ONE MORE THOUGHT: One comment that I made in passing earlier, and that seems more and more relevant as I think about it, is that the White House has a lot to gain by subpoenaing reporters who know about the Plame leaks. Doing that serves several useful purposes. First, once the press clams up and starts going on about protecting sources, it becomes extremely hard for it to claim that the White House is covering things up. "Who's stonewalling now?" can be the response.
Second, the press's complaints will look like special pleading (which they are). "If you leak this you're a traitor, but if we publish it, we're being great Americans," won't wash.
Third, subpoenaing reporters will likely reduce the number of leaks in the future. And that's a good thing, right? We keep hearing that these leaks were disastrous for national security. If that's true, we certainly want people to think twice before leaking in this fashion again, or publishing the results of such leaks.
I've got more on this here,here,here, and here. Or just enter "Plame" in the search window to find the complete list of posts on the subject.
There are at least six people in Washington who know the answer to the city's most politically charged mystery in years. And they're not talking.
That's because they're journalists.
Whether they should maintain their silence -- and whether they might be legally compelled to break it -- lies at the heart of a burgeoning debate about media ethics and the whispered transactions with government officials that shape the daily flow of news and opinion. . . .
Some members of the public, if a torrent of e-mails is any indication, suggest Novak and the other journalists have a duty to come forward. If it is a federal crime for officials to intentionally make public the name of a covert operative, these critics ask, why do reporters who serve as a conduit for such information get a pass?
Why, indeed? Kurtz concludes with this observation:
All this puts journalists in the uncomfortable position of peppering administration officials with questions some of their colleagues, now in the media spotlight, could answer.
"It's a tough question for journalists," said Columbia's Lemann. "I see why not revealing a source is very powerfully in your personal professional interest. But why is it also in the public interest?"
Again: why, indeed?
ANOTHER UPDATE: I've got more on this subject, here, in response to the rather bizarre claim that the above constitutes advice to the White House on how to cover things up.
posted at 10:06 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BACK ONLINE, now using the wireless network in the hotel bar, which seems to be working fine. Bloggercon was extensively blogged elsewhere:
Dan Bricklin has pictures, one of which shows me frowning at the laptop.
Jeff Jarvis has quite a few pungent observations, of course.
And Dan Gillmor has pictures, and links to other people's blogging.
Here are a few observations. First, on my journalism panel Ed Cone seemed especially anxious to hear what I think should be done on the Plame affair. My suggestion that the journalists should be subpoenaed was received rather coolly by the journalists, though my suggestion that anyone found to have illegally leaked should be fired, even if it was Dick Cheney, was better received. (Yes, I know -- the Vice President can't actually be "fired," but he could be dropped from the '04 ticket at the very least. Not that I really think that Cheney had anything to do with whatever happened, but quite a few people at the conference, noticeably more hostile to the Bush Administration, felt otherwise.)
My favorite panel was the final one, featuring representatives from the DNC and from the Graham, Dean, and Clark blogging campaigns. It was: Mathew Gross (Dean), Joe Jones (Graham), Eric Folley (Democratic National Committee), Cameron Barrett (Clark). A few points:
1. The Democratic candidates are kicking the ass of the Republicans in terms of Presidential campaign blogging, and use of the Internet generally. Dean especially. The Dean people have figured out that you can get power on the Internet by giving up control. The Bush people -- partly because they're incumbents, partly by philosophy -- are still very big on control. So, in varying degrees, are the other Democratic candidates, and I heard quite a few stories of Edwards turning away offers of help from the likes of Oliver Willis. Foolish.
2. There was a fair amount of criticism of the Democratic Presidential blogs for being "inauthentic," because the candidates aren't the ones doing the blogging. Matthew Gross said that it's impossible for a Presidential candidate to get elected while blogging in an "authentic" fashion. I think that's true. I also think it's too bad. We elect candidates out of a sense of what they're made of. A blog gives you a better sense of the person than any conventional communication, especially TV spots. One suspects, though, that candidates like it that way.
3. In this cycle, and (perhaps) the next one, blogs will have more relevance in the run-up to the primary than in the general elections. Blogs aren't tools of mass persuasion, and won't be at least until there's a "mass." And maybe not even then. But they're great at building buzz, and mobilizing interested people. That's more relevant in the early stages than the late ones.
I'm sorry I'll miss the rest of the conference -- I have to go home tomorrow. It was excellent, except for the technical glitches.
UPDATE: Scott Rosenberg has more thoughts on the candidate-blog discussion.
SOME FRIENDLY TECH JOURNALISTS tried to help me with my computer, and now it really isn't working, and I'm too depressed to fiddle with it right now. (I'm borrowing Jeff Jarvis's laptop for this post). Posting will resume later, but not for a while. Expect email responses to be slow, too.
posted at 02:33 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WITH THE INTERMITTENT INTERNET HERE, I may not be posting a lot (or I may, if it starts working). But either way, check out this week's Blog Mela, which is particularly well-stocked with interesting stuff today. Branch out in your blog-reading!
In an unrelated development -- but I gotta post where and when I can, today -- all I can say is Advantage: Maguire.
posted at 11:40 AM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S A PRETTY HORRIFIC account of conditions in Korea from today's Washington Post. How horrific? Horrific enough that I don't have anything to say except "read it."
posted at 11:21 AM by Glenn Reynolds
I'M AT BLOGGERCON at Harvard Law School where I just did a panel on weblogs and journalism with Scott Rosenberg, Josh Marshall, and Ed Cone. There's wi-fi in this classroom, but it doesn't work very well: it's intermittent and painfully slow, and my posts keep getting lost. People have to be individually logged in with MAC addresses, and then it still doesn't work.
It's the best argument for truly open wi-fi I've experienced -- except for the wi-fi at my hotel, which is free but requires a login, and which kept dumping me back to the login screen every second or third time I would try to follow a link.
The access-control systems on wi-fi seem to cause most of the problems.
WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish troops in Iraq have found four French-built advanced anti-aircraft missiles which were built this year, a Polish Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters Friday.
France strongly denied having sold any such missiles to Iraq for nearly two decades, and said it was impossible that its newest missiles should turn up in Iraq.
"Polish troops discovered an ammunition depot on Sept. 29 near the region of Hilla and there were four French-made Roland-type missiles," Defense Ministry spokesman Eugeniusz Mleczak said.
"It is not the first time Polish troops found ammunition in Iraq but to our surprise these missiles were produced in 2003." . . .
Under a strict trade embargo imposed by the United Nations, Iraq was barred from importing arms after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
It's as if the French don't care about international law.
UPDATE: Here's a story saying that the Poles are wrong.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Rummel smells a coverup: "The Poles were willing to stick to their guns until Chirac yelled at them. Then, all of a sudden, they say that they're wrong. So why doesn't one of our guys just drive on over to where the Poles have set up shop and take a look? Because the missiles were destroyed on Wednesday."
It did sound a bit suspicous to me, but who knows?
In a boost for Mr Schwarzenegger, a report in an Austrian Jewish magazine said that as a young bodybuilder he helped break up a neo-Nazis demonstration in the Austrian city of Graz.
"There was a clash and Arnold along with some bodybuilders chased the Nazis down Herrengasse Street," Alfred Gerstl, the father of one of Mr Schwarzenegger's friends, recalled in the interview published in German last month.
But it's from that notorious tool of Karl Rove, the BBC.
NANOPANTS get a favorable review from Consumer Reports. Guess I'd better buy some.
posted at 06:56 AM by Glenn Reynolds
OUTSOURCING AS AN ELECTION ISSUE? I keep predicting that it will be. Now Jim Hightower is raising it, and claims that the Republicans are using call centers in India, for fundraising. (Via SemiPundit).
Meanwhile, here's an interesting bit on the growth in self-employment, with a striking graph. This seems to fit with what I wrote here. It also fits with what Dan Pink says in Free Agent Nation, about which I'll be writing more at some point.
UPDATE: Here's something else interesting on outsourcing.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Republican call-center story is apparently an urban legend.
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department is investigating whether FBI agents involved in espionage and terrorism cases may have moonlighted by forming private companies and using informants and subjects of inquiries to benefit their personal business.
The allegations, according to court documents, include charges that the private companies of agents and intelligence figures were involved in business deals in China and the Middle East about the same time the FBI was investigating Chinese efforts to acquire sensitive technology.
Between the Saudis and the Chinese, both of whom seem to enjoy excessive influence, I'm beginning to wonder whether we've got a serious corruption problem.
A senior Saudi Arabian official, now minister for the holy places, stayed at the same hotel as three September 11 hijackers the night before the suicide attacks.
American investigators are trying to make sense of the disclosure that Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman al-Hussayen, who returned to Saudi Arabia shortly after the attacks, stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in Herndon, Virginia. . . .
FBI agents recommended that the Saudi should not be allowed to leave until he was questioned further, but as soon as flights resumed on Sept 19, Mr Hussayen and his wife flew home.
He is not now suspected of breaking any laws and there is no evidence that he met the hijackers at the Virginia hotel.
But investigators are pooling what they know about his trip to North America, during which he allegedly visited or contacted several Saudi-sponsored charities now accused of links to terrorist groups. There is no suggestion that he knew of any such links.
Could be a coincidence, of course, and it probably is. But there are too many coincidences like this where the Saudis are involved. There's more on what this guy was up to here.
And I'd be interested in knowing who decided to let him leave over the recommendations of the agents who interviewed him.
The United Nations broke its own anti-torture convention by allowing a Zimbabwean police officer accused of torture to leave its peace force in Kosovo and return to Zimbabwe where he will probably not face investigation.
Henry Dowa, a Zimbawe chief inspector, was named by several victims as having directed their torture, which included prolonged beatings on the soles of their feet and electric shocks causing convulsions. The victims' allegations were backed by medical examinations.
Human rights groups urged the UN to arrest Chief Insp Dowa and put him on trial for torture. The UN declined, citing a lack of funds, and sent him back to Zimbabwe.
Not enough money to arrest a torturer? Funny, there's plenty of money for SUVs and canapes.
posted at 06:35 AM by Glenn Reynolds
October 02, 2003
JUST SENT THANK-YOUS to some folks who donated money to the site. Sorry to have fallen behind on that, and thanks for the donations!
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A report published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws help to prevent violent crime, suicides and accidental injuries in the United States.
Critics of U.S. firearms laws, which are considered lax in comparison with most other Western nations, have long contended that easy access to guns helped to fuel comparatively high U.S. rates of murder and other violent crimes.
Gun control is a perennial hot political issue in the United States, which reported 28,663 gun-related deaths in 2000, the latest year for which complete data are available. Firearms were the second leading cause of injury-related death that year.
But a national task force of health-care and community experts found "insufficient evidence" that bans on specific guns, waiting periods for gun buyers and other such laws changed the incidence of murder, rape, suicide and other types of violence.
The findings were based on 51 studies, some partly funded by the CDC, of gun laws enacted in the mid-1970s and later.
That's particularly striking given the CDC's generally anti-gun attitude over the past several decades.
posted at 08:42 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ACADEMIC-BLOGGING: I've mentioned reading resumes, and some people want to know what I'm talking about. It works like this.
We hire by committee (that's the Appointments Committee, which I'm chairing this year), with the full faculty voting. The Association of American Law Schools operates a central hiring registry, and candidates fill out a standardized resume form (and can attach their longer CVs if they want to). This is made available to schools, meaning that we get hundreds (around 900 so far; there are multiple distributions and we'll probably get a few hundred, or maybe several hundred, more) of those forms. We look at them all, though we pretty quickly eliminate the people who aren't teaching in the areas we're looking for. (Sometimes you're looking for the best overall person, more often you're looking to fill particular slots, which is what we're doing this year). We discuss the ones we like best, pick 25 or so to meet, and then meet them at a big hiring conference (known in the trade as the "meat market") where all the law schools and all the candidates get together.
We also read all the over-the-transom resumes that come in via the mail, sometimes from people who aren't participating in the AALS process. There are a few hundred of those. There's a lot of paper-flow to manage, and there are a lot of affirmative-action hoops it has to be managed through.
The conference interviews last 30 minutes. We'll pick the best 3-5 candidates from those and bring them back to campus where they'll make a presentation (a "job talk") on some scholarly item, usually a work in progress, and meet faculty members for a day or two. We'll also check references, and so on. Then the faculty will vote which candidates are acceptable, and rank them.
People who have done both tell me that this is a more streamlined and efficient system than is used in most of the humanities disciplines. It doesn't always seem that way, but it does minimize travel and paperwork, and the influence of "old boy" networks. (Though "minimize" isn't the same as "eliminate.") We're fortunate at Tennessee because the faculty is quite collegial, and not polarized about hiring, as it is some places.
What makes a good candidate? Good academic history -- top rank at a good law school, or a really top rank at a not-as-good law school, for example. References are very important, and so generally is a history of publication. Not having published isn't a deal-breaker, but the presumption is that people who have written serious scholarship before are likely to do it again, while people who haven't are a largely unknown quantity. We also value -- probably more than most schools -- things that suggest the person will be a good teacher. And we tend to value practice experience in the area a person will be teaching more than many schools, I think, though that varies somewhat by subject area.
So there you are. That's what's been keeping me busy lately. I'm not generally fond of committee work (few professors are) but I don't really mind this because it's very important. A good hire can make a real difference, while a bad one can, well, make a real difference of another sort. But (as I warned it might) it does leave less time -- and even less mental energy -- for blogging than I'd otherwise have. Sorry. But there's plenty of free ice cream, in lots of flavors, at the blogs linked on the left, and throughout the blogosphere.
posted at 08:31 PM by Glenn Reynolds
DANIEL DREZNER says that his Plame outrage meter is rising slightly, and links a lot of disturbing stories, though the sourcing on them is, as some of his commenters point out, a bit dubious. I still don't understand what's behind this, and I still find it hard to believe that someone would knowingly out an undercover agent -- I still don't see the "why" in this.
But since people who don't usually care what I think seem anxious to hear my opinion, I think that the Bush Administration needs to find the leaker (if there is one), fire 'em, and prosecute 'em if it's warranted. [You keep saying this. But what if it's Rove or Cheney? -- Ed. I don't think it is. But if it's Rove, he's too stupid to stay on in a job whose only justification is his being smart. If it's Cheney, ditto -- plus it opens the way for a Bush/Rice ticket!]
So how do you do that? Well, you could do the usual Washington scandal dance -- investigations, hearings, special prosecutors, etc. This would produce a long, drawn-out embarrassment that would please the media folks, who have been getting antsy for a good scandal, and the Democrats. It would also be bad for national security, if you agree that this passage from Josh Marshall is on target:
The backdrop to this whole scandal is the war that's been going on between the Bush administration and the CIA for two years. Another reporter who's knowledgable about these issues and not at all averse to this perspective, told me a few days ago that "there are people in this administration who think that the CIA was criminally negligent for 9/11 and that the whole place should be shuttered." That's an accurate portrayal of what a number of those people think.
That war with the CIA centers on the vice president's office. If it turns out that Plame's exposure originated there too, it will inject this legal controversy -- this criminal investigation -- right into that broader policy controversy, the whole issue of the war against the CIA, the questions over politicized intelligence, all of it.
I don't know if it's true, but the CIA did drop the ball before 9/11 and its performance since then, except for the generally successful paramilitary operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, hasn't seemed especially impressive either. It's certainly the case that we shouldn't have this sort of internal warfare going on at the same time that we're fighting a real war. (Howard Fineman has more on the White House vs. CIA angle).
Which is why I think the smart thing to do is to subpoena all the principals in this scandal and find out who said what to whom, when. This will disappoint scandal-mongers, and it might hurt some people in the White House (or it might not). Howard Kurtz comments that "Politically, though, that would be a PR disaster."
But would it? I've noticed a certain coolness from members of the professional press since I started suggesting this, but I don't think this would be a PR disaster, except maybe for the press if it resisted. I think that the public would support such an action, and that the press -- having played this up into a big national-security issue -- would do very badly if it tried to claim persecution.
The New York Times is already sounding worried about this, with an editorial that Chris Kanis summarizes as follows:
As near as I can figure, the Times' take is that Bush must do absolutely everything in his power to figure out who leaked, because his failure to do so will prove that he is Richard Nixon. However, Bush must absolutely not conduct any investigation of the journalists involved, nor try to compel them to reveal their sources, because doing so would prove that he is Richard Nixon.
But even that editorial, which Kanis correctly characterizes as muddled, says this:
As members of a profession that relies heavily on the willingness of government officials to defy their bosses and give the public vital information, we oppose "leak investigations" in principle. But that does not mean there can never be a circumstance in which leaks are wrong — the disclosure of troop movements in wartime is a clear example.
Well, if the most serious charges are true -- which we don't know yet, but that's what investigations are for, right? -- we have the outing of an undercover agent, which is pretty close. (Note to the NYT -- it is wartime). The editorial says that the investigation should focus on the White House, not the press -- but the members of the press are witnesses. If this is as important as we're hearing, they shouldn't stand on (largely bogus) First Amendment claims. (If it's not as important as we're hearing, then, well, we shouldn't be hearing that it's so important.)
This wouldn't be a scandal, or a national security issue, without the involvement of the press. The press isn't just reporting this story. It's part of the story. To a large degree, it is the story.
Bush should lance this boil by finding out what happened, and, if the charges pan out, getting rid of who's responsible. And he shouldn't be afraid to put the press on the spot. That will prevent similar future events, from both ends.
So there's what I think. What's it worth? Every penny you paid to read it!
Meanwhile, at the same low, low price, Edward Boyd offers an intriguing question. And Tom Maguire puts it well: "The CIA battles on many fronts! Whether one of those fronts still includes the war on terror concerns us all." Indeed.
UPDATE: Reader Richard Aubrey offers a prediction:
The investigation, if it ever gets that far, will discover that the requirements of the law will not be met. Plame will not meet, or even come close to meeting, the definition of the operatives the law sought to protect. Nobody will be able to show a serious, or even unserious, effort to keep her ID secret. It will become apparent that her employment was publicly-available knowledge if not publicly known. Or possibly publicly known, too.
The leaker in question, should one ever be discovered, will then be able to make the case that he didn't know he was outing an undercover operative since she wasn't undercover.
It will all fizzle out on the legal end. That will be good for the dems who can then claim coverup. We'll hear about that for a year and a half.
Were a leaker to be discovered, prosecuted, and punished, then Bush & Co. would have to be seen as ethical, serious, and interested in the law and national security over partisanship. The contrast would be too much for the dems to stand.
I'm holding you to this prediction, Richard!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Doug Welty emails:
If the President himself had leaked the information, or had authorized someone who works for him to leak it, would _any_ crime have been committed? It seems to me that the "United States," as used in 50 U.S.C. sec. 421, means the President. (And probably, automatically, his delegate the DCI. I'm not sure, though, whether his Chief of Staff or National Security Advisor - or Vice President - would be in that chain of command.)
His action disclosing the agent's status would be conclusive proof that the United States is _not_ taking affirmative measures to conceal the agent's identity. Case closed, no?
That's probably right, but it would play badly. And I rather doubt that there was any such authorization anyway.
Regardless of whether it helps him or hurts him come October 7, this latest development creates a golden opportunity for hypocrisy on the part of a) Republicans who attacked Bill Clinton as unfit for office due to such behavior and b) Democrats who supported Bill Clinton but think Arnold is unfit for office due to such behavior.
Yep. Meanwhile Winds of Change has a Jill Stewart story saying that Gray Davis isn't much of a boss either. I doubt that actors and politicians make good bosses in general.
MOVEON.ORG IS CALLING FOR A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, leading Marc Levitt to write:
Calling for a Special Prosecutor? Don't those Moveon guys have Ken Starr's face on a dartboard over there? I mean, I'm all for it, but these guys come from a position of zero credibility.
To be fair, a special prosecutor isn't quite the same as an Independent Counsel, but I don't think MoveOn is operating at that level of discrimination.
posted at 07:38 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'M COVERED UP TODAY, but Tom Maguire has lots of interesting Plame stuff. The Volokh Conspiracy is especially interesting today, too. I guess they aren't chairing their appointment committees, and faced with big stacks of resumes. Or they're still in the denial-and-procrastination phase, which I, sadly, have left behind.
And, no, I don't have an opinion on the Limbaugh drug scandal. I just hope that criticism of Limbaugh isn't motivated by prejudice against people with disabilities. . . .
These failures were crystallised in President Jacques Chirac's stubborn opposition to the American-led war in Iraq. The initial position was legitimate, Mr Baverez argues, but the manner in which it was carried through ended in ridicule. “France knows what it does not want—the hegemony of the United States in the democratic world, the leadership of the United Kingdom in Europe—but does not know what it wants,” he writes.
This paralysis exists because it suits the trio of political, bureaucratic and union interests to keep the system the way it is. No government has found the courage to persuade France of the need for shock-therapy. Instead, successive leaders, in particular François Mitterrand and Mr Chirac, have sought scapegoats—globalisation, immigration, the reunification of Germany—for French difficulties, instead of confronting them honestly. Worse, they have defended France's refusal to change in the name of a “French exception”. This sham is dangerous, Mr Baverez says, because the deception of the electorate feeds the populist, anti-establishment message of the far-right National Front.
It's nice to see that the French are beginning to think about these things.
Read this, too, if you're interested. Given the outsized (and usually negative) role that France has played lately, I think that this is really important stuff for the future of Europe, America, and the world. (And, though it's not as important, French wines are doing badly in the United States. This is significant only in that it may serve as an attention-getter. Thanks to reader Khaled Matar for the link.)
A LOT OF PEOPLE seem to suddenly miss the Independent Counsel law, just as Megan McArdle predicted. Funny, I remember when the very idea of this sort of thing was anathema to the Republic. You'd almost think that people's views on these questions were driven entirely by political concerns.
In The Appearance of Impropriety, (now available in paperback! -- and at an irresistible price! -- makes a great birthday, wedding, or Bar Mitzvah gift!) Peter Morgan and I wrote about these dynamics. (And it was considered a largely pro-Clinton book at the time, which Lanny Davis used in a class he taught on political communication. How things change.) Of course, Ashcroft can appoint a Special Prosecutor, which is not quite the same thing as an Independent Counsel, even though the Independent Counsel law has expired. Should he? Perhaps, though I think the right way to investigate this is to get the journalists involved -- and perhaps Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, and George Tenet -- under subpoena and just ask them who said what to whom. Then you can fire, or prosecute, the leaker if it's warranted. You don't need a Special Prosecutor to do that.
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna sit right here and talk about it. Now if you get tired of talking here, Mr. Marshal Elving Patrick there will hand you one of them subpoenees he's got stuck down in his pocket and we'll go downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury. ...Elliot? Jim? ...Fine. All right, Elving, hand whichever one of these fellas you like a subpoenee and we'll go on downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury.
District Attorney James A. Quinn: Gallagher's a government witness.
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Wonderful thing, a subpoenee.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: You had a leak? You call what's goin' on around here a leak?! Boy, the last time there was a leak like this, Noah built hisself a boat.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Now we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin' to know what in the good Christ -- e'scuse me, Angie -- is goin' on around here. And the other's I'm gonna have somebody's ass in muh briefcase.
Too bad Wilford Brimley isn't available.
UPDATE: Click "more" below for a piece I wrote for Newsday on the expiration of the Independent Counsel Act, which has at least some relevance to today's issues. And here -- far more timely -- is a lengthy post by Bill Dyer on the legal issues involved. He also suggests Rudy Giuliani as the special prosecutor, should one be appointed.
Sounds good to me. And here's a call for Senate hearings. Just make the journalists testify under oath?
BYLINE: Glenn Harlan Reynolds. Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee and co-author of "The Appearance of Impropriety."
JUST AS mopping-up operations went on for several weeks after Lee's surrender to Grant, the years-long independent counsel investigation into White House misconduct under President Bill Clinton isn't really over.
But just as Lee's surrender marked the end of the Civil War, so, too, does Kenneth Starr's return to private practice mark the effective end of the Age of Independent Counsels. True, Starr has for the meantime ceded his office to Robert Ray, a former assistant prosecutor in the protracted investigation of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. But the law allowing for the appointment of independent prosecutors has expired, and hardly anyone wants to see it back. Officeholders, Republicans and Democrats alike, have made that clear.
That so many politicians agree on something perhaps ought to make us suspicious, but in fact the independent counsel statute has racked up an impressive history of abject failure. Forget such elderly embarrassments as the abortive investigation into rumors that Carter White House aide Hamilton Jordan used cocaine at Studio 54. In the last 10 years or so, the various independent counsels have netted little fish while letting big fish get away. Those who believe that independent counsels have often pursued trivialities certainly have plenty of evidence to back them up. The lengthy inquiry into Espy's overcasual attitude toward gifts from industry certainly looked like overkill. Even more so was the prosecution of housing secretary Henry Cisneros for the dubious crime of lying about the amount (not the existence) of payments made to a former mistress. And though the Whitewater prosecution secured several convictions, those involved Arkansans, not the high federal officials, who are the reason for the independent counsel law. Overall, a lot of fleas have been smashed with sledgehammers.
Of course, the record of independent counsels in getting to the bottom of serious problems is not very impressive, either. Lawrence Walsh's six-year, $ 48- million investigation into Iran-Contra-still the champion for duration and expense-overturned many lives but brought no one to justice. Starr's investigation has pretty obviously been a bust. And the most serious charges against the Clinton White House, those involving campaign fund-raising fraud, Chinese influence and possible complicity, in espionage, never resulted in the appointment of an independent counsel at all. All in all, the independent counsel statute seems to live up to the old proverb about the law: that it "erects walls to contain the small, o'er which the large play leapfrog." It is easy, and tempting, to blame these problems on ineptitude, perfidy or corruption. But the real problem lies in the nature of the offenses involved, and the institutional character of prosecution. Offenses that are referred to independent counsels typically involve conspiracies, obstruction of justice and similar crimes. These are offenses that are difficult to prosecute based on extrinsic evidence. Unless a participant is stupid enough to, say, tape-record incriminating conversations, such crimes can usually be unraveled only by getting one of the participants to testify against the others.
Since co-conspirators usually don't testify willingly, it then becomes the task of prosecutors to make them cooperate. That usually means finding some crime with which they can be charged so as to elicit testimony in exchange for immunity or a plea bargain. Thus peripheral figures often find themselves enmeshed in Kafkaesque proceedings.
In the Cisneros prosecution, for example, independent counsel Paul Barrett brought charges against a Lubbock, Tex., couple, the sister and brother-in-law of Cisneros' mistress. The charges: minor misstatements on a mortgage application, which in the eyes of the prosecutor became felony bank fraud. Once the Cisneros prosecution ended with a whimper (he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count and will serve no jail time), the charges against the couple were dropped. Their only purpose was to coerce testimony against Cisneros.
Such pressure on minor characters is not limited to independent counsels - it is, sadly, a staple of federal prosecution these days in many areas. But ordinary prosecutors face less pressure to leave no stone unturned, and have limited budgets that usually constrain this sort of behavior. Independent counsels have neither the luxury of working in comparative obscurity nor these salutary, pragmatic budget restrictions.
With limited resources, the small fry often cave in the face of this sort of pressure. Political big shots can usually mount a vigorous defense. The result is arbitrariness toward the weak, while the powerful often get off scot free-the opposite of what the law was intended to promote.
The diffuse nature of many ethical crimes such as conspiracy and obstruction of justice also causes frustrated prosecutors to look for something easier to prove. Conspiracy is hard to prove, but improperly filled out forms are right there in black and white. Thus the bureaucratic imperative, in which things that are on paper look more important than things that are not, means that prosecutions allegedly concerning the betrayal of public trust wind up revolving around the question of whether a form was properly filled out. No wonder these prosecutions have done so little to promote public confidence.
Still, something should be done. Most of us - even politicians - agree that today's politics is corrupt, driven by special interest influence and money from political action committees. Some believe that the way to solve this problem is a ban on "soft money," campaign donations that sidestep restrictions on spending in individual campaigns when thet are funneled through national party coffers. But we should be very skeptical. As long as politicians wield so much power over people's lives and companies' fortunes, money will find its way into their coffers despite any regulations. After all, soft money, along with today's most hated campaign donor, the PAC, owes its current, particularly corrupt form, to the last round of campaign finance reform. And it's hard to imagine enforcing a ban on soft money without the same kinds of problems that we have already seen with independent counsels. Reducing government power would be one way to reduce corruption and special interest money, but there seems no great constituency for that, at least in Washington.
Instead, we should take advantage of the very human failings that current campaign finance law has fallen prey to. Since keeping money out of the hands of politicians is impracticable, perhaps we should focus on accountability instead. The best approach might be modeled on a proposal aired in a letter to the online magazine Slate: Allow anyone to donate any amount of money, so long as the recipient and donor both appear in person on C-SPAN, exchanging the money in a white canvas sack clearly labeled with a large dollar sign.
There might be logistical problems with that approach taken literally, but we can come close. In an age when Amazon.com can give me up-to-the-minute figures on which people are buying what books, it surely isn't impossible to have instantaneous disclosures of who is getting what from whom available on the Internet.
This approach would also have the advantage of clarity. Right now, campaign finance laws are so complex that it is easy for politicians to make weaselly "no controlling legal authority" excuses when they are charged with violations.
But under a mandatory-disclosure rule, such obfuscation would no longer work.
You get the money, you disclose how much and from whom. Period.
We might also encourage compliance by treating campaign-law violations as seriously as we treat, say, drunk driving or other garden-variety crimes. With the unfairness of unclear laws removed, we can get tough on violators in a fashion that politicians have always favored when it was aimed at someone else: Impound the cars of those making, or receiving, undisclosed campaign contributions! Three illegal-donation "strikes" and you're "out" - no longer eligible for public office! The death penalty for illegal donation "kingpins"! Well, maybe that last is a bit much. But with today's politics looking more and more like the old Times Square, perhaps it's time to mount a Rudy Giuliani-style renovation campaign.
The Plame scandal is not about campaign-finance issues, of course, but many of the other issues apply.
And the Wilford Brimley approach seems entirely adequate. Though as Porphyrogenitus emails:
Great scene in a good movie. Gotta love Willford.
Remember, though, that Paul Neuman's character is smiling like a Cheshire cat at the end, because he basically maneuvered the whole thing (Willford knows and his problem with the others is that they are stupid enough to get maneuvered in this way) - so the "victim" is hardly a real victim in any meaningful sense, because this is what they *wanted* - a means to discredit people who dumbly fell into the trap he laid for them, meanwhile masking his real shenanengans.
ANIMAL RIGHTS TERRORISM: Virginia Postrel notes that recent bombings haven't gotten much attention, and wonders if allegedly mainstream animal-rights groups will step forward to condemn them:
I look forward to the vigorous condemnation--not "we do not condone" but "we unequivocally condemn"--of this terrorism not only from "respectable" animal rights groups but also from all the people who routinely (and rightly) condemn anti-abortion terror.
That's different. These are overzealous activists. Those other bombers are menaces.
PARIS A growing sense of France's decline as a force in Europe has developed here.
The idea's novelty is not the issue itself. Rather it is that for the first time in a half century that the notion of a rapid descent in France's influence is receiving wide acknowledgment within the French establishment.
At its most hurtful and remarkable, and yet perhaps its most honest, there is the start of acceptance by segments of the French intellectual community that French leadership, as it is constituted now, is not something Europe wants - or France merits.
Having been in Basra for some months, I am convinced, as are most Iraqis, that it will be a rich and prosperous city somewhere around five to ten years from now. As long as Iraqis have security from Ba'athists and from the neighbouring states, they will achieve this themselves. But with the French manoeuvring to give the UN political primacy in Iraq, the question is not: will Iraq be rebuilt, but who will get the credit?
You can bet that the French will claim it, regardless.
posted at 10:31 PM by Glenn Reynolds
BETTER BROADCASTING: A reader emails:
Did you happen to catch 60 Minutes tonight? Exactly the kind of coverage about Iraq you've been on about. Very balanced. They showed the problems but also showed things that were going right. Good stuff.
Sadly, I didn't. But I'm glad to hear about it.
UPDATE: Which is not to say that there aren't complaints. Once again, this goes to the disconnect between journalists' view of the rules that apply to them, and others' view of the same.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Want blogging on this from somebody who actually knows something? Gregg Easterbrook's gotcha covered:
ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh to generate some buzz for the network's NFL pregame shows, and by the standard of buzz, Limbaugh was a huge success. When was the last time half a dozen presidential candidates interrupted their campaigns to issue statements about ESPN? We can skip what it says about modern presidential politics that yesterday Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and others thought a football analyst was the Great Issue Facing the Nation.
JOHN LOTT UPDATE: My last post on John Lott produced a criticical email from Ben Zycher, an economist at RAND who thought I was being unfair to Lott. I offered Zycher space to respond, and what he sent is set out below (click "more" to read it). I was hoping for something that went into more detail regarding the statistical issues involved, but . . . .
In a related development, Clayton Cramer responds to an email from Tim Lambert regarding Lott.
UPDATE: Another economist has emailed in with comments. Click "More" to read them, too.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Lindgren has emailed a lengthy response to Zycher's comments, also reachable by clicking "more." There's also more from Tim Lambert, and an update from Lindgren, below now.
Herewith, a few observations on the virtues and vices of John Lott, the focus once again September 19 on Instapundit:
First, a full disclosure: I have known John Lott over 25 years, from graduate school days, and I know him to be a careful, honest, and indeed scrupulous scholar, and, more generally, a truly honorable person. Yes, I think his use of a pseudonym in the chatroom discussions was highly unwise---and I have told him that in no uncertain terms---but that has nothing to do with the substance of the issues.
With respect to that substance, the source of Jim Lindgren's "substantial doubts whether Lott ever did the supposed 1997 study" is wholly unclear. Does he believe that computers never crash, or, in Lott's case, that bookshelves never collapse onto electronic equipment, or that such events never afflict scholars with whom Lindgren disagrees? Or does he simply not believe the written testimony of contemporaries who observed the survey process as it was conducted? Does Lindgren believe that Lott would invent an entire survey for the purpose of adding a sentence or two to a book of well over 200 pages?
And is it merely an accident, as Pravda in its glory years would have put it, that the more recent survey conducted by Lott---about the veracity of which there is no dispute at all---yielded virtually the same answers?
No, what is really going on is that Lindgren agrees "with almost every point in Ayres and Donohue's two critiques of Lott's work." And that agreement is a good deal more revealing than Lindgren surmises, except about Lindgren rather than Lott. To put it bluntly: Any undergraduate student receiving a B or better in introductory Econometrics would be able to pick the Ayres/ Donohue work apart. This is for a number of reasons, the most fundamental of which is---and this is an error more appropriate for freshman Statistics 1---that their own interpretation of their estimated coefficients is simply wrong. They discuss two variables purporting to measure the effect of concealed-carry laws, but then fail to understand that it is the joint effect of the two variables, rather than merely one of them, that represents the estimated effect in the model. That Lindgren finds their (claimed) findings "plausible" by itself carries no weight at all, and his view that their work is "high quality" demonstrates only that Lindgren needs a refresher course or two.
There is no need here to delve into a mini-course on econometrics, however lacking for sleep your readers may be. Anyone interested simply can read the paper by Plassmann and Whitley, utterly devastating in its critiques of the Ayres/Donohue paper. I believe that no honest reader with even a small amount of expertise in this area can read the two papers and conclude that Ayres and Donohue have cast even trivial doubt on Lott's work. I assume that the Stanford Law Review, in which the Ayres/Donohue paper was published, is edited by law students, a group hardly inspiring confidence with respect to prowess in econometric analysis. Alternatively, perhaps the Ayres/ Donohue paper indeed was reviewed by referees; if so, the referees, typically paid little or nothing at all, delivered full value.
The modern art of blogging---of which you are one of the truly prominent practitioners---has many virtues, among them the stimulation of discussion and the ability to correct errors and set records straight quickly. But among those virtues one searches in vain for carefulness; the familiar tradeoffs are heavily weighted toward edginess and speed. And so it really was a bit snotty of you to complain that "Lott supporters [are] complaining that I'm picking on him," followed by the irrelevant truism that "you can't please everyone." No, you cannot; but you can make a real effort to be fair regardless of the speed with which you are trying to get each hour's blog onto the web. It may indeed seem to you that "this time Lott's critics have him dead to rights, and [that] he's failed to mount a convincing response," but that is inconsistent with your later plea for an "authoritative look by a disinterested party," which you note that you are "not qualified to provide." No need for a correction there.
Senior economist, RAND Corporation
Well, I'm still not qualified. But I don't find this very persuasive, I'm afraid, since it consists mostly of assertions that people are idiots, but without much actual exposition. I don't think it has contributed much to the debate, but I promised to run Zycher's response, so here it is.
I find Jim Lindgren quite credible, and I don't think that assertions that he is biased are very persuasive. Assertions that he doesn't understand elementary statistics would be more persuasive if accompanied by explanations.
UPDATE: More mail:
Ben Zycher is right of course when he states "There is no need here to delve into a mini-course on econometrics, however lacking for sleep your readers may be." He wrote to a blog. And he knows that his argument prior to making that statement, if incorrect, will torpedoed in an instant by one of Lott's critics who is also skilled at econometrics. Perhaps Mark Duggan of Chicago. I doubt that will happen.
Zycher's criticism of the tradeoffs involved in blogging are sound. You may not find his blog-criticism of Ayres and Donohoue persuasive, and indeed this critique would require the full assembly of details to be published in an academic journal (please refer back to my first sentence). As an economist who has been around the block a few times, I trust Zycher. I think you goofed here, and your "rebuttal" compounds your earlier mistake.
Professor of Economics
Well, it's not a "rebuttal" because I don't know enough to "rebut" these statements. I find Lindgren credible; Ayres and Donohue, too, though they're anti-gun. Are they wrong? Maybe. I certainly can't say. But the above -- an assertion that they're wrong -- isn't likely to persuade me since it's, well, just an assertion.
I offered to set up a separate page for Zycher if he needed it, and from our correspondence I expected a more complete explanation than I go. I would, of course, prefer to have it turn out that Lott is correct and that his critics are mistaken. The problem with this entire affair is that it has been a back-and-forth of dueling experts in a field in which I lack the expertise to determine the answer.
But I've certainly gotten plenty of criticism from all concerned. That's okay -- I can take it! Here's an earlier post with links to the Stanford Law Review articles by Ayres and Donohue, and Plassman and Whitley.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Lindgren responds to Zycher, at length:
Despite the angry tone of Mr. Zycher’s email, I will respond.
The first few arguments that Mr. Zycher responds to are straw men. About me, Mr. Zycher writes:
Does he believe that computers never crash, or, in Lott's case, that bookshelves never collapse onto electronic equipment, or that such events never afflict scholars with whom Lindgren disagrees?
If Mr. Zycher had read my report online (Link), he would have seen that I tracked down the leads that John Lott gave me and found solid support for Lott's claim that he had a major computer crash, losing important data in the summer of 1997. I never seriously doubted this. Indeed, it was my report that seemed to settle in Lott's favor the limited issue of whether there was a crash with data loss. I have noticed Mr. Zycher is only one of several scholars who have since made public statements based on the assumption that people are doubting that Lott had a major data loss in 1997, which is not really disputed by those who know much about this issue.
Mr. Zycher continues:
Or does he simply not believe the written testimony of contemporaries who observed the survey process as it was conducted?
I am not quite sure what Mr. Zycher is referring to here. Perhaps he is referring to the people who have come forward to support the story of a computer crash with a major data loss, as if that were seriously disputed. Or perhaps I missed some recent developments on this matter. But as far as I know, no one has come forward who says that they observed the survey process, with the possible exception of David Gross, who might have been surveyed by Lott. I spoke to two people whom Lott said could confirm the process at the time it was done in 1997--David Mustard and Russell Roberts--and neither remembered when they first heard about the supposed 1997 study.
Mustard wrote me twice in December 2002, ultimately clarifying his lack of knowledge of the 1997 survey:
As we finished the concealed carry paper John talked about working on other projects related to guns. So the first sentence of my previous response should be more accurately "... after our concealed carry paper had been finished (about Sep 1996)...". Once it was finished he started to work on a number of extensions, including the book. This is about the extent of my knowledge about John's activities and the timing of those activities from the fall of 1996 when we finished our JLS paper through the summer of 1997, when I left Chicago.
Then, several weeks later David Mustard told me that he was "fairly confident" that Lott had told him in 1997 about the study. When I discovered that Mustard had told Frank Zimring on the telephone in the summer of 2002 that he knew “nothing” about Lott’s 1997 survey, I called Mustard and we had a series of long talks.
Mustard confirmed the substance of his conversation with Zimring, but said that his general statement of knowing nothing about Lott’s 1997 survey followed a series of specific questions from Zimring about the survey, which he couldn’t answer. Mustard said that he meant that he knew nothing specific about the survey since he was not involved in it. In Mustard’s conversations with me, he also backed off his claim that he was fairly confident that he heard in 1997 about the survey, saying that he was certain that he learned about it before his October 1999 testimony, but he couldn’t remember whether he heard about it weeks, months, or years earlier. He said that his memory of talking with Lott about follow-ups in 1996 was firm and his memory of what he knew in 1999 was firm, but between late 1996 and late 1999 he did not know when he first learned of the 1997 survey. Nonetheless, Mustard then released a public statement covering much the same ground as he had covered with me, but adding claims about both 1998 and 1997. About 1997, Mustard wrote: “I believe it likely that John informed me of the completed survey in 1997.” I have not talked with Mustard since, so I never learned the basis for his recovered belief that Lott informed him in 1997 or his statement about 1998. I can only say that Mustard did not have either of those recollections when I spoke with him at length a few weeks before.
But perhaps Mr. Zycher is referring to David Gross’s account. As people may have heard, but may have not quite understood, I found Gross a credible witness. Unfortunately, that is a lawyer’s term of art. It is possible to have credible witnesses on both sides of a case telling inconsistent stories. What I meant is my opinion that most people who heard him would give credence to his account (and that I found him generally believable), not that his account would necessarily trump any other evidence.
The part of Mr. Gross’s written public statement that was slightly different from what he told me concerned who called him for the interview. When I asked him if he remembered anything about who called, he said that he “was beginning to think” that the call came from students in Chicago, perhaps at Northwestern or the University of Chicago, but he was very uncertain about whether the call came from a Chicago area source. In his public statement issued after he talked with me more than once, however, Gross’s very uncertain memory became a bit more certain, suggesting that the call probably came from the University of Chicago. That and the timing (which he was also not certain about) were the only things that pointed to him having been called by Lott as opposed to another survey organization.
As I delved into the other studies being done in the 1996-97 period, I found that Gross’s description of the questions that he was asked fit a 1996 Harvard study by Hemenway & Azrael better than Lott’s account of his study questions. First, Gross said that the person who called him was interested in a defensive gun use that happened a few years before he was surveyed, but was not interested in a defensive use that occurred many years before that. This would not fit Lott’s survey, since Lott asked only about DGUs in the prior year. It would fit the Harvard study perfectly, which asked about DGUs in the prior 5 years, but excluded events before that. Further, Gross said that he gave a narrative account of the event, which the caller was interested in. Lott’s study had asked closed-end questions, which would make the narrative superfluous, while the Harvard study was one of the first to ask for a narrative account of DGUs. Last, Gross reported that there was a question about state gun laws, which Lott did not ask, but the Harvard study did.
Mr. Zycher continues:
Does Lindgren believe that Lott would invent an entire survey for the purpose of adding a sentence or two to a book of well over 200 pages?
No, I don’t, nor does any academic that I know. Mr. Zycher again repeats a common argument on Lott’s behalf based on a misinterpretation of what Tim Lambert and Dudley Duncan are suggesting. As you can see from a close reading of my report, the first documented time that John Lott claimed to have done a 1997 survey himself was when Dudley Duncan confronted him in May 1999 about a probable error concerning the 98% brandishing figure. Lott did not claim to have done such a study in the first (1998) edition of More Guns, Less Crime, instead pointing to “national surveys.” In the July 16, 1997 Wall Street Journal, Lott appeared to attribute the 98% number to three specific survey organizations:
“Other research shows that guns clearly deter criminals. Polls by the Los Angeles Times, Gallup and Peter Hart Research Associates show that there are at least 760,000, and possibly as many as 3.6 million, defensive uses of guns per year. In 98% of the cases, such polls show, people simply brandish the weapon to stop an attack.” John R. Lott Jr., Childproof Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire, Wall Street Journal, 7/16/97 Wall St. J. A22
Over the years, Lott referred publicly many times to the 98% figure, without once hinting that it came from his own study. In my report, I wrote:
“In May 1999, Duncan informed Lott that he was writing an article calling the 98% a ‘rogue number’ and then sent him a draft of an article containing these words, ‘The '98 percent' is either a figment of Lott's imagination or an artifact of careless computation or proofreading.’
Lott then called Duncan on May 21, 1999 and, for the first time, told Duncan that he had conducted a hitherto unrevealed study in 1997. Not long after that phone call, Duncan received a letter dated May 13, 1999, which also mentioned a 1997 study.”
Accordingly, most of those who don’t believe that Lott did a 1997 study do not think that he just made up the 98% figure to put in his 1998 book. If he had done so, he might have taken credit for it in the 1998 book, in op-eds, and in testimony before 1999. Rather, they think it possible that, when his back was to the wall, Lott was unwilling to admit even an honest, unintentional mistake in the 1998 book, such as the possibility that he misread the 98% figure from Kleck or relied on others who misread Kleck.
Mr. Zycher continues in his dismissive tone:
And is it merely an accident, as Pravda in its glory years would have put it, that the more recent survey conducted by Lott---about the veracity of which there is no dispute at all---yielded virtually the same answers?
But did it? As I noted in January, “Even more than with the earlier study, however, I don’t see how one can get an estimate of something that Lott says happened to about 1 out of every 4,800 people each year (2% of 1.05% [experiencing DGUs]) with a sample size of just over 1,000 people, asking about their experiences over the last year.”
I have not gone through the data for the 2002 study myself, but those who have tell me that about 9% of the respondents with DGUs reported more than brandishing, which is 4.5 times higher than the 2% figure in the earlier study (of course, the confidence interval for any estimate is huge). Lott weights this down to 5%, but I have never heard the account of how that was done.
Whitley was kind enough to share his weighting method with me, and it is based on a mathematical error. It will systematically understate any counts of behavior experienced by small groups, especially when there are a lot of demographic groups. Perhaps you might ask Whitley to share his email to me on weighting cases, so that you can see for yourself the problem. Remember, Lott claimed that he used 36 weighting categories in every state in 1997, even though small states would have had fewer than 15 respondents. If Lott had used Whitley’s mistaken weighting method in 1997 with 36 categories for each state, he would have gotten unusable nonsense.
Last, Mr. Zycher raises problems with Ayres and Donohue’s econometric analysis. I was under the impression that they ran many of the same models that Lott did in many different ways, just as Lott had done, as well as with the data corrected and with problems with Lott’s demographic controls corrected.
I will look into Mr. Zycher’s argument about Ayres and Donohue's misunderstanding coefficients, but I would also ask Mr. Zycher to look into some of the arguments of Ayres, Donohue, and Lambert. In particular, Ayres and Donohue point out that important parts of Lott’s results are driven by using 36 highly multi-collinear demographic controls. Without those controls, or with a more relevant subset of them (such as the percentages of African-Americans in various groups), the results are quite different. Further, is it correct (as has been claimed) that Lott fit some models that predicted negative crime rates, an impossibility? If so, what does Mr. Zycher think of models specified in this way? Last, what does Mr. Zycher think of Tim Lambert’s arguments about the suitability of Lott dropping the control for clustering that he used last Spring in his models, when retaining the clustering control would have rendered Lott’s results statistically insignificant, once his miscodings were corrected?
Professor of Law
Director, Demography of Diversity Project
I appreciate Lindgren's comments, and in particular their clarity and their civil tone. I hope that people will find this discussion useful.
I promised to look into Mr. Zycher?s only specific claim of an
Ayres/Donohue error (not combining two gun law predictors to get an
overall or net effect), which I have done. On this point, Mr.
Zycher appears to be dead wrong, not once, but repeatedly. Tim
Lambert found even more evidence on this point than I did, so I include
Lambert's comments at the end of this email.
As I wrote my response to Mr. Zycher last night, I wondered whether he
had actually worked through the exchanges in the Stanford Law Review or
whether he was just taking things mostly on faith, much as Professor
Sauer does in his email. I read the Stanford exchange very
carefully many months ago. Now that I?ve had a chance to examine the
Stanford exchange again quickly this morning, Zycher?s only specific
claim of error in the Ayres/Donohue paper appears to me to be
false. I hope that Zycher will either support his claim that Ayres
and Donohue did not combine the effects of two relevant gun law variables
in their discussion or withdraw it as a well-meaning but careless attempt
to help a friend. I do make mistakes and perhaps Mr. Zycher meant
something other than what I and others understand him to say.
Mr. Zycher also states:
Anyone interested simply can read the paper by Plassmann and Whitley,
utterly devastating in its critiques of the Ayres/Donohue paper. I
believe that no honest reader with even a small amount of expertise in
this area can read the two papers and conclude that Ayres and Donohue
have cast even trivial doubt on Lott's work.
But the Plassman and Whitley paper (from which Lott removed his name before publication) was based on substantially mistaken and miscoded data, as John Lott
eventually admitted to Glenn Reynolds. When the errors are
corrected, important effects collapse into insignificance. So the
idea that anyone competent would find Plassman and Whitley?s paper
?utterly devastating? is flatly false. Only someone who believed
that it didn?t matter if their results depended for significance on
(unintentionally) bogus data would find Plassman and Whitley devastating,
which I certainly hope doesn?t describe most of the people that Mssrs.
Sauer and Zycher would credit with expertise in the area. Although
some coding errors are inevitable in any database, most economists care
whether their data are so substantially erroneous that the miscodings are
determining their results.
Of course, Zycher must know that the Plassman/Whitley paper is based on
false data if he actually read the full exchange in the Stanford Law
Review. Since Zucher appears not to know this and refers only to
the ?two papers,? not the three actually published, there is a good
chance that Mr. Zycher?s dismissive comments in his email were based on
his not having read the full exchange in the Stanford Law Review.
Accordingly, his professional judgment may have been asserted before he
had even read the relevant discussions of evidence. I was also
initially somewhat impressed with the Plassman/Whitley paper until I
found out from reading the next paper in the exchange that their evidence
was false because their data were false.
That Mr. Zycher may not have read the third paper is the charitable
explanation for his comments. Otherwise, one would conclude that
Zycher was trying to persuade people that ?no honest reader with even a
small amount of expertise? would fail to credit a work based on
admittedly false data, with errors substantial enough to make important
Plassman/Whitley effects appear. Either Zycher did not read the
full exchange or he is apparently endorsing a paper that he knows to be
based substantially on false evidence. I hope and assume that it is
the former and not the latter.
I would suggest to Mr. Zycher that people?s reputations are at stake on
all sides, which is why he should either make amends or explain his
assertions. There may be some explanation for his comments that I
fail to see or misunderstand. Yet one problem with the sort of
dismissive approach that Mr. Zycher took to this exchange is that -- when
you are wrong in your only substantive points (as Mr. Zycher now appears
to be) -- it leaves you in the embarrassing position of having made
condescending and insulting comments about people who appear to be
correct on the only specific points you raise. Of course, this does
not mean that the Ayres and Donohue articles are free of other problems,
which Mr. Zycher should be encouraged to point out, assuming that he
carefully works through the full exchange.
On his website Tim Lambert provides some of the evidence that seems to
refute Zycher?s supposed Ayres/Donohue error on the need to combine two
predictors to get a net effect:
Ayres and Donohue have extensive discussions on the interpretation of the two variables in their paper. Those discussions appear on pages 12201222, pages 12641268 and pages 12771280. For example (page 1277, my emphasis):
To calculate the five-year impact of the shall-issue law under the hybrid specification it is necessary to add together the impacts of the intercept and trend terms for individual years and then sum the yearly impacts.
Or page 1264 (my emphasis):
according to the hybrid model, in the year after passage the main effect of the shall-issue law is a 6.7% increase in violent crime, which is dampened by the 2% drop associated with the negative trend variable, for a net effect of 4.7% higher crime. After three and a half years, the conflicting effects cancel out at which point crime begins to fall.
I don't understand how Zycher managed to miss all of this.
Kuwaiti security authorities have foiled an attempt to smuggle $60 million worth of chemical weapons and biological warheads from Iraq to an unnamed European country, a Kuwaiti newspaper said on Wednesday.
Let's see if this pans out.
UPDATE: Howard Owens emails:
I don't know what this means, if anything ... but that story you link to is bylined Associated Press.
It's not on our wire.
I also can't find any other version of that story on Google News, either.
You'd think that this would get more attention. Reader Dexter Van Zile speculates that it's not getting attention because it's bogus. Could be -- in fact, that's the most likely answer, of course. Google News says it's four hours old. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Justin Katz has sensible comments: "don't commit yourself emotionally either way."
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Looks like "bogus" wins. There are two possibilities -- it's bogus, or it's being covered up. I can't imagine why it would be covered up, so I'm voting for "bogus." Winds of Change notes that it seems to have come from the official Kuwaiti news agency originally, but disappeared from their website.
Just for the fun of it, let's compare and contrast two scandals:
: In the U.K., someone -- Dr. David Kelly -- had unauthorized and possibly illegal contact with the press regarding confidential, classified government information on weapons in Iraq. The government reveals his name. He kills himself. The government gets hell for it. Revealing the name of the person is considered a scandal.
: In the U.S., someone, unknown, had unauthorized and possibly illegal contact with the press regarding confidential, classified government information on a CIA agent's identity. The government is under pressure to find and identify and prosecute the person. Not revealing the name of the person is a scandal.
posted at 06:14 PM by Glenn Reynolds
NBC WON'T REPORT VALERIE PLAME'S NAME -- but in a nugget from today's Robert Novak column that I haven't seen noted elsewhere (though I've been surfing a lot less than usual) we learn that it's listed in Who's Who. And, of course, it's been all over the papers for days.
Is this barn-door idiocy on the part of the press, or an attempt to make this seem like a bigger deal than it is? I mean, this story could still amount to something -- and I still don't know enough to say -- but this just seems silly. Once you say it's Wilson's spouse, it seems to me that you've given the game away.
UPDATE: I'm wrong. At least, reader Derek Willis sends this plausible argument:
Is this barn-door idiocy? No. NBC won't report the name for the same reason that the Washington Post won't - both have internal policies against naming covert CIA employees, whether operatives or analysts (see WP writer Vernon Loeb's comment here: link). This is a fairly common practice, although it obviously is not held by everyone - and that's a choice for each media outlet to make. But sticking to an internal policy - especially as it related to naming intelligence agency employees - isn't idiocy at all. Once people in government suspect that a newspaper or TV station might not be consistent in disclosing names, it could have a chilling factor in their decisions to talk to the press. Sources and reporters have to know where each other stand on these types of things.
Seems a bit late in the day, but if everyone followed this principle I imagine we'd be better off.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Washington Postagrees that the horse has left the barn:
Why is the Washington Post publishing Plame's name?
An intelligence official told The Post on Sept. 27 that no further harm would come from repeating Plame's name.
ANOTHER FEDERAL JUDGE ON IRAQ: Here's an article from the Tennessee Bar Journal quoting U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Gilbert Merritt (for whom I clerked) on his trip to Iraq:
Securing facilities is a first step. Merritt is aware it will take much more to put in place an independent judiciary in Iraq. As anyone who watches the news knows, the country is under attack from terrorists and is still torn by rival religious and ethnic groups.
Still, Merritt is optimistic. From his time in Iraq, he has come to believe that the overwhelming majority of people there support the reconstruction. Baghdad has been a center of education and culture in the region for thousands of years, and its population is well educated - especially the lawyers, who Merritt says are among the most westernized and among the best educated people in the country. They could be strong leaders in the rebuilding of the government and in the development of a new constitution, he says. . . .
An early opponent of the U.S. invasion, Merritt now says he saw a different dimension of Iraq while there and believes the United States was right to lead the coalition's campaign to oust Saddam.
The current situation is an opportunity for the United States to put a constitutional democracy in place in Iraq, he says, and a chance to make up for some of the suffering the people there have felt since the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
For those who keep track of such things, Merritt was a Carter appointee.
I'M GOING TO BE KIND OF BUSY TODAY, so blogging may be lighter than usual. Check out Tom Maguire for the latest on Plame/Wilson. And in a Kausfiles/Weintraub footrace, the unedited blog won by several lengths. Meanwhile lots of stuff is happening in Venezuela, largely under the radar -- but not the Blogdar, as Miguel Octavio has things covered. And Alphecca's weekly chart of gun bias in the media is up. And scroll down for updates on some earlier posts. Back later.
Oh, and don't miss Frontline Voices, the new weblog featuring reports from troops overseas. It's a must-read.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is doing rare morning-blogging on the Plame affair.
EARLIER I MENTIONED THIS POST by Eugene Volokh, on other people's insistence that he blog topics of interest to them, regardless of whether they were of interest to him. (Pejman also weighs in on this, offering to blog anything the demanders demand, for an adequate fee: "Kids, I'm a lawyer. I'm trained to do this kind of thing!" That's why I quit practicing law, Pej.)
I don't have much trouble resisting people's efforts to bully me into advancing their agendas. What worries me more, in a way, are the friendly emails from people saying that they get all their news from InstaPundit.
Don't do that! It's "InstaPundit," not "InstaNews Service." And this is, as Eugene properly notes, an amateur activity. I don't even get to blog all the stuff that interests me -- I've really fallen behind on space, guns, and even nanotechnology lately-- much less stuff that's important, but that doesn't interest me.
What you get here -- as with any blog -- is my idiosyncratic selection of things that interest me, as I have time to note them, with my own idiosyncratic comments. What's more, to the (large) extent that it's shaped by my effort to play up stories that Big Media are ignoring, it's even more idiosyncratic. I hope you like it, but making it your sole source of news is probably not a good idea. It's like living solely on appetizers and desserts: there's no "four food groups" approach here. [Maybe InstaPundit is more like a dietary supplement -- providing essential nutrients, not basic sustenance? -- Ed. That's it: "InstaPundit: The Cod Liver Oil of the Media World!" Actually, now that I think about it, I like the dessert analogy better. --Ed.]
VICTORY BY THE NUMBERS? Dale Amon says we're winning. Within the context of the overly-narrow concept of victory involved, I think he's right.
posted at 07:30 PM by Glenn Reynolds
I'VE GOT MORE ON THE MEDIA AND IRAQ over at GlennReynolds.com -- a post that I wrote in the lovely Starbucks-catered "Study Room" in the University's main library. Free wi-fi, overstuffed chairs, and foamy cappucino. Today's students have it pretty good.
CNN called to ask if I'd debate this topic on Paula Zahn's show tonight, but I suggested that they call Jeff Jarvis or Jay Rosen instead. I haven't heard back, so I guess one or the other will be on (8:30 ET, I think), no doubt doing a better job than I would have.
UPDATE: They wound up with John Leo, who seemed to me to be too much of a gentleman in his dealings with Michael Wolff of New York magazine, who was the classic TV Shouting Head, interrupting and spouting non sequiturs. The result was that the show -- which the producers wanted to be conflict-ridden so as to produce excitement -- was actually quite dull, and very little that was new got said. That's too bad, as the topic was important -- but in a way, the formula, and its failure, illustrates the point.
posted at 05:38 PM by Glenn Reynolds
COULD ROBERT NOVAK BE FORCED TO REVEAL HIS SOURCES? Yes, writes Eugene Volokh. Volokh is more of a First Amendment expert than I am -- I teach it, and I've written a couple of articles, but he's got a well-regarded book -- but I agree with his analysis.
UPDATE: Am I serious? Why not? Subpoena him and the other reporters. Find out what happened. If somebody leaked, fire 'em. It's easy and it's fast, and it's legal. What's wrong with this idea? Why have a special rule for the press? Who else is allowed to go around saying that they have knowledge of a crime but won't talk?
You can't have a special rule on this for journalists, because journalists don't have special First Amendment rights, and anyway everyone is a journalist now, thanks to the Internet. This will be disturbing to professional journalists, but I don't see an alternative. And this is a national security leak, in wartime, right?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Surprisingly little negative reaction to the above. Except for this. Heh.
posted at 04:13 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THE REAL WILSON SCANDAL: Forget Valerie Plame, the big scandal is why anyone in the Bush Administration would ever have tasked a guy with Wilson's views with an important mission.
Regardless of the rest of the story, heads should roll for that.
UPDATE: Darren Kaplan wonders if Wilson's hiring was legal in light of anti-nepotism laws. I don't know, but surely his publicly expressed views made him unsuitable regardless of his relations.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Randy Paul emails to suggest that I'm "smearing" Wilson above. But it's an attack on the competence of the White House, not on Wilson. Wilson's free to hold those views. But only an idiot would pick someone like that for a politically sensitive mission of great importance. Either (1) Wilson had a sudden epiphany on the war, which I strongly doubt; or (2) He felt this way when they picked him, and they either didn't know (bad) or didn't care (bad). Regardless, this reflects very badly on the White House's judgment. And unlike other parts of this affair, we don't need additional facts to figure it out.
Who were the Adminstration leakers but, more importantly, who in the CIA authorized Wilson's strange, off-budget, journey to Niger and why? Why is this more important? Because it could show people in our own intelligence agencies working against the wishes of our government, not just standard-issue partisan battling that goes on every day inside the Beltway.
Middle Eastern terrorist groups are operating support cells in Venezuela and other locations in the Andean region. A two-month review by U.S. News, including interviews with dozens of U.S. and Latin American sources, confirms the terrorist activity. In particular, the magazine has learned that thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon.
No big surprise, to those who have been paying attention.
I WAS WONDERING ABOUT THE IRAQI OIL TRUST IDEA, and this WSJ editorial contains the following nugget:
Plans are also well under way to give all Iraqis a stake in the success of their new society through the creation of an oil trust, some of which would go to fund public goods like education and some of which would be paid out directly to individuals on a regular basis (in a version of the Alaska oil trust). That strikes us as an enlightened way to show Iraqis that they have a stake in this transition to self-rule.
I'd like to read more about this.
UPDATE: Well, in the paper edition of the Wall Street Journal, there's a bit more, in the form of an oped by Fareed Yasseen. He's critical of the oil trust idea, on the plausible grounds that (1) it's a disincentive to work; and (2) it will, in effect, enhance the power of patriarchs and clan leaders.
These are plausible objections, though I don't know if they should carry the day. But that I'm reading about this -- really important -- stuff on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal and not in news accounts that instead stress the latest pinprick attack by Saddam's holdouts (and miss the real story even there) simply illustrates what a dreadful job the press is doing in reporting what's going on in Iraq.
Yasseen also thinks that Bremer is pushing privatization too fast. This is a real issue. In a place like Iraq, there are two kinds of people likely to be able to buy privatized assets: Baathist leftovers and collaborators, and foreigners. Both pose problems -- though the Iraqi expatriate community, which I think should be given preferential treatment, is a different kettle of fish.
Again, why isn't this kind of stuff getting the above-the-fold treatment? Because it matters.
ANOTHER UPDATE: John Weidner thinks Iraq needs a good dose of federalism, along the Swiss model. Are they talking about it in Iraq?
I'd like to know.
posted at 12:46 PM by Glenn Reynolds
DANIEL DREZNER HAS MORE on Wilson/Plame, and quotes some pretty strong words from The Note about prejudgement.
Meanwhile Howard Kurtz notes that the press isn't looking too good, and quotes a reader:
"Do the reporters, Andrea Mitchell and five others, who were contacted by the two 'Bush senior administartion officials' have any obligations to these sources since they did not report the story about Joseph Wilson's wife? Would it be unethical for them to comment about which 'Bush senior administration officials' contacted them about stories that were not reported?"
"Why is it that lower echelon reporters like Jayson Blair at the New York Times get fired for plagiarism, but at the same time syndicated columnists like Robert Novak, and by complicity Fred Hiatt, your editorial page director, can destroy a career and risk a life with impunity?"
It is a bit odd to see journalists running around pronouncing a scandal and -- by implication, and sometimes explicitly -- calling for an investigation when they know the truth and won't report it. Isn't it? And Roger Simon is worried:
If you think I’m wrong, just reflect for a second on all the yelling and screaming about this matter that appeared in the media and on the Internet yesterday, and from politicians of course, before any of them knew the facts. Imagine what will happen when they think they do.
I think that was what The Note was getting at, too.
posted at 12:24 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WESLEY CLARK ON TIME TRAVEL: I'm with him on this. And against the critics I invoke Clarke's (not Clark's) Law.
On the other hand, there's still Niven's Law to contend with.
CLARKE'S LAW: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
NIVEN'S LAW (couldn't find a good Web reference) says that if time travel that changes the past is possible, people will keep changing history until it reaches the one stable state -- one in which nobody ever invents a time machine, anywhere, ever. Thus, in a universe in which time travel can change the past, no time machine will ever be invented.
I don't think that ad hominem attacks on Ashcroft are inherently unfair: when you have an executive official of power and discretion, questions of character matter. (Ad hominem arguments may be logically invalid, but that's a different topic.) The real problem with the attacks on Ashcroft -- whom I don't especially like myself, to be honest -- is that they're absurdly over the top. He's not Torquemada, pace Walter Cronkite. He's not even Janet Reno, whose record on civil liberties was dreadful but who got a pass because she was a woman appointed by a Democrat.
In fact, what's interesting is that Democrats can -- and Clinton did -- get away with far worse civil liberties assaults, while Republicans can (and Bush is) get away with spending far more money, because the pigeonholes used by the press include "Republicans who hate civil liberties" and "Democrats who are wasteful spenders," but not the reverse.
posted at 09:58 AM by Glenn Reynolds
WOULD ARNOLD BE GOOD FOR SILICON VALLEY? Beats me. But Sonia Arrison has some thoughts.
posted at 08:17 AM by Glenn Reynolds
VIA JOHN ELLIS, here's another article on outsourcing, featuring a list of jobs most and least at risk. Ellis thinks that health care will be the big issue of 2004, but I think that this will have a lot of traction, too -- especially among voters who tend Republican, but who might be lured away by Democrats over this issue.
Me, I want a country that offers tax breaks for oral sex, not jail time.
Note to 2004 presidential candidates: here's your winning issue!
posted at 11:51 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THIS JUST IN: DUCT TAPE IS GOOD FOR EVERYTHING -- except, apparently, sealing ducts.
posted at 11:31 PM by Glenn Reynolds
STEVEN DEN BESTE HAS A LENGTHY POST on Iraqi reconstruction that's worth reading: "We will eliminate our enemies not by killing them in hordes, but by infecting them with ideas which will convert most of them to friends. That process has now begun."
posted at 11:21 PM by Glenn Reynolds
DRIVING WHILE TIRED -- NOW A CRIME IN NEW JERSEY. I agree with the commenter who says: "This is further proof of my theory that any law named after a person is a bad law."
The missiles are filled with volatile rocket fuel and two hundred kilograms of high explosives. Locals fear their children could be injured or their homes destroyed by these deadly weapons.
- ABC TV News, 19 August 2003
Gina Wilkinson: Mr Saadi?
Gina Wilkinson: Can we get these two kids to walk around underneath the missile?
Just around it?
- Mohammad. Mohammad.
Gina Wilkinson: And this one?
- (trans) Come here. Go up there. Go with him. Casually, casually. Walk behind him. Go with him. . . .
You want to show the children on there?
Gina Wilkinson: Yeah, that would be good. Yeah, if they don’t mind.
- (trans) You want them to stand over there to be filmed?
- (trans) Come on sweetie. What’s her name?
- (trans) I'm worried about them.
- Sit. Sit on this.
- (trans) I'm worried about them.
- (trans) Sit on the edge.
Gina Wilkinson: Please God, don't let this thing explode now.
- ABC Camera Tape
This is the Australian equivalent to the BBC (in more ways than one!) not the American Broadcasting Company.
UPDATE: Tim Blair: "I clearly underestimated the ABC’s willingness to harm kids."
UPDATE: Daniel Drezner is skeptical, too, if not quite as skeptical as Pejman.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a story from July in which Novak seems to say that someone called him with the information, which would seem to contradict what he's saying now. So which Novak is telling the truth? The July Novak or the September Novak? (Is either?) Say, maybe his source was George Tenet. . . .
Maybe they should just subpoena Novak. Although Peter Jennings said tonight that courts have consistently held that journalists don't have to disclose their sources, that's not true. Novak has no more right to refuse to testify about a crime than anyone else does.
Yeah, I know, that's probably a non-starter. But that's because of the political power of the Journalists' Guild, not because of the First Amendment.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who says he's a former CIA employee sends this:
Regarding Pejman Yousefzadeh's analysis of the Plame/Wilson issue, I thought some information from a former CIA analyst might be useful.
I was an analyst at the CIA from 1990-92 working in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI). I was in training for the first year and some of my colleagues were training to be case officers in the Directorate of Operations (DO: the real spies). As a result, my colleagues from the DI and the Directorates of Science & Technology and Administration (DS&T, DA) and I were required to be undercover. The idea was not to blow the cover of the DO folks by association with us during training.
Once I completed my training, I was allowed to drop my cover and be an overt employee. Other DI, DS&T and DA officers chose to maintain their covers. Some DI officers do that so it's easier to go overseas on Agency business--in which case you travel under cover. Others do it to preserve the option to return to a covert role.
My point is that Valerie Plame, while not in the DO or a traditional covert role, might still indeed have been under cover. On the other hand, the CIA spokesperson that asked Mr. Novak not to use her name may have been operating under standard procedures: CIA officers are encouraged--even if overt employees--to avoid revealing their employment. It helps reduce the chances of being targeted by opposing intelligence services or being the target of terrorist attacks (as happened in 1993 outside the Agency's gates).
Hope that helps. In keeping with standard procedures (even 11 years later!), please withhold my name.
I have friends who were non-covert types at the CIA, and they do tend to keep that quiet. Eric Kolchinsky has more on this subject.
Meanwhile Mark Kleiman writes that Pejman is wrong, in the item cited above, though weirdly Kleiman also seems to think that this post is my first on the Plame/Wilson affair, which it's not. In fact, I've even linked to Mark on this before. And there's this rather long post (1,860 words) from yesterday, too. If this is a "wall of silence," Mark, well. . . .
Unfortunately, that aspect of Kleiman's post, like the excessive gleefulness and point-scoring of the anti-Bush bloggers in general on this topic, only serves to make this matter look more political, and less serious, than it perhaps is. More and more, these guys remind me of the anti-Clinton fanatics of the 1990s. Which doesn't necessarily make them wrong, any more than the anti-Clinton fanatics were always wrong. It just makes them a lot less persuasive. (Kleiman also quotes Drezner's earlier post on this, but not his more recent, and more skeptical, one linked above. Perhaps he missed that one, too, but you shouldn't, as it offers some perspective.)
Helpfully, Henry Hanks emails:
Actually a close reading of Novak's statement doesn't really contradict what he's saying now...
"I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."
Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.
He never said he was called. The article says, without quoting Novak, that they came to him, which cannot be inferred from his words.
Hmm. Stay tuned, as we keep saying. (Hanks has more, here). One sure-fire prediction: some people will wish the Independent Counsel law hadn't been repealed, before this is all over.
Question of the day: is the Plame affair good or bad for Wesley Clark?
You'll have to follow the link to find out. And there's lots of good stuff, generally, on this and related topics at Tom Maguire's blog -- he's been covering this for some time.
MORE: Reader Ed Paul emails:
I may have missed this but I have not seen anyone compare the Wilson matter to the disclosure of Linda Tripps personnel and medical records by her boss in DOD to the media. Although it could be argued that revealing a spy's identity is more serious, both cases involved allegations of a Federal felony. A Justice Department investigation just kind of petered out even thought the guy (Bacon?) admitted enough in public to at least create probable cause. I have too much Clinton scar tissue to be outraged at the hypocrisy but some Democrats ought to at least be made to jump through the hoop of explaining the difference.
I vaguely remember this, and it seems about right.
MY SPACE-BLOGGING HAS BEEN SHAMEFULLY INADEQUATE lately, but here's a good piece on the X-Prize competition, in which people are competing for a prize for a manned private space launch:
In a race to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, two teams of rocket engineers are poised to compete for the $10 million X Prize by launching people to the edge of space and bringing them back safely twice within a two-week period. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, said he expects that one of the two teams will launch within the next few months.
Good news, and I wish them success.
posted at 01:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WHEN PANTS ATTACK: I've seen the Jimmy Neutron nanopants episode that Howard Lovy describes.
posted at 11:05 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JOHN LEO has a column on how Internet fact-checking and bypassing demonstrated problems with media coverage of Iraq. "The Internet campaign is another example of the new media going around the old media, in this case to counter stories by quagmire-oriented reporters."
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy yesterday split from the recent harsh criticism that his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, leveled against President Bush for attacking Iraq and said the country is better off without Saddam Hussein.
``I don't agree with his stance,'' the Rhode Island congressman said of his father. ``I believe that the U.N. needs to be a viable international organization and the only way it is viable is if its proclamations and resolutions are enforced.''
The elder Kennedy stirred a storm of controversy recently by saying that the reasons for war were ``made up in Texas'' to help the GOP at election time and calling it ``a fraud.''
But Patrick Kennedy, who voted to authorize Bush to use force against Iraq, said Saddam Hussein had ``the worst track record of any international leader in the history of the U.N.'' for violating human rights and inspections for weapons of mass destruction.
``If he didn't have (the weapons), then how come he gassed all his people with them?'' the younger Kennedy asked. ``The fact is, he definitely had them. Whether he destroyed them or not is up for debate. But he had them and he's got a propensity for invading neighboring countries and causing instability in a part of the world (where) we can't afford to have a lot of instability.
Patrick Kennedy doesn't agree with Bush's approach, but this is a refreshing change from the mindless "Bush lied" agitprop we're hearing from too many.
When NBC anchor Tom Brokaw went to Iraq, it was as if he was visiting a different country than that any other TV journalist had reported from, because he left Baghdad and many of his reports actually had an optimistic tone.
Why? Perhaps because Brokaw has chronicled the Greatest Generation and World War II, a time of patience instead of attention deficit disorder and a demand for overnight success. Nowadays, one can imagine critics instantly howling for Dwight D. Eisenhower's head over the deaths on D-Day.
It's worth remembering, as critics revive their Vietnam quagmire comparisons, that over 57,000 U.S. troops died in Vietnam and so far the U.S. death toll in Iraq is 308, fewer than the 343 firemen who were killed on 9/11.
Every death is a tragedy. But that doesn't make the war a failure. In fact, it is a success.
Read the whole thing.
posted at 10:31 AM by Glenn Reynolds
HERE'S A NEW YORK TIMES story on the Bee blogging brouhaha. It's pretty good overall, and features Weintraub saying that his Bee editors have committed to being available whenever he wants to post. I suspect that they'll find that a bit of a strain, but maybe not: the Bee is big enough, I suppose, to have someone on duty at all hours. Weintraub also says that this may detract somewhat from the immediacy and spontaneity of his writing, and I think that pretty much has to be the case.
Interestingly, Wesley Clark is on the board of Acxiom, the company involved, according to this story in the Post. Clark didn't have a specific role with JetBlue, it says, but he was behind the development of the passenger-information database involved.
Does this tell us anything about the privacy policies of a Clark Administration? I don't know. Somebody should probably ask him. At the moment, he's getting beaten on pretty badly:
"The privacy impact of anti-terrorism initiatives is certain to be a major issue in the presidential campaign," said David L. Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group in the District.
"The public is extremely skeptical," he said. "He owes the public an explanation as to how, if elected, he would limit the government's expanding collection of personal information about citizens."
Others believe that Clark faces skepticism about the money he took to represent Acxiom, even though many former military leaders have done the same thing.
"There's something unseemly and, yes, mercenary, about a distinguished general lobbying for a company trying to get government contracts," said Charles Lewis, executive director for the Center for Public Integrity.
Think Howard Dean might make an issue out of this?
UPDATE: There's more on this at Cryptome, along with the question: "Will Wesley Clark do the right thing and disavow Acxiom?"
posted at 10:39 PM by Glenn Reynolds
A PACK, NOT A HERD: An interesting lesson on disaster preparedness from Japan, via Virginia Postrel.
posted at 10:15 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MICKEY KAUS has more on the California recall, which I haven't been covering much. But, then, he actually understands California politics.
posted at 08:35 PM by Glenn Reynolds
CHRISTOPHER LYDON is comparing Wesley Clark to Hadrian, and George Bush to Trajan. I'm not sure that this works (in fact, I'm pretty sure it doesn't), but you can read it and decide for yourself.
A few angry readers have asked what I like about Howard Dean. I thought I was pretty clear about that. It's that Dean recognizes (at least he says he does, and he seems sincere to me) that bailing out isn't an option in Iraq -- we have to succeed, or the backlash will be far more damaging than the backlash from our timidity in response to Beirut, Mogadishu, and Tehran.
UPDATE: Reader William Lemmon emails:
As a big ol' Roman history geek and a fan of historical comparisons to current events, I was fascinated by the blog you linked to last night in which Christopher Lydon equates Wes Clark to Hadrian and President Bush to Hadrian's predecessor, Trajan.
You write that the comparison doesn't work, and I would agree that it doesn't work in the sense that the author thinks it does. However, it may be apt in a way that Mr. Lydon doesn't intend, and wouldn't like.
Mr. Lydon seems to assert that Hadrian's consolidation of the Empire's borders and cessation of expansion was unquestionably beneficial. But this interpretation is far from unassailable.
The Roman Empire was always at its strongest when it was on the offensive, pushing its borders ever further into barbarian territory and carrying the benefits of civilization with them, just as President Bush asserts that America can only triumph in the war on terror by staying on the offensive and bringing the fight to the enemy's heartland. There's no reason to believe that the Democratic strategy of going on the defensive (by focusing on homeland security rather than regime change in hostile nations) will work any better for America than it did for Rome, which found it difficult to maintain static borders against the constant encroachments of barbarian tribes (again, just as our porous borders would be almost impossible to seal against terrorist infiltration).
In fact, it's arguable that Hadrian's reforms contributed to the eventual fall of the empire by sapping Rome of its drive and ambition for expansion, leading inevitably to decadence and decline. It's hard to avoid drawing unfavorable parallels to Democratic pacifism and provinicialism.
All in all, I think that Hadrian, with his passion for reform and centralization, his ivory-tower intellectualism and his weakness for sensual pleasure (for which he was widely mocked and derided in his own day) compares rather closely to too many of today's Democrats. Perhaps more to Wes Clark's patron, Bill Clinton, than to Clark himself - although, happily, Bill didn't erect hundreds of statues of Monica, as Hadrian did of his (male) lover Antinous.
For that matter, Bush as Trajan - a man of action from a province considered somewhat backwater by the Roman elites - is a pleasing comparison as well.
Trifle with history geeks at your peril.
posted at 08:21 PM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE ON MEDIA REPORTING AND IRAQ: Jay Rosen looks at the reporting on Ground Zero and observes:
There’s no script for what’s happening in Iraq; there was none for Ground Zero. “Did Bush and Rumsfeld have an adequate plan?” is good for point-scoring; but it’s a naive expectation for action and upheaval on this scale. I expect Americans to be good at problem-solving when there is no plan, when the bosses don’t know what to do, or aren’t around, when only an unscripted experiment can work.
So one thing I want to know from the press is: how have these virtues figured in the struggle to rebuild Iraq? That isn’t a negative story or a positive story; it’s just an interesting one… and “probably profound.” It’s not that there haven’t been such reports; there have. (See this, for example.) But in the master narrative for post-war Iraq, problem-solving could have a larger place, which might address some of the concerns about “negative” news.
I've seen a little reporting along those lines, but not much, and generally buried.
Rosen also offers this interesting observation:
On a speaking trip to The Netherlands two years ago, I noticed that every time I used the word “experiment,” my Dutch hosts would give me a blank look or reach for their beer. So I finally asked some Amsterdam friends about it. The Dutch think that if you start an experiment it means you don’t know what you’re doing, one of them said. The most likely outcome is to make things worse. “Oh,” I replied, “well, Americans have a different attitude.” “We know,” said my hosts, in unison and now laughing.
I think that ties in with the point noted by Scott Turow (quoted here) on the comparative fragility of European institutions and the political attitudes it produces. And I wonder if the attitude of many in the press -- in which trying something that doesn't work is a "failure" even if you learn from it, because it didn't work the first time -- isn't something similiar.
Well, I'm not sure what the profound sociological point there is, though I think there is one. But I definitely think that there are a lot of good stories -- not cheerleading, but interesting, and informative, and useful at getting things right in the future -- that aren't being reported because people are sticking to a tired Vietnam-era template.
Robert McCoy has brought to light fraud and corruption within the EU. Now, in a letter seen by David Wastell, he reveals how he was vilified by Brussels for his efforts
He has worked for the European Union for more than 30 years. His friends regard him as an upright and loyal bureaucrat, keen to uphold the EU's name against its critics, whether in Brussels or back home in Britain.
Yet Robert McCoy must steel himself before he walks the corridors of his own EU institution. If he is lucky, senior colleagues at the glass and concrete headquarters of the Committee of the Regions - a Brussels talking-shop for local government representatives, set up under the Maastricht Treaty - merely ignore him, turning their heads ostentatiously as he passes.
If not, he may be on the receiving end of abuse. "Gestapo! Gestapo!" angry fellow workers once taunted him. One manager spat on the floor as he walked by, friends say. . . .
Mr McCoy's offence - as it was apparently regarded by some EU staff and politicians - was to stumble upon, investigate and then seek to correct a series of financial irregularities within the Committee of the Regions (CoR), whose annual budget is €38 million (£27 million).
Last week the European Union was thrown into a frenzy when a trio of official reports confirmed the existence of secret bank accounts, bogus contracts and other accounting malpractices at Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, over the past five years.
Shocking treatment. You'd almost think that sort of corruption was regarded as acceptable, and even defensible.
Seems to me that this is just what the "reformers" wanted.
posted at 07:06 PM by Glenn Reynolds
EVAN COYNE MALONEY managed to interview Michael Moore on camera -- and got some advice. You can see it here.
Sorry for the limited blogging. Power's out again at the Insta-home. No idea why, as the weather's perfect today. [It's a conspiracy! -- Ed. Possibly.] I'm at the office, but just briefly. Back later.
posted at 01:33 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THE PLAME/WILSON STORY remains, in Roger Simon's words "too complicated" for me to feel I really understand it. But here's the Washington Post story, and here's a roundup of commentary by Brian Linse. My big question on all of this is "why?" I'm not sure I find Brian Linse's "pure revenge play" theory plausible, though I'm not sure I find Roger's crime-writer instinct that it was a setup to embarrass the Bush Administration plausible either.
UPDATE: Reader Matthew Brown emails: "I don't believe for a second that the Plume story is 'too complicated' for you. It's about intimidation of whistleblowers, no?"
Well, that's what some people say. But it doesn't make sense to me. First, if you want to "intimidate" someone, committing a felony at which you can be caught -- and which doesn't hurt the target -- doesn't seem to be the way to do it. What possible benefit was there to the Bush Administration in saying that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA? When what they could have said is what the British did say, which is that Wilson was gullible and inept? Had Plame been fired on a pretext, or Wilson's taxes been audited, or some such, then there'd be an "intimidation" argument. But this? Perhaps I'm too missing something here, but this seems like a rather tepid version of intimidation -- or, for that matter, revenge. I can't help but feel that there's either more to this, or less, than we're hearing. And I guess if it weren't for the palpable desperation on the part of people looking for a scandal with which to tar Bush -- reminiscent of numerous right-wing Clinton critics from about five or six years ago -- I might be more inclined to say "more" instead of "less."
I suppose I should just be happy to see such solicitude on the behalf of a reputed CIA agent from people who aren't usually so solicitous.
ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Donald Sensing writes:
I happen to have been a seminar attendee in 1993 in which Wilson was a speaker one day. There were only about two dozen attendees, some of us military and others civilian government factotums from all branches of government. So we had very informal and engaging discussions with the daily speakers.
I found Wilson to be expertly knowledgeable on the Middle East and quite sober-minded. I rate his credibility extremely high, so I find the charges he has made very credible and very disturbing.
Sensing's view makes this more credible and disturbing to me. But I still wonder why, exactly, anyone would do this, even if they were trying to intimidate a whistleblower. And read the comments to Sensing's post.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kori Pirouz emails:
Shockingly, you really don't get what is intimidating about blowing the cover of a CIA agent. What could be more intimidating than putting an agent's life at risk? I'm curious to know.
I don't think that Valerie Plame is undercover in Islamabad, so I don't quite see where the risk is. There may be risks to contacts she developed in the past, which would be bad -- but why would that intimidate Wilson? This seems like a case of manufactured outrage to me. I rather doubt that most of the people who are so exercised here were condemning that hero of the antiwar left, Philip Agee, who really did put lives in danger.
But if somebody did endanger Valerie Plame as a means of intimidating Wilson, that would be contemptible. But once again, I don't see the reason for taking this approach, even if your goal was to intimidate Wilson. Surely the White House could do a better job, if that were the point, without violating the law or endangering national security. Unless you buy this theory from reader Stephen Galbraith:
W. Post says that "two Senior Administration officials" informed 6 journalists of Plume's CIA connections/work. Hmm, one must be Ari Fleischer. The other is? Rove?
That doesn't make sense. It sure doesn't smell of any larger orchestrated effort. The White House, according to all sources I know of (Woodward et al.), is very secretive and squashes leaking. We don't see this M.O. operating in any other way.
Fleischer and Rove late one night after a couple of beers? Wonder if they initiated the calls or the press?
I'm not sure why one has to be Fleischer, but the beer thing doesn't ring true, either.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: This bit from reader Robert Jeffers makes more sense than anything else I've read:
Wilson himself does not think that the exposure of his wife as a CIA agent (something he has been careful to neither confirm nor deny, in every interview with him that I've heard or read) was meant to intimidate him. He obviously discounts the idea that it somehow impugns his credibility or integrity (the reason Novak gave for identifying his wife's status with the CIA; i.e., that he was asked by the CIA to go to Niger because of her connections, not his reputation/background). But he understands that it intimidates anyone else who might come forward. A warning shot across the bow to other whistle-blowers, in other words: don't embarass us (as Wilson did) or we'll ruin your careers, too (as Ms. Plame's "undercover" career has been ruined). Which, of course, is the classic response to whistle-blowers: it is too late to intimidate
the one who has blown your secret. All you can hope to do is to send a message to anyone else with secrets to tell. That's where the intimidation comes in.
As for the revelation itself, it really isn't necessary that Ms. Plame now be in mortal danger ("in Islamabad," as you so artfully put it) to be a felony. Obviously her career is at an end, at least the one she (probably) enjoyed. That's intimidation enough for anyone else who needs the paycheck. Now Ms. Plame cannot travel anywhere without being suspect, perhaps even subject to revenge (who knows? It sounds a bit "James Bond-ian" to me to even type such a thing, but then again, the law doesn' t require that disclosure place the agent's life in danger to be a felony). The law is meant to protect national security. According to a source who spoke to the Washington Post, that concern was trumped by political concerns. The fact that it may be petty is not the issue, any more than it made sense to send the burglars to the Watergate complex. This isn't, after all, a mystery novel. It is real life, and truth is usually more petty than fiction.
Well, that last is certainly true -- just read my email! The whole notion seems a bit farfetched to me: transferring Ms. Plame to clerical duties in Ougadougou would have been just as effective a punishment (and intimidation), and not a felony, wouldn't it? If the "outing" claim is true -- and at the moment it's rather thinly sourced -- it involves behavior that's contemptible, and (I think, based on what I've read on other blogs and in news stories) illegal. Not to mention phenomenally stupid. Nor is it clear to me what "whistle" Wilson actually blew, when you actually look at the Niger uranium story's facts -- the White House, after all, never said anything specifically about Niger. But assuming that it is true, Jeffers' explanation of the "why" makes more sense than anything else that I've read on the subject. Perhaps Roger Simon will weigh in.
When liberals start championing the CIA as a beacon of truth and justice, something is amiss. I'm suspicious of both sides, especially since, if this were Clinton, 99% of the liberals would be telling us that the CIA are a bunch of lying bastards who can't be trusted to tell you that the sky is blue, and 99% of the conservatives defending Bush would be declaring that the CIA are the watchdogs of our liberty and how dare you impugn their motives?! So for now, I'm just going to wait and see.
Read her whole post.
UPDATE: Reader Patrick Dunne emails:
I don't understand why, if outing a CIA agent is so outrageously terribly awful, these anti-Bush people aren't more incensed at Robert Novak. Wasn't he the one who actually published her name for the "evil-doers" to see? Wasn't he a dupe, if these people are to be believed, who became a tool for nefarious schemers in the Administration? Where are the questions about his judgment and journalistic integrity? If they Administration actually approached six journalists, doesn't this mean five of them had the integrity and judgment to decline to break the law and endanger this woman and Novak didn't? How does Novak retain any reputation if this thing is such a humongous scandal?
The whole thing smells of a cooked up scandal a la BBC v. Tony Blair if you ask me.
I don't know if Novak comes under the statute or not, but that would have no bearing on the moral status of his actions. I have to wonder why anyone in the Administration would shop a story like this to Novak, who doesn't like Bush and has notorious Arabophile tendencies that would make him seem a dubious choice to me. But then, there's obviously something going on here that I don't fully understand.
However, there is a big flaw in much of what's being written about this story. That flaw is that it is being treated as a given that this story was leaked by a member of the Bush administration. While that may turn out to be the case, there is little at this point beyond a leak from an anonymous source to indicate that is what happened. . . .
In any case, a felony was committed here. If someone in the Bush administration did the crime, then they should be fired and put on trial. That's the law and it applies to everyone. However, before people start leveling wild accusations against the Bushies they ought have better sources than an "anonymous aide" and a bitter husband who has already had to eat some of his own words about this very matter. There is going to be an investigation and if what that anonymous aide & Wilson said is true, there's are an awful lot of people who know about this -- far too many to cover it up.
EVEN MORE: Clifford May says everyone knew Plame was an agent. That's typical (as lefty critics of the Agency are usually pointing out). He's got more background on Wilson, too. Here's a link to the statute in question, too, though I'm not at all familiar with its actual application.
And Roger Simon has responded to my invitation to comment further. He's suspicious.
FINAL UPDATE: I've updated this thread a lot, rather than posting new items, because a lot of people were linking to it, but enough is enough. I actually counted the words before adding this update and it came out 1,860. That's two or three op-eds worth. There's a later post here, and I'll update more as needed. (I'll try to remember to always use "Plame" in the post, so it'll be easy to find on a search, too.)
Reading the stuff above, it seems to me that one reason why this is so confused is that the nature of the charges is vague and shifting. Was Plame put "at risk?" Or not? Was the purpose to intimidate Wilson? Or someone else? I'd like to see more specificity. The trouble is, at this point we don't know enough.
Follow the link (way up top) to Tom Maguire's page, where he's got a chronology. That helps some, but things are all rather maddeningly vague.
posted at 01:20 PM by Glenn Reynolds
UPI CORRESPONDENT PAMELA HESS has an interesting piece on media coverage of matters in Iraq. It's long, and complex, enough to defy simple summary, but here are some excerpts:
It is an important debate to have. Coverage out of Iraq is largely negative, and the surprise to me upon arriving there in July was that it wasn't nearly as dangerous as I thought it was going to be. People are on the streets evening and morning, eating at restaurants and doing their shopping. They swim in the Tigris to keep cool. They play soccer. . . .
If the CPA feels that its successes are not getting appropriate media attention, they might ask themselves why.
On my first day in Baghdad, I submitted the required written request for more than a dozen interviews and briefings, knowing many would not be granted. Four weeks later, when I left Baghdad, my requests had never even been formally acknowledged -- although a CPA spokesman confirmed they had been received -- and none were ever acted upon. . . .
These Marines, from Gen. Mattis down, understood what Keane talked about Thursday: that the deaths of American soldiers (not a single Marine has been killed by hostile fire since April 12) are statistically small but play into the hands of the enemy, who depend on the daily news report of the grim statistic for psychological victory. They want Iraq to seem lawless and ungovernable and most of all dangerous, so the Americans and the 20,000 other troops will leave.
There is another reason they are dismayed by the media coverage: It gives way too much credit to the enemy. The attacks on U.S. soldiers are relatively "cheap" -- they are remotely detonated bombs or mortar or grenade attacks conducted from far off. They don't require much in the way of expertise or bravery. Each news report of each hostile death -- and there have been 81 since combat operations supposedly ended May 1 -- contributes (the military says unjustly) to their image as a credible fighting force.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Rapid response!
Just read the Pam Hess piece you linked to about media coverage in Iraq. Given that I am sitting squarely in the middle of the CPA press shop in Baghdad as I write this, I feel qualified enough to comment.
First, Hess completely leaves out one of the reasons for the easier time the Marines (and the Army's 101st Airborne in the north) are having with the population. Namely, the Shia and Kurds were more favorably disposed to the Americans deposing Saddam and hence more likely to "give peace a chance" once the Americans settled in to rebuild. Not so in "the triangle" and in Baghdad proper, and it is Army units that got that assignment.
This is a critical point because it explains some of of the Army's skittishnes about reporters. This isn't to say that the Marines didn't approach this correctly right from the start, they have. It's just to highlight that the (Army) units in and around Baghdad got the tougher assignment and hence are a little more strained in their daily effort. Which in turn tends to mean they are more restrained with reporters roaming around. . . .
Her piece here is just one long apologia for the press who are now being rightly) assailed for letting their biases choose what actually makes it into print and this seems to be in line with her previous work and reputation.
Finally, Hess fails to mention how understaffed the CPA itself is and thus by extension its public affairs effort. It's tough to give all the media everything they want when you lack the manpower to do it. Sure, more people would be great. But more people come with more logistical and other problems and, while I am not privy to this decision, I would not be surprised if there was a conscious decision to limit the "footprint" of CPA in order to avoid the perception that the CPA is here to stay. Already you can find grumbling on the Iraqi General Council that they are ready to take on more governing responsibility. Increasing the footprint of CPA would tend to send a signal that we're overly paternalistic here. Not an image we are trying to foster.
Not sure if any of this is interesting to you or not. But I just thought I'd take 5 minutes to point out just a SMALL part of the other side. I'd appreciate being anonymous if you use any of this.
Done. I must say that I've found Hess's commentary on this pretty balanced -- but then, I'm not square in the middle of things in Baghdad, so I can only compare it to what I'm hearing from other reporters.
In reality, the wave of activity abroad by U.S. evangelicals is one of the most important — and welcome — trends in our foreign relations. I disagree strongly with most evangelical Christians, theologically and politically. But I tip my hat to them abroad.