Archive for March, 2004

March 25, 2004

RICH LOWRY WRITES ON CLARKE’S COLLAPSE. And Greg Djerejian observes that the New York Times and Washington Post have been forced to spin pretty hard to maintain their predetermined storyline. (“The bottom line on W. 43rd St. is thus: Clinton took al–Q seriously, Bush didn’t. And, frankly, I just can’t take that spin seriously.” Hard to, when Clarke himself said Bush increased the Clinton efforts dramatically — but of course, now Clarke says he was lying to make his boss look good back then, but that now he’s telling the disinterested truth!)

UPDATE: Reader Ted Gideon thinks I’m too hard on Clarke:

[H]asn’t it occurred yet to you or your linkees that the so-called contradictory statements largely were made as an employee/appointee of the administration, and that part of his JOB was to say what the administration wanted said? When you were in private practice did you make it a habit to file briefs or argue in court that even though your client was liable/guilty, that was no reason not to dismiss? Of course not, nor would any thinking person expect an administration official to say words to the effect of, “We couldn’t be bothered to attach any urgency to this issue because we were too busy working on tax cuts or whatever.” If an official of an administration wishes to say the emperor has no clothes, the official should resign first.

Well, leaving aside the question of whether legal ethics are an appropriate analogy here (though in fact I never presented evidence that I thought was false), Clarke wasn’t just spinning: he made specific assertions of fact back in 2002 which (1) are inconsistent with what he’s saying now; and (2) that as far as I know no one has said are false. And although I mentioned them below, let’s revisit them here:

JIM ANGLE: You’re saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that’s correct.

ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you’re saying is that there was no — one, there was no [Clinton] plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of ’98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?

CLARKE: You got it. That’s right.

Now Clarke’s saying that they were too busy with tax cuts, or whatever. But — leaving aside the problems with the “of course I was lying then, but you can trust me now!” flavor of his explanations for the discrepancy, I don’t see any evidence that those earlier statements were actually untrue. Which makes his current statements even more troubling.

It’s certainly true that if Clarke thought the Bush Administration was endangering the nation in 2002, he should have resigned. But he didn’t, did he?

Powerline has more — just keep scrolling.

Finally, Daniel Drezner offers a clue as to what’s really going on: “it’s hard not to believe that Clarke’s evaluation of presidential performance is directly correlated with how well those presidents treated Clarke.”

MORE: Some interesting thoughts on Clinton and Bush antiterror strategy.

STILL MORE: An important followup comment from Rich Lowry:

Let me be clear about this: it would have been theoretically possible for Clarke to give reporters that August 2002 briefing, emphasizing the positive aspects of the administration’s anti-terror record, and then go and write a critical book, giving what he considers a more complete view. In fact, I think Clarke could have written a very interesting and honest book criticizing the failures in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. But that is not what he has done. There is no way to square what he said in August 2002 with the actual book he has written, because it is such a totalist critique of the Bush administration that leaves out or skates over important facts he recounted in 2002. The Clarke who said in 2002 that nothing important had moved in U.S. counterterrorism policy since the end of 1998 simply cannot be squared with the Clarke of Against All Enemies.

Indeed. A good critique would be a service. This isn’t.

March 25, 2004

VIA ROLL CALL, INTERESTING POLL DATA: “A Year after Iraq War, Most Americans Say Stay the Course.” Read the whole thing.

March 25, 2004

PHILOSOPHICAL DIVISIONS IN THE WAR ON TERROR: Donald Sensing offers a must-read post on the big picture:

Yet asking the question, “What causes Islamist terrorism?” does not make one a de facto leftist by any means. In fact, that was exactly the question that the Bush administration started asking on Sept. 12, 2001. And its framing and answering points out the sharp divide between those who claim the Iraq campaign was a diversion from the War on Terror and those who claim – as I do – that the Iraq war was absolutely essential to succeeding in the WOT.

Read the whole thing.

March 25, 2004

APPALLING IGNORANCE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT — on the part of college students and, far more appallingly, of administrators.

March 24, 2004


March 24, 2004

A GENUINE HERO: Tomorrow is the birthday of Norman Borlaug, who unlike many recent winners of the Nobel Peace Prize has actually done something significant to help humanity.

Here’s a wonderful article about Borlaug — and his rather unsavory critics — from The Atlantic Monthly. Why did Borlaug win the prize? He “may have prevented a billion deaths.” Strangely, some people don’t admire that.

March 24, 2004

RICHARD CLARKE — NOT JUST FLIP-FLOPPING, BUT WRONG, as Michael Young writes in Reason:

By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.

This is where Clarke’s allegations, and those of critics who see a disconnect between Al Qaeda and Iraq, are misleading. Iraq always was essential to the anti-terrorism battle precisely because victory there was regarded as necessary to transform societies from where terrorists, spawned by suffocating regimes, had emerged. One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic. . . .

Lest some find this argument—that autocracy breeds terrorism—deceptive, it is worth recalling it was one that America’s most vociferous critics floated after Sept. 11. But that was before they realized that such an opinion placed them in the same boat as Bush administration hawks. Once they did, they preferred to backtrack, on the assumption that anti-Americanism is always more rewarding than consistency.

Indeed. The good news is that — used as a plan for action, rather than a formula for hair-shirted American inaction — this approach is actually working.

UPDATE: This story has more examples of Clarke flip-flops. Clarke’s current explanation — he was lying then, not now:

“When you are special assistant to the president and you’re asked to explain something that is potentially embarrassing to the administration, because the administration didn’t do enough or didn’t do it in a timely manner and is taking political heat for it, as was the case there, you have a choice,” he said.

One “choice that one has is to put the best face you can for the administration on the facts as they were, and that is what I did.”

This guy’s working for Rove. By the time he’s done imploding, Bush will have discredited the media and all his critics. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

The other possibility is that Clarke held an important national security job for years while being dumb as a post, so dumb that he would write a book making explosive accusations against the White House while knowing — or forgetting? — that all sorts of contradictory evidence was on the record and bound to come out. Otherwise, wouldn’t he at least have tried to explain this stuff up front?

As I’ve said before, I think there’s a lot to complain about regarding pre-9/11 antiterror policy, by both Clinton and Bush. (Read this piece by Gerald Posner). And a lot of people probably should have been fired. But Clarke is now saying that his real problem is with the invasion of Iraq, even as he focuses on pre-9/11 events.

A useful critique would be nice, but Clarke seems to be producing incoherent grandstanding.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It just gets worse. Here’s a report that Clarke was linking Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda back in 1999:

Clarke said U.S. intelligence does not know how much of the substance was produced at El Shifa or what happened to it. But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El Shifa’s current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.

There’s a lengthy excerpt from the Washington Post story (it’s pay only now) at the link above. I looked at the whole thing on NEXIS just to be sure it was in context. The excerpt does omit this passage, which perhaps weakens the Al Qaeda WMD point (but not the Iraqi connection) a bit:

Clarke said the U.S. does not believe that bin Laden has been able to acquire chemical agents, biological toxins or nuclear weapons. If evidence of such an acquisition existed, he said, “we would be in the process of doing something.”

On the other hand, it’s followed immediately by this howler:

Assessing U.S. counterterrorism policy to date, Clarke said it’s no accident that there have been so few terrorist attacks on American soil.

“The fact that we got seven out of the eight people from the World Trade Center [bombing], and we found them in five countries around the world and brought them back here, the fact we can demonstrate repeatedly that the slogan, ‘There’s nowhere to hide,’ is more than a slogan, the fact that we don’t forget, we’re persistent — we get them — has deterred terrorism,” he said.

Clarke thought our limp response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was scaring Al Qaeda?

We know better today. He should have known better then. Or maybe he was just trying to make his boss look good, which he’s admitted is a major consideration in his public statements.

So who’s his boss now?

MORE: Not Rep. Christopher Shays, who writes: “Clarke was part of the problem before September 11, because he took too narrow a view of the terrorism threat. His approach was reactive and limited to swatting at the visible elements of Al Qe’eda, not the hidden global network and its state sponsors. ” That description certainly fits with Clarke’s comments about the 1993 bombing response! Read the whole thing, along with the attachments, dating back to 2000. (Via Poliblog).

STILL MORE: Stephen Green observes:

Surely, there’s enough blame for 9/11 to go around the Washington Beltway once or twice at least. (How many times do I have to say George Tenet and John Ashcroft needed to be fired on September 12, before the usual fools stop accusing me of being a low-rent shill for the Bush Administration? Ugh. Anyway.) But to claim that Clarke was some kind of maven is just a desperate attempt to keep the blame all in one little pile.

And we all know how those stink.

Indeed. Meanwhile Eric Scheie looks at Clarke’s Y2K record and observes, “hype is nothing new to Richard Clarke.” Read the whole thing, which offers the kind of interesting background you seldom find in newspaper accounts.

March 24, 2004


West Toledo resident Barb Korn grinned yesterday as she picked up a silver Smith & Wesson revolver – holding it with both hands and aiming it.
“I like this,” she said, staring down the gun’s sights.

Ms. Korn, 60, was among nearly 25 people taking a 12-hour class at Cleland’s Outdoor World on Airport Highway. The training is required in order to carry a firearm under Ohio’s new concealed weapons law.

“I was mugged previously and I want to be able to defend myself,” she said. “I will feel safer.”

The law, which goes into effect April 8, requires sheriffs to approve a concealed-handgun license if the applicant completes 10 hours of classroom training and two hours of live-fire training, pays a fee, and passes an exam.

Unfortunately, an essential human right — self-defense — is being denied elsewhere:

A man who stabbed to death an armed intruder at his home was jailed for eight years today.

Carl Lindsay, 25, answered a knock at his door in Salford, Greater Manchester, to find four men armed with a gun.

When the gang tried to rob him he grabbed a samurai sword and stabbed one of them, 37-year-old Stephen Swindells, four times.

I’m deeply disappointed at this barbaric infringement of human rights.

UPDATE: Several readers send a link to this story, which unlike the report above says that the defendant was a pot dealer. I’m not sure why that makes a difference in terms of self-defense. The wounds are from behind, which could make a difference, but the facts recited are otherwise largely consistent with the account above.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Rustler notes that while the English shooting may have been good or not, it’s not clearly a bad call based on the additional available evidence. [LATER: Er, stabbing, not shooting.]

March 24, 2004

ROGER SIMON HAS MORE ON THE U.N. OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL and the United Nations’ reluctance to come clean. Actually the word used is “stonewalling.”

Why don’t we have Congressional hearings on this?

UPDATE: In an update, Simon notes that we will have hearings next month. Good! And Baldilocks asks: “I wonder what the first clue was. Was it the palaces or the ever-rounder cheeks of Saddam and his cronies?”

March 24, 2004

THE LINUX USERS’ GROUP OF IRAQ wants computer books — and not just books about Linux. If you can help, give ’em a hand.

March 24, 2004

TRENT TELENKO HAS thoughts on military communications.

Meanwhile, Cathy Seipp has thoughts on the civilian variety.

March 24, 2004

JAN HAUGLAND writes that the success of the Bush anti-terror strategy is demonstrated by the latest from Hamas: An urgent effort to make America feel unthreatened.

Well, they did seem rather anxious to make that point.

March 24, 2004

STEVEN ANTLER offers an interesting chart of poverty rates over the past several decades.

March 24, 2004

“WE WANT DEMOCRACY LIKE THE OTHERS:” Here’s some more evidence that the freeing of Iraq is sending ripples across the Arab world, to the discomfort of despots:

Kurdish residents claim the government responded to what they call peaceful protests with violence as an excuse to say Syria remains too unstable to introduce the kind of democratic reforms that are helping their brethren in Iraq.

“We want democracy like the others,” said Hoshiar Abdelrahman, another young shopkeeper in Malikiya, 60 miles east of Qamishliye.

More here:

Many of those present had relatives and friends in northern Syria and were in cell-phone contact with them hour by hour. In and around the city of Kamishli, in the past few days, several dozen Kurdish protesters have been shot down by Baathist police and militia for raising the Kurdish flag and for destroying pictures and statues of the weak-chinned hereditary ruler, Bashar al-Assad. In tussling with local party goons who shout slogans in favor of the ousted Saddam, it is clear, they are hoping for a rerun of regime change.

It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Hussein’s. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable “enemy within,” lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position.

And that’s not all:

In Syria, and tomorrow in Iran, there are forces at work who intend to take these pronouncements with absolute seriousness. It would be nice if American liberals came out more forcefully and demanded that the administration live up to its own rhetoric on the question.

Yes, the Administration shouldn’t chicken out now. The dominoes are teetering, and we should be giving them a shove.

March 24, 2004

BELGRAVIA DISPATCH is live-blogging Clarke’s testimony.

UPDATE: John Lehman: Clarke has a “real credibility problem.” And Clarke’s answer tells you what the political strategy here is.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: “Clarke implodes.”

March 24, 2004

IT’S CLARKE V. CONASON NOW: This is almost starting to look like a Karl Rove setup.

UPDATE: Or maybe Clarke set himself up. Here’s what he said in 2002:

January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we’ve now made public to some extent. . . .

The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda. . .

JIM ANGLE: You’re saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that’s correct.

(Emphasis added.) So Clarke in 2002 says that the Bush Administration picked up the Clinton ball and ran with it, redoubling (er, quintupling!) effort. Clarke in 2004 — an election year, with a book to sell — says the opposite, that the Bush Administration ignored the problem.

Which Clarke do you believe?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader points out this excerpt from the same transcript:

ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you’re saying is that there was no — one, there was no [Clinton] plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of ’98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?

CLARKE: You got it. That’s right.

It’s hard for me to see how this leaves Clarke with any credibility at all.

March 24, 2004

BUSH CAN’T GET A BREAK: Now he’s being blamed for not invading Afghanistan in 1998! Here’s the relevant passage from MSNBC:

The report revealed that in a previously undisclosed secret diplomatic mission, Saudi Arabia won a commitment from the Taliban to expel bin Laden in 1998. But a clash between the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Saudi officials scuttled the arrangement, and Bush did not follow up.

Damn him — governing Texas while Rome burned! Why didn’t he send the Texas Rangers to finish off Bin Laden? (“One mullah, one Ranger!”) Sheesh. Can you say “Freudian slip?”

It’s not as if anybody has the storyline on this figured out from the get-go or anything. . . .

UPDATE: Then there’s this from another story:

One event that panel members found galling was why there was no retaliation by either administration for the bombing of the destroyer Cole in early 2001.

Maybe because the Cole was bombed on October 12, 2000? It seems like people are trying awfully hard to make it sound as if all this stuff happened on Bush’s watch.

Coming soon: Complaints about why the Bush Administration didn’t do anything to prevent the assassination attempt on Harry Truman at Blair House. And what about the Maine, huh? Why didn’t Bush do something about that?

March 24, 2004

MEGAN MCARDLE: Soon to be a hot TV star! I just want to note that I spotted her potential long ago.

March 24, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE has an interesting collection of Richard Clarke links. Read this, too, in which we see that Clarke’s report that Condi Rice had never heard of Al Qaeda before he briefed her is in error.

Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis cuts to the chase:

The terrorists came within a matter of yards of killing me.
But I don’t blame the Bush or Clinton administrations for that. I blame the terrorists.

Could we have stopped them? Only with some damned lucky breaks. We can’t make believe that any system would have guaranteed catching them before the act. For we have to remember that these are pathologically insane and evil beasts and it’s impossible to guess how low they will stoop.

If we were lucky enough to have intelligence inside their devil’s cult, then, yes, we might have foiled their plot. But that’s obviously hard to do.

If we were lucky enough to have stopped one of them for speeding and locked them up, then might have foiled their plot. But that’s like counting on a lottery ticket.

What matters now is learning the lessons we can learn — and to that extent, the hearings are valuable — to protect us as best we can.

But I find the blame game going on now unseemly and divisive and unproductive and distracting and just a little bit tasteless.


UPDATE: Clarke claims that Condi Rice had never heard of Al Qaeda when he briefed her as she took office. But here’s what she said in the interview referenced above, which took place before the election:

During an interview on Detroit radio station WJR the year before the Clarke briefing, Rice mentioned bin Laden by name, then recommended: “You really have to get the intelligence agencies better organized to deal with the terrorist threat to the United States itself. One of the problems that we have is a kind of split responsibility, of course, between the CIA and foreign intelligence and the FBI and domestic intelligence.”

Then, in a chillingly prescient comment, Rice named bin Laden a second time, warning, “There needs to be better cooperation because we don’t want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory.”

Sounds like a pretty good diagnosis of the problems with Clarke’s anti-terrorism operation to me. Compare that statement from 2000 with this postmortem from George Tenet at the 9/11 hearings:

He said the problem in part was operational and in part systemic. “We didn’t integrate all the data we had properly, and probably we had a lot of data that we didn’t know about that, if everybody had known about, maybe we would have had a chance,” Tenet said.

He also pointed to the “wall that was in place between the criminal side and the intelligence side” of law enforcement domestically and internationally as an impediment. “Even people in the Criminal Division and the Intelligence Divisions of the FBI couldn’t talk to each other, let alone talk to us or us talk to them,” Tenet explained.

Sounds like Condi was on top of things back then, not clueless as Clarke is claiming now. To add to Jeff Jarvis’s take: distracting, tasteless — and dishonest.

March 24, 2004

MORE THOUGHTS ON DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY: My TechCentralStation column is up.

March 23, 2004

HERE’S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW with Eugene Volokh, by Will Baude.

March 23, 2004

LOOKING FOR A NANOTECHNOLOGY JOB? Here’s a new nanotechnology jobs website. More information here.

March 23, 2004

CLAY RISEN says that the next Enron will be in Europe, and notes that the Euro-sneering that greeted the Enron scandal in 2002 has, er, shifted its tone. You can, by the way, get a free 4-week subscription to The New Republic Digital by clicking on the ad to the left.

March 23, 2004

CHANGING TUNES? Belgravia Dispatch notes a Clarke quote that isn’t getting much attention:

Richard Clarke, the country’s first counter-terrorism czar, told me in an interview at his home in Arlington, Virginia, that he wasn’t particularly surprised that the Bush Administration’s efforts to find bin Laden had been stymied by political problems. He had seen such efforts fail before. Clarke, who retired from public service in February and is now a private consultant on security matters, has served every President since Ronald Reagan. He has won a reputation as a tireless advocate for action against Al Qaeda. Clarke emphasized that the C.I.A. director, George Tenet, President Bush, and, before him, President Clinton were all deeply committed to stopping bin Laden; nonetheless, Clarke said, their best efforts had been doomed by bureaucratic clashes, caution, and incessant problems with Pakistan.”

–Richard Clarke, per the August 4th 2003 issue of the New Yorker.

“Frankly,” he said, “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know.”

–Richard Clarke, on 60 Minutes, March 21, 2004.

Follow the link and read the whole thing. (Emphasis in original). I’m ready to believe that the Bush Administration dropped balls on terrorism before 9/11. Clarke seems to be grinding axes though.

And the big question is, what would today’s critics have had Bush do back then? What if Bush had invaded Afghanistan in February of 2001, going after Bin Laden in a serious way? He would have gotten the same kind of criticism he’s getting now — from many of the same people who are accusing him of not being preemptive enough against Bin Laden — for going after Saddam. And such an attack probably wouldn’t have stopped the 9/11 attacks, which were outside-Afghanistan efforts. And if the 9/11 attacks had happened anyway, those people would be blaming Bush’s targeting of Bin Laden for “triggering” the 9/11 attacks.

You want a revolution in antiterrorism? Fine. We’d all love to see the plan.

Where is it?

UPDATE: This Clarke statement would seem worthy of more attention.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wonkette, as always, is amusing.

March 23, 2004


Anybody notice how many people are, almost simultaneously, berating George Bush for not taking out bin Laden, and berating Sharon for taking out Ahmed Yassin?

Yes, I have.

March 23, 2004

HERE’S A PICTURE of the UT Agriculture Experimental Campus across the river, taken earlier this morning as I drove into work. You can’t tell from the image, but the odds are that some of those cows (barely visible under the trees) are clones. You can see more here, though the picture isn’t as pretty.

March 23, 2004

JONATHAN RAUCH offers actual good news about the U.N. No, really!

March 23, 2004

THE BLOVIATOR is back and blogging about public health, vaccinations, and more.

March 23, 2004

MORAL BLIND SPOTS: One of my regular email critics sent this, which I think is the first non-critical email I’ve received from him. It’s pretty revealing:

I realize you generally assume that the vast majority of reporters are praying to their pagan gods for our failure in Iraq and the war against terrorism (I am not one of them), and are now crafting their stories to reflect and facilitate such a thing. While I think you are dead wrong on this, I have to admit I was taken aback by a conversation I had recently with a colleague.

I work as a freelancer for a major national publication, and was talking to my editor as we were closing a piece last week. It was Thursday, and the reports were coming out of Pakistan that we might have Ayman al-Zawahiri surrounded. I passed this news on to the editor, who was crestfallen: “Oh, no. I don’t want anything good to happen for Bush before the election,” was the reaction (P.S., this editor does not edit foreign or political stories).

It was a sickening moment. This is a man responsible for thousands of American deaths. So while I have no desire to see Bush re-elected, and I disagree with our attack on Iraq, to hope for our failure in capturing one of the deadliest people in the world is a moral blindspot.

Yes, it is. And — based both on reports like this one, and on the obvious slant of some stories — I don’t think that editor is alone, though I doubt an actual majority of his colleagues feel that way. But some clearly do, letting their Bush-hatred trump their patriotism. This is no surprise, I suppose: there were plenty of Romans who played politics with the barbarian attacks, and sometimes even secretly allied with the barbarians, in the hopes of gaining political advantage at home. This isn’t on that level. But it’s nothing admirable. And it’s naive to think that such attitudes don’t influence coverage where they’re present.

UPDATE: Roger Simon comments.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I kind of figured that my correspondent would rather remain anonymous, though he didn’t request that. (Don’t count on me getting this right with your email — if you want to be anonymous, say so!) But I found this later email from him disturbing:

A word of thanks for leaving my name out of that post.

Realized after I sent the email that if my name were posted it might easily make its way back to the editor. I’m barely making enough money at the journalism thing as it is… the last thing I need is to be blacklisted.

Blacklisted by Big Media? For wanting us to win the war? An appalling thought.

March 23, 2004

PAUL KRUGMAN’S 400TH COLUMN: A milestone that I missed, but it has not gone unremarked.

March 23, 2004


March 23, 2004

WITH A NAME LIKE THIS, it’s got to be a good blog.

March 23, 2004

THERE ARE LOTS OF KERRY QUESTIONS THAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND: Tom Maguire is looking at some of them. And here’s a report of Kerry hedging. Go figure!

Was Kerry at a meeting in 1971 where people talked about assassinations? Does it matter now? I’m really not sure what I think about this story, which seems rather complicated to me. Hedging on Kerry’s part probably won’t help, though.

UPDATE: Trying to get witnesses to change their stories is probably a bad idea, too.

March 23, 2004

TIMOTHY PERRY has a new URL, and is offering helpful advice for John Kerry regarding outsourcing.

March 23, 2004

STIMULATING THE ECONOMY: We got our tax refund recently — much larger than it would have been, thanks to the tax cuts and particularly the abolition of the marriage penalty — and while some of the money has gone to the college account, it has also funded some home improvements: a new gas grill (not as fancy as these luxury models advertised on Bill Hobbs’ site but it has 6 burners!), new blinds for the upstairs, etc. The Insta-Wife remains quite enthusiastic about President Bush. I wonder if this effect is widespread?

UPDATE: Here’s a similar account, and reader Nicholas Sylvain emails:

I had a very similar reaction. Upon completing my return, and being surprised at a substantially larger than expected refund, I thanked George Bush & promptly paid off my student loans and bought season tickets to the local minor league hockey team.

The grill I bought, BTW, was a Kenmore Premium. I didn’t spring for the rather-pricey “Elite.” I like the features, and since I do most of our cooking on the grill for 6-8 months out of the year I’m happy with the upgrade.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Gabe Posey emails:

My wife and I were so shocked on seeing how much we were getting back we actually asked the preparer to double check it. If people vote with their wallets, W is a shoe in. Personally, I recently donated some of my refund to bloggers like you and Lileks. It seemed only right to do so, given the service you provide to others with like ideals. I’m curious, though, how John Kerry plans on leaving the tax cuts permanent _and_ raising taxes. I think it will make for an interesting debate point no matter what.

And Greg Schwinghammer reports:

When I did my taxes in January, I was also thrilled by the large refund. I use TurboTax, which had an interesting feature. When the taxes are done, TurboTax shows a chart with side-by-side comparison of your tax payments with 2002 versus 2003 rates. Were I so minded, I might think a vast right-wing conspiracy convinced TurboTax to add this feature.

Interesting. I’d like to see some of those figures. Kim Breuer also emails:

We paid off a major credit card bill, bought a general all-purpose computer for our younger children (to be used for educational purposes only, no internet/email) and are having a new kitchen floor installed with our tax refund.

No Internet? What about blogs? We’re educational! On the other hand, reader Jeff Redman sends this:

The Insta-Wife remains quite enthusiastic about President Bush. I wonder if this effect is widespread?

With half the country earning $35,000 or less and unlikely to receive any refund (remember, all us poor people don’t pay taxes), I’d say probably not. Count yourself among the lucky, bub.

Oh, I do. Or at least among the better-off. Though (pace Virginia Postrel) the Insta-Family isn’t actually “rolling in dough.” We are, however, located in a place where housing prices are exceptionally low, which translates into more disposable income than we’d have in, say, Los Angeles or Boston.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Stan Smith emails:

I doubt that your reader Jeff Redman is correct in saying that “half the country” earns “$35,000 or less”, given that the median income is somewhere around $42,000 (figures from the US Census website). And, while I don’t doubt that many earn salaries that aren’t very high, most of those wage earners are entry-level workers like my daughter who earns only the minimum. And of course, if you don’t earn much, you don’t pay much (if any) in taxes, so naturally, you don’t get a big refund (if any). Also, if you’re like me, and want to keep most of the money you earn for yourself, you have minimal withholding, so you don’t get much of a refund either (we have to pay this year, in fact). However, *I* got the use of my money this year, rather than the government, who pays you no interest at all on the excess that they confiscate from you throughout
the year.

Reader Jonathan Michael Hawkins disagrees with Redman:

I don’t know what your reader Jeff Redman is talking about. I made about half of that 35,000 dollars last year (yes, I’m a poor voter with Republican leanings), and I got much more of a refund this year. I’ll finally be able to pay off some debts, which makes me much more comfortable this year than I was last. Moreover, I am in the IT business and will be able to afford more professional certifications, likely leading (long-term) to better employment and higher tax revenue for the government due to my higher paycheck. Win-win.

Indeed. And reader Wendy Cook observes:

I just have to say this because that last gentleman [Redman] seemed to be veering into the “tax cuts for the wealthy” mentality: Getting a backyard grill, installing a new kitchen floor, buying a computer for the kids, paying off a student loan–these are things that wealthy people don’t have to wait for a tax refund to do. These are nice, middle-class purchases that otherwise may not have been possible. I know some people have had a tough year, but your readers’ comments really put the lie to the term “tax cuts for the wealthy.”

Excellent point.

MORE: Gabe Posey writes back in response to Redman:

I’m not sure if this guy is being sarcastic or serious, but I earn in that income bracket and still did very well. I think saying any blanketed tax refund or tax owed is just not plausible. On the whole, though, mainstream America pays enough taxes to receive a refund. Those who do not pay ‘enough’ taxes are often the self-employed or contractors. Even so, these people see the benefit of lower taxes. They may not get a check from the government like most of us, but it still trickles down. This again puts a heaping helping of bunk on John Kerry’s idea of taxing only the rich. As Bill Whittle has argued, the poor and the rich have a vested interest in the same economy. If the rich get richer, the poor get richer too.

By the way, Posey has a blog, which I probably should have mentioned earlier. And reader Mary Pat Campbell writes:

When my sister got her first full-time job in 2000, when she got her first paycheck and noticed all the taxes and withholdings she called up my mother to tell her: “You know, I was thinking about voting for Bush. Now that I’ve seen my first paycheck, I =know= I’m voting for Bush.” At the time, I thought her selfish and short-sighted (I was a protest voter that year — I hated both Bush and Gore.)

Now 4 years have passed, and I’ve come around to my sister’s way of thinking though lower taxes are just one of many reasons I will vote for Bush). My main complaints are protectionism and overspending, but both of those would obviously be worse with Kerry.

I’d hold all nondefense spending flat if it were up to me. (Okay, actually I’d roll most of it back if it were up to me). But that’s not going to happen. And the war is priority one for me at the moment, though I don’t mind having my taxes cut.

STILL MORE: Joseph O’Brien writes:

Just wanted to drop you a quick line regarding being pleasantly surprised with an unexpected or unexpectedly high tax refund. My wife and I adopted our foster daughter this year. We had expected to write-off some of the associated expenses (i.e. legal costs) and get the extra $500/child deduction (We were able to take her as a deduction in tax year 2002).

Well we were completely blown away with a 10K tax credit we were able to claim because our daughter is “special needs”. You can google “tax credit adoption 1993” or check here : I was pretty much in Bush’s camp prior to this revelation, but this sealed the deal.

Stephen Bainbridge has a post on this, and observes:

As for us, we got a very nice 4-figure refund, which we then turned around and applied to our first quarter 2004 estimated tax payment. Not quite as satisfying as seeing that check come back from Uncle Sam, but my already blooming enthusiasm for President Bush likely will spike even higher when I write a much smaller than normal estimated tax payment check in a few weeks.

Yes, the hidden news is that withholding is down, too. But not everyone is happy. Reader Mostafa Sabet emails:

I’m happy as a clam that I got a bigger refund, but I know it’s short lived no matter who gets elected. I’d be perfectly happy if Bush cut spending along with taxes (dollar for dollar would be best). Deficit spending is just money future taxes will have to cover, with interest. I’d rather have higher tax brackets now than in 5 years when I’ll be making more. Kerry’s not better, but gridlock is a great way to keep spending from going up. Maybe he’d be forced to cut spending to get those across the aisle to agree. Of course, I’m the kind of person that puts everything on my debit card to keep my spending in line without incurring high interest, so I’m just projecting my own fiscal preferences. We may not be paying taxes now, which is nice, but we’ll have to foot the bill later (I’m 25 and don’t want to get stuck with the bill).

I’d like to see the spending cuts, too. The real question, though, is probably between deficits from spending and deficits from tax cuts. If that’s the choice, I prefer the latter. In this, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I guess I agree with Milton Friedman: “Raise taxes by enough to eliminate the existing deficit and spending will go up to restore the tolerable deficit. Tax cuts may initially raise the deficit above the politically tolerable deficit, but their longer term effect will be to restrain spending.”

March 23, 2004

DONALD SENSING COMMENTS on permissible racism in sportswriting.

March 23, 2004


MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday secured a stunning personal triumph, reversed a so-called green tide of Islamic fundamentalism, and energised his anti-corruption and corporate transparency drive. . . .

Analysts noted some clear trends: the Front has decimated the Islamic clerics of PAS in their own backyard; captured the fortress seat of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Kota Melaka for the first time in 35 years, and crushed Parti Keadilan Nasional – Anwar’s political vehicle.

There’s a Wall Street Journal story sounding a similar theme, but it’s subscription-only.

March 23, 2004

RANDY BARNETT has been looking over the Bush Administration’s response to Richard Clarke’s charges, and has some thoughts.

March 23, 2004

VIRGINIA POSTREL has been on a hot streak lately. Just keep scrolling.

March 22, 2004

JAN HAUGLAND NOTES THAT RICHARD CLARKE spent his career warning about a digital Pearl Harbor, not attacks like 9/11. He observes: “It is rather ironic when Clarke, who had a reputation for his obsession with cyberthreats, accuses the Bush administration of being obsessed with Iraq. His past history clearly puts the accusations in a new light.”

To be fair, however, Clarke has had some worthwhile things to say on the subject of cyberterrorism.

UPDATE: Here’s what Clarke was saying in 2000: “I think the largest threat is obviously posed by international narcotics smuggling, which costs a number of lives and costs an enormous amount of money.” If you read the report he’s discussing, you’ll see that drugs and intellectual property issues get a lot more attention than terrorism, and the discussion of terrorism isn’t as prescient as his current interviews suggest.


March 22, 2004


When the President and NASA announced the agency’s new space initiative, including sending humans back to the Moon and on to Mars, many news reports claimed that the plan could cost as much as $1 trillion. According to this Space Review article, that trillion-dollar price tag is a myth: it was based on erroneous data and analysis, in large part by a single Associated Press reporter, and propagated by many other reporters too busy — or too lazy — to check on the facts. Could this kill the plan before it has a chance to start?

Read the whole thing. Note that blogosphere fave, AP reporter Scott Lindlaw, makes an appearance.

March 22, 2004

A WHILE BACK, I mentioned Leon Kass’s views on eating ice cream in public (uncivilized, offensive, and animalistic, he says). Now Elisabeth Riba notes that Miss Manners feels otherwise. As I noted earlier, Kass’s views on this subject, while not specifically relevant to bioethics, “suggest a more generalized discomfort with the messy, physical side of life” that may explain his views in the bioethics arena. And it’s a discomfort that puts him to the right — if that’s the proper characterization — of Miss Manners, no less.

UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost says that I’m being unfair to Kass by not noting that his objections to eating ice cream in public are religious in nature.

But Kass doesn’t say that, and EO’s claim is rather thinly sourced. Anyway, I’m not sure it matters. Assume it’s true: Does the President’s Council on Bioethics gain in credibility if it turns out to be headed by a man who has religious objections to eating ice cream public? Somewhow, I doubt it. And, regardless of whether Kass’s views are informed by religious or personal idiosyncrasy, this whole issue seems to call into question Kass’s core argument: “The wisdom of repugnance.” Kass finds eating ice cream in public repugnant. Hardly anyone else does. Sounds like aesthetics masquerading as moral reasoning to me.

March 22, 2004

MICHAEL TOTTEN has a gallery of photos from antiwar protests around the world. Here’s another, from San Francisco.

UPDATE: More here, plus a sign calling for U.S. troops to mutiny. Treasonous isn’t really too strong a word for this sort of thing, you know. For all the talk of dissent-crushing, this is the sort of thing that would have led to arrest, or mob violence, in most previous wars. Now it’s barely noticed. That says something for the openness of American society, or the inconsequential nature of the antiwar movement. Or maybe both.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Highly observant reader John Hohman notes that you can see one of the guys with the “mutiny” sign, above, in this video by Evan Coyne Maloney from the January protests, beginning at about 2’15” time. He seems to be right. Keep watching, as the same guy appears again later on.

March 22, 2004

HERE’S AN AMUSING PHOTO of Doug “InstaLawyer” Weinstein from, er, earlier in his musical career. I’m pretty sure I took this one.

March 22, 2004

MATTHEW HOY has some thoughts about the Jack Kelley scandal (which I had missed), and about pressure groups and fabrication in journalism.

UPDATE: David Adesnik says it’s not as big as a New York Times scandal:

I don’t really expect the Kelley affair to get that kind of attention either. But ask yourself the following questions: How often do you read USA Today? Does anyone consider USA Today to be the United States’ paper of record and its standard-bearer of journalistic integrity?

(You don’t have to answer those questions. They were rhetorical. Oh, and one bonus question for all you bloggers out there: How many times have you linked to a USA Today story in the past six months?)

A few. But not many.

March 22, 2004

LARRY LESSIG’S NEW BOOK, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, comes out on Thursday. I haven’t read it yet, but I expect that it’ll be interesting.

March 22, 2004

BRYAN PRESTON notes odd omissions at the L.A. Times.

UPEATE: Captain Ed says there’s serious spin going on.

March 22, 2004

HERE’S A BLOG REPORT from the anti-war protests over the weekend, with links to others:

When I arrived at the College, I easily picked out the throng of about 70 demonstrators gathering on the front lawn: they were the ones waving the Palestinian flags. But wasn’t this protest was supposed to be about Iraq? . . .

An organizer with a megaphone railed against the “corporate media.” “They’re gonna tell you that turnout today was low!” He screamed. “Don’t believe them!”

I looked around. Turnout was definitely low, and I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a member of the “corporate media.”

Read the whole thing. And if you didn’t go earlier, note the protester pictured here with the sign cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center. As James Lileks observes:

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a traitor. He may be an idiot, a maroon, a 33rd degree moonbat, but he’s still a traitor. That is a man who celebrates the death of Americans (and others) and supports the people who killed them. Oh, sure, he’s nuts. But he fits right in. So what were all these people against, exactly?

A free press in Iraq. Freedom to own a satellite dish. Freedom to vote. A new Constitution that might actually be worth the paper on which it’s printed. Oil revenues going to the people instead of Saddam, or French oligopolies. Freedom to leave the country. Freedom to demonstrate against the people who made it possible for you to demonstrate. . . .

These people want “freedom,” but only for themselves. Freedom to preen. Freedom to flatter themselves that they are somehow committing an act of bravery by Speaking Truth to Power. But they’re speaking Nonsense to Indifference. Pictures of Bush as Hitler sieg-heiling away would get them killed if this was truly the country they insist it is. Nothing will happen to them. They know it. They would be killed for doing this in Saddam’s Iraq, of course; they know that too. Doesn’t matter.

When Palestinians blow up Israelis school buses, that’s understandable anger. When America defends itself, that’s indefensible. When dissent is crushed with secret police and torture chambers, that’s not worthy of comment. When some people point out that traitorous behavior is unadmirable, that’s the recapitulation of Nazi Germany.

To people of no moral standing. Which is what these people are. Fortunately, there aren’t very many of them. (Read this, too.)

March 22, 2004

BELGRAVIA DISPATCH is admonishing Josh Marshall for letting his hostility toward Richard Perle get the best of him. And this seems about right:

[W]hat Marshall misses is that Arabs and Muslims, while often deeply humiliated, resentful and suspicious with respect to U.S. policy and motives in the region–are also fascinated, curious and eager to see how Bush’s huge Iraq gamble develops in the coming months.

Put differently, they are intrigued to see if a democratic, unitary Iraqi state can rise from the ashes of Saddam’s Iraq. The democracy exception policy, at least with regard to Iraq, just took a body blow.

And many Arabs/Muslims are busily digesting this complex reality–and waiting to see how the Iraq project proceeds–without yet having formed a definitive view.

This, at least partially, explains why American favorability rankings in the Muslim world have actually improved since the Iraq invasion per the Pew poll.

That seems right to me. (Emphasis in original). Note, too, Iraqi bloggers’ war-anniversary sumups (linked here and here), and Adam Curry’s firsthand observations on what’s going on in Iraq.

March 22, 2004

ANOTHER HATE CRIME HOAX, this time at Claremont. Meanwhile there’s genuine crushing of dissent, with apparent support from the Administration, at U.C. Berkeley.

UPDATE: Here’s another one. I think that these hoaxes should be treated as hate crimes themselves. The argument for special “hate crime” rules, after all, is that hate crimes promote fear and division. So do fake hate crimes.

March 22, 2004

THE OUTSOURCING BOGEYMAN: Daniel Drezner has an article in Foreign Affairs arguing that concern over the outsourcing/job loss question is misplaced:

Outsourcing actually brings far more benefits than costs, both now and in the long run. If its critics succeed in provoking a new wave of American protectionism, the consequences will be disastrous — for the U.S. economy and for the American workers they claim to defend.

As is his custom, he has also placed a bibliography, etc., on his blog, something that I suspect many reporters, etc., working on this topic will find very useful.

UPDATE: Here, on the other hand, is a potentially genuine worry about outsourcing in the tech field: sabotage.

March 22, 2004

JOURNALISTIC ETHICS: I’ve missed the Richard Clarke hype, but now Drudge is reporting that CBS, which pumped Clarke’s book hard on “60 Minutes,” didn’t disclose a financial stake in the book’s success.

UPDATE: Well, I haven’t been following it, but somebody has:

Richard Clarke is a bitter, discredited bureaucrat who was an integral part of the Clinton administration’s failed approach to terrorism, was demoted by President Bush, and is now an adjunct to John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Ouch. Roger Simon says it’s all about the Benjamins for Clarke, and Stephen F. Hayes wonders why Clarke is giving Clinton — who had a lot more time than Bush to focus on Al Qaeda, but didn’t — a pass.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Clarke seems to have had trouble deciding who to worry about, despite his claims now. And here’s Condi Rice’s response. Meanwhile Hugh Hewitt observes:

Al Qaeda took root in Afghanistan and metastasized during the Clinton party. Repeated strikes on the U.S. abroad, culminating in the bombing of the Cole, went unpunished except for the symbolism of tossing some cruise missiles into the Afghan mountains. The attempt to pin blame on the eight months of Bush Administration control on the basis of “warnings” delivered is transparent posturing from the same gang that gave Osama a pass for eight years while his camps trained and dispersed thousands of fanatics throughout the world.

The political operation on the Democratic side is in chaos, repeatedly attempting to rewrite the national security situation and repeatedly failing. Their focus groups and polls must be telling them that they have to move public opinion on this issue or lose big in the fall. But that’s like trying to move Mount McKinley from Alaska to Hawaii. The perception that the Democrats are weak on defense and hesitant to engage the terrorists is out there because the Democrats are weak on defense and hesitant to engage the terrorists.

Well, I’d give Clinton a bit more of a pass on this than Hewitt does. I think a lot of people — including me — viewed Islamic terrorism in the 1990s as a minor threat that could be contained until it collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity. That was wrong, but I don’t blame the Clinton people for getting it wrong. (Clarke, by the way, spent the 1990s worrrying publicly about cyberterrorism). I do, however, blame them intensely for trying to rewrite history now for partisan political reasons while a war is going on.

I’d also like to believe — as Andrew Sullivan is hoping — that a Kerry Administration would be more serious about this sort of thing. But so far, “hope” is the operative term.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Carter is skeptical of the White House’s response to Clarke. That’s reasonable enough — I myself have been repeatedly skeptical of the absurd claim, made earlier but happily not repeated this go-round, that no one could have foreseen the 9/11 attacks. In fact, some people (and not just Tom Clancy) did. On the other hand, Clarke wasn’t one of those people, and his assault seems rather political in nature.

MORE: Reader T.J. Lynn emails:

We’ve finally managed to find the guy who actually lost his job over 9/11.

And now he’s written a book blaming everyone else for what he was specifically charged with preventing.

Heck, is there any wonder why Bush didn’t clean house? Can you imagine the breathless coverage?

Interesting take.

March 22, 2004

FROM THE BE-CAREFUL-WHAT-YOU-ASK-FOR DEPARTMENT: Author John Gray was apparently unhappy with this rather stale blog post regarding his credentials. So his lawyers sent a letter demanding a retraction and threatening a libel suit. (Blog discussion here, letter from lawyers here.)

One advantage of the blogosphere is that corrections often get more attention than the original error. But whether that’s a bug or a feature depends on where you stand From John Gray’s perspective in this case, I don’t think it’s a feature. I had never seen the original post, and I doubt that many other people saw it either, when it was originally posted. But now — assuming that the representations of Gray’s lawyers are true — I learn that he’s a graduate (B.A. and M.A.) of “Maharishi European Research University.” Color me unimpressed. And while I previously had the vague idea that his Ph.D. was from Columbia University, it turns out that it’s from Columbia Pacific University, which is, er, not really the same. Although Gray’s lawyers proudly note that it was a “State of California-approved university” at the time Gray attended (I’m not sure if that’s the same as “accredited” or not — there are California law schools, at least, that are California approved but not fully accredited) no matter how you cut it things don’t work out in a way that makes Gray look especially good in terms of academic credentials.

Does this mean that it’s always a mistake to send lawyers after bloggers? I suppose not. But I have to say that so far that’s how it looks. The ill-fated Luskin / Atrios dispute, the New York Times / National Debate facedown, and now this all suggest that sometimes it’s better just to let minor things go by than to issue threats that give the subject matter a much higher profile than it otherwise would have had. At the very least, a polite message pointing out the error, and requesting a correction without threats and bluster, is likely to do more good, and generate far less blowback. Bloggers are, in my experience, quite willing to correct errors of fact, but not impressed with threats and bluster.

UPDATE: More blowback. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but bloggers are from another planet entirely.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Here’s a California state press release on the shutdown of Columbia Pacific University for, among other things, having:

awarded excessive credit for prior experiential learning to many students;

failed to employ duly qualified faculty; and

failed to meet various requirements for issuing Ph.D. degrees.

This was, of course, after Gray attended that institution, but it’s still not that impressive. (Via Quackwatch). Here’s a link to the injunction shutting down Columbia Pacific University — and ordering refunds to students, though Gray’s attendance was too far in the past to qualify.

Is it really wise of John Gray, or his lawyers, to be calling attention to this stuff?

MORE: Jeff Jarvis is calling for a legal defense fund for bloggers.

March 22, 2004

I’M BACK: Regular blogging will resume shortly. In the meantime, go read Lileks, right now.

UPDATE: Mudville Gazette is back from hiatus, too.

March 17, 2004

I’M ON TRAVEL FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS and unlikely to be blogging unless something really big (e.g., alien invasion, atomic bombings, etc.) happens. Be sure to visit the many fine bloggers listed to the left in my absence. I’m taking with me an advance copy of Michael Barone’s forthcoming-in-May book, Hard America, Soft America, which looks to be very interesting.

This also means I won’t be checking email, so think long and hard before sending any while I’m gone — it probably won’t be read.

I’ll have a column up at TechCentralStation this morning. And Chris Muir’s Day by Day — which really deserves a big syndication deal — will have fresh cartoons. Enjoy, and see you soon!

March 16, 2004

WOOHOO! My brother’s book, Africa in World History, is reportedly selling like hotcakes on the textbook market.

March 16, 2004

MORE ON EVENTS IN SYRIA AND IRAN, from Eye on the World. (Via Oxblog, which as usual has lots of interesting stuff).

UPDATE: Photos and reports here.

March 16, 2004

HERE’S A REPORT that the Socialists in Spain were ahead even before the 3/11 attacks. Hmm. I’d like to believe that.

March 16, 2004

THE ECONOMIST: “Anxiety is turning to paranoia about jobs. Take a deep breath: most Americans have rarely had it better.”

UPDATE: Read this, too.

March 16, 2004

MY EARLIER POST about lawnmowers made me think about how I’ve underestimated Amazon. I loved them as a bookseller, but when they branched out into cookware, electronics, and even things like clothing and lawn furniture, I was deeply skeptical. But it’s obvious that they’re pulling this off. I’m not sure I’d actually buy a lawnmower from Amazon — though I might — but obviously people do. I guess this is why I’m not a dot-com gazillionaire.

UPDATE: James Lileks:

Our Hero Insty has been singing the praises of Amazon’s non book/CD/DVD aspects, and I have to agree. My wife and I came upon a toaster whose aspect and features pleased us greatly, but yea it was somewhat pricy for a bread-burner. I looked it up on Amazon the other day: two-thirds the price. I bought it. This is like going to the bookstore to buy a hammer. But hey: if it’s a good hammer, and it’s cheap, why not?

I thought he was joking when he mentioned milk — but I looked and, well, there it is!

March 16, 2004

HERE’S MORE ON THE KASS COUNCIL and its personnel changes. There’s also more background here, here, here, here, and here.

The big news, however, is this piece in the New England Journal of Medicine by former Kass Council member Elizabeth Blackburn, entitled Bioethics and the Political Distortion of Biomedical Science. Nothing new here, but Blackburn casts the council in a rather unfavorable light. So far, I have to say, Kass’s response to his critics has been unimpressive. More on that here.

I could be wrong, but this seems like a serious liability for the Bush Administration. I suspect that the damage would be worse if the terrorism and election news of the last couple of weeks hadn’t kept it off center stage.

March 16, 2004

JEFFERSON MORLEY SURVEYS THE EUROPEAN PRESS for the Washington Post and discovers that some realism is beginning to appear:

“Only a dreamer would believe that Germany will not be attacked,” say the editors of Bild, Germany’s best-selling tabloid. “Islamic terrorists are waging a war against the West, not just against individual countries.”

Sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa says Europeans have been dreaming. Writing in Le Monde (in French), Lamo says Europeans have thought they would be spared because they haven’t supported the Bush administration’s policies.

“When the Americans declared war on terrorism, many of us thought they exaggerated. Many thought terrorism was not likely to occur on our premises, [inhabited by] peaceful and civilized Europeans who speak no evil of anybody, who dialogue, who are the first [to] send assistance and offer cooperation. We are pacifists, they are warmongers. . . . . Don’t we defend the Palestinians? Are we not pro-Arab and anti-Israeli?”

“Can we dialogue with those who desire only our death and nothing but our death?” Lamo asks. “Dialogue about what? The manner in which we will be assassinated?”

Yes. Like Auric Goldfinger, they don’t want us to talk. They want us to die:

Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, summed it up very pithily: “We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.”

You have to give them this much: they’re not hiding the ball here. It’s nice to see that some people are starting to catch on. Morley wonders whether Al Qaeda will try to influence the American elections with an attack. I don’t think such an attack would have the same result as the Madrid blasts. Neither does Virginia Postrel, but she notes that many Europeans think that a pre-election attack would lead to a Bush defeat.

Europeans don’t understand America very well, I guess. Unfortunately, neither does Al Qaeda, by all appearances — though apparently it does understand Europeans.

UPDATE: This article by Fareed Zakaria is worth reading, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has thoughts.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The CJR campaign blog notes a misleading story about terror and the election. Guess who it makes look bad. . .?

MORE: Hook, line, and sinker. Plus: War, dishonor, or both?

And read this, too.

MORE STILL: Richard Brookhiser: “Death and destruction pose the question “Whither Europe?” so much more forcefully than gray arguments over the European Union constitution, or even lively arguments over Franco/Anglo/American jockeying in the Security Council.”

He also observes:

The United States cannot do everything. Even things we could do, we might not do for the sake of prudence. But too many lives are at stake. Our goal should be to transform one malignant regime—by pushing it over, if necessary—every two years.

Who’s next?

March 16, 2004

MILITARY BLOGGER BOB ZANGAS was killed in Iraq last week. Here’s his final entry, with photos. I won’t excerpt it. You can leave your condolences here, as many others have already.

Why don’t I say more? Because his blog entry, and the condolence messages, say more than I ever could, and it would be presumptuous of me to try.

UPDATE: Here’s a new military blogger in Iraq, and his reactions.

March 16, 2004

“FBI ADDS TO WIRETAP WISHLIST:” Like pretty much the whole “homeland security” operation, this has more to do with bureaucratic wishlists than actual security. The big tipoff is that the DEA is behind this.

March 16, 2004

ANTI-WAR FOR OIL: Kenneth Timmerman reports:

MANY Americans are convinced even today that the war in Iraq was all about oil. And they’re right – but oil was the key for French President Jacques Chirac, not for the United States.

In documents I obtained during an investigation of the French relationship to Saddam Hussein, the French interest in maintaining Saddam Hussein in power was spelled out in excruciating detail. The price tag: close to $100 billion. That was what French oil companies stood to profit in the first seven years of their exclusive oil arrangements – had Saddam remained in power.

Saddam’s defenders: A coalition of the bribed and the bitter? (Via Stephen Green).

March 16, 2004


I am listening to KRSI (Radio Sedaye Iran) right now. There are many Iranians calling (from Tehran, and Gorgan, etc.).

All reports indicate that almost every neighborhood in Tehran is on fire. People are throwing home-made bombs, Molotov cocktails, etc. into the homes of mullahs, and burning pictures of Khamenei in complete defiance of his recent edict to mourn during the month of Muharram.

Let’s hope it’s true. May the mullahs’ fall be fast and hard.

UPDATE: On the other hand, things look pretty quiet through these Tehran webcams for whatever that’s worth. Tehran’s a big place. (And for all I know these are images of last week, though I doubt it).

March 16, 2004

I DON’T THINK THAT HORSERACE POLLS MEAN A LOT this time of year, but Mickey Kaus notes some spin that’s more interesting than the underlying numbers. Captain Ed has more comments.

I think that the crucial swing voters are nowhere near making up their minds, making polls unimportant — but how they’re played in the press certainly shows who has made up their minds. . . .

March 16, 2004

DANIEL DREZNER ROUNDS UP commentary on the Spanish elections. Read this useful observation, too.

March 16, 2004

VIA ROMENESKO WE LEARN: “Democrats want TV network execs to immediately warn stations not to use the Bush administration’s mock news videos featuring actors posing as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law.”

I guess if actual journalists stuck to journalism, and didn’t “praise the benefits” of laws on a regular basis, these ads wouldn’t work. The real problem isn’t that people issue video news releases, it’s that it’s hard to tell the real news from a video news release. But when the networks have been using “actors posing as journalists” for years, it’s hard to get much traction with complaints like this one.

March 16, 2004

SOME GENERALLY POSITIVE NEWS about the Iraqi economy. One good thing about Saddam’s policy of inept kleptocracy is that it makes it easy to improve!

March 16, 2004

INTERESTING GOINGS-ON IN IRAN: I wish there were more information available, from more sources. Here’s what I can find, though it’s pretty low-profile:

A report from Radio Free Europe on Kurdish uprisings in Syria and Iran:

Recent Kurdish riots in Syria and demonstrations in Iran are raising concerns that Kurdish minorities could follow the lead of Iraqi Kurds in pursuing greater independence and recognition.

My only concern is that it won’t succeed. I hope we’re supporting them. Syria and Iran have been sending weapons, money and fighters into Iraq, so we ought to return the favor in spades. Then there’s this:

TEHRAN, Mar 15 (Reuters) Three days of unrest sparked by the revision of results in February’s parliamentary elections have left dozens of people injured in a town on Iran’s Caspian coast, local media reported today.

The Etemad daily newspaper said 68 people had been hurt, six seriously, during clashes with police.

Protests began in the town of Fereydounkenar on Friday after the hardline Guardian Council, an oversight body with sweeping powers, annulled the votes cast in three ballot boxes, handing victory to the incumbent conservative member of parliament.

Protesters set fire to cars and attacked buildings including the home of the town’s Friday Prayer leader, the ISNA students’ news agency said.

I suspect that these stories are sanitized. On the other hand, the Syrian and Iranian exile websites may be taking an overly hopeful view of how extensive the unrest is. It’s just really hard to know.

UPDATE: More here.

March 16, 2004

MORAL NIHILISM: Andrew Sullivan is Fisking a Guardian editorial on the Spanish elections, and observes:

In Europe, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: If the Guardian cannot call these people “bad guys,” then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies cannot qualify in this context as “good guys,” then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence.

It’s not complete moral nihilism, alas. It’s not as if they show the same unwillingness to pass judgment where American actions are concerned.

March 16, 2004

SPINSANITY NOTES MORE BOGUS CLAIMS about the White House’s position on whether Saddam posed an “imminent threat.”

Bush administration statements from before the Iraq war continue to be misconstrued by journalists and liberal critics attempting to make it appear that the White House portrayed Iraq as an “imminent” threat.


UPDATE: Reader Joseph Hrutka emails:

Its amazing how far the Iraq debate has been shaped by a press that seems unwilling to give any positive spin to the whole project. If I recall correctly, the administration had 3 main reasons for going into Iraq. The WMD angle was put into play because Iraq was not cooperating with UN inspectors and refused to give full disclosure. As a result, America had no choice but to asssume that something was wrong. This has been spun into the idea that Bush based the war on actual knowledge of WMDs. Whose fault is this, the press for trying to spin negative or Bush for failing to push back?

Both. It’s also interesting that before the war people were complaining that Bush was attacking too soon, when even he admitted that an attack wasn’t imminent — but now the same people are complaining that “Bush fooled us into thinking it was imminent!”

I think that people — like, say, Kerry — who supported the war last year but want to criticize Bush on it now have to claim that they were fooled.

Of course, that translates into: “Support me — I’m gullible!” Which doesn’t sound like much of a slogan.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, charging the Kerry Campaign Blog with doctoring quotes to misrepresent the Bush Administration’s positions.

March 16, 2004

IT’S TURNING INTO A LOVELY SPRING DAY, but I’m busy enough today that I’m not likely to see any more than can be seen out my office window, alas. So in lieu of fresh pics from today, here’s one from about this time last year. That’s looking at the patio in front of the Law School from the sidewalk. (Here, also from the archives, is another angle on the same location).

If it’s nice where you are, don’t follow my example — try to get out and enjoy it. Life’s short.

March 16, 2004

TIM ROBBINS AND LYNDON LAROUCHE: Terry Teachout notices a connection.

March 16, 2004

IS JOHN KERRY being too defensive?

March 16, 2004

OF COURSE, IT WAS AN HONOR JUST TO BE NOMINATED, but InstaPundit has won the 2004 “Bloggie” Award in the category of “Best Weblog About Politics.” Thanks!

March 16, 2004

DAVID BERNSTEIN on the Kerry “foreign leaders” flap: “Even if the Globe reporter’s correction is on the money, it’s no wonder Kerry never denied the foreign leaders quote–it’s exactly what he meant. ” Yes, that seems plain from context. As Michael Demmons points out, “Why would Kerry be talking about ‘Americans Abroad’ if he wasn’t in fact, talking about his ‘endorsements’ from Foreign Leaders?”

It’s impossible to read that passage any other way. But the backtracking on this illustrates how far the press is willing to go to save Kerry from himself. Scroll down or click here for more.


ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: “Kerry knows the original story was false, and can be shown to be false.”

March 16, 2004

RICH, BLOGGY GOODNESS: This week’s Carnival of the Vanities is up, full of posts from all sorts of bloggers you may not have visited before. Check them out — you may find someone you’d like to visit again!

March 16, 2004

CHEAP BEER, EXPENSIVE BOTTLES: Jeff Jarvis has some thoughts in response to my MSNBC item on the media. He’s right, to a degree — though I believe that the cost-and-quality cuts started before the competition from new media really kicked in.

March 16, 2004

MICKEY KAUS: “Who needs a VNR when you’ve got the NYT?

March 16, 2004


A year after the bombs began to fall, Iraqis express ambivalence about the U.S.-led invasion of their country, but not about its effect: Most say their lives are going well and have improved since before the war, and expectations for the future are very high.

Worries exist — locally about joblessness, nationally about security — boosting desires for a “single strong leader,” at least in the short term. Yet the first media-sponsored national public opinion poll in Iraq also finds a strikingly optimistic people, expressing growing interest in politics, broad rejection of political violence, rising trust in the Iraqi police and army and preference for an inclusive and democratic government. . . .

On a personal level, seven in 10 Iraqis say things overall are going well for them — a result that might surprise outsiders imagining the worst of life in Iraq today. Fifty-six percent say their lives are better now than before the war, compared with 19 percent who say things are worse (23 percent, the same). And the level of personal optimism is extraordinary: Seventy-one percent expect their lives to improve over the next year. . . .

Iraqis divide in their rating of the local security situation now, but strikingly, 54 percent say security where they live is better now than it was before the war.

Read the whole thing. Doesn’t sound like the “huge disaster” that Spain’s new Socialist Prime Minister, Jose Zapatero, calls it.

Begging to Differ has more thoughts, and points out, correctly, that it’s not all good news. No, it’s just a lot better news than you’d think based on, er, the news.

UPDATE: More here. And Jeff Jarvis has some observations.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Michael Barone column is worth reading, too.

March 15, 2004


March 15, 2004

WHY THE NEWS MEDIA ARE LIKE CHEAP BEER: All is explained, over at

UPDATE: Er, you should bear in mind that I like cheap beer. As long as it’s good cheap beer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails: “I guess that makes blogs the micro-breweries of the media biz.” I like that — idiosyncratic, yet flavorful!

March 15, 2004

I DON’T BELIEVE THIS BACKTRACK by Boston Globe reporter Patrick Healy on the Kerry “Foreign Leaders” story:

“Listening to the audio recorder now, in the quiet of my house, I hear ‘more leaders’ and I am certain that ‘more leaders’ is what Senator Kerry said.”

But if that’s true, how do you explain this Kerry statement:

Kerry declined to name any leaders who have voiced support for his candidacy, but said it’s clear to even casual observers of foreign policy issues that this country’s standing has sagged internationally.

“I’m not going to betray a private conversation with anybody,” he said Sunday. “I have heard from people, foreign leaders elsewhere in the world who don’t appreciate the Bush administration and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States.”

Pressed on the campaign trail and by reporters to name the leaders, Kerry declined, although he said they were U.S. allies.

“I’m talking about people who were our friends nine months ago,” said Kerry. “I’m talking about people who ought to be on our side in Iraq (news – web sites) and aren’t because this administration has pushed them away.”

(Emphasis added.) But Kerry wasn’t talking about foreign leaders? Something sure sounds funny here.

UPDATE: Then there’s this story, courtesy of Henry Hanks:

The Bush administration cast doubts on John Kerry’s credibility Monday, strongly suggesting that the presumptive Democratic nominee lied when he said some foreign leaders privately backed his presidential bid. Kerry denied the White House’s assertion, saying “I stand by my statement.”

“I’m not making anything up at all,” Kerry told The Associated Press. “They’re just trying to change the subject.

(Emphasis added.) Looks like he’s talking about foreign leaders to me. What’s Healy about here?

MORE: Fritz Schranck is reminded of 1968.

And here’s more:

“If Senator Kerry is going to say he has support from foreign leaders, then he needs to be straightforward with the American people and say who it is that he has spoken with and who it is that supports him,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Monday.

If not, the spokesman added, “Then the only alternative is that he is making it up to attack the president of the United States.”

Kerry refused on Sunday to name names. “No leader would obviously share a conversation if I started listing them,” Kerry told reporters.

If Kerry hadn’t said “foreign leaders,” wouldn’t he just be saying “Er, I said ‘more leaders,’ you know, not ‘foreign leaders’?” I find Healy’s claim very hard to understand.

Hugh Hewitt has some thoughts on why this issue is so damaging for Kerry.

March 15, 2004

FRANCE IS JOINING WITH CHINA in an effort to intimidate Taiwan:

China and France will hold rare joint naval exercises off the mainland’s eastern coast on Tuesday, just four days before Beijing’s rival, Taiwan, holds presidential elections.

China’s official Xinhua news agency made no link between the exercises off Qingdao — about 780 miles from Taiwan’s northernmost point — and the election.

But the show of military strength and solidarity signaled China’s desire to isolate the self-governing island before the vote and its first-ever referendum, which Beijing views as a provocative step toward independence.

Don McArthur observes: “Either the world is insane, the French are insane, or I’ve gone insane . . . the French are joining the Chinese Communists in an attempt to intimidate a Democracy?!?!”

There’s apparently no limit to what the French are willing to do in order to feel important on the world stage. That’s a form of insanity, I guess, though I suppose it’s possible that these exercises were entered into without thought of the Taiwanese elections, at least on the part of the French.

Of course, it’s unclear how intimidated the Taiwanese will be by the French navy. I wonder if the Charles De Gaulle will be there. . . . Heh.

UPDATE: Reader Kelion Kasler emails:

Don’t the French-Chinese Naval Exercises once and for all put the lie to John Kerry’s implicit assertion that the French are “people who were our friends nine months ago” and are “people who ought to be on our side in Iraq and aren’t because this administration has pushed them away”? This is getting ridiculous.

Indeed it is.


March 15, 2004

THE NATIONAL DEBATE has won its battle with The New York Times. The announcement appears on Public Editor Daniel Okrent’s page; I don’t know if he had a hand in it (though I suspect he may have) but I’m very happy to see the Times do the right thing.

The Times’ lawyers are now happy with a disclaimer on the parody page. That’s as it should be, and the example to other lawyers who have issues with bloggers (and most other folks) is that it’s better to start with a reasonable request than to proceed with threats and bluster from the get-go. Those almost inevitably make you look bad when they’re published.

March 15, 2004

MARK STEYN WRITES that the death of Europe is getting closer. I hope he’s wrong, but I was pessimistic about Europe before 9/11, and subsequent events haven’t done a whole lot to inspire confidence.

March 15, 2004

“ANOTHER HAMA” in Syria?

March 15, 2004

EARLIER, I mentioned Colin Powell’s spanking of John Kerry for his refusal to name the unnamed foreign leaders who support him. But I missed this spanking over Libya:

WALLACE: Senator Kerry has also suggested that the Bush administration held up the agreement with Libya for it to give up its nuclear weapons program to help in the president’s reelection.

This is what Senator Kerry had to say, and you can see it on the screen: “Gadhafi’s been trying to get back into the mainstream for several years now. There’s evidence that we could’ve had that deal some time ago.”

POWELL: It’s absurd. I don’t know what Senator Kerry’s talking about. It’s just absurd. That took time to bring that deal together. And I’ve been following it very, very closely for a number of months. And when finally the United States and the United Kingdom negotiators got a deal with Libya, we acted on that deal and we announced that deal. It was not held up for any campaign or political purpose.

WALLACE: You seem offended by it.

POWELL: Well, it is offensive because it’s a political charge in a political year. And I expect that we will be hearing and seeing many more charges and many more such video clips. But I don’t know what basis Senator Kerry is using to make such a statement. I mean, what is his evidence for this, other than an assertion on his part? It’s not accurate.


March 15, 2004

“MORE THAN SIXTY PEOPLE” protested the war, and to CNN that’s news. (It’s currently at the top of their main page.)

I wonder how many people would have to march in favor of the war to get this kind of notice? 60,000? Apparently 4,000 wasn’t enough.

UPDATE: Roger Simon notes that while CNN is reporting that protest, it’s missing these. Eason Jordan, call your office! Oh, wait. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Darren Brewer emails: “The CNN headline now says ‘more than 100 people.’ Of course. that makes ALL the difference.”

So, um, where’d the extra ones come from?

MORE: “Countless Dozens Protest CNN Coverage of Iraq.” Heh. Where are the cameras?

STILL MORE: Tim Blair: “The report, incidentally, contains around six times as many words as there were protesters.”

March 15, 2004

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL LOCKYER: Ventriloquist dummy for the MPAA? Sure looks that way:

“We do not wish to make any comment at this time on any document that the office of the attorney general may or may not be developing,” said Tom Dressler, spokesperson for Bill Lockyer in Sacramento. “But we remain concerned about the potential dangers posed to the public by peer-to-peer file-sharing technology.”

However, the metadata associated with the Microsoft Word document indicates it was either drafted or reviewed by a senior vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America. According to this metadata (automatically generated by the Word application), the document’s author or editor is “stevensonv.” (The metadata of a document is viewable through the File menu under Properties.)

Sources tell Wired News that the draft letter’s authorship is attributed to Vans Stevenson, the MPAA’s senior vice president for state legislative affairs.

Maybe Lockyer’s just distributing a pirated copy. . . .

March 15, 2004

THE PARTY OF YOUTH? According to this ABC poll, 12-17 year olds favor Bush over Kerry 47-31. (Via BoiFromTroy). More support for the notion that the Left is losing its teen spirit, I guess.

UPDATE: Reader Erik Fortune points out this NPR commentary on the staleness of Vietnam and the importance of the war on terror. It’s worth a listen.

March 15, 2004

LOTS OF BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS BLOGGING, over at this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists.

March 15, 2004

IS OUTSOURCING REALLY A NON-ISSUE? Daniel Drezner gathers the evidence.

March 15, 2004

MY COLLEAGUE JOAN HEMINWAY, whose exquisitely timed law review article entitled Save Martha Stewart? was mentioned here earlier, has been getting a lot of attention. Here she is in the Boston Globe, (and again here) and she’s been on the radio, etc., a lot too. She’s even been quoted alongside Stephen Bainbridge, and you can’t get much more famous than that. At least, not without a blog of your own.

March 15, 2004

JACOB T. LEVY says that the negative take on the Spanish elections is all wrong: “[W]ithdrawing peacekeeping troops from Iraq just isn’t such an out-of-bounds policy. A party that proposed to withdraw from Andalusia and hand it over to bin Laden for the restoration of the Caliphate would be something else entirely; that’s nothing at all like what’s going on in the real world.”

UPDATE: Bryan Preston says that Levy is missing the context here. See also Steven Den Beste’s uncharacteristically terse comment.

March 15, 2004


A year ago John Kerry described the nations that would liberate Iraq as a “coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted.” It turns out that may be a better description of his own antiwar camp. From Jacques Chirac’s and Vladimir Putin’s political cronies to Tony Blair’s own Labour Party, many of the most vocal opponents of enforcing U.N. resolutions turn out to have been on the take.

Read the whole thing.

March 15, 2004

MORE BLOG BLOWBACK FOR THE TIMES — Robert Cox of The National Debate emails that he will be on Tony Snow’s radio show talking about their efforts in a few minutes. You can listen online here.

UPDATE: It’s on now — Snow just welcomed InstaPundit readers, suggesting that someone in his office reads blogs — and he and Robert Cox are happily repeating New York Times quotes about the importance of press freedom and suggesting that they “get the legal department together with the editorial board.” They’re also noting that the page is being mirrored all over the place, and likening efforts to pick on bloggers to trying to squash a handful of mercury.

March 15, 2004


BETHLEHEM, Pa., March 14 — Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran into some tough questioning Sunday — from, among others, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell — about his assertion last week that he had met with foreign leaders who support his candidacy over President Bush.

Powell, who rarely makes overtly partisan comments, challenged Kerry to name one such official.

“I don’t know what foreign leaders Senator Kerry is talking about,” Powell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can’t list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about.”

The story seems to have legs. Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Los Angeles Times report:

“Were they people like the president of North Korea?” Cedric Brown, 52, shouted at Kerry during an eight-minute exchange Sunday afternoon. “I need to know that.”

Ouch. If Kerry doesn’t want to talk about this, why did he bring it up in the first place? I’ve got more thoughts on Kerry’s temperament over at