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May 29, 2004

MY SISTER SAW THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW today, and summarizes it thusly: "The world's better off without people, with lots of special effects." Julian Sanchez, meanwhile, says that the film isn't likely to hurt the Bush Administration, as some have speculated: "George Bush should be buying people tickets to this movie. It's preposterous from start to finish." It seems clear that the film is nowhere near as good as The Poseidon Adventure, and with no better scientific grounding. Daniel Drezner has more reactions of a similar nature. And David Edelstein observes:

The sad part is that Emmerich really thinks he's making a political statement, and he and his producers and actors are making the rounds blabbing about the movie's message to the world. . . . Meanwhile, global-warming experts I know are already girding themselves for a major PR setback, as everyone involved in this catastrophe becomes a laughingstock. Is it possible that The Day After Tomorrow is a plot to make environmental activists look as wacko as antienvironmentalists always claim they are? Al Gore stepped right into this one, didn't he?

Once again, the Gore endorsement looks like the kiss of death.

MICKEY KAUS: Kerry's not a flip-flopper -- he's a straddler. A vital distinction!

UPDATE: Ed Holston thinks I'm shortchanging Kaus's analysis, and has further thoughts.

AS RELIABLE AS A BOSTON GLOBE PHOTO FEATURE! Gary Farber reports on the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash.

Meanwhile, Jeff Goldstein wonders what happened to his pants. And Bill Quick thinks the drugs "must have been incredible." But Walter in Denver wants to set the record straight.

THIS MEMORIAL DAY POST from Jeff Jarvis is worth reading.

SCOTT BURGESS DEBUNKS RACIST STEREOTYPES IN THE GUARDIAN: I wonder if someone will complain to the British authorities that The Guardian is peddling "hate speech?"

NICHOLAS KRISTOF WRITES:

I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe ó although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.

If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.

But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.

Indeed. William Sjostrom has some thoughts on why few people have noticed, or care. And here's a Sudan blog that follows these issues.

SOME MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND READING: This piece by Jack Neely on The Great War, at home and abroad, is quite good. It also makes clear that we're still cleaning up the messes made by diplomats nearly a hundred years ago. And some things sound surprisingly contemporary: "Months after the Armistice, there remained a strong anti-occupation insurgency in Germany, and 1919 bred rumors of German saboteurs making their way to America." No comparable waves of anti-immigrant hysteria this time around, though.

SO WHAT'S GOING ON? Mickey Kaus suggests that the new Iraqi interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, was picked by Brahimi because his lack of grassroots support in Iraq ensures he won't try to ensconce himself long-term.

But this BBC report says that Brahimi doesn't like Allawi, and that he was forced to accede to his selection because the Iraqi Governing Council supported Allawi unanimously.

So which is it?

UPDATE: Looks like everybody else is as confused as I am!

May 28, 2004

TIM BLAIR, whose predictions of non-blogging turned out (like most such) to be overstated, is on a roll. Just keep scrolling.

BETTER ALL THE TIME: The Speculist's regular roundup of good news is up.

KERRY GETS IT RIGHT:

In what his campaign billed as a major foreign-policy address, Kerry said that despite the fierce election-year politics, the country is standing together when it comes to preventing future attacks.

"This country is united in its determination to destroy you," said Kerry of the terrorists, in the first of a series of foreign-policy speeches timed to coincide with Memorial Day and President Bush's trip to Europe for D-Day ceremonies.

"As commander in chief, I will bring the full force of our nation's power to bear on finding and crushing your networks. We will use every available resource to destroy you," Kerry said in Seattle.

More like this, please.

MATTHEW YGLESIAS is defending the press from charges of engaging in behavior that some of its members have admitted (rooting for American defeat), while accusing me of something I didn't do (inciting vandalism against the NYT).

Yglesias omits any mention of journalistic admissions (some collected or linked here) of delight at problems in Iraq, or even hope for a U.S. defeat. On the other hand, he accuses me of a "campaign to incite the defacement of New York Times distribution boxes." However, if you read the post in question, you'll see a crucial phrase undercutting Yglesias' thesis: "Don't do that!" (To his credit, Yglesias links the post, but he never explains how this could constitute incitement. However, though accusing me of advocating "mob violence," he fails to note this post, in which I talk about how press irresponsibility may undermine press freedom in the context of changed First Amendment law, not peasants with pitchforks.)

Though Yglesias has gotten shriller since joining the Kuttner empire, this is unworthy of him, and I'm disappointed. However, his touchiness on this subject makes me think that perhaps the press realizes that its behavior is harming its reputation. And it is. Instead of blaming the messenger, perhaps a bit of soul-searching would be in order.

UPDATE: Matt is charged with violating Godwin's law here and here. And reader John Mattaboni calls on me to note this straw man:

Yglesias: "The argument here - that everything is fine except the media coverage - is absurd on its face."

It's absurd on its face because no one is asserting that but him.

Good point. In fact, I've made the contrary observation before. For a more nuanced (it doesn't compare me, Michael Barone, and Morton Kondracke to Hitler!), if still somewhat defensive, response to the press criticism, read this post by Jay Rosen.

HOWARD DEAN'S YEARRGH! SPEECH spawned some guerrilla web responses. Now Junkyard Blog has done the same with Al Gore's MoveOn fulminations.

UPDATE: More on Gore's outburst here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More guerrilla media here. And Mike Rappaport observes: "Al Gore has called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld (and Condoleezza Rice). Given Gore's track record, including the almost immediate implosion of Howard Dean after Gore endorsed him, this may be the best news for Rumsfeld in many days."

And here's a report from a parallel universe. Say, is this where Al Gore got the beard?

IF YOU'RE IN THE DENVER AREA, you might want to attend the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash. I wish I could be there. Then again, Stephen Green and Jeff Goldstein are bad enough influences on me when they're two time zones away. . . .

MICHAEL TOTTEN:

Pat Buchanan is being an ass again.

Fisking him may be, as Gerard Van der Leun likes to put it, one of those Fish. Barrel. Bang! type of deals. But still itís something that needs to be done every couple of months to reduce the asininity quotient in American letters by an iota.

So here we go.

Read the whole thing.

AZIZ POONAWALLA IS UPSET that the Dean Campaign seems to be selling user data to other organizations. There's some debate in the comments as to whether that's what's going on.

SOME THOUGHTS ON FRITZ HOLLINGS' PROBLEMS WITH THE JEWS: "Hollings may or may not be anti-Semitic, but he's almost certainly a fool." I'm glad that Fritz is leaving the Senate. The Democrats should be, too.

PATRICK RUFFINI sends this link to an interactive webpage that lets you track John Kerry's changing positions on Iraq. Say, maybe Sandy Berger should have checked that out before his recent statements.

"THEATER OF WAR" AS AN EXPANDING CONCEPT: The Belmont Club has thoughts.

LILEKS is chock-full of screedy goodness today. Don't miss him.

DOUG KERN writes on why we need more cartoon violence, and on how Generation X suffered from the lack thereof: "('Super Friends,' they called them, instead of the Justice League. The difference tells you everything you need to know about the seventies.)"

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett says the coverup is in full swing. I'm worried that the Administration is running cover for the UN on this one in the hopes of getting cooperation, and I think that if so -- as with pretty much everything the Administration has done regarding the UN -- they're being snookered.

YEEARRGH! I missed Al Gore's Howard Dean-like meltdown, but even Maureen Dowd was mocking him: "John Kerry's advisers were surprised and annoyed to hear that Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki. They don't want voters to be reminded of the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party."

The Boston Herald, meanwhile, is even harsher:

He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq. And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having ``twisted values?''

Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group MoveOn.org Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush's departure from the ``long successful strategy of containment.''

Yes, the very same strategy that, under Gore's leadership, allowed al-Qaeda operatives to plan the horror of Sept. 11 for years, while moving freely within our borders. . . .

And this man - who apparently has so much disdain for the nature of the American people - wanted to be elected to lead it?

I was once a big Al Gore fan, but my attitude toward him has gone beyond disappointment. Now it's something more like horror. He's lost it.

UPDATE: Dean Peters has a roundup of blog-reactions.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Collier, meanwhile, is surprised at how little attention Gore's speech got:

Why the silence? We're talking about the last vice president of the United States, and a guy who was just 548 votes shy of being the president right now. This ought to be a big story, particularly for papers that had been very supportive of Gore in the past. Is he now considered irrelevant? Does the media think he's become a nutbag, and thus unworthy of coverage? Could they be embarrassed by Gore's descent into MoveOn.org moonbattery?

You can offer your suggested explanation in his comment section, if you like.

DANIEL DREZNER WRITES in The New Republic that the neocons were right on the war, but bad managers whose ineptitude has threatened an important cause: the democratization of the Middle East.

As is his custom, he has footnotes and amplifications on the column that are in some ways more interesting than the column itself. But you should read both.

Meanwhile Peter Robinson echoes a point of Drezner's -- that the prewar situation was unravelling and something had to be done -- and notes:

Food in Iraq is everywhere available, clean water is flowing, electricity is being produced at levels higher than those before the war, hundreds of schools have been rebuilt and some 30,000 teachers trainedóand whereas before the war Iraqi civilians were dying untimely deaths at the rate of 36,000 a year, now even an anti-war group estimates that in the last 14 months the number of Iraqi civilians to die unnatural deaths numbers at most about 11,000.

This represents a record of which George W. Bush is supposed to be ashamed?

(In a later post Robinson notes that the number of Iraqi lives saved is almost certainly much higher than the above number suggests.)This isn't really in disagreement with Drezner, who notes in his blog post that he thinks things in Iraq are better than generally believed. To this mix you might add this post from Iraqi blogger Mohammed, who seems happier with the situation than either Drezner or Robinson, perhaps because his expectations are lower: "the reason for this is that I have lived under Saddam."

Max Boot, meanwhile, reminds us that we're at war, and observes: "The panic gripping Washington over the state of Iraq makes it clear we have been spoiled by the seemingly easy, apparently bloodless victories of the last decade. . . . Things look a little different if you compare it with earlier conflicts." Read the whole thing, which offers a lot of useful perspective on casualties, nation-building, and mistakes in light of prior experience.

And, finally, you should read this piece by Arnold Kling: "The war in Iraq has produced a battle for hearts and minds -- not over there so much as over here."

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF posts another roundup of news from Iraq that you probably missed, on all sorts of topics including rebuilding, security, etc.

EUGENE VOLOKH EXPLAINS what makes him hot. Wonkette is mentioned.

May 27, 2004

FOR SOME, THE BLOGGING NEVER STOPS: I feel really sorry for these people:

Blogging is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such bloggers often feel compelled to write several times daily. . . .

Tony Pierce started his blog three years ago while in search of a distraction after breaking up with a girlfriend. "In three years, I don't think I've missed a day," he said. Now Mr. Pierce's blog (www.tonypierce.com/blog/bloggy.htm), a chatty diary of Hollywood, writing and women in which truth sometimes mingles with fiction, averages 1,000 visitors a day.

Where some frequent bloggers might label themselves merely ardent, Mr. Pierce is more realistic. "I wouldn't call it dedicated, I would call it a problem," he said. "If this were beer, I'd be an alcoholic."

Not me. I can quit any time.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has some thoughts on the Times story. They're worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So are these observations by Ann Althouse.

MISSING MARINE: Jason van Steenwyck is looking for word of a Marine in Iraq.

SHIITE MUSLIM CONVENTION SUPPORTS COALITION, urges tougher action against Al Sadr:

American Shia Muslims claim two million adherents in the United States and Canada, mainly drawn from India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, with a sprinkling from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, and the Balkans. Iraqi Shias are concentrated in Dearborn, Michigan, and Los Angeles and are expected to be well-represented at the gathering this weekend.

The first such convention, held in the nation's capital last year with 3,000 delegates, featured a surprising banquet speaker: deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. While this year's banquet program had not been fixed by Thursday afternoon, UMAA media representative Agha Shawkat Jafri said the delegates have received hundreds of calls from Iraqi Shias expressing hope that the convention can draw the attention of the Pentagon to their concerns, which are centered on the need for forcible action against rebel Shia leader Moktada al-Sadr.

Read the whole thing, which is quite interesting.

JOHN KERRY has given up on the idea of delaying his acceptance of the Democratic nomination. Is this a flip, or a flop?

The delay idea was certainly a flop, anyway. And all it's accomplished is to make him look both tricky and indecisive. Seems like a bad move to me.

Kerry's striking a noble pose: "''The decision that I made today raises the bar."

So by doing exactly what he's supposed to do, what he planned to do, and what everyone expected him to, he's somehow setting a high moral tone?

UPDATE: Delay on the one hand, getting ahead of himself on the other. It evens out, right?

QUITE A WHILE AGO, I noted a report of misconduct by U.S. troops from Iraqi blogger Zeyad. (Later posts here, here, and here, including links to reports in Slate and the Washington Post.).

Now Zeyad reports that the four soldiers involved have been reprimanded. Zeyad thinks it smells of a coverup. I agree. The action certainly makes no sense to me; if the story's true, more than a reprimand seems warranted. If it's not true, why punish anyone at all? Either way, a reprimand seems like it can't possibly be the right response, except perhaps in terms of bureaucratic CYA.

UPDATE: Reader Tim Schmoyer emails:

I don't think the Sydney Morning Herald story is accurate. As far as I can tell, Weller reported that Sassaman was reprimanded. Which is probably appropriate for Sassaman's lying to investigators. However, I do not believe the military is done disciplining the soldiers involved in forcing them to jump in the river.

I do think we need to keep the pressure on.

Yes, and I hope they're not done, but it's not clear to me. A military reader with connections emails me that he's looking into it. I'll post again with whatever I hear from him.

I'M BACK. Regular blogging will resume later. In the meantime, Eugene Volokh is once again posting a devastating critique of Slate's "Bushism of the Day" that's a must-read. The Bushism feature, along with the new but equally lame Kerryism feature, seems to wind up making Slate look foolish far more often than its subjects. And Eugene is right to slam them for not providing links to the original statements they make fun of.

UPDATE: More on the Bushism here. "That anyone would look to mine this moment for the sake of making it seem other than it was is despicable."

Or at least unforgivably tacky. And, also, not funny.

May 26, 2004

ON TRAVEL: Blogging will be light to nonexistent today and tomorrow.

CATHY SEIPP'S LATEST COLUMN is, as always, a must-read. And if you're too lazy to read it, at least read this revealing excerpt.

And if you want to hear more, consider attending this Seipp-hosted event at the American Cinema Foundation in Los Angeles.

A NANOTECHNOLOGY TURNAROUND? Looks like it. It's my TechCentralStation column for today.

HOMELAND SECURITY'S MISSING LINK: I think it's missing more than one.

ANOTHER BAD DAY for the increasingly irrelevant Sadr. First this:

US troops captured a key lieutenant of Iraqi rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50.

Riyadh al-Nouri, al-Sadrís brother-in-law, offered no resistance when American troops raided his home during a series of clashes in the Shiite holy city, according to Azhar al-Kinani, a staffer in al-Sadrís office in Najaf.

The capture of al-Nouri would be a major blow to al-Sadrís al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since early April.

Then there's this:

It was unclear which side was responsible for causing the minor damage to the Imam Ali mosque, but a high-ranking cleric accused Sadrís militia of deliberately attacking the revered shrine.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Mehri, the Kuwaiti representative of Iraqís most powerful Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, said the Sadr militia fired a mortar shell at the dome of the shrine but missed it and hit a wall instead.

Ayatollah Mehri called the attack "a cowardly act" and said Sadr loyalists should not use the shrine for storing their weapons and as a sanctuary.

"We want to tell the world, and America, that Muqtada al-Sadr is not one of us, and this is a conspiracy against Shiites so that we donít get any [political] rights," Ayatollah Mehri said, referring to Shiite demands for greater political representation in the new Iraq. . . .

Ayatollah Mehri said the Sadr militia was "trying to agitate world opinion against the coalition" by claiming that coalition forces attacked the shrine. He said the militia include Saddam loyalists.

While the pundits blather, the Army seems to be doing a pretty good job of isolating him and wearing him down.

UPDATE: Some interesting stuff on Iraqi sentiments from the BBC Arabic site translated and summarized by Omar here.

ANN ALTHOUSE OFFERS AN embarrassing history lesson for John Kerry.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

A leading British engineering company, which now boasts a BBC governor and the former Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson, on its board, has been identified by US investigators as one of hundreds of firms alleged to have agreed to pay illicit kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

The allegations about the Glasgow-based Weir Group appear in an internal Pentagon report seen by the Guardian. They have emerged as the United Nations faces a growing barrage of criticism over its $47bn (£26.2bn) humanitarian oil for food programme with half a dozen official investigations in train. Weir has presented detailed denials of the allegations.

Nobody bribed me. I'm beginning to feel a bit left out.

KERRY'S BRILLIANT PLAN: Mickey Kaus has the whole delayed-acceptance thing figured out.

OXBLOG NOTES some surprisingly positive poll numbers from Israelis and Palestinians.

BAGHDAD SARIN CONFIRMED: And Andrew Sullivan notes Dan Rather's lame attempt to deflect the implications. (Scroll up to read Sullivan's heavy-metal interview excerpt, too.)

HISTORY, PERSPECTIVE AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Eugene Volokh has an interesting post. I'm a big fan of separating church and state, but this seems de minimis to me.

May 25, 2004

FREDRIK NORMAN was on Norwegian TV defending the United States. You can read about it here. Fredrik emails:

The debate was notably civil, particularly in that it was (almost) completely without nasty remarks about President Bush as a person, and the tone was remarkably constructive. Let's hope that's an indication of a change in the public debate here in Europe, but that's probably expecting too much...

Thanks, Fredrik!

HUGH HEWITT is on vacation, but he's posted a list of recommended blogs.

TAKING A LEAF FROM MOBY: Roger Simon notes a bogus "Republicans for Kerry" site.

ADVICE TO KERRY from Arianna Huffington: Be bold.

MORE "WEDDING PARTY" ANALYSIS over at The Belmont Club.

DEAN PETERS is hosting an interesting discussion on what constitutes success in Iraq.

WELL, SOMEBODY HAD TO DO IT: Andrew Sullivan is Fisking Susan Sontag:

What Abu Ghraib does is remind Americans that their virtue is inherent not in their somehow being better than other people around the world, but in the ability of the democratic system to flush out and correct inevitable human error. So far, the response to Abu Ghraib has borne this out. Saddam had no public inquiries into his far more grotesque abuse, no Susan Sontag essays to highlight them. This does not in any way mitigate what happened at Abu Ghraib. But it is a distinction that we still have to keep in mind. . . .

Sontag asserts that the core of the U.S. and coalition mission in Iraq is imperial conquest. This is demonstrably untrue. The motives of the French and Belgians in nineteenth and twentieth century imperialism were utterly different than the Bush administration's attempt to pre-empt Islamist terror in the wake of 9/11. The goal from the beginning of the Iraq war has been to set up a democratic and stable Iraq and to move toward U.S. withdrawal. No imperialist would be insisting upon a June 30 deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, as President Bush did last night. The conflation of these two distinct endeavors is absurd: mere rhetoric, not argument. Was American intervention in Bosnia, of which Sontag approved, "imperialist"? It saved Muslims from a totalitarian, genocidal monster as well. And we still have troops there. If Sontag wants to make a distinction between the two wars, it would be interesting to read. But none is there. She is venting, not arguing.

Indeed.

TOM MAGUIRE is offering campaign advice for Kerry that you won't see anywhere else.

THIS ARTICLE takes a rather skeptical view of the prospects for democratic reform in the Arab world, notwithstanding the recent declaration at the Tunis conference. On the other hand, not everyone is skeptical:

"Real reform is beginning and will go at a faster pace" in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, said Amri, who is the director and founder of a think-tank in Cambridge, England, the Said al-Amri Center for Security and Strategic Studies.

"I think within the Middle East reform will go faster than we think," said Amri, speaking from Riyadh.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, Amri now constantly witnesses changes he would not have predicted just several years ago.

I wouldn't pick Saudi Arabia to be a leader in reform, but I hope he's right.

TOM CLANCY IS calling the Iraq war a mistake. He's got a new book out with Gen. Zinni. Richard Baehr, meanwhile, thinks that some of Zinni's criticisms are dubious.

Professor Bainbridge, who was pooh-poohing my earlier post about Bush's vulnerabilities, thinks that this is really bad news for Bush, who can't afford to lose the Clancy-fan vote. That's absolutely right -- though judging by the current Amazon reader reviews Clancy's fans aren't persuaded just yet.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman observes a trend: "The bottom line on GWB's vulnerabilities: each day it seems like another group in the coalition that helped elect him in the nail-biting election against Al Gore is dropping away. What we seem to be seeing now is a slow but steady trend away from Bush, rather than to Kerry, who remains as exciting and palatable as a bowl of frozen chopped liver."

Meanwhile, reader Chuck Pelto emails:

I think Tom, with his expressed desire for a cause belli, was thinking we needed something like 10,000 dead from a weapon of mass destruction that could be traced to Iraq, as the use of ebola by Iran in his book Executive Orders.

I think Bush is correct in being more pro-active than Ryan. We've
already had our mass casualty event.

Well, there's a possible Russian Ebola bioweapon story in the news today. (Here's the New York Times link.) It's probably not a bioweapon, but given that it was a scientist at a "former" bioweapons lab who died, you could certainly spin some Clancy-like speculations if you wanted to.

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in what people who pay close attention to space think, maybe you should check out the International Space Development Conference this weekend.

WANT MORE DIVERSITY IN YOUR BLOG-READING? You probably should, as a blog-diet of just InstaPundit (or even just the blogs I link to) would be a mistake. So check out the Carnival of the Vanities and see if any of the wide assortment of bloggers linked there strike your fancy.

THIS SEEMS LIKE A MAJOR SCREWUP BY THE FBI for which heads should probably roll:

PORTLAND, Ore. - Offering a rare public apology, the FBI admitted mistakenly linking an American lawyerís fingerprint to one found near the scene of a terrorist bombing in Spain, a blunder that led to his imprisonment for two weeks. . . .

Court documents released Monday suggested that the mistaken arrest first sprang from an error by the FBIís supercomputer for matching fingerprints and then was compounded by the FBIís own analysts.

The apology is to the FBI's credit. But it makes me wonder how many other such matches are wrong. I wonder if this is connected with this homeland security fingerprint initiative that I was criticizing two years ago?

For more on questions about fingerprint evidence, read this and this.

UPDATE: James Rummel weighs in with personal experience.

POLITICAL LOCAL-BLOGGING: Ed Cone has some interesting observations.

THIS ELECTION IS LOOKING LIKE a World Series between the Red Sox and the Cubs, as each side's fans worry, with some reason, that their guy will blow it. Republicans are afraid that Bush is in trouble, while Mickey Kaus continues his "Dem Panic Watch" feature. There's bad news for both candidates in the latest polls. Bush keeps falling in overall approval, but the voters seem to think less of Kerry as time goes on. It's a bizarre race to the bottom. I've said for a while that this election will probably be decided by the 5% who haven't paid any attention until the week before the election. Judging by these polls, they may be the only ones who show up to vote. . . .

There's always McCain / Hillary!

UPDATE: Tom Maguire: "we are reminded of the famous Winston Churchill quip - the current news is bad for Bush, and Kerry is a deeply flawed candidate, but the news can change."

Of course, I expect that a lot of folks in the media will be doing their best to see that it doesn't.

JASON VAN STEENWYK IS CALLING OUT MAJOR MEDIA FOR FAKING QUOTES regarding General Mattis' statement on not apologizing for his men. He's got links and transcripts and he's naming names, which include the New York Times, Reuters, AFP, and more:

Essentially, it looks like they're quoting each other, or some apocryphal Q source material. They're not quoting General Mattis. They didn't even show up at the press conference, and they didn't bother to get a transcript or listen to the tape. But all these reporters are passing their crap off as if they were right from the source material.

Absolutely, completely pathetic.

If this is what passes for news coverage, then they ought to fire their reporters and hire some boy scouts to write for them. At least they'll be honest.

Read the whole thing. Interestingly, I once had the same thing happen to me, with a bunch of newspapers reproducing quotes from an appearance on the PBS Newshour as if they'd interviewed me. They didn't mangle them nearly as badly, though.

And I'll bet this will be all over talk radio. Hmm. Maybe there is something to the theory espoused below.

UPDATE: More on sloppy quote-recycling from Michael Drout.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS A QUESTION FOR C.A.I.R.: Is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Semitism, or not?

ZEYAD'S BLOG gets a mention in John Podhoretz's column on Bush's speech.

A BUNCH OF READERS are mad because the major networks didn't cover Bush's speech last night. (The emails are along the lines of this blog post.) But it's my understanding that the White House didn't request the airtime.

True, the networks could have covered it anyway. But I don't think it's fair to blame them for not doing so, under the circumstances.

UPDATE: Tim Conaghan emails: "I suspect the White House has developed a rather sophisticated, below-the-radar media strategy in which one component is to allow the major, mainstream media to self-isolate themselves."

Hmm. That would be consistent with some other reports. Are they that smart?

A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW POSTS FROM VIRGINIA POSTREL, covering everything from highway construction economics to international trade, along with the news that Amazon is now selling beauty products.

I remember when Amazon was just for books. What next? Cars?

ANOTHER SCANDAL INVOLVING U.N. TROOPS:

Teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being sexually exploited by the United Nations peace-keeping troops sent to the stop their suffering.

The Independent has found that mothers as young as 13 - the victims of multiple rape by militiamen - can only secure enough food to survive in the sprawling refugee camp by routinely sleeping with UN peace-keepers.

These just keep coming. Michael Moynihan makes the inevitable point.

MORE POLITICAL MEANNESS: Name-calling in South Dakota. I don't think this is all that big a deal, but some people seem to.

May 24, 2004

RX-8 REPORT: I turned my grades in this morning, and set out for a picture-taking drive through the boonies. It was nice, and along the way the RX-8 turned over 5000 miles. Since people occasionally email to ask what my longer-term impressions are, I thought I'd record a few here.

Overall, I feel about like I did when it was new. It's phenomenally balanced -- so much so that you sometimes forget just how fast it is. The gearshift is smooth, and the engine is very responsive. The steering is taut, and has good feedback. The brakes are fabulous.

I've found that I actually like the interior and the driver's seat more than I did when I bought it. The seat is more comfortable, even on fairly long trips, than the seat in my Passat, which is saying something.

Fuel economy doesn't suck, especially given the horsepower, but it's nothing to write home about. I get in the low 20s on the highway, the upper teens in town. (Extended high-rev trips in the mountains push it lower, though; the Passat's better, but then it has less than 2/3 the horsepower). Oil consumption -- something that rotaries have issues with -- hasn't been bad. I added one quart between buying the car and doing the 5000-mile oil change last week. However, you are supposed to check the oil regularly. I do, and the dipstick location, to put it mildly, sucks. (The oil-volume sensor will sometimes falsely tell you that you're low on oil; it seems sensitive to a combination of slope and jiggle that a couple of roads I've encountered possess, giving a false low reading that goes away after a minute. Be sure to check before you add more oil!)

A guy in a big pickup dinged me with his trailer hitch in the parking lot a couple of months back. I kept honking, but he just couldn't see me. This made a hole about the size of, well, a trailer hitch in the plastic panel surrounding the right-side exhaust. To my pleasant surprise, replacing the part cost only $36.

Bottom line: I can drive the car all day, have a blast, and get out less tired than when I got in. So I'm happy. If you want more technical stuff, here's a long-term review from Auto Week. And here's an interesting article on the hand-assembly process used on the engine. (Thanks to reader Jim Herd for both links.)

JACOB T. LEVY writes on the libertarian threat to Bush and suggests that Bush's people are in denial. I agree with this. Bush's positions on stem cell research, abortion, etc., are damaging there, and the war's pretty much a wash, with libertarians divided.

I've gotten some emails asking why I like Bush so much. I don't really -- I support him on the war, but if Lieberman or Gephardt had gotten the Democratic nomination, I wouldn't have a strong preference. (They're not my faves on other issues, but neither is Bush, whose policies on stem cells, abortion, etc., differ from mine rather sharply). Despite the claims of some writers that Bush and Kerry will have more in common than we think on foreign policy and the war (which may be true) I don't have the same confidence in Kerry. I suppose he could change my mind on that, but I don't really expect that he will.

But my support for Bush has more to do with the character of his opposition, really, than with Bush himself. (You don't see a lot of Bush hagiography here). And I think libertarians who feel differently about the war have no real reason to support Bush -- he's been wishy-washy on gun control, big on spending, and generally a big-government kind of guy, not a government-off-your-back kind of guy. (And don't get me started on Homeland Security).

Would Kerry be worse for libertarian principles than Bush? He'd probably like to be. But in reality, it's not likely to matter a lot.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan says the slide in Bush's approval ratings is due to the loss of Republican and libertarian support.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon observes: "There ain't no libertarianism in Tehran or Riyadh--small or large 'L.' Hardly anyone even dreams of such things. What there is is a lot of Medievalism. I'm putting some of my stuff on hold for a few years. They can too."

MORE: Bainbridge doesn't think libertarians matter, while Brendan Loy thinks that libertarians will get some votes from unhappy Republicans, but then adds:

Of course, this notion of possible Bush weakness among libertarians and Republicans only serves to underscore what a truly terrible choice John Kerry was, and is, for the Democratic nomination. Either Edwards or Lieberman could have realistically won these people's votes; Kerry's best hope is that they'll vote Libertarian or stay home.

It's a damn shame we picked such a bad candidate when it turns out our opponent was going to be so vulnerable.

As I've said all along, Bush has always been vulnerable. But the Democrats have a constitutional problem with doing what it takes to capitalize on it.

Meanwhile Libertarian Dr. Kate is "rock solid" for Bush, and reports: "all the registered Libs I know are planning to vote for Bush. In Massachusetts, that's saying something." Stay tuned.

THE DISSIDENT FROGMAN IS WATCHING THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, and he's appalled to hear a French representative advocating the transfer of nuclear weapons to Arab countries. (The link is from 2001. Have they gotten more sensible since then? I doubt it.)

STOCKPILES AND GOALPOSTS: My earlier post on articles about Bush's failure to find "stockpiles" of WMD led to some emails from readers noting that the Administration did talk about stockpiles before the war. That's true, and it's also true that they haven't found them. But unless you think that the Sarin shell, and the mustard gas find the week before, were both one-offs, I think they indicate the likelihood that such stockpiles did exist before the war, and may well still do so. (Read this post at Blaster's and scroll up and down from it). It's that indication that's the key, and focusing on the failure to find "stockpiles" now is wilfully obtuse.

This post by David Hogberg, which I linked a while back, has more on the goalpost-moving subject.

UPDATE: Reader Daniel Aronstein points out that Security Council Resolution 1441 doesn't talk about "stockpiles" but about "any" and "all" weapons (and programs and facilities for developing weapons) of mass destruction. Here's a collection of the various resolutions. It's worth reminding people -- again -- that the burden was on Saddam, found by 1441 to be in material breach, to prove his innocence, and that nobody thought he'd met that burden.

More here.

THE INSTA-DAUGHTER learned to ride a two-wheeler without falling down tonight (perhaps she can give Bush and Kerry lessons). That means I missed most of Bush's speech as I was busy first helping, then applauding, for a couple of hours after dinner. Caught the last few minutes of the speech, and it seemed okay to me. Bush will never win any oratory awards, but he was focused and to the point, and I thought the ending, where he contrasted the terrorists' vision of a Taliban-like society versus our vision of freedom was good. (Nice touch styling our approach as a way for the Middle East to regain its historical greatness, too.)

Other folks no doubt saw the whole thing. I'll try to post links to their evaluations later. Meanwhile, LT Smash's prediction was borne out. (You can read these predictions by Steven Den Beste too, and decide how accurate they were.)

UPDATE: They were live-blogging it at The Corner.

Adam Harris reacts to ABC's "Breaking News" update, which he regards as rather disingenuous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andrew Morton emails:

He seems to be serious about, and investing a lot in the transfer of sovereignty.

Mark my words: the media meme for the next six months will be that the transfer is fraudulent, that the US is still pulling the strings and that the new Iraqi government is an illegitimate puppet.

This will boost the legitimacy of the killers, will produce a worse long-term outcome for the Iraqis and will result in the deaths of coalition servicemembers, contractors and good Iraqis.

I hope this is wrong.

Daniel Drezner's running an open comment thread.

Here's a link to the text of Bush's speech. (Via Powerline).

Rob Bernard has thoughts.

Andrew Sullivan gives the speech a B+ but says Bush seemed "exhausted." I don't blame him. I'm tired myself, and I'm not the President.

Victor Davis Hanson gives Bush mixed grades. More comments here, here, and here.

Finally (for this post, at least) Mickey Kaus points to the three most important words in the speech -- "no later than."

TURNED IN MY GRADES and took the day off; went driving in the mountains, then hung around with the Insta-Wife. Back later.

MICHAEL BARONE offers advice to President Bush and observes: "Roosevelt did not have to deal with one problem Bush faces today. And that is that today's press works to put the worst possible face on the war."

IT'S A BUSINESS-AND-ECONOMICS BLOGARAMA over at this week's Carnival of the Capitalists.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS THOUGHTS on the legal issues involved in the "Washingtonienne" flap.

EDITOR AND PUBLISHER:

Those convinced that liberals make up a disproportionate share of newsroom workers have long relied on Pew Research Center surveys to confirm this view, and they will not be disappointed by the results of Pew's latest study released today. . . .

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative. . . .

While it's important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.

The survey also notes a dramatic "values gap" on issues like gay marriage and belief in God. But don't worry: "Of course, no one would ever expect this to impact the way news is covered."

Though, the war and the Second Amendment aside, my views are probably closer to those of the press than the general public, I have to agree with those who find this troubling. If despite aspirations toward objectivity, reporters' gender and ethnicity is as influential on the news as newsroom diversity advocates tell us, then surely reporters' views are even more significant. So where's the move toward greater diversity there?

UPDATE: Reader Mike Gordon emails:

One point that can't be overstressed is that the Pew findings are based on self-assessment. I worked in the newsroom at three large newspapers for 22 years, and many of the journalists who rate themselves as politically moderate are well to the left of center, especially on social issues. They are moderate by newsroom standards, not by the general public's standards.

Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem. Journalists' world is dominated by government because it's so easy to cover: Public agencies' meetings take place on a regular schedule and, with rare exceptions, have to admit journalists. As a result, participants in the meetings play to the press, inside and outside the meeting room, and the result is the elaborate dance of symbolic actions - gaffes, denials, sham indignation, press conferences, inquests and endless process - that dominates our news pages and means next to nothing in the long run.

Journalists tend to give private enterprise short shrift because it's harder to cover: The meetings are private, aren't announced in advance, and reporters aren't invited. Unlike politicians, most businesspeople aren't required to interact with the press, and many avoid doing so when possible - the downside is usually greater than the upside. As a result, journalists are generally reduced to covering what businesspeople do more than what they say. This is more work, so less of it gets done.

It's no accident that for the most part, the news is dominated by people whose value is largely driven by how much publicity they receive: politicians, athletes and entertainers. The people who actually make the world work - people in private industry, rank-and-file government employees and conscientious parents - are largely invisible in the news, except when they're unlucky enough to make one of the rare mistakes that reporters manage to find out about.

Interesting.

I'VE GOT A CHAPTER in this book on Presidential leadership, published by the Wall Street Journal press, which also features chapters from lots of eminent and knowledgeable people.

VIRGINIA POSTREL has a column on gay marriage in The Boston Globe.

THE SIMPSONS' SEASON FINALE was a sort of tribute to the blogosphere, Steven Jens reports. (Spoiler alert).

WHEN NPR HAS GUYS LIKE JEFF JARVIS SHOUTING AT THE RADIO it's a pretty good sign that the "public" isn't behind public radio anymore.

MARK STEYN WEIGHS IN IN IRAQI ELECTIONS:

There are some 8,000 towns and villages in the country. How many do you hear about on the news? For a week, it's all Fallujah all the time. Then it's Najaf, and nada for anywhere else. Currently, 90 percent of Iraqi coverage is about one lousy building: Abu Ghraib. So what's going on in the other 7,997 dots on the map? In the Shia province of Dhi Qar, a couple hundred miles southeast of Baghdad, 16 of the biggest 20 cities plus many smaller towns will have elected councils by June. These were the first free elections in Dhi Qar's history and ''in almost every case, secular independents and representatives of nonreligious parties did better than the Islamists.'' That assessment is from the anti-war anti-Bush anti-Blair Euro-lefties at the Guardian, by the way.

That policy of ad hoc, incremental, rolling devolution needs to be accelerated. Towns and provinces should have as much sovereignty as they can handle, on the obvious principle that the constituent parts of ramshackle federations rarely progress at the same pace. In the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now an advanced Western economy, Kosovo is a U.N. slum housing project. If one were to cast the situation in rough British terms, the Kurdish areas are broadly analogous to Scotland, Dhi Qar and other Shia provinces are Wales, and the Sunni Triangle is Northern Ireland.

Even in the Sunni Triangle, remove Fallujah and the remaining 95 percent is relatively calm. And, while Fallujah hasn't been removed, it has been more or less quarantined. There have been fewer lethal attacks in Baghdad in recent weeks in part because many of the perpetrators were Fallujah residents who used to drive up to the capital for a little light RPG work in the evening. Now they're pinned down in their hometown.

We need more of that. The best bulwark against tyranny is a population that knows the benefits of freedom, as the Iraqi Kurds do. Don't make the mistake of turning Iraq into a dysfunctional American public school, where the smart guys get held down to the low standards of the misfits and in the end they all get the same social promotion anyway. Let's get on with giving the Kurdish and Shia areas elected governors and practical sovereignty, province by province.

Read the whole thing.

MY COUNTRY, RIGHT OR WRONG? Cathy Young more or less takes me to task in this Boston Globe piece. While agreeing that some members of the press's "obscene gloating" over U.S. problems in Iraq is "repugnant," she quotes me from this post: "It's wrong to root for your country's defeat."

To be fair, she more or less includes the entire quote, which reads:

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.

But, she asks: "Yet what if your country, or your government, is engaged in a war that is unjust and immoral?"

(Note that she explicitly says she doesn't think that's the case with the current war: "it is an indisputable fact that, for good or bad reasons, we went to war against a brutal, sadistic regime in Iraq -- a regime that was the worst enemy of its own people.")

I'm not a "my country, right or wrong," guy. But I do think that if patriotism means anything it means giving one's own country the benefit of the doubt -- of which, in the case of this war, there's not really much need for -- and that the people I was discussing in that post are doing quite the opposite and adopting a "my country -- of course it's wrong" attitude. To root for your own country's defeat is to separate yourself from its polity, to declare it not worth saving or preserving, to declare the lives of its soldiers less important than your own principles. It's not always wrong, but it's a very a drastic step, as drastic as deciding to mount a revolution, really, and yet it's often taken by superficial people for superficial -- and, as in this case, tawdry and self-serving -- reasons.

If Bush really were Hitler, it would be different. A Nazi America wouldn't be worth saving, and its polity would be worth separating oneself from. But we're so far from that situation, as Young herself notes, that such discussions are entirely academic, and those who are rooting against America in Iraq have hardly demonstrated the moral courage and personal sacrifice that such a serious step demands, if it is to be taken seriously. If Bush is really Hitler, is filing slanted copy a sufficient response? But the real problem isn't that Bush is Hitler -- just that he's a Republican, which puts a very different face on things. I don't think that Young is one of those Libertarians who denounces the very concept of patriotism, but (though I could have been clearer in my post, I guess, but this seemed painfully obvious to me) I think that she should have thought this column through a bit more.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Bocking emails:

Rooting for the other side is also tacitly saying that the person next to you is your enemy and a legitimate target. The Bush/Hitler comparison would be hilarious if it were not so insultingly ugly.These people can only say this precisely because Bush is not Hitler; their ignorance ensures that if history does repeat itself they won't recognise it.

I don't really think they want the terrorists to win the war. But they don't take the consequences of their winning in Iraq seriously, compared to their desire to get rid of Bush.

MOVING THE GOALPOSTS: Reader T.J. Lynn notes this passage from an article in the New York Times: "No stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found since the invasion."

(Emphasis added.) So that's the new standard, I guess -- and a tacit admission that WMD have been found. But unless Bush can produce "stockpiles" now, it'll have all been a lie, you see. . . .

UPDATE: More here.

READER MIKE BRANOM writes with a question about something I said in this post:

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?

He says it "sounds dangerous." Well, it is. I'd planned to write a longer essay on this, but since plans like that often fail to bear fruit, here's the short version.

Press freedom as we know it today is a rather recent innovation. The First Amendment didn't really do much work until just before World War Two. In World War One, people were convicted of sedition for publishing things that wouldn't raise an eyebrow today. Libel suits were easier, and in general the press enjoyed much less of a special status. (For a good history, especially of the World War One and Civil War eras, read this article by Geoffrey Stone).

And it wasn't really until the 1960s and 1970s, after cases like Brandenburg v. Ohio, and the Pentagon Papers case, that what we think of as press freedom today came into existence.

So the question is, is that a coincidence -- did the United States just happen to make progress in free expression over that period -- or is that expansion of press freedom tied to the fact that regard for the press, and in particular its fairness and objectivity, was (rightly or wrongly) at unusually high levels by historical standards during those decades?

And, either way, what happens if the public comes to regard the press as untrustworthy and un-American? Will the First Amendment continue to be regarded expansively? Maybe. Maybe not. And if you look at the various journalistic scandals, from Jayson Blair to fake Iraq photos, and at polls like these, coupled with others showing decreased respect for journalists, and reduced viewership and readership for major media outlets, the risk seems genuine.

Press freedom is in the Constitution, but so are a lot of rights that don't get nearly as much actual protection out in the world. Members of the press have often warned business people that malfeasance and self-serving behavior puts capitalism at risk. Malfeasance and self-serving behavior by the press puts free expression at risk, too.

UPDATE: Chicago Report, responding to this post, suggests that growing ideological diversity in the media may be an answer to this concern. Maybe (though we've got some distance to go on that front). But I'm not so sure. The media were far more diverse, and openly partisan, a hundred years ago, and press freedom was less revered. I don't know that there's a connection, but to the extent that people think of newspapers and TV news as being more like unpaid political advertising than like journalism, it's hard for me to see that outcome producing more respect for press freedom.

If anything saves free expression, I think it will be the expansion of personal publishing (blogs, web video, etc.) over the next few years, which may lead a lot of people to think of the press as "us" rather than "them." That, of course, will lead to more diversity, too. And, I suppose, it's another reason why the establishment press should embrace the media explosion.

THE FOLKS AT CRUSHKERRY.COM offer a memo to Karl Rove.

May 23, 2004

GEORGE W. KERRY: Over at GlennReynolds.com, where I've looked at comparisons between John Kerry and former Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, I look at claims that if he is elected his foreign policy will wind up resembling that of President Bush.

I NEVER GET INVITED to the really good parties. Sigh.

EITHER I'VE BEEN TRANSPORTED TO SOME SORT OF BEARDED-SPOCK PARALLEL UNIVERSE (er, or maybe from one) or things are looking at least a bit better in the mideast. Check out this story: Arab Leaders Promise Democratic Reforms:

TUNIS (Reuters) - Arab governments, responding to a U.S. campaign for Arab democracy, have promised to carry out political and social reforms in an oil-rich region which includes some of the world's most repressive rulers.

In documents read out at the end of a two-day Arab summit in Tunis on Sunday, the 22 Arab League members promised to promote democracy, expand popular participation in politics and public affairs, reinforce women's rights and expand civil society.

It's not all peace and love, but this is progress. And it's amazing how much easier it is to address "root causes" once you've dragged a Maximum Leader out of a spider hole for his colleagues to see. True, this is mostly lipservice so far, but so were the Helsinki Accords at the time.

Then there's this: Arab League to Condemn Attacks Against Israelis:

Arab leaders meeting in Tunisia Saturday for a summit on political reform and the Arab-Israeli conflict are expected to adopt a resolution condemning attacks against both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

If the resolution is passed, it will be the first formal condemnation of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis in the Arab world.

That they're even talking about this is a big deal. And from reading both stories in full, it's clear that there's a lot of diplomatic horsetrading going on. I hope the State Department gets it right.

OMAR IS REPORTING FROM BAGHDAD and offers quite a few pictures of subjects ranging from sidewalk cafes to construction sites. There are a lot of the latter. He reports:

You can't walk in any street now without seeing piles of bricks or small hills of building sand or gypsum.

It's also interesting to know that the prices of construction materials have considerably increased since the liberation; for example, the price of 4,000 bricks (the default load of a 6-wheel truck which are usually hired to carry bricks) was about 60,000 ID in 2002, compared with about 100,000 ID in May 2003, now, the same number of bricks cost about 400,000 ID. The same thing applies to cement as the price of one ton has increased from 50,000 ID in 2002, to about 200,000 ID in 2004. This is mainly a result of the increased demand of the Iraqi market for these materials.

Interesting.

UPDATE: Don't miss this interesting Iraq roundup by Jeff Jarvis. It's a must-read.

UNSCAM UPDATE: From the MEMRI News Ticker: "DIPLOMATIC SOURCES CONFIRM THE EXISTENCE OF 150 RECORDINGS OF SADDAM'S CONFESSIONS WHICH INCLUDE INFORMATION ON BRIBES PAID TO HEADS OF STATE AND POLITICAL LEADERS IN ARAB AND FOREIGN STATES."

Interesting.

AP IS REPORTING VIDEO of the "wedding party."

Michael Moynihan is skeptical and notes reports that some of the video was recorded in Ramadi, far from the site.

UPDATE: This report says that there was no evidence of a wedding, and lots of evidence that terrorists were present.

NOT YOUR FATHER'S COLLEGE CAMPUS:

E.L. Doctorow, one of the most celebrated writers in America, was nearly booed off the stage at Hofstra University Sunday when he gave a commencement address lambasting President George W. Bush and effectively calling him a liar.

Booing that came mainly from the crowd in the stands became so intense that Doctorow stopped speaking at one point, showing no emotion as he stood silently and listened to the jeers. Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz intervened, and called on the audience to allow him to finish. He did, although some booing persisted.

Of course, one thing's the same -- the old fogies are surprised that things have changed, and that the formulas of their youth no longer hold.

I'M NOT BLOGGING MUCH THIS WEEKEND: But Bill Whittle has a new post. That's all you need anyway.

ZEYAD NOTES MORE SENIOR SHIITE CLERICS CRITICIZING SADR.

Read the whole thing. Cicada flags an interesting passage, and observes: "Sounds like the US are doing something remarkable. They're successfully fighting a radical Islamic army in the religion's holiest cities while gaining the respect and support of the resident clerics. If that's not a blow to al-Qaeda I don't know what is."

I could be wrong, but it looks that way to me, too. Note that Sadr's forces appear to have been driven out of Karbala.

Hey, wasn't the press treating Sadr as the leader of a mass popular uprising not long ago?

ANTISEMITISM AT BERKELEY:

Weinberg graduates this month as a student whose days at Cal were marked by what he calls "pinnacles of horror," in the pinched tone of a man betrayed. He remembers pro-Palestinian protesters insisting that Israeli border crossings are as bad as Nazi death camps. He remembers the glass front door of Berkeley's Hillel building -- where he attends Friday night services -- shattered by a cinderblock, with the message FUCK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, "Die, Juden. " . . .

Such anti-Semitism has always seemed the sinister province of fascists and neo-Nazis, Spanish Inquisitors and tattooed skinheads. How topsy-turvy, then, to discover that some of the most virulent anti-Semitism in America today seethes amid the multicultural ferment of American college campuses. And at UC Berkeley, which owes as much of its allure to radical rhetoric as to academic excellence, it thrives.

No surprise, as this is "topsy turvy" only by the standards of our parents' generation, but it's insufficiently condemned.

ROGER SIMON HAS OBSERVATIONS on Iranians and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

TOM MAGUIRE is defending Kerry from charges of training-wheel meanness.

He also has an amusing report on Plame subpoenas: "And apparently news organizations are fighting the subpoenas - this ghastly national security breach must be investigated, but not with their help. The schizophrenic quality of this scandal - the Administration must determine the identity of a leaker already known to the Big Media - has long been part of its charm."

SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS ON SYRIA by Lee Smith:

A colleague in Cairo, Raymond Stock, notes an item from the April 23 issue of the Egyptian daily Al Ahram where Assad confessed that "weapons are being smuggled from Iraq into Syria." This is both very odd and very tantalizing. While it's unlikely that the president meant to confirm suspicions that Saddam Hussein moved his WMD supply to Syria before the war began last spring, it's equally unlikely that someone is sneaking arms past the Bedouins and their boss.

So, what's going onóin Assad's head and more generally in Syria itself?

The most important thing we know about Syria is that we really don't know what's going on in Syria.

Seymour Hersh comes across as credulous.

A MIXED REVIEW FOR "AIR AMERICA" -- Franken gets positive marks, Rhodes gets miserable ones:

Freed from the pretense of impartiality, talk radio hosts (like newspaper columnists) provide the audience new frames for understanding the news. The best columnists and hosts do not just talk about the events of the day, but advance the story.

Like Rush Limbaugh, Franken is unabashedly ideological but brings enough new information to his program so as to be persuasive to some moderates, and worthwhile listening even for ideological opponents.

Unfortunately, Franken is followed by four hours of The Randi Rhodes Show. A good radio host knows much more than the average caller, but Rhodes does not. . . .

For someone with such a smug sense of intellectual superiority, Rhodes is remarkably ignorant. Monday, for example, brought the bizarre claim that United States bombed Dresden after the Germans had surrendered in World War II. Actually, the bombing was three months before the Germans surrendered.

Ouch.

I DON'T SUPPOSE THIS STORY actually explains plummeting European fertility rates: "A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex." It does, however, seem fitting, somehow.

UPDATE: Snopes think this story is probably bogus.