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January 10, 2004

BILL WHITTLE has a new essay up.

READER MICHAEL HICKINS EMAILS:

hurry up guy we're all waiting to hear what you and the other fascist apologists are going to say about Paul O'Neill's book

Well, I haven't read O'Neill's book, but as I understand it the big hype is that he says (1) that Bush can talk a lot in meetings; and (2) the Administration wanted to topple Saddam before 9/11.

The first is kind of a bombshell -- I've been hearing since 2000, often from the same all-little-letters lefty emailers, that Bush is too dumb to form sentences. But it turns out that the emailers are wrong, and he can actually talk for an extended period. Go figure!

The second bit, though, isn't news at all. After all, the Clinton Administration repeatedly described Saddam as a threat who needed to be dealt with. Here's a sample quote:

"Saddam's goal ... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed." -- Madeline Albright, 1998

And there's this:

MR. CLINTON TOLD REPORTERS AFTER THE NATIONAL SECURITY
COUNCIL MEETING -- THE SECOND IN AS MANY DAYS ON IRAQ -- THAT NO OPTIONS FOR RESPONDING TO SADDAM HUSSEIN'S LATEST MOVE WERE BEING RULED OUT.

So Clinton was considering war in 1998, and Bush was considering it in 2001. Big deal. Opposition to Saddam's rule has been the policy of three Administrations. Only the current Administration was willing to do something about it, but that represents a difference in aggressiveness, not a different characterization of Saddam. (There's more information here.) Aren't the Saddam defenders the actual "fascist apologists" here?

And dude, the "shift" key is to the left and right of the keyboard. Use it.

UPDATE: Several readers note that Bill Clinton in fact signed into law H.R. 4655, the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998." As Clinton said when he signed it:

The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.

Fortunately, this Clinton Administration policy is finally bearing fruit! And what's interesting is that the Clinton signing statement linked above places freedom and democracy for Iraq, coupled with an end to Saddam's crimes against humanity, at the top of the priority list, and only then adds:

There are, of course, other important elements of U.S. policy. These include the maintenance of U.N. Security Council support efforts to eliminate Iraq's weapons and missile programs and economic sanctions that continue to deny the regime the means to reconstitute those threats to international peace and security. United States support for the Iraqi opposition will be carried out consistent with those policy objectives as well.

Me, Bush, and Clinton: all agreed on proper policy toward Iraq! Who knew that Clinton had drunk the Wolfowitz Kool-aid?

ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! I told you I hadn't read the book, but several readers email to say that I have O'Neill wrong -- that in fact, he says that Bush doesn't talk a lot in meetings. At least, not in meetings where O'Neill was talking. . . .

So there's really nothing new here at all. Oh, well.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Yeah, it's overkill. But here's Al Gore:

Our most important immediate task is to continue to tear up the Al Qaeda network, and since it is present in many countries, it will be an operation, which requires new forms of sustained cooperation with other governments.

Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq.

As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms.

Me, Clinton, Bush, and Gore: Bringing realism to foreign relations since 1998!

MORE: Reader Jason Gustafson emails: "So, basically, President Bush is being accused of wanting to fight terrorism before 9/11?"

Yeah, that seems to be O'Neill's bombshell. Just call Bush a "premature anti-terrorist," I guess!

Meanwhile, O'Neill is already being mocked.

EVERYBODY KEEPS EMAILING ME this story about mustard gas being found in Iraq. It appears to be genuine, but it's hardly news: Saddam gassed people, after all, so we know he had WMD. (Just ask Bill Clinton!) And I don't intend to make a big deal out of this discovery, because I never regarded WMD as the main reason to go to war. The real reason to go to war was (1) to establish a military and democratic presence in the Arab world (which we've done); (2) to make an example of Saddam to intimidate other Arab leaders (which we've done); and (3) to cut off Saddam as a source of support -- both existing and potential -- for terrorists, which we've also done. The WMD was a nontrivial issue, and required for playing the UN game (which I always regarded as a mistake) but not, to me, the most important issue.

The WMD was an alligator, but the point of the exercise is to drain the swamp.

UPDATE: Reader Dan Cassaro emails:

That sound you hear is the left ripping up the "Saddam never had WMD" goalposts and moving them back to "Saddam wasn't a threat the US with 36 old rusty shells". No matter what we find in Iraq, it won't be "enough to justify the war."

Not to people who were unalterably opposed to it from day one.

MORE ON POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN THE UK: As usual, it's thoroughly one-sided in its censorship.

UPDATE: Another double standard at the BBC: Saying Jews should be shot: No problem. Complaining about Arab terrorism -- loss of show and possible jail for "hate speech."

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

THERE'S AN Instapundit interview over on NormBlog.

UK POLICE ARREST MAN IN SUICIDE BOMB PLAN: Sounds serious.

ROGER SIMON WRITES on opinion monoculture among the university class. "The University Class is one of the most rigid in America in its thinking. The interesting question is why."

I actually think that the world of academia is in for a big change, which is already getting underway. Here's a column I wrote a couple of years ago offering advice for academics -- though it's advice that is, for the most part, being ignored.

TROUBLE AT SF INDYMEDIA:

Our IMC has now split into two groups. When a few of the tech members began to have personal problems with other members of the collective, these tech members demanded a split of the collective. The resulting dynamics within the group continued to worsen. It created an environment that made it difficult to continue working together and also discouraged potential new people from joining the collective. While most members of the collective opposed any kind of split, the aforementioned tech members insisted that they would split anyway, because they wanted to and because they could.

The tech members who wanted the split also had convinced the rest of the group to agree to move the site to the linefeed.org server. They claimed that this was merely a technical issue which would enable the site to run faster.

The members of the splitting group also began making viscious and false accusations about other members of the collective. This even went as far as accusing some members of being security risks and/or police informants.

The splitting group began to take control of the linefeed.org server that the SF Bay Area IMC website had been hosted on by kicking off all other IMC members from access to it. At the same time, they also cut off access to other local activist websites (such as the Food Not Bombs News website, liberationradio.net and passionbomb.com) that were being hosted on their linefeed.org server.

Sigh.

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: Apparently, the drop in actual crime has produced a surplus of free time among police forces.

I think a round of layoffs is in order.

WELL, THIS IS NO SURPRISE:

WASHINGTON U.S. officials have found evidence corroborating the Bush administration's allegations that Russian companies sold Saddam Hussein high-tech military equipment that threatened U.S. forces during the invasion of Iraq last March, a senior State Department official said Friday.

The United States has found proof that Russian firms exported night-vision goggles and radar-jamming equipment to Iraq, the official said. The evidence includes the equipment itself and proof that it was used during the war, said the official.

Such exports would violate the terms of United Nations sanctions against Baghdad.

This, of course, is why the Bush Administration's efforts to keep the UN relevant were a bad idea. The Security Council was -- and is -- packed with people who were on the other side.

UPDATE: David Boxenhorn emails: "Not only that, they were violating UN rules while insisting that the US abide by them."

Yeah. Kind of like Kyoto.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James V. Somers emails:

More evidence, it seems to me, of other nations being just as "unilateral" (i.e., acting in THEIR own best interests) as us. It strikes me that I have never seen a really detailed argument made - say, in National Review, or the Weekly Standard, or MSNBC's Opinion column section - that one reason that the U.S. should not be overly constrained by "multilateralism" is that almost nobody else is, either.

That's what really frightens me about the general approach of the Democratic Party to foreign policy - many of their politicians seem to really believe that the whole world would function agreeably and cooperatively in regard to addressing terrorism, weapons proliferation, and a host of other really serious problems if the darned Bush Administration would just stop being so difficult. And it seems to me that that position is taken despite a veritable mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Good point.

YESTERDAY, I linked to a story saying that Wesley Clark was trying to soften his image with Argyle sweaters. But judging from this picture, he's actually going for the John Belushi look.

Well, that's a voter demographic too. . . .

UPDATE: Jonathan Hendry emails: "Appropriate attire for that visit with a Dartmouth fraternity, I should think."

Like I said, it's just another demographic.

COLORADO COMPUTER CASE UPDATE: The ACLU has gotten a Temporary Restraining Order against the Greeley, Colorado police department, and secured the return of Thomas Mink's computer. More information over at TalkLeft.

UPDATE: Reader Ron Morris emails:

To one who lives in the region, the most astonishing thing about the Colorado computer case is that the police apparently have nothing better to do.

Hmm. Sounds like there's some fat in their budget! Or some administrators who need to be replaced with folks with different priorities. Or both!

January 09, 2004

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, at the BBC.

ANOTHER BOOK that I haven't read yet, though I've meant to, is Bob Zubrin's The Holy Land. But Adam Keiper has reviewed it in NRO and writes: "The duplicity, mendacity, and hypocrisy that characterize the present predicament of the Middle East are laid bare in Zubrin's engaging romp, with verve and biting wit."

BOOK THEFT: So Ken Lasson's new book, Trembling in the Ivory Tower, showed up today, but the InstaWife got to it first. Good thing she's a fast reader, because I won't get it until she's done.

CAN YOU SAY HASHEMITE RESTORATION? I knew that you could.

Once again, though, this story is about the possibility (slim in my mind) of a Juan-Carlos-like transitional role in Iraq. The real Hashemite Restoration may be in formerly-Saudi Arabia, if the Saud family doesn't clean up its act. I think they've figured this out, actually. . . .

OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM, I'm talent-scouting for the New York Times. With a little help from the OxBlog crowd.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT:

A Weld County man is suing Greeley police for seizing the computer on which he publishes an online newsletter called The Howling Pig, which takes satirical barbs at a vocal university professor.

Thomas Mink, of Ault, a 24-year-old English major at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, said police have warned that he likely will be charged with criminal libel because The Howling Pig makes fun of Junius "Jay" Peake, a Monfort Distinguished Professor at UNC and a specialist in financial markets.

The Howling Pig, online at www.geocities.com/thehowlingpig/, says its editor, founder and spiritual leader is "Junius Puke," an apparent play on Peake's name. The newsletter describes Puke as a former roadie for the band KISS who is taking time off "from his well-earned, corporate endowed sinecure at a small western university in order to assist in the publication of The Howling Pig."

A disclaimer states that Puke is not Peake. It goes on to describe Peake as "an upstanding member of the community as well as an asset to the Monfort School of Business where he teaches about microstructure.". . .

According to Mink's lawsuit, Greeley police arrived at his home Dec. 12 with a search warrant because Peake complained to police after the third issue of The Howling Pig appeared.

This seems quite absurd to me. The ACLU, happily, is on the case. I think that the United States Department of Justice should look into this to see if civil rights laws have been violated.

UPDATE: First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh says that the statute in question is almost certainly unconstitutional, and observes:

[M]y sense is that these sorts of criminal libel prosecutions, seizures, and arrests almost invariably involve favoritism on the part of the government. Seriously, what do you think the average Joe's chances would be of getting the police to seize a computer that was being used to say nasty things about him?

Indeed.

THE BELMONT CLUB comments on Thomas Friedman's latest:

But absent from Friedman's article (let us see what the four remaining parts bring) is a realization of how close-run President Bush's effort is. He forgets that the natural conclusion from the premise of intractable Islamic hatred is that the West may be forced not so much to befriend its tormentors so much as destroy them utterly. Friedman's own article is proof of how steadily, yet imperceptibly, the tides have risen in the course of the war itself. What would have been unprintable in any major American newspaper in November, 2001 -- immediately after the attack on New York city -- now seems so hopelessly weak that one cannot but wonder how close the crisis point is. And it is Islam, not the West, that is skirting the edge of the abyss.

This is why I see success in this war as so important.

ROBERT NOVAK IS UNDER FIRE for calling American Indians "election thieves."

THIS SEEMS LIKE A BLOW TO THE "BUSH LIED" CROWD:

Former US president Bill Clinton said in October during a visit to Portugal that he was convinced Iraq had weapons of mass destruction up until the fall of Saddam Hussein, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said.

"When Clinton was here recently he told me he was absolutely convinced, given his years in the White House and the access to privileged information which he had, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction until the end of the Saddam regime," he said in an interview with Portuguese cable news channel SIC Noticias.

This is consistent with the other Clinton statements on the subject, of course, going back to 1998. And this doesn't answer the "where are they?" question. (Syria? Lebanon? Vaporware by Saddam's scientists?) But this does blow the popular Bush-made-it-up theory, and it suggests that if there's an intelligence failure here (certainly possible -- the CIA famously blew the collapse of the Soviet Union, after all), it didn't originate with the Bush Administration

CALL ME CRAZY, but this sounds a bit too much like the Al Gore / Naomi Wolf earth tones episode:

Gen. Wesley K. Clark has begun to show a softer side.

Gone are his navy blue suit, red tie and loafers, replaced by argyle sweaters, corduroys and duck boots. . . .

The efforts are intended to lessen a potential vulnerability for the general. Even as he is rising in national and New Hampshire polls, his advisers say women significantly trail men in support for the four-star general and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

I don't think this is good for Clark, and I wonder if the storyline didn't originate with some staffer blabbing to a reporter.

MICKEY KAUS has a long and thoughtful assessment of Howard Dean's campaign. It's a must-read.


UPDATE: Austin Bay offers an assessment of his own.

January 08, 2004

MICHAEL TOTTEN WRITES on what's at stake.

I DIDN'T SEE IT, but The Yeti says NBC did a hatchet job on Howard Dean.

UPDATE: Then again, maybe it's Howard Dean who's wielding the hatchet:

They've got him trashing the Iowa caucuses, praising Bush, putting down Gore, etc... It's like every other candidate wrote the script...

Ouch.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has more on Dean, who seems to be getting Strange New Respect from some quarters.

But not from the Club for Growth. Message to Stephen Moore: Don't you be running down my sushi and lattes. And my sister drives a Volvo!

STEVEN DEN BESTE offers something else to worry about. At least he has pretty pictures.

REPORTEDLY, BUSH WILL PROPOSE MISSIONS TO THE MOON AND MARS: But Rand Simberg isn't impressed.

THE ONLINE JOURNALISM REVIEW has an article about imprisoned Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi who credits weblog-generated pressure for his release from jail:

"The community of bloggers came together and helped me, and spread the news around the Web, and became united," he told me by phone from Holland, where he lives with his wife -- who is also a journalist -- and 15-month-old son. "There was a petition with more than 4,000 signatures on one site. And there was coverage of the story in the foreign media. And there was pressure from other countries that were concerned with human rights. I think they found the cost of arresting me more than they thought before." . . .

They didn't expect the pressure from Webloggers and foreign media in my case. They think I'm an individual [freelance] journalist and not affiliated with any political party, I'm not an insider. So they think that when they arrested me, there wouldn't be strong pressure to release me.

But the community of bloggers came together and helped me, and spread the news around the Web, and became united.

Let's hear it for blogosphere solidarity!

EARLIER TODAY, a reporter called me to ask about the "free speech" zones set up when Bush visited town. I said I don't mind keeping protesters where they don't pose a security threat, or block traffic, but that I don't like the "free speech zone" approach, especially when it really means relocating protesters to the boonies. This is America, I said. That's the free speech zone.

Now I notice that Kim Du Toit is saying the same thing. To be fair, this goes back before Bush -- the Secret Service has gotten steadily more officious and intrusive since Reagan was shot, and I remember reports of them towing away whole streets' worth of cars when Clinton attended parties in Georgetown. Naturally, it's gotten worse since 9/11.

But there has to be a limit, and ultimately, it's Bush who's responsible for the Secret Service's behavior.

UPDATE: Bill Quick observes: "Bush seems to be moving closer and closer to the line where I'll no longer be able to excuse his excesses in the name of national security."

Meanwhile, Bill Hobbs is defending Bush, and Donald Sensing is responding in the comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, plus some historical perspective.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a letter from Congressman Matt Salmon complaining about Secret Service behavior in 1997:

The First Lady was in Arizona yesterday to raise money for the Democratic Party. Nothing wrong with that. But consider the following, reported by Tribune Newspapers of Arizona in today's editions (emphasis added):

"Reporters at the Monday afternoon speech were kept at arm's length from the first lady by Secret Service agents, who warned the press not to yell out questions." . . .

The Secret Service is paid to protect the President and his family from physical harm, not to protect them from tough questions from Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.

The abuse of power continues...

As I say, it's been an issue for a while. And although there are legitimate security concerns in wartime, it's important to be sure that what's going on is about security, not censorship. Donald Sensing has more, here. On the other hand, reader Bob Rogers says I've got this backwards:

It seems to me that "the whole country is a free speech zone" is a good defense of the Secret Service. They limit speech in a very small space for a very short time. It's a great big country out there, say anything you want. But of course, the protestors don't want to say their piece on the mall or any of the other places that our government maintains in part to facilitate protest. They want to protest in the president's face. Why? Because there is "news value" in disrupting the president's speech. (Meaning that it makes for "good" TV pictures, not that it is really news.) The idea that anyone should stand for this type of political theater in the name of free speech is absurd. If someone tries to disrupt your class with placards and chants, what are you going to do? You are an employee of the state Tennessee. Is your situation different from the presidents?

Hmm. Well, it's certainly true that the protest is, in a sense, parasitic on the President's visit. But preventing disruption is fine. What's not fine is using security as an excuse to shut people up. People have a right to peaceably assemble, and to petition their leaders for a redress of grievances, and that suggests to me that speech in the vicinity of leaders, so long as it's non-disruptive, is specially protected.

JAMES LILEKS interviews a terrorist.

IF YOU PUMP RATS' LUNGS full of nanotubes, they will suffocate.

HERE'S SOME GOOD NEWS:

WASHINGTON The dawning new year has been witness to good news from a number of the world's most protracted conflicts and dangerous trouble spots.

Promising developments are suddenly marking the global landscape: between nuclear powers India and Pakistan; in Sudan, where rebels this week reached an agreement with southern rebels that could end Africa's longest civil war; in Libya, which recently announced it would give up its unconventional weapons programs to reenter the community of nations; in US-Iranian relations, with Iran agreeing to international inspection of nuclear sites; and even in North Korea, which this week offered to freeze its nuclear programs.

While foreign-policy experts generally remain cautious about linking these events too closely or about assigning them a common catalyst, they do see some common threads.

Let's hope it's a pattern.

BUSH WAS IN TOWN. SKBubba was protesting.

A PACK, NOT A HERD:

Dr. Earls and his colleagues argue that the most important influence on a neighborhood's crime rate is neighbors' willingness to act, when needed, for one another's benefit, and particularly for the benefit of one another's children. And they present compelling evidence to back up their argument.

Will a group of local teenagers hanging out on the corner be allowed to intimidate passers-by, or will they be dispersed and their parents called? Will a vacant lot become a breeding ground for rats and drug dealers, or will it be transformed into a community garden?

Such decisions, Dr. Earls has shown, exert a power over a neighborhood's crime rate strong enough to overcome the far better known influences of race, income, family and individual temperament.

I'm not surprised to read this.

WOW, NASA'S LATEST PROBE has been on Mars for just a little while, and it's already found something that people have been looking for for years.

OKAY, MAYBE I WAS WRONG: I've said before that I thought Democratic candidates were doing a much better job on the Web than the Bush Campaign. I guess it depends on your metric: this poll suggests that Bush is doing better than I've given him credit for:

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean's extensive use of the Internet to raise tons of money and drum up early support for the Dem presidential nomination led to his reputation as the favorite son among techies.

But his special appeal to higher-tech voters may be fading, according to the latest WASHPOSTABCNEWS poll.

Dean does no better against President Bush among Americans who say they get their political news from the Internet than those who don't, trailing Bush by 20 percentage points among both groups.

That doesn't mean the the Internet hasn't been a useful tool for organizing Dean supporters -- it obviously has -- but I guess it means that it hasn't been a dramatically effective tool for winning new converts.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM doesn't seem to be working.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING, and rather lengthy, article on nanotechnology from Small Times.

A READER ASKS why I haven't weighed in on Bush's immigration plan. The answer is that I don't really know what I think about it. I generally favor open immigration for people who want to become Americans. I do think that illegal immigration should be treated differently than legal immigration (because it's, you know, illegal) but I don't have strong feelings on what ought to be done, specifically.

Anyway, the blogosphere is a big place, so go read this post by LT Smash, who does know what he thinks, and who links to a lot of other people, too.

UPDATE: Just noticed (I've been busy) that they've been all over this story at The Corner, too.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: Yep. It is.

ZEYAD, an Iraqi blogger I regard as trustworthy, has posted a dreadful-sounding story of misbehavior by American troops in Iraq. I find the story difficult to believe, and it's secondhand, but Zeyad obviously believes it. Someone in Iraq needs to look into this as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Mixed reactions. Reader Noah Doyle doesn't believe this story:

I don't buy it.

'they tied them up both and led them to an area about three kilometres from the scene'

A patrol wandered off a mile and a half, just to push two guys into the water? Nobody in the chain of command, even in a patrol, took exception to this? And what soldier is going to walk a mile and a half out of his way, to do this? If they were inclined to randomly kill Iraqis (which I highly doubt), they could just shoot them, and claim self-defense.

'Only to send my son to his demise on his wedding day'

Now, we're just piling it on. What a terrible coincidence. This -reeks- of 'tragic victim' urban legend/spam.

'I was a victim, and there are and will be many more'

Er...many more? What does this have to do with the alleged murder of your son?

'but I wish that the procedures may put an end to the suffering of Iraqi mothers, we are reaping misery every day from actions of American soldiers with no regard to our human life, our dignity, and our culture and values.'

Again...there seems to be more concern here for the general presence of American forces in Iraq, rather than the suffering of one mother who has lost a child.

'I am assured that you know terrorism and what is regarded as a terrorist act. Pray tell me have you ever seen or heard about a terrorist act that is considered any uglier than this crime, which was followed by crushing the car and levelling it to the ground by American military vehicles?'

Ah, yes. The 'Americans as terrorists' meme. And this woman actually lives in Iraq, with 300,000 (at least) in mass graves? And of course, one more insult to injury, crushing the car, presumably with a tank. That's a damn good way to throw a track. Those evil Americans, they did -everything- wrong!

'Zaydun's cousin said that the soldiers were drunk and looked tired'

Of course they were drunk. We couldn't leave out any bit that might horrify good Muslims, could we? This one's crap.

Brian Dunn is also skeptical:

Certainly, if true, the guilty should be punished. It is unacceptable both from a mission standpoint and a moral standpoint.

But this part makes no sense: "Zaydun's cousin said that the soldiers were drunk and looked tired, and that during their ride they even chatted and joked with one of the soldiers who spoke a little Arabic. After he managed to get out of the water he remained hidden because he could see that the unit was searching for them using flashlights and he was scared to death."

That's pretty terrible light discipline. Would they really be on a mission without night vision apparatus? Would they really give away their position if potential snipers were in the area? This is a dangerous area of Iraq after all.

I'm just saying it doesn't make much sense. And there is always a ready audience for tales of American atrocities out there (and here, too, for that matter).

Robert Sulentic is also dubious:

Dreadful stories are usually just that. Look closely at the letter, and you can see language that implies a fake. As one of the commenters said, "What unit patch were they wearing?" The whole thing is just too contrived.

I'll bet, much like the lady who claimed she lost the lottery ticket, that this is made up. It preys upon the gullible, and those who want to believe the worst.

I'm sure an investigation will get done, but it will just be a waste of time, and plenty will then doubt the results. More FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

Zeyad got hoodwinked.



On the other hand, Howard Owens emails:

Glenn, fwiw ... the letter has a ring of authenticity to me.

There have always been criminals in the military -- always will be. It's part of the human condition, so it doesn't surprise (though it saddens me) that something like this might actually happen. It may actually be more surprising that there have been fewer of these incidents. The fact that a local commander would not believe the story can probably be attributed to two factors -- there are probably enough Iraqis who lie about actions of soldiers to make such claims sound incredible, and the high degree of confidence commanders have in their troops to be professional in all their conduct -- and it is confidence supported by good reason. No local commander wants to believe something like this could happen, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a thorough investigation. Now that the charge has been made internationally, it needs to be treated seriously.

But what really prompted me to write was one heartening message the letter sends -- and that is the implicit trust in the rule of law. The letter writer seems to believe without question that the U.S. will do justice, and that the rule of law is a given. In a country that has been without the rule of law for 25 years, or longer, this letter demonstrates that we are not fools to hope that the rule of law can quickly take root in Iraq.

Now the U.S. must do its part in this case and treat it with all seriousness.

Well, that last part's right. The story doesn't ring true to me, I have to say, and if it weren't coming via Zeyad or some other reliable source I'd be inclined to dismiss it. But he's proven to be reliable in the past, which means that this is worth looking into. Darren Kaplan is writing his Senators, and recommends that you do the same.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Frederick, who says he's a former platoon leader with the 82d Airborne, also doubts this story:

There is no way that you will find a soul in the Army willing to walk 3 km at night, in a combat zone, for anything other than a legit purpose. Certainly not while pushing/pulling/carrying 2 tied up Iraqis who were probably not exactly
following much noise discipline.

Gotta agree with Noah on the light discipline part as well. Any unit on
patrol is going to have night vision for most, if not all, members. The
PVS-7's have a very bright IR light that lights up the night as well as
any mini-mag lite (which is what most infantry guys will carry). You
simply don't shine white light at night - it can be seen for a long,
long way and attracts the bad guys.

He also notes that patrols have specific missions and objectives, and aren't likely to drop them for this sort of thing.

Greg Schwinghammer makes a similar point:

I was a scout platoon leader in Kuwait in 1991, and tank platoon leader in Germany before that. Regarding the allegedly crushed truck, it is absolutely possible that Americans are rolling over trucks and cars in the middle of the desert. One of your readers suggested it would not happen because it is a good way to throw a track. Not really. If you go straight over, nothing breaks. Throughout Kuwait after the war, there were abandoned vehicles littered through the desert (all facing north to Iraq), and soldiers used them for target practice or rolled over them.

As for the rest, sounds like absolute garbage. You are right on: we do not have soldiers wandering around, "Three Kings"-like, on their own. Soldiers do not wander off for three clicks without someone noticing. Also, none of the soldiers are drunk--that is just idiotic.

I hope the investigation checks the alleged survivor, and interrogates him carefully. It would not surprise me to find he and the dead teenager were doing something wrong, stupid, or just one just made a dumb mistake (like wrecking the car), and is blaming the Americans to stay out of trouble.

That's speculation, of course, but I'd be interested in finding out what happened. Chris Jefferson emails:

The skeptical reactions of many to Zayed's translation is understandable.

I too have trouble believing that an American recce patrol would be out drunk. That kind of thing can get you killed, and there isn't a squad leader in theater who will let his guys do that. Going 3km away from the AOR isn't too likely, either. However, it's important to note that Zayed and others like him are willing to trust the U.S. Army to deal lawfully with this situation.

For that reason alone, whatever stink bombs might be in the story, an investigation is warranted. Our Army must continue to have a reputation as a terribly destructive fighting force, but one that is just.

And that's right. Roger Simon has more. Meanwhile Patrick Smith emails:

If this map (Link) is to be believed, the dam itself is at least 50km away from the main road between Baghdad and Samarra. Three km? Maybe they were taking a scenic route?

Beats me.

MORE: Reader Jacob Pemberton emails:

Regarding the location of the dam that the victims were allegedly pushed from, I did note that the map you linked to showed a dam very close to Samarra (3km?), though this was not the same dam that the accuser cited (Tharthar). So, assuming that this is just a case of the wrong name being cited, this does not in itself disprove the story. Still, I tend to think that you (and others) are correct - the story sounds fishy, but should be properly investigated.

You'd think a local would get the name right, but you can get in a lot of trouble just relying on maps. But I agree with the bottom line: sounds fishy, but should be investigated. I think, BTW, that this post by Bruce Rolston makes the same point as Pemberton. So does reader Jon Mann, who emails:

I have one thing to add on the trip from Tharthar dam.

I suspect the letter author meant that the kids were taken to the gates that divert water from the Tigris to the Tharthar Basin. (You can see the canal from the Tigris to the Tharthar basin on the map Patrick Smith links to, or you can read a description of the flood control project here; (search for "Tigris" or "Tharthar").

(I also suspect that the letter is wrong, though, particularly because it claims that small patrols are wandering unescorted in the Samarra region, and are using hand-held lights instead of nightvision.)

Ken Lammers, meanwhile, thinks it's apocryphal:

What seals it for me is that I have heard this story - in multiple variations - before. Back when I was less hefty and a little younger I was an Arabic translator for the U.S. army. As such I was deployed to the Gulf during the first war. Kuwaitis were telling the exact same stories about Iraqi soldiers. . . . Not that means this shouldn't be investigated. It must be. As demonstrated above, this has a good possibility of growing into some nasty propaganda and must be countered if at all possible.

Zeyad has updated his post with material that clears up some of the questions, though by no means all. He says that he thought it was suspicious at first, too, but has changed his mind. As I say, he's been reliable before, and I'm inclined to trust him -- but he wasn't there. Hence the need to investigate.

STILL MORE: Jeff Jarvis: "If true, we need to show that American justice prevails. If false, we need to get the truth out there quickly."

MORE STILL: Milblogger The Mudville Gazette notes that there are numerous bogus stories of American atrocities, and points out similarities between those and this story. Which doesn't make Zeyad's report bogus, of course, but does explain why I would be suspicious if Zeyad hadn't been reliable in the past. Meanwhile, David Warner emails:

What's more important? Whether we trust Zeyad or whether Zeyad trusts us?

Thought so. What's the best way to win his? To trust him. How about offering him some tips as to how he could investigate this story? What we would do if we caught wind of something like this here?

The story is likely not true - let's help Zeyad discover this for himself...

Stay tuned.

YET MORE: Chief Wiggles is looking into it. Belmont Club has more, but I can't reach The Chief's site at the moment. Not unusual for blog-city, alas.

MORE YET: Zeyad has updated again, with more responses, and a promise to report what he finds regardless of the results:

One thing is certain. Zaydun is dead. How or who or where or why are yet to be confirmed. So don't jump to any conclusions. I never asked anyone to blindly believe the story, I just asked that you do something to help it get investigated.

I never implied that I was 100% convinced about the details. They were really really troubled when I talked to them and they just handed me the letter and the picture and asked me to do whatever I can do about it. There are other relatives of the family that are involved in this and I'm not coordinating things with them.

However as I promised I will stay tuned with the family and keep you all updated on how the investigation proceeds. I am aware of the huge responsibility I have to my readers, and even if some parts of the story or all of it turn out to be fabricated by the cousin, You can be sure that I will report it.

Also, reader Peter Koren weighs in on the lights:

My son is a 2LT. in Baghdad (1st Armored Division) and leads a platoon -- actually a battery as artillery soldiers are labeled -- on patrols and raids. I doubt very much the story of such a gross breakdown in discipline, but that is not what I want to address.

The use of lights and absence of NVGs is taken as evidence for a bogus story, but I would not hang my hat on that notion. Many, perhaps all, of the patrol and raiding teams have been issued weapons mounted lithium powered flashlights for night use. My son said in an old email (lost on my old crashed hard drive -- argggggg!) that it puts light on the target at 100 meters equal to that of sunlight. He said that this tactic is being used rather than using darkness and NVGs, but did not explain why. My guess is that in urban combat, there are too many lights in the city and that causes problems in using night vision gear.

I don't think that this was anywhere near a city, but there you are: make of this what you will. I have also emailed this link to some folks I know in Iraq, who are looking into it.

STUART BUCK IS RIGHT: This is the worst product tie-in ever. Unlike this one, which I kind of liked despite its weirdness.

A READER EMAILS: "I defy you (or anyone) to make a bit of sense out of Maureen Dowd's column today. It reads like a computer error where two completely different columns were accidentally merged together."

I won't take that bet. But Stephen Green is giving it his best shot. And I suspect that New York Times staffers are already emailing each other copies of Green's analysis.

I agree with David Adesnik -- the Times should replace Maureen Dowd with Dan Savage.

WINDS OF CHANGE offers its weekly roundup of war-related news and links. As always, it's a must-read.

UPDATE: Don't miss their separate Iraq briefing, either.

BACK WHEN I WAS IN LAW SCHOOL, my classmate Jacob Corre and I once talked about all the various strands of legal scholarship -- legal realism, legal process, law and society, law and literature, critical legal studies, etc. -- and concluded that the Next Big Thing would be a school of thought called "legal legalism," in which the question to be addressed would be "what's the law on that, anyway?"

Back then -- when Roberto Unger was calling on God to speak, but instead we got Duncan Kennedy -- this seemed remote enough to be funny. But I think it's not too far from what Larry Solum is getting at in his posts on neoformalism.

JAY ROSEN:

The newsroom is a nest of believers if we include believers in journalism itself. There is a religion of the press. There is a also priesthood. And there can be a crisis of faith. . . .

We're headed, I think, for schism, tumult and divide as the religion of the American press meets the upheavals in global politics and public media that are well underway. (Not to mention the roaring force of the market.) Changing around us are the terms on which authority can be established by journalists. . . . The Net is opening things up, shifting the power to publish around. Consumers are becoming producers, readers can be writers. Consensus is breaking apart on definitions of The Good in journalism. And that may be a healthy turn for citizens and for our future experiments with a free press.

Indeed.

I HAVEN'T SEEN COLD MOUNTAIN, which is getting a fair amount of attention. But when the book was getting attention, a lot of people told me that this book, Sharpshooter, by David Madden, was better.

THIS ARTICLE from the Christian Science Monitor suggests that Saudi Arabia is actually making progress in rooting out Al Qaeda and its sympathizers, and in moving slowly toward more general reform. I certainly hope that's the case.

HERE'S A COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS backgrounder explaining the new Afghan Constitution.

I DON'T THINK BOB DYLAN would write these lyrics.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: "Howard Dean has now formally reneged on his December 15 pledge to premise U.S. foreign policy on U.N. permission. . . . at this rate, by November, he'll be a supply-side unilateralist."

THEY SAID THEY CAME AS LIBERATORS, but the troops overstayed their welcome, and the local populace is getting restive:

20,000 Syrian soldiers remain in Lebanon, and Syria's grip on Lebanese politics is stronger than ever. It is an invisible occupation, in which Lebanon's leaders must seek Damascus's approval of their policies, and Syrian plainclothes agents roam back streets, ears cocked for political dissent. Syria also supports the terrorist Islamic group Hezbollah and allows it run of the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Syria says its presence is legitimized by a bilateral arrangement with Beirut and is necessary to keep peace among Lebanon's religious factions. And to some Lebanese, Syria's stabilizing influence is a welcome contrast from the chaos of the 1980s.

But a poll by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, a Lebanese-American advocacy group, found 89 percent of Lebanese want Syria out. And its members are sharply critical of Syria's influence.

It's a quagmire!

January 07, 2004

BELLICOSE WOMEN'S BRIGADE, TEEN SECTION:

Morgan Ruppert spotted a purse snatch suspect running in her direction, being chased by a group of residents, when she instinctively ran toward him. She reached out and grabbed at the purse strings of the stolen purse, and gave the running man a hefty kick in the shins.

It caused him to trip, and he fell to the ground, where the men chasing him pinned him down and held him until police arrived.

And I like the police reaction:

"This sends a message to the criminal that citizens are fed up with crime," said Maj. John DiPietro, deputy police chief of Miami Twp. "I applaud all those people. Especially this young lady who took heroic action."

Indeed.

MICKEY KAUS has a roundup of polls that make Bush look beatable. Well, he is. The big question is whether any of the Democrats can beat him.

This latest USA Today poll shows Bush at 60% approval, with 61% approval for his handling of the war, leading Robert Musil to think that Bush isn't very beatable at all. I'm not so sure about that -- everybody is beatable -- but look at the Dean disapproval numbers in that USA Today poll: 39% unfavorable overall, against only 28% favorable! Ouch! Dean does better among Democrats, of course, but even there he's 22% unfavorable. Are those all Clark supporters who'll wind up backing whoever the party nominates? The Democrats had better hope so.

UPDATE: A Roger Simon prediction: "The Democratic Party nominee will be Wesley Clark."

ANOTHER UPDATE: But here's another endorsement for Dean!

TCS FISKS one of its own articles. You don't see that every day. . . .

RON BAILEY WRITES ON DDT, BIRDS, AND MALARIA: "Banning DDT saved thousands of raptors over the past 30 years, but outright bans and misguided fears about the pesticide cost the lives of millions of people who died of insect-borne diseases like malaria."

STEPHEN GREEN is blogging EU budget issues, the Parmalat scandal, and more European developments. Just keep scrolling.

Plus: His recipe for a dry martini. Personally, I prefer more vermouth than that.

GEITNER SIMMONS links to a critical report on NGOs from a surprising source. Key observation: "NGOs may be political, bias[ed], racist or violent just like any other group . . . . there is nothing inherent in the worthiness of the causes of non-governmental organizations."

THE UNITED STATES NANOTECHNOLOGY BUSINESS is pooh-poohing the prospects for true molecular manufacturing, in no small part because it thinks -- wrongly in my opinion -- that by doing so it will forestall Luddite assaults on nanotechnology. But I spoke recently with one U.S. nanotech researcher who fears that the consequence of this attitude will be to forestall ground-breaking research here (while people focus on things like nanopants and comparatively modest improvements in materials and electronics) and allow other nations to get the jump on us.

One nation he particularly feared was China, so I was interested to read this firsthand account by a Chinese nanotechnology researcher. No nanobots here, but evidence that they're working in the area. (Via Brainstorming). Note that China now ranks third in the world for nanotechnology patent applications.

DON'T MISS THE AFRICA REGIONAL BRIEFING over at Winds of Change.

ANOTHER MASS GRAVE IN IRAQ:

U.S. authorities believe the grave is filled with about 800 bodies of Shiites killed by Iraq's military as they staged an uprising against Saddam following the defeat of his forces in the Gulf War, the official added.

U.S. officials have said they believe there are up to 260 mass graves in Iraq containing the remains of at least 300,000 people murdered by Saddam's forces. They said about 40 such mass graves have been discovered.

It's good that they found it. It's bad that it's there.

RIAA TAKE NOTE: Apparently, free downloads don't do much to hurt sales of intellectual property goods. At least, that's the result of an informal experiment conducted by the Insta-Wife. I mentioned a while back that she was somewhat bemused to see used copies of her book on violent kids selling for $99.95. The solution was to put the book (which is out of print, and which won't see a new edition anytime soon because she's working on another project) up for free download in PDF form on her website.

You'd expect that offering the book for free would have depressed the price for used copies, but it doesn't seem to have done so -- in fact, the price seems to have gone up, as there's now somebody offering the book for sale for $105.84. Go figure. And although quite a few people have downloaded it for free (and even sent in donations), many of them have emailed to say that they'd rather pay cover price for the actual book than download it for no charge.

This seems to me to suggest that free downloads don't do much to cannibalize actual sales.

UPDATE: Wow, this post generated a lot of email, and I haven't had time to wade through it. (It's the first day of classes, and we're bringing in a lot of faculty candidates in the next couple of weeks, and it's my job to make the trains run on time.) But this email by Shane Blake seems to state the central objection to my experiment, above:

Not that I don't think RIAA shouldn't be pushed out of the nearest air-lock (I do) but you're missing a destinction between downloaded music and your wife's book.

I can download songs from the interenet and actualy create an exact copy of the physical media I would purchase in a store relatively cheaply. I cannot, however, recreate a properly bound book for anywhere near the listed price. And lets face it, the e-book idea just isn't catching on like many of us techno-geeks had predicted...

Still, I think RIAA's main problem is the proliferation of overpriced crap packaged as popular music...

Well, I agree that the analogy isn't perfect -- a PDF file isn't a book. Of course, a downloaded MP3 file isn't a CD, either -- even if you convert it back to .WAV and burn a CD. The quality is reduced, and you don't get cover art, liner notes, etc. Still, it's closer than a PDF file is to a book. (Note that Blake appears to own a lot of CDs!)

But a PDF file seems to me to be sufficiently close to a book that its availability for free should affect the used price somewhat. And maybe it is -- Steve Verdon thinks that free downloads may actually drive the price up. There's some evidence for that, as Baen Books gives a way a lot of top-drawer science fiction content in downloadable form, and says that doing so has helped its sales, rather than hurting them.

Are books so different from music that giving one away boosts the price of the for-sale product, while giving the other away destroys the market for the for-sale product? I find that hard to believe, but I suppose it's possible. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Eric S. Raymond has had a similar experience with his books.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Intellectual Property attorney Scott Draeker emails:

First, your reader is misinformed. You cannot download music and create a
perfect copy of the retail product.

1) Music downloads are compressed using algorithms that discard "extra" information. It's called "lossy" compression, because you lose information. A downloaded MP3 converted to a Redbook (CD Audio) compliant AIFF file and written to a CDR contains significantly less music information than an original CD. The difference in audio quality is obvious to anyone, not just an audiophile.

2) Even a disk to disk copy of a retail audio CD to CDR results in lower audio quality. This is a result of physical differences in the media itself.

3) An audio CDR created from any source will not have a screen printed label, jewel case inserts, photos, lyrics and other packaging materials that are included in a retail product. This might not be a deal killer for many music lovers, but it does have *some* value. All other things equal, just about anyone would pay a buck for that extra stuff. Not many would pay $20.

And that is the entire point. Piracy (music or otherwise) is an economic issue 99% of the time. Copyright owners are free to charge whatever they like, of course. They just have to acknowledge the consequences. At $10,000 per CD they won't sell much music, and executing pirates in the public square won't change that.

As for downloads, that's not proper piracy anyway. The effect of music downloads on the market better resembles radio airplay--it sells more music. What the RIAA doesn't like is that, unlike radio play, they can't control what people download. For the big label exec who needs to make his NSYNC numbers this quarter the idea that people are downloading and listening to indy Jazz is horrifying.

I pretty much agree -- though the quality loss in a disk-to-disk copy is de minimis. You won't hear the difference on any player made in the past several years (and the older ones will just fail to work sometimes) but the CD-R will probably not last as long.

Interestingly, if CDs were still packaged like old vinyl records -- with big, pretty covers and liner notes -- I'll bet there would be less downloading.

GREGG EASTERBROOK observes:

It is now three weeks since the Danish Ministry of Science repudiated an attack by one of its committees on environmental author Bjorn Lomborg; see my December 19 entry for details. And although The Washington Post gave prominent A-section attention when the charges against Lomborg were made--DANISH PROFESSOR DENOUNCED FOR "SCIENTIFIC DISHONESTY"--the Post has yet to say a peep about the charges being withdrawn. So, Washington Post: When someone is accused that's a big story, and when the same person is vindicated by the agency that supervises the accuser, that's no story? Pretty cheesy, Post.

Yeah, it's kind of like the way the stories about Halliburton being cleared of overcharging don't mention Dick Cheney with the kind of prominence that he got when there was a "scandal."

UPDATE: Here's more on how Halliburton is being covered. Meanwhile Henry Hanks emails:

Brit Hume just did a "Grapevine" on John Cole's blog post about Halliburton and Cheney mentions in the press... unfortunately he didn't mention the blog but it was clearly from reading the blog.

Bravo, John. Er, and Brit!

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Ryan Pitts has a long and detailed post that says Cole is (mostly) wrong about the treatment the Cheney / Halliburton story got.

JEFFREY TAYLOR offers advice to journalists.

GOT DAVE CLARKE'S NEW CD, Devil's Advocate. I've only listened through the whole thing once, but I like it a lot, though it's a bit cold overall. The reviews called it "electro-Goth," but I think the reviewers were overly influenced by the packaging, which I think is a straight send-up of the Spinal Tap black album. The actual tunes aren't especially goth-y. The best tunes are the two featuring Chicks On Speed on the vocals, "She's in Parties" and "Disgraceland." The latter is especially witty, though like a lot of witty songs it may not sustain repeated listening. (And I love the title, which is also the name of a record label here in Knoxville, though I doubt Dave knew that). If you're into techno with a capital "tech," you'll probably like this album. And it inspired me to the realization that blogging is a lot like producing techno, something I may post more about later.

BOB KERREY ON IRAQ: "Twenty years from now, we'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who says it wasn't worth the effort. "

JEFF JARVIS AND MICHAEL TOTTEN are fighting for the soul of liberalism. So is Armed Liberal, who's, well, armed.

WHAT'S WRONG with income inequality? My TechCentralStation column is up.

UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster has comments, and looks forward to a future when I'm "marginally less dorky." Don't we all!

January 06, 2004

HERE'S MORE on the increasingly likely India/Pakistan peace talks. I'm not overly optimistic about these ("peace talks" have a rather mixed record, and certainly aren't synonymous with "peace") but given that we were worried about all-out nuclear war not long ago, it's got to be an improvement.

MEGAN MCARDLE comments on Wesley Clark's tax plan ("Problem: the numbers don't seem to add up.") Other comments from Kevin Drum (he likes it!), Steve Verdon (not so much) and Prof. Bainbridge. I notice that Kevin's sister's chronic kvetching has become the subject of nationwide punditry.

ASKING THE DO-GOODERS TO PROVE THEY DO GOOD turns out to be controversial, as even The New York Times is noticing:

There are millions of these groups commonly referred to as nongovernmental organizations, or NGO's worldwide, but few are subjected to that kind of meaningful oversight, say the specialists studying NGO accountability. . . .

Even activists like Ralph Nader and the anti-globalization firebrand Naomi Klein, who have often been at the forefront of efforts demanding accountability from corporations and governments, have lashed out at calls for holding NGO's similarly responsible.

Read the whole thing. I believe we're seeing a groundswell here. And I'm not the only one:

"Accountability is the central issue of our time," writes Coralie Bryant, a Columbia University professor who has done a survey of international emergency-relief organizations.

The tax-exempt status of nonprofits and foundations isn't an entitlement. It's there because they're supposed to serve important public goals. Do they? I think it's fair to ask that question.

HOWARD LOVY: It's about vision, not nanobots.

DONALD LUSKIN is praising Brad DeLong. Meanwhile Brad DeLong is savaging Daniel Drezner.

MESSAGE TO EDITORS: Michael Totten has been writing for the Wall Street Journal and TechCentralStation, but he'd like to do more writing in 2004. Check him out -- he's worth your attention.

THE DISAPPEARING DICK CHENEY: John Cole notices that now that Halliburton has been cleared of wrongdoing, news stories don't mention Dick Cheney anymore.

Go figure.

PROF. BAINBRIDGE: "Now the Dean will have to give me credit for the time I spend blogging. Hah!"

THIS MAY BE NEWS:

CINCINNATI -- There are reports that fighter jets are escorting a jet into the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

The plane is Delta flight 043. It left Paris at 11:20 a.m. and is scheduled to land at 3:20 p.m.

The flight is said to be of interest because of a potential terrorism suspect on board, according to Cincinnati television station WLWT.

Or it could turn out to be nothing. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In a related development, Andy at World Wide Rant is looking to cancel his British Airways travel plans because of BA's weak anti-terror stance.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Looks like a false alarm. Better safe than sorry.

DAVID BERNSTEIN: "Just once, I'd like to see the losing Super Bowl quarterback tell the media, 'Guess Jesus really had it in for me today.'"

MORE ON HOW THE ADMINISTRATION'S careful, multilateral approach to the war on terror is paying off and producing peace around the world.

Meanwhile, Tim Blair has a roundup of European sophistication.

SPACE BABE OF THE YEAR? I haven't been watching the NASA Mars coverage on C-SPAN, but several readers have, and they seem to find NASA flight director Jessica Collison especially appealing.

BELLICOSE GRANNIES?

Reversing longstanding patterns in the US, residents ages 65 and up are now the mostly likely of all citizens to own a gun.

Interesting. What's more interesting is why:

"You need to be able to protect yourself, because the police are not always able to protect you at any moment," he says.

That's certainly true, though I wonder why people are feeling this way now, when crime is actually down considerably? I suspect that there's a post-9/11 cultural shift underway here, not just a response to specific risks.

UPDATE: This Mark Steyn column is interesting, too:

As I wrote in September, to expect the state to protect you is to be a bystander in your own fate. It's interesting that, during the recent security scares, the terrorists seem to have been targeting BA and Air France. They seem to reckon they've a better chance of pulling something on a non-US airline. I hope that's not true, and that when the next shoebomber bends down to light his sock, he'll find himself sitting next to some gung-ho Brit rather than the "peace and solidarity" type.

You can have a nanny state if you prefer. But not for long.

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, younger women are packing, too.

BARRY SCHWARTZ has been getting a lot of attention for his new book The Paradox of Choice, which argues that too many choices can actually make people less happy.

Not to take anything away from Schwartz, but I wrote something on this very topic in the Yale Law Report (warning: big PDF file) over ten years ago. There's even a mathematical model of life satisfaction as a function of choices. . . .

THE "NO BETTER FRIEND" PLAN: The 1st Marine Division is going to Iraq, and they're asking for your help. I think this is a terrific idea, and I encourage you to donate. I've bought them 110 Frisbees.

WAR IN 2004? StrategyPage lists some likely locations, unfortunately including Nigeria.

ANDREW SULLIVAN: "When you read a piece like this one by Arthur Miller, you realize that for a certain generation, there's no chance that they will ever get their heads around the horrors of communism. Here's Miller, dining with a murderer, thug and dictator, and finding some elegant way to remain committed to liberal principles. . . . He still longs for a world in which Castro might have succeeded, a world which cannot exist, and which never existed - except in the minds of aging Nation-readers. "

Plus, Sullivan endorses Howard Dean!

January 05, 2004

JOHN PERRY BARLOW has had a good blogging experience:

So far, I'm impressed with the level of civility I find in these 126 comments, despite profoundly differing political views and cultures. There are occasional gouts of self-righteous napalm blasting from both sides, and the Third Reich has been mentioned more than once, but people are generally acting like rational adults.

I hope this exchange is as useful to its participants as it is to me. Lately I have found myself too easily seduced into a belief that no one who is neither crazy nor dim-witted nor TV-psychotic nor pretending to be asleep could actually support the policies of the Bush Administration. But the Bush supporters who have arrived here are, with a few exceptions, intelligent, articulate, and more courteous in debate than many of my own cohort. This discussion is a great reminder - as if I should need one - that the other side deserves to be taken as seriously as I would have them take me.

Read the whole thing, which offers some useful lessons to, well, all of us. Funny that this whole conversation was really started by Don McArthur, who calls himself "The Misanthropyst." But hey, he and Barlow have motorcycles in common, too.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis says "right on!"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Don McArthur comments:

I am concerned that this Manichean Hell our politics has descended into has ruined any sort of useful and productive conversation. And that this state of affairs is not an accident, and serves the purposes of a small subset of fanatics, pundits and political opportunists. You don't have to play along.

Not a complete misanthrope.

GO TO IRAQ. LEARN STUFF. SUPPORT WAR:

One-third of lawmakers have now been to Iraq. Many returning voice stronger support.

In a development that has received little public attention, about a third the US Congress has been to Iraq since May - and the trips are shifting the political dynamic on Capitol Hill about the war.

Unlike during Vietnam, when congressional visits often fueled lawmakers' opposition to the war, these tours of Iraq are tending, if anything, to blunt antiwar sentiment. In many cases, they are solidifying support in Congress for the military effort. . . .

Still, lawmakers say that the situation on the ground is more positive than press reports had led them to believe: Schools are functioning, new construction projects are starting up at a rate of 100 a day, and troop morale is better than they had expected. While they also see problems, they're coming back on the side of doing what it takes to make it work.

Conversion of a critic

Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, the lone GOP senator to oppose the war in Iraq in 2002, returned from a two-day visit last October convinced that US action had been justified. Others aghast at President Bush's $87 billion request for reconstructing Iraq last October - atop of a $78 billion request in April - came back committed to voting the full amount. Democrats, who account for a third of 170-plus congressional visits to date, often come back determined to stay and spend what is needed to win the peace.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Here's more commentary on this article by Cori Dauber.

NOTE TO WILL BAUDE: Yes, I am, in fact, messing with you.

DANIEL DREZNER has the only Britney Spears wedding post you need to read.

THE WI-FI HERE works in the lobby, too. I like that a lot. Now I'm off to a panel on Randy Barnett's new book, The Presumption of Liberty.

UPDATE: The conference room is freezing -- but the wi-fi here works! Randy summarized his book rather nicely (follow the link above for a precis). Now Sandy Levinson is commenting: "Raoul Berger would be very unhappy with this book." He argues that Randy's approach, of treating all Constitutional liberty interests as "fundamental," would perhaps over-empower the judiciary. Other commentary: The book is "very, very courteous in tone" and "at the other end of the perspective from Robert Bork's books." He fears, however that the "absence of table-pounding" may hurt sales, and cause the book to get less attention than it deserves. And what about precedent? "Everybody becomes Hart and Sacks-like before the Senate Judiciary Committee."

Keith Whittington: "Sandy tempts me to pound the table." (Later: "Barnett's book attempts to marry Robert Bork and Richard Epstein. . . which used to be against the law." Photoshop fun for con-law geeks!)

I'm finding it hard to blog and pay attention at the same time. Back later, if I get free.

EUGENE VOLOKH ISN'T HERE WITH ME at the AALS conference, though I had dinner with several of his co-bloggers last night. But he does have a piece in NRO on conservative myths about the First Amendment that's well worth your time.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE LOOKS AT claims that Howard Dean has an insider trading problem.

UPDATE: Michael McMenamin offers sympathy for Martha Stewart.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up over at Misty's place. It's a collection of business and economics related blog posts from all over the blogosphere. Check it out.

RICH GALEN has another report from Iraq posted, along with the promised Pattonesque photo of Galen. This should frighten many Baathist holdouts into surrendering all by itself.

One of my spies in Baghdad emails, "The guy is a scream...sorta like being in on the filming of National Lampoon's Baghdad Vacation." They obviously like him a lot there, which is no surprise. Somebody give him a video camera -- I'll host the video if necessary.

ARAB STOCK MARKETS ARE WAY UP, leading Tyler Cowen to observe:

I have been in many ways skeptical of the postwar Iraq policies of the Bush administration. But in light of this information it is more difficult to argue that we are destabilizing the entire Middle East, at least relative to previous expectations of investors.

One of the few advantages in dealing with the Arab world is that the baseline is comfortably low.

UPDATE: More on Arab stock markets here and here.

ANOTHER ADDICT BLOGGER RETURNS TO THE FOLD: Lefty blogger William Burton is blogging again. Lots of interesting stuff (he predicts a Dean/Clark ticket -- I'm predicting Dean/Edwards, but Clark's statement that he won't take a VP slot suggests that Burton may be right, since that sort of statement is just part of the dance . . . .) but if you haven't read his blog before, don't miss his message to the world post from last year.

January 04, 2004

HERE'S A COUNTER of the number of lives saved each day by our invasion of Iraq. The counter is in the upper left corner of the linked page, which is mostly explanation of how the numbers were reached.

It's better than Marc Herold's!

I'M AT THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN LAW SCHOOLS CONFERENCE -- where there's in-room wi-fi at the hotel. I like that. More later.

MARK STEYN on Scott Ritter:

Ritter is rare in the extent of his depravity: He saw the horror close up and opted to turn his back.

Indeed.

ROGER SIMON IS PRAISING TONY BLAIR:

Blair is the anti-Chamberlain.

Read the whole thing. Armed Liberal, meanwhile, has thoughts on Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. This leaves only one logical response. . . .

IS IT "SWEEPS WEEK" ON THE WEB? I wondered when I saw this article on professor-student dating in Slate. (It's actually a pretty good article.) My own impression is that there's a lot less of that than you'd think from TV shows and movies (note: there's a lot less office sex at most law firms than there is on TV, too -- sorry to burst your bubble). Then again, maybe that's just a law thing: Judging by posts from Beth Plocharczyk and Amanda Butler over at Crescat Sententia, there's a lot more action in the humanities departments.

So why don't those people seem more cheerful?

WESLEY CLARK'S CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISING is failing to meet expectations. Most damning, those expectations were set by his own people.

IS PROCREATION the only reason for marriage? If so, I guess I might as well file for divorce, because it's not terribly likely that we'll see any more Insta-Kids.

ERIC S. RAYMOND has thoughts on terrorists using "journalistic cover," and the likely reaction of news services.

MORE SPACE GOOD NEWS:

NASA yesterday said it has captured dozens of close-up images of a distant comet that show the frozen ball of rock and ice spewing jets of dust and gas into space.

The Stardust spacecraft took 72 images of the nucleus of comet Wild 2 on Friday during a flyby 242 million miles from Earth. . . . The spacecraft also collected dust and gas samples from the comet and is scheduled to jettison them to Earth in January 2006.

It's not the lunar cities I was hoping for by now, but it's something.

THOUGHTS ON politics and the Endangered Species Act, over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

I think that one of the great blows to the Endangered Species Act was struck by a (then) University of Tennessee law professor, who rather opportunistically seized on a putative threat to the snail darter as a means of holding up construction on the Tellico Dam. First, the threat to the snail darter was pretty obviously hyped (the Little Tennessee river was called their "sole habitat" because nobody had looked elsewhere, as the darter was only discovered in 1973; when people did, they found them in a number of places, and in fact, they seem to be flourishing, post-Dam). Second, nobody cared about the Snail Darter, and the obstructionist use of the ESA, which was sold using images of bald eagles and redwoods, to block a dam in the name of the snail darter, seemed, well, cheesy. It engendered a political backlash, and a loss of moral capital, that I think cost the environmental movement dearly. I often mention this case to students as an example of how clever lawyering may not always be clever politics.

CATHY SEIPP reviews dubious media achievements of 2003.


NASA'S SPIRIT ROVER has successfully landed on Mars, and is returning pictures:

"This just keeps getting better and better. The pictures are fantastic," said mission science manager John Callas.

The Spirit's successful landing on Mars bucked a trend of failed missions to the Red Planet. Just one in three past attempts to land on Mars have succeeded.

Good news.

UPDATE: Er, good news except for worshippers of Michael Moore, anyway.

BELLICOSE WOMEN on the IRAQI BORDER:

Because of religious and cultural taboos on touching between men and women who aren't married or closely related, an all-male Border Patrol could not search women. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, whose 101st Airborne is responsible for northern Iraq, called for women to join the new Iraqi security forces that the occupation authority was trying to create. He said he was worried that terrorists would use women to ferry equipment and messages back and forth.

Several dozen responded. There were teachers, clerical workers and housewives as well as some former Kurdish guerrillas, known as pesh merga. . . .

Elite solders from the 101st Airborne were put in charge of training, and at first they worried that the women would be too timid and weak. Sgts. Jacob Dixson and Louis Gitlin said they were surprised to find that women did better than men in simulated missions.

"They would always find the bombs fast and search fast," Dixson said. Added Gitlin, "The women had something to prove, so they took everything more seriously." . . .

The women in the Border Patrol range in age from 17 to 54. They include young waifs with chips of polish still on their fingernails and bulky, tough ones with wizened faces who carry several pistols and knives in addition to the AK-47s they are issued.

The 101st has been doing amazing work in Iraq. Reader Wagner James Au emails: "Can we get behind a public push to give David Petraeus of the 101st Airborne the Medal of Honor?" I don't think they give the Medal for this sort of thing, but he certainly deserves a lot of recognition.

AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION HONORS EX-KLANSMAN: Ralph Luker reports:

Finally, there is that other opportunity for some of my fellow high-toned historians to get up a decent picket line: at the AHA convention in Washington this week, when Jim McPherson presents the first Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award for Civil Service to Senator and former Klansman Robert Byrd of West Virginia (scroll down to 13 December). My fellow historian, H. D. Miller at "Traveling Shoes," and Craig Schamp at "Logographer" join me in protesting the award to Senator Byrd. Can you imagine the howl of protest that would have gone up if the AHA had chosen to give such an award to Strom Thurmond or Trent Lott?

Well, yeah. But they're Republicans.

RICH GALEN WARDROBE UPDATE: One of my moles in Baghdad (and yes, I've got 'em) emails: "You should see the results of a fully soldierized Rich Galen on Mullings.com probably sometime today or tomorrow."