All the front-runners in the poll are calling for Europe’s poorest country to join the EU and withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is a group of former Soviet republics.
Despite almost 200 years of Russian imperial and Soviet rule, most of Moldova’s four million people have closer cultural and linguistic links to neighbouring Romania, which will join the EU in 2007.
More here: " Moldova votes for a new parliament Sunday with the election likely to place the impoverished nation firmly on a pro-European path, the third ex-Soviet republic to turn away from Moscow’s influence in little over a year."
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom. A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.
It is not clear why the government, which was also a co-sponsor of the ceremony, changed its position.
At least 43,000 people across Niger are thought to be in slavery.
GRANDMOTHERBLOGGING: We went to have dinner with my grandmother in the nursing home Skilled Nursing Facility tonight. (We took barbecue, from Sonny's). It was the first time I'd seen her in 3 weeks, because of the Insta-Wife's surgery. Helen felt well enough to come along, and my grandmother was glad to see her up and around. She gets out in a few weeks, though she'll still need some transitional help in getting around, and continuing her physical therapy. It amazes me how well she's managed to keep her positive attitude, in a place that I find rather depressing.
BUSH TALKS SOCIAL SECURITY IN SOUTH BEND: You can read the New York Times account, and you can read Tom Maguire's commentary on the New York Times account, or you can visit Brendan Loy's blog for firsthand reporting, photos, and audio. Not long ago, of course, you would have pretty much been stuck with option one.
posted at 02:54 PM by Glenn Reynolds
AN INDICATOR? "According to the AP, all the Baathists could muster up for their 'Go Bashar!' demonstration in Damascus today was three thousand people... not an especially impressive number for a fascist state."
I actually almost feel sorry for Bashar. I don't think he really wanted to play the role he's in now. I hope that he manages a soft landing for the Ba'athist regime, transitioning to a free country without bloodshed, but I doubt his father's cronies, who remain very much a force, will make that easy.
UPDATE: Jim Lindgren notes that the Syrian pullback winds up concentrating Syrian troops in the perenially suspicious Bekaa valley, rumored to be home to all sorts of interesting things they'd probably rather we didn't see.
Meanwhile, John Hinderaker notes a contrast that has been pointed out here, as well.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This post on the big picture is kind of interesting, though I'm not a huge fan of Stratfor.
TECH-ADVICE BLEG: I'm thinking of buying a flat-panel TV for the bedroom. I've been looking at this one, though the Insta-Wife, somewhat more ambitiously, wants this one, instead. (I stayed in a hotel that had the first TV on the wall recently, and it was quite nice).
I want to mount it on the wall, too. Is a wall bracket like this one a good idea?
But my main sense is that this is a purchase where waiting a few months is probably likely to lead to big improvements on the price-performance curve. Or are we past that phase now? Any advice?
UPDATE: TV Repairman reader Joe Reynolds (no relation) emails:
Both of the models that you linked in your weblog do not contain an HDTV tuner/receiver. These can be purchased as a seperate unit and run generally $250-500. Until June of this year they are legal to be sold w/o the broadcast flag function that controls DRM and may be used legally as long as you own them. I mention this not to encourage piracy, but to let you know the feature will make it really inconvienient to tivo and transfer to any other equipment you may want to use. These units are also available as PCI cards and External USB devices. The bottom line is if you want HDTV with the TV's you are considering you will need another device. Also LCD-TV prices are plummeting in the current market, you may see even larger discounts soon.
Yeah, you can surf the price-performance curve forever, but I don't want to move too soon. This has inspired LOTS of email, which I don't have time to digest now, but I'll update with it later. Meanwhile, Will Collier weighs in on the side of waiting longer, and reader Tom Westberg sends this link to a review of the Insta-Wife's fave. Finally, Roger Simon shares his own experience but adds this caveat: "Of course all this advice is already outdated. We did this two months ago!" Indeed.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Wow, lots of people care about this. And Jonah Goldberg emails: "Please! Let me know what you hear about the flat-screen TV thing. I'm researching it too and I can't make heads or tails of all this. My understanding though is that CRT tvs still have better pictures, which surprised me considering all the hullabaloo." Yeah, CRTs still have the best picture -- and the best price-performance -- but they get HUGE as screensizes get bigger. For a big room I'd still get a CRT, or a DLP, but for the bedroom I wanted to save some space.
MORE: Updated below -- hit "read more" for more. And here's a big article by Ed Driscoll from PC World, found via NewDave, who observes: "It looks as though the market is about to reach that critical point where demand gets in line with supply. Once that sweet spot hits (somewhere under $750 for 30 inches), things will slide down with a vengeance." Let's hope.
Jeez did I get a lot of email on this. The consensus seems to be to wait a few months. A few readers seem to think that I have a bottomless budget for high-end electronics, which, alas, is not true. To give you an idea of where I am on the TV front, my fanciest TV is a 32" JVC that's "HD-Ready," which I bought from Sears as a floor model closeout for $799. So prices actually do matter to me. Bill Gates, I'm not.
Here's what reader Chris McCanles emails:
A few quick thoughts about your TV dilemma. I own a very high-end custom electronics company and do roughly $300K a year in TV’s with Sony. I’ve put flat panels into a wide variety of installations (e.g. on walls, above fireplaces, motorized out of ceilings, cabinets, floors, etc.). Anyways, here’s my take:
Don’t buy via the Internet. No (or bad) tech & warranty support. These products do arrive DOA, break soon after installation, etc. Shipping is a pain, finding a warranty service center has gotten a lot harder in the last 10 years.
Never heard of the brand you’re interested in. Awfully cheap price. You know what they say…
Buy a fully-compatible HDTV model. In the price range you’re looking in you’ll commonly find EDTV (enhanced definition) sets that will “downconvert” hi-def programming to a lower resolution. May not be a bid deal now if you’re only planning on watching the news before sleeping but I would avoid it.
Regarding the LCD vs. plasma vs. DLP, here are my thoughts. LCD is the oldest, cheapest, and most reliable technology out there. The knock on LCD used to be picture quality (“chalky” looking blacks, “screen door” effect where you’d see the picture’s structure as though you we’re looking out of a screen door, etc.). This has been overcome and new LCD stuff by and large looks just as good as DLP without having to pay Texas Instruments’ fee (they own DLP currently). Plasma probably has the best flat panel picture right now though they use a lot of power (twice as much as LCD), can have burn-in issues if you watch a certain news channel or play video games long enough. By and large, NEW models have overcome the lifespan issue; most will have no problem lasting for 10 years at full brightness. CHEAP models typically use older parts. These should be avoided. Gateway will be bumming it in a few years with all the crap they’ll be getting from customers. My take: In the size you’re looking in, look at LCD. The only area where LCD is behind plasma (for the moment) are the really big sets (i.e. 50”+). Plenty of LCD sets available in 15 – 32” in size.
Buy a widescreen model; this new aspect ratio (16:9) is part of the digital TV (DTV) standard. Yes, your favorite Love Boat episodes will appear with side bars or stretched to where Julie doesn’t look as hot as you remember, but most prime-time network stuff is shot in this format and practically all DVD’s are as well. The old 4:3 aspect ratio is leaving us though this will take some time. Guessing you don’t have a ton of local HDTV options in TN currently.
Don’t worry about surround sound unless you’re truly an audio geek who plans on viewing lots of DVD’s while laying in bed. Not worth it for most broadcast programming. This from a guy who regularly installs $50-100K home theaters. YOU WILL NEED a model that has onboard speakers.
How to hang a flat-panel TV on a wall (keep in mind we’re more than a bit AR about this stuff):
Once location is chosen, cut out drywall/plaster and install wood “blocking” that will support a heavy TV. This obviously is not a painting we’re dealing with. Subsequent drywall/plaster patch will be hidden by TV, but before you fix the hole you must…
“Fish” wiring to support an electrical outlet and wiring to support your audio/video cables. You’ll want to “stub” these wires out of the wall so that they won’t get in the way of the wall bracket but will remain hidden by the TV once it’s hung. Good brackets make provisions for this.
Invest in a decent bracket. There are a bunch of companies out there. I like Chief a lot. http://www.chiefmfg.com. Well made, easy to install. If you’re going to see your installation from the side, say when you’re walking into the room, you’ll want to pick a model that keeps the TV tight to the wall otherwise it will look kludged. Chief makes a couple brackets that do this well.
Assuming you’re using cable TV, you’ll need a “set-top box” if you’re planning on viewing HDTV programming or premium channels (e.g. HBO). Some new TV models have a built-in cable tuner that only requires that you get a smart card from your cable provider to get full access to the programming you’ve purchased without the separate box. This “Cable Card” feature as it’s known is very useful in this situation, but is new and is not commonly found on cheapo models at this time. Using a separate set-top box is a pain; locating it is difficult especially when retrofitting it into a room. You will need this if you use Directv, Dish Network or other satellite services.
Hope this is helpful, Glenn, but don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions.
I may, though it's helping to convince me that waiting is probably the best option.
I just might. Reader Pat Kelly emails:
Have you considered buying a projector instead? I don't normally go out of my way to sell a product, but projection is such a cool thing it is hard to not mention it to you. Anymore, a really good projector costs ~$1,300 and the unit itself is about the size of a Tom Clancy hardback novel. The nifty thing about them is you can project directly on a wall (preferably with white or off-white paint), they can be used with your PC for PowerPoint presentations, and they now come with HDTV compatibility or component video. Best part is you don't have to make it the focus in your room - if you have it off, no one knows you even have a TV in that room. I have one and we show back yard movies in the summer for the kids because it is so transportable. Imagine watching Casablanca projected on your ceiling while relaxing in bed - no more crooked neck syndrome!
That's kind of cool. TV on the ceiling. But will it project properly onto the mirrors? . . . .
Matt Volk emails:
Glenn, you need a VESA 200 wall mount bracket for either TV. It’s a standard size for plasmas and big LCDs. The 200 stands for a four hole mount in a 200 mm x 200 mm pattern. Here’s a link for a good explanation: Link
Amazon doesn’t seem to sell a VESA 200 wall mounting bracket.
Have you looked at the new Dell 2405FPW? It has a 1920x1200 resolution, a ton of video inputs & a built in 9 in 1 card reader. Not sure if it can display pictures from the card reader. No tuner built in & it’s $1200.
What's the point of a card reader if it can't display pictures? Meanwhile, reader Ben Ziller cuts to the chase:
This is a question that transcends political and social lines.(I am a gay liberal democrat) Buy the tv insta-wife wants. It is nicer and it will improve your relationships. This is a win win situation that everyone should dream about having. lucky you.
That's usually how I feel about my marriage. But the Insta-Wife, beyond a general bigger-is-better philosophy, doesn't have especially strong feelings on this. Otherwise I'd just get the TV she wanted. I'm no fool.
ED MORRISSEY has more on the whole F.E.C. vs. the Blogosphere issue. So does Prof. Bainbridge: "Friends of freedom clearly need to remember this incident if and when John McCain (or Russ Feingold, for that matter) runs again for President. And we need to roast President George Bush one more time for spinelessly signing the excrescence that is McCain-Feingold."
posted at 07:58 AM by Glenn Reynolds
March 04, 2005
CHESTER LOOKS AT OUR SCHEMES, and theirs. "Some folks have rightly warned Americans not to become cocky with all of the good news out of the Middle East recently. Others have warned of spoiling attacks. The timing is perfect for one of these."
posted at 11:40 PM by Glenn Reynolds
WARD CHURCHILL ON BILL MAHER: Jeff Jarvis was watching.
UPDATE: Democrat Tim Russo is unhappy. I wonder if the Hollywood / MoveOn wing of the Democrats is their version of Canada's Quebec problem?
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is expected to announce a redeployment of Syrian troops in Lebanon when he addresses his parliament today, say Lebanese politicians.
Mr Assad's speech, which the Syrian press agency said would deal with "current political developments" follows unprecedented international pressure on Damascus to withdraw its 15,000 troops and its secret services from Lebanon.
After talks with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, in Moscow yesterday, Walid al-Muallim, Syrian's deputy foreign minister, said Damascus would soon reveal what he called "an agreement between Syria and Lebanon" which he said would meet the approval of the United Nations Security Council.
Mr Lavrov said he was "satisfied" that Syria would take steps to "correspond" with UN resolution 1559, which calls for all foreign troops to leave Lebanon.
Still too soon to gloat, but this sounds quite promising. Meanwhile, here's an interesting overview of what's going on.
Certified" in this case does not mean legally so, as with a Certified Public Accountant. That would be unconstitutional. Rather, what the Bush team is doing is like de-certification (though not literally so) because it's a sudden change in accepted status and a rejection of a commonly recognized role.
One answer to "who granted this status?" is "tradition did." Previous Administrations, Republican and Democrat, established some common and accepted practices without codifying them. Glenn's a law professor; he should understand why you don't overthrow precedent lightly (and you don't deny that you're doing it when you are.) I have also used the term de-legitimize to describe what the Bush forces are doing. Prefer that? Fine.
Hmm. "Tradition" formed by whom? Not me, and not the large number of Americans who have shouted back at their televisions over the years. It's just that now people can hear it . . . .
As for "precedent" -- well, to be "precedent" in the legal sense a decision has to come from an authoritative body. And, again, which body legitimized the press? It seems to me that the press did. For a while, when it played ball with politicians (e.g., by not mentioning FDR's polio or JFK's infidelities) the politicians were happy to treat it as a quasi-government. I'm not sure that was an improvement, really, though I can see why journalists regard it as a golden age.
Why is it that people only happen to benefit from sleep deprivation and enforced stays away from their family when they are still in the grip of a legalised cartel that can force them to work investment banking hours for a food service salary, on threat of withholding their medical license if they fail to comply?
I have an idea.
posted at 09:47 PM by Glenn Reynolds
THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE is writing about Gunner Palace, the Iraq war documentary that's hitting theaters now. He's got an interview with filmmaker Michael Tucker.
posted at 09:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SAUDI PROMOTION OF TERRORISM: And note Steven Den Beste's criticism of the Bush Administration, in the comments.
UPDATE: Greenspan has John Cole on his side! But any dirt they dig up on Greenspan will only make Bill Clinton, who also appointed him, look bad! Is this really just a way for Deaniacs to weaken Hillary? Could they be that subtle? . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: Or maybe it's just that tasty Jonestown Kool-Aid. When you take another sip, it covers up the bitterness from the one before. For a little while.
Is there even a hint of a media strategy here, or do they just figure, the more enemies they make, the better they are doing? Do they really think the Daily (Kos) Show will have more impact after mainstream journalists rally to Andrea and abandon them? Do they really think that, after the Guckert fiasco, this is the best way forward?
Sadly, some do. Though there's some evidence that sanity is beginning to assert itself.
posted at 07:43 PM by Glenn Reynolds
TOM MAGUIRE REPORTS that Paul Krugman isn't very good at predicting economic matters. But Tom Maguire is a good predictor where Paul Krugman is concerned!
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The upstairs neighbor of an Egyptian Christian family found slain in their home in January was charged along with another man Friday in the killings, and authorities said the motive was robbery, not religious fanaticism, as some had feared.
Edward McDonald, 25, who rented a second-floor apartment above Hossam Armanious and his family, pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder, as did Hamilton Sanchez, 30. Both men were ordered held on $10 million bail.
"I didn't kill nobody, man," Sanchez said as he was led from the courtroom.
This is actually a relief, in a way, assuming that Sanchez & McDonald turn out to be guilty.
By the way, I've seen nothing in the major papers, and only a few mentions on cable, of Robert Byrd appearing to liken GOP tactics to Hitler, which he now denies, even though Jewish groups have demanded an apology ("Hideous" and "outrageous," says the ADL.) Why is the press giving Byrd a pass?
A WHILE BACK, I had a project with the working title of Due Process When Everything is a Crime. It never quite jelled (there's a chapter in the ethics book along these lines, and I wrote a review essay that drew on some of it) but the full-length project kind of ground to a halt after 9/11 and I never got the momentum back.
Now Gene Healy has produced a new book called Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything, that addresses the same problem: The growth of trivial-yet-potent criminal laws to the point that everyone is a felon, and prosecutorial discretion is the most important part of the justice system. It looks interesting enough that it's got me thinking of restarting that project.
FOR three years, this column has shot down the pessi mists who warned we were bound to fail in the Middle East. Now those of us who see our confidence vindicated must beware a premature euphoria. There's plenty of work ahead.
Our successes have been remarkable. In the past six weeks, we've seen more positive movement in the region than we saw in the preceding six decades. The political landscape of the old Islamic heartlands has changed breathtakingly since our first special-operations team went to work in the wake of 9/11. . . .
From Iran through Saudi Arabia to Egypt, the first breezes of change are beginning to blow.
But they're not gale-force winds just yet. We would be almost as foolish as the eternal naysayers were we to imagine that our mission is nearing completion.
Excessive euphoria would only play into the hands of those who wanted freedom's campaign to fail all along. If our rhetoric becomes too exuberant, even positive events on the ground could be dismissed as falling short of our promises.
Revolution is in the air. What to do? We are already hearing voices for restraint about liberating Lebanon. Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, took to the New York Times to oppose the immediate end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to "engage and empower" the tyranny in Damascus.
These people never learn. Here we are on the threshold of what Arabs in the region are calling the fall of their own Berlin Wall and our "realists" want us to go back to making deals with dictators. It would be not just a blunder but a tragedy. It would betray our principles. And it would betray the people in Lebanon who have been encouraged by those principles.
Plenty of time for euphoria when we're done. Though it's hard not to gloat at least a little bit in the face of pieces like this one, however grudging, from Fred Kaplan.
posted at 09:51 AM by Glenn Reynolds
BLOGGERS, MCCAIN-FEINGOLD, AND MEDIA CREDENTIALS: A Houston talk-radio station wants to make sure that all bloggers get the media exemption that allows free speech under campaign-finance "reform" law:
As such, we believe that we enjoy the "broadcast exemption" that prohibits the federal government from regulating our speech in the manner they are proposing for "mere" citizen bloggers.
While we still need to talk to some sharp lawyers and nail down the details, if these restrictions come to pass, KSEV and LST are committed to working out a legally sound way in which individual bloggers– of every ideological persuasion and partisan affiliation– can somehow register with us and be credentialed as a press representative of KSEV and LST.
Like Raoul Wallenberg handing out passports, we will start issuing press credentials to any blogger that asks for one.
I trust that things will turn out better for them than they did for Wallenberg . . . .
UPDATE: In response to Josh, I took the Wallenberg reference to be ironic, as was my treatment of it (here at InstaPundit, gratuitous ellipsis is generally a sign of irony). I detected no such irony in Robert Byrd's comments.
The U.S. government's smallpox vaccination program eroded the credibility of federal health officials while leaving no clear indication of how well prepared the nation might be against a bioterrorist attack.
So said Dr. Brian Strom, chairman of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee which released a report Thursday on lessons learned from the 2002 vaccination effort. The panel presented its findings in Washington, D.C.
While stopping short of calling the program a failure, the report did find what appear to be serious shortfalls in how the initiative was implemented. The report, titled The Smallpox Vaccination Program: Public Health in an Age of Terrorism, is the last of seven reports providing recommendations and guidance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unlike earlier reports, however, this one was undertaken at the IOM's own initiative.
These lessons learned are important because "bioterrorism, unfortunately, continues to be a threat and it is likely that future programs like this will need to be initiated," said Strom, who is also chairman and professor of the department of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
We're going to have to do better than this. (Full report here).
McCain and Feingold have managed to foster real bipartisanship -- they've gotten liberal and conservative bloggers alike to detest them. Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, Atrios, and DailyKos all agree -- this legislation has become a serious threat to political speech, and John McCain and Russ Feingold have become two of the most dangerous politicians to American liberty since Huey Long. Jerome makes the point that the problem at the moment are the three Democratic FEC commissioners who appear intent on enforcing the law as McCain and Feingold insist, but both parties had a hand in creating this fiasco.
posted at 08:26 PM by Glenn Reynolds
REID STOTT: "I don’t normally watch network TV news, but tonight I just happened to catch about two minutes of Peter Jennings on ABC. And it fully reinforced why I don’t bother with network TV news anymore."
posted at 08:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HUGH HEWITT IS MAKING Walter Durantyesque charges regarding the Los Angeles Times.
Bush has net negative approval ratings on the economy, on foreign policy, and on Iraq. You would think that would be fatal, but it was the same in late October. Generally speaking, the picture is the same throughout. The numbers make the president look very, very, very weak. But he looked just as weak right before the election, and obviously it didn't work out. The upshot, I think, is that the Democratic Party's political problems are really about the Democratic Party and not their opponents. Interestingly, the poll doesn't find much support for the notion that a dash to the right on cultural issues is the way out. They asked "which party comes closer to sharing your view on abortion" and 45 percent said the Democrats to just 35 percent for the Republicans. They asked "which party comes closer to sharing your view on the legal recognition of gay couples," and the Democrats got 42 percent to the GOP's 37 percent.
Which is all by way of returning to my long-time hobbyhorse -- to wit: The Democratic Party's political trouble is explained almost entirely by the fact that the country does not trust it with national security. It may be possible to weasel into office through some other contrivance, but Democratic positioning on both culture and economics is already reasonably successful. Bush is not wildly popular. The obvious growth area is trying to convince people that Democrats can do national security properly.
This is exactly right. It seems to me that the best hope for the Democrats is for Bush to be so successful at foreign affairs and national security that by 2008 nobody cares anymore.
UPDATE: Reader Larry Weintraub emails:
You forget the more obvious option: For the Democrats to coalesce around a viable National Security policy that the public believes in.
It'd be enough for voters like me (well, specifically, for me), exactly the ones Matt is talking about who voted for Bush but are, domestically and socially, Democrats.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Of course, there's always the possibility that the NYT poll is just wrong. Or, put another way: "Anyone who relies on the Times and CBS to explain what American voters are thinking deserves the inevitable losses which result."
posted at 02:48 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HENRY COPELAND'S BLOG READERS' SURVEY seems to be working fine now. Please take if if you have time (it's just a couple of minutes), and enter "InstaPundit" as the referring blog.
Are the Bushies at "war" with the Fourth Estate? Is there an insidious plot to weaken the media establishment, to carpet-bomb its credibility like the Saddam regime?
I wouldn't go that far. People forget that every administration tries to neutralize the press. There was much hand-wringing about Clinton circumventing the White House press corps when he started going on Larry King and other talk shows. And much talk of stonewalling over the way his White House handled its various scandals.
I would argue that nothing the White House has done has damaged the media's credibility more than what the profession has done to itself. Bush wasn't responsible for the fraud by Jayson Blair or Jack Kelley, or for Dan Rather's botched National Guard story (though I know some have theorized that the administration lured CBS into some kind of trap). Bush didn't force the media to go overboard on Kobe and Michael. He didn't force a CNN executive to make some ill-considered comments about the U.S. military targeting journalists. He didn't force various journalists to keep engaging in plagiarism. He didn't force Armstrong Williams to take $240,000 from the Education Department (though paying conservative pundits is one of the administration's innovations). He isn't responsible for declining newspaper circulation and network news ratings or the sinking poll numbers when it comes to trusting the media.
Nope. But it might be more comforting to blame him than to look at root causes. There's some constructive advice here: "So take all that money and get yourselves some talented, hungry correspondents. A lot of them. They should be all over Africa, South America, the Mideast and Europe, with talented crews." I agree. Actual hard-news reporting is the killer app for Big Journalism -- if it bothers to do it. They've been retreating from that game for 20+ years. Read this post from Austin Bay, too.
Frankly, I think that everyone at CBS ought to have to read this book, and write an essay about the lessons it contains . . . .
posted at 11:08 AM by Glenn Reynolds
YOU DON'T NEED NANOBOTS for working nanotechnology, reports the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology: "No one worries about an inkjet printer crawling off the desk and stealing ink cartridges. Molecular manufacturing systems will be no more autonomous than inkjets. . . . Both scientists and the public have gotten the idea that molecular manufacturing requires the use of nanobots, and they may criticize or fear it on that basis. The truth is less sensational, but its implications are equally compelling."
YOU KNOW, MUCH AS I LOVE the nonfiction books that publishers are sending me, I really like the advance copies of science fiction by authors I like. In the mail the other day I got this forthcoming book by Charles Stross, and I've still got Accelerando to read. My leisure-reading, alas, has taken something of a hit lately.
The elder Assad's untimely death put Bashar in command, but not in control, of Syria. His dad's cronies control most of the bureaucracy, armed forces and security organizations. There is no agreement among all these chiefs about what to do to stay in power. Thus we have the bizarre contrast of Syrian police turning over Saddam's half-brother and 30 of his henchmen, while Syrian agents facilitate the assassination of a prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politician, and a suicide bombing inside Israel. All within two weeks. No senior Syrians will admit that no one is completely in control in Syria. It is feared that there may be a coup, as some of the senior generals and security officials push Bashar Assad aside and take over. Bashar is seen by his father's old timers as too inexperienced. But the problem is that Syria is simply in a very bad situation. Like Iraq, Syria adopted the Baath Party to run the country decades ago. Like Iraq, the socialist dictatorship of the Baath Party led to corruption and economic decline. This has made enemies of Syria's neighbors, and the Syrian people. The Syrian Baath Party has run out of credit, and credibility. The bill is now due, and no one wants to pay.
I hope the collapse is graceful, rather than deadly. But I certainly hope for the collapse.
If the European Union follows Israeli recommendations this week and places Hezbollah on a list of official terror organizations, the economic consequences of sanctions would "destroy" the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah's leader told Arabic language television.
Heh. But will the EU actually follow through on this?
Russia and Germany joined an international chorus of demands for Syria to leave Lebanon, and President Bashar al-Assad was expected to travel to Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks diplomats said would focus on a pullout.
TigerHawk also observes: "The anti-terror coalition that fractured over Iraq has needed an issue to rally around without offending domestic constituencies or the internationalist media. It is Bashar al-Assad's enormous misfortune that Syria's occupation of Lebanon has become that issue."
They signed up 500,000 supporters with an Internet petition -- but Bill Clinton still got impeached. They organized 6,000 candlelight vigils worldwide -- but the U.S. still invaded Iraq. They raised $60 million from 500,000 donors to air countless ads and get out the vote in the battle-ground states -- but George Bush still whupped John Kerry. A gambler with a string of bets this bad might call it a night. But MoveOn.org just keeps doubling down. . . .
But many party insiders worry that an Internet insurgency working hand in hand with a former Vermont governor will only succeed in pushing the party so far to the left that it can't compete in the red states. "It's electoral suicide," says Dan Gerstein, a former strategist for Joe Lieberman's presidential campaign. MoveOn committed a series of costly blunders last fall: It failed to remove two entries that compared Bush to Hitler from its online ad contest, and its expensive television spots barely registered in the campaign. One conservative commentator, alluding to MoveOn's breathless promotion of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, branded the group the "MooreOn" wing of the party. All of which leaves political veterans wondering: As MoveOn becomes a vital part of the Democratic establishment, will its take-no-prisoners attitude marginalize the party and strengthen the Republican stranglehold on power?
I think that this insurgency will be around a lot longer than the one in Iraq.
New York, NY, March 2, 2005 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed outrage at the remarks of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, who suggested that some Republican tactics on judicial nominations were similar to Adolf Hitler's use of power in Nazi Germany. . . .
It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
The Senator shows a profound lack of understanding as to who Hitler was and what he and his regime represented.
Senator Byrd must repudiate his remarks immediately and apologize to the American people for showing such disrespect for this country's democratic process.
UPDATE: Via David Neiwert, we find this troubling passage from the New York Times story, too:
Sympathizers abound. "Everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time," read an Internet essay posted Tuesday by Bill White, editor of The Libertarian Socialist News. "I don't feel bad that Judge Lefkow's family was murdered today. In fact, when I heard the story, I laughed."
Evidence that Sudan's government is backing Arab militias in Darfur has come from a leader of the forces, US-based Human Rights Watch has said. Musa Hilal, named by the US as a Janjaweed leader, told the group that militia attacks on ethnic Africans were directed by Sudanese army commanders.
"These people get their orders... from Khartoum," he said in an interview transcript released by the group.
The Sudanese government has strongly denied supporting the militias.
Not surprising, of course, but nice to have it on the record. Now could we bomb them, or something?
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A British computer specialist tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Arizona, where he met with Islamic radicals who claimed ties to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), a government attorney alleged Wednesday.
Babar Ahmad, who is being held in London on charges he ran terrorist fund-raising Web sites, met in Phoenix in 1998 with Yaser Al Jhani, a member of the Islamic mujahedeen militia, and others who claimed to have access to bin Laden, said John Hardy, a British lawyer representing the U.S. government.
"He expressed an interest in developing a training system in Arizona," Hardy told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from London. "That is, a training system, in effect for the mujahedeen to visit and train to fight abroad."
DER SPIEGEL: "In the past four months, six Muslim women living in Berlin have been brutally murdered by family members. Their crime? Trying to break free and live Western lifestyles. Within their communities, the killers are revered as heroes for preserving their family dignity. How can such a horrific and shockingly archaic practice be flourishing in the heart of Europe?"
President Bush (news - web sites) on Wednesday demanded in blunt terms that Syria get out of Lebanon, saying the free world is in agreement that Damascus' authority over the political affairs of its neighbor must end now.
Will Assad fold?
posted at 03:12 PM by Glenn Reynolds
FREEDOM IS CONTAGIOUS: "Lebanese opposition has learned much from Ukraine."
UPDATE: Video here. It's very cool that The Daily Show puts this stuff online. I wish more real news shows made their content this accessible.
posted at 12:58 PM by Glenn Reynolds
HENRY COPELAND would like you to take this blog readers' survey. It just takes a couple of minutes, and I'd appreciate it, too! And please list InstaPundit as the "referring blog" so that they'll know you came from here.
UPDATE: The traffic seems to have killed this thing. I apologize for those who waited in vain; I'll let you know when it's more reliable.
posted at 12:16 PM by Glenn Reynolds
PHIL CARTER wants to bring back the draft. Austin Bay comments: "I’m a fan of Phil Carter's, but his Washington Monthly article arguing for a military draft doesn’t make the case."
I'll just observe that the Washington Monthly folks must have been very happy with the piece, because I've gotten more promotional spam from them about this article than about anything else they've run in months.
READER SAKET VEMPRALA sends this link to a tabulation of Muslim victims of terrorism. Unsurprisingly -- except, perhaps, to those who actually think the terrorists are "Minutemen" -- there are a lot of them.
The acting chair of the University of Colorado ethnic studies department seems in some respects to be picking up where her predecessor, Ward Churchill, left off. In a slightly disjointed, poorly written essay for Counterpunch, a leftwing Web newsletter, Emma Perez suggests criticism of Churchill is a "neo-con test case for academic purges." In other words, Churchill is under siege from a vast rightwing conspiracy. . . .
Then there is this remarkable assertion: "The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this 'investigation' of Ward's scholarship shares key tactics with the neo-con sinking of Emory historian Bellesiles in 2001 . . ." In fact, Michael Bellesiles resigned after a panel of scholars from places such as Harvard and Princeton concluded his failure to cite sources for material in his book, Arming America, "does move into the realm of 'falsification.'" Hardly a poster boy for the so-called new McCarthyism.
I believe that this is the article they're referencing. It appears that Churchill may sing more loudly, and off key, but that he's fundamentally part of the chorus.
UPDATE: A while back, some people were upset that I identified Ward Churchill with the current state of the Left. But the Left certainly seems to be identifying with Ward Churchill.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:
The [DailyKos] 'diarist' Armando wrote about how you lied and tried to associate Ward Churchill with the left. His point? That the 'left' doesn't like what Ward Churchill said, they just support his right to say it. Instapundit is a liar for implying otherwise! Armando wished for comments to condemn your lies. But look what happened!! The comments turned into support for what Ward Churchill said.
Thought you might enjoy it.
Oh, I did. Especially the part where Armando sputters in the comments: "I resist this hijacking of my post. This is about Instapundit lying, not about defending Churchill. Write a diary on that if you want." Heh.
MORE: My goodness, the comments at Kos have gone crazy on this. But I think that those folks need to pick a storyline. Either (1) Churchill deserves to say what he wants without losing his job -- a defensible position, though with the inconvenient (for the Kossacks) twist that it's, well, mine (though "not losing his job" isn't the same as "not being savagely criticized for his tawdry and despicable sentiments") -- or (2) that Churchill was right, and that America had it coming for being the Evil Empire. But you can't simultaneously adopt position (2) while arguing that criticizing people for adopting position (2) is somehow a sham because nobody is actually depraved enough to believe position (2). At least, not without being an idiot.
This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. . . . Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don't realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it - but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.
This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers - or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they're also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.
One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing - with all apparent sincerity - that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.
Is this what's happening? I certainly hope so.
posted at 09:22 AM by Glenn Reynolds
DOCTOR-OFFICE-BLOGGING: I'm blogging from the waiting room at Helen's cardiologist now, where she's having her followup appointment.
Jeff Jarvis, who's the go-to guy on the indecency issue ("Buzzmachine: Your Place for Indecency!") has identified a wondrous new technology for controlling indecent programming.
UPDATE: Well, that turned out well. They put a sensor over her chest and interrogated the ICD, which was pretty cool. It showed that it had paced her out of a couple of strings of PVCs early on, but that she's had no rhythm issues since the new meds kicked in. They're happy with how everything's going, and she seems much more cheerful about everything now.
The world is poorly prepared for a future influenza pandemic, with only a dozen countries purchasing significant quantities of antiviral drugs and just 50 with contingency plans on how to cope with such an outbreak.
One word: Tamiflu. But that's just a start: We need more research on rapid vaccine production, too. And not just for flu.
posted at 06:52 AM by Glenn Reynolds
AUSTIN BAY: "I don't believe in happy endings, merely a respite before the next struggle, However, this Millennium War has reached and passed a crucial midpoint. All but the most recalcitrant, calcified and now laughable naysayers in the West suddenly recognize the pragmatism of American idealism."
I HAVEN'T READ ROPER V. SIMMONS YET, but Orin Kerr has: "I was disappointed by Justice Kennedy's majority opinion. There just isn't much there to justify overruling a 16-year-old precedent and striking down 18 state laws. I'm not sure about the juvenile death penalty as a matter of policy, but I found Justice Scalia's powerful dissent pretty tough to refute as a matter of constitutional law."
I don't think that looking to international practice is as horrid as some critics have said, however: More than probably any other provision in the Constitution, the prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment" would seem to invite that. I note, however, that if reference to international standards becomes common, the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence is likely to become much, much less protective of abortion rights, as the United States is rather far from the median practice in that regard.
UPDATE: On the Court's use of international law, Julian Ku at Opinio Juris observes: "I am not sad to see the juvenile death penalty go away, but I do think it is odd that treaties to which the U.S. government specifically reserved the question at issue (the international legality of the juvenile death penalty) are being used as evidence of what the U.S. Constitution requires."
posted at 09:23 PM by Glenn Reynolds
SUICIDE BOMBING IS BAD PR: Yesterday, I commented on the massive terror bombing in Iraq: " I don't generally cover the bombing-of-the-day stories, just as I don't link all the 'key aide of Zarqawi captured' stories. But this is a big one. Will it win over any Iraqis to the insurgents' side, though? Seems doubtful. And it won't win any friends for Syria, either, given that it's seen as supporting the insurgents."
Thousands of mostly black-clad Iraqis protested Tuesday outside a medical clinic where a suicide car bomber killed 125 people a day earlier, braving the threat of another attack as they waved clenched fists, condemned foreign fighters and chanted "No to terrorism!"
This isn't shocking, really.
posted at 09:08 PM by Glenn Reynolds
INSTAWIFE UPDATE: Various people have emailed wanting a report on how Helen is doing. She's been home a week now, and the report is, well, mixed.
On the (more important) upside, the heart stuff, she seems to be doing quite well. Her irregular heartbeats are much better -- she says she was only subliminally aware of them most of the time, but now it seems "really quiet" in her chest.
Unfortunately, it also hurts. They made a pretty big incision, so that they could push the ICD down far enough to conceal it behind her breast, which means there was more cutting than usual. She can't raise her left arm very high, or pull it backward -- and as often happens with things like this, her right shoulder actually hurts worse, from strained muscles as a result of favoring the left side. It's made it hard to sleep, too, as just about every position is uncomfortable.
She's doing OK, I guess, but the 4-6 week recovery period looks about right. I took her out to get her hair done today, which made her feel a bit better. Tomorrow I'll take her back to the cardiologist for a followup exam, and hopefully she'll get the go-ahead to drive. (She'll have to drive my Passat, though, because it's the only automatic we own, and she can't really operate a stick shift.) She hasn't much liked being stuck around the house.
She sends her thanks for the emails and cards, etc., that continue to come in. And so do I: It made me feel like George Bailey.
A Springfield woman who began lobbying against gun violence after her son was shot to death in 2002 was arrested last week when police allegedly found an illegal gun and drugs in her home. . . .
Since her son's death, Stevens has become involved in the anti-gun-violence movement. She helped establish and is president of a Springfield chapter of the Million Mom March, an organization that aims to prevent gun violence.
Last fall, she appeared with other anti-gun advocates at a Statehouse news conference to urge federal officials to renew a ban against semiautomatic assault weapons.
WASHINGTON, Sudan's government and the militia it supports persist in committing atrocities in the Darfur region despite repeated promises to end brutal abuses and killings, the U.S. State Department says.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed over the past two years, many as a result of disease and hunger, and more than 1.8 million displaced from Darfur in fighting which the United States has called genocide.
"Despite the government's repeated commitments to refrain from further violence in Darfur, the atrocities continued," said the State Department's annual report of human rights abuses worldwide, published Monday.
Last year, then Secretary of State Colin Powell concluded genocide was being committed against the people of Darfur and that Sudan's government and the Janjaweed militia bore responsibility.
The United States wants the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions against Sudan but China and Russia have opposed such penalties, particularly on oil.
The full report is here. The section on Sudan and Darfur is here.
[A] group of activists has gotten enough signatures here and in some 50 other Vermont communities to place resolutions about Iraq on the agendas of their Town Meetings, a New England ritual as local as tapped maple trees and as old as the American Revolution.
On Tuesday, one-fifth of Vermont towns will consider what role the Vermont National Guard should play in the war, and whether American troops should be withdrawn.
A year ago, this would have been bad for Bush. Now it's bad for the Democrats. Really, you just have to shake your head in admiration for the guy's skill.
UPDATE: On a more serious note, Austin Bay doesn't think much of the anti-war group behind this exercise.
posted at 04:36 PM by Glenn Reynolds
ROGER SIMON HAS THOUGHTS on the editorial changes at the New York Times.
Syrian opposition figures Tuesday hailed the fall of the Damascus-backed government in Beirut under the weight of mass street protests as a possible catalyst for democratic change in their own country. . . .
"A Syrian withdrawal is inevitable. History is on the move and nobody can halt its progress," said Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay. He said Lebanon was now playing the role of "engine for change" in the region.
"I welcome this promising democratic change which will have a contagious effect on the Syrian hinterland and be of benefit for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples," said Amiralay.
D70 UPDATE: I'm happy with my Nikon D70, but as I mentioned a while back, it's had one annoying glitch, an occasional refusal to fire until the exposure mode is changed. Following the advice of the Nikon tech support people (fast!) I reset the camera, but that didn't help, so I've returned it for warranty service. I'll let you know how that goes.
Meanwhile, despite my earlier drooling over the newer and (much) more expensive D2X, Ken Rockwell offers some persuasive reasons why the D70 is actually better for many purposes.
BABALU BLOG has posted the Cuban dissident film Monte Rouge in its entirety.
posted at 10:20 AM by Glenn Reynolds
MORE ON FREE SPEECH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: Where the students are for it, and the faculty, well, not so much. . . . "It really is extraordinary that we live in an age where students have to educate faculty on the importance and educational value of free speech."
Lebanon's president was taking on the task of forming a new government Tuesday, while opposition leaders shook off the jubilation of using people power to force out a pro-Syrian Cabinet and sought to ensure the next one is less beholden to Damascus. . . .
We will be here every day until the last Syrian soldier withdraws from our land," one activist said through a loudspeaker. The crowd, blowing whistles, chanted back: "Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence."
They sang in rhyming Arabic: "We are all, Muslims and Christians, against the Syrians." . . .
In Beirut, demonstrators vowed to carry on, demanding the resignation of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud and the withdrawal of Syrian soldiers. Hariri's parliamentary bloc issued a statement late Monday demanding the departure of Lebanese security and intelligence chiefs.
You wrote that Amazon's flat fee shipping program has changed the way you shop. I suspect that Amazon wanted to change your shopping patterns, just not in the way yours have changed. They wanted you to buy more of the high margin stuff, more frequently. You seem to be buying more of the lower margin (although very nice) products, more frequently. I doubt that Amazon's margin covers the shipping cost on a typical order of food bars. If the flat fee shipping program is too successful in changing shopping patterns to lower margin goods, Amazon (or their shipping partners) could lose a ton of money.
Uh oh. Because judging by this post, I'm not the only one responding this way.
posted at 07:17 AM by Glenn Reynolds
THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD notices that democracy is breaking out in the mideast. Dale Franks notes that it wouldn't have happened if we had followed some people's advice . . . .
These certainly ain't the old Hama Rules (perhaps we'll come to call them Martyr's Square Rules)? In Hama, thousands were mowed down on the streets. Now an Arab leader will bow to the street? There's a word for that. It's called progress. And make no mistake about it, such words are partly a legacy of Baghdad.
Indeed. I guess there's a reason why Josh Marshall is spending so much time on Social Security these days. Although even there, he should beware. . . .
In addition to German and English, Sabine speaks French and Italian. She is proficient in basic tactical pistol skills, because she thought it would be a fun thing to learn.
And -- also like the InstaWife -- a pilot.
UPDATE: Since various people emailed to ask, no the InstaWife hasn't flown for years, and now that she's got the ICD she's not allowed to. She started college in Air Force ROTC as an aerospace engineering major, but switched out when they wanted to make her a navigator instead of a pilot. This was a wise decision, I think, judging by the navigational skills she displays on family trips. That Chinese embassy bombing fiasco may have its roots in similar decisions . . . .
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Jubilant opposition supporters in Lebanon have vowed to carry on with their protest in central Beirut in a bid to drive Syrian forces from the country after the collapse of the Damascus-backed government.
The pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned on Monday after two weeks of protests, piling more pressure on Damascus, already under fire from the United States and Israel.
Thousands of demonstrators turned Beirut into a sea of Lebanese flags and exploded into riotous celebration when the government unexpectedly quit after a parliament debate on the killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
"This is just the first step. We are staying here to make sure they don't set up a new government that is just the same. We are staying until we have independence," said Carla Khoury, draped in a Lebanese flag.
In their view, invasion of Iraq was not merely, or even primarily, about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Nor was it really about weapons of mass destruction, though their elimination was an important benefit. Rather, the administration sees the invasion as only the first move in a wider effort to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East. . . .
In short, the administration is trying to roll the table--to use U.S. military force, or the threat of it, to reform or topple virtually every regime in the region, from foes like Syria to friends like Egypt, on the theory that it is the undemocratic nature of these regimes that ultimately breeds terrorism.
LEE HARRIS says that it's the Palestinians' moment of truth, and notes the way terror has been institutionalized. As I've said before, the Palestinians will stop committing terror when the pain of terrorism exceeds the rewards. Are they there yet? I'm not so sure, though with democracy appearing the rewards of non-terrorism are higher, which may accomplish some of the same things. At any rate, Mark Steyn observes signs of progress:
And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes."
No disrespect to Associated Press, but I was disinclined to take their word for it. However, Charles Johnson, whose Little Green Footballs website has done an invaluable job these past three years presenting the ugly truth about Palestinian death-cultism, reported that he went hunting around the internet for the usual photographs of deliriously happy Gazans dancing in the street and handing out sweets to celebrate the latest addition to the pile of Jew corpses - and, to his surprise, couldn't find any.
Maybe they've learned something.
posted at 07:53 PM by Glenn Reynolds
AUSTIN BAY IS HAPPY -- and yet, also, a bit irritated -- to see that some people are finally catching on regarding the "strategery."
Just to drop the quick email (I'm typing from a cyber cafe computer, don't have much time), while the questioning seems to be a new development strangely not covered at Jeff Ooi's Screenshots, the story is rather old. Berita Harian is a Malay daily printed by NSTP (called "Jalan Riong" by the Malaysian blogosphere for where its "Balai Berita" or newsroom headquarters is located). NSTP's is owned mostly by UMNO, part of and dominant member the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.
However it is less of politics than of commerce. Jeff Ooi have been covering a story which NSTP have been hitting on for months preceding the harrassment you have mentioned - NSTP claims that the sole statistician making figures for newspaper circulation, AC Nielson, is biased towards The Star (the dominant English daily in Malaysia, owned by UMNO's partner, MCA) and against its dwindling daily, the News Straits Times. Jeff Ooi have been attacking that assertion, so obviously NSTP wasn't very pleased.
So it seemed that Berita Harian used its media leverage to try to pin Jeff Ooi down. The prime minister's son-in-law (nepotism in Malaysia? Never!), Khairy, UMNO Youth's leader, weighted against Jeff Ooi. But it eventually died down, and nothing seem to have come up regarding this case since.
Newspapers going after bloggers -- I wonder if that will happen here?
But actually I hope that a lot of people on the left read Matthew's post, for this:
Yes, it's but a tentative step and things could still all work out poorly, but still, this is a pretty unambiguous success for Bush's second term freedom kick. It's also a stunning refutation of those of us who argued that he'd never follow through on his lofty rhetoric. Give the man some props.
And not just to poke fun, but it's actually important that props be given. Bush has, historically, gotten a lot of praise for his lofty rhetoric. He's also been rather diffident about actually doing something about it. But he decided to go do something. Test the waters, so to speak. If doing the right thing winds up just being met with stony silence, then there's little reason to think it'll be the start of a trend. But it should start a trend....
It certainly should.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The above didn't appear until just now -- I saved it earlier, but then had a bit of a server hiccup, or something. Meanwhile, Viet Pundit is complaining that the lefty blogs aren't paying enough attention to Lebanon.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami announced the resignation of his pro-Syrian government Monday, two weeks after the assassination of his predecessor, Rafik Hariri, triggered protests in the streets and calls for Syria to withdraw its thousands of troops. . . .
Karami made the announcement during a parliamentary debate called to discuss Hariri's Feb. 14 assassination in a bomb blast that killed 16 others. The announcement prompted cheers from more than 25,000 flag-waving demonstrators protesting against the government and its Syrian backers outside.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey writes: "This is Assad's worst nightmare come true. With the Syrians, especially the Kurds in the northeast, watching the Iraqis vote in the first free multi-party elections ever on their east and the Lebanese on their west showing how fragile the Syrian grip on power truly is, the Assad government may wind up facing similar demonstrations in the streets of Damascus, demanding free multi-party elections -- which would end Assad's grip on power, unless he got in front of the effort immediately."
A WHILE BACK, I noted Amazon's new "frequent flyer program" in which you get free shipping on all your orders for a rather reasonable flat yearly fee. Being a heavy Amazon customer, I signed up, and it's definitely changed the way I shop there. For example, I just ordered some of these Balance nutrition bars -- a snacking mainstay at our house -- where I wouldn't have done so before without tacking more stuff into the order to offset the shipping charge. But now I just order them as needed via Amazon, with no shipping charge, rather than buying them in bulk at Target. They're a bit cheaper than Target's price, and I don't buy all the other stuff I wind up buying when I visit Target -- a double savings of sorts. I don't know whether other online merchants, lacking Amazon's clout with shipping companies, will be able to emulate this, but I suspect that over time cheaper shipping will start cutting into brick-and-mortar merchants' business. Maybe the 1990s bubble was just premature, and not fundamentally wrong . . . .
posted at 10:28 AM by Glenn Reynolds
LOTS MORE BLOGGING ON LEBANON, here, at Across the Bay.
posted at 09:35 AM by Glenn Reynolds
NPR'S ON THE MEDIA did an interview with Jim Meigs of Popular Mechanics on that magazine's debunking of 9/11 conspiracy theories. The audio is here. The transcript isn't online yet.
The NGOs, as they have taken over the delivery of foreign aid during the last half century, have also become part of the problems they are trying to treat. Despite their description as “non-profits” and “relief workers,” the NGOs live from contract to contract. While “non-profit,” they are not “non-revenue.” They have to bring in contracts to take care of their payroll and expenses. This has become an issue in some of the countries where NGOs operate. The locals have been noticing how much of the aid money given to their country is going through the NGOs, and how the NGOs use a lot of it to pay NGO expenses, and generally distribute the aid as they feel best, without a lot of consulting with the locals. But a major reason so many donor nations prefer to give aid via NGOs is that it cuts down on corruption. In too many poor countries getting emergency aid, local officials are quick to divert aid to personal use.
MICKEY KAUS, who has been noting the terrorism / welfare connection in Europe for a while, has this advice for the Dutch:
1) Welfare for people who could work plus 2) potential prejudice against a discrete, identifiable group still seems like the universal recipe for an underclass. It was in the U.S.. It is in France. It is in Holland. I'm sure this equation is facile but I don't see how. ... P.S.: A practical lesson from the U.S. for the Dutch? Of the two preconditions, welfare is probably the easiest to change first (though of course you want to try to change both). End perceived freeloading on welfare--as our 1996 welfare reform at least partially did--and you then have a much better shot at diminishing prejudice. You've attacked one of its "root causes," if you will. (Plus the discriminated-against group is forced out of its isolation and into the labor market.)
I hope that Mickey will continue to write about this. Meanwhile, here's a link to the Timesarticle by Brian Moynahan that everyone's talking about.
ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has posted his regular roundup of underreported news from Iraq. ("That so many people, and not just the Sunni sheikhs, now want the piece of the Iraqi action perhaps tells us more about the true situation and future prospects in Iraq than most current news reports.") And here's a report from my secretary, a Marine combat engineer reservist. Click "read more" to read it.
UPDATE: It's not all good news, though. I don't generally cover the bombing-of-the-day stories, just as I don't link all the "key aide of Zarqawi captured" stories. But this is a big one. Will it win over any Iraqis to the insurgents' side, though? Seems doubtful. And it won't win any friends for Syria, either, given that it's seen as supporting the insurgents.
Greetings from sunny Iraq! We are slowly leaving the rainy season and the Muhmadiya area has been experience sunny, clear days with highs in the 80s.
We have not had any major operations since my last letter and I was really trying to decide what to write about. It occurred to me, however, that we have destroyed a hand grenade on a soccer field, trees marking an IED site, several weapons caches, positions we are no longer using, and a berm used to conceal IEDs along a highway. We have conducted security patrols and searches leading the to the confiscation of weapons and the detainment of suspected insurgents. I have even been tasked with the construction of a weight bench that had no instructions. It is rarely boring.
This is not to say look at me and how cool/great I am but to try to put into perspective the myriad and changing tasks which we execute. One of the recurring themes in my letters seems to be the difference between what I call the task and personnel paradigms between civilian and military organizations. The above illustrates my point that military organizations have relatively static personnel and dynamic tasks. This is not to say that civilian organization do not have changing tasks and bedrock reliable people, but in a similar period of
time, a military organization faces greater change with higher costs/benefits. As for fluidity/flexibility very little has changed since Sun Tzu; we like to talk about the OODA loop and other modern terms/theories but little has changed: out think your opponent and win. The idea is similar to running the a no huddle offense with less than two minutes left.
I ran into an officer in the chow hall today from the Louisiana National Guard. He knew my cousin, also an LNG officer, who lost his leg in Baghdad in November.
Weird note. A few days ago, while conducting house searches, a family made us tea. This is not the response I would probably give to a group of armed men searching my house before dawn, but interesting none the less. The houses/farms in the agricultural areas always amaze me. You see someone working their fields with nothing more than a shovel but they own an auto, a cell phone, and have satellite TV.
Well, the internet cafe is closing for maintenance, hope that I have said hello and put a bit of a human face on the war.
UPDATE: Some perspective from Jackson Diehl, in the Washington Post:
Those who have declared the war an irretrievable catastrophe have been gloating for at least a year over the supposed puncturing of what they portray as President Bush's fanciful illusion that democracy would take root in Iraq and spread through the region. They may yet be proved right. But how, then, to explain the tens of thousands who marched through Beirut last Monday carrying red and white roses and scarves -- the colors of what they call the "independence intifada" -- and calling for "freedom, independence and sovereignty" from neighboring Syria? Or the hundreds of Egyptian protesters who gathered that same day at Cairo University, in defiance of thousands of police officers, to chant the slogan of "kifaya," or "enough," at 76-year-old President Hosni Mubarak? . . .
Virtually no one in Washington expected such a snowballing of events following Iraq's elections. Not many yet believe that they will lead to real democracy in Egypt, Lebanon or Syria anytime soon. But it is a fact of history that the collapse of a rotted political order usually happens quickly, and takes most of the experts by surprise. In early 1989 I surveyed a panoply of West German analysts about the chances that the then-incipient and barely noticed unrest in Eastern Europe could lead to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. None thought it possible; most laughed at me for asking the question.
If a Middle East transformation begins to gather momentum, it probably will be more messy, and the results more ambiguous, than those European revolutions. It also won't be entirely Bush's creation: The tinder for ignition has been gathering around the stagnant and corrupt autocracies of the Middle East for years. Still, less than two years after Saddam Hussein was deposed, the fact is that Arabs are marching for freedom and shouting slogans against tyrants in the streets of Beirut and Cairo -- and regimes that have endured for decades are visibly tottering. Those who claimed that U.S. intervention could never produce such events have reason to reconsider.
Will they reconsider, and try to help -- or hope for a messy failure that will make Bush look bad?
BEIRUT: Lebanon's Syrian-backed government banned protests planned for Monday (local time) but a main opposition figure vowed the Lebanese would take to the streets to demand who killed former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Interior minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday "to take all necessary steps to preserve security and order and prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday".
Opposition groups have called a protest at the central Martyrs Square by Hariri's grave and a one-day strike to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the killing that for many recalled Lebanon's bitter 1975-90 civil war.
Government and Syrian loyalists, meanwhile, planned to descend on central Beirut to protest against US deputy secretary of state David Satterfield's visit to Lebanon as part of growing international pressure.
Clashes between the two sides were feared.
More here, with a prediction that tomorrow is going to be quite a day.
The Arab world must shun extremism which breeds violence, His Majesty King Hamad urged yesterday.
Extremism and violence are alien to the principles of Islam, he said in an address read out at the opening of a regional forum held in Bahrain.
"The region has a civilised and open-minded heritage that is based on the respect of people's rights and aspirations by promoting insight and sound guidance in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran," said the King. . . . He said that Bahrain was hosting the forum at a time when its ceiling of political and intellectual freedom had increased and the channels for dialogue were open for everyone.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS in Burmese newspaperdom, complete with a PDF.
posted at 08:19 PM by Glenn Reynolds
NEW OPENINGS FOR ARAB DEMOCRACY: A Christian Science Monitorroundup:
In a surprise announcement Saturday, Egypt's long-ruling president, Hosni Mubarak, ordered constitutional changes that would open the door for the first-ever multiparty presidential elections in the world's most populous Arab country. The move is the latest indication of a cautious democratic shift under way in the Arab world.
Since the beginning of the year, the region has seen national elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, landmark municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and unprecedented mass demonstrations in Lebanon calling for an end to Syrian tutelage.
The question remains whether these developments are truly the initial flourishings of a nascent democratic transformation or merely halfhearted measures by autocratic regimes which have no intention of promoting genuine change. What happens next is key, observers say.
True enough. Democratization is a process, not an event, as I've noted before. But at least it's a process that's under way.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.N. officials fear the sex-abuse scandal among peacekeepers in Africa is far more widespread and appears to be a problem in each of the global body's 16 missions around the world.
Elections are one of the few news occasions that provide editors and reporters with the clarity of numbers to help us to judge whether or not we are doing a decent job. January 30th turned out to be a better day for Iraqis than it was for reporters.
The failure of "hotel journalism" might be forgivable if it were truly about prudence or even laziness. But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail. It is in fact the press that failed, on a scale for which I cannot think of a precedent. Will the big media outlets demand the same accountability of themselves that they demand of everyone else? They should, for the success of these elections was not so surprising to those who dug below the surface of Iraq.
Yes, it became clear that those who read blogs -- especially blogs from Iraq -- had a better picture of what was going on than those who read, say, Newsweek.
Most administration officials subscribe to one of two views: a) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater; or b) Europe is a smugly irritating but irrelevant backwater where the whole powder keg's about to go up.
For what it's worth, I incline to the latter position. Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. . . .
Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A more positive take on Europe, from an American serviceman serving there, can be found at Amy Ridenour's blog.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Europe, in a less hopeful vein, here: "One interesting angle in the story is the way in which the phenomenon of mass immigration has now intersected with membership of the EU to make an already tricky problem unmanageable."
I don't believe that Europe is beyond another bout of internal bloodletting. Just because Europe since 1945 has only seen war in the Balkans does not mean war is banished. Europe went through a period from 1815 to 1914 without much large-scale war. France versus Prussia, Austria versus Prussia, Russia versus Britain and France, French versus Italians (I think). It sounds like a lot, but over 99 years and considering the violent past of Europe, that really wasn't much. So I'm not convinced that Europe has had war bred out of it. They have a violent past and the very zeal they look to Brussels is a sign that Europeans don't think war is bred out of them. Otherwise why would they seek suppression of national conflict through a super-state entangling them all in rules and treaties?
And if Europe isn't immune from warlike impulses, I don't think it is safe to assume that a revival of war impulses couldn't be directed against us. We could be blamed for their problems. They blame us for so many things already, why not?
Well, that's cheerful.
posted at 09:30 AM by Glenn Reynolds
JOHN LEO: "We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow."
President Bush's speech to European leaders last week was toned down at the last moment to avoid giving his support to the proposed EU constitution, after a strenuous lobbying campaign by conservative activists in Washington.
Leading British Euro-sceptics were enlisted to help win a battle within the White House over how far Mr Bush should go in endorsing a more unified EU, after reports began to circulate in Washington that his planned speech would express backing for the constitution.
Of course, a strong Bush endorsement might have led Chirac and Schroeder to reconsider their support . . . .
The degree to which Josh Marshall has lost interest in this story -- which he once found compelling -- surprises me. At least, reading his earlier posts on the Plame affair, I never would have expected him to become so consumed with Social Security reform that Plame got eclipsed.
UPDATE: Here's a big Plame roundup with lots of historical perspective, helping to fill the vacuum left by Josh's non-blogging. And, by way of background, don't forget this Plame timeline from Tom Maguire.