December 13, 2003

"GRAY GOO" MAKES THE NEW YORK TIMES -- which reminds me that I promised to write more about the EPA Science Advisory Board meeting and nanotechnology. It'll have to be later, though: I'm off to see Master and Commander.

HEROMILES offers a way to help out by donating your frequent flier miles to returning troops.

THE NATION DIVIDED: Military blogger Iraq Now offers a mixed review.

DAVID BROOKS: "I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs."

JUST GOT THE WEEKLY STANDARD'S PDF EDITION (it's for the issue that comes out Monday), and a whole page (actually the better part of two) has been turned over to Zeyad's photos and reports from the Iraqi antiterror marches. That's quite an accomplishment for a previously unknown blogger. And congratulations to Jeff Jarvis for sending the digital camera that arrived just in time to make this possible!

And speaking of the advantages of digital over film, the camera that Jeff sent will also record web-quality video with sound. I hope that Zeyad will take advantage of that. I've offered to provide hosting if bandwidth is an issue. You can argue about film for art photography, but for photojournalism, digital rules -- and the capacity to do tv news via the web is an awfully cool thing to have, especially when it comes with a camera that costs a couple of hundred bucks.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has posted the Weekly Standard page. And he's asking for help on how to get support to Iraqi bloggers.

STEVEN DEN BESTE is savagely Fisking Human Rights Watch, which seems determined to destroy its own credibility. Den Beste's conclusion: "Their behavior is disgraceful. Sadly, it is also consistent. The world could use a high-profile non-partisan group willing to shine a spotlight on the worst abuses of human rights around the world. It's too bad Human Rights Watch isn't it."

WOULD ANSEL ADAMS HAVE GONE DIGITAL? Interesting question, which sets off an interesting discussion on Slashdot.

I'm skeptical, myself. I'm very enthusiastic about digital cameras, and they're especially great for the web, but film is still a lot better in terms of quality. In fact, I was recently looking at these pictures by photographer Naomi Harris, and I noticed that pictures taken with film look better, even on the web. Harris is a purist -- she uses medium-format film, and no photoshop -- but even on the web the colors and detail in these pictures are striking. (She told me that a number of magazine people she works with think that scans from film look better than native digital images in the same resolution, though they're not sure why, exactly).

Back when I was a photographer (and, briefly, a professional one) we told ourselves that 35mm film was as good as medium- and large-format in most applications. I believed it until I did some large-format work. When you see the kind of detail in an 8x10 contact print -- or even an 8x10 print from a 4x5 negative -- you realize how untrue that is. Now we're telling ourselves that the newer breed of high quality digital SLR cameras produces pictures that are as good as 35mm. I don't think that's true, either, and I'm sure that the quality can't touch medium-format film. (Nonetheless, I have my eye on this one).

That's not a knock against digital, which has its place -- and an expanding one. But I think that film is a long way from being obsolete in applications where quality matters, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it gain the kind of appreciation that vintage analog gear has gotten in the sound-engineering world. I suspect that Ansel Adams, who enjoyed experimenting with Polaroid, would have enjoyed experimenting with digital cameras. But I don't think he would have given up on film.

On the other hand, gigapixel digital images just might do the trick. . . .

UPDATE: By the way, if you didn't check it out when I linked it earlier, the Smoky Mountain Journal is a pretty cool digital photoblog that, er, focuses on the Smoky Mountains.

ANOTHER UPDATE: PhotoDude Reid Stott weighs in in defense of digital imaging. As for Ansel, we get mixed reports. Reader Doug Plager emails:

There are few things in life I claim to be an expert, but...I believe I can confidently answer the question of Ansel Adams'opinion of the digital photography revolution. I quote from his introduction of volume two "The Negative" from his "The New Ansel Adams Photography Series" 1981, wherein he states "I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them."

Proof that Adams would have devoted much time and attention to creating images via digital media. Back when it mattered, I claimed that when pixel density approached grain density in conventional film the debate would end. In retropspect I was being very pessimistic. With present day edge detection alogrithms pixel density need not be anywhere close to grain density to produce equal image quality.

To quote the great, if self-effacing, photojournalist Gerry Winogrand "light on a surface, that's all it is, light on a surface." With elegant simplicity, Winogrand puts these technical debates in their proper perspective.

On the other hand, reader G. Hogan emails:

Not a chance. I attended one if his lectures/presentations, during the Q&A he was asked what kind of camera he preferred, the answer: "Any thing that will create a negative." His work was done more in the darkroom than in the camera. His picture of Mt. McKinley was the result of three days of waiting for the clouds to clear and then he exposed one negative in an 8X10 camera and went home to create the photograph in the darkroom. The reproductions of his prints look good until you see the actual prints. The man was a true artist.

His description of the "Moonrise, Hernandez" picture taking was most memorable: "We were driving along when I saw the scene, stopped the car and mounted the camera on top of the car. I had forgotten my light meter but I knew that the moon was F8 and 125th. The print required a lot of dodging in order to bring out the town in the foreground."

This is from nearly thirty years ago, but I still remember his words.

I've seen quite a few genuine Adams prints, and I agree that they're a whole different experience from even the best reproductions. The one thing I feel pretty confident about is that Adams, if he did digital, would use Photoshop. . . .

Finally, reader Louis Rossetto points to photographer Stephen Johnson and suggests that if Ansel Adams were around today, this is the kind of work he'd be doing. Could be. Here's one other thing that's for sure: Though I'm a huge admirer of Adams, my personal photographer-hero is Walker Evans, and he would definitely be shooting digital.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis reports that Newsweek is 80% digital.

December 12, 2003

HERE'S MORE on the media's selective attention.

SOME MIGHT SAY THAT IT REALLY SHOULD BE "thalatta, thalatta!" But I'm not such a pedant.

THEY'RE NOT ANTI-WAR -- they're just on the other side:

Just when you thought the German “peace” movement couldn’t get much more hypocritical they take things to a whole new level. Last week the unbelievable lack of protest at the German government’s plutonium and arms deal with Communist China made it seem as the peace freaks had all rolled up into a big ball for a long winter hibernation.

Not so! The German TV news program “Panorama” uncovered some of the wonderful activities that particularly dedicated cadres of the German peace movement are currently engaged in. In the spirit of peace, a number of groups have started a fund-raising campaign entitled “10 Euros for the Iraqi Resistance”. The money will be provided to the Iraqi Patriotic Alliance (IPA) a group dedicated to carrying out attacks against US soldiers in Iraq in collaboration with Saddam loyalists. The common goal is to "liberate” the Iraqi people from the evil imperialist American occupiers. On their website these groups gush with enthusiasm about turning Iraq into another Vietnam for the USA.

I think that one reason so many lefties have gone crazy regarding the war is that it is exposing their hypocrisy -- and even more damaging to their self-image, their lack of moral stature -- so clearly.

UPDATE: Bill Herbert has more on this.


At the beginning of this year Salam Pax was just another typical oppressed Baghdadi, four of whose relatives had ‘gone missing’ (according to his Guardian biog.). But a couple of weeks in the company of Guardian editors and he’s been transformed into a note-perfect, sneering, metropolitan poseur, right down to the two-decade-old Rambo putdown. He sounds like a Channel 4 commissioning editor. Now you might think this is a tad ungrateful of Salam: some of that tomato juice on the rug is from his four missing relatives and, given that the Americans have seen to it that his own juice is no longer in danger of hitting the shagpile, it might be nice if he understood that, in the end, it’s in his interest to clean up the room more than Rambo’s. But personally I find it heartening: if the Americans can’t transform Iraq into New Hampshire, this snotty little twerp is living proof that you can at least turn it into Islington.

Harsh, but Salam was snotty. No sooner did I post this than a reader noted that he's actually back in Baghdad as of a couple of weeks ago, though he wasn't there when he was dissing Bush. Sadly, I don't read Salam's blog much any more -- I find Zeyad, Omar,and the other, second-wave Iraqi bloggers far more interesting and useful these days. Perhaps now that Salam is back in Iraq his blog will become more interesting.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT ORCS AND ELVES, I know a troll when I see one. . . .

A RESERVIST GOING TO IRAQ is soliciting advice. If you can help, do.

THANK YOU ANDREW! In response to my earlier post noting more donations than usual, reader Patrick Anders emails:

Or maybe Andrew Sullivan should perform his beg-a-thon more often. I hit your tipjar when I hit his, or the Corner's, or Lileks's. All are more aggressive than you about asking for help, You should thank them. I'm one of many whose browser "favorites" buttons link all four sites.

Thanks to The Corner and Lileks, too!

UPDATE: Reader Paul Havemann emails:

I, too, was inspired by Andrew Sullivan to hit your tip jar as well. And as I did so, it hit me just how much weblogs have changed the world:

For the first time, I've donated money to a lawyer *willingly.* Yikes! Who knows where this can lead?

It's another Internet miracle!

IT'S BLOG CUBA DAY over at the wonderfully-named BabaluBlog. It's kind of like the "Carnival of the Vanities" with better weather. . .


Michael Weisskopf, a Washington-based senior correspondent for Time magazine, was seriously wounded in Baghdad late Wednesday when a grenade exploded in the U.S. Army Humvee in which he was a passenger. James Nachtwey, a Time contributing photographer, was also in the vehicle and was injured by the blast.

Weisskopf, 57, a former Washington Post reporter, likely saved the lives of his companions, including two U.S. soldiers, by attempting to toss the grenade from the vehicle before it exploded, said several people familiar with the incident.

Weisskopf lost his right hand, but is now in stable condition. Please join me in offering him thanks for his bravery and quick response, and a speedy recovery.

LEE HARRIS offers an assessment of Howard Dean's military policy.

UPDATE: Alex Bensky emails:

I'm sorry in a way to have followed your link to the article on this topic. I have voted Democratic in every election in which I've been eligible. I wish I could take back the one for McGovern. If there was ever a year to vote Prohibitionist that was it.

But despite Bush's economic and financial policies, which I think do verge on class warfare, I may wind up voting for him. Certainly I never heretofore even considered the possibility of voting Republican for president.

Elmer Davis once wrote that "the first requirement of any society is that it win its war." I don't think Dean understands that we are at war. I don't think he knows much about foreign and defense policy, and I deeply distrust his instincts. Nor would I have any confidence in the advisors he'd likely choose.

There are very few issues which alone would determine my vote for president. This is one of them. I think it has to be.

Well, Dean is, I think, still feeling his way, and there's always the possibility that he'll improve.

HEY, HERE'S an Iraqi protest that the Washington Post deigns to cover. It's a lot smaller than the one Wednesday, but it's against an American action, so it must be news!

Susanna Cornett offers some thoughts on the protest coverage that seem applicable here:

I think you're correct to a degree that the lack of coverage has to do with the media's conscious or unconscious preference on how the reconstruction goes in Iraq. However, I also think the media reflexively thinks that anti-establishment protest is more "honest" and newsworthy than anything supporting the establishment - and in their view, anything conservative or associated with a conservative administration is by definition "establishment". I also think they're suspicious of demonstrations supporting the US or at least tracking a parallel position because they assume the US had some role in setting it up. So it's what you said, but it's also part process as well as ideology because they're lazily activating their frames rather than critically assessing the situation.

I'm reading up on research on media framing right now, which is why this leapt to my mind. Essentially, for the most efficient production of news the media as a whole has developed frames, pigeonholes for news, that quickly organize raw information that comes in. They assess a situation, associate it with an established theme, and file it away there. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but what happens is that journalists either become lazy and mentally assign a situation to a theme or frame without critical assessment of it, or they don't examine the ideological foundations of their themes and assume the theme/frame is based on some objective reality when in fact it's a subjective categorization. Like any categorization method, this means that some aspects of the situation are ignored and others emphasized in the process of making the decision.

A CNN reporter hearing about this may see "support for US interests" and mentally file it under "administration hype" (shorthand: ignore) rather than seeing "Iraqis freely demonstrating" and "Iraqis rising up against terrorists" and filing it under "Important changes" (shorthand: cover).

Frames are passed along as part of the culture of journalism. Not always bad, but like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when they're bad they're horrid.

Just some thoughts on what's going on. I think the media is in part ideologically hostile to the administration, but I also think some of this is just lazy pigeonholing. Which doesn't diminish the harm, just shifts the bias from a wholly thoughted partisanship to lazy perpetuation of faulty themes.

I think this is largely right, though it's interesting how often "mere laziness" conveniently leads to the same result as "outright bias," isn't it?

Meanwhile Gerard Van der Leun offers a media psychoanalysis of his own.

UPDATE: Reader Daniel Schwartz comments on Cornett's take:

Frankly, I have difficulty even believing the "laziness" excuse. This was an anti-terror demonstration, by and large, not a pro-American demonstration. When thousands of Iraqis take to the streets to condemn terror, it's quite a stretch to file that under "American propaganda -- safe to ignore". I'd say, rather, that this is an unconscious ideological bias, unwilling to acknowledge details that don't fit a particular worldview.

That doesn't sound like professional journalism, does it? And if we assume that it's NOT necessarily 'unconscious' bias, then it's even worse.

There's no way this works out to make them look good, that's for sure.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dennis Culkin emails:

Just FYI, was listening to C-SPAN on the radio this morning, and Philip Taubman of the NYT said, in reaction to a caller's question, that HE HADN'T HEARD ABOUT THE IRAQ DEMONSTRATIONS. Wasn't aware they had occurred. Too lazy to look it up, but Taubman's a bureau chief for the NYT now. And he was literally unaware of the events.

I was a journalist way-back-when. Susanna Cornett's "laziness/frameworking" analysis explains much of the plain mediocrity or incompetence of much media coverage on many different topics. But it's gone way beyond that. If a NYT bureau chief hasn't heard of a significant event that's part of the current leading global story, it's confirmation that major media in Iraq are literally not covering the story, in the most basic sense.

Well, it's pretty embarrassing.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Sink emails:

I saw where your reader Janice Brown discusses "Demonstrationgate" and suggests that we explore this issue. I personally think that what we are witnessing goes beyond the Demonstration, to a much more fundamental change. My feeling is that this is a time where the bulk of the American public is becoming more likely to trust the Government for news than the news media itself. I do not have much to base this on, except people I know keep saying that "I can't trust the news anymore"( not that we totally trust everything the Government tells us either). However, it reflects what I feel: that the major news media organizations are simply to ingrained to provide anything close to a balanced content within the news casts.

If true, this is a revolutionary issue with the American public not seen since the opposite happened during the Vietnam war. In both cases one side was putting out information that is clearly in contrast to the actual situation on the ground. So, in this case, maybe Iraqi is like Vietnam.

Interesting. There certainly does seem to be a "credibility gap" developing.

IRAN'S PRESIDENT WEIGHS IN ON WEBLOGS: Nice to see that they're noticing.

AUSTIN BAY ISSUES an Iraq war and post-war report card. Grades are mixed.

WELL EXCUUUUSE ME! Jonah Goldberg, in conjunction with Spoons, is giving me grief for not weighing in on the Supreme Court's campaign-finance decision yesterday.

Well, I was kind of busy getting ready to go to DC (and otherwised doing my actual job) and trying to get some attention for the Iraqi anti-terrorism protests, and I didn't really have anything to add to the already widespread discussion of the opinion. I think it's wrong, and bad. I also think, as Mickey Kaus points out, the decision isn't likely to have all that much actual effect: "the law turned out to not be as restrictive of speech as most people, including most of its editorial-page supporters, think it is."

But mostly, I just didn't feel that I had anything in particular to contribute to the already widespread discussion. I generally blog on things where either (1) I think they're not getting enough attention; or (2) I have something in particular to say. Neither really applies here. And unlike, say, a newspaper, I make no effort to cover everything that happens.

Sorry, Jonah (and Spoons), if the free ice cream wasn't your favorite flavor. Want me to refund your subscriptions?

UPDATE: Here's a list of blog entries on the subject, suggesting that the blogosphere wasn't exactly silent on this topic. Tom Maguire responds to Jonah a bit more harshly.

For the record, I have no staff. If I don't get to stuff, it doesn't get gotten to on InstaPundit. And lots of stuff -- including lots of stuff that I'd cover if I had more time, or more energy -- doesn't get gotten to. But that's okay, because the blogosphere is a big place, and I don't have to get to everything!

WIRED' PAUL BOUTIN talks about the Geneva Information Summit, and Internet freedom, on NPR's Day to Day.

WOW. Lots of people hit the tipjar while I was gone. Maybe I should take the day off more often!

December 11, 2003

TOO BEAT TO BLOG: Flew up to Washington for the day, to talk to the EPA Science Advisory Board about nanotechnology. Just got back. More on that later. Now, to bed.

But while I'm gone note that although the New York Times completely dropped the ball on the Baghdad anti-terror protests, the Rocky Mountain News had a columnist and a photographer there. Advantage: Rocky Mountain News! Military blogger Iraq Now has an interesting report from the marches, too.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis isn't impressed with the Rocky Mountain News piece. Yeah, as one of Jeff's commenters notes, it's from the "the reporter is much more important than the story" school. But give 'em credit -- at least he was there. Meanwhile, in defense of ABC News reader Caleb DeuPree emails that Peter Jennings did cover the protests on 12/10, though there's nothing on the ABC News website.

Also, somebody sent me some pictures of communists marching in the Iraqi antiterror march, and suggested that I'm thus hypocritical for supporting them. But unless I'm mistaken, the communists aren't the primary organizers and backbone of these protests -- as the Stalinists at A.N.S.W.E.R. most assuredly are with regard to the U.S. "peace" marches. If they were, no doubt the American left would be more supportive. . . .

Oh, and there's one other difference -- the Stalinists from A.N.S.W.E.R. were demonstrating in support of fascism and terrorism. At least these guys are taking the opposite position. You'd think that would matter to some people -- but you'd be wrong if you did.


I don't want to think that Noah Oppenheim is correct in writing that many in the media quite seriously don't want us to win, but tonight of all nights it seems more likely that could be so. As I type these words at ten p. m. PDT... maybe I missed something... maybe I didn't click far enough... but I see no reports of the large pro-democracy/anti-terror march of Iraqis in Baghdad today in tomorrow's New York Times or Washington Post or in the Los Angeles Times(at least on their websites). Or on the CNN site. Or on MSNBC.... Do you think for one moment that if thousands had been marching for Saddam... for the fascists... excuse me "insurgents"... it wouldn't have been front page news? I don't. What's going on?

(Emphasis in original.) I just searched "Iraq" on the NYT website. Not only did I find absolutely no reference to the anti-terror protests in Iraq, the search results brought home to me just how relentlessly negative the spin is on the stories that they do report. This is an absolute embarrassment to the American media -- even Reuters and Al Jazeera are doing a better job! -- but I don't know if they'll even notice.

But we're noticing. And while the story hasn't quite been blacked out, it's close. Readers report that CNN did run clips of the marches, as did Fox (see above). But the biggest story in the NYT on Iraq is that two GIs were killed during a robbery. Roger's basic point holds: Had these demonstrators been marching on the other side, this would have been a big story instead of the closest thing to a non-story. So why isn't it a big story when it's good news? Because they want us to lose? Or at least, because they are, as Noah Oppenheim suggests, consciously or unconsciously seeking "vindication" of their anti-war views?

When you compare what they do report with what they don't, it seems to me that they're either glorying in the bad news and ignoring the good for the reasons Oppenheim suggests, or just lousy at their jobs. Or, I suppose, both. Your call.

UPDATE: One of Roger's commenters points out that the Times did cover the march -- as a single paragraph buried in the story about the 2 GIs:

In contrast, a heavily policed march in central Baghdad on Wednesday, organized peacefully by the country's major political parties, drew thousands of Iraqis to protest attacks by guerrilla fighters, which have injured and killed Iraqi civilians as well as occupiers.

This kind of ass-covering ("See! We covered it!") is almost worse than not covering it at all. Pathetic.

December 10, 2003

RAND SIMBERG WRITES ON LESSONS LEARNED, and not learned, from history.


Bradley A. Buckles, who served ATF for 30 years and was named director in 1999, will come head of the Anti-Piracy Unit of the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group announced Tuesday.

"Brad's appointment should signal to everyone that we continue to take piracy (search), here and throughout the world, very seriously," said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA's chairman and chief executive officer.

No doubt he'll bring the agency's well-known expertise to bear on the RIAA's affairs.

TIM BLAIR WRITES on "news so good it can't be mentioned."

I HEARD A NEWS ITEM ON NPR TONIGHT about the U.N.'s reluctance to get involved in Iraq. This reluctance seems to me to be a good thing:

Crime, terror flourish in 'liberated' Kosovo
Ethnic cleansing, smuggling rampant under UN's aegis

Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts.

Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.

In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.

Funny that we're not hearing the "quagmire" coverage here.

DROP BY and wish XRLQ a swift recovery after his motorcycle accident.

I'VE GOT MORE ON THE GENEVA SUMMIT and the future of Internet free speech, over at

DONALD SENSING has posted some screen grabs from FoxNews' coverage of the Baghdad anti-terror protests.

LT Smash has comments, too.

Meanwhile here's a story on media coverage from Iraq. Excerpt:

Four weeks ago, MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" asked me to go to Baghdad in search of the story most of the mainstream media were missing. The network's vice president knew I was a supporter of the war, and suggested I find out if things had really gone as horribly wrong as the evening newscasts and major print dailies reported. What I found is that, in Iraq, the mounting body count is heartbreaking, but the failure of American journalism is tragic.

First, some popular illusions that need to be dispelled: Most correspondents for newscasts do very little, if any, actual reporting. They assemble the visual elements of a jigsaw puzzle whose shape is dictated by an unholy deity--"the wires." Every day, the Associated Press and Reuters offer an account of the major events in Iraq. If a bomb has exploded or an American soldier has been killed, that is the day's major event. Barring that, an alarming comment from an American official, like Ambassador Paul Bremer or General Ricardo Sanchez, will suffice.

Sadly, most of the piece is behind the subscription wall. But here's a summary, where we also get this nugget:

Beyond this structural failure, there is a problem of attitude. Along with freedom, America has brought to Iraq the notorious Red State-Blue State divide. Most journalists are Blue State people in outlook, and most of those administering the occupation are Red. Many of those who work for the Coalition, including civilians, carry guns. This either amuses journalists or makes them uncomfortable. Most of those who work for the Coalition are deeply invested, emotionally, in the success of America's enterprise in Iraq. (How else to explain why someone leaves an apartment in Arlington to live in a trailer in Baghdad and endure mortar attacks?) Most journalists did not support this war to begin with, and feel vindicated whenever the effort stumbles....

(Emphasis added.) Of course, that's the kind of attitude that gets you scooped by Iraqi bloggers. . . .

UPDATE: Michael Totten on Zeyad: "He has one of the best scoops in the world right now, including photos, and he’s doing it from Iraq for free."

Shouldn't that embarrass some people?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hossein Derakshan sends this direct link to the Reuters raw video of the antiterror demonstration. It works for me. Check it out.

ROBERT TAGORDA has moved to a snazzy new blog and URL. Take note.

Norman Geras has moved, too.

JEFF JARVIS on the Iraqi bloggers:

All it took was one person. Thanks to the Internet and weblogs -- and a little help from the community there -- it is possible for one man in a country just coming out from under dictatorship and war to speak to the world, to exercise free speech, to help spread that free speech, to report news, to make news, to build relationships, to create understanding.

That is the moral of the story of the blogosphere: All that is now possible. Anyone can do this. Any of us can support it.

All it takes is one person.


ZEYAD covered the Baghdad antiterrorism marches and reports that they were

a major success. I didn't expect anything even close to this. It was probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad for months. It wasn't just against terrorism. It was against Arab media, against the interference of neighbouring countries, against dictatorships, against Wahhabism, against oppression, and of course against the Ba'ath and Saddam.

He's uploading photos, too.

UPDATE: Here's Omar's report, too:

[A]fter 2 hours, the crowd was so big, I couldn't guess the number, but it seemed like the whole Iraq was there, men, women, children, young and elderly of different socio-economic levels, cheering the same slogans in different languages(Arabic, Kurdish, Turkomen, Assyrian). They looked very happy and free, despite the risks of being targeted.

Nobody seemed to be afraid, in fact today I felt safer than ever. I didn't expect such a response from the Iraqi people after all the terror they have suffered-and still suffering- from. To me it was a total success. I hope more brave steps will follow.

Funny, I can't find anything about these on the New York Times' website. Guess the Times has been scooped by bloggers again!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's the only report I can find:

Meanwhile, several IGC members participated Wednesday in a demonstration denouncing terrorism.

IGC member Samir Shakir said the demonstrators considered any group that obstructed stability in Iraq as terrorist, according to Al-Jazeera television.

Shakir claimed 3,000 people participated in the demonstration in Baghdad, a number which the Arab satellite station said was exaggerated.

Anybody find anything else?

MORE: A reader sends this AFP story:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Thousands of Iraqis, some watched over by US Apache helicopters, demonstrated in Baghdad and other cities to condemn "terrorism" in their country. . . .

Hussein al-Musaya, a former Iraqi exile who helped organize the rally, said numerous political parties had come together to state their opposition to terorism.

"It's also a message of thanks to the coalition force for liberating Iraq (news - web sites) from the dictator," said Musaya, an official with the Liberal Republic Iraqi Party.

"We will not allow the fascists to come back," added Farook al-Shamari, 63.

"I don't belong to any party but I am against terrorism and fascism. We lived under the aggression of fascism for 40 years," he said.

Any more?

STILL MORE: You can see streaming video from Reuters here. Click "Reuters Television," then "more," and then click "Iraqi protests." The marches certainly look very large. And this UPI story says there were 4,000 marchers. [LATER: D'oh! A reader sent the UPI link and I didn't notice that it's to a story about the previous march. In part that's because I didn't see any other stories calling that march so big, and in part it's because I'm, er, an idiot and just didn't notice the date.]

Ublog has more.

MORE STILL: Colin MacLeod has observations on the role of Iraqi bloggers, and Jeff Jarvis is blogging on this, too. A reader emails that his friends at CNN have seen the video but aren't sure whether they'll run it.

Hmm. Would they run video if 4,000 Iraqis staged an anti-Bush protest in Baghdad? I think they would. . . . Another media reader sends a copy of a deutsche presse-agentur story (not on the web) that includes this bit:

The demonstrations were ``a message from Iraqis to the entire world that they are not in agreement with terrorism and wanted to work for the restoration of the country'', IGC member Samir al-Sumaidi said.

Accompanied by a robust police presence and overlooked by U.S. military helicopters, protesters carried pictures of Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, who was murdered in a suicide bombing. Some demonstrators released white doves as a symbol of peace.

IGC member Samir Shakir said demonstrators labelled any group that obstructed stability in Iraq as terrorist, according to al-Jazeera television.

The persons attending the Baghdad demonstration were numbered at between 3,000 and 10,000 people, though al-Jazeera claimed these figures were exaggerated.

Well, we know that al-Jazeera would never exaggerate the numbers of, say, pro-Saddam protesters, right? But hey, at least al-Jazeera is covering the march. . . .

STILL MORE: Ted Barlow writes: "If the situation in Iraq is going to work out, it will be because of people like these."

AND EVEN MORE: Meryl Yourish emails:

Just saw CNN cover the rally at about 10:07. They showed pictures and mentioned that there were more than one, but they also downplayed it as much as possible, going so far as to say they wouldn't call this "a groundswell" of opinion, but a sign that maybe--just maybe--the Iraqis are finally starting to "warm up" to the American p.o.v.

Yeah, I guess it's impossible to imagine that they might be against dictatorship and terrorism on their own initiative, huh?

Meanwhile Tim Blair notes what news media people consider "real news" via the Internet today -- Kylie Minogue might be pregnant.

More here.

And reader Janice Brown emails:

I think we ought to explore and exploit Demonstrationgate as a crystal
clear example of the "media's" failure to function in this "diverse"
world we live in.

It's pretty lame. And it's certainly a statement of priorities, considering what else they reported. Sigh. Maybe they'll cover it tomorrow?

PHIL BOWERMASTER, whose email I referenced earlier, has some thoughts on the Gaffney / Norquist debate.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: My TechCentralStation column, on the U.N. and the Geneva Internet summit, is up. I think the graphic, which shows the little guys tying the big guys in, er, knots, is especially appropriate.

TOM FRIEDMAN: Getting violent for peace? That's what this report says, but here's the passage that struck me:

[R]unning to the blogosphere is in many ways a reaction to the horrible jobs being done by Friedman and colleagues like Maureen Dowd. It's ironic that Friedman touts the power of the Internet in his performance -- "If you're in government, watch out. The people are a superpower," he says, and again the irony is lost on him. The man doesn't understand that Web blogs are swallowing him alive.

A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but not entirely. For more on Friedman's apparent problems with the actual practice of nonviolence, here's a report from the New York Sun on the same incident. However, while Friedman may have trouble restraining his temper, I wouldn't put him in the same writerly category as Maureen Dowd.

Here's an odd bit from the Sun story, though:

“Tom doesn’t usually respond to those kind of inquires,”his assistant at the New YorkTimes’s Washington bureau said.

Does this mean that Friedman gets this sort of question regularly enough to have a policy on it? Surely not.


KENNETH Lasson is that rare bird: a law professor who writes well and amusingly.

Ouch. I haven't read Lasson's new book, Trembling in the Ivory Tower, but I remember that his famous article on the abuse of footnoting in law reviews was downright hilarious -- so funny that even people who aren't law professors were amused!


TOKYO — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told his nation Tuesday that it "must be a trustworthy ally of the U.S." as his Cabinet approved sending about 600 soldiers from Japan's Self-Defense Forces to Iraq.

"For Japan to achieve peace and security and for the country to prosper, it is necessary both to strengthen the U.S. alliance and to cooperate with international society," Koizumi said at a news conference broadcast live on all major Japanese television channels. "To do this, we must offer deeds, not just words."

Perhaps Schroeder and Chirac should take note.

HERE'S SOME FIRSTHAND REPORTING of Iranian student protests, along with translations of some of the slogans:

Deektator haya kon mamlekat ra raha kon= Have Shame you dictators and leave the nation alone

Death to dictator

Khamenei Pinoche, Iran will not be another Chille

Students are awake and they are sick of Sad Ali

Amel har jenayat e een regime Velayate= The cause of all crimes of position are the Velayat (Supreme Leader)

Jomhooreeye Eslami degar asr nadarad, rahbar bejoz khodkoshee rahe degar nadarad= The Islamic Republic has no more effect, the leader has no way out exept for suicide

This is your last chance/final warning, the students are ready for the uprising.

A poster read "Establish democracy with American boots" . . . A tract read: "Our main enemy is not the US, our main enemy is inside of our house".

Read the whole thing. And read this, too.

JEFF JARVIS ASKS A QUESTION AT THE GENEVA INTERNET SUMMIT -- without even being there. Good job, Jeff!

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES is up, with links to all sorts of blog posts. Check 'em out.

December 09, 2003

HERE'S AN AP STORY on Wesley Clark's blog campaign, led by Cam Barrett. I think it's far and away the strongest and best-organized part of Clark's campaign.

Meanwhile, here's an article on Dean's Internet guru, Joe Trippi.

ROGER SIMON HAS A NEW HERO and a new heroine.


The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."

The directive, which was issued by the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, represents perhaps the most substantive retaliation to date by the Bush administration against American allies who opposed its decision to go to war in Iraq.

The next question is whether Iraq will repudiate its odious debts contracted under Saddam. I'm guessing that it will. Check out this statement from President Bush, on James Baker's appointment to deal with this matter:

The future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime. This debt endangers Iraq's long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity. The issue of Iraq debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and that does not unjustly burden a struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise.

Call me crazy, but I think that French, Russian and German holders of Iraqi paper should be more than a little worried.

WILL VEHRS WRITES on bloggers writing about David Brooks writing about Howard Dean.

ANOTHER SUICIDE BOMBING: It's obviously a quagmire-- in Moscow.

Maybe it's because the Russians decided not to ratify Kyoto. . . .

OLIVER WILLIS has a new business blog called BoomNation. Check it out -- though I still think he belongs on TV!

CHIEF WIGGLES WANTS HELP. People are offering money, but I think what he really wants is advice and connections.

UPDATE: Here's an article on the Chief and his family from the Deseret News.

HUGH HEWITT, BLESS HIM, is interviewing Frank Gaffney about the Grover Norquist / Wahhabi connection article mentioned below. It'll start in about 15 minutes, and you can stream it live from his site.

UPDATE: Listening to it now. Norquist and Gaffney are both on. Norquist says he's only supporting Arab democracy and that Gaffney is engaging in guilt-by-association. Gaffney says that's B.S., and says that Norquist's closeness to terror-linked Islamists is undeniable and emblematic of a much larger problem of Washington political types being too close to Arab money. I hope that other journalists will look into this problem further.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Bowermaster emails that he listened to the show and thinks it's much ado about nothing. I'd like for it to be, but. . . .

THERE WILL BE ANTI-TERROR DEMONSTRATIONS IN IRAQ TOMORROW: Zeyad, who now has a digital camera sent to him by Jeff Jarvis, will be covering them.

BUT WILL THEY PAY ATTENTION IN GENEVA? Scores of Iranians give firsthand accounts of web censorship in Iran. Many are quite moving.

FROM THE EDITOR OF THE ARAB TIMES: "They are living in the past and they can see only the history of the United States. They think America is the same country that withdrew from regions where it incurred heavy casualties, such as Vietnam, Beirut in 1982, and Somalia. They refuse to see the recent history of the US in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and in the war to liberate Kuwait. Americans weren't fazed by suicide bombings. . . . The United States is not going to quit. Instead, it will convert poles of Jihadi flags into arrows to pierce the hearts of terrorists - who ultimately will be consigned to the dustbin of history."

UPDATE: Link was bad before. Fixed now.

GOOD NEWS? Looks like it. Reader Colin Grabow points out that the Wall Street Journal has an article (you'll need to be a paid subscriber to read it, though) on the return of CERP money to commanders in Iraq. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON -- To jump-start reconstruction projects in Iraq, the Pentagon is funneling about $300 million to senior military commanders in the country, more than double the amount they got in fiscal 2003, defense officials said.

Officials say they believe the cash infusion now will give a boost to reconstruction projects and help build momentum going into next year when the vast majority of U.S. troops will rotate out of the country and be replenished by fresh troops. Spending more money to get unemployed Iraqis onto U.S. payrolls for low-tech building and security projects, rather than having them join enemy ranks, is critical to U.S. success in Iraq, these officials said. Senior Pentagon officials are especially concerned that Iraqi insurgents will increase attacks early next year to take advantage of the new, less experienced troops arriving in the country.

"We're giving commanders this money because we realize that when the only tools you have are guns and bullets it is hard to win counterinsurgency wars," said one defense official familiar with the decision.

The $300 million, which has been described by Pentagon officials as "commanders' walking-around money," is also designed to keep a large array of smaller projects churning until a wave of money begins to pour into Iraq next summer and autumn.

This seems enormously important to me. In fact, I wonder if $300 million is enough.

JOHN ELLIS: "Gore vs. Clinton 2008 began on December 9th, 2003. It has been the subtext of the 2004 campaign to date. Now it's out in the open for all to see."

"A TROUBLING INFLUENCE:" Frank Gaffney is all over Grover Norquist for connections with radical Islamists. If all of this is true, it's more than just "troubling."

UPDATE: Winds of Change has a link-filled post on Norquist and the Islamists that suggests Gaffney's piece is solid.

Why aren't Democrats all over this? Is it because they're in the Saudis' pockets, too? Or just showing their usual instinct for the capillary?

HERE'S SOME ADVICE FROM DOC SEARLS on combination digital / video cameras. It's good advice, and I looked at the tiny Sony video-still combination camera that Doc uses. It's great, but it was $1200 when I looked at it. I've seen it discounted to $995 since.

If you're a blogger, and you're looking for a web-journalism tool, it's overkill. Plus, to me an essential characteristic of a web-journalism tool is extreme mobility. That's why I bought this Toshiba, which costs about one-fourth as much -- which not only cuts the up-front cost, but makes you less worried about losing it, or getting it damaged, and hence more likely to take it with you. It shoots 3-Meg stills (overkill for the web, but you can select a lower-resolution format) and records video at 320 x 240 (entirely adequate for the web). You can see samples of both here. (I also recorded this commercial with the Toshiba. Jeff Jarvis panned it, but not for technical quality -- and it took five minutes, start to finish, including copying it to the computer.) And -- most importantly -- it runs off AA batteries, which you can get anywhere, rather than some proprietary battery that has to be recharged.

A few other pointers from my perspective: Video formats that are easy to import into any computer are important. My experience with MPEG4 suggests that, well, it sucks. Cameras that store video as MPEG-1 or -2 or AVI are good; QuickTime won't import directly into Windows Movie Maker, which means that if wide computer compatibility is important it's a poor choice, unless you find yourself constantly surrounded by Apple machines. (Sure, you can put the appropriate software on your own computer, but what if it's not handy?) Make sure it records with sound, too! Many cameras with "movie mode" don't, and they're often a bit coy about that. Newer cameras will usually record video clips whose length is limited only by the available memory; older ones tend to store only short clips.

A good optical zoom is nice, too. If you're taking pictures of news, you may find your own mobility limited, so being able to zoom in or out is useful. My main complaint about most digicam lenses is that the maximum wide-angle setting isn't really wide enough.

Likewise, the Toshiba has some rudimentary built-in editing capabilities -- it can resize still photos, and lighten or darken them, prior to exporting them to a computer. That means you can use any computer with USB and web access, even if it doesn't have photo editing software.

Most of the time this stuff won't matter. But if you're buying a digital camera with blog-journalism in mind, you might as well get something that's really suited for the task.

Ideally, I'd like to see all of these features integrated with a mobile communications device that I could also blog from. The Handspring Treo 600, which Jeff Jarvis is always praising, comes close but isn't there yet.

And remember -- any camera that you have with you is better than one that's left at home. My older Olympus camera, which to my surprise is still on the market, rides in my backpack or briefcase all the time. Its video performance is pretty weak -- QuickTime clips of up to 15 seconds with no sound (here's an example) -- but the stills are great, and it's small, rugged, and cheap. And it uses AA batteries.

I love the profusion of digital still and video cameras throughout the blogosphere and -- as you may have guessed -- part of the point of this post is to encourage their proliferation. I love it when bloggers are on hand to record events firsthand, and the technology for doing that just gets better.

UPDATE: Michael Ubaldi emails that he found this article helpful in sorting out nomenclature and technical issues on digital camerals.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Eric Scheie notes that you can get the Olympus for a dirt-cheap $159 here, though I don't know this site and can't vouch for it personally. I like to link to Amazon because they provide customer reviews and all sorts of other information, but there's usually some other place with a lower price if you want to poke around the web, or use things like Froogle.

Also the 2MP version of the Toshiba is a mere $269 at TigerDirect, and as best I can tell from the description is otherwise about the same. I've bought a few things from TigerDirect and had no problems, though nowhere near as many as I've bought from Amazon, of course.

MORE: Fritz Schranck has more observations on photoblogging. And reader Will Scovill has comments on MPEG4:

I have to chime in with my 2 cents on the MPEG4. I think it is one of the greatest things to happen to digital media. Right now Windows media is getting bigger in both audio and video and I can't stand it more. As an Apple user they only work half the time and only in Windows Media Player which for Apple sucks. You cannot do anything with the video except watch it. The same goes for audio, you cannot burn it to a CD. The thing with MPEG4 video and its audio counterpart the AAC is that the compression makes the file both smaller and cleaner than that of an MP3, WMA, WMV, AVI, MPEG1, or even MPEG2. Also, for people uploading to the web, it can create a file small enough to fit on a floppy disc but good enough quality to still sit through. Apple helped develop this new codec and then released it to the world for free, but for some reason the world has yet to pick up on it the way it has with Windows Media which is much more restrictive especially when crossing platforms.

I don't much like Windows Media either; I think that QuickTime seems to produce better quality most of the time. I like the idea of MPEG4, but in practice it seems to be hinky, and I've never seen an MPEG4 video that I thought was good -- even the allegedly high quality ones seem to have a lot of artifact and distortion. Possibly I'm underrating it.

SOUR BOB is back, with some observations on mental health:

Did I mention I've almost entirely stopped drinking? It's true. I have an occasional bourbon and water these days, but rarely more than one, and most days I only drink club soda.

Hard to say entirely why I made this change, but as much as anything it was because a dear friend pointed out the obvious: if a fella is tired of being broke and depressed, perhaps he ought to stop spending hundreds of dollars a month on depressants. And you know what? I really do feel much better.

He wasn't able to shake that blogging addiction, though. . . .

POLITE RUGBY FANS swarm over London. No, really.

GORE AND DEAN: Mickey Kaus says that Gore's endorsement of Dean is a tribute to web-power. Tim Cavanaugh says that Gore's "extending his jinx." Jonah Goldberg observes:

More important, it underscores how unserious Al Gore has become on the war on terrorism. Will Gore say that he should have picked Dean to be his runningmate in 2000? Al Gore claimed that Joe Lieberman would be the best possible stand-in for Al Gore should the need arise. He said that Lieberman's qualifications were perfect to be president. Now, that was before the War on Terrorism. In the time since then, Joe Lieberman has been at the forefront of the War on Terrorism in the Senate. . . .

In other words, Al Gore not only thinks Howard Dean is more qualified to be president of the United States than Joe Lieberman was or is, he thinks that is especially the case now after 9/11. If you really let that sink in for a second, you can see what an amazingly mercenary and damn close to dishonorable position that is.

Ouch. Well, Gore wasn't trying to win over Goldberg anyway. . .

It is rather a slam at Lieberman, but politics is politics and Lieberman's candidacy is going nowhere. Dean's, on the other hand, is looking unstoppable through the primaries.

At any rate, I'm not sure that Dean, if elected, would be as bad for the war on terror as Goldberg's post, sort of, implies, or that Dean's primacy in fact reflects a policy of surrender on the part of Democratic voters. Here's Dean's secret weapon in the general election: He's an angry jerk. Okay, he's not always a jerk, but he has his angry, jerky side. And that poses risks to his campaign that have been analyzed elsewhere.

But in the current climate (heck, probably in most political climates) an angry jerk is a lot better than a wimp, and Dean doesn't come across as a wimp. Voters may conclude, and they may be right, that a President Dean would get angry at terrorists and respond appropriately, rather than rolling over and being a wimp. This, at any rate, is one reason why I'm not so sure the Dean / McGovern parallel that some people are drawing works.

UPDATE: Robert Crawford emails:

Your point about an angry jerk being better than a wimp misses something important: the jerk should be angry at the right things. I haven't seen much evidence that Dean is really upset with the state of the Arab world, the conditions and traditions that have created the Islamist movements. On the other hand, I've seen plenty of evidence that Dean is angry at Bush for trying to do something about it.

Yeah, he's playing to his base. That doesn't make me feel any better about it, though.

Well, that's the issue, isn't it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has interesting observations regarding both Howard Dean and David Brooks -- and on what the Internet means for both. Roger Simon has thoughts, too, while Steven Antler has an economic angle.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: QandO says that for Dean, Bush is the real enemy, not Islamist terror. But I'm not sure he's paying enough attention to context, here.

And Daniel Drezner has a roundup of reactions from within and without the blogosphere. Meanwhile, I'm predicting that it will ultimately be a Dean/Edwards ticket for the Dems.

Finally, Obsidian Wings wonders if Dean is tough enough.

MORE: Bill Kristol thinks Dean can win.

WINDS OF CHANGE HAS ITS KOREA REGIONAL BRIEFING up and online. Not especially good news, but there's lots of it.

December 08, 2003


Instead of worrying about America and the Internet -- since we made it happen, after all -- maybe the U.N. should worry instead about Iran censoring the Internet. No, instead, while they were ejecting a representative of an American company, the U.N. invited in a huge delegation of officials from Iran -- the same officials who are censoring the Internet.

Yes, the U.N. would be a fine organization to run the technology future of the world.

No f'ing way! They should pry the Internet out of our dead American hands.

They'd probably like that.


I am, on the other hand, completely blown away by the Tennessee Constitution, which seems to forbid atheists (and many other religious minorities) from holding any civil office in the state.

I would have thought that the 1st Amendment's guarantee of Free Exercise of Religion (as incorporated against the states) included the right to reject it.

[Article IX also forbids Ministers of the Gospels from holding seats in the legislature and duelists from "the right to hold any office of honor or profit."]

Can such a ban really be defended?

Well, the dueling ban wouldn't seem to violate any constitutional rights, and as far as I know it's still good law. The ban on ministers of the gospel holding office was struck down in McDaniel v. Paty, a case argued by my (since retired) colleague Frederick S. LeClercq. By implication, the ban on atheists is assumed to be invalid, too. (Here's a link to the Tennessee Constitution in pdf form. There's a lot of interesting stuff in the Tennessee Constitution -- note, in particular, Article XI sec. 16).

THE DEAN SEALED-RECORD STORY: Robert Tagorda has more information on Dean's record-sealing:

But even newspapers in Dean's own state had to fight for a peek. In January 2002, the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus sued the governor for holding back on the disclosure of his daily schedule. They had wanted to find out how his presidential campaign planning might be affecting matters of the state. A half-year later, after a third newspaper joined the suit, the Washington Superior Court ruled against Dean.

Here, via Tagorda, is a link to the opinion of the Vermont Supreme Court in this case. Tagorda has another post on this topic here.

I don't understand what Dean's campaign is thinking. If there's embarrassing stuff in these files, this only calls attention to it, and it will surely come out. If there's not anything embarrassing, it just makes him look like he's got something to hide.

TOMORROW'S NEW YORK TIMES has a story on the Drexler / Smalley nanotechnology debate, but the story seems to treat the debate as being solely about nanobots, which I think is an overly narrow conception. You can have molecular manufacturing without nanobots, and you can have nanobots without them doing molecular manufacturing, but it's the molecular manufacturing that's the biggest deal.

In addition, there's not a lot of context here. Two key items are (1) the new legislation aiming a lot of fundng at nanotechnology on the strength of the capabilities that molecular manufacturing, not just better transistors or materials, can offer; and (2) the rather obvious efforts by the nanotech business people to try to avoid the safety debate by insisting that all the really spooky stuff is impossible, anyway.


DAMIAN PENNY IS CATCHING NOAM CHOMSKY IN A LIE, as Chomsky attempts to deny his (utterly, completely, totally wrong) "silent genocide" prediction. No great achievement, in a way, but as Damian notes: "If the Chomsky cultists were capable of thinking on their own instead of unquestioningly accepting everything their hero says, they'd be disappointed."

THE USE OF THE PHRASE "I FEEL" as a substitute for "I think" has always bothered me. Apparently, I'm not the only one who's bothered by it.


The hardest part of the day for the 230 boys at the Merkaz Hatorah Jewish high school in Gagny, a middle-class suburb of Paris, had always been getting there. During the train ride from home, the boys replaced their yarmulkes with baseball caps but were still regularly hassled by other French teenagers, usually of Arab or North African descent, who called them "sales juifs" ("dirty Jews"). Once the boys made it to the school, a bright steel-and-glass building surrounded by trees and tidy homes, they felt safe. No longer.

About 3 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 15, the school's brand-new building — due to open Jan. 5 — went up in flames. There are no suspects. Police believe the fire was likely started at two separate points. The blaze licked 8 m into the air, the searing heat blew out windows and warped girders. At least 60 firemen managed to save the old school building next door, but from the synagogue where the boys still gather every morning, they now look out over 3,000 sq m of charred debris. "We were in a very calm place here, a privileged place," says math teacher Michaлl Mimoun. "Now we know there is no privileged place."

Read the whole thing.


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's government may have executed 61,000 Baghdad residents, a number significantly higher than previously believed, according to a survey obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The bloodiest massacres of Saddam's 23-year presidency occurred in Iraq's Kurdish north and Shiite Muslim south, but the Gallup Baghdad Survey data indicates the brutality extended strongly into the capital as well.

The survey, which the polling firm planned to release on Tuesday, asked 1,178 Baghdad residents in August and September whether a member of their household had been executed by Saddam's regime. According to Gallup, 6.6 percent said yes.

The polling firm took metropolitan Baghdad's population -- 6.39 million -- and average household size -- 6.9 people -- to calculate that 61,000 people were executed during Saddam's rule. Most are believed to have been buried in mass graves.

The U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq has said that at least 300,000 people are buried in mass graves in Iraq. Human rights officials put the number closer to 500,000, and some Iraqi political parties estimate more than 1 million were executed.

Rather a lot, really.

LT SMASH REPORTS that Al Qaeda is abandoning Afghanistan, and sees this as good for the war effort.

Meanwhile Adam Yoshida needs to take a chill pill. He writes:

Sometimes I think that the treason is so deeply ingrained in our society that nothing short of martial law, the suspension of habeas corpus, and the repeal of Posse Comitatus will do. Sometimes I think that we will need to think to the Revolution, where Tories and other traitors were dealt with harshly by a righteous people. I hope that I am wrong, but I do not deny the possibility.

That's a terrible idea. I'd call it an unAmerican idea, but in fact we did things like this in the Civil War, and in World Wars I and II. But it's wrong. Although the actual point of his post is to suggest less-drastic means of putting pressure on the anti-war movement (means that, in fact, remind me of things that the Left did in the 1960s and -- just ask Al Sharpton -- more recently than that) I'm utterly against that sort of thing. It's wrong, and we don't need it anyway. We're winning this war.

THE MEDICARE PHOTO ISSUE seems to be taking off. . . .

THE HOWARD DEAN SEALED-RECORDS ISSUE is hurting him, according to Howard Fineman:

Is Howard Dean ready for prime time? I’m not so sure after watching him handle—if that is the word—the issue that has taken possession of his campaign this week: the 10-year seal he placed on the records of his 12-year tenure as governor of Vermont.

As Fineman notes, this isn't a big story, and probably doesn't deserve to be. But if the press decides that Dean can't be trusted, it'll hurt him later -- though more in the general election than in the primaries, I suspect.


I write today in defense of unilateralism. I know there are many who will want to pillory any country that refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, that breaks fundamental economic accords and that sends its troops to fight Muslims abroad without United Nations authorization. To them I say: Give the Europeans a break. They have good reasons for doing what they're doing.

Europeans? No, that's not a misprint. The Bush administration gets all the grief for its supposed unilateralism, but the actions in question have all been taken by European governments.

Maybe we can all be unilateral together.

THE SCRUTINEER says "three strikes for Albion's apparatchiks:"

During the latter half of the 19th century, Russian literary critics increasingly evaluated fiction by a standard of political/social/religious "truth" rather than artistic merit. Put another way, they became more interested in ideological content than with form, and cruder critics seemed to regard literature as little more than an allegorical version of political tract-writing. I don't think they used the term "political correctness," but it would have fit their method of analysis.

Contemporary British critics are doing their best to set an altogether lower standard of politically-driven stupidity.

You can follow the link and see if you agree.

THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS, a collection of business- and economics-related blog posts, is up. Broaden your blog horizons!

WINDS OF CHANGE has its war news roundup online, including more information on the CERP program, which appears to be being mishandled at great cost to the Iraq reconstruction efforts.

As I note below, this is awfully important. I'd like to see it get at least as much attention as, say, the turkey story.


UPDATE: Followup here.

"THE LIBERAL WHO CRIED WOLF" -- SpinSanity says that MoveOn's claims of Bush dishonesty are bogus, and sufficiently so that they probably do more harm to the credibility of Bush's critics than to Bush: "In short, with The Daily Mislead, MoveOn has become the leader of a new school of liberal criticism that seeks to brand every policy disagreement with President Bush as a broken promise or lie. These loose accusations trivialize charges of dishonesty, reducing them to little more than another partisan spin tactic."

Somewhere, Karl Rove is smiling.


JONATHAN RAUCH writes that Howard Dean is no George McGovern. "Republicans chortling that Dean would be the next McGovern had better watch out: He may be the next Clinton."

I think that Dean is a lot tougher, and Bush less tough, than a lot of Republicans would like to believe. It's still Bush's election to lose -- but he can lose it.

MICKEY KAUS says that swing voters aren't dead yet.

ELECTRONIC VOTING: Robert X. Cringely says it's no surprise that there are lots of problems:

This isn't politics (at least not in this particular column) it's engineering. And one thing engineers of great big IT systems know is that they are never on time, never on budget, and sometimes don't work at all.

Read the whole thing. He does think that a paper trail is important.

IT'S PLEDGE WEEK over at Andrew Sullivan's again. I don't do those, but feel free to hit the Amazon or Paypal tipjar if you like. I won't mind!

December 07, 2003

IT'S NOT 1968: Here's a bit of graffiti that I noticed while walking around campus earlier today (click the image for a larger version, or click here for a close-up). Despite all the Vietnam-era nostalgia, things just aren't the same now as they were then. (Maybe the graffitist had been reading Mark Steyn: "Islamic terrorism is a beast that has to be killed, not patted and fed.")

I guess the Campus Issues Committee probably wasn't behind this, but apparently The People will find alternative ways of getting their message across, despite The Man's best efforts.

Oh, wait, it's not 1968, is it? Or if it is, it's a topsy-turvy version. . . .

UPDATE: Adam Groves: "only geek bloggers carry a digital camera on them at all times."

Guilty as charged, your honor.


TEHRAN (Reuters) - Around 1,000 pro-reform students rallied in the Iranian capital Sunday calling for freedom of speech and the release of political prisoners, witnesses said.

The protesters in Tehran chanted "Free all political prisoners" and "Death to despotism."

Read the whole thing.


International opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa turned up at a hotel and asked where she could store her guns.

The singer is understood to have arrived at the Holiday Inn in West Nile Street, Glasgow, with several double-barrelled shotguns.

But the Maori, who had brought the weapons with her for a shooting holiday, was told the hotel had nowhere safe to store them.

Shame on the Holiday Inn! They couldn't afford one of these? (Via Cronaca).

U.N. PEACEKEEPERS: MISERABLE FAILURES. Yes, the record isn't very impressive.

THE ROCKY TOP BRIGADE makes the news, and SKBubba is interviewed.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING WASHINGTON POST PIECE on how things are going in Iraq, consisting of email from commanders there. In general, they seem to think that things are going pretty well, but here's one problem that needs attending to, fast:

During July and August, we were able to out-spend the FRL [former regime loyalists] and foreigners in most of the theater -- more particularly in the 101st AO [area of operation]. It was simply more economical to work with and for the Americans because we were disbursing more money into the local economy than Saddam had ever done, and the FRL could not keep up. Additionally, the benefit of the money was all local in the form of infrastructure rebuilt, schools and clinics back into operation or upgraded. The benefits from U.S. occupation during those two months were tangible to the average Iraqi. Why risk getting killed by shooting at Americans when you can work for them or with them and get paid more in the long run? . . .

As the money getting directly into the hands of the commanders dried up in September, the FRL/foreigners were then able to fill that gap with their money and we have witnessed a sharp increase in attacks ever since. . . . Although more money has been approved for Iraq, we have seen none of it out here yet, and the result is increasing disenchantment or indifference with our presence on the part of the average Iraqi. If we are not able to improve their daily existence as we were back in July and August, then we have become an occupation force. The money that is available is kept in Baghdad; [there is] a Byzantine process which commanders must navigate to get the funds; and there are all sorts of strings and bureaucracy attached.

It is virtually impossible for me to have the same overwhelming effect I had on the area back in JUL/AUG.

(I think this means that the CERP money hasn't returned as promised. More on this issue here and here.)

Someone in Washington needs to fix this. Now. Who do we write?

UPDATE: Read this piece from StrategyPage on "lessons identified" versus "lessons learned." ("It's easier to identify a lesson than to get an organization to act on it and implement a useful solution.")

And here's a firsthand report of Bush's visit to Iraq, and here's another firsthand report from one of the engineer units in Iraq.

Also don't miss these reports of support for the troops on the home front. Bravo.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more from Rich Galen, who's blogging from Iraq now. He had a bit of a hiatus in posting, and I lost the habit of checking, but he's got quite a few interesting posts, with photos, now.

And, really, how dangerous can it be if a guy can dress like this and not have his lunch money stolen? . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a report from a 75-year-old woman who visited Iraq to see her daughter, who's serving in the military there. Best line: "I had better luck with the men in Iraq than I have at home."

THE NEW YORK TIMES' new public editor, Daniel Okrent, introduces himself. It's a nice piece, but the proof, as always, will be in what he does, not what he says. There are some promising signs of a cleanup at the Times, but we'll just have to wait and see how they turn out.

And I still think that Okrent should have a blog.

JOSH MARSHALL says that there's an op-ed payola scandal (to use Jeff Jarvis's term).

I guess this ought to be a scandal, but it's not as if this kind of thing -- or worse -- doesn't happen all the time. I personally have had offers -- declined, I should note -- to pay me to write opeds for undisclosed third parties under my name, and if people are making these kinds of offers to me, that probably means there's a lot more of it going on out there. Josh, on the other hand, also talks about opeds that are "ghost-written," which seems to me a lesser scandal. (In fact, if you were to read my ethics book -- the relevant chapter of which is available free online here -- you'd see just how common that kind of thing is; scroll down to the section headed "motes and beams." As Charles Krauthammer wrote: "If lying about authorship is now a hanging offense, there are not enough lampposts in Washington to handle the volume.") Ghostwritten opeds, in which the person whose name appears on the byline agrees with their reasoning and conclusion, seem to me to be rather minor items of scandal indeed compared to what else is out there.


Just a note to thank you for hipping me to B.T. In the spirit of a digital music marketplace, "Emotional Technology" was the first full-length album I bought from Apple iTunes. It's great. I don't know diddly-squat about electronica (I'm basically an old hippie) but I dig this.

Yeah, I like Emotional Technology too. The actuality-break in Superfabulous is a little less cool after the first couple of dozen listens, because it kills the momentum just as the song really peaks, but that's my only real criticism. On long-term listening, I think it's as good as Movement in Still Life, which is high praise indeed.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL CHEAT: Yep, it's a law of human nature, all right.

UPDATE: Laurence Simon has an idea on how to run these contests:

It ought to be done with PayPal boxes. Most cash wins. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.

Hey, maybe I should give that a try.