June 14, 2003


The one guy to get the Iraqi Museum story right from the get-go turns out to be not a professional journalist, but our old friend, the philistine warmonger Donald Rumsfeld. Rummy observed at the time that the networks kept showing "the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase". But it was the same vase "over and over and over". The same vase, 170,000 times. Rummy was right.

You want a heritage catastrophe? At the very moment the Baghdad Museum was being non-sacked, workers at the University of Toronto threw out 280 boxes of colonial and Indian artefacts dating back to the 15th century. What's left of them is now deep in a landfill in Michigan. I'm a Torontonian, so that's my heritage in there. Any takers? I thought not. Harder to pin on Bush and Blair.

Interestingly, Toronto is not only more culturally desecrated than Iraq; it's also more diseased. There have been 238 cases of Sars in Toronto, with 32 deaths. There have been 66 cases of cholera in Basra, with three deaths. Basra public health officials, assuming there are any, are doing a much better job of controlling cholera than Toronto public health officials are of controlling Sars.

The Ontario health guys, who sound more like a gung-ho Chamber of Commerce, keep announcing they've got Sars licked and then it goes and infects a big bunch of new hospital patients. And meanwhile the Canadian media keep raving about what a great job the Toronto healthcare folks are doing, and then return to ululating about the massive humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Iraq.

Heh. You don't see that many ululating Canadians these days.

UPDATE: David Appell says that Steyn understates the problems in Iraq, though Appell's lack of comparative data weakens his case. (So does his claim that the Toronto lost-antiquities matter was different because it was "an accident" -- surely he's not buying the bogus conspiracy theories that the United States deliberately allowed looting for the benefit of shadowy American art dealers?) Meanwhile, however, archaeologists are beginning to face up to the fact that they blew their credibility on the looting episode, as this post notes:

The academic world blew it in response to the looting in Iraq. Too many people cried wolf too soon and they have seriously undermined our credibility with the outside world. A case in point (one that could be multiplied) is the ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) Statement on Baghdad Museum, 4/16/03.

The statement in question (linked and quoted in the original) compares the looting in Baghdad to the sack of Constantinople, the burning of the
Alexandrian library, etc., etc. More:

This is a terrible tragedy, but a Mogul invasion it is not, and exaggerating its scale like this can lead to no good. There were hints days before this statement - indeed on the very day the looting was announced - that the scale of the looting might be less than the initial reports, but this information is ignored. The invoking of Alexandria, Constantinople, etc. is not only overblown, it compares like with unlike in that these other lootings were by the invaders whereas it was the people being invaded who carried out the looting in Iraq.

The academic community -- antiwar all along, and a bit too obviously looking for a way to make Bush and the war look bad -- shot itself in the foot, and will command much less respect on such topics in the future.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to an article in Archaeology magazine written before the war, about archaeological treasures being moved out of the Baghdad museum in preparation for war. He notes: "The academic community knew before the war of these plans. Why did they ignore what they already knew?"

Because the pleasure of bashing the Administration was irresistible. You should also read this column by Charles Krauthammer, who flat-out calls Donny George a liar:

George saw the story of the stolen 170,000 museum pieces go around the world and said nothing -- indeed, two weeks later, he was in London calling the looting "the crime of the century." Why? Because George and the other museum officials who wept on camera were Baath Party appointees, and the media, Western and Arab, desperate to highlight the dark side of the liberation of Iraq, bought their deceptions without an ounce of skepticism.

Of course they did.

MORE: Cronaca comments: "if you recall the original folk tale, crying wolf carries a rather steep price once the wolf finally arrives." Indeed.

BLOGGING WILL BE LIGHT for the remainder of the day, most likely. In the meantime, check out The OmbudsGod for interesting stuff on slave-driving at the New York Times, charges of slant at Romenesko, and tart comments by Anne Applebaum. And don't miss Jeff Jarvis's spirited dissent against ruling-class member Anita Roddick.

Also, this essay by Paul Johnson, is worth reading, and PrestoPundit is running a Greg Packer photo caption contest. And Steve Verdon wonders why lefties are condescending to America's youth. "Don't trust anyone under 30?"

UPDATE: Jay Ambrose says hail to the Bloggers.

Lots of cool stuff at Kesher Talk, too. And here's more news from Iran:

What started as a small student march against the issue of university privatization on Tuesday has snowballed into violent nightly protests by demonstrators from across the social spectrum demanding more social, economic and political freedom.

The protests on Friday night were the largest and most violent to date, erupting on the campus of Shaheed Beheshti University in northern Tehran and clogging the two major highways leading to the dormitories of Tehran University.

"This is civil disobedience," said a 45-year-old man beside his car on Chamron Highway, where demonstrators ignited tires and even trees along the road. "We are standing up against them. We are resisting and protesting against the regime." . . .

As the first bonfires were lit and the traffic started to snarl, one driver yelled at a man who climbed out of his car and tried to direct traffic around a bonfire.

"Just be patient, we are trying to have a revolution," the man answered.

Good luck, and godspeed. (Read this briefing on Iran, too.)

HOW BAD ARE THINGS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ? Well, the refugees are pouring . . . in.


It was next the turn of the Taleban in Kabul to prolong this tale of folly. In December 2001, the Taleban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, breaking his silence, told a radio interviewer that the US attack on Afghanistan would mark “the destruction of America.” Need one recall what happened?

Next, it was the turn of Saddam Hussein to make heroic noises. “Iraq is not Afghanistan,” he told his Revolutionary Command Council in January 2003. The television channel owned by Uday, Saddam’s son, showed his “fedayeen”, some with beer bellies, toting Kalashnikovs and promising to “annihilate the Americans.” Again, the Americans did attack, and Saddam, Uday and other members of the Baath gang were the first to run for cover.

In every case, unpopular leaders, blinded by hubris took their wishes for reality. From Cedras to Saddam, and passing by Mladic, Milosevic and Mullah Omar, they had promised to create “another Vietnam” for the Americans. But none became another Vietnam.

And yet it seems there are people who have not learned a lesson. Some of the mullas ruling in Tehran are repeating the same hubris-inspired nonsense that came from Cedras, Mladic, Milosevic, Omar, and Saddam. “Iran is not Iraq,” says Hassan Rouhani, a junior mulla who acts as secretary-general of the High Council of National Defense in Tehran. “Our heroes will fight to the last drop of their blood. The Americans will have another Vietnam.” Similar commends have come from other Khomeinists, unable to see what has happened to their east in Afghanistan and to their west in Iraq.

It seems that the lessons that those evil neocons wished to impart to the Arab world are starting to sink in. Too bad that so many Western pundits still think the Vietnam analogies fit. But maybe they'll catch up with The Arab News eventually.


JIM TREACHER is an innocent bystander in the Blogwars. At least, that's his story, and he's sticking to it.

I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED THIS EARLIER, but it came out while I was on travel -- an excellent, link-filled post on Al Qaeda's Algerian connection, something that I've been harping on for quite some time.


The Belmont Club thinks the US should start a war-crimes tribunal of its own and indict the United Nations peacekeeping heads, who were responsible for the massacres in Rwanda, Kosovo and, now in the Congo.


June 13, 2003

PETER BEINART can't avoid anti-Bush snarking, but the real point of this column is that the United States isn't imperialist enough. Of course, he wrote the column before the utterly pathetic nature of the French presence in the Congo became inescapably clear. Surely Beinart doesn't think that token pseudo-interventions of that sort would be a good thing.

It's also a bit dodgy to treat Liberia as equivalent to a colony. It was, I think, rather sui generis.

UPDATE: InstaPundit reader, and typical New Yorker, Greg Packer writes:

I'm not at all persuaded by Beinart's piece. Ordinary New Yorkers like me think the President is doing a fine job. I've told a bunch of New York Times reporters that, but they keep mangling my quotes. Who does a typical joe like me call about that, anyway?

Who, indeed? David Manning, maybe.

UPDATE: David Adesnik writes that I don't give enough weight to the idea that a successful interventin in Liberia wouldn't be that hard, but then goes on to make the same point that I at least thought I was making above:

The one thing Peter doesn't seem to recognize is that rampant accusations of imperialism in the run-up to the second Gulf War may, in part, be responsible for US disinterest in Liberia. Given that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are predisposed to ignoring Africa, they're probably thinking to themselves: "Why bother with Liberia? It has no strategic value. And the Europeans will only accuse us of unilateralist imperialism if we go ahead and act. Let them take care of it if human rights are so important."

I agree with David that this view is suboptimal, but it's also true -- in no small part as a result of European obstructionism -- that the United States is not in a position to easily intervene anywhere else at the moment. U.S. troops are rather thoroughly occupied. There are plenty of idle French and German and even Belgian troops available.

I HAD SOME MORE EMAIL PROBLEMS, which have been an on-and-off thing since the fire at the server center. The HostingMatters people were great, and finally figured out what was wrong. My experience with their tech support has been consistently terrific -- though I haven't needed it much, which has been even more terrific.

HEY! The Insta-Wife's film is featured on the MovieLine website. Cool.

WHAT BUDGET CRISIS? Tennessee is in surplus.

21ST CENTURY SUBURBAN PARADISE: I'm blogging on the laptop from the deck via wireless, while sipping a Redhook IPA and grilling steaks. Is this a great country, or what?

BACK ON MAY 29TH, I HAD A POST ABOUT A MISSING 727. A lot of readers thought it was probably a repossession. But apparently intelligence services are worried:

The media has figured out that the US government launched an intensive intelligence campaign to find a Boeing 727-200 passenger jet that mysteriously disappeared from Angola's Luanda airport three weeks ago. Since then, the plane's status has discussed every morning in meetings at various intelligence agencies and congressional intelligence committees. While the mainstream press describes the US efforts to locate the missing airliner as "secret', the mystery was first mentioned in the Angolan press on May 28th. . . .

While American investigators think that the plane is probably being used for criminal purposes and not part of a terrorist plot, leaving such things to chance in a post 9-11 world is asking for trouble. So an alphabet soup of intelligence agencies have been using satellites to try to locate the plane, the CIA is working its human sources in Africa and embassies in Africa have been informed of the disappearance and asked to provide any information they may come across. The US has also asked South Africa (via Interpol) to help trace the aircraft.

While the South Africans said it hadn't entered their airspace, perhaps most troubling was that their police and aviation officials thought that the 727 appeared to have been converted into a fuel tanker. While the Americans believe the plane doesn't have enough range to reach the US, that doesn't rule out an attack on a US embassy or facility overseas in Africa.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here's a photo. The 727-200 model has a range of 2,175 nm according to the linked source. On the other hand, a reader sent this link to a source stating that "The 727-200 is capable of a maximum range of 3738 miles with full fuel tanks; with maximum payload, it has a range of 3335 miles." I'm not sure what explains the difference. Terrorists, presumably, wouldn't want to arrive at their target with empty fuel tanks, regardless.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Daniel Aronstein observes:

1 - if the stolen 727 has a nuke on it the fuel tanks can be empty on arrival.

2 - if I remember correctly, the metaphorical language of what was purportedly OBL's last audiotape prefigured his "martydom" in an "eagle" or another form of transportation; hence maybe OBL will be on board.

3 - the most likely target is Israel, as the neighboring countries do not have great air defenses or a diathesis to warn Israel.

Hmm. I wonder if you could land and camouflage a 727 in the Sahara, then reach Israel from there. I think so. Several readers noted that if the plane is configured as a tanker it could have a much longer range. You'd have to modify it to draw fuel from those tanks I think, and it would probably pose non-trivial challenges, but I'm sure it could be done. As for the range discrepancy, reader Michael Jennings emails:

The Boeing 727-200 was originally developed as a derivative of the shorter 727-100. The original version did not have additional fuel capacity, so the range was shorter than the earlier 727-100

Airlines wanted a version with greater range, so Boeing produced the "727-200 Advanced" in 1972 with more fuel capacity. Later versions were techically still called the 727-200 Advanced, but they had even greater range. (Increasing the fuel capacity of an aircraft can be non-trivial. More fuel means a larger maximum take off weight, which means more powerful engines and sometimes a larger wing can be required. Even without dramatic changes in design, the range of newer aircraft tends to be more than that of older aircraft (even if they are technically the same model), because new technology means that lighter versions of components are being invented, engines are becoming slightly more efficient and similar, and the aircraft manufacturers and airlines are always looking at ways to improve the aircraft.

Therefore, different instances of theoretically the same aircraft can have markedly different ranges. That said, getting a 727 of any description across the Atlantic ocean is not likely to be possible.

Let's hope.

STILL MORE: Jonathan Gewirtz emails:

In the 1970s a 727 flown by an incompetent Arab airline crew got lost and flew over the (then-Israel-occupied) Sinai in the direction of Israel. The Israelis intercepted the plane, tried unsuccessfully to communicate with the pilots, then -- fearing a 9/11-type attack -- shot the plane down. (The event was written up in Aviation Week.) I doubt that a similar plane would be able to penetrate Israeli defenses now. Assuming the plane is in the hands of terrorists, a European target seems most likely.

Interesting. I don't remember that story, but it was rather a long time ago. Most likely, of course, the plane isn't in the hands of actual terrorists, but the possibility is troubling.


WASHINGTON — A short conflict that used fewer missiles, sparked fewer oil field fires and created fewer refugees than anticipated produced a lower-than-expected financial cost for the major combat in Iraq.

Well, that's good.

UPDATE: Just flipped over to James Taranto's Best of the Web, where the take on this is much more amusing than mine:

As this March CNN/Money report notes, opponents of Iraq's liberation had much higher estimates of the cost of war. House Democrats said $93 billion, and William Nordhaus, a Yale professor, said the price could be as high as $1.92 trillion (he inflated his figure by including "rebuilding costs and impact of oil, economy").

This wasn't the only thing war opponents told us during the prewar debate that turned out not to be true. They said the U.S. would suffer thousands of casualties. They said ordinary Iraqis would resent American "invaders" rather than welcome them as liberators. They said the "Arab street" would rise up in outrage. They said Iraq's liberation would set off a new wave of terrorism. They said the war would be a "quagmire"--a line today's London Guardian is peddling, though even the New York Times carries an article--albeit on the op-ed page--noting that "things really aren't that bad" in Iraq.

Some war foes even said--get this!--that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would use them on American troops. Well pardon us for asking, but if Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, where are they?

It's possible that this was all just a massive failure of intelligence, but we can't help suspecting that war opponents knew better and deliberately misled the public in an effort to establish a pretext for keeping a mass-murdering dictator in power. In either case, they now face a yawning credibility gap. The American people deserve nothing less than a full congressional investigation into the false claims of antiwar politicians, scholars, journalists and activists. If they lied to us about Iraq, how can we ever trust them to talk us out of future wars?

Don't be so hard on them, James. After all, lots of people were were worried about WMD before the war.

UPDATE: Reader Mike Megargee emails:

There are several interesting aspects of the war costs. First, it's amazing that the scholars who produced the trillion-dollar estimates did not allow for "something good" happening as part of the rainbow of options. Nordhaus' low end estimate was in the $90 billion range. So a Yale economics professor allowed himself a 1.8 trillion dollar range and still missed the eventual outcome.

Similarly humorous was a Stanford paper(link) that said that the war had already cost the economy $1.1 trillion by mid-March, due to the drop in the S&P 500. Checking the Stanford website, I don't see any credit for having recouped that drop twofold since the paper was published.

Seems to me that news of a trillion dollar benefit from the war might have made some newspaper-- unless attributing a $1.1 trillion drop in US stock value directly to the war preparations was specious to begin with.

Finally, I note that the USA Today shows a figure of $30B for deploying and returning the troops. A good portion of those troops were required simply to force Saddam to agree to the inspections that the anti-war voices were advocating.


BOBOS IN BEARDEN: I hope David Brooks reads this piece. And yes, this describes my West Knoxville world pretty well.

WALTER DURANTY'S PULITZER is now under scrutiny given the well-established fact that he knew of -- and deliberately covered up -- Stalin's genocides. Arnold Beichman surveys the issue and reports this quote from Duranty:

What are a few million dead Russians in a situation like this? Quite unimportant. This is just an incident in the sweeping historical changes here. I think the entire matter is exaggerated.

Perhaps the Times should simply return the Pulitzer. And maybe apologize.


Several hundred students and onlookers gathered at a Tehran University dormitory in the early hours of Friday chanting "freedom, freedom" and "death to Khamenei" in a reference to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The protesters have also vented their anger at moderate President Mohammad Khatami, whom they accuse of failing to deliver promised reforms after six years in government.

Washington, which accuses Iran of building nuclear arms and sponsoring terrorism, has hailed the protests which have drawn crowds of up to 3,000 people in the last three days.

"It's our hope that the voice of the Iranian people and their call for democracy and the rule of law will be heard and transform Iran into a force for stability in the region," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday.

Analysts say the protests, while small, reflect widespread frustration among Iran's disproportionately youthful population and are likely to continue in the run-up to the July 9 anniversary of violent student protests in 1999.

The mullahs are nervous. That's not as good as them being, say, dead . . . but it's a start.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has lots more on doings in Iran.

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ, as the Marsh Arabs are reclaiming their land after Saddam's depredations:

What the Americans will find isn't so much a challenging engineering project as a colossal crime scene, a wasteland monument to human cruelty and survival.

"The destruction of Iraq's marshes involved a genocide," said Emma Nicholson, a British parliamentarian whose group, Assisting Marsh Arabs and Refugees, has been trumpeting the plight of the region for years. "The best way I could describe it is an open-air Auschwitz."

The Iraqi regime's assault on the Mesopotamian Marshes is a well-documented tragedy, and it began with the Shiite rebellion against Hussein that erupted on the heels of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Paying a terrible price

The Marsh Arabs, a 5,000-year-old tribe of fishermen-hunters who lived on reed islands and paddled swamp waterways in elegant canoes, joined the revolt wholeheartedly, and when it failed they paid a terrible price.

Bombed, shot, imprisoned and poisoned by the regime--Iraqi helicopters reportedly dropped pesticides into marshland lakes to kill fish, a tribal staple--the Marsh Arabs' population in Iraq has dwindled from 250,000 to 40,000, human-rights groups say. Tens of thousands of the nomads now languish in Iranian refugee camps.

Their vast wetlands, crawling with deserters and rebels, fared no better.

According to the UN Environment Program, 7,000 square miles, or a staggering 93 percent, of the Mesopotamian Marshes were bled dry by Hussein's engineers between 1991 and 2000. Gone are the 1 billion migratory birds--flamingoes, storks, cranes--that used to stop over on flights between Asia and Africa.

Gone are the 500-pound fish that tribesmen used to haul to market in trucks. Vanished, too, probably, are endangered species such as the smooth-coated otter.

So thorough was the destruction, ranked by the UN as "one of the world's greatest environmental disasters," that coalition troops hardly knew they were driving across a former swamp larger than the Everglades when they invaded Iraq from Kuwait in March.

Marsh Arab villages still cling to some of those roads. They look like Arab villages anywhere, including the middle of the Sahara. The only clues to their aquatic origins lie in stately council houses, with cathedral-like spires, constructed entirely of bleached, rotting reeds.

"We broke the dams when the Iraqi army left," said Qasim Shalgan Lafta, 58, a former fisherman whose village sits marooned, along with a few cracked canoes, in a landscape that looks like the Utah Badlands. "We want to teach our children how to fish, how to move on the water again." . . .

"Thanks be to Allah for giving our water back!" declared grinning old Mutashir, one of thousands of nomads displaced by Hussein's cataclysmic reclamation projects. His dingy robes flapping about him, he hugged himself with his scrawny arms and added, "Thanks be to George Bush!"


BE AFRAID: Al Giordano has started a blog.

VIA OXBLOG, some modest good news from Saudi Arabia. Oxblog also rounds up mostly good news from Iraq (which seems pretty consistent with this report from G in Baghdad), but says the Bush Administration is dropping the ball in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Here's more on Iraq:

Two months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq is widely depicted as a nation in chaos, with armed gangs dominating Baghdad's streets amid a widespread breakdown of public services. Having returned from Iraq two weeks ago, I believe this picture is distorted. In fact, we may soon look back at the postwar looting as only a bump in a long road.

And I love this:

As soon as the oil industry begins turning a profit on exports, we should give every Iraqi family a monthly payment. This would instantly dispel the popular myth that the coalition's intent was to seize Iraq's oil assets. It would eliminate widespread dependence on government food rations and could jump-start the consumer economy.

Yep. The idea seems to be catching on.

SKBUBBA CALLS IT TERRORISM. I think it's more like child abuse. Your call.


ANDREW SULLIVAN will no doubt be bemused by charges that I'm flaunting my heterosexuality!

This is flaunting? I guess to people who are uncomfortable with the idea. . . .

BRIBERY AT AIRBUS: The Economist investigates.


One week after the first French troops arrived the first rapid reaction intervention by the EU alone is in danger of being a toothless failure, observers say. If it is not allowed to leave Bunia it will hardly see the slaughter in the province, much less stop it. If unable to intervene in fighting it will not prevent the civilian massacres that invariably follow. . . .

During their brief visit to Bunia yesterday the security council's 15 ambassadors must have regretted this. They were preceded by three Mirage-2000 fighters screaming low overhead, but the Hema gunmen were unbowed.

Their continued presence was felt at the UN compound, where 12 refugees fainted with fright, and in the town's market, the scene of a stampede by several hundred terrified shoppers.

As a UN convoy passed along the main street under heavy French guard a mob of militiamen and civilians ran behind, waving submachine guns in the air and shouting: "The white men will run, we have the city".

That's a polite mistranslation. He was actually saying "the French will run."


Hundreds of demonstrators taking part in a third night of anti-government protests in Tehran called today for the execution of Iran's conservative supreme leader - an audacious move under the country's clerical regime, which has threatened a crackdown.

The pre-dawn protests constitute the biggest show of opposition to Iran's clerics in months.

"Khamenei, the traitor, must be hanged," the protesters chanted, referring Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The demonstrations took place around Tehran University and near the Intercontinental Hotel, in what constitutes the biggest show of opposition to Iran's clerics in months.

Criticism of the ayatollah is punished by imprisonment, and public calls for his death were unheard of until this week.

Stay tuned.

June 12, 2003



If Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, represents the flower of the liberal intelligentsia, god help us. She was in a debate yesterday at the NYSEC hall on the Upper West Side, with Bill Emmott, editor of The Economist. The topic: America's role in the world, protector or predator? . . .

It would help, once in a while to go beyond the standard applause lines of the American left. Vanden Heuvel, in the course of 90 minutes, said literally nothing surprising, apart from appropriating the language of Pat Buchanan to rail against the cabal -- could she possibly be implying they were Jewish? -- of radical neocons who had captured American foreign policy. Now novelty isn't a requirement of public speaking, or political analysis; but a token effort to veer from the party line, just once or twice, would at least demonstrate the capacity for independent thought. For Vanden Heuvel, and far too many others on the American Left, American power is always bad, all power is bad, the most recent Republic administration is always the most evil in history, globalization always works to the benefit of multinational corporations, international institutions are a power for good. These truths are held to be self-evident. No mere facts can alter her views. . . .

Oh, one last thing. Vanden Heuvel said the sanctions policy on Iraq was a mistake; what the US should have done was to encourage the kind of change from within that we saw in central Europe. What freaking planet is she living on? In countries such as Poland and Hungary, the communist regimes had lost the will to slaughter thousands; there, a few fax machines for dissidents could make a difference. To encourage the Iraqis to mount their own velvet revolution: that makes about as much sense as Jews mounting a sit-down protest at Auschwitz. When faced by a man with a gun and no conscience, Vanden Heuvel's Left is incapable of coherence.

Read the rest.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING COLUMN on how the United Nations is, and has been, screwing up in the Congo:

International civil servants and diplomats from developing countries, appointed by their parent countries on a rotational basis, frequently lacked the qualifications demanded by the UN's job description. More often than not they were successful in obtaining lucrative New York appointments as a direct result of their personal ties with their nation's leader. On arrival at the UN, their self-interest motivated them to perpetuate the system that rewarded those within their inner circle. Within two weeks of Mr. Thornberg's enlightened report landing on the Secretary General's desk it was shredded -- having been declared much too controversial! I have one of the few surviving copies.

General Baril's recent appointment by Secretary General Kofi Annan to try and organize a national army in the Congo is a vivid reminder that the UN's "old boys' club" is alive and well -- and doesn't just recruit from developing countries.

Tragically, General Baril and Kofi Annan were at the very centre of the UN's two most disastrous failures in its history -- the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the embarrassing and futile attempt to resolve the refugee crisis in Eastern Zaire (now the DRC) in 1997. . . .

An advisory job to the Secretary General at UN headquarters in New York during the Rwanda crisis, and a short visit to Zaire during a botched UN mission, do not uniquely qualify someone for a challenging and critical job in the current DRC crisis.

One is more inclined to conclude that the "old boys' club" of the Rwandan genocide and the "bungle in the jungle" a few years later in Zaire refuses to acknowledge its disastrous role in those two monumental failures. On the contrary, the failures are offered up as qualifications for taking on key roles in the current crisis in the same area. Seems to me there are plenty of experts on that area of Africa who would be eminently qualified to take on General Baril's challenging task.

Is it just me or is the UN proving completely incapable of arresting its downhill slide into irrelevance on issues of international peace and security?

It's not just you.


The device, which looks a little like the metal detectors used in airports, works because different types of body tissue resonated in different ways when exposed to a fluctuating frequency of microwaves given off by the device.

This resonance can be detected because it interferes with the signal.

Tumour tissue resonates at different frequencies to healthy tissue - so the presence of a cancer can be identified quickly.

But do you get a gold-lame mesh quilt at the hospital?


JUNEAU -- Alaskans will no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon under a bill signed into law Wednesday.

In signing the bill, Gov. Frank Murkowski lauded the work of the Legislature and the National Rifle Association in protecting the Second Amendment rights of Alaskans.

The bill would adopt the so-called "Vermont Carry" law that allows residents to carry a concealed weapon without a special permit. Vermont has no laws against carrying concealed weapons, the governor's office said.

Actually I know some gun-rights folks who don't like "Vermont carry." Their theory is that a bunch of people with carry permits are conscious of gun rights, and likely to act to protect their ability to carry, while if everyone is allowed to carry there's no such constituency.

MATT WELCH SEES A HOPEFUL SIDE TO THE FRENCH RIOTS, though he notes, "In French politics, one clings to whatever optimism one can find."


MAUREEN DOWD IS STILL FOLLOWING THE IMMUTABLE RULES. And scroll up and down for many more cool posts at OxBlog.

THIS OJR ARTICLE ON LOCAL BLOGS isn't bad. But I think its focus on big cities like New York and L.A. is probably a bit misplaced. I suspect that blogs will have a useful role as alt-media in small cities, too, where there are typically fewer alternative channels and where one or two people could actually cover most of what's happening.

AS PROMISED, I'M BACK: A nice drive from Nashville, then a nice dinner at home (I made pasta). I felt sorry for the poor students in the Bar Review course -- I well remember that studying for the bar combined stress and excruciating boredom in a fashion that nothing else has equalled.

I didn't even try to surf from the Sheraton last night -- and not really today. I opened the laptop up in the lobby and started picking up a wireless network named "Sheraton," but the signal was very weak and intermittent. The hotel staff had no idea what I was talking about when I asked -- they kept pointing me to the "business center," where there was no wireless coverage at all. I finally found a place on the mezzanine level where the signal was strong enough, but I never did figure out where the coverage was supposed to be centered. Weird.

I'M IN NASHVILLE, where I delivered a Tennessee Constitutional Law lecture to hapless students studyng for the bar. I'm now in the lobby of the Sheraton, waiting to meet the Insta-Wife, who had a meeting here this morning, too. I'm using the phantom Sheraton wireless, which comes and goes for no obvious reason and doesn't seem to cover the lobby. More blogging later -- in the meantime, check out Geitner Simmons' new home and read his post on the New York Times' inexplicable failure to cover Sen. Charles Schumers federal election law problems.

Also, Dave Kopel corrects an error in a story about NYT gun coverage that I linked below.

If only Maureen Dowd were so graceful about corrections!

June 11, 2003

POSTING WILL BE INTERMITTENT AT BEST today and tomorrow. Back to normal tomorrow evening.


It's true the Iraqis misbehaved and had no credibility but that doesn't necessarily mean that they were in the wrong.

Uh huh. Then there's this:

It could have been bad brinkmanship. Saddam could have misjudged and read about the demonstrations in London, Paris, here and thought they won't dare to go after me.

Indeed. Some of us were pointing that possibility out at the time.

UPDATE: Matt Howell is unimpressed with Blix's interview.

MORE THOUGHTS ON NEW MEDIA, OLD MEDIA and self-financed journalism, over at


In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

You'll have to go here to find out. Meanwhile Pyrojection notes some self-serving historical revisionism on Hans Blix's part.

SPINSANITY NOTES THAT John Dean and Salon are recycling the bogus Wolfowitz quote from The Guardian long after The Guardian retracted it. did, too. Shame on all of them.

UPDATE: Salon has corrected the Dean quote.

ANDREW SULLIVAN RAISED ANOTHER TEN GRAND in donations yesterday. Meanwhile, I bought a yoga strap (the deluxe $9.99 kind!) and scheduled a couple more visits with my stretching trainer. Computer-spine is on the run!

On a more serious note, I've seen a certain amount of jealousy and grousing about this around the Blogosphere (er, Sullivan's ten grand, not my yoga strap), and I'm not sure why. You can blog for the money -- in which case you should be very glad that Andrew is raising the bar, and generating a general sense that it's okay to donate. Or you can blog for fun, in which case why should you care if he's getting some bucks out of it?

I don't try to make money from this site because (1) I have a day job; (2) this is a hobby; and (3) I'm afraid that -- as with Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence -- this would cease to be fun if I tried to turn it into a job. I appreciate the donations to the site (which, beyond bandwidth charges, in general go for fun gadgets, software, etc.), but the return on my time is minuscule. It's like a guy with a $50,000 electric-train collection who occasionally sells one for more than he paid and says "see, I'm turning a profit!" (For me, the donations' greatest value is that they offset the hatemail. People who like your stuff enough to send money outweigh any number who send nasty emails for free.) It's different for Andrew, who's actually making a living.

Hobbyist-bloggers shouldn't care that he's making money. Journalists and would-be pro-bloggers should be ecstatic that he is. I don't see why anyone should be upset about it.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has some comments on selling his book online via the blog.

The Insta-Wife has had an interesting experience. She's pitching her documentary to TV outlets while also selling it online, which gets a revenue stream going and helps demonstrate its viability. So far she's made back over 20% of her investment via web sales, in about 6 weeks. That's not bad for a documentary (most of which, I think, don't ever make back 20% of the investment). It's also interesting -- and here's where the tie-in with Roger's post comes in -- that how it sells via the web isn't very strongly correlated with traffic. I've plugged her film here and on (hey, it's traditional in the industry to plug the work of good looking people who sleep with you, right?), but she's gotten far more sales, from less traffic, when websites or print media that focus on people interested in violent teenagers, mental illness, etc. send people that way. A hundred pageviews by people who are seriously interested are worth more than thousands of pageviews by people whose interest is only casual.

I think that cottage industry will do very well via the web, but the missing link is still putting the interested people together with things that they're interested in. I suspect that niche-marketing publications like Gizmodo may go along way toward filling the gap.

WELL, THIS really is about oil!

The Green Party TD for Dun Laoghaire and environment spokesman has, according to his declaration of interests, shares in Chevron Texaco, which was fined for pollution offences in Angola; General Electric, which has a nuclear division and arms links and Procter & Gamble which was convicted of water pollution in Nenagh.


I'VE OCCASIONALLY POSTED ABOUT VIDEO SOFTWARE, etc. Here's a roundup on video capture and editing, and DVD-burning, from PC Magazine, for those who are interested. I remain quite pleased with Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video 4 / DVD Architect bundle, which scored very well in their tests, though my rendering times seem a good deal quicker than theirs.

LOOTING UPDATE: Howard Kurtz writes:

We're used to journalists being misled in the famous fog of war, but this is ridiculous.

Everyone in journalism makes mistakes, especially routine mistakes – the misspelled name, the mangled title, the wrong date. In this case, though, the press told us that, in a crushing loss for western civilization, 170,000 artifacts were stolen.

The actual number: 33.

Yes, some of the booty was later returned, but 169,967 items? Maybe Don Rumsfeld was right that TV kept showing the same vase being carried away over and over.

And here's the worst part:

We're sure various news outlets have mentioned it, but certainly not with enough frequency to correct the impression left by the earlier hyped reports. This hasn't exactly been a staple of cable TV. The news business has just sort of moved on without even murmuring an apology.

Yep. And that means that a lot of us will trust them a lot less, next time. That said, this AP estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths (3,240) is probably in the ballpark, though with Saddam's fedayeen fighting in civilian garb, etc., the notion of a separate tally for civilian deaths becomes somewhat, well, notional.

IS FRANCE DEAD? Here's a FrontPage Magazine symposium on that very topic. I don't think that things need to turn out badly for France, but I've feared that they would since well before 9/11 and the French leadership's increasing disconnect from reality bodes poorly. What's worse is that most world conflagrations start, one way or another, with France.

UPDATE: Merde in France has posted some photos from last night's demonstrations, and via email sends this observation:

Predictably, the demonstrations turned violent yesterday evening. The government has yielded to the teachers' unions on some points, and now the unions smell blood at the first sign of weakness. Renewed demonstrations are called for tomorrow and I expect that things will turn violent again by the end of the day. This entire process will end up as it always does. The government will give in enough so that both sides will claim victory and France will hobble on as always. It's worked so many times before that there is absolute denial as to the fact that France cannot hobble on much longer.

Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Dissident Frogman has all sorts of interesting information on French doings, and a very cool Flash banner on WMD.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader David Gilbert emails:

I was in Paris yesterday (Tuesday) until our flight at 01:00 (pm) from Charles De Gaulle [Yes, we made the flight but the announcement from UA that several didn't was noticed by the empty seats].

In hindsight, it was obvious that there was going to be trouble because at 9:30am the Rue de Rivoli was almost deserted (very few shops open). Our hotel staff let us know that about 1/2 the trains and buses weren't going to work and asked if we had transportation to the airport. We were staying about 8 blocks down from the Place de la Concorde -- where some of the riots were.

We just missed the strike the week before (Tuesday) because that was the day we flew in, and we just had a tour that afternoon (nice and quiet).

Tourism is very much down there in Paris, several people commented on it including our tour guide to Versailles.

Yeah, and I'm sure this will help.

STILL MORE: Here are photos of the Paris riots, from Xinhua.

NO WONDER HAROLD PINTER IS ANGRY -- Here's yet another Iraqi cultural treasure fallen victim to the Americans' philistinism:

Saddam's last novel -- "Get out of here, curse you!" -- was about to go on sale when U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 20. It never saw the light of day.

"This was his fourth book. It was written sometime in 2002," said Ali Abdel-Amir, a writer who has analyzed Saddam's books.

Then again, there's this stunning revelation:

Abdel-Amir said Saddam did not write the books himself but got a committee from the Information and Culture Ministry to do it for him.

"Saddam would record the outlines of his novel on a tape recorder and palace employees would transcribe it and give it to the committee, whose members included a number of writers and intellectuals," Abdel-Amir said.

"They would write the novel and return it to Saddam. It would go back and forth until the novel got his approval.



Does the failure to find WMD mean we were handed a sack of lies?

Nope. The administration was clear from the get-go: Iraq was part of the Axis, and the Axis had to go down. Each part would be sundered as circumstances permitted. The destruction of the fascist regime in Baghdad would be the object lesson for the region, the proof that America had a new mission: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them.

Yep. But read the whole thing.

AUSTIN BAY WRITES on the Bush Administration's biggest failure in the war on terror. He has some advice, too.

NEW FLASH: Harold Pinter is still an idiot:

The playwright Harold Pinter last night likened George W Bush's administration to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, saying the US was charging towards world domination while the American public and Britain's "mass-murdering" prime minister sat back and watched.

Pinter, 72, was at the National Theatre in London to read from War, a new collection of his anti-war poetry that had been published in the press in response to events in Iraq.

In conversation on stage with Michael Billington, the Guardian's theatre critic, Pinter said the US government was the most dangerous power that had ever existed.

The American detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where al-Qaida and Taliban suspects were being held, was a concentration camp.

The US population had to accept responsibility for allowing an unelected president to take power and the British were exhausted from protesting and being ignored by Tony Blair, a "deluded idiot" Pinter hoped would resign.

Sounds like Pinter's been spending too much time surfing Democratic Underground.

June 10, 2003

RUMSFELD VS. THE ARMY BRASS: Phil Carter has the latest interesting developments.

CANNIBALISM IN NORTH KOREA: Ken Layne reports that it's been going on longer than I suspected.

IF THE WAR WAS ABOUT OIL, asks Orrin Judd, then what about this?

I WAS SERIOUSLY REMISS by failing to mention this NPR story on blogs and The New York Times from Sunday. This story calls Romenesko a blog, a characterization that some other stories seem to disagree with.

TOM MAGUIRE SAYS HE HAS FOUND four bogus quotes from Paul Krugman's column today.

Matthew Hoy isn't happy with today's effort, either.

I HAVE NO PLANS TO DISCUSS HILLARY'S BOOK HERE. If you want to read about it, you can go, well, pretty much anywhere else. I recommend this ESPN column by Gregg Easterbrook (scroll past the basketball stuff), which makes this overdiscussed subject more palatable by including lots of photos of cheerleaders, "dancers," and beauty pageant contestants.

MAKING YOUR LIFE A LITTLE BIT WORSE, to make Big Entertainment feel better:

Due in August, the new ReplayTV 5500 series will remove the "Commercial Advance" and "Send Show" options present in models that are currently for sale.

This is to avoid angering the TV networks, apparently. (Via Gizmodo).

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY SURVEY OF GUN BIAS IN THE MEDIA IS UP a day early, for some reason. He also points to this piece on biased gun reporting in the New York Times. Fox Butterfield's reporting -- the flaws in which have been pointed out here from time to time -- comes in for particular criticism.

A BLOGGER TRADE ASSOCIATION? I'm not sure what I think about this idea. Except for the open bar part.


I just went out and asked the cops who are busy searching vehicles as they enter the Palais de Justice -- pretty thoroughly from the looks of it -- what precisely they were looking for, and what the helicopters were all about. To my surprise, they told me that it had nothing to do with the strikes. It's all about the Elf trial. Your readers may know that French prosecutors are trying to put the former president of Elf away for a good long time. The charge is that the former president, the marvellously-named Loik Le Floch-Prigent, conspired with his buddies to run a vast corruption network that bankrolled countless French politicians and unsavory African leaders. Key search terms: slush funds, suitcases full of cash, millions of francs worth of jewelry, lavishly-appointed villas, and, of course, Jacques Chirac. One of the defendants, Andre Guelfi, is known -- I am not kidding -- as "Dede the Sardine." Apparently, there are some people out there who do not want Le Floch-Prigent and Dede the Sardine to meet their just desserts. There have been highly credible threats against the Palais de Justice, which is right outside my door, hence the choppers right above my head. The alert is due to last until mid-July. Here's a link to the story: Pure, delicious sleazefest, Instapundit readers; enjoy:

Link [Covered on Instapundit here]

Bill just sent me this: Link. It seems things got really ugly at the Place de la Concorde a few hours ago when the demonstrations against the pension reform scheme turned, yet again, violent. Masked demonstrators barricaded the street, set dustbins on fire, and then launched bottles, sticks and rocks at the police. One of those rocks connected with some poor photographer's head. He's been taken to the hospital, but evidently he'll probably be okay . The police had to evacuate the area with teargas grenades and water cannons. Hence the sirens.

I'll let you know if anything else happens. All of this is, of course, playing havoc with my afternoon nap schedule.

I can imagine. Thanks, Claire! Readers who appreciate this reportage should consider buying her novel, Loose Lips, which will be out next week.

UPDATE: MerdeinFrance has more.


The goddamned helicopters are seriously disturbing my wa. It is now accompanied by the cacaphony of incessant police sirens. There are barricades on the street outside my apartment. I can't hear myself think. My poor father had to walk miles today to get to an emergency medical appointment: no public transport, no taxis.

I am beginning to have a great deal of fresh sympathy for Marie Antoinette's point of view.

Hmm. 50,000 crazed protesters vs. one angry Claire Berlinski. I feel sorry for those guys. . . .

BRAD DELONG'S BIGGEST FAN: So I got in the car to run errands, and as soon as it started the radio came on and to my amazement I heard Rush Limbaugh talking about the "blogosphere." (Yes, he used that word, though his description was, ahem, not very clear.) And then he started quoting Brad De Long's post on Hillary Clinton.

That's the power of the Blogosphere, shaping the discussion in Big Media!

Meanwhile here's a pretty good Business Week article on blogs, with a nice quote from Nick Denton:

"Blogs are Web media reborn," declares Nick Denton, who authors his own, and has launched two for-profit blogs --, which is aimed at wealthy gadget lovers, and, a salacious run-down on New York media. "After the boom, Web media got a bad name," Denton notes. "So we gave it a new one."

Blogosphere power, baby.

UPDATE: Here's somebody else who heard the same broadcast.

ANARCHY AND VIOLENCE IN THE STREETS has caused the United States to shut down civilian operations in Paris.

Obviously, there aren't enough troops to keep order in such an uncivilized place.

UPDATE: But don't worry -- the French are on the job in the Congo:

A European military planner who was issued a copy of the French document said: "This is the most cynical military briefing I've read in my entire life. Everybody is just laughing at it."


RON ROSENBAUM has a nice piece on the growing tide of European antisemitism.

There is a horrid but obvious dynamic going on here: At some deep level, Europeans, European politicians, European culture is aware that almost without exception every European nation was deeply complicit in Hitler’s genocide. Some manned the death camps, others stamped the orders for the transport of the Jews to the death camps, everyone knew what was going on—and yet the Nazis didn’t have to use much if any force to make them accomplices. For the most part, Europeans volunteered. That is why "European civilization" will always be a kind of oxymoron for anyone who looks too closely at things, beginning with the foolish and unnecessary slaughters of World War I, Holocaust-scale slaughter that paved the way for Hitler’s more focused effort.

And so, at some deep level, there is a need to blame someone else for the shame of "European civilization." To blame the victim. To blame the Jews.

Yep. This piece first appeared last year, but it seems even more appropriate today, as this sort of behavior becomes steadily more obvious. But they're not fooling anybody -- except the willingly fooled, and those disappointed that things didn't work out as Hitler planned, of whom there are still plenty in Europe and elsewhere. And as Rosenbaum notes:

Isn’t it interesting that you didn’t see any "European peace activists" volunteering to "put their bodies on the line" by announcing that they would place themselves in real danger—in the Tel Aviv cafйs and pizza parlors, favorite targets of the suicide bombers. Why no "European peace activists" at the Seders of Netanya or the streets of Jerusalem? Instead, "European peace activists" do their best to protect the brave sponsors of the suicide bombers in Ramallah.

We know why. The Euros, meanwhile, might take a cautionary note from Ken MacLeod.

UPDATE: A reader who prefers to remain anonymous emails:

Glenn, I've been reading Instapundit for a long time -- I'm a writer and editor based in London now (in fact, I can see the massive BBC towers from my back window).

Hitchens's piece on the British obsession with Wolfowitz is right on the money: for some reason, his name always comes up first in the list of "neocons" who "control" the Bush administration. Half the time they either misidentify or fail to identify his position. Most frequently he "works in the Defense Department," which has a nice shadowy sound to it -- much more effective than "he works for Donald Rumsfeld," because these Wolfowitzian neocons only "work" for their own kind, right? Naturally, when this is pointed out, they immediately go on the defensive, about how they're against racism and could never be anti-semitic and not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic (by the way, have you ever met or heard from anyone who said it was?).

But this leads to a point about anti-Semitism that many -- particularly those among my fellow lefties -- fail to understand: Nazism does not define anti-Semitism. That is: one can hold anti-Semitic attitudes, and one can even hold them un- or semi-consciously, without believing that all Jews should be gassed. Not being a Nazi doesn't mean one cannot under any circumstances be an anti-Semite. For some reason, this distinction is perfectly clear to anti-war lefties when talking about racism -- witness how frequently they accused Republicans or even war supporters of unconscious or institutional racism -- but when it comes to examining the anti-Semitic content of their own beliefs, it just doesn't get through.

Not much does. BTW, here's the Hitchens post. I added this update here because of the Nazi point. I think that we're seeing two different, but related things: (1) a rebirth of the old (and non-genocidal) species of Continental antisemitism, which was suppressed by anti-Nazi talk for a while; and (2) a desire, as Rosenbaum describes above, to overcome the Nazi-era guilt, and also the constraints imposed by that guilt. This is also driven, I think, by foreign policy concerns. It's much harder to posture morally, suck up to the Arabs, and oppose Israel when confronting the facts that (1) Europeans did largely support the Holocaust; and (2) Arabs largely still do. So the impulse is to explain it away by saying (1) the Holocaust wasn't that bad; (2) Israel is just as bad; and (3) see, Europeans aren't any worse than anyone else. (This is much the way Stalin-era Soviets responded to comments on genocide by saying "what about you Americans and your Red Indians?") As with the Stalinists, it's a dodge in defense of the indefensible.

MAKING A FEDERAL CASE OUT OF EVERYTHING? Gene Healy has a nice piece on the federalization of crime, using the Jayson Blair case as a jumping-off point. Excerpt:

James Comey, Orrin Hatch, and other officials pushing the expansion of federal jurisdiction ought to reacquaint themselves with the Founding documents. Staying out of local affairs isn't only their legal responsibility as servants of the people sworn to uphold the Constitution. It could also be a matter of life and death. As Nobel economist Milton Friedman has pointed out, when government begins to do what it should not, it ceases to do what it should. That's a lesson we should have learned after September 11th.

As was widely reported, the Phoenix FBI office knew about Al Qaeda activity at U.S. flight schools prior to September 11 but could not get the Bureau's main office in Washington, D.C., to take action. In fact, Kenneth Williams, the FBI agent who recommended canvassing flight schools for Islamist radicals prior to 9/11, couldn't concentrate on terrorism full-time because he was ordered to head up an arson investigation. Williams' memo about Bin Laden-ist pilots-in-training disappeared down a bureaucratic black hole. Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times and other sources, the FBI was engaged in an 18-month-long sting operation at a brothel in New Orleans that netted 12 prostitutes. While Al Qaeda was preparing for 9/11, federal law enforcement was down in the French Quarter acting like the local vice squad.

There are limited resources available to law enforcement and defense. Spend time and money pursuing prostitutes, arsonists, and dishonest reporters, and there are fewer resources available for the fight against Al Qaeda. It's well past time for the federal government to get its priorities straight.

(Emphasis added). He's absolutely right on this, and it seems clear that priorities are still askew. It's hard to cut the Justice Department the slack it wants for the overwhelmingly important war on terror when the Justice Department itself doesn't seem to treat the war on terror as overwhelmingly important.

UPDATE: Here, by the way, is a link to an excellent ABA report on the federalization of crime, a subject that brings together folks as different as me, Gene Healy, Jeralyn Merritt, and Chief Justice Rehnquist.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Clayton Cramer has posts on this topic here and here.

I'VE BEEN MEANING TO MENTION how happy I am that BILL QUICK has done away with his popups, which used to take forever to load. (Maybe because I often have 30+ browser windows open at a time? Nah, couldn't be. . . .) He says his traffic has gone down since then, but I rather suspect that's the end of the war, the coming of summer, etc. But if popups have been keeping you away, be advised that his site is now popup free!

ANDREW SULLIVAN RAISED ABOUT TEN GRAND YESTERDAY, as part of his pledge week. Well, he is trying to turn himself into a self-sustaining media empire, and doing a pretty good job of it.

Donations around here, while much appreciated, were, er, rather a lot less. And that's okay, since I'm not trying to create a self-sustaining media empire. But thanks to those who gave. I'm using the money for a series of sessions with a trainer who specializes in stretching exercises that remedy the problems caused by excessive computer use, something from which I definitely suffer.

Yeah, I know, it's a Red Queen's Race, using money from blogging to pay to remedy the problems caused by blogging. But whaddyagonnado?

Michele, meanwhile, says that she can offer things that Andrew, fortunately, can't. I'll bet her spine is more flexible than mine, too.

LOOTING UPDATE: The Guardian's David Aronovitch takes the press to the woodshed over the bogus looting reports:

So, there's the picture: 100,000-plus priceless items looted either under the very noses of the Yanks, or by the Yanks themselves. And the only problem with it is that it's nonsense. It isn't true. It's made up. It's bollocks.

Not all of it, of course. There was some looting and damage to a small number of galleries and storerooms, and that is grievous enough. But over the past six weeks it has gradually become clear that most of the objects which had been on display in the museum galleries were removed before the war. Some of the most valuable went into bank vaults, where they were discovered last week. Eight thousand more have been found in 179 boxes hidden "in a secret vault". And several of the larger and most remarked items seem to have been spirited away long before the Americans arrived in Baghdad. . . .

This indictment of world journalism has caused some surprise to those who listened to George and others speak at the British Museum meeting. One art historian, Dr Tom Flynn, now speaks of his "great bewilderment". "Donny George himself had ample opportunity to clarify to the best of [his] knowledge the extent of the looting and the likely number of missing objects," says Flynn. "Is it not a little strange that quite so many journalists went away with the wrong impression, while Mr George made little or not attempt to clarify the context of the figure of 170,000 which he repeated with such regularity and gusto before, during, and after that meeting." To Flynn it is also odd that George didn't seem to know that pieces had been taken into hiding or evacuated. "There is a queasy subtext here if you bother to seek it out," he suggests. . . .

Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchiks of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed.

Yes. But the Yanks are understandably less and less interested in paying attention to the credulous and the dishonest folks who seem to make up the bulk of the critics. (Via Zach Barbera).

"PEOPLE ARE DYING. THE AMERICANS MUST COME. WE WANT PEACE." But don't worry -- the French are on hand:

But unlike in Sierra Leone in 2000, when British troops remained in large numbers on the ground for months, the French commanders ordered their men to leave Liberia as soon as the foreign passport holders had been rounded up.

"For the moment we don't foresee leaving our troops here," a French army spokesman said.

"Our sole mission is to proceed with the evacuation of Europeans and other foreigners upon the demand of the French government."

Typical colonialist response: get the white folks out, and let the natives go hang. Literally, I'm afraid, in this case.

MAX POWER SAYS I'M WRONG about the Justice Department's position in the Unocal Burma case. (The original post, in which Paul Stephan of the University of Virginia Law School also says I'm wrong, is here.) Hmm. Maybe I am wrong.


Russia is Iran's top nuclear business partner and the builder of a controversial $1 billion reactor at Bushehr. But after years of defending Iran's nuclear program as peaceful, Russia appears to be undergoing an change in official thinking . . . .

"Russian officials have made a huge evolution in understanding the threat from Iran" and are making "progress toward the US position," says Anton Khlopkov, an Iran expert at the PIR Center in Moscow, a military-research institute that predicts a "worst-case scenario" of Iran building a nuclear weapon by 2006, in a report soon to be released.

"Not only US but Russian experts were really surprised by the information about these two sites and these two plants," Mr. Khlopkov says of the enrichment facilities. "Russia and the US should engage with European experts to find the source of such technologies ... maybe in North Korea or Pakistan."

Why the Russians would want a not-terribly-friendly-or-stable nuclear-armed power on their southern border has never made sense to me. I guess they've just been unable to resist the lure of those big contracts. The last paragraph above also indicates just how hard it is to know what's going on in these programs from the outside. It sounds as if the Iranians have managed to keep the Russians in the dark about the extent of their program even while buying a lot of expertise and materiel from them.


Videotapes showing people being tortured and executed by Saddam Hussein's regime are being bought on the streets of Baghdad by Iraqis anxious to trace missing relatives.

Most of the tapes date from the Shia Muslim insurgency that erupted after the first President George Bush urged Iraqis to overthrow the former Iraqi leader in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

Many of the executions took place in Najaf and Karbala.

Some of the tapes show a man who appears to be Lieutenant General Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, better known as "Chemical Ali", killing people.

A BBC correspondent who has seen some of the recordings says they are evidence of the atrocities of the former regime.

Some of my lefty correspondents seem to think they're scoring points by noting that Saddam killed a lot of people because George H.W. Bush didn't remove him in 1991. But I agree. Saddam was left in power because Bush and Powell feared (wrongly) a backlash from Americans after the "highway of death" footage of killed Republican Guards aired on TV. In addition there was -- misplaced -- concern that toppling Saddam would have been wrong, somehow, in light of the U.N. resolutions. I felt at the time that it was a big mistake to leave Saddam in power, and I still do. I don't quite understand, though, how people can say that we should have toppled him in 1991, but that it was wrong to do so in 2003.


FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - The FBI began draining a pond Monday in a search for evidence that the person who carried out the deadly anthrax-by-mail attacks in 2001 filled the envelopes with the deadly spores under water for his own protection.

The draining of the one-acre pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest is expected to take three to four weeks. The pond is 4 to 5 feet deep.

The work drew FBI agents, other law enforcement officials and contractors, who operated dump trucks and backhoes at the site several miles northwest of the city. A generator and a pump were brought in, and a hose ran into the pond.

Hey -- maybe those anthrax attacks never really happened!

THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLFOWITZ: Christopher Hitchens points out something noted here a while back, that the BBC seems to be making a . . . special effort to make Paul Wolfowitz sound extra-Jewish:

"Yes that's all very well," said the chap from the BBC World Service, "but what about this man Vulfervitz who seems to run the whole show from behind the scenes?" For the fifth time in as many days, and for the umpteenth time this year, I corrected a British interviewer's pronunciation. You see the name in print, you hear it uttered quite a lot in American discussions, you then give a highly inflected rendition of your own. ... What is this? In my young day, the BBC had a special department for the pronunciation of foreign names for the guidance of those commenting on Thailand, say, or Mongolia. But this particular name is pronounced as it is spelled. "Very well," said the BBC chap, with a hint of bad grace. "This man Wolfervitz ..."

We know why, don't we?

UNRELIABLE SOURCES: On the one hand, you've got this:

An Iranian government official with ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Tehran sides with the Americans on one big issue — Saddam Hussein's weapons.

"Yes, we agree with the Americans. Our intelligence indicated that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them from the U.N.," the official said.

On the other hand, there's this:

Two of the highest-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in American custody have told the C.I.A. in separate interrogations that the terrorist organization did not work jointly with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, according to several intelligence officials.

The former, of course, supports an Administration claim; the latter contradicts one. Is either reliable? Who knows?

June 09, 2003


EUGENE VOLOKH WONDERS if antiglobalization folks are seriously in favor of slavery.

L.T. SMASH HAS advice for non-Americans who don't understand Americans.

I think it would be interesting to have Jim Treacher do his own version. . . .

In the meantime, there's always William Burton's statement to the world, which lives on even though his blog is now defunct.

THERE'S AN ALL NEW L.A. EXAMINER SITE! That's the blog, not the forthcoming newspaper of the same name.

"U.N. ENVOY FAILS ON SUU KYI'S RELEASE:" No surprise there, but it's a reminder that Burma is more likely to be freed at gunpoint than via diplomacy.


UPDATE: Now Tom Maguire is fact-checking Luskin.


Collaboration between the military and Boston's mega-watt academic minds is nothing new. Researchers at MIT perfected radar for military use during World War II.

But nano-technology is a whole new world. It's the science of objects far smaller than the width of a human hair.

For instance, when Ms. Frick and Mr. Bruet use scanning-electron microscopes or atomic-force microscopes to look at the seashells, they see what looks like a wall of bricks. The "bricks" are five microns long and one micron tall. (A human hair is 80 microns wide.)

Nature, they explain, has taken relatively weak materials and created a structure - the brick wall - that is impressively tough. Using nano-construction techniques, the ISN will eventually try to mimic that structure with super-strong materials, thus creating a lightweight - and bulletproof - substance.

As I say, interesting.

UPDATE: Noah Shachtman wasn't as impressed as the CSM reporter.

JOE KATZMAN IS SAVAGING JOHN ASHCROFT for defending -- well, indirectly -- the use of forced labor in Burma. A commenter to Joe's post asks for "non-commentary sources" describing the subject. Here's an article from the Boston Globe on the subject. Excerpt:

For the past 23 years, federal courts have allowed victims of torture and other abuse to file claims under an obscure 1789 statute for violations of human rights norms, commonly known as the Alien Torts Claims Act.

Since a 1980 civil suit against a former Paraguayan police chief accused of torturing and killing a teenage boy, lawsuits have been filed against Ferdinand Marcos, former Philippine president; Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic; Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden; and banks and other companies alleged to have profited from Nazi war crimes.

But the Justice Department, reflecting an emerging view among conservative legal scholars, argues in a 30-page brief that such lawsuits frequently have no connection to the United States and may complicate foreign policy objectives by targeting allies, including nations helping to fight terrorism. . . .

The government brief was filed in the San Francisco-based US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case involving a gas pipeline in Burma. It said the law ''has been commandeered and transformed into a font of causes of action permitting aliens to bring human rights claims in United States courts, even when the disputes are wholly between foreign nationals and when the alleged injuries were incurred in a foreign country, often with no connection whatsoever with the United States.''

The filing has prompted an outcry from human rights groups and some lawyers within the State Department, who say that such lawsuits should be encouraged. American University law professor Diane Orentlicher said the brief amounted to ''a profound reversal'' on the part of the US government, which has previously been supportive or remained neutral in many alien torts cases.

''There are legitimate questions to be raised about some of the interpretations by some of the courts,'' Orentlicher said. ''But what they've done with this brief is like treating a mosquito bite by cutting off your arm.''

I think Ashcroft's position on this is wrong, and that it shouldn't be that hard to distinguish between bogus and real suits. On the other hand, the willingness of "international human rights" activists who are really anti-American to abuse human rights claims has become pretty apparent, with efforts to prosecute Tommy Franks, Tony Blair, etc. in Belgium. And the story makes clear that the Bush Administration has become hostile to this sort of thing because it fears "activists" using it as a tool to harass the United States' anti-terrorism efforts.

So while I think that Ashcroft is wrong, I have to note that when a currency is debased, it becomes worth less. The currency of international human rights has been debased. And as a result, it's worth less. Back when I took International Human Rights Law I remember the professor warning about pushing things too far -- the case in question, Filartiga, was pretty new then -- and this is why.

UPDATE: Prof. Paul Stephan, who teaches this stuff at the University of Virginia Law School, emails:

With all respect, Glenn, what the Justice Department is saying is that the position of the Second and Ninth Circuits, which the D.C. Circuit has opposed and the Seventh has doubted, rests on an implausible act of judicial lawmaking unhinged from an relevant act of Congresss. The so-called Alien Tort Claims Act is a product of judicial imagination; the 1789 statute from which it is claimed to be derived did something completely different. The Unocal case illustrates the shortcomings of this litigation strategy, apart from its lawlessness: The Burmese government is not being sued because it has sovereign immunity, and otal SA, the big oil company in bed with the Burmese government, is out of the suit because it has no contacts with California. So Unocal, which has a minority interest in a joint venture and no active management role, is subjected to millions of dollars of litigation costs and potential liability. No other country in the world authorizes such litigation. The U.S. civil justice system is wonderful, but more is not necessarily better.

Fair enough. Meanwhile reader John Allison emails:

Geez, I'm with the justice dept on this one with the caveat that I think they could have made the point in the filing that the brand spanking new ICC in Brussells would be much better suited to this sort of suit.<\snark> That is what they claim to be there for, right? RIGHT?!

Uh, right. Right after they allow a suit against TotalFina ELF.


HERE'S MORE ON THE BAGHDAD LOOTING THAT WASN'T. Apologies for the slur are not forthcoming, however.

UPDATE: Roger Simon suspects the Museum staff of not being entirely forthcoming.

WHAT HATH LINSE WROUGHT? I have more constructive suggestions for the New York Times over at

HERE'S MORE ON THE RAVE ACT from the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. Excerpt:

The RAVE Act has no valid law enforcement purpose. The initiative to pass this legislation came after federal prosecutors in Louisiana failed in their efforts to apply the existing crack-house statute to the owner of a concert venue where some illegal drug activity allegedly took place. Federal anti-drug officials apparently believe if they can suppress any gathering where drug use may occur, they will actually win the “war” on drugs. Years of empirical evidence documenting the government’s failure apparently does little to convince them of their error, to say nothing of the obvious violation of individual rights that takes place as officials demand more and more power.

Read the whole thing. If you're interested, you should also read this brief from the New Orleans rave case (full disclosure: I was a coauthor, working with the Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund -- we won). One thing it makes clear is that the DEA has been after not just drug use, but the "rave scene," and electronic music in general, which it regards as part of a "drug culture" that it sees as a legitimate target.

UPDATE: I don't approve of this suit against the Federal government, but I have to admit that in light of the Rave Act it has a certain sauce-for-the-gander character. (Via The Curmudgeonly Clerk).

DEFENSE TECH REPORTS that DARPA is being investigated. The question is whether its long-term research operations are being raided to fund near-term operations.

MORE ON HORIZONTAL KNOWLEDGE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: My TechCentralStation column is up early this week. It contains constructive suggestions, a cautionary note from Nick Denton, and more!

A KIND WORD FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, more than a few, actually. I'm working on a law review article about the regulation of nanotechnology, and I've been going through the mainstream media coverage of the subject. The Times is way ahead of anyone else -- and I mean way ahead. Not only is the quality of its coverage excellent, but the sheer quantity outstrips everyone else by a mile.

This is the sort of thing that makes the Times great. And I suspect that I speak for a lot of people in saying that if Howell Raines, et al., had focused on this kind of work, excellent reporting on a wide array of topics, taking advantage of the Times' superior size and scope, things would be a lot better. I hope that the new editors will keep that in mind. People don't criticize the Times because it isn't a national treasure. They -- or at least I -- criticize it because it is one, and recent zone-flooding on Augusta National, etc., has squandered that status.

LEE HARRIS WRITES about "acting too soon." Meanwhile Juan Non-Volokh writes about acting too late.

ANDREW SULLIVAN is having "Pledge Week" again over at his site. Er, feel free to donate here, too. . . .

WHEN THE GWEILO DIARIES LINKED to this report of starvation in North Korea I was -- well, skeptical is too strong a word, given what other news has leaked out of there, but I wasn't convinced enough to run with it. But now The Telegraph is reporting the same thing. Excerpt:

Aid agencies are alarmed by refugees' reports that children have been killed and corpses cut up by people desperate for food. Requests by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to be allowed access to "farmers' markets", where human meat is said to be traded, have been turned down by Pyongyang, citing "security reasons".

Anyone caught selling human meat faces execution, but in a report compiled by the North Korean Refugees Assistance Fund (NKRAF), one refugee said: "Pieces of 'special' meat are displayed on straw mats for sale. People know where they came from, but they don't talk about it."

The NKRAF, an aid body set up in China five years ago which helps to smuggle food and medicines into parts of North Korea off-limits to WFP officials, interviewed 200 refugees for the report.

Oddly, however, the article speaks of starvation in North Korea as essentially a natural disaster, rather than a government-made one. But I'll stand by one prediction I made a while back: When North Korea falls, and it will, and when the extent of the horrors there becomes widely known, many South Korean politicians will face a terrible reckoning as their complicity with evil becomes clear. Maybe they think the same thing -- that would explain why they're trying to keep things quiet, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: Multiple perspectives via reader email: From Leo Strauss: "If all values are relative, then cannibalism is a matter of taste."

From Amartya Sen:

One remarkable fact in the terrible history of famine is no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form government and a relatively free press. They have occurred in ancient kingdom and in contemporary authoritarian societies, in primitive tribal communities and in modern technocratic dictatorships, in colonial economies governed by imperialists and in newly independent countries run by despotic national leaders or by intolerant single parties. But famines have never afflicted any country that is independent, holds regular elections, has opposition parties and permits newspapers to question the wisdom of government policies.

From Samizdata:

From Tim Blair:

Cannibalism is increasing in North Korea following another poor harvest and a big cut in international food aid, according to refugees who have fled the stricken country.

The reporter is being polite. What he means to say is “Following years of communism.”


ANOTHER UPDATE: Dean Esmay offers some history. And here's a book on cannibalism in China during Mao's famines.


As the war on terrorism spurs U.S. intelligence agencies to constantly expand aviation watch lists, many airline-reservation systems rely on name- searching software based on a 120-year-old indexing system that mistakes the similar spelling or sound of innocent passengers' surnames for those of terrorists.

The result: Thousands of travelers have been flagged at airports for additional searches and police questioning -- while critics say real terrorists could slip through undetected. . . .

The problem, critics say, is that the English-based name-search software used by airline-reservation databases is easily flummoxed by Arabic, Asian and other names that, when converted from their native script to the Roman alphabet, can have hundreds of legitimate different spellings.

Still a few bugs in the system.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, Carl Hiaasen outlines more dumbness.

June 08, 2003

IF YOU'VE SPENT THE WEEKEND, you know, "having a life," and missed it, you may want to scroll down to this 2,261 word post on the "Bush lied about WMD" claim. Then again, now that I've told you how long it is, you may not. . . .

And here's a post with some constructive suggestions (no, really) for the new management at the New York Times.

ANDREA SEE has gone a whole year without smoking. Drop by and congratulate her.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING STORY about a judicial scandal in Mississippi that seems to be getting less attention than I'd have expected, especially in light of the Trent Lott connection.

THE TIMES (London, not New York) is crediting bloggers with the end of Howell's reign.

UPDATE: David Warren agrees. I think they're kind of right, and I'm going to talk about the role of the Internet in dissolving the Raines regime from the inside and outside simultaneously, in this week's TechCentralStation column.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a link to the Times story that works for me. See if it works for you.

If it doesn't work, read it here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an L.A. Times piece that credits Jim Romenesko more than bloggers. I found the profile of Romenesko, about whom I know relatively little personally, the most interesting part.

Meanwhile several readers note that the (London) Times story credits Lefty bloggers with Trent Lott's ouster. Well, it was Josh Marshall and Atrios who hit him first, but it's probably true that it was the attention from non-Lefty bloggers, who didn't find everything Trent Lott said outrageous on general principles, that really got the story off the ground. As with most Blogospheric successes, it was a collaborative effort.


Laura Callahan, the deputy CIO of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was placed on paid administrative leave last week after questions surfaced about her academic qualifications, a DHS spokeswoman confirmed.

The move came after members of Congress contacted department officials demanding answers to questions about her academic background, as well as about the department's policy on background checks.

On her resume, Callahan, who was appointed to the position on April 1, said she received her academic degrees, including a doctorate in computer information systems, from Hamilton University in Evanston, Wyo.

However, the congressmen, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), contend that according to published reports, Hamilton isn't licensed by that state, nor is the school accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. The congressmen said Hamilton is a "diploma mill."

Of course, the real question is why she got the job in the first place. Don't they do background checks? And besides, there's this:

In March 2000, she was one of two White House officials accused of threatening Northrop Grumman Corp. workers with jail unless they kept quiet about the disappearance of thousands of White House e-mails, according to press reports at the time. Callahan was the White House webmaster under the Clinton administration, and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman ran the White House computer system at the time.

Maybe they figured that was proof she could keep a secret. . . .

(Via Robi Sen).

UPDATE: Background checks? Hah! Lawrence Haws says that he only needed three minutes with google to discover this "explosive" secret. He's even got photographic evidence!

Perhaps someone should introduce the Homeland Security folks to Google.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Haws has noticed changes to one of the profiles he found. He suspects Callahan, but a reader emailed me to note that anyone can edit that profile rather easily.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this joke's on us. Not the phony degree part, but the site that Haws found. Reader elaborates:

Microsoft SQL ships with a demo data base called northwind traders. By default it is installed. It gives a basic idea of table relationships and the data that might be in a live DB. It's pretty lame actually. It just so happens that there is a Laura Callahan listed as an employee. . . .

Basically, someone wrote a quick table editor for a test and left it visible to the web. I'm a long term DBA who's been worked with just about every DB platform that's shipped since 1995. Easy to get fooled by if you're not familiar with the software. The first clue should have been that the data was editable by anyone on the web. The second clue was the simple (ugly) interface. The third clue should have been the products on the site had nothing to do with parent site.

I won't box you around much because you were just passing along someone else's error, but I read your site. And after all, according to some you're one the 4 most powerful bloggers! ;)

Hmm. Well, if an "ugly" interface is a clue that something's wrong then there's a lot of funny business going on. It's odd that the pictures match, though. But there you are -- I don't promise no mistakes here, just swift corrections.

THE CONGO IS ANOTHER HUMAN DISASTER, on a par with Cambodia. The U.N. has been nominally in charge of dealing with things there for several years (there may be a connection here. . . .). But Joe Katzman does an excellent job (in connection with Bruce Rolston -- follow the links to multiple posts) of explaining why the U.N. can't do anything constructive. It also explains why the political costs to the United States of trying to do anything constructive would be excessive -- in fact, paralyzingly high, and much worse than Iraq.

The U.N. and the mindset that goes with it, built to prevent genocide, seems in fact to promote genocide and make it hard for anyone to do anything about it.

G. IN BAGHDAD is a new Iraqi blogger. Hey, the number just doubled! I hope we'll see it double again, very soon.

(Via Jeff Jarvis, who also reports that there are now 70 new newspapers in Baghdad).

SORRY FOR THE LACK OF BLOGGING this morning. It's been busy around the InstaPundit household. Back later. I've updated the WMD post below, though, so keep scrolling.