August 02, 2003

SORRY FOR THE LIMITED BLOGGING: The Nigerian relatives are in town.

Meanwhile, note that Chief Wiggles has moved.

TONY ADRAGNA WRITES on a U.S. "war crime" that wasn't.

There have been a lot of those, haven't there? But somehow I had missed this one.

BAGHDAD UNIVERSITY isn't doing quite as well as this opening paragraph suggests, but the news is still encouraging:

BAGHDAD -- Two young women strolled arm in arm toward the university bus stop, giddy with relief that final exams were over. Around them surged a stream of students as diverse as it was high-spirited: girls in modest black veils or skin-tight fashion ensembles, trim-bearded Shiite and clean-shaven Sunni Muslim youths, minority Kurds and Christians.

Fascinating stuff.

MATT WELCH takes a close look at Gray Davis. You should listen to Matt. He's a man who's ahead of his time. Perhaps too far for his own good!

A FEW READERS (well, okay, one) emailed to say that my link below to a story reporting that Vaclav Havel wore a t-shirt reading "F--k the Communists!" was in poor taste. I don't get it -- people Fisk the Communists all the time. . . .

It's not like it said "Communists s--k" or anything.

I'll be here all week.

OBVIOUSLY, THE ANTHRAX-BY-MAIL ATTACKS NEVER HAPPENED -- otherwise surely the FBI would have found something by now:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - No traces of anthrax have been found from a Maryland pond that the FBI drained in June as part of its investigation into the 2001 deadly anthrax attacks, law enforcement officials said on Friday.

They said the laboratory tests on the soil samples had been completed fairly soon after the draining of the pond located in a municipal forest owned by the city of Frederick, which is about 50 miles from Washington, D.C.

The FBI began the draining on June 9 and it took about three weeks, the officials said. The FBI spent just under $250,000 on it.

"The results did not turn up anything," one official said.

And they've had access to the entire country for months! Years, even.

August 01, 2003

FORGET TOM DASCHLE'S BLOG: The South Dakota Politics blog is where you want to go, if you're interested in, well, South Dakota politics. And hey, who isn't?


Lord Hutton revealed fresh evidence on Friday that suggests a clear conflict between accounts given by Andrew Gilligan, the BBC Today reporter, and by David Kelly, his main source.

The judge's examination of the two men's contradictory accounts of their meeting on May 22 at a London hotel will form a central element of his inquiry. . . .

While Mr Gilligan's account of the meeting "in small part" matched his own recollection, its "overall character" was "quite different", Mr Kelly claimed. His letter said he could "only conclude one of three things" - Mr Gilligan had "considerably embellished" what he had been told, or had met other people who "truly were intimately associated" with the dossier, or had "assembled comments from both multiple direct and indirect sources".

If correct, this conclusion could prove very damaging for the BBC.

Stay, er, tuned.

BLOG JUNKY ANALYZES critics of Steven Den Beste.

BILL LOCKYER IS LAYING DOWN THE LAW to Gray Davis about campaign tactics. No trash talk, or else!

Better watch out, Gray -- or he'll introduce you to his friend Spike.

INTERESTING TRANSCRIPT of a PBS Newshour segment on the New York Times' decision to get an ombudsman. Excerpt:

TERENCE SMITH: Susan Tifft, in a memo to the staff yesterday, Bill Keller said the committee that Joann was on had concluded that the Blair fiasco was made possible in part by a climate of, "isolation, intimidation, favoritism, and unrelenting pressure on the staff by the top editors."

That sounds like a pretty damning indictment of Howell Raines and his deputy.

SUSAN TIFFT: Well, I think it was. I mean, in some places the report, I think, was very harsh, but I think it also was not directed entirely just at Howell Raines, the former executive editor.

I think what was really remarkable about the report was that it was really trying to get at a sort of systemic culture of the newsroom of The New York Times.

Will adding an ombudsman be enough, or is that mere window-dressing? I think that if the culture doesn't change, it won't be enough.

TOM DASCHLE has discovered the blog.

Julian Sanchez observes: "I suspect the next new word the senator learns will be "fisking." I hope he finds the concept appealing."

Looks like things are already heating up.

I WANT A T-SHIRT like Vaclav Havel's.

PROGRESS WITH NORTH KOREA: Daniel Drezner has a roundup.

I PREDICT THAT JAMES TARANTO will have a field day with this story:

The Reuters news group and one of its US subsidiaries is being sued for racial discrimination over allegations that a "white, public school attitude" tolerated and encouraged a racist environment in which black employees were abused and persecuted.

The class action announced yesterday alleges that black employees at Radianz В­ a US-based internet services subsidiary of Reuters В­ were forced to work in "an outrageous, patently offensive environment". One black employee was repeatedly referred to as "my nigger" by a white supervisor and was sent racially offensive emails, the action alleges. . . .

Asked if he thought it would have happened if the management had been American, he said: "There are plenty of American companies where racism happens В­ but I think it would have been less likely that it would have been done on such a wide-scale basis."

Just remember: one man's racist is another man's exponent of Aryan purity!

UPDATE: Kevin Drum finds my comment above "disgusting."

Sorry, Kevin. But Reuters repeatedly says that terrorism is a question of opinion.

I dare them to defend this suit on the basis that racism is merely the same. They won't, and that's because they're hypocritical. Among other things.

ANOTHER UPDATE: It seems that Kevin must not read Taranto, and was unfamiliar with the Reuters "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" line. That's discussed in his comments, which have devolved into a discussion of whether it's racist to call me "instacracker" and a dispute as to whether I'm "windy" or whether I no longer write anything except links.

Why choose guys? I'm good enough to do both at once!

HERE, via Blog Mela, is a fairly lengthy article from Time on outsourcing.

As I've said before, I think this may well be an issue in the 2004 election.

UPDATE: Benkat Balasubramani disagrees with the Jeff Taylor piece on outsourcing that I linked earlier.

BLOG MELA, which is the Indian blogosphere's version of "Carnival of the Vanities," is up. Check it out.

YOU KNEW THIS ALREADY, but the Saudis are not our friends:

Even as the White House tries to tamp down the furor over alleged Saudi links to the September 11 terror attacks, a U.S. Senate panel is poised to stoke the fire even further. At a hearing this Thursday, NEWSWEEK has learned, it will unveil new allegations that the Saudis are continuing to funnel millions of dollars through Islamic charities that are winding up in the coffers of organized terror groups.

The Saudis, as I think I may have mentioned, are not our friends. Read this, too.

WHAT IS IT with the dictators and buried weapons? First there was this recent discovery of armed planes still buried under Berlin. Now there's this:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Some of Iraqi's missing air force has turned up down below.

Search teams, some hunting for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, found dozens of fighter jets from Iraq's air force buried beneath the sands, U.S. officials say.

At least one Cold War-era MiG-25 interceptor was found when searchers saw the tops of its twin tail fins poking up from the sands, said one Pentagon official familiar with the hunt. He said search teams have found several MiG-25s and Su-25 ground attack jets buried at al-Taqqadum air field west of Baghdad.

Of course, by burying this stuff to hide it, Saddam took it out of action every bit as effectively as if it had been shot down.

MORE ON BBC CHICANERY: The Guardian has extracts from the hearing into claims that the BBC falsely charged Tony Blair's administration with "sexing up" intelligence about Iraq. Looks like the Beeb is the one with credibility problems:

Stanley... If what you are now saying is the case, I think that you have led this whole committee, and the wider public, up the garden path in a most staggering way ... This is very, very serious, Mr Gilligan. I cannot tell you how serious it is to mislead a committee. I must ask you very, very straight: are you saying Mr Campbell did or did not have responsibility for inserting into the document the 45-minute claim?

Gilligan I have never said in respect of the insertion of the 45-minute claim that Mr Campbell inserted it. I simply quoted the words of my source. The claim was that the dossier had been transformed, and I asked "How did this transformation happen?" And the answer was a single word, "Campbell".

I then asked "What do you mean, Campbell made it up?" And he said, "No. It was real information - this is the 45-minute claim - but it was included in the dossier against our wishes, because it was not reliable." We may draw the inference, and indeed the committee may reasonably draw the inference, that the decision to include the 45-minute claim was made by Mr Campbell. That was the allegation of the source ...

Stanley You know absolutely that was the interpretation being placed on your remarks. You know perfectly well, from what you have said to us now, that there was no justification for such an interpretation ... Can I ask whether you wish to consider before the committee moves to private deliberations, which I think will be extremely serious, whether you now wish to make a very full and frank apology to this committee for having, in my view, grievously misled this committee?

Read it all.

July 31, 2003

PAUL BOUTIN has a column on electronic voting and fraud in Slate that's worth reading.

RIGHT-THINKING is moving, and the domain name doesn't work right now. You can still reach it at this IP address until things settle down.

FORGET GAY MARRIAGE: Dahlia Lithwick is floating the possibility of "legislating mandatory threesomes." I wonder how that idea would poll?

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in attending the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford (featuring Ray Kurzweil, Robert Wright, Eric Drexler, Steve Jurvetson, et al.,) you can get a discount with this code from Nanodot. Sadly, I won't be there -- but I'd like to be.


French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has apologised to Brazil over a secret mission to the Amazon to rescue a high-profile hostage that sparked a diplomatic dispute.

Unsuccessful unilateralism: the hostage is still there.

DOC SEARLS: " I see no sign so far that the White House even begins to understand the Net."

THE POPE: WRONG AGAIN! First the war, now gay marriage.

OCCAM'S TOOTHBRUSH takes exception to a Jack Kelly comment.

ANDY BOWERS LOOKS AT gubernatorial recalls across the states.

UPDATE: Colby Cosh offers some more background.

BRENDAN O'NEILL says that Unicef is cooking the numbers in its "human trafficking" statements.

"HE SHOULD BE WRITING FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES; of course, he's barbecuing it." Interesting profile of Mickey Kaus, though Kaus slipperily manages to avoid answering the real questions.

LEE HARRIS has an interesting piece on the political problems posed by non-Clausewitzian war.


Not entirely unpleasant! -- Melissa Schwartz

If truth-in-advertising applied to movie ads, we'd see this a lot. . . .


DONALD RUMSFELD AND CATASTROPHIC INTELLIGENCE FAILURES -- Austin Bay's latest column is on both. He concludes:

Infiltrating a terror clique to obtain detailed planning information, "the truly accurate information" -- is extremely difficult. We do information technology without peer, but in the dirty, gray world of James Bond cloak and dagger deception, we're Joe Average. America's gravest intelligence weakness is a lack of HUMINT, human spies, capable of penetrating al Qaeda.

Until that changes, the president should be tossing and turning.

Read the whole thing. And ponder that John Walker Lindh had no trouble penetrating Al Qaeda.

UPDATE: Reader James McKenzie-Smith emails:

I think that he had no trouble penetrating the Taliban, not AQ. In that being a member of the Taliban allowed him a certain interaction with AQ, this avenue of approach for a penetration of AQ has probably closed itself.

And Austin Bay himself emails:

Johnny Lindh was perhaps (ultra wild estimate) three to five years away from being inside the planning clique. That's a way of saying it takes time and foresight to place the human spy. Like you, I've thought about Lindh as a model. At the time he entered Al Qaeda it was relatively easy to become a foot soldier, if you could display the zealot's fervor. I can see a scenario where the Al Qaeda bigwigs select a Lindh jihadi for a terror strike because he is an American. There might even be a "test" strike to gauge his reliability. Now we're getting novelistic, but the same imaginative faculties that go into plotting a novel go into "plotting" an operation.

The easiest way to penetrate the terror clique's planning cell is cash, I suppose, but that also takes inside information to find the "corruptible" religious fanatic.

Both good points. My phraseology above was sloppy, and overstated things. Lindh "penetrated" Al Qaeda to the extent that he met bin Laden and had some contact with his circle, but he didn't really get on the inside. Still, he got awfully close to the center of things, considering.

I DIDN'T WATCH BUSH YESTERDAY, but his remarks on gay marriage angered Roger Simon, though Simon calmed down a bit in response to comments on his blog. (Read 'em -- they're interesting). Andrew Sullivan was initially confused, then upon reflection unhappy.

I'm against a federal constitutional amendment to prevent gay marriage, though it's not entirely clear to me that Bush is for one. Certainly support for such a move would violate Bush's professed principles of federalism -- but the Administration has been willing to violate those principles in other areas, such as cloning.

I wonder if such an amendment would pass. If it were attempted, and failed, it would be a good thing for supporters of gay marriage. But I don't have a clear idea of the prospects for passage. It's certainly true that gay marriage has less popular support than you might think from coverage in the the pro-gay media (like, you know, InstaPundit). Most Americans, I think, are increasingly comfortable with gay people, but not as comfortable with the idea that gayness itself is truly acceptable. That's changing, but the process is still underway. That means that there's a lot of support for non-discrimination, but a lot less support for things seen as "mainstreaming" gays, or at least gayness. On the other hand, I suspect that this ambivalence translates into weak support for affirmative action against gays, too, but I don't know how that would shake out in terms of a battle over a constitutional amendment.

I'm not sure anyone else does, either, which makes me doubt that canny politicians would want to bring this to a head. But I could be wrong.

UPDATE: Nick Gillespie has more on the subject, including this observation:

As liberals gear up to bash Bush for his reactionary thinking on this point, they ought to remember the actions of the only twice-elected Democrat president since FDR. When Bill Clinton signed The Defense of Marriage Act in September 1996--an act specifically intended to foreclose state recognition of same-sex marriages--he noted that he had "long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages."

While Bush's position is no surprise, new Gallup polls on attitudes toward homosexuals are: Over the past two months, support for gay relations between consenting adults is taking a dive, as is support for same-sex unions.

Yes, Clinton was hardly a progressive on this issue. As for the "backlash," well, I think it's probably exaggerated. It's worth noticing that less than twenty years ago the Supreme Court affirmed that it was okay to send gay people to jail for life just for having sex. Now the question is whether gay marriage should be permitted. That's quite rapid progress.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Gebert emails:

I hope some politicians realize that while you would have had the public support and the votes to pass, say, a Segregation Amendment in 1953, it would have been the last moment in history when you did, and very soon it would have been disastrous for the party that had pushed it.

And for the country.

TOM MAGUIRE has more on the Pentagon's terrorism-futures plan, and why the opposition to it was, well, dumb.

This column by James Pethokoukis of U.S. News is worth reading, too.

WRITERS AND THIN SKINS, John Scalzi has an interesting story, with links.

THIS COLUMN ON OUTSOURCING IN THE I.T. INDUSTRY got quite a reaction, so some readers might be interested in this piece on the subject by Jeff Taylor, which takes a rather skeptical look at the supposed efficiencies involved.

I think there's a counter-trend starting here. I have a friend who does software at a big corporation that has been doing a lot of outsourcing. They figured out that they were spending as much time and money fixing "low-cost" Indian coding as it would have cost them to do the work themselves using American programmers in-house, and are now bringing some of the work back.

No doubt over time a lot of work will move overseas, but a lot of times people underestimate the problems involved in spreading work over large groups of people who don't talk to each other face-to-face. And too many companies focus on "savings" that are only on paper. I have a couple of friends who are aerospace engineers who say that their company's supply chain is entirely controlled by one factor: purchase price. They're getting Chinese made parts that are a hundred bucks cheaper than the American version -- but they fail more often, and when they do a multimillion-dollar jet engine dies. This is generating a certain degree of customer dissatisfaction. . . .

UPDATE: Trent Telenko emails:

The last three major truck quality issues we had on the US Army's FMTV truck program I work on have been traces to one each a Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean OEM through American distributors.

In each case the contractor has gone to either in-house fabrication or American OEMs to get reliable quality.

Yeah. It's not like those folks aren't capable of making good stuff, or that Americans aren't capable of making crap. But when you let cost be the sole driver in procurement, well, you get what you pay for. At best.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tim Belknap, who has a lot of experience with this sort of thing, has more on the subject.

DEREK LOWE on the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying skills:

Oh, there are no limits to what we can accomplish over here in the drug industry. We can stop diseases in their tracks that used to mow people down like ripe wheat. We can bring some people back from the very parking lot of the funeral parlor, and we're staying up late at night trying to figure out ways to do it some more. And we can then take what should be the biggest reservoir of good will around, drain the whole damn thing, leap into the resulting mudhole and sink clear out of sight. Arrr.


July 30, 2003


So, here's what Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."

And here's what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained 'undiminished'...."

Better visit the BBC website fast -- these things have a way of changing once someone points them out.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner says that Oxblog (and, thus, me too) is making too much of this because several other British media outfits, not all anti-Blair, spun the statement the same way. Still seems outrageous to me, but read his post and make up your own mind.


INTERESTING REPORT on the Yale transhumanism conference.

UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster comments.


In the wake of the attack earlier this week that left Uday and Qusay Hussein dead, many in America's academic community came forward to encourage the remaining supporters of Saddam Hussein to "look past their anger" and try to discover the "root causes" of the American attack. Said Middle East correspondent and professional idiotarian Robert Fisk, "While it might be tempting for Saddam's supporters to lash out at the west, they would be better served by trying to understand why they are so hated throughout the world, including in their own country."

What do you mean, "it's a parody?"

THERE'S A ROUNDUP OF ITEMS on prison rape, over at

MORE NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN via InstaPundit's Afghanistan correspondent, Boston University Professor John Robert Kelly:


It’’s a lonely and frustrating life for the western NGO and UN grief relief workers in Afghanistan. There are those hefty paychecks, often amounting to thousands of dollars——tax-free-- a week, but no place to spend it. After all, how many carpets and antique swords can one collect? Then there’’s that pesky problem of the desultory hours surfing the net in air conditioned estates converted to office space, but nowhere else to travel, except back to the villa in new, chauffeured Landcruisers for an evening of the same old faces, same old conversations. Numerous fearful directives and warnings keep these NGO workers from hitting the street and meeting and mingling with the Afghan population. When these warnings are lifted, few wish to wander from their guarded compound. There’’s a very valid awareness that the NGO permanent party isn’’t well liked by the Kabulis. An elderly Hazara rug merchant whose business has been halved by the timidity of NGO shoppers snorts derisively in perfect English, ““Their feet never touch the ground in Kabul.”” And he’’s right. In a typical week, one sees just a few handfuls of westerners, mostly ISAF troops on holiday, even in the safest zones of the tourist traps and souvenir shops on Chicken Street, Kabul’’s answer to Rodeo Drive.

Many of the professional compassion corps are feeling restless and bored; they’’ve already been staff in Kosovo, East Timor and Afghanistan, and nowadays believe they belong in Iraq, that’’s where the real money is. In the status conscious pecking order of NGO hierarchies, Afghanistan is passe. Only the palpable danger of Iraq keeps down the flurry of resumes from Kabul to Baghdad. It’’s the rare NGO worker who applies for work before the shooting is over and the maximum salaries are fixed. The money has been spent in Afghanistan, the bank is closed. The UN has larded tens of millions of dollars on an enormous fleet of brand new top-of-the-line Toyota Landcruisers, many times that on inflated salaries, mansions and the luxurious perks of occupying pashas. The needy locals are not amused. The American citizens who’ve liberally financed this largesse would be appalled at the waste.

It’’s not all monotonous or pointless in Kabul; at one French NGO housed in a stunning antique-laden chalet, I’’ve devoured a seven-course meal prepared by a 4 star chef. Then there’’s always the sumptuous UN House, where one can take a dip, mingle poolside among scandalous bikinis and dowse dehydration with inspired cocktails fashioned by our languid Euro masters. Unfortunately, since "American UN employee" is an oxymoron, our one attempt to storm the formidable barricades is a spectacular failure. We’’re rudely turned away, despite flashing $20 bills to the Afghan UN security. My companion, a fierce Pushtoon-American licensed to pack a very visible Glock 19, glances back at the sunbathers as we’’re escorted out: ““We’’ve paid for all this with our taxes, you bastards!”” One of the Pushto guard’’s shrugs his shoulderssympathetically, muttering an apology that suggests ““someday this will all be ours again.”” For all the heroic American efforts in Afghanistan, truly and deeply appreciated by the indigenous population, we’’re still treated as unwanted nuisances by the predominantly European NGO residents.

For us hoi polloi, there was always the Irish Pub that opened on Saint Paddy’’s day to such fanfare in the western press——and with far greater gratitude in Kabul——but is now shuttered, a victim of its own success.

Sean McQuade’’s commercial instinct was impeccable: the creation of a stimulating oasis for thirsty westerners in one of the driest and most oppressively conservative cities in the Islamic world. The demand was high——a bit too high, according to some Afghans. In a city where getting stoned isn’’t an amusing colloquialism for intoxication but a literal description for the Taliban sport of getting smashed at the soccer stadium, Sean’’s otherwise laudable enterprise had a few defects in the business model, the most notable was that his public house had a mullah next door. McQuade had hoped for a lower profile for his tavern, but the spirited swarms of tipsy patrons pouring into their NGO SUVs in the late hours scandalized the neighborhood and not even the owner’’s gracious offer of baksheesh to rebuild local roads and schools could keep the speakeasy alive.

All is not lost for parched westerners in search of a public lager with good company, however, since other more discreet taps have opened throughout the city. At the Mustafa Hotel, long the favorite haven of adventuresome tourists and savvy international journalists, where last summer we diluted toxic contraband Tajik vodka (at $50 a liter) with Fanta, one can not only legally quaff a draught, but also surf the net or file a story at the same time...and not a mullah for a hundred meters.

Ah, the expat's life -- which seems to revolve around alcohol and jostling for status with other expats, regardless of location or nationality. (Earlier reports from Kelly can be found here and here).


The BBC does make pretence at balanced accuracy in its coverage of the issues he cites. That's what's so pernicious about its output.

Overt political bias can be anticipated and corrected for (though of course is still in breach of the BBC's charter). The BBC, however, internalises a set of consistent, even monolithic, assumptions that it can't correct because it can't conceive of any other way of looking at the world. The BBC's problem is not bias so much as an institutional incapacity for critical examination of the cliches that it dispenses. Whereas Lord Black believes the BBC 'is a virulent culture of bias', it's more accurately a culture of obtuseness and intellectual idleness. BBC News is less like a virus than a soft cushion bearing the impress of whichever pressure group sat on it last; its correspondents, being mentally ill-equipped for the tasks of independent research and critical examination, instinctively and invariably reach for bromides in place of analysis.

Read the whole thing.

LT SMASH neglected to take a digital camera with him. But he still paints quite a picture of conditions in Iraq.

Also, here's another letter from Iraq that's worth reading.


"What we know is that the machines can't be trusted. It's an unlocked bank vault ..., a disaster waiting to happen," said David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor who has prompted more than 110 fellow scientists to sign a petition calling for more accountability in voting technology.

The researchers fear that problems with software systems will result in hacking and voter fraud, allowing people to cast extra votes and poll workers to alter ballots undetected. . . .

"Why are we putting our democracy on computers that aren't ready to go?" added Rebecca Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College and an expert on electronic voting.

Election bureaucrats dismiss this as "paranoid," but (1) I trust professors of computer science more than courthouse hacks; and (2) Even to the extent that's true, a voting system that inspires paranoia is hardly a good thing.

I suspect that fraud is a big problem, and that the Florida election, because of its closeness, just revealed a problem that had been there all along. I also think that there's not enough pressure to fix it because most of the fraud is in local elections, on behalf of the local political apparatus, and there's nobody with both the power to fix it, and a sufficient incentive to do so. The only good thing is that the decentralization of electoral authority means that it's not systemic at the national level. To the extent that there's fraud in national elections, it probably tends to cancel out.

But this is a real issue, and it shouldn't be dismissed as tinfoil-hat nonsense. (Via TalkLeft).

THE CALIFORNIA RECALL ISSUE is one that I'm not paying too much attention to. It's important, but California politics isn't something I know a lot about. Mickey Kaus -- though he's "maintaining his silence in the face of questions" about the RX-8 -- is covering this issue. So are PrestoPundit and Justene Adamec. And, of course, there's the Sacramento Bee blog, California Insider, by Daniel Weintraub. Go there if you want more, as my coverage is likely to be spotty.

[You're doing it again! Sending people to other blogs! -- Ed. Any progress on that dollar-per-pageview thing? No? Well, then.]

WINDS OF CHANGE has a roundup of news from Central Asia and Afghanistan.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up. If you tend just to read InstaPundit and a few other blogs, you should follow this link and check out the many other fine blogs listed there. You might find one you like better!

[Isn't that bad marketing, sending people to other blogs? -- Ed. When I start getting paid by the pageview, I'll reconsider. And shouldn't you be over at Kaus's site? He got mad when I told him to quit obsessing over Arianna Huffington's charms and focus on really important stuff, like the Mazda RX-8 question. -- Ed. The philistine!]]

ALL SEXED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO: Is Paul Krugman really George Bush's secret weapon?

MORE CHEATING AT THE BBC? A reader sends this:

You tell me.

I ran across this on an Afghan website I frequent. Specific URL of
forum thread is --

Link to BBC story (Afghans 'live in climate of fear')

...NOTE THE PICTURE with this story...

Link to story


Yahoo says...."Afghan women and girls watch the arrival of Afghan
President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan"

Yahoo link

SAME PICTURE? Uncropped.

See the smiles they had to crop out to put it in the BBC piece?

Is this common practice?

At the BBC? It's starting to look that way. The cropping certainly makes the photo fit the headline better, doesn't it? (If you'll follow the Yahoo! link you'll see that they're actually craning for a better view of Hamid Karzai; the actual story hook is a $1 billion aid package for Afghanistan, which doesn't seem especially worrisome.) I'd call this a minor example of the BBC's tendency toward spin, but it's more evidence of just how pervasive that is.

UPDATE: Quite a few readers think that the difference between the photos isn't as big as this post makes it sound. To me, the difference is noticeable, though as I say above, this is a fairly minor example. But you can follow the links and decide for yourself.

PRAISE FOR GREENPEACE on nanotechnology: No, really. My TechCentralStation column has quite a few good things to say about Greenpeace's new report on the subject.

UPDATE: Here's a story from the U.S. News website on the same topic. (Via NanoDot).

INTERESTED IN NANOTECHNOLOGY? You might want to consider the Foresight Institute's 11th Annual Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology. You can get a discount if you sign up by August 1.


The question in Aujah now is how the family is going to get the bodies back "to bury them properly". Someone in Baghdad later told me that proper burial for these two is to dig a hole somewhere in the desert and have the family look for them for years. How can they expect a proper burial for people who have denied it for hundreds of thousands?

Read the whole thing.

THE IDIOTS WIN A ROUND: Faced with know-nothing criticism from members of Congress, the Pentagon has abandoned its plans for a "futures market" to predict terror.

How dumb is this? Virginia Postrel points to this column on the use of "idea futures" markets to predict events, and to this collection of papers on the topic.

Did the Congressional critics know about any of this stuff? Fat chance. Do they care that they were responding lamely and out of ignorance? Nope. Does it matter that this sends exactly the wrong signal to the Pentagon about the consequences of efforts to find original ways to fight the terror war? Yes. Will the members of Congress take any responsibility for that? Nope.

UPDATE: The good news, reported by Tom Maguire, is that the private sector is already running with this ball.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ron Bailey has a long and thoughtful piece on why the futures idea was actually a good one. Bailey's conclusion:

In the end, a promising research program that might have enhanced U.S. intelligence gathering was killed off by cheap moral posturing on the part of a couple of U.S. Senators. Who's incredibly stupid now?

Who, indeed?

UPDATE: Hmm. All kinds of people think this was a good idea. Maybe the Pentagon folded too soon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Colby Cosh sees an upside:

Speaking of poor decision-making, the outcry against DARPA's geopolitical-event futures market will give Americans a useful chance to identify dangerously stupid politicians who believe emotional grandstanding is more important than the national security. (Surprise! It turns out to be pretty much all of them.) . . .

I suggest using the affair as a litmus test for newspaper columnists and editorial boards, too.

Pretty much all of them, too. . . .


TEHRAN, July 30 — Iran's Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said on Wednesday Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in custody in Iran this month, was probably murdered.

Then there's this:

The burial of Kazemi, a Montreal-based photojournalist of Iranian descent, has caused a diplomatic storm between Tehran and Ottawa, which wanted her body returned to Canada.

Shouldn't the murder have caused the "diplomatic storm?"

Then again, the Canadians aren't exactly taking a firm line against terror.

July 29, 2003

CONFESSIONS OF AN ANTI-SANCTIONS ACTIVIST: Damian Penny points to this piece:

What did we know about Iraq? Hardly anything. Stephen Zunes, a "progressive" activist academic, once acknowledged that "peace activists largely share with most Americans a profound ignorance of the Middle East, Islam, and the Arab world."[6] This was certainly true for our group, but we didn't give it much thought. We saw ourselves as people of action, not reflection. Did we really need to learn the intricacies of Iraqi history and politics and plumb the broader political and economic issues? Who wanted to sit in the library when there were prayer vigils to organize? We opted to march, fast, and hold our signs. Here was a new cause, in need of champions, and that's just what we were. Iraqi sanctions had to go! . . .

To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to "violent" U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq, we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program. Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these missions. . . .

I had also expected a deeper concern for the people of Iraq. But Voices would have nothing to do with the U.N. humanitarian effort. The closest it got to U.N. headquarters in New York was the sidewalk across the street. There, Voices' activists, bellowing at the top of their lungs, preached against the American-induced apocalypse in Iraq. It was a mystery to me how such soapbox sermons, often quoting scripture, could possibly help the people of Iraq.

Indeed. Read this, too.

CHIEF WIGGLES has added a co-blogger, who's got a lot to say.

JOHN KERRY MAY HAVE SERVED IN VIETNAM, but he's afraid of a blogger:

WHAT’S ALL the fuss about the blond guy? I ask Kerry’s Iowa press secretary, Laura Capps. “He takes pictures of himself with the candidates and posts nasty comments about them,” she says. I’m not sure, but this may be a historic moment for the Iowa caucuses: The Kerry campaign is terrified of how their candidate will be portrayed by a blogger.

Later, I sidle up next to the man to ask about his Web site, which turns out to be (Next to a man who’s probably 6 feet 5 inches tall, the nine Democratic contenders look dwarfish.) So far, he’s snapped pictures of himself with six candidates. This is easy to do in Iowa, where campaign events usually end with a ritual that resembles Picture Day at a Major League Baseball game, as voters line up to take snapshots of themselves and their children with the candidate du jour. The blogger needs shots of Kerry, Carol Moseley Braun, and Bob Graham to complete his collection, but he fails in his mission at the Kerry barbecue. Instead, the next day he adds a picture of Kerry’s head on the body of a chicken to the top of his site.

Trifle with the blogosphere at your peril, Senator Kerry. (Here's a link to the page, including the chicken photo and a blogged account of the event.) I'll bet Howard Dean wouldn't be afraid of a blogger. But then, Howard Dean is a blogger, of sorts.

UPDATE: Josh Fielek thinks that this picture of Kerry on a Harley will do him more harm than the one with the chicken. ("John, you may just have had your Dukakis moment. It's the hair and the high-waters and the black socks. I do appreciate that you at least made the effort to get on the bike, but please, please, please put on some appropriate riding gear.")

I think that when people are debating questions like that one, you need to work on buffing up the campaign.

STEVEN DEN BESTE responds to his critics.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BLOGGER: It's "Pledge Week" over at Bill Quick's.

I certainly appreciate his getting rid of the popup ads, so I guess I'll donate.

MALARIA IN FLORIDA? Not actually a big story in itself, but a good indication of why this sort of public-health vigilance can never let up.


WHILE MICKEY KAUS CONTINUES TO MAINTAIN STUBBORN SILENCE on the vital RX-8 question, I have been tirelessly looking into the matter.

I was passing by the Knoxville Mazda dealership today and stopped in to drive one. The first thing I noticed was the low-pressure salesmanship. In sharp contrast to my unfortunate experience with the Nissan 350Z a while back, they were happy to let me drive a car, and exerted no pressure to buy one on the spot, as so many dealers do.

I liked the car very much. The styling is somewhat Batmobile-like, but that's a good thing, I think. The interior is surprisingly roomy -- I even fit in the coupe's backseat, which is accessed via "suicide" reverse-opening half doors that make getting in and out easy. I wouldn't want to sit there for a long trip, but you could easily put two full-sized adults in there when going out for lunch, and there's plenty of room for one or two kids. The stereo was excellent -- the only car stereo I've heard at any price that matches the quality of the one in my Passat wagon, which for some reason is exceptionally good.

The model that I drove was the top-of-the-line "Grand Touring" model with 18-inch wheels, DVD navigation, etc. Adjusting the seat position, etc., was easy and intuitive (then again, I've owned two Mazdas in the past, a 1980 RX-7 and a 1993 MX-6). I didn't use the DVD navigation system (I don't think I'd ever buy one of those, anyway) but the climate and radio controls were easy and featured big, tactile knobs. The seats, in Mazda tradition, were very comfortable.

Shifting was delightful -- short throws, very precise, very positive. The engine was powerful, though not as powerful as, say, the Infiniti G35 coupe. But the Mazda felt better. Steering was extremely taut and responsive, and the weight distribution is just about perfectly 50-50. It shows in the handling. The rotary engine had a very pleasant sound, though it lacked the mild almost-backfiring on deceleration that earlier rotaries had. Overall, the feel was quite similar to my 1980 RX-7 at some subliminal level, even though the new version is much more refined and powerful. I liked it a lot.

Weirdly, a spare tire is optional -- the car doesn't come with one, just with a repair kit. In a way this makes sense. I haven't had to change a tire in well over a decade, even though I've had major nail punctures. Today's tires seal that sort of thing pretty well. But still. . . .

I was pretty impressed. So is reader John Brothers who emails:

I have had the good luck and foresight to own one of the very first RX-8s in Atlanta. It is an incredibly fun car - although the manual is somewhat cramped for people over 5'10 - Luckily I have an automatic (I'm 6'1). It is nimble and sleek, gets lots of double takes and is hands down the best car I've ever driven.

Plus, it looks like a 944, which was my dream car when I was a kid.

I didn't find the interior cramped (I drove a manual), and I'm six-three. But what does Mickey think?

UPDATE: Reader Jon Foster emails these thoughts on successful car-sales techniques:

When we went to look at the Protege 5 for the wife, we were driving around in it before the salesman actually asked us for our names. Several months later when we wanted to buy, he got the sale. I am looking at a Mazda 6 for myself, and believe me, he will get the sale again.

Wish all dealerships had such nice salesmen!



A federal air marshal was fired and faces a felony assault charge after a June 8 incident in which police say he pulled his service weapon on two civilians during a parking space dispute at JFK International Airport in New York. The incident comes amid reports that more than 100 marshals have either left their jobs or been pulled from flight status and placed on paid administrative leave due to problems with the background investigations needed for their top secret security clearances.

But meanwhile the Homeland Security folks are dragging their feet on arming pilots. . . .

COLBY COSH is hard on sentimentalists. As usual!

Make the case, if you can, that human beings are not entitled to greater moral consideration than dolphins solely by virtue of being more intelligent (on average). But why, then, crusade for dolphins while neglecting the moray eel, the grouper and the sponge? Because dolphins are more like -- us? It seems there is a Great Chain of Being after all.

Especially where fundraising is concerned.

A RECENT BRADY CAMPAIGN STUDY on illegal guns sales that used ATF figures is "misleading" -- according to the ATF.

This isn't acknowledged on the Brady Campaign's site.

BRING IT ON: This is a parody, but I'll bet it wouldn't be hard to find people saying this for real.


ERIC MULLER describes a faculty-advising dilemma.

I've been advisor to all sorts of groups, from BLSA and HLSA to the Campus Libertarians to the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. People do make assumptions from this -- a friend at the White House during the Clinton Administration told me that my name came up in relation to an appointment because someone saw the BLSA advisor and Frederick Douglass Moot Court Team coach items on my resume and assumed I was black. When he informed them that I wasn't, interest cooled. Presumably, some people might assume that I'm interested in sports, too, or that I'm hispanic.

I generally steer groups that I don't like or agree with to faculty members who are more sympathetic, but I would advise any group that I didn't find absolutely repugnant -- and I might do even that, if the alternative was having them shut out completely. (I think the university requires that all student groups have a faculty advisor.) But there are costs to that, as most people won't look beyond the superficial connection.


As I've written before, Bush is quite vulnerable if the Democrats pick the right issues. So far, though, they've shown their usual tendency to go for the capillary.


As the first round of explosions rocked Baghdad, for example, the World Service's on-air "Middle East analyst" was a chap from the Arab-funded, pro-Palestinian agitprop group called The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) — an affiliation never disclosed to listeners. A rough equivalent: CNN hiring an "analyst" to comment on an invasion of Israel without disclosing the fact that he's from the Jewish Defense League. So when the World Service anchor asked him for his analysis, the man promptly pronounced the bombardment "an example of pure American imperialism." Nobody challenged this assertion, was he challenged on any of his volatile comments during what became fairly regular World Service appearances. In fact, during it war coverage, the views of guests like the man from CAABU were very rarely balanced with opposing viewpoints, and World Service anchors almost never offered a differing opinion. Instead, the convention is to ask patently biased "analysts" to simply restate their propaganda in more detail: "So, Mr. Hussein, you think this is an illegitimate war, then?" He did, he does and he will tomorrow, too.

This insistent bias isn't limited to the World Service's English-language broadcasts, unfortunately. The all-news Arabic service is perhaps worse-and with consequences far more potentially harmful.

It's too bad that the BBC confuses "adhering to the nation's enemies" with "independence."

DIVERSITY IS ALIVE AND WELL on campuses around the nation.

This kind of diversity, we've always had.

MAUREEN DOWD IS TAKING HEAT from a newspaper that used to run her column but has stopped because of falsified quotes. There's an interesting exchange of emails between the editor and the NYT's Gail Collins. Excerpt:

But make no mistake: I am not among the right-wingers hoping to see Maureen eat a little crow. (Though they're having a field day with this issue as long as she and the Times allow it to moulder.)

I am a NY Times Wire Service subscriber concerned with the credibility of your venerable organization. And mine.

Read the whole thing.

SONIA ARRISON HAS THE LATEST on music downloading. Key bit:

While it's true there are finally a few music-industry endorsed services where users can legally buy online music (like Apple's iTunes,'s Rhapsody, and newly-launched's buymusic), the models are clunky and still need to be tweaked. That it took so long to get them reveals how unresponsive the industry is to the changing marketplace and consumer demand.

Yep. If they had bought Napster when they had the chance, they'd be much better off today.


Few soldiers have a command of Arabic and misunderstandings have been blamed for more than one fatal checkpoint shooting.

But Sajida has other aims in learning a language she feels will open up a world previously closed to her by Saddam.

''If I have any information about Fedayeen or Saddam's followers, I must tell them. We must make friends with the Americans. I see them as angels. I call them God's army,'' said Sajida, a Shi'ite Muslim who says her two brothers were killed by Saddam. . . .

Iraqi English teacher Dhia' Saadallah prefers a British accent, but says that's not the popular choice. ''I teach them American English. What can I do? They want it,'' he said.

The story's not all good news, but this suggests that Iraqis expect us to stay, which means that the effort by Ba'athist remnants and their Wahhabi sympathizers to chase Americans out isn't likely to succeed.

MISSING LINKS: More Saudi 9/11 connections that aren't getting enough attention:

In an understated manner, the report discloses even more fascinating information: While in San Diego, the pair had extensive contacts with an unidentified FBI informant and were befriended by Omar al-Bayoumi--a Saudi subject who has returned to, and remains in, the kingdom. Al-Bayoumi has terrorist connections, and has been associated with a bin Laden follower named Omar Bassnan.

The report overlooks one important fact about al-Bayoumi: Last year, he and Bassnan were named in the U.S. media as the conduits for "charitable donations" to al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi from Princess Haifa, wife of the Saudi ambassador to America, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.

Why no mention whatever of Princess Haifa in the report's narrative on al-Bayoumi, Bassnan, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi? The same claim of "national security" that justified blacking out the Saudi chapter?

The report simply fails to follow up on another shocking disclosure: Al-Bayoumi was an employee of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, and his immediate superior in that body had a bin Laden connection.

The Saudi Civil Aviation Authority would be the ideal center for a hijacking conspiracy: Its employees would know everything, from Saudi attendance at specific U.S. flight schools, to the regulations for carrying sharp objects aboard airliners, to the fuel capacities of long-range flights.

So why hasn't our government focused a bright light on this agency? Is it not possible that the agency was tasked with the 9/11 atrocity from higher up in the Saudi regime?

Why isn't this getting more attention? I saw Wyche Fowler loyally flacking for the Saudi regime on CNN this morning. He was remarkably unpersuasive. Whatever they're paying him, it's too much.

The Saudis, meanwhile, are reportedly "furious" over what information has already come out. They shouldn't be furious. They should be nervous -- particularly in light of reports that Hamas gets 70% of its funding from Saudi Arabia.

THE PENTAGON WANTS TO USE A FUTURES MARKET to predict terror attacks. Although this is getting a lot of criticism (mostly from members of Congress who, I suspect, couldn't accurately describe the operation of existing futures markets) I think it's an excellent example of creative thinking, and the Pentagon deserves to be congratulated for it. As I've suggested before (here, here, and especially here) the diffuse, fast-moving threat of terrorism requires a diffuse, fast-moving response. And this sounds like a very plausible way of recruiting a lot of minds in the service of anti-terrorism.

Josh Chafetz agrees:

A futures market in terrorist attacks, while it sounds grisly, may help us to aggregate diffuse knowledge in a way that will prove superior to expert knowledge. It also may not, but it seems to me that it's worth a try. At the very least, if we're going to demand that the government get creative in fighting terror, we shouldn't be so quick to criticize when it does just that.


UPDATE: Reader Fred Butzen emails:

The story about the Pentgon's "terrorism market" clearly is an extension of Iowa Electronic Markets, which has been run for years by the University of Iowa's Tippett School of Business. Here's a link to the Iowa Information Market's web site:


In brief, the IEM lets persons place bets on the likelihood of given events' happening; for example, people could bet on the likelihood that Saddam Hussein will survive this year, or who will win the next presidential election. The collective expertise of the participants has proven to be extremely useful in predicting events.

The notion that the dim-bulbs in Congress and the media should attack such a useful and proven idea as the Pentagon's is utterly absurd.

This is absolutely right. Whether or not the Pentagon's idea is a good one depends on details I don't know about. But the lame criticism makes clear that the critics are -- as usual -- clueless on the subject.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mitch Berg points out that this approach has worked in the past.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Defense Tech has more on this. So does ChicagoBoyz, which also points to this Martin Devon post. Martin is particularly hard on our elected representatives:

I was pleasantly surprised to see a bit of "out of the box" thinking on the government's part about how to evaluate the likelyhood of terror threats. Doesn't it just figure that a couple of maroons from the senate would complain so that they can be seen "taking the high ground?" I'd pay them the compliment of believing that they wrote the complaint for cynical reasons, but just watching them on TV is enough to lead one to conclude that they really are stupid enough to be making an issue of this on principle.

An InstaPundit reader who is too smart to be in Congress emails with a more meaningful criticism: the futures market won't identify "unknown unknowns," since the betting -- as with ordinary futures markets -- must take place within the context of standard "products."

This is true as far as it goes, but (1) You could provide incentives to come up with new forecasts; and (2) This is only one part, obviously, of a more general approach to thinking about and predicting terror, not the whole thing. The biggest weakness to my mind is that i fthe results are public, terrorists might deliberately choose strategies that are deemed unlikely by the "market." But, of course, the market could also be configured as a trap, so that could work both ways.


TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- American soldiers overpowered and arrested a bodyguard who rarely left Saddam Hussein's side Tuesday and said they obtained documents and information that could help them close in on the former dictator.

From the next quote, I get the idea that the troops are starting to tire of lame press questions:

The stocky bodyguard struggled to break free as soldiers arrested him, and they had to wrestle him to the ground and drag him down the stairs, Russell said.

``Were we surprised? He's a bodyguard. That's why we went in with our steely knives and oily guns,'' Russell said.

And their razor-sharp wits, though those seem to be deployed less against the Iraqis than against people who ask dumb questions. I think Rumsfeld started this, and it's filtered down to the troops.

JAMES LILEKS WRITES ON THE SUBURBS: "dull, artless expanse of repression and conformity."

But his Target has short lines and plenty of cashiers.

VIRGINIA POSTREL IS MAKING FUN OF NPR'S SPELLING -- but that's unfair. You don't need to be a good speller to do radio.

I do kind of like the "Mikey Kaus" bit, though. Maybe then he'd hate everything! Instead of just everything by Chris Bangle. . . .

SPINSANITY has a roundup on truth and lies over Niger. Meanwhile The Daily Howler says that the press changed Congo to Niger in order to fit its desired story line. Say it ain't so!

Did British intelligence have real evidence that Iraq “had been scouring countries across Africa for uranium,” as the Times said it had learned? Was it true, as the Times reported, that “the Iraqis were known to have targeted the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo?” Here at THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know. But our press corps has persistently suggested that the Brit intel was all about Niger, and lived or died by those crudely forged documents. These contemporary reports from the British press suggest that this wasn’t the case.

Africa is, in fact, a continent that is home to several different countries besides Niger. Many members of the press seem unaware of this.

And scroll down in the Howler post for the connection between David Remnick, MI6, and Blink 182. . . .

July 28, 2003

SNOPES HAS DONE SOME DIGGING, and reports that an email from an engineer in Iraq that was linked here and reprinted on several blogs is genuine. Here's an excerpt, to jog your memory:

It has been a while since I have written to my friends at First Lutheran Church about what's really going on here in Iraq. The news you watch on TV is exaggerated, sensationalized and selective. Good news doesn't sell.

The stuff you don't hear about on CNN?

Let's start with electrical power production in Iraq. The day after the war was declared over, there was nearly 0 power being generated in Iraq. Just 45 days later, in a partnership between the Army, the Iraqi people and some private companies, there are now 3200 megawatts (Mw) of power being produced daily, 1/3 of the total national potential of 8000 Mw. Downed power lines (big stuff, 400 Kilovolt (Kv) and 132 Kv) are being repaired and are about 70 percent complete.

Then there is water purification. In central Iraq between Baghdad and Mosul, home of the 4th Infantry Division, water treatment was spotty at best. The facilities existed, but the controls were never implemented. Simple chemicals like Chlorine for purification and Alum (Aluminum Sulfate) for sediment settling (the Tigris River is about as clear as the Mississippi River) were in very short supply or not used at all. When chlorine was used, it was metered by the scientific method of guessing.

So some people got pool water to drink and some people got water with lots of little things floating around in it. We are slowly but surely solving that. Contracts for repairs to facilities that are only 50 percent or less operational are being let, chemicals are being delivered, although we don't have the metering problem solved yet ( ... but again, it's only been 45 days).

Nice to know it was for real.

THE PLAME/WILSON AFFAIR: I pretty much missed this while on vacation -- I saw some mentions on blogs but didn't follow the links and, honestly, still don't feel I have a handle on the story. But Tom Maguire has a timeline with links, and seems to be following it closely.

My sense on this story, and the underlying matter, is that there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Usually I have some idea what that might be, but this time I don't.


It's a Bill Hobbs scoop.

LIBERTARIANISM AND THE KORAN: I wish these guys luck. It's certainly true that the totalitarian/statist style of Islamism is really the result of imported European ideas.

MICKEY KAUS CONTINUES TO MAINTAIN HIS SILENCE in the face of troubling and still-unanswered questions about the RX-8.

MORE ENCOURAGING STATISTICS FROM IRAQ: The Pentagon should really start announcing this stuff.

SILENT RUNNING makes some good points regarding Saudi Arabia.

MICHAEL BARONE NOTES still more good news from Iraq that's been overlooked by most media coverage.

But how can he ignore this evidence of U.S. brutality?

IT'S A QUAGMIRE -- In Germany!

Hey, we've still got troops there.

OXBLOG POINTS TO AN "AVALANCHE" of good-news pieces about Iraq. That's perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but it does seem clear that the reporting we've been getting has omitted a lot of good news. You'd almost think there was an agenda at work or something.


LT SMASH has a story about Bob Hope, and much more.

JIM BENNETT RESPONDS TO ANNE APPLEBAUM on the differences between American and British media:

Applebaum is a keenly observant commentator who has lived in both nations and is well connected with a wide range of intellects on both sides of the pond. I respect her work. However, I would at least qualify her opinion in this matter by saying that, though as a snapshot of here and now I can't disagree with her, I think she is missing the bigger story.

Separate as the British and American information universes have been until now, a process of convergence has begun that will continue until there is only a single Anglosphere information universe. In this, the differences between right and left (for example) become more important than the distinctions of national origin. This process is already foreshadowed in the leading edge of the information universe, which at this point in time is the blogosphere -- the world of the Web logs, or blogs. . . .

They will likely set the tone more and more for the coming generation. Furthermore, the rise of the blogosphere will likely affect Britain disproportionately to America.

This is because Britain has had a particularly small and closed intellectual class compared to America, a result not only of the island's smaller size and population, but because of its comparatively small and closed university system. If you went to Oxford or Cambridge, you really did get to meet the majority of the people that would constitute the political nation for your generation. In America, in contrast, a Harvard or Yale degree obviously helped, but you knew that for the rest of your career you would also be dealing with many people from Michigan or Oklahoma, or maybe West Texas State Teacher's College, or even no university at all, and that such people could very well be more important than you. . . .

Combined with the Internet revolution, the democratization of Britain is leading to an expanded worldview, one that is already seeing both its right and left aligning much more closely with their American counterparts than ever before. Even British anti-Americanism, once the prerogative of the patrician Tory sneer, has succumbed to Anglosphere convergence, and must import Michael Moore as cheerleader.


UPDATE: John Leo, in a piece on journalistic quote-altering, notes:

The BBC, probably the most relentlessly anti-American organization in Britain, recently altered a transcript of one of its own stories, thus misquoting itself. The story dealt with Park Jong-lin, a 70-year-old veteran of the Korean War who "served in the North Korean army fighting against the imperialist American aggressors and their South Korean accomplices." In the altered version quote marks now surround "imperialist American aggressors" and the BBC's reference to "accomplices" was changed to "allies."

Prediction: Because Internet bloggers now watch the wayward BBC carefully, more touched-up transcripts will come to light. The BBC, by the way, falsely reported the Jessica Lynch rescue as a made-for-TV special faked with U.S. soldiers firing blanks for the cameras. (Change that transcript!)

I think it's a safe prediction.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bob Bartley describes the problem well, whether at the BBC, Reuters, or The New York Times:

The opinion of the press corps tends toward consensus because of an astonishing uniformity of viewpoint. Certain types of people want to become journalists, and they carry certain political and cultural opinions. This self-selection is hardened by peer group pressure. No conspiracy is necessary; journalists quite spontaneously think alike. The problem comes because this group-think is by now divorced from the thoughts and attitudes of readers.

Yes, and it's sufficiently insular that it won't be revisited without considerable pressure. Blogs are providing some of that, but I think the market will provide more.

WILL JAMES LILEKS FORGIVE ME? I'm dissing Target over at


In the Sunday book pages of the Strib was an article about the women of Afghanistan. It was discussing the new-found freedoms of women in the post-Taliban society, about girls queuing for school after years of oppression. Quote: “No matter what one’s political misgivings about the war might be, the sight of those girls was a thrilling shock.”

That sentence stuck in my head, and made me think back to October 01, to all the discontent over the Afghan campaign. We’ve forgotten what that was like - the marches in Europe, the predictions of mass casualties, the accusations of empire-building, how it was all about (cue Twilight Zone theme) an oil pipeline, how it would become a quagmire, how it was a quagmire, how we should have used international law to bring OBL to justice. It was the dress rehearsal for Iraq. The same blind sputtering fury; the same protests with Bush = Hitler posters and giant mocking puppets; the same inability to accept that a byproduct of the campaign would be a freer society for the very people the protesters supposedly cared about.

Any mass executions at the Kabul soccer stadium recently? No?

Wonder why.

No thanks to the people who purport to care, that's for sure.

"HOW DO I GET MY WORK DONE?" A lot of bloggers and surfers will find this thread interesting.

My advice: Break things down into small chunks.


The nation's prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department.

The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002. It also came when a growing number of states facing large budget deficits have begun trying to reduce prison costs by easing tough sentencing laws passed in the 1990s, thereby decreasing the number of inmates.

"The key finding in the report is this growth, which is somewhat surprising in its size after several years of relative stability in the prison population," said Allen Beck, an author of the report.

I wonder how many people are in there for nonviolent crimes -- or for things, like marijuana possession, that shouldn't be crimes at all? It's not clear from this report. But TalkLeft's post on the subject suggests that it's a lot.

MICKEY KAUS is on a hot streak.

But Mickey, when are you going to do a Gearbox review of the Mazda RX-8? USA Today likes it, Business Week calls it "supercool," the Washington Post calls it "transcendental", and the Insta-Wife think's it looks "hot." But I won't know what I think until I read your review!

I sure liked my 1980 RX-7.

JOURNALISM TODAY: Two letters from Romenesko that are worth reading:

From ANDREW MILNER: So we hand out bylines to proven plagiarists and fabulists, tell anyone who criticizes this that they're "completely lacking a sense of humor" and then scratch our heads wondering why 90 percent of the public hold our profession in utter contempt. Maybe respect from the masses begins with a little professional self-respect.


From JOHN CALLAHAN: Letter after letter talking about the Esquire/Glass/Blair deal, and only a single letter -- one lousy letter -- about Reuters' hatchet job on Deanna Wrenn's Jessica Lynch story? Let me get this straight: Reuters takes a local piece about a young woman and soldier returning home, turns it into a not-so-subtle anti-administration screed that one first amendment expert called "politically incendiary" (and the expert, UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh, was being charitable -- you really have to read this piece to believe it), and Karen Heyman is the only one with anything to say?

It's no surprise that journalism's reputation has suffered in recent years. It's moderately surprising that journalists -- so quick to point out misbehavior by other institutions -- are so slow to catch on to the damage to their own profession. Here's a link to Volokh's comments on the Reuters scandal -- which isn't nearly as big a scandal as it ought to be.

THE GLOBALIZATION OF GAZA: Michael Totten wonders whether a Palestinian state is likely to create more terrorism, rather than reducing it.

HOWARD KURTZ has issued an endorsement in the Californial recall / election.

I think it was the thong that won him over.

UPDATE: I think the thong is what scared Arnold out of the race, too.

SOME CONFIRMATION for the "flypaper" theory:

He said there is evidence that terrorists and religious extremists from outside Iraq have entered the country to engage coalition forces, but no evidence indicates they are being sponsored by other governments.

"This is what I would call a terrorist magnet, where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity," Sanchez said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"But this is exactly where we want to fight them. ...This will prevent the American people from having to go through their attacks back in the United States."

Does this mean it's a good idea? No (though I think it is) but it's evidence that it's part of the strategy.

July 27, 2003


A constitutional convention to confirm Hong Kong people's aspirations for democracy and allow for a truly democratic government is a necessary next step. With our inheritance from Britain of the rule of law, individual freedoms and tolerance for political differences, there is no society better prepared for and more deserving of democracy. And, as the world saw when our population took to the streets, there can no longer be any doubt about how strongly Hong Kong people value their liberties and desire a system that can protect them.

One day, of course, it would be nice to see liberties -- and a system that can protect them -- extended to the whole of China. Which, I suspect, is precisely what Beijing fears.


Of course, so is Lance Armstrong, and in a bigger way.


Read More ?

JUST NOTICED that quite a few people hit the PayPal and Amazon tipjars while I was on vacation. Thanks!

FOR IDI AMIN, COMEDY WAS EASY but dying is hard. Killing came easily to him, too.

Meanwhile a letter in the Washington Post notes:

The Hussein sons remind me that Idi Amin had a son much like them, swaggering around Kampala armed, raping and killing with viciousness and, of course, impunity. I wonder whether he has been living comfortably in Jiddah.

I wonder, too. As Mark Steyn notes, "At least in this instance, unlike their more recent subventions, the House of Saud began giving money to a mass murderer after he'd stopped killing. "

CONGRESS HAS PASSED THE anti-prison-rape law that was discussed here a while back. I doubt it will solve the problem, but it may help. And at least it's a sign that somebody's taking the problem seriously. That's good, given the past remarks of people like California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who clearly doesn't.

IT'S TIME TO ACCESSORIZE YOUR EPISTEMOLOGY! All the cool kids are doing it.

MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS WITH THE SECRET SERVICE are a long-time InstaPundit staple. Now Michelle Malkin is all over them as well:

Shame on the Secret Service. This week, it investigated renowned editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez like he was some left-wing homeless crackpot who had sent President Bush an anthrax-laced death threat -- all because Ramirez drew a provocative cartoon that was clearly intended to defend the president.

Meanwhile, the Secret Service can't even keep a loony-tunes stowaway from conning his way onto a White House press charter plane in Africa or prevent a known wacko named the "Handshake Man" from slipping past security and personally delivering an unscreened letter to Bush at a public event in Washington, D.C.

The Secret Service's response to "threats" aimed at the President sometimes looks more like an effort to reinstate the old English offense of "encompassing the death of the King" than serious effort to spot dangerous people. And the Secret Service's proximity to the President has shielded it from the scrutiny that it deserves.

YES, I'M BEHIND ON EMAIL -- and as this weekend's light blogging illustrates, I'm not at the computer that much. My computer-savaged spine, shoulders, elbows, etc. have all recovered miraculously (as they always do) with a week's vacation, and I'm not quite ready to start savaging them again. Meanwhile, Bigwig notes the nature of the problem:

I don't get Lileks or Reynolds levels of mail. I don't get anywhere near that much mail, it's just that what I do get is already more than I can respond to, and if the email looks like my address was just one of many in a BCC line, then I'm almost certainly going to ignore it.

Half the mail that is addressed to me personally doesn't get anything more than a once over. I just don't have the time to write both emails and posts. Heck, the only way I can even write this one is to put Scotty M. on top of a pillow in my lap and type over him. He's talking to my elbow at the moment, something about where his damn pacifier is. I've done this often enough that Ngnat has a term for it. She calls it the "Daddy Bed."

So, my apologies for everything I've missed, and will miss. If you absolutely must make sure that I read and respond to your email, there is one way to guarantee that I will do so.

He's right with his solution to the problem. . . . I just note this because occasionally people are personally affronted if I don't make a timely response to their email. I do my best, but I get hundreds a day, and this is a hobby, not my job. Most people understand this, and have good manners. For the rest, well -- there's always Bigwig's solution. Or another, less printable, one.

MCI IS ACCUSED OF DEFRAUDING OTHER PHONE COMPANIES to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars:

Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation in the United States and Canada into accusations that MCI, the nation's second-largest long-distance carrier, defrauded other telephone companies of at least hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly a decade, people involved in the inquiry said.

The central element of MCI's scheme, people involved in the inquiry said, consisted of disguising long-distance calls as local calls to avoid paying special access tariffs to local carriers across the country. Those tariffs are the largest single source of MCI's costs for carrying calls and data transmissions.

Interesting story. I suspect that putting the case in front of a jury will prove a challenge, though.

CHIEF WIGGLES BLOGS FROM IRAQ -- and he's not very impressed with the efforts of Amnesty International and the Red Cross.

STEVEN DEN BESTE OFFERS A STRATEGIC OVERVIEW OF THE WAR TO DATE. It's long, and thorough. But you probably figured that already. . . .

Why hasn't the Bush Administration produced something like this? Probably because it contains statements that, while true, would have unfortunate diplomatic ramifications if made by Administration officials. But pundits and analysts of the war would be well-advised to read Den Beste's post.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, here's an interesting item pointing out that guerrilla resistance in Germany continued until 1947. How come we're not hearing this comparison in mainstream media?

ANOTHER UPDATE: This was mentioned in a story I linked earlier, but here's a Chuck Schumer press release attacking the Bush Administration for coddling Saudi Arabia. That's a far cry from DNC commercials of the Niger-Uranium sort, but Schumer's often an early indicator of what Democrats think will get them traction. Stay tuned.

SWISS RECALCITRANCE is producing a "buy American" push in Congress:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, also said Switzerland, a neutral nation, blocked delivery of grenades to British military forces during the conflict because it opposed the war.

"The British went into battle in Iraq without a full grenade load," Mr. Hunter said in an interview.

Regarding the JDAM parts, Mr. Hunter said Swatch Group AG, and its Micro Crystal division in Gretchen, Switzerland, refused to send key components used in the bomb guidance equipment used on the JDAM after the Iraq war began.

The Swiss company's president blocked the parts to Honeywell, which was a subcontractor for Boeing Co. in making the tail kits for the satellite-guided bombs, 6,600 of which were dropped with great effect during the period of major conflict in Iraq.

If these stories are true, they should certainly cost these companies -- and perhaps Switzerland as a whole -- procurement business. But whether this should translate into "buy American" legislation isn't so clear.

Then, of course, there's the question of why we're acquiring bomb parts from the "Swatch" folks. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Bob Pence emails:

By not providing parts, Swatch endangered many Iraqis. A given bomb, depending on the importance of the target and the degree of shortage, may have dropped with or without the JDAM tail for precision guidance. Without it, the bomb might miss its target by a few meters and destroy a mosque or an apartment block, but also we wouldn't just drop one bomb - we would drop enough to guarantee the target was destroyed. Without precision guidance that's a lot of extra bombs possibly aimed at the Ace of Spades but having a bad effect on people who were never even dealt into the game.

Fortunately we found a domestic supplier, probably at higher cost mostly because of the short turnaround needed. When it comes to display parts like that, there are also some likely Japanese and South Korean suppliers. I suspect that Boeing is even now processing an engineering change document for that assembly listing multiple vendors – none of them in driving distance of Lake Geneva.

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to go down to the nearby mall that has a Swatch Store and smash the display cases there. Or hand out protest fliers. The “neutral” Swiss have a shameful history of war profiteering, yet they have here stooped lower, conceivably denying us bullets and forcing us to use shotgun blasts in their place.

Moves Italy up another notch on European vacation destinations.

Lake Lucerne is lovely this time of year. But so is Lake Como.