June 30, 2004
ABSOLUTELY MY LAST POST FOR A WHILE ON AGING: Over at GlennReynolds.com.
ABSOLUTELY MY LAST POST FOR A WHILE ON AGING: Over at GlennReynolds.com.
PEACE THROUGH S.U.V.’s: Well, it’s a bold approach. . .
ALLAWI 1, BROKAW 0: Why, oh, why, can’t we have decent news media?
HARDY AND CLARKE’S BOOK ON MICHAEL MOORE is now up to number three on Amazon.
BEATS ME: Reader Michael Greenspan emails:
What I find most interesting about the column by John Keegan is its contrast with Michael Rubin’s piece on NRO a few days ago. Keegan writes that “the American occupiers should not have dissolved the Iraqi army or police or civil administration, whatever the number of Ba’ath Party members they contain.” Rubin writes that “[t]he failure of the Fallujah experiment undercuts the conventional wisdom that Bremer erred with his decision to dissolve the Iraqi military.” I’ve long felt vaguely that I should have an opinion on this sort of issue, but I don’t. Plain disagreement between two smart, experienced supporters reassures me that I’m right to keep out of it. If an expert can be undeniably wrong — and either Rubin or Keegan must be — how can I possibly know what should be done?
Yes. It’s hard to know about that sort of thing — especially when, as we’ve seen, the information that we get out of Iraq is fragmentary and often unreliable. In this regard, William Safire’s column on the dangers of certitude is well worth reading. We can be certain about principles; about tactics, and even strategies, we have to make our best guess.
THIS WEEK’S Carnival of the Vanities is up. Don’t miss it.
The US and other international actors have called on Sudan to rein in the Arab “Janjaweed” militias responsible and to provide security for the displaced. This is the political equivalent of imploring the fox to guard the henhouse. The Sudanese government has been directly involved in the killings. And it has a long history of sponsoring local militias to destabilize regions of the country and, for that matter, neighboring African countries, with which it is at odds. This “outsourcing” of military operations provides the government a low-cost and plausibly deniable device for advancing its political aims. Counting on the government to ensure the security of a population it wants to exterminate is reminiscent of recent government-sponsored pogroms in Kosovo, Kurdish northern Iraq after the Gulf War, and East Timor.
The upshot: by the predatory and abusive violation of its citizens, the dictatorial government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, like those of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, has relinquished its claims of sovereignty in Darfur.
Read the whole thing. (Via Passion of the Present).
UPDATE: Then there’s this report:
Arab militiamen in Sudan use rape as weapon
‘We want to make a light baby,’ woman says fighter told her
“They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, ‘Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,’ ” said Sawela Suliman, 22, showing slashes from a where a whip struck her thighs as her father held up a police and health report with details of the attack. “They said, ‘You get out of this area and leave the child when it’s made.’ ” . . .
In Sudan, as in many Arab cultures, a child’s ethnicity is attached to the ethnicity of the father.
Strange that Kofi Annan is unwilling to call this genocide.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Moore has satellite images “consistent with ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide.”
HILLARY AS VP? I’m hearing that again, though I’m skeptical. Personally, I’d rather see her at the top of the ticket. I told you that the war on terror is my number one issue, and I think she’d be tougher than Kerry. She certainly has been so far.
UPDATE: Hmm. She’s certainly photographing well these days!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Some people are less enthusiastic than me regarding a Hillary candidacy.
WILL BAUDE writes on Scalia and Thomas, in The New Republic.
IN THE MAIL: Two interesting books. One (nicely inscribed) is Joe Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, The Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything, and the other, coincidentally, is L. Brent Bozell’s Weapons of Mass Distortion : The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media. Though there are differences (they come from — obviously — different political directions) in a way they’re talking about the same thing, which is how information gatekeepers are losing their hold, and how that’s good for democracy.
I think they’re right, and I think that trying to force the changes brought by the communications revolution into an old-fashioned left/right mode, though understandable in an election year, makes little sense. To quote from BT (who thinks the revolution will be televised):
The revolution will be fought in all forms of media
The revolution will be fought on phone lines and cable modems and cellphones
The revolution will be a war of attrition, against the great dumbing down of our people.
Attrition, indeed. I suspect that Bozell and Trippi agree on that, and — based on a quick look at the books — a lot of other things. (I can’t find this song online, but it’s on this collection that I was just listening to in the car the other day). Left/Right, Democrat/Republican — that stuff’s important (sometimes) in the short run, but the overall changes are much bigger than that.
“Let freedom reign,” wrote President Bush as Iraq regained sovereignty Monday.
“Today, the secretary-general welcomes the state of Iraq back into the family of independent and sovereign nations,” said a United Nations statement.
In the gap between those two statements, you can see the world of difference that lies between the U.S. and the U.N. in approaching the worst troubles of our time. For America, and Mr. Bush, the struggles now upon us are basically about freedom, and rule of, by and for the people. For the U.N., and Mr. Annan, it is all about paternalism, consensus, family. And I’m sorry to say that the family that springs first to mind has a lot less to do with Gramps, Grandma and the kids than with the Mafia clan of TV fiction fame, the Sopranos.
Close, but no cigar. Actually, I think it’s more like this family:
The former underboss of the Bonanno crime family yesterday detailed the murders of three capos — allegedly orchestrated by his brother-in-law and boss, Joseph Massino — that called for him and a team of masked hit men to burst from a closet in a social club, armed with of pistols and a machine gun, to carry out the slayings.
But turncoat Salvatore “Good Looking Sal” Vitale admitted his job was marginalized to simply “guarding the door” with his tommy gun after he goofed up and hit the trigger as the thugs were setting up, spraying a wall with gunfire.
Criminal, and dangerous in a way, but not terribly competent.
UPDATE: Yes, it’s the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. “Five years after international armed intervention and UN administration, Kosovo doesn’t even have an effective police force, and no one wants to speculate on its ‘final status.’ This past March, as ethnic violence flared up again and Albanians attacked Serb homes, businesses and churches (a reversal of 1999’s violence), UN ‘peacekeeping’ forces essentially stood by and allowed mobs to continue their destruction. ”
NEOCONS PLAN IRAQ INVASION BEFORE 9/11! Reader Thad McArthur points to an interesting bit from the John Keegan article I linked earlier:
The plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom began to be drawn up as early as 1995, when Saddam’s combination of deviousness and intransigence persuaded Washington that it might not be possible to avoid a military confrontation if his determination to develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction were to be quashed.
The Clinton Administration: Just another set of marionettes for the Evil Neocon Puppetmasters!
ANDREW SULLIVAN: “Sometimes you don’t need Michael Moore connecting the dots, do you?”
TOM MAGUIRE has interesting stuff. Just keep scrolling.
THIS WEEK’S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS is up. Enjoy the business- and econo-blogging from all sorts of folks.
VIRGINIA POSTREL has lots of interesting stuff, including a hot new publicity photo.
DAVID HARDY AND JASON CLARKE’S NEW BOOK ON MICHAEL MOORE is now up to #8 on Amazon.
UPDATE: Blogosphereans may be interested to know that it features chapters by Tim Blair and Andrew Sullivan.
DARFUR UPDATE: I’m not all that surprised to read this:
EL FASHER, Sudan (Reuters) – The Sudanese government has disappointed Secretary of State Colin Powell in talks on the crisis in the troubled western region of Darfur, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
Powell, on the second day of a visit to Sudan, arrived in Darfur Wednesday for a first-hand look at some of the million people displaced by marauding Arab militias in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. . . .
“They are in a state of denial. They are in a state of avoidance. They are trying to obfuscate and avoid any consequences,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Human rights campaigners accuse Sudan’s pro-government Arab militia of carrying out genocide against black African residents of the Darfur region.
They are accused of forcing some one million people from their homes and killing at least 10,000.
Many thousands more are at risk of starving due to a lack of food in the camps where they have fled.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has refused to use the term genocide, which would carry a legal obligation to act.
But of course.
UPDATE: Stephen Manning emails that there’s a double standard here:
Imagine, if you will, that Sudan is actually a Catholic country and marauding Catholic militia were raiding, say, Muslim blacks in the region, murdering and reducing them to slavery. It might be imagineable a couple hundred years ago, but now it would be unthinkable. And the uproar would make the planet deaf. Islam is the Religion of Peace. Yeah.
And where are the fatwa’s against this behavior? If people don’t think the war on terror is not about a serious structural problem with the religion of Islam, they are living in PC paradise, where only white males can be bad.
Well, sort of. In fact, both the victims and the perpetrators here are Muslim. And the perpetrators are white (Arabs) while the victims are black. I suspect that the real reason for the world’s disinterest is that nobody’s figured out a way to blame the United States, or Israel.
Some people, however, are noting the hypocrisy.
More thoughts here.
THOUGHTS ON THE WAR, over at GlennReynolds.com. Where the John Kerry campaign is advertising!
BLACKFIVE WRITES that journalists are making fools of themselves via their ignorance of things military:
The military is not calling back discharged and retired individual soldiers. They are dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve. There is a big difference between calling up IRR soldiers and recalling retired or discharged soldiers.
When you sign a contract to enlist or get a commission, it is generally for EIGHT years. You perform four years of Active Duy, then you have four left in the Reserves or National Guard.
He dissects a number of stories that get it wrong. You know, this kind of thing might have been excusable before, but we’ve been at war for going on three years. You’d think somebody would have bothered to learn this stuff.
UPDATE: Here’s a related post from SgtStryker.com.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Rob Matteo emails:
Kudos for your post from Blackfive and Sgt. Stryker. I am a retired Army Officer and the minute I started hearing the reports of a “backdoor draft” etc. I knew that once again, the press has no clue on all things military. Any soldier would know there is a huge difference.
How is it possible that there is no editor or writer who has ever served in the miltary? Not very representative of our society I’d say.
They’ve got a diversity problem.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Shaun Evans emails:
It is bad that no journalists have served in the military. But it is
inexecusable to go to press with a story that could have been corrected
with a 15 second google search (including typing the query): Link
Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), a manpower pool in the Ready Reserve,
primarily consists of: Individuals who have had training, have served
previously in the Active component or the Selected Reserve, and have
some period of a military obligation remaining. IRR members are in an
active status, but do not perform regularly scheduled training.
Indeed. It’s almost like they want to get it wrong. Meanwhile Dan Williams emails that the confusion is widespread:
It’s not just the media getting it wrong. Teachers and parents are taking in the info and passing it to teens. I’m a scout master and deal with a lot of teen boys. Many seem to be convinced that the draft is coming back and the Bush admin is going to draft them all into the military.
I try to explain the politics to them when I get the chance, but it’s far more complex than they expect politics to be.
Charles Rangel with his Draft bill ain’t a Bushie.
And everybody’s happy about that, at least . . . .
THE LAST IN MY series of TechCentralStation columns on aging is up.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DISCOVERS Iraq’s Greg Packer. Or something like that, though this is probably unfair to Greg Packer.
ADDED SOME NEW PHOTOS over at the Exposure Manager site — both new stuff in the Tennessee Backroads gallery, and an entire new gallery of thematic stuff. I’m still way behind in reviewing and processing (via PhotoShop) images I’ve already taken.
Not all the photos are as pretty as some I’ve posted before, but they’re more in accordance with the Walker Evansish style that characterized my work some years ago.
And for those who wonder, I remain very happy with the Nikon D70. It’s hard to get a bad picture with that camera, though I’ve risen to the challenge from time to time. . .
EVAN COYNE MALONEY has a new video online. As always, it’s worth watching.
MY COLLEAGUE TOM PLANK emails this link to an article by John Keegan and comments: “I served with D Co., 1st Bn, 7th Marines, 1 MarDiv, in Vietnam. I was proud to read this. If I were a 21-yr old college grad (now and earlier with Afghanistan), I would sign up again.”
AMBER TAYLOR is trying to get International Kissing Day to take off in the United States.
It’s next Tuesday, so start warming up those lips.
UPDATE: I like this observation, from Amber’s comments:
Y’know, if we can get a national “Talk Like A Pirate Day”, we should be able to get a Kissing Day. It would be really amusing if we could get one of the two days to rotate in such a fashion that every once in a while they would overlap. Then again, “Kiss me, you scurvy wench!” might be a deal breaker for many a young lady…
Some, on the other hand, might like it.
KERRY CROSSES A PICKET LINE? Northwestern Univ. Law Professor James Lindgren sends this email:
As the New York Times reported yesterday, John Kerry refused to cross a picket line on Monday in Boston to speak to the National Conference of Mayors. He was quoted as saying on Sunday night: “‘I don’t cross picket lines,’ he said. ‘I never have.'”
Yet this morning (Tuesday) in Chicago Kerry spoke at the annual meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, which was being very actively picketed by a labor group, Voices of Morality (VOM). VOM is leading a labor discrimination protest against Daimler-Chrysler (the signs that the picketers were holding looked very much like ones in pictures on the VOM website). Jackson and the PUSH conference were being targeted because, according to a local Chicago ABC TV news report, Jackson has ties to Daimler-Chrysler. The reporter referred to the PUSH coalition conference as one on “labor,” but neither the official text of the Kerry speech nor the PUSH website lists that as the topic of the conference, though of course PUSH is best known nationally for its labor activities–picketing corporations and negotiating financial deals with them.
I just watched the 11:30am ABC-Channel 7 (Chicago) coverage of Kerry’s speech and the protest. The pickets were obvious and clear and were mentioned more than once in the report, but there was no specific mention in the report how Kerry entered the hotel where the conference was being held, whether pickets were present when he entered the hotel, or whether he or his staff knew of the labor picketing going on.
I hope that the NY Times and the rest of the press following Kerry will sort out the facts of this tantalizing story. Perhaps they might determine whether:
1. Kerry changed his mind since Sunday night and now does cross picket lines if the stakes are high enough (which would let mayors understand where they rate).
2. Kerry always believed in crossing some picket lines (treating some sorts of labor picketing as different from others, a defensible position but one that would be inconsistent with his Sunday statement that he doesn’t cross picket lines).
3. Neither Kerry nor his staff was aware of the labor protest and picketing (either because it appeared after they arrived at the hotel or some other reason), in which case Kerry should answer whether he made an understandable and regrettable mistake in appearing at a conference being picketed over labor issues.
I hope someone in Chicago will look into this. It sounds like news.
UPDATE: Nothing in this story about the picket line, but it was a panderthon!
ANOTHER UPDATE: More questions. Greg Sanders emails about Boston:
Just a question, but what happens when the Democrats hold their Convention in Boston if the picket line is still there? Does Kerry cross it then and not support the labor side of the dispute? Do they move the convention so he does not have to cross a picket line? Do they (Democrats) convince the strikers to come to a temp agreement till the convention is over so that he does not have to cross a picket line? Or they (Democrats) just do not recognize it as a picket line but view them as a show of support from labor and well wishers at the convention (anyone can believe what they want)? Just thought I would ask.
Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I may have an answer via this email from reader Gerald Dearing:
For what it’s worth: Spent Monday in Boston. The buzz on the radio was that quite a few in the party were miffed that Kerry had “stiffed” the mayors. This was accompanied by speculation that there was a deal in place where the union would agree not to picket the Dem’s Convention if Kerry supported their stand now. No links, no proof. But it’s an interesting point: will Kerry refuse to cross a picket line if it means he fails to accept his own nomination?
Last I heard from Gerald he was stranded in Missoula with a blown supercharger, so I’m glad to get a report from Boston. This sounds interesting, anyway. And finally, reader Dave Farrell thinks he’s got the formula figured out:
I guess even John Kerry would find it difficult to straddle a picket line, although this is a stout effort. I think it works like scissors, paper, rock: picket line beats mayors, Jesse Jackson (“rainbow vote”) trumps picket line. Alas, how shameless politics is.
MICKEY KAUS busts the New York Times’ horserace coverage: “But the Times coverage isn’t really that bad. It’s worse!”
UPDATE: Brendan Loy responds to Kaus on Dem Panic. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to lose. Not because Bush is unbeatable — because we have a crappy candidate who can do no better than tying Bush when he’s at his absolute low-point. This is all Iowa’s fault.”
BACK FROM IRAQ, a Marine reservist comments on the press coverage.
UNITED NATIONS June 29, 2004 — The U.S. government has expelled two Iranian security guards working at Iran’s U.N. mission, citing activities “incompatible with their stated duties” diplomatic language for spying.
The guards were taking photos of infrastructure, modes of transportation and New York City landmarks, a U.S. official said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. They were the third set of Iranian guards caught taking pictures.
If anything happens in New York, we’ll know who to look at.
DARFUR UPDATE: Here’s a link-rich post on Colin Powell’s visit to the Sudan today, and on the Sudanese government’s effort to keep the lid on the ongoing Darfur genocide.
YOUR DONATIONS AT WORK: I’m sending this Pentax digital camera to Iraq along with my secretary, a Marine combat-engineer reservist who’s headed over there next week. It looks good for the duty: compact, waterproof (which I hope means dust-resistant), uses AA batteries and shoots video with sound. (The PayPal donation balance just about covered it.) He’s a bit of a photo/video geek, so I’m hoping he’ll send back some good stuff. If I get any, I’ll post it.
DAVID HARDY AND JASON CLARKE’S new book about Michael Moore went on sale today, and it’s already at #20 on Amazon. I got an advance copy last week, but the InstaWife immediately stole it. (She’s bad about that).
Just for the record, though, I don’t think that Moore is stupid.
CHIRAC, TURKEY, AND THE E.U.: Some interesting observations from George Miller.
UPDATE: EurSoc observes:
It is hard to believe that once upon a time, French was the language of diplomacy. . . . Bush, having seen Chirac explode when New European nations disagreed with him over the Iraq war (“they missed a good chance to shut up”) will not take it personally. When Chirac is in a corner, as he is so often these days, he lashes out. It is a sign he is beaten.
SPOONS THINKS I was too easy on Judge Guido Calabresi’s comparison of Bush to Mussolini and Hitler. It’s just that the statement was so out of character for him that it’s easy for me to believe he didn’t mean for it to come out that way. Of course, as Joel Engel notes, the Mussolini comparison would better fit someone besides Bush:
Mussolini stood on street corners and shouted that Italy’s war with Turkey and its 1911 invasion of Libya were an imperial grab meant to distract the people from their hunger. He organized and led protests, some of them violent, and was jailed. That made him a martyr and, when he was released, a hero of the left. As a reward, Avanti, the newspaper of Italy’s socialist party, named him editor. This was where he earned a national reputation, for his nasty editorials against the government. He was a socialist, not an anarchist, but he also showed contempt for democracy, believing that most people were too stupid to know what was in their own best interests and that they were anyway too ignorant to choose their own best leaders.
Hmm. That doesn’t sound much like Bush.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has posted the text of Calabresi’s apology letter.
NEWS FROM SYRIA: “After four years of Bashar al-Assad’s presidency in Syria, his promises of economic and political reform have not materialised. The system he inherited from his father, including a feared security service, looks very much the same.” Someone tell the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Oh, wait. . .
DAN KENNEDY: “Get ready for the next John Kerry media feeding frenzy. Following the court-ordered release of Illinois Republican Senate candidate (make that former candidate) Jack Ryan’s seamy divorce papers, anti-Kerry forces are now demanding the same treatment for Kerry and his first wife, Julia Thorne.”
I agree with Kennedy’s take on this: “If Ryan and his ex-wife wanted their sealed records to remain sealed, that should have been respected. Voters should have been trusted to make what they would of the Ryans’ refusal to go public. Same with Kerry and Thorne.”
I’m also pretty sure it won’t work out that way.
But, however many witnesses to disaster Jon Snow succeeds in finding, witnesses willing to denounce their government and armed forces, he cannot alter the record. The war was conceived and conducted in the honest belief that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. It was legally justified by United Nations Security Council Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. It was, moreover, as a military operation, astonishingly successful, probably the most successful war ever fought between a democracy and a dictatorship.
He’s somewhat less positive on the reconstruction.
COLIN POWELL is travelling to Darfur.
Human Rights Watch seems to want military action.
UPDATE: Here’s a report that the Sudanese government is trying to keep things quiet:
The Sudanese government dispatched 500 men last week to this sweltering camp of 40,000 near El Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, the refugees and aid workers said. The men, some dressed in civilian clothes, others in military uniforms, warned the refugees to keep quiet about their experiences when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visit the region this week.
Darfur has been the scene of more than 16 months of conflict between residents of the region and Arab militiamen backed by the government. Aid workers say 30,000 people have been killed by the militia and more than 1.2 million forced to flee their homes.
I guess it’s not working very well.
THERE ARE NOW 254 READER REVIEWS of Bill Clinton’s book. Skimming them is like rerunning the 1990s.
LIKE WOODSTOCK FOR SPACE JUNKIES: Dale Amon has a photo essay from the SpaceShipOne test flight at Mojave.
A SCIENTIST SAYS WE’RE BLOWING IT ON HOMELAND SECURITY against biowar attacks. The program, he says, is generating pork, not progress, and may actually make us more vulnerable, not less so. I don’t know if he’s right here, but it’s certainly plausible.
A certain amount of pork and confusion is inevitable, of course, but my sense is that the Homeland Security measures have been exceptionally bad, and that the Bush Administration would be vulnerable on that, if anyone bothered to make an issue of it.
KEITH BURGESS JACKSON: “Search though I may, I have yet to find the inferential path from ‘President Bush lied’ to ‘The war in Iraq was unjustified’ — which makes me wonder why the first of these sentences is uttered so often.”
SOME INTERESTING STUFF from Iraqi talk radio. Hey, if you’ve got talk radio, you’re free!
A SPACE ELEVATOR IN FIFTEEN YEARS? I’d like to see that, God knows, but that seems pretty soon.
But the increasingly volatile Chirac is in no mood for pandering to the British.
‘He’s tetchy, unhappy, doesn’t quite know which way to go – his officials are all frightened of him and nobody’s giving him any advice,’ says one Foreign Office source.
Interesting development, anyway. It certainly doesn’t sound as if he’s brimming with delight over the results of his past two years of politicking and diplomacy. But then, as the story says (first link) “Mr Chirac’s outburst reflects the unresolved tensions over Iraq and France’s declining influence in the EU and Nato. ” Ouch.
UPDATE: Reader Nathan Machula emails:
Another Chirac quote from the article:
“He has nothing to say on this subject. It is as if I were to tell the United States how it should conduct its relations with Mexico.”
…or it’s as if Chirac were to tell the US how it should conduct its relations with Iraq.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Bush is hanging tough: “In remarks prepared for delivery at a Istanbul university, Bush refused to back down in the face of Chirac’s criticism on Monday that Bush had no business urging the EU to set a date for Turkey to start entry talks into the union.”
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Yet another diplomatic success for the Bush Administration: “Schroeder Says Germany and France Plan to Back Turkey’s EU Bid.” A bit of, er, weasel-room if you read the whole story, but clearly a defeat for Chirac any way you look at it. Heh.
BY THE WAY, SmokyBlog may be history, but Fletch is up and running with a new Texas photoblog, Austin Country Limits. Unsurprisingly, it’s good!
CANADIAN ELECTION DEADLOCK? I’m not sure what this means. Less dynamism up north? Stay tuned.
Colby Cosh is liveblogging the returns.
UPDATE: Damian Penny has been liveblogging, too, and his conclusion is mixed but disappointed:
Just two or three months ago, if you told me we’d get 90 seats and almost 30% of the vote at election time, driving the seemingly unbeatable Martin Liberals into a minority government, I would have been thrilled. But I’m devastated. If we can’t win an election now, when the hell can we win?
Maybe next time.
I GOT AN EMAIL THE OTHER DAY slamming me for not having comments on my site. I get those occasionally, and they’re usually nasty enough that they’re self-refuting — yeah, I really want to give you a platform, buddy. . . .
But, as Eugene Volokh noted in a discussion of this topic a while back (read it, as I agree entirely and he said it better than I could, as usual), the worst part isn’t the flaming by people who don’t agree with you, it’s the nasty comments by people who generally agree with you.
For example, Q&O made a perfectly reasonable point about James Rubin, only to see the comments degenerate into nasty remarks about Rubin’s wife, Christiane Amanpour. I don’t like Amanpour, whom I regard as excessively agenda-driven, but I wouldn’t want her called names like that on my blog. Which means I’d either have to edit such comments out, or live with it. I don’t have the time for the former, and I’m not willing to do the latter.
Some blogs, like Daniel Drezner’s or Roger Simon’s seem to avoid that problem most of the time, but I think it’s a scaling issue — up to a certain level of traffic it feels like a conversation, past that it degenerates into USENET. At any rate, I’d rather blog than deal with comments.
The other problem, which I’ve seen both at blogs I agree with and blogs I don’t, is that bloggers can be captured by their commenters. It’s immediate feedback, and it’s interesting (it’s about you!) and I can imagine it could become addictive. My impression is that often, instead of serving as a corrective to errors, comment sections tend to lure bloggers farther in the direction they already lean. Anyway, I worry about that.
And since anybody can start a blog, I don’t feel that the absence of a comment section on InstaPundit is doing much to choke off free speech. [The Blogosphere is my comment section! — Ed. Er, yeah, something like that.]
UPDATE: Hmm. Looks like Billmon has had exactly the experience I feared:
I thought I was opening the kind of smoky little bar where the regulars outnumber the first-time customers, and, as the Cheers theme song had it, “everybody knows your name.” Instead, I’ve ended up with something that’s more like one of those huge franchise watering holes were you have to shout to be heard over the roar of the crowd.
Which means that playing the role of bartender/moderator has been sucking up progressively more of my limited blogging time, while becoming progressively less enjoyable – a textbook example of diminishing returns.
Perry DeHavilland has more thoughts, here.
Western intelligence officials are examining reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards attempted to cover up a nuclear accident that occurred during the delivery of a secret shipment of weapons-grade uranium from North Korea.
The accident allegedly caused Teheran’s new international airport to be sealed off by Revolutionary Guard commanders within hours of its official opening on May 9.
I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s certainly plausible. I guess we’ll just have to see what develops.
A DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS for the United States.
UPDATE: But this story seems to be good news:
Oil prices dropped sharply Monday as Iraq increased exports after mending sabotaged pipelines and as extra supplies from other OPEC members reassured international markets.
Some additional pressure was taken off the market by the resolution of a labor dispute in Norway, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, late last week.
“You have a lot of good news out there,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.
Even the antiwar folks can be happy: If oil prices rise, it’s proof that Bush is helping out his oil-industry buddies. But if they fall, it’s proof that the war was for oil all along. Win/win!
SMOKYBLOG, ALAS, IS GONE, but here’s a nice gallery of Smoky Mountain pictures from Cindy Haggerty.
I WAS GOING TO DO A ROUNDUP of Iraqi blog posts on the sovereignty handover, but Michele Catalano beat me to it.
VIRGINIA POSTREL has an interesting article on operations research, and a fascinating blog post on why the press isn’t covering the big productivity-gain story very well at all.
MORE THOUGHTS ON LONGEVITY, over at GlennReynolds.com.
JAMES LILEKS explores the heart of darkness: “Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”
PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH has thoughts on John Kerry and human rights.
TIM BLAIR is back from Malaysia, and offers readers a host of delights. Just keep scrolling.
NOTE: Box Office Mojo asked Michael Moore and company to comment for this story, but they wanted to screen the questions in advance. As policy, Box Office Mojo does not conduct interviews under such circumstances, so there will be no comment from them.
Moore used to be a gadfly. Now he’s part of the Establishment.
GINNY AUTHORS an essay worthy of Bill Whittle.
MY EARLIER POST on the Lost in Space DVD collection led a couple of readers to ask how I liked the Gilligan’s Island collection I mentioned a while back. Very much. Surprisingly, the InstaWife — who like me, grew up on the syndicated reruns — liked it, too. The unaired pilot (featuring different actors in the roles of the Professor, Ginger, and Mary Ann, and a different, Calypsoesque theme song) was interesting, too.
THE NEW STATESMAN ON France and human rights:
When it comes to foreign policy, opinion polls as well as a sampling of Hollywood blockbusters show that Americans see themselves as the good sheriff, selflessly sorting out a strange and unpredictable world. But as they chew over the congressional report on 9/11, they are clearly struggling to come to terms with the reality of their latest foreign adventure.
In contrast, the French foreign ministry is unambiguous about its role: France is the birthplace of human rights and the cradle of the Enlightenment. Thanks to giants such as Voltaire, France inspired others – for example, in the United States – to liberate themselves from oppressive, corrupt aristocratic elites.
So much for self-image: in practice, the French are running the cash registers in a Wild West whorehouse. Not only do the French, like Edith Piaf, regret nothing: their determination to keep their arms exports booming pushes them to sidestep their own laws, not to mention the international conventions they have signed. While all countries tend to pursue a foreign policy based on self-interest, the French have a network of arms salesmen and military advisers working in concert within their perceived spheres of influence to supply mass murderers. . . .
She has a leaked memo confirming that the French supplied members of the interim government responsible for the massacres with satellite phones to direct operations across the country. “They hand-delivered them by courier,” she says. “In the run-up to the massacres, the French had 47 senior officers living with and training the genocidaires. French policy is about influence and money and Francophonie,” says Melvern. “They are very professional at manipulating the UN system. By controlling Boutros Boutros-Ghali, their candidate for UN secretary general, they determined what information about the Rwandan genocide reached the outside world.”
Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that business interests might be tipping the balance against France’s taking a stand on human rights in Sudan. Jemera Rone of Human Rights Watch explains that TotalFinaElf has oil concessions in southern Sudan that it cannot touch until the peace deal between Khartoum and the south sticks. The French are wary of giving the regime in Khartoum a hard time about its ongoing ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Darfur, in case it walks away from the southern peace deal, thus imperilling Total’s prospects.
Read the whole thing.
ARNOLD KLING has problems with the Washington Post’s front page.
INTERESTING STUFF on the Padilla and Hamdi cases, over at Volokh. This bit is interesting: “Scalia’s dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld suggests he would be a fifth vote for the Padilla dissent’s position on the merits. He says that, unless the government suspends the writ of habeas corpus (which it has not done), the government must charge a citizen it is holding with a crime. It cannot detain a citizen without charging him.”
I agree. And this bit, also from Scalia, appears to be a bit of a slap at the Chief Justice: “Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it.”
UPDATE: I just got out of a 90+ minute faculty meeting, but Eugene Volokh has further thoughts:
I’ve only read the Hamdi case so far, but here’s a tentative thought (subject to revision as I read the other cases and rethink the matter) — two significant facts in this case are that Justice Scalia voted against the government, and Justice Breyer voted (partly) in favor of the government.
This is because these votes may well change the political dynamics within the conservative and liberal movements.
I think that’s right. There’s more on the Supreme Court at The Volokh Conspiracy, so just scroll up and down. And Marty Lederman has thoughts, too, over at SCOTUSblog. So, in a very different vein, does Mark Levin.
A SAUDI NON-CONNECTION: Daniel Drezner has a column discussing something from the 9/11 Commission report that didn’t get a lot of attention, perhaps because it undercuts Bush critics who say he’s too cozy with Saudi Arabia:
If those who oppose the Bush administration want to excoriate the government for making it appear that the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda was stronger than it actually was, so be it. But it would be nice to see some of those critics acknowledge that their preferred target has been absolved as well — and that the administration has not been lying down on the job in making life difficult for Al Qaeda.
Of course, the force of this point depends to some degree on how much faith one has in the Commission, and I have very little. In addition, the finding that “we found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded al Qaeda,” strikes me as rather carefully worded. But it’s certainly true that those who treat the Commission as reliable in other contexts have to deal with this finding, too. Or at least they would, if anyone paid it any attention.
UPDATE: Drezner has more thoughts on his blog. Why don’t I think much of the Commission? Leaving aside Jamie Gorelick’s various conflicts of interest, the relentless partisan public posturing and the tendency to ignore important issues, all well-documented in the blogosphere, caused me to decide that it wasn’t a serious enterprise, and was aimed at the TV cameras more than the truth.
For a somewhat different view, read Mark Steyn’s column on How the September 11 commission blew it: “These poseurs have blown it so badly they’ve become the definitive example of what they’re meant to be investigating: a culture so stuck in its way it’s unable to change even in the most extreme circumstances.”
Okay, it’s not that different.
IN AN UPDATE to his earlier post on the new Niger developments, Greg Djerejian notes that Josh Marshall appears to be disputing the new Financial Times reports of a Niger/Iraq uranium connection, and offers some comments.
UPDATE: Reader Paul Harper thinks I’m somehow boycotting Josh Marshall. Er, he’s permalinked over to the right, you know. . . But here’s the link to Marshall’s rather cloak-and-daggerish post (which is also linked by Greg Djerejian, of course). But I don’t think you’ll be able to make much of Marshall’s post without reading Djerejian’s first.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks he has the answer, which he says is boring, and notes a startling possible source for the forged documents — disgruntled CIA agents? “If Josh Marshall is endorsing that, and is about to confirm that, I can not imagine how it will be presented as a Bush-basher (but it will be!).” Stay tuned.
ARTHUR CHRENKOFF has posted this week’s Euro news roundup, where polls are telling some people things they don’t want to know. And Gerhard Schroeder has successfully blocked the publication of a novel. I blame John Aschroft!
And speaking of roundups, Alphecca’s weekly roundup of media gun coverage is up.
IN THE MAIL: A copy of Frank Newport’s forthcoming book, Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People. Newport, the Editor-in-Chief of Gallup, is out to make the case for the importance of polling in a democracy, and he’s obviously concerned that polls are losing credibility. That’s because — as Eugene Volokh regularly notes — polls that are unscientific, or that are misrepresented by media coverage, are so common. Newport’s most interesting point is that polls can uncover collective wisdom (he sounds almost like Howard Smart Mobs Rheingold in places) that other mechanisms miss.
That may be true, but sloppiness and dishonesty in polling — and, to a much greater extent, in media reporting of polls, something Newport devotes a chapter to — are doing considerable damage to the institution, and those who care about it should be paying more attention to that issue.
And if all this stuff interests you, you may be interested in Daniel Drummond’s link-rich post on polling over at The Fourth Rail.
NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: More on scare tactics in the nano-wars:
We’ve seen this before, in the politicization of biotechnology through junk science. The European Parliament, which did so much to undermine genetically modified food, is set to join the nanowar. It commissioned a report that said nanoparticles should not be released into the environment. The message: Humanity must be saved from the technology that could save humanity.
Color me unsurprised.
AN EARLY TURNOVER OF SOVEREIGNTY in Iraq — a clever way to forestall terrorist attacks planned for June 30. And a self-governing, democratic Iraq is what the terrorists dread.
Now will we see early elections for the same reason? I hope so.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Alt comments from Baghdad, and Michael Rubin has comments too. Meanwhile, for the press, it’s all about — the press! “As someone who was in the Press Room in Baghdad when the announcement was made to the Press via a phone call, I can tell you that there were flacks who visibly angry at being ‘duped.'” I don’t blame them for being mad. What’s more important — the future of the Middle East and America, or the care and feeding of media egos?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting list of CPA accomplishments here. As someone who’s been critical of the CPA, I should note that it has actually done a lot.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Greenspan emails:
On CBS Radio’s 1:00 EDT news roundup, the Iraq handover was the second story, behind the Supreme Court decisions. I was amazed at that editorial choice, and perhaps this is the explanation:
One thing I am absolutely sure about. The press is vexed, mightily vexed. They won’t say it, they can’t. But a zillion muckety-mucks have gone to Iraq to be there for the handover and they got scooped. Plans have been trashed, egos bruised. It will be interesting to see how or if this gets translated into coverage.
A READER EMAILS FROM IRAQ: “My Arabic isn’t too good, but the local radio in Iraq is stating that Zarqawi has been captured by Iraqi intelligence. All our laborers are chattering about it and seem extremely pleased (most are Kurdish).” However, the U.S. military is denying it.
ROBERT TAGORDA compares Al Gore’s statements with those of Bill Clinton and concludes: “I think that Gore is simply more radical than Clinton. It would benefit the public to see the divergence clearly in the news.”
FISH: It really is a brain food.
“I’ve been at him for years, saying ‘you’ve got to lose weight,’ ” Nader said in the phone interview. “Now, he’s doubled. Private exhortations aren’t working. It’s extremely serious. He’s over 300 pounds. He’s like a giant beach ball.”
He’s unhappy with his politics, too.
BALDILOCKS NOTES some non-digital brownshirt action.
BOOKS FOR IRAQ: This sounds worthy, and — especially if you’re any sort of a professor — you should check it out.
INTERESTING THOUGHTS on security and the Iraqi transition, from Daniel Drezner and some of his commenters. I agree that the Sunnis will likely have cause to regret not coming to an accommodation with the United States before the transition.
URANIUM AND NIGER: Greg Djerejian notices some potentially embarrassing developments. Er, embarrassing for Joe Wilson, that is.
UPDATE: Djerejian has updated his post in response to a second Financial Times story, and suggests that it’s not just Wilson who may wind up being embarrassed.
JAMES RUBIN confronts his past.
SOME INTERESTING, AND DISTURBING, news about SpaceShipOne’s flight.
IS NATO A FRAUDULENT COALITION? Patrick Belton’s roundup of what to expect at the Istanbul summit is interesting throughout, but this is what struck me:
Of 1.4 million soldiers under Nato arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. Then there are the problems of interoperability: there is a recurring problem of coalition-wide secure communications which can be drawn on in operations. Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.
Militarily, then, NATO just doesn’t bring a lot to the table nowadays. Then, as Belton notes, “The other problem is political will, which is most in evidence on the issue of terrorism. ” Indeed. Both problems call into question both criticisms of Bush for not getting the NATO allies more involved, and proposals for moving U.S. strategy in a more multilateral direction. Read the whole thing, though, for some criticisms of the Bush Administration that are more cogent, if less campaign-oriented, than that one.
UPDATE: Reader Eric Bainter says this is nothing new:
When I was assigned to NATO in the late 80’s/early 90’s, the standard joke was (and probably had been since NATO’s inception) that “NATO” stands for “Needs Americans To Operate.” (The alternate was “Needs Alcohol To Operate,” which wasn’t too far off the mark either). It was pretty clear that for any major event, you were gonna need a lot of Yankees doing all those things mentioned in the article — command & control, comm, especially airlift, and of course, actual fighting troops of any significant size.
One example of this came about during the first Gulf War – NATO’s response as a non-belligerent was called Anchor Guard, and was to protect Turkey from being attacked by Iraq. The NATO owned & operated E-3A Component sent AWACS planes, the Dutch sent some Patriot batteries, and the Germans sent Alpha jets. Chem warfare suits were cobbled together from American masks and German suits, because most NATO countries did not have NBC ensembles that were worth a damn (e.g. the Turks didn’t have any).
However, we needed more secure housing for the AWACS crews and ground support – they were living in hotels in Turkish cities — Turkey’s bases were no where near big enough to support a surge of troops (which seems to be another problem with most of our allies’ bases). The Germans offered up portable shelters that had recently come into their inventory when they took over the East German forces. However, there was no way to transport them within NATO – the US Air Force airlifters were completely booked up with Desert Shield/Storm. The Belgians had some C-130s, but had already refused to fly ammo for the Brits to use in Desert Storm (typical). NATO had three 707s, but they were maxed out rotating AWACS crews to Turkey, and didn’t have a lot of cargo space. The German Transall airlifters were probably too small. The solution – Aeroflot (yes, the former Soviet now Russian airline) was contracted to move them to Turkey! I thought it was both amazing and hilarious that the Russky’s were supporting NATO. Aeroflot moved the shelters to Turkey, but their airplane broke down on one of the missions and was stuck for 3 weeks while a part was located and flown in from way the heck off in the former Soviet Union somewhere.
The Russky’s also gave unofficial morale support – a Russion “exotic dance troupe” was on tour in one of the Turkish cities when well over a hundred NATO AWACS personnel came rolling in…the dancers immediately cancelled the rest of their tour and stayed for the duration of the war.
LUNCH WITH THE SOLDIERS: An interesting report.
NOT QUITE worldwide, really.