: two former students of mine wrote an excellent article on state foreign-policy efforts in Foreign Affairs a couple of years ago that made the same point. Their article focused on efforts to sanction Burma/Myanmar (which, constitutional issues aside, I would favor) but the point is the same. Foreign policy is messy enough without the states getting involved, particularly as the states who do get involved often aren't the ones who would bear the brunt of any consequences.
Fixing potlholes and funding education should be the responsibility of state and local governments. Foreign policy should be the responsibility of the feds. Neither is doing so superbly in its assigned sphere that it can afford to spend time poaching on the other's turf, however politically appealing such efforts might be.
posted at 09:56 AM by Glenn Reynolds
FRED TURNER WONDERS when the 1960s generation bought into the class system:
But there is another flavor in the fear. I recognized it with astonishment, and once I did, it was unmistakable. It was the fear of losing one's class standing, of being "cut" by one's "set," of being labeled not quite "pukka," not quite "our sort," a loss of caste. What had happened, I realized, was something absolutely astonishing; that in some way the cultural revolution of the '60s had begun an attempt to reinstitute a class system that America had, out of its own inner nature and best genius, rejected. Rejected in the American Revolution, rejected in the Civil War, rejected in the decision to welcome immigration from Ireland and Southern and Eastern Europe and China, rejected in the Civil Rights movement. But still the urge toward the pleasures of snobbery kept reasserting itself in new forms; this time it was a snobbery of radical liberal intellectuals in the university, the school system, the press, the judiciary, and the charitable foundations, with wannabes in government, the caring professions, and even the hipper reaches of the corporate campus.
Aspiring middle-class folk adopt this snobbery in order to sound "Ivy"; Ivy people wear it like a comfortable old pair of $500 loafers; the rich, once the best educated people around, put it on in order to keep up with the better-educated professionals that define its canons.
So Eustace Tilley, the gentleman with the monocle on the cover of The New Yorker, is now the heir of Berkeley's Sproul Plaza protests, beards and beads and all. You can see the class system evolving in the movie "The Big Chill," where William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, and Meg Tilley all articulated its characteristic cool and style. Of course it has settled down since then, and has adapted to tweeds and fume blanc and Francophilia. It is an entirely unconscious snobbery.
Oh, not entirely.
UPDATE: Talk about ahead of the curve -- Michael Barone wrote about "The New Snobbery" back in 1966! Advantage: Barone. Which isn't to say that Turner hasn't done a good job of noting its spread, and the signs of its blooming decay.
There's a great opportunity: American computer makers should be seen over there setting up a few dozen free public PCs with high-speed access. Or just leapfrog into the new decade by handing out wireless laptops.
Last week, I disembarked into notoriously Internet-disabled San Francisco International Airport after three months away. I nearly fell to my knees when I saw the Centrino banners announcing the airport's new network. That's when it hit me: This is the flag that should be flying over Baghdad.
This will not take much. The plan is this simple. It needs:
1. Bandwidth. MCI is over there installing mobile phones. It would take nothing -- nothing -- for them to bring Inernet POPs to a handful of locations in the major cities at the same time. If I were running MCI, I'd do it as a mitvah, considering the hell my company had caused the world. But a foundation could underwrite this as well.
2. Computers. My commenter is right: Lots of companies -- Dell, HP, IBM, Apple, Gateway, Microsoft, Intel -- can afford to donate machines. It won't take many, just a few hundred.
3. Tutor. Iranian webloggers needed Hoder to explain how to blog. Salam Pax could do likewise.
4. Space. The U.S. and British military should find space for temporary Internet cafes that could be used by servicemen for X hours a day to email home and by Iraqis most of the day to exercise their newfound free speech.
5. Guru. Somebody needs to bring this together, getting companies and foundations to donate bandwidth and machines and getting the government to facilitate this (and see that it is in America's interest to encourage such free speech). I'll volunteer. So will many others, I'm sure.
What comes out of this: A hundred Salam Paxes. A thousand Salam Paxes. The intelligent, caring, involved future of Iraq will come online to share their experiences and opinions and hopes and fears and Iraq will be better for it; so will the world, for we will build bridges to Iraqis online.
History has never had a better, cheaper, easier, faster means of publishing content and distributing it worldwide. Now is the time to take advantage of this for sake of democracy and freedom and nothing less than that.
Microsoft? Dell? Apple? Intel? It's time to step up to the plate. How about it?
Let me stop here for a moment and make some specific predictions. Within the next year, both David Letterman and Jay Leno will make jokes about blogs and even discuss them. "Nightline" will do an entire show on blogging. San Jose journalist and blog promoter Dan Gillmor will be a guest for the episode. This is the point where blogging will become mainstream. Shortly thereafter, we will see blogging millionaires, as venture capitalists figure out ways to make money from the trend.
That's a fairly astonishing reversal from Dvorak's earlier, ahem, skepticism toward weblogs, isn't it?
And there's this revelation: "Steve Ballmer is supposed to have a secret blog someplace." (Via Nick Denton).
My inner journalist tells me to draw back at this moment and write about the larger significance of my encounter with Salam Pax. That working alongside—no, employing—a star of the World Wide Web and being blissfully unaware of it is a lesson about the murkiness of today's Iraq, a netherland of obscurity in which you cannot know who was a Baathist and who was not, or whether the man in the middle of the street with a gun is going to shoot you or not, or whether the country is spiraling out of control or just having teething problems before becoming a normal nation. My inner blogger, however, tells me to skip the What This Means stuff and write about my life with Salam Pax.
Read the rest. And my Big Picture take is that when a journalist as good as Peter Maass can have Salam Pax as his interpreter and not figure it out until he's back in the States, we should take all the reporting from Baghdad as, at best, tentative.
Peter leaves out one nuance. On Thursday night, his first evening back in New York, a bunch of us went out for dinner. Peter, who was taking some time to realize what a celebrity Salam had become, would tell his war stories. But all anyone wanted to know, gallingly oblivious of media status, was this: "So, Salam, what's he like? What was it like working with him?"
Such is fame and the blogosphere.
posted at 08:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
JULES CRITTENDEN SAYS THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS IS WELL, BASICALLY LYING, at least by conscious omission, about the tank fire that killed two reporters in Baghdad:
Great weight is given to reporters' assertions that the tankers, who had been engaged in combat for up to 30 hours, should have been able to recognize them at a distance of three-quarters of a mile. The report doesn't question how reporters who didn't realize their own building was hit by a high-explosive tank round can definitively state that no fire was coming from the hotel's vicinity.
CPJ ignored my remark that French reporter Jean Paul Mari told me he understood fire from an anti-tank battery south of the hotel might have been seen as coming from the hotel's vicinity.
It is indisputable that the Pentagon should have ensured that units in Baghdad were aware of sensitive sites. By failing to do so, they failed their own soldiers and placed our journalistic colleagues in jeopardy. But a lawsuit by the Cuoso family targeting the soldiers involved, and CPJ's second-guessing aspersions are not helpful.
All of us who placed ourselves in harm's way in Iraq knowingly risked death at the hands of the Iraqis and the Americans. Both sides were responsible for journalists' deaths. Unfortunately, the Committee to Protect Journalists showed its colors early on, when it condemned, protested and demanded answers about U.S. actions against journalists, while mourning, monitoring and voicing concern about Iraqi actions. There was no condemnation of the Iraqi leadership's decision to use civilian vehicles, clothing and suicide bombers for assault purposes, which unquestionably placed non-embedded reporters in danger. Those tactics forced the tankers to fire on civilian buildings and vehicles in Baghdad.
It's sad that you just can't trust these people. And you can't.
What's next, big-lipped black people being lured with watermelon?
UPDATE: Here's Don Wycliff's column in the Trib about it. But Wycliff isn't being honest. He says that "the cartoon carried several other messages that could be seen as drawing on anti-Semitic symbols and stereotypes." Could be seen? You mean the absurdly hook-nosed Jew staring greedily at money, with the Star of David on his sleeve while the President supinely offers more cash?
"Could be seen?" Let's be honest here: The equivalent would be a blubber-lipped Jesse Jackson eating watermelon and saying "I sho' lub 'dese Democrats," while Tom Daschle beamed in the background. That cartoon never would have seen print, and the columnist would have been fired. The racial stereotyping here was just as obvious -- and, historically, tied to even worse things than Jim Crow -- and if it was really published out of ignorance, then the folks who oversaw it are too ignorant to work in the news business.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Rick Skeean emails: "I wouldn't like the cartoon in any case, but to me it looks like Sharon is supposed to be wearing a hawk totem." As I said, absurdly hook-nosed.
Reader Tim Henrion notes:
Their deputy editor picked this cartoon out of an unknown number that crossed his desk. He would most likely be out of a job if he had picked a similar racist cartoon.
ERROR CORRECTION UPDATE: Oops. Somehow I attribute to Don Wycliff a statement that was actually him quoting another Chicago Tribune editor. I'm sorry about that -- I read it several times, and I don't know how I managed to get that wrong. On rereading, it's clear that Wycliff's views of the cartoon are harsher than that. My mistake, and I'm sorry about that.
I don't promise not to make mistakes -- just to fix 'em when I do. Luckily my readers, in this case reader John Althouse Cohen, tend to let me know.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, the OmbudsGod points out a different problem with Wycliff's response, which he says misrepresents the relationship between the cartoonist and the Tribune.
posted at 04:21 PM by Glenn Reynolds
FIRST IT WAS STARBUCKS, but now photo-fascism seems to be spreading.
LAST Sunday saw a remarka ble event in Washington - one that defied stereotypes about Muslims and the Bush administration's "hard-liners": Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, widely identified (and denounced) as the main architect of America's Iraq intervention, won multiple standing ovations from an audience of hundreds of Muslims.
He praised the coalition's use of force to remove evil, and he hailed the new reality in Iraq. For the first time in 26 years, he said, Shia Muslims had freedom to observe their Arbaeen festival in Iraq. The room exploded in applause.
The venue: the first-ever national convention of Shia Muslims from the United States and Canada.
The most important person who will not be at any of the meetings this week is, of course, Arafat. And make no mistake, Arafat will try to derail this peace process. He has absolutely no incentive to see Abu Mazen succeed. He will try to keep his fingers in the operations of the Palestinian Authority, in particular in controlling the security forces. The day that Arafat swore Abu Mazen into office, he set up a new national-security council, with himself as chairman, controlling all matters related to law and order. He will thwart the efforts to crack down on terror. He might even encourage some groups to engage in low-level terror. The message Arafat will try to send the world is “Abu Mazen is a nice guy but he can’t deliver. If you want to deal with the Palestinians, you have to deal with Arafat.”
HERE'S A STORY from Wired News about the FCC's decision on media deregulation. Interestingly, the FCC release is available in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word formats, but not in plain-vanilla HTML. It's also somewhat disingenuous in that it casts the FCC's action as limiting concentration, rather than relaxing limits.
The real question, though, is whether the FCC - and in particular Michael Powell, who enjoys the bully pulpit -- will support Internet freedom so as to promote the kind of alternative media channels on which the new ruling was based.
UPDATE: Duane Freese, who thinks that all the controversy over this matter is overblown, says that the answer is spectrum for everyone.
posted at 02:19 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S AN INTERESTING PIECE on scholar-bloggers, from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
In the most sweeping realignment of American military power since World War II, the United States is planning to shift most of its forces from Germany, South Korea and the Japanese island of Okinawa, U.S. and foreign military officials say. The plans, still the focus of intense negotiations and debate among America’s allies and inside the Bush administration, would reorient America’s presence in Europe eastward to Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and shift U.S. power in the Far East toward southeast Asia, with options for new bases in northern Australia, the Philippines and even Vietnam being explored.
The notion of Vietnamese negotiating the presence of American bases is deeply amusing, but overall it makes sense to rethink this sort of thing. The Cold War is over, the threat is different, and we probably don't need bases as much as we used to.
posted at 01:20 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'VE GOT MORE on the international politics of space and GPS over at GlennReynolds.com.
EVAN COYNE MALONEY has a new video online regarding the exploits of Protest Warriors in the face of efforts to crush their dissent.
And he's selling DVDs now!
posted at 08:22 AM by Glenn Reynolds
PRIOR RESTRAINT IN FLORIDA: Another jackbooted judge, it would appear, who either doesn't understand that the First Amendment applies to the Internet, or who just doesn't care:
The order, entered by Judge Diana Lewis of Circuit Court in West Palm Beach, forbids Mr. Max to write about Ms. Johnson. It has alarmed experts in First Amendment law, who say that such orders prohibiting future publication, prior restraints, are essentially unknown in American law. Moreover, they say, claims like Ms. Johnson's, for invasion of privacy, have almost never been considered enough to justify prior restraints. . . .
Judge Lewis ruled on May 6, before Mr. Max was notified of the suit and without holding a hearing. She told Mr. Max that he could not use "Katy" on his site. Nor could he use Ms. Johnson's last name, full name or the words "Miss Vermont."
KEVIN DRUM is to the right of me and even of Brian Linse on the question of FCC deregulation, which is sure to set some heads spinning.
On the other hand, I think I'd be far more comfortable with the FCC approach if Internet freedom were not under assault from Old Media, and if Michael Powell and the FCC were defending that Internet freedom in ways that they're most definitely not.
Readers may have noticed that I've referred to several articles recently that have appeared in the New York Times. They usually do a reasonable job of covering the drug industry - not great, not awful. (I think that the Wall Street Journal pays more attention, and gets more details right.) But I'm starting to wonder if something is up.
The Times has a well-documented tendency for what the current editors call "flood the zone" coverage. Well, the last few weeks have seen a run of stories on the pharmaceutical business. They've been long, prominently placed, and rather unfriendly.
He's got a lot of details. Lowe seems to wonder if the Times isn't trying to set up an election-year issue. It's bad news -- but not surprising -- that the Newspaper of Record inspires such suspicions so routinely now.
posted at 10:17 PM by Glenn Reynolds
STEVE DEN BESTE WRITES ABOUT POSTWAR MALAISE in the blogosphere. I know what he means. In fact, as I said a while back, Kaus put it best:
You're completely sick of the war -- sick of watching cable, sick of reading the paper. The military campaign's basically been won. The adrenalin is leaving your body. The overwhelming urge is to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to normal life, only more so: normal life minus current events. Yet this is just the moment when it's probably most important to pay attention to what is going on in the Middle East, because these are the weeks when we will or won't make the mistakes that will cost us the benefit of all the sacrifice of life and treasure.
That's why I didn't take a vacation like Andrew Sullivan, or Bill Quick. (Or, sadly, like Nick Denton). But it's been a struggle. It's been made worse by the difficulty of getting a big picture. Yeah, there are lots of media reports suggesting that things aren't going that well. But they're mostly from people who were declaring the war a quagmire after 15 minutes, and who peddled the bogus looting stories. Others are from more credible sources, but even those are hard to place in perspective. Europe and Japan looked pretty crappy for quite a while after World War II -- ordinary people were putting food on the table via prostitution for quite some time after the war, something now largely forgotten except for vague jokes about nylons and chocolate bars. Things aren't nearly that bad in Iraq. And in some places they're quite a bit better. We also faced efforts at subversion by the Russians in Japan and Germany that were far more serious than anything we're likely to face in Iraq, which is smaller and has -- I think -- actually got more U.S. troops occupying it per-capita than Japan had in 1946. (I haven't checked this, but a usually reliable reader emails that fact.)
My waitress at dinner was a Kurd, who reported that relatives in Northern Iraq (she hadn't been back for a couple of years) say that things are much better since Saddam's fall. Mark Steyn reports that things look pretty good to him. Phil Carter, meanwhile, is less positive: he has argued pretty persuasively that we had enough troops to win the war, but not enough for the occupation. (He also thinks we'll see Al Qaeda attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.)
Everyone expected a civil war, but now that's not happening. Actually, the situation is much better than we imagined before the war... People who before the war sold tomatoes now suddenly offer satellite phones on the open street...
And, actually, even this is probably good news:
One thing is sure: No one is relying on the Americans. No one expects
that they will do anything for us.
Low expectations are better than too-high ones, and self-reliance is better than dependence. I think that this has been a deliberate strategy in the occupation, though we may have overplayed it. On the other hand, Baghdad has free Internet now, via self-help. That's a good sign, I think. But a too-disengaged approach is likely to breed more resentment than an overbearing one, actually. As Osama says, people (especially Arab people) tend to want to back a strong horse. So it's important to look strong.
On the broader scale, things look pretty good. We had anti-Al Qaeda demonstrations in Morocco, and Syria seems to be feeling the heat. There have been somesigns of self-examination and skepticism toward fundamentalist Islamism even in Saudi Arabia, though the Saudis remain unimpressive on this front. The Iranian mullahs are nervous (though not nervous enough), and -- though I remain skeptical -- there are some things that could be interpreted as progress with regard to Israel and the Palestinians, though I doubt it will be possible to achieve peace there as long as Arafat is alive. And, over all, Al Qaeda has faced many, many arrests, and we've gone over 18 months without a significant Islamic terrorist attack in the United States.
That's all pretty good news, and far better than we feared in September of 2001. In fact, the big news so far is that things are a lot better than we feared in September 2001.
I think the two most important things next are the two most obvious. One is getting post-Saddam Iraq right. Getting it right may take years, but setting the conditions for getting it right in the next six months. The next six months are going to be very important.
The other thing is trying to get some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
I think the two are connected. Getting things right in Iraq is very important, and it won't happen overnight, and it won't be obvious how things are going overnight. (It's not obvious how things are going in Russia, and it's been well over a decade since the end of the Soviet Union). I think it's very important that we work at it, and I think it's ironic that some of the people who were critics before the war saying "we'll just put in a friendly dictator and leave" are now pushing arguments and criticisms that imply just such a course of action when the Administration is obviously committed to something more. We want a peaceful, free and prosperous Iraq. Claims that Arabs are somehow incapable of that sort of thing seem a bit dubious to me, especially when they come from people who call themselves "progressive" -- and it's especially unimpressive when those people say "Iraq is ungovernable" with ill-concealed glee at the prospect of what would be, in practice, a far bigger disaster for the Iraqi people than for George Bush. But they don't care about the collateral damage if they can see Bush hurt.
As for the Palestinian problem, well, I tend to see that more as a symptom than as a disease -- it's a vehicle for Arab despots to use in distracting their citizens. But denying them that vehicle wouldn't be such a bad thing. And getting rid of Saddam, both because it undermined Arab fantasies and because it deprived the suicide bombers of a very significant subsidy, can only help that.
So overall, I'd say that it's too early to say how well things are going, but that things in general look pretty good. And though there are predictions of doom aplenty, it's worth remembering that the doom-predictors have a pretty lousy record so far.
I think, though, that both Iraq and Israel are currently tests for the Arabs. If they can't achieve a reasonable degree of peace and freedom here, if they sink back into theocracy and thuggery, then it's going to be easy for the rest of the world to give up on them -- as the "progressives" already have -- and say "what can you expect from the wogs?" as it turns a blind eye to another generation of dictators' brutality. I don't want that, and I don't think that the Iraqi people, or even the Palestinian people, really do.
But as I said before, and Roger Simon says now: "Patience, patience -- now of all times."
UPDATE: Dave Winer has a notably nasty post on this. It begins "Amazingly, Glenn Reynolds is still covering the war," and then goes on to blast warbloggers. Um, you'd rather I ignored this, Dave? Or do you just not like the way I point out that "progressives" never gave a damn about the Iraqis, and still don't? I think you've proved that, anyway. And probably provided an answer to Marduk's question for war opponents:
Given the choice which would you prefer:
A. George Bush is proven correct. Peace in Iraq. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Bush re-elected.
B. George Bush is proven incorrect. No peace in Iraq. No peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Bush defeated.
The answer to that one is pathetically obvious. "Pheh" right back atcha, Dave.
ANOTHER UPDATE: It's interesting to contrast the antiwar folks' self-justifying kvetching with this rather thoughtful post from SgtStryker.com:
After the fireworks are over, people like me are sent out unto the world to do all the hard work in support of peacekeeping and all that mess. It doesn't make for good TV like war does, but war sells. It's got death, 'splosions and all that other cool stuff people like to watch. Peacekeeping, on the other hand, isn't exciting at all. It's long, boring and never goes as fast as everyone wants it to. It's kind of like construction. Those buildings they put up always seem to take forever to build and the work isn't exactly glamorous. I-beam by I-beam, concrete block by concrete block, these buildings slowly rise from the remains of what was there before and begin to take shape. It's done right out there in public so everyone walking by can give their take on the whole deal and criticise the design, the materials used or how things would go so much better if everyone just listened to them.
But at the end of the thing, the workers have a sense of accomplishing something solid that'll remain for while. Everyone always gathers around and watches those dramatic building demolitions. The walls explode, the building collapses into a cloud of dust, people clap and then everyone heads off to the next big thing. It's a brief, transitory moment of excitement, but that's about it. Building stuff is a hell of a lot less glamorous then blowing it up, but at least you have something to point to years down the road when someone asks what the hell you were doing all that time. It's kind of hard to point at nothing, no matter how dazzling its collapse may have been.
That's what I'm writing about, Dave. Sorry it doesn't interest you.
posted at 09:15 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE TROUBLE AT THE TIMES: Reader Ali Karim Bey sends this:
A powerful committee formed at The New York Times to revisit the Jayson Blair reporting scandal and suggest changes in newsroom practices was jolted yesterday by the resignation of a key member.
Sources said Nancy Sharkey, an editor who works in staff development and training, quit because she was concerned the committee had become prosecutorial, sowing fear and confusion in the newsroom.
Called yesterday to answer questions from several other members of the panel and its outside consultants, she voiced a number of reservations before leaving the meeting. When word of her move circulated, she was said to have been congratulated by some Times staffers.
Meanwhile -- in a rare, non-Krugman-related post -- Donald Luskin notes that the Times' rot has even reached the gardening reviews.
Continued Moyers: "According to the watchdog group Public Citizen, power companies pushing for the law's repeal gave more than $15 million to federal candidates."
But who will watch the watchdog? Public Citizen is a frequent recipient of Schumann grants: $42,000 in 1999 to "fund a full-time investigative reporter to research and write on the nexus between special interest political contributions and the outcome of major domestic policy debates." Another $75,000 in 2000 for "the Public Citizen Congress Watch investigative research program." A further $204,000 in 2001 for "general support of Public Citizen's educational efforts." In fact, from 1991 to 2001, the last year for which IRS records are available, Moyers's Schumann Foundation gave Public Citizen a total of $411,000.
Seems like a one-sided deal, doesn't it? Courtesy of Moyers, Public Citizen gets a lot of money and, courtesy of PBS, it gets publicity for its work. Not to worry. Public Citizen can scratch backs, too, noting on its website: "It is not often that we advertise for TV programs, but we'll make an exception this time. Bill Moyers has done a documentary on PBS entitled: 'Trading Democracy,'" which you can order from Public Citizen "for $29.95 (plus shipping)."
This seems a lot worse than a lot of things people have made a big fuss about. So why is Moyers getting a pass?
Angry demonstrators erected burning barricades at dawn on a highway . . .and battled riot police who fired tear gas and water cannon . . .some protesters looted a gas station and a supermarket. . . . several hundred clashed with riot police and smashed windows. In the evening, police rushed a crowd after a few protesters smashed windows downtown. The demonstrators responded with a hail of bottles and rocks, and riot police fired tear gas.
I wonder if they'll be prosecuted? Maybe some high-school students should show up and pretend to be from the Justice Department. . . .
UPDATE: Dang, I pasted the wrong link earlier. It's fixed now.
posted at 01:27 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SHOULD JUDGES DISOBEY PRECEDENT when they find it unconscionable? Howard Bashman has an oped on this topic in the L.A. Times.
posted at 01:24 PM by Glenn Reynolds
PROTEST NOW -- AVOID THE RUSH! Yesterday there was a lone protester in front of West Town mall, holding a hand-lettered sign that read Stay Out of Iran -- Destabilize Yourself, Dubya.
Sadly, that's typical: it's always about Bush for these guys. And I say that as somebody who thinks that it probably is a mistake to take a too-aggressive line with Iran right now (though it's not clear that we actually are). I'm no fan of the mullahs, but my general feeling is that less is probably more when it comes to U.S. destabilization efforts. At the moment, my sense is that the mullahocracy is probably ripe to fall from within (and judging by their actions, the mullahs think so too), and that if we push too hard it might actually slow things down. Plus, the example for the Islamic world would be much stronger if the revolution were perceived as indigenous, rather than a U.S. creation. I could be wrong about that, and I'd be interested in hearing both sides. But from the antiwar crew, it's mostly about "Dubya." Actual arguments are in, at the very best, second place.
For most of the Iraq war and its immediate aftermath, it was easy for any relatively rational person to dismiss the media doom-mongering. Hundreds of thousands of dead civilians? Never gonna happen. Hand-to-hand street-fighting as Baghdad morphs into Stalingrad? Dream on. Even that Iraqi National Museum "disaster" was an obvious hoax, though I was sad to see my friends at The Spectator fall for it and add their own peculiar twist that it was all a conspiracy of a sinister US antiquities lobby.
But, when the naysayers started moving on to claim that the whole post-war scene was going disastrously for the Yanks, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. As a general rule of thumb, when two non-government organisations, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, the BBC and the New York Times agree that the whole powder keg's about to go up, it's a safe bet that things are going swimmingly. But who knows? Even these guys have got to be right once a decade or so. So I decided to see for myself.
Unlike those parliamentary delegations getting ferried around by the military and Continental television crews embedded with convoys of NGOs, I have no contacts either in the Ministry of Defence or the World Food Programme. So I hopped on a flight to Jordan, rented some beat-up Nissan piece of junk in Amman and headed east. . . .
Although the camp had set up enough tents for hundreds, the members of this family were the only refugees in residence. The singular of that "IRAQI BOARDER" sign was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. And that underpopulated border camp is a fine motif for what's going on: vast numbers of bureaucrats are running around Iraq with unlimited budgets in search of a human catastrophe that doesn't exist.
"Had a lot of refugees?" I asked the Jordanian customs officer.
"We had about 10 through last week," he said. "Palestinians."
"Where were they headed? Amman?"
"No, he said. "They were going back to Iraq."
Apparently, having fled across the Jordanian border to the UN facility near Ruweished, they concluded after a few days that the camp wasn't quite up to snuff and decided to go back home. . . .
And perhaps that's why I found rather more hostility towards the WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees et al than towards the military. "Americans only in the sky," one man told me, grinning as a chopper rumbled overhead. "No problem." Down on the ground, meanwhile, the new imperial class are the NGOs. They shuttle across the globe, mingling with their own kind - other SUV users - and bringing with them the values of the mother country, or the mother bureaucracy. Like many imperialists, they're well-meaning: they see their charges as helpless and dependent, which happy condition has the benefit of justifying an ever-growing aid bureaucracy in perpetuity. It will be very destructive for Iraq if the tentativeness of the American administration in Baghdad allows the ambulance-chasers of the NGOs to sink their fangs into the country. . . .
In Ramadi, in another cafe, the maitre d', in honour of my presence, flipped the television over to BBC World. Some Beeb type was doing a piece about some Baghdadi who hadn't been paid since March. Now what sort of fellow hasn't been paid since March? A chap who worked for the toppled thug government perhaps? Might be a committed thug ideologue, might be just a go-along-to-get-along type. But, given that the new Iraqi government is never going to be as huge as the old one, maybe that chap should just stop whining to the BBC and look for a gig in the private sector. Ditto for the BBC reporter, come to that.
As usual, the piece wound up with the correspondent standing in the children's ward of the Saddam Hussein Medical Centre predicting more doom and gloom. By contrast, every medical facility I went to in Iraq was well short of capacity. The NGO types concede that Iraqis aren't exactly rushing the hospitals, but say that's because they know that there are no drugs and/or they're worried that they can't afford them. Might be that. Or it might be that they don't want to be stuck on a ward trying to get a moment's sleep under the blazing lights of round-the-clock CNN and BBC camera crews filming their reporter yakking away in front of a telegenic moppet whose acute tonsillitis is somehow all Rumsfeld's fault. These days, I always laugh my head off at BBC World reports. And, in that Ramadi cafe, I was touched to find that, even though most of them hadn't a clue what he was going on about, within half a minute, the rest of the crowd was roaring along with me.
UPDATE: The link to the Steyn piece was bad earlier. It should work now.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Justin Katz notes that if Steyn's report is accurate, it's better to be a store owner in Iraq after a war than to be a store owner in a European city after a G8 meeting.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus writes that Steyn's story would be more convincing if he'd gone to Baghdad. On the other hand, I would find a lot of the gloom-and-doom reporting more convincing if it came from elsewhere than Baghdad. Iraq's a big place, and what (small) reporting there has been out of cities like Kirkuk and Mosul is a lot more positive.