January 17, 2004

CAPITALIST CHICKS founder Debbie Brannigan was interviewed here not long ago -- I just noticed it. And check out their monthly Capitalist Next Door feature -- it's probably not too late to send in your submission for next month. And blogosphereans may recognize this prior winner.

I mentioned this website a year or two ago, but it really seems to be developing. And it looks like they're having fun. All it really needs is a blog!

GOD, SCHMOD -- I want my monkeyman! Well, it is some kind of bizarre, against-nature combination. InstaAtrios? Nobody really wants that. . . .


Let's add this up, shall we? So the head of an Arab anti-American channel is hired by the BBC at the same time that the BBC forces out a Briton who dares to criticize Arab states. The BBC isn't clever enough to even care about appearances.

The BBC chose sides long ago, and the side they've chosen isn't ours.

HERE'S A ROUNDUP of the latest South Carolina primary news.

ANDREW SULLIVAN'S SITE, which suffered from a server meltdown yesterday, seems to be back up now.

A WESLEY CLARK ENDORSEMENT: At the mall I was talking to a Kosovar refugee, now a Knoxville resident, and I asked her what she thinks of Wesley Clark. "I want him to be President!" she said. "He helped us."

DUELING WESLEY CLARKS: Stephen Sachs does a side by side comparison of passages from two Clark statements on the war, and concludes: "Now, it's possible that Clark's position in these two pieces is consistent, just highly complex. . . . But I simply don't see how these two pieces, from April and November, can be read as expressing the same opinion of the war."

As I said before, Clark seems like a hard guy to pin down.

UPDATE: The lefties at CommonDreams seem to think Clark supported the war.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mickey Kaus writes: "It's possible to square Clark's Congressional testimony with opposition to the war as waged. But it's impossible to square this London Times article with Clark's current antiwar criticism." But Mark Kleiman is trying hard to do just that.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon writes: "I am all-too-familiar with Clark, having watched him ad tedium and ad nauseam on CNN both during and after the war, when extracting a definitive opinion from the coy former General about anything, even whether he was a Republican or a Democrat, was like pulling teeth from a rhinoceros."

MORE: Andrew Sullivan: "He was pro-war until it was politically convenient for him not to be. He was pro-war, depending on what the meaning of 'pro' is."


So what would make someone like me change my mind? I met this gun enthusiast. As research for my new novel, I asked him many questions, all the while voicing my disgust. My character might use a gun, but I never would. "Come to the range," the gun guy said. "I'll teach you to shoot."

I expected a dungeon full of men missing teeth and wearing T-shirts decorated with Confederate flags. Instead, I found a sunny, wood-paneled lobby and guys who looked like lawyers on their lunch break. . . .

I no longer was so sure. I did some research — there are countless testimonials about guns saving someone's life. I looked into shooting as a sport. I spoke to a woman who had found a wounded deer and shot it, ending its agony. I changed my mind: Guns aren't bad.

Read the whole thing. (Via Alphecca).

SOME RATHER IMPRESSIVE progress in the rocket-fuel department. Cool.

UPDATE: Reader Doug Pratt emails:

Thanks for the posting about hybrid rocket motors. You're right, it's cool. In fact, we rocket hobbyists have been flying hybrids for the past seven years! They are great fun, and since none of the components are explosive, we don't need any special licensing or storage for the motors.

We use nitrous oxide as the oxidizer, and plastic pipe of some sort as the fuel grain: PVC, polypropylene, or cast thermoplastic of some sort. There are several commercially available systems.

I'm proud to say that I designed the ground support equipment that controlled the filling and firing of the nitrous oxide hybrid motor in the article you linked to. My company specializes in unusual products and accessories for model fliers. I got interested in hybrids several years ago, and my modular launch system has gone down quite well. You can see the catalog at I also set up a web site last year to disseminate information on hybrid motors in a sales-pitch-free environment; that's at Anyone who is interested in learning more can start there or at, which is more of an overview of the entire sport.

Like a lot of amateur activities, model rocketry -- at its high end, at least -- is likely to be a source of considerable innovation that will spread into military and commercial applications. That's one reason why I think it should be encouraged.

FRITZ SCHRANCK notes that the IRS's audit of The Nature Conservancy is probably a harbinger of stricter scrutiny over the finances of nonprofits. I think that's probably a good thing.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen has more background, and observes: "The institution has over $3 billion in assets, so this is hardly a small matter." He also notes reasons why this sort of problem likely exists at other nonprofits as well: " This area is just ripe for institutional failure. Too many donors would rather look the other way and pat themselves on the back for their generosity. They do not want to hear bad news, which is one reason why news about bad non-profits often remains hidden for so long."

WHY GEORGE BUSH WILL (PROBABLY) BE RE-ELECTED: The tax cuts. I'm the luckiest of all men, as my wife does our taxes. That makes sense -- mine are easy, and she's the one who runs her own business. This has the added side effect of removing any pressure for me to make more money, since if I do it just makes her job harder. . . .

But she just did a preliminary run-through of our taxes and it looks like the Bush tax cut is going to save us a lot of money. (Well, a lot by law professor standards, anyway.) "I love George Bush!" she exclaimed. Such expressions of enthusiasm for political figures on her part are uncharacteristic, to say the least.

If very many people are experiencing this phenomenon, it's likely to prove quite the shot in the arm for the Bush presidency. I don't know if they are, as I didn't expect the tax cuts to help us very much. My experience has always been that when "massive tax cuts" are discussed by pundits, they're always tax cuts for someone else. But it'll be interesting to see whether a lot of people feel this way. If so, this is a source of Bush strength going into the election season that people haven't paid enough attention to.

On the other hand, John Cole points to a major Bush weakness that people haven't given enough attention, either.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman sneers. But hey, I'll just consider this a much-delayed version of that middle-class tax cut that Bill Clinton promised!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. It seems as if the InstaWife's general theory of taxation -- that the government will take as much as it can get away with in order to buy votes from special interests -- is also shared by Milton Friedman. ("Raise taxes by enough to eliminate the existing deficit and spending will go up to restore the tolerable deficit. Tax cuts may initially raise the deficit above the politically tolerable deficit, but their longer term effect will be to restrain spending.") I always knew she was Nobel material.

A LOT OF PEOPLE have emailed to ask what I think of President Bush's "recess appointment" of Charles Pickering to the Court of Appeals. I feel that I have something of a conflict of interest here-- I don't want to be a federal judge, particularly, as it's really not as good a job as being a law professor, but as I was discussing with some other professors at the AALS a couple of weeks ago, it might be fun to be a federal judge for a little while. ("It's the best of both worlds," said someone else. "You get to be a judge, and then go back to being a law professor before the endless drug cases and Social Security disability appeals get too tiresome.") Then again, there's probably no conceivable Administration that would appoint me to the bench, even on a short-term basis. I'm just politically incorrect from too many angles at once.

That said, it's unfortunate that things have come to this pass. Recess appointments to the bench are nothing new, but this one is clearly another step in the ongoing breakdown of civility in government. For more on that, you might want to read Brannon P. Denning, The "Blue Slip": Enforcing The Norms of the Judicial Confirmation Process, 10 WM. & MARY BILL OF RTS. J. 75 (Dec. 2001). Sadly, it's not available on the Web, but for a related piece dealing with similar issues in the context of Executive branch appointments, you might want to read this article, Article II, the Vacancies Act, and the Appointment of "Acting" Executive Branch Officials, 76 WASH. U. L.Q. 1039 (1998), also by Brannon Denning. I suspect, though, that we're in the midst of a political realignment, and that those "norms of civility" hold mostly during periods of relative stability. You can read a piece that I wrote about this a while back, in the Southern California Law Review, here. I don't know if the approach I suggested would work today, though, as it was aimed at a divided-government situation, not one in which filibusters are the main weapon -- which only goes to show how rapidly things are changing.

Larry Solum has more here, and David Bernstein opines that this was a bad choice: "Pickering was among the worst of the Bush judicial nominees."

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge writes: "There's no way on God's green earth that I would expose myself to jerks like Leahy and Schumer in a confirmation fight, but I think it would be a blast to spend a year or two sabbatical on the 9th Circuit."

Yeah. Though I think I could out-jerk even Leahy and Schumer if I really tried. Perhaps the Bush Administration should send some Kamikaze appointments who don't really want the job but who'll dole out Kingsfieldian humiliation: Senator, that question exposes such monumental ignorance that it stands as a humiliating rebuke to the constituents who voted you into office. Pardon me while I Fisk it. . . . Followed by a pop quiz on the Constitution!

But who out there would be suited for such a role?

UPDATE: Here's an effort at imagining an opinion by Mr. Justice Reynolds. You'd better read it, because it's as close as any of us will ever get to that. . . .

January 16, 2004

IS IT GOOD FOR THE BLOGGERS? Reading David Bernstein's various posts about Jews in American politics (which, unlike some bloggers, I found quite interesting), I had a thought. Jews are influential beyond their numbers in American politics -- they're about 2% of the electorate, but they're far more influential than that. Why?

Well, they're on average better-educated, wealthier, and more interested (and involved) in politics than the average voter. To me, this sounds like blog readers, who are probably similar in numbers, and in other characteristics. Will the blogosphere become a demographic of similar importance? Maybe it already is.

PHIL BOWERMASTER explains that death sucks.

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: I blame John Ashcroft. Again.

IF YOU'RE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, the 1st Marine Division would like your help. They need volunteers to help pack up donated toys, relief supplies, etc., that they're taking with them to Iraq. Follow the link for more information.

THE BELMONT CLUB is worried about the price of less-than-total victory.

ANOTHER BLOGOSPHERE MARRIAGE: Could this be a trend? Does this mean the Blogosphere qualifies for some of that marriage promotion money?

I CAN'T REACH ANDREW SULLIVAN'S BLOG but I had put it down to the usual web gremlins. Several readers, though, say that actually takes them to another site entirely and speculate that his domain has been jacked. I don't know, but if I find out any more, I'll post it.

UPDATE: The link above still gets me a "cannot find" page -- but other people are reporting that it takes them to the wrong site. Some sort of DNS issue, I'd imagine.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew emails that it's nothing nefarious: "our server has melted down." He reports that they're trying to get it back up.

ROGER SIMON CHALLENGES JOSH MARSHALL: "Anyone who believes Clark is an honest anti-war candidate had better have an answer to this."

UPDATE: Philosoraptor says that Roger is misreading Clark: "Had I read the op-ed quickly without knowing anything about Clark, I might very well have concluded that he was expressing qualified support for the war. However even a passably careful reading of the thing reveals that it fails to provide significant evidence that Clark supported the war." Hmm. For a plain-spoken ex-General, that Clark guy sure is hard to pin down.

IOWA POLITICAL BLOGGER DAVID HOGBERG has some observations on Dean's slippage.

UPDATE: More on this topic here.

IN THE MAIL: Randy Barnett's new book, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty, showed up yesterday (I had ordered it when I mentioned it last week). Based on a very quick look, it seems quite good. I look forward to reading it more thoroughly when I finish the article I'm writing now, and get past the Appointments season. Sigh.

ED CONE has signed on with BlogAds. I haven't done a survey, but it seems as if BlogAds has more penetration on the lefty side of the blogosphere. If so, I wonder why?

UPDATE: Henry Copeland emails: "God knows I've tried to get more centrists, libertarians and Republicans aboard. :)"

Hmm. I guess for non-lefties it's all about the love, not the money! Actually, Henry's been after me to join blogads for quite a while. I'm not sure why I've been slow to do it, actually. I just have been.

HOWARD KURTZ: "Why, after a year of more or less being dismissed by the media, is John Edwards getting such good press?"

The answer: Anger is out, and "nice is in."

AL GORE'S SPEECH ON GLOBAL WARMING got a rather cool response, not least because of the unfortunate weather when he delivered it, producing headlines like this one: "GORE TALKS GLOBAL WARMING WHILE CITY SHIVERS."

Of course, a cold day in January is no more proof that global warming theories are bunk than a hot day in July is proof that they're correct. But I do wonder why the Clinton Administration didn't try harder -- which is to say, at all -- to get Kyoto ratified, if things are as urgent as Gore is saying now.

JOHN ROSENBERG points to more problems for Wesley Clark: When is a litmus test not a litmus test?

Clark isn't the first politician to have this problem, of course, but this sort of thing makes it kind of hard for him to position himself as anything other than a typical politician.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER has an interesting column on Bush's Mars proposal, and says the critics haven't been paying attention:

As for the Kennedy stuff, the Bush proposal has less to do with a vision of man's destiny than with a totally dysfunctional government agency. NASA gave us the glory of Apollo, then spent the next three decades twirling around in space in low Earth orbit studying zero-G nausea.

It's crazy, and it might have gone on forever had it not been for the Columbia tragedy. Columbia made painfully clear what some of us have been saying for years: It is not only pointless to continue orbiting endlessly around the Earth; it is ridiculously expensive and indefensibly risky.

The president's proposal is a reasonable, measured reconfiguration of the manned space program. True, he could not go all the way. Binding agreements with other countries made it impossible for him to scrap the space station -- a financial sinkhole whose only purpose is its own existence. But he is for phasing it down and for retiring the shuttle within six years.

That frees up huge amounts of NASA money to do what is useful and exciting: going to other worlds. For this generation, the only alternative to wandering about in low Earth orbit -- other than the Luddite alternative of giving up manned flight completely -- is to return to the moon. And this time, stay there.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Ken Silber says that those who charge Bush with financial fecklessness here have it backwards:

In its financial aspects, the Bush plan also is pragmatic -- indeed, too much so. The president's proposal would increase NASA's budget very modestly in the near term, pushing more expensive tasks into the future. This approach may avoid an immediate political backlash. But it also limits the prospects for near-term technological progress. Moreover, it gives little assurance that the moon-Mars program will survive the longer haul, amid changing administrations, economic fluctuations, and competition from voracious entitlement programs.

Something more visionary is needed. Getting to the moon and Mars will require innovation on the financial side as well as in space hardware.

He has an interesting suggestion.


It all started with blogging. In a sense, it started around March or April, when I was still new and Deb first noticed and was intrigued by me. I first noticed her blog sometime after she moved to Blogmosis, as far as I can recall. The big thing I remember is she went straight from new discovery to one of my favorites immediately. Before long (on July 6, to be exact), I read her About page and commented that, alas, I was too old for her. She replied that she should have said "likes older men" there, which made me go "hmmmmm..."

Well, Chris "Spoons" Kanis got married via blog, and a few people have gotten blog-related dates (probably more than a few, actually). Cool.

January 15, 2004


There's been talk around the blogs about systematically tracking reporters, assigning a blogger to analyze the reporting of a specific professional journalist. I don't think this is a very good idea.

It would be much better to track the candidates by issues, rather than watching reporters.

What you'll find out when you track reporters is that they aren't doing their job. This has very limited value.

Fortunately, the blogosphere is big enough to accommodate both approaches at once.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE: "If Kerry thinks smoking pot is no big deal, he ought to come out for legalization. If Kerry thinks it is a big deal, as his website claims, he shouldn't be joking about it."

UPDATE: More on this topic here and here.

LT SMASH: "Howard Dean’s opposition to the war in Iraq is morally inconsistent with his explicit support for unilateral action in Bosnia."

JAMES MILLER thinks that Ralph Nader should run.

IT'S PLEDGE WEEK over at Backcountry Conservative -- a South Carolina politics site that you'll want to start visiting as he ramps up coverage of the South Carolina primary, which everyone will suddenly remember in a week or two.


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — A recycling company found uranium oxide -- a radioactive material also known as yellowcake -- in a shipment of scrap steel it believes originally came from Iraq, the company said Thursday.

It's kind of hard to come up with an innocent explanation for that.

I'M A BRAND! "Branding" used to be the big Web buzzphrase. I just got my copy of Lee Harris's nearly-out book, Civilization and its Enemies, which I blurbed, and the blurb is signed "" Not "Glenn Reynolds," or "Glenn Reynolds," Just ""

I don't mind that, it just seems kind of, er, odd. I guess that somebody at the publisher thinks that InstaPundit will sell more books than Glenn Reynolds. So I'm branded, now, I guess. Too bad it's not 1999 -- I'd be ready for the IPO!

BILLY BECK NOTICES that Wesley Clark is claiming he wasn't relieved of his command in the Balkans. The problem with that claim is that, well, he was. I think that the quote that Beck points to is a distillation of this kind of unconvincing spin, from Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Did Bill Clinton agree in your policy?

CLARK: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Why did he relieve you?

CLARK: First of all, I wasn’t relieved.

MATTHEWS: You weren’t?

CLARK: No. Uh-uh.

MATTHEWS: You weren’t relieved as supreme commander as NATO.

CLARK: No, I wasn’t. No. I was asked to retire three months early.

MATTHEWS: How is that different?. . . .

CLARK: If you relieve someone, you take them out of command. What happened here was, I was asked to retire early and then it was then leaked to “The Washington Post” in an effort to keep me from talking to Bill Clinton about it. So this was a behind the back power play. Bill Clinton told me himself he had nothing to do with it, And I believe him.

Matthews isn't convinced by this story, and neither am I. And I'd very much like to hear the whole story behind Clark's departure.

UPDATE: Reader Robin Burk emails:

Clark is technically correct (if I remember correctly) in saying he was not relieved of his NATO command. Relieving a commander is a major step that occurs with a formal declaration by superiors and transfer of command authority without the necessity for consent from that commander. It is a very public rebuke. My understanding is that Clark was urged to retire so that they would not need to take the drastic step of formally relieving him.

Hmm. I see the point, though Clark's angle still seems like spinning to me. Meanwhile, the not-exactly-impartial Ann Coulter offers this as the reason for Clark's, er, disemployment:

Clark's forces bombed a civilian convoy by mistake, killing more than 70 ethnic Albanians, and then Clark openly lied about it to the press. First he denied NATO had done it, and when forced to retract that, Clark pinned the blame on an innocent U.S. pilot. As New York Newsday reported on April 18, 1999: "American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the staff of Army Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO commander, pointed to an innocent F-16 Falcon pilot who was castigated by the media for blasting a refugee convoy." Eventually, even a model of probity like Bill Clinton was shocked by Clark's mendacity and fired him.

If this is the reason for Clark's "early retirement," it's news to me.

UPDATE: Phil Carter has a lengthy post on what it means to be "relieved of command." Here's the short version, from his email to me:

Bottom line: I don't think he was technically relieved, but I think it's easy to see how someone would casually use that word to describe his situation. Relief is a term of art in the Army, and it carries specific administrative and legal meaning. Clark wasn't relieved in that sense, but he may have been relieved/fired/terminated in the civilian sense of those words.

I'll defer to Phil's superior knowledge, though it's made more confusing by the fact that Admiral Quigley refers to Clark as being "relieved" twice in this press conference quoted by Billy Beck above. So does this article (also quoted by Beck) from the Command and General Staff College of the Army, which refers to Clark as having been "initially shocked to find himself relieved and retired." So it's not just us civilians who are using the term loosely, if that's what's going on. Compare that with James Ridgway's report (which formed the original basis for Beck's post) that "Clark said he wasn't relieved, but in the interests of helping the Kosovo people, he quit his job as supreme NATO commander."

MORE: In response to an email from Mark Kleiman, I want to be clear: I think that Clark is spinning. He's trying to say that he wasn't "relieved" (maybe, technically, true in terms of a narrow military meaning of the word) while implying that he wasn't given the boot, which he pretty clearly was. In fact, in the Ridgeway quote -- though it's an indirect quote, which is why I also quoted the Hardball bit above -- he seems to suggest that it was all a generous act on his part.

That's rather implausible, to put it mildly. People don't generally get asked to retire early because they're doing a great job. I don't necessarily endorse Ann Coulter's version above, as I thought I made clear, but Clark did something that got him booted, and I'm still not clear on what. It seems to me that we ought to be clear on it, since he's running for President.

THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN IRAQ: Roger Simon points to something quite troubling -- an effort to theocratize Iraqi family law.

I think that this is a dreadful idea. It seems that many Iraqi women do, too. The United States cannot (unfortunately) entirely force Iraq into the 21st century, but we should certainly stand in the way of clerics who want to force it into the 14th. The best thing that could happen would be for this to be voted down by Iraqis. But I think that our strategic interests require that Iraqi women not be subjugated, and I think we need to be sure, one way or another, that that doesn't happen.

UPDATE: Read this related post on Sistani and the Shiites, too.

WINDS OF CHANGE has lots of interesting stuff, including its usual Iraq and War roundups, responses to Bush's space speech, and much more.

MY COLLEAGUE JERRY PHILLIPS HAS DIED, after an unfortunately long and debilitating illness. I liked him very much, and we often had long and interesting conversations on Sundays, when we both tended to come in to the office. May he rest in peace.

Heres something I wrote about Jerry a few years ago.

THE WEB AND INDEPENDENT MUSICIANS: I have an interview with Audra Coldiron, of Audra and the Antidote, over at -- and be sure you follow the music links to listen to "The Highschool Song." I recommend "Sugar Daddy," too.

Lots of interesting observations on how the web works for music promotion, fan contact, and so on, from a musician who's also a web designer.

UPDATE: Hey, you should buy her CD, too -- she's having a baby in May, and can probably use the money. . . .

DANIEL DREZNER has pretty much the definitive piece on Paul O'Neill's Iraq claims, and subsequent backpedaling.

HAD COFFEE WITH SCOTT OTT, of Scrappleface fame. (I told you everyone comes to Knoxville eventually). He's just as funny and engaging in person as he is on his blog.

THIS DENNIS MILLER INTERVIEW should be required reading for Democratic Party strategists.

SPEAKING OF EMAIL, a bunch of people sent me the Howard Dean spouse abuse affidavit story, too. I couldn't quite see why it was news, and it seemed like a fairly obvious effort to stir up some dirt at the last minute. Now I learn from Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus that ABC ran with the story. I don't see why they did.

UPDATE: It's hardly in the same league, but the Wesley Clark testimony excerpted on Drudge isn't quite the same when you read the whole thing, according to Tom Maguire.

A BUNCH OF PEOPLE keep emailing me this article by Terrence Moore on the decline of modern manhood. I wonder what Liam Flava would think?


So: do you think the guy who wrote that article called up this site today, hoping he’d find a foamy-mouthed point-by-point reply?

Maybe. Who cares? Let’s talk about the stars.

Read the whole thing.

January 14, 2004

CERP UPDATE: Here's the transcript of a briefing on the CERP funds in Iraq. And here's a press release. Sounds good as far as it goes, but I'd like more information.

Perhaps the NYT Baghdad bureau could do a big story on this, if they can find the time. . . .

RECIPEBLOGGING: I had the opportunity to spend the day working at home today (rare lately, with all the appointments committee stuff going on) so I cooked something that takes a little time. It's not much work: you just have to start it earlier. It's somewhere between roasted chicken and coq au vin.

Ingredients: 3 large baking potatoes; 3 sweet potatoes; two large onions; one fryer hen; assorted spices

Preheat an oven to 350. Start with a nice fryer hen, about 3 lbs. Clean and then mist with olive oil. (If the InstaWife isn't around to object that it contains fat, also rub with one tablespoon butter, which doesn't add many calories, but does add a lot of flavor). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika (lots), garlic, and a bit of sage. Place in a large, covered roasting pan.

Now chop the onions into quarters, and add to the roasting pan. Slice the potatoes (both kinds) into inch-thick sections and add to the pan as well. (Some peeled baby carrots are nice, too, but the InstaWife is allergic to carrots, so we skip those). Next, in a measuring cup add two ounces each of worcestershire, teriyaki, soy, and whatever wine you have around (I used the last of a bottle of Reynolds Merlot tonight). Pour over the chicken and vegetables, then cover the pan.

Put in the oven for about two hours and go do whatever you want -- you're done cooking. Two hours later, serve the chicken, which will be wonderfully tender and succulent, on a platter. Remove the vegetables and serve separately in a large serving bowl. Total prep time is about 15 minutes, there's not much to clean up, and as a nice side effect, the house smells wonderful when your family gets home.

EDWARDS MOMENTUM GROWING IN IOWA? This comment from a Dean worker on Daniel Drezner's blog says that it's really happening.

UPDATE: More Edwards enthusiasm.

JEFF JARVIS reports on who The Week magazine has chosen (er, actually a panel consisting of me, Jeff, and Daniel Radosh chose) as blogger of the year.

A HYDROGEN-POWERED RX-8? That's kind of cool, though I'm not overwhelmed with the environmental appeal of hydrogen cars -- unless, you know, you're getting the electricity to make the hydrogen from orbiting solar farms or some other clean source.

BUSH HAS GIVEN HIS SPACE SPEECH: Rand Simberg is unimpressed.

On the other hand, at the moment 63% (of over 40,000 respondents) say full speed ahead in the poll accompanying this MSNBC story. Like all Internet polls, it's unscientific, of course, but the margin is huge and I supsec this suggests that it's playing well among people who support space in general.

I'm lukewarm. I don't think this is a dramatic enough departure from mismanagement as usual, and I suspect that the long timetable, for reasons I laid out earlier, will mean that a lot of money will be wasted. I certainly hope that I'm wrong.

THIS RATHER CONFUSED AND LAME ATTACK ON JAMES LILEKS will perhaps inspire a thousand Fiskings, meaning that this part, at least, will come true:

The invasion of Iraq has set a course that could well prove dangerous to us and the rest of the world, but happily it has provided fresh meat for the warbloggers to chew in the public square.

The piece is by Dennis Perrin, henceforth also known as "Mr. fresh meat for the warbloggers to chew on." Or maybe not, as the piece may be too lame even for Fisking. As John Scalzi emails:

As best as I can tell, he's criticizing James for airing his personal opinions on his personal site. And I'm all, like, yeah? And?

But they're the wrong opinions! Er, even if it's not clear from this piece why, exactly, they're wrong. I guess if you're a member of the right alt-weekly crowd you don't have to explain such things.

UPDATE: Reader Luke Pingel is voting for "too lame to Fisk:"

Sheesh, Glenn, there's nothing to Fisk. That guy's article read like one of my 6th grade book reports - where I hadn't actually paid enough attention the reading assignment and resented having to write the book report so much that I took my pre-pubescent anger out in the report while missing the whole point of the book and of the exercise. I mean this guy busts on Lileks for being verbose on his own website, all the while he's wasting somebody else's ink and paper with nothing to say.


UPDATE: John Scalzi has now posted some comments of his own:

Perrin seems additionally shocked that James' observations are off-the-cuff sorts of things, without footnote or journalistic kow-tows to impartiality -- indeed, it's almost as if they were written, you know, late at night or something. In short, Perrin's huge news flash seems to be that James Lileks is writing like a blogger. On his blog, no less!

And I'm thinking, what does this Perrin fellow want? A cookie?


ANOTHER UPDATE: Paul Miller notes some well-worn rhetorical tropes in Perrin's piece.

And Fraters Libertas is providing context. Hugh Hewitt comments: "Mr. Perrin is so small a force as to not warrant a fisking. But let's be fair: Let Mr. Perrin start a blog and see if anyone notices. Anyone at all." Ouch.

Looks like the Northern Alliance has been activated!

MORE: Read this, from Mitch Berg, too.

STILL MORE: And here's more still.


In his book, Mustafa wrote that in disciplining a disobedient wife: "The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body."

Will any multiculturalists spring to his defense?

THE GERMAN PRESS is beginning to notice that Iraq isn't a quagmire after all: "The Americans have eliminated all taxes and import customs for eight months, more than a half million cars have rolled into the country since the war ended. Under Saddam it was a strictly regulated matter and to get a car one needed a lot of money along with good connections."

IF YOU'RE JUST READING INSTAPUNDIT, and not many other blogs, well then you need to branch out. I probably get more traffic than I deserve. Lots of other blogs get less. You can sample a bunch of top blog posts by visiting this week's Carnival of the Vanities and following the links.

THE FUN JUST KEEPS COMING: Professor Bainbridge exposes Robert Reich's Hardball whopper. But is it a lie if Reich is just too ignorant to know better? As I said before, what this really proves is that the punditocracy doesn't watch debates. Does anyone, then?

NICE OBSERVATION on the Bush space proposal:

Setting up a permanent base on the Moon — Bush is expected to call for a return in about 10-15 years — and then reaching for Mars does not require any outlandish hike in NASA's budget.

Beyond a modest 5 percent increase that Bush will reportedly announce Wednesday, getting people beyond Earth orbit means shifting the existing budget from arguably ineffective and unpopular programs — crippled shuttles and a leaking space station — into building a new generation of space taxis and other worldly habitats.

He's also rather hard on space-critic Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute: "Marshall's criticism is either uninformed or patently political, or both."

Read the whole thing. I've got more observations on Mars missions over at

PAST STATEMENTS COME BACK TO HAUNT HOWARD DEAN AGAIN, as this letter urging President Clinton to take unilateral military action in Bosnia appears in USA Today:

We must give, and have given, this policy with our allies and with the United Nations every opportunity to work. It is evident, however, that the cost in human lives in allowing this policy to continue is too great. In addition, and perhaps more importantly for the United States, we are now in a position of ignoring, as many did in the 1940s, one of the worst crimes committed in history. If we ignore these behaviors, no matter where they occur, our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened. As the Catholic Church and others lost credibility during the Holocaust for not speaking out, so will the United States lose credibility and our people lose confidence in themselves as moral beings if the United States does not take action.

Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action.

Hmm. Sounds a lot like the situation in Iraq under Saddam, except that with Iraq (1) the human rights abuses were worse; (2) the failures of the UN and the international community were greater; and, oh yeah, (3) there was a Republican president. I wonder which one of these factors made the difference in terms of Dean's positions?

Meanwhile, this article fact-checks another Dean assertion:

The word "imminent" is key to differentiating Dean's policy from the president's decision to invade Iraq, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, policy director for Dean's campaign.

Bush "sold the war on the basis of an imminent threat to U.S. security, and that has now been shown to be false," Ben-Ami said. Since the threat from Iraq was not imminent, the administration could not properly justify the war, he said.

However, when Bush laid out the case for the war in his 2003 State of the Union address, he said the United States should not wait for an imminent threat.

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," Bush said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein ... is not an option."

"It's imminent!" vs. "We can't wait until it's imminent." Looks like a difference to me.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian writes that Dean's unilateralism would actually have made him more likely to support Dean -- if it hadn't come so late.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon says that the Internet will kill Dean just as it built him up:

Because this is Mr. Tell-It-Like It-Is and he isn’t. And he can’t. There’s too much information already on record. The Internet will be his great undoing. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Wait until summer. The same is true for Clark. In a sea of a million fact-checkers, his idiot vacillations seem all the more ridiculous. If he gets nominated, it is going to be a donnybrook.

Roger hopes for an Edwards nomination, which seems very unlikely to me. I'm not sure why -- I keep watching him and saying "why isn't he doing better?" So do a lot of my hardcore Democratic friends. Maybe he'll pull of a surprise?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner thinks Edwards is underrated.

JEFF JARVIS: "Every damned car stereo should have an input plug on the front so we could plug in our MP3 players and phones." Preach it, brother.


As a Muslim in America I was already used to being treated with ignorance and suspicion and now I was increasingly sickened by the prospect of a reckless but inevitable war in Iraq. Of course, I was impossibly naive: the Middle East existed for me, like all things Islamic, in a sort of exotic orientalist ether of veiled women, the Ka‘ba and the Virgins of Paradise. I set off for Egypt convinced that, unlike America, there was no corruption and hypocrisy in the Arab Muslim world and that it bore no responsibility for its own appalling condition. People told me that Egypt was, like its Muslim neighbours, a ruthless dictatorship, but until I lived there I refused to admit this to myself. I wanted only to be an expatriate novelist, a dissident, and to enjoy the celebrity of being a convert in a Muslim country.

For a week I managed to persist in the happy belief that I was not living in a brutal police state. . . .

In Mecca, I found the same mixture of confusion, oppression and apathy I thought I had left behind in Egypt. But as in Egypt, nothing worked, even at the blessed hajj, for we were visitors not to an Islamic state but to yet another cynical Arab kleptocracy which only pretended to adhere to the true ideals of Islam. . . .

I fled home the next week, leaving all my illusions of the Arab world in my Cairo flat. I couldn’t wait to be in America again. On the long flight home, I promised myself I would never accept anything less than full democracy for my fellow Muslims in the Arab world or apologize for the tyranny that now masquerades as Islam.


KENNETH POLLACK has a roundup of good news and bad news on Iraqi reconstruction, in Foreign Affairs:

There is enough going well in Iraq that there is no reason to believe that the U.S.-led reconstruction effort is doomed to failure. Indeed, quite the opposite. There is so much good in Iraq, even in the face of numerous and crippling American errors, that pessimists need to be cautious in making prognostications of doom. . . .

As important as the positives in Iraq are, they must be contrasted with a range of problems in the reconstruction. None are unsolvable, and so they should be seen as challenges, not pitfalls. In every case, if the United States takes appropriate action, there is no reason these challenges cannot be met. That said, tackling some of these challenges will probably require the Bush Administration to shift or even reverse course on a range of issues it has so far resisted. . . .

There is enough good in Iraq and enough positive developments there that if the United States and its Coalition allies are willing to address the challenges listed above, there is every reason to believe that Iraq could be a stable, prosperous, and pluralist society within a period of 5-15 years. In contrast, there is great danger for the United States in disengaging from Iraq. Without a strong American role, at least behind the scenes, the negative forces in the country would almost certainly produce Lebanon-like chaos and civil war that would quickly spill across Iraq's borders and destabilize politically and economically fragile neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, and Syria, and possibly Turkey and Kuwait as well.

The piece is rather long, but interesting.


The French parliament has bowed to pressure to launch a fact-finding mission into the way President Jacques Chirac's centre-right government handled negotiations with US judicial authorities over the Executive Life affair. . . .

Opposition politicians have accused Mr Chirac of putting his personal friendship with Franзois Pinault, the retail magnate at the centre of the scandal, ahead of taxpayers' interests in negotiations with Californian prosecutors.

They say he intervened at the last minute to block an earlier $585m deal that had the approval of the finance ministry, purely because it excluded Mr Pinault, owner of the Gucci fashion group through his Artemis family holding company.

It looks as if there are efforts in both France and America to keep this from blowing up completely. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

RON ROSENBAUM has an interesting piece on journalists, bloggers, and error correction:

I’ve been thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. For one thing, the new realm of the "blogosphere" has focused attention in a more vigilant way on the errors made by "dead-tree journalists"—and by other bloggers as well. The ease of making corrections on the Web has made the exposure of errors made by dead-tree journalists—and the pressure to correct those errors—greater than ever. And it has opened up a whole new set of questions about the correction of errors.

It's a very interesting piece, which should be read by both journalists and bloggers alike. My corrections policy -- er, to the extent you can call it a "policy" -- is that factual errors will be fixed in the original post, since that's the one that people will link to. If it's important, and the original post has scrolled far enough that I think people won't notice the correction, I'll put a pointer up top. If the error is minor, and I notice it very shortly after a post, I'll just go back and fix it in the text. If enough time has passed, or if the error is such that I think that the change will make links to it nonsensical, I'll note the correction in an update. If it's a stylistic error -- often a harsh word that I decide to soften after seeing it on the screen, occasionally something that's not quite as clear as I thought when I typed it -- I generally don't note the change.

Anyway, that's pretty much how I operate, but I don't have a Department of Corrections here, with a Corrections Policy Manual. It's just me. And I'm not suggesting that this is how everyone should operate. I do find the "stealth correction" policy of places like the BBC a bit irritating, as I'll occasionally link to one of their stories with a complaint, then get email a few hours later from people saying "but they do talk about X, even though you say they don't." (In once case, the "X" item -- at the moment, I've forgotten what it was -- was originally absent, then appeared at the bottom of the BBC story, then gradually migrated to the second paragraph over a period of hours. I think at some point in this process Kevin Drum accused me of making the whole thing up, then retracted his accusation when he realized the BBC was making changes to the story.) Still "stealth corrections" are better than no corrections, I guess. And there's something perhaps a bit too self-important about posting an audit-trail note every time you make a minor stylistic edit to a post. It's all a question of balance, and reasonable people may disagree about where the balance-point is.

Greg Djerejian has observations, too. He notes the role of Technorati -- though lately I've found it so slow as to be not terribly useful. There's trackback, too, but it only works with blogs, and then only if you remember to ping the URL. But the technology keeps improving, and it's already a lot better than newsprint.

UPDATE: Jim Miller has a post saying that I'm better at correcting errors than Atrios is. I'm happy for the praise, but I don't know whether that's really something that you can quantify in any useful way. As I say, most of this stuff involves judgment calls about which reasonable people can differ.

January 13, 2004

DIGITAL CENSORSHIP IN FRANCE? "The bill's proposal to oblige access providers to filter internet content entering the country is like a 'digital Maginot Line', according to an association of broadband internet users." Disgraceful.


REPORTEDLY, the U.S. government wants to shut down this useful antiterror website, Internet Haganah, which identifies terrorist-supporting sites and then writes ISPs and asks them to shut off service.

This sort of thing seems like a good idea to me, and I'm surprised the government doesn't like it. Here's a column I wrote on the subject a while back.

UPDATE: Reader David May emails:

So you are surprised that the FBI is not happy about what that web site is doing?

Touches two big no-nos:

1. Flirts with some sort of "cyber vigilantism" (lets be honest, the ultimate goal is the shut down of the islamist sites by the ISP).

2. Can be seen to paint Islam in a pretty bad light.

Both bad ju-ju these days.

The government has been insisting over and over again that the public not be involved in the fight against Islamic terrorism, we're just supposed to keep shopping.

Course, on the other hand, maybe the FBI would rather these sites stay up so that they can investigate them. I think that's pretty stupid though, if the price of that knowledge is that some jihadist just learned to make a fertilizer bomb.

Yeah. It occurred to me that some of these sites might actually be run by the government, as lures for jihadists. But still. . . .

And at any rate, as best I can tell Internet Haganah is doing nothing illegal, or even unethical. And given the FBI's rather spotty record in this area, and Bush Administration statements in favor of this sort of action, they should be glad for the help, instead of threatened by the competition.

THIS PIECE BY JOE CONASON may be the dumbest bit of oil-based conspiracy-theory yet. First he recycles the already-debunked Paul O'Neill Iraq oil-memo story, but then he suggests that Bush's Mars plan is all about Halliburton getting oil from Mars, an idea that could only occur to someone utterly ignorant of the laws of physics:

Yes, the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney -- fabled beneficiary of no-bid multibillion-dollar military contracts and high-priced provider of Kuwaiti oil -- is determined to drill on Mars and the moon. Surely this scheme has nothing to do with the Bush space initiative. But somehow, no matter what worthy motivations lie behind the president's policies, he and Cheney always appear to be shilling for their corporate clientele. . . .

Dreams about drilling on Mars date back several years at least. In 1998, a handful of top firms, including Halliburton, Shell and Schlumberger, showed up for a NASA "workshop" at Los Alamos, N.M., to discuss the prospects. Research seems to have intensified since 2001, with Halliburton and other firms engaged in proprietary research on such advanced technologies as laser-powered drills.

Maybe this is just a brilliant send-up of the left's increasingly absurd "it's all about OILLLL!" arguments. Er, well, intentionally or unintentionally, it is!

UPDATE: Oliver Willis emails that Conason isn't talking about oil. Well, read the column yourself -- it sure seems like it to me, and a whole bunch of readers who emailed with the link. Meanwhile, reader Mark Curtin writes:

This is no secret at all. I have a friend at Johnson Space Center, Houston, who is working on the drill. Not only for Mars, but for future comet missions as well. The purpose of the drill is to take a core sample at some depth, and returning that core back to Earth for analysis. Now if you need to drill into geological formations, you know the surface mineralogy and geology from past exploration missions and you're based in Houston, who do you consult? Obviously you go to the drilling companies, including Halliburton and Baker Hughes for bit technology as well as drilling technology in general. These guys have already tested the drill in Spain and the Arctic (right mineral makeup of the surface layers, right temperatures and composition if planning a Mars polar mission).

If Joe had any economic sense he, well, why bother....

Come on, Mark. Next you'll be saying we should have hired a Halliburton subsidiary with lots of oil-well fire experience to fight oil-well fires in Iraq!

UPDATE: Reader Matt Laflin emails:

Oliver Willis doesn't think Conason is implying that Halliburton is somehow angling about Martian oil? The article Conason quoted is from *Petroleum* Times. What else would he be implying?

Yeah. Maybe the constant everything-is-about-oil whining has gotten to me, but it didn't occur to me that it was about anything else, and I think this is more O'Neillesque backpedaling. But hey -- maybe Conason's trying to have it both ways, or maybe he's just a miserably unclear writer. Your call..

Astrono-blogger Jay Manifold has made his call, anyway:

It'd be really scary if Conason were on the level, but he also recycles the already-debunked "scandal" about the "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" document. So the column is reassuringly inaccurate throughout.

And note Conason's scare quotes around "workshop." Anyway, in response to Jay's post's title, I'd like to believe that I'm at least halfway between the gutter and the stars. . . .

MORE: Here's an interesting article on Mars drilling.

STILL MORE: Reader Nathan Okerlund emails:

I guess it's just barely possible that Mr. Conason is talking about Halliburton making a killing selling equipment to NASA, but if that were the case surely he would focus less on the drilling and exploration of Mars per se and more on the sale of equipment to NASA?

Then why all the oil and petroleum references? Unless he was trying to put an oleaginous spin on the story?

ONE MORE UPDATE: Sean O'Hara writes: "I emailed Conason about his Mars piece and he responded that it is indeed a joke, and he expected people to read the Petroleum Times article and figure that out."

Sadly, the lefty hysteria about Halliburton is -- like so many things today -- beyond parody.

TENNESSEE V. LANE was argued before the Supreme Court today. The facts are pretty appalling:

Plaintiffs George Lane and Beverly Jones, both with paraplegia, sued Tennessee for failing to ensure that courthouses are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Both plaintiffs were denied access to courtrooms on the second floors of buildings lacking elevators. One plaintiff, Beverly Jones, worked as a court reporter. The other, George Lane, was a defendant in a criminal case. The state arrested Lane for failure to appear when he refused to crawl or be carried up the stairs.

The actual ADA question involved is somewhat less clear-cut. Personally, I think this case fits under the "Open Courts" provision of the Tennessee Constitution. Here's a photo blog from the protests outside the Court.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has much more on this. And several readers asked about the "Open Courts" provision of the Tennessee Constitution. It's found in Art. I sec. 17 and provides, in relevant part :

That all courts shall be open; and every man, for an injury done him in is lands goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay.

This is generally interpreted as guaranteeing a right of access to the courts, which would seem to me, without much strain, to reach the facts of this case. Note, though, that the remedy would probably be an injunction, not money damages, and that the case before the Supreme Court is all about the Benjamins. I'm not very familiar with this case but I don't believe the Tennessee Constitution issue was ever raised anywhere. Since I'm teaching a seminar in state constitutional law this semester, I guess I'm more likely to notice this sort of omission than I otherwise would be.


Plan for the peaceful removal of the Islamic Regime:
This Sunday, January 18, 2004

A Plan for the peaceful removal of the Islamic Regime of Iran will be announced during a live program broadcast on many Iranian satellite TV and Radio stations. The program starts at 10 AM PST from NITV studios in Los Angeles and will last for 6 hours, including a fundraising segment to support the plan. Other media who have confirmed the live broadcast of this program include Pars TV, Radio Sedaye Iran, Radio Yaran, Radio Sedaye Emrooz, Rangarang TV, Apadana TV, and Lahzeh TV.

This program can also be seen live via the Internet at who will provide a FREE link on that day.

We'd all love to see the plan.


Let me see if I understand the BBC Rules of Engagement correctly: if you're Robert Kilroy-Silk and you make some robust statements about the Arab penchant for suicide bombing, amputations, repression of women and a generally celebratory attitude to September 11 – none of which is factually in dispute – the BBC will yank you off the air and the Commission for Racial Equality will file a complaint to the police which could result in your serving seven years in gaol. Message: this behaviour is unacceptable in multicultural Britain.

But, if you're Tom Paulin and you incite murder, in a part of the world where folks need little incitement to murder, as part of a non-factual emotive rant about how "Brooklyn-born" Jewish settlers on the West Bank "should be shot dead" because "they are Nazis" and "I feel nothing but hatred for them", the BBC will keep you on the air, kibitzing (as the Zionists would say) with the crиme de la crиme of London's cultural arbiters each week. Message: this behaviour is completely acceptable.

I think he's got it about right. But wait, there's more -- and it's not quite so amusing:

So, while the BBC is "investigating" Kilroy, its only statement on Mr Paulin was an oblique but curiously worded allusion to the non-controversy on the Corporation website: "His polemical, knockabout style has ruffled feathers in the US, where the Jewish question is notoriously sensitive." "The Jewish question"? "Notoriously sensitive"? Is this really how they talk at the BBC?

Mr Paulin's style is only metaphorically knockabout. But, a few days after his remarks were published in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, some doughty Palestinian "activists" rose to his challenge and knocked about some settlers more literally, murdering among others five-year-old Danielle Shefi. In a touch of symbolism the critic in Mr Paulin might have found a wee bit obvious, they left her Mickey Mouse sheets soaked in blood.

Read the whole thing.

HERE'S A PAPER ON JUDICIAL RECESS APPOINTMENTS, coauthored by blogger Stuart Buck.

CHRIS SUELLENTROP writes in Slate that Wesley Clark is saying some pretty odd things.

The trouble with the Internet, where candidates are concerned, is that when they say odd things, word tends to get out.

UPDATE: The Loonatic Left blog is defending Clark.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman says that everybody (including him) has misunderstood Suellentrop's piece.

I don't know -- if this is satire, it's failed miserably, and still does on second read. Does this mean that the campaign is beyond parody?


He described the reaction to Suskind's book as a "red meat frenzy" and said people should read his comments in context, particularly about the Iraq war.

"People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."


UPDATE: John Cole wonders if O'Neill is another Rove operative tasked with embarrassing gullible Democrats.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Becky Bacon sees wheels within wheels:

I think that O'Neill is tasked with elevating gullible Democrats alright! But rather than Bush-bashing, this seems an attempt to elevate the Clintons. "They" are getting you to spread the fiction that Clinton was diligently working behind the scenes to prevent terrorism. I think this quote makes my point, "Actually, it was a continuation of work that was going on in the Clinton administration". Yeah, like Bill and Hill would have done what GW did...if only they'd had the chance.

I think you've been suckered!

The truth is out there!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Great summary of the whole O'Neill flap:

This pattern of saying something, being surprised by the reaction, and wanting to take it back is why he got fired in the first place.

Heh. Indeed.


I was on a local talk-radio show a while back and some, er, underinformed soul said that we had backed Saddam against the Russians because he was a friendly right-wing dictator. I guess this is a leftist trope that's so well established it's become independent of the actual facts. Saddam was, in fact, a Soviet client. I pointed out that the presence of all those AK-47s and T-72s in Iraq made that point rather clear, and the caller retreated. But you keep hearing stuff like this from people who, I guess, can't believe that there are dictators anywhere who aren't the creation of the United States.


In fact, not only did plans for "regime change" in Iraq NOT originate with the Bush White House, the "sinister plot" was actually ratified by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton a full three years before President Bush came to Washington.

According to Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, "The 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act was passed by an unanimous Senate and a near-unanimous House," after which Mr. Clinton certified it as the law of the land with his signature.

What the Journal didn't note was how bold Clinton officials were about their plans to topple Saddam.

According to a report in Newsweek just three months ago, after Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, "the U.S. government convened a conference with the [Iraqi National Congress] and other opposition groups in London to discuss 'regime change.'"

In Jan. 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright even appointed a special representative for transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, who reportedly had "a mandate to coordinate opposition to Saddam." . . .

Two months later, the Clinton administration's plans for a post Saddam Iraq were already well underway, with State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin explaining to reporters: "What we're trying to do . . . is strengthen an Iraqi opposition movement that can lay out solid plans for the post-Saddam recovery in all sectors of national life."

As the Washington Times noted at the time, "President Clinton has said that getting rid of Saddam is a major U.S. objective."

Told you so.

A WHILE BACK I linked to an account of serious misconduct by American troops from Iraqi blogger Zeyad. Zeyad has posted an update, and Major Sean Bannion emails from Baghdad with this information on the investigation so far:

The investigation continues but what we know right now is the same as what I told you the other day. That is....

The car was stopped by elements of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry from the 3 Brigade Combat Team (4th Infantry Division). The unit says they did have a checkpoint in the area and may have processed them, but prior to any resolution of the situation the occupants of that car and checkpoint itself were turned over to personnel from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC). This puts the ICDC in the cross-hairs of an investigation now and we're following it up.

Sorry I can't do better right now. Go ahead and post if you like. And you'll be right to stay on me and the military in general if we let this one slip.

Stay tuned. Chief Wiggles is looking into it, too.

FOUGHT DOWN, THE NEW CD BY KEN LAYNE AND THE CORVIDS, showed up in yesterday's mail. I listened to it on the monitors in the studio last night. As I wrote in my review on the Amazon page (not up yet) it's an Exile on Main Street for the 21st century. Not only are the songs great, which you can tell from the MP3s on Ken's site, but the recording quality and production are absolutely first rate. I highly recommend it.

PAUL O'NEILL has found a new friend in Paul Krugman, who previously had not been an O'Neill fan.

HOLDING NGOS TO ACCOUNT: The Christian Science Monitor writes:

As they gain in number, size, and strength, some NGOs run into trouble, such as by mishandling money or simply not delivering on what they set out to do. And since many are on the left and very influential in government policymaking, NGOs are naturally coming under a conservative spotlight.

One example is a new website,, recently launched by a Washington think tank, the moderate- to conservative American Enterprise Institute, and the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society. . . .

Even so, the best NGOs hold themselves to high standards and are willing to be open and held to account for their practices and results (or lack of them). Independent corroboration of the work of NGOs can only help lend authenticity to their efforts.


UPDATE: BaySense is a blog dedicated to monitoring environmental NGOs.

IS THIS NEW YORK TIMES STORY on Howard Dean's wife unfair? From Tacitus:"Frankly, I thought their treatment was a little creepy. Nobody is going to confuse me for a Dean supporter, but I thought this was unfair to Dean and his wife." Interesting discussion in the comments.

COWBOYS ON MARS? In my TechCentralStation column, I discuss the merits of a "Wild West" approach to space settlement.

One advantage: It's cheaper! The other is that it might work.

Some people have questioned my lukewarm enthusiasm for a massive Battlestar Galactica-style Mars mission. I love space, and I'm deeply committed to seeing humanity move off Earth on a long-term basis. As I've written before, I agree with Stephen Hawking that humanity probably won't survive the next thousand years if we don't do that. But I'm pretty sure that massive government programs aren't the way to do it.


THULUIYA, Iraq -- Less than a year ago, Ismael Mohammed Juwara lived high in the food chain of President Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He was a secret policeman feared and respected among his comrades and in his hometown, enjoying a cornucopia of privileges from the government.

Now, as he scrapes out a living by selling diesel fuel illegally, he is a pariah in the new Iraq. "We were on top of the system. We had dreams," said Juwara, a former member of the Mukhabarat, the intelligence service that reported directly to the now-deposed president.

There's nothing wrong with looking into why anti-American forces feel this way, though there's also not much news here -- former swaggering thugs resent loss of status! -- really.

But I agree with Captain Ed that the absence of any attention to the moral component here makes this Post story by Daniel Williams a bit iffy.

January 12, 2004

MOLLY IVINS APOLOGIZES for plagiarizing the wrong guy.

JUST SENT OUT THANK-YOU EMAILS to the folks who hit the tipjar. (They're real, typed by my own hands, not auto-generated form notes, as I was raised to respond appropriately to gifts.) There were some old ones in the queue that I thought I had responded to, but I went ahead and responded anyway. If my reply was late -- er, or duplicative -- I'm sorry about that. I very much appreciate the donations, which offset the hatemail rather nicely. . . .

UPDATE: A reader emails: "You should raise your maximum contribution limit -- some of your fans are partners in big law firms!" Well, Amazon has a fifty-buck limit, which is still more than I deserve. But there's always PayPal, you know.

SOME PEOPLE have been making fun of Wallace Shawn's interview in which he makes overheated statements about the war. But what I liked was the juxtaposition of this statement:

The United States has become an absolutely terrifying country, and I would hope that I could participate in some way in stopping the horror and the brutality.

With this one:

I saw ''South Pacific'' as a child and thought it was terrifying.

By the transitive principle, then, the United States is like "South Pacific." I can live with that.

UPDATE: Spoons on what's terrifying: "He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means."


IF YOU GOT OUT OF THE HABIT of checking out Tom Maguire's blog while he was on hiatus, well, he's back and blogging up a storm. He's got Avril Lavigne advising John Kerry, a Vulcan mind-meld with Maureen Dowd, and a new Senatorial candidate, among other things.

WOW: A one-terabyte external hard drive! I've got a LaCie 160GB firewire hard drive for video. It works fine, and at the UT computer store I got it for about a buck a gigabyte. Of course, that would still work out to a lot of money for this one. . . . What's certain is that in a few years, I'll be saying "only one terabyte?"

(Via Gizmodo).

UPDATE: Here, by contrast, is what a terabit storage unit looked like in 1969. I didn't even know they had those then. Story here. (Thanks to reader N.J. O'Neill). Note the distinction between bits and bytes.

KIMBERLY SWYGERT has seen the face of the future, and she pronounces it beautiful.

DID SADDAM'S CAPTURE MAKE AMERICANS SAFER? These Americans, I guess: "Attacks against coalition forces in Iraq have dropped 22% in the four weeks since Saddam Hussein's capture, military records show." I don't know how much stock to put in numbers like this, but you can bet that some people would be making a big deal out of it if the numbers had gone up.

POWER LINE has some doubts about Paul O'Neill's honesty.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a lengthy O'Neill-related post. And reader Angie Schultz asks:

I do want to know what laws O'Neill broke by giving Suskind "transcripts of private, high-level National Security Council meetings". Is that more or less of a crime than outing a CIA agent?

Hmm. It's by a Republican, which makes it bad. But it's anti-Administration, which makes it, er, patriotic! Yeah, that's the ticket. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Angie isn't the only one wondering about O'Neill:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury has asked the U.S. inspector general's office to investigate how a possibly classified document appeared on Sunday in a televised interview of ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, a department spokesman said on Monday.

"It's based on the (CBS program) '60 Minutes' segment, and I'll be even more clear -- the document as shown on '60 Minutes' that said 'secret,"' Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols told reporters at a weekly briefing.

As Henry Hanks emails: "The 'Frog march Karl Rove' crowd ought to be outraged if the allegations are true..." No doubt.

BUSH LIED! BUSH LIED! Er, but if he did, so did Wesley Clark:

Less than a year before he entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president, Gen. Wesley K. Clark said that he believed there was a connection between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda.

The statement by General Clark in October 2002 as he endorsed a New Hampshire candidate for Congress is a sign of how the general's position on Iraq seems to have changed over time, though he insists his position has been consistent.

"Certainly there's a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda," he said in 2002. "It doesn't surprise me at all that they would be talking to Al Qaeda, that there would be some Al Qaeda there or that Saddam Hussein might even be, you know, discussing gee, I wonder since I don't have any scuds and since the Americans are coming at me, I wonder if I could take advantage of Al Qaeda? How would I do it? Is it worth the risk? What could they do for me?"

At numerous campaign events in the past three months and in a book published last year, General Clark has asserted that there was no evidence linking Iraq and Al Qaeda. He has also accused the Bush administration of executing "a world-class bait-and-switch," by using the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as an excuse to invade Iraq.

Well, somebody has switched.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting post on Saddam's public terror threats against the U.S.

ABRAHAM REDIVIVUS: Ralph Luker reports on a case of academic dissent-crushing (or maybe it's just, er, crushing) that, ultimately, failed.

IT'S OBVIOUSLY TIME to start publishing the Journal of Critical Cyberspace Studies.

Hey, maybe we already are!

I HAVEN'T GOTTEN MY COPY YET, but Matt Welch asks that if you have gotten the new Corvids CD Fought Down (featuring him, Layne, et al.) and like it, you consider posting a review over at its Amazon page. Prime that PR pump. . . .

NO BIG SURPRISE HERE -- but it must be worrying a lot of people:

People are turning increasingly to alternatives such as the Internet for news about the presidential campaign, shifting away from traditional outlets such as the nightly network news and newspapers, a poll found. . . .

The number of people who say the Internet is a top source of campaign news was 13 percent, double the number who said that at the same stage of the 2000 campaign.

The number of people who say they regularly or sometimes get campaign news from the Internet increased to 33 percent from 24 percent.

The changing habits of young adults are leading the shift of sources for campaign news.

Even if the revolution is televised, I guess a lot of people won't be watching.

JEFF BEZOS IS 40. (And dressed like Austin Powers.) Howard Stern is 50. Everybody gets a day older, every day. That's not news, but the results still have the capacity to surprise.

INDYMEDIA SUPPORTS THE TROOPS: No surprise here, sadly.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW with French freedom activist Sabine Herold. Excerpt:

I'd say that when you have no freedom and when you don't respect the individual, it can lead to slaughter. And the only way to respect the individual is to give him the freedom to decide for himself.

I'd say that you can't decide for others what they should be. When you try to centralize everything and when the state tries to help the people too much and to decide for them what is good, it doesn't work. It didn't work in China, it didn't work in Cuba, it didn't work in North Korea.

Perhaps there's hope for France, after all.

UPDATE: And here's another woman who's fighting for freedom in Europe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

THIS WEEKS' CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS -- a roundup of business and economics-related blog items -- is up. Check it out!

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY REPORT ON GUN BIAS IN THE MEDIA is up. Plus, my home state is rated.


What former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and other Bush administration blabbermouths failed to mention when leaking NSC documents and the like for the forthcoming book O'Neill worked on, is that the Clinton administration had many of the same documents prepared laying out plans for a Iraq post-invasion Iraq.

"We had the same stuff," says a former senior Clinton Administration aide who worked at the Pentagon. "It would have been irresponsible not to have such planning. We had all kinds of briefing material ready should the president have decided to move on Iraq. In fact, a lot of the material we had prepared was material that the previous Bush administration had left for us. It just isn't that big a deal. Or shouldn't be."

Of course they had the same stuff. And, yes, it would have been irresponsible not to.


The celebrations that followed such attacks in the early days of the occupation are becoming more rare, several residents said, and martyrdom no longer seems noble when it means upturning the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

"I'm against the resistance now, and I'm not afraid to say it," said Mahmoud Ali, 25, who was tending a roadside soda stand. "I can bring you a dozen friends who say the same thing. I wish the attacks would stop. It's affecting our whole stability, our whole life."

It's the "not afraid to say it" that's probably the biggest indicator here.

DAVID BRODER: "Then I went over to the Dean headquarters, they're young, they're female, they're gay, and they're small. And I thought to myself, I hope those Gephardt guys don't run into the Dean people. You know it would be a bad scene. "

MICKEY KAUS joins the list of bloggers finding Wesley Clark's abortion position insufficiently nuanced.

January 11, 2004

JUST PULLED 3850 MESSAGES off the server, accounting for one week's email to the InstaPundit account. If I haven't replied to your email, that's probably why. Sorry -- I do the best I can.

LOTS OF EURO-TERROR NEWS: First, this story:

The French police are convinced that their country has escaped a planned chemical or biological attack by an Islamist cell linked to al-Qaida.

An interior ministry official said evidence from Islamist militants arrested in the Lyon area last week made it "very plain" that an attack with the deadly botulism or ricin toxins was being actively prepared.

Then there's this:

Swiss authorities have arrested and detained eight people in connection with last May's terrorist attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia.

The Federal Police Office said those arrested, all foreign nationals, were being held on suspicion of providing logistical support to a criminal organisation.

And this:

For at least a year, investigators claim, the 30-year-old Algerian had been a key part of a network of Islamic militants dedicated to recruiting and dispatching suicide bombers to the Middle East. Several volunteers had got through, wreaking havoc in a series of attacks in Iraq. Many more were on their way, along with bombers focused on targets in Europe.

Even worse, his associates were planning bombs in Western Europe. At least two European intelligence services had made previous attempts to take Mahdjoub out. Now, finally, it was the Germans' turn. This weekend, just over a month after his arrest, Mahdjoub remains in prison at an undisclosed location. He is likely to remain incarcerated for some time. . . .

The investigation has also revealed that, despite moves by the government there to crack down, Saudi Arabia remains the key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

Go figure. Follow that last link for a roundup on the Islamic terror presence in Europe. There seems to be a lot of it.

UPDATE: Here's a roundup on terrorism in Thailand. More here. It seems to be Islamic in nature.

ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! I forgot to link this story about an apparently foiled suicide bombing in Britiain.

GO TO AMAZON.COM, TYPE IN "OLD FART" at the search window, and see what you get. If it doesn't work, click here.

A READER SENDS MORE EVIDENCE that Paul O'Neill's alleged bombshell -- that Bush wanted to get rid of Saddam before 9/11 -- isn't exactly news:

MR. LEHRER: With Saddam Hussein, you mean?

GOV. BUSH: Yes, and --

MR. LEHRER: You could get him out of there?

GOV. BUSH: I'd like to, of course, and I presume this
administration would as well.

That's how to keep a secret -- say it out loud during the Presidential debates, and nobody will notice!

JUSTIN KATZ has a new blog.

TODAY'S MEET THE PRESS featured an interesting discussion about blogs, including some guy named Roger Simon who's not the real Roger Simon. (Summary at The Command Post.)

It also included a minor John Kerry gaffe:

This has been a disorganized, haphazard effort. They failed in Afghanistan, to capture Saddam Hussein in Tora-Bora.

I guess that's why we had to go look for him in Iraq!

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis comments on the blog segment.


Hundreds of reformist candidates in Iran have been barred from standing in general elections next month by an unelected conservative body.

And if not, why not?

MY EARLIER RECOMMENDATION of the Lord Darcy mysteries by Randall Garrett seems to have found favor with at least one reader: "I hereby give them a 9/10. . . . Give them a try, they're quite good."


DAVID ADESNIK: "Eric Schmitt seems decisively committed to up-ending all of his NYT colleagues' bad news stories about Iraq."

Adesnik is also making fun of Maureen Dowd's column on Wesley Clark's sweaters.

IT WASN'T A LOT OF SNOW FRIDAY, but we had a pretty good time sledding before it melted.

A Flexible Flyer would have laughed at our miserable inch or so, but the cheapo plastic toboggans favored in this region do just fine on that. The Insta-Daughter had a good time, as did the rest of us.

I can't believe that they closed the schools for it, but the Insta-Daughter was delighted.