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May 21, 2005

READER JAMES MCCORMICK EMAILS:

Does the latest NYT articles on deaths-in-custody in Afghanistan smack of diversion to take the heat off Newsweek? Set a fire somewhere else so Newsweek never has to acknowledge any responsibility for its acts. Newsweek can return the favour during the next NYT scandal. The MSM guild is all about authority without responsibility. Can't have that change ...

And it's not just the NYT, as I've seen other examples of this phenomenon in quite a few outlets. As Martin Peretz noted, they're circling the wagons. But by doing so, they're only making things worse for themselves, as people are noticing. As The Mudville Gazette notes, people actually do more than just look at the pictures.

UPDATE: Reader Richard McEnroe emails: "Circling the wagons worked better in the days before blogging mortars and digital smart bombs. These days we call that a 'bull's-eye.'"

Heh.

CATHY YOUNG looks at when it's politically correct to beat gays and kill women.

TODAY IS ARMED FORCES DAY: BlackFive has a roundup.

GATEWAY PUNDIT HAS MORE on the pro-democracy rally in Cuba, complete with video.

REDSTATE BUSTS THE HUFFINGTON POST for hotlinking. Give the newbies a break: They'll catch on.

AUSTIN BAY plans his stint as guest editor at Newsweek.

TREY JACKSON is hosting the first-ever Carnival of the Videos. It's quite cool, but I hope that we'll see more original video shot by bloggers.

A FEW DAYS AGO, I wondered if we were going to see dirty tricks against the Blogosphere.

The answer is yes, and sooner than I realized. In fact, I was behind the curve, because earlier this week, gun-control proponents sent fake threatening emails under Joel Rosenberg's name in an effort to stop passage of gun-rights legislation in Minnesota.

Shameful, but not especially surprising. More background here and here.

And for those who will inevitably ask, yes, this is the same Joel Rosenberg who is well-known for his fantasy novels.

LARRY KUDLOW SAYS IT'S A DREARY POLITICAL SPRING for small-government types:

Which leads us to a difficult question: Is the White House and its congressional allies selling policy reforms that voters simply are not buying? The seemingly more popular issue of tax reform is not even on the table. But will tax-reform commissioners Connie Mack and John Breaux ever get their proposals to see the light of day in the current obstructionist congressional climate? . . .

All senators have dirt on their hands these days. The Senate, if you can believe it, just delivered a budget-busting pork-laden $295 billion highway bill, featuring several thousand special-interest earmarks and a phony tax-transfer from general revenues to the trust fund. Where was the allegedly conservative Republican-controlled Senate? This bill was voted through 89 to 11, opening the door for President Bush’s very first veto.

Oh, and let’s not forget a potential trade and currency war with China and perhaps Europe as well. But at least this is backed by a bipartisan coalition anchored by Sen. Smoot Schumer and Sen. Hawley Graham.

Well, that's cheerful. But he's basically right. And I hope Bush vetoes the highway bill, but I'm not counting on it.

LEBANON UPDATE: Was Hezbollah involved in the Hariri assassination? "The news item may never be confirmed simply because no one wants it to be."

UNSCAM UPDATE: The Weekly Standard has put oil-for-food on its cover. You may want to read this piece on Saddam's business partners by Stephen F. Hayes, and this piece by Christopher Hitchens on George Galloway:

I knew a bit about Galloway. He had had to resign as the head of a charity called "War on Want," after repaying some disputed expenses for living the high life in dirt-poor countries. Indeed, he was a type well known in the Labour movement. Prolier than thou, and ostentatiously radical, but a bit too fond of the cigars and limos and always looking a bit odd in a suit that was slightly too expensive. By turns aggressive and unctuous, either at your feet or at your throat; a bit of a backslapper, nothing's too good for the working class: what the English call a "wide boy." . . . Galloway says that the worst day of his entire life was the day the Soviet Union fell. His existence since that dreadful event has involved the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland. He has recently written that, "just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq's own Great Leap Forward." I love the word "scale" in that sentence. I also admire the use of the word "plotted." . . .

Perhaps I may be allowed a closing moment of sentiment here? To the left, the old East End of London was once near-sacred ground. It was here in 1936 that a massive demonstration of longshoremen, artisans, and Jewish refugees and migrants made a human wall and drove back a determined attempt by Sir Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to mount a march of intimidation. The event is still remembered locally as "The Battle of Cable Street." That part of London, in fact, was one of the few place in Europe where the attempt to raise the emblems of fascism was defeated by force.

And now, on the same turf, there struts a little popinjay who defends dictatorship abroad and who trades on religious sectarianism at home. Within a month of his triumph in a British election, he has flown to Washington and spat full in the face of the Senate. A megaphone media in London, and a hysterical fan-club of fundamentalists and political thugs, saw to it that he returned as a conquering hero and all-round celeb. If only the supporters of regime change, and the friends of the Afghan and Iraqi and Kurdish peoples, could manifest anything like the same resolve and determination.

Read the whole thing.

May 20, 2005

DEMOCRACY IN CUBA takes another small step:

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- In what organizers called an unprecedented event, dissidents from groups opposed to Fidel Castro's communist regime gathered publicly Friday and chanted "Down with Fidel."

"Freedom! Freedom!" the group of more than 100 delegates cheered in the yard of Felix Bonne, a veteran dissident, in a working-class section of Havana. Castro's regime would not allow the use of a theater or hotel for the assembly.

Participants included members of dissident groups that are sometimes at odds but share the goal of driving Castro from power.

More, including pictures, here, from Sardinian blogger Stefania, and, of course, just visit Babalu Blog and keep scrolling.

JEFF JARVIS IS CHANGING JOBS for something a bit, er, bloggier. Congratulations, Jeff!

YOU KNOW IT'S THE 21ST CENTURY when you read headlines like this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. government does not want billboards in space.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed Thursday to amend its regulations to ensure that it can enforce a law that prohibits "obtrusive" advertising in zero gravity.

Though actually this issue first came up back in the 1990s.

CHESTER CHARTS some odd coincidences in the Madrid bombing.

MORE WRONG NOTES ON STEM CELLS:

Setting up a showdown with Congress over the thorny issue of embryonic stem cell research, President Bush vowed today to veto any measure that would expand federal funding for the studies - an extremely rare personal threat from a president who has never exercised his veto power.

All the other lousy bills they've passed, and this is the first one he'll veto?

UPDATE: He's losing 'em in Georgia!

MORE: "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on."

QUESTIONS ABOUT SPIRIT OF AMERICA: Michael Ubaldi addresses questions here, and arrives at a conclusion here. "Omar and Mohammed Fadhil have answered questions about their brother's accusations against the Spirit of America, their observations confirming my supposition that Jim Hake's charity has accomplished what is possible in an often difficult environment. Additional criticism of the Spirit of America echoed Ali's complaints that the organization did not acknowledge offers or requests for other works projects from individual Iraqis; but such 'shortcomings' in the field of charity are best explained by limited time and money, and the wisdom of confining a scope of operations to what is practical rather than expanding out of sentiment."

I've given them money, and free ads, so I'm glad to hear that. I hope they'll work the kinks out.

MORE PRO-DEMOCRACY EFFORTS IN SYRIA:

One dissident who spent years in prison and who preferred to stay anonymous told Koring that, "If the outside pressure continues, then the barriers of fear will be broken . . . The regime is losing its grip because of outside pressure, but that pressure must be maintained."

So let's keep it up.

I DIDN'T THINK THAT EITHER THE PEPSICO SCANDAL or the Linda Foley story had legs. It looks as if I was wrong about both.

UPDATE: Another Foley roundup here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Foley video here.

IN THE MAIL: A copy of Richard Posner's new book, Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11. He's not very impressed with the 9/11 Commission or the legislation that followed. Excerpt:

In a misguided quest for unanimity, a determination to use the political calendar, and a public relations campaign to force precipitate action on weakly supported proposals for far-reaching organizational change, the 9/11 Commission, abetted by a stampeded Congress, a politically cornered President, and a press that failed to subject the Commission's recommendations to the searching scrutiny that the modern press reserves for scandals, disserved the cause of national security in a dangerous era. It did so by successfully promoting a bureaucratic reorganization that is more likely to be a recipe for bureaucratic infighting, impacted communication, diminished performance, tangled lines of command, and lowered morale than an improvement on the system.

He's not mincing words.

YES, THEY'RE OLD NEWS, but Joe Gandelman is very unhappy with the latest reports of prisoner abuse, reported in today's New York Times. He's reminded of Franco's regime -- though I suspect that in Franco's regime he wouldn't have been allowed to say that, and the people involved wouldn't be facing serious charges. Still, it's a very worthwhile and level-headed post.

UPDATE: Roger Simon calls this "highly disturbing," but also wonders why the Times didn't make the whole document available online.

FRED KAPLAN ON UZBEKISTAN:

President Bush has declared repeatedly that U.S. policy toward foreign governments will be shaped, above all else, by their fealty to freedom and democracy. If he continues to treat the Uzbek government—which wantonly shoots its own people—as a special American ally when U.S. interests no longer require such favor, then his declarations will be increasingly seen as insincere, and other nasty regimes, which he may try to pressure into reform, will learn not to take his words seriously.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Jonathan Gewirtz agrees:

This is an important point and one too often forgotten by proponents of realpolitik. Our advocacy of human rights and democratic self-rule are not PR, they are force multipliers and critical to our strategy. We use them not to be PC but because the alternatives failed. That's why it's important not to brush the Uzbek crackdown under a diplomatic rug, even if the regime is our ally (and why we shouldn't ignore things like this).

Indeed, again.

MORE: On the other hand, Nathan Hamm at Registan has questions, and sounds a cautionary note:

There’s nothing I’d like more than for Uzbekistan to be a democracy. Yesterday. But I’m hearing a lot of calls for what I must, at my most charitable, characterize as a shoot from the hip, emotionally satisfying response to the Andijon massacre. I can’t deny that a part of me doesn’t want to see that, but this situation is too serious to foul up. Believe you me, I want our policy to improve. But I want us to take fully into account the realities on the ground and be willing to swallow some of the realities that we don’t like for the sake of an effective long-term policy.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: StrategyPage says the bad guys have won, and it sounds like there's not much we could have done about it:

Uzbek president Islam Karimov appears to have put down the brief uprising in the eastern park of Uzbekistan. Karimov is smart, well organized, corrupt and ruthless. The demonstrators his troops dispersed with force were opposed to the police state methods used to hunt down Islamic radicals. The only group willing to oppose Karimov with armed force are the Islamic radicals, who don't have a lot of religious support in Uzbekistan. But a lot more people would support the Islamic radicals if it meant a less corrupt, and more effective, government. The unrest in Uzbekistan is more about economics than ideology.

That suggests both an avenue of approach, over the longer term, and a potential downside of not acting. Austin Bay observes:

Hamas played on this same desire – less corruption– among Palestinians sick of Arafat’s kleptocracy. The Taliban played the same game when it took power in Afghanistan, ie “We’re honest, the old regime was not.” Of course the Taliban then proceeded to slide into its own brand of malfeasance (including pay-offs).

He's posting an interesting series on "how freedom spreads" that's related, and worth reading.

ROBERT MUSIL: "Compared to Newsweek and much of the rest of the mainstream media, Microsoft is all about the consumer."

Now that's gotta hurt.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF COMEDY is up.

MORE HATE SPEECH IN WASHINGTON, this time from Eleanor Holmes Norton:

Eleanor Holmes Norton calls it an assault on home rule orchestrated by the National Rifle Association. She accuses the gun lobby of attempting to see to it that more D-C children get killed.

Yeah, that's it. Jeez.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE from Ann Althouse:

Did you know that the Constitution's Framers considered requiring a supermajority vote in the Senate to reject the President's judicial nominees?

I didn't.

GATEWAY PUNDIT has more news and video from Uzbekistan, where the death toll is now said to top 1,000.

THE LIBERALS HAVE SURVIVED in Canada, by the skin or their teeth. Ed Morrissey has an analysis.

IN THE MAIL: Paul Sperry's Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.

I suspect that there's a lot more Saudi influence-buying, both within and outside the government, than is generally reported, and I'm somewhat suspicious of Grover Norquist's ties. But this nonetheless seems a bit overwrought to me. If it's as bad as Sperry says, we shouldn't have managed to do anything.

A RATHER PESSIMISTIC EMAIL from Uzbekistan.

SCOTT GALUPO looks at movie math and box-office hype.

If I were a Republican legislator wanting to cause trouble, I'd sponsor a bill setting uniform and transparent accounting rules for the motion picture and record industries.

EUGENE VOLOKH IS SAVAGING RICK SANTORUM for his dumb Hitler remarks. "The precise nature of the equivalence with Hitler, I regret to say, escapes me. And in the absence of such equivalence or at least a very close similarity, it seems to me to be both unfair and in bad taste to compare your adversaries to Hitler, even when the analogy -- a rather weak analogy, as I mentioned -- is simply to his hubris rather than to his atrocities."

Meanwhile, Tom Maguire notes a different kind of partisan excess.

TOM FRIEDMAN continues the theme I mentioned yesterday:

The greatest respect we can show to Arabs and Muslims - and the best way to help Muslim progressives win the war of ideas - is to take them seriously and stop gazing at our own navels. That means demanding that they answer for their lies, hypocrisy and profane behavior, just as much as we must answer for ours.

It's interesting to see this idea taking off. Thanks, Newsweek!

UPDATE: And it just keeps spreading:

As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities. American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately. . . .

The Saudi Embassy and other Saudi organizations in Washington have distributed hundreds of thousands of Qurans and many more Muslim books, some that have libeled Christians, Jews and others as pigs and monkeys. In Saudi school curricula, Jews and Christians are considered deviants and eternal enemies. By contrast, Muslim communities in the West are the first to admit that Western countries--especially the U.S.--provide Muslims the strongest freedoms and protections that allow Islam to thrive in the West. Meanwhile Christianity and Judaism, both indigenous to the Middle East, are maligned through systematic hostility by Middle Eastern governments and their religious apparatuses.

The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Varifrank is cool with this meme.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So is President Bush:

"These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office where he met with the prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Progress continues apace.

JOHN COLE notes Jane's Law in action as polls show Republicans increasingly viewed as out of touch:

Again, Democrats should not take this as a sign that things are turning their way, because the poll shows disgust at them as well. But, as a life-long Republican, I have never been as disgusted with my party as I am right now, and I would have a hard time voting for the national Republican party right now.

To understand why, see his checklist of Republican principles abandoned by the party.

WITH PLENTY OF TIME TO SHOP FOR DINNER, this week's Carnival of the Recipes is up!

SUBTLE HE IS, THAT GEORGE LUCAS: PunditGuy looks closely and wonders if the movie wasn't really scripted by the Ratzinger faction.

ED DRISCOLL has MORE ON THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE: "The first Star Wars, in 1977, was a fun little hot rod of a movie, appearing in the middle of a decade worth of great, but typically dark, cynical films. The majority of this film creaked and stumbled as badly as Darth Vader's first steps when he emerges in his black mask and costume at the climax of the film."

For some more positive takes, scroll down.

JIM GERAGHTY ON NEWSWEEK: "Call that whatever you like. But don’t call it journalism."

Meanwhile, Michael Ubaldi emails:

I think we all know how likely it is the MSM emptied the warehouse of anything and everything related to detainees.

There's no logical connection, but I suddenly remembered Michael Spann.

You won't be hearing much about him, the next few days.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, some unanswered questions remain.

MORE STEM CELL GOOD NEWS:

State lawmakers yesterday rebuffed Governor Mitt Romney's latest bid to bar scientists from cloning human cells and once again approved a measure that broadly endorses embryonic stem cell research.

The Legislature also rejected three other changes the Republican governor proposed. By large margins, lawmakers refused to take out wording defining when life begins, rejected his call to further limit what women can be paid for donating their eggs, and turned down his proposal to strengthen a ban on fertilizing eggs for research. Both the House and Senate reaffirmed the bill they approved last March and sent it back to Romney's desk.

As I noted earlier, there's a lot at stake here. I think that this opposition will backfire on Republicans.

UPDATE: Daniel Moore emails:

I'm not usually one to give politicians passes on what they try to do for political reasons, but Romney had to know that he had no chance of winning this. I suspect it was more of an attempt to show some conservative credentials as he moves towards a 2008 Presidential run. It's hard to call Romney an ultra-right wing conservative in the vein of Pres. Bush, so he really doesn't have to worry too much about that from the left. What he will have to worry about is making it through the primaries and having enough conservative credentials for it.

I agree that it's mostly posturing.

The bind for the Republicans is that if stem cell research creates promising treatments or cures, they'll look like they held them back. And if it doesn't do so, they'll be blamed for preventing it.

MICKEY KAUS:

Isn't the most significant sentence in David Corn's report--on the International Committee of the Red Cross' claims of Gitmo Koran abuse--this one (quoting Reuters)?

"The U.S. government took corrective measures and those allegations have not resurfaced," [ICRC spokesman] Schorno said.

Depends on what you're trying to accomplish. (Emph. added).

May 19, 2005

HOW WELL DID THE STILLSUITS WORK? I gather that they produced liquid, but that nobody really wanted to drink it. I guess you'd have to have spent a while in the desert, first.

DEMOCRACY IN CUBA? Not yet, but this is promising:

Citizens from 365 groups across the island are gathering this weekend to hammer out a compact for the creation of a free post-Castro Cuba. This Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba is meeting for the first time under the most incredible of conditions — inside communist Cuba. It could make history. . . .

The new assembly could create a Cuban Charter 77, the document that served as a road map for the post-communist Czechoslovakia under Vaclav Havel. And the group's reasonings about how to design the new society it believes will happen resemble the deliberations of America's Founding Fathers.

But risks are high. On Monday night, government henchmen pounded on the door to arrest one Society delegate, and several others were roughed up by Castro's goons. As fear grows, there will be more thuggery before the week is done. But Society members vow not to quit, no matter what Castro tries.

I hope that this will get more attention.

I HOPE THIS REPORT of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan is better-sourced than Newsweek's. Or maybe I don't.

UPDATE: John Cole emails:

You have to know that this is going to be the most misinterpreted quote in blog history by tomorrow noon:

"I HOPE THIS REPORT of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan is better-sourced than Newsweek's. Or maybe I don't."

I have been reading you since virtually day one, so I know exactly what you mean- you hope it is thinly sourced and thus the story is bullshit, because it is so damned disturbing.

Of course, you can be virtually assured that someone like James Wolcott or Atrios will by noon be claiming torture doesn't matter to you, and only media bashing does...

Right now you are laughing because you know I am right.

On all counts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Something you probably won't hear from Wolcott and Atrios:

The paper's lead story is a lurid account of the vicious treatment of two Afghan prisoners by U.S. soldiers -- events that occurred in December 2002 and for which seven servicemen have been properly punished. Let me repeat that: December 2002. That's two and a half years ago. Every detail published by the Times comes from a report done by the U.S. military, which did the investigating and the punishing. The publication of this piece this week is an effort not to get at the truth, not to praise the military establishment for rooting out the evil being done, but to make the point that the United States is engaged in despicable conduct as it fights the war on terror. In the name of covering the behinds of media colleagues, all is fair in hate and war.

If the news media policed themselves as well as the military does, Newsweek wouldn't be in this kind of trouble. (Emph. added).

MORE: Bruce Rolston notes that punishment hasn't actually happened yet, as the trial process is still underway. Fair point, but it's not like the NYT is breaking news here.

RON BAILEY looks at some promising new Korean research and says we've entered the age of therapeutic cloning. Sounds good to me. Here's more from the Financial Times:

Scientists have cloned embryos for the first time from patients with serious diseases and injuries. The research at Seoul National University in South Korea demonstrates the principle of “therapeutic cloning” producing stem cells genetically identical to the patient, which could repair any damaged or diseased tissue.

Hwang Woo-suk, the study leader, called it “a giant step forward towards the day when some of mankind's most devastating diseases and injuries can be effectively treated through the use of therapeutic stem cells”.

As Bailey notes:

The House of Representatives has twice voted to criminalize precisely this research, proposing to toss therapeutic cloning researchers into prison for up to ten years and fine them one million dollars. In fact, if this effort to criminalize research on cloned human stem cells were to succeed, Americans who go abroad to seek cloned stem cell treatments, say, to cure their diabetes, could be jailed for up to ten years for illegally "importing" cloned stem cells. The Bush Administration was also pushing the United Nations to adopt a treaty to outlaw both cloning to produce transplants and reproductive cloning.

The Bush Administration is wrong on this, and they're likely to get politically steamrollered if they make a fight of it, once people realize that they, or their family, are at risk of dying from otherwise curable diseases if this kind of legislation passes.

THE NEW NIKON D70 FIRMWARE UPGRADE 2.0 is out.

INTERESTING POST ON BUSH AND LEBANON, by a Lebanese blogger.

DAVE KOPEL ANALYZES Florida's new self-defense law. It may well be coming to your state and, let's hope, one day to Britain.

MARTIN PERETZ ON NEWSWEEK, IN THE NEW REPUBLIC:

The journalistic establishment is circling the wagons, of course. Journalists usually blame themselves last and forgive themselves first. They are taking special umbrage at the White House's indignation about Newsweek's iniquity and insisting that this is the pot calling the kettle anti-Muslim. It is certainly true that the Bush administration, at Guantánamo and at Abu Ghraib, is responsible for a good deal of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world (see Noah Feldman, "Ugly Americans," page 23). The Bush administration is not perfectly qualified to give lessons in transparency. But, if Scott McClellan should not be allowed to hide behind Michael Isikoff, neither should Michael Isikoff be allowed to hide behind Scott McClellan. The subject this week is not the misdeeds of government. The subject this week is the misdeeds of journalism. No wonder many editors and editorialists want to change the subject.

"We feel badly": With those insultingly wan words, Whitaker thinks that he has wrapped things up. All of Newsweek's penitential protestations notwithstanding, what emerges from this episode is the image of a profession that is complacent, self-righteous, and hopelessly in love with itself. Is this a terrible generalization? Well, there are 17 people who lost their lives because of the state of journalistic practice at a U.S. magazine. When American journalists do not think of themselves as heroes, they think of themselves as victims; but here they are neither. They are--I mean Isikoff and his editors--simply scavengers.

"Complacent, self-righteous, and hopelessly in love with itself." Ouch.

SAW THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE this afternoon with some colleagues (including one who, beneath her cool professional exterior, is such a stone geek that she and her friends in college tried to manufacture Dune-style stillsuits). My take: (1) The political angle is way overblown. In fact, the Kenobi "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line is deeply ironic, since immediately afterward Anakin/Vader plays the moral relativism card, responding that while Obi-Wan may think Palpatine is evil, that's all a matter of opinion: From his point of view the Jedi are evil. The NYT editorial board couldn't have done it better! (2) Unfortunately, the movie nonetheless stinks. My dean's comment was that it would have played better as a silent movie, and he's right -- you might as well be reading the dialogue off of cards, because the actors sure sound like they're reading the dialogue off of cards. Exacerbating this problem, the audio stunk. Actors' words didn't always sync perfectly with their lips, nobody even tried to capture room ambience to match the settings, and the lines often sounded dubbed -- delivered as if into a microphone while reading hurriedly from a script, as they probably were. 90210 had more convincing acting.

The effects were great, but I couldn't bring myself to care all that much. Really, nothing special, and, of course, drastically inferior to the original movies.

UPDATE: I like this from Chris Suellentrop:

What's great about Star Wars—and one of the reasons I think it has greater appeal—is its acknowledgement, even celebration, of the irrational, the mystical, the religious. More than one friend of mine—OK, me and one friend of mine—sat in our separate backyards as children trying to move rocks with our minds. Star Wars isn't political, but liberals are now trying to adopt it as their own, by claiming that Revenge of the Sith is an allegory for the Bush administration. Um, does that mean that Osama Bin Laden is a Jedi?

The whole thing is amusing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Collier calls it "story-rich and emotionally engaging." Boy, he saw it differently than I did.

MORE: Hmm. I should have taken Ann Althouse's position. But who would pay me $500 for this review? Not even via tipjar . . .

MORE STILL: Speaking of economics (sort of), Tyler Cowen offers a Public Choice analysis of the Jedi Council, which explains why the Galaxy was doomed to go to pot.

Meanwhile, reader Aaron Azlant emails:

You're right about the unintentional irony in the fact that Anakin/Vader plays the relativist card soon after the "only a Sith thinks in absolutes" line. I'd argue that the irony is further deepened by the fact that Obi-Wan's line is itself also an absolute statement.

Indeed.

STILL MORE: Complexities abound: "The movie's only voice of tolerance and relativism was Palpatine, advising Anakin that the only way to be truly great is to understand all aspects of the Force!"

I also agree with this bit:

Star Wars revolutionised special effects in 1977 because it used giant, highly detailed models of ships that looked real because they were. It's why the opening shot of Star Wars was recently voted the #1 special effect of all time. Unfortunately Industrial Light and Magic has abandoned its roots and the opening of Episode III looks more like the dodgy Babylon 5 television show. There is no physicality to the proto-Star Destroyers in this movie, so no matter how many there are in the battle above Coruscant, there is no sense of awe because it just feels like a video game.

I think that when you work with CGI stuff too much, you lose sight of what looks real. On the other hand, Tai Vokins takes a more positive view:

The new Star Wars (Revenge of the Sith) rocked my socks off last night. I can't wait to see it again. And I also can't wait to hear the loosers complain about it. I'm already reading reviews that critcize the acting, and the writing. But what the hell did you expect?

And I like this bit: "What really pisses me off is a lot of these people who complain about star wars are going to see it again! Its like the movie will somehow change and get better."

Malaysian blogger Sandalsilver liked it, too: "The final episode of the saga, Revenge of the Sith was worth the wait." He thinks the acting was bad, though. But this Malaysian blogger wasn't impressed: "Revenge of the Sith tanked and stank to high heaven."

Kevin Dangoor calls it "Excellent," but is disappointed that Jar-Jar Binks didn't meet a gruesome end.

Scott Rushing writes: "Revenge of the Sith was much better than I had hoped for. The CGI has improved tremendously, even in just the last three years. The acting was not as stiff as I had feared."

And Lovelain calls it "The Passion of the Christ for Star Wars fans," which is weirdly appropriate, in a way.

SyntheticLife, meanwhile, gives the guy who sat next to him a pretty harsh review: "I would've said something but then I got scared when he started talking to the characters in the movie."

THIS IS A PARODY, RIGHT? Please let this be a parody. (Via The Zero Boss).

THE BELMONT CLUB has thoughts on the political turmoil in Canada.

I AGREE WITH KOS:

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who runs the liberal blog Daily Kos, told Salon that he'll stop linking to Times Op-Eds once the new policy goes into effect. "I think this is the best way they can become irrelevant," he said.

"If my readers can't read it, why would I link to it? The key to blogging is that readers can look at the source material and make up their own minds."

Absolutely.

DONALD SENSING offers advice on successful public speaking and cultural sensitivity to the President of Pepsico: "Rhetorically, Nooyi’s speech was a mess. More than that, it was insulting to the graduates. She talked down to them and sought to impart a sense of shame where they had done no wrong."

SOME PEOPLE, APPARENTLY, weren't paying attention during the Eason Jordan affair. This has John Cole, who has been defending Newsweek, depressed. More background here.

RAND SIMBERG NOTES that ABC News is rewriting history on filibusters and the Civil Rights Act.

MAX BOOT:

Hosni Mubarak must think that George W. Bush is a chump. The Egyptian pharaoh apparently realizes that the U.S. president is serious about spreading freedom and democracy to the Middle East, but he still thinks he can get away with cosmetic changes that do nothing to seriously change the ugly nature of his regime.

Read the whole thing.

BLAME THE CRAZY MUSLIMS: This seems to be the rapidly-gelling defense of Newsweek.

That's certainly the tack that David Brooks is taking in today's New York Times (though if he thinks only right-wing bloggers see the press as anti-military, perhaps he should call up Terry Moran). Brooks writes:

The people who seized upon this item, like the radical clerics in Afghanistan, are cynical in the way they manipulate episodes like this to whip up hatred and so magnify their own standing.

At the same time, they believe everything that could be alleged about America - and more. They've spent so many years inhabiting a delusional mental landscape filled with conspiracy theories and paranoia that you could drill deep into their minds without ever touching reality.

Finally, they are strategically ruthless. Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker, who has spent years reporting on extremists, says they use manufactured spasms of hatred to desensitize their followers. After followers spend a few years living through rabid riots and vicious sermons, killing an American or a Jew or even a fellow Muslim seems no more consequential than killing a mosquito. That's how suicide bombers are made.

The rioters are the real enemy, not Newsweek and not the American soldiers serving as prison guards. Just to restore some proper perspective, let me quote a snippet from a sermon delivered by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, which ran last weekend on the Palestinian Authority's official TV station:

"The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquillity under our rule because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."

These are the extremists, the real enemy. Let's keep our eye on the ball.

True enough -- and as Christopher Hitchens and Austin Bay have been saying, media outlets like the Times have been failing to point this out in the past.

It may have taken a journalistic scandal to unclog the pipes, but it's nice to see people finally noticing this, and holding the "Arab" (or at least Muslim) "street" to account as moral agents. That hardly excuses Newsweek's journalistic failings, though. (And I suspect that if a falsehood by Rush Limbaugh had led to a race riot, people wouldn't be taking this tack.) Still, with David Brooks, Jeff Jacoby and Tom Friedman all on the same page here, perhaps the press will begin to recognize that this isn't Vietnam redux, but an entirely different sort of war. One in which, I should note, the enemy counts on journalists to be sloppy, biased, and willing to excuse or ignore Islamist extremism in the service of domestic politics.

UPDATE: Brian Dunn emails that he predicted this. Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis comments on Brooks:

Whining media bashers? How about dissatisifed media consumers? How about disappointed fellow journalists? How about unhappy fellow Americans?

Brooks is right to say that it's silly and offensive to bash Newsweek and not bash the fanatical murderers who used this report as an excuse to kill.

But I think he's wrong not to bash Nesweek himself, not to also criticize the magazine for making such an irresponsible error.

Brooks spends a paragraph saying that he used to work at Newsweek and he likes those guys and doesn't believe they're commies and that's very nice.

But by not criticizing the report, the net message of this otherwise spot-on column is that press people defend press people, that we circle our wagons around our screw-ups, that we stick together first. Especially today, with the press' trust in tatters, that is the wrong message.

There's certainly a lot of wagon-circling going on.

Related thoughts, here.

MORE: Tom Maguire notes cognitive dissonance and historical revisionism on this subject over the past week.

MUCH MORE ON EVENTS IN UZBEKISTAN, over at Registan.

BILL WHITTLE has posted a new essay. Here's the link to part one.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Another oil-for-food exclusive over at Roger Simon's. Roger: "I will post any response from Mr. Volcker as soon as I learn of it."

THERE'S NOT MUCH INFORMATION on Ron Bailey's new book, but the article I linked below says it's coming out next month. It certainly sounds interesting, and timely.

ASPARAGIRL: "I didn't intend to become a roof-skulking lease-breaking veggie-pusher, really."

HAS NATIONAL REVIEW FLIP-FLOPPED ON FILIBUSTERS?

ELECTIONS IN ETHIOPIA: Will Franklin has a roundup.

UPDATE: Ethiopia-bog Ethiopundit -- which I just found out about -- has been covering these for a while. Just keep scrolling. The verdict is unfavorable.

UZBEKISTAN UPDATE: Publius has more thoughts on the massacre, and an observation: "When, inevitably, Uzbekistan comes to reform, the people are going to remember who their friends were when they lived under a government they hated."

And Gateway Pundit has another big roundup with links, photos, and video.

MEDIA BIAS AS MARKET SEGMENTATION: Virginia Postrel has some thoughts.

TIMING is everything.

TERRY OGLESBY IS FOOD-COURT FASHIONBLOGGING: "But there are some folks, folks who think they are REALLY out there pushing the outside of the envelope, and, well, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya: ‘You keep wearing those clothes. I do not think they look the way you think they look.’"

On the other hand, the news is not all dark and gloomy: "The return of sartorial standards among the young American men it makes the Manolo most happy."

RON BAILEY spends a day at the Brain Spa:

Chatterjee cited an interesting poll in which people were asked whether they would give a safe drug to a child that would enhance his or her ability to learn to play the piano if they had the opportunity. Half of the respondents said absolutely not. They regarded learning the piano through persistent practice as character building and using pills as a cheat. However, the other half had no problem at all with giving kids a piano pill. What sets the stage for social and political conflict over enhancement technologies is that people on both sides in the poll were completely convinced that their view would be shared by everybody.

Chatterjee ended by joking that if his next NIH grant got turned down, he might "stop what I'm doing and open up a brain spa." Whether or not he decides to hang out a shingle, he predicted, "There will be a brain spa opening close to you in the near future."

I think they'll do good business.

May 18, 2005

LARRY KUDLOW says we're blundering on China: "The only thing more dangerous than forcing China off the dollar standard is the protectionist idea being advanced by Senators Smoot Schumer and Hawley Graham."

PHOTO-COLTBLOGGING over at Red Georgia Clay: This is timely stuff. One of my sister's horses is about to foal, and she's been nervous all day.

HUGH HEWITT interviewed Terry Moran regarding the back-and-forth at yesterday's White House Press Briefing. The transcript is here.

UPDATE: Reader Dart Montgomery thinks that this is the Moran money quote:

It comes from, I think, a huge gulf of misunderstanding, for which I lay plenty of blame on the media itself. There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it's very dangerous.

Indeed.

MICHAEL TOTTEN says the Cedar Revolution is coming to Syria.

BLOGGER NICK GENES was on the Alitalia flight that was diverted yesterday for antiterrorism reasons. He reports what it was like, and has some questions and complaints for the authorities.

ARE WE LIKELY TO SEE "dirty tricks" aimed at the blogosphere? I explore the possibility over at GlennReynolds.com, and draw some lessons from history.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, a Brit who has not gone soft in the war on terror, wonders why the New York Times is reluctant to call terrorists terrorists?

The Bin Ladenists did have a sort of "governing program," expressed in part by their Taliban allies and patrons. This in turn reflected a "unified ideology." It can be quite easily summarized: the return of the Ottoman Empire under a caliphate and a return to the desert religious purity of the seventh century (not quite the same things, but that's not our fault). In the meantime, anyway, war to the end against Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and Shiites. None of the "experts" quoted in the article appeared to have remembered these essentials of the al-Qaida program, but had they done so, they might not be so astounded at the promiscuous way in which the Iraqi gangsters pump out toxic anti-Semitism, slaughter Nepalese and other Asian guest-workers on video and gloat over the death of Hindus, burn out and blow up the Iraqi Christian minority, kidnap any Westerner who catches their eye, and regularly inflict massacres and bombings on Shiite mosques, funerals, and assemblies. . . .

The Bin Laden and Zarqawi organizations, and their co-thinkers in other countries, have gone to great pains to announce, on several occasions, that they will win because they love death, while their enemies are so soft and degenerate that they prefer life. Are we supposed to think that they were just boasting when they said this? Their actions demonstrate it every day, and there are burned-out school buses and clinics and hospitals to prove it, as well as mosques (the incineration of which one might think to be a better subject for Islamic protest than a possibly desecrated Quran, in a prison where every inmate is automatically issued with one.)

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

UPDATE: Reader Barry Dauphin emails:

Yes, Hitchens actually takes bin Laden and Zarqawi seriously. He might revile them but he shows them enough respect to listen to their words. Anyone who reads the bin Laden fatwas knows what he's up to; it’s all there. Either the NYT and others haven't really read them or they think "he can't be serious." And today Krugman is bloviating that the war in Iraq is Vietnam redux and is making us weaker day by day. And the NYT actually wants people to pay for that crap?

There's a subscriber born every minute.

75 DEGREES SOUTH is a pretty cool blog from Antarctica. Where things are always pretty cool.

JUST IN TIME FOR HURRICANE SEASON: It's a new weather-blog called Storm Track, by Jordan Golson.

TV VIA THE INTERNET: It looks like it's finally coming true.

ANDREW SULLIVAN writes that he didn't mean to claim that wrapping someone in an Israeli flag was torture, even though he listed it with other things that he clearly did regard as torture, and drew no distinction. He asks me to correct the record; I wish instead that he would try writing on (and thinking about) this subject with the clarity and seriousness of which he has shown himself capable in the past. All evidence suggests, however, that I am likely to be disappointed.

UPDATE: Reader Christopher Levenick notes that in an earlier post, Andrew specificially included wrapping in an Israeli flag under the heading ANTI-ISLAMIC TORTURE. If Andrew doesn't regard flag-wrapping as torture, then pehaps he should refrain from this sort of thing in the future. I've suggested in the past that Sullivan would be more persuasive in a cause with which I actually agree (I've long been anti-torture, after all) if he displayed more rigor and didn't turn the volume to "11." That remains true. I'm not interested in an inter-blog pissing match; I tend to take a blog-and-let-blog approach to these sorts of things. But I think that Andrew's take on these issues hasn't accomplished what he hopes to accomplish, and I don't think that it will do so in the future if his approach remains the same.

A LOOK AT SUICIDAL TENDENCIES IN THE WEST, from Bruce Thornton. I think he overstates the problem.

READER BRUCE GERYK points out this buried lede from Anne Applebaum:

It is also possible that Newsweek reporters relied too much on an uncertain source, or that the magazine confused the story with (confirmed) reports that prisoners themselves used Korans to block toilets as a form of protest.

I had missed those confirmed reports, but heads should roll at the Pentagon for this.

Not because it happened, but because we didn't make it a big story across the Arab media. That's unforgivable.

UPDATE: Applebaum is criticized, here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more questions for Applebaum.

UNSCAM UPDATE: There's an oil-for-food roundup at Canadian blogsite Newsbeat 1.

MORE ON UZBEKISTAN, from Veronika Khokhlova.

WHATEVER ELSE JOHN NEGROPONTE DOES, I'm pretty sure he won't be taking advice from Richard Clarke.

DAVID CORN IS DEFENDING MICHAEL ISIKOFF against his attackers on the left.

RISAWN is beach-blogging, photo-blogging, and even cat-blogging from Greece, and observes: "See, we were trained on trying to blend into the populace and appear sort of unamerican. The thing is, Americans stand out like a Doberman in a pack of chihuahuas."

GOT STAR WARS POSTS? Drop by The Carnival of the Force and make a contribution.

UH-OH: "Newsweek Lutefisk Story Sparks Fury Across Volatile Midwest."

REX HAMMOCK COMMENTS: "John Jay Hooker is a much better blogger than Phil Bredesen."

REALITY-BASED BLOGGING over at The Corner.

THERE'S LOTS OF GOOD STUFF over at The Belmont Club, and if you haven't been there in a while you should drop by and just keep scrolling.

I'M NEITHER SURPRISED NOR SAD: CBS has cancelled 60 Minutes II.

OLD NEWS DISGUISED AS NEW: DefenseTech shoots down the NYT's somewhat breathless report on space warfare.

THE HELPLESSNESS OF THE BLOGS: Bird's Eye View uses the example of Uzbekistan's media clampdown as a jumping-off point for discussing how blogs depend on Big Media for news.

That's largely true now, of course, though -- and Uzbekistan is actually a good example -- email, etc. can allow news to get out even where reporting is silenced, as the post notes. And it's also an illustration of why I'm so big on the idea of having lots of bloggers scattered around the world, preferably equipped with digital cameras so that they can send not only reports, but pictures and video. The more of that sort of thing we can draw on, the harder it will be for tyrants -- or media organizations themselves -- to black out coverage.

IT'S THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES, full of posts from bloggers you may want to start visiting regularly. Go on -- read some other blogs that you haven't read before. I'll still be here when you're ready to come back.

I WAS GOING TO DO a big post on filibusters, but I really don't have anything to say that I haven't said before. Sorry.

There's a lot of role-reversal going on: The New York Times has switched its position since the 1990s, along with some leading law professors, and Crooks & Liars has some amusing video (here and here), but this seems to me to be a purely political fight, and one I'm not terribly interested in. If I thought that Bush were likely to nominate actual small-government strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, perhaps I'd care more, but I've seen no sign that he's likely to do that.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF EDUCATION is up.

PATRICK RUFFINI is hosting a Star Wars PhotoShop contest.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here's a Star Wars roundup over at BlogCritics.

THE TANGLED BANK, a cool science and medicine blog carnival, is up in its latest installment. Check it out.

SIGNS OF PROGRESS IN SYRIA?

Beset by U.S. attempts to isolate his country and facing popular expectations of change, Syrian President Bashar Assad will move to begin legalizing political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy, according to officials, diplomats and analysts. . . .

Emboldened opposition leaders, many of whom openly support pressure by the United States even if they mistrust its intentions, said the measures were the last gasp of a government staggering after its hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal last month from neighboring Lebanon.

The debate over the changes comes during a remarkable surge in what constitutes dissent in this country of 18 million. For the first time in years, opposition figures and even government allies are openly speculating on the fate of a party that, in some fashion, has ruled Syria since 1963 in the name of Arab nationalism, and today faces perhaps its greatest crisis.

As Jonah Goldberg notes, the rush of democratization has reached the point where the Post isn't even treating this as big news.

UPDATE: Here's a report of pro-democracy protests in Syria, with photos.

LINCOLN CAPLAN WRITES about law blogs. Ernest Miller has some thoughts in response.

NEWSWEEK meets 21st Century war: That's the subject of Austin Bay's latest column.

TIPPED! My TechCentralStation column today is about media in the aftermath of the Newsweek debacle.

MARK GLASER looks at bloggers in Bahrain, who are starting to play a significant political role.

GREG DJEREJIAN has much more on Uzbekistan.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has a big roundup of news. And Slate collects some blog-posts that I hadn't seen before.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Still more, from Daniel Drezner.

OPINIO JURIS has thoughts on weapons in outer space.

I had a column on this a while back, and I've got a somewhat longer treatment coming out in the University of Chicago Journal of International Law sometime this summer.

CATHY SEIPP INTERVIEWS Andrew Breitbart, formerly of Drudge, now of The Huffington Post.

May 17, 2005

HEH.

UPDATE: Ouch!

THE SCOTSMAN ON GALLOWAY'S SENATE TESTIMONY:

GEORGE Galloway yesterday failed in his attempt to convince a sceptical US Senate investigative committee that he had not profited from oil dealings with Iraq under the UN’s controversial oil-for-food programme.

Despite a typically barnstorming performance full of bluster and rhetorical flourishes, the former Glasgow Kelvin MP was pinned down by persistent questioning over his business relationship with Fawaz Zureikat, the chairman of the Mariam Appeal - set up to assist a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia.

And it was a Democrat senator, Carl Levin, rather than the Republican committee chairman, Norm Coleman, who gave him the hardest time as Mr Galloway sought to turn the tables on his inquisitors, leaving him no closer to clearing his name than when he took his seat in front of the sub-committee of the Senate’s homeland security and government affairs committee in Washington.

Time and again, Mr Levin questioned him, requesting wearily that he deliver a straight answer to a straight question. But Mr Galloway could, or would not.

No surprise, there. Thanks to reader Bill Rudersdorf for the link.

THE CENTER FOR RESPONSIBLE NANOTECHNOLOGY reports that molecular manufacturing may be closer than we think.

Link to the full report, here.

I WAS ON HUGH HEWITT'S SHOW EARLIER, with Jay Rosen, talking about the Newsweek scandal. Hugh seemed to think that Newsweek should be at risk of legal action. I didn't agree, and neither did Jay. (The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, seem to agree with Hugh).

Jay and I did agree that Newsweek's admission of ignorance regarding the consequences of its reporting was truly stunning. And Jay seemed surprised that my warnings about the consequences for freedom of the press of such irresponsibility were just that: warnings, not a desired state. But they are. Today's expansive press freedom, which I support wholeheartedly, is of recent origin (essentially, it's a post-World War II phenomenon) and not to be taken for granted. Remember all the talk about the Enron scandal, and how free enterprise was at risk if greedy corporations didn't clean up their acts? Well, I'm afraid that press freedom is at risk if it's seen as a vehicle for out-of-touch corporations to peddle defective products without fear of consequences. (Ironically, the rise of blogs and other people-based media -- "we-dia" as Jim Treacher calls them -- may be the best defense against that).

Both Jay and I rated this scandal an 8 on a scale where RatherGate was a 10. While there will be specific consequences, for Newsweek and its staff, the bigger damage will be yet another incremental loss of press credibility. I'd rather have a press that was trusted, and trustworthy. We're still some distance from that, I'm afraid.

There will be a transcript up at Radioblogger, later.

UPDATE: Comments on how the press is handling all this -- in a word, badly -- here.

You know, when I used to watch old war movies, I never understood the scene where a character would ask "don't you know there's a war on?" Of course he does, I'd think, It's a war movie, for Chrissake!

In the real world, however, it seems less obvious to some people. To the Newsweek folks this was a minor domestic "gotcha" story, and they seem to have completely missed the fact that in wartime, where the enemy is using this sort of thing as the centerpiece of its propaganda campaign, it's a lot more than that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh writes:

Speaking personally, I have a great many things on my To-Do List that take precedence over a war with the mainstream media, and contrary to the import of these moronic conspiracy theories, I would love to work hand-in-glove with the mainstream media to ensure a somewhat interesting and educational debate. And here's a news flash: I have this belief--call me naïve, but I hope that you would be wrong in doing so--that bloggers on the other side of the ideological and partisan divide have the exact same wish.

Indeed.

ANDREW SULLIVAN seems to think that I should be blogging more about Abu Ghraib, and less about the Newsweek scandal. Well, I think he should be blogging more (er, at least some) about the worse-than-Tiananmen massacre in Uzbekistan, and perhaps a bit less about gay marriage. But so what? What people blog about is none of my business. Andrew seems to feel differently, and beyond that seems to have endorsed the "fake but accurate" defense of Newsweek's reporting.

I do confess that I think that winning the war is much more important than Abu Ghraib, and that viewing the entire war -- and the entire American military -- through the prism of Abu Ghraib is as unfair as judging all Muslims by the acts of terrorists. Andrew has chosen the role of emoter-in-chief on these subjects, and he's welcome to it, though he would be more convincing in that part if he didn't count wrapping people in the Israeli flag as torture.

But while I think that what happened at Abu Ghraib was bad, and that it should be punished, and that Koran-flushing (if it had happened) would have been bad, though not torturous, I don't think it's terribly important compared to the war as a whole, and I think that it takes a peculiar perspective to make it emblematic of the war, and of the American military, which seems to be where Andrew is going these days, at least to judge -- as he invites us to -- by the volume of posts. Every war has its Abu Ghraibs -- and, usually, its Dresdens and its Atlantas, which this war has lacked, not because America didn't have the ability, but because it possessed a decency and restraint that gets small credit. When Andrew was a champion of the war on terror, writing about martial spirit and fifth columns composed of the "decadent left," did he believe that nothing like Abu Ghraib would happen, when such things (and much worse) happen in prisons across America (and everywhere else) on a daily basis? If so, he was writing out of an appalling ignorance.

As Mickey Kaus has noted, Andrew can be excitable. A while back he apologized to me for some of his criticisms during the election, and more recently he has apologized to his readers for his waffling and defeatism on the war last spring. Perhaps he'll apologize for this at some point in the future. But, I confess, I find the question of what Andrew thinks less pressing than I used to.

READER ZUBAER MAHBOOB EMAILS:

As a concerned Muslim who wants to see democracy take root not just in Iraq but all across the Middle East and Central Asia, I despair of the stunning silence in the blogosphere regarding the terrible news from Uzbekistan, a massacre of civilians by the odious Karimov.

What is really depressing is that all the bloggers who made such a song and dance over the Iraqi elections cannot for the life of them be bothered to even MENTION this atrocity, not even in passing.

You are our last hope, Glenn. I believe in your innate decency and fairness. If you can, please draw some attention to this topic. No one else is saying a word about it, giving Karimov and his backers a free ride on this issue. You have great influence in the political blogosphere. I request you to use your power to shed a stronger light on the misdeeds of this ugly client regime, and to at least force people to acknowledge what is going on.

We will be eternally grateful.

Well, I don't think that it's fair to say that nobody's talking about it. This rather long post from earlier today links quite a few bloggers who have been on the story for a while, and I've certainly been posting on it regularly. And Austin Bay has blogged about it as well, and is promising more, as has Winds of Change and Publius, among others.

Media coverage of events there has been rather thin, the government is doing its best to shut off communications, and unless -- like me in the earlier post, or like Gateway Pundit or Registan -- you're getting emails from people there, it's hard to find much to say. And I don't generally like to criticize people for blogging about what they think is important, instead of what I think is important.

Nonetheless, I do hope that more bloggers -- and more mainstream media outfits -- will take up the call. I suspect, and hope, that there's more going on than meets the eye at the moment. There usually is in these situations. But regardless, external pressure is almost always a good thing.

UPDATE: James Bennett (not the Anglosphere one) emails that he's posted about it on his blog, here and here. He's spent time there.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Brian Erst emails:

NPR had a very good piece on Uzbekistan today, featuring a reporter who was in the area where the massacre occurred.

The journalist was very clear that the official Uzbek government line is a lie. She personally witnessed Uzbek troops opening fire on demonstrators, including women and children, with no prior warning. She claimed the casualty figures were much, much higher than reported - at least 1000-1500 dead - and that did not include women and children, whose corpses the government gathered and "disappeared".

It was a disturbing report by an eyewitness.

Good for them. I caught part of ATC this afternoon, but not that part.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Reding has further thoughts.

MORE: A sum-up article by Nathan Hamm at OpenDemocracy.net.

I'M NOT SURE I CAN DESCRIBE THIS SITE in 100 words or less.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Roger Simon has an important oil-for-food document on his blog.

UPDATE: Sissy Willis has more on Galloway, and Ian Schwartz has video.

INTERESTING ARTICLE IN FORTUNE on the rise of the "do it yourself economy." And they've made it an open link for the benefit of bloggers, which is smart.

I've written a couple of related pieces, which you can see here and here.

THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT'S NEW MOTTO: "Whatever it takes!"

THIS WEEK'S Carnival of the Liberated is up!

FEC TAKE NOTE: Amit Varma points out that the Indian government is recognizing bloggers as journalists.

ANOTHER MEDIA SCANDAL? Mark Tapscott wonders what is going on at the Detroit Free Press.

MATT YGLESIAS EXPLAINS AMERICA to the Chinese.

He might also point out that the 9/11 attacks didn't have the expected effect. For a warmongering global imperialist power, America seems to be insufficiently feared.

UPDATE: Hmm. If Taiwan "acquired" a few dozen thermonuclear weapons, would the calculus change?

TIM RUSSO WRITES:

Who needs real news when you've got Wolf Blitzer telling you about it? Attempting to watch the oil-for-food hearing today featuring George Galloway via CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC was like watching a baseball game with the camera focused on the broadcast booth rather than the ball diamond. Every time it got good, especially during the questioning, which provided the real fireworks, they cut to some 'commentator' telling us how 'firey', 'scathing', etc Galloway was (especially Fox), while Galloway and Senators Coleman and Levin were actually being firey and scathing behind them. What a disgrace.

He switched to C-SPAN, which is usually the right move. Do they pay these guys by the word?

MORE ON NEWSWEEK: The UPI's Pamela Hess says that Newsweek blew it, but that the Bush Administration needs better PR efforts.

That's no doubt true, but I can understand their frustration in dealing with an extraordinarily hostile, and frequently untrustworthy, press.

And the latest poll results, which suggest that many Americans trust the government more than they trust the press, suggest that the press needs to work on its image, as well.

UZBEKISTAN UPDATE: [Identifying information removed at correspondent's request] Reader _________ emails:

[Paragraph deleted at correspondent's request.]

I'm writing to ask your opinion regarding the situation in Uzbekistan and the Bush Doctrine. Full disclosure-I'm a staunch Democrat but one that willingly acknowledges the positive effect the Iraq invasion has had on democracy movements in several nations. In fact, most liberals I know are shamefully in denial about this and need to wake up and get excited about the spread of freedom.

However, I think the Uzbek situation is where the Bush Doctrine's rubber needs to meet the road. It was great when the new democracy movements produced governments that were friendlier to US interests (Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon), but Uzbekistan is different. Karimov is our buddy, it seems primarily due to our military base in southern Uzbekistan. However this week we've seen just how amazingly brutal he is and the Bush Administration needs to come out clearly against this turd. I think we can find another place from which to stage our Afghanistan operation. Sadly, the lukewarm admonishments coming from our government only confirm my initial suspicion about the Bush Doctrine, that we would only pressure tyrants that we didn't need anyway.

I'm sure you've gotten lots of email like this about Uzbekistan, but I thought maybe you'd like to hear from an American who was there during the incident. It wasn't easy telling them that we were keeping our mouths shut because we find Karimov convenient. The worst thing is that they knew this already, they've known it for years.

Well, I think Ukraine stands as a counterexample to that, as Yushchenko has been far less supportive of U.S. war efforts than his predecessor. But I certainly think we need to be encouraging democracy in Uzbekistan.

In wartime, you can't always be choosy about your allies -- we sided with Stalin in World War Two, and for that matter cut deals with the likes of DeGaulle that we came to regret later. And America's longstanding reputation for being harder on our allies than our enemies is something we don't want to exacerbate, as you don't get allies that way. Telling friendly dictators that we'll focus our efforts elsewhere for a while, and give them time to arrange a transition to democracy that leaves their families safe and even lets them keep some of their ill-gotten gains is acceptable realpolitik. Closing your eyes to mass murder is not.

But I think it's fair to insist that things move in the right direction, not the wrong one, and from what I can tell, things in Uzbekistan have gone very far wrong -- far enough to justify ditching any promises made earlier, if the reports are true.

UPDATE: A reader who prefers anonymity sends this link to a report that we're actually doing more than I realized:

Over the past few years, Uzbek president Islam Karimov has been warned by the U.S. to either get with the democratic process, or risk getting overthrown. Even though the United States withdrew most foreign aid last year over this issue, Karimov believes that he can tough it out. But the United States has been funding pro-democracy political organizations in Uzbekistan.

Sounds like a good time to tighten the screws some more. Michael Totten says it's time to dump Karimov, and suggests that the White House agrees.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more on Uzbekistan at Registan.

MORE: Jim Hoft has posted further thoughts on Uzbekistan.

STILL MORE: Reader Robb Minneman is a bit unclear on the anonymous-source concept, and sends this:

I've never written before, but I felt the need to do so this one time.
You've been awfully tough on Newsweek (and deservedly so!) in the last
couple of days, but today, you did something just like they did. In the
update to your post on Uzbekistan and democracy movements
(http://instapundit.com/archives/023050.php), you quoted an anonymous
source.

Now this guy may not be anonymous to you, but really, how does this make you any different than Michael Isikoff? You've got just as much to worry about, in terms of trust issues, as Newsweek does. Maybe more so, as you're a newer outfit.

Er, except that the anonymous reader isn't the source for the information. He just forwarded me a link to a public source for the information. That's not the same at all.

Anonymous sources, of course, aren't always bad -- but you'd better either (1) be sure that what they're reporting is accurate; or (2) be truthful about your uncertainties in that regard. But sending someone a link isn't anonymous sourcing at all.

MORE STILL: Tim Russo says I'm not being tough enough on Uzbekistan. I think, however, that he misunderstood my original post.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Loads of stuff over at NewsBeat 1, and Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution has been Liveblogging the Galloway hearings.

Latest update: "11:53 - Sen. Coleman is establishing links between Zaraqat and Galloway, which are not being contested."

Plus this useful observation:

There's a slightly different focus coming from Chairman Coleman and his Democratic counterpart, but it's clear that they're on the same page as far as Galloway is concerned. That's very good to see, in that it undermines George's ad hominem attacks on the committee members ("a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neocon George Bush who is pro-war" as today's Times has him saying). In fact, that characterisation has been completely shot down.

Stay tuned.

MYTHBUSTING over at Silent Running. No Korans were harmed during this test, though the book used as a surrogate is regarded as holy by a few misguided souls. . . .

A PROMISING NEW TREATMENT for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Faster, please?

Though I wonder if it works against those bacteria that form biofilms?

UPDATE: Derek Lowe emails that this doesn't look so promising -- though at least my biofilm point made sense which, given how long it's been since I studied this stuff, is a relief:

Had a look at that Speculist/Wired News piece, followed by a perusal of the Oculus web site. Not too many details there for a chemist, so I searched for their IP, and found their patent WO03048421, which shows up assigned to Oculus in its European filing. That gave me more to go on.

I'm not all that impressed. This seems to have very little relation to the nanotube punctures that you wrote about a few months ago, despite the Speculist lead-in, and the Oculus PR doesn't make much sense, either. Their statement in the Wired article is:

"the ion-hungry water creates an osmotic potential that ruptures the cell walls
of single-celled organisms, and out leaks the cell's cytoplasm. Because
multicellular organisms -- people, animals, plants -- are tightly bound, the
water is prevented from surrounding the cells, and there is no negative impact"

Which is semi-gibberish. Talking about "ion-hungry" water that kills through osmosis makes it sound like it's some sort of ultrapure stuff, but their water has plenty of ions in it, since the electrolysis that produces it makes hypochlorous acid, hydrochloric acid, and so on. Those are surely the source of its bacteria-killing properties, which would then be done through good ol' toxic chemistry. And that "tightly bound" stuff isn't too compelling, either - so it'll just mess up your cells that it can get to, is my take on that, and won't touch bacteria that are embedded in a matrix or biofilm.

And the possibility for dosing this stuff in vivo is zero, by the way, for those same reasons.

Dang. I would rather this be a sure winner, alas.

ED CONE notes something amusing: "You can't make this stuff up."

I'm running across a lot of things like that.

WOW, THAT WAS FAST: Team America: World Police is out on DVD.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel emails:

Permit me to point at you and say "You're wrong!" Team America's theatre-to-DVD gestation actually was average-to-slow. It was released October 15, 2004, made $33 million, and hits DVD May 17 - that's seven months. By comparison the Michael Keaton sorta-hit "White Noise," which made $56 million, was released January 5, 2005 and also hits DVD today.

Another comparison - "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones" came out in theatres May 16, 2002. It came to DVD on November 12, six months later.

Believe me - as a "Team America" devotee I've been highly aware of how long it took to arrive on DVD.

Huh. Seemed fast to me, but I don't pay a lot of attention to these things. Didn't movies used to take over a year to hit DVD?

DO NEWSWEEK'S PROBLEMS stem from a lack of newsroom diversity?

UPDATE: Jay Rosen: "We have to chart the sourcing a little to see how thin the original story actually was."

And Wagner James Au emails:

Glenn, the Newsweek retraction has got me thinking: how many *other* MSM allegations of US military abuse/torture of prisoners were based on a single anonymous sources? How many of them depended solely on the "testimony" of Al Qaeda training camp graduates, who are taught to fabricate claims of abuse?

This could be the ideal challenge of bloggers (the media is hardly inclined to police itself), going through past stories with a fine tooth comb. (And I've no doubt many exist.)

Newsweek has set a precedent by retracting this one. Will other media outlets retract their own poorly sourced stories, when confronted?

Watch it, WJA -- you'll never write for Salon again with suggestions like that . . . .

InstaPunk, meanwhile, has a huge scoop that's just waiting for Time or Newsweek to pick it up. And the sourcing is impeccable.

UPDATE: Former Newsweek staffer Alex Wong writes:

I just can't see a less established reporter getting a pass on such a fact w/o more backup documentation than the hearsay of one anonymous source. Newsweek's prizing of their Bigfoots is on a higher level than the other publications I've worked for. It's not necessarily a bad thing -- branding a couple of writers is a pretty good business strategy. But perhaps, this time, it bit the mag in the ass.

Perhaps. Meanwhile, reader Kathy Caldwell emails:

Chris Matthews was turning himself into a pretzel last night trying to rationalize the legitimacy of the Newsweek story and essentially ended up with the opinion that even if the reporting was factually incorrect, because of the Army's previous abuses it was philosophically reported correctly. It was, basically, the Dan Rather argument. It was painful to watch and Matthews really looked desperate to me. Also, isn't there an association between Newsweek and MSNBC?

Yes, there is. Though that didn't stop me from slamming them. (The transcript for that show, which I didn't see, isn't up yet. It'll be here when it is.)

MORE STILL: Michael Silence posts the Knoxville News-Sentinel's policy on anonymous sources. Perhaps the folks at Newsweek should give it a read.

HEALTHCARE BLOG-A-RAMA: This week's Grand Rounds is up!

THE WORST SLAUGHTER SINCE TIANANAMEN SQUARE? Gateway Pundit reports on Uzbekistan.

MORE SHOCKING BEHAVIOR from U.N. peacekeepers.

It could have been worse. It could have been Yanni.

EVERY YEAR, somebody makes a fool of him/herself while giving a commencement speech.

How about going to Riyadh and telling them how they're seen? That would be real courage . . . .

WRITING IN THE OTTAWA SUN, Val Sears says that the revival of Canadian politics may require blogs.

AUSTIN BAY responds to Andrew Sullivan. So, in a way, does Irshad Manji.

UPDATE: Heh. Well, puppy-blending has been mentioned on national TV, so there must be something to it, right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Various people have asked about the origin of the puppy-blending thing. Here's the original post by Frank J., which spawned many further iterations. The good news is that people trying to dig up Internet dirt on me will have to wade through a lot of chaff.

Or, if they're at Newsweek, or CBS, or The Boston Globe, they can just publish it, photos and all! And, no doubt, blame the Internet later . . . .

In the interest of fairness, I just hope they'll note that even my fiercest critics admit that I do "a better than average robot dance." Some truths will pierce even the thickest fog of lies!

HERE'S A TAKE on Peter Robinson & Todd Zywicki's Dartmouth victory.

May 16, 2005

BUILDING BETTER HUMANS: An interesting article from the Washington Post:

"You have to make a distinction between the science and the technological applications," says Francis Fukuyama, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and director of the Human Biotechnology Governance Project. "It's probably true that in terms of the basic science, it's pretty hard to stop that. It's not one guy in a laboratory somewhere. But not everything that is scientifically possible will actually be technologically implemented and used on a large scale. In the case of human cloning, there's an abstract possibility that people will want to do that, but the number of people who are going to want to take the risk is going to be awfully small."

Taboos will play an important role, Fukuyama says. "We could really speed up the whole process of drug improvement if we did not have all the rules on human experimentation. If companies were allowed to use clinical trials in Third World countries, paying a lot of poor people to take risks that you wouldn't take in a developed country, we could speed up technology quickly. But because of the Holocaust -- "

Fukuyama thinks the school of hard knocks will slow down a lot of attempts. "People may in the abstract say that they're willing to take that risk. But the moment you have a deformed baby born as a result of someone trying to do some genetic modification, I think there will be a really big backlash against it."

The article mentions Moore's Law, but Fukuyama quickly encounters Godwin's Law . . . And, of course, Fukuyama, like many bioconservatives, is much more worried about biotechnological improvements that work as advertised than about those that fail. In fact, Fukuyama, and Leon Kass, are deeply troubled that these visions will come true:

Ray Kurzweil, an artificial-intelligence pioneer and winner of the National Medal of Technology, shrugs at the controversy over the use of stem cells from human embryos: "All the political energy that has gone into this issue -- it is not even slowing down the most narrow approach." It is simply being pursued outside the United States -- in China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Scandinavia and Great Britain, where scientists will probably achieve success first, he notes.

In the next couple of decades, Kurzweil predicts, life expectancy will rise to at least 120 years. Most diseases will be prevented or reversed. Drugs will be individually tailored to a person's DNA. Robots smaller than blood cells -- nanobots, as they are called -- will be routinely injected by the millions into people's bloodstreams. They will be used primarily as diagnostic scouts and patrols, so if anything goes wrong in a person's body, it can be caught extremely early.

As James Watson, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, famously put it: "No one really has the guts to say it, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn't we?"

Why, indeed?

UPDATE: Reader Aram Hagopian emails:

Here is my prediction- you will (~ next 5 yrs) will renounce your conservative position and become a anti- religion liberal. You will claim that the conservative movement is controlled by religious fanatics. You will cite the Schiavo case (I have no dog in this fight ) , gay marriage ban, and some event the future which reinforces your inner fear of Christians. Seeing the rise of Muslimism only adds to your fears and mistrusts. I think this started with your grandfather (or father ) who felt that all preachers were meal-grubbing charlatans. Starting with this distorted view ( I am amazed how an intellectual like yourself would by into this mindless bias) you seem to have your fears reinforced by some experience or persons. You are one of the best bloggers and I hope( I dare not say pray) my prediction will turn out to be false.

I think that Hagopian has me confused with Andrew Sullivan. On the other hand, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a conservative, and only simple-minded wartime litmus tests make me out to be so.

MARC DANZIGER talks about Pajamas Media.

A PRETTY MUCH IRREFUTABLE ARGUMENT as to why there will be more Star Trek and Star Wars movies in the future.

UNSCAM UPDATE:

Russia's stubborn pro-Saddam stance in the UN Security Council brought Vladimir Putin's party and political machine enormous financial rewards in the form of bribe money coming from the UN Oil for Food Program, according to two detailed reports being released today by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). Those bribes have fueled Putin's drive to restore authoritarian government in Russia. It is more than just corruption. Senate investigators say Saddam's penetration of the Russian political system was so deep that it could -- and did -- cause the passage of pro-Iraqi measures in the Russian Duma.

Were there any countries that opposed the war without being bribed? I'm just, you know, asking.

HUGH HEWITT:

Even as the blogosphere exploded in anger at Newsweek --an anger that will combine with talk radio to drive the message of the weekly’s unconscionable negligence resulting in the loss of human life and grave damage to American interests—some blog critics at the PersonalDemocracyForum were arguing that blogs' day has already passed. I pointed out to the audience that the Newsweek meltdown again underscores the value of the medium in that the blogs are relentlessly pushing the story of Newsweek’s screw-up which is the only antidote to the damage done. It isn’t a perfect antidote by any means --not even close. But at least new media is putting the truth out there so that any fair-minded observer will know that Newsweek had no basis for reporting the story that has caused so much havoc.

Newsweek has since admitted that, of course. But if this had happened ten years ago, they probably wouldn't have.

UPDATE: Sgt. Mom has written a memo to various participants. (Via M. Simon).

TAEGAN GODDARD'S POLITICAL WIRE has tracked down Walter Shapiro, and asked him one question. It's about filibusters. His answer proves that a good pundit can make anything interesting.

Kevin Patrick, meanwhile, thinks that Democrats will win the filibuster fight.

ORIN KERR offers congratulations to a crop of graduating law-student bloggers.

Now just get that little bar-exam formality out of the way, and life will be sweet!

MORE TROUBLE IN BOLIVIA: I suspect that Hugo Chavez is behind this.

BILL QUICK reports: "It's Official: San Francisco Election Laws Won't Regulate Internet Web Logs."

READER CORINN PARADICE asks me to publicize the Dollywood-sponsored Lazy River Float-a-thon to raise money for Ronald McDonald House. You can read about it here and there's a registration form here. How could it not be fun?

EVERYBODY SEEMS TO BE PUTTING THEIR SPIN on the new Star Wars movies:

George Lucas, sometimes accused of reinforcing racial stereotypes with his movies, has done it again, according to critics.

Latino critics in particular charge his latest Star Wars epic, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, toys with American paranoia about Mexican immigration with its cloned army of swarthy lookalikes who march in lockstep by the tens of thousands, and ultimately end up serving as Darth Vader's white-suited warriors. . . .

Lucas was in Cannes and could not be reached for comment.

I just hope, rather weakly, that this new one won't suck.

Professor Bainbridge, on the other hand, levels a more serious charge against the forthcoming one. "In choosing to put those words in Obi-Wan's mouth - 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes' - Lucas did more than just play to Hollywood left-liberalism. He betrayed his own creation."

The specter of "Mr. T." is also invoked.

NEWSWEEK has retracted its Koran-flushing story now, after its earlier weak apology didn't satisfy.

Good for them. Next time, of course, maybe they'll put some of those vaunted Big Media fact-checkers and editors to work before they publish.

As a comment over at Ed Morrisey's blog notes, they know how to be tactful when they want to be:

Newsweek ran the story knowing that it would excite the passions of the world's muslim population.

Contrast this with the media's refusal to show pictures of our fellow citizens jumping out the the world trade center. We were told that such pictures would unneccessarily anger the American people and lead to violence against Muslim Americans.

As I've said, they know how to be exquisitely sensitive, when they care to be.

And this does kind of cut some Newsweek defenders off at the knees.

I want to add that I don't think there's anything immoral about flushing a Koran (or a Bible) down the toilet, assuming you've got a toilet that's up to that rather daunting task, and I think it's amusing to hear people who usually worry about excessive concern for religious beliefs suddenly taking a different position. Nor do I think that doing so counts as torture, and I think that it debases the meaning of "torture" to claim otherwise. If this had happened, it might have been -- indeed, would have been -- impolitic or unwise. But not evil.

And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to be willing to apply the same kind of criticism to things like Piss Christ, or to explain why offending the sensibilities of one kind of religious believer is "art" while doing the same in another context is "torture." If, that is, they want to be taken at all seriously.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has thoughts after his MSNBC appearance.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dave Price offers a prediction:

Released detainees current and future will falsely claim the Koran-flushing happened, just as their Al Qaeda training manuals instruct them to do. Liberals in and out of the media will cite the detainees and claim vindication, while remaining utterly oblivious to why some people always complain they're working with the enemy.

It's funny that press accounts on this topic don't seem to mention that Al Qaeda folks are trained to lie about torture, etc., when reporting on that topic.

And the fake-but-accurate defense is appearing as scheduled.

DARFUR UPDATE: Here's a diverse collection of blog posts on the genocide in Darfur.

CLAYTON CRAMER offers a (modestly) cautionary note regarding the "Newsweek lied, people died" meme:

As long as we remember that this is satire, we are okay. At this point, the evidence is not that Newsweek intentionally lied, but that they were misled, and were negligent in rushing into print with a poorly substantiated story.

In this sense, there is a similarity to what happened about the WMDs that we couldn't find in Iraq. There is one rather substantial difference: the claims about Iraq and WMDs had enormous substantiation, from previous use, from mid-1990s nuclear weapon development, from Iraqi intransigence about UN inspectors, and from lies that Hussein told to his own military about these WMDs.

What did Newsweek have when it decided to blacken the U.S. reputation in the Islamic world? One anonymous source who thinks he saw some mention of this allegation of desecration of the Koran in a report--and now isn't so sure that he saw it.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: SayUncle:

The more appropriate meme would be Newsweek used an unreliable source and people died.

It is quite sad that Newsweek’s defense consists of saying they couldn’t verify it was untrue.

Yes, it seems the burden of proof lies with those who want a retraction, and not with the original sensational account.

UPDATE: Matt Welch defends the press, but in a rather weak fashion. Nobody's arguing that reporters wake up in the morning asking themselves how to lose the war for America. At least I'm not. Er, except maybe for Robert Fisk.

But in many ways, they act almost as if they were doing so, and it's no accident. As the James Fallows anecdote reported here illustrates, leading representatives of the profession regard themselves as loyal to journalism, not to the United States -- and are proud to do so, and it seems clear that they reflect that priority in their work.

When you go out of your way to report the bad news, and bury the good news, when you're credulous toward critics (remember the Boston Globe porn photos?) and treat all positive news as presumptive lies, and when it's clear that the enemy relies on press behavior in planning its campaigns, then you've got a problem. Huffing and puffing in response isn't constructive.

I hate to keep using the analogy of reporting on racial issues, but it's relevant because it's a case where the press realized that it was reporting on minorities in a way that shaped people's views toward the negative and did harm, and decided to change. So we know they can take account of those things when they care. And because they haven't tried to do it here, it seems fair to conclude that they don't care.

Despite Matt's implication, I don't get up in the morning trying to figure out how to destroy freedom of the press in America. Instead, I keep trying to persuade the folks at Newsweek, CBS, etc. not to flush free expression down the toilet through their irresponsibility and bias.

It's long been fashionable to say that the survival of free enterprise depended on the responsible behavior of businesses. I think that the survival of free expression depends on the responsible behavior of businesses in the media field. And I think it's awfully hard -- so hard that Matt doesn't even try -- to defend this behavior as responsible.

MORE: Here's the Fallows anecdote, excerpted from The Atlantic Monthly.

JAMES LILEKS:

Tote all the seasons up, and Trek ran for 28 seasons. It started with LBJ and ended half a decade into the 21st century.

If he thinks that the end of Star Trek will mean the end of fanboy disputation, though, he's got more faith in humanity than even Gene Roddenberry had.

UPDATE: I wonder how Rod Roddenberry's Trek Nation documentary is going?

CONDI RICE:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blasted an unsubstantiated report of Koran desecrations by US troops as "appalling" and said it had created a "very major problem" for Washington in the Muslim world. . . .

"I think it's perfectly plausible and even likely that there were those who used this event to stoke anti-American sentiment for their own purposes," she said.

Without directly criticizing Newsweek, she said, "I hope that everybody will step back and take a look at how they handled this. Everybody. It's just unfortunate because it became a very major problem."

Indeed.

UPDATE: John Tierney's column on war coverage seems to me to be more timely this week than it was last week when it came out.

THIS SEEMS LIKE GOOD NEWS:

The Kuwaiti parliament has voted to give women full political rights.
The amendment to the Kuwait's electoral law means women can for the first time vote and stand in parliamentary and local elections.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: And don't miss this week's Carnival of the Revolutions, collecting democracy-blogging around the world.

TOM MAGUIRE rounds up the news, and finds that, shockingly, the Newsweek debacle isn't actually the only story.

PRESIDENT BUSH STARTS A BLOG to respond to press misinformation, in a tale ripped from today's headlines.

THE SUPREME COURT RULES ON WINE:

States cannot ban direct out-of-state wine shipments if they allow their wineries to sell directly to consumers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a decision that could lead to lower prices and more easily available choices.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that the bans involving out-of-state wineries unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce. Such laws have been adopted in 23 states while the other 27 states allow direct wine sales, industry officials said.

Defenders of the laws argued that states under the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition in 1933, have the power to regulate the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.

I actually think that the defenders may be right here, but that won't stop me from enjoying a better market for wine than Tennessee's rather protectionist setup has heretofor permitted. However, unlike Professor Bainbridge I doubt I'll need a Personal Wine Curator to keep track of my collection. Even a robotic one.

UPDATE: Bainbridge says that the ruling may not affect Tennessee. Dang. An arguably-wrong decision that also won't benefit me personally. No upside there.

AUSTIN BAY will be on MSNBC around 1:45 Eastern time talking about the Newsweek debacle.

UPDATE: Over at ChicagoBoyz, a call for a Congressional investigation.

Meanwhile, Trey Jackson offers advice on how Newsweek can defuse things.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES WONDER whether I'm free to criticize the many corporate affiliates of MSNBC in my GlennReynolds.com columns. Today's post should answer that question.

Meanwhile, somebody send Newsweek a case of these.

MORE THAN 700 DEATHS IN UZBEKISTAN: Gateway Pundit has the reports and video.

A TROUBLING REPORT from one of Austin Bay's readers:

I’m on my way back to Kabul, as I typically do every summer, but my family is completely opposed to my travel and work this year in Afghanistan even though I’ve safely transited there, in and out of State and UN/NGO service for nearly 20 years. The word I receive from Kabuli friends is that Isikoff has singlehandedly turned US triumph in the country to a total disaster. It was thought an anomaly last summer that some wonderful–and tragically forgotten–American DynCorps workers (mostly ex-military and my good friends) were killed in an environment that was pro-American to the core. That could be seen as a terrible tragedy, an unreasonable sad event impinging on an overall positive atmosphere–a last ditch effort by desperate Al Qa’eda remnants from outside Afghanistan to vent anger at the overwhelming success of the Americans. Now thanks to one Bush-hating reporter (google Isikoff if you doubt his intentions,) the recidivist Taliban-Pathans of southeast Afghanistan once again have an issue to de-legitimize the Karzai-US alliance.

Really, I don't want to hear another word about the superior "responsibility" of Big Media. Not one more word.

UPDATE: Dean Esmay agrees.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Earlier, I wrote that:

This was entirely predictable given that (1) Al Qaeda propaganda turns on stuff like this; and (2) Historically, such rumors have been used to stir up trouble in the region (remember the Sepoy Revolt, based on false rumors that the British greased their cartridges with pig fat?). If the folks at Newsweek are too ignorant to realize this, or too sloppy to care, then they shouldn't be in the news business.

But Newsweek's Mark Whitaker says:

I suppose you could say we should have foreseen the consequences of the report, but we didn't.

I'll take that as an admission.

Jeez, even if you guys skipped World History, didn't you read Harry Flashman?

MORE: Yes:

If bloggers had done this, you’d see the news media calling for sweeping restrictions on online publication by “non-professionals.” Indeed, the media would be going after bloggers so long and so hard that it’d be pushed to the top of the reporting for weeks until another white woman goes missing.

Indeed. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin is trying to uncover the source.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Newsweek is already suffering damage to its pocketbook, according to this report.

INSTAPUNK responds to the critics of its Pat Buchanan post. "And, finally, if you're going to call InstaPunk 'stoopid,' or 'unsofisticated,' why not grab that old dusty dictionary and look up one or two of the really hard words in your post."

I WARNED EARLIER that if Americans concluded that the press was on the other side, the consequences would be dire.

Now it looks as if things are already dire:

A new survey to be released Monday reveals a wide gap on many media issues between a group of journalists and the general public. In one finding, 43% of the public say they believe the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. . . .

Six in ten among the public feel the media show bias in reporting the news, and 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press.

I'm a big fan of freedom of the press. I think it's too bad that the journalistic profession is ruining things for everybody through the hubris, irresponsibility, sloppiness, and outright agenda-driven bias of its practitioners. Which makes this bit especially ironic:

Blogs showed their growing influence among those polled as 83% of journalists reporting the use of blogs, with four out of 10 saying they use them at least once a week. Among those who use them, 55% said they do so to support their news gathering work. And even though 85% believe bloggers should enjoy First Amendment protections, 75% say bloggers are not real journalists because they don't adhere to "commonly held ethical standards."

Tell it to the guys at Newsweek.

coxforknewsweek.gif

MORE BACKGROUND ON NEWSWEEK'S JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS: And it's not pretty.

But Newsweek's reach seems to be limited, as Iraqi blogger Omar reports:

What is interesting is that Iraq witnessed no demonstration at all, not even a single statement of denoencemnet from anyone although Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya kept running updates on this subject almost every news-hour and have always talked about the descretion incident as if it were confirmed news.

If this is to indicate anything I think it indicvates that Iraqis are more concerned about their own lives than they're about the "issues" of the Islamic world's dignity and more important (and here I see our community approaching a turning point) is that people are giving the media less credit than they used to do.

Less credit here, too, I think. A turning point, indeed, and one that should worry the folks at Newsweek more than it apparently does.

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie observes:

The final insult? It makes those of us who are critical of government sources, largely because they are quicker to lie than they are to tell the truth, agree with the Pentagon (!) spokesman who said of the mystery source, "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?"

He also suggests that, before this is all over, journalism pundits will be trying to figure out a way to blame the Internet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis:

This mistake cost people their lives, put the lives of our soldiers in the Mideast at risk, damaged the American position in the effort to defend itself and spread democracy, and damaged the already tattered reputation of journalism.

And to what end?

If the report had come from a source who had the balls to stand by what he said, if the alleged event had been witnessed, if it had been confirmed by independent authorities, I'm not sure what the imperative to report would have been: Why did we need to urgently know this? What public good is served? If it were absolutely true, that might be one matter but...

Given that none of those if's was true -- the informant did not have the balls, the event was not witnessed by a source, the event was not confirmed independently -- and given the knowledge that such a report could only be incendiary, then why report it except to play one of two games:

Show-off -- in which the journalist delights in knowing something no one else knows and wants to tell the world before everyone else does, even if it's not assuredly true.

Gotcha -- in which the reporter think he has exposed something somebody wanted to hide.

An incident such as this should force us to ask what the end result of journalism should be. Is it to expose anything we can expose? Is it to beat the other guy to tell you something you didn't know?

Or is it to tell the truth?

And if you don't know it to be true, is it reporting? If you rely on unnamed sources and unconfirmed reports, is it journalism?

It's what journalists claim that bloggers do -- but honestly, I see a lot more of that from Big Media than from bloggers.

Michael Silence: "This is the biggest buzz in the blogosphere I've seen since the presidential election."

MORE: TigerHawk:

Even if true, it was unbelievably irresponsible for Newsweek to have published the "toilet Koran" story. That they published it on the basis of an anonymous source in the middle of war in which disinformation has figured prominently is almost beyond comprehension. Are the editors completely ignorant of the world? Or do they want to sabotage America's war effort?

They've done considerable damage.

MORE: Unconventional Wisdom wonders if this will mark a tipping point in press coverage of the war. I'm not so hopeful, as the press shows little sign of learning ability where these things are concerned.

STILL MORE: Bill Quick says that these allegations weren't even new.

May 15, 2005

AUSTIN BAY writes that the Newsweek Koran-flushing debacle may turn out to be the press's Abu Ghraib. It's a must-read post with lots of links and background.

On the other hand, here's a different analogy:

NEWSWEEK regrets it got a part of the story wrong. NEWSWEEK vows to continue looking into the charges. If there's no substance to the charges, NEWSWEEK undoubtedly wants to break that story.

Heh. And read these comments, too.

UPDATE: The blogosphere catchphrase seems to be "Newsweek lied, people died."

And Roger Simon observes:

There is a strong argument to be made that this is more serious than Rathergate. This is journalism at its most insidious and dangerous. Newsweek may end up having to fire some of its editorial staff, as well as the reporters involved. I watched their Washington bureau chief Dan Klaidman on the Geraldo Show tonight and he looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. His answers were weak and evasive.

These guys don't understand the difference between covering a minor domestic "gotcha" story and national security matters. To them, there isn't a difference. If they're that clueless, it's no surprise that they don't know how to respond when they're caught.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chris Breisch emails:

What’s amusing is that the same people who will scream about an evil American corporation which puts people at risk from carbon monoxide pollution will completely forgive another evil American corporation which puts people at risk by publishing falsehoods. The latter is equally as dangerous to American citizens, and perhaps more so, since countries rarely go to war over pollution, but often go to war over propaganda.

And Roger Kimball asks:

Why is it that all the stories you read in Time-Newsweek-The New York Times-The Washington Post-Etc. or see on CNN-The BBC-CBS-NBC-Etc., why is it that all their stories about Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, etc., why is it that the presumption, the prejudice, the predisposition never goes the other way? Why is it that their reporters always assume the worst: that we're doing dirty at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and are primed to pick up and believe any rumor damaging to the United States? Shakespeare knew that rumor was a “pipe/blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,” not to be trusted. So why do these journalists, trained to sift evidence, to probe sources, to listen beyond the static of rumor: why do they only do so in one direction, so to speak? Yes, I know that's a self-answering question, at least in part, but it is worth pondering nonetheless.

As I've warned before, if Americans conclude that the press is, basically, on the side of the enemy, the consequences are likely to be dire.

A NIGHT AT RFK: Baseball Musings offers blog video, including fan interviews and action shots.

A "JUDICIAL REBELLION" in Egypt.

MINESHAFTBLOGGING, at Dartblog. I like the sunken car.

ECONOBLOGARAMA: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up. Early!

GATEWAY PUNDIT has more on violence in Uzbekistan, including video.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE NBA IS UP, for those interested in hoopblogging.

And for those interested in a different kind of shooting, the latest Carnival of Cordite is up, too.

GEE, THANKS GUYS:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine on Sunday said it may have erred in a May 9 report that said U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to victims of deadly violence sparked by the article.

Two points: (1) If they had wrongly reported the race of a criminal and produced a lynching, they'd feel much worse -- which is why they generally don't report such things, a degree of sensitivity they don't extend to reporting on, you know, minor topics like wars; and (2) If a blogger had made a similar mistake, with similar consequences, we'd be hearing about Big Media's superior fact-checking and layers of editors.

People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad.

UPDATE: Reader John Lynch says I'm wrong:

Newsweek isn't the problem. The problem is that people will kill over a book being desecrated. Actually, over a anonymous report buried within a third rate weekly magazine. There is something wrong when people value a book, of which there are millions, over human lives. This is the real problem, and Newsweek isn't the source of it. The problem is an ignorant and violent subculture within the islamic world, and the general lack of tolerance about religion therein.

Well, there's plenty of blame to go around. But in this light, where are the "transgressive artists" -- Andres Serrano, this means you! -- who are willing to take on this mindset in the name of free speech, desensitizing the religious fanatics through repeated acts of outrageousness? Sure, some of them will probably be car-bombed, but bravely transgressive artists surely wouldn't let that discourage them from bravely demonstrating their commitment to trashing icons. Right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: N.Z. Bear despins the defensive spin.

Meanwhile, even before Newsweek's admission, Hubrisblog was noting the implausibility of the claim. Certainly my copy of the Koran is way too big to fit down a toilet, and it's in fairly small print. I should note that StrategyPage -- and, by extension, InstaPundit, since I linked StrategyPage's post on Thursday -- was also ahead of the curve on this one, for reasons having nothing to do with toilet technology.

Reader Daniel McAndrew emails: "If the book were the Holy Bible of Christian faith (that was desecrated) then wouldn't there also be riots resulting??"

I don't recall any riots resulting from Serrano's Piss Christ, or the large number of tiresomely blasphemous imitators he spawned.

MORE: Michael Demmons agrees with John Lynch: "Yeah, Newsweek screwed up badly, but the death and destruction is a result of crazy, psychopathic people incapable of forming a rational response that doesn’t include, well, killing and destruction."

At a larger, moral level this may be true. But given that this was entirely predictable given that (1) Al Qaeda propaganda turns on stuff like this; and (2) Historically, such rumors have been used to stir up trouble in the region (remember the Sepoy Revolt, based on false rumors that the British greased their cartridges with pig fat?). If the folks at Newsweek are too ignorant to realize this, or too sloppy to care, then they shouldn't be in the news business.

DAVID GREENBERG, who guest-blogged for Daniel Drezner, writes about his experience in The New York Times. Shockingly, it turns out that not just anyone can blog well.

Ann Althouse, Pejman Yousefzadeh, and Sheila O'Malley comment on Greenberg's experience.

I WAS ON RELIABLE SOURCES earlier today with Dan Okrent and Arianna Huffington. Trey Jackson has the video. The subject of puppy-blending came up.

I should note that Huffington exaggerated my role in the Trent Lott affair -- or, at least, failed to give sufficient credit to Atrios and Josh Marshall.

SOMEONE TELL MICHAEL MOORE: "A strongly pro-war film has been premiered at the Cannes film festival - and it comes from Iraq. . . . It is framed by scenes of the main characters, now exiled in France, rejoicing at the fall of Baghdad in 2003."

STRATEGYPAGE on Operation Matador:

The foreign terrorists are, to put it mildly, disliked even in this part of Iraq. Although the local smugglers have been making some money working for the terrorists, everyone knows that these wild eyed foreigners mean only death for Iraqis. Either from their suicide bombs, or the battles between them and American and Iraqi troops, the terrorists are considered bad news and best avoided. In fact, the marines received a friendly reception in many villages, the people relieved to see someone who could run off the terrorists and restore order. Iraqi police, troops and border guards have come in behind the marine operation, as the Iraqi government has not had any presence in this area since early 2003, and not much before that. . . .

An increasing number of Sunni Arab leaders have distanced themselves from the terrorists. Nearly five hundred Iraqis have been killed by terrorist attacks so far this month, and few Iraqi Sunnis can put a positive spin on this any more. . . . While Sunni Arab propaganda, especially outside Iraq, blames all this on "the American occupation," inside Iraq the mayhem is blamed on foreign fanatics, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Iraq and Saudi Arabia have never had a cozy relationship, and that long standing tension has been pumped up because of all those terror attacks carried out by Saudi Arabian Islamic radicals.

The Saudis are going to have a problem with a larger, unhappy neighbor unless they clean up their act.

BILL GATES says that cellphones will kill the iPod. That's funny, because at BlogNashville Dan Gillmor was showing me his cellphone / MP3 player and saying that he didn't listen to his iPod anymore.