Instapundit.com Instapundit.com

January 24, 2004


WONKETTE IS CRUSHING ON JOSH MARSHALL: "Look, he's blogging so fast, he has warped the very fabric of time and space!" (Sure, she tries to sound snarky, but they always do when they've got a crush. . . .)

Here at InstaPundit, where Josh Marshall is admired -- but not, you know, that way -- the photo Wonkette is gushing about inspired, er, different thoughts.

JOHN STOSSEL had an excellent program last night on 20/20, called Lies, Myths, and Stupidity. It was even-toned myth-busting on subjects ranging from health, to gun control, to DDT and malaria, to the environment.

The program was tied to his new book, Give Me a Break, which -- to judge from its subtitle, How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media, may be somewhat less even in its tone. (Or maybe not -- publishers often choose titles, as we've discussed before.) The program, at any rate, was just terrific. I've ordered the book, and I'll see if I like it as much.

JACK SHAFER COMMENTS on the Senate computer-files scandal:

I wonder how the Globe would have covered the story had a Democratic staffer stumbled upon a stack of incendiary strategy memos by Republican staffers. If she shared them with her colleagues and then with the Globe, would the Globe have eagerly printed excerpts of them? You betcha. And would Republicans scream holy hell and demand an investigation after the Globe went to press? You betcha. And would the Globe and the Times be editorializing about the investigation's "chilling effect" on dissent and free speech? You betcha, again.

Clearly, whenever the Senate investigates itself, it's news. Likewise, the identity, motivations, and modus operandi of these leakers is news, too. But, like York, I can't help but think there's a journalistic double standard operating here in which partisan leaks to conservative journals and journalists (the Novak-Plame incident, for another example) are treated as capital crimes, but partisan leaks that wound Republicans are regarded the highest form of truth telling.

And it gets worse, apparently, in an election year.

UPDATE: Robert Racansky emails:

One doesn't have to wonder too much.

Back in 1997, the New York Times printed transcripts of an intercepted telephone call between Newt Gingrich and Republican strategists. The tape was provided to the press by Rep. Jim McDermott (one of the "Baghdad Democrats" Link):

Jan. 10, 1997 -- The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on an intercepted cell phone conversation indicating Gingrich may have violated his Dec. 21 agreement with the panel not to orchestrate a GOP counterattack against the charges. In a telephone conversation taped that day, and subsequently obtained by the two papers, the speaker is heard reacting favorably to strategy concocted by GOP operative Ed Gillespie.

Jan. 14, 1997 -- Under fire for accepting the tape of Gingrich's phone call, the ethics committee's ranking Democrat, Jim McDermott (Wash.) recuses himself from further consideration of the Gingrich matter, on condition that one Republican also step aside from the ethics committee to maintain the panel's partisan balance. Unrepentant, McDermott blasts ethics chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn) and committee Republicans, who he says "stonewalled or otherwise "obstructed sensible efforts to get at the whole truth."

Yes, I remember that incident.

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER IN CANADA:

It was a great shame for journalists all across the country, for instance, that the Bloc Quebecois, not our so-called media, had to break the story about the revolting 40% increase in federal government spending over the past five years. There was a 90% increase in the Justice Department budget, 129% in legal services alone. What on God's green earth would they be doing with that money?

Why don't we know more about the connection between the Desmarais family, TotalFinaElf, the Bank Paribas, Jacques Chirac, and the UN's Oil for Food program? Given the relationship between the Desmarais family and Chretien, did that have anything to do with our refusal to join the war in Iraq? If this were the States, that story would be front and centre for months. Why do we not know more about the $250,000 the Canadian government gave to Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based organization headed by Ahmed Khadr who is reputed to have links with Osama bin Laden. Khadr used the money to open refugee camps in Pakistan that CSIS now says were used to aid Islamic fighters waging holy war in Afghanistan.

Let me tell you why we don't have a free press. If we did, things would change for our plushy elites pretty fast.

Indeed. All I can say is that if Ashcroft were ransacking the homes of critical journalists we'd be hearing a lot in the Canadian press about the fundamental lawlessness of America. Which isn't to say that the Canadians are wrong to be searching here -- it's just to note that that's what they'd be saying if things were reversed.

January 23, 2004

POWERLINE REPORTS MORE ELECTION-YEAR PARTISANSHIP AT THE POST: Shockingly, Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus are involved. Powerline concludes: "It is hard to see this kind of shoddy journalism as anything other than a part of the Democrats' 2004 campaign."

GERARD VAN DER LEUN has a report on the joint Marine Corps / Blogosphere volunteer effort at Camp Pendleton yesterday. And there are pictures and more reporting here.

UPDATE: Here's a gallery of photos courtesy of Da Goddess. And you can find Big Media reports here, here, here, and here -- as well as here. Glad to see that this nice work is getting some recognition.

MORE EVIDENCE that Ed Cone was right to say that criticism of the war won't win the election for the Democrats:

Public support for the war in Iraq remains strong, with almost two-thirds of the American public saying that going to war was the right decision, a poll out Thursday found.

The number who said going to war was the right decision, 65 percent, is about the same number who felt that way in December, soon after the capture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Perhaps another reason Dean is slipping?

SWITCHING FROM DEAN TO EDWARDS: An interesting thread over at Kos.

BILL HOBBS says that Wesley Clark has been swept into the conspiracy swamp, and offers more here. Mark Kleiman, on the other hand, believes Clark spoke properly.

UPDATE: Hobbs is quoting Edward Boyd, though with approval.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Annenberg Center's FactCheck.org says that the Bush desertion claim is bogus. Bill Hobbs has further comment.

INSTEAD OF READING MAUREEN DOWD'S TWADDLE about Iraq, you might want to read Iraq Now, a blog by an officer who's actually there. Reader David Radulski emails:

Van Steenwyk, a financial reporter in civilian life, is an Army lieutenant reservist on combat duty in Iraq. Van Steenwyk's notes on leadership for junior officers are some of the best I've read anywhere.

Link;

Link;

Link;

Link;

Link;

Wish I'd had them when I needed them.

Read 'em all.

"MEANWHILE, BACK IN KOREA. . ." Austin Bay's latest column looks at what's going on there.

HERE'S A QUICK DEBATE WRAPUP from Nick Denton's new "Gawker for Washington, D.C." site, Wonkette. Wonkette also offers a roundup of blogosphere reactions.

THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE: Writing from London, Scott Norvell takes on the BBC for hypocrisy:

Case in point: a recent stunt by BBC Radio 4's Today program. As an exercise in grass-roots lobbying, Today asked its 6 million weekly listeners to propose a new law for the new year. A labour MP, Stephen Pound, was drafted to front the bill when it was all over.

More than 10,000 new laws were suggested over the course of a couple weeks. Of those, five were short-listed and voted on via email and telephone by some 26,007 respondents. The results, as one wag put it, "blew up" in the face of Today's producers and presenters.

Clearly expecting some sensible law mandating fat-free potato chips or renewed efforts to save the ruby-throated thrush of Upper Equatorial Guinea, the organizers were obviously aghast when the winner, with 37 percent of the vote, was a law allowing homeowners to use "any means" to defend their property from intruders. . . .

And while a few listeners of Today wrote in to express horror that their compatriots could "endorse vigilantism," most nailed the real problem illustrated by the whole exercise. "Is it surprising that the public is disenchanted with politicians when they patronisingly treat clearly expressed majority democratic wishes like this?" one viewer wrote.

Martin's Law is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott found the wishes of thousands of the citizens he ostensibly represents to be "amusing." The Guardian called it "embarrassing."

And people wonder why Brits are cynical about their government and media?

Well, some people wonder. (UPDATE: More here.)

MORE: Tim Lambert emails (as I expected him to) that the poll is unscientific. Maybe so -- but that's an argument against the BBC using it -- not an argument for discounting it after it produced a result the BBC didn't like.

HOWARD LOVY:

The nanotech act of 2003 is certainly one for the history books. Future marketing students might marvel at how a group of salesmen achieved political victory – complete with requisite silencing of dissenters – for an “industry” that does not yet exist. . . .

But for now, it is commerce that is driving the nanotech vision, redefining “real” nanotechnology to suit what is best for nano business. Business leaders and policy-makers did this by carefully selecting which theories are the ones the general public is supposed to believe, then marginalizing the rest.

I predict failure for this strategy. But read the whole thing.

I STILL HAVEN'T read the Frum/Perle book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, but the InstaWife is reading it, and she reports that it's very good. (I've been so busy with appointments committee work that I haven't read much this week. Night before last I did manage to settle down with a beer in front of the TV -- to watch a videotape of a job candidate's presentation that I had had to miss that day because it conflicted with a class. If you're wondering why there's been less blogging than usual, well, that's why.)

DAVE WINER defends the Dean Scream. Worth reading.

ZEYAD'S SCOOP OF THE NEW YORK TIMES has become the subject of a big story in Salon, where Zeyad has already been covered once. For those unwilling to sit through the ad, Jeff Jarvis has an excerpt, along with comments on the lameness of the Times' excuses.

UPDATE: By the way, in connection with this piece, you might want to read this item on problems with the NYT Baghdad bureau (and this item, too, on problems there that haven't gotten much Western press), along with this column that Dave Kopel and I wrote on gamer culture and the war.

January 22, 2004

EUGENE VOLOKH: "A little bit of embarrassment seems to be in order."

Actually, The Volokh Conspiracy has been on a roll. Just start with the above post and keep scrolling up.

JOSH MARSHALL, blogging from New Hampshire: "I think Dean is in very bad shape. The issue isn't so much, or isn't exclusively, the loss in Iowa or the whole business with his speech. Rather, I have the sense that he's neutered himself in the final stretch."

His readers paid to send him there to report. Looks like they're getting their money's worth.

UPDATE: Roger Simon has observations on tonight's debate. And Jeff Jarvis observes: " This debate got more attention than any before. This was the chance for a candidate to electrify the audience. Nobody did."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman says that Clark is getting the shaft from the Kerry spin machine. Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan says that Clark is toast. The two are not, of course, mutually inconsistent. (Kleiman also takes me to task for even linking an earlier Tacitus item without doing extensive research into the pro-Clark spin. Personally, I think that's a bit grumpy of him.)

I JUST NOTICED that the Corvids CD is ranked 1,028 on Amazon. That's pretty impressive, especially considering that its sales are probably just about all blog-generated.

UPDATE: Just looked again and it's up to #873. Good going, guys!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Now they're #695. With a bullet!

MORE: 524!

STILL MORE: 430!

BLOGGERS: Killing off Old Media? Or raising 'em from the dead?

MAUREEN DOWD SNEERS AT SOLDIERS: Soldiers sneer back. “I didn't know that poodles were eligible for service in the Australian SAS. Please clarify.” The bit about the Fijians is good, too.

I'VE GOTTEN A BUNCH OF EMAILS asking what I think about this scandal:

Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

I don't know. This may or may not be illegal -- I wouldn't be surprised either way -- but it's certainly cheesy. "Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail," and all that. But nobody ever mistook these guys for "gentlemen." Certainly no hacking skills seem to be involved:

A technician hired by the new judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, apparently made a mistake that allowed anyone to access newly created accounts on a Judiciary Committee server shared by both parties -- even though the accounts were supposed to restrict access only to those with the right password.

We'll probably hear more about this -- although, on the other hand, it's so embarrassing for everyone concerned that maybe we won't.

UPDATE: Reader Rick Giovanelli thinks this is mostly an embarrassment for the Republicans:

A fat lot of good it did them. Hard to believe they could have had LESS success had they not been snooping.

Good point.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Allen S. Thorpe emails with a contrary view:

If I were Leahy, I wouldn't make a big deal about this. It will only make him look like a doofus.

Is there a Latin term for "Beware of the Techie," say, Cave Geekem?

I don't think the Romans had geeks.

UPDATE: Reader John P. Wilson says I'm wrong:

Please, the whole Republic and Empire was crawling with civil and weapon engineers, the original geeks. The Greeks too. Heron, Philon, Frotinus, and Vitruvius, weren't they all geeks? Can't you just see them arguing over where the best cement can be found, what makes the ideal aggregate, optimal draw weights by limb cross-section on bows?

It's easy to believe that the Romans had plenty of nerds. But geeks? I'm not so sure.

IN OTHER WORDS, the question is "Do we want Dr. McCoy for President?"

JAMES LILEKS MAKES MTV with his Howard Dean remix.

It doesn't get much cooler than that.

HEY, thanks, Colby! But am I old enough for a "lifetime achievement award?" In Internet years, I guess.

IS WEB VIDEO COMING OF AGE? I look at that subject over at GlennReynolds.com.

WHITE AFRICAN-AMERICANS: A reader emails:

Here's an addition to the "white African American" story you posted to yesterday - this appears on CNN today :

Link

...and these kind of stories support why I have ambiguous feelings about the "African American" tag for people of black descent.

I was born here in the United States, but was educated in a variety of Southern African countries. All my records for my primary and part of my secondary education are from African schools. When I came back to the States to go to college, I had to go to an interview for incoming students. I walked into the professor's office, and it was obvious that she took great pride in her heritage, with all sorts of "pride" posters, etc. on her walls. It was also evident that it was a shock for her to see a white guy walk in, based on the documents I provided.

Yes, I've encountered this phenomenon from time to time. Africa is a rather large and complex place, and there are, in fact, lots of white people, as well as ethnically Chinese and Indian people, who have many generations of African ancestry. For that matter, black Africans are a highly various group, and don't tend to think of themselves as an undifferentiated mass. Unfortunately, many people -- including many people who think of themselves as culturally sensitive -- persist in stereotyping.

Of course, this works both ways. My brother -- who doesn't look any blacker than I do -- is sometimes asked by Nigerians (in Nigeria) whether he is black. At first he thought this was odd, but one explained "We have Americans coming here all the time who say they are black, but they look white to us."

UPDATE: More thoughts from Tacitus: "What's amusing in Omaha is sometimes deadly in Africa."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Julie Carlson emails:

I lived in Liberia for 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer (1982-84). Allow me to make a few observations about race and Africa. First, people in Liberia at least, are very upfront about skin color. To them it is just another way to identify you. I had short hair and was rather thin, and little kids would occasionally say, "Hello white man" when I passed by. I am female. The adults just laughed good-naturedly. Several of my students were discussing another student and I couldn't place him by name. They said, "well, he's black". After a few minutes of back and forth I finally said the obvious. "Well, you're all black. That doesn't help me." Again, lots of laughter. Evidently this particular student had very black skin.

Second, to most Africans, we are less about race than we are about being American. Several of the black volunteers had a tough adjustment. They thought they'd be welcomed as a long lost brother, so to speak. But Americans LOOK American, WALK like Americans, etc. in spite of skin color. They were seen first and last as Americans.

Yes. Too bad more Americans don't see it that way.

DAVID PINTO: professional blogger-about-baseball? Looks like it could happen. Cool.

HERE'S AN after-action report from the volunteer effort at Camp Pendleton.

TACITUS says that Wesley Clark shouldn't belittle John Kerry's military record. There's a lot of interesting discussion in the comments.

LEE HARRIS: "It isn't like Howard Dean is the first man to shriek. I shriek quite a lot myself, and have already done so several times during the current election campaign."

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis comments: "The scream merely gives voters the excuse they were looking for to vote against Dean, to find an alternative, to blow this race wide open."

LISTENING FOR UNICORNS: Cathy Seipp has a column on university presidents and the SATs.

UPDATE: More on the subject here.

THE CURMUDGEONLY CLERK has thoughts on statutory rape, which should probably be read in conjunction with this post by (but of course!) Will Baude. My own sense is that child molestation -- along with real, as opposed to statutory, rape -- is mala in se, while statutory rape is mere mala prohibita. This is a distinction that is often not reflected in the law, or in public discussion.

My column on society's attitudes toward teen sex from 2002 is, somewhat, related.

UPDATE: More thoughts here, from Anne Cunningham.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

PROF. BAINBRIDGE COMMENTS on Bush and gay marriage: "The move Bush makes here is to begin shifting the terms of the debate from outcome to process. Yes, he's still focusing too much on whether the law should recognize gay marriage, but at least he has begun to shift attention to the real question, which is 'who decides?'"

January 21, 2004

STILL MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: And blatant racial prejudice, too! Eugene Volokh has more.

SOME PEOPLE have emailed asking me to write more about the State of the Union. I'm probably the wrong one to ask. As a general rule, I hate State of the Union addresses. The last two were different -- 2002 was close after 9/11, and 2003 was a lead-in to Iraq. Last night's, at least once you got past the war part at the beginning, was more typical: a bunch of domestic nostrums that for the most part were either mere gestures (steroids?) or things the federal government shouldn't be doing anyway (basically, everything about education).

I can't critique Bush's gay marriage proposal because I still can't figure out what he was saying. (I suspect that my confusion is fully intended). The federal government has no business telling states what their marriage laws ought to be. Of course, I basically favor gay marriage anyway -- though (and I guess it's possible that this is all Bush was saying, though I doubt it) I agree that it would be better to see it adopted by legislation than by judicial decision.

Well, like I said, I find run-of-the-mill State of the Union addresses pretty awful: smarmy, full of cliches and obvious efforts to tug at the heartstrings, well larded with pork and posturing. But, you know, they're not for me. Whenever I find myself grimacing at these, I'm reminded of a direct mail consultant who talked to the board of a nonprofit I used to run. He asked us if we liked the advertisements for porcelain collector plates. Everyone said no. "That's OK," he responded. "Those ads are aimed at people who like porcelain collector plates. You're not their target market." I'm pretty sure I'm not the target market for the State of the Union addresses, either, though I'm not sure who is. . . .

I'm utterly unimpressed with Bush's domestic spending program, but I'm not its target market, either. Nor, sadly, is there anywhere else to turn: According to the National Taxpayers' Union, the Democratic candidates are all worse. Fundamentally, there's not a big enough voter cohort in support of fiscal restraint. Like it or not (and I don't) the voters are pretty much getting what they want in terms of spending. That may or may not prove terrible for the country -- people have been doomsaying about deficits for pretty much my whole lifetime -- but there's no question in my mind that the money contributing to the budget-bloat would be better spent if it was still in the taxpayers' pockets. The only problem is that the taxpayers (or at least the voters, an overlapping but not fully contiguous set) don't seem to feel the same way.

UPDATE: This isn't exactly a Fisking of the State of the Union, but in places it comes pretty close: "I give you a D for your domestic agenda. Other than your tax cuts, you have accomplished little."

Meanwhile, if you missed it, here's a column by Victor Davis Hanson offering a more positive take on the foreign-relations part of the SOTU, which was clearly the better portion.

I'M AFRAID I HAVE TO AGREE WITH MATT WELCH that James Taranto's characterization of Democrats who booed the Patriot Act as the "al Qaeda Cheering Section" is over the top.

I've been a Patriot Act skeptic -- to put it mildly -- since pretty much day one. It's not all bad (and even John Kerry pointed that out last night on ABC) but the overall mindset, and the bureaucratic opportunism, that it represents is a bad thing. And "Homeland Security" remains pretty much of a joke today: lots of pork and gold-plating, lots of new bureaucracy, and not a lot of obvious benefit for security. What's more, Steven Brill's account of Ashcroft's role in the Patriot Act's drafting, which I blogged here back in April, is just devastating.

There's no question that the Democrats have demonized the Patriot Act and tried to turn it into a political weapon against Bush -- and it's hypocritical given the 1994 and 1996 "crime" and "terrorism" bills, which were basically more of the same. But that hardly turns them into an "Al Qaeda cheering section."

UPDATE: Steve Sturm says that Matt and I are wrong.

IOWAN DAVID HOGBERG offers a wrapup on the Iowa caucuses.

I LIKED this Amazon customer review of the Corvids CD: "I expected a passable vanity project - 'Oh look, a writer's making a record, how cute!' Instead, I found a fantastic bunch of songs that smell like whiskey and feel like summer." Any artist should be overjoyed to get a review like that.

LINK PROPAGATION and credit -- some interesting observations.

SOME INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS on the difference between conservatism and libertarianism.

DANIEL DREZNER NOTES the persistence of soft power.

HERE'S AN INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT in an ongoing scandal:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - French bank Credit Lyonnais and a French government agency pleaded guilty on Tuesday to U.S. felony charges stemming from the takeover of a failed California insurer as part of a $772 million settlement reached last month. . . .

A separate settlement resolved all federal claims against French billionaire Francis Penult and his holding company, Artemis S.A., which agreed to pay $185 million in fines.

I'll bet there's an interesting backstory.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE since I've linked to the Grouchymedia site, but he's got some new videos up that you might enjoy.

BRANCH OUT in your blog-reading: Carnival of the Vanities is up for this week.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I wrote this column inspired by David Baron's book, The Beast in the Garden, which is about the way romanticized attitudes about dangerous animals led to people being killed by mountain lions in Colorado. Since then, still more people have been killed by mountain lions, in California.

So it's interesting to see this oped by an Alaskan, from the Los Angeles Times of all places:

I am puzzled now by the strange way people here are dealing with mountain lions — which is to say, letting them kill you. . . .

Why would anyone go into mountain lion country without the means to protect themselves from attack? I notice the police are armed. The wardens and rangers are armed. Indeed, anyone with any clue where they are would be armed.

The title: "Walk Softly and Carry a Big Gun."

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Johnson emails:

I used to live in Orange County in the later part of the '80's and would go mountain biking in a wilderness park near the one where the recent maulings took place. At that time, 1989 to be exact, there were signs posted to warn visitors to be on the alert for mountain lions. Several years prior to then a small child was killed by a mountain lion and the park service was sued for not properly warning people. I don't know what part of "wilderness" these people didn't understand. Anyway, I always stuck a handgun in my rear bag when I rode out there. I figured it was a lot easier to explain to the police why I had to shoot a mountain lion than to explain to my wife's parents why I couldn't do anything while a lion was attacking their daughter. And since my Texas father-in-law was an avid hunter, I don't think I would have been able to make him understand something like that. Besides, I'd be more afraid of facing him for not carrying a firearm than the police for carrying one.

The advice from my uncle who lives in Alaska was, "Always take a firearm into the woods that can bring down the biggest animal that lives there."

Of course, that can be a pretty big gun. Meanwhile Boulder reader Tony Apuzzo writes:

It's illegal to defend yourself against Mountain Lion attacks in Boulder, Colorado. Well, at least via a "weapon" or "firearm".

He seems to be right:

Possession or discharge of a firearm or weapon, including paint ball guns, is prohibited on OSMP.

Why: Visitors with weapons jeopardize the safety of other visitors and wildlife.

You'd think that they'd be more worried about huge carnivorous animals, wouldn't you?


DICK MORRIS: "Desperate to keep control of the Democratic Party, the Clintons used their negative researchers and detectives to the ultimate and generated a story-a-day savaging Dean."

Hmm. If this is true, is a third-party run by Dean more likely?

THE EU IS WAKING UP:

Europe's apparently doomed attempt to overtake the US as the world's leading economy by 2010 will today be laid bare in a strongly worded critique by the European Commission.


The Commission's spring report, the focal point of the March European Union economic summit, sets out in stark terms the reasons for the widening economic gap between Europe and the US.

It cites Europe's low investment, low productivity, weak public finances and low employment rates as among the many reasons for its sluggish performance.

The draft report, to be published by the Commission today, warns that without substantial improvements "the Union cannot catch up on the United States, as our per capita GDP is 72 per cent of our American partner's".

Hmm. Bloated public sectors, high taxes, excessive regulation, and inflexible hiring rules probably have something to do with it.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WASHINGTON POST? This "News Analysis" piece by David Von Drehle misquotes Bush to make U.S. operations in Iraq sound less multilateral:

"Some critics have said" U.S. foreign policy is too unilateral, Bush allowed, before ticking off a list of 17 countries with troops in Iraq and citing his teamwork with "the international community" to contain threats in North Korea and Iran.

But here's what Bush actually said:

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq.

(Emphasis added.) So the Post characterization actually halves the number of countries involved. (Yeah, Bush only "ticks off" 17 of them, but he mentions the other 17. Not reporting that is pretty hard to defend). Darren Kaplan -- who noticed this before I did, and whose post has more background -- is certainly "ticked off" at the Post.

Until recently, the Post has been a lot fairer than this. What gives?

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Looks like they "selectively quoted" him, rather than misquoting. By Washington Post standards, that's considered exercising "good editorial judgement." Some might call it spin, and some will, and they will be correct.

Actually, I think it's worse than that. It's an indirect quote -- and it's an inaccurate indirect quote. That's not just selective quotation -- it's a misrepresentation of what Bush actually said. A relatively small one, compared to some others, but one for which there's no real excuse. As Kaplan points out, other papers managed to get it right.

Meanwhile, Porphyrogenitus emails with this explanation for the Post's shift: "It's an election year."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Newspaperman reader Jon Ham emails:

In addition to the selective inaccurate quoting, the Post's copy editors didn't catch the Copy Editing 101 glitch in the piece. A policy can't be "too unilateral." It's either unilateral or it's not. There are no degrees of unilateral, just as there are no degrees of unique.

Good point. I had missed that.

MORE: Reader Dave Robertson says that Ham is wrong:

Mr. Ham would be correct if only real definitions were applied. But in anti-Bush political speech, "unilateral" means either "without prior UN approval" or "without active participation of France & Germany". No matter how many nations participate, Iraq will always be unilateral. Too unilateral is the emphatic variant of unilateral.

And since Bush was already unilateral in Iraq, multilateral can never be applied to any Bush endeavor. Therefore, the U.S. is being unilateral in North Korea by wanting to have multi-nation talks. The multilateral position would be for the U.S. to agree to North Korea's demands and have on-on-one talks.

What worries me is that this makes sense. . . .

NEWS FROM KOREA:

The food and fuel situation up north is pretty grim, and it's making the security forces up there nervous. Lots more North Koreans are openly expressing a "I don't give a damn" attitude. Just like Eastern Europe in 1989. The current food crises is a result of foreign donors refusing to contribute food for North Korea because the government has not allowed foreigners to observe where the donated food goes. Other witnesses have consistently reported that the donated food goes to the armed forces and is not sent to areas where there has been unrest, or where the government suspects there might be unrest (because a number of locals have fled to China or Russia.) Currently, some twelve percent of North Korea's population, that was getting food aid, has been cut off. New supplies will not arrive for several months.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has a story taking a rosier view of North Korea's situation. But not everyone is convinced.

PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY: My TechCentralStation column is up.

"THEY LIKE BUSH, AND THEY ARE NOT STUPID:" Australian journalist Caroline Overington reports on American voters.

HALLIBURTON MANIA! Last week it was Joe Conason making Halliburton and Mars noises (though he's backpedaled since, protesting that he never really meant that Halliburton wanted oil from Mars -- which would make sense, though if so then the oleaginous spin that he put on his piece can only be explained as an effort to get gullible lefties thinking just that while maintaining plausible deniablilty. Well, sort of plausible, anyway, at least to the gullible.) Anyway, now it's Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune, doing the Halliburton shuffle:

Like a lot of big firms, Halliburton has had its eyes on the moon and Mars for quite a while. Halliburton scientist Steve Streich helped author an article in Oil & Gas Journal two years ago titled "Drilling Technology for Mars Research Useful for Oil, Gas Industries."

The article, unearthed last week by Progress Report, a daily publication of the liberal Center for American Progress, described the exploration of Mars as an "unprecedented opportunity" for the drilling industry and a "great potential for a happy synergy" between space researchers and "the oil and gas industry."

Seriously, this is getting more and more like the increasingly baroque Clinton conspiracy theories.

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Michael Hawkins emails:

Has no one seen the movie Armageddon? If you need to drill, you call in the oil and gas people. Even liberal Hollywood filmmakers know that.

Yep.

January 20, 2004

"FOR DIPLOMACY TO BE EFFECTIVE, WORDS MUST BE CREDIBLE -- and no one can now doubt the word of America." -- George Bush, the State of the Union, January 20, 2004.

"Diplomacy has more to do with (credible) threats than with sweet reason. And 'threats from America' are a lot more credible, nowadays." InstaPundit, January 18, 2004.

UPDATE: Stephen Green is blogging the SOTU in realtime, so I don't have to. His take on Bush's many domestic initiatives (steroid testing? opposition to gay marriage?) is pretty much mine: unimpressed: "On domestic policy, Bush is the Republican Bill Clinton. No issue is too small to get his attention, if he can throw a few million dollars at it and claim 'progress.'" I guess you have to do some of this if you're President. But I don't have to like it. I like the Social Security privatization, though.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bush looks better now that the Democratic reply is on. Nancy Pelosi's unblinking, wide-eyed stare-into-the-camera delivery is just creepy. ("Please meet my captors' demands.") But judging from what she said -- and from the fact that every member of the CNN focus group, Democratic and Republican, thought the war was worth it -- I think that Ed Cone was clearly right to say that criticism of the war is approaching its sell-by date. And the Dems' program proposals aren't any more impressive than Bush's. (Daschle says that when our parents were kids, all Americans could go to good schools. Really? When my parents were kids, schools were segregated.) I kind of like Daschle's effort to coopt Newt Gingrich's "opportunity society" phrase, though.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Kerry's on ABC, waffling when asked how he'll vote on Bush's legislative proposals. Now he's waffling on the gay marriage issue -- he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act under Clinton, but he doesn't support gay marriage now. He describes his vote as "an act of courage." Then he says he agrees with Bush, but that Bush is trying to find "wedge issues." Now he's talking about Equal Protection -- but he doesn't say what that means for gay marriage. And now he's swerved off into affirmative action, all without ever answering Peter Jennings' questions about gay marriage. Lame.

MORE: The Democratic response got panned by the MSNBC focus group -- even by the Democrats. Pelosi and Daschle are criticized for delivery, lack of message. Chris Matthews notes that Tom Daschle never mentioned Iraq. Yeah, they left that to Pelosi, which doesn't seem like a good move. Bill Frist notes that only the Republicans stood up and applauded the prescription drug benefit. (I wouldn't have applauded it. Then again, I'm not a Republican.)

Meanwhile, Bill Hobbs has more analysis on the State of the Union (Tom Petty is invoked), and Spoons was liveblogging. So was Capt. Ed. (Best line: "A Republican president bragging about a 36% increase in Federal spending on education. I join the Democrats in sitting on my hands for that one. If only I were bloated, I could do a Ted Kennedy impression.") Meanwhile Howard Fineman is making fun of the Democrats for stressing the importance of food labeling. Daschle and Pelosi's TV skills are derided again: "They should have just turned it over to Martin Sheen." Ouch.

STILL MORE: Roger Simon exposes my ignorance. And a final note: The pundits all love Edwards now.

MERYL YOURISH says that Daniel Pipes is wrong: There's nothing "feminist" about a veil.

THIS WOULD SEEM TO BE BAD NEWS FOR THE DEMOCRATS: According to Daniel Weintraub:

Dean and Clark are atop what looks like a two-man race for the Democratic presidential delegates from California, but President Bush holds at least a narrow lead in hypothetical matchups with all the Democratic contenders. So says the latest Field Poll.

Bush leading in California? If California is even in play, he's going to be pretty tough to beat. I'd be inclined to doubt this poll, but hey -- I've already been wrong that way once this week. . . .

DONALD SENSING WRITES that Andrew Sullivan is wrong about preemption:

While I see Andrew's point, I don't entirely agree. There are two actors in any potential pre-emption situation, us and the other country.

What Andrew says in his post is that the Iraqi WMD picture painted by the American intelligence apparatus was so spectacularly wrong that using WMD weapons or programs as an element of the casus belli for future military actions against a foreign power can't be credible anymore. . . .

The lesson here for us is to do intelligence better, but the lesson for would-be foreign leaders seeking WMDs may well be that secrecy and bluffing are a good way to find oneself on the wrong end of regime change.

That seems to be what motivated Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddaffi to abandon WMD programs.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Spoons says that Sensing is right on substance, but Sullivan is right on politics.

BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YESTERDAY WHEN IT WAS BORN! Eric Muller's blog, Is That Legal? is a year old today.

EVAN COYNE MALONEY interviews MoveOn.org supporters who stand up for reasoned debate, and in opposition to hatred. Don't miss this video!

IRAQI BLOGGER ZEYAD gets a writeup in Salon.

JACK SHAFER says that Howard Kurtz missed the real story:

Look, kid, I know you got a big scoop here, but the story isn't journalists' reluctance to give money to politicians, and it ain't the fact that media company policies vary, as you put it in your hed and subhed. The real story is that most of the media people you nabbed in your database dragnet gave to Democrats! And that the overwhelming majority of the guilty are reporters! Doncha see? Let me write you a lede that says something meaningful, like, "A Washington Post survey of campaign donations indicates that when reporters make campaign donations, they're more likely to give to Democrats." From there the story writes itself.

I'm guessing that Kurtz didn't think that was news.

BILL HOBBS WRITES that the "jobless recovery" isn't, in fact, jobless. Meanwhile this report from the Joint Economic Committee says the economy is continuing to improve, and notes a great disparity between the employer and household surveys on employment.

Your guess is as good as mine regarding what this means (I'm not much of an economic forecaster -- and, as far as I can tell, neither is anyone else!). But it's hard to see it as bad news.

MORE HATE CRIMES IN EUROPE:

STRASBOURG, France, Jan 20 (Reuters) - A van used as a schoolbus by a Jewish school in this eastern French city has been firebombed in what a community leader has called an apparent anti-Semitic attack, local police said on Tuesday.

The van was attacked on Monday before dawn, 24 hours after unidentified assailants pelted a nearby synagogue with stones during the night, they said. There was no sign who was behind the two incidents.

A local Jewish leader linked the two attacks to marches on Saturday protesting against a planned ban on Islamic veils in school led by an anti-Zionist Muslim leader from Strasbourg.

Then there's this:

VANDALS desecrated a Holocaust memorial near Vienna with an electric saw and spray-painted the German word for "lie" over an informational plaque describing Nazi-era crimes, a news agency reported today.

The attack was discovered yesterday at the site of a Hitler-era concentration camp in Hinterbruehl, a village 10 kilometres south of Vienna, the Austria Press Agency reported. Police were notified but had not yet found the vandals.

Sigh. And yet the tendency in Europe is still to deny that they've got a problem. You'd think these people would have learned.

HELP THE MARINES! BE ON TV! Meet blog-stars LT Smash and Armed Liberal! All at Camp Pendleton, tomorrow.

THE REAL INTERNET CANDIDATE: Lots of people are saying that Dean's Iowa performance indicates that the Internet doesn't do much for candidates. But it's possible that Internet users just didn't support Dean as much as the hype indicated. At least, these figures from CNN indicate that Kerry did much better than Dean among Internet users.

CRUSHING OF DISSENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: "This is not the first time, however, that critics have questioned the commitment of Alabama's public universities to the spirit of free and open inquiry that is supposedly the hallmark of academic life."

(Via the History News Network's Liberty & Power blog).

HEH: "Dean Flop Threatens Internet, Bloggers Hardest Hit."

CAST YOUR VOTE in the Bloggies if you're so inclined. InstaPundit is nominated in the "Best Weblog About Politics" category. As with last year, though, I don't find the nominations especially, well, representative overall.

MICKEY KAUS: "The Kerry victory in Iowa reminds me, not unsurprisingly, of Gary Hart's come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire in 1984."

Andrew Sullivan: "The Iowa voters - not exactly centrists - picked Kerry and Edwards to be the anti-Dean candidate, and the shrillness of the Dean-Clark message (the shrillness that so appealed to Paul Krugman) was just as soundly rejected."

Jeff Greenfield: (on Edwards) "This guy makes a speech that's a coherent argument, not a collection of sound bites."

Jonah Goldberg: "Dean reminds me of the Hulk in that interim stage just before Bruce Banner turns green and starts to rip his clothes."

Jeff Jarvis: "Did blogging hurt Dean? . . . Did it become so loud inside that room that it became hard to hear the noise outside, where the voters were?"

Josh Marshall: "Stunning. Actually, stunning doesn't really do it justice."

Ed Cone: "Another Internet bubble popped."

Matt Welch: "Boy, That Dean's a Crazy Sonofabitch Ain't He? But not necessarily in a bad way! …. I kind of like the idea of a crazy man running for president, but my tastes have long been unsound." He has a link to audio of Dean's speech, too. I think that speech may have done for Dean what a similar speech ("How long, Lord, how long?") did for Frank Clement. Then again, attention spans are shorter, these days -- and Matt Welches are more common.

Will Saletan: "Dean's answer to every gaffe or unpleasant revelation was to trot out another endorsement from the establishment. But he was right: The establishment proved impotent, and tonight it was thrown aside."

Daniel Drezner: "Howard Dean is not going away anytime soon -- he's still got the money and the national organization. I'm sure the press is thrilled by this fact."

James Lileks: "This was not a rejection of the Dean message. This was a rejection of the messenger."

Kevin Drum: "Basically, this means that Dean, Clark, Kerry, and Edwards remain serious candidates, which in turn means that we're in for a stemwinder of a primary season."

Matthew Yglesias: "I'm watching Wes Clark on television right now explaining that he has no regrets about skipping the Iowa caucus. In light of tonight's results, that's a bit hard to believe."

David Frum: "Have the Democrats gone sane? Yesterday Iowa Democrats administered a brutal drubbing to Howard Dean and the far left of the Democratic party generally, opting instead for the two most sensible candidates on the ballot."

Roger Simon: "The voters of Iowa clearly chose the only two candidates--Kerry and Edwards--who seem to have the ability to compete seriously for the Presidency in November."

Robert Tagorda: "If the three candidates shared the same message, and Dean came out last, what does that say about his image? Basically, the public dislikes the messenger."

UPDATE: Several readers note that Mark Steyn had the Hulk line nailed down before last night:

By contrast, when Howard Dean, shortish and stocky, comes out in his rolled-up shirtsleeves, he looks like Bruce Banner just before he turns into the Incredible Hulk, as if his head's about to explode out of his shirt collar.

Yeah, but he looked even more that way last night. . . .

THIS ATLANTIC MONTHLY REVIEW of Dr. Laura's new book (by Caitlin Flanagan) is only moderately interesting in itself, since I don't really care much about what Dr. Laura thinks about marriage. But this passage stood out:

Our culture is quick to point out the responsibilities husbands have to wives—they should help out with the housework, be better listeners, understand that a woman wants to be more than somebody's mother and somebody's wife—but very reluctant to suggest that a wife has responsibilities to her husband.

This is largely true, but you couldn't have said it until recently. Couple it with stuff like this Amy Alkon / Matt Welch discussion and I wonder if there isn't something of a realignment going on.

January 19, 2004

IOWA UPDATE: Lots of news over at the Command Post election page, so I won't be blogging a lot on this -- especially as the outcome illustrates that no one who thought they knew what was going on two weeks ago actually did, suggesting that the same applies now. . . .

But here's my favorite bit of current punditry: "CNN TV analyst attributes Dean's loss in Iowa to the capture of Saddam Hussein." Sure. Why not?

UPDATE: Okay, a few comments from watching the candidates on TV.

Gephardt: You have to feel bad for the guy. It's like Charlie Brown and the football -- it gets snatched away every time. He's a decent guy, and he deserved better and I feel kind of bad for him.

Dean: He's mad as hell, and he thinks he was robbed. Two things really struck me about his speech -- the way that as he thanked Tom Harkin and the AFSCME, they seemed to visibly deflate, and just how mad he really was. I think he feels he's been screwed by the media and by the Democratic Party. Also, as I channel-surfed and listened to the commentary, I got the sense that the press people really hate him. I'm pretty sure that the feeling is mutual. (Read this commentary by Taegan Goddard, too.)

Edwards: Missed most of this, but he seemed classy and smart.

Kerry: National health insurance? This is the time to talk about national health insurance? The overall tone of Kerry's talk suggested that he thinks Edwards is the guy to worry about. But he would have done better if his talk had been shorter. A lot shorter. Short enough that Hardball wouldn't cut away for a far-more-entertaining grilling of Chris Lehane, about which I expect Mickey Kaus will have more shortly. . . .

Overall, I'd say that this is good news for the Democrats, and for the country, and bad news for Bush and the Republicans, who would have much preferrred a smashing Dean victory.

And was I wrong to criticize the Des Moines Register poll for showing Clark at only 2%, behind Kucinich's 3%? Yes and no -- Clark's showing 0.1% now (he's tied with "uncommitted"). Well, it's within the margin of error! And, giving the Register credit where credit is due, he did finish behind Kucinich, who's showing 1.3%. I admit it: I was wrong, they were right.

SHOWSTOPPERS: This article from the Weekly Standard on why special forces weren't used against Al Qaeda before 9/11 seems pretty damning to me. Essentially, despite considerable pressure to do so (including pressure from high officials in the Clinton Administration), the military brass found ways to drag its feet and prevent things from happening.

The price was thousands of Americans dead, and a far more serious war on our hands. I keep asking, but why hasn't anyone been fired over this?

UPDATE: Austin Bay emails:

I agree with you completely. I just read the Weekly Standard article you linked to, ie, Showstoppers. This looks like a very, very important article. . . .

Here's a critical point: Pete Schoomaker is a straight shooter. I've known him for several years. Here's one caveat: I do know the military fears being "left hanging" by the civilians. Still, special ops has counter-terror as a mission. It is a tool we should have used, and this article indicates Clinton wanted to use it. We need to follow reaction to this story.

Indeed we do.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing comments:

When soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines come under fire and are killed and wounded, they have the right to expect that their services' leadership will demand retribution. All of these acts, particularly the attacks on Cole and the Khobar barracks, were by any definition acts of war and should have been treated as such. And the chiefs of staff should have seen it that way and pressed for it. Their fundamental obligation to protect their troops demanded it. In this they failed and failed morally, the worst failure a military officer can commit.

At the end of the day, though, the fault wends it way diffusely through many agencies and individuals until all the diffusion coalesces in the Oval Office. If Clinton believed the danger was as real as Schultz indicates he did, then he surely was obligated to do more than merely sign presidential findings. Firm orders to execute missions, not merely plan them, never came from his pen. They should have, even if he had to fire some people to make it happen.

Why wasn't anyone fired? Because the will to follow through was lacking in the only man who absolutely had to have it, the president of the United States.

Actually, both Clinton and Bush should have fired people. And neither one did.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: In a not-really-related development, Ralph Peters is praising Clinton's performance as an ex-President:

I NEVER thought I'd give Bill Clinton a standing ovation. But last week in Qatar I did just that.

Our former president gave the most perfectly pitched, precisely targeted speech I've ever heard to a hall filled with Muslim intellectuals and officials. And they listened.

Go figure. Read the whole thing.

DON'T MISS THE CARNIVAL OF THE CAPITALISTS, a weekly collection of business- and economic-related posts. Since I don't do much econoblogging, you shouldn't rely on InstaPundit for that sort of thing.

MORE CRUSHING OF DISSENT: AllahPundit appears to have been banned from CafePress. That wouldn't surprise me -- back in September of 2001 they took down a store featuring pictures of Osama bin Laden with superimposed crosshairs within a few hours. As I wrote at the time: "Personally, I don't see what's so controversial about pictures of Osama Bin Laden with a bullseye superimposed on his face. But hey, maybe that's just me." But maybe it's just a glitch.

STEVEN DEN BESTE has more thoughts on the Glenn Kessler story from the Washington Post that I mentioned here earlier:

They say, "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity," but we seem to have gone beyond any possible stupidity now.

Indeed. Follow the link for a point-by-point analysis. Meanwhile David Adesnik of OxBlog observes: "If the NYT ran this article, I wouldn't have bothered post[ing] anything. It's what you expect from them. But the WaPo? I expect better." That's got to hurt.

OXBLOG'S PATRICK BELTON has an roundup of the interesting happenings in Pakistan, which aren't getting a lot of attention in the United States because of the election news.

IOWA POLITICAL BLOGGER DAVID HOGBERG has more on the Iowa caucuses, including a roundup of other bloggers' predictions.

NORM GERAS notes U.N. obstructionism on Iraqi elections. Still more reason to look into where that oil-for-food money went!

ALL OF A SUDDEN, Howard Dean can't catch a break:

Presidential candidate Howard Dean's attempt Monday to attend a ceremony honoring the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. left many in the audience unhappy and complaining that the former Vermont governor was trying to overshadow the event.

The Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans hosted the 15th annual event, held at the Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines.

"That's not for him," said Seville Lee, 26 of Des Moines. "This was nothing but a conniving way for him to sneak in and take up a vote from the African-American community."

Maybe Sullivan is right -- it's the Gore Curse!

UPDATE: More here.

RECOVERING BLOGGER SUSANNAH BRESLIN is interviewed by Xeni Jardin over at the SuicideGirls website. Susannah has a book out, and she talks about it, and about what she's doing now that she's not blogging.

INVITATION? What invitation?

THE CENTER FOR RESPONSIBLE NANOTECHNOLOGY now has a blog. And don't forget journalist Howard Lovy's NanoBot blog. Here, by the way, is an interesting video interview with Philip Bond, Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology, by Dan Farber, which I found via Lovy's blog.

ROGER SIMON is still hot on the trail of the missing U.N. "oil-for-food money" -- which should worry some people, since he writes detective novels. One thing we know -- the missing money isn't going to feed starving North Koreans, as the U.N. has dropped the ball there, too.

THIS ARTICLE BY GLENN KESSLER IN THE WASHINGTON POST contains an amazing howler in the very first sentence:

The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq --after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties.

Kessler has apparently been reading too many Howard Dean press releases. Otherwise he'd know that Bush said we should strike before the threat became imminent. Perhaps he should try reading USA Today instead, which gets it right:

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."

(Emphasis added). Really -- how hard is this to understand? Too hard, apparently, for a bigshot reporter at the Post. I think that this error is big enough that the Post needs to run a correction -- and on the front page where this embarrassing mistake occurred.

UPDATE: Powerline says that Kessler is misquoting Bush to support his storyline. Follow this link and see what you think -- it looks pretty damning to me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Don Williams sends this link to a White House transcript where spokesman Scott McClellan uses the term imminent threat. But Kessler's story specifically invokes Bush's State of the Union address from last year, which he then, according to the Powerline post linked above, proceeds to misquote.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jim Brenneke emails: "As I read the transcript of McClellan, I believe the "Imminent Threat" referred to is a threat to Turkey, not to the U.S. Have I misinterpreted something?" I don't think so. And reader Todd Burri sends this:

Your reference to the WaPo Glenn Kessler story reminded me of a piece by Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson, which ran in the Milwaukee paper a couple days ago. He makes basically the same "Bush Lied" argument about WMDs and imminent threats.

I think the administration could have been more forthright making its case for war, but still... Once More With Feeling: the 1991 armistice agreement made it Hussein’s responsibility to verifiably disarm. A string of Security Council resolutions reiterated it was up to Hussein to verifiably disarm. It was not our task to prove he had these weapons; it was his task to prove he didn’t.

Phrases like ‘no solid/concrete/irrefutable evidence,’ when used by the ‘Bush lied’ crowd, are an attempt to return to Hussein the benefit of the doubt. He forfeited the benefit of the doubt a long time ago He may have disarmed, but he didn’t prove it. I am surprised that no WMDs have been found, but I am not terribly dismayed. That failure means one of two things: either Hussein hid them prior to the war, or he had in fact disposed of them. If the former, they’ll turn up. There’s a lot of searching to do yet. If the latter, then we’re stuck with the strangest possible scenario: Hussein rid himself of WMD but declined to convince the UN that he had done so, thus permitting sanctions to stay in place when he could have had them lifted. Why do you suppose he’d do that? To get rich on illegal oil sales and skimmed humanitarian aid? To continue keeping his people down by funneling resources to his most favored (a la Kim Jong-il)? To keep other Muslims inflamed by making the West out to be the bad guy?

It seems like the "Bush Lied" story is a sort of hot potato that gets passed around a group of like-minded writers, and everybody gets a turn at doing it.

Yes. And everybody gets a turn refuting it, apparently!

GIMLI'S GOT IT: Some people are picking on John Rhys-Davies for saying things like this:

The fact that a minister of the French government has to fly to Cairo to talk with one of the religious heads in one of the mosques to get his approval for a ban on headscarves can be seen in two ways.

One, is how wonderfully culturally sensitive. The other, it seems to give an authority to a wholly unelected figure well outside Europe's jurisdiction. . . .

When we are prepared to overlook certain things because we don't want to rock the boat, this is wrong.

The greatest act of racism is to expect that other people will not behave according to your values and standards. . . .

I do not want to see a society where, should I ever have any, my granddaughters have their fingernails pulled out because they are wearing nail varnish.

But while they pick on Rhys-Davies, the news from France seems in accordance with his fears:

France's drive to better integrate its five million Muslims looked shaken on Monday after a weekend of protests against a looming ban on Islamic veils and a bomb attack on the car of a senior public official of Muslim origin.

The veiled schoolgirls chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) in marches across France and the bomb that destroyed the car of the newly appointed prefect for the eastern Jura area have cast doubt over the policy of winning support among moderate Muslims..

Call me crazy, but I think he has legitimate reason for concern.

EUROPE'S BRAIN DRAIN:

Three years ago, E.U. leaders vowed to make the union "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010. But one of the most worrying signs of their failure is the continued drain of Europe's best and brightest scientific brains, who finish their degrees and pursue careers in the U.S. Some 400,000 European science and technology graduates now live in the U.S. and thousands more leave each year. A survey released in November by the European Commission found that only 13% of European science professionals working abroad currently intend to return home. . . .

But complaints like those of Claude Allиgre, the former French Education Minister who heads the Paris VII geochemical lab, are all too common. He decries France's anachronistic "Soviet" system, in which control is centralized and researchers must run a bureaucratic obstacle course, whether to buy expensive equipment or order basic office supplies. "I'm planning on moving to the U.S. indefinitely because I want to continue my research," says Allиgre. "I can't do so in the current conditions."

Interesting story. Will this sort of thing cause the Eurocrats to lighten up?

GOT A COPY OF An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, by David Frum and Richard Perle. I've only glanced through it so far -- I'm snowed under this month -- but here are a couple of observations. First, dumb title: A smashing victory in the war on terror would be an end to a particular kind of evil, but not "an end to evil." That's just silly, but I don't necessarily blame Frum and Perle for that -- I wanted to title the ethics book Nixon's Revenge, but our publisher wouldn't go for that. I still think it would have been a better title.

The book also lacks endnotes, or an index, which is pretty much unforgivable. (There are a few footnotes.) But having said that, what's most notable about the book is its very hard line on Saudi Arabia. Excerpt (pp. 138-39, 141):

For thirty years, U.S. Saudi policy has been guided by the dogma that, problematic as the Saudi monarchy is, it is better than any likely alternative. . . . It's past time to drop the happy talk about how splendidly the Saudis are cooperating. ("The Saudis have done everything we've asked them to.") These transparent untruths demean the U.S. government -- worse, they encourage the Saudis in their arrogant belief that they can stiff the United States and get away with it. The Saudis qualify for their own membership in the axis of evil: They paid for some three-quarters of the cost of developing Pakistan's nuclear bomb--and without the Pakistani bomb, neither the Iranian nor the North Korean bomb would be as advanced as it is. The Saudis support terror on a lavish scale. . . . The Saudis shelter absconded persons of interest to the United States. . . .

There is one more thing that must be said, and it is a hard thing to say. The reason our policy toward Saudi Arabia has been so abject for so long is not mere error. Our policy has been abject because so many of those who make the policy have been bought and paid for by the Saudis -- or else are looking forward to the day when they will be bought and paid for.

There's a lot more -- and if I were a Democratic strategist, I'd be giving this book a close read, because the Bush Administration's coddling of the Saudis is an Achilles' heel.

UPDATE: The book certainly managed to provoke a mouth-frothing review from Michiko Kakutani at the Times. And David Frum illustrates the reason why every author should have a blog by posting this reply:

The greatest scholar of the Islamic world, Bernard Lewis, has brilliantly explained the roots of Muslim rage. He traces that rage to the failure of Muslim societies to adapt to the modern world. The people of these societies remember that they were once rich and powerful and important. Now they lag far behind – and they do not understand why. Rather than look inward at their own faults and failings, they have sought scapegoats in the world beyond their borders.

Can’t one see something similar at work in the mind of Michiko Kakutani? The brand of liberalism championed by her newspaper was once all-powerful in American cultural life. Over the past decade, that power has ebbed away – and since 9/11, the ebb has become a flood. The New York Times no longer decides what Americans will read and what Americans will think about what they read. Rather than look inward, they blame talk radio and the Internet and Fox TV. And when this ferocious reservoir of accumulated resentment encounters a new and contradictory idea – well it just boils over. . . .

Every author should have a blog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: John Kalb seriously doubts that the Democrats will take my advice.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Bill Palmer emails:

Stopping the terrorists is pretty much going to require regime change and/or serious regime alteration in most of the countries of the middle east. But if we announce this clearly, we№ll have the whole Arab world against us. By taking on one regime at a time, we make it much easier.

But this makes it look like we don't have a plan -- we look confused and unfocused. I don't think that Frum and Perle know something that Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfield and Powell don't know. I suspect that the policy we have toward Saudi Arabia is not because Bush doesn№t get it and/or because our diplomats were bought off than that Saudi Arabia is a little farther down the list (after Iran?) and we could use their help for now. I strongly suspect we will soon get around to them if they haven't figured out a way to stop the terrorists while still keeping power.

I think that's probably right.

MICKEY KAUS has a lengthy post on everything that makes both the Iowa caucuses, and the news coverage thereof, bogus. It's a must-read if you're paying attention to this stuff.

WINDS OF CHANGE has its Iraq roundup and its war roundup posted.

THE UNITED NATIONS doesn't seem to be very good at nation-building:

A DELEGATION of senior Australian diplomats last week toured an Indonesian region considered by the UN to be more dangerous than Baghdad.

Australian deputy ambassador in Indonesia Peter Rowe and several other diplomats made an official visit to West Timor, an impoverished half-island in eastern Indonesia.

West Timor is rated phase 5 by the UN, the highest danger-level alert, warranting immediate evacuation.

Phase 5 bars UN officials from working without extraordinary security clearance, stifling aid to a dirt-poor district now home to thousands of East Timorese refugees. . . .

Gregorius Maubili, deputy regent of Belu, next to the East Timor border, said the UN should rethink its assessment of West Timor as a matter of priority.

"Maybe to withdraw it is not an easy matter, but at least the status should be adjusted to reflect the current situation," Dr Maubili said.

"With the phase 5 alert, the lives of the people are disrupted because international aid is not able to come here – this applies especially to handling the East Timorese refugees," he said. "We have been punished by this rating."

Dr Maubili said the burden of the East Timorese refugees had been borne for four years in a district with limited means. "We have tried to contact the UN in order to get an evaluation of conditions at this time," he added.

Not terribly impressive.

January 18, 2004

JOHN KERRY gets an endorsement from The Concord Monitor.

JUDITH DEAN gets a good review from Stephen Green. "No matter who the Democratic nominee is, the party ought to nominate the other Dr. Dean for First Lady."

THE COMMAND POST'S special election coverage section is shifting into high gear. Check it out regularly. You might also want to visit Jack O'Toole's blog, and Taegan Goddard's PoliticalWire.

BY POPULAR DEMAND, the State of the Union Drinking Game is back for 2004. Of course, if you follow these guidelines a liver transplant pretty much goes without saying. . . .

IOWA POLITICAL BLOGGER DAVID HOGBERG has observations on the Edwards and Kerry surges, the Dean slippage, and why he thinks that Kucinich should be doing better than he is.

Personally, though, I think that everyone has missed the obvious candidate.

IN RESPONSE to my earlier tax-cut post, reader Kate Hamilton -- who, like the InstaWife, seems to be in charge of her family's tax preparation -- emails:

The tax cut has saved my family about $1500 this year. I realize that to your average monocle wearing elitist that isn't much, but to my husband who works so I can stay home with our three kids, and myself, it is a real life saver! Not only that, but the extra money from our return is going to pay for plane tickets so my kids and I can go visit their grandparents in the lower 48. Now thanks to the president and his tax cut we'll be helping out the airline industry too. Reaganomics work!

I wonder how many people are having similar experiences right about now? To the extent that a lot are, attacking Bush for the tax cut may be counterproductive, simply ensuring that he'll get credit. In fairness to Bush's critics, however, hardly any of them actually wear monocles.

UPDATE: Reader Jorge Del Rio emails:

I experienced the same thing. I have the benefit of a father who is a CPA (even if I didn't I work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms, although I'm an attorney) and I recently had him run our numbers. Our return is rather large. The effect of it is even more profound. My wife never returned to her job after her maternity leave. She was a senior associate here in DC at one of the largest law firms in the country. You can imagine what she was making. It completely dwarfed my salary, and I do ok. We saved up quite a bit of money and only needed to draw on it modestly. Well, our son will be 2 in April and it was looking like she was going to have to get back into the workforce sometime in the late summer, early fall. With this refund, she can now stay home for almost another 9 months. That really is priceless. Kind of hard to try and convince us that the tax cuts were reckless. If those guys in Iowa tried telling my wife, to her face, that they would increase our taxes by repealing the tax cuts, they just might get popped in the nose.

Interesting. I don't know how many people are having this experience, but if there are a lot, I imagine that it will help Bush -- ironically, especially if his opponents make an issue of the tax cuts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A couple of readers ask why I'm not fulminating against the deficit. Well, I was really making a political point, not an economic one, but I don't think the deficit growth is a product of the tax cuts so much as of overspending. I think that the Bush Administration is guilty of overspending, all right, and if I had my way I'd hold non-defense spending flat. But that's not going to happen. Bush's tactic here seems reminiscent, as I said in an earlier post, of Nixon's though it seems unlikely to touch off Nixonian levels of inflation anytime soon.

As I've also mentioned before, there's an interesting irony in that the pressure to play against type, and the sort of pigeonholing employed by the press that produces such pressure, means that Democratic presidents wind up being worse on civil liberties, and Republicans worse on deficits, than you might otherwise expect based on stereotypes.

MICHELE CATALANO has thoughts on the difference between sexy and skanky. And scroll for observations inspired by Popeye's 75th birthday.

BUSH'S PEOPLE SHOULDN'T BE COMFORTED by this piece in the New York Times:

By most measures prospects for George W. Bush's re-election look very good. No single indicator guarantees a second term, of course, but on balance the president's numbers are as good if not better than those of the three presidents who won second terms in recent times.

From a political standpoint, Mr. Bush is strong. His approval ratings are relatively high, as is the percentage of Americans who think the country is on the right track, and alone among recent presidents he saw his party gain seats in the midterm elections.

The economic numbers are also positive. Consumer confidence is high, disposable income is rising and the unemployment rate is lower than that of the three presidents who lost bids for re-election.

Just remember: the numbers looked good for Gore, last time around. I think that Bush remains vulnerable under the right circumstances.

UPDATE: Interesting poll discussion at Kevin Drum's.

WHY I DON'T TRUST POLLS: This Des Moines Register poll shows Wesley Clark trailing Dennis Kucinich, with 2% vs. 3% respectively.

Now I know that Iowa is to the left of the nation generally, and that Iowa caucus voters are to the left of Iowa. I also know that Clark's campaign hasn't been terribly impressive. (Though the blog is pretty good.) But still -- two percent? And behind Dennis Kucinich? I find that very hard to believe.

But I could be wrong -- my political-prediction track record isn't especially impressive.

UPDATE: Iowa reader Joe Kristan emails:

While your point about the reliability of polls is a good one - especially with our caucus system - I don't think they are too far off with respect to Clark. Why? He's not here. Kucinich has been here for months, and Clark, with no effort or organization at all here, is lost in the candidate ad blizzard. It's also hard to say he's offered anything that isn't available from the candidate's who aren't blowing Iowa off, so there probably isn't a group of disaffected Democrats who would go to him anyway by default.

Yeah, but two percent? (On the other hand, Kevin Drum emails: "Clark isn't running in Iowa. Heck, I'm surprised he's getting 2%....") It just seems to me that anyone who's being talked about as a serious national candidate should do better than that. But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Meanwhile, Michael Peckham emails:

I agree that the poll you mention is probably bogus, but Kucinich does have a small ace up his sleeve in Iowa -- The Transcendental Meditation crowd who
live in Fairfield:

Even as much of the country still struggles to pronounce his name (it's koo-SIN-itch), Mr. Kucinich has become a phenomenon in Fairfield, population 9,500. His proposals to promote world peace, universal health care and environmental sustainability arguably resonate here as in no other place in America.

Hmm. Okay. (There's more here.) And reader Andrew Boucher says that the poll's probably right and that Iowans are mad at Clark for snubbing them: "Regardless of whether or not they might support him, they'd never stand at caucus for someone who is snubbing his nose at the system." This may make the polls look a bit less bogus -- but doesn't it also make the whole Iowa caucus process look a bit more bogus?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has lengthier and, no doubt, better informed comments on Iowa.

CHIEF WIGGLES had a close call this morning. He's okay, though. So is Rich Galen, who has pictures. (Scroll to the bottom).

(Wiggles link busted earlier -- fixed now).

SADDAM'S NEPHEW DROPS THE BALL BOMB:

An explosive device being transported in a car exploded near a U.S. Army patrol, killing two Iraqis in the vehicle including a relative of Saddam Hussein, the military said today. There were no U.S. casualties.

The blast in a white Mercedes car happened late on Saturday on a street in the former dictator’s home town of Tikrit, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. . . .

Russell said one of the two men killed was a nephew of one of Saddam’s brothers, and was carrying a homemade bomb comprised of artillery shells and plastic explosives in his lap that detonated prematurely, killing him instantly and fatally wounding the driver. He would not further identify the bomber.

More like this, please.

SO WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?

The capture by the United States of thousands of centrifuges on board a German-owned vessel, the BBC China, en route to Libya has raised suspicions in Washington and London that Col Gaddafi offered to abandon his weapons programme after threats from America, rather than the lengthy British and American diplomacy vaunted by Tony Blair.

Diplomacy has more to do with (credible) threats than with sweet reason. And "threats from America" are a lot more credible, nowadays.

TACITUS is having the rare experience of seeing a blog-Troll go to jail. He seems to be savoring it.

ED CONE:

Whatever else may go wrong between now and Election Day, George W. Bush will always have the months after 9/11 to his credit, and that is going to make him very tough for anyone to beat in November. . . .

That’s why criticism of the invasion of Iraq is quickly approaching its sell-by date as a campaign issue. Look back just a few months too far, and you see George Bush in his finest hour. Anger over Iraq has played well in the pre-season, but will go only so far in the general election. Voters already know how they feel about the decision to go to war, and either way the war happened, and it’s clear that the way out is the way forward. What’s up for grabs is what comes next.

The emotion the Democrats need to stimulate is hope.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Reader Chuck Allen notes this poll of attitudes toward the war and observes: "Backing up Ed Cone's assertion that vocal opposition to the Iraq war is 'quickly approaching its sell-by date,' are the results of a poll by the financial paper Investor's Business Daily. In this poll the war is not a hot election issue even among those who opposed it. . . ." Interesting.