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May 15, 2004

MY SISTER LIVES OUT IN THE BOONIES of Sevier County, which is kind of a drag since it's not that close to me.

She lived in town until a few months ago, and I miss having her close by.

But she gets to enjoy views like this one from her back porch, so it's easy to understand why she likes it.

Hope you're having a nice weekend. If you're bored, go read this very interesting Iraqi blog post from Mohammed of Iraq the Model. It hits a somewhat different note than some of the stuff you've been hearing lately.

(More semi-rural bliss here.) Back later.

ROGER SIMON HAS A SCOOP regarding horrific Iraq prison videos that are about to come out.

DONALD SENSING HAS A ROUNDUP OF SCANDALS INVOLVING UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING FORCES and it's pretty damning stuff. I knew about most of these, but seeing them all together in one place is, well, pretty damning.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT THE MIRROR, but this is certainly the kind of forthright admission of error (for its publication of fake photos regarding Iraqi prisoner abuse) that we don't see enough of in the news business.

The Mirror's actual apology contains a certain amount of weaseling, but in light of the front page I'm not going to complain too much.

I think that some American papers could learn from this example. And I can't help noting how often media people -- from the BBC in the Gilligan scandal, to The Mirror and The Globe this week -- have gotten themselves into humiliating positions as a result of being too anxious to run things that they hope will make the war effort look bad.

And, speaking of the Globe, Sherrie Gossett, who broke the fake-photo story there, says that yesterday's Ombudsman column was dishonest and is a case of "playing dumb to save face."

May 14, 2004

QU QLUX QAEDA: A worthwhile point.

BLACKFIVE HAS A LETTER FROM A MARINE IN FALLUJAH -- and reminds us that tomorrow is Armed Forces Day.

WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HIDDEN TAX ISSUES IN THE FRASIER FINALE? Of course you do! And TaxProf's got you covered -- with special bonus links to discussions of tax issues in Extreme Makeover and in the Friends finale, too!

AGAINST TORTURE: Phil Carter has an interesting article in Slate.

I share his opposition to torture, as I noted back when Alan Dershowitz was floating the idea.

And like Phil, I'm so opposed to torture that I'm against it even when it's done by non-Americans. Now if we can just get the rest of the world to go along.

HEH. INDEED.

AN INTERESTING OPEN LETTER to people who are finding blogs while looking for links to the Nick Berg video.

WHAT WMD? THESE, I guess:

Tehran to unveil plaque denouncing Germany's supply of chemical weapons during 1980s

Iranian authorities plan to erect a plaque outside the German embassy on Friday denouncing Germany's contribution to Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons arsenal. . . .

The head of the city council, Mehdi Chamran, demanded the German government apologize to the Iranian nation and to the victims of the chemical weapons and their families.

Heh.

A CALL FOR SEN. CARL LEVIN TO RESIGN over prison abuse.

UPDATE: More here.

MIRROR EDITOR GONE OVER FAKED IRAQ PHOTOS:

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has been sacked following pressure over faked photos of soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner.

The Queen's Lancashire Regiment earlier told a press conference the Mirror had to apologise for running the pictures and endangering British troops.

A statement from the Mirror said it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax". The Mirror board said it would be "inappropriate" for Morgan to continue. . . .

Deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram, said: ''Looking at the facts objectively, this is the right thing for Piers Morgan to have done.

"The photos that were published in the Daily Mirror have done great damage to the reputation of our troops, who are serving under some of the most difficult conditions in Iraq.''

Earlier Colonel Black, a former regiment commander of the QLR, said the pictures put lives in danger and acted as a "recruiting poster" for al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, here's the Boston Globe's ombudsman on its own fake-photo scandal. They're still not coming right out and admitting that the photos are bogus, though. But there's this: "We are not firing anybody." Here's a story from Editor & Publisher, too.

Dan Kennedy has more, and observes:

Where [Globe ombudsman] Chinlund falls short is in her narrowly stubborn insistence that because she couldn't find the porn photos on the Internet, she can't verify that Turner and Kambon were indeed passing off porn shots as evidence of American atrocities.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

I remain surprised that this has gotten relatively little attention from the media-ethics watchdogs. Somehow I think that if FoxNews were snookered by porn we'd be hearing more about it.

UPDATE: Reader Matt Walter emails:

While the Ombudsman for the Globe does not say the photos are bogus, she
does say they are "unauthenticated". She blames miscommunications,
deadlines, and all the other usual stuff, but I sent her a letter asking her
a simple question:

"Would the Globe have been as careless about authenticity, fact-checking and communication if we were talking about pictures purporting to show Senator Kennedy doing beer bongs on Chappaquiddick in 1969?"

Because if she wants some, I can make some up and have them to her post
haste.

Heh. Meanwhile Stephen O'Brien emails:

Recurring theme: If the Globe had anyone in the newsroom even vaguely familiar with the military they would have immediately recognized the photo as fake. It wasn't even a close fake. Since when are the soldiers in Baghdad wearing woodland green? And the haircuts? The footwear? They didn't even try to make it realistic, and the Globe took it hook, line and sinker. It's like a Rorschach test: you see what you want to see.

This isn't the first time military ignorance has led to humiliation for media outlets. And reader Douglas Morris notes a real-world example of media skepticism when it suits their purpose:

In your bits on what verification the Boston Globe, et al., would employ for a Kennedy tryst, howzabout the immediate denunciations that happened with that Jane Fonda & John Kerry PhotoShopped pic?

Yeah, they didn't run that one without checking.

STILL MORE: Here's Cosmo Macero's column from the Boston Herald on this event, which he's posted on his blog so that you can read it without subscribing:

Globe editor Martin Baron deserves credit for acting quickly.

Yet the original decision - by three unnamed desk editors - to publish the photo and story suggests a significant breakdown in institutional news judgment on Morrissey Boulevard.

Even the most rookie radio producers in Boston know when to pull the plug on Sadiki.

Moreover, Slack's copy should have triggered a kill switch - loaded as it was with expressed doubts about the photos' authenticity. . . .

The story may just have been too good a fit with the Globe's news agenda to pass up - a localized angle on the outrage over actual abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

But you've got to know when you're being had.

Indeed. And it's perhaps worth noting here -- as Dan Kennedy does in the item linked above -- that the Globe's editorial on this event is more forthright than the ombudsman column.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON is talking sense. "We are doing to ourselves what the enemy could not."

Well, some people are trying to do that to us, anyway.

UPDATE: Great quote: "Our current struggle is the first in our history as a nation in which the roll call of the dead contains a majority of civilians. This is our enemy's goal, for they are murderers, not soldiers."

More thoughts here.

THINGS I'M NOT WRITING ABOUT, but that people keep asking about:

1. The Vanity Fair/Graydon Carter story: Don't care; if you want more, go to Drudge.

2. Air America's Randi Rhodes' calling for President Bush to be shot: If you make a death threat on a radio network no one listens to, does it make a sound?

3. Further evidence for a Saddam / 9-11 link: It's interesting, but how many minds will it change?

X-PRIZE UPDATE: Another flight for Burt Rutan's Spaceship One. And this is cool:

Given all the rocket plane activity at the Mojave Airport, steps have been taken to have the facility certified as a spaceport.

Stuart Witt, General Manager of the Mojave Airport, envisions the site busily handling the horizontal launchings and landings of reusable spacecraft.

Witt said the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation is reviewing an application to license Mojave Airport as an inland spaceport. In fact, the airport is already a natural center for research and development and certification programs, such as the rocket plane work of Scaled Composites and XCOR Aerospace.

Bring it on!

UPDATE: Here's a very cool photo, via the Mojave Airport website.

ANOTHER STORY OF FAILURE BY THE U.N.:

While the UN dithers in Sudan, the people of Chad struggle to avert disaster.

In the past year, Tine's population has more than doubled as refugees have poured out of the Darfur region of western Sudan, fleeing Arab militiamen mounted on horses and camels who are waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against their black Muslim neighbours. . . .

The United Nations has described the war in Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis at the moment.

It is running an emergency relief programme for Darfur refugees but will not operate on the border, saying it is too dangerous.

Families have been waiting for up to two months, their lives at risk from shelling, cross-border militia raids and water shortages, to transfer to UN camps 20 miles into Chad.

Aid workers from other agencies have accused the UN of inefficiency and perhaps worse.

"What is going on here is very dark," said one western aid worker at a non-UN agency.

"Money seems to have disappeared. Who knows whether it has been stolen or whether it has just disappeared in the UN machine. The inefficiency is astounding."

Sigh. A United Nations that wasn't a corrupt and inept dictators' club would be a good thing. Unfortunately, that's not the United Nations we have.

UPDATE: More on the undercovered Sudan story here.

JAMES EARL KERRY? What would kind of President would John Kerry make?

UPDATE: I hope a Kerry Presidency wouldn't be as bad as this account of Jimmy Carter's presidency. Sheesh!

May 13, 2004

EVAN COYNE MALONEY has thoughts on Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg.

UPDATE: Some very weird stuff about Berg's associations with, among others, alleged 20th hijacker Moussaoui.

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT ROH'S IMPEACHMENT has been dismissed.

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER PUT YOUR PICTURE ON THE INTERNET: Hey, didn't I see this guy in the Boston Globe?

HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THE NICK BERG MURDER VIDEO WAS A MISTAKE FOR AL QAEDA? Because Al Jazeera is now attacking its authenticity. (Yeah, it's certainly unprecedented!) Who are these unnamed bloggers?

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has thoughts on the unfolding Berg story.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An amusing Al Jazeera parody here. And reader Edward Lee emails:

Did these people see the same video I saw? Berg is clearly alive when the terrorists shove him to the ground. The reason he doesn't wriggle in resistance is because he's completely tied up. They then proceed to saw off his neck, and you can hear him screaming for a good 5-10 seconds. When they hit the jugular, you can see a lot of blood spill out.

Yeah.

A GREAT READER EMAIL over at Andrew Sullivan's.

TED KENNEDY: The Jeff Goldstein interview.

As reliable as a Boston Globe photo-feature on prisons!

UPDATE: Ouch!

IT'S NOT JUST UNSCAM:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Corrupt use of World Bank funds may exceed $100 billion and while the institution has moved to combat the problem, more must be done, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Thursday.

Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, charged that "in its starkest terms, corruption has cost the lives of uncounted individuals contending with poverty and disease." . . .

Jeffrey Winters, an associate professor at Northwestern University, said his research suggested corruption wasted about $100 billion of World Bank funds, and when other multilateral development banks are included, the total rises to about $200 billion.

I hope this story gets the attention it deserves.

UPDATE: Stephen Green makes an important point:

Corrupt Enron went broke, allowing reputable firms to have their markets and workers. That's how capitalism functions. The World Bank, of course, has no such restraints on its behavior.

Indeed.

YOU KNOW, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm too harsh in my charges of media bias. Then I read accounts like this one from Baghdad, by the Daily Telegraph's correspondent Toby Harnden:

The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.

She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now — there was no choice about this — going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I’ll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no ‘imminent threat’ (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.

But then she came to the point. Not only had she ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’ Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry’s poll numbers. ‘Well, that’s different — that would be Americans,’ she said, haltingly. ‘I guess I’m a bit of an isolationist.’ That’s one way of putting it.

The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn’t really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph’s chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago.

Moral degeneracy, indeed. You hate to think that any American journalist could feel this way, but we've had other admissions of this sort in the past. To explain things in words of few syllables: It's wrong to root for your country's defeat. Especially when that defeat would mean the death of innocents. And surely it's worse still when it's merely for domestic political advantage.

Isn't it?

UPDATE: An antiwar reader writes: "It is not wrong to root for your country's defeat if your country is evil."

I wonder how many journalists feel this way? I suspect that, among those who do, it affects the quality and slant of their reporting.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interocitor denounces the journalistic omerta that keeps these names from being revealed. And another reader points to Anne Garrels' expression of satisfaction at problems in Iraq.

MORE: Further thoughts on this topic here, in a later post.

MORE ON MILITARY RECRUITING, from Jim Dunnigan:

The U.S. Army, which is taking the bulk of the casualties in Iraq, is still getting more volunteers than it needs. Standards have remained high, but the numbers needed have gone up as well. . . .

There may yet be a decline in volunteers, and the army is paying close attention to recruiting efforts in order to detect any problems early, so they can try and counter them. One thing the army has noted is the increasing number of volunteers who are joining up not for the educational benefits or the money. Now a major incentive is patriotism. Many young Americans believe that Islamic radicals are a real threat to the United States and want to do something about it. But in past wars, this sort of enthusiasm diminished as the war went on. Historically, after three years, the number of volunteers declined dramatically. But in those past wars, mainly the Civil War and World War II, the casualties were high. This is not the case in Iraq, a war with historically very low casualties.

I'm glad to hear that people are watching this closely. Dunnigan notes that we haven't fought a major war with a volunteer army in over 150 years, so this is very much uncharted territory.

MORE FAKE PHOTOS of prisoner abuse. As I said before, if people keep this up, it's going to make it less likely that Abu Ghraib will be taken seriously.

ANOTHER SUCCESS FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY! No, really:

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Reuters) - Libya, which last year said it would give up weapons of mass destruction, will not trade arms with Iran, North Korea, Syria and other nations that may proliferate such weapons, the United States said on Thursday.

"Libya will not deal in any military goods or services with states which Libya considers to be of serious weapons of mass destruction proliferation concern," said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, saying he was quoting from a Libyan statement.

Good. Just remember: Trust, but verify.

WHY THE BIG MEDIA CONTINUE TO LOSE THEIR AUDIENCE: Neal Boortz observes:

This morning in most of the newspapers I scanned during my preparation for the show the top story was still the Iraqi prison abuse scandal. Nick Berg had already disappeared from many front pages, but the prison abuse stories remain. May I suggest to you that there is a reason for this? Maybe it's just this simple: The prison abuse scandal can damage Bush, the Nick Berg story can only help him. Given the choice many editors will chose the stories that serve their cause, getting Bush out of the White House, rather than one that hurts it.

Such cynicism about the media, these days. But he's right. The Berg video wasn't shown on TV, and -- as Boortz notes -- the big media leaders seem almost desperate to keep the story on Abu Ghraib, even to the point of running already discredited fake porn photos purporting to be from Iraq. (And issuing lame and incomplete pseudo-apologies when caught out.)

But on the Internet, where users set the agenda, not Big Media editors and producers, it's different. As Jeff Quinton notes, Nick Berg is the story that people care about:

Right now the 10 phrases most searched for are:
nick berg video
nick berg
berg beheading
beheading video
nick berg beheading video
nick berg beheading
berg video
berg beheading video
"nick berg"
video nick berg

Likewise, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News reports that that's what his readers care about:

Our letters page today is filled with nothing but Berg-related letters, most of them demanding that the DMN show more photos of the Berg execution. Not one of the 87 letters we received on the topic yesterday called for these images not to be printed. My sense is that there's a big backlash building against the media for flogging the Abu Ghraib photos, but being so delicate with the Berg images. People sense that there's an agenda afoot here. As somebody, can't remember who, wrote yesterday, "Why is it that the media can show over and over again pictures that could make Arabs hate Americans, but refuse to show pictures that could make Americans hate Arabs?"

These guys are marginalizing themselves with their agenda-driven coverage. And they're so out of touch they don't realize it. As Andrew Sullivan notes:

My gut tells me that the Nick Berg video has had much more psychic impact in this country than the Abu Ghraib horrors. I even notice some small evidence for this. Every political blog site has just seen an exponential jump in traffic - far more than anything that occurred during the Abu Ghraib unfolding. My traffic went through the roof yesterday, and, according to Alexa, so did everyone else's. People who have tuned the war out suddenly tuned the war in. They get it. Will the mainstream media?

My prediction: Nope, and they'll continue to lose audience to the Internet.

UPDATE: It's not just Jeff Quinton. Here's what Lycos reports as its top requests:

Nick Berg is the new number one search term on the Lycos Search engine over the past 24 hours. The top 10 search requests Web users are specifically searching for regarding Nick Berg are:

1. Nick Berg video
2. Nick Berg Beheading
3. Nick Berg and Iraq
4. Nick Berg Execution
5. Nick Berg Beheading Video
6. Nick Berg Killing
7. Nick Berg murder
8. Nick Berg assassination
9. Nick Berg decapitation video
10. Execution of Nick Berg.

The video showing the beheading of U.S. captive Nick Berg, combined with the multitude of search activity for the War in Iraq and searches for the Iraqi prisoners of war, is generating 12 times more searches than the #2 search term, Paris Hilton.

I don't think Google releases this sort of information. Am I wrong?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Verdon has more, and Ann Haight notes that she spotted the fake porn photos as fakes on May 2d.

Meanwhile, Rod Dreher emails to make clear that the Dallas Morning News did run the Berg picture. (I knew that, and I didn't mean the DMN when I said "these guys," though I can see how that could have been confusing. Sorry!) And he adds:

I pointed out to Keven Ann Willey, the DMN's editorial page
editor, that I initially got the idea for this editorial from doing my usual
bedtime run through the blogosphere, and seeing what a huge issue this Berg
video vs. Abu Ghraib photos was becoming. We've been talking for some time
about how editorial pages have got to make much more use of the blogosphere.
Kev gets it, she really gets it, and readers of our editorial pages will
continue to see big strides in making ourselves more exciting and relevant
to our readership. I'm the editor of Points, a new Sunday opinion and
commentary section that we'll be launching in July. I'm going to run an
old-media section that will be well-informed by the edgy debates and the
lively style of the blogosphere. I firmly believe that editorial pages have
got to understand that by far the most interesting debates and commentary
are occurring not on the nation's editorial pages, which are filled with
material written by middle-aged, middle-class professionals who live in
Washington, New York, Chicago and L.A., but on blogs, with their spectacular
diversity and intelligence. We've got to figure out a way to tap into that
in a serious and sustained way.

So some Big Media folks get it. And, finally, Google does track search requests, but only once a week and the last one, on May 10, missed the Berg story.

Nick Berg's topping the Yahoo! search charts, too.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has more on this:

The people have news judgment. And it beats the judgment of many an editor.

Yes. More here and here.

MORE: Reader Greg Taggart emails:

I just listened to the CBS news on the local CBS radio affiliate. Amazing. Here, is an accurate but abbreviated form is CBS's report: Item one: Rumsfeld in Iraq-because of the "growing" outrage over the prison photos. Item two: Kerry called and spoke with Berg's family. Item two: Berg's family is blaming "the Bush administration" for his death. I'm not making this up. CBS managed to place everything at the feet of George Bush. They even turned Nick Berg's death into an opportunity to make Kerry look good and a reason to bash Bush. Simply amazing.

I teach writing and critical analysis. One of the first things I teach is that writing is an intentional act. Words don't just happen. Neither do news reports.

Nope.

STILL MORE: Several readers email that this will get a lot of attention now that Nick Berg's father is blaming President Bush. But Justin Katz was all over that story yesterday.

IS THERE A PRISON STORY COVERUP UNDERWAY? The Mudville Gazette has questions.

SOME THOUGHTS on South Korea's impeachment imbroglio, and today's ruling by the Constitutional Court. More background here.

BILL HOBBS has an interesting blog news roundup.

LEE HARRIS and Fouad Ajami both think that the Bush Administration is blowing the war of ideas.

I think they're largely right, and I think that the war of ideas hasn't gotten nearly enough attention, though I also think that actions are far more important -- and, ultimately, more persuasive -- than words.

JEFF JARVIS has some observations on Air America, and concludes: "I doubt that Air America will last to the election."

It seems to me that they've dropped the ball here.

REPORTERS ARE BIG ON ASKING OTHER PEOPLE FOR APOLOGIES, but this rather lame effort from the Globe is typical of what happens when they screw up royally:

Editor's Note: A photograph on Page B2 yesterday did not meet Globe standards for publication. The photo portrayed Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and activist Sadiki Kambon displaying graphic photographs that they claimed showed US soldiers raping Iraqi women. Although the photograph was reduced in size between editions to obscure visibility of the images on display, at no time did the photograph meet Globe standards. Images contained in the photograph were overly graphic, and the purported abuse portrayed had not been authenticated. The Globe apologizes for publishing the photo.

Note that it doesn't say, anywhere, that the images were actually fraudulent, though they were. Is this an adequate apology for running explicitly pornographic images that were falsely labeled as representing atrocities by American troops? Especially after news reports that such photos were being circulated had appeared in a number of British and American media outlets?

UPDATE: Reader Chris Regan emails:

So when the three Globe editors realized they made a huge mistake they kept running the photo with the porn "slightly" more obscured? Weird. Are they that personally invested in the photo?

He also suspects that if, say, a right-wing evangelical group had been peddling mislabeled porn in a press conference it would get more attention, and skepticism, from the press. Could be.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting tidbit -- I wrote about this over at my MSNBC site and the editors removed the link to the Globe picture because of MSNBC's policy against linking to pornography.

I have to say that I'm surprised that the usual journalistic-ethics folks aren't making much of this lapse of standards. Kurtz doesn't even mention it in his "media notes" today. But Dan Kennedy has more, and notes that bloggers spotted these photos as bogus long before the Globe published them. He also addresses the Globe's very weak correction:

Also, in my quick update this morning, I neglected to note that the Globe failed to include some pretty vital information in its "Editor's Note" today - or, for that matter, anywhere else in the paper: the fact that these photos had been exposed as fakes quite a bit before Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and local activist Sadiki Kambon unveiled them at a news conference on Tuesday.

You'd have to buy the Boston Herald, he observes, to find out the full story. Ouch!

MORE: Several readers say they've gotten this email back from the Globe in response to complaints:

The Globe is aware it made a serious error, and the paper apologized in an Editor's Note published today, Thursday, on Page A2. The error happened in part because of a miscommunication between photo desk staffers, and in part because the usual "checks and balances" system of review did not work as it should have. An upcoming ombudsman column, probably to run Monday, will provide more details on how this particular lapse in judgment and procedures occurred.

Probably Monday. Not as fast as they expected an explanation and apology from Bush, but better than nothing.

KERRY ONLY ONE POINT AHEAD OF BUSH IN CALIFORNIA? If California is in play, Kerry's in big trouble.

(Via Roger Simon, who has more -- and here, via Roger's comment section, is an analysis arguing that anti-Bush pile-ons by the media are the reason. Maybe so, or maybe Kerry's just a weak candidate with a badly run campaign. Or maybe both.)

UPDATE: Jeff Jacoby writes on the pictures we see and the pictures we don't.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Capt. Ed thinks it's the Arnold effect.

And reader Sam Michael has advice for Bush: "He should stay out of California and let Arnold do the talking for him there."

BELMONT CLUB, whose track record has been better than most on this subject, surveys what's going on in Iraq:

This was not supposed to happen. April was supposed to mark the death rattle of the American occupation in Iraq. It was never meant to lead to joint Marine-Iraqi patrols in Fallujah or Iraqi commandos hunting down Moqtada Al-Sadr in Najaf. Yet the change did not proceed from "more American boots on the ground" nor from the provision of additional guards for the Baghdadi antiquities or an influx of NGOs. Still less was it the consequence of a grant of legitimacy from the United Nations or the messianic arrival of French troops. In fact it coincided with the departure of the Spanish contingent from Iraq. The change sprang from the correct application of the original strategy: building a democratic and free Iraq by recognizing the leadership which arose from the circumstances. It arose not from an imposed set of politically correct commissars in Baghdad but in complementing indigenous efforts with American strengths.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Read this column by Austin Bay, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

It is ironic that Bush is accused by the left of oversimplifying matters and while Kerry claims to be more "nuanced." In fact, what is beginning to emerge into public view is an Iraq strategy that is working and which is working only because it is extremely nuanced.

Perhaps he's been misunderestimated.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, unofficial diplomat?

WOW: Over 200,000 pageviews yesterday. Where did they come from?

HUGH HEWITT is taking Patrick Leahy to task for yesterday's grandstanding.

THE BOSTON GLOBE REPORTS that returning Spanish troops are unhappy with Zapatero:

"We should have stayed and finished our mission," said Jose Francisco Casteneda, 29, who was among four sergeants who gathered at a local restaurant Thursday -- sharing newly developed snapshots of their time in Iraq. Each image rekindled all of the intensity and emotion of what they saw during their mission. . .

The TV footage of the ceremony shows Zapatero flashing a broad smile that political cartoonists love to lampoon. The soldiers said they couldn't hide their disappointment that the prime minister did not directly address them and left it to Defense Minister Jose Bono.

"A lot of us were wondering, 'Who is this parade for anyway?' " Collado asked. . . .

Torvisco, who suffered shrapnel wounds, said it was difficult for him to discuss his service.

"The great majority do not understand what we were doing there or what we went through," Torvisco said. "I think it was worth it to bring peace to a country at war, as we had helped to do in Kosovo and Afghanistan. But I also know that I won't be able to convince a lot of people in this country of that."

That's too bad.

WILL JOHN KERRY DEMAND KOFI'S RESIGNATION?

The human rights organization slammed the United Nations and NATO for not doing more to punish its people for contributing to what has become a flourishing sex industry in the Balkan country.

Since 1999, when international peacekeepers entered the country after negotiating an end to the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, the number of institutions where women and girls are being exploited has mushroomed from 18 to 200 in 2003, according to the report. Girls as young as 11 have been lured under false pretenses from places like Moldova, the Ukraine and Bulgaria to work in the sex trade.

Then there's this:

Eritrea broadcast a statement on Thursday alleging a string of offences committed by Unmee, including housing criminals, paedophilia, making pornography and even using the national currency as toilet paper.

An Unmee report last June quoted Eritrean women as saying Irish peacekeepers on the mission had used prostitutes as young as 15.

The Eritrean government said: "The fact that Unmee has to date not taken any concrete actions and shown no co-operation to correct its modus operandi and clean up its activities, exposes to grave danger the peace and stability of the people and government of Eritrea, as well as the security and stability of our region."

(And don't forget this report and this one.) No doubt Charles Rangel will be outraged.

UPDATE: James Somers has good advice for Kerry:

It would, I think, be a very clever political move for Kerry to deliver an address skewering Kofi and the U.N. on the Oil for Food scandal. In fact, Karl Rove would probably wet his pants if Kerry did so. People talk about Kerry needing a "Sister Souljah" moment. This would do it. It would give him credibility with the broad swath of Americans who feel that the Bush Administration has been incompetent in handling Iraq, but find Kerry's platitudes about "rejoining the international community" and "bringing the U.N. into Iraq" to be so naive and Euro-centric as to suggest that he will not put America's interests above those of other nations. Put another way, it would play well in Peoria. And the best part, from the Kerry campaign's view, is that the Administration can't respond in kind, because it needs to suck up to the U.N. so as to get whatever help it can in stabilizing Iraq sufficiently to take it off the table as a political liability.

Interesting.

THIS IS INTERESTING:

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Michael K. Young will join Senator Susan M. Collins and Representative Dan Burton at an on-the-record press conference on Capitol Hill on May 13 to announce the decision of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Government Reform Committee to request that the General Accounting office (GAO) undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. oversight of Saudi support for an ideology promoting violence and intolerance globally. In conducting the study, the GAO will seek information from relevant U.S. government agencies and will consult with outside experts on Saudi promotion of religious extremism, including the USCIRF. The findings of the study will be presented in a public report, although some of the information obtained may be classified.

Stay tuned. I have a pretty good idea what they'll find, but this is still worth doing. (Emph. added).

RAMESH PONNURU on the panic of the hawks:

How much the impact of Abu Ghraib hurts the mission in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, remains to be seen, but there are some reasons for thinking that we may be overestimating that impact. The chief source of justified alarm that I can see is the panic itself: the possibility that it will lead to dumb moves in Washington.

Yes, I'm not sure why a lot of people people are suddenly panicking either, except perhaps that months of slanted news may have had a cumulative effect, somehow breaking down people's resistance. Things actually seem to be going better than anyone would have expected a month ago: As Andrew Sullivan notes, the isolation of Sadr looks to have been handled rather shrewdly, as is the military response. And the turnover of sovereignty, as Patrick Belton notes below, seems to be going well, too.

It's a war, people, which means good news and bad news -- and no single piece of news tends to mean nearly as much as it seems to at the moment.

UPDATE: Bryan Preston says he's not depressed by what's going on abroad, but by treasonous opportunism at home.

May 12, 2004

PATRICK BELTON:

JUST IN THE OFF CHANCE THAT THE EVENT doesn't attract much attention from the print media, sovereignty passed today from the CPA to Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This makes the Foreign Ministry the eighth Iraqi ministry to quietly, and successfully, assume autonomy in the hands of the Iraqi

So noted.

TED KENNEDY, "OXYGEN THIEF:" The Kerry Campaign certainly won't like hearing Kennedy in anti-Kerry commercials, as seems likely.

GEN-X IN THE GREEN ZONE: An interesting report.

HOWARD STERN IS DISSING CATHY SEIPP: Knowing her as I do, that strikes me as unwise.

PORN PHOTOS PRESENTED AS FROM IRAQ AT THE BOSTON GLOBE? That's what Bryan Preston is reporting. (Message to Globe editors: Read Fleshbot and you won't be so easily fooled -- tell the boss it's work-related!) Then there's this fakery:

Frauds Try to Exploit Iraq Abuse Scandal

Fallujah native Abdul-Qader Abdul-Rahman al-Ani, his left elbow wrapped in bandages, his right forearm bound in a cast, recounted how he was beaten by soldiers who picked him up last month. The soldiers tied him and two others arrested with him to a tree and sodomized them one after the other, he told journalists.

"I ask President Bush," he said. "Does he agree with this?"

As Ani, 47, repeated his story, he was interrupted by Jabber al-Okaili, a member of one of the human rights groups that organized the gathering. "He's lying," al-Okaili shouted. "He's a liar!"

Al-Ani was rushed to an office, where al-Okaili and others unwound the bandage on his left arm and found the elbow unscarred and healthy.

(Via Tim Blair, who notes that German TV shows the footage without the revealing-the-fake part.) You know, if people keep this stuff up, the Abu Ghraib incidents aren't going to be taken as seriously as they deserve.

UPDATE: LT Smash has thoughts on perspective.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dan Kennedy offers background and context on the Globe fiasco. Meanwhile Boston reader Marybeth Hayes emails:

The Boston Globe has really sunk lower than low. Not only does the article (the reporter covered a news conference held by a Boston city coucilor) describe the photographs "showing US soldiers raping Iraqi women," THERE'S A PICTURE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS !!!

Unbelievable. The picture shows a local activist and the city councilor holding up a posterboard with the photos. They handed out photographs to reporters. The Globe will definitely hear from many angry readers about those ridiculous photos!!

The photos are not on the Globe's website, but they're prominently placed in the newspaper.

I don't know parents manage to explain this stuff to their kids. Yuckkk!!!

Kennedy makes the photos sound less graphic, and less prominent, than Hayes does. Not having seen the print edition, I can't offer an opinion, except that this is clearly an embarrassment for the Globe regardless. Though as Kennedy notes, it's a bigger embarrassment for the Boston politician, Chuck Turner, who was distributing the photos. No doubt the Globe will be making that point, too.

I will say that, in general, I've found the Globe's reporting that I've followed to be trustworthy and, especially compared to the New York Times, un-slanted.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here, courtesy of Drudge, is a scan of the Globe print edition. It's not work safe, which I think answers the question above. And the depiction is clear enough that I don't think the Globe deserves to be let off the hook -- this wasn't accidental.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP, with blog posts from all sorts of people you may not be reading. Check it out -- you may find some new blogs you'll want to read regularly.

BELMONT CLUB IS STRESSING THE IMPORTANCE OF FACTS OVER EMOTION:

And the final fact is this. The only exit from war's inhumanity is through the doorway of victory. For while it may be mitigated, controlled and reduced to a certain extent fundamentally "war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it", though victory can end it. While it continues, as many in the Left who long for a 21st century Vietnam hope, it will unleash unpredictable forces which no one can control. Those who delighted in discovering the photographs at Abu Ghraib little imagined Nick Berg's video. And while we can safely grant Andrew Sullivan's plea and publish both, for reasons the media imagine are laudable, it is what comes next that I am afraid of.

Me, too. Read the whole thing. And read this post by Donald Sensing, too.

UPDATE: The Guardian is surveying Arab reaction to the Nick Berg murder:

"This shows how base and vile those who wear the robe of Islam have become," said Abdullah Sahar, a political scientist at Kuwait University.

The video was released on the internet yesterday, but appeared too late for columnists in the Middle East to comment. But many Arabs said today that the grisly execution, attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, surpassed the US military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, which has been the top story for the past 10 days in the Middle East.

"We were winning international sympathy because of what happened at Abu Ghraib, but they come and waste it all," Mr Sahar said of the militants responsible.

Read the whole thing.

THIS EMAIL FROM A SOLDIER IN IRAQ is worth reading. I won't excerpt it -- just go read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Another letter here.

TAXPROF HAS MORE ON THE TERESA HEINZ KERRY TAX RETURN STORY and notes that the New York Times misses something:

Today's New York Times gets a crucial bit of the story wrong: it says that "in the past 30 years, all major-party presidential and vice-presidential nominees have made their tax returns public. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Kerry have done so this year." Not entirely true. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney themselves broke with this 30-year tradition and released only partial returns in prior years as Ms. Heinz Kerry proposes doing this year. Bush and Cheney reversed course in 2003 and released their full returns. One has to wonder if they suddenly became fans of increased transparanecy or instead did so in order to take advantage of Ms. Heinz Kerry's unwillingness to do so (abetted by incomplete reports like that in today's New York Times).

You'd think that the Kerry campaign would be on top of this.

A CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSE TO MURDER, from The Command Post.

LILEKS has thoughts on the West and Islam. "But where are the rallies and marches outside the Saudi embassies demanding an end to funding extremism?"

BLOWBACK: Now these folks have done a Kerry/Rumsfeld radio commercial. It'll be airing soon.

UPDATE: More here. And there's this: "Running against Dick Cheney wasn't going too well for John Kerry, so now he's reduced to running against Donald Rumsfeld." I don't think this will work.

THE NATIONAL DEBATE is proclaiming a double standard on graphic images among American media: Publishing images that might inflame Arabs against Americans is responsible journalism. So is not publishing images that might inflame Americans against Arabs. And, TND notes, "media squeamishness has now extended beyond images to the written word."

Well, not everywhere. But there does seem to be a double standard here.

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz thinks the networks broadcast too much of the Berg video:

Suddenly, everything was put into perspective.

(Did the networks have to play the gruesome video, except for the final act, thus handing the terrorists the propaganda victory they wanted? A still shot, a snippet, and a description wouldn't have been enough?)

If this was an old-fashioned propaganda war, this sickening decapitation tape would never have been released, since it trumps a story that was making the United States look very bad. But these killers don't care about that, or apparently about human life itself. So they've succeeded in making the American abuses--for which the president has apologized, and which is being investigated, and courts-martial convened--small by comparison.

Yes. Bush's greatest asset is the tendency of his enemies to overplay their hands at crucial junctures.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Some people are angry. More thoughts here.

HOMELAND SECURITY: My TechCentralStation column looks at problems, and solutions.

MICKEY KAUS sides with Jonah Goldberg in the Goldberg v. Kurtz photo debate.

UPDATE: But some people are really upset:

Berg's execution is "a particularly gruesome and graphic way" for terrorists to "get their point across that they will kill any American they can find," says Gregory Gause, director of Middle East studies at the University of Vermont. "My fear is that this awful act will lend credence to people in this country who say that whatever we do, others do worse."

Yeah, we wouldn't want anyone to get that idea.

TOM MAGUIRE is fact-checking Ted Kennedy, with predictable, but nonetheless interesting, results.

A MISERABLE FAILURE IN PRIORITY-SETTING by the Bush Administration:

At a time when federal officials should focus obsessively on crushing terrorists, they are expanding the disastrous war on drugs into an even more pointless war on substances. From old bogeymen like marijuana to new "hazards" like Oxycontin, Washington busybodies are knocking themselves out combating compounds that, by themselves, do not threaten public safety.

Don't these people realize that there's a war on? A real one?

UPDATE: Steve Sturm says that I'm too hard on the Bush Administration here. I don't think so, but you can make up your own mind.

MATTHEW HOY answers Aaron Brown.

May 11, 2004

HUGH HEWITT is giving airtime to Ted Kennedy and wonders why the Big Media aren't doing the same thing. Well, he doesn't wonder, exactly. He also has comments for the L.A. Times' John Carroll, and some other media folks.

MORE GRAPHIC IMAGES FROM IRAQ, just released to the public after being kept under wraps for nearly a year.

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE is running a Taguba Spin Watch with some interesting results.

UPDATE: It's the case of the missing headlines! "If you have any information as to the whereabouts of these headlines, please contact the ombudsmen of the media outlets who are missing them. Do not attempt to apprehend the copy editors yourself, as they are highly volatile, and subject to wild hormonal swings when "in heat" over a story."

THE X-PRIZE COMPETITION will launch from New Mexico:

SANTA FE (AP) -- New Mexico has been selected to host a competition to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, Gov. Bill Richardson announced Monday.

The governor said the state won over Florida, California and Oklahoma to host the X Prize Cup. The contest calls for launching a manned craft to 62.5 miles above the Earth, which is generally considered the edge of space, twice within two weeks. The craft must be able to carry three people.

The X Prize competition will give $10 million to the first company or person to successfully launch the craft.

Launches are expected early this summer.

UPDATE: This is the X-Prize Cup, which is different from the Ansari X-Prize. It's all explained in this story by Leonard David.

OLD WISDOM: "It's good to be the King!" New wisdom: "It's good not to be a public utility."

IRAQI BLOGGER ALI has an interesting interview with an Iraqi physician who worked at Abu Ghraib.

WHITE TICKET HOLDERS ONLY: Capt. Ed. notes an unfortunate turn of phrase.

MORE OUTRAGEOUS IMAGES OF PRISONER ABUSE: No doubt this will lead the news tonight. (Via Stephen Green).

UPDATE: Alex Bensky emails:

No doubt the Arab press is going to be worrying about how this outrage will affect the volatile American street. There will surely be editorials and op-eds wondering if the Arab cause is tainted by such savagery. Be sure and link to the articles, will you?

Uh, sure.

Link to the video here. And more thoughts from Donald Sensing, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tacitus is comparing the Arab press's treatment of Nick Berg with its treatment of Abu Ghraib.

Somebody should do the same with the American press.

TAX PROF SHOWS SKIN TO WIN VOTES: I don't think we need any more of that.

PHIL BOWERMASTER is introducing a new feature -- a roundup of nothing but good news on, well, every subject he can find. Some stories are well-known, others obscure, but it's an interesting effort.

HEH:

NAJAF, Iraq -- About 1,000 people, including a few women in black veils, marched through the streets of Najaf on Tuesday to urge radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers to leave the city.

Did I say "heh?" By a curious coincidence, Sadr now seems to be backing down.

UPDATE: Michael Ubaldi is saying "I told you so," to the pessimists.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jason van Steenwyck is less optimistic about Fallujah.

BLACKFIVE has a list of people you should know, but probably won't hear about elsewhere.

I wonder why not?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE is outraged that the Kerry Campaign is using Abu Ghraib pictures for fundraising.

And they were mad about 9/11 photos?

UPDATE: I'm in error, above. At first glance, the press release to which Sisu links looks like Kerry's using "images," but I misread that, and he's actually not. He's merely invoking them secondhand by referring to his own demand for Rumsfeld's ouster. Sorry. And thanks to reader Dick Riley for pointing out the error. Though Neal Boortz is saying the same thing. No link, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Related comments here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Perhaps I was too quick to admit error. At least, this fundraising email does invoke the images, though they're not actually shown unless they were attached in an HTML version or something:

Message from Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry Campaign Manager:


Dear Friend,
Over the past week we have all been shocked by the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Not quite the same as running them in a TV commercial, but certainly making use of them.

GARY SILBERBERG points to a hero.

UPDATE: The link's down, because Gary posted something he got by email that turned out to be not an original message, but an item from another blog.

INSTAPUNDIT'S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO-CORRESPONDENT, Major John Tammes of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps, sends this photo and report from Bagram:

I hope you are feeling better. I thought this picture of the mightiest weapon in the US military logistics arsenal (at least here in Afghanistan) would help. Behold the Jingle Truck! Local Nationals or Pakistanis (from the port of Karachi) drive everywhere, carrying all kinds of supplies. I wondered about the name before I deployed here - one look tells it all.

Indeed it does!

STEPHEN GREEN HAS QUESTIONS for antiwar people. And Alan Dershowitz.

SISSY WILLIS is running a suppressed photo of U.S. troops in Iraq.

UPDATE: Here's another. You just can't keep that stuff secret in the digital age!

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS IS UP: Don't miss it.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

We have every confidence Mr. Volcker will lead a thorough investigation, but the public should not be asked to take it on faith that he will be given access to all information and rely on his interpretation alone. As the above-quoted contract makes clear, the Secretary-General has the authority to waive all these confidentiality agreements. The fact that Kofi Annan has chosen instead to pursue a campaign of legal intimidation is a pretty good indication that he intends as much of a whitewash as he can get away with. . . .

If abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers demands an accounting, so too does the world-wide conspiracy of bribery that helped prop up Saddam Hussein's torture-based regime. Now's hardly the time for the White House to be seen demanding anything less than full openness and accountability in any area of its Iraq policy.

Indeed. (Emphasis added.)

I WASN'T IGNORING THE SULLIVAN/GOLDBERG GAY MARRIAGE DEBATE, exactly, but it's hard for me to get excited about the issue.

In my Advanced Constitutional Law seminar, even the most enthusiastically pro-gay-marriage students thought the Massachusetts opinion was lame -- but that was a question of judicial craftsmanship. It matters to lawyers, and it should matter to everyone else. But the court of public opinion is actually moving faster than the courts on this topic anyway.

On the issue, attitudes are changing awfully fast. Rhea County, Tennessee -- home to the Scopes Trial, but a place that even H.L. Mencken admitted is actually quite nice -- rejected an anti-gay ordinance and wound up having Gay Day instead. (That's the Dayton courthouse, where the Scopes trial was held, over to the right. The church sign below is from close by, a bit nearer to Decatur than Dayton -- I took both of these pictures just a couple of weeks ago). And an anti-gay-marriage amendment died in Kansas this weekend, too. If you can't win there, you've lost. And on this issue, the opponents of gay marriage have, I think, lost. There are legitimate process questions, but the outcome is just a matter of time. And not all that much time, really.

UPDATE: A lot of people seem to like the church-sign photo, and want to know if they can post a copy on their blogs. Sure, though I'd appreciate a credit with a link back if you don't mind.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Kansas from Mike Silverman.

May 10, 2004

H.D. MILLER NOTES that while the press has hared off after another "losing the war" story, last month's threat, the "Mahdi army," is evaporating.

UPDATE: More here.

And read this, too.

I'M SURE THESE POLLS DON'T MEAN MUCH, but Joe Gandelman is surprised to see that Bush has actually gained a point on Kerry over the last week.

Well, Donald Sensing predicted it.

But what's going to happen, I think, is that the election will be determined by what voters think about the war, and the economy, in late October. On the economy front, that's probably unfair, since Presidents don't have much actual control over the economy, but it's probably good for Bush, since it looks like it'll be improving between now and then.

On the war front it's fair, I think -- though no doubt the enemy will do their best to ensure that things look as bad as they can make them look around then.

UPDATE: A reader emails about "the enemy," above:

Surely "the opposition" would be a better term, or simply, the Democrats.
We have enemies in war, but it seems a tad strong for electoral politics.
There are bipartisan alliances from time to time, and we are all Americans,
are we not?

I was actually talking about, you know, the enemy trying to influence the elections along the lines of Madrid. . . .

THANKS to all the people who sent inquiries regarding my health, encouragement to get better, donations, etc. I'm okay, though I still have the cough and still feel kind of crappy. But I think the antibiotics are working.

I took time off -- and stayed pretty light in blogging even today -- because James Lileks' remark about being a "public utility" hit a little close to home. In truth, I've been feeling a bit like that for a while. It's nobody's fault -- if you pass out the free ice cream (another Lileks phrase) regularly, people will tend to line up for it in advance, and even to rattle their spoons against their bowls a bit when it doesn't appear as scheduled. Nonetheless, it starts to feel like work when that happens. As Tom Sawyer discovered, work consists of whatever a body feels obliged to do.

I'm trying to treat InstaPundit less like work. That may mean less blogging, or not (I notice that here and elsewhere, forecasts of lighter blogging often turn out to be inaccurate), but I started this because it was fun, and I want to keep it that way, not succumb to blog fatigue, as even Lileks himself notes that blogging can start to feel like a "blogligation," not a hobby. I don't want that.

So, anyway, there will either be more blogging, or less, or about the same, in the near future. But I'm going to try to make it feel less like work, regardless. And if I didn't respond to your email, it's because there are about 4000 emails sitting on the server right now, and I haven't even tried to keep up over the past several days. That's part of having it not feel like work, too.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has thoughts on blog fatigue.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeez, Sullivan's not suffering from blog fatigue. Just go there and see how much he's posted since the item above.

RICH GALEN is back in the States and blogging, and -- as someone who has actually been to Abu Ghraib -- has some thoughts.

BRAVO FOR THE DEMOCRATS, who are issuing press credentials to bloggers who want to cover the convention this summer. Will the Republicans follow suit?

BAD NEWS FOR THE NANOTECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY:

May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Swiss Reinsurance Co., the world's No.2 reinsurer, said insurers may need to reconsider covering some products that use so-called nanotechnology, weeks after a study on fish raised health concerns about new developments in the field.

Though the toxic-buckyball study is dubious, and its connection to nanotechnology somewhat attenuated, as I mentioned earlier, the nanotech industry's PR strategy has made this sort of response inevitable.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the actual report.

SPEAKING OF THE MILLION-MOM NON-MARCH mentioned below, Alphecca's weekly roundup of media bias relating to guns is up, with lots of interesting stuff as usual.

LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING IT'S A QUAGMIRE, HEADING FOR INEVITABLE DEFEAT, and only a resignation at the top will expiate the failure so far:

"John Kerry Must Go."

That Village Voice headline may be a tad dramatic, but stories about disaffected Democrats are spreading like wildfire through the media forest.

I think that betrays a lack of perspective, and a willingness to give up too soon, that's all too typical of those overexcitable political and journalistic types. Fortunately, there's a sane blogger on the job:

Kevin Drum, a California-based columnist for the Washington Monthly, says that Kerry isn't a great campaigner but that "it's just too early" for such pieces. "I'm not sure it's anything other than [reporters] looking for a story. . . . It's pretty much inside the Beltway."

I agree.

WITH THIS MATH, WE'D ONLY NEED THREE PEOPLE TO HAVE A THOUSAND-MOM MARCH!

The rally lacked the star power, and certainly the numbers, of the first Million Mom March in 2000, when hundreds of thousands of women flooded the Mall on Mother's Day. Organizers this time put the crowd at close to 3,000, a figure that could not be confirmed because police no longer estimate crowd sizes.

Estimating crowd sizes is largely bogus, but if the organizers are claiming 3,000 you can bet there weren't any more people anywhere nearby.

JOHN MOORE THINKS PEOPLE ARE OVERREACTING TO THE PRISONER STORY:

The values I see being displayed are an initial appropriate reaction of dismay at the behavior of a few, followed by inappropriate hand-wringing and self flagellation.

Yeah, I think that's right. It's a scandal, to be dealt with. The people who want to make it the whole war are misguided, at best.

MUDVILLE GAZETTE, which scooped the New York Times earlier, has doubts about Seymour Hersh's integrity:

Seymour Hersh has had an amazing story dropped into his lap. A group of American GIs, caught on camera, abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners. Heinous acts. The wheels of justice were certainly turning, but nailing the abusive guards is not enough for the intrepid reporter. Indeed, since evidence indicates that one of those guard's attorneys most likely provided that information to Hersh, it follows that getting the higher ups was likely part of the deal. . . .

Hersh has embarked on a televised disinformation campaign, recently appearing on the "O'Reilly Factor" in an effort to sow additional confusion in a public already stunned into incomprehension by the graphic photos he helped make famous worldwide.

The campaign relies on two main points, neither of which is completely factual: 1) the Army did nothing, and 2) it's the superior's fault, not the troops. Point one is a lie. Point two is true, but there's a level where it becomes ludicrous. Given that point one is a lie, that level is low.

Read the whole thing, which has extensive transcript excerpts.

UPDATE: Lead and Gold is comparing it to the Ramparts scandal in L.A., which turned out to be rather less than initially thought.

JAY ROSEN suggests that Big Media failed the country before 9/11. And after, I'd say.

It's not just the slant of their coverage -- it's also what they choose to cover, and what they choose not to cover. And he's right about this: "This summer, with Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant on trial, but also an election and so much at stake in the world, the descendants of Murrow, Friendly and Cronkite will be tested." So far it's not looking good.

UPDATE: Roger Simon: "You can see this will to look the other way being played out all over again in the lack of coverage of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. The majority of our media just don't want to go there, because to go there they would have to question a great many long held deep assumptions."

JAMES DUNNIGAN:

Talk of reviving the military draft, to supply enough troops for the war on terror, is just that, talk. More accurately, it's clueless and opportunistic politicians fishing for headlines. But the draft "controversy" has become a popular media story in the last few months, even though the military says it has more volunteers than it needs and is even laying off people.

Read the whole thing. And note that there seem to be a lot of "clueless and opportunistic politicians fishing for headlines" these days. It's as if they don't know there's a war on. Or don't care.

KEITH BURGESS JACKSON writes on the war over the war in Iraq. Michele Catalano looks at even more wars of this sort. So, in a related way, do Andrea Harris and Victor Davis Hanson. And Lt. Col. John Lutkenhouse reports on Frisbees in Fallujah.

UPDATE: The Jackson link was broken before. Fixed now. Sorry.

May 09, 2004

DANG: First-rate photoblog A Smoky Mountain Journal, better known as SmokyBlog, is shutting down.

LAWRENCE SOLUM ROUNDS UP an interesting blogosphere debate on libertarianism and conservatism in constitutional law.

ADVANTAGE: INSTAPUNDIT! I mentioned it here last week, but now The New York Times is noticing:

Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates.

In Pennsylvania and some other states, inmates are routinely stripped in front of other inmates before being moved to a new prison or a new unit within their prison. In Arizona, male inmates at the Maricopa County jail in Phoenix are made to wear women's pink underwear as a form of humiliation.

Bill Lockyer doesn't mind this kind of thing! (Or worse). Neither, apparently, does Eliot Spitzer. This suggests that concern over events in Iraq is overstated, or that concern over prison conditions here is understated. Or maybe both. (Does this mean we should pull out of Pennsylvania?)

IT'S BEEN DELIGHTFUL staying offline and ignoring the news. A quick cast around the blogs, however, suggests that the rest of the world needs to chill a bit, too.

Comparisons of what happened at Abu Ghraib to My Lai, or to Algeria, are ridiculous.

My Lai was on a wholly different scale, involving the murder of large numbers of innocent women and children, not the mistreatment of prisoners. And in Algeria, the French wanted to stay, and keep Algeria part of Metropolitan France. Plus there were the (semi-insane) French colonists, the pieds-noirs, mucking up the situation. Our situation in Iraq is very different -- there are no colonists, and we want Iraq to be self-governing and free as soon as possible. Comparing the two illustrates a serious lack of perspective. Or worse.

Likewise the (sometimes rather hopeful) claims from some on the left that we've "lost the war" here are silly too. We'll only lose this war if we chicken out. One suspects that they desire this very outcome. Losing the war's fine with some, if it can get Bush out of office.

That agenda is way too obvious for me to take their comments seriously. It would be wrong to minimize the misconduct at Abu Ghraib, but it would be equally wrong to maximize it. And there seems to be rather a lot of that going on at the moment.

If all this coverage is leaving you demoralized, and hopeless, and depressed, let me suggest that this isn't an accident -- it's the goal. Don't lose perspective, even if you have to take a few days away from the news to get it back. (LT Smash does a good job of retaining perspective without glossing over things here.)

UPDATE: Reader Lesley Wexler emails:

I've been pondering your Iraq posts and I think the left (at least, the reasonable left of which I consider myself to be a part) is struggling with how to convey to the public how awful Abu Ghraib is. Younger Americans just don't really have a clear context for what's happening. My guess is that advocates and pundits are trying to come up with recent, salient comparisons to trigger availability heuristics and thus tap into larger debates. The two frames through which Abu Ghraib is being made salient are My Lai and domestic prison abuse. I think the left is using "My Lai" as shorthand for "US wartime atrocities." They clearly aren't on the same scale, but the way in which they might be comparable is as a frame for the debate over whether this was the work of a few bad apples (the view of most on the right) or the inevitable/systemic result of either warfare/ prison systems (the far left) or the combination of bad
apples and a failure of leadership/training up the chain of command (the moderate left). I agree that the people who say this is My Lai are being unreasonable, but I think there's something to be said for trying to fit Abu Ghraib into the larger debates about how and why (for lack of a better term) the banality of evil manifests itself in wartime.

Yeah, and I guess I probably fit in the category Lesley puts as "moderate left" here. I think it's bad apples, but -- as is usually the case -- bad apples who get away with it because they can.

What I'm unhappy with here, though, is people who are trying to turn this event into a metaphor for the war in its entirety -- and, in doing so, to exploit the genuine disgust that most pro-war people feel for this behavior and turn it into political capital. Frank Rich likes to analogize things to My Lai because he thinks that his side won in the Vietnam war.

Meanwhile, Chief Wiggles, who's in Iraq now and who has run a military prison, has more thoughts.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Here's an interview with the "vacationing" Benon Sevan:

Benon Sevan, the official at the centre of the United Nations' oil-for-food scandal, has broken his silence to claim that he is being persecuted after an independent inquiry was ordered into allegations of multi-billion dollar corruption relating to the scheme.

Tracked down on Friday by The Sunday Telegraph to a five-star hotel in his native Cyprus, Mr Sevan said that he was being unfairly persecuted and vowed to "talk plenty" once the inquiry had reported back to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. . . .

When asked about Mr Sevan's whereabouts in recent weeks, the UN would say only that he was on holiday, pending his retirement in June at the age of 66. He is due to receive a £55,000 annual pension after serving the UN for 40 years.

Now, however, those plans have changed. According to UN officials contacted by The Sunday Telegraph last week, Mr Sevan will stay in office to co-operate with the inquiry by the former US Treasury Secretary, Paul Volcker.

In the deal struck with Mr Annan, Mr Sevan will continue for the next three months and be paid a token $1 (55p) a year as a consultant, while continuing to enjoy diplomatic immunity.

(Emphasis added.) Nope, no coverup here. Just your usual extension of diplomatic immunity for a retired employee who's in a position to implicate a lot of people if he says the wrong thing in testimony!

CONTINUING TO TAKE IT EASY: Last night the InstaWife and I stayed home and watched Honey, a movie that she had been wanting to see.

The hiphop was OK from my perspective, though I kept wanting to hear some 303s in there somewhere. Jessica Alba was very cute, and otherwise I have little to say that isn't in the Amazon reviews linked above. One thing that struck me, though, was the frequent presence of American flags in the background in scene after scene. I wonder if people will be able to spot films from this era that way?

Back later. Visit the links in the post below, and Capt. Ed, Oxblog, Daniel Drezner, Mitch Berg, and the new, Powerblog-driven Volokh Conspiracy have all been blogging up a storm this weekend, too. And this column on Iran by Pejman Yousefzadeh is worth your time.

UPDATE: The InstaWife says the movie was better than that, and notes that the Jessica Alba character is quite modern: (1) Wanting to help inner-city kids, she comes up with a project of her own, instead of putting her hand out to the government; (2) Subjected to sexual harassment, she doesn't sue, but stands up for herself and gets even on her own; (3) Though there's nothing anti-sex in her stance, she favors sexy creativity over crude titillation.

Good points, all.