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May 22, 2004

PRISON MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS AND A DYSFUNCTIONAL CULTURE OF ABUSE in the California prison guards' union.

NEW JERSEY IS LOOKING LIKE A BATTLEGROUND STATE FOR KERRY, and Jeff Jarvis says the reason is taxes.

Related material here.

ANN ALTHOUSE has thoughts on coyness, coverage, campaign finance, and political conventions.

NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Howard Lovy has an interview with Sean Murdock, the new executive director of the Nano Business Alliance.

CULTURALLY-APPROPRIATE BIAS AT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: MedienKritik has an interesting example of headline tailoring to suit a German audiience:

The biased agenda of AP Germany is in full display in this headline, referring to a speech by Yassir Arafat broadcast live on Palestinian television:

Arafat Confirms Willingness to Peace (Arafat bekräftigt Friedensbereitschaft)

Compare this to the headline of AP's English version, referring to the same speech:

Arafat Makes Call to 'Terrorize' Enemy

Even the Palestine National Authority's press center makes no attempt to identify a "willingness to peace" in Arafat's speech:

Well, that would be hard.

BILL QUICK IS RUNNING A CONTEST: Be creative.

May 21, 2004

TYLER COWEN WRITES ON BLOGGING BURNOUT. Meanwhile Salam Pax has succumbed to it.

Actually, his blogging was never the same after he got the Guardian gig. I don't blame him for that -- he's obviously a follower of Samuel Johnson's dictum on writing for free.

SOMEONE TELL 60 MINUTES about this secret underground prison:

'It starts off by being stripped naked in front of 10 police officers including two women, gratutious humiliation is used to break you down.' '... worst jail that you can possibly imagine.' 'Not even a hole to go to the bathroom. You have to piss against a wall and you sleep in piss on the concrete floor.' The torture victim demands 'the immediate shutdown of this secret underground prison'. It's not at Abu Ghraib, it's in Marseille, France.

No doubt Ted Kennedy will be condemning it soon.

TIM BLAIR HAS AN INTERESTING NEWS ROUNDUP. Check it out.

MORT KONDRACKE OFFERS A MUST-READ WARNING TO CONGRESS AND THE MEDIA:

The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic. . . .

By now, Abu Ghraib has been a lead story for weeks. And Congress has gone so far as to pull top U.S. commanders back from the battle zone to grill them about it - just as America's enemies are launching what they hope will be the Iraqi equivalent of the 1968 Tet offensive, hoping to undermine the June 30 handover of power to Iraqis.

(Maybe they should read this poll, and think about what will happen if, in a year or two, the American public concludes that domestic politicking lost the war.) Read the whole Kondracke column.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has comments.

HERE'S AN AMUSING MICHAEL MOORE FILM TRAILER.

More information here.

BLOGADS' READER SURVEY RESULTS ARE OUT: Interesting reading.

THIS POLL suggests that the media really are out of touch on Iraq. Note these questions:

20. On the situation in Iraq today, where do you think most of the problems are being created?

1. In Iraq 23%
2. In Washington, DC, or 18
3. In the news media 27
4. (Combination) 21
5. (All) 8
6. (None) -
7. (Not sure) 3

27. Which of the following news stories upset you more?

1. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners
by U.S. soldiers 8%
2. The beheading of an American
civilian by Muslim terrorists 60

3. (Both equal) 29
4. (Not sure) 3

28. Do you think the media spent an excessive amount of time covering either of the following news stories?

1. The Iraqi prisoner abuse story 34%
2. The beheading of American Nick Berg 9
3. (Both were covered excessively) 35
4. (Neither was covered excessively) 15
5. (Not sure) 7

Seems like my emails are more reflective of general sentiment than the front pages of major newspapers.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing notes a report that mothers of Marines have "had it up to here with news media coverage." Here's the Tennessean report by Tim Chavez that he links to. Excerpt:

These local moms get their perspective from the telephone and from pictures sent home or over the Internet. They've quit watching and reading the news. They say the coverage doesn't provide the full story. . . .

While the rest of us have seen the picture of the Army reservist holding the Iraqi prisoner on a leash a thousand times, these mothers talk about all the pictures showing Marines holding children, laughing with children and even an old man kissing the hand of a Marine.

''My son calls at 3 or 4 in the morning, and he once told me, 'I don't care who you vote for, but vote for someone who is going to let us finish the job,''' says Nancy Hayden of Nashville about her son, Justin. He is a Marine private.

Funny that we're hearing less from them than from other parents who are saying bad things about the U.S. Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here. And here. And, though less narrowly focused, here.

MORE: Nick Berg, by the way, tops the list of Google search queries for last week. Abu Ghraib -- which has gotten more coverage -- isn't in the top ten unless you count (as you probably should) "lynndie england" for number 5.

STILL MORE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

Really good info on the poll and reactions to media. To add a bit to the mix, listening to NPR this morning was like all Abu Ghraib all the time. Story upon story about the intricate details of the process, repeating the same talking points again and again. Of course, it's an important story and we need to understand as fully as possible what led to this. But NPR has it as virtually the only story. Any microscopic new detail (even ambiguous or hard to interpret details) are pushed zealously. The bottom line is America is the evil empire. The abuse discussed so far happened in approximately the same time window as CPA agreement with IGC. The fact that corrective measures were well under way before Sy Hersh seems completely lost on these folks. It is a minor, irrelevant detail. Other stories get pushed to the side because any program only has so much time to offer. Nada on Sudan. What UN oil-for-food scandal? Never a word about unrest in Iran. The prison shame is the only news. Unless it's about higher gas prices. Curious how the "it's about oil" folks don't take the gas prices as evidence that it wasn't about oil. Instead it's evidence that the Bushies are incompetent. Jon Alter revealed the new meme which I see in the comments in other blogs. Incompetence will be the next indictment of Bush until something else can serve as evidence of how effectively evil he is.

Indeed. By contrast Mickey Kaus has constructive suggestions.

MORE STILL: Reader Tom McCobb emails:

I think all that is really needed is some plain talk from George Bush, regularly, frequently, and in a high profile medium. I long to see him on the t.v. saying "The media is not giving you the straight story and here is how...." What, is he afraid he will make someone mad? Andrew Sullivan is 'spot on' about this. All we get is unchallenged prattle from the media, and no riposte.

Indeed.

"ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE" that Chalabi spied for Iran? This is likely to embarrass some people.

UPDATE: Including some at The New York Times, apparently.

JON ALTER COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET. On Air America, no less. "For many of us, this validates what we think of media types like Alter: they pretend to be sober, restrained, and sometimes even 'balanced' -- but in private they are all shrill partisans. (Strictly speaking, Alter wasn't in private while on Franken's show, but he was on Air America, which is close enough.)"

UPDATE: This sort of thing makes reports like this more credible, doesn't it?

STACY TABB IS DEEPLY UNHAPPY with the "Little Miss Hooters" contest.

BERG KILLERS ARRESTED? "BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi police have arrested four people in the killing of American Nicholas Berg, an Iraqi security official said Friday."

MORE STORIES OF ARAB PRISONERS BEING ABUSED:

ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire - another damning human rights report.

But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.

The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.

It highlights numerous incidents of torture of prisoners and refers to the killing of civilians in gunbattles between Palestinian factions.

It is another blow for Mr Arafat’s organisation, which was recently accused of misusing £134 million of European Union funds. Mr Arafat was accused of signing cheques to people linked with terrorist activity.

I'm sure Ted Kennedy will have comments.

JONAH GOLDBERG has thoughts on liberals, conservatives, and intellectual roots.

DONALD SENSING is claiming vindication.

JAMES LILEKS:

Listening to a radio host discuss this column by Fritz Hollings. What caused the war with Iraq? Simple! Charles Krauthammer used his super-powerful Jew Beams to cloud the minds of hapless pliable goyim. Then Bush realized he could win reelection by getting that overwhelming number of Jewish voters.

I know this sounds naive, but I still expect better from Senators. Better writing, better thinking. But I am coming to believe that the Senate is one of the biggest dunce-clubs around.

As Hollings famously noted, there's no IQ test. More on Hollings here, with this observation: "I'm glad that the Jesse Helms, Fritz Hollings, and other holdovers from the bigoted, reactionary South of yesteryear are finally leaving the Senate. They have been a stain on the institution."

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more on Fritz Hollings and his history of racial remarks.

UNSCAM UPDATE: More charges of an oil-for-food coverup at the U.N.

THIS JUST WON'T DO: If I'm going to read about Matt Yglesias and a handful of busty Mexican hookers I want it to be on Wonkette, the natural home for that kind of thing.

Note to those too lazy to follow the link: the hookers are the subject of a recommendation, not a report.

GOOD NEWS in Fallujah. I do believe that the Marines know what they're doing.

STUART BUCK has an oped comparing abortion photos to those from Abu Ghraib:

Abortion protesters have commonly publicized photographs of aborted fetuses, and one famous short film (The Silent Scream) even shows ultrasound images of an actual abortion. Yet these tactics typically result in criticism aimed not at the abortion providers, but at the protesters themselves.

Typically, these protesters are accused of sensationalism and exploitation. And it's not always just criticism: Two political candidates were even arrested in Britain last year simply for peacefully displaying a picture of an aborted fetus.

In a sense, this is understandable. Pictures of abortion are gory and upsetting. No one finds them pleasant. As a result, the reality shown in the pictures is ignored, while displaying the pictures is treated as an offense against good taste.

But how does this square with the reaction to the pictures of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Recall that a few American soldiers forced prisoners to pose for sexually explicit pictures, images that were graphic and distressing.

Yet, disturbing as the photos were, opponents were adamant that they should be made public. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin said the photos "absolutely" should be released, and that "any effort to hide this kind of material will not work."

Unlike Stuart, I'm pro-choice. But he's right about the double standard. (But I've come to the conclusion that pictures like this one should never be published. Ugh.)

May 20, 2004

MORE ON SARIN: Read this.

UNSCAM UPDATE: CLAUDIA ROSETT IS ON WABC talking about Oil-for-Food right now. Click to listen live.

OKAY, I'VE ALWAYS ARGUED THAT NEWS MEDIA SHOULD SHOW THE UGLY SIDE OF LIFE: So I guess I can't really argue that this picture shouldn't have been published. But still, there should be some standards of decency.

READER JOHN FREDERICK wonders if the Bush Administration is launching its P.R. offensive beneath the traditional media radar:

As I flipped past John Boy and Billy this morning (don't ask) I was surprised to hear them introduce a CPA spokesman on the phone from Iraq. Other than a few previous "serious" Q&As with the local AM yak station, this was the first time I had heard something like this. Is this the beginning of the Bush PR blitz? The show reaches 10 million+ every day - I believe that's on par with the evening network news (per network). He's reaching the southern NASCAR crowd which is VERY patriotic and pro-war. Best of all from the government perspective, John Boy and Billy were lobbing the guy the easiest softballs for him to smash out of the park (think Katie Couric interviewing someone like Hillary).

Given the 'positive story = bury it' mentality of the press, maybe we can expect more of this end around strategy.

Interesting.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Looks like it's gaining traction:

NEW YORK — A key lawmaker sent a letter Wednesday to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) asking for the immediate release of 55 internal audits of the controversial Iraqi oil-for-food program (search).

Rep. Henry Hyde (search), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sent the letter after Fox News reported on a leaked audit from April 2003 that found significant problems with the program. Specifically, the audit raised questions about a company that employed Annan's son as it prepared to bid an oil-for-food contract.

Hyde wrote to Annan that he had a "deep concern" about the audit's conclusions and he noted that Congress "should not be required to depend on media leaks for source documents."

The story has several interesting links. Plus this tidbit: "Sevan refused to answer questions about whether he profited personally." Hmm. Why would he refuse to answer, if he hadn't?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Some surprising people have been criticizing him. Arthur Schlesinger: "the most gullible investigative reporter I've ever encountered."

Jules Witcover: "Hersh's attributions generally fall short of normal journalistic yardsticks."

Ted Kennedy: ""Scurrilous."

Who knew?

CRUSHING OF DISSENT AT EMORY: Another administrator embarrasses a school.

GAY DAY IN RHEA COUNTY: I posted on this a while back, but now here's a lengthy report from Joe Tarr, who was there.

In my earlier post, I suggested that public opinion is moving faster than the courts. By contrast, Howard Kurtz wrote this earlier this week:

I'm not saying that these and other news organizations have ignored the other side. You can go through the stories and the sidebars and find plenty of critics quoted.

But the overall vibe of most of the headlines and leads is that this is a step forward. Which, in the view of many liberal-leaning people and journalists, it is, comparable to the Brown v. Board of Ed ruling whose 50th anniversary was celebrated yesterday. But what is overshadowed, and what fuels the perception that the press is out of touch, is that many people consider this a negative step that violates the traditional concept that marriage is between a man and a woman.

I'm not sure this is inconsistent, though. As I said quite a while ago, there's opposition, but the intensity of the opposition isn't all that high. In fact, I just heard Rick Santorum on Hugh Hewitt complaining that he can't even motivate Republicans in the Senate to act against gay marriage. And that's what's making the difference.

"PENDULUM PUNDITS" -- nice turn of phrase, and a good piece.

JUST HEARD HUGH HEWITT on the radio, dissing Lileks' dog. That's mean, Hugh.

RAND SIMBERG has a pithy response to Susan Sontag.

KATE MCMILLAN WRITES:

The chatter and concern of the past few weeks about Iraq being too insecure for a July transition of power is going to change.

As the countdown to June 30th begins, and there is no sign that the Bush administration is going to move the deadline, the talking points and the media coverage will shift. Holding to the deadline is going to be revised to running away. (Watch for mention of the deadline to be buried deeply, or even dropped from news reports.)

Yes, there's only one strand of consistency in the news coverage.

UPDATE: More thoughts on constantly moving goal posts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: By the way, here's the November 15, 2003 agreement that sets the date to hand over sovereignty at June 30, 2004, adherence to which Kate expects will soon be portrayed as some sort of cut-and-run. And here's the Countdown to Sovereignty website.

SPINSANITY is unimpressed with David Brock's new Media Matters organization.

MARK CUBAN, MEDIA CRITIC:

We are now in an era where media searches for stories that will generate media coverage of the story. Stories are written not for the value they bring the readers, viewers or listeners, but rather the volume of coverage they will bring.

And, coincidentally, people are increasingly tuning them out.

UPDATE: Reader John Calapa writes:

Concerning the media and the value of the product they are creating today. The last time I saw this type hubris and wrong-headedness from an industry about what the customer wants and the value of quality, it was the American car industry in the '70's. Are you Blogonians the Toyotas of modern media?

I don't think so, exactly. But I think you're dead-on about the industry. They're churning out Granadas and Chevettes and telling us that we're idiots for complaining.

BOMBS, CHAOS, AND PEOPLE WHO HATE US -- I think we should pull out of the Olympics.

IRAQI BLOGGER UPDATE: The Carnival of the Liberated, a roundup of Iraqi blog posts, is up.

RICHARD MILHOUS KERRY: Over at GlennReynolds.com.

I THINK THAT THE NANOTECHNOLOGY WARS are settling down:

Melody Haller of the Antenna Group, a public relations firm that represents a number of nanotech companies and Small Times, also raised concern that "marginalizing" people such Eric Drexler and others who believe in the feasibility of molecular manufacturing might create "heroic martyrs" for nanotech opponents to exploit. Drexler is founder of the Foresight Institute and author of the influential 1986 book, "Engines of Creation."

Modzelewski, normally an outspoken Drexler critic, was unusually courtly toward the group. "Foresight has created some frameworks and guidelines for going forward that people should be looking at," he said.

In an interview after the policy panel, Sean Murdock, the NanoBusiness Alliance's incoming executive director, said that with respect to dangers, real or potential, the nanotech world must be proactive about studying safety issues. He also said he believed such risks can be quantified and protected against.

This represents quite a change from earlier attitudes, and I think it's quite a wise one.

RON BAILEY: "Paul Ehrlich has never been right. Why does anyone still listen to him?"

BARCELONAN BLOGGER FRANCO ALEMAN has his own weblog now. It's bilingual, though all-Spanish at the moment.

THE DECLINING PRESENCE OF THE BLOGROLL?

I'm not sure about that. Though big ones like mine are a pain to keep up.

SCHWARZENEGGER'S 75% TAX ON PUNITIVE DAMAGES: TaxProf has more.

IT'S "WEDDING PARTY" NEWS ANALYSIS AT THE BELMONT CLUB and it's quite interesting.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters writes that the U.S. military has to get inside its enemies' response curve. And he has an interesting analysis of who the enemies are.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

I read the Peters article-thanks for the link. 1) I wonder if that's why the Pentagon wanted such a speedy entry into Baghdad last year, i.e., Rummy gets it as far as need for speed. 2) The worrisome part of the analysis is that he implies our enemies understand our collective psyche better than we understand theirs. If that is accurate (and I'm afraid it is), we have to catch up in that department. The problem is it will mean dispensing with much political correctness which probably isn't going to happen any time soon or until something significantly more tragic than 9/11 happens.

I've also felt that we don't understand our potential friends in the Middle East either. I think we grossly underestimated the long term toll living under a totalitarian regime would have on the people (despite the recent collapse of the Soviet Union). Mass passivity is one possible outcome from that. Although many Iraqis are becoming active in many ways, a great deal of the population probably just wishes the trouble to all go away without taking any risks themselves. Saddam butchered so many and terrorized the rest. How many Iraqis survived by looking for ways to not cause trouble? That would be a hard habit to change. Second it could also feel shameful that one's liberators are infidels.

Interesting points.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This military blogger says that Ralph Peters is right on the problem, but dangerously wrong on the solution.

COLLIN LEVEY WRITES on the rush to ignore WMD discoveries.

And Neal Boortz observes:

The latest? It was only a "very small trace" that was discovered. About one gallon of sarin, in liquid form, is a "very small trace" to the Times. Yesterday on the Neal Boortz Show we learned that there is enough sarin gas in four liters to kill over 60,000 people. That would make just one gallon of this stuff an arsenal. To the Times, though, it was just a small trace.

Remember the template.

It's pretty obvious that they're working from one.

MARINE SGT. PAUL LAVEN sends this link to a photo of more anti-New York Times graffiti.

By one of Kaus's rules of punditry, two examples constitute a nationwide trend! It's a popular revolution against Big Media!

Well, if the target were different, I'll bet Maureen Dowd could write a column with no more basis than this.

If you see any more, send me a photo. Maybe I'll start a gallery.

UPDATE: Ted Barlow emails:

Aren't you concerned that you're encouraging your readers to create anti-New York Times graffitti and then photograph it? Honestly, that was the first thing that I thought of.

That hadn't crossed my mind. Don't do that! I'm only interested in found graffiti, not made graffiti.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Freudian slip from the Times is delightful.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Quite a few readers say that it's probably lefties, or more specifically Anarchist / antiglobo types, spraypainting the Times. I guess that makes sense -- such disrespect for private property is their hallmark, after all. I guess that's why it didn't cross my mind that InstaPundit readers might do that.

MORE: On the other hand, maybe it's not anarchists, as reader Kipp Mohr sends this email:

It was my picture that you posted today of the graffiti of the New York Times today, and I just wanted to thank you for doing so.

I took it at the Medical Center stop on the red line of the DC Metro while I was visiting Sgt. Laven across the street at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. I can only assume it was one of the families or friends of a soldier wounded or killed in battle that attempted to deface a paper that has shown so little respect for their loved ones' efforts and valient bravery. The only improvement in the effort I would've make would be to cut out the middle-man--spray it right across Ted Kennedy's face!

Needless to say, InstaPundit does not approve of spray-painting Senators.

CHALABI'S HOUSE RAIDED: No, I'm not sure what to make of this either, though this may be a clue:

U.S. officials declined to comment on the raid targeting a longtime ally of the Pentagon. Privately, however, American authorities have complained that Chalabi is interfering with a U.S. investigation into allegations that Saddam Hussein's regime skimmed millions of dollars in oil revenues during the U.N.-run oil-for-food program.

Go figure.

UPDATE: Reader George Peery emails: "The raid by US forces on Chalabi's home may finally give him the "legitimacy" among Iraqis that he has so notably lacked. (Is the fix in?)" Such cynicism.

I'm not sure how to reconcile these events with this stuff.

BLOG HAIKU? Why not?

TIM RUSSERT: Censor?

KERRY BLOWS IT ON GAY MARRIAGE, according to Eugene Volokh:

Kerry apparently wanted to make a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages seem momentous and pregnant with threat to our Bill of Rights protections. (I take it that's the chief argument against "touch[ing] . . . the Bill of Rights" -- if you lessen some Bill of Rights protections, then you're making it easier for others to lessen still other such protections.) The trouble is that his claim was inaccurate, and if it impressed people rhetorically, it did so by misleading them.

Maybe he was just tired. On the other hand, he's not doing very well on judicial appointments, or Iraq, either.

A MARINE WRITES FROM IRAQ:

RAMADI, Iraq — This is my third deployment with the 1st Marine Division to the Middle East.

This is the third time I've heard the quavering cries of the talking heads predicting failure and calling for withdrawal.

This is the third time I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. . . .

Just weeks ago, I read that the supply lines were cut, ammunition and food were dwindling, the "Sunni Triangle" was exploding, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was leading a widespread Shiite revolt, and the country was nearing civil war.

As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.

Read the whole thing.

MILT ROSENBERG has a sleek new blog design.

"A TRAVESTY OF A MOCKERY OF A SHAM:" James Glassman says that the Bush Administration is blowing the war of ideas:

This job -- promoting the national interest by informing, engaging and influencing -- is called "public diplomacy." We used to be the best at it. With institutions like Radio Free Europe and the USIA, public diplomacy helped win the Cold War, and it has the potential to win the war on terror, saving American lives and money.

But, after the Berlin Wall came down, the U.S. started to dismantle the apparatus of public diplomacy, or P.D. The worst blow came when we disbanded the U.S. Information Agency. Today, the State Department spends just $600 million on public diplomacy -- a joke. Some in the administration even see P.D. as sissified, not for tough policymakers. . . .

"A year ago," said Mark Helmke, key aide to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind). "I reported that American public diplomacy was a mess. I said it lacked a strategy, a vision, and money. Today, that situation is worse. American public diplomacy is a disaster."

Read the whole thing.

VIRGINIA POSTREL looks at diminishing returns for highway spending.

To which I'd add that I often wonder how long it takes for the time saved by improved highways to make up for the time lost due to delays during the construction phase, especially if you discount to present value.

UPDATE: Via email from Bill Hobbs, an answer to my question:

A new report finds that motorists can lose more time in road construction delays than they will save in years of driving on the newly "improved" road. The national report, Road Work Ahead: Is Construction Worth the Wait? by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, is being released Thursday and uses case studies to examine whether road expansion projects are ultimately worth the wait for drivers.

The study found that construction delays can be so long, and the time savings from the expanded road so small, that it can take years for commuters to break even. In the case of the Springfield Interchange reconstruction outside of Washington DC, commuters are projected to never make up the time that they will lose during the eight years of construction. Drivers now sitting through the construction of I-15 in Salt Lake City are not expected to break even on their time investment until 2010, eight years after the project is completed.

This makes sense to me. More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, here's a further perspective:

I agree that we should consider time lost due to construction in the cost benefit analysis of highways. There are a couple of other things to consider as well. First and foremost, a highway bill is a jobs bill. $300 billion being spent on highways puts a lot of people to work. Don't forget to include the multiplier effect. In addition, the reduced cost of maintenance on a vehicle saves every person who drives a considerable sum each year. Those reduced costs, along with reduced fuel costs (in cases of new highways) are also realized in either higher profits or lower costs for any product shipped by truck in the US.

There was a study out about a year ago, (sorry, I couldn't find a link) that showed the increased cost of vehicle maintenance for Missouri residents compared to Kansas residents. As a Kansas City native, it is obvious that Kansas spends considerably more on roads than Missouri does. Anyway, the study had a range of $500 to $2000 per year in lower maintenance costs for Kansas residents.

Duane Simpson
Chief of Staff
Kansas House Majority Leader

I'd like to see more analysis of these factors. I find the "jobs bill" bit unpersuasive, though, as I suspect that the same amount of money, left in taxpayer pockets, would actually create more jobs. They'd just be jobs that elected officials couldn't take credit for. . . .

I DON'T THINK POLLS MEAN MUCH this far from election day, but this Daschle / Thune poll can't be making the Daschle folks very happy.

I'm sure that Thune's shrewd use of blogads is what's closed the gap. . . .

UPDATE: More in this column from Jon Lauck.

IDIOTARIAN ALERT: Yeah, that word's so 2002. But the underlying reality is still there! And what else do you call someone who says we should ban gay marriage because allowing it will make terrorists mad?

Sheesh.

May 19, 2004

AUSTIN BAY, a columnist well-known to the blogosphere and also an Army reservist, is heading to Iraq and posts a goodbye column noting that "Everyone is Part of the War":

For a short time, the U.S. Army will make me part of the minute-by-minute, ground-level effort in Iraq. I specify in Iraq, for every American, in some form or fashion, is part of this war. It is sad that some people do not realize that.

America's wealth makes it easy to create the perception of distance, that "here" and "over there" aren't intimately linked.

Bay's column reminds me of what Rudy Giuliani said today to the 9/11 Commission:

Our enemy is not each other, but the terrorists who attacked us....
The blame should be put on one source alone, the terrorists who killed our loved ones.

Read both. And you can see Giuliani's testimony on C-SPAN.

IT'S THE LAST CALL for the Blogads blog survey. If you take it, please enter "instapundit" in line 22.

MORE WEIRD STUFF IN NORTH KOREA: Very odd.

A JOURNALIST I KNOW emails that the loss of credibility his profession is suffering is "seismic," and that he's considering quitting. What's more, he's hearing depressed comments from quite a few colleagues.

Another reader -- who probably doesn't want his name used because he works for a major newspaper -- emails: "I've tuned out the MSM and rely on the 'Net -- bloggers, Lucianne.com, etc. -- to keep me informed, which it does quite well. That way I get all the info but don't have to endure Dan, Tom and Peter, Wolf, etc. I miss nothing that's happening but I gain all the stories that the mainstream media simply ignore." If you saw his address line, you'd know how striking a statement this is.

Perhaps, as this bit of graffiti I photographed outside the UT Main Library today suggests (or at least illustrates), the loss of credibility suffered by mainstream journalism is at a tipping point. (Actually, I first saw it on Sunday but -- pace Adam Groves -- I didn't have the camera with me then.)

I think the trend is too bad -- I'd much rather have trusted and trustworthy mainstream journalism than the reverse -- but, frankly, the loss of credibility is well-earned, as pretty much any blog reader knows. But if you're still wondering, go read Cathy Seipp's column on John Carroll of the Los Angeles Times, and his comments on journalism. Excerpt: "Every single thing we read in the paper, including hard news, is the product of other people's opinions about what we should know. Problems happen when those in charge believe in their own objectivity so much they no longer know that one simple fact."

Read this, too.

UPDATE: Hey, but there's a positive side. A reader who signs her email "Maggie" sends this:

It's all YOUR fault. :)

I have been "gainfully" unemployed for the past four years with no results in all of the jobs that I have applied for. And they number in the hundreds.

But next week on Tuesday morning I am going for an interview with the local newspaper to work as a reporter. I think it's all your fault, because after 9.11 I started reading the news on the internet, and that's when I discovered you. Since, I have studied your format of writing which is very easy to read. I then decided to try my hand at blogging, which didn't last too long, but was a good exercise.

When I sent in my resume to the newspaper, I also sent an article I had written and posted to my old blog. And who influenced me? YOU. Thank you, for being online.

The blog giveth, and the blog taketh away.

I LOVE THE INTERNET: An interesting letter from an American soldier, on an Iraqi blog.

A BREAK IN THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF POLITICIZATION: Larry Solum has an interesting post on the judicial-selection compromise.

IRAQI EMIGRES ON ABU GHRAIB: This is interesting:

Hadi Kazwini is an Iraqi engineer who moved to Australia in 1997 and lives in Sydney with his wife and three children. He is amazed at the gullibility of those Australians who have taken the Arab response to the photos at face value.

This sort of brutality goes on all the time, it is happening now in jails right through the Middle East, he says. But of course there are no photos. This is selective outrage.

Kazwini believes that the behaviour revealed by the photos is awful and the US soldiers involved should be punished. But he says some of the Iraqi prisoners shown were Saddam's killers and torturers. They have been responsible for far worse violations of human rights than the Americans.

Where is the outrage about this, he asks. I haven't seen it referred to in one newspaper.

Kazwini has a different perspective to most of us here in Australia. Seven people he knew disappeared during Saddam's time, never to be seen again. Some were members of his family. No one knows what happened to them. No bodies were ever found.

Kazwini himself was once arrested for a poem he wrote. He was interned for six days and beaten and humiliated. Men were stripped and forced to crawl before their guards.

These days Kazwini uses e-mail and the internet to communicate daily with people in Iraq. He is amazed at the persistent claims in the media here that most Iraqis have responded to the photos by turning on the American occupation.

The main concern of the people he talks to is that the photos, and the beaten-up outrage from the rest of the Arab world, might encourage America to leave.

Read the whole thing.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up. Don't miss it.

HERE'S MORE ON THE VACCINE / AUTISM ISSUE:

An examination of scientific studies worldwide has found no convincing evidence that vaccines cause autism, according to a committee of experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine.

In particular, no link was found between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine or vaccines that contain a mercury preservative called thimerosal. The committee released its eighth and final report yesterday in Washington. . . .

As for the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, 14 epidemiological studies have shown no evidence of a link. The committee dismissed two studies that did show a link as flawed. The committee examined a number of possible biological mechanisms to explain how vaccines might cause autism, but said that all were theoretical and that there was not sufficient proof.

Fewer children today receive vaccines that contain mercury, Mr. Blaxill of SafeMinds said, so if the mercury hypothesis holds true, rates of autism should fall in the next couple of years. The number of cases in California, where autistic children are carefully tracked, declined slightly in the last six months, he said, but it is too soon to know if the drop is a trend.

Stay tuned, though the case for a connection is looking pretty weak.

THIS IS INTERESTING:

MADRID, May 19 (Reuters) - A Spanish judge accused three Algerians on Wednesday of belonging to al Qaeda and forming part of a network that recruited Islamists across Europe to go to Iraq and fight the U.S.-led occupation.

High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon said the mobilising of insurgents was directed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group has claimed responsibility for the beheading of a U.S. hostage and the assassination of the head of the Iraqi Governing Council. . . .

Garzon said the Spanish al Qaeda cell included Heidi Ben Youssef Boudhiba, who is in jail in Britain. He said Boudhiba formed part of a network that was attempting to attack London with the deadly toxin ricin in January 2003. Garzon has asked British authorities to hand him over.

Garzon also linked Boudhiba to members of the cell based in Hamburg which supplied three of the suicide pilots for September 11. He said Boudhiba and another cell member left the port city and flew to Istanbul eight days before the attacks.

Not entirely a surprise. Note the Algerian connection, which keeps coming up.

MICKEY KAUS offers "an example of why it's so difficult for a blogger, or any other ordinary citizen in the U.S., to figure out how things are going in Iraq even with the aid of the Internet."

He's absolutely right, and his point extends to the entire war. It's hard and -- as various bizarre news stories seem to indicate -- we're in a situation where it's likely that lots of stuff is going on beneath the surface that we don't and can't know about. Add to that the tendency of the media reporting from Iraq to focus on superficially bad news, at the expense of both good news and non-superficial bad news, and it's really hard to tell what's going on.

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this topic, the temptation is to apply Kentucky windage and assume that things are better than the reports make them sound. And that may be true, but we can't know that. (On terrorism, for example, the media in the 1990s stressed the threat of domestic terrorism from "angry white men," while largely missing the growth of Al Qaeda. So things were better than they sounded where domestic terrorism was concerned -- but worse somewhere else, and an important problem didn't get enough attention until it was too late.)

I think, though, that it's a mistake to assume that "how things are going" means much right now. People want a narrative line: "we're winning," or "we're losing," when things are up in the air. My own sense, drawing on admittedly inadequate data, is that things are, in fact, going better than the day-to-day drumbeat of negativity makes them sound. But that could certainly be wrong. And those narrative lines are imposed later, in retrospect -- at the moment, we need to be dealing with the problems in front of us.

Is the Administration screwing things up in Iraq? Maybe. Is it because they're too harsh, as the left says? Or too soft, as the right says? (Does the fact that they're getting criticized from both sides make them, Goldilocks-like, just right? If only it were that simple.) I find this as frustrating as Mickey does, but we can only work with what we've got.

What's most bothersome to me is that the anti-Bush stance adopted by most media organizations makes their reporting less useful to those of us who are trying to figure out what's going on, and makes the Administration, and its supporters, tend to tune it all out, possibly causing them to miss important information. I don't know what to do about it, except to try to point out the stuff that it seems they're missing.

UPDATE: Some readers are unfamiliar with the term "Kentucky windage." In this context it means putting your finger in the air, making a guess, and aiming left or right to correct for the presumed breeze on the way to the target.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, maybe someone should ask Iraqis how it's going!

OVERMATCHING THE GODS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

WILLIAM SAFIRE says that the Sarin story has been soft-pedaled by the media. So does this coverage survey from The Fourth Rail.

I could put this down to caution, except that -- as we've seen -- they're quick enough to pick up unconfirmed stories that suit their preferred storyline.

More on this phenomenon here.

UPDATE: Here, too.

RAND SIMBERG HAS THOUGHTS on NASA, the Hubble telescope, and a policy disconnect.

UNSCAM UPDATE: The New York Post is unhappy with Paul Bremer's foot-dragging:

Members of the governing council suspect that Bremer's motive is to protect the U.N. from adverse publicity in the run-up to the June 30 "handover of sovereignty."

Of course, it's no secret that powerful elements in the State Department have actively opposed efforts to investigate the U.N. Oil for Food scandal.

And it may be that the Bush administration itself wants to go easy on the U.N., and Secretary General Kofi Annan, now that it is seeking to have the U.N. help shape a new Iraqi government.

But it is a terrible mistake for America to thwart the Oil for Food investigation for any reason — let alone to preserve the U.N.'s ragged credibility.

Never mind that Kofi & Co. appear (to put it charitably) to have permitted one of the most breathtaking embezzlements in the annals of crime.

The fact is that the United Nations is viewed widely in Iraq as a principal Saddam-enabler — if not a collaborator in his crimes — and is despised for it.

I agree. It's possible, as Thomas Lifson writes, that there's more to this story. But if the Bush Administration is quashing this investigation in an effort to get UN support, I predict that they'll wind up being snookered.

UPDATE: But stuff is leaking out. Claudia Rosett has lots of interesting information on oil-for-food misconduct from internal U.N. audits. Kojo Annan's company Cotecna figures prominently.

ANDREA SEE encounters Xiamen's unfavorable business climate. Sheesh.

JUSTIN KATZ is getting ahead of a story via Google. He emails that "Jimmy Massey" started showing up in his search term referrals, so he looked the guy up and found a veteran who's "slandering the troops" in John Kerry (1971 version) style. He's got a long post on what he found.

MICHAEL GRAHAM calls Tom Toles' cartoon in today's Washington Post "disgusting and outrageous."

UPDATE: Meanwhile here's Neal Boortz on the media:

It's already started: the media is rooting for us to lose the war on terror. Today, The Washington Post has declared that there is a "fear of failure growing." Once again, the doom and gloom media has declared the war lost. The terrorists must be thrilled. The whole terrorist game plan in the Middle East and in Iraq is based on creating an atmosphere of fear, gloom and doom in the American citizenry. It seems as if some of these media outlets actually have signed on to help the Islamo-fascists achieve that very goal. We have 150,000 troops deployed, the country of Iraq remains under our control, and casualties for the whole war are under a thousand. If we hold on to our resolve this situation is winnable. That, however, wouldn't be good for the left and for those who want America to follow instead of to lead.

Downplay the good, hammer the bad. Run the Abu Ghraib story on the front page for three weeks. Bury the Nick Berg story after one day. Ignore the Sarin and mustard gas finds. If the story will help Bush, bury it. If it will hurt Bush, run it day after day.

Is this kind of perception, already widespread, going to be good for the press?

May 18, 2004

THIS HUGE AND LINK-RICH ROUNDUP OF GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ is a must-read.

You've also got to wonder (as Andrew Sullivan does) why the Bush Administration is doing such a bad job at getting its message out that it has to rely on Australian bloggers to pick up its slack.

UPDATE: Reader Michael McFatter thinks this is all part of the Bush PR plan:

I really think this is the administration letting the press hang themselves. Think about it. How do you feel about the NYT today relative to four years ago? The New Yorker? CNN? Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Ted Koppel? Is your opinion worse or the same? Mine's worse and I never trusted those sources in the first place. In fact, I didn't think that my opinion could be worse four years ago.

In addition, this strengthens the party and his political base as they feel they are being attacked ( and they are in ways they never realized they were) and it will inspire them to move to defend themselves. It also gives the enemy ( a hostile press ) an inaccurate sense of the political groundwar. This is about lowering expectations and it is a theme in the Bush presidency. Watch things get worse and worse until just after the Dems convention when suddenly "from out of nowhere" Bush will rise again. There will be publicity victories in the meantime, but they will not outnumber "defeats" until it is politically necessary. You don't want to use all your best material too early. He has done this a thousand times and the press falls for it every time. And more importantly, so does John Kerry.

If this is the strategy, and it works, then Karl Rove is really, really smart. Is he that smart?

MORE: Reader Douglas McRae thinks Karl Rove is really smart:

Every morning the clock radio wakes me up to Prison Abuse 24/7 (NPR). This morning I realized the major reoccurring theme is that the prisoners were made to wear women's underwear or go naked. I suspect that the American Public now has the image of Iraqi thugs in pink thongs firmly imbedded in their minds and the rest of the story (if there is any) is unheard. Besides, most Americans say to themselves, if the Iraqis can't take that, they are really wusses. This will be noted as another Big Media overhype failure. They will be wondering, again, why they can't get traction against Bush.

We'll see.

STILL MORE: Reader Herbert Jacobi thinks it's all part of the plan, too:

I can't help wonder if Bush, et al., is silent because he knows that the media will bury everything he says in the back pages. There is a large and well organized group in this country that want Iraq and, in general, the War on Terror to fail. And another group that would like it to seem to fail, at least until Kerry is elected (Re your post from The Daily Telegraph's Toby Harnden on May 12). So why make a lot of speeches now when the press will bury it? If he then makes the same arguments later during the campaign the charge will be: "He's already said that." So the media won¹t have to cover it as much, if at all. There is also the boredom factor. If he keeps saying the same (even good) arguments over and over again now people will become bored by November, if not earlier.

Better to wait until the real campaign for the election starts and people take notice. And because of the election the media will have to pay attention. There is also the chance that there will be more good news on the WMD as well as on other fronts.

The counter argument (shades of John Kerry!) is that if he waits to long it will be to late and people will have already made up their minds no matter what he says or how well he says it. But when I look at the press coverage, especially from media outlets such as the NYT it seems to me a worthwhile gamble.

Or they could just be blowing the whole thing. I hope not.

As I say, we'll see. But Bush-fan John Podhoretz doesn't think that they're hitting the right note.

IRAQ SARIN UPDATE: Blaster's Blog has an interesting observation -- apparently, it can't be an old shell, as some are claiming. And scroll down for lots of other interesting stuff that deserves more attention.

REALCLEARPOLITICS is running a pledge drive this week. If you're not a regular there, you should check them out.

JEFF JARVIS calls the 9/11 commission's latest "scandalous." And he accuses John Lehman of grandstanding.

I stopped taking them seriously a while ago, but this doesn't help. It's obvious that the Commission members aren't capable of sufficient self-restraint to avoid playing to the cameras. This either should have been done without publicity, or with a different commission. Or both.

IS REALITY TAKING HOLD?

PARIS -- The French government Monday described the 35-hour working week as a financial disaster that was costing the state billions of dollars and promised to reform the system despite fierce union opposition.

The finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that the 35-hour week had burdened the state with additional social charges and that it had demoralized millions of workers.

It'll be interesting to see if they can pull off the change.

MORE THOUGHTS on the Zarqawi letter. It does seem clear that our opponents are desperate to prevent the emergence of a free and self-governing Iraq.

HITCHENS ON HERSH: Worth reading. Meanwhile reader Doug Jordan is angry at The New Yorker:

Cancelled it tonight. After subscribing for most of the last 20 years, and with two years to run. Hendrik Hertzberg is too heavy a price to pay on a weekly basis.

And I will not support a magazine that takes glee in blowing that which, by its own account, has a been successful US black program. That is, assuming that the piece is true.

To echo your theme: whose side are they on?

Whatever side will hurt Bush, apparently.

Meanwhile, this piece on Hersh's track record points out that he's been wrong -- and always in a way that was damaging to America -- before. Remember the "faltering ground campaign against Saddam Hussein" (March 31, 2003). Or the similar report on how we were losing in Afghanistan, just before we won in Afghanistan?

SOUNDS LIKE THIS WAS AN EXTREMELY FORTUNATE ACCIDENT:

A North Korean missile shipment to Syria was halted when a train collision in that Asian country destroyed the missile cargo and killed about a dozen Syrian technicians.

U.S. officials confirmed a report in a Japanese daily newspaper that a train explosion on April 22 killed about a dozen Syrian technicians near the Ryongchon province in North Korea. The officials said the technicians were accompanying a train car full of missile components and other equipment from a facility near the Chinese border to a North Korea port.

A U.S. official said North Korean train cargo was also believed to have contained tools for the production of ballistic missiles.

Let's hope for more lucky explosions where these two countries are concerned.

JOHN O'SULLIVAN looks at last week's media goofs like the fake Iraq rape photos and general tendencies in reporting and observes:

Neither the media's vaunted "skepticism" nor simple fact-checking on the Internet were employed by the papers. The fakes were, in the old Fleet Street joke, "too good to check." As Mark Steyn argued Sunday, the journalists wanted to believe they were real. Indeed, it is worse than that -- since the fraud was discovered and the Mirror editor fired, he has become a heroic figure in British circles hostile to Blair and the war.

Admittedly, reporters and editors make mistakes. But when all the mistakes are on the side of opposing the liberation of Iraq, and none of the mistakes favor the United States or Britain or Bush or Blair, it tells you something.

Namely, which side they're on.

Try as one might, it's getting hard to avoid that sort of inference. Not that they actively favor the terrorists, of course. They just view beating their domestic political enemies as more important.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from A.M. Rosenthal:

Since the latest torture story, many editors have failed to present background stories about the millions killed by Saddam.

They worry about being accused of minimizing the brutalization of Iraqi prisoners by Americans, if they recall in print the masses of people Saddam slaughtered.

These journalists are truly embarrassing.

But not, alas, embarrassed. (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: And here's a question: Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn't exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a majority -- or even a large and angry minority -- of Americans comes to conclude that the press is untrustworthy and unpatriotic. How far are we from that point?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on my fears about the future of press freedom here.

THE SARIN GAS FIND has been confirmed by further tests.

MORE EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE UNITED NATIONS:

The United Nations is investigating claims of sexual harassment made by a member of staff against Ruud Lubbers, the High Commissioner for Refugees.
In a statement, Mr Lubbers said the accusation had been made in April, and related to a meeting that took place in his office in December last year.

The New York Times said the claim had been made by an American woman who had worked for the UNHCR for many years.

A minor issue, on its own, though it's likely to have some resonance given the pending publication of Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures, a book that paints U.N. peacekeeping efforts in a sufficiently negative light that Kofi Annan tried to suppress it.

BETTER ALL THE TIME: The latest roundup of good news on all sorts of topics, from The Speculist.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Thomas Lifson has some thoughts on what may be going on beneath the surface in the oil-for-food scandal.

LEADERSHIP CHANGES AT THE NANOBUSINESS ALLIANCE: Executive Director Mark Modzelewski is stepping down.

I hope that this will lead to a change in the NanoBusiness Alliance's PR strategy, which as I've noted before both here and elsewhere seems counterproductive to me.

THE NEVERENDING WAR: Matt Welch wonders why the architects of Kosovo are so hard on Bush:

Of all the historical precedents that paved the way for President George W. Bush’s war against Iraq, the most directly relevant was Bill Clinton’s 1999 bombing of the rump Yugoslavia.

Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged without the explicit authorization of the United Nations. (Of the two, the Iraq war had much more of a U.N. mandate, through Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity" -- one it did not take -- to comply fully with all previous Security Council resolutions or else face "serious consequences.") Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter.

Yet the media and the foreign policy establishment are much more critical of Bush's war than Clinton's -- even though Clinton's is still going on.

What's the difference? Read the whole thing.

MICHAEL TOTTEN WRITES that the case against war is immoral.

ERIC MULLER raises troubling questions regarding potential dishonesty by the Solicitor General on abuse of detainees. (More here.) I suspect that ignorance, rather than deception, is involved. But since this has the potential to make the Bush Administration look bad, I'm sure it will receive close scrutiny from the media.

ANUAK GENOCIDE WATCH is a blog monitoring genocide in Ethiopia.

NEWS COVERAGE AS A WEAPON: More provocative observations from The Belmont Club. (Via Tom Smith).

UPDATE: And here's a report on a blogosphere-sponsored response.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And James Lileks has some related thoughts.

IRAQ, TERRORISM, AND WMD: Some interesting thoughts:

Bush's pre-war point holds up: terrorists were operating in Iraq, and they did have access to Saddam Hussein's powder keg. The constant claim that the war in Iraq is irrelevant to the war on terrorism is impossible to sustain when U.S. forces keep capturing terrorists Hussein harbored.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: There's a new talking points memo for the antiwar crowd.

HUMAN RIGHTS, IRAQ, AND THE GERMAN MEDIA: An interesting post from Medienkritik.

THE MOBILE REGISTER is calling for Ted Kennedy to resign from the Senate, because of his comments over the war:

In calling for Sen. Kennedy's resignation, we hasten to note, the Register editorial board applies the same standards it applied to Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, then Senate majority leader. In the wake of Sen. Lott's racially inflammatory remarks related to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, the Register editorialized that "the cause of an honest moral reckoning demands that he step down."

In the wake of this latest entry on Sen. Kennedy's record, the same moral reckoning, long overdue, should apply to the senior senator from Massachusetts.

Republicans were ashamed of Lott's remarks, which they saw as a betrayal of their party's principles. I'm not so sure that the Democrats feel the same way about Kennedy's.

UPDATE: Randy Paul emails that he thinks this is unfair: "What Kennedy said was stupid, but it has no bearing on what the rest of us believe, just as what James Inhofe and Rush Limbaugh said has no bearing on what the rest of conservatives believe."

I don't see Kennedy as being as marginal as Inhofe, and he's not an entertainer like Limbaugh -- you don't see me making a big deal of Randi Rhodes' calls for Bush to be shot. Kennedy's probably the single best-known Democrat out there, and if the Democrats are disassociating themselves from these remarks they're doing it pretty quietly. It's nice to see Randy doing so, though.

However, he also seems to think that associating people with the views of Ted Kennedy is "McCarthyism." I thought McCarthyism consisted of associating people with the views of communists. I'm not sure I'd put Kennedy quite that far beyond the pale.

MORE: Oops, my mistake: Paul's email was originally occasioned by another post, not this one, though I don't think it affects my point.

May 17, 2004

THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN is officially over.

I won't argue.

VIA MY BROTHER, fisherman extraordinaire, a link to a discussion site frequented by rightish outdoorsmen who are generally OK with gay marriage. Excerpt: "I think gay marriage is kind of like rhinoceroses mating. It don't affect me much and it ain't something I necessarily want to watch but I'll defend their rights to do so."

As I've said before, the country is moving faster than the courts on this issue.

On the other hand, not everyone is as progressive as rightish outdoorsmen.

POLITICS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Andrew Sullivan has a piece in Time on this subject, and the TaxProf blog wonders if the Church might be endangering its tax exemption by getting too involved in telling people how to vote. (Prof. Bainbridge is unhappy).

Being neither Catholic nor a tax professor, I don't have very strong feelings on this subject. (I was raised Methodist; now I'm Presbyterian. Why the shift? I guess it was predestined. . . .) I will note, though, that some folks who are approving the Catholic Church's political stances are normally quick to bristle when people worry that Catholic politicians are likely to base their votes on Church pronouncements. But when you talk, as some Bishops are doing, of denying Catholic politicians communion based on their legislative votes, it seems to me that you leave yourself open to such claims.

I think, also, that Jonah Goldberg is wrong to suggest that tax exemptions for religious institutions are constitutionally required. Taxes that discriminated against religious entities would be unconstitutional, but I believe that tax exemptions are a matter of legislative grace, not a constitutional entitlement.

UPDATE: John Murphy emails: "Generations of Democrat politicans have held forth from Black churches without a peep from the IRS. Are we on track for another double standard?"

Well, the IRS isn't peeping now, and isn't likely to. Just some tax professors.

ANN ALTHOUSE has several posts I was going to link to, but I can't make up my mind. So just go and scroll -- it's everything from Tennessee v. Lane to Barbara Ehrenreich to the Sopranos to gay marriage.

DON'T GET COCKY: Bill Hobbs collects various links to discussion of economic models saying that Bush will win in the fall.

This is interesting, I guess. But didn't a lot of the standard predictors make the 2000 elections out to be a shoo-in for Gore?

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on whether these models will be more or less accurate this time around.

MY EARLIER POST about films in law school classes led to requests for more. Trouble is, I don't show films much.

However, some years ago I did use Talk of the Town as a dialogue on legal realism versus legal formalism -- which is, in fact, its subject. (Someone once told me that Fred Rodell was involved in it somehow, though there's nothing about that in the credits.) It's a good movie, but as I say, the amount of class time that movies take up makes me reluctant to use them much.

UPDATE: My former colleague Peter Morgan used to show The Verdict in his Legal Ethics class, and ask the students to spot all the ethical violations, and felonies, committed by the Paul Newman character. It's a rather large number. And reader Scott Holmes emails that he wishes he'd seen A Civil Action before going into law practice as a personal injury lawyer: "I thought this movie showed most accurately what brutal frustration one faces as a trial lawyer. If I taught, this would be shown on my first day of class."

And reader Daniel Phillips emails:

You may want to refer people interested in movies for law school classes to TaxProfBlog (Prof. Paul Caron). I had him this semester, and he is well known around school to show movie clips (usually just a minute or two) to reinforce his point and make a dull subject more interesting. One example: when we were studying deductions for work clothing, we went over a case with one of the girls from Fleetwood Mac. She claimed a deduction for clothing based on her excessive sweating, she could only wear it once. Prof. Caron then showed a clip of her performing.

Now there's a treat!

CAMPUS LIFE: When I was at the library yesterday I picked up a copy of U. Magazine, a freebie mag that's been distributed on campus for years. In between the articles on the Blue Man Group, spam management, and computer games was one by Air Force ROTC cadet Gloria Lin of Washington University answering some questions she often gets about serving in the military. Excerpt:

Why would you want to do that?

Five years ago I didn't have a strong, solid answer. I only knew it was something I wanted to do, but now I can say with conviction that it's important to me to have this opportunity to give back, to serve my country and its people.

What if you die?

Well, everyone dies, and dying for my country is a pretty good way to go if you ask me.

But you're a girl.

Thank you for noticing.

You're Chinese. What if we go to war with China? Whose side would you be on?

This is a simple answer: Obviously the United States. The thing is, I may be of Chinese descent, but up until a few years ago I had never set foot on mainland China before. I was born in America and that's where I grew up.

There's much more, and I found it all pretty interesting.

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs sends a link to the article -- I hadn't realized it was on the web.

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on nanotechnology nomenclature and its regulatory importance.

MILTON FRIEDMAN IS BEARISH ON THE EUROZONE: Me too, though his credentials are a lot better.

UNSCAM UPDATE: A Canadian connection:

The oil-for-food tap has never been turned off. The Post says there are "several hundred million" from the program sitting in three banks in Jordan. Someone is drawing the money from these accounts, but "no one knows whom." . . .

At the United Nations, it’s not only a global world; it’s the proverbial small one.

You know, the United States should seriously consider a policy of making outright bribes to foreign leaders. It seems to work.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN IRAQ: LT Smash has a roundup of news and reactions to the Sarin-gas / mustard gas story.

UPDATE: Reader Kevin Greene says the spin has already started:

Found this quote interesting, and proof that the left will change the debate if WMD are found in Iraq:

"But David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said the discovery does not provide evidence that Saddam was secretly producing weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War, as alleged by the Bush administration to justify the war that removed him from power." [emphasis is mine]

See, if we FIND actual WMD, then the left will begin to claim that Saddam wasn't "secretly producing" it, and so Bush lied. In fact, nobody ever claimed that we were invading Iraq because Saddam was actively producing WMD - only that he had undeclared WMD, might have mobile factories, and was preventing the UN from finding it and getting rid of it.

We'll see. Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes that everyone wants a "smoking gun," but points out what David Kay was saying a year and a half ago before the invasion of Iraq:

When it comes to the U.N. weapons inspection in Iraq, looking for a smoking gun is a fool's mission. That was true 11 years ago when I led the inspections there. It is no less true today -- even after the seemingly important discovery on Thursday of a dozen empty short-range missile warheads left over from the 1980s.

The only job the inspectors can expect to accomplish is confirming whether Iraq has voluntarily disarmed. That is not a task that need take months more. And last week's cache is irrelevant in answering that question, regardless of the U.N.'s final determination. That's because the answer is already clear: Iraqi is in breach of U.N. demands that it dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed.

MORE: A reader emails:

Listen, if the Left believes that 7 soldiers out of 150 thousand abusing Iraqis detainees can sully the honor of the whole military, then this one shell is proof that Saddam had an extensive WMD program.

Sounds fair to me!

BLOGGING GAY MARRIAGE: A roundup from Jeff Jarvis.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Eugene Volokh has problems with some NPR reportage.

My thoughts here.

HENRY COPELAND is doing a survey of blog reader demographics. Please take part if you can spare a minute.

If you take the questionnaire, please enter "instapundit" in question 22, so they can tell where you came from.

UPDATE: Some people didn't like the family income question, so Henry's jiggered things so that you don't have to answer it if you don't want to. He's also predicting that blog readers (or at least the ones who answer the survey) will be 80% men. Let's see if that happens. My emailers aren't that heavily male, but despite the huge volume I get, it's an unrepresentative selection.

CHIEF WIGGLES is making himself available to the press:

For the past 34 years I have been an interrogator in the Utah Army National Guard, serving my country proudly in this capacity. I have performed my duties as an interrogation team chief in many capacities in a variety of situations. I have been to two wars in the Middle East as a chief warrant officer, conducting numerous interrogations, screenings, debriefings, etc. I have been to South Korea some 40 plus times, been through countless interrogation exercises, and have personally conducted numerous debriefings of North Korean defectors.

I have worked with soldiers from all branches of the military, regular army soldiers and reservists, interacting with them in a variety of real combat situations and training exercises. I have read books on the skills of interrogation and have taught others the finer points of effective interrogation.

While at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, I spent 4 months, on a daily basis, interrogating 17 Iraqi generals, both Brigadier and Major generals, successfully extracting valuable information which was later disseminated up through the chain. I lived as they lived, endured most of what they endured, feeling their pain, while trying to deal with their diverse personalities, with their idiosyncrasies, intertwined with their culture, tradition, religion, and language.

Follow the link for contact information.

MARK HELPRIN says that both the Democrats and the Republicans are clueless on the war. That's unfortunate, since one party or the other will be in charge of it for the foreseeable future.

Over the weekend, though, a reader sent the best argument I've heard so far for putting Kerry in charge: Overnight, the press coverage would shift from negative to positive, good news from Iraq would be widely reported, misbehavior by American troops would be put in its proper context, and so on. This would, at a stroke, deprive the terrorists of their greatest asset.

Sadly, I find this argument surprisingly compelling. . . .

UPDATE: Comments on Helprin here. And, via Neal Boortz, what some British papers are calling two good reasons to vote for Kerry that the American media will probably cover up. Hey, I'm for transparency! [LATER: A reader says I should label this link NSFW. But she's fully clothed!]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Yes, my "best argument so far" comments are not entirely serious. Please stop sending me horrified emails.

THE NEW MCDONALD'S HAPPY MEALS FOR ADULTS DON'T SUCK! No, really. The InstaWife picked up a couple yesterday (the "stepometers" were the lure, and she and the InstaDaughter have been competing to see who can ring up more steps during the day) but I split the Cobb Salad with her and it was actually good.

I don't know whether this will actually lead to massive weight loss across America (er, well, I'm pretty sure I do, actually) but it's a surprisingly well done package, and the food's actually good. Go figure.

ANDY KAUFMAN has returned.

Well, why not? Rachel Lucas and Jeff Goldstein did. . . .

VIA CICADA, an interesting report from Fallujah:

FALLUJAH, Iraq - A former Saddam Hussein-era general appointed by the Americans to lead an Iraqi security force in the rebellious Sunni stronghold of Fallujah urged tribal elders and sheiks Sunday to support U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. . . .

The venue offered a rare insight into Latif's interactions and influence over Fallujah elders. As he spoke, many sheiks nodded in approval and listened with reverence to his words. Later, they clasped his hands and patted Latif on the back.

Latif, speaking in Arabic to the sheiks, defended the Marines and the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"They were brought here by the acts of one coward who was hunted out of a rathole — Saddam — who disgraced us all," Latif said. "Let us tell our children that these men (U.S. troops) came here to protect us.

"As President Bush said, they did not come here to occupy our land but to get rid of Saddam. We can help them leave by helping them do their job, or we can make them stay ten years and more by keeping fighting."

Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, the Marine battalion commander, said, "No truer words have been spoken here today than those by General Latif."

I know that some people in the blogosphere think we're not taking a tough enough line in Fallujah, but reports like this suggest that we may just have a better plan.

WILL BAUDE has 20 questions for Professor Bainbridge.

BTW, I'm having a terrible time reaching the server at the moment. A traceroute shows a truly convoluted path. I guess there's some sort of traffic issue that will resolve itself, but blogging may be light until it's fixed as my posts keep timing out.

TODAY IS THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, a momentous event and one that shows the value of an extended commitment to justice.

I highly recommend the Brown film Separate But Equal, starring Sidney Poitier as Thurgood Marshall, to anyone interested. I showed this in my Constitutional Law class this year. I don't generally like to show films in class -- they eat up a lot of class time, and most of them don't teach much law. This one, however, does a good job of capturing both the social conditions (now largely alien to my students) and the legal strategizing (often forgotten even by lawyers) involved in the case.

When the movie came out, I talked to my former professor and mentor, Charles Black, about it. He said it was quite accurate for a movie, though he was a bit disturbed by the casting: "They got Sidney Poitier to play Thurgood," he said, "while they picked some fella who's a dead ringer to play me."

JOHN SCALZI offers wedding advice for gays and lesbians.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up, with business and economics-related posts from all over. Don't miss it!

Also, Alphecca's weekly survey of media bias relating to guns is up.

MICKEY KAUS continues to argue for elections sooner, rather than later, in Iraq. I think he's right. The captured Zarqawi memo suggested that the terrorists fear an elected Iraqi government more than anything else we can accomplish, and their recent efforts seem to support that thesis. Their goal, at which they've so far been spectacularly unsuccessful, is to turn it into an Iraqi-nationalists-against-American-occupiers struggle. But that becomes impossible if the American occupiers aren't occupying. The collection of Baathist holdovers and Syrian and Iranian rent-a-terrorists has little support now, and will have far less when it's attacking an elected Iraqi government. That won't stop them from blowing up things now and then, but it will stop them from actually mattering.

Meanwhile, their sponsors need to worry about this observation from Belmont Club: "The political storm over prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and, to a lesser extent the decapitation of Nick Berg, has effaced the really important story in the Iraqi campaign: the US has just beaten back a major counteroffensive by Syria and Iran. . . . While both inflicted some damage, neither stroke has come close to seriously hurting the US position. It would be natural and not in the least surprising, if Rumsfeld and Myers were considering what the American riposte should be."

MORE ON ATROCITIES IN AFRICA that the world doesn't seem to care about.

Well, you know, it's not an atrocity if it's not committed by an American. That's international law, or something. . . .

THIS IS INTERESTING, if true:

Syrian technicians accompanying unknown equipment were killed in the train explosion in North Korea on April 22, according to a report in a Japanese newspaper.

A military specialist on Korean affairs revealed that the Syrian technicians were killed in the explosion in Ryongchon in the northwestern part of the country, according to the Sankei Shimbun. The specialist said the Syrians were accompanying "large equipment" and that the damage from the explosion was greatest in the portion of the train they occupied.

Hmm.

UPDATE: Hmm, again:

TOKYO -- Japan's Kyodo News, citing numerous diplomatic sources in Vienna, reported Saturday that the force of April 22's train explosion at the North's Ryonchon Station was about that of an earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, which would have required about 800 tons of TNT -- about eight times that officially announced by North Korea. . . .

The CTBTO feels that the cause of the explosion may differ from the North's explanation, and noted the explosion might have been caused by highly-explosive materials like military-use fuel going off. Officials at the CTBTO plan to look into the causes of the accident.

The CTBTO said the explosion at Ryongchon was observed using seismological observation stations in Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia. The stations were built to detect nuclear tests.

More than meets the eye, or even the seismograph, here, I think.

JAN HAUGLAND LOOKS AT EUROPEAN WRITINGS ON THE DANGER OF AMERICANISM. Excerpt:

One should not underestimate the danger of Americanism, or its seductive power. It offers devotion to a culture of nothingness, independence, lack of restraint, a freedom from all obligation, from all honor, from all consideration.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Okay, some of you will be too lazy to follow the link, so here: "By now you may realise this anti-American text is not of recent origin. It was printed in Das Schwarze Korps, the Nazi SS weekly, on 14 March 1944." But it sounds as fresh as tomorrow!

May 16, 2004

IF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW means that we're all going to suffer from instant global warming -- and an ice age, at the same time! -- did The Poseidon Adventure accurately predict a sudden epidemic of capsizing passenger ships?

As far as I know, it didn't, and Patrick Michaels writes in The Washington Post that anyone who gets his or her climatology from the film is an idiot.

So just watch, as the idiots self-identify. . . .

UPDATE: Then there's this. Sheesh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Plus this expert clarification:

The Tsunami, as shown in The Poseidon Adventure, is a pure figment of the imagination of someone in film.

A Tsunami in open ocean water is about a meter high........it suddenly mushrooms into a giant wave near shore where all the damage can occur. Tsunamis do, however, move extremely fast.......up to 700 K/hr......and it can travel extremely long distances with little dissipation of its original energy. The famous 1960 Tsunami, originating off the coast of Chile, reached Hawaii, Japan, etc.

The high speed is what causes the energy to mount a wall of water up to several hundred feet high as the water approaches shore.....identical to the action of waves around the world.....just on a much larger scale due its speed and transmitted energy.

Paul DeLand, Tampa, FL
Former USCGAuxiliary National Staff Branch Chief
Department of Marine Safety and Environmental Protection

Good thing The Poseidon Adventure came out 30 years ago -- or we'd be hearing how tsunamis are caused by Bush's environmental policies!

MEGAN MCARDLE ON FASHIONABLY MORBID FATALISM:

Yet we made it through, with a modicum of liberty and a splash of human kindness, and now democracy is springing up like mushrooms everywhere you look, poverty is steadily decreasing, though perhaps not as fast as we'd like, and wars are killing fewer and fewer humans each decade. The world is a pretty good place to live, and getting steadily better for almost everyone. As flawed as the human race is, we seem to be a lot better than the doomsayers think at muddling through.

Indeed. She has an interesting and lengthy post that's well worth reading in full.

BILL HOBBS offers a succinct report on Condi Rice's appearance at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

TORONTO STAR OPED PAGE FALLS SILENT: Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star -- last seen here making a fool of herself by misattributing a quote to Stefan Sharkansky -- is now gleefully claiming that warbloggers are "growing silent."

Er, except that I'm pretty sure that in the past two weeks InstaPundit, though admittedly at a somewhat lower rate of blogging than usual, has still published more words than the entire Toronto Star oped page. So I guess I should write a column saying that "Wracked with shame at publishing pieces by Antonia Zerbisias, the Toronto Star has fallen silent!" (I won't say "growing silent," as that phrase makes no sense.)

Sheesh. You hate to feed a troll, but Kathy Shaidle and Damian Penny have more, if anyone cares. And given Zerbisias' track record, I'm not sure anyone does. In fact, I'll make a prediction: Most of the bloggers that Zerbisias mentions will still be blogging after she's gone from the Toronto Star's oped page. Which, to judge by the quality of this piece, should be soon.

Meanwhile, the very model of a modern "insult-happy web gun," Jeff Goldstein -- recently returned from a period of genuine silence as an existence disproof of Zerbisias' entire thesis -- comments: ""Fat, drunk, and Canadian* is no way to go through life, Antonia." You'll have to follow the link to see what the asterisk is for.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis: "I hardly hear the the quiet, do you?"

ANOTHER UPDATE: And Rachel Lucas is back, too. Be very afraid, Antonia. The dead have risen!

MORE: Jason van Steenwyck notes a factual error and suggests who to contact about it.

MORE: James Lileks: "The guns fall silent, because we're reloading."

HOW BADLY IS THE LOS ANGELES TIMES SPINNING THE WAR? Eugene Volokh mercilessly dissects a story by Esther Schrader from today's L.A. Times and then, with help from his readers, dissects it some more. ("That the LA Times is eager to paint our military situation as darkly as possible is probably not a big surprise.")

It seems that once the press herd decides on a storyline, the facts don't matter. So why bother even using reporters?

NOT MUCH BLOGGING THIS WEEKEND, as my new nephew is visiting the Knoxville family for the next couple of weeks, while my brother-in-law (a single dad) travels on business. He's nine months old, and one of the most cheerful babies I've ever known. He crawls, and talks a bit. It turns out I haven't forgotten how to give a bottle or change a diaper.

Donald Sensing, who as far as I know isn't changing diapers, has some interesting stuff. Be sure to visit him. Belmont Club has some new and interesting posts, too, including a great suggestion about the Iraqi Olympic soccer team. Plus this: "The political storm over prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and, to a lesser extent the decapitation of Nick Berg, has effaced the really important story in the Iraqi campaign: the US has just beaten back a major counteroffensive by Syria and Iran."

Indeed. Back later.

JEFF JARVIS has some excellent suggestions for media organizations who want to do a better job covering Iraq:

If I were in charge of a bureau of reporters in Iraq -- are you listening NY Times, Washington Post, FoxNews, NBC, CBS, ABC, Reuters, BBC? -- I would assign one reporter, just one, to the rebuilding beat. . . .

I see no reporters covering the rest of life in Iraq. The stories would be easy to get; all you have to do is read a few of the Iraqi weblogs.

I just wonder if there are such organizations? Aside from the Christian Science Monitor (which, as Clayton Cramer notes, is "not generally thought of as a right-wing newspaper" but which seems to be trying harder to do actual reporting) there don't seem to be many.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING SPEECH ON THE WAR ON TERROR by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore. Excerpt:

The war against terrorism could shape the 21st Century in the same way as the Cold War defined the world before the fall of the Berlin Wall. To win, we must first clearly understand what we are up against. I am grateful to the Council on Foreign Relations for the opportunity to share my views on this important subject.

Terrorism is a generic term. Terrorist organisations such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or ETA in Spain are only of local concern. The virulent strain of Islamic terrorism is another matter altogether. It is driven by religion. Its ideological vision is global. It is most dangerous. The communists fought to live whereas the jihadi terrorists fight to die, and live in the next world. . . .

But the threat remains. It stems from a religious ideology that is infused with an implacable hostility to all secular governments, especially the West, and in particular the US. Their followers want to recreate the Islam of 7th Century Arabia which they regard as the golden age. Their ultimate goal is to bring about a Caliphate linking all Muslim communities. Their means is jihad which they narrowly define as a holy war against all non-Muslims whom they call "infidels".

Read the whole thing. And note this story about Saudi-funded Islamist schools promoting the violence in Thailand.

Saudi Arabia, ultimately, is the real problem. When are we going to do something about them?

UPDATE: A reader emails:

"Saudi Arabia, ultimately, is the real problem. When are we going to do something about them?"

We didn't go after Iraq for WMDs, or primarily to free the Iraqi's.

Everybody knows we have to cut off the flow of Saudi petrodollars to Islamic terror. But if we go after Saudi today, their oil production shuts down, the oil market melts down, the world economy crashes and millions die in the third world due to lack of fuel and fertilizer for food.

What to do? One, set up a secure base of operations for the eventual attack on Saudi (Hey, there's a weak, easily conquerable county right next door to Saudi!) and two, secure an alternate supply of oil to temporarily substitute for Saudi oil when we do attack (Hey! The second largest oil reserve in the Middle East is in the same weak country, AND, it's basically off the market, except for Oil-For-Food, so grabbing it won't wreck the oil markets! A twofer!! Can't pass this up!)

What I believe to be the ultimate Bush strategy will take years to set up (especially getting oil production online), will work (maybe even without firing a shot, once we're set up, the Saudis will be cornered) and will accomplish the goal of cutting off the flow of oil money to terrorists without killing millions, and maybe start the Middle east on the road to democracy (but that isn't necessary for the strategy to work).

Iraq cannot become another Vietnam, since the Iraqi resistance has no superpower sugar daddy resupplying it, unlike Vietnam. Iraqi resistance will ultimately peter out, due to lack of supplies. Saddam's weapons caches will inevitably be used up.

Syria is boxed in, Iranians will either overthrow the mullahs themselves, cutting off Iranian terror funding, or they will get the bomb, at which point Israel will nuke them out of self preservation. If God loves Iran, the mullahs will get overthrown first.

Interesting and, I think, mostly correct. Nonetheless, we should be attacking the Saudis' support for terror in a more immediate way.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Holsinger spelled out the whole plan in 2002.

MORE: The Saudis are trying to buy protection from the French -- it didn't work for Saddam, did it?