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November 29, 2003

HOWARD OWENS IS DEFENDING HILLARY CLINTON -- and he's got a point. It's also worth looking at this speech by Hillary in support of the Iraq war authorization. Excerpt:

Over eleven years have passed since the UN called on Saddam Hussein to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction as a condition of returning to the world community. Time and time again he has frustrated and denied these conditions. This matter cannot be left hanging forever with consequences we would all live to regret. War can yet be avoided, but our responsibility to global security and to the integrity of United Nations resolutions protecting it cannot. I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year's terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

Indeed. (Link via email from Tom Maguire, who inexplicably didn't blog this himself).

THE GREAT UNRAVELLING: "Protesters turn on Jesse Jackson during rally."

STUDENTS FOR WAR is calling for military action against North Korea. This seems a bit premature to me. Of course, I would have said the same thing about invading Afghanistan in, say, 2000. So what do I know?

MY LIMITED HOLIDAY BLOGGING has caused me to ignore the momentous happenings in Venezuela. But Miguel Octavio has the big events there covered.

BLOG-IRAN is a pro-Iranian-freedom collective of blogs and more.

THE DEEDS BLOG, from a CPA worker in Baghdad, has a firsthand report of Hillary Clinton's visit.

HERE'S MORE on the Iraqi anti-terror demonstrations. These seem to have been poorly organized -- Zeyad, who was very excited about the prospect of demonstrating on December 10, didn't know about them, and isn't sure if this means the December 10 ones were cancelled or will still happen. But it's certainly a bit of good news.

The BBC story, sadly, puts "terrorism" in scare quotes. Jeff Jarvis links other coverage.

IRAQI SCIENCE: Howard Lovy observes:

Whether Iraq had a nuclear weapons program just before the U.S. invasion will be debated for decades to come, but there is one indisputable fact that should be dealt with in the short term: Iraq's science community is now one of the country's richest untapped natural resources.

Very interesting post.

IRAQI BLOGGER THE MESOPOTAMIAN has comments on Bush's Iraq visit:

Yes GWB, though the visit was brief, it was very meaningful. We know that you have come, not as the President of an invading nation, but as the friend who wishes to renew commitment to our people, and as long as your intentions are what you have repeatedly said (and we don't doubt your sincerity), the land and the hearts welcome you.

It gives us pain that the visit is so short and that the masses cannot in the present circumstances come out to give you the welcome that you deserve, but the day will come, the day will come (God's Willing). Yes the day will come when the millions will come out to welcome the best friend that the Mesopotamian people have ever had, and he will be amongst the most devoted and allied people that America will ever have.

The bones in the mass graves salute you, Avenger of the Bones.

Wow. Meanwhile, Tacitus rounds up some other reactions to Bush's visit.

UPDATE: I think that these are the bones he means.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently, meanwhile, the folks at Counterpunch need lessons in remedial time-telling. Er, among many, many other things. Bill Whittle, on the other hand, can tell time -- and do the math.

November 28, 2003

IRAQI BLOGGER ZEYAD has comments on Bush's visit ("To tell the truth I'm still shocked to this moment that he took the risk to come here. I used to like him before, but now I admire the guy.") and a report on anti-terror demonstrations in Baghdad today. Iraqi blogger Omar has a longer report on the demonstrations.

THE ECONOMIST has a story on the Executive Life / Credit Lyonnais scandal -- which may result in high French politicos being tried by the United States -- and another on Jacques Chirac's efforts to keep things covered up:

Both the bank and CDR are keen to close the affair. France's finance minister has no problems with the proffered deal. Not so Jacques Chirac, France's president. Late on November 25th, the French president simply refused to sign. The reason is that the proposed settlement still excludes François Pinault, one of France's richest businessmen and one of Mr Chirac's closest friends. Mr Pinault, whose company Artémis bought Executive Life and made fat profits, was behind the derailing of the settlement last month. After Mr Pinault lobbied Mr Chirac, France's justice minister said that his country wanted a “global” settlement, leaving “no one outside”. . . .

It is unclear why the American camp is risking its own credibility by playing along with what amounts to French political cronyism.

I don't think that American credibility has ever been enhanced by playing along with French political cronyism. Are we trying not to embarrass Chirac? And if so, er, why?

DONALD LUSKIN IS PRAISING PAUL KRUGMAN for getting it right. No, really.

THE CORNER HAS AN EMAIL FROM A SOLDIER about Bush's Baghdad visit:

The President's visit was even more of a morale boost to the Iraqis than it was to the troops. When the President of the U.S.A. visits a place like this, it's like the most popular kid in school coming to a party hosted by the A.V. club. The Iraqis feel validated and Al Jazeera looked foolish in the eyes of the Iraqis trying to find a negative spin to the story.

And there's this observation about Hillary Clinton's presence there:

Sen. Hillary Clinton also is in Iraq. So far, at least, she’s not criticizing Bush. She’s not saying the war was unjustified or a plot hatched in Texas. She’s not dropping hints about how the U.S. could cut-and-run and make it look like an endorsement of the U.N. or of principled multilateralism.

Instead, she’s praising the troops. She’s praising the humanitarian effort. She’s praising Coalition efforts to assist an Iraqi “transition toward democracy.”

It’s probably true that no one espousing such views can win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. But if you expect the Democratic candidate to be licking his wounds about this time next year, and if you have your eye on 2008, this is the smart play.

And it may be more than that. Not everyone on the Left is a post-humanitarian and an apologist for terrorism and Islamist totalitarianism. Could it be Hillary – of all people --who leads the Left back from its current dance with the devil?

One can hope.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has another email from a soldier in Iraq, who's also pleased with Bush's visit. And Best of the Web has a roundup of press reactions, with this observation in response to a couple of them:

Is it any wonder Americans don't trust the press? Here we have an editor of the New York Times insisting that reporters can keep a secret, then in the very next breath, a self-styled rabbi of reportorial "excellence" denounces them for doing just that.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: Francis Porretto says that Bush was counting coup. Hmm. I'm not sure I like that analogy -- coup-counting isn't necessarily a formula for victory -- but make of it what you will.

EVEN MORE: Andy Freeman emails:

We keep hearing about how the terrorists come from an honor-based culture, usually as part of an argument that we shouldn't humiliate them.

That's wrong. Humiliation is an important part of defeating an honor-based culture.

We need more coup-counting.

Hmm. Interesting. And reader Joseph Knight has an observation:

It was just a few weeks ago that the Bush administration was full of leaks, with what seemed to be a torrent of sensitive and confidential data and memos being made public in virtual real-time.

So, the part of my brain not currently covered by tin-foil is seeing this Iraq trip as a trial balloon of sorts, to see who can keep a secret. I would bet a new "circle of confidence" is being set up in the White House, and this was its first big test. What do you think?

I think that's a fascinating idea.

MORE AL-QAEDA ARRESTS:

Police in Italy and Germany have arrested three North Africans suspected of recruiting Islamic suicide bombers for attacks in Iraq.

The suspected leader of the terror cell, an Algerian man known as "the Sheikh", was arrested in Hamburg.

Algerian again. Meanwhile, in Britain:

Anti-terrorist officers are searching a second property close to the home of a suspected al-Qa'eda operative arrested yesterday.

The flat in Gloucester, near to Sajid Badat's terraced house where explosives were found yesterday, is to undergo forensic examination. Officers executed a search warrant on the property at 1am this morning.

This is in connection with an "on going" terrorist investigation in London.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Oliver Kamm's attempt to find out where it went is amusing, in a sad sort of way.

MARK STEYN offers an interesting survey of the Axis of Evil's prospects.

I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE TOO MUCH OF THIS REPORT without a bit more confirmation, but if it's true it certainly would be revolutionary:

A small company in London, UK, claims to have developed a technique that overturns scientific dogma and could revolutionise medicine. It says it can turn ordinary blood into cells capable of regenerating damaged or diseased tissues. This could transform the treatment of everything from heart disease to Parkinson's.

If the company, TriStem, really can do what it says, there would be no need to bother with conventional stem cells, currently one of the hottest fields of research. But its astounding claims have been met with bemusement and disbelief by mainstream researchers.

TriStem has been claiming for years that it can take a half a litre of anyone's blood, extract the white blood cells and make them revert to a "stem-cell-like" state within hours. The cells can be turned into beating heart cells for mending hearts, nerve cells for restoring brains and so on.

The company has now finally provided proof that at least some of its claims might be true. In collaboration with independent researchers in the US, the company has used its technique to turn white blood cells into the blood-generating stem cells found in bone marrow.

I certainly hope it's true.

DEATH OF AN AYATOLLAH: Pejman Yousefzadeh finds something to be thankful for.

November 27, 2003

NOW THIS is what I call turkeyblogging!

AMERICANS ARE IDIOTS, APPARENTLY, because we never listen to Kraftwerk.

We don't?

UPDATE: Read this.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING:

In a stunning mission conducted under enormous secrecy, President Bush flew into Baghdad today aboard Air Force One to have dinner with United States officials and a group of astonished American troops.

His trip _ the first ever to Iraq by an American president _ had been kept a matter of absolute secrecy by the White House, which had said that he would be spending the Thanksgiving weekend at his ranch outside Crawford, Tex. . . .

The presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, appearing on CNN, called it ``a perfectly executed plan'' that would be ``one of the major moments in his biography.'' It would have provided ``an incredible thrill'' for the American.

Mr. Bush sneaked out of Crawford on Wednesday in an unmarked car, then flew to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where a few advisers and a small number of reporters sworn to secrecy joined him. They then flew on to Baghdad International Airport, arriving around dusk.

Cool.

UPDATE: Here's another story on the Bush visit:

"We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins," the president said, prompting a standing ovation and cheers.

He also had a message for the people of Iraq: "The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever," he said, and pledged the help of the United States and its coalition partners, saying "we will stay until the job is done. I'm confident we will succeed."

Wearing an exercise jacket with a 1st Armored Division patch, Bush stood in a chow line and dished out sweet potatoes and corn for Thanksgiving dinner and posed with a platter of fresh-baked turkey.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Graham has more on his site. He asks:

WHAT CAN PRESIDENT BUSH DO IN BAGHDAD THAT SADDAM HUSSEIN CAN'T? Appear in public. If that doesn't send a message to the Ba'athists and their would-be allies, I don't know what does.

Heh.

MORE: Here's a look into how the trip will be spun, and here's the text of Bush's speech.

STILL MORE: More reactions here.

MORE STILL: Reader Brian Morgan emails:

One of the things that people seem to overlook is that the United States has the capability to take the leader of our country (I wanted to say "Free World" - ed.) - under constant scrutiny from the world's press - and insert him - ON A 747 NO LESS - inside Iraq, without people finding out until he was airborne en route on the return trip to the US.

Honestly, I am damn proud as an American. And happy to see our tax dollars at work.

Quagmire my ass.

It certainly speaks well for the White House's ability to maintain operational security. And, I should note, for the ability of the few journalists who were in on the story to keep a secret, too. Meanwhile reader Greg Dougherty emails:

You missed the best part . . . Of the Fox report about Bush's trip to Iraq:

'Instead, Bush slipped away from his home without notice Wednesday evening with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both of them disguised with baseball caps. Bush told reporters that they looked like a "normal couple."'

The white male President and his black female National Security Advisor, looked to him just like a "normal couple".

Imagine that 20 years ago!

Indeed. Though I'm worried that it will just provide a different storyline for "The Boondocks."

SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR: Hossein Derakshan has announced that he's running for a seat in the Iranian parliament.

Jeff Jarvis has more on the subject.

TURKEYBLOGGING: Blogging will be limited today; as usual, we're having both families over, and I'm cooking two (!) legs of lamb as well as a small turkey for the traditionalists. On the other hand, the computer's always on, so I'll probably blog a bit.

Enjoy your thanksgiving. And Lileks -- who's planning to take next month off -- has a Thanksgiving post up.

And here's good Thanksgiving news from Sofia, Bulgaria:

Anyway, I wrote about last Thanksgiving at the Hilton, which was not my very best post, but was easily my best title for any given post. Aside from inept turkey-carving skills, their only problem then was that they had no stuffing. So I asked my aunt to sent her stuffing recipe. Then I gave it to the Hilton. Viola: Hilton is serving my aunt’s stuffing for Thanksgiving! Now that friggin’ service!

I need to visit that country.

UPDATE: Hey, even though I won't be blogging as much as usual, but the Volunteer Tailgate Party is up, and has links to a diverse array of interesting blog posts. Enjoy 'em all -- it's like a rich and filling Thanksgiving blog-buffet!

November 26, 2003

STEFAN SHARKANSKY AND ROGER SIMON weigh in on that awful, racist, award-winning British cartoon.

AUSTIN BAY HAS A NEW COLUMN UP, addressing issues raised by Czech President Vaclav Klaus:

December 1975, and I asked myself why the heck am I here freezing in a tank? The answer: Only America could "contain" the Soviet Union. In Frankfurt, fat cat turf, American troops were dirt. In border villages, Germans who lived near the communist guard towers smiled and gave us absolutely superb beer. The residents of Muhle -- a real kuhdorf -- weren't in Frankfurt's dream world.

I admit it. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, I hoped America would no longer have to "do more," at least with tanks and rifles. That hope was a short, sweet dream.

Recently, a radio interviewer asked me how long attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq would continue. His anxiety and concern were genuine and palpable. I hated my response: This war will go on a long time, not simply in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in other sad corners on the planet. There isn't an easier way.

That's why I'm thankful for soldiers courageous enough to face the violence. I should have added I'm also thankful -- 365 days a year, not merely on the last Thursday in November -- for aid and relief workers, and diplomats who risk their lives in a long, tough struggle to build a more secure and democratic world.

As we all should be.

EUGENE VOLOKH, recently harsh, is now offended.

NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A human rights activist whom the U.S. government helped free from a Chinese prison in 2001 pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally sending $1.5 million worth of high-tech items to China.

Sigh.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up! Check out the wide variety of excellent blog posts from all sorts of bloggers you may have missed.

BRIAN CARNELL has reflections on parallels between post-World War II Germany and Iraq, from a German who was a schoolboy during the reconstruction period.

HARVARD WILL ALLOW MILITARY RECRUITERS ON CAMPUS:

Harvard's president, Lawrence H. Summers, wrote in a letter last week to a Harvard Law School group that the school would not sign on to litigation challenging the policy, known as the Solomon Amendment. The school released the letter yesterday. The 1996 law allows the Pentagon to pull federal funding from law schools that limit recruiters' access to students.

I'm opposed to the military's gay ban, but I think that the military recruiting ban is a dumb way to oppose it.

UPDATE: James Kirchik has more observations.

FROM THE IDEAS-THAT-SUCK-LIKE-A-BILGE-PUMP DEPARTMENT: Slashdot is reporting that the MPAA and RIAA are lobbying Congress for an antitrust exemption.

I think they should be subjected to antitrust -- and RICO -- investigation, instead.

THE OUTSOURCING SERIES CONTINUES over at GlennReynolds.com with a post on the ethics of job exports. Meanwhile SKBubba has his own thoughts on the subject, inspired by something Wesley Clark said in the debates.

SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR: A very nice tribute to the troops.

MY NEW TECHCENTRALSTATION COLUMN IS UP, addressing the nanotechnology bill passed last week. Howard Lovy has some additional thoughts, and finds the language about "molecular self-assembly" as puzzling as I do.

WELL, THIS ISN'T A COMPLETE SURPRISE:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25 — U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday the United States had gathered compelling evidence that an Arab news channel whose Baghdad offices were closed down was cooperating with insurgents.

Rumsfeld also said the station, Dubai-based Al Arabiya, and its competitor news channel Al Jazeera, had been summoned in advance by guerrillas to witness some of a growing number of attacks by those opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

This isn't news to InstaPundit readers, who have seen reports from soldiers in Iraq that Al Jazeera is paying people to protest, and even to fire at U.S. troops. Then there's the issue of Al Jazeera reporters acting as couriers for Al Qaeda.

It seems, at any rate, a bit simplistic to cast this as a simple press-freedom issue. Did we allow Nazi media to report on the liberation of North Africa?

I also don't recall a lot of complaining when, under Clinton, we shut down pro-Milosevic TV stations in Yugoslavia. But that, I suppose, was different. Somehow.

BUT IF YOU DEPICTED ARAFAT THIS WAY, THEY'D CALL YOU A RACIST:

A cartoon of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon eating the head of a Palestinian baby against the backdrop of a burning Palestinian city has won first prize in the British Political Cartoon Society's annual competition.

And yet, who has killed more actual babies? (Or, for that matter, Palestinians?) It's not even close.

UPDATE: Stephen Green has thoughts on what it would take to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "The only process towards peace is the kind of war one side can't commit, and the other side won't."

FRITZ SCHRANCK is giving the AARP its due.

November 25, 2003

ACCORDING TO THIS REPORT, China wants to give Bush the "Thatcher treatment" over Taiwan.

They'd better watch out. Bush might give Taiwan the Bomb. Er, if Taiwan doesn't already have it. . . .

Either this report is just plain wrong, or the Chinese haven't been paying attention.

UPDATE: Jim Bennett emails:

What the ChiComs don't get is that the military situation with Taiwan is quite different from that of Hong Kong. HK coulnd't have lasted a week without water from the mainland. When i was talking with Lady T. she got on to the subject of HK -- I got the impression that she had had the military possibilities of defending HK studied very closely, and had very reluctantly come to the conclusion that there was no way it could have been defended short of a nuclear strike on Beijing. If it had been as defensible as Taiwan, there's no doubt in my mind she would have fought.

Yes. Also: Who's in a worse political position if goods from China can't get to WalMart because Chinese harbors have been mined? Bush? Or the Chinese leadership?

THE FOLKS AT BUREAUCRASH are mocking the Miami protesters. They're very clever, but they may have met their match: these guys are pretty much beyond mockery.

GREGG EASTERBROOK'S TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK has found a new home, over at NFL.Com.

EUGENE VOLOKH is, in my opinion, appropriately harsh.

HALLEY SUITT IS IN PENTHOUSE. Meryl Yourish is in Victoria's Secret.

TIM BLAIR offers a before and after comparison on Iraq.

DAVID BROOKS:

Working off U.N. and U.S. census data, Bill Frey, the indispensable University of Michigan demographer, projects that in the year 2050 the median age in the United States will be 35. The median age in Europe will be 52. The implications of that are enormous.

As we settle down to the Thanksgiving table in a few days, we might remind ourselves that whatever other problems grip our country, lack of vitality is not one of them. In fact, we may look back on the period beginning in the middle of the 1980's as the Great Rejuvenation. American life has improved in almost every measurable way, and far from regressing toward the mean, the U.S. has become a more exceptional nation.

And for that, let us give thanks.

JEFF JARVIS says that the BBC's Greg Dyke isn't just a dinosaur, but a dishonest one.

MICHAEL TOTTEN, supposedly on vacation, is blogging from Guatemala.

IS ANDREW SULLIVAN the most influential intellectual in the public arena today? Could be.

FROM OUTSOURCING TO INSOURCING: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

N.Z. BEAR: "I was a lousy pilot; I'm a much better blogger."

IRANIANS: Angry at the E.U.? Here's at least one who is:

The EU has openly established trade relations with the Islamic regime in order to assert its presence in the Middle East as well as with the newly established energy-producing Central Asian countries. The winners, at least up until now have been the European countries and the ayatollahs. The losers in this strife are the Iranian nation and the United States -- who are paying the highest price in this battle against an international terrorism skilfully supported by the EU.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis says that the next Beatles won't come from Europe, but from Iran.

CAR BOMBS COMING TO AMERICA? Here's a troubling post. Of course, we've had them before, but I hope that people are still paying attention to the possibility that we might have them again.

UPDATE: Here is a website, about which I don't know a lot, suggesting that some attack along these lines is imminent: "Information and intelligence found by analysts strongly suggests an increased risk of an attack or series of simultaneous or consecutive attacks occurring through the end of this week, designed to strike at the busiest time of our shopping and travel season."

Is it true? Beats me. But if the terrorists don't pull of a major strike in the U.S. pretty soon, they're going to be rather obviously a spent force, which I think means that if they can do something, they'll do it soon.

IRAQ NOW is another military blog from Iraq that's worth reading. (Via Scott Wickstein, who asks: "But with every soldier a journalist, what is the role of the media?")

UPDATE: Scroll down (or click here) for some interesting thoughts on military procurement, and this post from Kim du Toit. (Also read this followup by du Toit, which expressly responds to some stuff from Iraq Now.)

A READER SENDS THIS INTERESTING SUMMARY of Gallup's latest poll on Baghdadis' attitudes, this time involving the economy:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being very bad and 5 being very good, most respondents characterized economic conditions in the city as "bad." Nearly half of Baghdad's citizens rated economic conditions as a 1 (22%) or a 2 (25%). Although a third (34%) gave a middle rating of 3, few Baghdadis rated economic conditions toward the positive end of the scale -- with 16% rating it a 4 and only 1% giving a 5.

When Baghdadis were probed about whether the economic picture in Baghdad as getting brighter or darker, opinions were more positive. A clear plurality (48%) said that conditions were getting better, 29% said they were getting worse, and another 20% volunteered that things were staying about the same. Citizens' views about Baghdad's economic direction were affected by their own personal economic vantage: Baghdadis who said their family income has increased from what it was before the war were more likely to say conditions are getting better than were those who said their family income had decreased since the war (58% and 38%, respectively).

Among the most remarkable findings were Baghdadis' hopeful views about their own financial situations one year in the future. About 6 in 10 Baghdad citizens (61%) said they expected that they would be better off financially in a year, and only 1 in 10 (11%) anticipated being worse off. Even among low-income Baghdadis, a majority held an optimistic view of their economic futures (53% expecting that they would be better off next year).

That's good news, I think. Meanwhile, economic news in the United States looks good, though I don't understand this technical economist-talk:

``Growth is now super-super strong compared to super strong,'' said Joseph LaVorgna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, whose forecast of 8.3 percent was the highest in a Bloomberg News survey.

Help me out here: I think that "super-super strong" is better than "really boss" but not as good as "bitchin'." This, however, strikes me as very good news: "The GDP price deflator, a measure of prices tied to the report, was unchanged from the previous estimate at a 1.7 percent pace."

My worry at the moment is Nixonian inflation. So far, no sign.

SARDONIC VIEWS notes this shocking admission from the Cleveland Plain Dealer's editorial board: "More legal gun owners does not automatically lead to more crime."

Indeed.

"ECONO-EQUIVALENCE" is sort of like "moral equivalence," except you get cool graphics. Well, not exactly. But go read this post from Steven Antler on why Bush's economic policy isn't the same as the Democrats' in spite of anguished wailing by fiscal hawks that there's no difference anymore. Steve Verdon, on the other hand, takes a less positive view.

IS IT WRONG TO ROOT FOR THE PEOPLE KILLING OUR TROOPS IN IRAQ? Some San Francisco Chronicle readers are wondering:

I'm definitely torn, because I obviously don't want any more of our soldiers getting killed, but I also wouldn't mind the quagmire going on just long enough to ruin Bush's re-election chances.

Blackfive has observations. So do I: The answer to the question is "yes, it's wrong."

THE RISE AND RISE OF THE ASIAN WEBLOG: Interesting article.

HOWARD KURTZ WONDERS why journalists have suddenly gotten so fussy about leaked stories. It's basically a roundup of commentary on why the Stephen Hayes story on Saddam / Al Qaeda connections has been ignored.

UPDATE: Reader James V. Somers emails:

Seems to me that Shafer's observation, quoted in Kurtz' column this morning, is dead on as to why the link has not been reported:

"One possible explanation is that the mainstream press is too invested in its consensus finding that Saddam and Osama never teamed up and its almost theological view that Saddam and Osama couldn't possibly have ever hooked up because of secular/sacred differences."

Saying that Saddam and Osama would never team up because of secular/sacred differences is an oh-so-smart thing to say. It's the sort of thing you say as you sip your expensive latte and nibble at a raisin scone over a carefully-folded copy of the New York Times. Saying such things reveals nuanced understanding, an appreciation of the political, religious and cultural subtleties in the Islamic world - things that could never be understood by knuckle-dragging conservatives who don't see shades of grey, and who don't understand other cultures.

Yeah, too bad it's, you know, wrong.

FRANCE AND GERMANY GET AWAY WITH DEFYING INTERNATIONAL LAW:

BRUSSELS, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Confusion and recrimination erupted on Tuesday after euro zone finance ministers effectively froze budget rules underpinning the euro by suspending disciplinary action against Germany and France in defiance of the European Commission.

Berlin and Paris will be asked for a political commitment to cut deficits that are set to break EU limits for the third year in a row in 2004, rather than being pushed along a disciplinary process whose ultimate sanction is a fine. . . .

Small states complained that the rules were being bent by the big countries to protect Germany and France, which have long been the EU's central leadership axis.

Such shameless unilateralism and contempt for international organizations.

"WE HAD THAT IN COMMUNIST TIMES" -- some interesting observations on the European Union from Czech President Vaclav Klaus:

Last week, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU's budget. EU's auditors could only vouch for 10 percent of the $120 billion the EU spent in 2002. It was also the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole.

Europeans are yet to face such "serious underlying issues," Klaus said, because "they are still in the dream world of welfare, long vacations, guaranteed high pensions, and cradle-to-grave social security, and which obviates the imperative need to face" reality.

The biggest challenge for the Czech republic, Klaus said, is how to avoid falling into the trap of "a new form of collectivism." Asked whether he meant a new form of neo-Marxism, he said, "absolutely not, but I see other sectors endangering free societies."

"The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations," president Klaus explained. "We had that in Communist times. But now if you look at all the new rules and regulations of EU membership, layered bureaucracy is staging a comeback." The EU's 30,000 bureaucrats have produced some 80,000 pages of regulations that the Czech republic and the other European applicants for EU membership would have to adopt.

He has some interesting thoughts on Iraqi reconstruction, too.

TERRY TEACHOUT IS THRILLED with the new Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD release. Sigh. I have nearly all of these on VHS, but I'll probably buy the DVDs anyway. Then, in a few years, it'll be rereleased on flash chips, or molecular-distortion memory, or something, and I'll buy that, too.

I'VE HAD A VARIETY OF EMAIL PROBLEMS, but they seem to be fixed now. If you sent a tipjar contribution recently and didn't get a thank-you note, one will be forthcoming soon. If you sent something else vitally important, and there's no sign that I got it, well, I probably didn't.

November 24, 2003

ONE ENEMY AT A TIME? Interesting.

ROGER SIMON SAYS: "Show me the money!" Or at least where it went.

OUTSOURCING GONE WILD. Jeez.

THIS IS INTERESTING:

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti (AP) - U.S. forces have disrupted several planned terrorist attacks against Western and other targets in the Horn of Africa and local authorities have killed or captured more than two dozen militants, the U.S. general in command of an anti-terrorism task force told The Associated Press.

Of the hundreds of foreign fighters detained by U.S. troops in Iraq, approximately 25 percent come from the seven countries that fall under the purview of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson told AP in his first in-depth interview since taking command in May 2003. . . .

``I think we have frustrated the terrorists,'' Robeson said. ``Mission success does not necessarily only resonate in how many people we either capture or kill, because when we put them on the move, they're now out of their comfort zone and they are vulnerable.''

There are no prisoners being held at the tented camp in Djibouti, military officials said, and Robeson refused to say how many terrorists his men have captured in U.S. operations.

I think that there's a lot more going on in Africa than meets the eye.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE has thoughts on Donald Rumsfeld's management style.

JEFF JARVIS REPORTS from the World Trade Center PATH station, where train service has reopened. He's got photos, too.

BUSH'S BUDGET: David Bernstein writes:

"Compassionate conservatism" seems to have turned out to be a replay of the Nixon strategy of buying off every conceivable interest group that is capable of being bought off by a Republican admnistration, while using social issues and conservative rhetoric to appease the Republican masses. Nixon, at least, had the excuse of governing in an era when liberalism was at its apex, and with the constraints imposed by the other two branches of government, dominated by liberal Democrats. What is George Bush's excuse?

The excuse, I think, is that this worked for Nixon -- who was reelected in a landslide and left office for, um, non-budgetary reasons. And the reason that it worked is that, in some sense, this is what voters want, however unfortunate that may be. Nonetheless, Bush is alienating a lot of supporters this way, as any denizen of the blogosphere will note. Will it affect the election outcome? He'd better hope not.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a lengthy and link-filled post.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Verdon has comments.

CATHY SEIPP'S UPI COLUMN is on the largely ignored New York Times plagiarism scandal involving Bernard Weinraub's lifting from blogger Luke Ford. Mickey Kaus wonders why it's getting so little attention, too.

I tend not to make as much of plagiarism scandals as most people do (here's my earlier post on the subject). But it's interesting when most people don't, either. And regardless, you'll find the background on Ford interesting, if you're not already familiar with him.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT in America. MEChA is involved.

JIM DUNNIGAN HAS A FAIRLY POSITIVE ANALYSIS:

Do you see a pattern here? Al Qaeda is not following up on September 11, 2001 with more attacks on Western targets, but is killing Moslems. Al Qaeda does have a lot of Moslems on its hit list, particularly Moslems who al Qaeda does not consider Moslem enough. But since al Qaeda recruits from Moslem populations, angering Moslem populations is suicidal to the organization. This is what happened to the radical faction of the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt during the 1990s. But al Qaeda is not the kind of organization that can control all of its members.

Read the whole thing. I hope that he's right.

THIS MUST BE MAKING SOME PEOPLE NERVOUS:

In the end, after the secret investigations, the middle-of-the-night arrests, the obsequious genuflections to Saddam Hussein, a common passion drove these members of Iraq's Baath Party to excel at their special occupation. It was all about the money. . . .

Kanan Makiya, a Brandeis University professor and author, said he stumbled upon the records last summer while trying to save a monument to the party's founder, Michel Aflaq, that was scheduled for demolition. A few years ago, the United States gave Mr. Makiya custody of another large trove of Iraqi documents seized in Kuwait and northern Iraq after the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and so he won permission from the occupation authorities to take custody of the new papers as well.

Mr. Makiya intends to share them with the public by opening a museum and archive that he calls the Memory Foundation. The Americans plan to give him some of the financing for the project, and he is soliciting the rest.

I hope that there will be an archive of Western political and commercial (and journalistic) payoffs, too.

MICHAEL BARONE notes that Democrats are divided in ways that will make beating Bush hard.

That's true -- and I'm always hesitant to disagree with Barone -- but I think that Bush is far more vulnerable than most commentators suggest. The real question, I guess, is whether he'll be vulnerable to whoever the Democrats nominate.

IF YOU'VE ENJOYED GARY FARBER'S BLOG, but haven't gotten around to hitting his tipjar, this might be a good time.

JONAH GOLDBERG WARNS PEOPLE not to get too carried away with the whole "South Park Republican" thing. Plus, he makes an offer that, er, can be refused:

If conservatives have such a lock on the culture these days, as Al Gore, Al Franken, and others keep insisting, why don't we just switch sides? The Left can have Fox News, the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, the lavish offices of National Review and The Weekly Standard, as well as Sean Hannity's and Rush Limbaugh's airtime. The gangs at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation will clear out their desks, give John Podesta the code to the Xerox machine, and tell Eric Alterman where to buy the best gyros.

In return, we'd like the keys to the executive bathrooms at ABC, CBS and NBC, please. We'd like the cast of Fox and Friends to take over The Today Show's studios ("and tell Couric to take her Cabbage Patch dolls with her!"). We want Ramesh Ponnuru as the editor of the New York Times and Rich Lowry can have his choice between Time and Newsweek. Matt Labash will get Esquire and let's set up Rick Brookhiser at Rolling Stone (that way they won't have to change their drug coverage). Andrew Sullivan can have The New York Times Magazine. Robert Bork will be the dean of the Yale Law School and the faculty of Hillsdale and Harvard will simply switch places.

Can I have Maureen Dowd's column?

UPDATE: Arnold Kling wants dibs on Krugman's slot.

WINDS OF CHANGE has its regular war news roundup posted. This is probably the best single place to find out what's going on beyond the obvious headlines. Don't miss it.

DAVID HOROWITZ WRITES AGAINST amending the Constitution to bar gay marriage:

Personally, I believe the family is an institution under attack and needs to be defended, but I also believe that all citizens are deserving basic respect and individual rights and that society has a vested interest in recognizing and supporting stable relationships between consenting adults who do no harm. What I am going to argue is that the idea of amending the Constitution to resolve a political issue of the culture war is (no pun intended) to court disaster. This will not necessarily be a disaster for the political cause of the defenders of traditional marriage, but it will be to the durability of the Constitution and therefore the nation.

Indeed.

BILL KELLER ON GETTING IT RIGHT:

One striking thing about Keller's style is that he doesn't dismiss criticism of the paper out of hand. "I look at the blogs. . . . Sometimes I read something on a blog that makes me feel we screwed up. A lot of times I read things that strike me as ill-tempered and ill-informed."

Hmm. Does he mean he reads those things in blogs, or in the Times? Probably both!

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS -- a collection of business- and economics-related blog posts -- is up. Check it out.

November 23, 2003

HERE'S A SACRAMENTO BEE roundup on problems with electronic voting.

There's a solution to this problem, you know.

TED RALL IS ENDORSING HOWARD DEAN (though he has trouble spelling "preference" -- there's no "a" in it, Ted). Howard Dean is happy about it. I'm not so sure that he should be.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh thinks that this is a bad move by Dean, too. And just wait until people pull out Rall's 9/11 widows cartoon. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: That didn't take long. You can see that cartoon here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dick Riley emails:

I like Dean, but the posting of the Rall endorsement on Dean's blog is a definite negative to me. Still, I'm hesitant to say it means much about Dean's policies or even his basic sentiments (so I think your post takes a correct low-temperature approach to this). Purely tactically, in fact, I don't know that I'd call it negative. Deaniacs, bloggers, blog readers, and other political addicts are following the presidential race, but hardly anyone else is. So although Dean is old news to us in the addict camp and we're ready for him to start getting statesmanlike and reaching out to the moderate middle, in terms of his national campaign Dean is probably still in keep-the-base-fired-up mode. I doubt touting the Rall endorsement will hurt him with the mass of his current supporters. If I were Dean, even with my own moderate instincts and generally pro-war stance, I don't know that I'd take rejecting Ted Rall and all his works as a Sister Souljah moment. Doing a Sister Souljah moment now would just echo into the void.

Probably so.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Rall, here. And if you follow the Volokh link, above, you'll see that the Dean campaign has edited the blog post on Rall's endorsement. Nothing necessarily perfidious in that, but you can see both versions via Volokh.

WHAT YEAR IS IT? As I've said before, it's really 2003. But The Counterrevolutionary seems to have gotten some flak about posting clippings from 1946. Roger Simon says it's really 1938.

Well, it's really 2003. Militarily, this war isn't much like World War Two, and historical analogies can only take us so far in general. But we can learn some things from historical analogies. The 1946 stories tell us that journalistic complaint is nothing new, and that occupation and reconstruction is an inherently messy business. (And that pre-war and wartime intelligence is, too.) The 1938 stories tell us that antisemitism is an old thing in Europe, and give us some idea of what it looks like, and how far "antiwar" intellectuals will go to avoid noticing it.

As the editors of Foreign Affairs remind us in reprinting Allen Dulles' briefing on postwar Germany, "history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes."

UPDATE: Kevin Connors says it's 1648.

I'VE WRITTEN BEFORE that I think that outsourcing, etc., will be an election issue. Armed Liberal pulls a lot of threads together in this post, along with a cool Neal Stephenson quotation.

UPDATE: Matt Bruce is speaking up for Pakistani brickmakers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an interesting development -- Dell is moving jobs back from India to the United States in response to customer complaints about the quality of support from Bangalore. When I talked about this issue with my students (a Dell-heavy group) I heard a lot of those complaints. I guess that Dell did, too.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Katherine Snyder emails:

I was one of the many customers that was Very Unhappy with Dell's tech "customer service", and I basically told them flat out after 5 multiple hour, very frustrating and rudely handled calls over the course of a week to get a broken hard drive replaced that I would *never* buy a Dell product again. I have, as the Alpha Female, the purchasing yea or nay in my household. Every large purchase goes through me. If I feel that a company does not respect me, then they do not get my hard earned money, period. (Just to put it into perspective, I have purchased 4 Dell desktops, a Dell laptop, and a Dell Pocket PC in the past, they were losing a very loyal customer.)

This is another way in which the "cost savings" from outsourcing can be illusory.

GUN OWNERSHIP: It's not just a good idea -- it's the law:

Noncomplying residents would be fined $10 under the ordinance, passed 3-2 earlier this month by City Council members who thought it would help protect the town of 210 people. Those who suffer from physical or mental disabilities, paupers and people who conscientiously oppose firearms would be exempt. . . .

Kennesaw, Georgia was, I believe, the first place to pass such an ordinance in recent history. Here's Kennesaw's webpage on how it impacted crime rates there. I wonder if we'll see more of these? (Via TalkLeft.)

UPDATE: Tim Lambert, unsurprisingly, says that the Kennesaw ordinance makes no difference. But I don't understand why this should be true:

There was also a large increase in the population of Kennesaw, which meant that by 1998, although tthe number of burglaries had not changed, the burglary rate per 100,000 population had decreased greatly. It is hard to attribute this to the ordinance since the large increase meant that the people living in Kennesaw in 1998 were almost completely different from those living there in 1981.

I don't think that burglars check resumes, and I don't see why duration of residency should make any difference at all here. And if the number of burglaries stays the same, while the population grows, that means that burglary is getting less common. Doesn't it?

A FINE WHINE: N.Z. Bear weighs in, a bit late, on the Salam Pax / Lileks discussion.

IS CHINA'S ECONOMY OVERHEATED? Greg Burch has a lengthy post.

SHEVARDNADZE HAS RESIGNED IN GEORGIA: This has the potential to be a good thing. Let's hope that the potential becomes actuality. Given the United States' nontrivial investment in Georgia, it's particularly important that we play this well.

UPDATE: Wrong link earlier. Fixed now.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Argus has a tremendously link-rich wrapup on affairs in Georgia. This appears to be a substantial defeat for Russia. And Georgians are thanking America. Hmm. . . .

I HAVEN'T BEEN BLOGGING THAT MUCH this weekend. But Jeff Jarvis has lots of posts.

MORE RETAIL UPDATES: My local mall is also replacing some of its hard wooden benches with comfy chairs like these (I actually took this picture on Wednesday, when it was a lot emptier), which seem to be very popular. The comfy-chair revolution continues apace!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Frank Lynch emails:

Some years ago I read "Why We Buy," by Paco Underhill. Underhill is a market researcher who emphasizes behavioral observations in retail settings; he and his crew will descend on a store and watch how people behave, and make recommendations on layout, etc.

One observation is that the longer you are in a store, the more likely you are to buy something. Now, couple that with this: women shop longest in a store when they are with a female friend, second longest when alone, and least longest when with their husband/boyfriend. We seem to give off body language which indicates impatience (go figure!). So, Underhill recommends making men as comfortable as possible --- not just providing comfortable seating, but also magazines they're comfortable reading, such as Sports Illustrated.

Glad to see your mall is doing this; consumer confidence hasn't turned around yet, and retailers need to try this.

I'd rather have Wi-Fi than SI, but fair enough. I wasn't familiar with Underhill, but via the miracle of Google found this article. He seems like a smart guy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ronnie Schreiber emails:

You would think that the malls would want to encourage men to shop, not sit. Underhill's suggestions assume that women do all the shopping in malls. They may be the majority of mall shoppers and it does make sense to maximize revenue from your core market, but I'd think that making sure that the mall has specialty stores that appeal to men wouldn't hurt. An upscale tool store or auto memorabilia shop might make more sense than La-Z-Boy recliners and a few issues of SI scattered around.

Yes, though I doubt Underhill would disagree. My local mall seems to have an endless array of teenagers' clothing stores and jewelry stores. I wouldn't mind a few more places that appealed to me. Of course, that requires the mall to think holistically about luring in shoppers -- and I suspect that a lot of stores that I'd like couldn't pay the very steep rents that mall stores have to pay.

RETAIL SUPPORT BRIGADE SITREP: At the mall yesterday I noticed huge crowds (even though the Christmas shopping season doesn't officially start until next week). Judging by the numbers of bags and parcels people were carrying, they were buying, not just looking. I hope that's good news for this year's retail season.

In a related development, the landscaper at my sister-in-law's new house said that they're working their fingers to the bone with new home construction.

Anecdotage: make of it what you will.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Strunk emails:

My wife and I had the same 'revelation' yesterday here in Erie, Pa. The traffic was unbelievable.

Let's hope this is reflective of the general situation.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Mike Krause reports from the trenches:

I've had a kiosk (retail merchandise unit as the mall prefers they be called) since Sept.1 at a mall in Omaha (a really nice, newer mall out West, where the city is rapidly expanding into what was farmland only a few years ago). No employees, just me and my girlfriend.

The first three weeks of November it was like a tomb around here (in fact I could hear the echo as I laughed at myself for coming up with this idea). Our sales were actually down about 35% from the first three weeks of September, and October was a bust, we just paid the rent.

Saturday rocked. It was our best day so far. Santa showed up and opened shop and the mall was solidly packed, despite cold temperatures and drizzle, from 9:00 am (milk and cookies with Santa in the food court) until about 5:00 pm. Now it's Sunday afternoon and the foot traffic is strong despite the snow (or maybe because of it) but slow sales all around me.

The lady with the customized tree ornament kiosk (it's her fourth year here)says she is off about 50% from this time last year and the cell phone service and accessory guy (who is here year round) reports about the same.

I think it's fair to say that reports are "mixed," then.