Archive for May, 2004

May 31, 2004

GERARD HENDERSON: On the anniversary of D-Day, the French have “much to be humble about.”

May 31, 2004

SEAN HACKBARTH’S THE AMERICAN MIND is a good weblog, and its regular Kerry feature is okay. But — and I don’t mean to single out Sean in this — I’m tired of the ketchup stuff.

Yes, Kerry’s married to the Heinz heiress. And some people think it’s funny to associate him with a condiment. But Heinz Ketchup is an American treasure. Kerry should be proud to be associated with it, and Kerry’s critics aren’t diminishing him by making that association.

Oh, Hunt’s is OK, and Del Monte has its charms. The off-brand Paramount “Oyster Hot” is really good. But Heinz is the Ketchup Reference Standard. It’s the uber-Ketchup. So please stop dissing it in a lame attempt to make Kerry look bad.

May 31, 2004

VARIOUS READERS HAVE REQUESTED MORE CATBLOGGING: I took this picture of Nicholas on Friday, but didn’t want to get into the Kevin Drum groove. But, since people insist. . . .

He and my 9-month-old nephew, who went back home with his dad today, were playing a game. Nicholas would sit in the grass until the baby achieved contact, then move a few feet away, staying well within crawling range, and wait, repeating the move as needed. Both seemed to enjoy the process.

UPDATE: More catblogging here.

May 31, 2004

MARK STEYN’S MEMORIAL DAY COLUMN: “They had victims galore back in 1863, but they weren’t a victim culture. . . . Playing by Gore-Kennedy rules, the Union would have lost the Civil War, the rebels the Revolutionary War, and the colonists the French and Indian Wars. There would, in other words, be no America.”

May 31, 2004

READER JED KANE sends this update from Washington, along with a couple of photos:

I went to the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day 2004 ride in DC Sunday. The group is made up of mostly Vietnam vets, and the ride is to raise awareness of the POW/MIA issue, as well as to honor vets. The group’s leader’s paid a visit to President Bush via Harley and presented him with a Rolling Thunder tee-shirt. This group has endorsed Bush over Kerry, a significant action given their membership.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post article (registration required).

Note paragraphs 9 through 11.

While the bike adornments were mostly apolitical, I shot these examples of how these folks view John Kerry.

Kane is certainly right that there’s a lot of anti-Kerry sentiment mentioned in the Post article, entirely consistent with these photographs. And this suggests — as I’ve mentioned before — that Kerry has been mistaken to play up the Vietnam angle so much.

UPDATE: Well, this explains it. Look who was attending.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chong-Ren Chien emails:

Hey, saw your story on Rolling Thunder and I figure I would contribute a couple of pictures your way. Hope you like them.

The first picture was shot while I was pulling up to the stop light in Alexandria, VA. The slogans on the truck were priceless so I pulled out my digital camera and took a shot.

The second one is with me with a couple of Vietnam vets. They were hanging out at the WWII memorial when I noticed them. I decided to approach them and ask for a picture and they obliged.

Thanks Chong! Here they are.

May 31, 2004

WILLIAM SAFIRE’S Memorial Day column is worth reading.

May 31, 2004

RADLEY BALKO IS taking on the food bluenoses in Time. “If you aren’t responsible for what you put into your mouth, chew and swallow, what’s left that you are responsible for?”

May 31, 2004

DEAN DATA UPDATE: Aziz Poonawalla reports that the Dean user data weren’t sold — they were just given away. “I had assumed that Deanlink data was indeed private, and when I registered there was no indication in their privacy statement that I was putting myself on an open database accessible by unprotected feeds. At the very least, DFA had a duty to share the details of how Deanlink operated with more transparency.”

May 31, 2004

CAPT. ED says that the new Libertarian Party presidential nominee is a disaster who thinks Congress works for the President. But Al Barger likes him: “Badnarik’s not much of a politician- but I don’t care, and don’t think it’ll hurt us.”

UPDATE: More thoughts at Catallarchy.

May 31, 2004

BLOGS’ IMPACT ON BIG MEDIA: An interesting column by Mark Glaser in the Online Journalism Review. And here’s a lengthier article on the same topic by Rachel Smolkin in the American Journalism Review.

But am I really a “moody maestro?” I think I’m pretty even-tempered. At least by Internet standards!

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has survey data on which blogs are read by Big Media folks. And Jeff Jarvis has some related stuff. And this John Leo column relates to a hypothesis offered by Drezner.

May 31, 2004

ALPHECCA has a Memorial Day photo essay up.

UPDATE: Eric Olsen has Memorial Day thoughts. More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Quinton rounds up Memorial Day posts from around the blogosphere.

And here’s a comprehensive guide on how to support the troops — from all the Coalition countries, not just America — presented by Winds of Change.

MORE: Gerard van der Leun has a moving post on the name on the stone.

May 31, 2004

CAPITALISTS DON’T TAKE HOLIDAYS: Or, at least, this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists is up, despite the holiday.

UPDATE: A reader from Sullivan & Cromwell emails (from the office, natch) that capitalists don’t take holidays — and neither do their lawyers! How well I remember. . . .

May 31, 2004

THIS WEEK’S IRAQI BLOG ROUNDUP, The Carnival of the Liberated is up. As always, it’s well worth reading. Read this, too.

May 31, 2004


Arab militia use ‘rape camps’ for ethnic cleansing of Sudan

In Darfur, Sudan’s western-most region, the people remain untouched by last week’s peace agreement signed between the country’s Islamic government and Christian rebels. Sudanese soldiers and the government-backed Janjaweed militia still terrorise, and at the centre of their campaign of “ethnic cleansing” is a policy of systematic rape designed to drive civilians from their settlements.

And yet Sudan is on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and nobody seems to care much about what’s happening in Darfur. Can’t we send these people guns, or something?

UPDATE: Tacitus has thoughts on what’s going on, and what should be done.

May 31, 2004

ROGER SIMON ON TOM FRIEDMAN: An interesting post.

May 31, 2004

SOME MEMORIAL DAY PHOTOGRAPHY: Here’s a gallery of photos from the World War II Memorial in Washington. Here’s a gallery — and here’s another — from two different photographers at the Moffett Field Air Show. And here’s a collection of Fleet Week images.

Lileks has one, too.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse: “Personally, I owe my own life to the Army and the smell of coffee, but to be more like my mother, I shouldn’t tell it as a personal story: There was a war. People did what had to be done.”

Mudville Gazette has a collection of milblog Memorial Day links. Check ’em out.

And go read this Memorial Day request from CPT Patti. If you can help, do.

May 30, 2004

INSTAPUNDIT’S AFGHANISTAN PHOTO-CORRESPONDENT, Major John Tammes, sends this photo and reports:

I have attached a photo of one of our staff here at Bagram. Squadron Leader Richard Langley of the RAF Regiment (how non-unilateral of us, yes?). It is people like him that are helping make this unfortunate land a better place.

He also sends this:

I never thought in the course of my military career I would hear myself asking any of the following questions: “Hand-bombs? You mean grenades? OK, where did you put them?” or “Did the FBI come by and ask you about toilets yet?”

The first set of questions was to an employee (of East European extraction) of a contractor who told me he had found three “hand bombs” under a sandbag. I asked him where he put them, and after a merry little chase that led to three different people, I found them. The EOD (bomb squad) cleared that little mess up…

The second question was me asking a manager of the same contractor if some FBI agents based here had manage to get in touch with him about a little plumbing support. As soon as I uttered those words, and realized how odd they sounded, both the manager and I were laughing.

Sometimes I just shake my head in wonder here…..

Thanks, Major. And happy Memorial Day.

May 30, 2004

WAS IT ALL A SET-UP? Surely not. On the other hand, SayUncle is suspicious, too.

May 30, 2004


UPDATE: Ann Althouse thinks that these figures are inflated.

May 30, 2004

U.S. NEWS: “Having overestimated his support, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr backs down.” Read the whole thing, especially the final paragraph.

May 30, 2004

I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO TO BURNING MAN, and my brother and I even talked about it a few years ago. But the closest I’ll ever get is probably Brian Doherty’s new book, This is Burning Man, which tells the interesting story of how the festival came about and what lessons have been learned. (One is that pure anarchism only takes you so far.)

If, like me, you’re not likely to make it out there this year, you might like this book (which for some reason also showed up in my mail a while back): Drama in the Desert, a photo essay, with accompanying DVD, from Burning Man. I watched the DVD; it’s pretty cool.

May 30, 2004

SGT. STRYKER thinks that the political conventions should be more like science fiction conventions. I agree.

May 30, 2004

DAVID ADESNIK LOOKS AT a new poll from Iraq and pronounces it good news. Iraqis don’t like the CPA much, and they’d like to end the occupation, but they think that things are getting better and want democracy.

May 30, 2004


It is already worth it for Iraq. There are more than 8,000 towns and villages in the country. If the much predicted civil war had erupted in any of ’em, you’d see it. Not from the Western press corps holed up with its Ba’ath Party translators at the Palestine Hotel, but from Arab television networks eager to show the country going to hell. They cannot show it you because it isn’t happening. The Sunni Triangle is a little under-policed, but even that’s not aflame. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Khomeini-Of-The-Week in mid-April, is al-Sadr al-Wiser these days, down to his last two 12-year-old insurgents and unable even to get to the mosque on Friday to deliver his weekly widely-ignored call to arms.

Meanwhile, more and more towns are holding elections and voting in “secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties”. I have been trying to persuade my Washington pals to look on Iraq as an exercise in British-style asymmetrical federalism: the Kurdish areas are Scotland, the Shia south is Wales, the Sunni Triangle is Northern Ireland. No need to let the stragglers in one area slow down progress elsewhere. Iraq won’t be perfect, but it will be okay – and in much better shape than most of its neighbours.

So I’ve moved on. I am already looking for new regimes to topple. . . .

In other words, don’t make the mistake of assuming that Bush’s poll numbers on Iraq have fallen because people want him to be more multilateralist and accommodating. On my anecdotal evidence, they want him to be more robust and incendiary.

And evidently John Kerry’s internal polling is telling him the same thing. Hence, his speech in Seattle on Friday.

It’s not just anecdotal, and it’s not just internal — just look at this poll:

30. When you hear about the continuing violent attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, are you more likely to think the United States should be pulling troops our of Iraq or that the United States should be using more force to help stop the attacks by Iraqi insurgents?

1. Pull troops out 32%
2. Use more force 52
3. (Neither) 9
4. (Not sure) 7

Several other questions in the poll are consistent. This suggests that among those who disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war there may be as many who think he’s too soft as too harsh. And I agree that Kerry’s new stance (noted here earlier) suggests that Kerry sees a market for toughness, or at least the appearance thereof.

Steyn thinks that Kerry is just being a weathervane, and that may be true. But you can learn things from watching weathervanes. Tim Blair, meanwhile, is hosting an interesting discussion.

May 29, 2004

MY SISTER SAW THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW today, and summarizes it thusly: “The world’s better off without people, with lots of special effects.” Julian Sanchez, meanwhile, says that the film isn’t likely to hurt the Bush Administration, as some have speculated: “George Bush should be buying people tickets to this movie. It’s preposterous from start to finish.” It seems clear that the film is nowhere near as good as The Poseidon Adventure, and with no better scientific grounding. Daniel Drezner has more reactions of a similar nature. And David Edelstein observes:

The sad part is that Emmerich really thinks he’s making a political statement, and he and his producers and actors are making the rounds blabbing about the movie’s message to the world. . . . Meanwhile, global-warming experts I know are already girding themselves for a major PR setback, as everyone involved in this catastrophe becomes a laughingstock. Is it possible that The Day After Tomorrow is a plot to make environmental activists look as wacko as antienvironmentalists always claim they are? Al Gore stepped right into this one, didn’t he?

Once again, the Gore endorsement looks like the kiss of death.

May 29, 2004

MICKEY KAUS: Kerry’s not a flip-flopper — he’s a straddler. A vital distinction!

UPDATE: Ed Holston thinks I’m shortchanging Kaus’s analysis, and has further thoughts.

May 29, 2004

AS RELIABLE AS A BOSTON GLOBE PHOTO FEATURE! Gary Farber reports on the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash.

Meanwhile, Jeff Goldstein wonders what happened to his pants. And Bill Quick thinks the drugs “must have been incredible.” But Walter in Denver wants to set the record straight.

May 29, 2004

THIS MEMORIAL DAY POST from Jeff Jarvis is worth reading.

May 29, 2004

SCOTT BURGESS DEBUNKS RACIST STEREOTYPES IN THE GUARDIAN: I wonder if someone will complain to the British authorities that The Guardian is peddling “hate speech?”

May 29, 2004


I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons “George Bush” because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan’s north and south after two million deaths.

If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.

But there’s a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it’s all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.

Indeed. William Sjostrom has some thoughts on why few people have noticed, or care. And here’s a Sudan blog that follows these issues.

May 29, 2004

SOME MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND READING: This piece by Jack Neely on The Great War, at home and abroad, is quite good. It also makes clear that we’re still cleaning up the messes made by diplomats nearly a hundred years ago. And some things sound surprisingly contemporary: “Months after the Armistice, there remained a strong anti-occupation insurgency in Germany, and 1919 bred rumors of German saboteurs making their way to America.” No comparable waves of anti-immigrant hysteria this time around, though.

May 29, 2004

SO WHAT’S GOING ON? Mickey Kaus suggests that the new Iraqi interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, was picked by Brahimi because his lack of grassroots support in Iraq ensures he won’t try to ensconce himself long-term.

But this BBC report says that Brahimi doesn’t like Allawi, and that he was forced to accede to his selection because the Iraqi Governing Council supported Allawi unanimously.

So which is it?

UPDATE: Looks like everybody else is as confused as I am!

May 28, 2004

TIM BLAIR, whose predictions of non-blogging turned out (like most such) to be overstated, is on a roll. Just keep scrolling.

May 28, 2004

BETTER ALL THE TIME: The Speculist’s regular roundup of good news is up.

May 28, 2004


In what his campaign billed as a major foreign-policy address, Kerry said that despite the fierce election-year politics, the country is standing together when it comes to preventing future attacks.

“This country is united in its determination to destroy you,” said Kerry of the terrorists, in the first of a series of foreign-policy speeches timed to coincide with Memorial Day and President Bush’s trip to Europe for D-Day ceremonies.

“As commander in chief, I will bring the full force of our nation’s power to bear on finding and crushing your networks. We will use every available resource to destroy you,” Kerry said in Seattle.

More like this, please.

May 28, 2004

MATTHEW YGLESIAS is defending the press from charges of engaging in behavior that some of its members have admitted (rooting for American defeat), while accusing me of something I didn’t do (inciting vandalism against the NYT).

Yglesias omits any mention of journalistic admissions (some collected or linked here) of delight at problems in Iraq, or even hope for a U.S. defeat. On the other hand, he accuses me of a “campaign to incite the defacement of New York Times distribution boxes.” However, if you read the post in question, you’ll see a crucial phrase undercutting Yglesias’ thesis: “Don’t do that!” (To his credit, Yglesias links the post, but he never explains how this could constitute incitement. However, though accusing me of advocating “mob violence,” he fails to note this post, in which I talk about how press irresponsibility may undermine press freedom in the context of changed First Amendment law, not peasants with pitchforks.)

Though Yglesias has gotten shriller since joining the Kuttner empire, this is unworthy of him, and I’m disappointed. However, his touchiness on this subject makes me think that perhaps the press realizes that its behavior is harming its reputation. And it is. Instead of blaming the messenger, perhaps a bit of soul-searching would be in order.

UPDATE: Matt is charged with violating Godwin’s law here and here. And reader John Mattaboni calls on me to note this straw man:

Yglesias: “The argument here – that everything is fine except the media coverage – is absurd on its face.”

It’s absurd on its face because no one is asserting that but him.

Good point. In fact, I’ve made the contrary observation before. For a more nuanced (it doesn’t compare me, Michael Barone, and Morton Kondracke to Hitler!), if still somewhat defensive, response to the press criticism, read this post by Jay Rosen.

May 28, 2004

HOWARD DEAN’S YEARRGH! SPEECH spawned some guerrilla web responses. Now Junkyard Blog has done the same with Al Gore’s MoveOn fulminations.

UPDATE: More on Gore’s outburst here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More guerrilla media here. And Mike Rappaport observes: “Al Gore has called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld (and Condoleezza Rice). Given Gore’s track record, including the almost immediate implosion of Howard Dean after Gore endorsed him, this may be the best news for Rumsfeld in many days.”

And here’s a report from a parallel universe. Say, is this where Al Gore got the beard?

May 28, 2004

IF YOU’RE IN THE DENVER AREA, you might want to attend the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash. I wish I could be there. Then again, Stephen Green and Jeff Goldstein are bad enough influences on me when they’re two time zones away. . . .

May 28, 2004


Pat Buchanan is being an ass again.

Fisking him may be, as Gerard Van der Leun likes to put it, one of those Fish. Barrel. Bang! type of deals. But still it’s something that needs to be done every couple of months to reduce the asininity quotient in American letters by an iota.

So here we go.

Read the whole thing.

May 28, 2004

AZIZ POONAWALLA IS UPSET that the Dean Campaign seems to be selling user data to other organizations. There’s some debate in the comments as to whether that’s what’s going on.

May 28, 2004

SOME THOUGHTS ON FRITZ HOLLINGS’ PROBLEMS WITH THE JEWS: “Hollings may or may not be anti-Semitic, but he’s almost certainly a fool.” I’m glad that Fritz is leaving the Senate. The Democrats should be, too.

May 28, 2004

PATRICK RUFFINI sends this link to an interactive webpage that lets you track John Kerry’s changing positions on Iraq. Say, maybe Sandy Berger should have checked that out before his recent statements.

May 28, 2004

“THEATER OF WAR” AS AN EXPANDING CONCEPT: The Belmont Club has thoughts.

May 28, 2004

LILEKS is chock-full of screedy goodness today. Don’t miss him.

May 28, 2004

DOUG KERN writes on why we need more cartoon violence, and on how Generation X suffered from the lack thereof: “(‘Super Friends,’ they called them, instead of the Justice League. The difference tells you everything you need to know about the seventies.)”

May 28, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudia Rosett says the coverup is in full swing. I’m worried that the Administration is running cover for the UN on this one in the hopes of getting cooperation, and I think that if so — as with pretty much everything the Administration has done regarding the UN — they’re being snookered.

May 28, 2004

YEEARRGH! I missed Al Gore’s Howard Dean-like meltdown, but even Maureen Dowd was mocking him: “John Kerry’s advisers were surprised and annoyed to hear that Mr. Gore hollered so much, he made Howard Dean look like George Pataki. They don’t want voters to be reminded of the wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party.”

The Boston Herald, meanwhile, is even harsher:

He never mentioned Nicholas Berg. Or Daniel Pearl. Or a single person killed in the World Trade Center. Nor did former Vice President Al Gore talk of any soldier by name who has given his life in Iraq. And he has the audacity to condemn the Bush administration for having “twisted values?”

Gore spent the bulk of a speech before the liberal group Wednesday bemoaning Abu Ghraib and denouncing President Bush’s departure from the “long successful strategy of containment.”

Yes, the very same strategy that, under Gore’s leadership, allowed al-Qaeda operatives to plan the horror of Sept. 11 for years, while moving freely within our borders. . . .

And this man – who apparently has so much disdain for the nature of the American people – wanted to be elected to lead it?

I was once a big Al Gore fan, but my attitude toward him has gone beyond disappointment. Now it’s something more like horror. He’s lost it.

UPDATE: Dean Peters has a roundup of blog-reactions.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Will Collier, meanwhile, is surprised at how little attention Gore’s speech got:

Why the silence? We’re talking about the last vice president of the United States, and a guy who was just 548 votes shy of being the president right now. This ought to be a big story, particularly for papers that had been very supportive of Gore in the past. Is he now considered irrelevant? Does the media think he’s become a nutbag, and thus unworthy of coverage? Could they be embarrassed by Gore’s descent into moonbattery?

You can offer your suggested explanation in his comment section, if you like.

May 28, 2004

DANIEL DREZNER WRITES in The New Republic that the neocons were right on the war, but bad managers whose ineptitude has threatened an important cause: the democratization of the Middle East.

As is his custom, he has footnotes and amplifications on the column that are in some ways more interesting than the column itself. But you should read both.

Meanwhile Peter Robinson echoes a point of Drezner’s — that the prewar situation was unravelling and something had to be done — and notes:

Food in Iraq is everywhere available, clean water is flowing, electricity is being produced at levels higher than those before the war, hundreds of schools have been rebuilt and some 30,000 teachers trained—and whereas before the war Iraqi civilians were dying untimely deaths at the rate of 36,000 a year, now even an anti-war group estimates that in the last 14 months the number of Iraqi civilians to die unnatural deaths numbers at most about 11,000.

This represents a record of which George W. Bush is supposed to be ashamed?

(In a later post Robinson notes that the number of Iraqi lives saved is almost certainly much higher than the above number suggests.)This isn’t really in disagreement with Drezner, who notes in his blog post that he thinks things in Iraq are better than generally believed. To this mix you might add this post from Iraqi blogger Mohammed, who seems happier with the situation than either Drezner or Robinson, perhaps because his expectations are lower: “the reason for this is that I have lived under Saddam.”

Max Boot, meanwhile, reminds us that we’re at war, and observes: “The panic gripping Washington over the state of Iraq makes it clear we have been spoiled by the seemingly easy, apparently bloodless victories of the last decade. . . . Things look a little different if you compare it with earlier conflicts.” Read the whole thing, which offers a lot of useful perspective on casualties, nation-building, and mistakes in light of prior experience.

And, finally, you should read this piece by Arnold Kling: “The war in Iraq has produced a battle for hearts and minds — not over there so much as over here.”

May 28, 2004

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF posts another roundup of news from Iraq that you probably missed, on all sorts of topics including rebuilding, security, etc.

May 28, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH EXPLAINS what makes him hot. Wonkette is mentioned.

May 27, 2004

FOR SOME, THE BLOGGING NEVER STOPS: I feel really sorry for these people:

Blogging is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For some, it becomes an obsession. Such bloggers often feel compelled to write several times daily. . . .

Tony Pierce started his blog three years ago while in search of a distraction after breaking up with a girlfriend. “In three years, I don’t think I’ve missed a day,” he said. Now Mr. Pierce’s blog (, a chatty diary of Hollywood, writing and women in which truth sometimes mingles with fiction, averages 1,000 visitors a day.

Where some frequent bloggers might label themselves merely ardent, Mr. Pierce is more realistic. “I wouldn’t call it dedicated, I would call it a problem,” he said. “If this were beer, I’d be an alcoholic.”

Not me. I can quit any time.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has some thoughts on the Times story. They’re worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So are these observations by Ann Althouse.

May 27, 2004

MISSING MARINE: Jason van Steenwyck is looking for word of a Marine in Iraq.

May 27, 2004

SHIITE MUSLIM CONVENTION SUPPORTS COALITION, urges tougher action against Al Sadr:

American Shia Muslims claim two million adherents in the United States and Canada, mainly drawn from India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, with a sprinkling from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, and the Balkans. Iraqi Shias are concentrated in Dearborn, Michigan, and Los Angeles and are expected to be well-represented at the gathering this weekend.

The first such convention, held in the nation’s capital last year with 3,000 delegates, featured a surprising banquet speaker: deputy Defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. While this year’s banquet program had not been fixed by Thursday afternoon, UMAA media representative Agha Shawkat Jafri said the delegates have received hundreds of calls from Iraqi Shias expressing hope that the convention can draw the attention of the Pentagon to their concerns, which are centered on the need for forcible action against rebel Shia leader Moktada al-Sadr.

Read the whole thing, which is quite interesting.

May 27, 2004

JOHN KERRY has given up on the idea of delaying his acceptance of the Democratic nomination. Is this a flip, or a flop?

The delay idea was certainly a flop, anyway. And all it’s accomplished is to make him look both tricky and indecisive. Seems like a bad move to me.

Kerry’s striking a noble pose: “”The decision that I made today raises the bar.”

So by doing exactly what he’s supposed to do, what he planned to do, and what everyone expected him to, he’s somehow setting a high moral tone?

UPDATE: Delay on the one hand, getting ahead of himself on the other. It evens out, right?

May 27, 2004

QUITE A WHILE AGO, I noted a report of misconduct by U.S. troops from Iraqi blogger Zeyad. (Later posts here, here, and here, including links to reports in Slate and the Washington Post.).

Now Zeyad reports that the four soldiers involved have been reprimanded. Zeyad thinks it smells of a coverup. I agree. The action certainly makes no sense to me; if the story’s true, more than a reprimand seems warranted. If it’s not true, why punish anyone at all? Either way, a reprimand seems like it can’t possibly be the right response, except perhaps in terms of bureaucratic CYA.

UPDATE: Reader Tim Schmoyer emails:

I don’t think the Sydney Morning Herald story is accurate. As far as I can tell, Weller reported that Sassaman was reprimanded. Which is probably appropriate for Sassaman’s lying to investigators. However, I do not believe the military is done disciplining the soldiers involved in forcing them to jump in the river.

I do think we need to keep the pressure on.

Yes, and I hope they’re not done, but it’s not clear to me. A military reader with connections emails me that he’s looking into it. I’ll post again with whatever I hear from him.

May 27, 2004

I’M BACK. Regular blogging will resume later. In the meantime, Eugene Volokh is once again posting a devastating critique of Slate’s “Bushism of the Day” that’s a must-read. The Bushism feature, along with the new but equally lame Kerryism feature, seems to wind up making Slate look foolish far more often than its subjects. And Eugene is right to slam them for not providing links to the original statements they make fun of.

UPDATE: More on the Bushism here. “That anyone would look to mine this moment for the sake of making it seem other than it was is despicable.”

Or at least unforgivably tacky. And, also, not funny.

May 26, 2004

ON TRAVEL: Blogging will be light to nonexistent today and tomorrow.

May 26, 2004

CATHY SEIPP’S LATEST COLUMN is, as always, a must-read. And if you’re too lazy to read it, at least read this revealing excerpt.

And if you want to hear more, consider attending this Seipp-hosted event at the American Cinema Foundation in Los Angeles.

May 26, 2004

A NANOTECHNOLOGY TURNAROUND? Looks like it. It’s my TechCentralStation column for today.

May 26, 2004

HOMELAND SECURITY’S MISSING LINK: I think it’s missing more than one.

May 26, 2004

ANOTHER BAD DAY for the increasingly irrelevant Sadr. First this:

US troops captured a key lieutenant of Iraqi rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr during overnight clashes in Najaf that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 50.

Riyadh al-Nouri, al-Sadr’s brother-in-law, offered no resistance when American troops raided his home during a series of clashes in the Shiite holy city, according to Azhar al-Kinani, a staffer in al-Sadr’s office in Najaf.

The capture of al-Nouri would be a major blow to al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army, which has been battling coalition forces since early April.

Then there’s this:

It was unclear which side was responsible for causing the minor damage to the Imam Ali mosque, but a high-ranking cleric accused Sadr’s militia of deliberately attacking the revered shrine.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Mehri, the Kuwaiti representative of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, said the Sadr militia fired a mortar shell at the dome of the shrine but missed it and hit a wall instead.

Ayatollah Mehri called the attack “a cowardly act” and said Sadr loyalists should not use the shrine for storing their weapons and as a sanctuary.

“We want to tell the world, and America, that Muqtada al-Sadr is not one of us, and this is a conspiracy against Shiites so that we don’t get any [political] rights,” Ayatollah Mehri said, referring to Shiite demands for greater political representation in the new Iraq. . . .

Ayatollah Mehri said the Sadr militia was “trying to agitate world opinion against the coalition” by claiming that coalition forces attacked the shrine. He said the militia include Saddam loyalists.

While the pundits blather, the Army seems to be doing a pretty good job of isolating him and wearing him down.

UPDATE: Some interesting stuff on Iraqi sentiments from the BBC Arabic site translated and summarized by Omar here.

May 26, 2004

ANN ALTHOUSE OFFERS AN embarrassing history lesson for John Kerry.

May 26, 2004


A leading British engineering company, which now boasts a BBC governor and the former Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson, on its board, has been identified by US investigators as one of hundreds of firms alleged to have agreed to pay illicit kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The allegations about the Glasgow-based Weir Group appear in an internal Pentagon report seen by the Guardian. They have emerged as the United Nations faces a growing barrage of criticism over its $47bn (£26.2bn) humanitarian oil for food programme with half a dozen official investigations in train. Weir has presented detailed denials of the allegations.

Nobody bribed me. I’m beginning to feel a bit left out.

May 26, 2004

KERRY’S BRILLIANT PLAN: Mickey Kaus has the whole delayed-acceptance thing figured out.

May 26, 2004

OXBLOG NOTES some surprisingly positive poll numbers from Israelis and Palestinians.

May 26, 2004

BAGHDAD SARIN CONFIRMED: And Andrew Sullivan notes Dan Rather’s lame attempt to deflect the implications. (Scroll up to read Sullivan’s heavy-metal interview excerpt, too.)

May 26, 2004

HISTORY, PERSPECTIVE AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT: Eugene Volokh has an interesting post. I’m a big fan of separating church and state, but this seems de minimis to me.

May 25, 2004

FREDRIK NORMAN was on Norwegian TV defending the United States. You can read about it here. Fredrik emails:

The debate was notably civil, particularly in that it was (almost) completely without nasty remarks about President Bush as a person, and the tone was remarkably constructive. Let’s hope that’s an indication of a change in the public debate here in Europe, but that’s probably expecting too much…

Thanks, Fredrik!

May 25, 2004

HUGH HEWITT is on vacation, but he’s posted a list of recommended blogs.

May 25, 2004

TAKING A LEAF FROM MOBY: Roger Simon notes a bogus “Republicans for Kerry” site.

May 25, 2004

ADVICE TO KERRY from Arianna Huffington: Be bold.

May 25, 2004

MORE “WEDDING PARTY” ANALYSIS over at The Belmont Club.

May 25, 2004

DEAN PETERS is hosting an interesting discussion on what constitutes success in Iraq.

May 25, 2004

WELL, SOMEBODY HAD TO DO IT: Andrew Sullivan is Fisking Susan Sontag:

What Abu Ghraib does is remind Americans that their virtue is inherent not in their somehow being better than other people around the world, but in the ability of the democratic system to flush out and correct inevitable human error. So far, the response to Abu Ghraib has borne this out. Saddam had no public inquiries into his far more grotesque abuse, no Susan Sontag essays to highlight them. This does not in any way mitigate what happened at Abu Ghraib. But it is a distinction that we still have to keep in mind. . . .

Sontag asserts that the core of the U.S. and coalition mission in Iraq is imperial conquest. This is demonstrably untrue. The motives of the French and Belgians in nineteenth and twentieth century imperialism were utterly different than the Bush administration’s attempt to pre-empt Islamist terror in the wake of 9/11. The goal from the beginning of the Iraq war has been to set up a democratic and stable Iraq and to move toward U.S. withdrawal. No imperialist would be insisting upon a June 30 deadline for the transfer of sovereignty, as President Bush did last night. The conflation of these two distinct endeavors is absurd: mere rhetoric, not argument. Was American intervention in Bosnia, of which Sontag approved, “imperialist”? It saved Muslims from a totalitarian, genocidal monster as well. And we still have troops there. If Sontag wants to make a distinction between the two wars, it would be interesting to read. But none is there. She is venting, not arguing.


May 25, 2004

TOM MAGUIRE is offering campaign advice for Kerry that you won’t see anywhere else.

May 25, 2004

THIS ARTICLE takes a rather skeptical view of the prospects for democratic reform in the Arab world, notwithstanding the recent declaration at the Tunis conference. On the other hand, not everyone is skeptical:

“Real reform is beginning and will go at a faster pace” in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, said Amri, who is the director and founder of a think-tank in Cambridge, England, the Said al-Amri Center for Security and Strategic Studies.

“I think within the Middle East reform will go faster than we think,” said Amri, speaking from Riyadh.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, Amri now constantly witnesses changes he would not have predicted just several years ago.

I wouldn’t pick Saudi Arabia to be a leader in reform, but I hope he’s right.

May 25, 2004

TOM CLANCY IS calling the Iraq war a mistake. He’s got a new book out with Gen. Zinni. Richard Baehr, meanwhile, thinks that some of Zinni’s criticisms are dubious.

Professor Bainbridge, who was pooh-poohing my earlier post about Bush’s vulnerabilities, thinks that this is really bad news for Bush, who can’t afford to lose the Clancy-fan vote. That’s absolutely right — though judging by the current Amazon reader reviews Clancy’s fans aren’t persuaded just yet.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman observes a trend: “The bottom line on GWB’s vulnerabilities: each day it seems like another group in the coalition that helped elect him in the nail-biting election against Al Gore is dropping away. What we seem to be seeing now is a slow but steady trend away from Bush, rather than to Kerry, who remains as exciting and palatable as a bowl of frozen chopped liver.”

Meanwhile, reader Chuck Pelto emails:

I think Tom, with his expressed desire for a cause belli, was thinking we needed something like 10,000 dead from a weapon of mass destruction that could be traced to Iraq, as the use of ebola by Iran in his book Executive Orders.

I think Bush is correct in being more pro-active than Ryan. We’ve
already had our mass casualty event.

Well, there’s a possible Russian Ebola bioweapon story in the news today. (Here’s the New York Times link.) It’s probably not a bioweapon, but given that it was a scientist at a “former” bioweapons lab who died, you could certainly spin some Clancy-like speculations if you wanted to.

May 25, 2004

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED in what people who pay close attention to space think, maybe you should check out the International Space Development Conference this weekend.

May 25, 2004

WANT MORE DIVERSITY IN YOUR BLOG-READING? You probably should, as a blog-diet of just InstaPundit (or even just the blogs I link to) would be a mistake. So check out the Carnival of the Vanities and see if any of the wide assortment of bloggers linked there strike your fancy.

May 25, 2004

THIS SEEMS LIKE A MAJOR SCREWUP BY THE FBI for which heads should probably roll:

PORTLAND, Ore. – Offering a rare public apology, the FBI admitted mistakenly linking an American lawyer’s fingerprint to one found near the scene of a terrorist bombing in Spain, a blunder that led to his imprisonment for two weeks. . . .

Court documents released Monday suggested that the mistaken arrest first sprang from an error by the FBI’s supercomputer for matching fingerprints and then was compounded by the FBI’s own analysts.

The apology is to the FBI’s credit. But it makes me wonder how many other such matches are wrong. I wonder if this is connected with this homeland security fingerprint initiative that I was criticizing two years ago?

For more on questions about fingerprint evidence, read this and this.

UPDATE: James Rummel weighs in with personal experience.

May 25, 2004

POLITICAL LOCAL-BLOGGING: Ed Cone has some interesting observations.

May 25, 2004

THIS ELECTION IS LOOKING LIKE a World Series between the Red Sox and the Cubs, as each side’s fans worry, with some reason, that their guy will blow it. Republicans are afraid that Bush is in trouble, while Mickey Kaus continues his “Dem Panic Watch” feature. There’s bad news for both candidates in the latest polls. Bush keeps falling in overall approval, but the voters seem to think less of Kerry as time goes on. It’s a bizarre race to the bottom. I’ve said for a while that this election will probably be decided by the 5% who haven’t paid any attention until the week before the election. Judging by these polls, they may be the only ones who show up to vote. . . .

There’s always McCain / Hillary!

UPDATE: Tom Maguire: “we are reminded of the famous Winston Churchill quip – the current news is bad for Bush, and Kerry is a deeply flawed candidate, but the news can change.”

Of course, I expect that a lot of folks in the media will be doing their best to see that it doesn’t.

May 25, 2004

JASON VAN STEENWYK IS CALLING OUT MAJOR MEDIA FOR FAKING QUOTES regarding General Mattis’ statement on not apologizing for his men. He’s got links and transcripts and he’s naming names, which include the New York Times, Reuters, AFP, and more:

Essentially, it looks like they’re quoting each other, or some apocryphal Q source material. They’re not quoting General Mattis. They didn’t even show up at the press conference, and they didn’t bother to get a transcript or listen to the tape. But all these reporters are passing their crap off as if they were right from the source material.

Absolutely, completely pathetic.

If this is what passes for news coverage, then they ought to fire their reporters and hire some boy scouts to write for them. At least they’ll be honest.

Read the whole thing. Interestingly, I once had the same thing happen to me, with a bunch of newspapers reproducing quotes from an appearance on the PBS Newshour as if they’d interviewed me. They didn’t mangle them nearly as badly, though.

And I’ll bet this will be all over talk radio. Hmm. Maybe there is something to the theory espoused below.

UPDATE: More on sloppy quote-recycling from Michael Drout.

May 25, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS A QUESTION FOR C.A.I.R.: Is anti-Zionism the same as anti-Semitism, or not?

May 25, 2004

ZEYAD’S BLOG gets a mention in John Podhoretz’s column on Bush’s speech.

May 25, 2004

A BUNCH OF READERS are mad because the major networks didn’t cover Bush’s speech last night. (The emails are along the lines of this blog post.) But it’s my understanding that the White House didn’t request the airtime.

True, the networks could have covered it anyway. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame them for not doing so, under the circumstances.

UPDATE: Tim Conaghan emails: “I suspect the White House has developed a rather sophisticated, below-the-radar media strategy in which one component is to allow the major, mainstream media to self-isolate themselves.”

Hmm. That would be consistent with some other reports. Are they that smart?

May 25, 2004

A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW POSTS FROM VIRGINIA POSTREL, covering everything from highway construction economics to international trade, along with the news that Amazon is now selling beauty products.

I remember when Amazon was just for books. What next? Cars?

May 25, 2004


Teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being sexually exploited by the United Nations peace-keeping troops sent to the stop their suffering.

The Independent has found that mothers as young as 13 – the victims of multiple rape by militiamen – can only secure enough food to survive in the sprawling refugee camp by routinely sleeping with UN peace-keepers.

These just keep coming. Michael Moynihan makes the “>inevitable point.

May 25, 2004

MORE POLITICAL MEANNESS: Name-calling in South Dakota. I don’t think this is all that big a deal, but some people seem to.

May 24, 2004

RX-8 REPORT: I turned my grades in this morning, and set out for a picture-taking drive through the boonies. It was nice, and along the way the RX-8 turned over 5000 miles. Since people occasionally email to ask what my longer-term impressions are, I thought I’d record a few here.

Overall, I feel about like I did when it was new. It’s phenomenally balanced — so much so that you sometimes forget just how fast it is. The gearshift is smooth, and the engine is very responsive. The steering is taut, and has good feedback. The brakes are fabulous.

I’ve found that I actually like the interior and the driver’s seat more than I did when I bought it. The seat is more comfortable, even on fairly long trips, than the seat in my Passat, which is saying something.

Fuel economy doesn’t suck, especially given the horsepower, but it’s nothing to write home about. I get in the low 20s on the highway, the upper teens in town. (Extended high-rev trips in the mountains push it lower, though; the Passat’s better, but then it has less than 2/3 the horsepower). Oil consumption — something that rotaries have issues with — hasn’t been bad. I added one quart between buying the car and doing the 5000-mile oil change last week. However, you are supposed to check the oil regularly. I do, and the dipstick location, to put it mildly, sucks. (The oil-volume sensor will sometimes falsely tell you that you’re low on oil; it seems sensitive to a combination of slope and jiggle that a couple of roads I’ve encountered possess, giving a false low reading that goes away after a minute. Be sure to check before you add more oil!)

A guy in a big pickup dinged me with his trailer hitch in the parking lot a couple of months back. I kept honking, but he just couldn’t see me. This made a hole about the size of, well, a trailer hitch in the plastic panel surrounding the right-side exhaust. To my pleasant surprise, replacing the part cost only $36.

Bottom line: I can drive the car all day, have a blast, and get out less tired than when I got in. So I’m happy. If you want more technical stuff, here’s a long-term review from Auto Week. And here’s an interesting article on the hand-assembly process used on the engine. (Thanks to reader Jim Herd for both links.)

May 24, 2004

JACOB T. LEVY writes on the libertarian threat to Bush and suggests that Bush’s people are in denial. I agree with this. Bush’s positions on stem cell research, abortion, etc., are damaging there, and the war’s pretty much a wash, with libertarians divided.

I’ve gotten some emails asking why I like Bush so much. I don’t really — I support him on the war, but if Lieberman or Gephardt had gotten the Democratic nomination, I wouldn’t have a strong preference. (They’re not my faves on other issues, but neither is Bush, whose policies on stem cells, abortion, etc., differ from mine rather sharply). Despite the claims of some writers that Bush and Kerry will have more in common than we think on foreign policy and the war (which may be true) I don’t have the same confidence in Kerry. I suppose he could change my mind on that, but I don’t really expect that he will.

But my support for Bush has more to do with the character of his opposition, really, than with Bush himself. (You don’t see a lot of Bush hagiography here). And I think libertarians who feel differently about the war have no real reason to support Bush — he’s been wishy-washy on gun control, big on spending, and generally a big-government kind of guy, not a government-off-your-back kind of guy. (And don’t get me started on Homeland Security).

Would Kerry be worse for libertarian principles than Bush? He’d probably like to be. But in reality, it’s not likely to matter a lot.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan says the slide in Bush’s approval ratings is due to the loss of Republican and libertarian support.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon observes: “There ain’t no libertarianism in Tehran or Riyadh–small or large ‘L.’ Hardly anyone even dreams of such things. What there is is a lot of Medievalism. I’m putting some of my stuff on hold for a few years. They can too.”

MORE: Bainbridge doesn’t think libertarians matter, while Brendan Loy thinks that libertarians will get some votes from unhappy Republicans, but then adds:

Of course, this notion of possible Bush weakness among libertarians and Republicans only serves to underscore what a truly terrible choice John Kerry was, and is, for the Democratic nomination. Either Edwards or Lieberman could have realistically won these people’s votes; Kerry’s best hope is that they’ll vote Libertarian or stay home.

It’s a damn shame we picked such a bad candidate when it turns out our opponent was going to be so vulnerable.

As I’ve said all along, Bush has always been vulnerable. But the Democrats have a constitutional problem with doing what it takes to capitalize on it.

Meanwhile Libertarian Dr. Kate is “rock solid” for Bush, and reports: “all the registered Libs I know are planning to vote for Bush. In Massachusetts, that’s saying something.” Stay tuned.

May 24, 2004

THE DISSIDENT FROGMAN IS WATCHING THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, and he’s appalled to hear a French representative advocating the transfer of nuclear weapons to Arab countries. (The link is from 2001. Have they gotten more sensible since then? I doubt it.)

May 24, 2004

STOCKPILES AND GOALPOSTS: My earlier post on articles about Bush’s failure to find “stockpiles” of WMD led to some emails from readers noting that the Administration did talk about stockpiles before the war. That’s true, and it’s also true that they haven’t found them. But unless you think that the Sarin shell, and the mustard gas find the week before, were both one-offs, I think they indicate the likelihood that such stockpiles did exist before the war, and may well still do so. (Read this post at Blaster’s and scroll up and down from it). It’s that indication that’s the key, and focusing on the failure to find “stockpiles” now is wilfully obtuse.

This post by David Hogberg, which I linked a while back, has more on the goalpost-moving subject.

UPDATE: Reader Daniel Aronstein points out that Security Council Resolution 1441 doesn’t talk about “stockpiles” but about “any” and “all” weapons (and programs and facilities for developing weapons) of mass destruction. Here’s a collection of the various resolutions. It’s worth reminding people — again — that the burden was on Saddam, found by 1441 to be in material breach, to prove his innocence, and that nobody thought he’d met that burden.

More here.

May 24, 2004

THE INSTA-DAUGHTER learned to ride a two-wheeler without falling down tonight (perhaps she can give Bush and Kerry lessons). That means I missed most of Bush’s speech as I was busy first helping, then applauding, for a couple of hours after dinner. Caught the last few minutes of the speech, and it seemed okay to me. Bush will never win any oratory awards, but he was focused and to the point, and I thought the ending, where he contrasted the terrorists’ vision of a Taliban-like society versus our vision of freedom was good. (Nice touch styling our approach as a way for the Middle East to regain its historical greatness, too.)

Other folks no doubt saw the whole thing. I’ll try to post links to their evaluations later. Meanwhile, LT Smash’s prediction was borne out. (You can read these predictions by Steven Den Beste too, and decide how accurate they were.)

UPDATE: They were live-blogging it at The Corner.

Adam Harris reacts to ABC’s “Breaking News” update, which he regards as rather disingenuous.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andrew Morton emails:

He seems to be serious about, and investing a lot in the transfer of sovereignty.

Mark my words: the media meme for the next six months will be that the transfer is fraudulent, that the US is still pulling the strings and that the new Iraqi government is an illegitimate puppet.

This will boost the legitimacy of the killers, will produce a worse long-term outcome for the Iraqis and will result in the deaths of coalition servicemembers, contractors and good Iraqis.

I hope this is wrong.

Daniel Drezner’s running an open comment thread.

Here’s a link to the text of Bush’s speech. (Via Powerline).

Rob Bernard has thoughts.

Andrew Sullivan gives the speech a B+ but says Bush seemed “exhausted.” I don’t blame him. I’m tired myself, and I’m not the President.

Victor Davis Hanson gives Bush mixed grades. More comments here, here, and here.

Finally (for this post, at least) Mickey Kaus points to the three most important words in the speech — “no later than.”

May 24, 2004

TURNED IN MY GRADES and took the day off; went driving in the mountains, then hung around with the Insta-Wife. Back later.

May 24, 2004

MICHAEL BARONE offers advice to President Bush and observes: “Roosevelt did not have to deal with one problem Bush faces today. And that is that today’s press works to put the worst possible face on the war.”

May 24, 2004

IT’S A BUSINESS-AND-ECONOMICS BLOGARAMA over at this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists.

May 24, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS THOUGHTS on the legal issues involved in the “Washingtonienne” flap.

May 24, 2004


Those convinced that liberals make up a disproportionate share of newsroom workers have long relied on Pew Research Center surveys to confirm this view, and they will not be disappointed by the results of Pew’s latest study released today. . . .

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative. . . .

While it’s important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.

The survey also notes a dramatic “values gap” on issues like gay marriage and belief in God. But don’t worry: “Of course, no one would ever expect this to impact the way news is covered.”

Though, the war and the Second Amendment aside, my views are probably closer to those of the press than the general public, I have to agree with those who find this troubling. If despite aspirations toward objectivity, reporters’ gender and ethnicity is as influential on the news as newsroom diversity advocates tell us, then surely reporters’ views are even more significant. So where’s the move toward greater diversity there?

UPDATE: Reader Mike Gordon emails:

One point that can’t be overstressed is that the Pew findings are based on self-assessment. I worked in the newsroom at three large newspapers for 22 years, and many of the journalists who rate themselves as politically moderate are well to the left of center, especially on social issues. They are moderate by newsroom standards, not by the general public’s standards.

Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem. Journalists’ world is dominated by government because it’s so easy to cover: Public agencies’ meetings take place on a regular schedule and, with rare exceptions, have to admit journalists. As a result, participants in the meetings play to the press, inside and outside the meeting room, and the result is the elaborate dance of symbolic actions – gaffes, denials, sham indignation, press conferences, inquests and endless process – that dominates our news pages and means next to nothing in the long run.

Journalists tend to give private enterprise short shrift because it’s harder to cover: The meetings are private, aren’t announced in advance, and reporters aren’t invited. Unlike politicians, most businesspeople aren’t required to interact with the press, and many avoid doing so when possible – the downside is usually greater than the upside. As a result, journalists are generally reduced to covering what businesspeople do more than what they say. This is more work, so less of it gets done.

It’s no accident that for the most part, the news is dominated by people whose value is largely driven by how much publicity they receive: politicians, athletes and entertainers. The people who actually make the world work – people in private industry, rank-and-file government employees and conscientious parents – are largely invisible in the news, except when they’re unlucky enough to make one of the rare mistakes that reporters manage to find out about.


May 24, 2004

I’VE GOT A CHAPTER in this book on Presidential leadership, published by the Wall Street Journal press, which also features chapters from lots of eminent and knowledgeable people.