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January 03, 2004

MY POST-CHRISTMAS TOY POST mentioned the limited appeal of the Flava dolls' Liam, whose excessive metrosexuality got him dubbed a "girly boy" by one of my daughter's friends. Back at the mall today, I managed to snap a picture of one of the (many) remaining Liam dolls at Kaybee Toys, so you can judge for yourself.

A couple of readers named Liam emailed to protest that they were quite manly, and to stress that Liam-the-Flava isn't representative of Liamhood in general.

I certainly won't argue. I don't know exactly what Liam is supposed to represent, but it's hard to imagine him having a lot of appeal in today's world. And judging by available anecdotal evidence, he's striking out on a number of different fronts, jaunty "man-purse" notwithstanding.

The Flava dolls, at any rate, are a poor attempt to match the unbeatable (in my house) Bratz line. And although the Bratz Boyz aren't exactly oozing testosterone, they've got Liam beat. And that's apparently the general rule, as Bratz are beating out not only the Flavas, but even the more-polished Barbie competition, called My Scene. Not a lot of testosterone there, either -- but at least an absence of man-purses, and better clothes.

Yeah, toyblogging isn't the usual thing here, but it's a longstanding item going all the way back to this post from October of 2001, which even made Best of the Web. Hey, they say to write what you know. . . .

UPDATE: A reader suggests that it's interesting to compare Liam with this action figure: Heather, from the 1st ID. Yes, it is. Meanwhile reader John Allore emails that Ken was the trailblazer when it comes to metrosexuality, and sends this link to Ken in a stunning tribute to Siegfried and Roy. But, you know, it's okay to be in touch with your feminine side. [Hey, look! They're having a cookware clearance at Amazon! -- Ed. Like I said. . . .]

BIZARRE PICTURES from a cheap digital camera. I think it's some sort of latency/delay effect, but that's just a guess.

'MOST" EQUALS "FOURTEEN PERCENT" at the Associated Press. Remember this next time you see a story that says "most Americans oppose the war."

MISSING 727 UPDATE: Here's the latest development in the saga last mentioned on InstaPundit last July. Meanwhile, there was a possibly suspicious crash in the Red Sea:

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the crash was apparently caused by a mechanical problem and not terrorism. But it occurred as the British prime minister was visiting the resort and amid a week of heightened concerns about terrorism that have led to canceled flights around the world.

They're calling it mechanical failure, which is certainly credible -- though the plane crashed without any distress call, and had recently passed a maintenance inspection in Norway.

Trying to figure out whether these kinds of stories mean anything or not is hard, and perhaps provides some sense of what intelligence analysts go through all the time.

UPDATE: More on the Red Sea crash here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More interesting stuff over at The Command Post.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more on the air-terror happenings rounded up here.

MORE: I can't vouch for its reliablity, but here's a story that purports to outline the busted terror plot.

INVESTIGATIVE BLOGGING: Actually, I think David Appell already raised money from his readers to do this, but I don't remember seeing the result.

TAPPAHANNOCK:

A New Year's Eve incident at Tappahannock Municipal Airport had townspeople talking yesterday, but there was little anxiety about reports linking the village of 2,000 to al-Qaida terrorism.

According to the FBI, an illegal alien tried to enter the airport late Tuesday afternoon, then fled.

And the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that unnamed sources said a Tappahannock resident has been under investigation for some time on suspicion of financing or assisting al-Qaida.

Airport Manager John McDonald said the Virginia State Police pursued a car that tried to enter the airport grounds, then sped off at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. State police overtook the car and stopped it.

"I don't know what happened," McDonald said yesterday. "They're pretty tight-lipped."

Interesting. The rest of the story downplays the incident. That's probably appropriate, but I can't help but feel that there's a lot of stuff going on at the moment that we're not hearing about.

WAR CRIMES IN IRAQ? It's amazing that these aren't getting more press attention.

DEAN SPOKESMAN: Bush Administration not to blame for 9/11:

"As many have said before, hindsight is 20-20 and no one could have predicted what could have happened on a terrible day in September 2001," [campaign spokemsan Jay] Carson said.

Sounds like he agrees with Condi Rice.

KIM DU TOIT weighs in on the outsourcing issue:

My father was a civil engineer who had started off life as a boilermaker, and he always cautioned me to find a job which used your brain rather than your hands.

In retrospect, it was the worst possible advice he could have given.

There's also this: "You don't owe your company anything: not loyalty, not fealty, not anything. And you were not the one who broke this compact: they did it."

SPECULATION IN THE MEDIA: Another Michael Crichton speech, this one via Donald Sensing.

AIRLINE SECURITY GOINGS-ON: Jeff Jarvis has an interesting roundup of developments regarding cancelled flights, etc.

UPDATE: More here and here.

GAY PALESTINIANS finding a refuge in Israel? No surprise here, I guess, but it's an interesting story.

INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS from StrategyPage:

While soldiers were guarding the site, two cars full of men dressed as journalists (wearing jackets with "PRESS" printed on them) drove up and fired on the troops. One car was later found and the occupants arrested. But Reuters says some of its Iraqi employees were arrested in error. Iraqi journalists have a long tradition of working for the highest bidder and doing what they are told. Worked for Saddam, and before him as well. The Baath party may well be paying Iraqi journalists working for Western media in order to perform additional services. This sort of thing is no longer a secret because the American informer network is now revealing all sorts of interesting stuff.

I wonder why Western journalists aren't loudly protesting these tactics on the part of the Baathists? If American troops, or CIA agents, were using "journalistic cover" they'd be screaming to high heaven.

January 02, 2004

REP. RALPH HALL (D-TX) has switched to the Republicans. Is this evidence of how the wind is blowing, too?

UPDATE: Reader James Somers emails:

You should have seen CNN Headline News last night when they reported this story. As the reporter was talking about Hall's switch to the GOP, the CNN headline at the bottom of the tv screen read "A Traitor to His Party." I'm not joking. Gee, do you think CNN ran that same headline when they were reporting on the decision of Jim Jeffords, Man of noble Yankee rectitude, to leave the GOP back in 2001? Somehow, I doubt it.

I missed that, but I can't say it comes as a complete shock. Meanwhile, reader Bill Burton notes that Hall's defection is opportunistic. I think that's right -- though he does say that he's turned off by all the Democratic presidential candidates -- but that's not my point. Just as with the Iraqi sheiks mentioned below, this is not just third-party analysis, but someone with a strong personal stake in getting things right who's decided which way the wind is blowing. He could be wrong, of course (Jeffords was!) But for people who wonder about whether there's a realignment going on, it's a useful data point.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bryan Preston thinks that this switch is a big deal. And a couple of readers think that the "traitor to his party" line was a quote, though they don't say from whom, and when I searched ralph+hall+traitor on Google news I couldn't find anyone saying that. At any rate, putting that sort of thing in a crawl, even if it's a quote, seems a bit biased. Reader T.C. Stentz emails:

I have noticed that CNN, MSNBC, etc., have been using their news tickers as another subtle platform for their biases. This has probably been going on for a long time, but something I have only recently paid attention to. A couple of weeks ago, MSNBC ran one that said something to the effect of “Bring Them Home – Poll shows 40% of Americans want troops out of Iraq.” In an alternate universe, the ticker would have read, “Stay The Course – Poll says 60% of Americans want troops in Iraq."

Or something like that.

STEWART BAKER:

There's a quiet scandal at the heart of Sept. 11; one that for different reasons neither the government nor the privacy lobby really wants to talk about. It's this: For two and a half weeks before the attacks, the U.S. government knew the names of two hijackers. It knew they were al-Qaida killers and that they were already in the United States. In fact, the two were living openly under their own names, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. They used those names for financial transactions, flight school, to earn frequent flier miles, and to procure a California identity card.

Despite this paper trail, and despite having two and a half weeks to follow the scent, the FBI couldn't locate either man—at least not until Sept. 11, when they flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A number of readers think that there's more to the story than Stewart Baker's Slate piece tells, and this email from William Aronstein is representative:

Don't you think it is remarkable that the bankrupt, collapsing Soviet Union could buy both the CIA's head of anti-Soviet counter-intelligence AND the FBI's head of anti-Soviet counter-intelligence for less than a million dollars, and we never hear of ANYBODY that the Saudis have even approached -- with all their billions? What chance is there that Prince Bandar's boys have not at least tried to buy control of the FBI and CIA Middle East desks -- just as they already own State? Wouldn't they be derelict in their duties if they didn't at least try? So we can assume it's been tried. But with what success?

The record is highly suggestive that pro-Saudi agents in and around Washington are very active and very successful.

This is entirely speculative, of course -- though the FBI field agents on the Moussaoui case did wonder of Osama had a mole in FBI headquarters -- but it's certainly a subject that would seem well-suited for investigative journalism. And maybe for more Congressional investigations, as well.

HAD AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION with Henry Copeland about which way the blogosphere, and the Internet, are going. More on that later.

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

MOSUL, Iraq - A dozen former leaders of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party have handed in weapons caches in northern Iraq to curry favor with the U.S. military and claim a role in a new Iraqi leadership, the commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division said.

"They're coming to us, saying they want to be part of the new Iraq," Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It has slowly sunk in that Saddam isn't coming back." . . .

On Monday, some of the men — whose names have not yet been made public — will publicly renounce their participation in the Baath Party at a regional headquarters of the 101st Airborne's 1st Battalion in Talafar, south of Mosul.

Petraeus said he doubted the former leaders had taken a direct role in aiding the five to 10 anti-U.S. guerrilla cells operating in the region, and he characterized their decision to cooperate with the U.S. military as an opportunistic move to regain stature.

Sounds like more evidence of which way the wind is blowing.

ALIENS CAUSE GLOBAL WARMING: Another speech by Michael Crichton.

ANOTHER LOOTING SCANDAL:

Four French soldiers are accused of robbing a bank in Ivory Coast they were supposed to be guarding, sources say. The men have been placed under judicial investigation, one step short of formal charges, say judicial and military officials in Paris.

They are accused of taking 58,000 euros from the bank in the northern rebel-held town of Bouake.

I blame Paul Wolfowitz, and the unmitigated greed that marks American culture.

ROGER SIMON HAS more thoughts on what's going on with the UN's "oil for food" money.

MIKE KINSLEY seems to agree with what I've said before about journalistic confidentiality and the Plame affair:

A very distinguished New York Times writer once told me that if the Times ballet critic, heading home after assessing the day's offerings of pliés and glissades, happens to witness a murder on her way to the Times Square subway, she has a First Amendment right and obligation to refuse to testify about what she saw.

So put it all together and you get: (1) the anonymity of Novak's sources must be protected at all costs for the sake of the First Amendment, and (2) The White House leakers must be exposed and punished at all costs for the sake of national security. Unfortunately for the striking of heroic poses, these two groups are the same people. Either we think they should be named, or we think they should not be named. Which is it?

Of course, for a lot of people the answer is, "whichever will hurt Bush."

But Novak's not legally entitled to keep quiet if subpoenaed. And I don't think he's ethically entitled to, either.

UPDATE: Hmm. It also may be that the Plame leak wasn't illegal. As I suggested yesterday, that may explain why we have a special prosecutor, since if Ashcroft concluded that many would accuse him of whitewashing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here from Megan McArdle.

CELEBRITY POKER? I'll pass.

POST-CHRISTMAS FOLLOWUP: The Digital Blue kids' video camera that I mentioned earlier is a big hit. The Insta-Daughter has been making and editing videos with great pleasure, and it's very user-friendly. Comes with a fair amount of stock footage and audio, too.

The quality is about like Super-8 -- not great, but not terrible. I haven't looked yet to see if there's a way to export the files to a Video CD or DVD, but I imagine I can figure out a way. Right now she's so busy playing with it that I haven't had the chance. Definitely a hit.

She didn't get this toy (and, apparently, neither did anyone else), but the big loser of the season seems to be Liam, of the Flavas line of dolls. Liam's supposed to be a hip metrosexual, and carries what's either a purse or -- to be charitable, since there's no associated DJ stuff -- a record case. The Insta-Daughter and her friends all pronounced him a "girly-boy" and when we visited the toy store yesterday, the largely bare shelves still boasted a full complement of Liams. Here's more evidence that Liam isn't flying: "While Liam fancies himself the Flava equivalent of Eminem, his wussy man-purse and questionably 'hip' fashion choices reveal him to be more Vanilla Ice than Slim Shady." Ouch.

MICKEY KAUS says that Howard Dean is "cluelessly pre-Clinton" on race.

Ouch. You know, the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats do better with a Southerner, and the unspoken assumption is that it's because a Southerner will appeal more to those confederate-flag-pickup guys that Dean mentioned.

But I wonder if it's really because Southerners are less likely to say damnfool things about race and defense, the Democratic Party's two big weak points?

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has more thoughts.

January 01, 2004

CARBLOGGING from the Detroit Auto Show.

Meanwhile the Stryker Brigade has a blog -- and it's not to be confused with SgtStryker.com.

DON'T LISTEN TO THEM, THEY'RE JUST THE VOTERS:

The BBC recently gave its radio listeners a chance to express their will, but did not want to hear the result. The great unwashed mass, who cough-up the license fees which pay the Beeb’s freight, were asked to suggest a piece of legislation to improve life in Britain, with the promise that an MP would then attempt to get it onto the statute books.

Listeners to BBC 4’s Today program (the very same show which claimed that intelligence on Iraqi WMDs had been “sexed up”), reposnded with a suggestion that would allow homeowners to defend themselves against intruders, without facing legal liabilities. The winning proposal was denounced as a "ludicrous, brutal, unworkable blood-stained piece of legislation" - by Stephen Pound, the very MP whose job it is to try to push it through Parliament.

It's out of touch, they are.


David Carr has more: "The result of the BBC poll gives lie to the whole facade. People are losing faith in the ability (and even willingness) of the state to come to their aid in time of crisis."

MARK STEYN LOOKS AT THE STATE OF THE WORLD in this new year, and finds it surprisingly good -- but he concludes with a warning.

I THOUGHT EDITORS WERE SUPPOSED TO PREVENT THIS SORT OF THING: Here's a roundup of howlers from the Los Angeles Times.

100,000 MARCH FOR DEMOCRACY IN HONG KONG: As they should. (Via Sullivan/Drezner, where you can also see some interesting observations about the Bush Administration's successful multilateralism).

HOBBS ONLINE is now a BillHobbs.com, with a spiffy new design.

BRIAN DOHERTY COMMENTS on the near-uselessness of the Terror Alert Levels. He does, however, make this generally positive observation:

Still, even the most imaginatively fearful can't help but notice that if our nation is indeed crawling with al Queda sleeper agents with the desire and ability to pull off murderous assaults on our way of life, they are sleeping suspiciously soundly. It seems most likely that America really isn't acrawl with such enemies, and if it is, they are singularly unimaginative and incompetent. Any random gang of Soldier of Fortune-reading teenagers could land serious blows to America's infrastructure every day if they didn't care if they lived or died.

I think he's right about that, and I think it's a good thing.

A RATHER QUIET NEW YEAR'S EVE HERE: We played "Crazy 8s" and I went out and brought back frozen yogurt. Then it was a special holiday edition of Spongebob Squarepants until everyone else went to sleep. I graded exams until about 11:30, then cracked a split of Asti (too sweet) and had a glass while I watched the CNN coverage and read an Honor Harrington novel. That's life at Stately InstaPundit Manor. If the house is a rockin', don't bother knockin'! (Hey, it was wilder than Jeff Jarvis's New Year's. Well, maybe. Obviously, both of us needed more explosives to properly ring in the New Year.)

The CNN coverage was interesting, as the tone -- at least of the part I saw -- was quite unabashedly patriotic. They spent a good deal of time with a young man who was about to go off to Fort Benning, and many flags were in evidence. I noticed that the ceremonies seemed rather patriotic in tone, too, right down to the playing of "Proud to Be An American" just before midnight. You wouldn't have seen that a few years ago. . . .

December 31, 2003

IRAQI BLOGGERS OMAR AND AYS offer New Year's thoughts.

AUSTIN BAY has thoughts on the terror war in 2004 -- and on what we learned in 2003.

DONALD SENSING is back from vacation, and is posting on a number of topics including the worthlessness of the Army's 9mm pistol. I've fired it, and I wasn't impressed -- it was heavy, for a 9mm, but somehow felt cheap. (Of course, I mostly shoot Sigs, so everything feels cheap by comparison. But even a Glock is MUCH better.) Apparently the critique goes much deeper than that.

Stopping power would be much greater, of course, using hollow-point ammunition but that's a no-no for the military.

LT SMASH reflects on the past year.

ROGER SIMON:

I would like to know if one of our big media organizations is at work on one of the most disturbing mysteries of our time--where the billions in UN Oil-for-Food money in Iraq went and how it got there. Why aren't the LAT, the NYT and WaPo on this? If they're afraid of the answers, then shame on them. Until we fully understand the roots and extent of this scandal, the UN will not be able to function as an untainted organization. You would think believers in international government (which I am, with reservations) would want to clear that up.

Yes, you would think that.

POOR JOHN KERRY CAN'T CATCH A BREAK: Even the t-shirts are against him.

HERE'S MORE ON THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE WAR ON TERROR, as African "hot spots" cool down.

PLAME UPDATE: Tom Maguire isn't blogging, but he's emailed comments to Mark Kleiman, which are included in this post of Kleiman's. Maguire and Kleiman think that the Ashcroft recusal suggests that there's serious Administration involvement. I'm not so sure about that -- it seems to me that if Ashcroft was going to come down hard on, say, Karl Rove people would be unlikely to scream conflict-of-interest. Instead, it seems that his recusal would make more sense if people were likely to scream "whitewash" because Rove wasn't involved. Kleiman mentions this possibility but discounts it.

Meanwhile, Eric Rasmusen has a different take:

1. The leaker has been discovered, but either the leak was not a crime or is too trivial to warrant prosecution. In this case, an honest prosecutor would come out saying that the Democrats were right in what they claimed occurred, but that it does not warrant prosecution. This, indeed, is what all the evidence so far is suggesting. The Democrats would make political hay of an official statement that Mr. X leaked the information but there would be no prosecution, saying that Ashcroft was just protecting his political allies. This is a little harder to do if someone other than an official Justice Department spokesman makes and defends the announcement.

2. The investigation has uncovered misbehavior, but by people in the CIA-- perhaps Plame herself-- who are opposed to the Bush Administration.
It is clear there was misbehavior in the CIA in selecting Wilson to go to Niger, since it was clear he would use the opportunity to embarass the Administration without collecting any real information. Someone ought to be fired for that. It may be that an actual crime has been committed, too--- say, misuse of government money for political purposes by civil servants, or violation of a confidentiality agreement (by Wilson), or violation of a nepotism rule (by Plame), or something we don't know about. If Ashcroft goes after the malefactors, he will be accused of trying to punish the victim or trying to punish whistleblowers. It is better to let a special prosecutor take the heat.

That's more in accordance with my sense of where this case is, but I could be wrong. Mostly, as I've mentioned before, I've taken my cues from Joseph Wilson, who isn't acting like it's a serious matter. As I said before:

Not knowing the underlying facts, I have to make my judgment by the behavior of the parties. And judging from that, the scandal is bogus, and Wilson is a self-promoter who can't be trusted.

Nothing in Ashcroft's recusal changes this part.

But Ashcroft isn't the only recusal in this case. And will Novak be subpoenaed now? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I think, by the way, that the credibility of Plame-scandal-boosters like Kleiman would be stronger if it weren't for lines like this: "Go out and celebrate. The odds on a Democrat's replacing George W. Bush just shortened considerably."

2003: A good year for freedom. And, interestingly, for world peace, unless you're one of those ethnocentric types who thinks that only wars in which America is involved count.

EVEN MORE ON OUTSOURCING, over at GlennReynolds.com.

READER DANIEL MCCARTHY emails:

Two thoughts: One of the great things about blogs is bloggers work through the holidays, as opposed to newspapers and magazines, which recycle the year's news during the last week of the year to put together the inevitably boring "Year in Review" issue.

Second, a big media observation. Have you ever noticed that no matter how small the scale of the attack in Baghdad,the headline from the big media outlets will read something like "Huge Explosions Rock Baghdad" or "Baghdad Reels From Attacks"? I noticed an absurd example of this on the radio on Christmas Eve. My local ABC-radio affiliate interrupted regular programing to report that "huge explosions" had rocked the area near the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad.

40 minutes later the end of the hour news update reported that an RPG had been fired at and missed the Sheraton, landing in the backyard. Big difference, huh?

Not to some people.

UPDATE: Virginia Postrel says that the first point is a "crock." Well, obviously not all Big Media shut down, nor is that what McCarthy says. But we see a lot of lame "best of 2003" issues and lists, and a lot of "special holiday double issues" that contain a lot of ads and, ahem, "editorial support" for advertisers in a lot of publications. Surely she doesn't intend to deny that things get rather, um, fluffy during the holidays? I'm sort of surprised at the tone of her response, here.

THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a "neutral arbiter" in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer until they change their ways, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies. Just read this post and follow the links to see how they feel about America.

And read this piece by Amir Taheri on the Iraqi "resistance," which notes Palestinian terror connections by the Iraqi insurgents, and features a Palestinian "journalist" egging them on.

These folks are our enemies, and deserve to be treated as such. They don't deserve a state of their own. It's not clear that they even deserve to keep what they've got. (Why is Arafat still in power?) I don't think this means that the Bush Administration should be taking direct action against them -- closing off their funding via shutting down Saddam is a good start, and a policy of slow strangulation directed at Arafat and his fellow terrorists is probably the most politic at the moment. We need to try to squeeze off the EU funding, too, especially now that it's been admitted to be part of a proxy war by the EU not just against Israel, but America.

But let's stop pretending that what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians is some sort of family misunderstanding. It's war, and the Palestinians -- and their EU supporters -- think it's a war not just against Israel, but against us. We should tailor our approach accordingly.

UPDATE: Reader Matt Gaffney emails that this post is "too shrill." Well, that's why I don't like writing about the Palestinian issue -- if you tell the truth, which is that these guys are enemies of civilization, in the grip of a psychotic death cult that will probably lead to their destruction, then you sound shrill.

I also don't write about it much because the Palestinians, fundamentally, are the cannon fodder of other people who don't like the United States, and the real way to resolve this problem is to deal with those other people. And so it's those other people who get the bulk of my attention.

But the amount of pious crap spouted about the Palestinians is so vast that every once in a while I do feel the need to cut through it by pointing out the facts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Now this, from a reader who signs himself "AK," is shrill:

You should be ashamed of yourself posting such intolerant hateful bullshit. You sound like Goebbles reincarnate.

I'm reminded of the now dead hater: Barbara Olsen and how life has a way of catching up with people of your ilk.

Thus speaks the voice of the "peace movement" on the Middle East.

This, on the other hand, may not be "shrill," exactly -- but I promise it won't sound good. And I would never subject any human being, even Yasser Arafat, to such a horror. . . .

MORE: Matt Gaffney wants to make clear that he doesn't agree with AK. And Nelson Ascher observes:

If I understood the guy correctly, he (or maybe she) is not just in favour of capital punishment, but also thinks someone might deserve it for a mere opinion, and that even without due process. Tell me if I'm wrong, but isn't this what used to be called a totally anti-free speech and very, very extreme right-wing position? It is as good an example of pure totalitarianism as one gets.

Indeed. One hears that sort of thing rather a lot from the "peace" movement these days.

TIM BLAIR is soliciting predictions for 2004. This one seems safe: "France will whine and seethe about something Bush does."

So does this one: "More long, slow, leisurely, expensive LUNCHES for Tim."

And I like this one: "'Fisk' will make it into the Oxford English Dictionary."

RICH GALEN HAS A NEW REPORT FROM BAGHDAD UP: It includes a photo of him with David Letterman on Christmas. He also has pictures of Hanukkah in Tikrit!

TACITUS:

I've noticed a disturbing tendency on the American left to minimize both the dangers of communism and the threat it presented in the Cold War. With the benefit of hindsight, defense buildups and what were at the time wholly rational fears are dismissed on the grounds that it was all going to rot away anyhow; some claim that this means anticommunism as a policy movement was essentially pointless; and at its most extreme, a few assert that opposition to international communism only exacerbated the problem. Every one of these beliefs is wrong. . . .

The second error commonly committed vis a vis communism is that it's somehow a "noble ideal" that was just executed really, really, poorly. Yep, every single time it was ever tried. Leaving aside the whole battered-wife syndrome evident in this attitude among the apologists ("Maybe next time he won't beat me, nor shoot countless political prisoners!"), there's the basic fact that communism is not a fundamentally noble ideal.

Indeed.

UPDATE: By the way, Jonathan Rauch has a good piece on the left's unwillingness to face the historical truth about communism in the Atlantic Monthly. Sadly, it's pay-only, but you can read an abstract here.

NOPE, the Reynolds Vineyards guys aren't any relation to me either. They make good wine, though, and I like the way their site uses video (see here, for example).

I AGREE WITH JEFF JARVIS that the Command Post deserves lots of praise.

SOME BACKGROUND ON AIR FRANCE:

The company put in charge of security for Air France flights employed a convicted murderer and a number of others with serious criminal records, it emerged yesterday. . . .

As a result of a search of criminal records more than 30 agents were grounded as a potential security risk.

The police also looked into the record of Pretory's sub-contractors.

This led to unconfirmed reports that some guards had been sent for arms training courses in Middle Eastern countries suspected of harbouring terrorists.

Ouch.

JOHN HAWKINS OFFERS A ROUNDUP OF THE BEST (OR WORST) QUOTES from Democratic Underground for 2003. It's a must-read.

December 30, 2003

GAME THEORIST JAMES MILLER SAYS don't try Saddam -- make an example of him.

AL QAEDA VIDEOS found in Iraq weapons cache. This is interesting.

DAVID ADESNIK: "I told you so."

PARIS WHO?

AH, A blast from the past, courtesy of Tim Blair.

WHY IS TOM MAGUIRE'S BLOG blank?

MICHAEL YOUNG has more on the crushing of dissent in France.

MICHAEL KNOX BERAN writes on efforts to discredit the Framers.

I suspect that those efforts will have more impact on the reputation of academics (already falling) than on the reputation of the Framers.

UPDATE: Jacob Levy is unimpressed with Beran's article.

SOME INTERESTING POLL RESULTS FROM IRAQ, along with other reports.

THIS SOUNDS GOOD:

NEW YORK – The US economy is poised for its best performance in five years. Economists describe an economy that will be "solid," "sustainable," and "entering the new year with a wonderful head of steam."

I hope it turns out that way. Though I suppose that not everyone will be happy.

MORE THOUGHTS ON OUTSOURCING over at GlennReynolds.com.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time in California:

The 17-year-old junior says that stance inspired threats from which teachers have refused to protect him. Some faculty members even started a public campaign against his group. . . In a telephone interview, Tim said he's been threatened at least three times . . . . One boy said he was going to "find someone" to beat up Tim. In two of those instances, Tim said two faculty members stood by and did nothing to help him.

All because he had an unpopular opinion. I hope the Justice Department will look into this breach of civil rights, and the apparent complicity of state employees in the suppression of speech they find disagreeable.

PAUL KRUGMAN'S NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE PRESS have drawn this response from Jay Rosen.

Personally, I think that Krugman should read these New Year's resolutions from James Lileks!

"E-VOTING FIRM ACKNOWLEDGES HACKER BREAK-IN:" Sorry, this technology isn't ready for prime time.

DAVID AARONOVITCH IN THE GUARDIAN:

Some will see this as simply a natural disaster of the kind to which Iran, according to Khatami, is "prone". Four days earlier, however, there had been another earthquake of about the same intensity, this time in California. In which about 0.000001% of the buildings suffered serious structural damage and two people were killed when an old clocktower collapsed. So why the polar disparity between Bam and Paso Robles?

This is not a silly question. True, the Californians are much richer than the Iranians. But if you believed everything you read in the works of M Moore and others, you would anticipate a culture of corporate greed in which safety and regulation came way behind the desire to turn the quick buck. Instead you discover a society in which the protection of citizens from falling masonry seems to be regarded as enormously important.

Whereas in Iran - for all its spiritual solidarity - the authorities don't appear to give a toss. The report in this paper from Teheran yesterday was revealing. It was one thing for the old, mud-walled citadel to fall down, but why the new hospitals? An accountant waiting to give blood at a clinic in the capital told our correspondent that it was a "disgrace that a rich country like ours with all the revenue from oil and other natural resources is not prepared to deal with an earthquake".

Spent on nukes and clerics' limousines.

Read the whole thing. He's pretty hard on non-Iranian intellectuals, too -- especially in this bit:

What, I wonder, has Arundhati Roy to say now about the superiority of traditional building methods over globalised ones? Some Iranians might think that it's a shame there wasn't a McDonald's in Bam. It would have been the safest place in town.

Indeed.

UPDATE: It's interesting to read the above together with this from Iranian blogger Hossein Derakshan:

Nothing could ever show the real sense of diconnectivity and distrust between Iranian people and the Islamic regime, and its deeply dysfunctionality better than a devastating quake. Everywhere you go and every blog you read, there is talk about the political implications of such tragedy going on.

People inside and outside Iran are desperately trying to gather donations, but they don't want to give the money to the government.

It's even more interesting when you read these two together with the Hanson article, linked below.

WHEN BLOGS ARE GOOD: John Perry Barlow gets a little overheated on the subject of Bush:

We can't afford to lose this one, folks. If we do, we'll have to set our watches back 60 years. If they even let us have watches in the camps, that is.

Don McArthur ("Misanthropyst") then politely takes him to task in the comments, Barlow politely replies, and a useful discussion ensues.

THIS PIECE from the Washington Post on the new Iraqi police gets a rather tart response from AMCGLTD:

Personally, I'm amazed it's going as well as it seems to be. All the Iraqi bloggers, even Riverbend (who hates everything), say nothing but good things about the new Iraqi police force*. Can you imagine the chaos if, say, New York City had to rebuild its entire police force from scratch in just six months? It'd probably look a lot like, well, a lot like Baghdad actually.

Read the whole thing.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON:

After watching a string of editorial attacks on America both at home and from abroad in the aftermath of Saddam’s capture, I thought back to the actual record of the last two years. In 24 months the United States defeated two of the most hideous regimes in modern memory. For all the sorrow involved, it has already made progress in the unthinkable: bringing consensual government into the heart of Middle Eastern autocracy, where there has been no political heritage other than tyranny, theocracy, and dictatorship.

In liberating 50 million people from both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein it has lost so far less than 500 soldiers — some of whom were killed precisely because they waged a war that sought to minimalize not just civilian casualties but even the killing of their enemies.

Yep. And people who ignore or minimize this achievement also minimize their own credibility. (I haven't read Hanson's new book, yet, but Randy Barnett recommends it.)

MILITARY BLOGGER SGT. HOOK is going to Afghanistan shortly and he'd like to break the 50,000-hit mark before he leaves. Drop by and help him out. And encourage him to keep blogging from Afghanistan! Hey Sarge -- do you have a digital camera?

UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long -- he's over 50K now. But don't let that stop you from visiting.

MICHAEL WOLFF emails John Tabin's father. Result: Wolff looks stupid.

That's not really much of a surprise.

I DON'T ANTICIPATE A LOT OF FOOD-BLOGGING HERE, despite the Great Pot Debate of yesterday. But here's a food blog with links to more, if that sort of thing interests you.

Last night, by the way, it was pan-seared lamb chops marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil, with asparagus. The lamb -- bought from the small farm next door to my sister's -- was great. With a short cooking time on fairly high heat, the lamb stays rare inside (as it should be!) but it's very flavorful on the outside.

Some people find it hard to believe that I have time to cook, but it didn't take long at all to prepare. There are lots of good things that don't. And those, not surprisingly, are the things I tend to cook. . . .

JEFF JARVIS: "Howard Dean is flailing like a loser."

The most dangerous guy to Howard Dean is, well, Howard Dean.

UPDATE: Roger Simon isn't impressed, either. There are some interesting comments on Dean, the media, and the polls, too. Just keep scrolling.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Is Dean flailing because of Hillary Terror?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: This transcript of the Howard Dean / Al Gore skit from SNL referencing Paul Krugman is pretty funny. (Thanks to Henry Hanks for the link.)

MORE: Hey, here's another Al Gore connection:

All candidates develop a reputation with the media. In 2000 the story line on Al Gore was his wildly exaggerated claims. Mr. Gore may not have said precisely that he "invented the Internet," but his propensity to tell "whoppers" got him tagged with the line nonetheless. Unfortunately for Mr. Dean, that's the kind of story line that's now emerging about him.

As I say, Dean's worst enemy is Dean. Heck, he's already lost Julian Sanchez.

IN LIGHT OF MY earlier post on the Ford Foundation, inspired by a Wall Street Journal article, some readers might be interested in this much longer article on the Ford Foundation's rather dubious behavior.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh calls the criticism of the Ford Foundation in the above article unsound.

HERE'S A LINK to the L.A. Times article on the Iraq / Syria WMD connection that I mentioned earlier. It's interesting, but Captain Ed accuses the LAT of spinning a bit:

Note that the Times is careful to inject the issues of nuclear and biological weapon searches, in order to protect the UN inspection process, but the inspectors were supposed to be looking for all violations of UN resolutions. Iraq was not supposed to be purchasing any of these items, and Syria was not supposed to be shipping them across the border. Why didn't the inspectors find these documents? Because the inspections process was useless, and this episode proves it.

Interesting. It's certainly true that WMDs are only part of the "material breach" picture.

UPDATE: Several readers note that among the things Iraq was looking for were "nerve agent antidotes." As Jonathan Adler observes, that's a funny thing to want if you don't have nerve gas.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Drezner has more, including this observation:

What is mildly shocking -- from someone who knows a thing or two about economic sanctions -- is that companies from stalwart U.S. allies -- Poland and South Korea -- were also complicit in the sanctions-busting.

Read it all.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A summary, and a lot of interesting observations, on the LAT story, from American Thinker.

"IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY THAT'S INTERESTING, you will eventually be heard." Here's a lengthy and interesting roundup of the political blog world by USA Today's Kathy Kiely.

UPDATE: Hey, it's on the front page of the print edition. (Via Jeff Jarvis, with a reference to the Velvet Underground). And Kos is quoted in a breakout box right up front!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several readers, like Rich Whitten, question the article's characterization of InstaPundit as "right leaning:"

The article in USA Today that you just linked says:

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor whose Instapundit.com is one of the more popular right-leaning Web sites, says the blogosphere has become an "idea farm" for the established media.

Right-leaner? I guess supporting the war makes you a right-leaner despite your stances on ANYTHING else. Sigh.

Some folks just have to push everyone into right or left labels. Man, I hate it when that happens...

Sadly, I've gotten so used to it that I've about quit noticing.

By the way, here's a guide to econoblogs, from Bruce Bartlett.

MORE: Ed Cone emails:

When I needed a quick id for your blog in my Baseline article, I thought rightwing and the like were way too limiting - I went with "who supports George Bush on Iraq" - still limited, but at least it defines the blog by a key issue, not a broad brush.

Yeah. To a lot of people, I think the two are the same, now. That seems like a poor definitional strategy to folks who don't want "right wing" to be the same as "majority," though.

SPEAKING OF FREE, my TechCentralStation column is up.

THE POWER OF FREE: I mentioned earlier that the InstaWife had mixed feelings about seeing her out-of-print book for sale used on Amazon at $99.95. Rather than revising it for a second edition (she's already working on another book anyway) she's just put it up on her website for free downloads in PDF format, along with a couple of donation buttons. It'll be interesting to see how this works out.

She ought to make more money from the donations than she's making now from the book (not hard, since the used sales net her zilch), and the people who are constantly emailing her to ask where they can get copies will now have a place to go. The only losers are the people selling used copies for $99.95. Sorry, guys!

December 29, 2003

ANGLICAN RISIBILITY WATCH:

Tony Blair came under attack from two of the Church of England's most senior figures yesterday for acting "like a white vigilante" and for lacking humility in forging ahead with the war on Iraq.

As someone who is part white, I resent this racial slur and demand an apology. I'm considering filing a complaint with the British authorities for racial hate speech. I guess it's insult Glenn's various ethnicities day or something. Quick, say something bad about the Irish!

Oh, wait, they do that all the time. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Bart Hall notes that I'm not the only one who finds the Anglican hierarchy risible:

Interestingly enough, African Anglicans in particular have accused both the CofE and the Episcopal Church USA of an arrogant cultural imperialism worse than colonialism in their attempts to force left-wing revisionist theology on the world wide church.

This is one reason why most of the African Anglican churches are severing relations with the Episcopal church in the US and (often) the Church of England. Most recently the Anglicans in Zambia cut relationships with both churches. Not only have Anglicans in Nigeria and Uganda broken relations with revisionist Episcopalians, they have informed the head honcho of the US church that he will not be welcome at the installation of the new head of the Ugandan church (Henry Orombi, who happens to be a fairly close personal friend).

The simple fact is that the Church of England no longer matters, except to itself. There are vastly more Anglicans worshipping on a given Sunday in either Nigeria or Uganda than there are in the US, the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand --- combined. The Episcopal Church has lost a third of its membership in the last decade or so because its leaders keep saying stuff like this: "the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the sacred Quran to the prophet Muhammad" in his Christmas sermon this year at the National Cathedral in Washington (quoting Bishop Chane of DC).

Stepping back to the big picture, I think we're seeing pieces of an historically important shift. For many centuries stewardship of the Christian faith has rested with the Catholics and mainline Protestants of "the West." In the last two or three generations that stewardship has first faltered and subsequently almost disappeared. The Episcopal Church and the Church of England have been tragically consistent leaders in this trend. As in the parable of the talents, leadership of the church is now being removed from weak hands in the 'west' and transferred to our brothers and sisters in the south--and China--who /will/ take care of it.

My Nigerian relatives, who are Anglican, are proud that there are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in England. It's easy to see why.

And as we've already learned, the pews in China are "packed" at Christmas. Here's an interesting article on the spread of Christianity from The Atlantic Monthly that quotes my University of Tennessee colleague and friend Rosalind Hackett, who studies this sort of thing. Here's an interesting bit:

The emphasis on global evangelism has helped to spur the development of what Hackett has called the "South-South" religious connection. No longer does Christian missionary activity flow primarily from the developed countries of the North to the developing countries of the South. Brazilian Pentecostal movements are evangelizing heavily in Africa. New African movements are setting up shop in Asia. Korean evangelists now outnumber American ones around the world. And so on.

The course of missionary activity is also beginning to flow from South to North. Many new African movements have for some time been establishing themselves in Europe and North America. Some of this can be attributed to immigration, but there's more to the process than that. "Many people just aren't aware of how active African Christian missionaries are in North America," Hackett says. "The Africans hear about secularization and empty churches and they feel sorry for us. So they come and evangelize. The late Archbishop Idahosa [a renowned Nigerian evangelist and the founder of the Church of God Mission, International] once put it to me this way: 'Africa doesn't need God, it needs money. America doesn't need money, it needs God.' That's an oversimplification, but it gets at something important."

This is definitely going on.

DRUDGE is reporting that Syria "smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, establishing Syria as the main channel for illegal transfers to Baghdad during the U.N. embargo." There's supposed to be an L.A. Times story tomorrow.

ARE BLOGS LIKE SAUSAGES? Read this and decide for yourself.

Mmm. Sausage.

I ALWAYS SAID THAT OLIVER WILLIS WAS MADE FOR TV: Now he's experimenting with the idea.

ABBEY ROAD IN A BOX: Actually, it's a lot better than that.

2003: The year in hate speech. "Progress of a sort, I guess. There's room for a lot more."

MAD COW AND REGULATION: An interesting post by Daniel Drezner.

STEVEN DEN BESTE looks at the Democrats' race-and-gender problems.

I'VE BEEN BLOGGING ABOUT POTS, but Virginia Postrel has some interesting observations regarding shoes.

IN AN EMAIL QUOTED IN THIS POST, Stefan Sharkansky said that he couldn't remember a newspaper making an editorial page correction. Neither could I. (And neither could Terry Teachout). But Linda Seebach put the question to an editorial-page listserv and many reported that they do make corrections (though sometimes in the "corrections box" rather than on the editorial page). Stefan has more comments on this subject here.

UPDATE: This dialogue between Donald Luskin and Dan Okrent is somewhat related.

HERE'S AN AMUSING INTERVIEW: Well, it would be more amusing if it didn't ring so true.

STEPHEN GREEN has entered the Great Cookware Debate.

By the way, I bought one of the two pans I wrote about earlier. Want to guess which one? Comments are open for a brief period, until I close 'em to stop the inevitable penis-enlargement comment-spam.

UPDATE: Answer in the comments, which are now closed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oxblog's comment on these posts: "MAKING EVEN THE DUMBEST SH** INTERESTING." Hey, a new InstaPundit motto!

ANOTHER LOOTING SCANDAL: I blame Paul Wolfowitz, for not making sure that there were enough American troops on hand to enforce order.

GERMAN PUBLIC MOOD reaches pessimistic low.

I guess they've figured out that they've got Gerhard Schroeder running things.

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, this time in Arizona.

SOME RACIST TWIT IN PARIS thinks that the Uruk-hai in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings look like American Indians.

As someone of Native American descent, I'm deeply offended. So is reader David Emigh, who writes: "As a Cherokee brought up in New Mexico I can think of NO Amerind that looks like the Uruk-hai."

All my relatives are tusk-free! A guy who sees a resemblance to American Indians in the Uruk-hai is like a guy who sees a resemblance to black people in chimpanzees.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll emails that Jonah Goldberg has made this point in response to similar comments in the past:

Okay, yes, it's true. Many of the Orcs (and the super-Orcs) are dark-skinned and have slant-eyes. They are also — how shall I put this? — Orcs! Ya frickin' idjit!
One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people — like me — who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, "Cool, Orcs!" On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim "black people!" Maybe he should spend less time vetting movies for signs of racism and more time vetting himself if, that is, he free-associates black people with these subhuman monsters.

What he said.

BEST OF THE WEB is back from its holiday hiatus.

FUNNY, but Peter Jennings doesn't report it quite this way.

DANIEL DREZNER, GUEST-BLOGGING FOR ANDREW SULLIVAN, notes that the New York Times has backed down from its claims of Halliburton profiteering in Iraq.

Maybe they've started reading Winds of Change.

SO HOW ARE THINGS IN IRAQ? Beats me. This story from the Washington Post doesn't sound so great: "The United States has backed away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to transform Iraq's economy, political system and security forces as attacks on U.S. troops have escalated and the timetable for ending the civil occupation has accelerated."

On the other hand, this story from the Christian Science Monitor says that things are going much better in the counterinsurgency, and that attacks -- rather than escalating -- are going down.

When Saddam was captured, Josh Chafetz predicted that guerrilla attacks would intensify for about a month, then fade away. They don't really seem to have intensified, which is either good news or bad news.

I suspect that money will be the key, with the switchover to new currency in February putting a crimp in the operations of the anti-US forces. Increased pressure on Syria and Iran, and on Saudi extremists, will also make a difference over time. Here's a tidbit from the CSM story:

Russell says over $10 million in cash has been seized in recent months, even as the asking price for an attack on coalition forces has surged, according to locals. He says the relatively large pool of men willing to attack US forces in the area a few months ago has dwindled as tough tactics have killed many, with few losses on his side.

The supply of money and martyrs seems to be running low, which is good news.

UPDATE: Hmm. This sounds like good news on the money front: "Saddam Hussein has acknowledged depositing billions of dollars abroad before his ouster and has given interrogators the names of people who know where the money is, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said in remarks published Monday." Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this certainly sounds like good news:

Influential spiritual leaders from Saddam Hussein's hometown — a bastion of anti-American sentiment — are joining forces to persuade Iraqis to abandon the violent insurgency, one of the leaders said Monday.

The effort marks a new, open willingness to cooperate with U.S. forces — a shift in the thinking of at least some key members of Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, which lost political dominance with the fall of Saddam and has largely formed the most outspoken and violent opposition to the U.S.-led occupation.

Walter Russell Mead, who emailed the link, observes: "This could be the most important breakthrough of all: responsible Sunnis realizing that despite their enduring bitterness at the way the US ended Sunni dominance in Iraq, using the window offered by the US presence to include protection for Sunni minority rights and Sunni interests in the structure of a new Iraq is now their best hope for the future." I think that's right, but as the CSM story notes, we won't see an overnight change, but a gradual one. But I suspect that this demonstrates which way these guys -- who are a lot closer to the situation, and who have a lot at stake -- think the wind is blowing at the moment. That's an important indicator, too.

People keep looking for a single storyline here, but there's a lot going on. The ultimate storyline, of course, is that if we don't chicken out, things are likely to turn out well -- and if we do chicken out, things are certain to turn out very, very badly.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: With regard to the Post story above, Michael Ubaldi observes that it should probably be taken with a grain of salt, given reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran's tendency to paint consistently bleak pictures. Stay tuned.

MORE: In a related development, Phil Carter looks at the intelligence officers who tracked down Saddam. And David Adesnik observes: "All I can add is that the outstanding soldiers responsible for finding Saddam did exactly what Americans are supposedly unable to do: they used common sense and cold logic to understand the inner workings of a foreign culture and the behavior of clandestine guerrillas."

"What Americans are supposedly unable to do" -- yes, but mostly so supposed by people who don't want Americans to be able to do it.

STILL MORE: On the Saddam's-hidden-billions issue, Alex Bensky emails:

One of the themes from the left was that our sanctions against Iraq were in effect murdering babies. It turns out that the Iraqi government had plenty of money to buy medicine and food for young and old alike, but instead of spending it on that it was being squirreled away in Swiss banks or used to buy and equip dozens of opulent palaces and otherwise feather the nests of Ba'athist thugs.

You owe it to your readers to link to those who now admit that they were wrong and the cause of the starvation and sickness was Saddam and not the U.S. I'll be waiting right here to see those links...any day now.

Uh, yeah, Alex. I'll be sure to link every single example that I come across.

MORE STILL: Mickey Kaus thinks worries that we're moving too fast are wrong:

[T]he "artificial timeline" derided by Hillary Clinton has some obvious virtues. The June 30 deadline focuses the minds of the Americans on what they can and can't expect to accomplish before they've outstayed their welcome--do we really need to "cash out" Iraq's food rationing program in accordance with Milton-Friedman's theories before we leave?--and it focuses the mind of Iraqis on what they need to do as well, including what compromises they may need to make. . . .

Remember, we're not (in theory) leaving after June 30. The Pentagon is talking about a large negotiated presence for "one or two years, in terms of the troops' staying there," according to Deputy Secretary of State Armitage. And there will be ongoing reconstruction programs.

Very interesting post. He's right about the mind-focusing bit, and I wonder if it doesn't explain the Sunni clerics' willingness to play ball, now that they're faced with the prospect of dealing with a Shia dominated government.

THE NEW YORK TIMES BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT CARRIES A GUN: I'm okay on that, as he obviously believes that he needs it for protection in a dangerous place.

I just want to note the irony, given the Times' manifest hostility to American citizens who want to carry guns for protection -- especially since, according to this report, anyway the murder rate in Baghdad is actually lower than in NYC.

Perhaps one day the Times will come to regard gun-carrying in New York as a matter of legitimate self-protection. And in the meantime, I'm more worried about other gun-toting Times employees in Baghdad.

UPDATE: Tim Lambert notes that the Baghdad study is by John Lott, which I hadn't noticed. He says it's bogus, but since Lambert -- though he's made good points from time to time -- would pronounce John Lott's grocery list bogus ("It says Skippy, but he bought JIF!") I don't know what to make of it, and it's after 11 and I'm tired. Make up your own mind. I link -- you think. At least while I'm still grading exams. . . .

CATHY SEIPP ASKS: "Is Maureen Dowd the laziest gal in town?"

CHIEF WIGGLES has all sorts of interesting news from Iraq.

JONATHAN PEARCE HAS MORE on the Parmalat scandal, known as Europe's Enron. He also wonders why it hasn't gotten more attention in the Blogosphere.

Beats me. I've mentioned it more than once.

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge has posts here (on Parmalat as an accounting scandal) and here (on Parmalat as a corporate governance scandal).

BUT OF COURSE: A French reporter looked at French media coverage of the war:

Hertoghe's book covers the performance of four national newspapers and France's largest regional daily over a three-week period in March and April. It contends that the coverage was ideological, in line with the French government's position opposing the United States, and that it was desirous of portraying a great catastrophe for the Americans.

His reward? He was fired. More crushing of dissent, in Jacques Chirac's France! Meanwhile a German media watchdog group looked at German coverage:

A draft of the report, underwritten in part by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, says of the state networks: "After assuming a position of sharp criticism of American military actions, abandoned only after their increasing success, and after fixating on the Iraqis as suffering victims, they created a representation of the war in line with the position" of the German government. It continues, "Critical questions concerning the extent to which the unrelenting German position contributed to the escalation of the conflict were thus kept from public scrutiny."

Do tell. And yet people like Bill Moyers are always saying that American media coverage is slanted because we don't have state-controlled media.

THE BOSTON GLOBE HAS MORE in its series on inadequate financial regulation where nonprofits and foundations are concerned. This is a must-read if you're interested in this subject:

Inadequate hardly describes the system now in place to keep watch over the $429 billion in assets held by private charitable foundations. A Globe Spotlight Team investigation of hundreds of foundations nationwide found that oversight is virtually nonexistent, allowing excesses and abuses to go unchecked.

Trustees of private foundations know they can flout the law with almost no risk of detection, much less penalty. That's because the IRS has neither the resources nor the incentive to police this sector. And state regulators, including those in Massachusetts, admit that with their present budgets and staff they can do little more than warehouse the foundations' annual returns.

Indeed.

UPDATE: By the way, here is an earlier post with lots on this subject that you might have missed because of the holidays.

OUT OF WAR, PEACE:

The War on Terror has had an unintended, and welcome, side effect; world peace. Since September 11, 2001, and the aggressive American operations against terrorist organizations, several long time wars have ended, or moved sharply in that direction. Many of these wars get little attention in American media, but have killed hundreds of thousands of people over the last decade.

What follows is an interesting story of the Bush Administration's successful multilateral approach to the War On Terror, with this conclusion: "And hardly anyone noticed."

EARLIER, I LINKED A PIECE BY RALPH PETERS saying that we were shafting the Poles. Now Trent Telenko has a post at Winds of Change suggesting that Peters is wrong. I hope so.

Meanwhile, for more on the Poles, read this post, and this Tom Friedman oped. Friedman thinks we're not doing as well by the Poles as we ought to be.

MYSTERIES OF THE MARKETPLACE: Okay, like a lot of folks I got gift certificates for Christmas. With an eye toward using one of them, I was shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond for cookware and ran across something odd. This All-Clad stainless 12-Inch fry pan was a rather pricy $129.99 (it's a bit cheaper at the Amazon link, at $124.95, but still steep). But the near-identical, as far as I can tell, Emerilware pan -- made by All-Clad, with All-Clad's name stamped on the bottom -- was $59.99. The two appeared almost indistinguishable, except that, if anything, the Emerilware pan seemed slightly heavier and solider.

So what gives? If the pans are different, it doesn't show, but if ,as seems likely, they are then it's sort of funny that a famous chef's signature line is actually inferior to the run-of-the-mill product. On the other hand, if they're essentially identical, then instead of adding value and letting All-Clad charge more for the same pan because of his endorsement, Emeril's name would seem to be costing All-Clad money. Can his endorsement be subtracting value? (In a way that makes sense -- all other things equal, I'd choose the non-signature item over the signature item -- but if most people thought this way, would anyone market signature items?) This article doesn't help things: it says that the difference between Emerilware and regular All-Clad is largely cosmetic, but also says that Emeril's name is what's driving this. So why is the stuff with his name cheaper?

What gives? I'm obviously missing something here.

UPDATE: Hey, forget politics. If you want massive quantities of email, write about cookware! Lots, and I mean lots, of readers weighed in, and Justin Katz has an interesting point about why celebrity-endorsed cookware might be cheaper: "Emeril can be seen as a sort of collective negotiator for his fans — on the payroll of the company. He brings a bunch of new customers, who mightn't otherwise be in the market for the product, to the store, and to entice the greatest number of them to actually lay down their credit cards, All-Clad lowers the price." Interesting.

The EmerilWare seems to be slightly inferior to the regular All-Clad, according to several readers. Here's the best summary, from Brian Erst:

[Discussion of how Calphalon has "extended the brand downward" omitted.]

All-Clad originally just had the "cladded stainless" line (the super heavy, shiny stuff - a three-ply steel-aluminum-steel process that goes all the way up the sides). They then came out with a few cosmetically different lines (LTD has a brushed steel outside, and they have another line that replaces the exterior steel layer with anodized aluminum) but still very high quality. They are now making the move into less expensive, lower-quality stuff (still plenty nice, but not nearly as indestructable, hand down to your grandkids kind of stuff). As I
understand it, the standard All-Clad line is manufactured in the USA, while the Emerilware and their new low-end line is manufactured in China. The Emerilware is not universally "all-clad" - instead of having a thick, three-ply layer going all the way up the sides, they have a thicker disk welded on the bottom and thinner metal on the sides. This gives a similar density on the bottom (dense is good - better heat distribution and heat retention = good searing/less burning), but the sides may warp under high heat (less safe to move the pan from the stovetop to the oven).

For 80-90% of the typical home use, the pan will still give great results, but for high-intensity searing and oven work, stick to the original. And if you want your daughter to secretly covet your pans and fight for them after you die, the original is the way to go. (Of course, maybe with the cheaper stuff, she'll want you to hang on longer!)

I doubt that the difference in quality really accounts for the difference in price, though. (Which suggests that the profit margin on All-Clad is quite high). Several readers also recommend the Cuisinart MultiClad line. I've never used those, but -- based on Brian's description above -- it seems comparable to the Emerilware.

I've been pretty happy with the few All-Clad pieces I own. When I first bought decent cookware (a Calphalon omelet pan) I was slightly horrified to discover just how much better it was than the stuff I had been using. But I think you hit the point of diminishing returns somewhere along here, and some high-end stuff (chiefly in the appliance field) is actually inferior to the cheaper goods. And it's certainly true, as one reader observed, that you don't necessarily get a better product when you spend more money -- there's a lot of market-segmentation going on out there.

CAN YOU SAY "HASHEMITE RESTORATION?" This guy can. I'm rather skeptical of his claims, but it's interesting to see this idea floated at this particular moment. Not that it's a new idea.

But the Hashemites will be busy with Mecca and Medina, won't they?

UPDATE: Several people have emailed to say that the Mecca and Medina link, above, is broken. It works for me. But in case it's not working for you, here's the key part from an InstaPundit post of October 11, 2001:

SAUDI "STONEWALLING:" That's the term used for Saudi non-cooperation -- they still haven't frozen Osama bin Laden's assets! -- and it's deeply troubling. The Saudis are used to playing this double game, but these aren't normal times, and they are placing their position at risk with this stuff. The only explanation I can imagine is that some senior Saudis actively support bin Laden -- which we've already seen demonstrated -- and that they're still trying to protect him. Uh, guys, if you're on the other side, we could just always change the name to Yankee Arabia, you know. Then Tom Daschle could have his way on ANWR.


Of course, that would be an extreme step. But an oil-rich Saudi Arabia that supports people who are at war with the United States is completely intolerable. It can't be allowed to stand, and it won't be, for long. Would replacing the Saudi royal family with, say, Hashemites (who ruled before the Saudi takeover, and are the traditional overseers of Mecca and Medina) cause more problems? Maybe -- but that won't help the Saudis, who need to remember that what's a potential problem for us is the end of the road for them. Hey, maybe that's why King Abdullah, the last Hashemite ruler, is being so cooperative with the United States....

There's more recent stuff on this -- just enter "hashemite" in the search window. Note, however, that re-installing the Hashemites in their traditional roles as custodians of Mecca and Medina (something they did for centuries before the British acceded to the Saudi takeover in Arabia) is a distinct issue from restoring the much-shorter-lived Hashemite monarchy in Iraq. That latter might conceivably play a Juan-Carlos-like role in Iraq, though I'm at best an agnostic on the subject. The Hashemites, not surprisingly, seem to be somewhat more enthusiastic.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Iraqis may not be terribly enthusiastic about Jordanians.

THIS IS INTERESTING:

Saudi Arabia has arrested two Islamic suicide pilots who were preparing to fly two light aircraft into a packed British Airways (BA) jet, a British Sunday newspaper said, quoting a senior opposition politician.

The suspected suicide pilots were arrested in the last few weeks after they were found red-handed with aircraft loaded with explosives near Saudi Arabia's main airport in the capital Riyadh, The Mail on Sunday said. . . .

Mercer claimed, according to the same source, that the Saudi authorities tried to cover up the incident near King Khalid International Airport and withheld information from authorities abroad.

Now there's a shocking claim.

December 28, 2003

COLBY COSH: "How many Fortune 500 heads do you suppose sit down with an actual, physical newspaper every morning? My bet is that the answer wouldn't be above 200."

I wonder how many read blogs?

ALL SORTS OF INTERESTING QUESTIONS regarding MoveOn.org, over at The Argus.

JACOB T. LEVY: "It is a foul political season for those of us with sympathies for the New Democratic agenda. . . . But the good news is that, accidental or not, some of the most important New Democratic policy triumphs of the '90s are more or less locked into place."

A BALKAN QUAGMIRE?

In a bitter blow for the politicians who toppled Slobodan Milosevic as Yugoslav president in 2000, the ultra-nationalist Radicals of former paramilitary leader Vojislav Seselj became by far the biggest party with almost 28 percent of the vote.

Their strong showing revealed just how disappointed many Serbs in the impoverished Balkan state are with three years of Western-style economic and political change, plagued by bitter feuding among former reform allies and corruption allegations. . . .

The outcome was also a setback for Western capitals hoping Serbia had turned its back on aggressive nationalism after a decade of wars under Milosevic, like Seselj facing war crimes charges at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

Obviously, the Clinton Administration failed to plan sufficiently for the postwar environment.

The real question here -- and it's a serious one -- is whether you can turn a dictatorship into a democracy without jailing, exiling, or executing the top few thousand members of the dictatorship's apparat.

UPDATE: Franco Aleman emails from Spain that, well, Spain is the example of doing just that:

You certainly can. It's not easy, no one really knows whether the process has ended 100% -though it looks like-, and it's impossible to determine if it was really the product of a plan or the fruit of several coincidences and specific factors simultaneously happening -which would make a quite unique result and might be difficult to translate to other countries-, but I think Spain can be considered an example that the transition can be successfully made...

True enough. But I think that Franco, Fascist dictator though he was, actually tried to facilitate that change (didn't he provide for the return of the King in his will?). You can't say that about Slobo or Saddam.

SEX IN SPACE: If you've got the money, they've got the location.

HOWARD DEAN'S PROFESSION OF RELIGIOUS FAITH is getting a bad review from the formerly Dean-friendly Julian Sanchez.

This strikes me as bizarre. It'd be one thing to have just done it. But it seems potentially counterproductive for someone who's already on record as saying he doesn't go to church much and doesn't let his religion influence his politics to, in essence, announce that he's made a strategic decision to pull out the God-talk for the rubes below the Mason-Dixon (while, presumably, abstaining up North). If his secularism is offputting to religious voters, isn't this kind of calculated, condescending pandering likely to be even more so?

Sounds like it to me.

THE UNITED STATES HAS DELIVERED 120,000 POUNDS OF RELIEF SUPPLIES TO IRAN: That's a fraction of what's needed, I imagine, but still a big deal.

UPDATE: Anne Cunningham has an observation involving (really!) a "non-insane" point by Robert Fisk.

MOLLY IVINS: Busted for joke theft. Again.

THE HARTFORD COURANT SUCKS LIKE A BILGE PUMP: At least, its online registration does. After asking for all sorts of personal information, it rejected me several times for reasons that weren't clear. Sorry guys -- you just wrote yourselves out of my media universe. And I doubt I'm the only one.

UPDATE: For some thoughts on registration, read this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis weighs in: "But like Glenn, when faced with the need to give blood type and sexual history and SAT scores and with the even more troubling need to try my feeble memory with another damned user name and password for a site I may visit once a year via a link, I often turn and run. Not worth it."

Nope, it's not. And I was looking to link to a business article in the Courant for my TCS column this week. That link would have sent many thousands of interested readers to the Courant, which you'd think that the Courant would like. But I knew that most of them wouldn't bother to work through the onerous registration process, so I found a similar story somewhere else and linked to that one, instead. Yeah, there are workarounds -- Jeff mentions some -- but while I use them sometimes, I can't expect people who read a column to know them. So I just put in a link to a publication that actually wants readers.

The Web's a big place, and I can usually do that. But the sheer stupidity of these schemes irritates me. What are these people thinking? I think that they're thinking like local-monopoly newspaperists, that's what. And that won't work on the Web.

Heck, judging by newspaper circulation figures, it doesn't even work in print.

IT'S PLEDGE WEEK at the staggeringly popular Wikipedia. In fact, popularity is part of their problem, alas! And here's their entry on weblogs.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT? Er, not really. Ten Ads Americans Won't See.

HERE, VIA DOC SEARLS, is a list of ways to help victims of the Iranian earthquake. And here are some rather horrifying before-and-after photos from Bam, via Persian Blogger Chronicles. The folks at Blog Iran have a gallery, too.

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Totten offers some perspective on the death toll: "That's two thirds the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War."

MORE CLERICAL RISIBILITY: "Bp. Chane has opened up a new and exciting area for exploring ecumenism/syncretism. Now, the Episcopalians of Washington can have a gay wedding in the church, and push a wall over on the two grooms at the reception."

BILL QUICK announces a moblogging breakthrough:

This is my current vision for the latest iteration of Daily Pundit. Breaking news and pictures posted here instantly, from anywhere in the world. Instant syndication of that news and those pictures all over the blogosphere, complete with inline links to everybody in the blogosphere who picks up and comments on that news, so readers can track down and read what others are saying about the posts here. And open, easily accessable comments right here from me and everybody else about that news and those pictures and the inbound links that follow therefrom.

Jeff Jarvis is praised.