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December 11, 2004

INTERNET KILLS L.A. Times national edition.

ED DRISCOLL: I TOLD YOU SO! Okay, really it's more like "I told CNN so," but still . . . .

UKRAINE UPDATE:


VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Dioxin poisoning caused the mysterious illness of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, a doctor said Saturday, adding that the poison could have been put in his soup.

"There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Yushchenko's disease has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin," said Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of Vienna's private Rudolfinerhaus clinic.

Zimpfer said Yushchenko's blood and tissue registered concentrations of dioxin - one of the most toxic chemicals - that were 1,000 times above normal levels.

"It would be quite easy to administer this amount in a soup," Zimpfer said, adding that tests showed the dioxin was taken orally. "There is suspicion of third party involvement."

Tests run over the past 24 hours provided conclusive evidence of the poisoning, Zimpfer said.

Curiouser and curiouser. Something of an embarrassment for those who prematurely endorsed the "bad sushi" line, I would think.

UPDATE: Lots more Ukraine news, mostly in a similar vein, at Postmodern Clog. And here's an Orange Revolution timeline from the Kyiv Post. (Via TulipGirl).

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

If someone wanted him dead, they picked a very poor poison to do it. Dioxin is not fatal - in spite of all the eco-terrorist mutterings, there has never been a recorded death from dioxin.

I work for Dow Chemical (please don't use my name or I might lose my job, since we can't comment on these types of issues without going through Public Relations), so I know a bit of what I speak. Dioxin is tremendously overhyped. In fact, there are more dioxins created every day from people burning firewood in their fireplaces, charcoal in their barbeque grills, and household trash in their rural backyards than there is generated in a year by the chemical industry. But that isn't what the ecoterrorists of Greenpeace and ELF and company want to hear, and the media assumes that big industry is greedy, corrupt, evil, and guilty even when proven otherwise.

No, if someone had wanted Yushchenko dead, they would have used something with more efficacy. Probably lead, and high velocity. Dioxin is meant to inconvenience and terrorize, not kill. The only known, proven long-term effects are chloracne, which means he'll have the facial and body acne off and on for the rest of his life. He won't glow in the dark, and his kids won't be born with 2 heads. Just cosmetically disfiguring, physically uncomfortable and somewhat painful, and a constant reminder of his vulnerability. Probably what was intended all along.

Maybe. Though it's left Putin looking worse -- heavyhanded, but inept. And I think he'll be reminded of that for a long time, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A physician-reader emails:

I agree with the person from Dow Chemical up to a point: that description applies to people who got relatively light doses (a chemical plant explosion) or those who got low-dose, long-term exposure, ie decades.

To my knowledge, there haven't been cases of a deliberate and [presumably] massive overdose until this one. I don't see any basis to assume this was intended as a toxic warning. Many of Yushenko's symptoms I haven't seen in my books.

I don't know, but people do seem to think that this was deliberate, and it's hard to see how it could be accidental.

MORE THOUGHTS ON INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY in higher education, from Elizabeth Anderson at Left2Right.

IRAQI BLOGGERS MEET PRESIDENT BUSH: If things were going better around here, I'd have traveled to D.C. to meet them, but unfortunately I had to decline the invitation. But read this account from Jeff Jarvis.

UPDATE: Read this report, too.

RATHERGATE UPDATE: RatherBiased.com reports:

There is a battle royale within CBS over whether or not to release the full text of the upcoming Memogate report, RatherBiased.com can reveal. Many higher-ups within the network do not want it released to the public in its entirety.

Jim Geraghty notes both that some people are now saying that the report won't be out until January, and that Andrew Heyward promised back in September that it would be out in "weeks, not months." This is leading me to speculate that the news is very, very bad for CBS. Perhaps they will release it at halftime during the Super Bowl.

WEBLOGS PASS THE 5 MILLION MARK on Technorati. That's rather a lot, really.

CAMERA STUFF: Ed Cone emails: "thnx for the digital camera post, somehow a blog entry is more accessible than a mag article -- my wife is a serious amateur photog, shopping for a digital cam for xmas, she got a lot from your piece." I'm glad. It's not as if I'm a photography columnist, but maybe that makes my stuff more accessible.

Peter Ingemi emails: "Have you considered a side link specifically for the camera advice stuff or am I just trying to make more work for you?" The latter -- though entering "camera" in the search window will collect them all, I think.

Meanwhile, Peter August wants what he calls post-photo advice: "Any advice on what software to use to help manage the picture, I hear Adobe has a good product, or any advice on any of the photo quality printers available."

My main color printer is an Epson Stylus Photo 900, which does an excellent job, though it occasionally has trouble rendering almost-black regions faithfully. I bought it because it prints directly on CDs and DVDs.

I'd like to own this Canon i9900, which is getting rave reviews and which prints up to 13" x 19" prints. But I've used the Exposure Manager site to make prints up to 20X30, at very reasonable rates, and with excellent quality.

James Lileks has this cheaper Canon and seems to like it except for some stylistic elements. ("The printer has the regrettable retro-70s styling – looks like a computer for a Cylon child – but since it’s on a shelf under the desk, I don’t care.")

For software, well -- most of what you see posted here is done via PhotoShop Elements -- though I'm still using 2.0 and haven't upgraded to 3.0. For quick-and-dirty stuff I often use MicroGrafx Picture Publisher 7, an ancient program that is still available for, basically, free. I can open a picture, edit it, and save it, in the time it takes PhotoShop to open. (JASC Paint Shop Pro, which came bundled with my Dell laptop, seems to be an updated version, but honestly I prefer the older one.)

A kind reader sent me a copy of PhotoShop CS a while back, and it's certainly far more capable when major image surgery is called for. For most people -- and especially where your main interest is in putting images on the Web -- it's massive overkill, though.

There's also GIMP, a freeware package that will run on OS X, Windows XP, and Unix. I haven't used it, but it's supposed to be good. And it's free.

Meanwhile, I'm not the only one camera-blogging. Megan McArdle has a post on the subject, too (featuring a rare self-portrait), and Jim Miller has further thoughts. Apparently, this is a popular topic all around. Bear in mind that there's lots of good stuff -- written by people who know more than me -- over at the Steve's Digicams and DPreview sites listed on the right.

OKAY, THIS SEEMS LIKE serious overkill to me. Eight seasons?

HOWARD LOVY has more thoughts on nanotechnology and commerce.

GIVING UP ON THE DUTCH DREAM? "There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded."

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson:

Only now are Europeans discovering the disturbing nature of radical Islamic extremism, which thrives not on real grievance but on perceived hurts — and the appeasement of its purported oppressors. How odd that tens of millions of Muslims flocked to Europe for its material consumption, superior standard of living, and freedom and tolerance — and then chose not merely to remain in enclaves but to romanticize all the old pathologies that they had fled from in the first place. It is almost as if the killers in Amsterdam said, "I want your cell phones, unfettered Internet access, and free-spirited girls, but hate the very system that alone can create them all. So please let me stay here to destroy what I want."

Read the whole thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Dunn doesn't think we'll like the new version of Europe, once the culture of passivity departs, either. He's probably right. Indeed, what worries me most about Europe's passivity now is that it's likely to lead to overreaction, eventually. I'm hoping, however, that the "new Europe" will serve as a moderating force against the trends that Dunn warns against.

December 10, 2004

BERNARD KERIK has withdrawn his name from consideration for Homeland Security Secretary.

UPDATE: Lorie Byrd reports that it's a "nanny problem" and observes: "The last time that happened the country ended up with Janet Reno. Yikes!"

Yikes, indeed.

PROF. BAINBRIDGE WRITES ABOUT ACADEMIC DIVERSITY AT HARVARD and observes:

Nobody I know seriously claims that Jack Goldsmith is not qualified to serve on the Harvard Law Faculty. . . .

So why are the liberals, including three of the five international law specialists at Harvard, opposing him? Not because he is incompetent, but because they don't like what he thinks. It is the worst sort of McCarthyism; but, of course, that's precisely what the academic left is best at.

He accuses Jonathan Chait, and Nick Confessore, of engaging in that sort of McCarthyism themselves -- or else of being too dense to recognize it.

UPDATE: More here. And it's not just Harvard where this sort of thing is an issue:

"Intellectual diversity must be respected at Foothill College," said Ahmad Al-Qloushi. "This grievance will not detour us from our goal of having Foothill's Board of Trustees pass the 'Academic Bill of Rights' as official school policy."

In fact, I'd say that Harvard is doing better than many other institutions.

UPDATE: More, including a commenter who defends Foothills, here.

NEW ENERGY NOMINEE SPEAKS:

Mr. Bodman said he's eager to "implement some of Vice President Cheney's ideas for achieving energy independence -- including a windmill that runs on oil, nuclear energy created by splitting petroleum atoms, and hydrogen fuel made from a mixture of oil and rendered Alaskan caribou."

Heh.

A JUDGE CRITICIZED BY BILL O'REILLY RESPONDS:

"Somebody who sexually harasses women and then pays millions of dollars in a settlement to get out of it has no place criticizing me," said Rapkin.

In the words (er, word) of Say Anything: "Ouch."

DAVE KOPEL: "Tonight is the fourth night of Armed Jews Week, or as it is more popularly known, Hanukkah."

MY EARLIER POST referencing Charles Stross's Iron Sunrise -- in which a warblogger, for the Times of London no less, is a major character -- produced this email from Tim Kyger:

Stross is, IMHO, the best thing to hit SF since...well, possibly the cyberpunk movement of some 20 years ago.

You've certainly read Singularity Sky by now?

His story collection, Toast, also has some great stuff in it; I'm now reading his The Atrocity Archives, and it, too, is great fun.

His coming book Acclerando is going to be an award winner. IMHO, of course.

I liked Singularity Sky, in which Stross demonstrates a Ken MacLeod-like ear for absurd political cant, very much. So far I'm liking Iron Sunrise, too. I haven't read the short stories yet.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Bridge points out that Stross has a blog.

JONAH GOLDBERG notes Peter Beinart's lonely voice, and has questions for Kevin Drum. More here and here.

I like the antlers.

ONE OF MY FORMER STUDENTS sends this Christmas picture from her outfit in Baghdad.

ANOTHER "WAR CRIMES" STORY COLLAPSES:

When Army Sergeant Dennis Edwards spoke at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School last month, 100 students listened in rapt silence as he told chilling tales of battlefield horror in Iraq and criticized President Bush's motives for going to war. . . .

Now, Edwards has admitted to his superiors in the elite 82d Airborne Division that the story about the shooting was a lie, Army officials yesterday. As a result, the veteran of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could be charged with making false statements, face a court-martial, and be stripped of his rank.

His confession has also saddened Dennis-Yarmouth teachers and students, who said they felt honored and captivated by his appearance.

''We need to use this as a teachable moment," Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi said yesterday. ''We need to make sure our students . . . clearly understand that sometimes individuals might elaborate stories or examples for their own benefit."

Yes, they might. Some such stories are true, of course. But some aren't. And I suspect that we're in for more bogus "Winter Soldier" type charges in the post-election milieu.

UPDATE: Bad link before. Fixed now. Sorry.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Treacher observes: "If you create an environment in which stories like that are the only ones given any attention, people who seek attention will concoct such stories."

Yes.

COVERT ETHICAL CLEANSING AT CBS: Henry Copeland looks at a sleazy attack on bloggers -- including Atrios/Duncan Black -- by CBS. It doesn't appear that the "Tiffany network" has done anything to elevate its standards in the wake of RatherGate. Read this, too.

ARNOLD KLING writes on "Why the Left Should Favor Social Security Privatization (and the Right Should Oppose It)."

HOW TO DESTROY YOUR POLITICAL PARTY in one easy lesson.

GOOD NEWS in Egypt?

HARVARD is addressing its academic diversity problem, and it deserves congratulations for that. But diversifying an institution is never easy. As is to be expected, some senior faculty are resisting the new blood. More here: "Goldsmith has been dogged by opponents at the law school, who have continued to argue among themselves over his conservative interpretation of international law and criticized their Harvard colleagues for failing to demand a full investigation of his government work."

If a lefty were being treated this way, we'd be hearing about McCarthyism and crushing of dissent in John Ashkkkroft's Alberto Gonzales' America. Notwithstanding that Goldsmith has been critical of my position on cyberporn and the Commerce Clause, I think that he's a first-class scholar and a good hire for Harvard. (Related item on Harvard hiring here.)

CAMERA ADVICE: I've gotten a lot of emails like this one, from Hiawatha Bray:

I wondered if you could give me advice on digital cameras. I have to select one for my church, and wanted to spend around $500. You've used a bunch of them. What would you suggest?

I've been very happy with this Sony DSC-P93, which costs a lot less than $500. The fancier DSC-P100 has a better lens -- a Carl Zeiss rather than the gussied-up video camera lens that mine has -- which matters if you care a lot about quality, but which won't make a difference in ordinary use. The downside, and the reason I picked the other one, is that the DSC-P100 uses a proprietary battery, which the 93 uses AA batteries.

This is something I feel strongly about, as I think that any camera you depend on should be able to use off-the-shelf batteries in a pinch. (My Nikon D70 uses proprietary rechargeables, but it comes with an adapter that lets you use storebought batteries, so apparently Nikon agrees.) And for a church camera, where there may be crossed wires in terms of who's responsible for keeping the batteries charged, that seems like an important consideration, too.

It's probably overkill for a church camera -- but maybe not -- but the biggest bang-for-the-buck digital camera out there is the DSC-F717 which is available for under $500 and which is capable of professional-caliber results. (See this gallery of cockpit photos by a Marine aviator in Afghanistan for examples.)

I've also been really happy with my Toshiba, which you can find for sale dirt-cheap now that Toshiba has gone out of the digicam business. It shoots video, and will even take an external mike, which makes it kind of cool for blog journalism. It's not nearly as pocketable as the Sony, though. But it's cheap! And although it's only a 3.2 megapixel camera, its excellent Canon lens produces good images. (Sample picture here).

And speaking of cheap, I'm giving this Kodak digital camera to the Insta-Daughter for Christmas. (She never reads InstaPundit, so I can post this safely.) It's reportedly very kid-friendly, and largely indestructible. And it's cheap enough that it it turns out to be not quite indestructible, it's an annoyance not a disaster.

The truth is that it's hard to go wrong in the digital camera marketplace right now. There are a lot of good cameras out there, and they're cheap. Some other photo posts here, here, here, and here.

And if you wind up buying Nikon or Canon digital SLRs, be sure to note that there are rebates available on both. Don't miss 'em.

UPDATE: Here's a New York Times review of ten digital cameras under $300, by David Pogue.

ADVICE TO BRITISH CRIME VICTIMS: Adopt a stance of "active passivity." The Belmont Club is not impressed with this advice, notwithstanding its eminent source.

THE COALITION of the crooked and unfree? Sadly, that pretty well describes it.

BRITISH POLICE say they have averted a "Madrid-style attack" in London.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

No one is ever asked to resign for wrongdoing at the United Nations. Indeed, since Minnesota Sen. Norman Coleman suggested that the secretary general should fall on his sword for presiding over the Oil-for-Food scandal, there has been a positive rush of diplomats and governments from all over the world to his defense. . . .

Americans tend to be baffled by these reactions. They look at the multiplying scandals around the United Nations and wonder how the man in charge can avoid being held responsible for any of it by other countries.

But the explanation is simple: Kofi Annan is the symbol of the United Nations' lack of accountability. He is never held responsible for what goes wrong, because the United Nations is never held responsible, either. It sails in a cloud of noble idealism over the actual failures, hypocrisy, corruption and outright criminality that attend some U.N. actions on the ground below.

And there is a polite consensus outside the United States not to notice the glaring contradictions between idealism and reality. Too many influential people and institutions have invested too much in the United Nations and the U.N. system to see its flaws clearly.

Indeed. The U.N. needs to be either fixed, or crippled so thoroughly that it can no longer harm U.S. interests in the slightest. Whether it is aware of it or not, the "international community" seems to be opting for number two.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER WONDERS why events in Afghanistan haven't gotten more attention:

Afghanistan is the first graduate of the Bush Doctrine of spreading democracy in rather hostile places. A success so remarkable and an end so improbable merits at least a moment of celebration.

Indeed. Then there's this:

KABUL: The US-led military in Afghanistan said on Wednesday that it had been contacted by Taliban members willing to lay down their weapons following an arms-for-amnesty offer by the US envoy to the country.

Seems like good news to me.

December 09, 2004

SORRY FOR THE LIMITED BLOGGING: I've been taking it easy, and reading Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross. Excerpt:

"Are you Frank the Nose?" asked a female voice.

Frank pulled his shades right off, rather than dialing them back to transparency. "What the f--- eh, what are you talking about?" he spluttered, reaching for his left shoulder with his left hand. It was the young woman he'd seen in the corridor. He couldn't help noticing the pallor of her skin and the fact that every item of her costume was black. She was cute, in a tubercular kind of way. Elfin, that's the word, he noted.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, it's, like, I was told you were a warblogger?"

"Who wants to know?" he finally asked, surprising himself with his mildness.

I was quite amused when I hit that passage.

FROM SOCIAL SECURITY TO FRENCH PRISONS: Tom Maguire is on a roll.

CATHY SEIPP PREFERS the real Gilligan's Island to its latterday avatar, The Real Gilligan's Island:

Consider this: Some years ago, actress Dawn Wells visited one of the remotest islands in the already remote Solomon Islands; she was, in fact, the first non-native woman to set foot there. The chief's wife stared at Wells in surprise when she came out of her hut. "Mary Ann?" she asked in amazement.

But of course.

DAVE KOPEL LOOKS AT RED-BAITING AND THE BABY GAP, over at GlennReynolds.com.

AM I ONE OF THE TOP LEGAL THINKERS IN AMERICA? Legal Affairs has a poll, and I'm a nominee. This time it really is an honor just to be nominated.

MAX BOOT:

Imagine if U.S. troops were accused of sexually exploiting children in impoverished nations. Imagine if a U.S. Cabinet secretary were accused of groping a female subordinate, whose complaint was then swatted aside by the president. Imagine if the head of a U.S. government agency and the president's own offspring stood accused of complicity in the biggest embezzlement racket in history.

Those would be pretty big stories, no? Above-the-fold, top-of-the-newscast stories. Yet the United Nations has been mired in all these scandals and until just recently hardly anybody outside the right-wing blogosphere has noticed. . . .

The U.N.'s friends are doing their favorite international institution no favors with this knee-jerk defense. Until it cleans up its act, the U.N. can never be as influential as its boosters would like. Even Annan recognizes this.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Er, it'll be easier to read the whole thing now that I've fixed the link, which was wrong before. Sorry.

ZELL MILLER IS JOINING A LAW FIRM, because apparently his alma mater, where he had been scheduled to teach post-retirement, decided it didn't want him.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh points out that the story mentions only one hostile faculty member, and correctly observes that it's hardly fair to attribute one faculty member's statements to the college as a whole. I got the impression from the story that there was more to it than that, but the story doesn't actually say so.

EXCELLENT NEWS: The commercial space launch bill has passed, and is awaiting the President's signature. Rand Simberg has a roundup, and don't miss this piece by Alan Boyle, who has covered this story better than anyone else in Big Media.

WOW, I've won a 2004 Weblog Award! But the real honor was in being nominated . . . Er, maybe.

IPOD UPDATE: Boy, if you want a lot of email, forget writing about the war -- ask people about iPods! My earlier post asking for advice produced more email than, I think, any other post I've made. And there were a lot of arguments for everything from the 4GB iPod mini to the 60 GB iPod Photo.

On reflection, though I think I'm most persuaded by the advice of Todd Steed:

I'm O/C about such gadgets so I went ahead and got the 40G I-pod. Six months later it's not full. I'm up to about 23. Based on that- and the fact I've downloaded stuff on it all time- I'd say get the 20.

I sometimes store things on it, files, etc.- and use it as an alarm clock on the road. I love it.

I think sometimes I enjoy downloading things on it more than actually listening to some of the things I've put on. For example, I have about six books on there. When will I listen?

By the time I get to 40G, yet ANOTHER model will be out- so don't get the 40g. Don't get the mini, it slips out of your hands.

I've got big hands, so that's a point. Anyhow, I think I'm going to order the 20GB iPod after all, in light of this advice and its appealing price point -- only $50 more than the mini. And I'll probably buy some better headphones, though these, which somebody recommended, are probably overkill. Next question: Is there a reason to prefer the Apple version over the HP version? Er, besides the fact that if I want one before Christmas I'll probably have to buy the HP?

AN OPEN LETTER TO A DESERTER: From LT Smash.

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF RAPE ACCUSATIONS ARE FALSE? Over at the CrimProf blog, Prof. Jack Chin notes that although many numbers are floating around, there's not much research to support any of them.

MICKEY KAUS says it's time to have a "real debate" on immigration.

My own sense is that immigration is a good thing, so long as immigrants want to buy into the American Dream. Assimilation is good.

I'd also like to keep out the terrorists, while not treating decent people like trash.

More nuanced discussion to follow.

UPDATE: Reader Evelyn Palmieri emails:

"My own sense is that immigration is a good thing, so long as immigrants want to buy into the American Dream. Assimilation is good."

Glenn, Couldn't agree more. If Bush makes that statement the centerpiece of the debate on immigration, he'll get lots of support. Legal vs. illegal isn't as important as why immigrants want to come here.

If people want to become just plain ordinary Americans, come on over. If they want to be hyphenated Americans and make little enclaves of where they came from, stay home.

Diversity is in the melting pot. Lots of good ingredients blending together make a mighty fine stew. I still get a kick out of the juxtaposition of different ethnicities like a local Mexican/Italian restaurant. In time the differences melt away and a pizza with taco toppings is just another type of pizza. It's wonderful.

Let's see what stance the White House takes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A lengthy email from an immigration insider. Click "read more" to read it.

Read More ?


PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH writes in TechCentralStation:

We've previously seen the Bush Administration's lack of devotion to the principles of federalism in the debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment -- which proposed to constitutionalize the precept that in all fifty states, marriage should be limited to being between one man and one woman. Now the Administration's stance in Ashcroft v. Raich resurrects concerns among small-government conservatives and libertarians that the principles of federalism are going by the boards. . . .

It is paradoxical that a conservative Republican Administration should repeatedly be seeking to inflict hammer blows against a cherished conservative and libertarian doctrine -- the doctrine of federalism which is part and parcel of our Constitutional order. But on issues like same-sex marriage and the Raich case, the Bush Administration has sought to undermine the system of federalism and to instead establish a federal police power that is entirely anathema to our system of government. This effort must be resisted by conservatives and libertarians as surely as if the effort were being made by a liberal Democratic Administration. Federalism deserves no less.

Indeed. By the way, for some more scholarly writings of mine on the importance of federalism, you might want to read this article on its importance in limiting the power of special interests, and this article (and this followup piece) on the way lower courts have treated the Lopez and Morrison decisions. And for a real blast from the past, here's a paper that I wrote for the Cato Institute back before the Lopez decision came down.

ARMOR: Various snarky antiwar readers seem to think that this story, in which Rumsfeld was challenged (by a member of my local National Guard outfit, actually) regarding armor, is somehow a devastating indictment of the Bush Administration and the war in toto. Actually, I'd say it's rather a lot less than that.

Armor's nice, of course, when people are shooting at you, and soldiers tend to want more of it. They've traditionally added sandbags, etc., to vehicles regardless of weight penalties that result. But as Jeff Taylor -- no fan of Rumsfeld -- notes over at Reason, it's not as simple as more armor = better:

Truth is most U.S. military vehicles have required some kind of armor upgrade to withstand the volleys of RPGs and large-munition roadside bombs the Iraq conflict has produced. The Stryker units have what looks like steel grating around them to throw up an anti-RPG "fence," photos of Bradleys show what looks like reactive armor kits in place, and even the mighty Abrams appear to have been modified with extra plating.

So it is just not a case of the bloodless Pentagon stiffing the Guard and Reserves with thin-skinned Humvees, as some of the comments today seem to suggest. Rummy was right, if typically tone-deaf, by telling Wilson he could get blown up in a tank too.

Further, more armor is not a magical solution, never has been. It is represents a trade-off between protection and mobility, just as in the age of knights when if the peasants managed to violently unhorse an up-armored foe, they could go off and have lunch and leave the knight flailing face down in the mud. If he didn't drown, you could always stab him in the eye-slits later.

The preference for less armor can be seen today with at least some Marines in Fallujah. They point out that up-armoring their Humvees reduces the ability to see threats coming. Oh, but they bitch that the regular Army gets all the good stuff anyway, so at least that's square.

Finally, was it a disgrace or outrage that American tankers in Normandy had to cut up German steel obstacles to make hedge-cutting teeth for their tanks? No, it was an inspired response to the insanity of war. Rummy being nuts has very little to do with this sad and eternal fact.

I think it's nice that Rumsfeld heard criticisms from the troops -- though not, in this case, troops that had actually gotten to Iraq yet -- but to try to turn this into some sort of claim of generalized incompetence on the part of the Administration is to show, yet again, the ignorance of so many of the critics.

UPDATE: Reader Tim Morris emails: "I think it's interesting that everyone seems to be missing the real point - the Secretary of Defense, essentially second only to the President in the civilian portion of the chain of command, was called to account by an enlisted solider, and a low ranking one at that, and he stood there and took it because that's his job."

It's certainly an interesting contrast to the way that, say, Dan Rather receives criticism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This post, from another soldier who was present when the questions were asked, is a must-read:

I was very surprised when we were told there would be the opportunity to ask questions without first having them screened. I would have assumed there would have been some process where those who had questions submitted them prior to asking the Secretary, and had them approved. Instead, everyone in the room was given the option to stand, motion for one of the soldiers holding a microphone, and ask anything they desired. There was no particular order of what kind of questions were asked and the soldiers who asked questions ranged in rank from Specialists to Lieutenant Colonels. When I say I was surprised that this part of the event was not micromanaged, I want to ensure you that I was pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, it shows the attitude that this Secretary has towards the soldiers he is sworn to represent. It shows those in uniform that he does not see us or our concerns as "below his level," but instead sends a signal that we are his concern, and ensuring we can accomplish the mission is his highest priority.

One more thing I would like to add is this, not one soldier present asked questions about why we were here, or expressed the sort of anti-war sentiment that Michael Moore led some to believe was prevalent in the military. Rather, the concern was about ensuring we would be supplied with all necessary equipment to accomplish the mission and return home safely. Let there be no doubt, this was not a hostile crowd eager to catch the Secretary of Defense off guard by grilling him with questions he has never had to answer.

More here, too. And here's the bottom line, from Short Final:

Here's what will come of this: Democrats will make political hay, and Rumsfield will get burned for having had the nads to stand up in front of the troops and field difficult questions. Who suffers the most from the Secretary of Defense not being able to have candid discussions with our troops for fear of being vilified by the press? Well, the only people that suffer from that are the troops that our press and Democrats pretend to support.

Indeed. And reader Walter Wallis emails:

I am amused that the MSM media has failed to note that the criticism of the failure to get armor kits to the troops comes primarily from members of the party whose leaders voted against appropriations to fund the war. They can't have it both ways - or can they?

They're doing their best, with a little help from the press. And they voted for the appropriations before they voted against them. Or was it the other way around? -- I can't remember.

MORE: Lance Frizzell -- who I know because he used to play guitar for Audra and the Antidote, but who I didn't know was on active duty now -- sends this email from the scene:

I'm over here (Iraq) w/ the 278th but I was at Beuhring when the Rumsfeld appearance occurred. I have 2 thoughts:

1) What's left out here is what happens if we hang out in Kuwait waiting for the official armor kits to arrive: the current rotation gets extended yet again. Most folks I know want these guys to get home ASAP. They've done their time and they should get to go home.

If I'm delayed next xmas b/c somebody was too good to find an alternate solution to a problem I'll be highly pissed. After all, this is the US Army.

2) Your soldier-reader is right about unstaged, direct access to the SecDef. It would have been very easy to select soldiers who would have made sure no embarrassing questions were asked. I for one would have been happy to ask something along the lines of "given John Kerry's appalling lack of respect for all things military, just how much of a disaster would he have been as President?"

Of course, it turns out that although the access was direct, it wasn't quite unstaged. Drudge has reprinted an email from a reporter who says he planted the questions with the soldiers.

Should we have more armor? Beats me. Are people who are using this issue as a way of unfairly portraying Rumsfeld as a heartless murderer of American troops way off-base? Yes. Absolutely.

Meanwhile, DefenseTech notes that "Even so-called up-armored Humvees will shred if hit by a well-placed RPG shot," and points out that the Pentagon is working on something better.

December 08, 2004

BLOGGERS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Some interesting comments by Floyd Abrams.

THE BUSINESS OF BLOGGING: Interesting piece from Business Week.

I THINK THAT THIS REFUSE TO SURRENDER PLEDGE is a good idea. Regardless of which party is in power.

UPDATE: Jeez, a lot of people don't like the ACLU. I don't see them as evil, the way a lot of people seem to. I think that they do some good work, though their constructive role has diminished as they've become more and more a subsidiary of the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party. My point, however, was the desirability -- no matter who is in power -- of defending the Constitution, with a slight tweak at the ACLU for treating the Bush Administration's threats more harshly than the Clinton Administration's. The ACLU was actually very critical of Clinton on specific issues, but never took the "barbarians at the gate" approach notwithstanding that Clinton's record on civil liberties was, if anything, worse than Bush's.

CBS NEWS RECRUITING ANTI-WAR BLOGGERS to push its story?

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has first, second, third, and fourth thoughts on this. My favorite: "It's pretty cool that some mainstream media publicists think enough of blogs that they want to promote their tens-of-millions-of-viewers broadcasts there."

BACK WHEN IT HAPPENED, I criticized Bush's flight-suited appearance on the Abraham Lincoln. But I think that Rogers Cadenhead makes too much of Bush's "Commander-in-Chief" jacket. Bill Clinton had one of those too, which you can see him wearing in this CNN gallery of images from a Clinton aircraft-carrier visit -- it's not, as Cadenhead suggests, a Bush innovation. I believe that dislike for Bush has led Cadenhead (and Dana Milbank, whom he quotes) to forget that.

Bush's jacket is, however, kind of lame. I like Clinton's leather jacket better. A Buzz Rickson's in black nylon would be cooler still, of course. At least to us geeks.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Just thought I'd note that the left's idea of a perfect President - Josiah Bartlett of The West Wing - also had a Commander in Chief jacket. He used to wear it all the time in the episodes where he traveled on Air Force One or on the weekends around the White House.

I've never watched more than a few minutes of The West Wing, but this seems to be right. Meanwhile -- pace Milbank -- here's Ronald Reagan in a C-in-C jacket, and here's Bush 41. And a reader sent a link to a picture of Jimmy Carter similarly garbed, but it wouldn't open.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, it's Bobby Kennedy in one of these! And he was just the brother-in-chief. And reader Edward Christie found this picture of Carter in the National Archives, though their setup doesn't allow direct linking.

ONE MORE: Jeez, don't start with me on the carrier landing again. I think that subsequent events bore out my judgment that it was a mistake, and did more harm than good. I seem to recall Tommy Franks suggesting that it was aimed not so much at domestic political audiences -- as everyone thought at the time -- as at convincing the Europeans that the war was over so they'd come in and help. Judged on that basis, I guess it wasn't any more of a success. It was a Rovian misstep, though obviously not a fatal one.

And Dean Esmay has still more photos of various presidents in military garb.

FOR A BOOK THAT WON'T BE OUT UNTIL NEXT YEAR, Mark Steyn's America Alone is certainly doing well. At the moment, it's #763 on Amazon.

JOHN TABIN REPORTS THAT DEMOCRACY seems to be busting out all over:

Let's check the score:

Yesterday in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai was sworn in as that country's first democratically elected president.

In Ukraine, the Kremlin-backed ruling party's attempt to steal the election for Viktor Yanukovych appears completely stymied by the peaceful Orange Revolution. At minimum, it seems likely that there will be a re-vote on December 26.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 1.3 million Palestinians are registered to vote in the January 9 election of one of ten presidential candidates seeking to replace the marvelously dead Yasser Arafat. In Iraq, nearly 14 million Iraqis are registered to vote for one of 156 parties running in the January 30th election. As Bill Kristol has pointed out, commentators in the Arab world are starting to wonder aloud why the Arabs with the most significant voting rights are those under American or Israeli occupation.

Would it be pollyannaish, at this point, to be tremendously optimistic about the march of democracy and freedom?

Perhaps just a bit. But it's certainly good news.

AUDACIOUS JUDITH: It's a Hanukkah post over at GlennReynolds.com -- but I haven't converted. It's by Dave Kopel, who's guestblogging there this week.

BRANCH OUT IN YOUR BLOG-READING: This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up, with a wide variety of posts from a wide variety of bloggers.

WALTER SHAPIRO IS LEAVING USA TODAY: I think this is a dreadful move for USA Today, and predict that they'll come to regret it. Shapiro is an interesting and fair columnist at a paper whose stable of columnists isn't so great that they can afford to lose him. I'm sure he'll be picked up elsewhere, but I'll miss him, and I guess I'll have to take down his permalink, which was one of the first columnist permalinks I put up on InstaPundit.

EUGENE VOLOKH IS ON SLATE'S CASE, and deservedly so, I'd say. Slate's "Bushism" feature is lame and borders on dishonest (and its shorter-lived Kerryism feature was, if anything, worse). And for a web-only publication to consistently refuse to link to the original source is also disgraceful. As I've noted before, this is making Slate look much worse than the targets of its barbs, and I don't understand why they persist in running this feature.

JONAH GOLDBERG ON JOURNALISTIC PRIVILEGE:

But in all of this debate, what people seem to be overlooking is that journalists aren't always analogous to witnesses to crimes. Sometimes they're accomplices. Imagine that a vindictive government official wants to embarrass an opponent by leaking his tax returns. He steals them from confidential files and meets a reporter from the Times in a back alley. The reporter publishes them. It seems to me the reporter isn't a witness, he's an accessory.

Indeed. My own sense is that journalists should have to testify whenever anyone else, under the same facts, would have to testify.

IN THE MAIL: The new Cox & Forkum book, Black & White World II. Like all their stuff, it's good. To get an idea, just check out their site.

MY BROTHER'S BAND, COPPER, will be playing at The Annex in Madison, Wisconsin tonight. If you're in the area, drop by!

A REPORT FROM THE FRONT LINES of the comfy-chair revolution: My TechCentralStation column is up.

UPDATE: Reader Chris Driggers emails:

As a resident of Athens and a certified tech geek by trade, I can attest to the accuracy of your observations. The Cloud is a recent phenomenon, but even before it was put in place, you couldn’t go anywhere downtown without having to elbow your way through throngs of people with their laptops. I began to notice that establishments were actually paying money for electricians and carpenters to rearrange their floor plans to accommodate more ‘walking offices’, such as installing more power outlets. And even before the Cloud was up, most places that catered to loiterers already had some type of free wi-fi.

What strikes me as more significant is the fact that places that are not located downtown are installing wi-fi and actively catering to folks like me. I think by limiting your comparison to the chain bookstores, you may be missing the real growth that is taking place in this area. Wi-fi is so cheap for a business to install that it really damages a business not to have it, and especially local businesses that may be competing with chains are quick to take advantage of this edge. We have a Starbuck’s and they are using a type of wi-fi that is not free, and you see fewer people with laptops sitting in there.

Speaking as a very busy computer tech, anything that keeps me from having to go back to the office to check my email is a good thing. I can go for days without having to go back to the office. I let my pda synchronize whenever I have something new and I stay on top of my appointments. Hopefully this trend will lead towards a more flexible and comfortable work environment.

Indeed. And the free model seems to be the way to go. I'm in a Barnes & Noble right now, where they've (finally) installed wi-fi -- but it's pay wi-fi so I'm using the Verizon cellmodem instead. And worse, it's pay wi-fi on a different provider than the Borders uses, adding to the hassle factor. It does seem that the local businesses have caught on faster to the free-factor: Most of the free wi-fi places in Knoxville are independent, rather than chains.

Meanwhile, reader John MacDonald emails this link to an article on the trend I describe, which calls it "hotelling."

I DIDN'T SET UP A TEAM for this competition, but don't let that stop you from giving generously to the Spirit of America's blogger challenge.

UPDATE: It's endorsed by The Motley Fool, too!

INSTAPUNDIT'S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO-CORRESPONDENT, Major John Tammes, sends these photos: "Charikar (population 130,000ish) is the capital of Parwan Province. I happen to like the place and the people there have always been good to us. Here are some scenes of daily life." He also reports: "On the way to Kabul, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld came through our humble base yesterday. The VP had a bunch of highly…er, protective…Secret Service folks, but he was nice enough to those that did manage to get to meet him. Rumsfeld seems totally at ease with the troops – and they like him. Really it is a mixture of respect and liking. He really conveys that liking and respect back to everyone. There might be things on which to take issue with both men, but you cannot get away from the fact that they respect us and value what we are doing here."

Somewhat at odds with this portrayal by The Guardian's Steve Bell. But then Major Tammes was there, and Bell wasn't. (Via Clive Davis)

And I like this line from Cheney, which is also at odds with Bell's portrayal:

Earlier, Mr Cheney rallied American troops in a speech at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul. "Freedom still has enemies here in Afghanistan, and you are here to make those enemies miserable," he said.

Actually, judging by Bell's cartoon, it's working . . . .

UPDATE: People wonder what kind of camera Maj. Tammes is using. It's an Olympus C-750. He sends me the full-sized images, and I resize 'em, usually (but not always) adding a bit of color correction and unsharp-mask. And for those of you doing digital photography, I want to stress that unsharp mask is your friend. Nearly all digital images benefit from a judicious application. Depending on your photo editing program, it's probably under either "filters" or "effects," and it can really add sharpness and impact to photos that are a bit soft, especially after resizing. Just don't overdo it.

December 07, 2004

UKRAINE UPDATE:

MEDICAL experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s opposition leader, was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning, the doctor who supervised his treatment at an Austrian clinic said yesterday.
Doctors at Vienna’s exclusive Rudolfinerhaus clinic are within days of identifying the substance that left Mr Yushchenko’s face disfigured with cysts and lesions, Nikolai Korpan told The Times in a telephone interview.

Who could be behind such a dastardly act? Perhaps we should consult an expert on free and fair elections.

DID ACORN re-elect Bush?

THE RED ENSIGN STANDARD: A roundup of postings by Canadian bloggers.

You can hear Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle taking on Canadian law professor Michael Mandel (who wanted President Bush arrested as a war criminal) on David Gold's radio show, too. Kathy is painfully polite; Mandel is painfully obtuse. (Damian Penny's comment: "Howie Mandel would put up a more intellectually challenging argument than this guy.")

A LITTLE LATE FOR CHRISTMAS, but here's the page for Mark Steyn's new book.

JOANNE MARINER OF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH writes on "How the Abusive Protect the Repressive at the U.N." It's not just UNScam:

Sudan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Russia: one thing these countries have in common is that their governments violate human rights flagrantly and systematically. But another thing they share, astonishingly enough, is membership on the U.N. body meant to monitor and prevent human rights violations.

Pakistan, China, Egypt, Congo--the list goes on. When it comes to rights-abusing countries, the 53-member U.N. Commission on Human Rights has plenty of depth. . . .

Groups such as Human Rights Watch have been complaining about the U.N. commission's membership problem for years. The focus of the abusive governments on the commission, Human Rights Watch warns, is on "minimizing the exposure of their own human rights record rather than on stigmatizing the worst human rights violations in the world and devising methods to bring about effective responses to these abuses."

The recently-released report on the future of the United Nations deserves credit for acknowledging this issue, except that the problem is clearly too glaring to ignore. Eight months ago, at its last annual session, the commission's trend toward rejecting censure of its most abusive members was unmistakable.

The U.N.'s claim to moral legitimacy seems rather shaky.

IS NOAM SCHEIBER CALLING HARRY REID A RACIST? Or just a dope?

THE DLC HAS "CLARIFIED" the piece on Kofi Annan that I linked to earlier, robbing it of most of its impact, I'm afraid:

(CORRECTION: the original sub-headline of this New Dem Daily mistakenly summarized the piece as calling for Kofi Annan's resignation. Actually, in calling for the secretary general to "step aside," we simply meant to convey that he should remove himself from any involvement in the oil-for-food investigation, and let Paul Volcker, a man of unquestioned integrity and ability, conduct it independently and publicly release his findings. We deeply regret this error.)

Or as Emily Litella would say: "Never mind."

UPDATE: A contradiction is noted.

TOUR THE INDIAN BLOGOSPHERE: This week's Blog Mela is up!

RICH LOWRY: "The AARP's most fundamental principle is 'Get all you can, while you can — young people be damned.'"

Well, yeah.

IT'S A BAD DAY FOR PAUL KRUGMAN. Ouch.

MARK STEYN ON SELF-DEFENSE IN BRITAIN -- or, more accurately, the lack thereof:

Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

These days, even as he or she is being clobbered, the more thoughtful British subject is usually keeping an eye (the one that hasn't been poked out) on potential liability. Four years ago, Shirley Best, proprietor of the Rolander Fashion emporium, whose clients include Zara Phillips, was ironing some clothes when the proverbial two youths showed up. They pressed the hot iron into her flesh, burning her badly, and then stole her watch. "I was frightened to defend myself," said Miss Best. "I thought if I did anything I would be arrested." There speaks the modern British crime victim.

Perhaps she should have beheaded them on TV. Then people would have blamed America! Dave Kopel has more on this topic over at GlennReynolds.com:

Thanks to strict criminal laws, working conditions in Great Britain are the safest in the Western world—that is, if your profession is burglary. On the other hand, if you’re a law-abiding citizen quietly staying at home, you’re at much greater risk in the nearly gun-free United Kingdom, than in the gun-happy United States of America.

Self-defense is a human right. Its denial is monstrous.

INTERESTING DEBATE ON JOURNALISTIC PRIVILEGE over at Legal Affairs, though so far not enough attention has been given to the question of why this profession deserves a constitutionally based privilege. Rather, it seems to be assumed that we face "a choice between a parade of journalists going to federal prison or citizens contenting themselves with a daily portion of news that comes only from official sources." Why is that, exactly?

PAT BUCHANAN AND NICHOLAS VON HOFFMAN: Singing from the same choirbook?

UGH. For those wondering why blogging has been lighter than usual, I'm at about this stage of Stephen Green's illness, though I was clever enough to try his treatment option three last night, and thus got a decent night's sleep.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE GOOD NEWS: "A next-generation leukemia pill designed to help patients not cured by the successful drug Gleevec works even better than doctors had hoped, researchers said Sunday. The new drug, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb put 86 percent of patients who tried it into remission -- meaning signs of their cancer disappeared, the researchers said."

WOMEN AND JEWELERS: this new Amazon film with Darryl Hannah explores a question that has been raised at InstaPundit recently. I like the answer.

Review here.

UPDATE: Review link was bad before. Fixed now. Sorry.

DAVID BROOKS: "People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war."

UPDATE: Interesting response to Brooks, here.

DAVE KOPEL IS GUESTBLOGGING THIS WEEK over at GlennReynolds.com.

THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL MEDIA: Ernest Miller interviews University of Virginia Law Professor Tim Wu on copyright and communications, over at Corante.

IPODS HAVE REALLY TAKEN OFF, and I've decided, as a Christmas present to myself, to replace my iRiver with one. So do I get the iPod mini or the 40 GB model? (I'm guessing that the 20 GB model is a worst-of-both-worlds compromise, but I could be wrong.) I'm leaning toward the mini at the moment. Any advice?

BLOGGING FROM IRAQ: Don't miss this week's Carnival of the Liberated, a roundup of posts by Iraqi bloggers. And also check out Life in This Girl's Army, the blog of Sgt. Lizzie in Iraq. She was recently wounded, but will soon be redeploying with her unit. Her reaction: "GOING BACK!!! YAY . . . My mother now firmly believes I have lost my ever living mind."

REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR.

HEH: "Classified CIA Cable Warns of Danger of Leaks."

ECOTERRORISM spreads from the West to the East.

STUART BUCK says that we shouldn't underestimate the power of boredom.

"A MONEY-LAUNDERING CLEARINGHOUSE:" Interesting lawsuit. Sending trial lawyers after terrorists seems a bit unsporting, though.

PERHAPS, ONE DAY, Heroin will be "the new Heroin."

UPDATE: Reader Carl Dahlman emails: "Socialism is the heroin of the intellectual."

I'VE OCCASIONALLY BEEN CRITICIZED for not doing more blogging about health care. But, in keeping with the tenor of the times, I've outsourced a lot of the health blogging to the various medical professionals at Grand Rounds!

IMPENDING DOOM at CBS?

SIMON WORLD'S Asian Blog Roundup is up.

THE BIG NEWS OF THE DAY:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 7 -- Three years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's first popularly elected president, Hamid Karzai, was sworn in Tuesday in a dignified, heavily guarded ceremony attended by hundreds of Afghan and foreign guests, including Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In a brief inaugural address, Karzai expressed his thanks to the Afghan people, who defied Taliban threats to participate in largely peaceful national elections in October, and to the United States, which led the international coalition that ousted the Islamic fundamentalist regime in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

This is an amazing accomplishment, but I suspect it won't get the attention it deserves.

December 06, 2004

INVOKING VIETNAM HAPPENINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED: Well, it's not as if we haven't seen that before.

THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL IS CALLING FOR KOFI ANNAN'S RESIGNATION:

But mismanagement, corruption, and manipulation of the program by Saddam Hussein allowed his regime to amass at least $21 billion outside of the United Nations' control, with the great bulk of that sum -- $17.3 billion -- pilfered between 1997 and 2003 on the secretary general's watch. In effect, the United Nations colluded in Saddam's successful evasion of U.N. sanctions. The most damning charge so far -- that a former chief of the oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, accepted bribes from Saddam's regime -- was made in October by former U.N. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer, who led a Senate investigation into the scandal. The program is now the subject of at least four congressional investigations, three U.S. federal investigations and the U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. . . .

The sooner the United Nations can get past this matter, the sooner it can get back to the important business of making itself an effective instrument for collective security against terrorism, failed states, and acts of genocide, a goal that Annan has strongly supported. The secretary general should place this critical mission ahead of his personal interests, and step aside. Given his own lack of credibility on the oil-for-food program, this step is the price Annan must pay to help restore the U.N.'s credibility, and to salvage his legacy as secretary general.

Indeed.

UPDATE: A question for Kofi, from law professor Tom Smith -- I think he picked the wrong answer, though . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: The DLC has issued an Emily-Litella-like "correction" that can be read at the link above, or in this update.

ACADEMIA'S LACK OF RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY chases out another mind:

As many of you already know, I decided to derail my plan to get a PhD at ASU and instead switched a Master's program that I will graduate from this month. Naturally, there were numerous reasons for making this decision, among them my mental health and my relationship with Brendan. But those paramount concerns, topped with a hostile academic environment, chased me away from the ivory tower.

(Via Brendan Loy, who has further thoughts).

SOME PROBLEMS WITH OUTAGES over at Amazon.com today. I had some trouble reaching the site earlier, but it seems to be working now.

Some people are unhappy. And, in my case, the key gift item I was looking for is sold out anyway. Dang.

SPOONS, PEJMAN, AND ECONOPUNDIT Steven Antler will be on Milt Rosenberg's radio show tonight, 9-11 p.m. Central. Listen live here, read all about it here.

INSTAPUNDIT: Both the Best Blog overall and #4 for the "most overrated blog." Well, there's no logical contradiction there, really . . . .

UPDATE: Hey, last year I was most overrated, as well as "Best Blog overall." So I'm less overrated this year. Er, which is an improvement, right?

FILIBUSTERS USED TO BE BAD: Now they're good!

KAUS ON LANGUAGE:

Repackaged rhetoric will save the Dems! I like "poison-free communities" (instead of "environmental protection")--but somehow I don't think "public protection attorneys" (i.e. trial lawyers) will fly. ..

Me neither.

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF ROUNDS UP more under-reported news from Iraq, including this:

Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, is a very frustrated man these days. "It is not all death and destruction," says the archbishop. "Much is positive in Iraq today. . . . Universities are operating, schools are open, people go out onto the streets normally. . . . Where there's a kidnapping or a homicide the news gets out immediately, and this causes fear among the people. . . . Those who commit such violence are resisting against Iraqis who want to build their country."

It's not just the terrorists who, according to His Eminence, are creating problems for Iraq: Elections in January "will be a starting point for a new Iraq," he says. Yet "Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation. . . . Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity. . . . Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose. Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?"

The archbishop has this wish for the international bystanders: "Europe is absent, it's not out there; the United States is on its own. . . . [Europe] must help the Iraqi government to control its borders to prevent the entry of foreign terrorists, [but] also provide economic help to encourage a new form of culture which is open to coexistence, the acceptance of others, respect for the human person and for other cultures. . . . Europe must understand that there is no time to waste on marginal or selfish interests: The entire world needs peace."

Archbishop Sako's frustration is increasingly shared by other Iraqis, who can hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage.

Sigh. Of course, they can't even get Kansas right.

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS, where econo-blogging is the rule, instead of the exception!

STUDENTS HECKLE IRANIAN PRESIDENT:

Students chanted "Shame on you" and "Where are your promised freedoms?" to express their frustration with the failure of Iran's reform movement.

A visibly-shaken Khatami defended his record and criticised the powerful hardliners who have closed newspapers and jailed dissidents.

First Chris Hedges and now this. (Ed Morrissey has more thoughts).

FLOYD ABRAMS EXPLAINS WHY HE SHOULD LOSE:

The crux of the reporters’ contention is that the public would be less well informed if journalists could not promise their sources confidentiality. However, the proliferation of blogs and bloggers could represent the Achilles’ heel in this approach. If Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper are entitled to claim special treatment in the courts, so too could hundreds of thousands of Americans who use the Internet to post comments about their views on current events.

“They’ll say anybody with a modem and a computer is a ‘journalist,’” said a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, Jane Kirtley. “No court is going to be comfortable with that sort of wholesale privilege.”

Ms. Miller’s attorney, Floyd Abrams, said he is bracing for questions from the court about the perils of granting legal protection to the burgeoning ranks of bloggers.

“There’s no doubt that’s the potentially dangerous aspect of it,” Mr. Abrams said in a telephone interview from his Manhattan office yesterday. “If everybody’s entitled to the privilege, nobody will get it.”

Mr. Abrams said he thinks many bloggers should be entitled to the same kind of protection he is seeking for his client and other traditional journalists. “I think a blogger who communicates with and tries to communicate with thousands of people is not less deserving than a journalist who may communicate with a smaller audience through a small-town newspaper,” the attorney said. “There should be protection so long as information was obtained for the purpose of dissemination to the public at large in some sort of analogous way to what ‘journalists’ do.”

He almost hits on the right answer here, except for the audience size. Does this mean that we should look at our Sitemeter counters before deciding whether we get First Amendment protection?

The notion of journalism as a profession, with a guild and special privileges, was always a weak one. It's now much more obvious just how weak it is. And Abrams seems to have figured it out:

It is widely expected that the current dispute, involving Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper, could end up before the Supreme Court. Mr. Abrams said that given the sentiments of some justices, traditional journalists could actually benefit from being lumped in with the bloggers.

“For some courts and some members of the public, the image of journalist as romantic hero had faded, but the notion of bloggers on duty to catch Dan Rather has not,” Mr. Abrams said. He said he may argue that turning aside the privilege would actually be as much as a blow to bloggers as to mainstream reporters.

“A number of members of the Supreme Court who are very hostile to the notion of special press privileges might at least take a second look at the issue. We’re not talking about a pressonly privilege,” Mr. Abrams said.

A privilege for journalism is fine, though the argument for protecting the confidentiality of sources against legal process has always seemed weak and self-serving to me. But a privilege for approved "journalists" is not. Here's a piece I wrote on the Vanessa Leggett case, which is also mentioned in the article above, a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal.

Read this, too.

THE BECKER/POSNER BLOG (featuring, er, Gary Becker and Richard Posner, natch) is now active, and they're debating preventive war.

XENI JARDIN: Chinese editions of MSN Spaces censor political terms.

TENNCARE, HILLARYCARE, and what might have been -- some reflections.

JIM GLASSMAN LOOKS BACK on his book Dow 36,000 and observes: "For some, however, the book became an object of derision because -- just in case you haven't noticed -- the Dow hasn't actually risen to 36,000 yet. . . . Do I have any regrets about the book? Well, yes. The title."

Judging by the reader reviews, it was a mistake.

MY SECRETARY, a combat-engineer Marine reservist, is part of the battalion profiled in this New York Times article today. He emails:

The Engineers are kept busy with these raids and I have been to every area/town mentioned in the article working with everyone from Army tanks, Britons, Australians, Iraqis from every imaginable agency, and even explosive sniffing dogs.

Thanksgiving I worked through, literally 30 plus hours but had an amazing meal on the Saturday after. Even got to watch a bit of football as we had a bit of downtime that weekend. Unfortunately did not get to see the Vols play against Auburn. The Cotton Bowl did not seem unexpected but I believe our last to trips were losses to Nebraska and K State in pretty cold games. Oh well.

He's a good secretary, but this work is more important.

CANADA'S NATIONAL POST:

Kofi must go

Last Wednesday, Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota and co-chairman of the U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating the United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq, called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign in a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal. While Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China quickly rallied to Mr. Annan's defence, there can be no doubt that the senator is correct: Mr. Annan has to go. . . .

Over the decade-long run of the oil-for-food program, the UN and several member states looked on as Saddam Hussein siphoned off at least 20% of its $100-billion revenues for his personal use. Hundreds of millions went to rebuilding the Iraqi army; more was paid out in kickbacks to Western politicians, governments, political parties, journalists and UN officials who looked the other way. Tens of millions funded terrorist training and operations around the world, particularly among Palestinians. The grandiose, sprawling palaces U.S. troops discovered when they liberated Baghdad and other Iraqi cities were constructed by Saddam and his family with the proceeds from oil sales meant to pay for food and medicines for ordinary Iraqis. Critics of the American- and British-backed sanctions against Iraq that were in place from the early 1990s until the 2003 invasion claimed they were responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis per year through malnutrition and disease. But we now know it was Saddam's lust for gold plumbing fixtures and weapons that caused the lion's share of Iraqi hardship.

Under Mr. Annan's leadership, the UN feigned blindness to all this.

Read the whole, rather damning, thing.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Over three decades Charles Pasqua's name has been linked to a series of French corruption scandals, but the former French interior minister has maintained his innocence and has never been convicted of any wrongdoing.

Now, Pasqua is being eyed as a player in the Oil-for-Food scandal. The CIA’s report listed Pasqua as having received oil vouchers from Saddam, vouchers that would have given him a profit of at least $400,000.

“I have never received anything from Saddam Hussein,” he said through an interpreter.

FOX News asked Pasqua why his name ended up in the CIA report?

“It's a good question,” he said. “It's not only my name that's there. The names of other French officials are included."

More here:

Speaking at a festive dinner Friday night that was organized by the U.N. Correspondents Association, Secretary-General Kofi Annan joked about rumors that he is about to resign. "I am resigning myself," he said as members of the audience gasped, "to having a good time." Mr. Annan's feeble attempt at humor aside, his malfeasance in office is a cruel joke that has been played time and again on the people that the United Nations is supposed to help.

The oil-for-food scandal — where Saddam Hussein systematically looted what was supposed to be a humanitarian program to pay off his political cronies — is just one of the very prominent stains on the record of Mr. Annan and the United Nations.

Indeed.

December 05, 2004

AS GENUINE AS A DAN RATHER MEMO! The Protein Wisdom Jacques Chirac interview.

SELF-DEFENSE ACTIVISM IN BRITAIN:

Remember Robert Symonds? It is the name of the 45-year-old Putney teacher who six weeks ago was stabbed to death in the hall of his home by a burglar. His body was found by his wife while their two children slept upstairs.

It was as a result of that incident that this newspaper launched our "right to fight back" campaign, which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defence against intruders in their own homes. The point that struck me so forcibly at the time was not just the horror of Mr Symonds's death, but the fact that had Mr Symonds picked up a kitchen knife before encountering the burglar, and managed to get blows in first, then he would now, as the law stands, be facing a murder trial.

The defenders of the status quo argue that a jury might acquit, on grounds that such self-defence was "reasonable force". We argue that such cases should never even be considered as crimes in the first place.

I agree. In fact, as self-defense against burglars generates positive exernalities, by reducing the number of burglars, and their willingness to break into homes which might be occupied (thus reducing the risk that people will suffer Mr. Symonds' fate), there's a good economic argument that it ought to be not simply tolerated, but actively encouraged and even subsidized.

THE FOLKS AT TIME send a press release with this kicker:

New York – President George W. Bush’s cabinet is more diverse than National Public Radio, Tavis Smiley tells TIME in an exclusive interview. “It is ironic that a Republican President has an Administration that is more inclusive and more diverse than a so-called liberal-media-élite network,” Smiley says.

That's got to hurt.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the full interview, and here's the exact quote:

WHAT'S MORE DIVERSE THESE DAYS — NPR OR PRESIDENT BUSH'S CABINET?

Bush's Cabinet. It is ironic that a Republican President has an Administration that is more inclusive and more diverse than a so-called liberal-media-elite network.

Ouch.

IS THAT AN ORANGE TIE on Bush in this picture? Looks that way.

FINISHED THE HARRY TURTLEDOVE BOOK I mentioned the other day. It was pretty good, but not his best, and not as good as In the Presence of Mine Enemies, much less things like The Guns of the South.

Several readers emailed with various Turtledove observations -- one saw him at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Writers' Assocation last week, where he observed that if he had actually gotten an academic job with his Ph.D. in Byzantine history, that would have been a seriously alternative history.

Speaking of matters Byzantine, I really liked his Justinian, written under the name "H.N. Turtletaub." In an Amazon review, I asked why the different name, and he emailed me that he already had too many books coming out that year and his publisher insisted that he use a different name. That's probably his biggest weakness as a writer: He writes too many books. It's hypocritical of me to say that, since I eagerly await the new ones, but it's still true.

I'm not sure what I'll read next. I was planning to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but I think it's too big to fit in my backpack and I need something portable right now. Hmm.

MY KOFI ANNAN / VACLAV HAVEL COLUMN from the Wall Street Journal on Monday is now up with a free link at OpinionJournal.

I THINK THIS IS IMPRACTICAL for a number of reasons, but reader Alan Martin suggests Arnold Schwarzenegger as a replacement for Kofi Annan:

* Proven executive talent.
* Euro-accent.
* Derails 99 44/100ths% of the fuss over repealing the Natural Born
Citizen qualification.
* Places the onus on critics to explain why he's any *less* qualified
than the man he'd be replacing.
* Establishes an environment where the chattering classes would be so
busy ridiculing him they wouldn't have the energy to oppose him.
They'd wake up one day to find the institution irreversibly fixed.

Heh. It's fun to think about. And it's amazing just how many candidates do well in the "places the onus" department. . . .

Meanwhile, here's a critical response to the New York Times' defense of Kofi this morning.

SOME INTERESTING -- and likely constructive -- goings-on within the Democratic Party leadership.

OUCH: Press watchdog beheaded by razor-sharp tongue.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

The son of Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, lobbied for business contacts at gatherings of UN officials on behalf of a company in the same year as it won an oil-for-food programme deal, it has emerged.

The second disclosure in a week about Kojo Annan's role with the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection Services, which secured the $4.8 million (£2.46 million) UN contract to monitor goods entering and leaving Iraq in 1998, has raised embarrassing questions for his father.

Indeed.

UKRAINE UPDATE: Newsweek is calling it Putin's Pratfall:

Dec. 13 issue - To Vladimir Putin, the cheers ringing through Kiev's aptly named Independence Square must have sounded like catcalls from hell. Only three weeks before, in a ham-handed display of Kremlin bullying, Putin had championed his own dubious candidate for Ukraine's presidency, ex-convict Viktor Yanukovych. A fraud-tainted election followed, and the Russian leader haughtily dismissed calls for a recount, warning against Western "interference." But after a long, tense standoff in which tens of thousands of Ukrainians thronged the streets in protest—and only a day after Putin again rejected the idea of a runoff—Ukraine's Supreme Court last Friday ordered a new election for Dec. 26. When the news was broadcast live on the giant television screens in central Kiev, more than 30,000 supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko went wild, kissing, hugging and blowing noisemakers. Then the pro-Western Yushchenko appeared, declaring: "Today Ukraine is a democratic country."

Why is that bad for Vladimir Putin? Because he's got grand plans that don't necessarily square with a free-thinking demo-cracy next door. The last thing Putin wants to see is another chunk of the old U.S.S.R. disappear down the maw of the ever encroaching West.

Meanwhile, there are supporting pro-democracy protests in Chicago:

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Chicago Saturday to rally for the Ukraine. They're supporting a decision to go ahead with a new vote for president.

Saturday in Chicago a much smaller but strikingly similar demonstration by those with ties to the Ukraine.

"All Ukranians around the world ar eunited to build a free society for the Ukraine," said Dr. Yuri Melnik.

"What we would like is for the eyes of the world to be on Ukraine right now. This is a burning beacon of the world. We want it to burn even brighter," said another demonstrator.

Some here carry signs that demand Russian President Vladimir Putin "not" meddle in the affairs of the former Soviet Republic.

I actually feel somewhat sorry for Putin. He's tried to consolidate his power in Russia in ways that are sometimes plausible -- in many ways, his writ doesn't run far from Moscow, even now -- but he's overreached. The question is whether he'll be smart enough to climb down gracefully, rather than doing things that make matters worse.