Archive for December, 2003

December 26, 2003

PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP: The folks at Democratic Underground are wondering if the Iran earthquake was triggered by Bush.

Yep. And Karl Rove is personally making sure that your skateboarding magazines get lost in the mail. (And scroll down to the post noting that Kucinich opposes such weapons — that guy doesn’t miss a thing!)

UPDATE: Look at the photos!

Meanwhile, here’s more on Kucinich’s, er, farsightedness.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, Bush caused the Mad Cow scare, too! At least, that’s what posters over at Howard Dean’s message board seem to think. They’re calling it “Beefiburton!”

As a Dean supporter on that board notes: “I have to mentally separate the candidate from the supporters (the handful of nuts, anyway) in my mind more often than I like .”

MORE: Hmm. Looks as if the initial post, at least, was by a troll.

December 26, 2003

WELL SAID: “The worst human rights abuses in the world – including government engineered famines – are unfolding in North Korea today. Since the US isn’t involved, the Chomskyites aren’t interested. But the pro-intervention left – if we are serious about human rights – cannot take the same morally blank position.”

Some of the commenters, however, clearly do not share his seriousness.

December 26, 2003

2004: A “very Martian New Year?” One can hope.

December 26, 2003

ANOTHER INTERESTING SOLDIER’S BLOG FROM IRAQ, featuring an account of Operation Red Dawn and Saddam’s capture.

December 26, 2003

JEFF JARVIS has a roundup of blog posts and other links relating to the Iranian earthquake, which looks to have been much worse than the first reports suggested.

December 26, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH notes more crushing of dissent, this time in Framingham, Mass.

December 26, 2003

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE IS FISKING SLATE’S RATHER ALARMIST COVERAGE of Mad Cow. Excerpt: “Let’s consider some facts. BSE has killed 143 people in Great Britain, the country hit hardest by BSE. That’s about 20 people per year since the outbreak began.”

UPDATE: More Fisking, via this email from a reader:

At the end of the quote that Prof. Bainbridge puts up from Slate about Mad Cow, this appears:

“Mad cow is similarly vicious, unstoppable, and mysterious. It murders by driving its young victims insane, then melting their brains. It theoretically puts anyone who ever ate English beef at risk. It was spawned in the miasma of rendering plants and slaughterhouses, our own hell’s kitchens. And the disease organism is a mystery.”

This statement contains, as far as I can tell, two falsehoods:

1). “The disease organism is a mystery.” False. The disease “organism” is in fact a misfolded protein known as a prion. Unlike other mis-folded proteins, which are either degraded or refoled, prions cause correctly folded proteins to become misfolded. The misfolded proteins glom up and form plaques, which cause the brain damage seen in BSE. This also explains why it arises ‘spontaneously’ in humans – the same kind of misfolding can occur in your brain.

2). “It was spawned in the miasma of rendering plants and slaughterhouses, our own hell’s kitchens.” False. See above. It is spawned in the brains of live cattle. It is transmitted to people through the apparatus of our food consumption, but no matter how kind the apparatus, the transmission would still occur.

Sir, I am a 3rd year student in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. Unless I’m mistaken, the facts I reference above are broadly known and widely agreed upon. In that case, Slate’s failure to pick up on them represents not political hackdom but a failure of scientific reporting.

Jeff Goldstein
Drake University, class of ’05

Or maybe a little of both.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The solution to Mad Cow? Why clones, of course!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More email, this time (sort of) defending Slate:

Your 3rd year undergrad correspondent made a rather serious ommission in his correction of Slate’s article. BSE does in fact develop spontaneously, but it is extremely rare (1 in 10,000,000 animals) and usually only affects older animals. BSE can also be transmitted by consumption of infected organs, primarily brain and spinal cord. Britain’s epidemic, and it was an epidemic among the cattle, was likely caused by the practice of taking “downer” animals (animals which appear to be ill at time of slaughter and are thus unfit for human consumption) and rendering them into high protein meal to be fed back to cattle as a dietary supplement–what one scientist called “high-tech cannibalism.” At some time in the past, either a downed cow with (spontaneous) BSE, or a downed sheep with the sheep equivalent scrapie, made it into the food supply of Britain’s cattle industry. The epidemic spread as other downed cattle with unrecognized BSE were fed back into the food chain. So Britain’s slaughterhouse practice were definitely a contributing cause to the BSE epidemic among cattle there.

Fortunately, BSE is very difficult to transmit to humans, even among people who eat large quantities of infected beef. The US cow with BSE is probably an isolated case of spontaneous BSE, since the USDA prohibts feeding downer animals back to other cattle. In fact, there is probably a small but consistent number of cases of spontaneous BSE that make it into the human food industry every year, and go unrecognized since most cattle are slaughtered when they are too young to show symptoms. This is just one of the many (minor) risks of eating beef, of far less oncern than E. coli, salmonella, or heartdisease.

Tom Thatcher (Ph.D.)
University of Rochester

Another reader is less charitable. Reader Christopher Barr notes:

The infected animal was not on a “feedlot,” but rather on a dairy. Holsteins are dairy cows. The infected cow was quite old and had become immobile, not unusual in very old animals, but in hindsight, clearly a symptom of the disease. A dairy cow that can’t walk can’t hack it at a commercial dairy since she can’t walk to the milking parlor. Hence, she was shipped off to the slaughter.

Make no mistake, no processor in his right mind would butcher an ancient dairy cow for human consumption. The animal was used for fertilizer, and other products that will never make it to your table.

The facts about Mad Cow are well known and widely published. Any diligent, competent, ethical reporter could have found them in five minutes.

Latest word is that the infected cow came from Canada.

MORE: Apparently, an earlier Canadian BSE case was spontaneous in origin.

STILL MORE: Some Canadians are calling the link to Canada “premature.”

MORE STILL: You have to scroll down quite a ways, but according to this story the cow in question was, in fact, slaughtered for human consumption: “The revelation came after the animal had been slaughtered and its meat sent to food distributors, including two in Oregon.”

Another reason not to eat bologna, I guess.

December 26, 2003

A 21ST CENTURY VERSION of The Grinch appears at the Mudville Gazette.

December 26, 2003


ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have broken up the Istanbul cell behind last month’s truck bombings and have confirmed its links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, the city’s governor said on Friday. . . .

“The suicide attacks were carried out by elements trying to organize for al Qaeda in Turkey,” governor Muammer Guler told a news conference in Istanbul, held to announce progress in the investigation.

“We can comfortably say that we have broken up the organization’s Istanbul activities,” he said.

It’s not over yet, but so far 2003 is looking like another bad year for Al Qaeda.

December 26, 2003

ANDREW SULLIVAN is announcing the winners of some very special awards.

December 26, 2003

HERE’S MORE on the deepening India-Israel alliance, from the new American Thinker blog. Also note this post quoting a European Parliament member who characterizes EU support for the Palestinian intifada as a “proxy war” against America. (Original story here.)

I’ve thought for quite a while that “proxy war” was the appropriate characterization, and indeed I’ve used that term here before. Europeans should worry, though, about what will happen if Israel — or America — decides to return the favor. Providing financial aid to terrorists who target European civilians would be uncivilized — but, then, the Europeans are supposed to be the civilized ones, no?

December 26, 2003

KATIE ALLISON GRANJU reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics has been plunged into a breastfeeding scandal — er, well, a breastfeeding ad scandal, anyway.

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is a link to Granju’s book, Attachment Parenting. And here is her blog. On the other hand, reader Tom Gunn is taking a rather cynical view:

How long do you think it will be before we start hearing this ad campaign detailing the dangers of infant formula feeding is nothing less than a thinly veiled attempt by the Bush administration, male doctors, and a few female traitors to keep women barefoot, pregnant and on the edge of town?

It’s probably up over at DU now. . . .

December 26, 2003


The quip going around nonprofit circles these days is that the Ford Foundation’s support for Palestinian extremists is the one area of funding it could defend on the grounds of donor intent–an allusion to the notorious anti-Semitism of automaker and founder Henry Ford.

But Chuck Grassley, for one, is not amused. In response to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency series detailing Ford’s support for Palestinian NGOs crusading against Israel, the Iowa Republican has announced that the Senate Finance Committee will review the matter. In so doing, we hope it raises a question long overdue for Congressional scrutiny: How U.S. tax laws intended to encourage charity have had the unintended effect of spawning a foundation priesthood funded into perpetuity and insulated from public accountability.

The NGOs and foundations deserve much, much closer scrutiny than they’re getting, both in terms of their activities, and in terms of where the money goes. And that’s even before you get to basic questions of accounting, oversight, and general honesty in advertising. The kind of financial shenanigans that go on in this world make the for-profit business scandals look minor.

UPDATE: A reader emails that this investigative series by the Boston Globe regarding the Cabot Family Foundation is a model for the kind of inquiry that ought to be going on. (Look to the lower right for links to more stories).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian, who works in NGOs, says I’m wrong to compare NGO corruption to Enron and Parmalat. (Though his suggestion that we should compare dollar amounts seems to miss the point.) But fellow nonprofit reader Rudy Carrasco emails:

Good to see your details about Ford Foundation et al. Big foundations like Ford regularly grill and dissect small nonprofits, and they need to be grilled themselves. Truth is that all ngos need the grilling (it’s usually helpful for us) but there are times when the close inspection is about gate-keeping (keeping ngos that don’t toe the party line out of the money pool) and not about good governance. . . .

Made me mad again – because I get pressured, as a nonprofit bringing in under 400k a year, to govern well and properly – which is fine, it makes us better. But to see this double standard irks me. Good to see Ford held to same standards they hold us to.

Well, I’ve heard a number of horror stories from people I trust who work with NGOs. But, of course, without monitoring it’s hard to know just how deep the problem is. Personally, I think it’s probably pretty deep — because when you have large sums of money, few clear metrics for success, and little accountability to outsiders, it usually is. One useful article on this subject, though it’s now a bit old, is David Samuels’ Philanthropical Correctness: The Failure of American Foundations, from the September 18, 1995 issue of The New Republic. It doesn’t seem to be on the web, but here’s an excerpt:

In the past twenty-five years, however, a startling shift in foundation funding has occurred, away from research and toward the support of advocacy groups and the kinds of social service programs best accomplished by government and private charity. Of 240 grants made by the Carnegie Corporation in 1989, totaling $37 million, only 27.5 percent (sixty grants) went to American universities. Most were relatively small, and many went to non-research oriented projects such as an “international negotiations network” at Emory University’s Carter Presidential Center, or “Reprinting and Disseminating the Handbook for Achieving Sex Equity Through Education and the Sex Equity Handbook for Schools.” Most of the Carnegie grants fell into one of two categories: funding and disseminating a host of high-flown reports by Carnegie-sponsored commissions; and funding advocacy groups including the Organizing Institute, the International Peace Academy, the aclu Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, the Fund for Peace and the Children’s Defense Fund. It is the stuff of which Republican careers will doubtless be made: a multi-billion-dollar tax exemption for the political agenda of liberal elites.

Those who share the broader social concerns of the foundations might wonder as well whether doling out hundreds of millions of dollars to ideologically driven advocates–who lack the time, the training or the inclination to evaluate what they do–is the best prescription for future innovations in public policy. Foundations enjoy their present tax-free moorings because they claim to operate as a nonpartisan force dedicated to the pursuit of innovative solutions to our pressing social ills, sheltered from the shifting partisan winds. The preponderance of foundation grants to advocacy groups, however, suggests that foundations are less devoted to the reasoned pursuit of the public good than to the multiculturalist dogmas propounded by their staff. . . .

No longer subject to academic review, evaluations of foundation programs today are carried out by foundation staff and by grantees themselves. Certainly many of these recipients are worthy and well-intentioned. The trouble is that, under the new system, it’s almost impossible to evaluate what actual good they do. One recipient of major foundation grants, an educator in a Northeastern city who refused to allow his name to be published, described the process with a cynicism that appears to be general: “They think they’re being clever by asking you to come up with your own criteria for success–60 percent of children in the eighth grade will be reading at a ninth-grade level in two years, or whatever. And they ask you to select an independent evaluator’ to report on whatever progress has been made. It’s all very numerical: but the goals you select are always goals that you know you can reach. Maybe 60 percent of eighth graders are already reading at a ninth-grade level. Maybe it’s 70 percent. The foundations don’t know. And the evaluators you select are people with a stake in the project. They’re getting a salary–from you, or an organization related to yours; some part of their income comes from that grant. And so the project is evaluated, declared a success, and everyone–the program officer, the trustees and you–can go home happy.”

Samuels isn’t so much concerned with bags-of-cash corruption, exactly, as with the pumping of huge amounts of money into politics instead of actual effort to help people, and he notes the way in which many foundations have abandoned, or shifted, metrics for “success” so as to make real accountability difficult. Though that’s a form of corruption in itself, and it tends to lead to more traditional kinds of corruption, as well.

I believe that this article created something of a storm at the time, but it doesn’t seem to have changed things, much.

MORE: A reader sends a link to this transcript of an interview with Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) who’s looking at foundation practices. Here’s an interesting fact: “The Ford Foundation, a $9 billion foundation, the government says you need to give away roughly half a billion every year. Almost $100 million of that, almost $100 million of that is overhead.”

As I say, more scrutiny is needed, at a number of levels.

December 26, 2003

HERE’S MORE ON THE PARMALAT SCANDAL, also known as “Europe’s Enron.” It’s worth reading this article in conjunction with Matt Welch’s post on French political corruption, as the model Welch describes isn’t limited to France.

There’s plenty of corruption, and journalistic-corporate bribery, in the United States, too. But there seems to be rather less of it than in Europe.

December 26, 2003

IKEA AND THE SWEDISH SOUL: An amusing bit of writing from DJ Magazine includes this one-sentence description of Sweden: “A flat-packed approach to reality — you think you know where you are with the thing and then there’s always one screw missing. . . .”

In another DJ-related matter, people keep asking me if I’m related to Tara Reynolds. Not as far as I know — though in some pictures she bears a strong resemblance to my sister — but I don’t think that Reynolds is even her birth name. Sorry.

December 25, 2003

MATT WELCH shares a French Christmas. Sounds yummy!

But scroll down a bit for his post on political corruption.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the MadPonies have posted a Christmas photo essay on their site. Scroll down for a post on the making of the MadPony Christmas card, too, as well as much information regarding shoes, and the women who love them. No politics here!

And don’t miss Daniel Drezner’s post on credit cards, Christmas, and capitalism in Eastern Europe. No Christmas pix of Professor Drezner, though, which is undoubtedly a disappointment to women throughout the blogosphere.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jay Rosen has a Christmas post, one that notes a crucial distinction regarding “the media, as something vastly different from journalism.”

December 25, 2003

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO THE TROOPS: A nice post, with photos. Read this, from LT Smash, too.

UPDATE: And read this, from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, while you’re at it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Christmas item from StrategyPage is good, too.

December 25, 2003

IT’S A CHRISTMAS DEAN-O-RAMA! Eric Alterman is defending Howard Dean against the “Washington punditocracy.” Meanwhile Jonah Goldberg suggests Paris Hilton as Dean’s running mate. And Jeff Jarvis talks about Howard Dean’s newfound religion.

December 25, 2003

LILEKS has a Christmas bleat up today, and he’s right about the curious reluctance of people to openly wish a Merry Christmas these days: “At the Mall on Tuesday it was almost the Holiday That Dare Not Speak Its Name.” But the fable of the lights is my favorite of his Christmas bleats.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2003

TAPPAHANNOCK? Charles Paul Freund has some tough questions for Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri:

But then the attempted destruction of comparatively successful Muslim societies by a lunatic fringe is an old story, isn’t it? Osama bin Laden’s very first words directed to the West, as the Taliban were being overthrown, evoked lost Islamic Spain. But the glories of Spain’s Umayyads were destroyed not by European Inquisitors; they were ruined by armies of North African proto-Islamists who were as angry and as destructive and as crazy as you are. Cordoba and Toledo and Granada achieved their golden ages not through the efforts of people like you, but despite them. In the course of the struggle between an Islam of achievement and grace, and an Islam engulfed by righteous futility, have you never noticed that even Muslims prefer to forget people like you and to remember the other side? Even you and Osama, it seems, attempt to co-opt precisely the Islamic history you are attempting to negate.

But—my apologies—you’re no doubt busy planning noxious slaughter and here I am failing to get to my question, which is not about Umayyad Spain at all. It’s about Tappahannock, Virginia.

Read the whole thing. A reader, meanwhile, notes that the USS Tappahannock might be the real target, as it’s a fueling ship that would make a satisfactory explosion if it were hit by a plane.

UPDATE: Several readers note that the USS Tappahannock has been mothballed and isn’t likely to be much of a target at present.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another reader notes that there is a USNS Rappahannock.

December 25, 2003

MERRY CHRISTMAS! A lovely gift-opening morning was had here, and we’ll be off to various family events today. Posting will be light, but not nonexistent.

In the meantime, you might want to read these thoughts by Lee Harris on the failures, and successes, of Christmas.

December 24, 2003

THE INSTA-DAUGHTER hasn’t believed in Santa Claus for a couple of years. But tonight, she insisted on putting out a plate of cookies for him anyway.

She knows she’s growing up, and although she likes that, she also has mixed feelings about it. Don’t we all.

December 24, 2003

DOES THIS say something about this year’s holiday mood? “Actually Hobby Lobby and Wal Mart were not as bad as I expected. The liquor store however was busier than I have ever seen it.”

Hmm. I’m calling the mood “Churchillian.”

UPDATE: Reader John Davies emails:

Yesterday I stopped into the gun store to get my first pistol.

The guy behind the counter said that all he did yesterday was call in transfer checks for gun sales. The phone lines were swamped and he said that he was on hold much longer than usual.

The woman on the other end recognized his voice.

Yes, I think the mood is Churchillian.

I’ve always liked Churchill.

December 24, 2003

THIS is interesting: “The French Government has ordered the cancellation of three Air France flights to Los Angeles following a security alert.”

UPDATE: More here, (Google translation here.)

Daniel Drezner has more, and says that Al Qaeda is stuck in a rut.

Roger Simon is planning on blogging from LAX tomorrow, so drop by his blog for developments from the eye of the storm. And expect updates from the Command Post terrorism page.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Captain Ed wonders if this should have been made public.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More here from Kevin Murphy, summarizing this fascinating story from the Los Angeles Times.

MORE: Here’s a story from Friday’s Washington Post that raises more questions than it answers. And Roger Simon reports on LAX: “the atmosphere at LA International was orderly but grim.”

December 24, 2003

RICH, BLOGGY CHRISTMAS-EVE GOODNESS: Winds of Change is hosting this week’s Carnival of the Vanities.

December 24, 2003

STEVEN LEVY WRITES on how “the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works.”

There’s no question that some people — both within and without the United States — are working toward that very end.

It’s up to us to stop them.

December 24, 2003

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Pro-Saddam in the 1980s? Funny that they don’t talk about it now.

December 24, 2003

“HOW THE SCHMIRK STOLE NANOTECHNOLOGY:” Howard Lovy offers a fable for our times.

December 24, 2003

CARBLOGGING: Here’s a preview of the Detroit Auto Show. I wonder if Kaus will go?

December 24, 2003


The British officer described himself as neither optimist nor pessimist but “a hard-boiled realist,” then offered an upbeat assessment that matched that of American generals: “I think we’re in great shape.”

He took a jab at the press. Western reporters, he implied, had come to an early conclusion that the allied undertaking in Iraq would not succeed, and had failed to adjust. He compared this with criticism that greeted allied forces in the first stages of the spring invasion, when resistance stalled the drive to Baghdad.

The plan provided for 125 days to take Baghdad, and it was accomplished in 23 days, he noted. But, he told reporters, “you had us dead and buried in seven days.”

Read the whole thing. And read this, too.

December 24, 2003

YOU CAN BE BOB HOPE: The Mudville Gazette explains how.

UPDATE: Looks like David Letterman is the new Bob Hope:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – With shouts of “Dave, Dave!” U.S. soldiers greeted the American late night TV show host David Letterman as he visited troops in central Baghdad on Christmas Eve.

Letterman, the host of CBS’ “Late Show,” chatted with wounded and sick soldiers in the military’s main combat hospital and met soldiers at one of Saddam Hussein’s ransacked palaces that now serves as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s headquarters. . . .

Snapping a picture, 1st Lt. Michael Gerstmyer, 24, from Baltimore, Maryland, said he was surprised at how relaxed the TV star appeared in a battle zone.

“He acts like he’s been here for years,” Gerstmyer said.

Last Christmas, Letterman visited troops in Afghanistan.


December 24, 2003

JAMES LILEKS: “I know it’s a played out meme, but please: we need ’80s Eye for the 70s guy’.”

December 24, 2003

TIM BLAIR has a comprehensive roundup of quotes from 2003. Don’t miss it. Meanwhile, here’s a good one from Andrew Sullivan:

Our leading bishops demand hard evidence of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. If we were to demand the same level of proof from their profession, they would all be out of a job.

Heh. Indeed.

December 24, 2003

MAD COW APPEARS in the United States. I think it’s the swine flu of the 21st century, but I’m glad I don’t own McDonald’s stock.

UPDATE: Call me crazy, but I don’t think that McCaviar is going to get them over this hurdle. On the other hand, reader James Dailey emails:

MCD actually maintains its own beef supply and has intensive controls regarding quality. I’d be more worried about companies like Lone Star and Outback, that do not have their own supply. MCD’s menu has been moving away from beef as the only source of revenue, with salads and poultry becoming important menu items. Your reaction is common and is why the stock is trading down – but is also why I’m buying for my clients!

There’s always a silver lining, I guess.

December 23, 2003

AIRBRUSH AWARD: Michael Demmons has a doozy of an example.

UPDATE: Clayton Cramer says he can’t find the story, but I followed the link and found it right here. You did have to scroll to find the link — Demmons’ link goes to a contents page.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Clayton Cramer says I’ve missed his point: “It wasn’t whether anyone is carrying this story about the Lincoln Memorial–it’s whether the story has any basis other than a press release by PEER.”

MORE: Reportedly, the Park Service has changed its mind.

December 23, 2003

CHRIS MOONEY has an interesting article on legal sunsets in Legal Affairs.

It looks as if the assault weapon ban will sunset, and it’s certain that it wouldn’t have passed without that provision, since it barely passed at all even with the help of some last-minute chicanery by Tom Foley, who paid for that with his seat. So sunsets do work, sometimes.

December 23, 2003

WILL BAUDE has lots more about the virtues of premarital sex: Just keep scrolling.

December 23, 2003

COLBY COSH: “I don’t want anyone to think I’m a monomaniac, as opposed to an ordinary maniac.”

December 23, 2003

MICHAEL NOVAK writes that America is “a Spartan Athens:”

The United States is self-consciously a child of the ancient civilization of Greece and Rome.

During long periods, America looks too pacific to be a threat to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Too much like Athens gone soft. But at times such as the present–with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–the Spartan dimension of our civilization becomes visible to all doubters. The biggest thing that most Europeans don’t know about America is its Spartan side. Our founders chose the eagle as the symbol for the nation because the eagle is supreme in war, seeing unblinkingly and at great distances. Once fixed on its prey, the eagle is not easily deterred.

Our founders well knew that democracy of itself softens manners, tames–even coddles–the human spirit, and pulls great spirits down to a lower common level. No democracy will long survive, they knew, that does not toughen itself to face adversity, to raise up warriors, and to keep ready a warlike spirit. A democratic army should be small, under civilian control, they insisted, kept safely away from political power, but committed to keeping those who serve in it fearless and invincible.

In a word, in order to survive and to prosper, democracies need to infuse a Spartan spirit into their Athenian thinking. To maintain the peace, prepare for war. A democracy too soft will soon perish.

I’d be interested in hearing what Victor Davis Hanson, and perhaps Jacques Chirac, would say in reply.

December 23, 2003

ROGER SIMON SAYS that there’s a war on Wolfowitz. Daniel Drezner has more, and one of his commenters points out that much of the anti-Wolfowitz stuff is coming from Robert Novak.

December 23, 2003

BRUCE STERLING has a blog.

December 23, 2003

THE DOWNSIDE OF EMAIL: Just got this message:

i just read your rules and regulations for being considered to be added to your blog list, well nevermind, i’m not going to kiss your ass dude

The funny thing is, I don’t even have “rules and regulations” for being considered. I wonder what he’s talking about?

December 23, 2003

PORPHYROGENITUS is praising the BBC for its coverage of the Parmalat scandal, “Europe’s Enron:”

Credit where credit is due since I slam their radio World Service News all the time, they were very open and candid in their climbdown from previous smugness on the subject, very explicitly acknowledging that, yes, it can after all happen there and all the previous assertions that EU countries had fixed things so nothing like what goes on in America could take place in European firms was false. So, kudos to them for being able to admit that.


December 23, 2003

WINDS OF CHANGE offers a special holiday terror alert analysis, as well as the conclusion to its series on Halliburton and government contracting.

December 23, 2003

MORE GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS: “The U.S. economy, propelled by tax cuts and low interest rates, roared ahead at an 8.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the best showing in nearly 20 years, while Americans’ incomes and spending both showed healthy gains in November.”

December 23, 2003

OVER AT GLENNREYNOLDS.COM, I observe that it’s been a good year for bloggers.

December 23, 2003


My concern here is the combination of weakened Constitutional protection and Internet-facilitated extremism. In my lifetime, I believe that what has protected our country from extremist demagogues has been the need for coalition-building in the two-party system. To build a winning coalition at the national level, each party must lean toward the center. The Internet might change the dynamic.

I think he’s wrong about this, but you should read the whole thing. After all, I could be the one who’s wrong here. [Should you be admitting that? Isn’t the Internet a “hot medium” that rewards extremism? — Ed. No, I think it’s a “cool medium” that rewards logical thought and critical thinking. But I could be wrong! Still, I’m standing by my theory that rock and roll is what has saved us from extremist demagogues. . . .]

December 23, 2003

HOWARD DEAN: In trouble for dishonesty on the war. Er, but not this war. Bad timing — this sort of thing would have been overlooked a few months ago, but now the next story is “frontrunner stumbles,” and Dean’s playing into their hands.

Furthermore, if Dean thinks that he can cover his flank on this war by invoking Vietnam, he’s crazy.

UPDATE: Robin Roberts emails that this makes Dean’s “slip” look a bit more premeditated.

December 23, 2003

MESSAGE TO THE POLITICAL PRESS: When Frank Rich is noticing that you’re behind the curve, well, you’re really behind the curve. . . .

December 23, 2003

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD comes to Tennessee: I find this rather disturbing, even if this particular story has a happy ending.

December 23, 2003

ARMORING COCKPITS — and protecting hijackers? D’oh!

December 23, 2003

NANOTECHNOLOGY GETS REAL: My TechCentralStation column is up.

December 23, 2003

LAME-ASS PUSH-POLLING: Got a call from a polling outfit. They asked me a lot of questions, but they mostly seemed interested in making sure that I knew a potential candidate for State Senate had just gotten divorced. What I mostly know now is that another potential candidate for State Senate is ready to play the sleaze card at the first opportunity.

Guess which discovery is more likely to affect my vote?

UPDATE: A reader emails:

As data specialist for a polling outfit myself, I think I may be able to shed a little light on the nature of “push-polling” (quite a sensitive subject among reputable pollsters). The questions the interviewer asked you about a candidate’s divorce sounds less like muckraking and more like what is generally known as “message testing,” and not only is it considered perfectly ethical, but in my years of working with polls I’ve seen very few questionnaires that don’t include message testing to some degree.

If the message-testing questions refer to information that is accurate, and are positioned later in the survey than the initial test ballot question, then it’s likely you’re talking to an interviewer from a legitimate polling outfit. Such questions are an ethically acceptable branch of an aspect of campaigning affectionately known as opposition research; in the case of polling, it’s simply an effort to sound out what could be one’s opponent’s greatest strengths and weaknesses (or, for that matter, one’s own).

Hmm. I’m not sure, but I think that the divorce question came first. But I definitely finished the poll with the impression that they wanted me to remember the divorce issue, and not that they were just asking about it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andrew Boucher emails:

Your e-mailer is exactly correct. This was no push poll. At the outset of most campaigns, candidates will put a benchmark poll in the field to test messages and determine vulnerabilities. They’re trying to figure out what to use for television ads, press conferences and general campaign issues. They want to know if you’re more or less likely to vote for the candidate based on the divorce issue (or the fact that he voted for higher taxes, or supports gay marriage, or is pro-choice). It’s not even out of the realm of possibility that the poll was conducted by the divorced politician’s campaign. (We always test the negatives on our own candidates, especially the glaring ones.) They’ll need to know ahead of time if they’re going to be on damage control in October (or if he’s even going to stand for re-election).

The other thing that’s relevant is the length of the poll. Push polls are very quick (they’re going for the widest possible audience), and they’re designed to drop a single negative on the respondee immediately. “Hi, I’m calling from a research group with a quick poll. Would you be less likely to vote for Senator A if you knew he molests collies? Thank you.” Then it’s on to the next call. These are considered very unethical and are actually pretty rare.

The call you described was clearly an early benchmark poll, probably to about 400 likely voters, by a candidate who trying to figure out whether he or his opponent is vulnerable on a slew of issues. If the data comes back that people don’t care about his divorce, you won’t hear a thing about it in the campaign.

As a political consultant, I, like the e-mailer, am sensitive on this issue. Benchmark polls are purely ethical, very useful, and often wrongly portrayed in the press as push polls.

Hmm. Okay. . . . But I think that even considering the use of a divorce as a campaign issue is tacky.

MORE: Another reader emails:

I think you are too quick to concede your initial anger at what you thought was a “push-poll” to the objections raised by your correspondents who are, themselves, practioneres in the field. Forgive me if I think their perspective is not entirely without self-interest.

Your correspondents are attempting an ethical slight-of-hand by drawing a bright moral line where there is none, between a poll designed “only” to diagnose that the electorate can be manipulated by a issue-free ad-hominem sleaze attack, and a poll designed to actually carry one out.

Is an unarmed artillery spotter who calls in coordinates to the gunner less a part of the army than the guy who actually fires the gun? The opposing army will have no trouble answering that question. If the gun blows Christ the Savior to bits, would one condemn the gunner and excuse the spotter, on the grounds that the latter “merely” diagnosed the vulnerability of the manger to the actions actually carried out by the former?

Even from a perfectly utilitarian viewpoint, I think your initial uncompromising response is better. By reacting with visible anger to even the suggestion that this topic is appropriate for discussion in a campaign, you help raise the bar for sleaze campaigning. It would be quite desirable if the damnfool who commissioned this poll begins to wonder whether even asking in a theoretical blue-sky gee-what-if kind of way about this sort of issue is political Russian roulette with five cylinders loaded.

Well, I hope so.

December 22, 2003

GREGG EASTERBROOK fell for the “fake turkey” story. Bryan Preston is disappointed. So is Andrea Harris.

Well, at least he’s not alone.

UPDATE: Will Vehrs is disappointed, too.

December 22, 2003

RATHER THAN SEE CHIRAC’S CRONIES TRIED IN THE UNITED STATES, the French are playing hardball. This strikes me as likely to blow up in their faces — in other words, as classic French diplomacy.

December 22, 2003


What I resist is the idea that the average worker is getting poorer in absolute terms–a notion now pushed by Paul Krugman in The Nation as well as by Uchitelle. Arguing in this fashion that capitalism doesn’t “deliver the goods” is a mug’s game. It’s the one thing capitalism does! The New Left knew that. The Newer, Hack Left seems to have forgotten. Have Krugman and Uchitelle been to Best Buy and seen all the average families buying big-screen TVs?

I have!

December 22, 2003

WENT TO BIRMINGHAM to pick up my grandmother, then drove her back to Knoxville. Kind of tired from the round-trip. Back later.

December 22, 2003

SOME THOUGHTS on techno-Christmas, from Ralph Kinney Bennett.

December 22, 2003

WINDS OF CHANGE has posted its war news roundup. Don’t miss it!

December 22, 2003


U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer, Capt. Justin Thomas is asking for help getting musical instruments for the Kurds in No. Iraq as part of his unit’s efforts to help local people, build American-Iraqi relationships and counter the forces of radical Islamists. Capt. Thomas says,

“I believe that one necessity [for helping people] is musical instruments. I know this sounds trivial, but the towns around Halabja and Khormal are known throughout Kurdistan for their cultural history, to include musicianship and traditional Kurdish music. However, when Ansar al Islam and other Islamist organizations took power, they forbad any type of music playing or listening, to include Kurdish folk music. Music was outlawed until the people were liberated at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There are children who are only now hearing their traditional music, and adults who very much want to celebrate their traditions.”

You can help by making a donation at Spirit of America.

What is it with these people and music? And Iraqi law students need money for law books; here’s a post on how you can help, via Lawyers Without Borders.

December 22, 2003

LILEKS is back: “This is all wrong, I know. Take the month off, but come back for the holidays.”

December 22, 2003

ANDREW SULLIVAN has another issue for Dan Okrent.

December 21, 2003

STEVEN DEN BESTE looks at the wider implications of Saddam’s capture. His analysis is generally consistent with Austin Bay’s.

December 21, 2003

THIS IS SURELY some sort of trademark violation.

December 21, 2003

STEPHEN POLLARD: “This is the week I changed my mind about hanging.”

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is Pollard’s blog.

December 21, 2003


KABUL – As Afghanistan wrestles to adopt a new constitution, and the United Nations strengthens its call for more soldiers outside Kabul, Canadian soldiers are noticing dramatic changes in the security and economic well-being of the Afghan capital.

“You can see buildings that weren’t there a couple of months ago,” said Lt.-Col. Don Denne, the commanding officer at Camp Julien, the largest Canadian Forces base in Afghanistan, as he toured Kabul on Saturday.

“I’m beginning to see new shops everywhere. Some pretty nice houses too.”

Even some of Canada’s hockey greats, in Kabul to boost the morale of Canadian troops, have recognized the impact the soldiers have had on security in the capital.

“I just talked to my Afghan interpreter, and asked him ‘Do you want the Canadian soldiers here?'” Former NHL tough guy Dave (Tiger) Williams said Sunday.

“He said ‘They have to stay, they have to stay.’ Every day, he says, they’re saving thousands of lives.”

Can we offset those thousands against the millions that Chomsky predicted we’d kill?

December 21, 2003

WESLEY CLARK’S National Health Plan gets a bad review.

December 21, 2003


The importance of Hussein’s capture is not only its symbolism — although that certainly should not be underestimated. Its importance is that it happened, that U.S. intelligence was able to turn a debacle into a success by identifying the core weakness of the enemy force and using it for the rapid penetration and exploitation of the guerrilla infrastructure.

The guerrillas understand precisely what happened to Hussein: Someone betrayed him for money. They also understand that even though attacks on U.S. troops can be purchased for dollars, the Americans have far more dollars than they do. That is why, in the week prior to Hussein’s capture, the guerrillas twice attacked banks: They desperately needed to replenish their cash reserves. In one case, they even went so far as to engage in a pitched battle with U.S. armor, a battle they couldn’t possibly win.

The threat to the guerrillas is snowballing betrayal. The guerrillas must be increasingly paranoid. At the prices the Americans are paying, the probability of betrayal is rising. As this probability rises, paranoia not only eats away at the guerrillas’ effectiveness, it also raises the temptation to betray. Better to betray than to be betrayed.

Read the whole thing. (Via Volokh).

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has an Iraqi bloggers roundup.

December 21, 2003

HOW MANY IRAQIS MUST DIE before the peace advocates are satisfied?

December 21, 2003


December 21, 2003

WILL BAUDE EXPLAINS why premarital sex is morally virtuous.

December 21, 2003

OSAMA BIN BOGUS — the latest tape, is, anyway:

Al-Arabiya gave no reason for pulling the tape, but a rival channel claimed it aired the tape two months ago. Al-Jazeera says it broadcast the same material in October.

Busted! And screw this audiotape business anyway. Where’s the video, Osama? What”s the matter, you don’t read InstaPundit for advice on doing inexpensive video for the web? All you need is this. Or even this. You can’t afford a lousy digital camera?


December 21, 2003

SUBSTANCE, YES. Style, well. . . I’m not so sure.

December 21, 2003

JEFF JARVIS comments on New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent’s maiden column. Jeff’s commenters find it a far more disappointing effort than Jeff does.

I had the same experience with Okrent’s email, below, where my readers were harder on Okrent than I was. Interestingly, I think it’s because my expectations for Okrent are so low, while the readers’ are high. I want to see some sign of progress at the Times, while they want to see actual, honest and competent journalism, and they want to see Okrent take the Times to task the way a blogger would, when it fails to deliver.

I think the readers are right, and that I’ve been expecting too little.

December 21, 2003

HERE’S AN INTERESTING SURVEY of what Clinton thought about Iraq / Al Qaeda ties back in 1998. It’s a useful antidote to the “Bush lied” fantasies.

December 21, 2003

THE TERROR THREAT LEVEL is reportedly going to be raised this afternoon.

UPDATE: Here’s a story now. We’re at “high.”

December 21, 2003

TIM BLAIR SCOOPS TIME on the identity of Time Magazine’s “person of the year.”

Heh. Sure looks like he’s caught ’em out.

December 20, 2003

YEAH, blogging started late today. It snowed last night (we nearly got stuck at the Metro Pulse Christmas party downtown, where the snow melted then refroze, producing major slickness — to the right you can see an intrepid partygoer making snowangels outside the club) and we went sledding this morning — then to the mall. Back later.

December 20, 2003


Over the past five years, by turning over two suspects for trial, acknowledging its complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and paying compensation to victims’ families, Libya finally managed to persuade the United Nations Security Council to lift the international sanctions that had shadowed its economy and its international reputation for more than a decade. Those sanctions were lifted in September. This page recommended lifting American sanctions as well, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya’s decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so. The added American pressure worked just as intended.

It’s another Festivus miracle!

Meanwhile Winds of Change looks at the contrasts between Bush and Dean on foreign policy.

And, though not really related, don’t miss their roundup of China news, either. And don’t miss Tim Blair’s roundup of gullible, plastic-turkey-swallowing journalists. Gobble, gobble.

UPDATE: Wow, here’s an Iranian connection to the Libyan WMD program — did I hear someone say “axis of evil?”

The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as some Iranian and Libyan nuclear scientists.

North Korea and Iran, originally dubbed by Bush as the axis of evil along with Iraq, avoided detection by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspectors by each member farming out vital sections of its projects to its fellow members.

Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its program, is badly hit, having counted on fitting into place key parts of its WMD project made in Libya. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.

Yeah, I thought so. And this seems to be quite the military/diplomatic success for the Administration, proving once again that you get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.

More on Libya here and here: “I guess a ‘spider hole’ didn’t sound all that good to Mr. Gadhafi.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: And here’s more:

Libya’s promise to surrender its weapons of mass destruction was forced by Britain and America’s seizure of physical evidence of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s illegal weapons programme, the Telegraph can reveal.

United States officials say that America’s hand was strengthened in negotiations with Col Gaddafi after a successful operation, previously undisclosed, to intercept transport suspected of carrying banned weapons. . . .

One Cabinet minister said: “It demonstrates that change can be brought about by standing tough. There is no question that this change of heart by Gaddafi was brought about by the fact that the US and Britain were seen to be standing up to and called Saddam Hussein’s bluff.”


UPDATE: Charles Paul Freund observes:

In that context, it may be worth recalling this story from earlier this year. It appeared in Britain’s Telegraph on April 9 (which, according to the reported timeline, is shortly after Gaddafi approached Britain) and quotes an Italian official on the Libyan leader’s response to the Iraq war.

“A spokesman for Mr Berlusconi said the prime minister had been telephoned recently by Col Gaddafi of Libya, who said: ‘I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.'”

Indeed, again. Meanwhile this is interesting:

Saddam Hussein was personally directing the post-war insurgency inside Iraq, playing a far more active role than previously thought, American intelligence officers have concluded since his capture.

Despite the bewildered appearance of the deposed dictator when he was hauled from his hiding-hole last weekend, he is believed to have been issuing regular instructions on targets and tactics through five trusted lieutenants.

This conclusion could have serious implications for his status in United States custody. American officials have made clear that he will lose his rights as a prisoner of war if he was involved in the post-war violence.

Hmm. Stay tuned.

MORE: Colby Cosh has some observations, including this one: “Saddam is dragged out of a living grave and told that the president sends his regards, and within a week, Gadhafi, one of the most comparable figures in the World Atlas of Thuggery, is voluntarily installing red carpet for a weapons inspectorate. Talk about a wacky coincidence, eh?”

December 20, 2003

IRAQI BLOGGERS REPORT FROM BASRA, here and here. Both are worth reading.

(Via Jeff Jarvis).

December 20, 2003


Of course, the Vatican shouldn’t have opposed the war to begin with, and it still has a lot to apologize for.

December 20, 2003

MORE ON LIBYA: Roger Simon observes that Libya got missiles from North Korea (hey, it’s almost like it’s part of an axis of evil or something), but that nobody’s saying where it got its centrifuges from. Meanwhile Prof. Bainbridge writes: “I’ve been a skeptic of the Iraq war on prudential grounds, but in light of the developments with Libya I have to admit that the war’s supporters were right to claim that attacking Iraq would deter other rogue states from pursuing WMDs.”

Heh. Indeed.

December 19, 2003

IN THE PAST, I’ve compared the blogosphere to the network of European coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries. Here’s an article from The Economist that does more or less the same thing with far more erudition. (Via Dave Winer).

December 19, 2003

AUSTIN BAY EMAILS that the Libya WMD announcement is more proof of the “cascading effects” of Saddam’s capture:

Qadaffi turns in his WMD — it’s a cascading effect of knocking off the Baath dictatorship, demonstrating terrorism doesn’t pay, and capturing Saddam. You linked to the cascading effects column. Knocking the strong man myth is a huge dividend. FWIW, I had a commentary on NPR this morning discussing how the “tongue depressor video” is an Oscar winner for video short promoting justice and the rule of law.

Here’s a link to Bay’s NPR piece. And here’s a link to the cascading effects piece that I mentioned earlier, in case you missed it.

December 19, 2003

VIRGINIA POSTREL WRITES on what Christmas lights tell us about the economy.

December 19, 2003


Libya’s leader Colonel Gaddafi has tonight promised to dismantle his country’s secret weapons of mass destruction programme, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced.

I guess that whole “war will destabilize the region” stuff was, er, right. And a good thing, too!

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Rick Horvath emails:

Have you noticed that Libya took its first steps nine months ago? That would place Qhadafi’s move around our initial attack on Iraq. Thus, it would seem like this is a victory for unilateralism. You think the Bush critics will acknowledge that?

Not likely.

Reportedly, the BBC is playing it as a victory for multilateral internationalism.

December 19, 2003


News executives of most Boston television stations are decidedly unenthusiastic about a Bush administration plan to transmit news footage from Iraq for local TV outlets in an attempt to supplement media coverage from that war-torn country.

The satellite link, dubbed “C-SPAN Baghdad,” is designed to put a more positive spin on events and circumvent the major networks by making it possible for press conferences, interviews with troops and dignitaries, and even footage from the field to be transmitted from Iraq for use by regional and local media outlets, according to news accounts.

“I’m kind of appalled by it. I think it’s very troubling,” said Charles Kravetz, vice president of news at the regional cable news outlet NECN. “I think the government has no business being in the news business.”

Tell it to the folks at NPR and PBS — and the BBC– Chuck! But, really, I’d be happy if the news business were in the news business, instead of letting itself be embarrassingly scooped by Iraqi dentists with digicams and blogs. After dropping that ball, it takes a lot of chutzpah to complain.

Reader Ian Sollars thinks the problem with the Pentagon’s approach is that it’s not going far enough:

The Pentagon should REALLY make this (a) available streamed live over the ‘Net (Quicktime for preference) and (b) archived on the Web (DivX or MPEG2, and they might as well use BitTorrent while they’re at it). Take the disintermediation the whole way. There are bloggers left and right who will troll the feeds for news and scoop big media time after time.

Sounds like a terrific idea to me. I wonder if that’s what Kravetz is worried about? (More here.) Hey, here’s another reason why this war isn’t Vietnam — this time around, it’s the news media who don’t want the real story to get out. . . .

UPDATE: Hey, just got this email from Daniel Okrent:

I’ve been in touch with the Times’s Baghdad bureau and the paper’s foreign desk, who attribute the failure to cover the story in detail (a three-column picture did appear in the paper) to two things: The organizers of the demonstration failed to alert the Times in advance. And, more crucially, the responsible parties at the Times dropped the ball. As you might imagine, life can be difficult and work terribly complicated for journalists in a war zone. Still, the story should have received more thorough coverage.

I am sending a copy of this explanation to newsroom management.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Okrent
Public Editor

Nice. Hope it’ll make Okrent’s column. I didn’t see the picture — I guess it was only in the print edition, which interestingly now has fewer readers than the Times on the Web.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I’m quite happy with Okrent’s letter, and agree with a reader who emails “maybe this paper can be saved after all.” On the other hand, reader Julie Berry is less impressed:

The Baghdad bureau of the New York Times didn’t know the demonstration was scheduled? I’m a suburban housewife sitting in Washington State, and I knew the demonstration was scheduled.

My eleven year-old comes up with *much* better excuses than that for failing to do his homework. Dropped the ball, indeed.

Well, a couple of times I’ve found out about events on my own campus from reading West Coast blogs. On the other hand, nobody’s, you know, paying me to cover the University of Tennessee. . . . Heather MacFarlane emails:

I live in the Yukon Canada, way up in Northern Canada, and I don’t work for a newspaper and I do not have broadband, etc., etc., AND I KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE A DEMONSTRATION IN BAGHDAD ON THE 10TH OF DECEMBER. Really. Those ‘reporters’ in Baghdad are losers.

Perhaps the Times should send them to the Yukon. . . .

MORE: Reader email is skeptical of the Baghdad Bureau’s story. John Schedler writes:

I’m just a poor country lawyer in semi-rural Washington State — and I saw it coming. I think the Baghdad bureau is putting a con-job on Okrent. Okrent buys this kind of garbage/spin? Is he that credulous?

Tom Brosz emails:

The demonstrations on the 10th had been telegraphed by bloggers from Iraq almost three weeks ahead of time, and had been discussed across the internet. Zeyad said there were “reporters from every station in the world” there.

This story was well and truly spiked by editors who thought we didn’t really need to know this, and they aren’t kidding anybody.

And Prof. Cori Dauber emails:

I notice the nyt public editor is still using the argument “but we published a photo of them.” aside from the fact that if they got someone there to take the picture, then they clearly had enough advance warning to, you know, GET PEOPLE THERE there’s a bit of difficulty with their hiding behind the argument that the picture provided adequate coverage.

She has more on her blog, where she observes:

How could I have missed a picture of the demonstrations?

I had to page through the paper twice to find it. There’s a picture alright (I don’t have the capacity to scan from hardcopy, so you will have to settle for my description.) There’s a reason I missed it. It’s a beautiful picture, very “arty,” but it hardly works to convey the information needed. . . .

This image could not be better crafted to not attract the eye, and it could not be better crafted to not tell the narrative story of a demonstration involving thousands of people.

But at least they’re responding. Maybe next we’ll hear something in response to reports of thuggish behavior by the security forces of the Times’ Baghdad bureau.

Finally, Jeff Jarvis comments:

Loveya, Dan, but I don’t buy it. And though I think your response is direct and candid, I also don’t buy that this is necessarily an ombudsman issue. It is an executive-editor issue of bad news judgment.

This is also an issue of the future vs. the past of journalism. . . .

I do not think it’s an issue of principles or bias. It’s simply an issue of competence. The Times muffed the story. Plain and simple

Read the whole thing. And read Roger Simon’s comments, too: “Okrent is doing his job, but the Times people in Baghdad have not given a satisfactory answer, certainly not remotely like one they would accept from a government spokesmen or politician without follow up.”

December 19, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH IS UNIMPRESSED with Stephen Reinhardt’s opinion on the Guantanamo detainees: “What Judge Reinhardt is describing and condemning in the last sentence is the standard way that enemy detainees are treated. . . . Ah, Reinhardt says, but at least we acknowledged that they’re prisoners of war. But ‘prisoner of war’ status is given only to those enemy detainees who were fighting in accordance to the laws of war.”

I stand by my earlier statement that Reinhardt’s gasbaggery here will do more to undermine the positions he supports than John Ashcroft will.

December 19, 2003

BAGHDAD-BLOGGING RICH GALEN has another post up.

December 19, 2003

BIG LOSS FOR THE RIAA in the Verizon case, as the D.C. Circuit rules that ISPs don’t have to turn over subscriber information. Dodd Harris has comments. Here’s a link to the opinion, which is a svelte 16 pages long, perhaps because the Court characterizes the RIAA’s arguments as bordering on silly.

December 19, 2003

TYLER COWEN HAS APPARENTLY DIED AND GONE TO HELL: “I’ve been spending my last four days locked in a UNESCO room debating cultural diversity with a French diplomat and a Quebecois lawyer.”

But it’s not all bad: “Everyone has been very polite and the Frenchman gave me a useful book on the great number of French cheeses and how to recognize them.”

December 19, 2003


WASHINGTON Dec. 18 — The chairman of a federal commission looking into the Sept. 11 attacks said Thursday that mistakes over many years left the United States vulnerable to such an attack, but he resisted pinning blame on either of the last two presidential teams.

“We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton administration or the Bush administration did anything wrong,” chairman Thomas Kean said in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” taped for airing Thursday night.

I still think that some people should have been fired, though.

In related news, authorities are reportedly looking for suicide bombers in New York City, and other major metropolitan areas. I hope that people will keep their eyes open, and not get complacent.

December 19, 2003


Former FBI director Louis Freeh testified yesterday that he believed there was “overwhelming evidence” that senior Iranian government officials financed and directed the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Go figure.

December 19, 2003

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT, only this time it’s in Terry McAuliffe’s America, not John Ashcroft’s. . . .

December 19, 2003

FREDERICK TURNER writes on Bush-hatred, and change:

At this time in the world’s history a great turning point is imminent. And here we begin to see why there is this strange and unholy alliance between idealistic liberalism, the vestiges of the old socialist left, traditional third world authoritarians, and the unrelenting forces of Islamic totalitarianism, theocracy, and terror. However various their ideas of what is the good, all are united in their desire for an enforced law of the good. Even elements of the human rights movement, much of the anti-globalist community, and a large swatch of the philanthropic world — the so-called NGOs — still yearn for a government that, through sumptuary laws, high taxation, political correctness, and entitlements, would force to happen what people ought to, but do not make happen of their own free will. Much philanthropy has the stated goal of eliminating itself when through its advocacy and lobbying it has given government the power to compel what was once freely given; at which time the employees of the Foundations would presumably take over the powerful role of government civil servants. If the law of right is to become the only enforceable law of the human race, all these constituencies will have suffered what will feel to them to be a mortal setback. . . .

So when the protesters in London tore down Bush’s effigy they were, unconsciously, expressing not only the opposite of the destruction of Saddam’s statue — that is, a desire to reinstate him — but also the motivations behind the smashing of the statue of liberty erected by the students in Tiananmen Square. The symbolism of the Bush fragging was not, as many commentators believed, semiotically incompetent, but strikingly accurate. And the good, pacifist destroyers of the Bush statue were unconsciously leaguing themselves with the army tanks that massacred the Chinese students and trampled their poor plaster version of Lady Liberty — and declaring war on the students themselves. Like their colleagues on this side of the Atlantic, the anti-American protesters stood in solidarity with the Confucian enforcers of the good that gave the order to clear the square of Heavenly Peace, and with seekers after the role of moral enforcer everywhere.

Read the whole thing.

December 19, 2003

MATT RUSTLER has comments on the Democrats’ Second Amendment strategy, and a copy of what he says is a Democratic memo on the subject. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but perhaps someone else will know if it’s genuine.

December 19, 2003

EUGENE VOLOKH COMMENTS on Padilla v. Rumsfeld. He expects a reversal.

December 19, 2003

AUSTIN BAY WRITES about the “cascade effects” stemming from Saddam’s capture.

Meanwhile, here’s an email from someone who participated.

December 18, 2003

SUCCESS HAS A THOUSAND FATHERS: But who would have guessed that one of them was Robert Fisk?

It’s easy, looking at these images of Saddam’s sadism, to have expected Iraqis to be grateful to us this week. We have captured Saddam. We have destroyed the beast. The nightmare years are over.

What’s this “we” sh*t, white man? (Emphasis added.)

Here’s a slightly different take.

UPDATE: And here’s something on Fisk’s fellow-travelers at the CBC.

December 18, 2003

QUESTION: If Jose Padilla were still known as Abdullah al-Muhajir, the name he was using when he was arrested, would the decision have come out the same way?

And if it had, would it be playing the same way in the press?

And who decided which name to use in the media coverage, anyway?