April 09, 2004

[Big cat picture moved here to speed page loads.]

I WASN'T GOING TO POST ANYTHING, but the InstaWife got out the laptop to check her email, and I had just taken this picture of my brother's cat, Kano. And since Kevin Drum seems to have gotten out of the Friday catblogging business, I thought that this might fill an important hole in the blogosphere.

Happy Easter weekend!

OFF ON A FAMILY EASTER TRIP: I expect blogging to be limited at best, and email response to be nearly nonexistent. Have a happy Easter! Back to normal Sunday night.

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY UPDATE: A lot of people have emailed me with various questions.

Do I like Photoshop CS? Yes, though I've only scratched the surface of its capabilities. Will it import images from the D70 in RAW format? Yes, though the RAW plugin isn't optimized for the D70 yet -- they're promising an update soon. The results look pretty good, but I haven't examined them closely.

Am I still happy with the Nikon? Yes. (Don't buy it via the Amazon link above, though, as for some reason it's showing a price of $1999 for the camera-and-lens combo, which is absurdly above what you'll pay even at a mall store). Am I happy with the "kit" lens that came with it? Yes, it seems like a quite respectable zoom lens for the money. I also bought a Nikkor D 50mm 1.8 normal lens -- it's sharp, it's bright, and it's dirt-cheap at under a hundred bucks. I'd like the 10.5mm fisheye, but I've blown enough bucks for now.

Memory: I bought a 512MB card, which I managed to fill entirely on my trip Wednesday. I'm reluctant to go bigger, though, because I like being able to archive a whole card on CD. I guess I'll get another. I hope the price keeps dropping.

How do I feel about the software? The included "Picture Project" isn't much. The "Nikon Capture" software that came included as a "trial version" is version 4; I need to update it to 4.1 but haven't yet. I'm comfortable working in Photoshop, though the Capture offers a few features that Photoshop doesn't, I'm told.

MISLEADING CONDI EDITING: A blogger posts, complains, and gets a response. (Via the returned-and-reinvigorated Jeff Goldstein).

UPDATE: Neal Boortz has a lot of thoughts on yesterday's testimony, which he thinks went very well for the Administration. And the also returned-and-reinvigorated Stuart Buck has some observations regarding the spin.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Missy Nelson wonders if Time pulled an OJ and darkened Condi's skin for this cover photo. It looks like they've cranked the contrast up in order to produce an unflattering photograph, but beyond that, who knows? They've certainly demonstrated in the past that they're not above this sort of thing. Meanwhile James Lileks has a lot of worthwhile thoughts, including this one:

Is it hopeless to think that we can pull together and realize that A) the Marines are fighting some Very Bad Men, and B) it would be good for the region to defeat them? No, it’s not.

Read the whole thing, which includes praise for Tom Daschle.

FEDERAL COURT UPHOLDS LOYALTY OATH: Hey, it is the McCarthy era all over again. . . .

UPDATE: Okay, not exactly. The teaser is probably a bit misleading even for a teaser, as the court didn't uphold it in the specific case, though left it open that such oaths are valid in general.

WHAT COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM? Mickey Kaus has a question of his own:

A common complaint among Democrats is that Bush hasn't governed in the bipartisan fashion they expected. Often this is phrased as, "Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism." The latter formulation, at least, seems misleading. You disagree? Then name one significant new "compassionate conservative" policy initiative you expected Bush to launch that he didn't.

In terms of spending, he's been more compassionate than I would have liked.


Last month, a Kentucky company hit oil on a farm in Pickett County. The pressure of oil naturally bubbling to the surface has been so great that the producers have been unable to remove the drill for the past 25 days. . . .

Keep drilling, folks.

OIL-FOR-FOOD: The Financial Times has a bunch of stories on the unfolding scandal at the UN. Unfortunately, they're pay-only, so I can't link to them. But I think it's a sign that the issue's not going away. Here's a story that's available free.

PERSPECTIVE: You can see the World War II Memorial's Freedom Wall here. "[E]ach of the wall's 4,000 4 1/2 inch gold stars represents 100 American servicemen who died in the war."

Reader Chris Stacy observes:

Look at the single column of stars closest to you.

That single column of stars represents well over twice the number of American servicemen killed in Iraq in the past year.

That single column of stars represents the number of casualties we suffered roughly every six days -- week in, week out, for almost four years -- during WWII.

At the casualty rate we have suffered in Iraq over the past year, it would take well over 600 years to fill this wall with stars.

In your mind, line 62 of these walls up, end to end (that's somewhere close to a mile long). That's roughly the number of people who live in Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas. That's the number of people that are no longer ruled over by Saddam Hussein.

For the benefit of the esteemed Mr. Blix, that wall could also represent the estimated number of Iraqi citizens that Saddam Hussein put into mass graves in the past 10 or 15 years.

For the benefit of the Hon. Sen. Kennedy from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the great multitude of journalists who cannot seem to free themselves from the grip of a 30 year old delusion -- at the casualty rate we have suffered in Iraq over the past year, it would take almost 90 years to surpass the number of American servicemen killed in the Vietnam conflict.

Every death is a tragedy, every war a source of sadness. But when I see newspapers calling 12 deaths in a day "heavy casualties," I know that this war isn't anywhere close to the scale of past wars -- or of the war we're likely to see in the future if we falter in our efforts now.

UPDATE: Speaking of perspective, Virginia Postrel puts this better than I have when I've tried to say the same thing:

I have the same problem blogging on this topic that I do blogging on every little twitch in the economic statistics: It's too hard to separate the transient noise from the long-run trend, and the long run is what matters. Things are bad in Iraq right now, but is this a last-gasp effort by our enemies, the beginning of a quagmire, or, most likely, something in between whose conclusion depends largely on our response? Rushing to judgment, especially from afar, is a prescription for foolish conclusions and bad policies.

True enough. Jeff Jarvis offers a roundup of Iraqi blog reports, which also offer very different perspectives, from sunny to negative.

MORE: Ed Morrissey emails:

I agree with Virginia Postrel about her hesitancy to blog during this latest insurgency -- but I think the mainstream media has become so unbalanced that we have to get over that reluctance. The AP reports that the Marines are "struggling" in Fallujah when clearly they're not, and the media immediately created parallels between al-Sadr and the Tet Offensive, a parallel that says a lot more about the media than it does about the fighting in Iraq.

Moqtada al-Sadr is failing, and he knows it; that's why he's taking Western hostages.

He's got a lengthy blog post expanding on this theme. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that our enemies are expecting us to lose our nerve, and that we can frustrate their plans by not doing so. Andrew Sullivan has a good post on this, too.

Meanwhile Michael Ubaldi emails:

About 2,500 young men from the Allied nations died on June 6, 1944. 12,000 Americans died in three months' fighting for Okinawa. While some members of the press (Fox included) might consider themselves honoring the fallen by referring to 12 heroes as "heavy casualties," they in fact have done a disservice to the concept of sacrifice and a nation's endurance of it in war. Andrew Sullivan asked us to pray for the Marines in Fallujah; I think we ought to start a prayer with "Dear Lord, please lead members of the press to a doggoned history book. Or Google."

That's asking a lot from the Big Guy Upstairs. And Brian Dunn has some thoughts too. "First of all, relax, this isn’t the Sepoy Mutiny. . . . Second, it is important to see the Sadr revolt as a separate event from the Sunni counter-attack in Fallujah and Ramadi."

STILL MORE: Here's an interesting report by David Aaronovitch of The Guardian, which collects a lot of news in messy good-and-bad. Conclusion:

But this is a people who we have (and please excuse my language here) fucked up for a long time now. We colonised them, then neglected them, then interfered out of our own interests, not theirs. We tolerated Saddam and - somewhat later - even supported him. We waged war on him, but refused to help liberate his people. Instead we hit them with sanctions which the regime (which we wrongly believed would fall) ensured caused the maximum damage to the people. We and the Russians and the French, and the UN, and the Turks and the other Arabs, permitted millions of people to die or be reduced to misery and pauperdom.

So, of all the things we have done, the invasion may be bloody appalling, but it is the least bloody appalling thing of all. And the only thing that has offered hope.

Now, though, is the time to support those who will be taking the next step - the Iraqi democrats, religious and secular, who have to build the new Iraq.

Read the whole thing.

April 08, 2004

IN TODAY'S MAIL: Michael Kelly's posthumous Things Worth Fighting For, which looks, unsurprisingly, good.

TOM MAGUIRE is as disappointed as I am with the Kennedy Vietnam remarks, and as unpersuaded by efforts to convince people that Kennedy meant something else. But he also has a worthwhile cautionary observation:

Now, Kennedy is making himself the issue, giving Administration supporters an easy target, and distracting us from what ought to be a serious debate about WTF do we do now.

Kennedy is closely associated with the Kerry campaign, since he picked John up and carried him on his back through Iowa and New Hampshire. And Kerry has not spoken clearly on this subject. So we drift towards a phony debate about the wrong questions - Dems whining that their patriotism is being attacked, Reps looking for signs of defeatism, and the serious questions sidestepped.

This is right. Of course, in the short run what we do is wait and hope that our troops in Iraq will do as good a job as they've done in the past. It's beyond discussion, and out of our hands. But longer term we need to figure out what's working and what isn't. That's especially important internally within the Administration, and it's important that they don't let the fact that many external critics are partisan and opportunistic cause them to ignore bad news or fail to take steps to solve problems. The Administration has been attacked, often inconsistently and unfairly, so often that a "bunker mentality" is a natural result. But you need to be more open to useful criticism, as opposed to the kind that comes from Ted Kennedy, during a war. The key is being able to distinguish the two.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE WRITES that Chris Matthews is misrepresenting Condi Rice's testimony. He's got transcripts.

UPDATE: Bill Herbert is fact-checking the Condi Rice fact-checkers at the Center for American Progress.

ANDREW SULLIVAN POSTS A must-read email from a Marine in Iraq.

LT SMASH has thoughts on what's going on in Iraq, and what to do about it.

UPDATE: More here.

THE OTHER BOB KERREY: Everybody seems down on Kerrey's posturing today, but Tom Maguire notes a more sensible Bob Kerrey from November of 2001:

So can you give me some scenarios that you think are sensible, that put some meat on the bones of how we’re going to take on Iraq? What do we mean by this?

MR. KERREY: Invade Iraq and liberate 24 million Iraqis. That’s what I’d do.

Read the whole thing, which is full of gems like this one. (Maguire says that Kerrey sounds like a warblogger.) Read this Kerrey Wall Street Journal column -- from today -- too, entitled "Richard Clarke Was Wrong."

UPDATE: Jay Solo thought Bob Kerrey was classy.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS A POST on likely consequences of Ashcroft's planned war on porn that should be must-reading at the Justice Department. And everywhere else.

PORPHYROGENITUS has a big roundup post on Condi's testimony and related war issues. Meanwhile here's a link to Rice's opening statement. It's interesting reading, but this bit certainly seems to undercut Richard Clarke's claims:

We also moved to develop a new and comprehensive strategy to eliminate the al-Qaida terrorist network. President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance. He made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was "tired of swatting flies."

This new strategy was developed over the Spring and Summer of 2001, and was approved by the President's senior national security officials on September 4. It was the very first major national security policy directive of the Bush Administration — not Russia, not missile defense, not Iraq, but the elimination of al-Qaida.

When coupled with Sandy Berger's statement that "there was no war plan that we turned over to the Bush administration during the transition. And the reports of that are just incorrect," this would seem to undercut the claim that Clinton focused like a laser beam on terrorism while Bush was distracted with other pet projects. In fact, nobody was really paying enough attention, as Rice notes:

The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them. For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient. Historically, democratic societies have been slow to react to gathering threats, tending instead to wait to confront threats until they are too dangerous to ignore or until it is too late. Despite the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and continued German harassment of American shipping, the United States did not enter the First World War until two years later. Despite Nazi Germany's repeated violations of the Versailles Treaty and its string of provocations throughout the mid-1930s, the Western democracies did not take action until 1939. The U.S. Government did not act against the growing threat from Imperial Japan until the threat became all too evident at Pearl Harbor. And, tragically, for all the language of war spoken before September 11th, this country simply was not on a war footing.

Since then, America has been at war. And under President Bush's leadership, we will remain at war until the terrorist threat to our Nation is ended. The world has changed so much that it is hard to remember what our lives were like before that day.

Of course many people -- including some of those faulting the Bush Administration here -- are still having trouble admitting that we're at war now, and acting accordingly.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I watched the whole thing today, and if Dr Rice didn't refute nearly everything Dick Clarke said, I was clearly asleep for 3 hours. A few thoughts:

1. My respect for Bob Kerrey has evaporated. I felt like Kerrey was an honorable guy, seemed to be honest during his shot at the nomination way back when, medal of honor winner, all that. But today, he proved himself just another partisan jackass, seeking to score points for his party rather than getting to the bottom of how we let 9-11 happen.

2. Speaking of which, I'm sick and tired of hearing about how this was an "intelligence failure." (fair warning: I'm an intelligence professional) We deal with a deluge of information every day, and sorting through all the chatter is a herculean task, often performed in anonymity. What the American public never hears about are the intelligence successes - there are no commissions seeking the answers to how intelligence helped win the Cold War, for example. We are the government's whipping boy, and many of my colleagues have expressed their belief that we're going to be raked over the coals again for 9-11, despite the fact that Congress hamstrung us with budget cuts and tied our hands over who we could and could not seek information from.

Rice's response to Bob Kerrey (transcript -- scroll down) is amusing:

KERREY: Why didn't we swat that fly?

RICE: I believe that there's a question of whether or not you respond in a tactical sense or whether you respond in a strategic sense; whether or not you decide that you're going to respond to every attack with minimal use of military force and go after every -- on a kind of tit-for-tat basis.

By the way, in that memo, Dick Clarke talks about not doing this tit-for-tat, doing this on the time of our choosing.

RICE: I'm aware, Mr. Kerrey, of a speech that you gave at that time that said that perhaps the best thing that we could do to respond to the Cole and to the memories was to do something about the threat of Saddam Hussein.

That's a strategic view...


And we took a strategic view. We didn't take a tactical view. I mean, it was really -- quite frankly, I was blown away when I read the speech, because it's a brilliant speech. It talks about really...


... an asymmetric...

KERREY: I presume you read it in the last few days?

RICE: Oh no, I read it quite a bit before that. It's an asymmetric approach.

Ouch. I think this exchange was rather asymmetric as well. . . (Emphasis added.)

UPDATE: Reader Barry Johnson emails:

Has there been any discussion regarding three hours of Bush-defending testimony on CNN - by a black woman?

This morning, the face of the Bush administration was not old, was not male, and was not white.

Yes. Unfortunately, I didn't see the testimony and heard only a short snatch of it on the way in to work.

And speaking of intelligence professionals, reader Lou Gerstman recommends this article on structural problems with U.S. intelligence. Meanwhile reader Don Greene emails:

Bob Kerrey's performance today, as a 9/11 Committee member,
looked to me like a not-so-subtle signal of his desire to
become John Kerry's running mate.

So far, Bob Kerrey has been one of the few voices of integrity within the Democratic Party. Today, he was just another shill for the Democrats. Has he been talking with John?

A bunch of people have said this. A Kerry/Kerrey ticket seems unlikely on phonological grounds alone, and if Bob Kerrey wants to be VP it's news to me. But as I say, a lot of people seem to have gotten that impression, and maybe I've missed something. Jeff Jarvis joins the Kerrey-looked-bad chorus, and has some constructive observations. Finally, Rice gets mixed reviews over at Begging to Differ. Josh Claybourn thinks the Commission is unrealistic. And the last word belongs to Brock Cusick:

Your reader referred to Bob Kerrey as a political jackass, and I got the same impression, but I think its an evil we must live with. Free & fair hearings don't seem to be an option for running a government. Between oversight by partisan jackasses (e.g., the 9/11 Hearings; the Starr Chamber) and no oversight at all (UN Oil-for-Food), I will choose partisan oversight every time.

Excellent point.

THIS PASSAGE from Larry King's interview of Senator Ted Kennedy would seem to fatally undermine claims that Kennedy's Vietnam remarks weren't opportunistic defeatism, but merely a statement that the Bush Administration was dishonest about war:

KING: We're back with Senator Kennedy.

You said today that Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president. Vietnam was started under a Democratic administration.

How do you compare the two?

KENNEDY: We're facing a quagmire in Iraq, just as we faced a quagmire in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were getting ourselves into in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were doing in -- in Iraq.

Kennedy does go on to add "We had misrepresentations about what we were able to do militarily in Vietnam. I think we are finding that out in Iraq, as well." But as the "as well" indicates, this is clearly secondary. As Eugene Volokh noted earlier, the Vietnam bit is pretty obviously about losing -- and as I noted earlier myself, if Kennedy really didn't mean that by what he said, then he really isn't up to speaking in public.

I HAVEN'T BEEN WATCHING THE CONDI TESTIMONY: No TV in my office, and too hard to concentrate while a radio's playing. But a reader sends this quote:

We know that the building of democracy is tough. It doesn't come easily. We have our own history. When our Founding Fathers said, We the people, they didn't mean me. It's taken us a while to get to a multiethnic democracy that works.

They're blogging it pretty steadily at The Corner.

UPDATE: Roger Simon writes that Bob Kerrey seems to be contradicting himself rather seriously.

ROLL CALL IS ASKING if Chris Dodd is having a "Lott moment."

UPDATE: More here.

WHEN I GOT TO THE OFFICE THIS MORNING I had a voice mail from Mark Kleiman saying that I should be happy that Air America has displaced voices approved by the likes of Alton Maddox and the Nation of Islam.

Well, yes. I hope that no readers interpreted my post as an approval of either Maddox or the Nation of Islam, and it's kind of hard for me to imagine that they did.

UPDATE: Reader Dominique Petitmengin emails: "Isn't Alton Maddox's a 'legitimate voice', to use an expression really Kerryesque?"


WASHINGTON - The government on Wednesday awarded a California aviation company the first license for a manned suborbital rocket.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it gave a one-year license to Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., a company founded by aviation maverick Burt Rutan. His goal is public space travel within 10 years.

Let it be so.


TIM BLAIR SAYS "France Rocks!" No, really.

MORE ON DODD: Eric Muller has the full text of Dodd's remarks up on his blog, and observes:

On balance, I think the comparison to Lott's praise of Thurmond is fair. What clinches it for me is when Dodd says, "Some were right for the time. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my view, would have been right at any time." Here, I think, Dodd makes clear that, unlike the views of some, which may have seemed right in their moment but were later revealed to be mistaken, Byrd's views have been timelessly correct.

Yeah, that's how it looks to me, too. Which makes the disparate treatment of the Dodd and Lott affairs particularly troubling.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren sends this on Dodd:

Some commentators on Dodd’s praise of Robert Byrd assume that Byrd is so completely reconstructed that the Senator Byrd of the last twenty years, no longer the KKK leader he once was, would have been an asset projected back to the Civil War. But Byrd, while now criticizing slavery, refused on at least one important occasion to criticize the South’s entry into the Civil War and defended the motives and honor of those who fought for the South--this from a Senator representing West Virginia, a state that owes its existence to the loyalty of its people to the Union side.

In 1993, Byrd joined with Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms to defend Congressional protection of the confederate flag as part of the insignia of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, opposing Carol Moseley Braun.

Byrd on the floor of the Senate, 1993:

Many informed people believe that the 11 states that comprised the Confederacy stood on solid constitutional ground.

Abolitionist sentiment in the North changed the terms on which legal questions had originally been settled in the old Union. John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, in what is now West Virginia, made a peaceful settlement of the slavery question nearly impossible.

Interestingly, only an estimated 5 percent of the population of the South owned slaves. Yet, hundreds of thousands of Southern men - most of them slaveless and poor - answered the call of the Confederate government to defend the sovereignty of their states. In West Virginia, it broke down about 2-to-1, I suppose, with about one-third supporting the Confederacy and the other two-thirds supporting the Union. Those men - brave and patriotic by their rights, almost to a fault - are the ancestors of millions upon millions of loyal, law-abiding American citizens today.

In the classic Ken Burns Civil War series on public television, historian Shelby Foote recounted a discussion between a Confederate prisoner and his Yankee captor, who asked the Confederate soldier, "Why are you fighting us like this?" To which the Confederate soldier replied, "Because y'all are down here."

That was not racism. That was not a defense of slavery. That was a man protecting his home, his family and his people.

We are who we are today largely because of the War Between the States.

Americans of Southern heritage need not defend slavery in order to memorialize the legacy of which they are a part.

The Washington Times, August 7, 1993, WHAT DID EMBLEM SYMBOLIZE?, LEXIS/NEXIS.

While such carefully measured statements--praising those who fought for the South while criticizing slavery--[are] not disgusting, I hope that this is not the sort of leadership that today’s Republicans and Democrats would have wanted in the Civil War, especially from a person who has been called the “political king” of West Virginia, a Union state. One must remember that most of the pro-slavery arguments, at least before 1830, admitted the immorality of slavery as the starting point. The question for many in both the South and the North was not slavery’s immorality, which was widely (though not universally) admitted, but what if anything to do about it.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Burg has more thoughts. Click "More" to read them.

Read More ?

STUART BENJAMIN has the Condi testimony reactions script already.

JAMES LILEKS compares what Ted Kennedy is saying now with what he was saying not long ago and notes a contradiction. Don't you know that's "neo-McCarthyism," James?

Meanwhile Eugene Volokh has additional posts here and here on the Kennedy / Vietnam controversy. It seems quite difficult to argue that Kennedy has been treated unfairly over this.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt says that Lileks has done more spadework than the New York Times' crack political reporters. That's news?

PEOPLE SEEM TO BE NOTICING Sen. Chris Dodd's racially insensitive comments, as the story is breaking into traditional media:

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- A mini-scandal has erupted in Congress as some Senate Republicans question whether comments made by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., were racist.

In a speech on the Senate floor last Thursday marking Sen. Robert Byrd's 17,000th vote in the body, Dodd said the West Virginia Democrat, member of the Ku Klux Klan before taking office and opponent of the 1964 Civil Right Act, "would have been right during the great conflict of Civil War in this nation."

Dodd's comments struck some as similar to remarks made by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., that led to his losing the position.

Read the whole thing. Strangely, though bloggers on the right were swift to condemn Trent Lott's comments, bloggers on the left don't seem to be condemning Dodd's with anything like the same degree of energy. As Jeff Goldstein notes, some are even trying to defend Dodd's comments. And Joe Gandelman has a roundup.

UPDATE: More here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More from Chris Dodd, here. Has Dodd said anything about this that I've missed?

Like Lott, he could have shut this down early with a simple statement that he didn't mean that the U.S. would have been better off with a Grand Kleagle in charge during the Civil War. How hard is that?

WINDS OF CHANGE has a lengthy and interesting post on what's going on in Iraq, and what the United States' response should be:

Ultimately, the success or failure of the Iranian strategy with regard to the US in Iraq will depend on whether or not the United States and its allies retain the collective national will to defeat the insurgents. The question of whether or not Iraq will become a second Vietnam (i.e. a US defeat) is probably best answered, "No, and it won't be as long as we don't let it."

Andrew Sullivan has thoughts, too:

But the response to this cannot be withdrawal. Military power still matters; and the coalition has the overwhelming advantage. In some ways, perhaps, the war has now entered the most critical phase - more critical than Afghanistan or the war against Saddam. This war is for the future against the past, for representative government against a vicious theocratic dictatorship from the Leninist vanguards of the Sadrists. The president needs to tell the people this. His failure to communicate what is actually going on, why we're there, what we're doing, and what the stakes are is the prime current fault of the administration.

Indeed. There's a useful roundup at Oxblog, too, where we learn that Senator Robert Byrd -- no doubt encouraged by Chris Dodd's fulsome praise -- has jumped on the Kennedy / Vietnam bandwagon.

This is electoral poison for the Democrats.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste has a lengthy analysis of the situation, and thinks that, despite the problems at the moment, this is actually a strategic opportunity if handled properly: "In other words, it will be just like it was last year in March and April, before and during the invasion. And it will make just about the same difference, i.e. "not a lot" in the long run."

When the action is at this stage, of course, all that we here at home can do is hope that it will be handled properly.

UPDATE: More thoughts here.

April 07, 2004

READER DAVID STERN EMAILS: "Nine midday hours without a post -- are you okay? Your fans are concerned."

Heh. Yes, I'm okay. Had a free day (or at least, a day I could free) and decided to give my mind and body, which are suffering from different kinds of repetitive stress, a break. Took a long, camera-toting drive up US 27 and Tennessee 52 to Rugby, then came back on 62 past Frozen Head and through Oak Ridge. More blogging later.

UPDATE: Okay, actually it's photo-blogging. You can see photographs and commentary in this gallery I set up over at the Exposure Manager site.

ANOTHER UPDATE: D'oh! No sooner did I link than the site stopped. I don't know if it was the traffic or just a coincidence, but I'm taking the link down for now. Sorry. You can see smaller versions of a couple of pictures here and here.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Taking the link down didn't make an immediate difference, but it seems to be working now, so I'll put the link to the gallery back up. Cross your fingers!

Later: Everything's working fine.

MORE: Boy, you never know who's reading InstaPundit, as reader Joe Jones emails:

Thanks for posting the picts of Morgan County. I grew up in Sunbright (in fact, you drove between my parents' house and my Grandmothers' when you went through on US27) and I don't get back up there often enough - so the pictures are a real treat.

The man in the photos in R.M. Brooks Store in Rugby is my uncle, Bill Jones. His In-Laws used to own the place and Verda (Brooks) ran it until she passed away several years ago. Bill and Linda also own a bed and breakfast (Grey Gables) not very far from the store. If nothing else, I highly recommend going there for a meal. While I admit that I haven't been there in a while, the meals have always been wonderful. Honest truth here...I'm not above disparaging a family member's cooking. Seriously, they have always been excellent cooks --family dinners were always good...

You should try to get back up that way during the Fall when the leaves are changing. The first time I went to the Smokies I wondered what all the fuss was about. Morgan, Scott, and Fentress counties were much more colorful.

I'll do that.


Frequent sexual activity may reduce a man's risk of prostate cancer, according to a study in the April 7 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Don't take any chances, men. (More here.)

UPDATE: Doesn't this call Ashcroft's anti-porn crusade into question? He's putting America's health at risk!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader "Mathgirl" emails:

In considering your post regarding sex and health, I have been wondering why politicians don't pick the low-hanging fruit in their campaigns. If I were John Kerry, I would cite this new study and say, "When I am President, I will not only end John Ashcroft's wasteful anti-porn crusade, I will use the freed-up funds to include Viagra in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit."

Since the senior citizen's lobby is the largest on Capitol Hill, this should be a surefire way to increase Kerry's poll numbers, no?

I'm sure that Shrum is on top of this.

OVER AT TECHCENTRALSTATION, Jay Currie and Ilya Shapiro have thoughts on what's happening in Iraq. You can follow the news at The Command Post, where it's being reported that Syrian fighters have been captured among the "rebels," and a top aide to Sadr has been killed.

UPDATE: Austin Bay has a column on this, too:

It's no Mogadishu, it's no Tet -- in fact, the ugly, baiting murders in Fallujah and Muqtada al-Sadr's made-for-Tv rebellion may be an extraordinary opportunity for the United States and Iraqi democrats, if the military operations and politics are handled with finesse. . . .

The Fallujah massacre and al-Sadr's riots are calculated, violent acts orchestrated by desperate thugs confronting imminent loss of power. An Iraqi democracy threatens the sorry lot of them, so they're taken their best shot at halting the process. . . .

It's now up to U.S. forces in Iraq, and available Iraqi security units, to provide a new televised precedent, an icy "city and neighborhood squeeze" documented on camera. In military terms, the U.S. and Iraqi forces will be conducting large-scale cordon and search operations (in Fallujah and in Sadr's alleys), supported by raids and limited attacks on diehard strong-points. Politically, the operation becomes a peculiar "show of force": Post 9-11, the challenge of thugs angling for "body bag" media victories will be met and trumped.

The Marines' Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah appears to have this strategic goal in mind.

Read the whole thing.

AIR AMERICA is being blasted for lack of diversity in The Final Call, the Nation of Islam's house organ. I believe, though, that the piece originally appeared in The Amsterdam News.

UPDATE: Here's another piece sounding the same theme, from Alton Maddox, in The Amsterdam News:

Air America Radio’s takeover of WLIB-AM is the final nail in the coffin of the right of Blacks to access the airwaves. . . .

This is worse than a badge of slavery. It is cultural genocide. This want of outrage to cultural genocide on the part of Blacks is rooted in a lack of knowledge of our culture and our history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson described this malady in “The Miseducation of the Negro.”

The whole piece is rather, um, overheated. But it suggests that Air America is doing some damage with a key constituency.

AS PAUL BOUTIN NOTES by email, someone had to say it: "I really think that if Jesus were around today, he would have a blog."

A PROGRESSIVE DISORDER: Military blogger Jason Van Steenwyk, just back from a stint in Iraq, is deeply unimpressed by Barbara Ehrenreich's latest article on soldiers. He points out numerous errors, noting at one point:

Had the Progressive happened to have a veteran somewhere in their office--from any service-- he would have known Ehrenreich's figures were wrong.

Read the whole thing.


April 06, 2004

MISPLACED PRIORITIES: With a war on terror underway, the Justice Department is planning a war on porn.

I blame John Ashcroft. No, really, this time I mean it. And if the Administration thinks that this is a good use of their "computer forensics" experts, then they must have decided that terrorists aren't a threat any more.

This is so ham-handed and sure to blow up in the Administration's face, making them look like stooges for the religious right while accomplishing nothing, that one almost suspects a Democratic mole in their ranks.

UPDATE: More on this lousy idea here and here. Lots of background and links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

I voted for Bush and donated to his campaign and have been looking for reasons to support his reelection. But when I saw your post, I snapped. I just made a small donation to the Kerry campaign...and, living in Massachusetts, I have no reason to be thrilled about Kerry.

Somebody commented somewhere on the Web that never had he seen a President so contemptuous of his supporters as GWB.

While Bush is my first choice to prosecute the war (on terror, not on pornography), McCain's comments reassure me that Kerry would do an adequate job.

As I said, this is a big mistake. Though I wish I could be as confident about Kerry regarding the war on terror, notwithstanding my praise of him today.

UPDATE: Reader Jorge Del Rio thinks the emailer above is bogus:

Do I think its stupid what the justice department is doing? Probably. What's even more scary are the other stupid things the government does that we don't know about. However, I'm writing about the email comments you posted on the issue about the former Bush supporter who's mad at this and will now support Kerry, thanks in part to McCain. Now, this guy may be legitimate. However, I'd be care about some emailers using the Moby trick. It just sounded to perfect. A guy who knows Kerry and voted for Bush but was swayed by the media darling McCain. Again, you may know him and he may be legit, but it seemed a little too perfect.

But the original reader emails back: "I saw your cautionary comment about Kerry and the war. Point taken. This is an important election and a symbolic donation to Kerry doesn't determine what I'll do in the future."

Take it from me: This is a dumb move by the Administration.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Harvard Republican blog observes:

The Baltimore Sun article quotes Attorney General John Ashcroft saying that porn "invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet." No, Mr. Ashcroft, that's incorrect; Americans persistently invite porn into our homes through the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet. According to Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness, Americans spend between $8 and $10 billion per year on adult entertainment, about as much as on first-run (non-porn) movies. Show me a videocassette that forces itself into an American's home at gunpoint, ties him to the couch, and plays itself, and I will concede that your claim makes sense; otherwise, you're wrong.

Indeed. Justin Katz, on the other hand, thinks I'm wrong to be concerned.

Jeff Jarvis has a roundup of blog reactions, all negative.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Clark Taylor emails:

Wow, if you don't delete this e-mail right away, I'll be impressed. I have to agree with you that if the FBI is spending serious resources going after regular porn, it is probably pretty stupid. However, my guess is they are going after things that are truly illegal, such as child porn. Chances are, from my take on things, this is a non-story, i.e. what the Justice Department has been doing for a while anyways, but the reporter really needed a story.

The story says they're making a big across-the-board anti-porn push, even going after soft-porn in hotels and on cable TV. I suppose it could be wrong, but it's pretty straightforward. And I seldom delete email, though given the firehose quantities I receive it often goes unreplied-to, or even unread, depending on how much time I have.

CHRIS DODD'S REMARKS ABOUT ROBERT BYRD, which many in the blogosphere have been comparing to Trent Lott's remarks about Strom Thurmond, are starting to get some Big Media attention.

Background here, here, and here. And here's the Kennedy School study of the Trent Lott affair, for those who would like to make a detailed comparison.

ED MORRISSEY has posted a summary and commentary on the Clinton 2000 National Security report and how it relates to current discussions.

UPDATE: Read this post, too.

USEFUL FOOLS says that Ted Kennedy is trying for a Tet rerun, with help from the media and Iraqi extremists. Or maybe it's the other way around.

UPDATE: Dave Johnson says the terrorists have launched a "Ted" offensive.

ANOTHER UPDATE: "Colin Powell Rebukes Kennedy in Rare Political Foray."

Kennedy's remark is certainly getting a lot of play around the world, and it can only embolden our enemies and imperil our friends. And as an old Washington hand, Kennedy must have known that it would get that kind of attention, and have that kind of an effect. No wonder Powell is upset.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: More in this editorial from the New York Post:

Kennedy & Co. - abetted by many in the national media - are working overtime to transform Operation Iraqi Freedom into what the senator terms, again, "George Bush's Vietnam." . . .

But while this tack is not likely to work in November, it stands to sow confusion:

* Among America's enemies, who will be unduly encouraged by it, and

* Among America's friends, who have historic cause to wonder about this nation's willingness to honor commitments.

Really, haven't Kennedy & Co. done enough damage?

Indeed. The best scenario I can come up with -- assuming that this isn't as cynically manipulative as it appears to be -- is that the Democrats shouldn't let Kennedy out in public anymore, because he's lost it. But he ought to know better, and I suspect that he does.

MORE: Gary Farber emails that I'm misinterpreting Kennedy's speech, and that if you read the whole thing in context, Kennedy doesn't look as bad.

I read the speech, and I disagree. When Ted Kennedy puts the words "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam" on the first page of a speech delivered with lots of press around, he knows -- or should know -- that the story coming out of that speech will be, well, just what it was (follow this Google News link to see that it's playing exactly that way). Which is why Colin Powell is criticizing him.

Kennedy's been around Washington too long not to know that no matter what else you say, if you put the words "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam" in a speech that'll be the take-away point for the press, and, in reading the speech, I don't think that the reporting is unfair. You can read it yourself and see what you think -- but if Kennedy didn't mean for his words to have these consequences, then, well, he's lost it. I also note that if Kennedy thinks that his remarks have been misunderstood by, well, pretty much everyone who reported on them, there's been plenty of time for him to point that out. I can't find any sign of that, and there's nothing on his website, either.

Compare Kennedy's remarks to those of John McCain.

STILL MORE: I see that Eugene Volokh is responding to a similar defense of Kennedy by Mark Kleiman. Volokh observes:

I can't read Kennedy's mind. Nor would I say that he wants to see the U.S. defeated, though it doesn't seem implausible that he wants to see the U.S. withdraw as soon as possible, and hopes that the perceived problems in Iraq will help build pressure for such a withdrawal.

But when one uses a metaphor that's so closely tied in people's minds not just to deceit but to defeat, and when one is an experienced politician who knows how much of the surrounding context is likely to be vastly compressed by the media, one ought to expect the metaphor to indeed be seen as a prediction of defeat. And that suggests that this was indeed likely (though of course not certain) that Kennedy intended the metaphor to be understood precisely that way, as predicting defeat as well as condemning what he sees as the Administration's deception.

(Emphasis in original). I agree.

SINCE WHEN DID SUICIDEGIRLS start running essays on Arab culture?

LT SMASH REPORTS that the weekend A.N.S.W.E.R. counterprotest has borne fruit.

ROGER SIMON is admiring Orianna Fallaci.

VIRGINIA POSTREL is tomato blogging.


I don't want to hear anyone complaining about the deficit unless they immediately begin to list ways of taking things away from old people and making them work harder and longer. Otherwise you aren't really bothered by the deficit at all.

(Via Tyler Cowen).

RALPH PETERS: "Our notion that patience and persuasion are more effective than displays of power has made the country deadlier for our soldiers, more dangerous for Iraqis and far less likely to achieve internal peace. "

UPDATE: This article is worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this, too.

AMIR TAHERI WRITES on the Iraq riots: "But take a deep breath: This is not the start of the much-predicted Iraqi civil war. "

Read the whole piece. Among other things, it suggests that U.S. authorities should have moved against Sadr much sooner. This fits in with other accounts that the State Department's insistence on evenhandedness among Iraqi factions was empowering thugs and marginalizing democrats.

"AIR AMERICA" is being called a "joke" in the Alternative Press Review. The crushing-of-diversity point, already mentioned in the blogosphere, is also discussed.

UPDATE: Steve Verdon: "Maybe Franken will get better with practice."

CAPTAIN ED has been reviewing the 2000 Clinton national security report and observes that the Clinton Administration ranked missile defense as more important than terrorism. Funny -- I keep hearing that it was a Bush obsession that distracted us from the Clinton Administration's laser-like focus on Al Qaeda.

Though if that were true, you'd expect that the 2000 report would mention Al Qaeda somewhere, wouldn't you?

UPDATE: Reader James Somers writes:

Good that Captain Ed's all over the Clinton 2000 National Security Report. I saw something about this on Fox this morning too. But I see nothing about it yet in the NYT, WaPo, CNN or MSNBC. It's still early. But my sense is that this story doesn't fit The Story -and The Story this week is that Iraq's in Chaos and Rice is Finally Testifying about the Bush Administration's Failure to Stop 9/11.

Can't let any troubling facts get in the way of The Story, I suppose.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, including the observation that the Washington Times' James Lakely is really putting the boot into the Big Media:

The scarce references to bin Laden and his terror network undercut claims by former White House terrorism analyst Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered al Qaeda an "urgent" threat, while President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "ignored" it.

The Clinton document, titled "A National Security Strategy for a Global Age," is dated December 2000 and is the final official assessment of national security policy and strategy by the Clinton team. The document is publicly available, though no U.S. media outlets have examined it in the context of Mr. Clarke's testimony and new book.

(Emphasis added.) Laziness? Bias? Looks bad either way. And check out the Bush Administration comment at the end. Ouch!

MORE: Biggest concern for the Clinton Administration regarding Afghanistan? Not Osama or a war on terror, but the drug "War."

STILL MORE: Robert Tagorda has quite a few interesting insights. He also points to this observation from John Lewis Gaddis:

The differences are revealing. The Bush objectives speak of defending, preserving, and extending peace; the Clinton statement seems simply to assume peace. Bush calls for cooperation among great powers; Clinton never uses that term. Bush specifies the encouragement of free and open societies on every continent; Clinton contents himself with "promoting" democracy and human rights "abroad."

Read the whole thing. And please bear in mind that I'm not criticizing the Clinton Administration for this. Before 9/11 -- and what we learned afterward -- I agreed with the basic strategy of trying to contain Islamist terror until it collapsed under the weight of its own stupidity. That was before I realized how widespread it was, and how thoroughly intertwined with hostile states it was. I don't fault the Clinton people for not catching on before I did.

But I do fault the people who are peddling the absurd story that Clinton had this terror thing under control until Bush screwed it up. That's partisan twaddle, and a real disservice in time of war.

KOS MAY SNEER AT 'EM, but these guys seem to be earning their pay:

An attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia members on the U.S. government's headquarters in Najaf on Sunday was repulsed not by the U.S. military, but by eight commandos from a private security firm, according to sources familiar with the incident.

Good work. (Emphasis added.) Hey, back when I was consulting with Al Gore's "Reinventing Government" task force back in '93 it was all about introducing efficiencies by getting the private sector involved. Looks like it worked!

UPDATE: More here. And though I'm kind of tired of the whole Kos story, a reader points to what should surely be the very last word: "Kos's original offense, combined with his current stance? It's sort of like eating a baby and then apologizing for burping afterwards."

HOLLYWOOD'S FOREIGN POLICY: Chris Kanis notes what a difference a change in Administration makes.

ALPHECCA'S WEEKLY SURVEY OF MEDIA BIAS REGARDING GUNS is up, on a spiffy new MT-powered blog. Meanwhile, SayUncle has serious doubts about the Violence Policy Center's credibility.

NANOTECHNOLOGY'S PR PROBLEMS: My TechCentralStation column is up.

And there's more evidence of just how bad things have gotten here. It's mostly self-inflicted, too.


GOOD NEWS: Business confidence is at a twenty-year high:

Confidence among US business leaders is stronger than it has been for 20 years, according to a long-running measure of boardroom attitudes, as rising profits finally encourage companies to start hiring.

The quarterly survey by the Conference Board confirms last week's official employment data suggesting concerns about a jobless recovery may be waning.

In other news, the air is getting cleaner: "All pollution regulated by the Clean Air Act is declining, has been declining for years, and continues to decline."

UPDATE: Here's more (mostly) good economic news, from the Joint Economic Committee: "A Surge in Job Growth."


April 05, 2004

YES, IT LOOKS LIKE A QUAGMIRE to me, too. What will Ted Kennedy say about this?

LT SMASH has a report from the San Diego demonstration: "We spot a single man carrying the banner of 'Veterans for Peace.' Maybe he should change that plural to a singular?"


Today, evidence suggests U.N. officials abused the program, enriching themselves, Saddam and favored foreign companies. The Iraqi Governing Council has hired accountants and lawyers to investigate Iraqi documents it says provide proof of corruption and fraud in the oil-for-food program.

Iraq's media have cited at least 270 suspects, including French and Russian firms, a senior U.N. official and a company linked to the son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Last month, a U.S. congressional investigation estimated that Saddam siphoned $10 billion or more from the program in kickbacks and bribes.

Keep digging.


As a fighting force, Sadr's militia impressed neither U.S. commanders nor the Iraqi officers at one police station they occupied for three hours.

"Mahdi Army! They're not an army!" Officer Haider Raheem said of the unemployed young men who took over one station by brandishing grenades. "They're a bunch of looters." Before running off at the sound of approaching tanks, Raheem said, they scooped up everything from rifles to food for the prisoners. "Can you believe they even stole the water cup from the restroom?" he said.

Andrew Sullivan notes that Zeyad has updated his earlier post, and observes: "No, this is not a quagmire. It's the brightest opportunity for real change in the world since the end of the Cold War. We have to seize it."

UPDATE: It's still going on, though, as of Tuesday afternoon.

INTERESTING SECOND AMENDMENT OPINIONS from the Ninth Circuit. These are dissents, but the number -- and forcefulness -- of the judges involved is nonetheless news. You wouldn't have seen anything like this a few years ago. (Via Bashman and Volokh).

IT'S JOHN THUNE WEEK over at Hugh Hewitt's page. No doubt because of the Thune blogads here.

HOW TO APOLOGIZE: An illuminating example.


A coup d'etat is taking place in Iraq a the moment. Al-Shu'la, Al-Hurria, Thawra (Sadr city), and Kadhimiya (all Shi'ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad) have been declared liberated from occupation. Looting has already started at some places downtown, a friend of mine just returned from Sadun street and he says Al-Mahdi militiamen are breaking stores and clinics open and also at Tahrir square just across the river from the Green Zone. News from other cities in the south indicate that Sadr followers (tens of thousands of them) have taken over IP stations and governorate buildings in Kufa, Nassiriya, Ammara, Kut, and Basrah. Al-Jazeera says that policemen in these cities have sided with the Shia insurgents, which doesn't come as a surprise to me since a large portion of the police forces in these areas were recruited from Shi'ite militias and we have talked about that ages ago. And it looks like this move has been planned a long time ago.

No one knows what is happening in the capital right now. Power has been cut off in my neighbourhood since the afternoon, and I can only hear helicopters, massive explosions, and continuous shooting nearby. The streets are empty, someone told us half an hour ago that Al-Mahdi are trying to take over our neighbourhood and are being met by resistance from Sunni hardliners. Doors are locked, and AK-47's are being loaded and put close by in case they are needed. The phone keeps ringing frantically. Baghdadis are horrified and everyone seems to have made up their mind to stay home tomorrow until the situation is clear.

I'm not seeing anything about this elsewhere yet. It's bad news if things are as bad as this sounds. This report from Dow Jones says that Bush is predicting more violence in Iraq.

UPDATE: D'oh. This seems to regard last night's events, not something new. I was thrown by the time difference, I guess. Still news, but not new news. On the other hand, it's still going on. And reader Robert Penfield is worried about people worrying:

Will this be W's Tet Offensive? In other words, a scary uprising that ends in total defeat for the US's enemies and drastically advances US interests at minimal cost to us and great cost to our enemies, but which is spun so negatively by the domestic press that American voters perceive it as a crushing defeat . . .

The combination of us "reducing" Fallujah and having the opportunity to crush the Shiite militia menace while we have our best troops positioned to do so is a good one for the US and Coalition, but I fear no matter how it turns out, it will be perceived as a defeat.

Reader Eric Hall agrees, and sees this as an opportunity:

Look, this latest series of events in Iraq are a good thing. If that statement surprises you (which I suspect it does), then you really need to get in front of this subject.

Let me back into this for you: We invaded and occupied Iraq with a loss of American life roughly equivalent to the city of Chicago's annual murder count. That is far too low considering the accomplishment. It has been so low precisely because we deferred some of the major combat. We are now having to engage in that combat, and that is unfortunate, but it is far better that we do so now than allow it to happen later.

The sunni baathists are a special-interest minority group with a history of political terrorism -- these are the same knobs that were feeding their brothers into the industrial plastic shredders. Instead of killing them as we were expecting (and as we probably should have), we allowed them to go home to see if they would adapt to the new reality. They have since expressed that they have chosen not to adapt, so now they will be made to adapt, and it is far better that we do so while we have well-armed and well-armored marines on the ground.

Meanwhile, Sadr is equally intent on denying elections, since it has become apparent that he will lose. His only chance at establishing his theocratic powerbase is to drive the wedge, and to do so before the handover. We knew that there would be islamicist tyrants and that we'd have to fight them, and so now we are where we expected to be, just late.

Sadr has volunteered his militia to Hezbollah and Hamas, has praised the 9/11 attacks as a "gift from God", and is defying the moderate clerics. He's the freaking posterboy for the conflict we expected. Again, much better to fight him now than later.

The upsurge in conflict is only "bad" in comparison to the relative ease and simplicity of the military operation, but it is not bad in comparison to the war effort we had expected, and indeed, being able to thin the Iraqi gene pool of these knobs before the handover is a good thing.

Nobody wants to come back later and "finish the job" yet again, right?

Well, they've certainly come out into the open. If I were them, I would have waited. Reader Jonathan Isernhagen has a similar take:

I'm not at all sure this is a bad thing. If we take if for granted that there's a heavily-militarized faction of Iraq that refuses to accept democracy, would we rather that they continue to attack us from shadows or face us down in the street? To the extent we can bring sufficient force to bear, this may be just the thing needed to cement the authority of the Council and the elected democracy that follows it.

If it happens, it will have been necessary.

Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg responds to the original post:

This makes for riveting reading and Glenn and Andrew are both right for posting it. But just to be clear this is not a coup d'etat and it is not, as Andrew suggests, a civil war. It is an attempt at a coup d'etat. A coup d'etat by definition is the successful sudden overthrow of a government. A civil war is something more than an uprising. It seems to me it is simply way too soon to say it's either. The government in Iraq is still the Coalitional Authority under Paul Bremer. I don't think anyone thinks he's been overthrown or is about to be. I don't know that much about all of this but I bet you I'm right when I say this is all a big deal, but not that big. And, it may prove to be good news or bad. If Sadr's forces are smashed and arrested, that could result in a worse climate or a better one. It's just too soon to tell.

And will be, for quite a while. But Sadr seems to have overplayed his hand and isolated himself:

An aide to Mohammad Bahr al-Uloum, a member of the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council, said Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, regarded as Iraq's most powerful cleric and a rival of Sadr's, supported the Iraqi seminary's appeal.

"The Hawza (seminary) is unanimous on this," the aide said.

"We asked Moqtada (al-Sadr) to stop resorting to violence, occupying public buildings and other actions that make him an outlaw. He insists on staying on the same course that could destroy the nation."

It's worth emphasizing that this is factional fighting, not popular uprising, and that Sadr is not particularly popular outside his own faction.

MORE: Michael Ubaldi emails:

I don't know if the Bush administration is as strategically inclined as Eric Hall suggests, but to have deliberately brought on last-ditch mayhem from extremists while full troop strength would be present - rather than a year from now - is a brilliantly calculated risk. Al-Sadr, particularly, was basically handed the brush to paint himself with crosshairs.

But I can see the elite headline: "BUSH MISLEADS SUNNI AND SHIITE EXTREMISTS."

"Bush lied -- terrorists died!" That works for me.

Meanwhile, here's more on how outside-the-mainstream Sadr is, from ABC News:

April 5— Shiite Arabs in Iraq express relatively little support for attacks against coalition forces such as those that occurred Sunday. And while most do express confidence in religious leaders and call for them to play a role in Iraq today, most do not seek a theocracy, and very few see Iran as a model for Iraq.

A nationwide poll of Iraqis conducted in February for ABCNEWS also found that very few Shiites express support for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia mounted the deadly attacks against the U.S.-led occupation. . . .

In terms of al-Sadr, a bare 1 percent of Iraqis name him as the national leader they trust most. On Iran, just 3 percent name it as a model for Iraq in the coming years, and just 4 percent say it should play a role in rebuilding Iraq.

This guy -- an unpopular tool of the Iranian mullarchy -- and some Saddam leftovers. As I said, not a popular uprising.

STILL MORE: The Belmont Club offers a lengthy military/political analysis. Excerpt:

I mentioned the Jihadi penchant for using counterseige tactics. Whenever they are surrounded or under attack, they go off and burn down some town or perpetrate some spectacular slaughter. And here they go again. Same old, same old. These are calculated for media effect.

Read the whole thing. He wonders how deeply Iran is willing to invest itself in Sadr. A deep investment would be dumb, but the mullahs often are.

MICHAEL CROWLEY WRITES IN SLATE that Max Cleland isn't what the Kerry Campaign needs:

Cleland's image as Bush's ultimate victim suits Kerry's campaign all too well. There are no bold new ideas in the Democratic Party today, no coherent policy themes. Even Kerry's supporters are hard-pressed to explain what he stands for. What does define and unify the party is a sense of victimhood—and a lust for revenge. Cleland is compelling not because of anything he's done—he was a mediocre senator and a clumsy candidate—but because of what was done to him. His consignment to a wheelchair only heightens this sentiment. The wheelchair itself is a metaphor for his political trauma. In this sense, Cleland is reminiscent of another fairly ordinary man: Abner Louima, who was brutalized by New York City cops in 1997 and became a symbolic hero to New York liberals convinced Rudy Giuliani's law-and-order regime had gone too far. But New York liberals were never able to get the upper hand on Giuliani. And if the symbolism of Max Cleland defines his campaign, John Kerry won't topple Bush, either.

It's actually worse. "What was done to him" by who, exactly?

I REALLY LIKE MY NIKON D70, and I wrote a short review on Gizmodo last week.

But now has a much longer review posted. Bottom line: they like it a lot.

THERE'S A VIRGINIA POSTREL POINT in this story, somewhere:

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Ingvar Kamprad, the Swede who founded furniture retail chain IKEA, has overtaken Microsoft's Bill Gates as the world's richest man, Swedish TV news reported on Sunday.

It's all the money he saved by leaving out one crucial fastener in each box. . . .

CHRIS DODD, ROBERT BYRD, AND TRENT LOTT: Henry Hanks is stirring up trouble.

ECONOBLOGGING: This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up. Meanwhile Steven Antler looks at the jobs-and-employment numbers and wonders what's going on.

IT'S A BLOG CATFIGHT: I'm staying out of this one. Brrr!

UPDATE: It's all explained by science!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's an exclusive photo!

From Michele's comments: "The Thrilla on Mozilla!"

BLACK HAWK DOWN AUTHOR MARK BOWDEN writes on how to respond to Fallujah:

It is a mistake to conclude that those committing such acts represent a majority of the community. Just the opposite is true. Lynching is most often an effort to frighten and sway a more sensible, decent mainstream. In Marion it was the Ku Klux Klan, in Mogadishu it was Aidid loyalists, in Fallujah it is either diehard Saddamites or Islamo-fascists.

The worst answer the U.S. can make to such a message--which is precisely what we did in Mogadishu--is back down. By most indications, Aidid's supporters were decimated and demoralized the day after the Battle of Mogadishu. Some, appalled by the indecency of their countrymen, were certain the U.S. would violently respond to such an insult and challenge. They contacted U.N. authorities offering to negotiate, or simply packed their things and fled. These are the ones who miscalculated. Instead the U.S. did nothing, effectively abandoning the field to Aidid and his henchmen. Somalia today remains a nation struggling in anarchy, and the America-haters around the world learned what they thought was a essential truth about the United States: Kill a few Americans and the most powerful nation on Earth will run away. This, in a nutshell, is the strategy of Osama bin Laden.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Hmm. And things seem to be moving in Fallujah. You can follow the news at -- where else? -- The Command Post.

SOME INTERESTING THOUGHTS on liberalism and immigration, here, and here.

VOLTAGE RUSTLING? Glad that my laptop has a long-life battery, or I could be in big trouble.

And, to the pedants out there, yes, I know it should probably be "amperage rustling."

UPDATE: A reader suggests "joule thief."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Doug Sundseth emails: "'Joule thief' is fine for fast-charge devices, but could I suggest 'trickle-down erg-onomics' for slow-charge devices?"


A WHILE BACK, I linked to an account by Iraqi blogger Zeyad of serious misconduct by U.S. forces in Iraq. (Original post here, later roundup here). Now there's a report in the Washington Post that the battalion commander has been punished for impeding the investigation. It's still unclear what really happened, and why, though.

More from The Mudville Gazette and from Andrew Olmsted, who has some pithy comments on how to run an occupation:

As we all should know well by now, one of the keys to our success in Iraq will be whether or not we can get the Iraqis on our side of the fight. There are many ways to do this, but forcing Iraqis to jump into the Tigris River, possibly drowning one of them, isn't one of them.

I'll note that I got some criticism for publicizing Zeyad's account, and for saying that I trusted him, from people who thought I was being duped. And, of course, I could have been wrong. But although the facts aren't clearly established yet, it seems clear that Zeyad's report was largely correct.

This leads to a bigger point on the Iraq reporting. Neither I, nor, I think, anyone who wants the Iraq effort to succeed, wants the press only to report good news. This is bad news, and it deserves to be reported. In fact, it needs to be reported, because it's only by finding out what's wrong that we have a chance to fix it. It's the cheap-shot faux-bad news, the lazy hotel-bar reporting, etc., that I object to. If a Western journalist had dug out this story, it would have been good journalism.

Instead, of course, they were scooped yet again by an Iraqi dental student. To some degree this is a tribute to Zeyad's native talent at journalism, but it's also something of a rebuke to the foreign press corps in Iraq.

A LOT OF PRETTY COOL digital nature photography here. And check out some very cool pictures at SmokyBlog, from what we call "Dogwood Winter" around here. Eighty degrees in the mountains when I was taking pictures last weekend. Snow this weekend. I know which I prefer. . .

KEITH BERRY IS OFFICIALLY EMBARRASSED by the Kos flap. David Adesnik is officially bored.

UPDATE: Bill Kelly says this has distracted people from Kerry's best soundbite.

DOC SEARLS ROUNDS UP IRAQI BLOG POSTS and observes: "I don't know what to think. I only know what to read. And I'm glad these people are giving the world reports and perspectives you won't find in any of The Media." Amen. As I've said before, there's no coherent single narrative on Iraq. There are a lot of different viewpoints on what's going on, and it seems to me that outside of the Sunni Triangle things are continuing to improve overall, but it's impossible to say that there's one correct "story" on Iraq.

As I've mentioned before, I would like to see better reporting by the professional media, though. Not that there's a single narrative there, either.

April 04, 2004

"WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU CROSS JIM BUNNING AND A GIANT SQUID?" Another reason to be glad that Jeff Goldstein is blogging again!

THE DASCHLE V. THUNE BLOG is doing firsthand reporting, with photos, from Daschle's latest campaign swing. I'm not sure Daschle's campaign is in as bad a shape as they suggest and as some others have maintained (see this Volokh poll-debunking), but then I'm not there, and they are.

I SUPPOSE IT COULDN'T HAPPEN IN AN ELECTION YEAR, but a reader suggests Bill Clinton as a roving anti-terror ambassador to Europe, etc.

This idea actually isn't so dumb. As I noted a while back, Clinton was very good at Davos on this stuff, and he's been good on the WMD issue, too.

I'M SETTING UP A PHOTOBLOG over at the Exposure Manager site -- it's here. They're still in beta but it looks pretty good. For blogosphere insiders, it's an IverDean operation, meaning that Armed Liberal is somehow involved.

I'LL BE ON THE CBC'S Cross-Country Checkup in a few minutes, talking about the Canadian file-sharing decision. Click on "listen live" to, er, listen live.

UPDATE: Canadian blogger Kate McMillan listened and noticed something interesting.


The law requires everyone to follow the speed limit and other traffic regulations, but in Suffolk County, exceptions should be made for cops and their families, police union officials say.

Police Benevolent Association president Jeff Frayler said Thursday it has been union policy to discourage Suffolk police officers from issuing tickets to fellow officers, regardless of where they work.

"Police officers have discretion whenever they stop anyone, but they should particularly extend that courtesy in the case of other police officers and their families," Frayler said in a brief telephone interview Thursday. "It is a professional courtesy."

Frayler's comments echo views expressed in the spring union newsletter, in which treasurer Bill Mauck exhorts "you don't summons another cop" and says that when officers decline to cite each other, "the emotion you feel should be that of joy."

Maurice Mitchell, a project coordinator with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the PBA's position undermines taxpayer confidence in law enforcement.

It's bad enough that they do this, but it's even worse that they brag about it. But wait, it gets worse:

Angie Carpenter, a Republican lawmaker from West Islip and chairwoman of the legislature's public safety committee, said she didn't have a problem with the PBA's policy because she believes it will be applied judiciously.

"It's the same way they would offer a professional courtesy to a doctor pulled over on the way to the hospital to deliver a baby," she said. "Besides, I can't imagine that if some police officer was to commit an egregious offense that they wouldn't be cited, regardless of who they are."

So much for political oversight. So a doctor en route to an emergency is the same as a cop who's just driving too fast? Sheesh. Are these people for real?

UPDATE: Rand Simberg observes:

While this is outrageous in itself, it would seemingly put the lie to the notion that the purpose of such laws in for public safety, since it's no "safer" for a police officer's wife to speed than it is for anyone else. It's a tacit admission that it's all about revenue generation. . . . Remember this the next time you hear a lecture from a cop about how dangerous it is to exceed the speed limit.


ANOTHER UPDATE: More here, including this bit:

Police departments often commend officers who have a knack for seizing drugs and arresting drunken drivers.

But in Bel-Ridge, such officers risk a stern warning.

Supervisors have warned some of them that busting bad guys or making time-consuming arrests distracts them from their true mission - generating money for the village.


WELL, THIS LOOKS TO BE A SUCCESS for diplomacy in the Middle East:

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said Wednesday Arab countries should support President Bush's campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East.

Numerous Arab governments have rejected Bush's democracy initiative, notably Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's, as an imposition unsuited to Arab culture and traditions.

``Instead of shouting and criticizing the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people,'' said Seif al-Islam Gadhafi. ``The Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside.''

Is he sincere? Who knows? But as Eugene Volokh notes, the really interesting thing is that he's saying this, whether he means it or not.

TOUGH TIMES FOR THE ANTI-GLOBALIZATION CROWD, according to this piece from The Economist. Excerpt:

Iraq means there are bigger issues on people's minds than the evils of Starbucks. In which case, why not meld anti-capitalist with anti-war protests, as happened last year? Because, fourth, apathy has spread among the ranks. Discussion papers include sad references to “disappointing and poorly-attended meetings” and “sheer lack of turnout”.

Then there are those damn bloggers.

ED CONE has some advice for John Kerry:

John Kerry needs to lay out a serious plan for exiting Iraq and fighting terror before he gets much further into campaigning for president. If he doesn’t get it right, he doesn’t deserve the job. . . .

A simply-stated, direct, and credible policy on Iraq and the war on terror would establish Kerry as a viable alternative to Bush. Without one, the race might as well be over already.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman has a Kerry speech he'd like to see. I'd like to see it, too.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT Bernard Goldberg was right, in the form of an article from the Associated Press with the scary headline "Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office."

Er, except that "pack" turns out to mean that 33% of those there have some sort of (undefined) GOP tie. But as reader Patrick Sennett notes, to a press used to newsrooms that are upwards of 95% Democratic, I suppose an operation that's one-third Republican must seem inconceivably rightward-tilting!

UPDATE: On the other hand, a reader who for obvious reasons would rather remain nameless, has this rather negative report. He's a guy I've corresponded with more than once, and he looked into taking a job with the CPA. This is what he heard from people he considers knowledgeable, who are not journalists:

They all came back to me with the same story. Go if you want, but know what you are getting into. And what you are getting into is a completely incompetent organization. They had a high opinion of Bremer, but other than that, nothing. In particular they highlighted the presence of political appointees - sons of prominent Bush contributors, quite often - who had absolutely no qualifications whatsoever for their jobs and were doing disastrously poor work there.

They also commented on a really pathological culture where anyone, anyone at all, who in any way dissented from the party line on any issue was harshly suppressed, with their careers ended on more than one occasion. So if a third of the people in the press office are connected to the Administration, then the AP has (in my opinion) started to nose around the edges of a real story.

If that's the real story, then that's what we should be hearing about -- though you'd have to go beyond the press room, I suppose, to get the story. Unfortunately, the "bunker mentality" often emerges in response to slanted reporting, which is one of the reasons that slanted reporting on topics of such importance is a bad thing. I'd like to see some trustworthy journalists reporting on this subject. It's too important to get wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, reader Mark Patton weighs in with this observation:

Your correspondent may be right that there could be the beginnings of a real story in excessive Administration loyalty being pushed by Bush loyalists, but two quick thoughts come to mind:

1. The AP story doesn't assert that any stories being "pushed" are false. If they're merely counterbalancing CNN, Reuters, and the AP that's probably only fair. There's surely a difference between bucking the dominant press culture and living in panglossian la-la-land, and there's nothing in the AP story to indicate these guys have crossed the line.

2. The AP writer's commentary source is some guy at the Center for American Progress, which he credulously (or mendaciously) describes as "non-partisan." Oooh-kaaay. By that standard, the Heritage Foundation is non-partisan, too.

Another reader suggests that this is a pre-emptive strike by Democrats to try to undercut the impact of good news from Iraq between now and the election. (Or maybe a preemptive strike by journalists who've missed the story and are looking for excuses?) Maybe so. At any rate, I tend to trust my correspondent's email more than the AP account. And it's on a more important topic than who the PR flacks are. But I'd really like to see a story by somebody credible -- maybe John F. Burns? -- on the general remarks about the CPA. In the meantime, here's a fairly critical take on the CPA, from Michael Rubin of AEI.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rich Galen emails the following:

All which follows is on the record:

AP reporter Jim Krane is doing a similar piece - largely aimed, I suspect, at me. There are a couple of points:

1. Political loyalties are, to me, like sexual preference, is none of my business. Don't ask, don't tell. I only know when someone is a Republican when they say they know my son who is the REAL political animal in the family.

2. As I said to Krane: If I wanted to work for the Bush campaign, my ass would be parked in an office on Wilson Blvd in Arlington; not dodging mortars, rpg's, rockets, and AK-47 fire in Iraq.

3. It is only the most cynical view of the world - as opposed to a skeptical view - which would lead you to believe that volunteering to work in a war zone is somehow a cheap and dirty undertaking.

4. I challenge you to find a State Department career person who is a Bush Republican.

I'm in Amman, as I type this. Enroute to Riyadh. I'm looking for talent
for a "Riyadh - Girls Gone Wild" video.

When that comes out, we'll know the war is over. I'd still like to see more stories on this stuff, though.

VOTING OUT AZNAR'S PARTY has not solved Spain's problems with terrorism. (Had it as just "Aznar" before -- my mistake.)

MICKEY KAUS: "Internet Explorer, as James Baker might say, is neither Democratic nor Republican."

QUESTION TIME: The Belgravia Dispatch has Twenty Questions for Richard Clarke.

Tim Blair, meanwhile, notes Seven Questions for War Opponents.

UPDATE: Now it's Rand Simberg, with questions for George Soros:

How many children were dying from starvation and disease in Iraq under a corrupt UN sanctions regime which padded the bank accounts of bureaucrats so that Saddam could build palaces? How many were being starved and tortured under the tyranny of the Taliban?

How many new mass graves do you expect to appear in an Iraq under US occupation?

Read the whole thing.


The "toxic buckyball" fish story has enraged the science, business and political nanotech community, since it creates further misconceptions about the nature of scientific inquiry in general and nanotech in particular.

Physicists and computer engineers feel like the neglected stepchild of the material scientists and chemists who control the purse strings at the NNI. This is a generalization that doesn't necessarily stand up to scrutiny, but it is nevertheless the perception that many physicists have regarding the priorities of the NNI. To me, it goes the the roots of the Drexler/Smalley disagreements. Chemists and physicists do not always speak the same language.


THIS STORY won't surprise many people in the blogosphere:

A federal investigation into the bank accounts of the Saudi Embassy in Washington has identified more than $27 million in "suspicious" transactions—including hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Muslim charities, and to clerics and Saudi students who are being scrutinized for possible links to terrorist activity, according to government documents obtained by NEWSWEEK. The probe also has uncovered large wire transfers overseas by the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The transactions recently prompted the Saudi Embassy's longtime bank, the Riggs Bank of Washington, D.C., to drop the Saudis as a client after embassy officials were "unable to provide an explanation that was satisfying," says a source familiar with the discussions.

Keep tightening the screws.

UPDATE: Reader John Kelly emails: "The timing of the Saudi's OPEC initiative to raise oil prices now looks suspiciously like payback for the investigation, no?"

I think they're worried about a lot more than just that.