May 17, 2003

MATT WELCH WRITES on being Ben Affleck for a day.

Matt's squeeze is much more attractive than Ben's, though.

BLOGCRITICS has got The Matrix: Reloaded covered from every angle. Here's the master post with links to all the others.

HOWELL RAINES: Alert reader John Robert Kelly points to John Ellis's statement of over a year ago, quoted in this InstaPundit entry:

The Rainesian management model resembles a kind of anti-network; in which an ever-smaller number of people are engaged in the guidance and definition of the enterprise. As the network narrows, the center (Raines and his management team) grows in importance. At its worst, this kind of management leads to the Sun God management system, in which The Great Leader is surrounded by adoring sycophants. Raines is a prime candidate to fall into this trap, since his ego needs greatly exceed his management skills.

Here's the link to the full Ellis post. It works at the moment, but as it's a Blogspot site, well, no promises.

Meanwhile, given that Ellis proved so prescient about Howell Raines' management issues, here's something he noted last week that may prove just as prophetic:

The killer fact: Over the course of the last decade, New York City has added not one private sector job and nearly 100,000 public sector jobs. There's a tipping point for most everything and New York City is in danger of tipping over.


TIM RUTTEN writes that Howell Raines' efforts to get ahead of the Jayson Blair scandal have been unsuccessful.

JONATHAN RAUCH has this right:

In short, the United States has been on the wrong side of Arab history for almost five decades, and it is not doing much better than the Soviets. The old policy had no future, only a past. It was a dead policy walking. September 11 was merely the death certificate.

Bush is no sophisticate, but he has the great virtue— not shared by most sophisticates—of knowing a dead policy when he sees one. So he gathered up the world's goodwill and his own political capital, spent the whole bundle on dynamite, and blew the old policy to bits. However things come out in Iraq, the war's larger importance is to leave little choice, going forward, but to put America on the side of Arab reform.

Reform will take years, decades even, and it will mean different things in different countries. In Iraq, it meant force. In Syria, it means hostile prodding; in Saudi Arabia, friendly prodding. It means setting a subversive example for Iran, creating the region's second democracy in Palestine, building on change in Qatar and Kuwait, leading Egypt gently toward multiparty politics. Progress will be fitful, at best. But the direction will be right, for a change.

This is a breathtakingly bold undertaking. The difficulties are staggering. Everything might go wrong. But the crucial point to remember is that everything had already gone wrong. No available policy could justify optimism in the Arab world, but the new policy at least offers hope. It offers a path ahead, a future where there had been only a past. It is not dead. It puts America on the right side of history and on the right side of America.

Much of Europe is alarmed by the change, but then, it would be. American troops in Saudi Arabia guaranteed the flow of oil while turning the United States (along with Israel) into the scapegoat of choice for millions of angry Muslims, some of whom live in Europe. From Paris's or Amsterdam's or Bremen's point of view, what's not to like about that deal? Why must Washington go and stir everything up?


UPDATE: Chris Noble thinks we'll be better off for the revolution. So do I.

BLOGEOISIE: the "class of people who read and write blogs." The term's from the BBC, which seems to have gotten it from Spiked, which seems rather, er, fitting, doesn't it? Soon that will be their rallying cry: Epater les blogeois! Or maybe it already is. . . .

UPDATE: The Beeb appears to be behind the curve here: the term turns out to be over a year old. On the other hand, I don't remember seeing it before.

Meanwhile Roger Simon emails wondering when someone will film Le Charme Discrete de la Blogeoisie. Well, Roger, you are a filmmaker. . . .

A NANOTECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGH? It's certainly an answer to those who said it was impossible to manipulate single atoms.

YES, I'VE BEEN BLOGGING LESS LATELY. Thanks for noticing. There are a number of reasons. One is that things have slowed down -- in fact, it seems that almost everyone is blogging less. The war isn't over, but we're in -- as Steven Den Beste notes -- a different phase now. The other day I took down the flag I had taped in the rear window of my car just after 9/11. I put up another one, but it seemed to mark a milestone of sorts. Things aren't less important now, and I think the Iraqi reconstruction is actually very important, but it's a different kind of importance with fewer day-to-day developments.

I've also been quite busy in my real job. I'm grading exams at the moment (ugh -- this post by Jeff Cooper captures the essence well). In the last couple of weeks I've also finished up an article on applying the "incidents" methodology used in international law to constitutional questions, written a piece for Legal Affairs on legal regulation of nanotechnology, and wound up the work of a major faculty committee that I'm on. You know, the day job. Paypal notwithstanding, it's what pays the bills.

I've also become very interested in video. With my DVD burner fixed (well, replaced), I put together a music-video DVD of my brother's band. I edited some footage I had from his outdoor concert at "Volapalooza" into a passable music video and made a fancy DVD whose menu page featured a cool photo of the band (taken from their webpage) and an animated menu where the buttons showed short loops of video. It was surprisingly easy, and the results look great. I'm very happy with the Sonic Foundry Vegas Video 4 / DVD Architect bundle. Both programs work well, don't crash, and are easy and pretty intuitive to use. Plus, with the academic discount the bundle was only about $250, which is pretty cool since it lets you do things that would have required $250,000 worth of equipment not long ago.

So that's what's going on here. Blogging will continue, but -- all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding -- I do try to have a life from time to time.

UPDATE: I guess it's not just me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Nope, definitely not

SAMIZDATA IS BACK, having been blown offline by a "bandwidth spike" caused, sadly, by one of my links. According to the Samizdatistas, "Glenn Reynolds has blown up more servers than Al Qaeda."

But I do it with love. And I'm not taking the rap for the Burning Annie site's "bandwidth exceeded" problems without more evidence.

Speaking of blogosphere news, An Age Like This is back up, too -- but its shutdown wasn't my fault!

And Edward Boyd's Zonitics blog is now a group-blog. Well, he's added a coblogger anyway. Hmm. Maybe group blogs are the wave of the future.

Maybe I should add a co-blogger. Do you think Monica Bellucci would be interested?

May 16, 2003

BLAME CANADA: Tennessee's first SARS case is a man who had travelled to Toronto.

JEFF JARVIS has more on the Iranian mullahs' paranoid and doomed efforts at Internet censorship.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT? This time it's Susan Estrich.


So what exactly is Schumer's position? That "the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own guns"? That it secures "just a collective right to a well-regulated militia"? Or that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own guns, but that it's wrong for Attorney General Ashcroft to agree with that?

Read the whole thing, and marvel. One possible explanation: Schumer has realized that it's basically impossible for a straightforwardly anti-gun candidate to be elected President.

UPDATE: Tom Perry says that he has decoded Schumer's stance.

ALGERIA UPDATE: Yep, it was Islamic extremists, all right:

Wintersteller, a 63-year-old retired technician, disappeared in late March, along with seven other tourists. One early theory was that they had fallen victim to smugglers who frequent the border region.

But Wintersteller described his abductors as Islamic extremists who "wanted to install an Islamic state in Algeria and overthrow the government." He quoted the kidnappers as saying they were negotiating with the hostages' governments.

I hope that this will get more attention.


Nobody felt safe in Iraq after Saddam became president in 1979, launching a relentless crackdown on his political opponents. I saw some of my secondary school peers murdered. On one occasion, five of them were led out of class and executed for no obvious reason other than that they disagreed with Saddam and his method of ruling the country by fear. They paid for what they believed in with their lives. . .

I had to leave my family, which was destroyed. My brother was killed while on duty in the army. My other two brothers were disabled during their compulsory military service.

Saddam was a disaster for the whole region, and removing him was a necessity. His regime was the cause of wars and instability. Peace and stability could not be established while it was in place. . .

Many questions came to mind: Why did the world allow him to cause so much devastation and suffering in Iraq? Why was the Arab world happy to support a mass murderer? What would have Iraq looked like if we had a government like the one in Kuwait, or even Jordan? Would it not have been a sought-after destination for historians, archaeologists, believers of all world religions, as well as ordinary holidaymakers?



I wonder if this is what the French are worried about?

HOW TO LOOK LIKE A VICTIM: More evidence that crime policies in Britain are insane. And I mean that literally.

FREEDOM TO TINKER has a table showing the status of state "super-DMCA" bills. I don't think they're so super, though.

UPDATE: How desperate are the Big Entertainment folks to keep this under the radar? Desperate enough that even newspapers are finding out about it from blogs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Earlier this said "Big Media folks" above, which was a slip on my part and suggested -- wrongly -- that I was blaming the Rocky Mountain News. I just meant that the legislation is being slipped through quietly, not that the Rocky was in any way wrong here.

FRANCE IS ACCUSING the United States of organizing a campaign of lies against it.

Lies? Why bother when the truth has been so damning? I think this is revealing, though, in that it suggests the French establishment can't conceive of a media wave that isn't government-directed.

UPDATE: Of course, this effort is only getting the French more negative attention. Steven Den Beste is slamming France for playing the victim card, and notes:

If France is a victim, then it's a victim of its own delusions of grandeur and its own lack of honor. If the government of France truly thinks that it can paint over the events of the last year and try to pretend they never happened, then we will have to augment that description: The French are decadent, treacherous and incredibly stupid lying weasels.

And that's not even the mean part. Then there's this observation, from Porphyrogenitus:

What the French really want is for us to return to the status quo ante, where they worked to undercut America at every turn but "for the sake of good relations" we politely took no notice of it and pretended everything was copacetic. I predicted in several posts that they would try to lull us back into somnolence while continuing to pursue these hostile policies (such as warning the countries of Eastern Europe that they'll have to choose EUrope and not side with America again). I just didn't know they'd be so brazen about it.

Yes, we're not talking Richelieu here, are we?


DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE? "Perhaps in fifty years."

HERE'S A FIRSTHAND BLOG REPORT from an Iraqi mass grave.

HASSAN FATTAH reports in The New Republic that various terrorist groups want to turn Iraq into a new Beirut.

I'm sure they do, and the Bush Administration had better take this very seriously. On the other hand, it's worth noting that (1) Beirut became the way it did because of the action of outside governments -- notably Syria and Iran -- who are now staring at U.S. troops in large numbers, and who had better worry that they're playing into Wolfowitz's hands by providing an excuse for more regime change; and (2) Is there any clearer evidence of the difference between us and them? Our vision of Iraq's future: peaceful, free, and prosperous. The Islamofascists' vision: Beirut. A peaceful, free, and prosperous Iraq is, in fact, their worst nightmare.

If the terrorists succeed in this goal, which I doubt (how many Iraqis really want to live in Beirut: Reloaded?), it will certainly mark a failure for the Bush Administration. But it will mark a far, far greater failure for Arab culture and politics.

For more bad news, from a credible source, read this piece by Jonathan Foreman. Is this stuff getting enough attention at the top? And if not, why not?

JAMES LILEKS, a reasonable and gentle man, is now "21% funkier!"

BILL HOBBS HAS MORE on Tennessee's anti-TiVO bill, and on why Tennessee's legislators are so cozy with the cable companies.

UPDATE: Read this editorial from the Rocky Mountain News on why similar legislation in Colorado is a bad idea:

Did you get permission from your cable company before you bought your kids a new VCR? Did your telephone company say you could use a modem to log on to the Internet? Did your Internet service provider give written approval for your Webcam?

Do you think you should have to ask them?

No, I don't. And I don't think voters do, either.

THE POWER'S BACK! And thank goodness. I'll be doing a phoner on C-SPAN in just a few minutes. They're covering blogs. . . though I had to laugh when they said that MediaWhoresOnline "tends liberal." That's putting things rather, er, mildly.

But I love their division of callers into three categories: people who agree or disagree with Bush, and then "bloggers." That seems about right.

One thing that has been wrong with public debate over the past year or two -- and you saw this particularly in the case of the war -- is that for the most part it has been all about Bush, regardless of the topic allegedly at hand. That's something that bloggers have been pointing out pretty steadily.

May 15, 2003

OKAY, ONE MORE: No damn tornado's gonna stop me from posting. Jeff Jarvis has some interesting thoughts on Salam Pax, and a translated interview. Excerpt: "It's so utterly predictable these days: First, you become famous. Then they tear you down." With regard to David Warren's piece on Salam, Jarvis cautions, correctly, that we don't know enough about Salam Pax to judge what his agenda, if any, has been.

And, in an unrelated (or maybe not, entirely) but interesting matter, Eric Alterman is defending John Fund from allegations that Alterman says he has investigated and is convinced are bogus:

It did not take a lot of investigation on my part to conclude that Pillsbury was not the kind of source one could legitimately use to hang a man in public. Why were so many so eager to use her that way? No principle was at stake. It was all about payback.

Back later. I think I've got a car adapter for the laptop, somewhere. . . .

STILL NO POWER. According to the radio nobody was hurt, but big trees went down in a lot of places. They're saying 40,000 are without power. That includes us. The UPS is still running the wireless network and DSL, but I don't know how much longer it'll last. Back later.

TORNADOBLOGGING: We've had a tornado, the power's out, and it's hailing. But here at InstaPundit we can take a flogging and keep on blogging -- I'm using the laptop, and the wireless network and DSL modem are on a UPS that's good for hours. I don't think I'll spend all that time blogging, though. If the power doesn't come on soon, I'll fire up the gas grill and make dinner on that.

In the words of Calvin, describing his disappointment with how the 21st century was shaping up: "You mean we still have weather?"

UPDATE: Looks like the storm's passed us by. Still no power. We're listening to the radio reports over the Internet on the laptop. There may be more storms later, though, and I don't think I'll keep blogging -- back later.

IT'S BOOK-BLOGGING over at, with appearances by Jacob Sullum, James Miller, Ken Walsh, and blogosphere fave Roger Simon.

DID HOMELAND SECURITY FOLKS help track down fugitive Texas legislators? This story isn't completely clear on that, but it sounds like it:

One federal agency that became involved early on was the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center, based in Riverside, Calif. -- which now falls under the auspices of the Homeland Security Department.

The agency received a call to locate a specific Piper turboprop aircraft. It was determined that the plane belonged to former House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center.

The location of Laney's plane proved to be a key piece of information because, Craddick said, it's how he determined that the Democrats were in Ardmore.

"We called someone, and they said they were going to track it. I have no idea how they tracked it down," Craddick said. "That's how we found them."

On the other hand, this seems like a more appropriate response:

Jorge Martinez, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said the matter "falls squarely within the purview of state authority, and it would not warrant investigation by federal authorities."

The State of Texas is entirely within its rights to use all of its resources to bring fugitive legislators to meet. Legislative rules allow for that sort of thing most places, and it's reasonable. But it doesn't seem like a federal matter to me.

UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan, I discover that Dr. Josh Marshall has been all over this. A reader asks, by the way, why this isn't a federal matter since they crossed a state line to flee. The short answer is that if there were a valid federal statute proscribing interstate flight to avoid a quorum call, then it would be. But although I haven't researched the question, I rather doubt that such a statute exists, and I'd have to think about whether it would be within the scope of Congress's enumerated powers anyway.

Of course, none of this makes it actually illegal for federal officials to share information with state officials. It just means that when they do so, they're not doing their jobs, and they're getting involved in something that it's probably best for them to stay out of. Meanwhile those legislators who don't want Homeland Security information shared for non-Homeland Security purposes would be well-advised to make sure that the law imposes such a ban. Otherwise it will happen.

MARTIN DEVON HAS WHAT SHOULD BE (but surely won't be) the last word on the Jayson Blair affair:

I really don't think that this is about lefty bias or affirmative action. It is about poor leadership. Jack Shafer defends Howell Raines saying that any of us can be fooled. Fair enough, but Shafer (perhaps because he was fooled by a monkeyfisher) lets Raines off way too easily.

Any of us can be fooled by a brown-noser -- I've been. The trick is to foster an open and honest atmosphere with your executive team so that your subordinates will tell you when you are being snowed. That's what saved me.

When I hired a brown-nosing slick-talking dude that fooled me, I was lucky enough to have many people who felt comfortable enough to warn me that I had made the wroing choice. Different people, from my assistant to rival managers came to me and told me some uncomfortable truths that I (and my boss) had missed.

From the Times own accounts, the email warnings of Jayson Blair's bosses show that there were credible people who could have (or tried to) blow the whistle on Blair, if only they felt like they could without screwing up their own careers. That was Raines' failure.


HOLLYWOOD HALFWITS reports that Disney is dropping its support for Michael Moore's planned Bush-bashing documentary.

HERE'S A MOTION FROM THE SOCIALIST ALLIANCE FOR WORKERS' LIBERTY disavowing Saddamite MP George Galloway. I don't know much about the politics of these outfits (I'd have to be a Ken McLeod character to do so) but this can't be good news for Galloway.


Oh, to be a kid again.

DELLWATCH: The Dell service guy showed up just as I made that last post. In 20 minutes he replaced the drive, and then stood by while I burned a DVD to make sure it worked. It did. He's already left. Advantage: Dell.

I AGREE WITH JEFF JARVIS that the U.S. Attorney's interest in the Jayson Blair matter seems inappropriate. But, you know, this happens everywhere nowadays. Yeah, I guess the press is different -- but we're all, to some degree, at the mercy of prosecutors with an infinite number of vague statutes at hand.

ENVIRONMENTAL RULES: Dividing Europe from the rest of the world?

THERE'S AN INTERESTING CROSS-BLOG DEBATE between Arthur Silber and Billy Beck over the meaning of Rick Santorum's remarks. Though Santorum isn't getting much love from either side.


BEIJING - China warned it could execute anyone who causes death or injury by deliberately spreading SARS (news - web sites), as officials on Thursday promised more doctors, hospitals and money to fight the flu-like virus in rural areas.

The warning by China's Supreme Court, reported by the official Xinhua News Agency, appeared to be an effort to force compliance with quarantines and other restrictions. It cited existing laws, many of which include a possible death penalty for even nonviolent offenses, though it often isn't imposed.

This smacks of desperation to me, and suggests that things aren't going well as the media coverage would suggest.

UPDATE: For some discouraging historical context, read this. Excerpt:

I'm not so sure that the authorities were keeping the information from the people. It may well be that the people were keeping it from the authorities. . . .

The Chinese official put it this way: "we are having a terrible time getting people to see doctors, even for routine physical checkups. And this is because of an event that took place back in the late 1940s, following Mao's revolution. At that time, the government promised to eradicate venereal disease in China. And it did. Everyone was forced to undergo an examination by a certified doctor. And anyone with venereal disease was executed. Ever since, most Chinese stayed far away from medical doctors."

Just another example of the maladaptive nature of totalitarianism.

DAVID EDELSTEIN WASN'T THAT CRAZY about The Matrix Reloaded. (Or its score: "The cheesy, tinny-sounding music doesn't help. I've heard better orchestrations coming out of Game Boys.") Jonah Goldberg (whose standards, I suspect, differ) found it very enjoyable. And Stephen Hunter writes: "No, it's not great. No, it's not a disaster." (And he loves Monica Bellucci. Well, yeah.)

UPDATE: Jonathan Last liked it pretty well, but says it has too many "junk academics" in it:

while celebrity cameos are fine for "Friends" they can be disastrous in semi-serious movies. Nothing strains an audience's suspension of disbelief like a slap across the face reminding you that behind the story are a bunch of famous people snapping towels.

So, was Cornel West snapping towels at Susie Bright, or was it the other way around? Inquiring minds want to know. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Diana Hsieh has more on The Matrix. She says it was "awesome."


BILL HOBBS is digging into the Tennessee legislation that will let cable companies ban TiVo.

THE DISSIDENT FROGMAN -- who has a cool new site -- reports on the strikes that have left Paris in a state of near-anarchy.

I LOOKED LAST NIGHT for some postings or reports on how (or even whether) the NPR protests went yesterday, but I didn't find anything. Now there's this report, with pictures, from Boston. And here's a story from Cleveland, one from Fresno, and another from Nashville. Sounds like there were quite a few.

I suspect that the alienation of the Jewish community by its mideast and war coverage poses a real problem for NPR. I know that NPR thinks it does.

UPDATE: Reader Dan Shmikler sends this link to photos of the Chicago protest, and adds:

The local NPR affiliate, WBEZ, interviewed me at length but so far I haven't heard any report on the air.

One message I tried to emphasize with the WBEZ reporter, and other media who interviewed me, was that the people protesting and upset with NPR's Middle East coverage are historically hard-core NPR listeners and supporters. As I told them, I have a cabinet full of NPR mugs that I won't drink from anymore. I would think that they should be concerned that they are alienating a significant part of their core audience.

It's only a matter of time before the rest of the country follows the lead of Boston activists, and starts going to the corporate sponsors of NPR to ask them to stop their support. WBUR lost over $1 million due to this approach.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if that happened. I know that NPR is trying to reach out to these people, but I don't think that's enough. The demonstrable bias of the coverage -- and NPR's seeming smugness about it -- its the problem, and outreach won't help that. NPR needs to freshen up its coverage, and quit regarding the notoriously biased and antisemitic BBC as a role model.

SPIKED! Jay Fitzgerald points to this story from the Boston Herald, which is gleefully reporting that the New York Times- owned Boston Globe spiked a column critical of Howell Raines:

Inquiring minds want to know: Where was Boring Broadsheet boy wonder Brian McGrory's Tuesday column? It wasn't in the paper and our sources say it was spiked.

The reason, we hear, is that McGrory took The New York Times executive editor Howell Raines to task over the Jayson Blair affair and dredged up The Boston Globe's own dirty laundry: Mike Barnicle.

Which, apparently, didn't sit too well with the powers that be. Because, we're told, they refused to run it! McGrory didn't return our calls and a Globe spokesman declined to discuss the matter.

More crushing of dissent in Ashcroft's America. . . .

Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan has plenty to say on what's going on at the Times, as does Mickey Kaus.

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has more, including this excerpt:

Joe Sexton, a metropolitan desk editor, used a profanity in demanding to know how the paper could have sent Blair, a 27-year-old reporter with a checkered record, to cover the Washington sniper case. "You guys have lost the confidence of much of the newsroom," Sexton said. . . .

Boyd apologized for his mistakes but said it was "absolute drivel" to suggest that he had acted as a mentor to Blair, who, like the managing editor, is African American. "Did I pat him on the back? Did I say 'hang in there'? Yes, but I did that with everybody."

Kaus is right to point out the Times' squishiness in supporting race preferences in the abstract, but denying them in the concrete. And there's this bit:

Some Times staffers say what they call Raines's "autocratic" management style – a "culture of favoritism," as one described it – helps explain why Blair was deemed untouchable. Since Raines took over in September 2001, several top editors – including the national editor, assistant national editor and two investigative editors – have either left the paper or moved to other assignments. Staffers have complained that Raines runs a top-heavy "Politburo" in which their influence was greatly reduced and managers were categorized as being either on or off the team.

"With us or against us," eh? Funny, when Bush says stuff like that they accuse him of being simplistic. Kurtz quotes several people who accuse Raines of using the "bad apple" defense, but none is as mean as this:

If mismanagement at Enron had been this clear-cut, the Times would be demanding the death penalty for Ken Lay. Indeed, taking a page from all corporate scandals, the Times insists that the organization is fine; it was just one bad apple. As I recall, the Times editorial page did not accept that explanation when Merrill Lynch said it about Henry Blodget.

Raines' behavior is far worse than the corporate chieftains. He clearly bears the most responsibility for this fiasco, but when disaster strikes ... he blames the black kid! So far, Raines' response has been basically to say: "You try to help these people ..."

Ouch. But it's the final paragraph that really stings. I think this will get worse before it gets better.

MELISSA SECKORA, who is now at The Hill, has a story on the new Arabic-language satellite TV network being set up by the United States.

These guys should hire Charles Paul Freund as a consultant.

May 14, 2003

BUDGETARY PRIORITIES in New York City seem, er, misplaced.


BARONESS Thatcher returned to politics last night with an attack on the French, whom she accused of collaborating with “enemies of the West” for short-term gain.

In a one-off comeback speech in New York, which broke a medical ban on speaking in public, the former Conservative Prime Minister attacked those who use environmentalism, feminism and human rights campaigns to fight capitalism and the nation state.

She praised Tony Blair, but above all President Bush, for overriding the “rot” that “paralysed” the United Nations.

"Rot." Indeed.

A LOT OF PEOPLE SEEMED TO HAVE TROUBLE getting the Burning Annie trailers to play when I linked the site before. It seems to be working fine now.


UPDATE: Mickey Kaus points to a GSWB confession.

NPR AND SLATE ARE teaming up to produce a radio program out of L.A., according to the L.A. Examiner. But where's Mickey Kaus?


The Senate's leading gun control advocate, Senator Charles Schumer - who's currently pressuring the White House to extend the 1994 assault weapons ban - travels with an armed bodyguard. . .

Questions arose Wednesday morning about the gun opponent's security arrangements after the New York Post's Cindy Adams mentioned in her column that Schumer appeared at a recent event with a bodyguard in tow.

A quick call to Schumer's office confirmed that the man guarding the Senate's number one gun controller was packing heat.

Yes, but you see, Schumer's life is important. He needs the protection. It's not like he's just some single mother working late at a convenience store or something.


Heh. Good.

BILL HOBBS HAS MORE ON THE CABLE-INDUSTRY GIVEAWAY BILL that some say would let the cable companies outlaw TiVO. And he wonders why it's not getting newspaper coverage.

Hmm. I wonder if there's cross-ownership between the papers in question and the cable companies.


SOME PEOPLE ARE CALLING IT "THE UNITED NATIONS' ENRON" -- but it's much worse than that:

The United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq allowed billions of dollars in illegal oil revenue to flow to Saddam Hussein, lawmakers said Wednesday in a call for making internal audits public. . . .

The program also allowed Saddam to hand-pick many of the companies that would get contracts to provide the humanitarian assistance. He funneled business to French, Russian and Chinese interests, lawmakers were told at the hearing Wednesday.

Two experts on global energy markets told the subcommittee that while the United Nations has conducted internal audits of the Iraqi oil program, none has ever been made public. And they said they knew of no mechanism for formal, public audits.

Follow the money. Follow it hard.

EEEW. The Mullah is icky.

CAMPUS SPEECH CODES ARE SO 1993 -- but UCLA is thinking of adopting one anyway. Eugene Volokh thinks it's a bad idea. I think he's right.

OIL IN SIBERIA: Some interesting developments are afoot.

GOOD NEWS for gun rights:

NEW YORK -- A federal jury on Wednesday cleared 45 makers and distributors of handguns who were accused of contributing to violence in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The suit challenging the companies' marketing practices was filed by the NAACP.

The jury in New York ruled in favor of the gun makers after five days of deliberations.

Because of the procedural posture of the case, this doesn't actually put it to bed, but it's still good news. Then there's this:

The Republican-controlled House will not renew the federal ban on Uzis and other semiautomatic weapons, a key leader said yesterday, dealing a significant blow to the campaign to clamp down on gun sales nationwide.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said most House members are willing to let the ban expire next year. "The votes in the House are not there" to continue the ban, he told reporters.

His spokesman, Stuart Roy, said, "We have no intention of bringing it up" for a vote. . . .

In May 1994, the Democratic-controlled House passed the Clinton-backed gun ban by two votes. A few months later, House Speaker Thomas Foley (Wash.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks (Tex.) and several other Democrats who supported the ban were voted out of office after the NRA and other gun activists targeted them in a political campaign.

The NRA's power ebbed and flowed throughout the rest of the 1990s, hitting a high-water mark after Gore's narrow loss in 2000. Gore lost gun rights bastions such as Arkansas, West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee, in part, some Democratic analysts believe, because he was seen as hostile to gun owners. In this year's first debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls, only Al Sharpton vigorously endorsed the registration and licensing of handguns.

Dodd Harris still thinks that Bush has blown it on this one, though, by claiming to support an extension of the ban. This won't make the antis happy enough to matter, and it's irritated a lot of supporters. Plus, saying you'll support a bill because you expect your colleagues to keep it from reaching the floor seems, well, almost Clintonian.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more background from Dave Kopel.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jacob Sullum notes that the judge, Jack Weinstein, was "hand-picked" by the plaintiffs.

I'M BUSY GRADING (UGH.) But Phil Carter has lots of stuff that you ought to read, even though it's not all that cheerful.

This article on Arab responses to the terror attacks, on the other hand, is cheerful, or at least cheering.

WELL, THIS was only a matter of time.

DISTRIBUTED NEWSGATHERING: This story about a Korean news service integrating "citizen reporters" into its operation is cool.

(Via Hit and Run).

DELLWATCH: Last summer, longtime readers may recall, I had some problems with Dell's service. Now I've got a guy scheduled to come replace a dead DVD-burner drive. The phone interaction was easy and good. I'll let you know if he shows up.

MARK STEYN FIRED? I don't do guest posts here except in times of grave national, or global, emergency. This may be one of those times. Below is a post from Tim Blair, who for the usual reasons can't get it to post to his Blogger-powered site: [begin Blair post]

WHAT KIND of idiot newspaper editor would fire Mark Steyn? Apparently the kind who now edits the National Post. Below, a series of answers from Steyn to readers asking if he has, in fact, been sacked:

Obviously it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on internal matters at the National Post, but as a general observation I would say that the new owners' penchant for big dramatic public gestures has not served them well. There is no reason to believe this latest one will prove any more successful than their disastrous public downsizing of the Post's arts and sports coverage after 9/11.

Obviously it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on internal matters at the National Post, but as a general observation let me observe that at the time Conrad Black sold a half-share in the Post to the Aspers the paper was neck and neck with The Globe And Mail in circulation - there was, as often happens in media markets that have been somnolent for years, a lag between sales and revenue: advertisers are often slower to pick up on things than readers. Making the product weaker editorially is unlikely to solve this problem.

Obviously it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on internal matters at the National Post, but as a general observation I would note that in the first week of the new puppet regime there does seem to be a marked Paul Martinization of the paper. If that's what David Asper means by a "strong conservative voice", it would seem to me that that's highly unlikely to do anything for the Post's commercial viability, given the already crowded market of Liberal cheerleaders.

Obviously it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on internal matters at the National Post, but as a general observation I would say papers should avoid relaunches that give the appearance that the pre-existing paper had got it all wrong. That tends to drive away old readers without attracting new ones. See The Independent.

Obviously it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment on internal matters at the National Post, but as a general observation I would say that that new editor's "letter to his readers" the Friday after the coup was laughably lame, and to avoid all mention of his predecessors looks not just graceless and petty but extremely insecure.

Obviously it would be highly… aw, never mind.

[End Blair post].

Obviously, the folks at the National Post are blithering idiots to even consider letting go of Mark Steyn. I'm sure that Steyn will continue to prosper. I have my doubts about the National Post.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson says this is the dumbest journalistic personnel move since Jayson Blair was hired by the Times.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Okay, now I have an email, forwarded by a third party but purportedly from the National Post, saying that Steyn hasn't been fired. Hey, Mark, what's going on?

SUSANNAH BRESLIN WANTS TO change the spelling of POMO to F-U-N -- which should be quite the challenge -- and she wants you to help. Oh, and there's a book-promotion thing going on, too.

TOM PAINE.COM HAS A BLOG NOW. Check it out -- it's LeftyLicious!

UPDATE: Bryan Preston says they should drop the anonymity, and cites Reason's "Hit and Run" as an example. That's good advice. Ditto for NRO's "The Corner," which is the liveliest in-house blog of all, in no small part because of the personalities -- which wouldn't shine through in an anonyblog. I'll bet a blog with bylines would draw more readers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kaus agrees about the anonymous part, and suggests that could play an InstaPundit-like role for the left. That would be a good thing. Can TomPaine be quirky enough? If it's a group-blog, and it's allowed to, yes. I'm not sure that any individual person over there can match me in quirks (I contain multitudes -- of quirks), but then, I don't know 'em all. . . .

DAVID WARREN SAYS that Salam Pax is a Ba'athist and that his blog shouldn't be trusted.

(Via Occam's Toothbrush.)

UPDATE: Roger Simon thinks he's right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots of interesting discussion in the comments here.

And Bryan Preston notes that he was raising these questions yesterday.

BLOG MELA is the Carnival of the Vanities for Indian Bloggers. Or some such. Anyway, it's here this week. Check it out for Indian bloggy goodness.


Let's be blunt. Co-ed bootcamp is asking for trouble. Lowering standards to accomodate females is wrong.

But its a reality that females are going to play a role in our all-volunteer military for the foreseeable future.

What we saw in this war wasn't that females were closer to the front-lines; what we're seeing is the eroding away of the rear echelon. With ballistic missiles and mad-dash supply chains, not to mention the increasing reliance on air supremacy, all kinds of people who aren't infantry or in direct support of a line unit are still crossing into harm's way.

The Marines have an answer to that, and in fact they always have: "Every Marine a rifleman." Toting iron doesn't make you a grunt, but everyone from cooks to boxkickers are expected to be able to engage the enemy if necessary. That's our mentality, our ethos. And if you've got females kicking boxes or making chow, then damn it, they're Marines too.

[Boxkickers? Supply bubbas. And if you'll note, the females who got the most attention in this war were in billets like supply, motor transport, etc. That's no small thing -- the supply chain on the drive to Baghdad was one of the most crucial parts of the war.]

I could go on, but I'd be belaboring the point, I think.

And Sgt. Mom responds to Phyllis Schlafly:

I’d be inclined to take her concerns seriously were she to demonstrate a grasp of the difference between “combat” and “combat support”.

The rise of terrorism has perhaps blurred the distinction slightly, in that cooks, admin clerks and mechanics are slightly more inclined to be casualties than once was assumed. But then we once assumed that civilian status offered some sort of protection. This distinction has been in tatters since 9/11.

The women she is voicing her concern about are soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. They may be officers or NCOs or junior enlisted. They are volunteers and skilled professionals and to consider them in any other light is infantilizing and demeaning. They have all made choices, and I would do them the honor of assuming they made them freely, and with their eyes open, as I did myself.

If you want to do womankind a service, Phyllis, sweetie, go back to complaining about the unisex bathroom thing. I’ve had to share facilities with guys, sometimes, and believe me; some of them couldn’t hit the ground with their hat, much less the commode with a stream of pee.

Funny -- I never heard anyone complain about that on Ally McBeal.

I SHOULD PROBABLY JUST WRITE A SCRIPT that would automatically post these words every weekday at 12:01 AM. But anyway, go read Lileks. Today's an especially good one.


GABRIEL SYME HAS A QUESTION FOR THE ANTI-WAR PROTESTERS, engendered by the finding of mass graves in Iraq. And don't miss Perry De Havilland's observation in the comments.

MONICA LEWINSKY AND STEPHEN GLASS: Matt Labash finds a connection.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY SURVEY OF MEDIA GUN BIAS IS UP. He finds rather a lot of it over the past week.

Meanwhile Tom Perry has a lengthy and thoughtful discussion of campus gun bans. And Dave Kopel reports from Britain, where the government's biggest concern seems to be making sure that people don't resist crime too vigorously.

RELIGION AND SCIENCE FICTION: My TechCentralStation column, which is Matrix-related, is up. I wish that this piece by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker had been up when I wrote it. I'm not sure I buy the Catharist angle, but it's interesting. My favorite quote, though, is here:

The only thing setting Zion apart from the good-guy planets in “The Phantom Menace” or “Star Trek” is that it seems to have been redlined at some moment in the mythic past and is heavily populated by people of color. They are all, like Morpheus, grave, orotund, and articulate to the point of prosiness, so that official exchanges in Zion put one in mind of what it must have been like at a meeting at the Afro-American Studies department at Harvard before Larry Summers got to it. (And no sooner has this thought crossed one’s mind when—lo! there is Professor Cornel West himself, playing one of the Councillors.)

Heh. Of course, there's a certain pot-and-kettle quality to charges of bloviation coming from Gopnik. On the other hand, Emmanuelle Richard loved the film, though she agrees there's too much speechifying. And Sgt. Stryker says that Agent Smith should worry about the RIAA more than Neo.

UPDATE: 20,000 Canadians say they're Jedis.

I'm guessing that Chretien isn't one of them.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Justin Katz thinks I'm wrong -- but I think it's because he expects more of religion than I do.


NOW IT'S A SHAFER VS. SULLIVAN CAGE MATCH! Sullivan wins this one handily (1) by quoting Shafer's boss back at him (nice touch!) and (2) because Shafer's title -- "Defending Howell Raines: He didn't catch Jayson Blair. You didn't either." -- is so mind-bogglingly dumb. (Of course, that's probably not Shafer's fault -- titles usually aren't the author's idea. But it's still dumb.)

No, I didn't catch Jayson Blair. But it was Howell Raines' job, not mine, to do so, and he had plenty of warning. Solution: The Times should pay Raines as much as it pays me!

Actually, I think that may be coming. . . .

UPDATE: Andy Freeman emails on the catching-Jayson-Blair angle:

Are you sure? That is, you may not have personally caught Blair, but who did?

The first that I saw of the story was some blogger commenting on the similarity between Blair's work and that of a real journalist

Yes, I know that one of the folks associated with a plagarized party had complained months earlier, but nothing happened.

However, a couple of days after I saw the blogger comment (which may have quoted the complaining journalist), the Blair story started to get traction.

One of the traditional roles of "the media" is to put a spotlight on things. The NYT, for example, isn't the first to break most stories, but measures its worth by the spotlight effect.

Bloggers are a lot of competition for that role.

I actually don't think that blogs have played much of a role in this particular process -- except, perhaps, in keeping the Times' justifications under skeptical scrutiny. But I could be wrong, I guess.

VIRGINIA POSTREL says I should remind people of the tipjar regularly. So consider yourself reminded!

MISSING TOURISTS UPDATE: Some of them have been freed. But there's no information on who was holding them, or why.

(Via PrestoPundit).

UPDATE: This story says they were rescued from an "Al-Qaida linked terror group."

In the Algerian capital Wednesday, the Army said the Salafist Group for Call and Combat was responsible for taking the travelers hostage, the official news agency APS reported. The group is on the U.S. State Department's list of terror organizations.

Algerian news reports have said three Saudi envoys of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden met with a top leader of the Salafist Group in December.

I can't say I'm surprised, and I wonder what else is going on down there.

I DON'T KNOW WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE, but they're mad at NPR's mideast coverage, and they're protesting it in quite a few cities today.

May 13, 2003


I think a more, not less, liberal archive policy is called for under the circumstances.

UPDATE: Drudge reports that two more New York Times reporters are being investigated.

Open the archives! Mr. Raines, tear down that firewall!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Richard Bennett observes:

The media establishment has told us that responsible news organizations are more reliable than the blogs because of all these editors and fact-checkers, but who seriously believes that a blogger doing what Blair did could have survived more than a few months without being caught out? I sure don't.

Bloggers have open archives, too.

INTERESTING STUFF FROM THE ARAB NEWS, courtesy of an alert reader. First there's this piece:

Who are we trying to fool? Ourselves or the international community? Neither can be fooled.

It’s about time we got our act together. The time of pretending that radicalism does not exist in Saudi Arabia is long past. The time for pretending that we are above errors and could not possibly commit terrorist attacks is no longer with us. It has got to stop. Change must come now. We as a nation cannot afford to leave it to its own slow pace. It’s either now or never. It also must cover all aspects of our life — the school, the mosque, the home, the street, the media.

How can we tell the rest of the world that we are tolerant of other religions and faiths when some of us are not even tolerant of other schools of Islamic thought?

How can we expect others to believe that a majority of us are a peace-loving people who denounce extremism and terrorism when some preachers continue to call for the destruction of Jews and Christians, blaming them for all the misery in the Islamic world? . . .

We needed to hear three questions that are never asked. Like dust, they are swept under the carpet: Why are more and more Saudi young men being fed with radical ideas? Who are the people brainwashing them? How are they being radicalized?

And so it happens that so much dust is swept underneath the carpet that it finally bursts out in full view of everybody. At last, the truth that was hidden has come out.

And then, there's this:

It goes without saying that those responsible, those who poisoned the minds of the bombers, those who are planning to become bombers, must be tracked down and crushed — remorselessly and utterly. But crushing them will not be enough. The environment that produced such terrorism has to change. The suicide bombers have been encouraged by the venom of anti-Westernism that has seeped through the Middle East’s veins, and the Kingdom is no less affected. Those who gloat over Sept. 11, those who happily support suicide bombings in Israel and Russia, those who consider non-Muslims less human than Muslims and therefore somehow disposable, all bear part of the responsibility for the Riyadh bombs.

We cannot say that suicide bombings in Israel and Russia are acceptable but not in Saudi Arabia. The cult of suicide bombings has to stop. So too has the chattering, malicious, vindictive hate propaganda. It has provided a fertile ground for ignorance and hatred to grow.

Interesting reaction.

IT'S A KRUGMAN VS. CAVUTO CAGE MATCH! Matthew Hoy says Krugman's all wrong about the BBC and concludes "media criticism is not Krugman's strong point."

(Via -- well, just guess.)

NIRAH SAYS that Arundhati Roy must hate Iraqis.

THERE'S LOTS OF NEW STUFF over at Asymmetrical Information and at Virginia Postrel's. Don't miss it.

HIGH-SCHOOL BLOGGER THE LONE DISSENTER is real, according to Donald Sensing. With posts like this one I was wondering:

Today Kotter told us that the imperialism of the United States during the Spanish-American War was an echo of Bush's imperialism during the Iraq War. No, I didn't confuse the two. That's the way he said it.

Well, you know what they say: "What's past is epilogue!" [They don't say that! -- Ed. I know, it's irony. Oh. They must have skipped that at j-school. -- Ed. Indeed.]

MICKEY KAUS has lots more on the latest developments regarding Howell Raines and The New York Times.

Meanwhile Eric Muller suggests that the New York Times bring in an "independent journalist" to investigate. And I've got just the guy!

Finally, Stephen Rittenberg wonders when journalism became psychotherapy.

UPDATE: Then there's this and this. Ouch.

(Via Ken Layne).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Oh my God not this!

POSTWAR ARAB BLUES: Charles Paul Freund, connoisseur of Arabic pop culture, has some interesting observations.

I AM NOT NOW, NOR HAVE I EVER BEEN, a bow-tie wearer. Nor shall I ever be.

Er, except with a tuxedo, of course. That's different.

THIS ARTICLE ON AN ECONOMIC DOOMSDAY SCENARIO FOR EUROPE gives some idea of what's worrying European leaders, and why their strategy has been so anti-American in the mideast:

For Ifri, Europe has two basic problems. The first is its dwindling population. From 2000 to 2050, the institute projects a decline in the EU's active population from 331 million to 243 million. Over the same period, the active populations of Greater China and South Asia move ahead, while the North American grouping rises from 269 million to 355 million.
The second involves technological progress and capital accumulation. In these areas, according to the reference scenario, North America "continues to suck in a good part of the world's savings," while Europe depends on "savings and domestic investment" for capital. North America remains "the locus of innovative activity," the projection says, even though Europe will make gains in productivity, cutting the size of its lag behind the leaders.

What can Europe do? If things go along as at present, according to the reference scenario, "the decline of Europe is confirmed and the EU with 30 members becomes a second rank economic power."

But in a more favorable second scenario, Ifri projects the creation of an area of "integrated development" that includes Europe, Russia and the south shore (the Arab countries) of the Mediterranean.

We should respond by opening up immigration. This piece sits interestingly with this piece on the possibility of a U.S. / European Cold War. He puts the odds at around 40%, which seems about right to me. I hope, of course, that this can be avoided, but the article above stresses Europeans' desire to be a rival to America.

HERE'S A STORY on the Lott/Ayres/Donohue fight over guns that's rather sympathetic to Lott.

What's most striking to me, though, is another study, by antigun researchers, that tries to measure gun ownership by suicide rates. (And it's not mentioned here, but I believe there was another that tried to use subscriptions to gun magazines as a proxy.) This seems rather bogus to me, and I can only imagine the general derision if this kind of proxy were employed by researchers whose work supported gun ownership.

While people throw stones at Lott, whether deservedly or not, it's worth remembering that the anti-gun side has been throwing out utter bilge disguised as "research" for years without a peep from the usual guardians of scientific rigor.

UPDATE: Tim Lambert emails that Gary Kleck uses the suicides-as-proxy methodology in his work. That's news to me, but then, as I've said before, the criminology side of these things is not my area of expertise. I've asked him for details.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For more on the bogus science I'm referring to, here's an article on the CDC and its anti-gun research. This is worth reading, too.

HUGE MASS GRAVE FOUND IN IRAQ: A British reader sends the link with this comment:

BBC Radio Five Live panel discussion currently on air featuring anti-war creep whose attitude to discovery is "So what? We knew mass graves were there. This is just a propaganda attempt at post hoc justification."

Now we know where they get the people who dig the holes.

Ordinarily I'd have excised the word "creep," but it seems to fit here.

UPDATE: Another reader emails:

Your reader's wrong. Such people will never, EVER be found digging the holes.

The line should be "now we know where they get the people who keep the guns on others and force them to dig the holes."

But I guess that's too long. And, frankly, too graphic. In fact, everything about my revised version is apalling and unconcionable except for one thing:

It's historically true.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader John Wilson emails:

You have probably received this one hundred times by now, but Clint Eastwood said it best in "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly:"

Man With No Name: "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig."

Ah, the clarity provided by westerns. Even Italian made westerns.

That's why people love -- or hate -- westerns: the clarity.

I HAVEN'T PAID MUCH ATTENTION to the AWOL Texas legislators, but Bill Hobbs has.

When the 14th Amendment was up for ratification in Tennessee, the same thing happened -- a bunch of legislators absented themselves to avoid a quorum. The Sergeant-at-Arms hired Pinkertons, chased them down (one was recovered after "a wild night-chase over mountains on mule-back"), and brought them to the Capitol. They were then marked "present" and locked in a closet until the voting was over. Thus, Tennessee became the first state of the old Confederacy to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment.

Not that I'm suggesting a parallel here or anything. I just won't ever get another chance to use that story.

IS MINNESOTA BECOMING A RED STATE? Geitner Simmons looks at the evidence.

HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CASE WESTERN SHOOTING, from someone at the school. Excerpt:

The first things I thought of (being completely open and honest here - in temporal order) as I learned of the events unfolding next door was 1) to be angry that Ohioans are not allowed to carry concealed firearms, 2) I was grateful the shooter did not choose the Law School, and 3) I was saddened that someone was emotionally disturbed enough to do this. I am not suggesting a non-law enforcement person with a concealed firearm should have searched the building to stop the shooter in this situation. I cannot accurately say what I would have done had I been in the building next door instead of where I was. But I can say I believe the shooter would not have been at large for 7 hours had one or more persons been carrying a concealed firearm and had known how to use it. Many will say, and have said already, in response to this incident that this is the best argument for more restrictive firearm regulations. I realize not everyone is comfortable around firearms. I also realize my experience may be a little different than the average person: I was a primary marksmanship instructor in the Marine Corps. I personally believe this is an argument for allowing concealed carry. I would feel much safer knowing I have the tools with which to protect myself and those immediately around me should I ever have the need to do so.

So would I.


ROGER AND ME: Blame Roger Simon. I've read his new novel Director's Cut -- it's not out yet, but he sent me an advance copy -- and then I got sucked into The Big Fix, and, now, Wild Turkey. I've enjoyed them all very much. He writes like Ken Layne with less booze. [Doesn't everyone write like Ken Layne with less booze? -- Ed. Not Tim Blair! Good point. -- Ed.]

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT. I love this summary:

The US State Department accused Vietnam of using its laws to suppress dissent on the internet. Vietnamese officials denied the charges, saying they were merely using the law to surpress dissent on the internet.

Where's Arundhati Roy to denounce this assault on free speech? Oh, wait, here she is. . .

JEFF JARVIS AND CHARLES JOHNSON are unhappy that the media are giving so little attention to the Saudi bombing. Actually, I think it's a good thing. Terrorists exist to terrorize; it's not working.

I think that this is a desperate effort by Al Qaeda to show that it can still do something. And the target audience is largely in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world, not here. But the world has changed to their disadvantage. Against the backdrop of (false) security in the 1990s, stuff like this was big news. Now -- next to the war in Iraq -- this looks like small potatoes by skulking losers.

UPDATE: Bryon Scott, meanwhile, thinks that Osama is playing into our hands.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michele thinks I'm wrong here. So does David Jones.

SAAD AL-FAGIH WRITES IN THE GUARDIAN that Osama is winning. But wait -- who's Al-Fagih? Oh, right:

Osama Bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, has connections to a leading Saudi dissident based in London, BBC Radio's Five Live Report has revealed.

The programme provides evidence that Saad Al-Fagih, a key figure in the London-based campaign opposed to the Saudi regime, bought a satellite phone that was later used by Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.

On 30 July 1998 one of the suicide bombers who blew up the US embassy in Nairobi telephoned the satellite phone number: 00 873 682 505 331.

Eight days later the suicide bombers struck in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam killing 247 people.

The satellite phone was the very same one that had been bought by Saad Al-Fagih in November 1996.

Why is this guy writing for The Guardian instead of warming a cell somewhere? And why is the Guardian (and the BBC) just calling him a "dissident" instead of a "terrorist sympathizer or worse?"

Even more damning, the BBC story has Al-Fagih being defended by George Galloway.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber says the real target was Vinnell Corp., which provides military support services (which a cynic might say are mercenary in nature) to the Saudi government. Officially, though, it involves training and support contracts for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Here's a recruiting presentation by Vinnell. It's not terribly informative. Here's a more informative piece from John Pike's, an outfit I generally regard as reliable. Excerpt:

Three independent Saudi bodies are charged with security duties. The Ministry of Defense and Aviation uses four uniformed services to protect against external military threats. The Saudi Arabian National Guard [SANG] is responsible for defending vital internal resources (oil fields and refineries), internal security, and supporting the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, as required. The Ministry of Interior is charged with internal security, police functions, and border protection. . . .

A small but highly skilled and diverse group, the US soldiers and Department of the Army civilians who make up OPM-SANG execute this multi-billion-dollar program throughout Saudi Arabia. Training is the backbone of this program. At the National Guard military schools, OPM-SANG advisors and contractor trainers help develop programs of instruction and specialty skill training courses.

In addition to OPM-SANG's military and civilian contractor advisors and trainers, tailored training packages are arranged through the U.S. Army Security Assistance and Training Management Office. One such recently concluded training program was a three-month Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Course.



Why is the cable industry pushing legislation in Tennessee and other states that will give the cable industry the power to control what kind of devices you hook to the cable outlet in your home? Because they want to be able to force you to rent their devices. Soon, if HB 457 and SB 213 become law in Tennessee, the cable industry will be able to declare the TiVo an "unauthorized" device and apply civil and criminal proceedings to any consumer who uses one. Of course, they'll probably drop the charges and end the lawsuits if you agree to rent their digital video recorder.

Yet another reason to hate the cable company. Like we needed one.

SEX ON CAMPUS: Erin O'Connor has been covering a bunch of stories that I haven't, including one from Kansas in which a state legislator seems to have made shamefully false statements. The professor she attacked is demanding an investigation by the Kansas Attorney General now. And I'm not sure that legislative immunity would bar a libel suit in these circumstances.

Heh. For a legislator to cross swords with a tenured professor is a risky move, especially when the legislator is, you know, in the wrong. Tenured professors have a lot more job security than legislators, they're usually pretty good at expressing themselves, and they tend to hold grudges. And who has more to lose here?

UPDATE: Oops, I misread this. It's the state legislator who asked for the investigation by the Attorney General, not the professor. Sorry.

Some Kansas readers say that local media coverage makes it look worse than the stuff on Erin O'Connor's blog, but they didn't include any links. If you've got some, send 'em.

ANOTHER UPDATE: An intrepid reader sends this, this, this, and this. I'd call it State Senator 0, professor 4.

"IT BARES REPEATING:" A host of readers have sent this link to The Smoking Gun's copy of a memo to New York Times staffers from "Arthur, Howell and Gerald" that contains a howling (Howelling?) error.

Even in the big leagues, apparently, spell-checkers breed a false sense of security. It certainly doesn't suggest that they've gotten into the habit of going over copy with a fine-tooth comb just yet.

Meanwhile Matt Welch has a suggestion on how Blair-type events could be prevented. It's cheap, easy to implement, and likely to work. Naturally, it's unlikely to be adopted.

But I think it "bares" considering.

WENDY MCELROY WRITES ON MALE-BASHING in the media, and in public policy.

JAILED IRANIAN BLOGGER SINA MOTALLEBI has now been released. Jeff Jarvis has more, including a link to this Newsweek article on the Blogosphere's support for his cause, and for Iranian bloggers generally.

The Iranian blog crackdown is interpreted -- correctly, I think -- as yet another sign of the growing insecurity and out-of-touchness of the mullahs who, for the moment, continue to rule that unhappy country.

I HAVE A FRIEND WHOSE LIFE WAS RUINED BY ANNIE HALL. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but not as much of one as it ought to be. Now one of my wife's filmmaker cronies (who doesn't know the guy) has made a film called Burning Annie that, well, seems amazingly true to his life.

There are trailers, too. My favorite is the "quirky" one. And everyone in the cast has a "Bacon factor" of two.

UPDATE: Sean Fitzpatrick liked it:

Thanks for the link. Any additional info would be great.

If the movie is half as good as the trailers, let's rev up the blogosphere and make Burning Annie the next Blair Witch Project.

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about this that isn't on the website. It's just made by a guy my wife took a film class from once. But I thought the trailers were great, too.

THAT SAUDI BOMBING: I'm not sure I can improve on Andrea Harris's take:

Let's just drop all this "was it Al Qaeda? Or some other (insert some Arabic phrase)?" nonsense and call them something generic, like "the usual bunch of cretins." And their motives are no big mystery; I am sure I know why the cretins blew up stuff in Saudi Arabia this time. They want to get rid of all the Westerners there, and then all the rest of the foreigners, Muslim though all those Indians and Indonesians and Malaysians might be. The Usual Bunch of Cretins are Arab supremacists just like the Nazis were "Aryan" supremacists. They are just another flavor of terror pie, like Bin Laden and his Taliban crew, and that joker we just kicked out of Iraq. It's all from the same shelf of fly-specked, half-baked goods.

I think it's a sign that their reach has grown short, when they can't arrange terror attacks except in their own hometowns.

As for the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Saudi-controlled Arabia, well, it's not a victory for them. Because, you see, you can't invade a country if you're already there. . . . .

LILEKS ISN'T RISING TO MY BAIT, but he has some choice words for The Handmaid's Tale.


Some smart literary agent should sign up Salam Pax, the anonymous Baghdad blogger, like, now. He's on the spot; the perspective is unique; and he writes better than most professional writers. This guy's book is worth six figures, and much of it is already written.


May 12, 2003

GORE VIDAL SUFFERS the world's first Velveeta Fisking. (It's sort of like the Velvet Revolution, except not at all.) Tony Adragna performs the honors.

THIS MAY BE THE ULTIMATE WEBLOG TROLL POST. It's in the top 10, for sure.

JAYSON BLAIR'S NEW GIG is already lined up. That didn't take long. . . .

UPDATE: And Tim Blair says you should send in your resume, too!

JOE KATZMAN WRITES ON Saddam's agents of influence. And what to do now.

HENRY FARRELL REPORTS that the government of Spain is, ahem, overreaching in the war against terror. Actually, it sounds like rather more than that.

UPDATE: Reader Franco Aleman says that this story is bogus. He's got a fairly lengthy comment attached to the post on Farrell's blog.

JIM MILLER points to a story on what the Lincoln's sailors thought about Bush's visit.


After a two-day strike on March 18 and 19—described by The New York Times as "the largest public protest against President Mugabe since he was re-elected last year in a contest that was marred by widespread allegations of fraud"—Mugabe's enforcers cracked down on his opponents. There were the customary arrests and torturings, as reported in the same New York Times story, in which the dictator crowed about his people's "happy lot."

But there are no protests on the streets of America.

No American newspaper, as far as I know, has detailed the torture inflicted on members of the opposition. However, I have "A Report on Organized Violence and Torture in Zimbabwe From 20 to 24 March 2003" from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

No act is too unspeakable to ignore, so long as it isn't performed by an American, or perhaps an Israeli.

DANIEL DREZNER REPORTS that we're making progress around the mideast.

FRITZ SCHRANCK ASKS: "You assassinate a few leaders, fire off a couple mortar attacks at some others, and all of a sudden somebody thinks you’re a terrorist organization. What’s up with that?"

ROGER SIMON IS happy about the New York Times scandal -- and the CNN scandal, too!


IS THE TSA COOKING THE NUMBERS? Reader Scott Breffle sends this report:

While in the security line at Oakland, CA on Friday, a TSA employee asked me if I could take this yellow card and hand it to the screeners at the front. He explained that they used these cards to time the line. It seemed reasonable and I accepted. Afterwards I more fully read the text on the card. It said that this card was used to time the line and was thanking me, as the last person in the line, for helping the TSA measure how long it is taking to get through the security line. The problem was, I was already half-way through the line! Is an organization so young already stacking the performance metrics? Disappointing, and hopefully an isolated incident.

Interesting. I haven't heard any other reports like this.

UPDATE: Reader Tucker Goodrich emails:

I recently flew out to San Francisco from Newark and back, and they were polite and efficient, far better than the old regime.

However, they missed my little Swiss Army pocket knife (on my keychain)coming and going. What to make of that?

My last flight was fine on this end (but it always was) but hell at Mineta International in San Jose, which apparently it always is. Meanwhile reader Kevin Rose says:

I was with a tour group going from Albuquerque to Houston, then to Honduras in mid April. Half of us found, on arrival in Honduras, that our dive bags had been unsealed, with the little TSA inspection notices. Not one had the "tamper evident" seals that they claim to have placed on them, they were just zipped shut. Nothing was missing, but you have to wonder if the TSA forgot to budget for cable ties? Is this common?

Beats me. And reader Bob Cady suggests:

Another possibility is that they are giving the card to (say) the 10th person in line to measure scanning rate (number of passengers/unit time) rather than just time for an unknown line to pass through the station.

If there are any journalists who aren't busy with Bill Bennett's casino records or Jayson Blair's travel vouchers, this might be a story worth looking into.

EUGENE VOLOKH SAYS THAT WILLIAM SAFIRE IS WRONG about discrimination at the New York Times.


After a long silence on the matter the Algerian government said it was in touch with unnamed assailants believed to be holding the tourists. But last week it denied any such contact or that negotiations were under way to free the tourists.

The Swiss French-language weekly magazine Hebdo reported in its latest edition that the Algerian authorities had received ransom demands for between $23-$34 million for the group.

Blaise Godet, head of the Swiss foreign ministry's political directorate who recently returned from Algeria, said Swiss authorities were not "negotiating with anyone'' but were in constant touch with the Algerian authorities.

"There is no indication that the people (tourists) are no longer alive,'' he told reporters in Berne on Monday.

About 5,000 Algerian troops are searching the vast Algerian Sahara, an area the size of France. Military aircraft and helicopters equipped with night vision are also being used.

It's a big desert.


From the video it looks like structural failure, followed by an explosion as the spacecraft disintegrated. That's unlikely to be the result of sabotage. Most likely it was failure in a wing spar or some other component, probably brought on by age and fatigue, though possibly caused by tile zippering and burn-through, or damage on launch.

It looks like zippering and burn-through, brought on by damage at launch made more severe by age and fatigue. Now this article in the Washington Post notes that the Shuttle fleet may just be too old and worn out to fly much more:

The shuttles -- the only reusable manned spacecraft operating in the world -- were difficult enough to maintain when their millions of parts were new. The effects of aging have added to the challenge, as well as adding an immeasurable degree of uncertainty.

The Columbia investigators have concluded that damage to the tough carbon composite material that shields the wings against the heat of reentry precipitated that disaster, and tests have also shown that a hidden effect of aging -- oxidation that eats into surfaces -- might have degraded the heat shielding and contributed to the deadly chain of events. But no one knows for sure.

NASA, unfortunately, is sufficiently anxious to keep the Shuttle fleet flying -- and sufficiently underfunded -- that it hasn't looked very far into alternatives.

This is, of course, a reason why relying on a single fragile government program is silly.

SUMAN PALIT WEIGHS IN ON Eco-manslaughter.

A WEEK AGO, it was reported that German state secretary Jurgen Chrobog called the United States a "police state."

I wonder what he has to say about this:

A German man who staged a political protest by writing "The Government is crap" on his own car, has been told to remove it or face jail.

Police failed to see the funny side of 33-year-old Stefan Lukoschek's protest at the policies of Gerhard Schroeder.


BILL HOBBS WONDERS why the Nashville Tennessean is ignoring efforts to enact a state "super-DMCA law" in Tennessee.


The WALT DISNEY CO. is set to spend millions financing a new explosive Bush-bashing documentary from Michael Moore [BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE] -- a documentary which claims bin Laden was greatly enriched by the Bush family!

DISNEY, via subsidiary MIRAMAX, has agreed to cover the production costs, said to be in the millions, of Moore's planned FAHRENHEIT 911.

"The primary thrust of the new film is what has happened to the country since Sept. 11, and how the Bush administration used this tragic event to push its agenda," Moore explains.

FAHRENHEIT 911 will be released during the upcoming presidential election cycle. [More Moore in '04.]

Note to Rove: I know you guys generally sympathize with big corporations, but trust me on this -- these guys aren't your friends, and they never will be. So why not stick it to them on this IP stuff. It's the right thing to do anyway. Just read this and this and, oh Hell, this, too.

UPDATE: A lawyer/reader emails:

I saw your InstaPundit post about Miramax financing Michael Moore's planned "documentary" tying Pres Bush to bin Laden. My question is whether such a production would violate McCain-Feingold? Irrespective of whether one thinks McCain-Feingold is constitutional, wouldn't it be a gas to see Michael Moore impaled on the horns of that legislation?

One word: Heh.

WHAT STARTED AS A BLOG ENTRY BY MICHAEL TOTTEN is now an oped on the Wall Street Journal webpage.

UPDATE: Totten responds to a critic here.

THE GUY IN THIS SWIMSUIT PHOTO looks kind of familiar. . . .

Pictures don't lie! (Via Six Foot Pole.)

FOLLOWING UP LAST WEEK'S POST ON PRISON RAPE, here's a link to the DoJ testimony on the bill. Contrary to earlier reports, federalism doesn't seem to be an issue -- at least in the Department's public stance. Nor should it be. Instead, it's all about the money.

Ashcroft needs to clear a path for this bill, which he says he supports, and override the opposition of the underlings.


The key to understanding Drabble's lunatic rant is her reaction to what she says she saw on CNN celebrating the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. She describes an old, shabbily dressed Vietnamese man bartering for dollars. The horror of this moment - an "elderly, impoverished" Vietnamese man wanting that terrible currency, American dollars, for heaven's sake - just put the lid on it for Drabble. She writes: "The Vietnamese had won the war, but had lost the peace."

Well no, Miss Drabble. The Vietnamese fought the war for communism and they won communism. That, indeed, is why the old man is impoverished, shabbily dressed and bartering for dollars. In your deliberate obtuseness, you become blind to the most self-evident conclusions and an apologist for the appalling regimes that are so far removed from your ostensible values.

Forgetting the danger Saddam posed to those outside his borders, we have now seen that removing him from power cost fewer Iraqi lives than just one of his killing sprees. Would you have condemned the Iraqi people to another 12 years of Saddam's murderous nightmare?

Are you too sophisticated for Coca-Cola and Disneyfication but not for Saddam's garish palaces and his giant posters on every street corner? After Stalin, Hitler and Mao, this horrifying man probably captures fourth place in the great mass murderers' list, or fifth after Pol Pot.

One is tempted to call this visceral anti-Americanism "the Drabble syndrome", but she is neither the first nor the most prominent sufferer. You could as easily call it the Pinter syndrome and it certainly is the BBC syndrome.

It's a serious illness, debilitating but, sadly, not fatal. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Here are more Brits speaking out against anti-Americanism.

NEW BIOWAR PREPAREDNESS EXERCISES -- The Bloviator has the story. He's not terribly impressed with the way the exercises are being run.

This kind of story deserves more attention, now, from some of the people who'll be writing snarky after-the-fact exposes in the event of a real attack and an inadequate response.

UPDATE: DefenseTech has more on this.

IF IMOVIE IS AS EASY AS LILEKS SAYS, then why is uber-techblogger Doc Searls asking for help with it?



Wielding machetes and rocket-launchers, hordes of tribal warriors and drug-crazed children marauded through the Congolese town of Bunia yesterday, unleashing an orgy of killing and forcing tens of thousands of terrified refugees across the Ugandan border.

United Nations officials warned the Security Council that the crisis was potentially a genocide in the making, drawing parallels with Rwanda, where between 500,000 and one million people, mainly Tutsis, were killed by Hutus in 1994.

"Bunia is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said. . . .

There were no details about casualties, although two UN soldiers were said to be wounded. With only 600 troops in Bunia, a town of about 350,000 in the east of the war-ravaged country, the UN has been unable to control the rapidly deteriorating situation.

"We can't do anything," a peacekeeper said by telephone from the UN compound. "We do not have enough manpower. We do not have a mandate. We have sent repeated warnings that this was going to happen. We have asked for reinforcements. Every request was ignored."

But don't worry, the relief agencies have taken decisive action:

As the situation spiralled out of control, international humanitarian organisations evacuated 50 aid workers and their families from the town.

And the U.N. has agreed to consider talking about possibly deciding to allow the peacekeepers to consider returning fire if doing so might protect civilians. But, on the upside, there are no reports of art objects being stolen!

GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS: First, the good news. Imprisoned Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi has been freed. The bad news: This is merely a brief backing-off from the mullahs, who remain aggressive in their effort to crack down on dissent via the Internet.

These Iranian bloggers are brave, and deserve the support of the outside world. And not just the Blogosphere, though God knows they deserve that, too.

FLOOD THE ZONE! KAUS AND SULLIVAN are all over the New York Times story.

I'll just note that in the aftermath of The Agonist's plagiarism scandal, people wondered if this was a blow to the credibility of the Blogosphere, since it doesn't, you know, have editors like Howell Raines. Time to catch The Agonist: a couple of weeks. Time to catch Jayson Blair -- over a year after the Metro editor wrote a memo saying that he needed to be stopped "right now."

UPDATE: Josh Marshall's your Blair-scandal-free zone, at least at the moment. He's busy flooding the zone on the Katrina Leung story, which provides still more evidence that the FBI isn't up to its job.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill Quick is enjoying the show.

May 11, 2003


Bush administration officials confirmed today that Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who is the top civil administrator in Iraq, would leave here within a week or two and that other senior officials here will also be replaced.

American officials said Barbara K. Bodine, who has been in charge of reconstruction for the Baghdad region, was abruptly given notice and will be leaving within the next day or two. Ms. Bodine, a former ambassador to Yemen, will take a senior post at the State.

A bunch of other people are leaving too, which makes it look like the result of bureaucratic faction-fighting rather than demonstrated failures by one or another. Most of the reasoning presented sounds like spin of various varieties.

So is this good or bad? I don't know. It suggests a certain amount of "disarray," but on the other hand it also suggests decisive action. Maybe someone at the White House has been reading Salam Pax's accounts and has decided to shake things up. . .



An African American civil rights group is planning a Saturday protest against Greenpeace, alleging that the environmental group has committed "eco-manslaughter" through its support of international policies limiting development and the expansion of technology to the developing world's poor.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) will conduct a counter demonstration at Greenpeace USA's "Run for Your Life" 5K road race at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. The Greenpeace event itself will be a protest, meant to "raise awareness of the serious threats posed by chemical plants to New York and New Jersey residents and workers."

CORE is using the event as an opportunity to confront Greenpeace activists about their opposition to infrastructure development projects in the developing world, opposition to genetically modified foods and the group's opposition to the use of the chemical DDT to kill malaria-ridden mosquitoes, particularly in Africa.

"To serve its own ideological agenda, [Greenpeace] wants to keep the Third World permanently mired in Third World poverty, disease and death. So far, it has succeeded," said Niger Innis, national spokesperson for CORE.

Read this, too.

DANG. The Klingon Interpreter story is, well, not exactly bogus -- but there's a bit less to it than meets the eye.

"NEW YORK TIMES AND WEEKLY WORLD NEWS TO MERGE:" Boy, people are really twisting the knife on this one.

ENTER STAGE RIGHT has an interview with Mark Steyn, the "one-man global content provider." Excerpt:

9/11 was a great clarifying moment, it exposed the world of September 10th as a fiction, a collection of soft-focus illusions, and what's happened in the period since is that the world has divided into those who recognized that and those who are still trying to patch up the Humpty Dumpty world of September 10th and prop it back in place - as the French are trying to do, and the UN, and much of the US Federal bureaucracy.

And there's this shocking revelation: "I'm actually a ---" No, never mind, you'll just have to read it there.

PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY IS MAKING A MOTHER'S DAY ASSAULT on women in combat. But this makes no sense:

She contended that the women caught in the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company in Iraq -- Jessica Lynch, who was rescued by commandos, and single mothers Lori Piestewa, who was killed, and Shoshana Johnson, who was wounded -- did not volunteer for the Army with the ambition of serving in combat.

A soldier is a soldier. You don't join the Army and then decide not to fight. Doesn't Schlafly know that? She also says: " there is no evidence in history for the proposition that the assignment of women to military combat jobs is the way to advance women's rights, promote national security, improve combat readiness, or win wars."

No evidence? Not even the stunning and swift victory we just won?

MICKEY KAUS IS ACCUSING THE NEW YORK TIMES of "Nixonian" hypocrisy in its explanations of the Jayson Blair affair. And Andrew Sullivan is promising "flood-the-zone" coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis isn't buying the affirmative action argument.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bryan Preston, on the other hand, thinks there's a Chief Moose connection. It's interesting tea-leaf reading, but I have to say that other people seem to find this whole affair more fascinating than I do. Kind of like the Bill Bennett thing.

EUGENE VOLOKH has more on the Case Western shooter. Apparently, he was not only anti-war, but anti-gun.

Er, and hypocritical, too.

DAVID CARR WRITES that environmentalists are responsible for the deaths of millions of Third World people. And Nick Cohen basically agrees:

GM also upset the interests of the setters of style and taste. Marie Antoinette and her courtiers dressed up as peasants and shepherds. They invented a phoney authenticity and pretended to live the simple life while the real French peasantry was close to starvation. . . .

When it comes to the Third World, however, resistance to GM may be malign. The opponents of biotech emphasise that the industry isn't interested in feeding the hungry any more than the pharmaceutical companies are interested in treating malaria. The developed world is where the profits are.

But there are inventions such as the 'golden rice', created by Dr Ingo Potrykus of Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich, which aim to relieve suffering. Dr Potrykus modified rice to help the 200 million or so children who risk death or blindness from vitamin A deficiency. If it works, and if it is taken up in Asia - two big ifs - children will live who would otherwise die.

Dr Potrykus isn't a pawn of Monsanto, yet he is vilified. He has been told that he has been used by the biotech companies and that people will have to eat impossibly large amounts of his rice to get a minimal benefit. He denies both allegations. When he learned that Greenpeace had reserved the right to take direct action against golden rice tests plots, he said it would be guilty of a 'crime against humanity' if it did.

Historians are likely to write more in anger than amused bewilderment if the GM phobia turns out to have been a European mania which was fatal for non-Europeans.

Some of us are angry already.


If the capital of the free humans in The Matrix is Zion, does that mean that Neo and friends are Zionists? And will CAIR put out a statement denouncing the movie for being anti-Islamic because of this?

There's a great fake press release waiting to be written by a talented satirist out there...

Indeed there is.


It is France's largest-ever fraud scandal with tentacles stretching around the globe. But now the trail of corruption in the Elf-Aquitaine affair has led to the heart of the Dublin's financial establishment and the Georgian grandeur of Fitzwilliam Square.

The Elf scandal has already dragged in senior French politicians. Now officials in Ireland will be scratching their heads as to how massive kickbacks paid by Elf were syphoned through Irish companies.

Over the past three weeks, Elf executives giving evidence in the latest trial in Paris have painted a picture of the multi-million franc kickbacks and bribes on deals from the early 1990s.

Last week, the court heard the extraordinary tale of the Spanish oil refinery, the Iraqi billionaire and the kickback payments that found their way into the accounts of an Irish haulage company.

I wonder where else those tentacles reach?


A work of art that has been described as "the Mona Lisa of sculptures" has been stolen from Vienna's art history museum.

The 16th Century solid gold sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini was worth at least 50m euros ($57m, Р€36m), museum director Wilfried Seipel said. . . .

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this might turn out to be an inside job, too.


THREE of the Bali bombers whose attack on a nightclub last October killed 202 people have boasted of the crime, dismissing their victims — including 26 from Britain — as sinners. . . .

The club was chosen because the bombers thought it would be full of Americans, they said. In the event, seven Americans died while 89 victims were Australian. “Australians, Americans, whatever — they are all white people,” Ali said.

I'm proud to be on the non-racist side, anyway.


DOHA, Qatar (AP) - A small crowd of Iraqis harassed an Al-Jazeera television crew Saturday, accusing the journalists of supporting former President Saddam Hussein, the satellite channel reported.

Dozens of Iraqis surrounded the crew's van and harassed the journalists, the channel's newscaster said in the evening news bulletin.

``The angry locals accused the station of complicity with the previous regime (of Saddam) against the interests of the Iraqi people,'' the newscaster said.

No one was hurt and the crew managed to withdraw after community leaders intervened, the newscaster added.


HERE'S AN ANGRY IRANIAN BLOGGER who's keeping a list of mullah-banned Iranian blogs.

(Via Jeff Jarvis, who has become Iranian Weblog Central.)

IF YOU LOOK TO THE UPPER LEFT, you'll see that I've taken down the quote from Pravda about InstaPundit being "The New York Times of the bloggers." It just didn't feel right, anymore.


“My brother disappeared in 1981. My mother and father kept asking at State Security for his body and one day they disappeared, too. They told us don’t come here asking again.” Amin Hashem Amin raises both hands, displays eight fingers, thrusting them forward until he’s recognized. “Four first cousins and four good neighbors I lost,” he says. “We found the body of only one of them. Then they took our houses and our farm.” His face crumples, the other men look away politely, and Amin weeps. Some of these people are just looking; others, like Amin, have found their loved ones’ names on the lists. “I have 16 dead of my friends,” the next man to raise his hand says. “They gave us back two bodies, both without their eyes.”

And so it goes now at the offices of the Committee, hour after hour, day after day. Anyone who doubts the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime need only spend a little time here, at the epicenter of efforts to unravel what happened, account for the dead and missing, locate the bodies in the mass graves that are daily being discovered throughout the country.

The Committee’s view is that Saddam Hussein’s regime slaughtered 8 million people; in a country of 25 million that’s a pretty extreme estimate. “Hitler was a minor student in the school of Saddam, and not a very good student by comparison,” Idrisi said. “Just in my small family, my cousin was in prison, my father, brother, and five or six other cousins disappeared,” he said. Saleh agreed. “No family in Iraq is without its missing. My brother, too. Still I haven’t reached his grave, but I saw the file.”

Challenging such over-the-top figures provokes annoyance among the Committee members. “How can we have 8 million? I’ll show you.” Saleh produces an armful of fat file folders. “Look at this one. Look at the file number.” It’s stamped TOP SECRET, labeled Department of General Security, Branch 45, File No. 12584. Branch 45 specialized in the banned Shiite group Al Dawa. This is a case file concerning one Satter Jaber Meslain, an investigation that lasted from 1981-1983. As the result of his confession and other investigative leads that his interrogation produced, 55 persons are implicated; all are listed here as condemned to death on one page, and then, on a paper dated hours later, confirmed “hanged by a rope until dead.” On the front of the file folio is a strip of computer stickers, the kind used to track inventory, bearing the number 507989493; they seem to be file locators. “Look how big that number is. It was indescribable what they did. There are millions of files, millions.”

However many there are, it's a lot. The guy who runs the copy shop that my wife uses is an Iraqi exile -- something he didn't talk about until after the war. He told my wife the other day that when he was still living in Iraq in 1991, the family next door in Baghdad was killed by Saddam's thugs one night, and he decided to leave the country the next day. He was quite harsh to a UT professor who tried to show "support" by saying that he had opposed the war.

TIM BLAIR -- COMMUNIST? These photos don't lie. But he can't be "boring from within," because whatever else Blair is, he's not boring.

I THINK THAT EVERYONE SHOULD BE RELIEVED that this story is purest fiction.


Matthew Campbell, Baghdad
THE furore over the looting of Iraq’s national museum took an unexpected turn yesterday when workers accused their director of conniving in the theft of priceless antiquities during the chaotic collapse of the regime in Baghdad.

Fifty museum employees staged a protest in which they waved placards under the noses of American investigators proclaiming that Jabir Khalil, chairman of the Iraqi state board of heritage and antiquities, was a “dictator” and a “thief”. . . .

The investigators, too, have expressed suspicions that the plunder was facilitated by museum employees. Objects had vanished from a storage vault outside the museum to which museum officials had access. “It may turn out to be an inside job,” said one investigator. “Whoever did this seemed to know exactly what they were looking for.”

A full account of what is missing has yet to be given. Even so, officials concede that the losses may be less severe than at first thought, when talk of looters carting off thousands of ancient carvings and crushing pottery underfoot prompted international outrage at America’s failure to intervene.

Since then, indignation has been fuelled by suggestions that some of the thieves were directed by professional collectors abroad. Museums around the world have pledged not to trade in items that may have been stolen in Baghdad.

Suspicions about the involvement of staff with knowledge of the underground vaults are growing.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Roger Simon was ahead of the curve on this story!

MORE WEB DETECTIVE WORK regarding the Case Western shooter, over at The Volokh Conspiracy. Fascinating.