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August 09, 2003

MATT WELCH HAS A COLUMN ON SCHWARZENEGGER AND THE CALIFORNIA RECALL in the National Post today. Don't miss it -- it's Welch!

DANG. I was going to label InstaPundit "100% Kobe-Free" the way I advertised it as "100% C*ndit-free" back in the Gary Condit days, but I see that Lonewacko has beaten me to that.

THE "PEACE" MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO DECLINE, from hundreds of thousands six months ago to, well:

A group of about 600 peace activists and veterans marched through the streets of San Francisco today demanding that the U.S. government pull all its troops out of Iraq immediately.

Another reason why the Vietnam analogy doesn't hold.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: SOCCER MOM? That's what PoliPundit says:

Your prototypical Soccer Mom isn't a hate-the-greedy-corporations Democrat. Heck, her husband is probably a middle manager at Procter & Gamble. She's a "fiscal conservative," in the sense that she doesn't want more taxes and regulation. She doesn't like affirmative action either, since it goes against her sense of fairness and threatens her childrens' future.

On the other hand, she doesn't want to be seen as a meanie. She thinks Republicans are too hard-edged on some issues. She wishes they were more "tolerant" of minority groups like gays and blacks. She's pro-choice, although she doesn't want abortion to be a widespread practice. She is, of course, an "environmentalist." And she's not averse to Big Government programs like Medicare and Social Security. An easy way to win her vote is to claim that some big-spending entitlement is "for the children." She doesn't see why ordinary people need assault rifles, but she can see why pilots should have pistols.

Now look at Arnold's stated beliefs - vague as they are - and see how they dovetail nicely with Soccer Mom values.

Democrats, PoliPundit concludes, "should be scared."

THIS SEEMS LIKE NEWS:

A HIGH-RANKING al-Qaeda operative in custody disclosed that Iraq supplied the Islamist militant group with material to build chemical and biological weapons, the White House said today.

"A senior al-Qaeda terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, reports that al-Qaeda was intent on obtaining (weapons of mass destruction) assistance from Iraq," the White House said in a report. The 25 page document was released as US President George W Bush holidayed at his Texas ranch.

The Bush administration cited links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Baath party regime as justification for attacking Iraq to oust Saddam. The administration also insisted Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons.

The report quoted the unnamed prisoner as saying al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden turned to Iraq after concluding his group could not produce chemical or biological weapons on its own in Afghanistan.

Doesn't seem to be getting much attention, though. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: Hmm. Robert Novak reports:

Former international weapons inspector David Kay, now seeking Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for the Pentagon, has privately reported successes that are planned to be revealed to the public in mid-September.

Kay has told his superiors he has found substantial evidence of biological weapons in Iraq, plus considerable missile development. He has been less successful in locating chemical weapons, and has not yet begun a substantial effort to locate progress toward nuclear arms.

Senior officials in the Bush administration believe Kay's weapons discoveries should have been revealed as they were made. However, a decision, approved by President Bush, was made to wait until more was discovered and then announce it -- probably in September.

If true, this would tend to support the "rope-a-dope" theory that Bush is letting his critics make a big deal out of WMD, so that he can completely undercut them by producing the weapons at a politically opportune moment. I've been skeptical of that theory, but, well, this is some degree of support for it.

ANOTHER CIVIL RIGHTS VICTORY:

LANSING -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has thrown out lawsuits filed by the city of Detroit and Wayne County against more than 30 gun manufacturers and dealers.

In an unanimous decision released Friday, the appellate court said a state law approved in 2000 prohibits such lawsuits although the city and county filed their suits in April 1999.

A rejection on the basis of the Second Amendment would be better still, of course.

SKBUBBA IS CONTINUING TO PROVE that local-blogging has something to offer.

NANOTECHNOLOGY? This is close:

"It's the smallest synthetic motor that's ever been made," Alexander Zettl of the University of California at Berkeley said in a statement released last week. "Nature is still a little bit ahead of us -- there are biological motors that are equal or slightly smaller in size -- but we are catching up."

The device measures about 500 nanometers across, which is about 300 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The rotor is between 100 and 300 nanometers long, while the carbon shaft is just a few atoms across.

Interesting.

"DEMOCRACY MEANS FORCING PEOPLE TO PAY FOR MEDIA that they would not pay for or consume if left to their own choices." Stefan Sharkansky takes on an advocate of BBC-style media in the United States.

I'VE SEEN THE PICTURES, and I don't think that this smear campaign aimed at James Lileks is going to hurt his reputation one bit.

August 08, 2003

CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN THE 9/11 PANEL: And it's a doozy. Dwight Meredith is right: this is unacceptable.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks that Jamie Gorelick is politically unassailable, and that as a result nothing will come of this.

LIMBAUGH VS. THE BLOGGERS: Limbaugh's take doesn't impress me:

In the audio links below, I treat you to my analysis of pollster Dr. David Hill's column headlined "Bloggers Won't Match Limbaugh." A blogger is a citizen who gets a website and just opines on various topics unrealted to politics. A friend of mine defined the term, derived from "web log," as "a nerd with a journalist degree and no social life who spends most days and all nights writing e-mails to himself and his friends in hopes of attracting attention from traditional media outlets." Andrew Sullivan is perhaps the best-known political blogger.

Hmm. I don't know if Sullivan has "no social life" -- seems to me I've heard some controversy about his having too much of one -- and I'm pretty sure that most of his posts are "realted to politics" in some fashion or other. Heck, they're even related to politics. Seems to me that Limbaugh has failed this part of his own proclaimed formula for success, here: #2: "Master production technique." You know, like spelling and research, and having one sentence relate to the next . . . .

Donald Sensing has more on this, including some advice to Limbaugh: "You don't understand what blogging is all about and what it does." Nope. Obviously not. What's funny is that Limbaugh obviously feels the need to put down blogs, and to build himself up at their expense. What's he scared of? Blogs surely aren't cutting into his market share. (No Gulfstream jets to bigshot celebrity events here, or elsewhere in the blogosphere!) Are they just making him feel as if he's behind the curve? This grandpa-Lou stuff won't help that.

UPDATE: Bill Quick writes: "Limbaugh is nowhere near as stupidly irritating as those of the Michael Savage school of Republican Radio Broadcasters, but every once in a while he does show his age, and his cluelessness about some of the subjects on which he opines." That seems about right. It's okay. He'll catch on eventually.

Meanwhile Daniel Drezner has the answer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mitch Berg, who used to work in talk radio, thinks he knows what Limbaugh's about. Makes sense to me.

STILL MORE: I'm getting various emails pro and con on Limbaugh. I'm no ditto head, but I have no real beef with him either. He's very good at what he does -- just listen to, well, most other talk radio to see just how good -- and, really, what he does seems a lot like what bloggers do. It's striking to me that this rather artificial one-two assault on bloggers in relation to Limbaugh took place, and I wonder what he's reacting to.

I (no surprise) think blogs are great, and I think that the blogosphere punches way above its weight thanks to its ability to move fast, incorporate lots of minds, and attract "opinion leader" readers and bloggers. But it's a very different kind of medium than talk radio, and comparisons seem silly to me. I just wonder why Rush is so anxious to make them.

TERROR ATTACK IN KANSAS CITY? Jay Manifold thinks maybe so, though official reports say otherwise. Beats me.

UPDATE: Jay has a followup post, with math.

GUN CONTROL IS A POLITICAL LOSER NOW, according to USA Today:

That longtime party dilemma came into sharp focus after Democrat Al Gore, a supporter of gun controls, lost the key states of Arkansas, Tennessee and West Virginia en route to his narrow defeat in the 2000 presidential election. Some Democrats believe Gore's stance on guns was to blame.

Democrats became even more reticent after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made improving security a national priority.

When Republican pollster David Winston asked Americans about plans to allow pilots to carry guns in the cockpit, he found that married women with children — traditionally the strongest voices favoring gun control — were among the biggest supporters.

"The soccer mom who wants to gets guns off the playgrounds through gun control is the same mom who wants pilots to be armed " he said. "The dynamic has changed. . . . It's putting it in the context of safety."

That's no surprise to InstaPundit readers.

SOMEHOW (I THINK IT STARTED WITH SEVERAL MARGINAL "BUSHISMS OF THE DAY"), The Volokh Conspiracy has become Slate-watch. Here's the latest Fisking, of a movie review that seems to equate Fascism with "the unabashed use of force in defense of innocent people (whether oneself or others)."

But that is what a lot of people mean by the term, which of course is why the term has so thoroughly lost its original weight that few lefties even considered that Saddam Hussein was literally a Fascist. How could he be a Fascist, after all? -- he was an enemy of America!

UPDATE: Volokh responds to the "Slate-watch" point.

BAD NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN? Maybe. I can't find any more on this story than Grim has, so we'll have to see.

Meanwhile, StrategyPage has this report about Iraq:

August 8, 2003: In the last four weeks, attacks on American troops have declined from about 40 a day to about three dozen. Defining what is an "attack" is sometimes difficult. US troops hearing nearby gunfire often discover they have come upon a crime being committed, or two groups of Iraqis settling a dispute. But the lethality of the attacks is going down. In the past week, there were four straight days without an American fatality.

American intelligence efforts have gathered a growing mountain of information on what's going on among Iraqis and that has made it possible for troops to more effectively go after the Baath Party resistance. The same "battlefield internet" that was so useful doing the fighting is now enabling commanders to quickly share information on the situation inside Iraq. This has led to the rapid development of new tactics and understanding of the rapidly changing situation in Iraq.

And don't miss this firsthand report from Iraq, either. And I think that Daniel Drezner is right when he says that we shouldn't look too hard for a single narrative on Iraq.

UPDATE: This post from Iraq by Chief Wiggles is worth reading, too. Excerpt:

This is the classic struggle between good and evil that has been going on since the beginning of time. These people have been in bondage, chained by the ruthless hands of Saddam Hussein. They have been forced to live according to his evil desires, teaching them for the past 30 years that if you are going to get ahead in life, you need to take what ever you can get anyway you can get it. Life according to Saddam is about acquiring wealth, power and fame through being deceitful, dishonest, ruthless, willing to go to extreme means to get what you want, at the expense of others. Thus perpetuating the evils of society in every aspect of their lives, creating the very things I spoke of earlier in my journal, such as; distrust, disbelief, dishonesty, greed, strife, selfishness, and on and on.

I am not saying all the Iraqi people are like this only that this was their example and they were rewarded for pursuing an evil course of action. So many of them followed the path to fame and fortune outlined by Saddam himself, through being abusive, taking advantage of those weaker, it was survival of the fittest. The wild west of the Middle East.

We came to their rescue bringing a new freedom perhaps for most never before experienced; the large majority of people welcoming our relief from the chains of Saddam, cutting his evil control of their lives. Even now that I drive around Baghdad people waive, kids run out to greet us, people all over the country giving us thumbs up. Just yesterday, a car full of young men pulled up along side of us to express their great joy for what we have done for them.

There is good happening all around us. So many good people are stepping forward to bring us information about bad activities going on against the coalition forces. Little by little we are weeding the society of those that would desire to perpetuate the evil doings of their former ruler, still seeking to take control of these people. Evil doings of people wanting power or wealth through wicked means.

Every day people come to our office to inform us of activities in their community that are illegal or pro-Saddam or are against the coalition forces. We dispatch a team to conduct a raid on the location to take down the bad people. We do this almost every night. It is happening, one raid at a time, one good act of kindness at a time, one honest deed, one kind gesture, it is catching on and the wave is building. It is going to happen.

Read the whole thing. There may not be a single narrative on Iraq, but the press has certainly tried to create one. These first-person reports make clear that there's more going on than we're hearing from Big Media.

STILL MORE: Sylvain Galineau has some thoughts that are worth reading.

I'VE BEEN HANDING OUT LOTS OF ADVICE TO DEMOCRATS LATELY. Now, over at GlennReynolds.com, I offer some advice to the Republicans. I suppose they're just about as likely to listen to me as the Democrats are . . . .

NOW THIS IS INTERESTING:

WASHINGTON -- A top Bush administration weapons investigator told Congress in closed testimony last week that he has uncovered solid information from interviews, documents, and physical evidence that Iraqi military forces were ordered to attack US troops with chemical weapons, but did not have the time or capability to follow through, according to senior defense and intelligence officials.

The alleged findings by David Kay, a former UN weapons inspector now working for the United States, would buttress the administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction -- a key component of President Bush's case for war that has since fallen into dispute.

Of course, this could have been a bluff by Saddam -- expecting his orders to be intercepted -- and it's also consistent with the Saddam-thought-he-had-WMD-but-his-underlings-were-lying theory.

FORGET AHNULD: Here's your real celebrity ticket!

Heh. I think this falls more in the "Gary Coleman" category, but . . .

HERE'S AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION of the Mike Hawash case, from a bunch of fellow chipgeeks. As reader Jim Loan, who forwarded the link, notes:

What is interesting to me is the not-very-left-leaning nature of the majority of the comments. A really minor item, but interesting to me. It is just another indication of the MASSIVE shift in the baseline point of view of many Americans since 911.

I think that the shift has been bigger than the "opinion leaders" have realized.

MATTHEW HOY LOOKS AT A CORRECTION and wonders if the New York Times has another Jayson Blair on the payroll.

JAMES LILEKS WEIGHS IN on the bloggers - vs. - Limbaugh controversy, and offers some surprising advice to NPR.

THIS OP-ED FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES is subscription-only, but here's the key part:

The first United Nations inspection unit, Unscom, operated in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. Its mission was to destroy weapons that, it was assumed, would be handed over by a defeated and co-operative regime. The reality was rather different.

With an area twice that of Britain, Iraq could easily withhold information from a few hundred inspectors. Through infiltration, bugging and physical threats, it systematically obstructed the UN's efforts. . . .

The nuclear weapons Iraq was aiming to produce depend on highly enriched uranium, which may still be available on the black market. Given the documentation from previous work, and the know-how in scientists' heads, the time required to assemble a crude bomb would then be a matter of months.

If the US had yielded to UN pressure to give Unmovic more time, it is unlikely the inspectors would have found significant WMD. The troop concentrations around Iraq would have been dispersed and the pressure on Mr Hussein to co-operate would have diminished accordingly. Ultimately economic sanctions would have been lifted - and a rehabilitated Mr Hussein could have resumed his quest for WMD.

That would have been disastrous for global security. The possibility of links to terrorist groups was one of the weightiest motives for war. Regimes in possession of clandestine WMD must be tempted to use them by proxy, since countermeasures cannot easily be directed against anonymous assailants.

What matters is not whether Iraq's WMD can be tracked down but whether the production of such weapons has been inhibited for the foreseeable future. That required the overthrow of the regime. Preventive wars are not a desirable response to the threat of nuclear proliferation; far better - though very difficult - would be to strengthen the present ineffective mechanisms for preventing proliferation without unacceptably infringing sovereignty. In the meantime the military option may be unavoidable.

Curt Mileikowsky is former head of Asea's nuclear power division. Evelyn Sokolowski is former head of the joint analysis group for Sweden's nuclear utilities

I wonder why we're not hearing more about this.

SAMIZDATA has a firsthand report from Iraq. Reportedly, a major Ba'ath Party figure in the post-war resistance has been nabbed, but it's getting no attention.

MICKEY KAUS is all over the California recall, with an interesting slant on the Arianna / Arnold relationship.

TODAY IS INSTAPUNDIT'S SECOND BIRTHDAY. Follow the link to see what was news back then.

We'll celebrate here by blogging, of course, just like any other day. But feel free to hit the tipjar if you like!

August 07, 2003

WHO WAS JAMES ABOUREZK? Do you remember? No? Well, that's hardly your fault. He was an undistinguished U.S. Senator, whose term in office is remembered by few and celebrated, I suspect, by none. Right now he's cementing his place in history as an exceptionally dumb former U.S. Senator by filing a rather baseless lawsuit against a blog for calling him a "traitor."

My prediction: when it's over, Abourezk will be out some money, and those few who remember him will say "Oh, yeah, the 'traitor' guy." Not much of a capstone for a political career, but some will regard it as fitting, in a way.

UPDATE: In an unusual occurrence, Volokh's permalinks are hosed by the Blogger bug. Just go here and scroll.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Claire Berlinski emails:

I read your post and had a twinge of recollection -- Abourezk, Abourezk, who's he? And then I remembered: Oh, yes, I wrote my doctoral dissertation about him. I went back and had a look at the thing (for the first time in eight years) to see what I'd once decided about him. I don't know whether he's a traitor, but Abourezk is certainly a pest, a well-known exponent of the thesis that Israel controls the United States' foreign policy by means of a secret and sinister Jewish-American cabal. Consider, for example, this 1977 statement: "I have sworn to uphold the government of the United States, but I never dreamed that I would be required to swear allegiance to any other government." He has been cited admiringly by former Congressman Paul Findley, a pest par excellence, as a fearsome adversary of AIPAC, an organization that, Findley holds, "has effectively gained control of virtually all of Capitol Hill's action on Middle East policy ... AIPAC means power -- raw, intimidating power." As any doctoral student of United States arms transfer policy toward the Arab-Israeli antagonists from 1967-1988 (a set of which I am the sole member) can tell you, these ideas may be handily disproved. If Abourezk wishes to sue me, too, my coterie of clannish Jewish lawyer friends are standing by. I got this thesis past my dissertation committee, and I can get it past any jury. Readers eager to consult my dissertation should instead buy Loose Lips, (www.berlinski.com) which is much more entertaining and can be read in an afternoon. It has sex and clever plot twists in it, too, which my dissertation does not.

Useful information, a solid slam, and a book plug -- all in one paragraph! Somebody get this woman a talking-head slot on Fox or CNN!

NICE TO SEE that the Justice Department has plenty of resources for the terror war and can even spare the time and money for, ahem, lower-priority cases like this one:

Federal prosecutors said today they have charged a North Hollywood wholesaler of adult films with violating federal obscenity laws as the government steps up a campaign against the major distributors of adult entertainment.

The U.S. Justice Department said that its 10-count indictment against Extreme Associates and the husband-and-wife team that owns it is part of a renewed enforcement of federal obscenity laws after more than a decade in which they were rarely imposed.

Obviously, there's no need for a budget increase this year. Coming soon: a crackdown on interstate parking-ticket scofflaws, and a multi-agent, years-long investigation into New Orleans bordellos. Oh, wait. . . .

UPDATE: David Bernstein says that the Ashcroft Justice Department is turning into a "disaster:"

Let's see: little respect for state sovereignty (medical marijuana, same sex marriage, etc.), attempts to deny American citizens charged with terrorism-related offenses and arrested on U.S. soil access to federal courts, use and abuse of antiterrorism statutes for unrelated law enforcement purposes, and, as Instapundit reports, a nascent crackdown on that ever-present threat to American society, the pornography industry, in the middle of what is supposed to be a war on terrorism. Geez.

Geez, indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more disappointment with Ashcroft, from a conservative lawblogger:

When Democrats lambasted Ashcroft in the process of his confirmation, I largely disregarded their criticism because it was so often over-the-top and poorly reasoned. It had that President-as-Fuhrer quality to it that criticism of Bush so often takes on. For that matter, Ashcroft is still subject to some truly ridiculous and reflexive (i.e., knee-jerk) attacks. However, since becoming Attorney General, Ashcroft has established a genuinely unflattering record. I have come to believe that Ashcroft is unfit for the position that he occupies.

Ouch.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Glen Jones emails:

The worst thing about this, to me, is that Ashcroft is making it all-that-much-harder for us conservatives to have a defensible position. Yeah, the leftists throw out that "Bush=hitler" and "Ashcroft=satan" or whatever signs and slogans of the week they have, and I think only about 3-5% of Americans really give that any serious thought - they know it's over-the-top drivel. But with Ashcroft going off the deep end, they will start wondering. "Hmmm, Ashcroft is getting more and more hitler-like, so maybe Bush is ..."

Anyway, final point, I'm really starting to think that the conservatives should start calling LOUDLY for Ashcroft to resign so that we can disavow him.

Ashcroft is becoming a liability. I doubt he'll survive past this term. Look for him to be replaced by a William French Smith type who won't be a magnet for controversy. At least, that's been my feeling all along, but I could certainly be wrong here. So far -- and this just makes it easier for opponents to tie Ashcroft to Bush -- there's been no sign of dissatisfaction from the White House.

STILL MORE: Ashcroft has his defenders, though. Reader Mike Steele writes:

I am mightily distressed that Ashcroft's record appears to be so dismal. I mean there has to be some obscure religious sect HE can set fire to, or some poor wanna be immigrant kid he can send back to a Stalinist hellhole. And then there's all the abortion clinics he's closed, all the camps he's opened, all the....

Now there's a slogan to fire up the electorate: "John Ashcroft -- better than Janet Reno!" Reno was a liability, and should have been let go, but Clinton wasn't in a position to do so. It hurt him.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING, and generally positive firsthand report from Iraq:

Over the course of the next few days, we conducted daily patrols around the city, locating schools and inspecting them. Despite the fact that looting and destruction had even taken place at the primary schools, it looked good. Teachers were going through neighborhoods on foot making calls to get students to come in and help repair the damage that had been done to their schools. Some were holding impromptu classes already, though not 'officially'. Every teacher we met was very happy to see us. They expressed hope that we would help stabilize the city, and they were noticing it getting better as the days progressed. They were also surprised to see U.S. forces specifically concerned with education. The third day we were on patrol, we got lucky. A teacher we encountered told us that even though the administrative staff of the education department had been burned out of their offices, they were meeting that day at a nearby kindergarten to discuss the prospect of restarting classes and giving exams. We asked the teacher to lead us to the meeting place.

We arrived at the girl's kindergarten school where the administrators were located, and they too were extremely happy to see us. They invited us into their meeting and explained their situation. They were determined not to let the war stop education for their children. They wanted to immediately restart classes as best they could, and develop a new curriculum that was free of mandatory Ba'athist doctrine (for example, every children's textbook had a photo of Saddam on the front page). There were obstacles to this. Many schools were in dire need of repair and reconstruction. Many were looted to the point that even the toilets had been ripped from the floors (when the majority of a society has been so deprived by their government for so long, this is what happens). Another problem was that these administrators did not know how to take charge of things on their own. The government had been so centralized that everything came from Baghdad. Begin classes this day; give this exam on this day, etc. Since Baghdad was "out of commission" so to speak, no one knew where to start. The only leadership that they recognized was the U.S and Coalition forces. Realizing where they were coming from, I explained that we, the U.S. forces in Mosul, held education as a top priority. Essentially, I gave them permission to go ahead and start classes. The next question was "What day"? We tentatively scheduled a date for two weeks ahead. This would give us time to assess the school repair situation, and get the message out by radio and leaflet to students that school was going to restart. It was a poignant moment, meeting with this group of educators in an overcrowded room in a city that was still a combat zone, to ensure that their children would continue their education. Their determination, and their gratitude to the United States for removing Saddam, was humbling. . . .

Usually things are very good. We are helping people that need it, and they are very happy that we are here. We still do not have a date to return home. I miss my girlfriend, my band, and my friends. But I know that what we are doing here is positive, and that when we leave, we can do so knowing that we came with an important mission, and helped improve the lives and the future for many thousands of people.

It's from the SuicideGirls website, interestingly enough, and the author plays bass in a punk rock band in civilian life. There's much more, and you should read it all.

BILL QUICK MAY HAVE FINALLY HIT UPON the economic model for successful blogging that everyone has been looking for.

JOHN SCALZI HAS "TAKEN THE BOEING" -- he's going to be a house blogger for AOL in support of AOL's new blog-publishing platform.

I hope they're paying you more than MSNBC is paying me, John!

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION continues to drag its feet on the arming of pilots and Bill Quick isn't happy about it:

George W. Bush supports the Second Amendment exactly the same way BJ Clinton supported gay rights: In no meaningful way.

If terrorists take over the unarmed cockpit of even one American plane, the blood will be on President George W. Bush's hands.

Sounds like a good issue for a pro-gun Democrat.

THE SHAME CONTINUES: TAPPED still hasn't linked Skippy.

I blame Kuttner.

UPDATE: So does Roger Simon, who calls him a bluenose. But not about the capitalization.

INTERNET RONIN SAYS KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE ATTORNEY GENERAL:

No, not John Ashcroft. California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, sitting atop a $10 million campaign war chest, is the man to watch until Saturday's deadline for candidates to replace California Governor Gray Davis.

Well, Lockyer already has Spike on his side. . . .

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Katie Couric is already carrying water for Gray Davis. Boy, that was fast!

BRIAN CARNELL SAYS THAT AL GORE DIDN'T TELL THE TRUTH in his MoveOn.org speech.

UPDATE: A couple of readers say that Carnell over-reads Gore's statements, and that Gore isn't saying that the Bush Administration misled voters, only that voters had the wrong idea. I don't know -- I read the speech, and while Gore leaves room for that sort of back-pedaling, I think his message is easy to figure out. Then there's this story, which certainly suggests that Gore is calling the Bush Administration a bunch of liars. I suppose you could call this another example of the "I have not raised these questions, but others have" phenomenon, one which does Gore no credit.

But don't take my word for it, or Brian's -- follow the links and make up your own mind.

JAMES TARANTO EXPANDS on a topic raised by James Lileks:

Schwarzenegger offends Old European sensibilities because he's a flamboyantly macho American, of course, but there's more to it than that. He's an American by choice, a native of Old Europe who left the Continent for America in 1968, when he was in his early 20s, and became a U.S. citizen just 20 years ago. His is a classic immigrant success story, a reminder that America is the land of opportunity while Europe is a place opportunity-seekers flee.

Yep. And that's one of the answers to the "why they hate us" question.

PHIL BOWERMASTER HAS AN INTERVIEW WITH AUBREY DE GREY, of the Department of Genetics at Cambridge University. De Grey thinks that aging is curable, and will be cured. If you're interested in such things, it's well worth reading.

MINNESOTA BLOGGER MITCH BERG compares Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura. Overall, they're not that similar, he says.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON just lost a fan.

GWEILO DIARIES HAS news from Indonesia -- there are several posts, so just keep scrolling.

ASHCROFT IS PUSHING THE "VICTORY ACT" NOW. Some of it sounds uncontroversial, or at least mostly so:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is expected to introduce the Victory Act next month. If passed, the feds would be allowed to:

Clamp down on Arab hawala transactions, where cash exchanged in an honor system has been funneled to terrorists.

Get business records without a court order in terrorism probes and delay notification.

Track wireless communications with a roving warrant.

Okay, the "business records" thing is something I'd like to know more about, but I can at least imagine that it's okay. But then there's this howler:

Increase sentences for drug kingpins to 40 years in prison and $4 million in fines.

Excuse me? What does this have to do with terrorism? (And isn't "drug kingpin" just so very 1994?)

To be trusted with wartime powers, an Administration -- and an Attorney General -- needs to demonstrate trustworthiness and self-discipline. This effort to sneak in a pet DoJ issue that has nothing to do with terrorism fails the test.

TOM MAGUIRE HAS SOME INTERESTING QUOTATIONS ON IRAQ that kind of undercut a lot of Al Gore's recent comments on the war.

"U.S. IS BEST EXAMPLE OF FREEDOM" -- yeah, but look who's saying it:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The name is the same, but the words from the younger Ayatollah Khomeini's mouth could hardly be more jolting for those who remember his grandfather's explosive revolution in Iran with the chants of "Death to America!"

"America" says Ayatollah Seyed Hussein Khomeini, "is the symbol of freedom."

Seated in the sprawling living room of his temporary Baghdad home, where he lives under armed guard, Khomeini says, "The best example of freedom in our life now is America, especially its Constitution."

Khomeini, 45, the oldest grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, slipped out of Iran in early July and, he says, now lives under risk of assassination by Iranian security agents. His arrival in Iraq has caused a stir in the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

But the younger Khomeini is determined that Iraq does not relive Iran's revolution.

"Religion has got to be separated from regimes, such as it is in America," says the younger Khomeini, smoking cigarettes through the interview.

Indeed.

UPDATE: And here's a call for political reform in Syria. (Via OxBlog). Hmm. Seems like the invasion of Iraq has affected attitudes in the region -- you certainly wouldn't have seen this sort of thing a year ago.

BEWARE THOSE ARDENT FRENCH PACIFISTS!

The actress, Marie Trintignant, died Friday in a Paris hospital, with severe head and face injuries. Her rock star companion, Bertrand Cantat, is confined to a prison hospital in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Ms. Trintignant was working on a film for television based on the life of Colette that is directed by her mother, Nadine Trintignant. . . .

As preparations were announced today for Ms. Trintignant's funeral at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, many people said they were stunned that a love affair between performers who so publicly embraced pacifist causes could end so violently. Both were ardent opponents of the war in Iraq.

Irony abounds.

JEFF JARVIS IS RUBBING IT IN where Mike Hawash is concerned, and links to a column in the Oregonian calling on Hawash's supporters to admit that they were wrong.

Hawash has said that he was guilty, very explicitly:

"You and the others in the group were prepared to take up arms, and die as martyrs if necessary, to defend the Taliban. Is this true?" U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones asked Hawash during the hearing.

"Yes, your honor," Hawash replied.

Hawash has also agreed to provide testimony against accomplices. As someone who was skeptical of this case, I have to say that it looks as if they've got the goods on him. On the other hand, heavyhanded tactics in obtaining plea bargains in other cases do produce a bit of a shadow on other plea bargains, perhaps including this one.

UPDATE: Reader Richard Heddleson thinks I'm wrong:

To a devoted reader and fan, you are starting to sound a tad defensive:

"On the other hand, heavyhanded tactics in obtaining plea bargains in other cases do produce a bit of a shadow on other plea bargains, perhaps including this one. "

In the Lackawana case, the Feds may have been a bit heavy handed but not wrong. In war, decisions on the bubble go against the guilty/stupid and the sooner everybody floating near that bubble figures that out the better. In peace, we can be a bit more charitable. I feel for these fellows and their families, but they should never have made the trip.

Unfortunately, getting over excited about these less than clear cut cases takes the winds out of one's sails for when the really bad one goes down. Here I am referring to Padilla. I strongly suspect he is a bad man. He is an American citizen. If he is treated as a belligerent and denied habeus corpus (or has this already happened?), I believe we'll have a real problem, especially as I expect this "state of war" to last for at least 10 and maybe 20 years. For the next two decades the President will be able to jail any American indefinitely and potentially secretly in Gitmo with no recourse? This is a problem.

Throwing the book too hard at people who broke the law and were stupid, and perhaps not in that order, is no where as big a problem. Consistent suspicion of wrongdoing/incompetence by DOJ produces a bit of a shadow on protests when true outrages do occur.

Well, I take the point, and I've tried not to cry wolf. But the Lackawanna defendants were threatened with detention without trial unless they pled guilty. Once you make that kind of a threat, it's just no longer as easy to say "he pled guilty, so he must be guilty."

I absolutely oppose holding any U.S. citizen without trial. If you can do that, you can -- and, history suggests, will -- abuse that power against political opponents. There is no sign that the Justice Department is doing that now. But I don't want to see temptation placed in their path, because I don't believe that they can be trusted to resist it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Arthur Silber has more on the Padilla case.

LILEKS IS BACK, and he's got some thoughts on the Schwarzenegger candidacy:

Will he win? Well, he’ll bring new voters to the polls - we saw this in Minnesota with Jesse. People who never voted will find it cool to vote for Arnie, and even though they might not be the most sophisticated participant in the process, they’ll probably intuit that a vote isn’t just a thumbs-up statement. It means something. Yelling “I bought your video” doesn’t really put an actor in your debt, but shouting “I voted for you” somehow does.

In any case, it’ll change a few minds about the possibilities of politics. All their life they saw politicians as nothing more than nerdy bloodless grinbots, and now here’s this guy: a giant with a gap-tooth smile smoking a Montecristo the size of Gray Davis’ shinbone. Heck yeah!

Only in America. And I say that as a good thing. Which reminds me: like all typical examples of American craziness, this will just horrify the Europeans.

I'm not saying that's reason enough to vote for Arnold, or anything, but it's certainly a plus.

Kaus and Beeblogger Daniel Weintraub have more on this. And early recall-booster PrestoPundit has a roundup of links relating to the announcement. Finally, Bill Hobbs leaves no doubts as to who he's supporting:

So run, Arnold, run. Davis will smear you, tell lies about you, and try to bury you under a mountain of fear. You'll be called every name in the book, and a few new ones Davis will invent, but you won't recognize yourself in the portrait of lies Davis and his political thugs will paint of you. . . .

Davis can run a dirty campaign better than anyone. Californians already know that. But he can't run the state, and Californians know that too. All the lies he'll tell won't matter much now. Ignore them. All the way to Sacramento.

Well, this will give people plenty to write about!

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has broken his vacation to endorse Arnold: "Yay! A pro-gay, pro-choice, hard-ass Republican!"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tony Adragna has more -- and Will Vehrs is back posting at Quasipundit! We missed you, Will.

I should also note that Arnold's campaign is so far -- as predicted first here, then in much more thorough fashion by Robert Tagorda -- proceeding as predicted by his bodybuilding career. Wanna bet that used copies of Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder are to be found in Gray Davis headquarters already?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Begging to Differ has a roundup of blog reactions.

August 06, 2003

MIKE HAWASH HAS ENTERED A GUILTY PLEA. (Via Blaster's Blog).

APPARENTLY, WE BLOGGERS ARE NO MATCH FOR RUSH LIMBAUGH, and never will be. And I'll tell you, sonny boy, that people will still be riding horses long after those dang auto-MOH-beels of yours are just a memory!

UPDATE: The Punch Bowl notes:

It should be remembered that blogging has really only been a political force since September 11, while radio has been around for, you know, eight decades. Blogs have been much more influential for the short time they have existed. Just watch out, Rush.

I don't actually think that blogging is a threat to talk radio. In fact, I think that the two are synergistic. (So, I suspect, does Limbaugh: I'm not a "Rush 24/7" subscriber, but it sounds a bit bloggy with its "stack of stuff," etc.) But the article is rather dumb and clueless, and deserves to be mocked in the Grandpa-Lou voice.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ed Cone writes:

The premise is flawed, because it compares a broadcast model to the networked weblog model. It would be more accurate to compare the collective influence of talk radio with the collective influence of weblogs.

I also wonder how many of Limbaugh's stories are found via weblogs.

Meanwhile, Jay Manifold wonders if this is a sign that some people on the right feel threatened by independent and libertarian bloggers.

UPDATE: I like this:

Add RSS to Rush — and to all the new bloggers he can recruit among his 15 million listeners (a nice business opportunity there) — and his already huge power will multiply overnight.

Good advice. And Lisa Dusseault says that Hill doesn't know what he's talking about.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IS RUNNING, and Brendan Loy has all the cliched headlines covered already.

I AGREE: It's a disgrace that Skippy hasn't been linked by TAPPED.

Maybe it's the lack of capitals.

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A NURSE: A moving post from Code Blog.

CHRIS REGAN NOTES THAT THOSE BURIED IRAQI FIGHTERS may be evidence that the French and Russians violated the UN embargo.

That might explain why they were buried, since that's not the sort of thing you usually do with an air force during wartime, and since the method of burial pretty much ensured that they'd be useless later.

HOWARD DEAN ON CIVIL LIBERTIES:

MONTPELIER — Gov. Howard Dean's call for a “re-evaluation” of some of America's civil liberties following this week's terrorist attacks was criticised Thursday by a Vermont Law School professor.

“Good God,” Vermont Law School Professor Michael Mello said when read the remarks Dean made at a Wednesday news conference. “It's terribly irresponsible for the leader of our state to be saying stuff like that right now.”

Benson Scotch, the head of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was simply too soon after the attacks to engage in the sort of debates Dean called for.

Dean said Wednesday he believed that the attacks and their aftermath would “require a re-evaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it's OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you're walking down the street.”

To be fair, the story is dated September 14, 2001, a time when a lot of people were saying stupid things about civil liberties. The refrain from too many of the talking heads was that we'd have to put away our freedoms, like the childish things they were, and put our fate in the hands of Big Brother. (Of course, Dean should have been reading this column.)

And he does waffle a bit in the piece, saying that he hasn't made up his mind. But perhaps some reporters should ask him if he has made up his mind on these subjects in the intervening years.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Nord emails:

That post on Dean's remarks -- a mere three days after 9/11 -- is a pretty thinly veiled piece of agitprop. Everyone was acting a little freaked out that week.

Well, I said that.

He was not the only person to suggest we might need to sacrifice some civil liberties.

I said that, too.

As I recall, it was Ari Fleischer who put it so succinctly, "People need to watch what they say." If you are going to start dredging up stuff like Dean's remarks, why not create a whole gallery of embarrassing things said by politicos -- from both sides of the aisle -- during those awful days?

Sounds like Ari was right. But, sure, people were freaked out, and I blasted 'em then. But Dean's running for President. Surely it's not too much to ask that a President's first instinct not be anti-civil liberties, and that a President be able to avoid saying dumb things in the midst of tragedy. Dean's no worse than a lot of people who were on TV then. But he's running for President, while David McCullough, for example, isn't.

If anyone else running for President said similar stuff, by all means send me the links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: C.D. Harris thinks I'm giving Dean the benefit of the doubt when he doesn't deserve it: "my experience has been that, generally speaking, people's gut reactions are pretty reliable indicators of their mindset about things. Apparently, Dean's is pure authoritarianism."

Well, I don't know. But someone should at least, you know, ask him about this.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hesiod emails that I'm being intellectually dishonest for linking to the above and not linking to this statement by Dean in a MoveOn.org interview:

Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act. They believed that it was more important to show bipartisan support for President Bush during a moment of crisis than to stand up for the basic values of our constitution. They trusted this President, knowing full well that John Ashcroft was the Attorney General. Only one senator had the courage to vote against the Patriot Act--- Senator Russ Feingold, and he deserves credit for doing so. We need more Democrats like Senator Feingold—Democrats who are willing to stand up for what is right, and stand against this President’s reckless disregard for our civil liberties. We don’t need John Ashcroft—or any other Attorney General—rifling through our library records. As Americans, we need to stand up—all of us—and ensure that our laws reflect our values. As President, I will repeal those parts of the Patriot Act that undermine our constitutional rights, and will stand against any further attempts to expand the government’s reach at the expense of our civil liberties.

Hesiod is somewhat overwrought here. I'm happy to hear that Dean opposes the Patriot Act, a bill that I also opposed. But it's not a complete answer. Perhaps the language that Dean "will stand against any further attempts to expand the government's reach at the expense of our civil liberties" is -- except that I wonder if Dean really means it. Any further attempts? If he does mean it, I'm impressed.

MORE: Mitch Berg says I'm cutting Dean too much slack and adds: "Of course, had a Governor George (or Jeb) Bush said any such thing on 9/14/01, we'd be hearing about it." From Hesiod!

MARTIN DEVON says that he's fighting the summer slowdown in the blogosphere by, well, just go see for yourself.

But it is, as several people have reflected, a slow news day.

UPDATE: It's not only so slow that people are showing Uruguayan volleyball players' butts, as above, but people are also proclaiming free Coney week. It's summer, all right!

TRADE VERSUS TERROR: Brink Lindsey argues that free trade can do a lot to rein in terrorism.

OUTRAGE ON BEHALF OF JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE? Yes.

UPDATE: Reader Gary Haubold says don't blame Canada, blame enraged Britney Spears fans.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP: If you need to branch out in your blog-reading, here's your chance.

HERE'S A NEWSPAPER STORY ABOUT CHIEF WIGGLES: There's even a picture. He looks younger, and thinner, than I had expected. Thanks to reader Scott Evanson for the tip.

IT'S TIME FOR THEM TO GO: Roger Simon proposes term limits for op-ed columnists.

UPDATE: Reader George Zachar offers a more subversive suggestion:

Big dailies like the NY Times and Washington Post should put hit counters on their on-line columnists' pages, so everyone can see who's hot and who's not.

Safire vs. Herbert? Think they'd even be close?

I wonder how their traffic would compare to the bigger blogs?

PHIL CARTER REPORTS that Florida is testing out a state-level version of the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" program.

WINDS OF CHANGE offers a South Asia regional briefing. Worth reading. Joe Katzman also offers some advice to the Democrats.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS MOVED to a spiffy new MT-powered blog and URL.

THE STAR TRIBUNE'S PAUL MCENROE, back from Iraq, says that the BBC's bias was evident:

CP: What about the foreign coverage? Was it more objective?

McEnroe: I don't know. I thought the BBC was completely biased. Three days into the war, they were calling everything a quagmire, and reporting that everything was bogged down. I thought, "Boy, you're really jumping the gun here." There hadn't even been a week's worth of war and they were already coming to a conclusion. That didn't strike me as very professional.

He's not crazy about Fox or CNN, either.

UPDATE: Here's more on the BBC:

The BBC's Andrew Gilligan quoted a source--who turned out to be the scientist David Kelly--as criticizing the government. Kelly later refuted how his comments had been portrayed by Mr. Gilligan to a parliamentary committee. Then Kelly committed suicide. Now the BBC has to either admit that it misquoted a mourned scientist or call him a liar.

That's the scandal in a nutshell. What led to it is the BBC's all-out campaign to validate its world view. Because the mass graves and accounts of torture by Saddam's regime are too real, the BBC has grabbed onto the fact that WMDs have not yet been found to justify its animosity toward the liberation of Iraq. And this animus sprang from the consensus that the West is always wrong. . . .

This is not hyperbole. The BBC can be a formidable foe. It has, in its own words, "the most widely watched national news bulletins in the UK." Thus when the BBC decides to manufacture a story, or ignore another, it forms reality for millions in Britain and world-wide.

Yes, and that's why it matters, even to us Americans. Or, perhaps, especially to us Americans, given that anti-Americanism is the state religion of the BBC.

SPINSANITY ON THE TERMINALLY DISHONEST ROBERT SCHEER:

In his column last week, Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer, who created the myth that the Bush administration gave $43 million to the Taliban after misreading a New York Times story, spreads two more falsehoods now working their way through the media.

That's my boy. Spinsanity concludes:

It is unacceptable for a major national columnist to repeatedly make factually inaccurate claims. Yet Robert Scheer continues to create and disseminate falsehoods by basing his columns on incomplete or untrue reports when accurate information is available. He needs to stop.

Or perhaps the Los Angeles Times should stop him. The much-vaunted superiority of Genuine Newspaper Columnists over amateur blogosphere pundits, after all, is supposed to be that they have editors.

So where are Scheer's?

UPDATE: Blog Irish says that Scheer didn't make up the Taliban story, but just parroted it after it was made up by an Irish journalist.

EATING THE SEED CORN:

We will engage and kill anyone armed with an RPG," he said. U.S. and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces do not use them.

He said his battalion had killed eight or nine fighters in the past three weeks or so, wounded four and captured a dozen. Of those involved in attacking U.S. forces many were the sons of families closely tied to Saddam's clique. Russell said that suggested to him that the resistance had trouble recruiting.

"I think they're eating the seed corn," he said.

Sounds good to me. Let's hope it's true.

IF YOU HAVEN'T VISITED SGTSTRYKER.COM IN A WHILE, well, you should drop by.

MY TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN TODAY is about transhumanism. Superheroes, and the dating potential of The Elongated Man, are also mentioned.

STEPHEN GREEN:

Sparing civilians is morally noble, politically necessary, and just plain the right thing to do. However, doing so takes a lot of the pain out of being on the losing side. And without pain, the lesson becomes harder to learn.

We're doing the right thing, waging war the way we do today. War, any war, is terrible enough even without massive civilian casualties. But to fight the modern way makes waging war more difficult.

And it makes waging the peace harder, too.

A thing to remember, on this Hiroshima anniversary.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY CHART OF MEDIA BIAS ON GUNS is up. Enjoy!

JAMES TARANTO HAS A SURVEY OF BLOGGING POLITICIANS, but he's not enthused about their prospects: "Blogging, in short, thrives on sarcasm. Politics doesn't. "

JIM DUNNIGAN IS NOT OPTIMISTIC about the prospects for fixing things in Liberia:

To stop the fighting, you have to intimidate the teenage gunmen into giving up their weapons and force them to go back to subsistence farming, because that's all that's left. Billions of dollars in infrastructure has been destroyed, and donors are not lining up to replace it. Firestone is gradually leaving and other foreign firms only want to come in quickly and take diamonds or lumber. No one wants to set up a business in a country where the people hate each other in 34 different languages. There are no easy answers to the problems in Liberia, there aren't many hard answers either. Africa's last colony wants someone to come in and put the pieces back together. But no one is eager to do the job. Neighboring African countries, who have a direct interest in maintaining peace in the region, want the United States to help subsidize the peacekeeping. Even the neighbors don't want to get lost in Liberia.

Nothing you couldn't solve with a few thousand executions, and a few tens of billions of dollars. I doubt, however, that the international community has the stomach for either.

RALPH PETERS:

YESTERDAY, terrorists exploded a car bomb at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta. At least 13 people died; over a hundred were injured.

It was another failure for the terrorists.

Behind the breathless 24/7 reports and the images of burned cars and blown-out windows, the encouraging fact is that the bombing in Indonesia was the best the terrorists could do: They can't defeat America, so they killed some folks having lunch.

He's right. They would have preferred a nuclear bomb in Manhattan. Or at least a car-bomb outside Lutece.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has a somewhat less positive take on the subject.

August 05, 2003

SKBUBBA IS SHAKING UP THE POLITICAL SCENE here in Knoxville.

NEWSWEEK MISQUOTES A BLOGGER: And pays the price:

Well, let's see: First, I'm 34 years-old, not 38. Second, I contributed $20 to Dean's campaign, not $25. Third, while I like and support President Bush I have never referred to him either in public or in private - and most certainly not on the record to a reporter from Newsweek magazine - as "my man."

That's 2 factual errors and a misquote in 62 words of copy. I'm sorry, but that's pretty shoddy journalism. . . .

I'm a bit shocked by the utter sloppiness of the reporting process. Newsweek is one of the nation's most widely read and "respected" weekly news magazines. I spoke to the reporter on Thursday afternoon and then again Thursday evening at about 9:00pm eastern time for a cover story that hit the web early Sunday and newsstands today. No one called me back to fact check.

There's lots more.

HOWARD DEAN IS OBVIOUSLY A ZIONIST AGENT.

ZIRCONIUM AND DIRTY BOMBS: Jay Manifold has a post following up on something I linked to earlier.

FRATERS LIBERTAS THINKS that Republicans may be using gay marriage as an issue to split black votes away from the Democrats. That's an angle I hadn't considered.

UPDATE: Although The Bleat has been hors de combat this week, here's a James Lileks column on gay marriage that's worth reading:

No, if heterosexual marriage is threatened by anything, it's by heterosexuals. Famous heterosexuals in particular. We see them grinning from the covers of gossip mags, celebrating wedding No. 9 or dissolving marriage No. 14, or just having a hot fling with whatever good-gened, white-toothed cretin is the flavor of the season.

People don't get divorced because Demi did. That's not the point. But because the culture attaches no particular stigma to divorce or catting around, our pop-culture heroes don't even have to pretend anymore. Say what you will about gay marriage, it's nice to see someone taking the institution seriously.

I have, however, reported him for his anti-robot bigotry. Fortunately, some people are more enlightened.

WHO NEEDS HOMELAND SECURITY when you've got Frank's tips for airline safety? Plus, he offers some advice for Al Qaeda:

And their attacks are against planes again; these are like one note terrorists. You gotta switch things up, dudes. You know, Speed was on a bus, and Speed 2 was on a boat; that's how things work here in America.

More proof that we needn't fear the terrorists, because we're crazier than they are. Or at least, Frank is.

TALKLEFT has picked up on the story that I linked below regarding a man sentenced to prison for linking to bomb-building information on his website. There's this bit, which was also in the earlier story that I linked, but which I didn't play up: "Austin said he took a plea bargain because he feared his case was eligible for a terrorism enhancement, which could have added 20 years to his sentence."

The news stories don't say, but I believe the statute in question is 18 U.S.C. sec. 842(p)(2), which provides (key bit in italics):

(2) Prohibition. -

It shall be unlawful for any person -

(A)

to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence;

Hmm. The "intent" part doesn't fit these stories, but who knows what evidence they have. Still, this seems quite dubious to me -- in order to meet the Brandenburg test you would have to show both the intent that such criminal use would happen, and the likelihood that it would happen. And such criminal use would have to be "imminent." (Yes, this is a rather simplistic analysis, but I think it's correct in its essentials. I'd be interested in hearing what Eugene Volokh thinks.)

You also see in this case the way in which threats of "terrorism" are allowing prosecutors to extract plea bargains in dubious cases. One consequence is that when the Justice Department gets a plea bargain, you can't automatically assume that it's proof the underlying case was especially good, just that the accused was afraid to roll the dice.

Of course, this sort of thing applies in most other federal prosecutions, too, where the threat of drastic sentence enhancements produces plea bargains in quite flimsy cases at times.

UPDATE: Some of TalkLeft's commenters link to what are supposed to be mirrors of the site. It's pretty lame. Does it rise to the level of incitement? It's possible that it does, because of the combination of the explosives content with the rhetoric about fighting police, etc. It looks rather puerile and harmless to me -- unless you try to follow some of its bomb-making advice, which seems naive and unsound in places. This report suggests that the District Judge in the case took a rather active role:

But when Ron Kaye, Austin’s federal public defender, began making his appeal for the new plea agreement, Wilson’s stone-faced demeanor changed: He looked away or fiddled with his glasses whenever Kaye spoke. Before long, an agitated Wilson made it clear he thought even the latest arrangement was too lenient.

“I must tell you,” he interrupted Kaye,
“I see this case differently. I’m rather surprised the government hasn’t taken this case seriously.”

By “taking the case seriously,” Wilson said, he meant setting an example to deter other would-be revolutionaries. He hinted that he favored an 8-to-10-month sentencing range. “Maybe I’m just living in another world,” he said of the plea deal. “I just don’t understand it.”

Then Wilson turned to the federal assistant prosecutor, Rob Castro-Silva: “Has your recommendation been cleared with the Justice Department? I just find it shocking.”

“I don’t need their approval —” the prosecutor began.

“How old are you?” the judge suddenly inquired.

“Thirty-eight,” the surprised prosecutor replied.

“You look younger,” Wilson pronounced, before telling the court that Austin’s case “has national and international implications.”

Wilson then announced he was postponing sentencing until July 28 and ordered Castro-Silva to contact the Justice Department and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller for their views on the plea arrangement.

Filing out of the courtroom, Castro-Silva was heard to mutter, “Well, I have my marching orders.”

Interesting. There's more background here.

AFRICAPUNDIT is back off hiatus. Drop by for Africa news. In particular, he notes this column on Liberia by Mark Steyn. Excerpt:

With Iraq, there was no agreement on what the thing was about: it’s all about oil, said the anti-war crowd; it’s about the threat Saddam represents to the world, said the pro-crowd. But with Liberia there’s virtually unanimous agreement: the US has no vital national interest in the country; its tinpot tyrant is no threat to anybody beyond his backyard; the three warring parties are all disgusting and none has the makings of even a halfway civilised government. For many on the Right, these are reasons for steering clear of the place. For the Left, they’re why we need to send the Marines in right now.

It’s precisely the lack of any national interest that makes it appealing to the progressive mind. By intervening in Liberia, you’re demonstrating your moral purity. That’s why all the folks most vehemently opposed to American intervention in Iraq — from Kofi Annan to the Congressional Black Caucus — are suddenly demanding American intervention in Liberia. The New York Times is itching to get in: ‘Three weeks have passed since President Bush called on the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, to step aside, and pledged American assistance in restoring security. But there has been no definitive word here on how or when.

So the question for the Americans is not whether you want to send 2,000 boys in to get picked off for a few months, until whichever warlord is willing to be bought can be installed as head of a provisional government after a token ‘election’ for the benefit of the international community (Taylor held his in 1997). The question is whether you want to commit yourself to fixing West Africa.

West Africa needs fixing, almost as badly as the Middle East. But it's another case where patience will be required. Are people who already regard Iraq as a "quagmire" -- and have done so since April -- really willing to go the distance?

Probably. We're still losing soldiers in Bosnia and you don't hear much about that. It's only a quagmire, you see, when certain people are against being there in the first place.

NOW THIS is just plain disturbing. I might save the image, though, since Talk Like a Pirate Day is just around the corner.

NICHE MARKETING: A magazine for tall people? Why not? We're people, too. Just, er, taller.

BLOGGER BUSTED FOR INFIDELITY: Somehow, I think there ought to be a bigger lesson in this one than "clear your location bar."

UPDATE: The lady in question responds. She suggests polyamory. Polyamory is fine, by the way, if that's what you want (though my parents' generation's efforts to live by Open Marriage make me a skeptic). But then why hide things?

SPOONS SAYS I'M DUCKING THE REAL QUESTION that everyone wants to know the answer to. In the interests of full disclosure, I've answered in his comments section.

ANOTHER DOWDIFIED QUOTE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, this one involving Mel Gibson.

HERE'S MORE EVIDENCE that the war on terror isn't the main threat to free speech:

The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of Jesus Castillo, a man fined and on probation because he sold a comic book not suitable for children -- to a grown-up.

Yet another prosecutor who ought to be looking for a new job, but won't be.

ANOTHER MOVIE BLURB YOU'RE NOT LIKELY TO SEE:

"after 120 minutes of this cheerfully destructive narcissism you'll feel like you've swallowed a whole bucket of rat poison." -- Matt Welch

Blogs: not likely to be featured in movie ads any time soon.

ROBERT TAGORDA WRITES IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE on what bodybuilding teaches us about a Schwarzenegger campaign. What's more, he's annotated that with a blog entry giving citations.

THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES says that lie detectors don't work. But people still use them:

After a series of stormy public meetings in New Mexico, Congress mandated the testing of the 20,000 employees at both labs. But New Mexico senator Jeff Bingaman, for whom this was a constituent matter, forced into the bill the funding for the National Academy of Sciences report on the reliability of the polygraph when used for security screening. When it was released late last year, the study proved the most significant critique of the polygraph since the Frye decision.

The study determined that not only was the polygraph useless for security screening but that its use might actually be detrimental to the work of keeping the labs secure. It argued that the test was so vague that, to catch one spy, nearly 100 other employees might have to have their security clearances lifted. "Polygraph testing," the report concluded, "yields an unacceptable choice . . . between too many loyal employees falsely judged deceptive and too many . . . threats left undetected." . . .

"Why do we keep using it when we keep saying it's not reliable?" asks Bingaman. "That's an awfully good question. I think it just appeals to a lot of people's faith that there's a technological fix to every problem and, if you just get the right machine hooked up, you can determine all the right answers."

It's basically trial-by-ordeal with fancy printouts, and about as accurate. My own sense is that when somebody proposes a polygraph test, then either he's ignorant, or he thinks that you are.

UPDATE: A slightly disturbed reader emails:

Next thing you know, you'll want to deny me Benefit of Clergy. You are a damned communist, Glenn.

Do you know the "neck verse?" Anyway, I sentence him to the Ordeal of the Accursed Morsel, quite a few of which are available from the cafeteria downstairs. . . .

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: What's the "neck verse?" email a couple of readers. Ah, you may well ask. ("I am asking!" "And well you may!") It's here. I couldn't find a reference to the "ordeal of the accursed morsel" online. (Yes, not everything is on the Web, you know.) If I recall correctly, a priest said some words over a piece of dry bread that was then fed to the accused. If he choked he was deemed guilty. This was a sort of primitive lie detector, in that nervous people often have dry mouths. Of course, when you find yourself before Theodoric of York, Medieval Judge, you ought to be nervous, regardless of guilt or innocence. And that's the problem with lie detectors, too. As soon as someone gives you a lie detector test, you know your fate is in the hands of either idiots or charlatans, which should make anyone nervous.

MARK KLEIMAN EMAILS THAT HE'S "FISKING" ME for linking to a piece by Tony Adragna. In "Fisking," however, it's generally considered a major failure when you misspell the name of your major source, as Kleiman does when he repeatedly refers to "Tony Andragna." Especially when you do so in the process of accusing someone of carelessness.

So in answer to Mark's question: "When is the Titan of the Blogosphere going to start to hold himself to the same standards of accurate reporting he expects of the New York Times or the BBC?" -- the answer is: when you do, Mark!

But where both Mark and I are ahead of the NYT and the BBC is that both my brief item, and Mark's much, much longer one, contain links to the original documents in question, letting readers decide for themselves whether we've gotten it right.

On substance -- now that my snarking is out of the way -- Kleiman's right. My link was too hasty, and somewhat overstated the import of the Adragna post. (I suspect I was influenced in this by the email that I got containing the link, but that's neither here nor there; and Kleiman hasn't refuted the post, either.) But those who followed the link, as Mark did, got to decide for themselves. And that's where blogging is different from old media. The other nice thing about blogging is that you can also correct your errors, as I'm sure Mark will do pronto. And perhaps next time -- having already once accused me of deliberately inserting a bad link in a piece because he carelessly failed to notice that the piece was a year old -- Mark will be a little more careful himself, or at least a bit less quick to impute bad faith in cases of carelessness.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman has fixed his mistake -- see, that was fast -- and says that I'm "thin-skinned." Hmm. I presumed that the email was intended to evoke a response. Should I just delete this post, then?

As for his question of whether I approve of hostage-taking, the answer is no. But it's not clear what happened in this case and, frankly, there's been so much wolf-crying and outright lying about U.S. "war crimes" that it has become very difficult for me to take those charges seriously.

Now I'm not an empirical guy, but somebody should do an experiment: write the New York Times or the BBC about a headline that you think is misleading, and see if you get a response this quickly. . . .

And the point isn't that I -- or, I think, any blogger -- is holding him- or herself out as better than these Big Media oufits. Rather, we wonder why they aren't better than they are, given how many more resources they've got.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire calls my defense here "timid and ineffectual." Well, that's just how I am, I guess. Those are not, however, words that anyone would apply to Maguire.

TREASURY'S ABOUT-FACE ON SAUDI MONEY: I'd really like to know what's going on here:

The Treasury Department said yesterday that it would decline to provide the Senate with a list of Saudi individuals and organizations the federal government has investigated for possibly financing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The action was the second in two weeks to set the White House and Congress at odds about the Saudis and federal intelligence-gathering related to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Moreover, the move contradicted an assertion made on Thursday by a senior Treasury official, Richard Newcomb, who told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism that the list was not classified and that his agency would turn it over to the Senate within 24 hours.

I still don't understand why the Democrats aren't making a bigger issue of this stuff.

UPDATE: Reader Harry Helms emails:

Answer: because if the Saudi government provided financial, organization, and/or logistical support for the September 11 attacks, that constitutes an act of war against the United States by a foreign nation and the American people will demand military action against Saudi Arabia.

And most elected Democrats are so far into the "no war is ever justified" mindset they can't risk making an issue of the increasingly clear Saudi connection to 9/11; they correctly sense most Americans wouldn't be satisfied with a formal condemnation of Saudi Arabia by the United Nations.

I feel the Bush administration is well aware of the Saudi links to 9/11, and is merely waiting until Iraqi oil is at full production and suitable replacement custodians for Mecca and Medina are aboard (Jordan's Hashemites?) until moving against the House of Saud. 2005 might be a very interesting year for the Saud royal family.

I hope he's right about the Administration, and I'd be disappointed to think that he's right about the Democrats. As for the Hashemite idea, well, where have we heard that before?

UPDATE: Chuck Schumer, who as I mentioned earlier might be a bellwether on this issue, has now released a letter cosigned Sam Brownback and by a bunch of Democratic Senators, calling for release of the censored pages about Saudi involvement in 9/11. (Via Kleiman.)

A MAN DEFENDS HIMSELF from gun-firing drug dealers. The police say he hasn't committed any crime -- but they confiscate his guns anyway. Publicola and Rachel Lucas are unhappy.

Police are rather free about confiscating guns -- and, as any lawyer who deals with such matters can attest, often refuse to return them even when they have no legal basis for keeping them. (What's more, those confiscated guns often "disappear" and wind up in the hands of . . . . police officers!)

The police chief here, Reuben Greenberg, is well-regarded, which makes it likely that either there's more to this story than has been reported, or that swift corrective action will be taken. Stay tuned.

WHAT IF YOU HELD A CALIFORNIA BOND SALE and nobody came?

MORE DOMESTIC TERRORISM:

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 4 — Dozens of investigators on Monday were probing a $20 million arson that appears to be the work of the Earth Liberation Front. If front activists are responsible, it would be the costliest attack ever by environmental extremists.

Funny: The Earth Liberation Front has an arson manual on the front page of its website, but this guy got sent to jail for simply linking to sites with bomb-building information. How come the ELF site is still in operation? Do environmental terrorists get some sort of pass?

In my opinion, linking to bomb-making sites shouldn't be a crime, and punishing someone for doing so is a First Amendment violation. But at least one District Judge apparently disagrees.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs has more on domestic terrorism.

THE MENTOS CONSPIRACY: I knew it had to be something like this.

August 04, 2003

HERE'S AN UPDATE ON THE X-PRIZE COMPETITION for private spaceflight:

The award - which is vying for a place among the aviation prizes of the early 20th century that propelled major advances in speed, distance and technology - has sparked a space quest akin to the great race for flight in the early 1900s that drew in European and American inventors, including bicycle mechanics Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio.

A century later, garage rocket scientists across four continents heed the call, joined by notables such as missile pioneer Robert C. Truax and aircraft designer Burt Rutan. At its current pace, X Prize officials say, the award could be won by December, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Wrights' Kitty Hawk flight.

Ultimately, the prize aims to do for spaceships what the Orteig Prize did for airplanes.

I remember when this idea was first floated. It's done quite well.

LILEKS' SITE IS STILL DOWN, but Kim du Toit is -- well, in Hollywood they'd call it paying homage. Somehow, though, it's just not quite the same. . . .

Best bit: "No .22 ammo there either. Not even a lousy box of the Federal 500-in-a-carton crap which clogs the innards of the Marlin like gum in the Mac hard drive (don't ask)." If Lileks wrote stuff like this, he'd write, er, stuff like this.

DAMIAN PENNY ASKS: "Am I alone in thinking this story - that the former President of South Korea effectvely bought himself a Nobel Peace Prize by funnelling millions of dollars to the world's most insane dictator - should be getting a lot more attention?"

Why no, Damian. You're not.

WANT TO INTERVIEW UT LAW STUDENTS? If you're a law firm in New York City, UT will come to you.

WHICH IS MORE DAMNING? If Tony Auth didn't realize that his work was virtually identical to a Nazi cartoon, or if he did?

DANIEL DREZNER HAS SOME OBSERVATIONS on reform of higher education in Iraq.

CONDI FOR VICE PRESIDENT, Dick Cheney for Secretary of State: The ducks are lining up.

WHO IS SCARED OF HOWARD DEAN? A lot of people, all of a sudden, it seems. At least, I turned on the radio while driving around this afternoon, and heard Rush Limbaugh dumping heavily on Dean and saying that (1) Democrats are scared of Bush because his relatively big-government policies (which Limbaugh compared to Nixon's) are stealing their issues; and (2) Dean's too far to the left to win.

I'm not so sure. Bush's comparatively liberal spending policies are alienating a nontrivial number of his supporters, but will they win Democratic votes? Bush talks a somewhat better game on guns than Dean, but not much better, and his actual actions on that front haven't been especially impressive. DoJ is still defending the D.C. gun ban, which seems to conflict rather clearly with its interpretation of the Second Amendment, nor, to my knowledge, is the new interpretation affecting actual policy around the country. Will some GOP supporters conclude that there's not that much difference between them?

The biggest difference between them is the war. That'll help Bush unless the war either goes so well that it drops out of public consciousness, or so badly that Dean looks good. The latter isn't likely, though I suppose it's possible. The former seems somewhat more likely, though by no means assured.

But although Democrats' claims about the "Bush deficit" aren't getting a lot of traction -- nobody takes the Dems seriously on the restraining-spending issue -- Bush's big-spending ways are probably demoralizing a lot of people who supported him as a smaller-government Republican. It's worth remembering that Nixon's foray into big-government led to the creation of the Libertarian Party, a split that has cost the GOP some close races. Does Bush want to be remembered (even by Republicans) as the next Nixon?

On the other hand, Nixon was re-elected in a landslide against an antiwar Democrat. . . .

UPDATE: Doc Searls thinks that lefty electoral-bloggers are taking the kind of lead that warbloggers took on, well, the war. He may be right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Devereaux Cannon emails:

For what it is worth--today I saw my first Democrat presidential bumper sticker for the 2004 election (discounting the "re-elect Gore in '04" stickers). On my way into Nashville this morning I passed a Mercedes sporting a Howard Dean for President sticker.

I've seen a Kerry and an Edwards, but no Deans so far.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Gerard Van Der Leun thinks that Howard Dean is the beneficiary of blogosphere narcissism.

Well, hey, but if that gets you on the cover of Time and Newsweek, then . . . .

THIS ABUSE OF ANTITERROR LAWS is unpatriotic, because it perverts a vital part of national defense.

The prosecutor in question, Jerry Wilson of Watauga County, North Carolina, should be ashamed. He should also be out of a job.

JIM BENNETT HAS A COLUMN ON THE TERROR-FUTURES IDEA:

More frightening than the demise of the program, however, was the manner of its demise. Not only have we been deprived of the information the program would have given us, but we have sent a powerful message to those on the front lines of defense against terror. That message is "Don't think. Don't Innovate. Don't take risks." It's not as if these characteristics have been so predominant in the civil service that we can afford to suppress them gratuitously.

Yeah.

I BOUGHT THE RX-8 ON THURSDAY. It then rained every day. Today the weather was perfect, so after going in to the office and doing a couple of things that had to be done today, I took off and went to the mountains, driving on the Foothills Parkway, hiking up to the Look Rock fire tower, etc. It was great, and made me wonder why I don't do that more often -- I'm close enough to do it on a long lunch. (The RX-8 is great. Full report later.)

When I got home, the blow-off gods had punished me, as the DSL was out. So I'm working at Borders, which now has wireless Internet. [So how does this count as being "punished?" -- Ed. My cappucino is a bit too frothy. . . .]

More later.

NORMAN GERAS'S BLOG POST on the antiwar left, popular throughout the blogosphere, has made the WSJ OpinionJournal.

STANDARDS ARE SHIFTING: The New York Times has long been known for lifting stories from smaller papers. But in the wake of the Blair scandals, it's news:

John Sutter, publisher of the Villager, says the New York Times has been stealing story ideas from his small Greenwich Village paper. There's no hint of plagiarism here; in each case, Times staffers did their own reporting and filed stories that read very differently. And it's hardly unusual for big-city papers, including The Washington Post, to follow up on reports in smaller community papers.

But in this case there appears to be a pattern of lifting ideas without credit.

Sutter cited 32 articles over the last three years on subjects that appeared first in the Villager. In 11 cases, one or more people quoted by the Villager are also quoted in the subsequent Times piece.

Now that this sort of thing is easier to check and to point out, I suspect that smaller papers will be more insistent on credit.

FLASH MOBS come to Boston!

INTERESTING CHRIS BERTRAM INTERVIEW with Michael Walzer. Walzer proves that it was possible to thoughtfully oppose the Iraq war, even if very few war opponents managed to pull it off. It largely defies excerpting, but here's good bit: "It can't be the case that when we try to figure out whether a war is just or unjust, we are predicting how the Council will vote. Indeed, justice would be independent of UN decision-making even if the UN were a global government."

THIS EDITORIAL in the Christian Science Monitor takes the Bush Administration to task for its handling of terrorist prosecutions to date. Meanwhile this column by Jacob Sullum takes the government to task for its "enemy combatant" detentions.

As Virginia Postrel notes:

In my mind, the single most important guide to security policy is that the government must never have the right to hold individuals within the United States, particularly (but not exclusively) citizens, secretly or incommunicado. That power inevitably turns first into the power to torture, and eventually into the power to detain and torture people whose danger to the general population is far less than their danger to the decision-making officials.

She's absolutely right, of course. Sadly, the Bush Administration's best friends in all this are those who have repeatedly cried wolf, and who now cast Bush as Hitler, thus discrediting the more serious civil libertarians who raise valid concerns like these.

UPDATE: Of course, a bigger point is that injustices aren't limited to the terror war. In fact, they're endemic.

August 03, 2003

BARBARA AMIEL WRITES:

I HAVE OFTEN SEEN disagreements between the BBC and British governments, whether Labour or Conservative. But the battle going on now is quite different. It is a struggle for power between the two. Incredibly, it has all the hallmarks of an attempted coup d'état by the BBC. . . .

The serious story here is the spectacle of the BBC brass, lined up like a row of colonels in a banana republic, trying desperately to unseat a government which pursued a policy of which they disapprove. It is, to say the least, an unedifying spectacle.

Things are getting ugly. Actually, they already have.

A LAWYER EMAILS that this story is a reason not to automatically disbelieve your client when he says he has no idea how that stuff wound up on his hard drive:

A man has been cleared of child porn charges, after investigators found that an Internet attacker was responsible for the presence of illicit images on his PC

A man accused of storing child pornography on his computer has been cleared after it emerged that his computer had been infected by a Trojan horse, which was responsible for transferring the images onto his PC.

Julian Green, 45, was taken into custody last October after police with a search warrant raided his house. He then spent a night in a police cell, nine days in Exeter prison and three months in a bail hostel. During this time, his ex-wife won custody of his seven year old daughter and possession of his house. . . .

Green told The Evening Standard that the experience wrecked his life because he was treated like a depraved sex fiend. "I had never been in trouble before. In cases like this it is not innocent until proved guilty, but the other way around," he said.

I wonder what the authorities will do to make him whole. Nothing, I expect.

DALE AMON IS RUNNING A QUIZ:

1) Whose idea was the Department of Homeland Security?

2) Who suggested the US use pre-emptive action against States harbouring WMD?

Nope, no hints here. But you might read this.

CHARLES AUSTIN HAS MOVED. Check out his new digs.

Christopher Johnson has moved, too!

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: Thomas Nephew notes that the remaining hostages appear to have been moved to Mali. The rest of the news isn't very encouraging.

SOME GOOD QUESTIONS:

Northwestern University law professor Anthony D'Amato has issued a strong caution to universities, calling on them to consider students' privacy before shipping them off to the RIAA sponsored legal gulag. Lawyers could turn Loyola's willingness to work with the RIAA into a black mark against students suspected of trading copyrighted files. More than that, however, D'Amato questions why Loyola - unlike MIT - was so ready to help the RIAA instead of its own tuition-paying kids.

Here's another: why would you want to go to a school that cares so little for your privacy?

OUTSOURCING: Here's the last word on the subject.

SWEDISH PAPERS ARE REPORTING a WMD discovery. Is it true? Beats me. There's more here.

There's also this report originally from The Times (but you need a subscription to read it there):

London - David Kelly, the British weapons expert at the centre of the Iraq dossier row, had amassed firm evidence to show that Saddam Hussein built and tested a "dirty bomb."

Designed to cause cancer and birth defects, the radiological weapon could have been used by terrorists to create panic and widespread contamination in a crowded city.

Kelly, who committed suicide last month, presented evidence of the bomb to the government in 1995 and recommended to Foreign Office officials that it feature in the government's intelligence dossier on Iraq. However, despite secret Iraqi documents being produced to prove its existence, it was not included. . . .

Iraq's dirty bomb was made from a material called radioactive zirconium which was packed into a bomb casing with high explosives. Iraq had access to zirconium stored at its Al-Tarmiya reactor site - under United Nations safeguards - ostensibly for use in its peaceful nuclear power program.

Interesting. My goodness, it would certainly undercut the credibility of an awful lot of the Bush Administration's critics if this sort of information turned out to be true, wouldn't it? I've been skeptical of those who have theorized that the Administration was holding back on this stuff so as to draw its critics out and then embarrass them, but this makes me wonder. And how very convenient, to have it come out via the Swedes. . . .

Meanwhile, in a somewhat-related issue, here's a report of Al Qaeda connections to the ongoing attacks in Iraq.

UPDATE: A couple of readers say that zirconium is an unlikely candidate for a dirty bomb. I don't know. But I did find this CNN transcript:

MCEDWARDS: And what about what we hear called a dirty bomb?

DUELFER: Iraq acknowledged to us in 1995 that [in] fact they had designed and tested what is called, popularly, a dirty bomb, which is essentially a conventional explosion, but designed to spread radioactive material. We reported this in some detail in December 1995. The material which they were using them was zirconium.

Interesting. That's Charles Duelfer, deputy UNSCOM chairman. He's supposed to know about that stuff, right? On the other hand, this transcript is from 2002, which makes the story old news, to the extent that it was news back then.

HYPOCRISY FROM THE WORLD BANK:

In a statement worthy of the French diplomat he apparently aspires to become, World Bank President James Wolfensohn concluded his meeting with the Iraqi Governing Council with the disdainful remark that "a constitution and an elected government would constitute a recognized government, but what do we do in the meantime?"

Whoaaa there, Daddy Warbucks! Hold the sauterne and the foie gras!

I don't recall that Saddam's regime was elected. Or that it governed by a constitution. Yet that terror-state was recognized as legitimate by the world's diplomats and international bankers. Every slithering, interest-bearing one of them.

And now Iraq's interim Governing Council doesn't deserve the level of recognition accorded Saddam Hussein?

Saddam seized power in a coup, slaughtered his opponents, started successive wars of aggression, pursued weapons of mass destruction and never held a single honest election. But he was just fine with foreign ministries, the United Nations and world financial institutions.

Yet Iraq's representative Governing Council lacks legitimacy as it seeks to build democracy? And Iraq doesn't qualify for reconstruction loans?

This is a double standard of such a disgraceful magnitude that the only appropriate adjective is "European."

Wolfensohn is American (though I think he's a naturalized citizen of Australian extraction). And I'm not sure a Eurocrat would say that particular stupid thing.

Come to think of it, those Eurocrats aren't exactly elected, are they?

Meanwhile, Reporters Sans Frontieres is learning that the U.N.'s hostility to freedom isn't just an annoyance to the United States.

I'VE BEEN SAYING FOR QUITE A WHILE that Algeria deserves more attention. Now Amir Taheri gives it some.