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October 11, 2003

ASSORTED GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ, via various military bloggers, is rounded up here by Citizen Smash. Note that Chief Wiggles' generals have finally been released.

WHY THEY HATE US: Here's an amusing item:

The straight-talking Hollywood action star's election win in California has had an electrifying impact on Germany, leading to calls Friday for top politicians to voice clear ideas in simple language or be swept away at the polls. . . .

Celebrities, columnists, ordinary citizens and even some politicians have joined the chorus of calls for less talk and more action to get Germany moving again after years of economic stagnation and political standstill.

And it's not just Germany.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn:

In the EU, that "strong but unpopular action that governments have to take" apparently extends to deciding on your behalf what constitutional entity you'll belong to. If you want the very opposite of the raw responsiveness of Californian democracy, it's the debate on the European Constitution. As noted over the page this week, the Brussels correspondent of the BBC worries that letting the voters express a view on their constitution risks undoing "two years of painstaking work by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing". Can't have that, can we? . . .

California's problem was that it was beginning to take on the characteristics of an EU state, not just in its fiscal incoherence but in its assumption that politics was a private dialogue between a lifelong political class and a like-minded media. It would be too much to expect Le Monde and the BBC to stop being condescending about American electorates. But they might draw a lesson and cease being such snots about their own.

Read the whole thing.

WESLEY CLARK'S CAMPAIGN has miffed the grassroots folks who started the Draft Clark Internet campaign. But this may be a reflection of the candidate's character, not just his consultants. At least, this Guardian story on his military experience sounds that way:

Retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, a former Army chief of staff, describes Clark as an intelligent, ``hardworking, ambitious individual who really applies himself hard.''

But, Reimer said, ``Some of us were concerned about the fact that he was focused too much upward and not down on the soldiers. I've always believed you ought to be looking down toward your soldiers and not up at how to please your boss. ... I just didn't see enough of that in Wes.'' . . .

Ret. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, the U.S. commander in Bosnia at that time, says Clark was so focused on succeeding that ``he would maybe not be cognizant of some of the feelings or concerns of some of the people around him.''

Interesting. Can Clark fix this problem?

ARTHUR SILBER points to another reason why the powers-that-be hated the recall -- it proved that voters could handle a ballot with lots of candidates, proving that ballot-barrier laws are unjustified.

BOGUS LETTERS FROM IRAQ? I'd like to know who's behind this. (Parachuting from jumbo jets? Does anybody do that?) With so much good news coming firsthand from Iraq, there's no need to fake it. Unless, perhaps, you're either (1) incredibly stupid; or (2) trying to discredit the real thing. And sending the same letter to the same paper under two different names means you'd have to be incredibly stupid.

Whoever's behind this should be appropriately punished, either way.

UPDATE: My mistake -- it seems that the letter isn't bogus after all. Michael Ubaldi emails:

The article needs about five reads. What seems to have happened is that somebody wrote a letter and asked his buddies to sign it; most of them did. Note that every soldier agrees with the depiction - they should, they signed onto it - and only one guy doesn't remember giving his permission.

All other soldiers quoted as knowing nothing about it are brass - which means little. The only other relevant information is that one of the authorized letters was sent to the wrong place - and that's only according to his anti-war stepmother.

There's a slightly different version of the story in Tulare, which lacks the northwest mixup: Link.

This stinks of nonstory dolled up into anti-war hit.

Sounds like I fell for it. My apologies. Reader Steve Koch emails:

My nephew is in the unit that the form (not bogus) letters were sent from. (I have no reason to believe that he was involved in any way.) They did, in fact parachute from jumbo jets (c-17s). Google "c-17 173rd" and you can read all you want about it and see photos.

You really did them (and us all) a disservice when you concluded:

> Whoever's behind this should be appropriately punished, either way.

The article that you linked to made it pretty clear that it was a form letter that soldiers were being encouraged to send to counter the negative portrayals in the media. They are understandably frustrated that the progess they are making is being ignored. Of course, the wisdom of their approach is questionable, and nobody should have sent a letter with somebody else's name on it.

Nobody, obviously, should be punished for sending non-bogus letters, and that's what this appears to be. Sorry I was fooled by the article in The Olympian -- I should have been more skeptical. (And I never thought of a C-17 as "jumbo jet," but here's a story that backs up the claim. And Donald Sensing has comments, too.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Spoons says I'll never make a professional journalist. Good thing I've got a day job!

MORE: I should note that if these are manufactured by PR people, it's dumb -- though if the soldiers agree to sign on, and think that the letters are accurate, which appears to be the case, it's not deceptive. But any campaign like this is sure to be tarred by anti-war and anti-Bush people as bogus even if it's not deceptive. Just give the troops the addresses, and let 'em write their own letters -- it's more honest, and more effective. Sort of like blogging as compared to Big Media!

It would be nice, of course, if newspapers gave as much space to genuine good reports from troops in Iraq as they do to addressing claims that some of them are bogus, but that's probably asking too much.

STILL MORE: CBS has picked up the story. Once again, the troops say they agree with the sentiments, but the big story is that it's not in their words.

Hey -- maybe they'll start applying that kind of criticism to the things that news anchors read off the TelePrompters. . . .

CLAYTON CRAMER NOTES a rather dramatic firsthand blog report of shooting a burglar in self-defense.

I have no reason to doubt the report, though I don't know the blogger. And I regard shooting a burglar as a virtuous -- not merely a permissible -- act. But my advice to anyone else in that situation is to think long and hard before blogging something like that, at least until you've spoken to a lawyer and the dust has cleared. In my part of the country, even a dubious shooting of a burglar probably wouldn't bring prosecution -- grand juries won't indict, and juries won't convict, under those circumstances. It's not that way everywhere, by any means, and the authorities can be astonishing in their willingness to expend far more energy prosecuting someone who defends his home against criminals than they are willing to spend on the criminals themselves.

UPDATE: The author says he's quit blogging in response to hatemail. Some people are wondering if the story's true. I have no way of knowing, of course. You can visit his blog and scroll down to see the various developments.

Meanwhile, Kim du Toit is collecting these stories.

ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comments section at Spoons' place, Mrs. du Toit says she thinks it's bogus.

GERARD VAN DER LEUN writes on the meaning of the California recall:

What it is is that there are a lot of people here in 21st century America who are fed up with a political structure built in 19th century America. Worse than that, much worse than that, they are bored with it. Bored, numb, disbelieving, untrusting, unenchanted and retroactively neither amused nor entertained. They know in their bones, and have known since September 11, 2001, that joke time is over.

Read the whole thing.

ANDREW SULLIVAN is all over Frontline for dishonesty about the war -- and rightly so. (Here, too.)

Bush-hatred is causing these guys to destroy their own credibility.

UPDATE: Jim Treacher demolishes another example of the same phenomenon, in this case an article blaming George Bush for low-hanging pants on women. Like the song says, you don't mess around with Jim:

Yeah, that must be it! It couldn't be that guys like girls' asses, and there are more girls with fantastic butt cleavage than with the booblial variety. No, wearing your pants down around your beaver is a fucking political statment, isn't it. It's George W. Bush's fault, just like everything else!

"Fault?" Note to fashion writers: If you want to see Bush cement his hold on the male vote, just keep "blaming" him for skimpy women's fashions.

THE MARSH ARABS are making a comeback in Iraq:

A dozen years after Saddam Hussein ordered the vast marshes of southeastern Iraq drained, transforming idyllic wetlands into a barren moonscape to eliminate a hiding place for Shiite Muslim political opponents, Iraqi engineers have turned on the spigot again.

The flow is not what it once was -- new dams have weakened the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers that feed the marshes -- but the impact has been profound. As the blanket of water gradually expands, it is quickly nourishing plants, animals and a way of life for Marsh Arabs that Hussein had tried so assiduously to extinguish. . . .

"Everyone is so happy," Kerkush said as he watched his son stand in a mashoof and steer it like a gondolier with a long wooden pole. "We are starting to live like we used to, not the way Saddam wanted us to live."

Well, that's the point.

October 10, 2003

WELL, I wasn't looking for another job. But then comes this suggestion.

CLAYTON CRAMER IS COLLECTING STORIES of defensive gun uses. Meanwhile Eugene Volokh has thoughts, here and here, on why it's a good idea to protect the gun industry from legal assaults that are intended to serve as end-runs around a losing political argument.

PHIL CARTER COMMENTS on FedEx's antiterrorism operations. He approves.

BLOGS: Bigtime brokers of buzz! Beautiful.

ANDREW BOLT NOTES the media's strange uniformity in reporting on Iraq. (Via Tim Blair, who also has helpful advice on becoming a millionaire.)

THIS IS A LOT BETTER THAN THE ARAFAT THING:

OSLO, Oct 10 - Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for a fearless defense of human rights in an award designed to spur wider democracy in the Islamic world. . . .

Ebadi had often defended controversial causes. In 2000, she was given a suspended sentence after a court convicted her and another human rights lawyer of producing a video tape alleging that prominent conservatives supported activities of violent vigilantes.

"This prize gives me the energy to continue my fight," Ebadi told a news conference in Paris without the head scarf required under Islamic law. She said she would go to Oslo to receive the $1.3 million prize at the Dec. 10 ceremony.

Good.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Your link to the Ebadi story reminds me of what the WaPo, NYT and the AP did after the fall in the Soviet Union. All of a sudden the most hard-line communists became, miraculously, "conservatives." Now, in Iran, the WaPo uses "conservative" to refer to the mullahs, with the implication that "conservatives" are against freedom. Used out of an American context and left undefined this leaves the reader unaware that American conservatives were/are in the vanguard in supporting freedoms for people in the Soviet Union and in Iran.

Yes, and far too many "liberals" were astonishingly comfortable with the Soviet Union, just as too many seem to regard Fidel Castro as admirable even today.

BELLESILES UPDATE: The Emory Wheel remains on the case.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP ON THE WESLEY CLARK CAMPAIGN VS. THE BLOGOSPHERE dustup, for those who are interested.

HERE'S MORE ON THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA CENSORSHIP SCANDAL that I mentioned below.

The Alabama administration should be ashamed. Like Roy Moore, it has helped to convince many people that stereotypes about Alabama narrow-mindedness retain their validity.

UPDATE: Some readers object that this is a case of political correctness, not religious narrow-mindedness.

I don't see much distinction, though. It's just narrowmindedness in support of the new established religion, instead of the old one.

SOME NOT VERY IMPRESSIVE NEWS about homeland security:

New York airport baggage screeners were fed answers to written tests and were not asked to identify bombs, guns or other dangerous objects in carry-on luggage, a homeland security official said yesterday.

Clark Kent Ervin, the acting inspector general for the Homeland Security Department, said a review of the Transportation Security Administration's testing procedures found that on a recent final exam given to new screeners at LaGuardia Airport, 22 of the 25 questions were used during the practice quiz, and testing protocol "maximized the likelihood that students would pass."

Sheesh.

BRENDAN O'NEILL writes on historical revisionism by antiwar folks:

This canonisation of the rational inspectors, in contrast to hysterical Bush and Blair, is a spectacular rewriting of history. . . .

Far from being anti-war, Hans Blix, David Kelly and the rest helped to make war an easy option for the West. The inspectors' differences with Bush and Blair in the past year have nothing to do with opposing Western intervention in Iraq - and everything to do with cynically defending their special position on the world stage. . . .

Rather, the inspectors' sudden turnaround - from being 'deeply suspicious' about Iraq to claiming that Iraq is not a threat after all - is driven by a far more squalid clash with the US and UK governments. In criticising Bush and Blair, the inspectors are merely attempting to defend their own position rather than actually challenging America and Britain's actions in Iraq. The inspectors thrived on a climate of suspicion about Iraq, on the notion that Saddam might potentially be a threat and must constantly be kept in check just in case. The inspectors are irritated by Bush and Blair's war because it knocked them off their perch, undermining their authority and purpose on the world stage.

Bureaucratic politics. Imagine that!

UPDATE: Read this, too.

HOWARD KURTZ HAS A ROUNDUP on media dishonesty coyness regarding exit-poll data. That's something that I posted on earlier.

REPORT FROM THE COUCH: Will Wilkinson says that the article by Noah Shachtman from The American Prospect to which I linked the other day, on libertarians disenchanted with Bush, was a bit, um, incestuous in its sourcing. Hmm. He never called me, and I never slept in Gene Healy's basement . . . .

Guess I'm not one of the "in" crowd. But then, I never seem to be.

October 09, 2003

WALKING BACK THE CAT: Austin Bay has another column looking at intelligence failures, and successes, leading up to the war in Iraq.

HERE'S A SURPRISINGLY POSITIVE (for the New York Times) article on Iraq. Not cheerleading, by any means, but recognizing that there's good stuff happening, and that there's more than one storyline. That's progress, I'd say.

NEW COMMERCIAL SPACE LEGISLATION: I haven't read it yet, but Rand Simberg has a summary.

MORE EVIDENCE that sex is good for you.

But you knew that already, right?

I'VE MENTIONED THE MOVIE BURNING ANNIE BEFORE, and if you're in the New York area you can see it at the Hamptons Film Festival in a couple of weeks. (You can see trailers here.)

WESLEY CLARK, MANCUR OLSON AND THE BLOGOSPHERE: James Moore has some thoughts in response to my Recall Arnold! post from yesterday.

RALPH PETERS WRITES THAT BUSH IS BETRAYING THE KURDS: This is damning stuff if true -- nasty, and stupid besides. It's not clear to me, however, that it is true. But it bears watching.

The rap on America in the Middle East has always been that it screws its friends and appeases its enemies. We're supposed to be changing that.

UPDATE: Zach Barbera emails:

While being still somewhat skeptical of Turkey's good will in Iraq. I find it amusing that now that the Iraqi Governing Council has something bad to say about an American deal, the media suddenly finds the IGC legitimate.

Hmm. I'm tempted to spin a "rope-a-dope" theory based on that observation, but I think I'll restrain myself this one time.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Austin Bay has some (almost blog-like!) comments over at StrategyPage:

This puts the forces of a major Muslim nation in Iraq as peacekeepers, which is a political coup for the US. At the same time, the troops are (of course) Turks. Turkey has numerous current interests in Iraq as well as deep historical connections. Many Kurds and Arabs in Iraq have abundant reasons to distrust Turkey. There is also the possibility of political blowback inside Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking a huge domestic political risk. To say the majority of the Turkish population is uneasy about getting involved in Iraq puts it mildly.

Bay doesn't seem that enthusiastic -- if you read the whole post, I think it's fair to say that he characterizes it as high-risk, but only medium return.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Dignified Rant thinks that Peters is letting his hostility to the Turks, and his enthusiasm for a Kurdish state, distort his judgment here.

ALPHECCA'S MEDIA GUN BIAS CHART has some astonishing information this week.

UPDATE: Somehow had the wrong link before. Fixed now.

JUST IN CASE you'd gotten out of the habit of checking in with him, Stephen Green has been blogging up a storm lately.

ACCORDING TO ARMED LIBERAL, the California recall wasn't enough of a wake-up call for everybody.

STEVEN DEN BESTE OBSERVES:

Yesterday the citizens of the State of California performed a coup without firing a shot, and equally important, the government didn't resist it. On the contrary, the government ran the election by which that coup was implemented, and counted the votes honestly, and its leader accepted the result.

The fact of the recall itself is far more important than the details of why it took place. It could just as easily have been a recall of a conservative governor to be replaced by a liberal. If, two years from now, the citizens of California decide to recall Schwarzenegger so as to replace him with Barbara Streisand, then she'll become our governor.

And the beauty of that reality outweighs concerns with the result, doesn't it? At least, it should.

THIS ARTICLE says that Howard Dean is paying bloggers. I think this means Matt Gross, et al., who are running his campaign blog. But, just in case you were wondering, I'm not on the Dean payroll.

UPDATE: Chortle. When I posted the above, I thought I was just being cute. But apparently some commenters in this thread from LGF actually think I'm on the Dean payroll. Uh, no. And I don't actually turn puppies into a refreshing energy drink, either. Sheesh.

Nobody pays me to do this stuff. Sadly, probably nobody would. . . .

Really, I think the story that everyone's so excited about is being misconstrued. I think Dean's paying Matt Gross, just as Clark is paying Cam Barrett. I don't think the story's about sub rosa payments to bloggers for good treatment. Try reading it again.

THE BOSTON FBI SCANDALS JUST GET WORSE:

BOSTON - A former FBI agent who handled high-profile mob informants in Boston was arrested Thursday and charged with the 1981 mob-related murder of a Tulsa, Okla., businessman, his lawyer says.

H. Paul Rico, 78, is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Roger Wheeler, the 55-year-old chairman of Tulsa-based Telex Corp., who was shot in the head after playing a round of golf at Southern Hills Country Club on May 27, 1981.

Investigators have said Rico provided John Martorano, a hit man for the Boston-based Winter Hill Gang, with information on Wheeler's schedule so he could be killed.

This is just the latest in a series of problems growing out of the Boston FBI office, problems that suggest management issues with the FBI generally.

MATT WELCH WON'T MISS Gray Davis. Not one little bit.

BLOGS I SHOULD LINK MORE OFTEN: Howard Lovy's Nanobot, Donald Sensing's One Hand Clapping, Arthur Silber's Light of Reason, JoanneJacobs.com, AngryLeft, Silent Running, Silflay Hraka, VikingPundit, John Cole's Balloon Juice, David Hogberg's Cornfield Commentary, HeadHeeb, SayUncle, Kathy Kinsley's On The Third Hand, PrairiePundit, FuturePundit, QuasiPundit, ParaPundit, isntapundit, and, no doubt, a whole lot of others.

I try to get around, honest. But there are so many blogs, and so little time.

DISCUSSIONS OF THE TURKS' decision to send troops to Iraq have focused on whether the Iraqis like it (they don't) and whether it's bad for the Kurds (it might be). Both of these are important issues, and if I had my druthers, I'd keep the Turks out.

But the issue that I haven't seen discussed is what this means from the Turks' perspective -- and I think that one of the things it means is that the Turks think we're winning. If the Turks expected Iraq to dissolve into the bloody quagmire that some media types and pundits are still claiming it is, I expect that they'd keep well out of things.

LYNNE KIESLING has comments on Arnold's energy platform.

DANIEL DREZNER has more on media coverage of Iraq.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here's another firsthand account.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here, too.

THE BLOVIATOR LINKS to an important public health announcement.

AFTER ARAFAT DIES: Meryl Yourish has some thoughts about what to expect.

MARK STEYN ON PLAME:

If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up. This is no way to win a terror war.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Mark Kleiman writes:

If you're used to the idea that the people around George Bush do bad things, then it may be easy for you to swallow burning Valerie Plame as just another bad thing they did. But most of the bad things (bad, that is, in my view) that Bush and his colleagues do don't seem bad to them, or at least seem justified. (Sliming John McCain to win the South Carolina primary? Just politics; too bad, but that's the way the game is played.) From the very beginning, it's been hard for me to see how any of those folks could have talked themselves into an act so appallingly wrong according to their own standards.

It was hard for me to see that, too, but when I pointed it out people were accusing me of shilling for the Administration. Ron Bailey is sounding the same theme over at Reason:

Why would anyone in the White House think revealing that Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife worked under cover for the CIA would "punish" or "intimidate" him for publishing an article critical of the Bush Administration's use of bogus information about supposed Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger? If disclosing that information was aimed at somehow "discrediting" Wilson, it was just plain stupid. Besides being illegal, it just makes Wilson seem more credible, not less.

Why, yes. That's what I thought, too. As I noted a while back:

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?

Meanwhile, as Kleiman notes, the "six reporters" to whom the story was allegedly shopped and that we've heard so much about may not even exist -- rather, they may have been contacted after Novak's story. Seems like this case really is complicated, after all. Advantage: InstaPundit!

And I grow steadily more suspicious of the CIA role in this as time goes on. I was already in favor of seeing Tenet fired -- and have been pretty much since 9/11 -- so this isn't exactly a deciding factor for me. But perhaps it should be a deciding factor for President Bush.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon notes: "I think the great mystery that possibly is underlying the entire Plame/Wilson Affair is why Tenet was not fired in the first place after 9/11."

Well, things are still complicated, so I'm not sure I'll say that it's the mystery underlying Plame. But, to me at least, it's a mystery all its own.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Doug Levene emails:

In addition to your suspicions about CIA treachery afoot, I would add my dismay that Wilson is getting a free ride for perfectly dishonorable behavior, namely writing an Op-Ed about the results of a confidential mission that he undertook for the CIA simply because he was pissed off that the president failed to take his advice. I always thought that if you worked for the CIA, your work product stayed in Langley. That principle applies just as much to a one-time special assignment as to a career employee. Why aren't all the folks so indignant about protecting the sanctity of the CIA concerned about Wilson's breach of his duty of loyalty and confidentiality?

I think that the CIA is in desperate need of some re-engineering, and that Bush has been handed an excuse to do it.

MORE: Donald Sensing says that nobody really wants to expose the leaker, regardless of party, for obvious Washington institutional reasons.

But I do!

STILL MORE: Reader Frank Walters wonders:

Quite aside from alleged White House revenge motiations, nothing else about the Wilson/Plame dust-up makes any sense. Does not the CIA realize that assigning a covert agent's spouse to a special mission doubles the risk to both of exposure should either be revealed (particularly if both relate to WMDs)? I am amazed that they do not have a policy against such paralled missions for spouses. And does not Joseph Wilson have enough experience in public life to realize that stirring up a huge media storm increases whatever danger there is to his wife of being exposed through his mission (even if Novak had revealed her CIA connection earlier)? Finally, was his mission not classified? If so, why is he not in violation of the law by revealing its details? If it was not classified, assigning it to the spouse of a covert CIA agent makes even less sense.

I agree.

MORE STILL: Here.

THERE'S LOTS OF GOOD STUFF over at Gregg Easterbrook's Easterblogg -- and his discussion of Mel Gibson's Christ movie, and in particular his mention of Simon of Cyrene, reminds me of my high-school summer spent acting in the Smoky Mountain Passion Play, in which I sometimes played Simon (in blackface; I was the understudy). I was also understudy for the Thief On The Left, and I can report firsthand that crucifixion has nothing to recommend it, even when it's not for real.

WORTHWHILE CANADIAN OP-ED: No, really.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING PIECE ON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN WEBLOGS, by Lance Knobel in The Guardian:

The template for successful presidential campaigns was established by James ("It's the economy, stupid") Carville and Karl (Boy Genius) Rove. Stay relentlessly on message, control the agenda. But Howard Dean thinks there is another way. The Dean campaign for the Democrats has enthusiastically surrendered control to the internet. The success of Dean, who now leads the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, means other aspirant candidates are following his lead. . . .

"Our belief was you have to let control go," says Gross. "We truly are a grassroots campaign and if you build a command structure on top, you kill it. You have to have trust in the American people."

On the Web, you gain power by giving up control. The Clark crew doesn't seem to have quite figured that out yet, but they will, if they stay in the race long enough.

It's a real problem for the Bush campaign, because to an incumbent -- and especially the people who work for an incumbent -- the need for control seems much greater.

MORE TIRESOME CHIN-TUGGING by the self-appointed guardians of journalistic ethics:

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, believes that Leno -- along with other late-night talk show hosts -- crossed the line from entertainment into political journalism a long time ago, and needs to play by the rules of journalism.

"If you have a big show like Jay Leno and reach a lot of people, you have the power to influence hearts and minds. You have a responsibility to the public," Rosenstiel said. "If you want to play Peter Jennings, then you have to play by some of the same rules as Peter Jennings, even if 99 percent of your show is pure entertainment. You cross a line when you start to get into this other game. If his responsibility is to entertain people, and it ends there, maybe he should refrain from having political people on the air."

If Peter Jennings and his ilk, were better at discharging their responsibility to the public, and if experts in journalistic ethics were as quick to criticize the nonstop lefty-celebrity partisanship of the Today show as they are to jump on the host of the Tonight show when he supports a Republican, I guess this might have some substance.

MICHAEL BARONE on Schwarzenegger -- and Tony Blair:

But the main reason for his victory was that he is an outsider challenging a political system in which insiders have operated without effective supervision.

That's right, and it's why the Euros find the Schwarzenegger election so appalling, I think.

October 08, 2003

DAVID BERNSTEIN REPORTS A CENSORSHIP SCANDAL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA -- involving, of all people, David Bernstein.

First Roy Moore, and now this. It sounds as if the University of Alabama should be deeply embarrassed by this gesture of contempt toward academic freedom and free speech.

RECALL ARNOLD! OR, IS ARNOLD LIKE SEX? -- however you put it, it's addressed over at GlennReynolds.com.

AT LUNCHTIME TODAY, I moderated a panel discussion on digital downloading and music, featuring a bunch of musicians, songwriters, and industry people from Nashville. Here's the scary bit: one of the industry guys said that their big legislative priority is to try to create a regime where you have to register with a unique, verifiable ID to access the Internet.

No doubt the next step would be to take away that ID as punishment for "misconduct" on the Internet. Shades of Vernor Vinge's True Names.

UPDATE: Declan McCullagh links this post with a reference to the RIAA, and follows up with a post in which the RIAA (humorously) denies it. I should be clear that there was no RIAA representative at this panel; it was an industry guy, but not one from the RIAA.

RUTH WEDGWOOD WRITES:

If you can't enjoy a good laugh, you shouldn't serve as a diplomat at the United Nations. One source of amusement is Syria's current membership on the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee.

There are, of course, widely circulated reports that Syria has offered safe haven and training camps to groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Any succor to terror groups that seek out noncombatant civilians for mayhem and maiming for "political" purposes might seem to be inconsistent with the Counter-Terrorism Committee's program. . . .

Yes, it might.

MARK KLEIMAN HAS MOVED OFF OF BLOGSPOT, for which his readers will be forever grateful. And he's got an interesting proposal for getting to the bottom of the Plame affair. I like it, though of course the problem with his approach -- as opposed to my subpoena-the-journalists approach -- is that you'd have to be sure that the leaker was within the group in question, and I'm not sure how you could do that.

UPDATE: Chris Mooney has moved, too.

SCHWARZENEGGER RECALL PRESCIENCE: Back when this first came up, James Lileks wrote that the best reason to support a Schwarzenegger governorship was that "like all typical examples of American craziness, this will just horrify the Europeans."

Now Andrew Sullivan points out that he's right, with this quote from Le Monde:

Here's a state with 35 million people and a GDP about the size of France's. . . . And yet here's a state where, at a cost of millions of dollars, voters can dismiss a sitting governor barely eleven months after his election.

You can see why the unpopular French establishment would regard this as dangerous.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has more evidence of Lileks' genius. Chortle.

IF YOU'RE JUST READING INSTAPUNDIT, or maybe a few other blogs, you're missing out on the richness of the blogosphere. Why not drop by the Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this week by Shanti Mangala, and visit some of the blogs linked there? You might find some you like.

[Better than Instapundit? -- Ed. Hey, it could happen!]

Meanwhile, over at GlennReynolds.com, I've got some thoughts on the past and the future.

HERE, VIA DAVE WINER, is an absolutely fascinating map of the counties Arnold carried. Bustamante won only a narrow coastal strip centered around the Bay Area. What's more, my earlier post saying that Schwarzenegger and McClintock together got nearly 60% is wrong. They got over 60%. Given how California has gone in the past, I suspect that this has a lot of California Democrats worried. The most positive spin you can put on it is that Gray Davis was horribly disastrous. But I think the problem goes deeper than that. Will they be smart enough to do some serious rethinking, or will they blame the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and try to continue as before? (I'll bet I know what Karl Rove is hoping they'll do . . . .)

UPDATE: Several readers point out that it's not just the Democrats who need to be thinking. Reader Ken Bascom notes:

Perhaps the California Republican Party should be worried about these results, as well. If there's 60% of the population willing to vote for a Republican candidate, why didn't they do so 11 months ago when they had the chance? What is there about the policies, practices or philosophies of the Republican Party that prevents them from fielding a candidate that can win? Why is it that only an outsider that in effect imposes himself on the party the only Republican that can win?

Reader Byron Matthews adds:

Part of the blame for the California mess must be assigned to the state's Republicans for their sheer political ineptness in recent years. The system doesn't work when there is no credible opposition party.

I think that's right. And reader Debbie Lundell questions the validity of the numbers:

Glenn, isn't the greater than 60% for Arnold and Tom a bit misleading/?? It is actually 60% of 54% that voted FOR the recall...not 60% of voters....still impressive but.......

But that's not right, is it? You didn't have to vote in favor of the recall to vote on the replacement election, and Bustamante was -- until last week or so, anyway -- telling people to vote "no on the recall, si on Bustamante."

HERE'S AN ARTICLE on bloggers hitting the bigtime by Maureen Ryan in the Chicago Tribune. Among those mentioned are Matthew Yglesias, Michael Totten, Steven Den Beste, and Elizabeth Spiers.

TIM BLAIR FINDS AN EMBARRASSING CNN SLIP -- the kind that would get someone fired if it involved race.

HERE'S MORE ON THE OPEN VS. CLOSED SPLIT in the Wesley Clark campaign, from James Moore:

Three weeks ago a friend of mine traveled to Little Rock and began working for the Clark campaign. Despite having very good personal access to General Clark, he quit after a few days, citing the closed nature of the campaign organization. And now we hear a similar tale from the campaign manager.

By contrast, the Dean campaign is open to people and ideas. It is "out of control" in the best sense of the word. Innovators such as the people of MoveOn and Meetup and DeanLink are embraced. The campaign is fresh, alive, and inviting.

As I said at BloggerCon, on the Internet you get power by giving up control. The Dean people seem to get this. Clark's people, so far, don't. And they've started their campaign late enough that they're going to have to learn fast if they're going to learn at all.

ONCE AGAIN, the press kept the story from us:

News organizations had been poised to write the Hollywood ending for days, and the networks had been sitting on their exit-poll projections for hours -- no Florida humiliation possible because the thing wasn't close. The night's only cliffhanger was the Marlins beating the Cubs in the 11th.

And there was something surreal about reading Drudge's report -- which was correct -- that it wasn't close, and that the networks were going to call it for Schwarzenegger the minute the polls closed, and then turning on the TV just before they did and seeing the talking heads acting as if the whole question were up in the air, when they knew better, and were just about to say so.

Yeah, I know there's controversy about reporting this stuff before the polls close, but there's something worse than unseemly about, basically, lying to viewers for what you see as their own good. And once you admit you're doing it some of the time, as the networks do in these cases, you make people wonder when else you're doing it.

UPDATE: It's revealing, I think, that arguably the three biggest stories at the moment -- Iraq, the Plame affair, and the California recall -- are all marked by the press not telling us the whole story. And Ralph Peters is hopping mad about the Iraq coverage:

Recently, I visited Germany to speak with our soldiers, many just back from Iraq. The situation depicted in the media was unrecognizable to them. They'd just left a country where every indicator of success was turning positive. Yet the media insist we are incompetent and failing.

The Kurds are prospering. The Shi'ites no longer live in fear. Even most Sunni Arabs feel relieved that Saddam's gone. The mullahs are behaving. Local markets are busy and full of goods. The electricity's back on - more reliably than before the war. Schools are open. Oil's flowing. The Iraqi media is booming, boisterous and free. The Governing Council has convinced previously hostile factions to cooperate. Iraqis provide more and more of their own local security. And the torture chambers are closed.

What do we hear from Iraq? Another soldier killed. The rest is silence.

Actually, there have been some modest improvements as late. But he's basically right. And he's right about this, too:

They've already made a success of post-modern terrorism as surely as Colonel Tom Parker made Elvis a star.

Terrorists are parasitic on the press, and a particular kind of press coverage. Likewise, the press has become parasitic upon terrorists, since they provide dramatic stories without hard work.

But will the public respect, or trust, parasites? Or even continue to support expansive press freedom, in light of the press's irresponsibility?

Just something to think about.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points to this passage from the Peters oped on Iraq and contrasts it with the election coverage:

Much of the media has already called the game's outcome as a loss before we've reached half-time. Even though the scoreboard shows we're winning.

Heh. Yes, they're willing to call a war a quagmire as soon as the shooting starts, but they won't call an election when they know the outcome.

NOAH SHACHTMAN thinks that concerns about biochem weapons are overrated.

I hope he's right.

ORRIN JUDD WRITES that we should be moving to an open-source intelligence model.

THERE'S MORE TO THE WORLD THAN CALIFORNIA, and here's a roundup of African events from Winds of Change.

DANIEL WEINTRAUB WRITES:

It is sad, in a way, that the state’s public affairs are in such terrible shape that it has come to this. . . .

I understand the bitterness, but I’m disturbed by its depth. Several of the Democrats I spoke to were in strong denial about the message sent by the voters, the message being that they, and Davis, have been poor stewards of state government. They see this is an isolated event, a venting, that will quickly pass while they fight to maintain everything they have done the past five years. My gut tells me they are wrong, that there is something deeper here, a desire for fundamental change in the way the state does business and in the way politics works, or doesn’t work, in California.

I hope that the California political establishment will be smart enough to realize that this was a colossal rebuke, and will be moved to mend its ways. But if it were that smart, would things have come to this?

I suspect that national Democrats will respond to this by becoming still more bitter and shrill, that being the response that we've seen to other reverses lately, which won't help things either. But maybe not.

October 07, 2003

MICKEY KAUS offers a personal exit poll. Read it!

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is happy, and thinks this presages a revolution in politics. I'd like to see that, but I'm not so sure.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a firsthand report from a reader at Arnold's HQ last night:

A couple of quick observations from a long-time reader after spending a couple of hours at the Century Plaza Hotel where Arnold's campaign party was tonight:

1. Arnold's crowd doesn't look or act at all like typical California Republican supporters. They are younger and about 1000 times less dweeby/uptight/Babbit-y than the Republicans I remember turning out at events like this when I worked putting on events like this 10 years ago.

2. The crowd was genuinely friendly, polite and well behaved. [By way of contrast, a staffer's nightmare at events like this is the Podunk County party chairman or donor who thinks that their $500 donation entitles them to an uninterrupted half-hour with the candidate, etc.]

Well, Arnold did bring in a lot of new voters. But will they stick around for next time?

IT'S (UN)OFFICIAL: CNN and Fox are both calling the recall successful, with Schwarzenegger elected. The racial privacy initiative, which was polling well a while back, is projected by CNN to fail. (Interestingly, CNN says that women went for Schwarzenegger by a decent margin over Bustamante despite the late-breaking grope scandal. But you knew that anyway, because I had already disclosed my scientific exit-polling results.)

Congrats, Arnold. Now all you have to do is govern the most ungovernable state in America!

UPDATE: Most interesting bit so far: someone noted that according to the exit polls, Schwarzenegger and McClintock together got nearly 60% of the vote. That's got to have a lot of California Democrats worried.

How much should people trust the exit polls? I don't know. This is a rather, ahem, atypical election. On the other hand, the margins seem pretty big.

ROGER SIMON THINKS we're seeing the future.

UPDATE: John Scalzi, meanwhile, is unhappy.

A REALTIME INSTAFEED? Hmm. So far today I've had nearly 150,000 pageviews. At $4.95 an hour that's. . . oh, my.

Beats the tipjar!

DRUDGE says it's a Schwarzenegger landslide, and that the networks will call it for him as soon as the polls close.

UPDATE: Drudge must be right. The Dem spokesmen I just saw on TV were all complaining about the polling places. I suspect that they wouldn't be doing that if they expected to win.

THIS LOOKS LIKE A QUAGMIRE to me.

JUST SAW A FOX NEWS REPORT that Wesley Clark's campaign manager has resigned because he thinks that the campaign isn't paying enough attention to the Internet. He must've been watching the Bloggercon webcast.

I call it the first scalp for Matt Gross, Dean's Internet guy. And I suspect that Cam Barrett, Clark's Internet guy, will get listened to more, now. At least, that's how it should work.

UPDATE: Here's the AP story, via via Dave Winer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've gotten a couple of emails suggesting that this is part of a bigger split between the grassroots, internet-based "draft Clark" folks and the Beltway professionals who have come in later. That's to be expected, I suppose, but Clark needs to get it in hand soon. Having those kinds of problems this close to the primaries can't be good.

ACCORDING TO DRUDGE, exit polls show big wins for Arnold and the recall. Are they right? Beats me.

UPDATE: Comments, from Occam's Toothbrush -- which is surely one of the best-named blogs in existence.

RANTINGPROFS is a blog on media and politics by two professors of communications studies at North Carolina and Northwestern. It's worth checking out, even if they think I'm wrong about The New York Times.

LILY MALCOLM notes a further step in MoveOn's descent into utter self-parody.

JESSE VENTURA'S RATINGS are weak. On the other hand, given that I write for MSNBC, and I didn't even know his show was on the air until I saw this, the problem may have as much to do with the PR as with the show.

"THE ADVENT OF THE HOME MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY is not far off." Is that a good thing? Um, it's mixed.

ROBERT TAGORDA has a roundup of reports from bloggers who voted in the recall.

THERE'S A NEW POLITICS BLOG over at OpinionJournal, featuring John Fund and Holman Jenkins.

The bad news: It'll soon be pay-only. The good news: It's free at the moment.

Good day to start, guys!

WHILE EVERYONE IS WATCHING CALIFORNIA, lots of stuff is going on in Venezuela.

PHIL CARTER has comments on military voters in the California recall.

Meanwhile it's Arnold Central over at Blogcritics.

THE CALIFORNIA RECALL TURNOUT is reportedly heavy.

I'm predicting a Schwarzenegger victory. One of my former students, a rather feisty woman, emailed that she voted for him. If the last-minute groping business didn't scare her off, my guess is that it won't scare off enough women to make a difference.

VIRGINIA POSTREL suggests that media negativity on Iraq stems from problems mentioned in her book, The Future and Its Enemies.

SGT. STRYKER writes that the war is over, and we've won. Thank goodness. It was starting to seem like a quagmire.

HALF-EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

The nation essentially is split in half over whether to accept gay and lesbian marriage, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

While 48% of those surveyed say allowing gay unions "will change our society for the worse," 50% say they would be an improvement or have no effect.

That's amazing progress. Less than 20 years ago, the Supreme Court said it was OK to send gay people to jail for having sex. Now half the country is comfortable with gay marriage.

UPDATE: Volokh isn't so sure about this poll.

DANIEL DREZNER notes progress in Afghanistan, and points out what's standing in the way of more rapid improvement.

NOAH SHACHTMAN WRITES about libertarians disenchanted with Bush. I think this is a real issue, though I note that in a way it's mostly about the war: Shachtman quotes well-known antiwar libertarians like Jim Henley, Julian Sanchez, Gene Healy, Radley Balko, etc. That doesn't make it less significant, politically, though.

How significant is it? I don't know. Libertarians don't control a lot of votes (and are deeply split on the war), but elections tend to be close these days. I think that Bush is far more vulnerable than most Republicans seem to think, and that Howard Dean might well be able to beat him, especially if he positions himself as reasonably pro-gun and doesn't frighten people away by caving to too many Democratic special interests. Can Dean do that? Maybe. Democrats are desperate, as they were in 1992, and they will cut any candidate who looks like he can beat Bush a lot of slack. My prediction: a Dean/Edwards ticket.

UPDATE: Reader Chaim Karczag emails that only part of it is the war:

But it's also about runaway domestic spending on social programs and a ballooning size of government. President Bush is spending like a drunken sailor and running huge deficits, while never once mentioning the need for fiscal prudence or that the government might be overextended. Compassionate conservatism is costing the country a fortune. Rolling back the frontiers of the state is simply not on the agenda. Dark days for those who harbor a libertarian impulse.

That's right, and I wonder if the Shachtman article wasn't Kuttnerized to emphasize the war (which Kuttner doesn't like) and de-emphasize the big-government aspects (which Kuttner probably likes).

There's an interesting structural issue here. I think that Republican Presidents have to overspend to protect their left flank (and they can get away with it because the press will let them -- overspending is a Democratic stereotype, and the press mostly thinks in stereotypes). For the same reason, Democrats tend to be worse on civil liberties. So what do libertarians do?

TYPE M AND TYPE C: Arnold Kling writes an open letter to Paul Krugman.

STEVE VERDON VOTED in the recall today, and offers a firsthand report on the ballot's complexities.

UPDATE: Here's a report of voter harassment from California.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm not sure, but I think that Howard Veit is calling me an asshole for suggesting that the California ballot is complex. Of course, by Howard's standards that's exceedingly mild. . . .

HILLARY RUNNING? Reader Leonard Murphy sends this:

Go to the Federal Election Commission homepage at www.fec.gov.
On the left of their homepage is a link labeled "Campaign Finance Reports and Data", click it.
Scroll down a ways to Image/Query System, under that choose "View Financial Reports"...
Under the intro paragraph choose "Search the Report Image System"
In the dialogue box type "Clinton" and click "Get Listing"
20 entries down you`ll see "CLINTON, HILLARY RODHAM", click on the blue number "P00003392" beside her name.

Guess what? "Presidential Candidate 2004 ".

Hillary Rodham Clinton filed late Friday, Oct 3rd, with the Federal Election Commission to run for President in 2004.

I followed his instructions and it took me here. Sure looks that way.

UPDATE: Hmm. Several readers, meanwhile, note that this is likely someone else filing for her. I don't know what that means.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez says the readers are right.

My readers: smarter than me, as usual.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More evidence that this is bogus, from Eugene Volokh.

MY TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN IS UP, and it's an interview with Neal Stephenson, in which we discuss the Seventeenth Century's relation to the present, in light of his new novel, Quicksilver.

UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster comments, and compares Stephenson to Umberto Eco. And John Scalzi writes that Quicksilver really is science fiction, even though Stephenson has managed to fool people into not noticing.

HOWARD DEAN IS A POLITICAL GENIUS: While various people are snarking at Patrick Kennedy's condemnation of Dean's second amendment stance, they're missing the real story, which is that this is a masterstroke for Dean. This kind of thing won't hurt Dean's chances of getting the nomination, and being attacked by a Kennedy on gun control will be a big plus in the general election if Dean gets the nomination. Democrats will vote for him anyway, and it'll help him with the many moderates put off by the gun-prohibitionist mindset of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg responds.

SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR MICHAEL MOORE: Hilarious, and devastating. And here are seven more.

KAUS is all over California matters, as you might expect.

UPDATE: Ex-Californian Virginia Postrel weighs in on Arnold, too, and isn't as impressed as some.

EVERYBODY AT BLOGGERCON WAS DISSING THE BUSH CAMPAIGN for not having a blog.

Now Patrick Ruffini emails that it's gotten one. Coincidence? Suuurre it is. . . . .

October 06, 2003

OBLIGATORY CALIFORNIA RECALL POST: I don't have very strong feelings about it, which is why I haven't blogged on it all that much. I think that anybody is probably better than Davis, except maybe Bustamante. [Even Arianna Huffington? -- Ed. Sadly, yes.]

The too-cleverly-contrarian pundit point is that this is like running for captain of the Titanic, and that an Arnold victory will be bad for the Republicans. Though too-clever, it may actually be true. Will Arnold, if he wins, be able to cut spending enough to balance the budget? I don't know, but I kind of doubt it. (The really-too-clever contrarian pundit in me wants to predict that the recall will fail, just because that would be the most perverse outcome of all, and that seems, somehow, entirely fitting with the proceedings to date.)

If Arnold does wind up as Governor, he could do worse than look at Tennessee's Democratic Governor, Phil Bredesen, who took over in a fiscal crisis that -- while nowhere near California's magnitude -- was pretty serious. Bredesen has won respect from pretty nearly everyone by being honest, and doing what he said he'd do. Hey, it's worth a try in California!

Internet Ronin has more thoughts, as well as a list of things to watch. And the Indepundit reminds us why Gray Davis is in this fix.

Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus, PrestoPundit, Calblog, and Daniel Weintraub are blogging up a storm, so I don't have to!

I'll close with this, my favorite photo from the recall.

UPDATE: The L.A. Weekly provides stunning evidence of the L.A. Times' partisan hackery. This is yet another reason why campaign finance "reform" is a joke -- this is effectively a huge secret campaign donation that just happens to be exempt from the law.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Tagorda will be offering continuous coverage, too.

I'VE MADE FUN OF THE NEW YORK TIMES for taking eight years to correct an error involving me. But this is more dramatic:

An article in The Times Magazine on Sept. 22, 1974, about the movie actor Charles Bronson, who died on Aug. 30 this year, misstated his military record. Publicity material asserting that Mr. Bronson had been a B-29 gunner in World War II, called into doubt by the article, was indeed correct.

Better late than never, I guess, but sheesh.

Thanks to reader Joshua Kreitzer for the pointer.

UPDATE: Reader John Tuttle emails:

It's pretty bad when Hollywood flackery is more accurate than NY Times hackery. . . . "Publicity material asserting that Mr. Bronson had been a B-29 gunner in World War II, called into doubt by the article, was indeed correct."

I'm a Watergate baby, being in High School and watching the hearings. Today, politicians like Bush and Blair are MORE trustworthy than the media. I would never have believed that I would feel this way.

Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

ANTITERRORISM DROPPED BALL: If this story pans out, it's a major screwup by someone. Will it? Beats me. These stories keep popping up, but never seem to get traction.

ANOTHER BLOGGERCON FOLLOWUP POST: Hey, I couldn't blog then, so I'll have to put these up as time permits.

Jeff Jarvis and I talked about someone saying that bloggers should disclose their prejudices -- my comment was that a blog is one long disclosure of prejudices. I was being sort of cute, but it's true. Everybody has blind spots and biases. Bloggers seldom pretend otherwise (though of course we all have some biases of which we're entirely unaware). But when you read a blog for a while, you know a lot about the blogger. And it's easy to get the other side by visiting other blogs, written by other people with different biases and blind spots, especially with the help of cool tools like Technorati, etc. That's different from a monopoly newspaper, or a semimonopoly broadcast outlet, where there aren't that many alternatives (though even there things are improving, thanks to the Internet and new TV alternatives). Dave Winer said that he thinks the blogosphere as a whole is the relevant unit, not the individual blog. I think that's about right.

PLANS FOR A FRENCH NEWS NETWORK to compete with CNN and Fox have produced various suggestions for logos and set design over at Fark.

JUST BECAUSE THE PRESS IS, ahem, overly negative on Iraq doesn't mean that everything there is rosy. It just means that it's hard to tell how things are going, and one of my fears has been that press negativity might actually cause the White House to start ignoring actual bad news. That doesn't seem to be the case, as this story reports that Bush is unhappy with progress in Iraq and Afghanistan and has tasked Condi Rice with fixing things.

The good news is that the White House is responding with a change in approach. As Jonathan Rauch notes:

The fact that the Bush administration keeps adjusting its course, often contravening its own plans or preferences, is a hopeful sign. . . .

Only trial and error, otherwise known as muddling through, can work in Iraq. There is no other way. Muddling through is not pretty, but never underestimate America's genius for it. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington never enjoyed the luxury of planning, but they were two of the finest muddlers-through the world has ever known, and they did all right.

As Rauch also says, the 2004 election is perfectly timed for the American people to judge how things are going in Iraq. I think that Bush's presidency will, and should, depend largely on that answer. Sounds like Bush feels the same way.

The big question: Does this make a Condi Rice VP slot more, or less, likely? That probably depends on how things go, too.

HERE'S A BLOG OFFER that you can't refuse. Well, maybe you can. I think that I see Pejman's influence in this. Er, good luck, and I hope it pays off for you!

SO MUCH FOR THE CLAIM that U.S. corporations control Iraqi rebuilding contracts:

Iraq's U.S.-led government awarded licenses Monday for firms to set up mobile phone networks, rebuffing calls by some American lawmakers to use U.S.-backed technology to restore shattered communications.

Iraqi Communications Minister Haidar al-Ebadi said Iraq's three regional networks would use the GSM system, already adopted across the Middle East. U.S.-backed technology is based on the CDMA system.

The licenses are among the most potentially lucrative and high-profile contracts to be offered in postwar Iraq.

In a way this makes sense -- GSM is more common around the world, and particularly in neighboring countries. Unfortunately, it's an inferior technology, according to Steven Den Beste, a knowledgeable if not entirely disinterested commentator. Oh, well.

PAT ROBERTSON WAS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL IDIOTARIANS. Here's proof that he belonged there:

"He started off playing a chauffeur in 'Driving Miss Daisy,' and then they elevated him to head of the CIA, and then they elevated him to president and in his last role they made him God. I just wonder, isn't Rush Limbaugh right to question the fact, is he that good an actor or not?"

-- Pat Robertson on his "700 Club" television show, using the example of black actor Morgan Freeman to defend Limbaugh's jab at Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Note to Robertson: Freeman's a better actor than you are a, well, whatever it is that you are.

UPDATE: Reader Bill Long emails: "Robertson is a lot better idiot than Freeman is."

Everyone has to be good at something. Reader Bill McCabe emails:

Robertson needs to get his dates straight. He was President (Deep Impact, 1998) before he was head of the CIA (Sum of All Fears, 2002). As for his acting credentials, I challenge Robertson to name one movie in which Morgan Freeman has turned in a bad performance; even in absolute garbage like "Dreamcatcher", he imbues his characters with a credibility and believability that Robertson can't match on "The 700 Club".

Well, Robertson is certainly flunking with the important "readers named Bill" demographic!

IT WAS MY UNDERSTANDING that there would be no math.

KHOMEINI CALLS FOR a U.S. invasion of Iran. No, really.

I don't think it's going to happen, but I suppose I could be wrong.

HOW TO GET AN ACADEMIC TO BLOG: Sounds about right to me.

ERNIE THE ATTORNEY wonders:

Does Novak know who the person who leaked the information is? He's not saying, claiming the need to protect his source. I don't have a problem with him protecting his source. I'm all for the press needing their internal sources so that they can ferret out corruption and political misdeed.

But this isn't Watergate, and the press isn't ferreting out political misdeed; it is --from what I can tell-- willingly participating in pure political retribution. And, if that's the case (and I'm not saying it is because I don't know), I wonder why the press should have special protection? Just exactly what sort of behavior are we trying to reward by giving them protection in cases like this?

I'd say it's more a case of bowing to the press's political power than rewarding useful behavior. This is the equivalent of textile tariffs or pork-barrel spending: an industry extracting special treatment based on its ability to reward friends and punish enemies.

A USEFUL CAUTIONARY NOTE from James Bovard, regarding the D.C. sniper case:

The feds and local police, instead of using common sense and analyzing excellent leads, brought in Pentagon spy planes to canvas the entire Washington area. The use of the RC-7 planes may have been a breach of the Posse Comitatus Act (which prohibits using the military for domestic law enforcement) but all that mattered was assuring frightened people the government cared and was taking action. The planes provided no information that aided the apprehension of the suspects.

Federal agents and Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose sought to keep a tight grip on key information regarding the case. But it was a cable television leak regarding the license plate and car description that directly led to the apprehension of the suspects.

The bungling response to the snipers is a reminder that nothing happened on September 11, 2001, to make the government more competent. Neither of the two sniper suspects would have qualified for admission to med school to become brain surgeons. Far more damage could have done by a clique of savvy, well-trained foreigner snipers.

True enough. Here's a related piece that I wrote last year.

THE WILSON SCANDAL just jumped the shark. Or maybe it ran into Emily Litella.

A FIRESTORM OVER JOURNALISTIC SECRECY? I predict one, over at GlennReynolds.com, and judging from Romenesko's front page this morning, I may be right.

UPDATE: Reader Ric Manhard emails:

If I could have one question answered, it would be this:

Why does "The People's Right To Know" stop at the newsroom door?

That's the question bloggers keep asking, isn't it?

MY GOODNESS, a fight between a man who buys ink by the barrel, and a man who buys pixels by the bushel. Who'll win this one? Besides the phone company, I mean.

TIM BLAIR WRITES THAT Michael Moore is "practically swimming in evil Saudi cash!"

MORE ON JOURNALISTIC ETHICS: Jeff Jarvis has some concerns.

DAVID KAY ON MEDIA COVERAGE:

October 6, 2003 -- The head of the weapons hunt in Iraq yesterday said his teams are hot on the trail of anthrax and Scud missiles, and he's "amazed" that anyone could think the search so far is a failure.

David Kay also said, "We're going to find remarkable things" about Iraq's weapons program.

His teams have already found a vial of botulinum toxin - "one of the most toxic elements known" - in the refrigerator of an Iraqi scientist who'd hidden it since 1993. . . .

Kay, a former U.N. inspector, added that, "I'm surprised no one has paid attention to" his revelation last week that the Iraqis also violated U.N. sanctions by working on new toxins like Congo-Crimea and hemorrhagic fever.

Funny that this gets so little attention.

UPDATE: The story above says "botulinum toxin." This story says it was botulism bacteria, which would be a somewhat lesser deal. Which is true? Beats me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It seems that the Post report is right. Here's what Kay actually said:

Well, that's one of the most fascinating stories. An Iraqi scientist in 1993 hid in his own refrigerator reference strains for — active strains, actually would've — were still active when we found them — Botulinum toxin, one of the most toxic elements known.

Wonder why the Times/AP story reports it differently? Or is something left out in this transcript, like "the germ that makes Botulinum toxin, one of the most toxic elements known"?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, got back from my committee meeting (miraculously, still awake!) and looked at the actual Kay statement, a link to which was forwarded by helpful reader Tom Brosz. Here's the key bit:

A very large body of information has been developed through debriefings, site visits, and exploitation of captured Iraqi documents that confirms that Iraq concealed equipment and materials from UN inspectors when they returned in 2002. One noteworthy example is a collection of reference strains that ought to have been declared to the UN. Among them was a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced. This discovery - hidden in the home of a BW scientist - illustrates the point I made earlier about the difficulty of locating small stocks of material that can be used to covertly surge production of deadly weapons. The scientist who concealed the vials containing this agent has identified a large cache of agents that he was asked, but refused, to conceal. ISG is actively searching for this second cache.

As several readers point out, the toxin is far more deadly than the bacterium -- but the bacteria can be used to produce lots of toxin rather quickly (that's the "surge production" point), whereas the toxin itself is an end product: bacteria can make toxin, toxin can't make more toxin. So from a weapons-production standpoint the bacteria are worse. I don't know why the transcript is wrong -- either Kay misspoke, or the transcriptionist missed something.

Meanwhile, here's a bit more from the transcript linked above:

KAY: Tony, it's important to stress the word "yet." We have not only Secretary Powell, we have Iraqi generals telling us that they had them. Unfortunately, they're not able to tell us where they are now. And that's why we're looking so hard.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, there's more information on botulism here, and here.

And a couple of readers wonder what happened to the tons and tons of anthrax and botulinum that U.N. inspectors identified before 1998. Well, that's the big question, isn't it? Either Saddam destroyed it and then pretended not to have done so (which seems unlikely) or it's still somewhere. But where? Or were the U.N. inspectors lying? That seems unlikely, too, doesn't it?

BILL HOBBS LOOKS at the Society of Professional Journalists' ethical code and observes:

Concealing the name of a source who may have compromised national security would seem not to fit within those ethical guidelines. In fact, it would seem unethical to do so - and concealing the leaker's identity while calling on the White House to reveal it is a serious conflict of interest. Revealing the name of the leaker would, on the other hand, fit the ethical guideline of focusing on the public's right to know, and would hold the leaker, presumably a person of some powerful position, accountable for their actions. It also fits well within the SPJ Code of Ethics' view of anonymous sources, which is that reporters should strive to use named sources as much as possible, and to not promise anonymity to sources whose motives may be suspect.

Read the whole thing.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Niger is only part of Africa, which is, like, an entire continent. What this means is that "Niger" is not, in fact, a synonym for "Africa."

Just, you know, pointing that out.

ANOTHER PERSON RETURNS FROM IRAQ and says that the media portrayal is distorted:

Lewis Lucke had heard from his wife, Joy, and their friends in Texas that the news media's view of events in Iraq was bleak.

But the 52-year-old foreign service officer, who is directing the multibillion-dollar reconstruction of Iraq, wasn't really prepared for just how bleak when he returned home to Austin this week for a five-day visit, his first since May.

"There's just an incredible amount of productive stuff going on over there, with a lot of Iraqi participation," he said. "To come here and see it portrayed as a failure in the making -- it's very superficial and inaccurate."

Read the whole thing. We just keep getting these reports, from all sorts of observers. I think it's a major blow to media credibility.

THIS IS WEIRD: A reader somehow interprets this post from Saturday, about the need to subpoena reporters to get at the truth of the Plame affair, as advice to the White House on how to cover the story up.

Actually, the press -- at least the members who were leaked to, and those with whom they've spoken -- knows the answer to this story already. It's possible that the White House (or at least George Bush) doesn't. I'm trying to get the story out, not keep it in. If there's a coverup here, it's the press that's conducting it.

It's true, of course, that this approach might discourage such leaks in the future. But that's a good thing, isn't it? From what we're hearing -- especially from critics of the Administration -- this wasn't one of those leaks that does good. It's a major threat to national security, we're told, and it was done purely for spite. If that's true, discouraging similar leaks in the future would seem to be a benefit, not a drawback. This isn't a "whistleblower" leak, where somebody exposes government misconduct on condition of anonymity. Here, it's the leak itself that's the misconduct, and it's the anonymity that let it happen, and that is keeping the leaker from being punished for conduct that everyone seems to regard as wrong.

Interestingly, I caught a bit of "Reliable Sources" at the airport yesterday, and Joe Conason was saying two things that I agreed with. First, that if, as we're hearing, the six reporters are gossiping about the identity of the leaker, that's very bad: if it's really a "confidential source," you don't tell anyone except your editor and maybe your lawyer. Certainly if journalists are willing to "leak" the identity of the leaker, their claim that they shouldn't be forced to expose it publicly, when they're sharing it with friends and hangers-on, becomes awfully weak. Whatever happened to "the public's right to know?"

Conason also suggested that President Bush publicly release the reporters from any duty of confidentiality, on behalf of the Administration. I kind of doubt that this would fly -- I imagine that reporters view confidentiality as something they owe the source personally, and not something that can be waived by the source's boss -- but it's worth a try, I suppose. At any rate, it's nice to see that Conason and I are in agreement about the importance of getting beyond claims of confidentiality, and finding out the truth. I wish I'd seen the rest of the show, but I had to board my flight, so I don't know how his comments were received by the other guests.

UPDATE: Reader Mike Hancock sends this suggestion:

There is something Bush could do that would be more effective than Bush himself denouncing any confidentiality agreement with anyone in his administration concerning Ms. Plame. He could--and should--order all his White House staff to execute a letter releasing any reporter from any confidentiality agreement with any such employee. Failure to execute such a letter would result in dismissal.

Yeah. Though I still wonder if reporters would care.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more from John Rosenberg, who disagrees with me (somewhat) in the update at the bottom.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chris Evans agrees with Rosenberg, more or less, and thinks that I've got this wrong:

Why wouldn't this be a whistleblower's leak? If the leaker thought that Wilson was sent to Niger because his CIA wife recommended him, wouldn't revealing that fact be damaging to Wilson's credibility and to the CIA?

It makes no sense to try and damage Wilson by outing his wife. It DOES make sense to leak an example of corruption in the CIA, which led to the Wrong Guy going to Niger. I'm pretty sure the CIA recommendation was accepted without further investigation because it came from the CIA; they're the ones who are supposed to know this and make these recommendations. In theory, the administration shouldn't have to recheck the CIA on these things.

The CIA made a bad recommendation, (perhaps) based on nepotism, and someone leaked this to the press. Or Novak asked someone "why was this guy sent to Niger" and got an earful. Apparantly, the administration missed the media's shift from "CIA=EVIL" to "CIA=Not quite as EVIL as BUSH".

Hmm. For this to be true, the press would have to be so blinded by anti-Bush feeling that it's missed the real story.

[NOTE: The Rosenberg link was broken -- I had a typo I didn't notice -- but it's fixed now. Sorry. I try to check those, but I've been busy today.]

JAY ROSEN has an interesting post regarding bloggers and the New York Times, and it reminds me of something I wanted to say at the conference, but never got a chance to say. Bloggers bash the Times' reporting all the time. (Though as the Times' Allen Siegal notes, it's not all bad: "We're not happy that blogs became the forum for our dirty linen, but somebody had to wash it and it got washed.")

But we pick on the Times not least because we have a vision of it that's perhaps more optimistic than that of anyone who actually works there. And, in fact, the Times is the best overall newspaper on the Web: its coverage is more comprehensive, its website is well-designed, easy to navigate, and reliable, and though the reporting is often shaded with stealth punditry in some areas, the reporting in other areas is the best around -- in the area of nanotechnology, for example, the Times has everybody else beat, except for specialty publications like Smalltimes. That's why we link to it so much, and why we talk about it so much.

HERE'S ANOTHER FIRSTHAND REPORT FROM IRAQ saying that things are better than the Big Media coverage makes them sound.

But Big Media is catching on. Here's a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Jonathan Rauch writes:

Consistently, however, observers -- including some I know personally and trust -- return from Iraq reporting that the picture up close is better than the images in the media. Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution military analyst who is no pushover for the Bush administration, recently came back saying that the quality of the work being done in Iraq by American forces is "stunning."

If the future in Iraq looks dismal, someone forgot to tell the Iraqis. A poll by the Gallup Organization found Iraqis saying, by a 2-to-1 ratio, that Saddam Hussein's ouster was worth the subsequent hardships. A plurality told Gallup (a month ago, when the poll was taken) that Iraq was worse off than before the invasion, but two-thirds expected Iraq to be better off in five years than before the invasion, and only 8 percent expected it to be worse off.

The Bush administration reports that "virtually all" major Iraqi hospitals and universities have been reopened, and hundreds of schools have been rebuilt. As of late September, American fatalities (just over 300), although too numerous, were still only slightly higher than the 293 lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The bad reasons for viewing this mixed but by no means disastrous situation as a nightmare, a quagmire, or a failure have to do with the fact that a lot of people -- some Europeans, some doves, some partisans -- want President Bush or America or both to fail. Partly that is a result of rancor and opportunism, but it also inheres in a pre-emptive engagement. A war to prevent war is bound to be controversial, and this one created a constituency against itself.

Read the whole thing. And also read this piece entitled "America's Unheralded Victory:"

From the soldiers' perspective, the main US failure in Iraq to date has little to do with the situation on the ground. The main failure is the inability to transmit the reality they experienced daily to the American people.

"Our biggest mistake was letting go of the embedded media," says 2-7 executive officer Maj. Kevin Cooney.

"After the embedded reporters left, the reports coming out had no context. The reporters didn't understand the situation. They had no sense of what was actually going on and they didn't seem to care. They acted like ambulance chasers moving from one attack against US soldiers to the next without giving any sense of the work that was being accomplished," says Maj. Rod Coffey.

And here's another piece, this one from The Observer, along the same lines:

Visceral distrust of Bush/Blair has created a disregard both for fact and for the victims of Saddam. . . . Western commentators have luxuriated in the setbacks of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), as if wishing failure upon it - and by extension, the Iraqi people. . . .

In the summer I spent more than a month in Iraq. What I found did not correspond to what was being reported - most crucially, that the liberators were already widely denounced as occupiers. As a rule, that simply wasn't true. In Baghdad, where US forces had permitted looting (although not as much as reported) and where security and services were virtually non-existent, attitudes towards the Americans were mixed. But even in Baghdad, even with Saddam and his sons still at large, the sense of relief at the toppling of the regime was palpable.

Yes. I'd say that the case that media reporting from Iraq was too negative through the summer is now pretty solid.

CLAYTON CRAMER OFFERS more criticism of John Lott's critics, once again on matters not involving complex mathematical and statistical issues.

Meanwhile Tim Lambert has responded to an earlier post of Cramer's on the subject.

October 05, 2003

JOE LIEBERMAN AND "LIES:" Some cogent thoughts on the difference between being wrong and being dishonest.

MURDER RATES ARE AT A RECORD LOW, dropping back to the levels of 40 years ago. The drop started about ten years ago.

This isn't proof that the wave of liberalized handgun-carry laws over the same period has driven murder rates down, and I rather suspect that there are multiple factors involved, but it certainly disproves the promises of gun-control proponents that blood would run in the streets if such laws were adopted.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, interestingly, despite a near-complete handgun ban gun crime is climibing sharply in Britain:

Handgun crime has soared past levels last seen before the Dunblane massacre of 1996 and the ban on ownership of handguns introduced the year after Thomas Hamilton, an amateur shooting enthusiast, shot dead 16 schoolchildren, their teacher and himself in the Perthshire town.

It was hoped the measure would reduce the number of handguns available to criminals. Now handgun crime is at its highest since 1993.

One argument by anti-gun-control folks that I never found very persuasive was that if guns were banned people would simply manufacture illegal ones. But that's exactly what's happening in Britain, according to this story.

UPDATE: Andy Freeman is bemoaning my skepticism about illegal manufacture -- click "More" to find out why.

ANOTHER UPDATE: "Gun Death" rates are down in Canada after stricter gun controls, though if you go all the way to the bottom of this story you'll see that overall homicide has gone up.

Read More ?


I'M PRETTY INTERESTED IN WI-FI, and I blog on it pretty often. But if you're seriously interested you should be reading Glenn Fleishman's blog, which covers nothing but wifi, and at a much higher level of sophistication than you're likely to find here.

HERE'S MORE ON OUTSOURCING from the New York Times. More support for my prediction that this will be an election issue:

Now political groups are offering estimates. The Progressive Policy Institute, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, will soon publish its calculation of manufacturing jobs shifted overseas since George W. Bush took office just before the recession began, said Rob Atkinson, a vice president. Not surprisingly, the estimate — imputed from trade data — is on the high side: 800,000 jobs lost to overseas production.

Not surprising at all.

THE BEST PART OF BLOGGERCON, for me, was last night when I was wireless-blogging at the hotel bar. Halley Suitt and Adam Curry showed up, declared that they were staging an intervention of the sort that Andrew Sullivan said I needed, and made me stop blogging and have a drink. Er, drinks. Dan Gillmor, Doc Searls, and a host of other bloggers showed up shortly thereafter, and an excellent time was had by all.

Who knew that this intervention stuff could be so much fun?

Thanks to Dave Winer for a terrific conference, in spite of the technical glitches.

UPDATE: Hmm. Judging by this post, Halley had more fun than I did that night. No wonder she left early!

I'M BACK, but won't be blogging or responding to email for a while. But here's a post by Steven Den Beste that's disturbing.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus comments.