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August 23, 2003

THE BBC IS NOW VERY MUCH ON THE DEFENSIVE:

Tony Ball, one of Rupert Murdoch's key lieutenants in Britain, will unveil a survey showing that 51% of viewers believe the £116 annual fee does not represent good value for money.

It is the first time that an opinion poll has shown such dissatisfaction with the BBC, and will fuel the debate about the corporation's method of funding in the run-up to the renewal of its charter, which sets its remit and method of funding. . . .

The survey, carried out by NOP in June, before the Hutton inquiry, shows that 51% of respondents disagreed with the statement that the "BBC licence fee provides good value for money". The greatest dissatisfaction is demonstrated in low-income groups.

No doubt the Beeb will try to dismiss this poll, considering its source. But if other polling supports it, it will make things tough. And BBC Resistance is encouraging people to fight the mandatory license fee. (Via Bill Adams).

STEPHEN F. HAYES wonders why the White House continues to downplay the Saddam / Al Qaeda connection. I've wondered the same thing.

DONALD SENSING has an interesting post on an Iraqi columnist's take on Palestinian intellectuals.

ROB SMITH, who's not afraid of controversy, has his campaign platform all planned out. It's sad in a whole lot of ways, but I actually think he would be more likely to keep his promises than some of the others who are running.

HERE'S A REVIEW of Lileks' guest-host spot on Hugh Hewitt's show. He wins raves.

UPDATE: Here's another. More raves.

HERE'S A PROFILE OF LARRY SUMMERS from tomorrow's New York Times. Excerpt:

In general, I found that with the exception of the ideologically driven, almost every student who has actually had contact with Summers has come away liking him. Summers's indifference to propriety was bracing for students wearily accustomed to the agonized sensitivity that has more or less become semiofficial campus culture.

Summers is less popular with the faculty, whose devotion to the ideological correctness of past decades is increasingly out of step with the sentiments of today's students.

HOWARD VEIT PREDICTS that the French will be buying genetically-engineered food, as a result of the heat wave's destroying non-genetically-modified crops.

RX-8 UPDATE: Mazda's website is now reporting 238 horsepower for the 6-speed RX-8. That's down from 250 in the early ads, and 247 in the specs in the manual with my car.

Reader Andy Sexton reports:

Now, supposedly dealers are starting to contact people. If the message boards are to be believed, they will be offering owners buy backs or $500 + free servicing for the life of the standard warranty.

I haven't heard from the dealer on this. However, my 6-disc CD changer turned out to be a single-disc player (you can't tell from the panel, which looks the same either way), and the dealer will be installing the right one next week. This has to be a bit of an embarrassment for Mazda.

Having gotten through the break-in period, I have noticed that the car -- while very quick -- isn't as much quicker than similar cars as the weight vs. horsepower would suggest. (It seems, in fact, roughly comparable subjectively to the 190hp Eagle Talon I drove about ten years ago, which was very fast, but which had, well 190hp and probably weighed about the same or more. I just assumed that my standards had risen.) Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Reader Steve Ramsey emails:

Glenn, the actual HP rating is only partially relevant. That motor of yours produces prodigious HP and torque throughout its incredably wide power band, with the capability to turn RPM's that would explode all but a formula one racing engine.

The light weight and small size of the wankel have a profound effect on the balance of the whole machine.

Feel is one thing, results another. The RX-8 would leave the eagle talon behind on any road course in the world.

Good reason for Mazda to come across with some lovin' for its goof. No reason for any RX-8 owner to get into a blue funk.

All true. I'm not in a funk at all -- the car is terrific, and I'm very happy with how it drives. I do wonder how a mistake like this is possible, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mazda has had this problem before, with the Miata. That makes it even more puzzling that it would happen again.

HERE'S AN L.A. TIMES STORY about the Earth Liberation Front's pro-terrorism website, which has been mentioned here a time or two.

IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE: Al Franken won his publicity victory lawsuit with Fox. No surprise. He was right; they were wrong.

Now if he were just funny. . . .

UPDATE: Ernest Svenson has posted an analysis of the decision, over at BlogCritics.

10,000 FRENCH HEAT DEATHS? I've found it hard to believe these numbers, but they seem fairly solid:

PARIS -- Europe's deadly heat wave claimed more than 2,000 lives in countries outside of France, where an estimated 10,000 have died, according to official reports. Italy, which had refused to release figures, bowed to public outcry over increased deaths and agreed yesterday to investigate the toll.

The Associated Press compiled reports from hospitals and local and national governments about the deaths from 18 countries. Outside France, the highest official estimates came from Portugal, with 1,300 deaths, and the Netherlands, with 500 to 1,000.

It's hard for me to believe that the French government would exaggerate the toll, given what political dynamite this is likely to be. It's a colossal tragedy -- one-fifth of total (U.S.) Vietnam casualties, but in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of years.

I don't have any good ideas on why things should be so bad -- except that heat can be quite dangerous, especially if you're not used to it, and when it continues day and night. We've seen that in some heat waves in the United States, but even Northern cities in America are better equipped to deal with heat than most cities in Europe. Air conditioning and iced drinks are quintessentially American because, well, we need 'em here. This story blames vacations:

Many of those who died were elderly people left alone at home by families taking holidays in the traditional vacation month of August, Raffarin said.

This seems a bit hard to swallow as the main cause for so many deaths.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn wonders why this isn't a bigger political deal in France than it is.

Meanwhile reader John Nowak sends this from France:

I'm in kind of a weird position here; I'm an expat working in Puteaux outside of Paris and my godmother died in a heat wave last year in Queens.

Click "More" to read the rest. And here's a column by Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia, suggesting that energy conservation played a role. The anecdotal evidence in Nowak's email would tend to support that, though I suspect that other factors were more important. [LATER: Merde in France has more, including a link to a Reuters story (in French) that says the death toll is even higher.]

Read More ?


August 22, 2003

HERE'S AN INTERESTING ARTICLE from Slate, on the spread of Sharia in Nigeria.

ARIANNA UPSIDE: She's got a campaign blog. Downside: The top item involves the resignation of her campaign manager.

DAVID ADESNIK RESPONDS TO HIS CRITICS, who, he says, "include the blogosphere's entire center-left brain trust." Congratulations, David -- you've achieved fame!

THE BLOG OF CHLOE AND PETE HAS MOVED. Make note of it.

SO, I WROTE A POLITE RESPONSE to a critical email -- accusing me of hating Israel, of all things -- and got this back:

Thank you for your e-mail. In an effort to address the growing spam issue and to therefore respond to your e-mail sooner, your e-mail message with the subject of "Re: from little greenfootballs." has been placed in a temporary holding file. It will be delivered immediately after you complete this simple one-time process of checking the link below, in the future, all of your e-mails to me will automatically be delivered:

Let me be as polite as possible: buzz off. Why should I jump through a bunch of hoops in response to your unsolicited email, so as to ensure that you don't get unsolicited email? Give me a break. And if you use these services, don't bother writing me. (And yes, I know that this post is a lot like one that Jeff Jarvis put up a while back. Now I know why he was so irritated. Jeez.)

UPDATE: Just to avoid confusion -- I'm paranoid after the Ashcroft and Barlow affairs -- the email in question didn't come from Charles Johnson, who I rather doubt would do such a thing, but from one of his readers, for whom he's not responsible. [LATER: If I'd thought about it, I would have just removed the "subject" reference above, because it had nothing to do with Charles. But I was focusing on the "spam" aspect; the LGF connection didn't seem important to what I was saying.]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Alan Martin notes:

It would be more productive to remind people to put the addresses that they send messages to on their safe list. Of course this would be avoided if the services that use this type of spam filter did this automatically.

Yes, that way you wouldn't be offloading your own spam-filtration work onto your correspondents. I don't mind getting unsolicited email -- but I do mind having to jump through hoops to reply to it.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, in retrospect (it's Saturday now) I was probably a bit testy, for which I apologize. But my testiness was authentic -- I felt like someone who got a phonecall during dinner, only to have the caller switch me to voicemail. Note to anti-spam developers: you're going to have to come up with something better than this.

STILL MORE: Jim Davila doesn't like this software either.

I LOVE WI-FI: I'm wireless-blogging from the Downtown Grill and Brewery, which is yet another in the list of wifi equipped local businesses.

I note that Shannon Okey is playing up the idea of free wireless hotzones as tools for downtown redevelopment. I think that there's a lot of room for that sort of thing. Knoxville's Market Square, downtown, has wireless access now. I'd like to see that sort of thing spread.

Of course it may be -- as Paul Boutin suggests -- that businesses will take care of this everywhere. (That's actually how it is in Knoxville -- the City hasn't done squat). And in fact, as Boutin also points out, the biggest hassle and expense in setting up a for-pay wifi hotspot is the billing setup. I think that means that wireless internet access may really be "too cheap to meter." Though perhaps that will change as wifi becomes more popular. In the meantime, be sure the hotspots have backup power, so that people can post photos to their blogs during blackouts!

UPDATE: Then again, maybe -- as this Paul Boutin article suggests (he's everywhere these days!) -- it'll all be beside the point as broadband cellular becomes ubiquitous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on wifi as a lure to development.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, this is inspiring business plans! Virginia Postrel, meanwhile, has her own view.

I'VE GOT SOME THOUGHTS ON SECURITY OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM, inspired by Bruce Schneier's new book on the subject.

Meanwhile, here's an observation worth repeating:

A cement truck laden with explosives plows into the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations and, presto-chango, there are "terrorists" in Iraq. That's right, not "guerrillas," not "resistance fighters," but "terrorists." And the press is appalled at their wickedness. Suddenly journalists and pundits who could scarcely bring themselves to utter the T-word now find themselves compelled to use it. Strange how when a U.S. serviceman is killed while guarding a hospital or when Israeli women and children are obliterated on a city bus, the perpetrators are often referred to as "militants," "extremists," or simply "bombers" and "gunmen." But when U.N. officials are the victims... Pardon me. Considering who does the talking, it isn't strange at all.

Indeed.

IS ORRIN HATCH ANOTHER JIM WRIGHT?

WASHINGTON — As he was seeking political favors, a friend of Sen. Orrin Hatch bought a whopping 1,200 copies of Hatch's largely self-produced music CDs, for which Hatch receives $3 to $7 each.

Hatch, R-Utah, and his friend, Monzer Hourani, a Houston developer who twice before has landed Hatch into major ethics controversies, say he wasn't trying to buy political help with those CDs and they merely share a love of his music.

Hey, music-lover -- you can buy 1200 of my CDs any time you like!

MORE EVIDENCE that outsourcing will be an election issue -- this time in the California recall.

SORRY for the limited blogging today. The Insta-Mother-in-Law got out of the hospital this morning after some nontrivial surgery. She's doing fine now.

JOSH CHAFETZ RESPONDS AT LENGTH to critics of his BBC piece, with links and quotes. You won't be surprised to hear that I think he comes out on top.

LEE HARRIS WRITES on standing up to terrorists. And to apologists for terror.

UPDATE: Read this piece, on Jessica Stern's recent oped. "Her resume is impressive. She has studied this subject much more than I have. Therefore she has no excuse."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Stern.

GOOD NEWS ON LOW-POWER RADIO: I meant to blog this yesterday, but got distracted. Michael Powell is opening up low-power FM. That's a good thing. Maybe he'll speak out in favor of Internet freedom, next.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis makes a good point, too.

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH SURVEYS THE BLOGS of presidential candidates, and finds them wanting.

Does this mean that Pejman is agreeing with Maureen Dowd? Yeah, more or less.

HOW TO BE AN ALPHA MALE: A series of essays at Halley's Comment. The series ends rather differently than it begins.

JUDGING BY THE COMMENTS that this post has attracted, the "Sorority Eye for the Straight Guy" show has a shot at making it. Developing. . . .

UPDATE: More related commentary here, here and here.

WINDS OF CHANGE HAS A ROUNDUP OF NEWS from the 'Stans. Lots of interesting and underreported stuff there.

INTERESTING STRATEGY PAGE REPORT ON DOINGS IN SAUDI ARABIA:

August 22, 2003: Saudi Arabia’s government has been engaged in a bloody, bitter war with Al Qaeda since 9-11, with efforts intensifying over the last few months. The conflict has taken against a back drop of confusing kaleidoscope of circumstances, divided loyalties, innuendoes, suspicions and misunderstandings.

Ever since Al Qaeda terrorists, a majority of them Saudis, hijacked four aircraft and flew them into buildings in New York and Washington, Saudi security forces, acting under the broad ranging instructions of the increasingly resolute Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, have arrested hundreds, if not thousands of suspected militants, sympathizers and persons believed to have ties to Al Qaeda.

Saudi investigators reportedly uncovered plots by the Al Qaeda network to initiate a series of major terrorist attacks, primarily in Riyadh, to coincide with the war in Iraq. Saudi intelligence had a source in the group and the plans were frustrated, but the Saudi government was shocked by the discovery that the group had stockpiled poisons, C4 explosives, hand grenades and small arms in preparation for their planned attacks. . . .

The vast majority of Saudis are a mixed bag. For the most part they prefer their Islam to be Wahabbi. They respect the House of Saud, but feel it is corrupt at times and needs to be cleaned up. Less than one percent actively support Al Qaeda, but many were secretly sympathetic to it because of its demonstrated ability to bloody the nose of the “arrogant” West. The Riyadh attacks and Abdullah’s condemnation of sympathizers will likely lead to a population that is increasingly hostile to Al Qaeda operatives, and Al Qaeda sympathizers and militants who are increasingly hardened and willing to commit mayhem.

There's much more in this long report, which suggests that last spring's attacks may have actually spurred the Saudi government to constructive action. I hope that's true.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON observes:

Indeed, the abhorrent assault on a U.N. complex in Baghdad — taken together with the near-simultaneous murdering of innocents in Jerusalem, the recent attack on the Jordanian embassy, and the bombing of Iraqi oil and water pipelines — may suggest to critics of the Americans that the enemy is recouping and gaining the upper hand.

Far from it. We are indeed entering a third phase. But it is not quite what most people think, since it has brought a brutal clarity to the conflict that the terrorists may not have intended. For those who were still unsure of the affinities between the West Bank killers once subsidized by Saddam, Baathist fedeyeen, the Taliban, and al Qaedist terrorists, the similarity in method, the identical blood-curling rhetoric, and the eerie timing of slaughtering during peace negotiations and efforts at civil reconstruction should establish the existence of a common enemy. It has been fighting us all along — a general fascism, now theocratic, now autocratic, that seeks to divert the Middle East from the forces of modernization and liberalization.

Contrary to the latest round of punditry, the liberation of Iraq did not stir up a hornet's nest nor create ex nihilo these terrible alliances. No, they are natural expressions of the hatred manifested on 9/11 that will continue until either we or they are defeated.

This seems right to me. Treating them as reasonable people with possibly legitimate grievances has mostly been a matter of Western self-deception. Read the whole thing, but don't miss this bit:

Our astonishing defeats of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban cannot blind us to the reality — unchanging since 9/11 — that we are in a war to the end with those who wish to destroy Western society and all that it holds dear. Both tactically and strategically this is a conflict that our enemies cannot win — given their military inferiority and accompanying failure to offer an attractive alternative to the freedom and prosperity of the West.

This doom the nihilists grudgingly accept. Thus the past week in Afghanistan, in Baghdad, and in Jerusalem they have once more embraced the tactics of the bomb-laden truck and suicide belt to demoralize civil society and to win the only way they can — as was true in Beirut and Mogadishu — by eroding public support for the continuance of war. Otherwise, they will lose and the virus of reform and legality will only spread.

Either the Middle East will be a breeding ground for terrorists and rogue regimes that threaten sober nations and peoples the world over, from Manhattan to Jerusalem, or it will desist and join the rest of the world. It really is as simple as that.

Yes.

UPDATE: Read this Phil Carter post on MPs. And just keep scrolling -- Phil's been on a hot streak.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this response to Josh Marshall, too.

August 21, 2003

THIS IS INTERESTING -- and troubling:

American investigators looking into the suicide bombing of the United Nations compound on Tuesday are focusing on the possibility that the attackers were assisted by Iraqi security guards who worked there, a senior American official here said today.

The official said all of the guards at the compound were agents of the Iraqi secret services, to whom they reported on United Nations activities before the war. The United Nations continued to employ them after the war was over, the official said.

The official said that when investigators began questioning the guards, two of them asserted that they were entitled to "diplomatic immunity" and refused to cooperate. Diplomats working in foreign countries are often entitled to immunity from prosecution by local authorities, but the official said the two guards could make no such claim.

Well, that's chutzpah. But why on Earth did the U.N. hire guys who had been spying on them as guards? I'm not the only one wondering:

Throughout the day, United Nations staffers came to gape at the wreckage of what had been their offices and to try to salvage the hard drives of their computers. Looking at the remnants of the office of Mr. Vieira de Mello, one woman gasped: "How could they have left this place so unprotected?"

The possibility that Iraqi security guards had cooperated in the bombing increased suspicions that Mr. Vieira de Mello was a target of the attack, the American official said. The truck pulled up to the wall just below his office while he was inside meeting with other American officials.

"We are very concerned about the possibility" that Mr. De Mello was chosen as a target, the official said.

The official said that the revelation that former agents of Mr. Hussein were still working at the compound had also added to their suspicions that it was loyalists to the deposed president who carried out the attack.

Maybe De Mello was looking too closely into where the "oil-for-food" money had gone? That's a trail that probably goes beyond Iraq. Pure speculation, of course, but hard to resist on these facts.

UPDATE: Ted Barlow emails: "If you are _not_ suggesting that the U.N. bombed itself, you should probably make that loud and clear on your page."

Huh? I really don't see how Ted got that from this post, but in light of the great Ashcroft misunderstanding, I guess I should say that, no, I'm not blaming Kofi for conspiring to blow up the U.N. mission. Rather, I was suggesting (in agreement with Roger Simon) that there were a lot of unsavory go-betweens involved in the oil-for-food program, and that quite a few people might have had an incentive to foreclose further inquiries. Oh, and I don't actually think that Frank J. is a communist, either. Though I don't really mind if people get the wrong idea, there. And if you read my GlennReynolds.com post today, you'll see that I'm entertaining multiple theories, none of which implicate the U.N. institutionally.

MORE: Tim Blair rounds up questions, and finds someone who admires the attackers.

RANDAL ROBINSON spots Jane's Law in action.

THE "BATTLE OF PRATTLE?" That seems about right.

SOMEBODY TELL THE BELGIANS: Looted artifacts are being bought by The Louvre? Surely not. That would be uncivilized.

BUT HE DOESN'T SEEM INTERESTED IN GOING AFTER "CHEMICAL ALI:"

The Belgian lawyer who angered Washington by launching a war crimes case against the former US military commander in Iraq, Tommy Franks, said he was appealing against the government's decision not to pursue his suit in Belgium.

I think he must be a mole for the Bush Administration, working to discredit the idea of an International Criminal Court. Double his pay -- he's doing great work! (What, you've got a better explanation?) [He could just be a pretentious twit with delusions of grandeur! -- Ed. Hmm. A Belgian human rights lawyer? That's so crazy it just might be true! Kind of like "Lapdance Island?" -- Ed. I'm pretty sure that's not in Belgium.]

THE VOLUNTEER TAILGATE PARTY is up, with many links to blog posts from Tennessee bloggers -- including Thomas Nephew! [Thomas Nephew is from Tennessee? Who knew? -- Ed. Not me. But SKBubba's never wrong!]

UPDATE: SKBubba emails:

Well, you don't have to technically be in Tennessee to be in the RTB. We have a big tent. Thomas had some sort of connection, like he went to U.T. or something, I don't recall now. At least that's what he said when he applied.

As you can see, it's an exclusive club. But be sure to check out the whole Brigade and read the many fine bloggers you'll find there.

RANDOM CALIFORNIA-RELATED THOUGHT: Everyone running in the California recall might profitably take a look at Tennessee's Democratic Governor, Phil Bredesen. Bredesen is balancing the budget without raising taxes (in fact, Tennessee, which has no income tax, is in surplus), and is popular not only with Democrats, but with a lot of pretty hard-core Republicans too. His secret: He's honest, and does what he says he'll do.

I know it's crazy, but it just might work!

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs notes that the surplus hasn't gotten much attention.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, here's an article in The Economist on Bredesen. It's subscriber only, but an excerpt follows:

With the unpopular Mr Sundquist term-limited, the governor's chair was open to anyone brave enough to take on Tennessee's fiscal mess. And Mr Bredesen was well-positioned. He had built a reputation of fiscal conservatism and economic development during eight years as mayor of Nashville, where he cut deals to bring a Dell computer factory and professional football and hockey teams to the city. And he promised no income tax.

He took a decidedly managerial approach to cutting state spending, calling for 9% cuts in every department and asking each commissioner to present a list of proposed cuts in a public forum. His first budget, which has just gone into effect, is only 4.1% larger than the 2002-03 budget, which was, by contrast, nearly 7% larger than the year before's. But Tennessee is starting the new fiscal year with a tiny surplus.

Democrats elsewhere, take note.

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER.

PICKING UP WHERE MATT WELCH LEFT OFF, now Susan Estrich is all over Arianna Huffington:

Huffington has no chance of winning. Never did. The only reason to run was her ego, self-aggrandizement, attention -- at the expense of her kids.

She is running on a platform she didn't even believe in a few years ago. Nor is it one she lives by.

How could she do that to her children? my own children ask.

In Huffington's case, of course, it may be a bit more complicated than that, financially speaking, since it's slightly more difficult to live off your children's child support when your children aren't living with you. But don't bet against her. This is, after all, the woman who runs against oil interests and lives in a mansion financed by oil money, rails against pigs at the trough and pays no taxes, runs as an independent and supports a guru.

I think that this candidacy may have been a gimmick too far. (Via Mitch Berg).

UPDATE: Yes, definitely a gimmick too far:

Arienron – I’m sorry, I mean Arianna - says the business is “cyclical” because she’s been doing research. $2.7 mil seems to me an awful lot of photocopying at the library. But that just goes to show why I’m poor bumbling Dr Watson next to Arianna’s Sherlock Holmes. “Why, Holmes, what an amazing deduction!”

“Elementary, my dear Watson. By the way, did you get a receipt from that hansom cab driver?” . . .

It’s comical how tone deaf Arianna Huffington’s campaign has been. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to tap the anger that’s brought this recall campaign so far – the people who are fed up with runaway spending, high taxes, bureaucratic featherbedding. Arianna seems to think there’s another kind of anger out there – people who are angry because they want more government programs, more regulation, more bureaucracies, and they’d be prepared to pay higher taxes for these blessings. Hey, I would too in her shoes. After all if you tripled Arianna’s state income tax bill, you’d get …let’s see now, three times zero equals …zero.

Ouch. Running for office, even as a gimmick, produces a different level of criticism altogether.

CRIME WRITER ROGER SIMON on the U.N. bombing:

[W]e never did find out where all that money went. You know, those gazillions in oil-for-food cash Kofi & Co. was supposedly administering but ended up lining a lot of pockets in various quarters in Iraq and elsewhere. There was even a Congressional Hearing with the usual results (not much). Those records just have not surfaced. Slippery fingers, I guess.

Now maybe I'm just being one of those paranoid conspiracy theorists... or a crime writer with too many plots... but cui bono, as they say, when UN headquarters in Iraq gets blown to smithereens?... (Unless, of course, its computers and accounts books were locked in a secure vault under the building-- as if)... And, yes, I know there were obviously other motives. But at the various least, I guess we could call this "collateral damage."

By the way, where has the major media been on this story? Nobody's been following this up as far as a know, but it's one of the great heists of our time.

Where, indeed. Just remember, Simon was right about the museum looting being an inside job.

UPDATE: Niraj notes an interesting passage from the bombing story.

THREATS OF VIOLENCE IN SEATTLE, during Bush's visit, tomorrow. Troubling.

FRANK J.'s communist connection, exposed. Ann Coulter was right -- they're everywhere!

UPDATE: And he's well-armed, too! Sigs, by the way, are great, Frank.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Heck, I'm behind the curve. Frank's communism is old news.

ANOTHER VICTORY FOR ANTI-IDIOTARIANISM:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- The eight associate justices overruled Chief Justice Roy Moore on Thursday and directed that his Ten Commandments monument be removed from its public site in the Alabama Judicial Building.

The senior associate justice, Gorman Houston, said the eight instructed the building's manager to "take all steps necessary to comply ... as soon as practicable." . . .

The associate justices wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."

I expect to see Justice Moore wearing one of those "dissent is patriotic!" buttons, though.

UPDATE: Well, he is dissenting -- and that, we're told, is by definition patriotic, right? Alabama reader Bill Reece isn't impressed, and it's not just Moore that he's upset with:

Idiotarianism. I like that. Justice Moore has managed to join a long line of elected officials who have publicly humiliated my home state of Alabama by populist poliltical pandering. Moore could care less about the Ten Commandments. He was considered to be, at best, an obscure and second rate trial judge until he first used the Ten Commandments in his courtroom to gain notoriety for himself. After pursuing the exact same "crusade" he has just completed, he leveraged the publicity he had received into support from the religious right in Alabama, allowing him to get elected Chief Justice over a far more qualified candidate who is presently a member of the Ala. Supreme Court.

Anyone familiar with the law on this issue, regardless of whether they agree with it, knows that this was a losing proposition. Moore knew it, but his crusade was "cheap" for him because the taxpayers of this impoverished State would bear the costs while he reaped the public notoriety. It was all about furthering his political ambitions.

The group that I am most disappointed in is the other members of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore went behind their backs in erecting the monument in the middle of the night without prior notice or consent. None of them publicly, and to my knowledge privately, stood up to Moore at that time or at any other time during this farce and demanded that it end. It was only after the Federal Courts ordered removal and there was no room for Moore to manuever that the other Justices ordered its removal, when they had political cover to do so (i.e., blame it on the Feds). In doing so, they also allowed Moore to climb down off of the limb on to which he had stuck himself.

Now Moore gets a free pass for his wasteful and feckless behavior and the Alabama taxpayers have to pay the enormous legal fees and have to once again incur a hit to our reputations.

But with a patriotic dissenter as Chief Justice!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another Alabama reader emails:

Let me add to Bill Reece's comments about Roy Moore and say that he is an embarrassment to both Alabamians and Christians. (I'm a member of both those groups.) Instead of heeding Jesus' call to go into your prayer closet, he's built a 2.5-ton prayer closet on public property and wrapped himself in the pages of the Bible. How many people could have been fed, clothed, shown Christian love if time and money weren't being wasted over this monument? Trust me when I say that many, many Alabama Christians are sickened by Moore's conduct.

Well, show it at the polls. But admire him for his patriotic willingness to dissent!

STILL MORE: Peter Ingemi emails:

Although I agree with Judge Moore on the merits of the monument being a basis of law in Western Civ etc. I think that he and the protesters are making a big mistake.

In these post 9/11 days we have much to fear from groups of Americans willing to violate the law and court orders on the grounds that "God wants us to do it," and I suspect that the next group that does this will have a response much less peaceful.

After all didn't an Imam on a bus a few days ago decide to defy the Palestinian prime minister because God wanted him to?

Indeed. And what about the people who think God wants them to disobey the Alabama Supreme Court?

STILL MORE: Sam Heldman emails:

Your correspondent Bill Reece (an old friend of mine, unless there are two Bill Reece's) criticizes all of the Associate Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court for not having publicly opposed Chief Justice Moore before now. But in fact one did: Justice Johnstone, the only Democrat on the Court. Soon after Chief Justice Moore installed the monument, about two years ago, Justice Johnstone publicly criticized it in quite strong terms, warning of the dangers of theocracy. See, e.g., this article quoting Justice Johnstone's public statement.

So noted. Here's a quote from the linked item:

"Courts should confine themselves to deciding their cases according to established law," Johnstone said. "I shun symbolic controversies because I think time and effort are better spent in tangible service rather than symbolic gesture. However, while I believe in God, I oppose the movement to govern in the name of God. People who govern in the name of God attribute their own personal preferences to God and therefore recognize no limits in imposing those preferences on other people."

Symbolic issues are usually employed as a way of distracting voters from noticing what a bad job politicians are doing at their actual work. What's Moore doing these days?


"SORORITY EYE" FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY? Actually, I think that show would sell.

OXBLOG HAS A QUOTE from the just-captured "Chemical Ali" (via Human Rights Watch) that's worth repeating:

I will kill them all with chemical weapons! Who is going to say anything? The international community? F_ck them! the international community, and those who listen to them!... I will not attack them with chemicals just one day, but I will continue to attack them with chemicals for fifteen days.

With this quote, and with the nickname "Chemical Ali," I'd hate to be his defense lawyer. Er, if he ever gets one; I'm not quite sure what his status is. Will he be turned over to the Iraqis eventually?

There's lots of good stuff at Oxblog today -- just scroll up and down from this post.

UPDATE: Oops! I'm not up to date: "Ali Hassan al-Majid is now officially known as 'Conventional Ali,' since it is common knowledge that Iraq had no chemical weapons program."

Heh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on chemical weapons:

As a former Romanian spy chief who used to take orders from the Soviet KGB, it is perfectly obvious to me that Russia is behind the evanescence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. After all, Russia helped Saddam get his hands on them in the first place. The Soviet Union and all its bloc states always had a standard operating procedure for deep sixing weapons of mass destruction — in Romanian it was codenamed "Sarindar, meaning "emergency exit."Iimplemented it in Libya. It was for ridding Third World despots of all trace of their chemical weapons if the Western imperialists ever got near them. We wanted to make sure they would never be traced back to us, and we also wanted to frustrate the West by not giving them anything they could make propaganda with.

All chemical weapons were to be immediately burned or buried deep at sea. Technological documentation, however, would be preserved in microfiche buried in waterproof containers for future reconstruction.

"Buried deep at sea." That might explain those missing "mystery ships" from before the war. (Via Junkyard Blog).

HERE'S A RARE SCREENSHOT of Frank J.'s recent TV appearance.

IT JUST GETS WORSE FOR THE BBC:

David Kelly told a Sunday Times journalist that Andrew Gilligan's report on the Today programme was "bullshit" and said he had been "put through the wringer" by the Ministry of Defence over the affair. . . .

Rufford told the inquiry it was not unusual for him to visit Dr Kelly at his home, but admitted part of his reason for visiting the government scientist on that day had been to ask him about the row between the government and the BBC over the September dossier on Iraq's weapons.

He said that in their conversation Dr Kelly described the dossier as "factual and credible".

Hmm. That's not the impression the BBC gave.

UPDATE: A reader from Britain emails that the Beeb's broadcasts don't seem to have gotten around to mentioning this item. Imagine!

KOFI ANNAN SAYS that the the United Nations is too feckless and irresponsible to be trusted with its own security. Well, yes, that's basically what he says in response to people pointing out that the U.N. mission in Baghdad rejected U.S. offers of more security, and refused to take recommended precautions:

Annan rejected, however, Washington's reasoning that UN officials in Baghdad had refused offers by U.S. forces in Iraq to protect the compound.

"Nobody (asks) you if you want the police to patrol your neighbourhood," he said as he returned to UN headquarters after cutting short his holiday in Europe. "They make the assessment that patrol and protection is needed, and then they start, and that's what should be done in Iraq."

Read down a bit further and you see this:

"Security around our location was not as secure as you might find at the U.S. compound, and that was a decision we made so the offices were available to the people," said chief UN spokesman Fred Eckhard, in comments that appeared to confirm the UN had refused U.S. help. "We did not think at the time we were taking an unnecessary risk."

So the problem is that we let the U.N. make up its own mind. Fiendish? No. Ill-advised? -- Well, here Annan might actually have a point. I agree with Kofi -- the United States shouldn't listen to the U.N. on matters of security, but should do what's necessary even if the U.N. objects. So what, exactly is Kofi Annan being paid to do? Make lame criticisms of the United States, apparently. At that, he seems diligent and indefatigable. (Emphasis added above).

UPDATE: A couple of readers suggest that Annan's comments here are a variation on the line from Animal House: "You f*cked up -- you trusted us!"

Kofi as Otter? Well it's better than Kaus as Coulter. . . .

MICKEY KAUS:

Makes the BBC look like the O'Reilly Factor! I try to resist charging that skeptical reports about the war reflect impatient, biased "quagmirism." (I was a quagmirist on Vietnam and haven't changed my mind about that.) But today's CBS News "Reality Check" by Mark Phillips (available as the "Post-War Reality Check" on this page) was so jaw-droppingly one-sided and opportunistically defeatist it's turning me into Ann Coulter!

Turning Kaus into Ann Coulter? Sorry but it's too early in the morning for the mental image of Kaus in a miniskirt. In fact, it's always too early in the morning for that image.

As for the report (moved off the main page, it's now here), I watched it and it's as bad as Kaus says -- almost a Kent Brockman parody of biased TV news, with statements by obvious Al Qaeda sympathizers (one of whom called the 9/11 hijackers the "magnificent 19") that the U.S. approach is failing taken uncritically at face value because they go where Phillips wants to go. (What were they going to say: "Yes, the U.S. is succeeding, and we're failing"?).

CBS News is clearly in a quagmire. I think they need more -- and better -- troops!

QUAGMIRE UPDATE: "Chemical Ali" has been captured.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kurt Dykstra emails:

I saw this at about 3 a.m. this morning while groggily hauling myself to bed. I thought I was having a bad dream when I saw and heard the "Reality Check." Of course, that segment was preceded by another segment from a younger, alpha male-type reporter whose name I can't recall, casually dressed for the desert heat, who breathlessly said, essentially, "Of course the US needs the UN now more than ever." Of course! No quotes or video clips to buttress the comment or attribute it to someone else. Um, fella, how about you try reporting something instead of attempting the role of the stealth pundit.

In general, the entirety of the CBS segments on Iraq should have been framed on screen with the catchy title: "It's 1968 All Over Again." Not that I expect the news media to rah-rah the war, but I apparently expect too much from CBS to hope for dispassionate, even-handed, in-depth coverage of a lengthy and complex affair.

Glad to see the CBS farce has been noticed by others as well.

Yep. And though the piece suggests that U.S. strategy is simplistic, I have to wonder how anything could be more simplistic than viewing every conflict through the prism of an almost 40-year-old war.

[Aren't you going to make the Baby Boomers feel kind of, well, old if you point out that the Vietnam war is nearly as old as you are? -- Ed. Gee, do you think that's why they don't want to admit it?]

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader chides me for the above snarky faux-editorial colloquy. But, really, the Vietnam War was several wars ago. Heck, there are even Vietnam War reenactors, which should tell you all you need to know about how up-to-date a model it is. (Link via Miss Kickadee).

IT'S WORKING:

The Syrian Ba'athist regime is struggling to prevent a rising tide of agitation for across-the-board reform and democratisation from turning into a flood.

For one of the last fraying Arab versions of the theoretically socialist, one-party state, repression is proving less and less effective. . . .

Addomari was in the thick of it, but Farzat simply went too far. He continued to attack a perennial target of his, Saddam Hussein, even as Americans and British prepared to invade his country.

He portrayed Saddam and his portly generals stuffing the Iraqi people, as cannon fodder, into the barrel of a gun, and haranguing a crowd of hungry and ragged citizens: "They have come to plunder your palaces, your riches, your businesses and your oil."

The Ba'athists weren't happy.

APPARENTLY, IF YOUR S.A.T. SCORES ARE GOOD ENOUGH, you're entitled to go to college even if you flunk a bunch of classes in your senior year. At least, that's the theory behind a lawsuit in North Carolina that probably shouldn't have been filed. Begging to Differ is channeling Sam Kinison in response.

UPDATE: Kimberly Swygert has much more on this.

JOHN LOTT has posted a lengthy response to the Ayres and Donohue letter I mention below, on his website. "Despite their continuing claims to the press, Ayres and Donohue's own papers do NOT provide any statistically significant evidence that violent crimes increase. . . . Ayres and Donohue's tone is extreme, especially in comparison to my language."

UPDATE: Read this, too. Lott emails:

Given Ayres and Donohue's claim that ""correcting his errors did eliminate his finding," one can readily see from the corrected tables and figures that this statement is false. The coefficient estimates do change somewhat, but the basic point is still clear. Whether one uses the types of statistical tests that Ayres and Donohue use for all their regressions or whether you use the the type of methodology that Plassmann argues for because of the truncation issues and the nature of the data being count data, you still get a drop in crime.

I expect that there will be more discussion on this topic.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PROFILE of recently captured Jemaah Islamiyyah terrorist Hanbali, featuring literally dozens of links.

August 20, 2003

DEREK LOWE HAS A NANOTECHNOLOGY ROUNDUP POST that's a must-read if you're interested in this stuff, though it's mostly bio-nanotech.

He also has a post about a drug that makes people have orgasms when they yawn. I love the potential implications of this -- suddenly the most boring professors would become the most popular. C-SPAN would have a 30 share. Tax lawyers would be sought out at cocktail parties. . . .

YEP, THIS EMAIL VIRUS OUTBREAK IS THE WORST EVER:

Sobig.F, which is the sixth and latest strain of a virus that first emerged in January, spreads through Windows personal computers via e-mail and network file- share systems. Besides clogging e-mail systems full of messages with subjects like "Re: Details" and "Re: Wicked screensaver," the virus also deposits a Trojan horse, or hacker back door, that can be used to turn victims' PCs into spam machines.

"It's a seeding," said Mr. Czarny. "All they're looking to do is plant that Trojan."

Sobig.F can overwhelm e-mail servers, and deleting all those messages can consume users' time, said Mr. Ellis. "I think Nachi's really going to be the one that hurts us from the volume perspective -- us being the Internet."

I can't believe how many virus emails are hitting my system. They're getting blocked at the server, but hundreds of 100K attachments per hour is a lot of traffic, and if this spreads it'll really bog down the Net.

MORE ARIANNA HYPOCRISY, once again unearthed by her nemesis, Matt Welch.

NOW THAT'S PUNDITRY:

At least one pundit is saying that this is a match between a Clinton surrogate (Davis) and a Reagan imitator (Schwarzenegger). But Davis is an inferior Clinton while Schwarzenegger may actually be a superior Reagan.

He shoots, he scores.

WELL, THE ANSWER IS YES, at least sometimes.

MICHELLE MALKIN:

While Katie Couric complains about GOP candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger being "the son of a Nazi party member" and international media outlets assail Schwarzenegger adviser Pete Wilson as "anti-immigrant" and "racially divisive," the liberal press has been stone-cold silent on Bustamante's connection to one of the nation's most virulently racist organizations. . . .

MEChA has been dismissed by some as a harmless social club, but it operates an identity politics indoctrination machine on publicly subsidized college and high school campuses nationwide that would make David Duke and the KKK turn green with envy. MEChA members in the University of California system have rioted in Los Angeles, editorialized that federal immigration "pigs should be killed, every single one" in San Diego, and are suspected of breaking into a conservative student publication's offices and stealing its entire print run in Berkeley.

MEChA's symbol is an eagle clutching a dynamite stick and machete-like weapon in its claws; its motto is " Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada (For the Race, everything. For those outside the Race, nothing)." . . .

Why should Bustamante, a public figure already known to have used a racial epithet in the past (he infamously used the word "nigger" while addressing a Black History Month event two years ago) get a pass?

I guess I should be surprised that this story has gotten so little attention, but I'm not.

UPDATE: Here's a DeWayne Wickham piece on Bustamante's use of the n-word. Bustamante apologized, but it's what slipped out. One can only imagine how people would respond if Bush -- or Schwarzenegger -- made a similar slip. And it doesn't explain MECha.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Pedro Cardenas emails:

I attended Cal-Berkeley and although MeCHA's politics are backward, as a group it's rather harmless. It's all bark, no bite. Just clueless college kids playing revolutionary and for what it's worth, you get that a lot at Cal from many groups. (At a high school level, they weren't that much better. I attended Garfield High in East Los Angeles and didn't know of its existence until after graduation. I'm sure most people were surprised as well).

Not surprising -- but the point is the group's racism, not its effectiveness. Most white-supremacist groups are equally ineffectual, but a major-party candidate's membership in one would get a lot more attention than this has gotten. That's a double standard.

JACOB T. LEVY WRITES IN THE NEW REPUBLIC:

Agricultural protectionism--the combination of quotas, tariffs, and subsidies for farm products--may be the purest example of destructive special-interest politics ever created. . . .

Still, the costs agricultural policies impose on their own societies are manageable in the huge economies of the developed world. The costs they impose on the rest of the world are often devastating.

Yes. This is why they should be abolished. As the Nebraska Guitar Militia sing:

They're just payin' us to live here
Payin us not to go
Bribin' us to take the place of
Sioux and Buffalo

Or, as elsewhere in the song, "Other folks get welfare, but we get 'aid' -- don't care what you call it man, long as I get paid."

MICHAEL FUMENTO IS CHANNELING BILL O'REILLY in a way that doesn't become him. Fumento's schtick -- which is sometimes on target and sometimes not, though I've generally admired his work -- is that he overcomes elitism and political correctness by having the arguments and the facts. Yet he responded to criticism from blogger Rich Hailey with insulting but largely fact-free emails, and now he's following it up with more insults in place of argument on his own website. (The Atkins diet doesn't work because Rich Hailey's picture looks fat? Yeah, that's a winner. And if blogs and bloggers are as insignificant as he says, then why is he so angry?)

Hailey's picture may be unflattering, but this style of argument doesn't make Fumento look good, though I suppose it does prove him right when he says that anyone with a website can go ahead and post just anything. An editor would have restrained this embarrassing outburst. And, based on this churlish post, Fumento needs one. Perhaps he should leave web-punditry to those who are capable of restraining themselves.

UPDATE: According to a couple of readers Fumento also appears to be guilty of photo-dowdification. If you'll compare the photo on Hailey's page with the one on Fumento's page, you'll see that Fumento has squashed the rectangular photo into a square, having the effect of making Hailey look rather more portly than in the original.

I'm not sure that this is intentional -- the "fat" image shows properties of 169 x 169 pixels, while the original image shows 200 x 250, and there hasn't been any cropping. But when I saved the "fat" image to put up here for a comparison, it popped back to the original dimensions, suggesting that some sort of weird formatting thing on Fumento's page is responsible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I looked at the source HTML for the page, and both height and width of the image are set at 169, which has the effect of forcing the original image into the less flattering square when it's displayed on a browser.

Intentional, or accidental? Beats me, though it's probably the latter -- the "typing monkey" image on the page has the same formatting. I think it's just sloppy coding. Note to Fumento: if you specify only a height or width dimension, the image will automatically be displayed at the size you specify, with the other dimension automatically adjusted to keep things in proper proportion. If you specify both height and width, then if the proportions are different from the original image you'll distort it.

Hey, maybe this web stuff isn't quite as easy as it looks. . . .

UPDATE: John Hawkins has some numbers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bigwig has some advice for Fumento, who he says is trolling:

If Mr. Fumento really is that popular, proving it is easy. All he has to do is put a publicly accessible web counter on his front page.

I'll just note that I have an open counter.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Fumento has responded to this post, and quite politely. But I don't have an opinion on the Atkins diet; I just thought he was being rude. Everybody I know who has tried Atkins has lost weight. Nearly all of them have gained it back. But, of course, that's true of every other diet. . . .

BILL HERBERT CRITIQUES a post by Kevin Drum that itself criticizes Josh Chafetz's Weekly Standard cover story on BBC bias.

It's a never-ending conversation here in the blogosphere!

HERE'S AN INTERESTING THEORY on the motivation behind the U.N. bombing in Baghdad. I think it's quite plausible.

BILL WHITTLE HAS A NEW ESSAY: It's on responsibility.

DANIEL DREZNER HAS MORE ON NORTH KOREA, where there's a lot of interesting multilateral diplomacy going on.

CHIEF WIGGLES WAS ON THE SCENE OF THE U.N. BOMBING in Baghdad, and blogs a firsthand report. He's also unhappy with the media coverage:

Maybe our efforts for the most part are going unnoticed: the schools and hospitals that have been opened, the playgrounds and housing projects that have been started, and the many jobs that have been created. Where is all the talk about the thousands of good things that have been done? Why is the media not assisting to promote the word that many great things are occurring day after day? Where is the truth in reporting that makes good news as sellable as bad news? . . .

I am fine, if any of you are wondering. Life goes on as usual, these acts of terrorism hardly causing us to skip a beat in the process of reconstruction. Our resolve is firm and commitment in tack, for we will succeed and be victorious.

This is the right thing to be doing; righteousness will prevail over the evil intentions of misguided hate filled people. Keep the faith. Do your part in assisting us to be able to continue until we are finished with our plans. We need your help. Tell everyone you know that we will not give in to their negative reporting and we will not give up until we are done.

Read the whole thing.

TO THE VARIOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE HIT THE TIPJAR: I usually send a thank-you email (a real one -- no bots here!) and I've tried in spite of the literally hundreds of virus emails I'm getting every time I open the mailbox. But if your email got deleted accidentally, I'm sorry. This flood is driving even the cool-as-ice Matt Welch crazy. I'm afraid to see what it's doing to Layne. . . .

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY CHART OF GUN-BIAS IN THE MEDIA is up, and it's an especially interesting one.

KIM JONG-IL OUGHT TO BE WORRIED: The Russians have written him off. And I don't think he should count on the Chinese much, either.

BILL HOBBS NOTES that Nonviolence.org didn't miss a beat in condemning the bombing of Hiroshima on its anniversary a couple of weeks ago, but that it can't seem to condemn the killing of Israeli schoolchildren by Palestinian terrorists.

Why is it that it's always the civilized world that is supposed to be nonviolent?

JOHN LOTT UPDATE: I've been slow to believe charges of dishonesty aimed at John Lott. First, I don't understand the underlying statistics well enough, and second, Lott has been the target of many vicious smears and lies, which tends to make me reflexively doubt the latest charges by his many antigun critics. (For example, because he had an Olin Fellowship at the University of Chicago, antigun people said his research was funded by Winchester, a company the Olin family, which endowed the fellowships, once owned -- which is sort of like saying that the Henry Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale is "bought and paid for by Time Magazine." I don't think they ever apologized, either.)

Nonetheless, the question of coding errors in some of Lott's research, discussed earlier on InstaPundit here and here, continues to stand. John Donohue of Stanford sent me a letter to the editor, which he (together with Ian Ayres of Yale) sent in response to something from Lott. I asked him for permission to reprint it here (I got the idea from his email that he wanted me to, but I wasn't completely certain), and haven't heard back -- but I notice that Tim Lambert has already posted it.

While I suspect that Ayres and Donohue favor gun control, and dislike Lott's theories on policy grounds, I regard them as honest guys -- though I went to law school with them and may be biased thereby. At any rate, while I can't speak to the merits of the statistical argument myself, it is notable that Ayres and Donohue are now doing something that they have not done earlier, which is accusing Lott of being deliberately misleading, not of mere inadvertence. I expect that this debate isn't over.

It's also worth noting something that Mark Kleiman said earlier on this:

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

Given that anti-gun people predicted, over and over again, that the streets would be red with blood if shall-issue were adopted in various states, that's no small thing.

UPDATE: Lott phoned me -- he's away from computers but had heard of this post by phone. He emphatically denies any deception, says that he's made all the data available on his website, and promises to send me an email when he's online. He also says that the claim of a small increase in crime is wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I want to be clear, here -- I think I was anyway, but after the Ashcroft thing my confidence is blown -- that neither Lambert, Ayres, or Donohue was behind the bogus "Winchester" claims. Those came from anti-gun groups, and were parroted by sympathetic politicians and journalists.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: John Lott has posted a response on his website.

IF YOU ONLY READ THIS BLOG, or this one and a few others, then you should really branch out. A good place to start is at The Carnival of the Vanities, where blog posts from all over are collected for your perusal. Check 'em out. You may find some new blogs you like.

WILLIAM J. DYER says that the New York Times is playing down key facts about the U.N. bombing in order to make the Bush Administration look bad. Most importantly -- that the UN deliberately declined to follow warnings about security, even though its employees have been targeted on previous occasions.

Read the whole thing, which makes the Times, not to mention a number of other critics, look pretty foolish, or pretty dishonest. The U.N., meanwhile, appears to have been fecklessly living in a fantasyland. But that's not news.

MORE ON DISASTER PREPAREDNESS -- and an email from my mom! All over at GlennReynolds.com.

MAYBE THE CRITICS ARE RIGHT -- this report makes it sound as if America really is turning into a police state. I blame John Ashcroft.

UPDATE: Despite the beating he takes from the pundits and blogosphere, Ashcroft is apparently pretty popular to judge from the many emails I've gotten complaining about this post and defending Ashcroft. Uh, folks, follow the link, and I think you'll discover that your complaints are, um, premature.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Aaugh! One of my colleagues once said about teaching that you can never be too obvious. I thought I was obvious here, but this email convinces me that I wasn't:

As you suggested, I followed the link, and it not only did not mention Ashcroft, but had nothing to do with him, since it was at a STATE park. Which means it is controlled by the STATE of Vermont. This obviously has nothing to do with the Patriot Act, the DoJ, or anything remotely connected to John Ashcroft. If you can't look past your anti-Ashcroft agenda long enough to see that, you have lost any credibility I ascribed to you in the first place.

Um, see, the "I blame John Ashcroft" line was tongue-in-cheek, as was the notion that Jonah Goldberg was suffering from a police state (maybe a "Barney Fife state" but. . . .). Jeez. Maybe I should replace Frank J.'s endorsement with that quote from Andrea See about me having a dry sense of humor that some people don't pick up on. Because this post clearly didn't work. Oh, well.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Craig Myers emails:

am amazed that the people who complained about your hilarious reference "I blame John Ashcroft" (which you have used numerous times before), are able to actually figure out how to e-mail you in the first place.

I appreciate greatly your sense of humor, and don't you dare give it up.

Well, people who don't like it can get their subscription refunded. Oh, wait. . . .

Seriously, I've learned from blogging that there's nothing so clear that someone won't understand it in a way you haven't foreseen, and that people who disagree with you are often especially eager to misunderstand what you say. And -- even putting that aside -- it's very interesting to see the different interpretations people put on the same events, etc. One nice thing about the blogosphere is that it lets you see that sort of thing in real time.

So does my email, in ways that bring me varying degrees of pleasure.

BRAD DELONG writes that worries over outsourcing are misplaced and -- sounding almost Hayekian -- suggests that the cure would be worse than the disease: " Given the all-thumbs hand the U.S. government has to try to guide industrial development through tools other than maintaining the infrastructure of a market society and the provision of basic research and other public goods, it is hard to imagine that the costs to the country as a whole will not greatly outweigh the benefits."

Indeed. But even if you think a problem isn't a problem, or that addressing it would make it worse, that doesn't mean it won't be an election issue.

UPDATE: Here's more proof on the issue, as a reader emails:

I don't know if you'll read this message because of the e-mail viruses, but I had to comment on outsourcing. My property management company in Atlanta that manages VA foreclosures, is about to be outsourced. Hundreds of companies around the country, as well as hundreds of VA employees will be displaced shortly. The lovely Clinton administration decided to put the VA's Property Management Division under the auspices of the VA Hospital System (???). The failing VA hospital system didn't want anything to do with it, and they commissioned the same consulting firm that helped the HUD Property Management system become a fiasco. The consultants recommended virtually the same system that HUD had implemented - privatization - which has been very inefficient and costly. OCWEN, a Florida corporation, was the winning bidder for the VA job. According to their website, OCWEN utilizes staff in India. Hundreds of Americans will be losing their jobs and companies, and many will be replaced by workers in India. Fortunately, most of the displaced VA employees have been offered other government jobs. It seems ironic that the Department of Veterans Affairs will be outsourcing to a company using foreign labor.

I don't know anything about this, but it seems like the kind of thing that could be turned into a campaign issue.

LOOK AND FEEL: My TechCentralStation column is up. Virginia Postrel's new book is mentioned. So is Tim Blair.

DAVID CARR REPORTS on the "bizarre, seldom-seen world" of illegal vegetable-growing in England. What vegetables are involved? Tomatoes.

Ah, the British.

I guess this is a good time to put in another plug for The Guardian's anti-agricultural subsidies blog.

RALPH PETERS writes that the U.N. bombing is actually a good sign:

Our enemies' initial "Mogadishu Strategy" - based on the faulty notion that if you kill Americans they pack up and go home - was a disaster for them. Our response devastated their already-crippled organization. Now, with reduced capabilities and decayed leadership, they've turned to attacking soft targets. It's the best they can do.

It's ugly. But it's an indicator of their weakness, not of strength.

Demoralized by constant defeats, our enemies have become alarmed by the quickening pace of reconstruction. Consequently, we will see more attacks on infrastructure, on international aid workers and on Iraqis laboring to rebuild their country.

We'll also see al Qaeda and other terrorist groups become the senior partners among our enemies, as Ba'athist numbers and capabilities dwindle. There is more innocent blood to come.

Yet the bombing of the U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel was a self-defeating act. . . . The truck bomb didn't simply attack the U.N. - it struck at the U.N.'s idea of itself. The lesson the U.N. must take away is that no one can be neutral in the struggle with evil.

Naturally, of course, the usual folks are coming out of the woodwork to say that this is America's fault -- or better still, Bush's -- but I think that Peters is right. Will the U.N. cut and run? That would be par for the course, but Kofi Annan seems to be saying otherwise.

If the U.N. does run, of course, it will simply be demonstrating -- again -- that its chief role is in providing diplomatic protection for dictators, and that it can't be counted on when the chips are down.

AUSTIN BAY'S LATEST COLUMN ASKS the question, "Why didn't Idi Amin rot and die in jail?"

Why no extradition and trial? One Ugandan theory argues that the Saudis simply will not let an African Muslim potentate be toppled, tried and convicted by a predominantly Christian African state. That's an argument loaded with religious and ethnic explosives, too hot and politically incorrect to touch. However, East Africans I know believe it. Post 9-11, it may not seem so outlandish.

The usual "international human rights crowd" has been slow to condemn the current horrors perpetrated by Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. During the Cold War, Amin escaped their condemnation because he was "anti-colonialist."

Bay minces no words.

ANOTHER THUG ASSAULTS THE U.N.:

Zimbabwe has ordered the United Nations and other relief agencies to surrender their emergency food aid to ruling party officials.

The move, revealed yesterday, may be designed to ensure President Robert Mugabe's regime can resume food aid deliveries, which could then be used as a political weapon to punish opponents in the run-up to provincial and district elections. Representatives of aid agencies, who had won agreement from the government to distribute aid without interference, expressed shock at the decision. . . .

Mr Mugabe's desire to take full charge of aid relief is seen as a ploy to reassert himself in these areas by using food as a political weapon. Last year, ruling party thugs seized donated food, forcing relief agencies to suspend distribution in the affected constituencies.

Officials were "shocked?" But why? Mugabe is, of course, just responding to the legacy of colonialism and can't be blamed for acting this way. . . .

August 19, 2003

ROBERT SCHEER HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT PROPOSITION 13 and the importance of higher property taxes. Stefan Sharkansky has checked the courthouse records and suggests that Scheer should probably devote more attention to making his own property tax payments before suggesting an increase in everyone else's.

YESTERDAY, I only linked to Susanna Cornett's post about it. So here's a direct link to The Guardian's anti-agricultural subsidies blog. And bravo to The Guardian for taking up this issue. Be sure to drop by and check it out.

The new Nebraska Guitar Militia album, Four Pickups of the Apocalypse, is now out, and it has a song about agricultural subsidies called "Farming the Government." I'll see if I can't get a copy made available online somewhere.

HEY -- I DO LIVE IN NERDISTAN! Paul Boutin test drives the RX-8 and calls it a sports car for nerds.

Coming from Paul, of course, that's a compliment. But why has Kaus remained obstinately silent?

JONATHAN GEWIRTZ POINTS TO a post on the mythologizing of Salvador Allende. Interesting reading.

PEAKTALK POINTS OUT signs of incipient good sense in the Dutch press:

What is encouraging though is that many in Europe realize that there is no quick fix in Iraq and that it in the interest of many in the West to pitch in and help rebuild the country. One of the clippings referred to the fact that even the European left is coming to its senses with this great quote form the Dutch NRC Handelsblad:

Even the left-wing parties in Europe are, after a long period of doubt coming to the conclusion that there is a problem if people advocate that a good westerner is a dead one.

The deadly attack on UN headquarters today highlights that the terrorists do indeed not make any distinction between US, UN or UK representatives. The bombing is evidence that if we fail to build up this country and pull out in the face of terror and instability the place may very well destabilize even further and become a breeding ground for terrorism for years to come. We can not flinch, if we do we give Islamist terror their greatest victory on a platter.

Nice to see that people are catching on. The U.N. headquarters attack may make what is really going on plain, even to the most reluctant.

UPDATE: Kevin Maguire emails:

Thus, there could be no clearer indication that said bombing was actually perpetrated by the Mossad, or the CIA. Or the USMC, the Trilateral Commission, or the Carlyle Group.

Wait for it; it'll come.

It already is -- you should see my email. Interestingly, my initial post on the bombing, especially the "why do they hate us?" line, seemed to really set off a lot of the lefty antiwar crowd. Maybe it is a wakeup call, but the cognitive dissonance seems to be driving some people over the edge. Let 'em call me names -- they can't match this vicious calumny anyway.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this. Heh.

FRANK J. AS SUPERHERO? Well, sort of: "He ranks right up there with Aquaman."

I would never say something that mean. But I would repeat it. . . . That's what the Axis of Naughty is all about, right?

Uh, that, and linkage.

GENDER APARTHEID: Amier Taheri writes on the origins of the Hijab:

All these and other cases are based on the claim that the controversial headgear is an essential part of the Muslim faith and that attempts at banning it constitute an attack on Islam.

That claim is totally false. The headgear in question has nothing to do with Islam as a religion. It is not sanctioned anywhere in the Koran, the fundamental text of Islam, or the hadith (traditions) attributed to the Prophet.

This headgear was invented in the early 1970s by Mussa Sadr, an Iranian mullah who had won the leadership of the Lebanese Shiite community.

In an interview in 1975 in Beirut, Sadr told this writer that the hijab he had invented was inspired by the headgear of Lebanese Catholic nuns, itself inspired by that of Christian women in classical Western paintings. (A casual visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or the Louvre in Paris, would reveal the original of the neo-Islamist hijab in numerous paintings depicting Virgin Mary and other female figures from the Old and New Testament.)

Sadr's idea was that, by wearing the headgear, Shiite women would be clearly marked out, and thus spared sexual harassment, and rape, by Yasser Arafat's Palestinian gunmen who at the time controlled southern Lebanon.

Sadr's neo-hijab made its first appearance in Iran in 1977 as a symbol of Islamist-Marxist opposition to the Shah's regime. When the mullahs seized power in Tehran in 1979, the number of women wearing the hijab exploded into tens of thousands.

In 1981, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, announced that "scientific research had shown that women's hair emitted rays that drove men insane." To protect the public, the new Islamist regime passed a law in 1982 making the hijab mandatory for females aged above six, regardless of religious faith. Violating the hijab code was made punishable by 100 lashes of the cane and six months imprisonment.

Those damn hair rays. Taheri continues:

Muslim women could easily check the fraudulent nature of the neo-Islamist hijab by leafing through their family albums. They will not find the picture of a single female ancestor of theirs who wore the cursed headgear now marketed as an absolute "must" of Islam.

This fake Islamic hijab is nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism. It is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam. It is as symbolic of Islam as the Mao uniform was of Chinese civilization.

Western cultural imperialism can't be stopped! Mao was aping a Western idea. And the Hijab is an imitation of Christian religious wear.

IT'S JIM BENNETT VS. THE GROUCHYCONS in his UPI column this week:

The California gubernatorial recall election appears to be creating the need to create a term for yet another kind of conservative. These I suggest we call "grouchycons." These are the people who have taken to sniffing at the California recall election on what they feel to be Burkean grounds, believing that the very fact of booting out a high officer through such a demagogical method as a recall election is fundamentally illegitimate. Some even go so far as to advocate that Californians vote against the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

To find out what he says, you'll have to follow the link.

WHILE I WAS ON VACATION, my complimentary USA Today contained this flattering "source-greaser" profile of Los Angeles' U.S. Attorney Debra Yang. It struck me as sort of odd, and this story quoting Yang from the same day didn't seem important enough to justify it, but now I see that Yang is a strong candidate to become Deputy Attorney General, something that the USA Today folks must have figured out before I did.

No reflection, one way or another, on Yang's suitability for the post. But it does provide some interesting insight into USA Today's reporting.

LYNN KIESLING continues to cover blackout and power-related stories. Drop by and follow the links -- she's got 'em.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen is speculating on what a laissez-faire electricity system might look like.

ONE OF MY EMAIL ACCOUNTS is getting a colossally huge number of virus emails. They're not making it though, of course, but there are a lot more than usual. I wonder if there's a net-wide outbreak. Be extra-careful about attachments -- though if a lot of folks are getting this many, the net will groan under the sheer volume.

UPDATE: SoBig seems to be behind a lot of these, though I'm getting a bunch of Klez hits, too. Lots of people emailed to say that they're getting a lot more viruses than usual. This could really bog down the Net if it keeps up.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader emails:

I help run the email service here at Marist. On a typical day, we reject 30-50 emails a day for known virus filetypes. As of about 5 mins ago, we've rejected over 4100 today, and another couple thousand that we just blocked the IP address at the router, so yes there are a lot more virus/worm such as Klez active.

Yeah, one of my accounts is getting about a hundred an hour.

And, by the way, corporate antivirus servers that send back a message when they get a virus with your email address are utterly useless in an age of email-spoofing viruses, and just add to the load.

OF COURSE, ONCE THEY'RE ALL IN IRAQ it'll be that much easier for us to take over Saudi Arabia should its government prove uncooperative in matters of antiterrorism:

Increasing numbers of Saudi Arabian Islamists are crossing the border into Iraq in preparation for a jihad, or holy war, against US and UK forces, security and Islamist sources have warned. . . .

According to Saad al-Faguih, a UK-based Saudi dissident, the Saudi authorities are concerned that up to 3,000 Saudi men have gone "missing" in the kingdom in two months, although it is not clear how many have crossed into Iraq.

Saudis who have gone to Iraq have established links with sympathetic Iraqis in the northern area between Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit, where they have hidden in safe-houses, a Saudi Islamist source said on Monday.

Pressure on Islamists in Saudi Arabia has grown since the bombing of an expatriate residential compound in May killed 35 people. The subsequent arrest of many Islamists has forced some underground while others are trying to flee to Iraq.

Flypaper, indeed.

UPDATE: Here's more on the Saudi/Wahabbist connection.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile TAPPED says Bush is changing his story. You see, back in May Bush said "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." But now he's saying "'major military operations' are over."

Somehow, the difference doesn't exactly leap off the page. At least TAPPED is big enough to admit it was wrong before: "Conquering Iraq turned out to be relatively easy, far easier than Tapped and other critics thought it would be." Tapped goes on to say that the peace is harder than the war, to which I can only respond: well, yes. And, funny thing, Bush said that, too, in a speech that wasn't quite as triumphalist as TAPPED makes it sound:

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. . . . The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

As TAPPED and President Bush agree, the rebuilding is the hard part. And it takes patience. Which is why partisan carping isn't helpful.

JULIAN SANCHEZ IS FISKING JOE CONASON:

The piece is a useful reminder that Conason's brand of smug condescension can be every bit as noxious as Coulterian venom.

He takes issue with Conason's polling data (which he calls "cherry-picked") and rebukes Conason for giving liberal politics credit for changes that resulted from economic growth and technological progress. Then he makes some interesting points about public attitudes in general.

UPDATE: Megan McArdle adds: "My goodness -- how did we ever survive as a nation with Abe Lincoln sneaking out of the White House at night to poison our food?"

Was Lincoln a conservative? Hmm. I guess so -- he was standing athwart history, shouting "stop!" after all. And he made it stick.

WELL, THIS ISN'T IN THE SAME CATEGORY as Al Jazeera trying to spark riots, but this story about the BBC's Andrew Gilligan certainly is an example of a journalist trying to "sex up" a story by giving events a nudge:

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter at the heart of the David Kelly affair, tried to draw the weapons inspector into admitting publically there was disquiet over the Iraq intelligence dossier, it emerged today.

The journalist sent an email to a Liberal Democrat press officer suggesting questions that could be put to Dr Kelly by the foreign affairs select committee.

In the email dated July 14, Gillligan described Dr Kelly as "an extremely interesting witness".

"Above all he should be asked what kind of threat Iraq was in September 2002 and, if he was able to answer frankly, it should be devastating," Gilligan wrote.

Gilligan did not admit Dr Kelly was the source of his "sexed-up" dossier story broadcast on the Radio 4 Today programme, which started the row between the BBC and the government.

I imagine all the journalistic ethics pundits will be all over this one.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP ON KOREA from Winds of Change. More's going on than most people realize.

WHY I LOVE TECHNOLOGY: I'm sitting here blogging in the sun on the law school patio, via wireless. Okay, I'm not getting the same degree of benefit from technology as Rob Smith is, but it's cool.

"DOMESTIC TERRORISM FROM ANIMAL RIGHTS EXTREMISTS:" And that's what it is, all right.

THE NEW YORK TIMES seems to have found a new strategy to keep people buying newspapers and not just reading it on the web.

Works for me.

UPDATE: Charles Murtaugh has some observations, too.

YESTERDAY, I remarked that I wouldn't mind being replaced by a robot. I should have noted that there's a movie about just that.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, I hadn't known about Jonathan Swift's lost treatise on blogging. The things you learn on the Internet!

HERE'S ANOTHER MARINE who says that things in Iraq are better than the press makes them sound.

I don't know, of course, but that doesn't surprise me. After all, things in America are better than the press makes them sound.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

My son is a Cpl with the 3/23 Marines at Al Kut. I spoke to him Sunday and what he reports is essentially the same as LCPL. Guardiano. His unit has been mostly "humanitarian" work consisting of rebuilding, educating on self government and providing essential services. He attributes some of their uccess to the fact that as a reserve unit many of their members are police officers in civilian life and thus are better prepared for this type of duty.

I wonder why we don't hear much about this? Maybe for the same reason we don't hear about Al Jazeera paying people to shoot at Americans?

I DON'T QUITE UNDERSTAND THIS ARTICLE in Slate. The author doesn't seem to distinguish between "mobile homes" and recreational vehicles, but they're two rather different things, with very different demographics.

Interestingly, low interest rates have meant that you can buy a real house on a 30-year mortgage and have lower payments than a mobile home with a 10-year mortgage. This has hurt Knoxville's mobile-home-manufacturing collossus, Clayton Homes, and led to a Warren Buffett takeover attempt that has now been blocked for fraud by a local judge. I don't know if there's anything to those charges or not.

DEFUNDING THE ENEMY -- Amir Taheri reports:

August 19, 2003 -- BARRING a last-minute miracle, the pan-Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, one of Jordan's oldest political organizations, is expected to file for bankruptcy within the next few weeks.

The party's headquarters in Amman is a scene of daily demonstrations by creditors waving unpaid bills.

To make matters worse, the party has to finance the repatriation from Iraq of over 3,000 Jordanian and Palestinians students it had sponsored. The students were sent to Iraq with scholarships from the Ba'athist regime in Baghdad; Iraq paid the Jordanian party $600 a year for each student. But last month, the newly appointed Iraqi Governing Council scrapped the scheme as part of a broader de-Ba'athification program.

"We are in a tight spot," says Ahmad al-Najdawi, a party leader. "People don't understand that no more money is flowing [from Iraq]."

Jordan's Ba'athists are not alone in facing bankruptcy.

Two prominent Lebanese pan-Arabists have fled to France to avoid paying the mobs they hired for pro-Saddam demonstrations in Beirut last winter. And other pro-Saddam Ba'athists are facing unpaid bills for anti-war demonstrations they organized in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

At the time, those efforts were seen in the West as a sign that the "Arab street" was about to explode against the U.S.-led coalition.

You mean those folks were bought-and-paid-for shills instead of serious patriots? Perish the thought. That's not what the press told us at the time! But then, it wasn't just the Arab Street that Saddam was paying for:

Documents now being studied by the Iraqi research group also reveal that Saddam had a network of support in several European countries, notably Britain, France and Austria.

At least three French political parties received financial contributions from Saddam between 1975 and 1990. Several prominent French politicians, including former Cabinet ministers, received money from Saddam. Several British politicians, including at least one member of parliament, were among the recipients of Saddam's largesse.

Conducted by several groups, the current work on Saddam's secret documents is largely chaotic. It is, perhaps, time for the Governing Council to take control of the project and make sure that the seized documents are not used, and abused, for selective leaks and the settling of personal scores.

The people of Iraq have a right to know exactly who worked for a regime that wrecked their country and ruined their lives for over three decades.

And not just the people of Iraq.

UPDATE: And not just defunding 'em, either, as U.S. forces have bagged Saddam's Vice President.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm, of course it's not just Saddam -- here's a report that Al Jazeera is paying people to protest, and encouraging them to act in ways that'll cause U.S. troops to fire:

Any Credibility that Al Jazeera may have had before today has been smashed. Today a demonstration was to be held to demand the release of an Imam who was a close personal friend of Saddam and used his Mosque to store weapons and as a Refuge for Baath Party members. The Demonstration was to be broadcast live on the Arab News Network and they wanted to get real exclusive News. They wanted Americans to fire on the crowds. In order to ensure that we would, they PAID people to carry weapons in the crowd and to fire them at us in order to provoke a Violent Response from US troops.

Thing is, this isn't the first time Al Jazeera has PAID for the spreading of Anti-American Sentiments in this country or even this city. And these people are so desperate for money right now that they will do anything for it. A little boy who used to hang out at the Gate of the Civilian/Miltary Operations Center (C-MOC) and has since we occupied the building was given money and photos of Saddam Hussein and told to run through the streets shouting Anti-American slogans. Now, this boy had until that day been at the C-Moc every day, hanging out with American Soldiers who treated him pretty well. When stopped by us and asked why he was shouting such things, he replied that two men had paid him to do so. ... The two men turned out to be Local Al Jazeera correspondents.

Sounds like a security issue for CentCom to me.

EXPLOSION AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS IN BAGHDAD: Hmm. The problem is that everyone in Iraq, both pro- and anti-Saddam, has a reason to dislike the U.N., which makes assigning responsibility tricky. Put this together with the mortar attack on (presumably pro-Saddam) Iraqi prisoners the other day and it almost makes me wonder if there's a third force at work here. Follow the link for updates as they come in -- The Command Post is all over this story.

UPDATE: Maybe the bomb was planted by environmentalists, angry at the U.N.'s complicity in ecological devastation under Saddam:

An expedition by Duke University wetlands expert Curtis Richardson to evaluate damage to Iraq's storied Mesopotamian Marshlands revealed an environmental disaster of vast proportions. However, he also found the potential for restoring a significant portion of the marshes and with them the Marsh Arab culture.

On his June 16-26 trip, he encountered dust-bowl-level desiccation within the former wetlands, a destroyed date palm industry, a drinking water crisis, wrecked laboratories, and a pressing need to train a new generation of environmental researchers. . . .

"Saddam Hussein was a master 'brown field generator,'" said Richardson, referring to a term for environmental decimation. "He churned that country upside down. It looks like you let a child loose in a sand box with hand grenades."

I don't remember Kofi Annan speaking about about this stuff, do you?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Beets says the Dream Palace of the UN just collapsed, as the above-the-fray mentality of internationals proves unequal to reality, again.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Nord agrees:

I'm sure someone else has raised this point, but it seems that the bombing of the UN compound would be something of a wakeup call to the naifs out there who somehow believe that this battle is just between the U.S. and the Islamic fanatics. One anchor on CNN, believe it or not, seemed mystified at the attack, noting that the UN "has been a part of Iraq for years." She was implying that the fanatics were supposed to respect the "neutral" UN and only go after the Americans. How naive! These nuts are attacking anyone and everyone who gets in their way. They're not going to spare someone because he has a blue UN flag on his shirt. Their goal is to create chaos and anger.

I know it's terribly naive of President Bush to say it, but these are, you know, bad people.

Rand Simberg, meanwhile, says that the U.N. should start asking "why do they hate us?"

Meanwhile Trent Telenko says that "combat journalists" are clueless about real combat. And see this post relating to Trent's. Note the photo.

MORE: Kate points out that the U.N. rejected security measures aimed at preventing this sort of thing because it wanted to present a friendly image to Iraqis. Except, of course, that it's likely not Iraqis who are behind this. (Tony Adragna thinks he knows who is.)

There's more on this here. This event seems to be inducing an enormous amount of cognitive dissonance in lefty antiwar bloggers, who are responding -- as always -- by blaming the messenger. I guess it's like the Hitler/Stalin pact all over again, or something. . . . Get over it guys. You may hate Bush -- but it's not about Bush, and you're trying to make it about Bush so that you don't have to face what it's really about -- people who want you just as dead as they want John Ashcroft, and don't see any difference anyway, except that you might serve their cause as useful idiots, for a while, before they kill you, too.

JIM DUNNIGAN writes on North Korea. A lot of people think that we're closer to war with North Korea than the general tenor of media coverage would indicate. I wonder if the White House and Pentagon haven't been focusing more on Korea than is obvious, which might explain, well, a lot of things.

LILEKS ON THE FRONT PAGE:

Newspaper people love movies like this; it makes their profession seem so roguish. And indeed it was, once; decent people did not enter the newspaper profession anymore than they took jobs as harlot wranglers. But we love 'em now, because they make us look colorful. Alas: these archetypes we revere wouldn’t last a day in a modern newspaper - they were profane, drunken, nihilistic fabulists more concerned with the cards in their hands than the truth on the page. They're fifty years and a billion miles from the cautious, comfy sorts who fill newspaper offices today, peering at their monitors and spending 30 minutes buffing a simile. My God, if I pulled a bottle of scotch out of my desk and screwed a cigar in my mug they’d take me to a conference room for an intervention.

Yeah. It's like the difference between Lou Grant and, well, Ed Asner.

ED ASNER LINKS SADDAM AND AL QAEDA? That's what reader Franco Aleman emails:

Was channel surfing this morning during breakfast and landed at Fox News (I'm writing from Spain, but you get it here on satellite). Hannity & Colmes were interviewing Ed Asner, and he said "George Bush always needs an enemy. He gets hit by Osama. He can't find Osama, so he goes after the guy behind him." (emphasis added)

Two things:

- It's as if Osama had hit GWB only, and as if he then started some kind of personal revenge. As if there were no victims in the WTC and the Pentagon attacks, or as if the job of the President of the USA didn't include to defend the population from terrorism and to strike back against the terrorists and the ones who harbor them.

- He didn't explicitely use the word "Saddam", but he couldn't be referring to anyone else when talking about the guy behind Osama.

I'm quoting by memory but it was such a short and clear sentence that I think that if I'm not 100% accurate, I'm not far from it; neither of the two hosts, in the middle of the lively discussion they were having, apparently got the detail so they didn't dig further.

Aleman says he emailed to ask for the transcript. I'll see if I can find it online later.

UPDATE: Reader Karl Stewart emails with a different interpretation:

I think by "behind", Asner simply meant "next in line behind" Osama, or "next biggest fish" after Osama.

As for Asner's "He gets hit by Osama" statement, this is just another illustration of an ugliness on the left that should be unspeakable but is not. If not for their extreme hatred of Bush, I think many on the left would support, at least lukewarmly, the war against terrorism, and perhaps even the toppling of Saddam. But Bush angers them more than mass-murder and the threat of same. Ugh. Makes me want to take a long, hot shower.

Hmm. I'd have to see it in context to know which was right. Of course, Franco Aleman did see it in context, and we know how he interpreted it. Anyone else catch this?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Wendy Cook emails:

I tuned in just long enough to catch Asner's "man behind him" comment. It caught my attention too, but I think Asner did mean something like "the next guy in line." He couldn't have meant to link Osama and Saddam since his point was that the war in Iraq was Bush's attempt to divert attention away from our inability to capture Osama. (See why I lost interest?)

But however one interprets it, both your readers had far more compelling responses to Asner's clumsy comment than either host, neither of whom challenged the comment at all.

Me, too. But then, I never liked Asner. I did like Lou Grant, though. I guess that's proof that Asner can act, anyway.

I'M NOT SURE IF I LIVE IN A NERDISTAN or not. Actually, I like to think that it's Nerdistan wherever I hang my hat. . . .

THE NEW GEORGEWBUSH.COM SITE has a "donor lookup" tab, which is a nice nod to transparency -- but no weblog.

UPDATE: D'oh! I was still on my first sips of coffee as I posted this. Here's the right link. Sorry. And they've emailed that a weblog is coming.

August 18, 2003

IT'S CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS VS. EDWARD SAID, and Roger Simon awards game, set and match to Hitchens.

FUNNY THAT THIS REUTERS MEMO didn't come out until Reuters-nemesis James Taranto was on vacation. I, er, smell a conspiracy!

PHIL BOWERMASTER NOTICES THAT a lot of people are calling for "Apollo-style projects" these days.

NOTE TO ERIC ALTERMAN: Do not read this post by Tony Pierce. It will make you angry, or sad, or both.

O'REILLY VS. FRANKEN -- A FISKING: Excerpt: "for someone who bitches all the time about the nefarious influence of 'the trial lawyers,' O'Reilly sure seems to sue people an awful lot."

Indeed.

UPDATE: Bill Quick comments: "Sorry, Bill, but now you just sound like a big fat whiner."

Note to O'Reilly -- you're in a hole. Stop digging.

WINDS OF CHANGE has lots of interesting posts today, as usual. Check 'em out.

HMM -- This looks pretty embarrassing for the "Internet Candidate:"

Howard Dean’s presidential campaign acknowledged on Monday that it had spammed an undisclosed number of people with unsolicited political advertisements. The campaign said Dean, the former Democratic governor of Vermont, remained opposed to unsolicited bulk e-mail and blamed the spamming on two contractors who had promised to contact only people who had specifically requested to receive the advertisements.

Message to candidates -- those people who email you and offer "opt-in" lists are usually lying. . . . .

UPDATE: Blogs were on this story before MSNBC -- or I -- knew about it. Here's a post with the actual Dean spam.

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: They're free -- and notice who turns out to have been holding them:

Islamic extremists freed 14 European tourists on Monday, six months after they were kidnapped by an al-Qaida-linked group in the Sahara Desert. . . .

Algerian authorities say the kidnappers are linked to the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, generally seen as the less bloody of two main Islamic extremist movements behind a more than decade-long insurgency in Algeria.

The Salafist group has been linked to the al-Qaida terror organization.

I hope somebody pays close attention to what else is going on in that area.

MATT WELCH IS FACT-CHECKING ARIANNA HUFFINGTON'S ASS: And said fact-checking reveals her to be, well, pretty much a complete, lying hypocrite.

UPDATE: Read the comments, where some people are suggesting she's just an airhead. But note this key bit:

Either she voted for it or she didn't. If she voted for it, then she lied to Paul Begala about not having done so. If she didn't vote for it, then she was being deceitful in 1994 about the virtues of Prop 187. Unless of course, she is willing to admit that she often votes against good policies. In which case, I'm not sure she should be governor.

Not that her chances are especially good anyway.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Welch has more Arianna now-and-then over at his blog. Heh.

I'LL GIVE UP MY WORDPERFECT when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. Here's another reason why.

UPDATE: This post from The Comedian points out that .pdf format isn't as secure as some seem to think.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Matt Sitar notices something:

Your link to The Comedian highlighted a rather peculiar omission from the BBC article about Word. Both links mention the sniper letter from the Washington Post, but the BBC article failed to mention that the document was released in PDF format. As the UK government is planning to move to Acrobat (according to the article), this would seem an important detail.

Yeah, it would.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, thankfully unsuccessful this time, is reported by Eugene Volokh.

GOOD NEWS ABOUT SMALLPOX SHOTS:

THE VACCINE HAS been assumed to offer its best protection for from three to five years.

However, according to a paper scheduled for the September edition of the journal Nature Medicine, lab tests can detect immune response in 90 percent of vaccinated people for many years, some for up to 75 years.

It's still not clear just how much protection old vaccinations offer, but it seems likely that they provide some benefit for a long time.

THE MULLARCHY OF IRAN, WHERE A SERIAL KILLER CAN BE A HERO:

When the drought ended and the rains came, Saeed Hanaei believed that it was a sign from God that his killing spree had divine approval. "I realised God looked favourably on me. That he had taken notice of my work," Hanaei said. With 12 prostitutes already dead by his hands, Hanaei carried on his "work" and strangled at least four more women after luring them to his house in the Iranian city of Mashhad. . . .

The case provoked a debate between reformers who condemned the authorities for failing to catch him earlier and some conservatives who shared the killer's disgust with a rise in prostitution.

"Who is to be judged?" wrote the conservative newspaper Jomhuri Islami. "Those who look to eradicate the sickness or those who stand at the root of the corruption?" Such sentiments are expressed by the killer's merchant friends at the Mashhad bazaar, one of whom says with a laugh: "He did the right thing. He should have continued."

Don't expect me to shed a tear for these guys if they wind up hanging from lampposts. Any more than I am for this guy.

UPDATE: I'm reminded of this story from Paris. Is there a pattern here?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A couple of readers point out that at least this is "controversial" in Iran, while in most Arab countries it wouldn't be.

HERE'S SOME GOOD NEWS:

KABUL, Aug. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Afghanistan's economy saw a marvelous growth of 30 percent in the first year after the Taliban's ouster, mainly due to the return of refugees and an end of lingering drought, a spokesman said on Monday.

"According to reports by the Finance Ministry and the central bank, the economic growth in last fiscal year was over 30 percent," presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin told reporters at a routine press conference here.

The British weekly Economist has also reported a similar growthof the Afghan economy based on its independent estimates, he said.

(Via Bill Quick).

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: A reader emails that the AP wire is reporting their release. I can't find a link on it yet.

FIFTH COLUMN?

The leader of a Muslim charity in the United States has been sentenced to 11 years in jail after being convicted of fraud. Syrian-born Enaam Arnaout, 46, admitted diverting thousands of dollars from his Benevolence International Foundation to Islamic militants in Bosnia and Chechnya. . . .

US District Judge Suzanne B Conlon said there was no evidence Arnaout supported terrorism, although she said his alleged links to Bin Laden raised suspicions.

During the investigation, US Attorney General John Ashcroft said documents found in Arnaout's charity's Bosnia office tied him directly to Bin Laden, and Arnaout admitted having met the al-Qaeda leader.

It's not entirely clear what's going on here, though there was obviously fraud involved at the very least.

UPDATE: This is troubling, too. Either these guys are guilty, which is troubling, or they're not, which is troubling in a different way.

READER JAMES SMITH EMAILS FROM BAGHDAD regarding this AP story:

I'm now working in the public affairs office in Baghdad for the CPA. Got here three weeks ago. Fascinating experience. I thought I'd forward you a good example of reporting that starts with the premise that everything is the fault of the Coalition and ignores facts simply to prove that point. Here is a humble fisking of an AP story now on the wire, which I fear will become yet another myth unless you dispell it on your blog. Feel free to use any or all of my commentary below. I think you'd agree that flaw five is truly weird.

Click "More" for the rest. I suggested that the CPA start a blog of its own, allowing it to "Fisk" stories directly, but I thought I'd reproduce this email just as an example of how this sort of thing could work. Why not?

Read More ?


JAMES MORROW:

THEY SAY THAT COCAINE is God's way of telling you you have too much money. I suppose blogging is His way of telling you you've got too much time on your hands.

I can quit any time.

CLAYTON CRAMER has some interesting history regarding Cruz Bustamante's associates.

UPDATE: David Neiwert says that charges against Bustamante are overstated, "though Bustamante himself would probably do everyone a favor by clearing it up definitively."

IN WHAT'S EITHER A COINCIDENCE, OR BRILLIANT MARKETING, the copy of one of my regular tool catalogs that showed up in the mail on Saturday had home generators splashed across the cover. Paul Boutin has more on these.

I've never bought one, even though the idea of making my own electricity seems, well, very cool. One reason is that they're somewhat dangerous -- in fact, during the little-noted but massive Memphis power outage last month, the son of an acquaintance was asphyxiated when the people he was staying with ran a generator -- indoors. Don't do that!

The other is that you need a big honking generator to really run things like air conditioners or heat. I'd like one of those automatic start-up, tri-power (natural gas lines, backed up by propane, also capable of running on gasoline) versions, with about 15-25 kilowatts. I could've had one, too, if I hadn't bought a car.

Short of that, well, I've got flashlights, and a big UPS to run the DSL modem and the wireless node for hours. But the generators Paul points out are kinda slick-looking. . . .

In the meantime, I've got more thoughts on self-reliance over at GlennReynolds.com.

UPDATE: Noted survivalist Amy Langfield has suggestions for what you ought to keep in your blackout kit.

LYNN KIESLING HAS A COLUMN ON DEREGULATION AND BLACKOUTS:

First, the "deregulation" that has occurred in electricity has primarily been in opening up wholesale markets for power generators and their customers (i.e., utilities), enabling people in Manhattan to continue consuming power (and clamoring now for more regulation) without Con Edison having to build more power plants on the island itself. The existence and growing vitality of wholesale electricity markets has created substantial value in the past decade, through encouraging generation where it is cheapest and sales of power to where it is most needed.

But this limited amount of market liberalization has left the industry in an awkward place. Generation is largely governed by market processes, but transmission and retail distribution remain heavily regulated.

Read the whole thing. And visit her blog.

SUSANNA CORNETT points to an interesting anti-agricultural-subsidy blog by The Guardian, and has some thoughts on the future of blogging generally.

SPINSANITY HAS TWO POSTS, here and here, about Bush critics playing "fast and loose" with the facts. Molly Ivins appears. That's no surprise -- Ivins' claim to accuracy is about as well-founded as her claim to humor. but so does Clinton arms-control official Peter Zimmermann, who gets busted for making false claims about what Bush said regarding Saddam's nuclear capabilities. Conclusion: "critics of the administration's truthfulness need to be just as honest with the public as they ask the president to be."

STUART BUCK WRITES: "300 SAMs. Headed for America. Found only because a Hungarian bureaucrat randomly happened across them."

On the other hand, this happened almost two years ago, and nothing since. Perhaps this suggests that the Homeland Security campaign is going better than I'm giving it credit for.

FUNNY, I got less spam during the blackout, too.

THIS may well be true. That's okay -- I can live with being replaced by a robot.

ZSA ZSA SADDAM: One word: Heh.

I AGREE WITH DOCTOR FRANK on the important question of modulation in songwriting.

And, by the way, you should go to Dr. Frank's and just start scrolling if you have the least interest in music or record production.

THOSE NAUGHTY NORTH KOREANS. Earlier I posted on German businessmen busted for selling them nuclear bomb-making supplies. Here's more:

MUNICH, Aug. 15 — The French cargo ship Ville de Virgo was already running a day late when it steamed into Hamburg harbor on April 3, its stadium-size deck stacked 50 feet high with cargo containers bound for Asia. . . .

But within hours after the ship departed, the story of the manifest began to unravel. German intelligence officials discovered that the aluminum was destined not for China but for North Korea. The intended use of the pipes, they concluded, was not aircraft production, but the making of nuclear weapons.

Then there's this:

The US State Department lauded Taiwan's government yesterday for forcing the North Korean freighter Be Gae-hung to unload a batch of controlled chemicals before allowing it to leave Kaohsiung Harbor for North Korea.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker said during a regular press briefing that the chemical, identified as phosphorus pentasulfide, could have been used to make chemical weapons if transported to North Korea.

Question for the day: Remember those three freighters that Saddam loaded up with mysterious-but-probably-nasty stuff before the war? What ever happened to those?

SOME QUOTES FROM BASRA that are worth reading.

August 17, 2003

"EUROPE PINES FOR BIG-SPENDING AMERICAN TOURISTS:"

In Britain - the most popular destination for American tourists to Europe - figures for the first half of 2003 show an 11 percent decline in US visitors. In Italy, it's more than 20 percent, while in France, it's even worse: an estimated 26 percent drop this year.

"Until Sept. 11, about 45 percent of our clients were Americans," laments Mauricio Mistarz, head receptionist at a small three-star hotel on the Left Bank in Paris. "Now, on a good day, Americans fill 20 percent of our rooms."

The protracted slump in US visitors to Europe is alarming for the millions of Europeans who profit from their dollars - from the travel agent to the taxi driver, the postcard vendor to the tour guide.

American visitors tend to stay longer and spend more than any other tourists. In France last year, the Americans spent more than British and Irish visitors combined, despite being outnumbered 5 to 1. In Britain, the average American spends $1,000 a trip, far outstripping European visitors.

All of this means that US reluctance to travel costs European tourism dear.

The Europeans seem to think that it's fear of terrorism that's keeping Americans home. I don't think that's quite it.

UPDATE: Michael Demmons says he's done his part to keep European economies afloat. And scroll up for a definitive post on political ideology.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Note to Matthew Yglesias: "a" is a different word from "the." Just as the Dutch are different from the Danes. . . .

ALGERIAN TOURIST UPDATE: Looks like they may be on their way home soon, though it's still not entirely clear what's going on.

CHIEF WIGGLES has more stuff worth reading. Don't miss it.

STILL MORE ON ELECTRONIC VOTING:

E-voting, once revered as the savior of an antiquated and problematic election system, is slipping off its pedestal. Legislators nationwide are backing off, rethinking their trust in so-called direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting systems. They want answers to mounting allegations of shoddy security.

Diebold maintains its AccuVote-TS voting machine is safe, even though its own Web site sparked the criticism in the first place.

The site's confidential files gave Johns Hopkins University researchers a rare peek into the secretive world of touch-screen DRE voting systems. And they blasted Diebold, asserting in a July 23 study that the company's software is unsafe and an easy target for hackers.

Diebold basically called the Johns Hopkins study hogwash less than a week later. The research, the company said, was based on outdated, incomplete material and biased from the start. But the security concerns chief researcher Avi Rubin raised were still more than enough to rattle officials across the nation.

You already know what I think about this.

MARK STEYN DIVES INTO ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:

I was delighted to hear that Arianna's running for governor of California. Although many dismiss her as a shallow self-promoter driving around in a silly car, I love those big Hollywood billboards of her with that fabulous cleavage you just want to dive into . . .

Oh, wait. That's not Arianna, that's Angelyne, the other shallow self-promoting elderly sexpot who's running for governor.

I told you the recall would be worth it just for the Steyn meanness it would unleash. (Via Kaus, who observes: "I like Arianna Huffington. Really. Any author who can come up with $410,363 in deductions is a friend of freelance writers everywhere.").

ERIC OLSEN LIKED MAUREEN DOWD'S COLUMN ON BLOGS, but says that she completely missed the lessons of the blackout: "This is just churlish piffle."

All the piffle that's fit to print, as they say.

ROB SAMA has a long and interesting post on the power industry.

UPDATE: Read this, and follow the links, too.

TECHNOLOGY IS YOUR FRIEND: Rob Smith reports success. Stop by and congratulate him.

WHY PEOPLE THINK GOVERNMENT IS STUPID:

Yes, you read that right--an officer enforcing a health regulation ordered a club for recovering alcoholics to get a liquor license. But wait--it gets worse.

Yes, it does.

WHAT GRAY DAVIS'S FRIENDS ARE SAYING ABOUT HIM: Ouch.

TOM FRIEDMAN WRITES:

Many Iraqis today express real resentment for the other Arab regimes, and even toward the Palestinians, for how they let themselves be bought off by Saddam. They feel that Saddam used the Iraqi people's oil wealth to buy popularity for himself in the Arab street — by giving Palestinians and other Arab students scholarships and nice apartments in Baghdad, and by paying off all sorts of Arab nationalist writers and newspapers. And then these same Arab intellectuals and media gave Saddam a free pass to torture, repress and starve his own people. In other words, "Arabism," in the minds of many Iraqis, is the cloak that Saddam hid behind to imprison them for 35 years, and now that they can say that out loud, they are saying it.

You'd never know this from watching Arab satellite television like Al Jazeera. Because although these stations have 21st-century graphics, they're still dominated by 1950's Nasserite political correctness — which insists that dignity comes from how you resist the foreigner, even if he's come as a liberator, not by what you build yourself.

But the truth will come out. . . .

Indeed.