September 25, 2004

CINEMOCRACY writes that I'm not paying enough attention to aesthetics:

Reynolds is missing an essential part of the debate - he doesn’t appear to embrace the realities of the political image, unless he’s exposing media bias or scorning Hollywood. We find this is odd, because Reynolds is a photographer by hobby, and there is no other art form that is more tuned towards selecting something from the real world and manipulating its qualities (framing, contrast, pose, etc.) in an image designed by the artist to inspire in a desired effect.

That's probably true. So let me look at one aesthetic aspect of this campaign -- the bumper stickers. I think it's important, and so does John Kerry!

[H]e spent four weeks mulling the design of his campaign logo, consulting associates about what font it should use and whether it should include an American flag. (It does.)

So what hath Kerry wrought? I think it's a winner:

It's got a very nice retro-look, somehow reminiscent of the New Frontiers era. Smart move, since that's the last time a Democrat ran convincingly as strong on national defense, and there's that whole JFK-parallel thing going, too. The flag was a nice addition, and certainly strengthens that effect.

It's especially notable by comparison to this earlier Kerry logo, which by contrast reeks of the 1970s, a far less fortunate association:

The Bush/Cheney material is more middle of the road. Their main bumpersticker seems to me to invoke a 1980s feel -- a sly Reagan allusion, perhaps?

Not stunning, but serviceable.

This one is more elegant:

Understated, and suitable for people who fear vandalism, which is apparently a problem.

Kerry's firsthand attention to political semiotics is impressive, and unusual in a leader. What this bodes for the campaign, or reveals about the candidates, is less clear, though one suspects that President Bush has taken a more, er, delegative approach to questions of design

IT'S NOT A HURRICANE -- it's an opportunity to market your blog!

MICKEY KAUS passed through town, headed toward L.A. in the sleek Kausmobile. We had sushi and talked about blogs; the Insta-Daughter enlightened him on The Sims.

I haven't done a cross-country drive in a while, and I envy him. More journalists should emulate Kaus and do these drives. Or maybe Kaus is emulating Daniel Waterhouse, from The System of the World:

'Twere pointless, as well as self-important, to rush to London, so long as he was on the island, and able to reach the city on short notice. Better to take his time and to see that island, so that he would better understand how things were . . . Through the windows of Mr. Threader's carriage he was viewing a country almost as strange to him as Japan. It was not only England's unwonted peace and prosperity that made it strange to him. Too, it was that he was viewing places that Puritans and Professors did not get invited to. Since Daniel had never seen those places, he tended to forget they existed, and so discount the importance of the people who lived in them."

Even in the 18th Century they had the equivalent of Flyover Country -- and the people who were smart enough not to skip it.


They're six feet from Iraq's head of government and they've got not a question for him. They've got no interest in Iraq except insofar as they can use the issue to depress sufficient numbers of swing voters in Florida and Ohio.

Who's living in the fantasyland here? Huge forces are at play in a world of rapid change. As the prime minister said, ''We Iraqis will stand by you, America, in a war larger than either of our nations.'' But the gentlemen of the press can barely stifle their ennui. Say what you like about the old left, but at least they were outward-looking and internationalist. This new crowd -- Democrats and media alike -- are stunted and parochial, their horizons shriveling more every day.


THE INSTA-DAUGHTER bought The Sims 2 today, and so far gives it a mixed review. She's not crazy about the 3D aspect, and she seems to find the user interface harder to navigate than the old Sims. That may change with time, though. It looks pretty cool to me, but I haven't actually played it, just looked over her shoulder.

I'VE SAID BEFORE that I think it was a mistake for Kerry to brand himself as "The Vietnam Candidate." But this column by Colbert King explains why it's playing so badly:

Those who dismiss critics of John Kerry's Vietnam service as just a bunch of right-wing Republicans out to advance George W. Bush's cause don't know what they are talking about -- or they are engaged in wishful thinking. . . . The column also criticized "Unfit for Command" for smearing Kerry, a decorated former naval officer, as disloyal because of his antiwar activities. Writing as a former Army officer, I concluded: "Speaking for myself, it is enough that he served."

A number of readers agreed with that conclusion. Many more, however, most of them angry veterans, did not. Most striking was the fact that those who identified themselves seemed to span the political spectrum, with one even describing himself as a Howard Dean Democrat.

Two weeks later, another e-mail arrived on the same topic. It was from a Howard University classmate, a friend of 47 years, former assistant secretary of the Air Force Rodney Coleman. A Democrat. . . .

"When Kerry made those critical statements of the war," Coleman wrote, "my parents, God bless them, went ballistic about their son going in harm's way. My military colleagues in the fellows program who had been there and were shot up were incensed that a so-called military man would engage in such insubordinate actions. At the time Kerry made those unfortunate remarks, America had POWs and MIAs, among them my friend, Colonel Fred Cherry, the longest-held black POW of the Vietnam War. How could a true American fighting man throw away his medals, while thousands he fought alongside of were in the midst of another example of man's inhumanity to man?"

Read the whole thing.

DARFUR UPDATE: David Brooks observes:

Confronted with the murder of 50,000 in Sudan, we eschewed all that nasty old unilateralism, all that hegemonic, imperialist, go-it-alone, neocon, empire, coalition-of-the-coerced stuff. Our response to this crisis would be so exquisitely multilateral, meticulously consultative, collegially cooperative and ally-friendly that it would make John Kerry swoon and a million editorialists nod in sage approval.

And so we Americans mustered our outrage at the massacres in Darfur and went to the United Nations. And calls were issued and exhortations were made and platitudes spread like bйarnaise. The great hum of diplomacy signaled that the global community was whirring into action.

Meanwhile helicopter gunships were strafing children in Darfur.

Read the whole thing, which is just damning.

KERRY'S FINAL, FATAL MISTAKE? "Kerry will never dig himself out of this one, I think. And any time he makes his old favorite argument that he is much better suited for interaction with our allies, his Allawi blunder will be thrown in his face."

POWER LINE notes that the AP is at it again.

UPDATE: That was quick. AP has changed the headline and the story. It's nice that they fix these things when people point them out, but it's telling that the first iteration seems to involve such a partisan anti-Bush spin.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

Doesn't this remind you of the sneaky TV lawyers who ask a loaded question which they KNOW will thrown out upon objection?

Then, the judge intones, " The jury will disregard..." but the damage is done. And wasn't that the whole point of the question? CAN the jury simple forget they ever heard?

The blogosphere now sits in the judge's role, yet, the damage is done. Thousands of news sites received the damaging title and used it. Bah!

But the witness's credibility is damaged. Especially if you read what Power Line has discovered about the reporter in question.

MORE: A reader notes that the reporter didn't write the headline (they never do), which is true enough, and worth stressing. But she did write the story.

JAY ROSEN HAS THOUGHTS on whether CBS News has a political future.

PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW how I'm liking the new Neal Stephenson book, The System of the World. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it now, and enjoying it very much. The opening is a bit windy, but the action is now well underway, featuring such delights as Isaac Newton and Daniel Waterhouse trying to defuse a ticking bomb only to . . . well, that would be telling.

OXBLOG'S AFGHANISTAN CORRESPONDENT files a surprisingly positive report on the run-up to the elections next month. Excerpt:

But the political skill demonstrated by Karzai since July, and the popularity he clearly possesses, are reason for optimism. Afghans themselves are optimistic. The country has passed its major political challenges reasonably well since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 – forming a transitional cabinet, drafting and approving a constitution, maintaining a steady civilian government in Kabul. The next milestone, Afghanistan’s first free presidential election in over a decade, also looks to be a qualified success. For now, that’s quite an achievement.

Read the whole thing, which is detailed and quite interesting.

DARFUR UPDATE: I'm not sure what to make of this:

ABECHE, Chad -- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees proposed autonomy for the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, a solution the government has resisted but said yesterday it would be willing to discuss anew in an effort to end the violence that has killed 50,000 people. . . .

Nothing less than radical change would stop the violence, the refugee chief said. "We have an enormous responsibility now, not to accept that this can go on and on," Lubbers said at a border town serving as the UN base for camps holding most of the 200,000 Darfur refugees in Chad.

The Arab-dominated government in Khartoum has denied widespread allegations that its troops and allied Arab militia, called the Janjaweed, have conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur's African population in retaliation for the uprising launched last year by the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equity rebel movements.

Stay tuned.

STRATEGYPAGE on satellite vulnerability:

September 25, 2004: Does the U.S. Air Force have adequate defenses for American space satellites? So far they do, but there’s some doubt that this will be the case in the future. The United States armed forces are more dependant on space based systems (for communication, navigation and reconnaissance) than any other country. This, naturally, makes the several hundred military and commercial satellites, that provide these services, a target for anyone planning to take on American troops. So far, there has been only one attempt to attack these space based capabilities. This happened during the 2003 Iraq war, where the Iraqis turned on some GPS jammers they had purchased from a Russian firm. The American air force had a weapon ready for this; smart bombs that homed in on GPS jammer signals. The Russian jammers were quickly destroyed and the war went on without any other attacks on American satellite capabilities.

But in the meantime there have been other successful attacks on commercial satellite systems.

Saddam had thoughts of sticking SAM missiles on top of SCUDs, but never did it. (This isn't as dumb as it sounds -- the U.S. experimented with, I believe, sidewinders on top of Pershings and discovered that it made a not-too-bad expedient antisatellite weapon).

UPDATE: Several readers want to know more, and one suggests that it may have been a Sparrow, not a Sidewinder, which is possible. I recall reading about this in one of Paul Stares' books, either The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy 1945-84 or Space and National Security. But they're both at my office, so I can't look for more details.

September 24, 2004

A BOGUS KERRY FLIPFLOP? Tom Maguire is suspicious of a 1997 Kerry quote that's been floating around today. So is Power Line, which observes: "No doubt we'll learn more soon. In the meantime, we won't add this one to Kerry's Hall of Fame collection of flip-flops."

UPDATE: In fact, the Kerry quote that's been circulating is wrong. Follow the link for more.

INTERESTED IN BEING A LAW PROFESSOR? Read this post, and this post by Gordon Smith.

THE HOUSE PASSED A DUMB BILL that's supposed to keep "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction. As Eugene Volokh notes over at, this approach is dumb in more ways than one.

HERE'S MORE CRITICISM OF KERRY'S CAMPAIGN DIPLOMACY -- if he's dissing our allies now, what will he do if he's President?

UPDATE: Jason Van Steenwyk, recently returned from service in Iraq, has related thoughts.

And there's more criticism of Kerry's diplomacy here.

PAYPAL ALTERNATIVES: Linda Seebach recommends BitPass, and points to this explanation of why it's supposed to be better. Other readers send links to FirePay and NeTeller, too. I don't know much about any of these, personally. But it does seem like the field is ripe for competition.

ELEVATING THE DEBATE: Virginia Postrel has a further observation. I can't argue. When she's right, she's right!

UPDATE: Okay, one major-media guy wrote something. But it's not a "feature story." It's a blog entry.

ROBERT MUSIL looks at another big story from CBS.

CHIEF WIGGLES NEEDS YOUR HELP to save the life of a 9-month-old Iraqi girl. Follow the link for more information.

ERROR-CORRECTION UPDATE: Well, maybe. My TechCentralStation column noted postings on a Borders union chatboard from Borders' employees who said they were hiding books. Now, in a message that appears in place of the original chatboard, the union says that the messages were posted by someone who may not have been a Borders employee. (They don't say that he/she isn't, only that they don't verify employment. But it sounds like trolling, regardless. I've asked the TCS folks to note this in an update, too.)

Reader Jon Woolf, meanwhile, thinks there's another explanation for all the anti-Bush books cluttering up bookstores -- they're just not selling as fast as the staff thought they would:

There are two possible reasons why the bookstores are full of copies of anti-Bush books, while pro-Bush or anti-Kerry books are hard to find, and those two are diametrically opposite in their implications.

Reason 1: the bookstores are anti-Bush and pro-Kerry, so they stock and prominently display anti-Bush books, while not stocking or displaying anti-Kerry books.

Reason 2: the bookstores are driven by two conflicting forces: expected sales and actual sales. They stock what they expect to sell and don't stock what they don't expect to sell. If they guess wrong on what will or won't sell, they have to "push" the nonsellers because nonsellers are a big loss in money terms.

In particular, if a bookstore guesses wrong and orders a lot of copies of a book that then doesn't sell, those copies are going to stay on the shelf for days or weeks. All those stacks of anti-Bush books that you see every time you walk into a Border's -- how many of them are the same copies, sitting on a table or in a shelf gathering dust, not being sold? Suppose a Border's puts out a table with 20 copies of some anti-Bush book and 20 copies of UNFIT FOR COMMAND at 10:00AM. UNFIT is popular, so all twenty copies of it are gone by 10:30. Meanwhile, nobody buys even one copy of the anti-Bush book. Then if you walk in at 10:45 what do you see? Twenty copies of the anti-Bush book and no copies of UNFIT. Bias in the management? No. Just the marketplace at work.

Hmm. Interesting theory, though I'm not sure I buy it.

UPDATE: Reader Kenneth Grover emails:

In your post which reflects on the two possibilities of why bookstores have many anti-Bush books your reader posits two causes: ideological and push sales. Both reasons are in effect along with a third; false perspective. Bookstores approach the ordering of books from their ideological bent (We smart, they dumb, we buy smart books, nobody want dumb books). This leads to the first situation of sold-out conservative titles and mounds of liberal titles. Then, since this is a bad situation, they have to push the unsold liberal books as much as possible to try and get out from under. The real kick comes in with the fact that their false perspective has broken the feedback loop and nobody changes their buying decision on the next go around.

Reader Matthew DeLuca emails:

Regarding the question of whether or not bookstores are biased towards Kerry in their selection and display of political books, I've made a point of asking the checkout clerk at each bookstore I visit (four, so far) why there's no copy of Unfit For Command available. Invariably, the answer has been that the book has been flying off the shelves, that they can't keep it in stock, the publisher can't ship fast enough, et cetera. I don't sense that they're feeding me any kind of line, I'm sticking with the theory that it's a simple supply versus demand issue.

I'm shocked that Al Franken's books aren't selling better. On the other hand, reader Shelby Clark doubts that the unsold-volumes theory really explains things beyond the short-term:

Bookstores (most especially the big chains) have relatively generous returns policies. If books are sitting unsold for weeks, they will be returned to the publisher for a full or substantial credit/refund. Bookstores absolutely will not sit on large stores of new books that aren't moving.

I don't really know what this means for your or Woolf's theses, but that's my view. Credentials: I worked for several years at a sizeable NY publisher of popular books; my wife was for many years a bookstore manager, and the industry remains a serious interest to us both.

I thought that publishers had tightened up on returns somewhat, but I could be wrong. And reader Kevin Carbis emails:

Caught your post (actually I catch just about all of 'em) on the possible explanations for the Anti-bush slant in bookstores. This has occurred to me a couple times. I work in downtown SF and the closest bookstore is a Border's up at Union Square. I'm in there at least twice a week, I have to take the stairs up to the tech and history books. The landing on the staircase has a lot of extra space which is usually full of books. For weeks now, its been Clinton's My Life. There must be 200 copies stacked there. Every week, 200 copies. Then one week, 200 copies all marked 10% off. Then 20% off, now 30% off. I'm sure they restock to make the stack look nice but the size of the stacks and the size of the discounts make me wonder if the second explanation might not be more plausible than I would have thought.

Beats me. But as I noted in the column, even one of my farthest-left colleagues has found the gauntlet of Bush-bashing books (which I guess Clinton's isn't, really) so depressing that he's ordering from the Internet now. I wonder if store managers take that into account.

RATHERGATE, THE KERRY CAMPAIGN, AND MORE: Victor Davis Hanson has thoughts on the big picture.

RECIPEBLOGGING: This week's Carnival of the Recipes is up.

PAYPAL SEEMS TO HAVE DECIDED to become the Web Morality Police:

Beginning Friday, PayPal will begin penalizing users who buy things it doesn't want them to: prescription drugs from unverified pharmacies, material with even a whiff of sex and gambling or lottery services. . . .

Its policy on adult materials is especially stringent, banning not only any material or services suggesting sexual activity but also "non-adult services whose Web site marketing can be reasonably misconstrued as allowing adult material or services to be purchased using PayPal."

Seems like we're past due for more competition in this area.

WELL, I DIDN'T ORDER THIS VERY EXPENSIVE LENS for the D70, but after perusing some of the reviews forwarded by readers in response to my earlier post, I did buy this far more reasonably priced one. It doesn't address my desire for a wider wide-angle, but it does provide more telephoto reach, and in a very convenient and versatile package, which is good for travel. I had some doubts about the quality given the price point, but the reviews were excellent. I'll try to shoot a few pics over the weekend and put them up so that you can decide for yourselves.

Meanwhile, here's a review of the lens that was too expensive for me. And here's a review of the lens I bought.

SOME VERY USEFUL OBSERVATIONS on the stem-cell debate.

FROM THE I-THOUGHT-KERRY-WAS-A-DIPLOMAT DEPARTMENT: Charles Krauthammer joins the list of those wondering why Kerry is dissing our allies:

The terrorists' objective is to intimidate all countries allied with America. Make them bleed and tell them this is the price they pay for being a U.S. ally. The implication is obvious: Abandon America and buy your safety.

That is what the terrorists are saying. Why is the Kerry campaign saying the same thing?

Why, indeed.

UPDATE: It just gets worse:

Democrats moved quickly to fuel skepticism, denouncing Allawi's message in unusually pointed terms.

While Kerry was relatively restrained in disputing Allawi's upbeat portrayal, some of his aides suggested that the Iraqi leader was simply doing the bidding of the Bush administration, which helped arrange his appointment in June.

"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser.

This is behavior that is absolutely unacceptable coming from a Presidential campaign in wartime, and it's not an isolated incident but part of a pattern of such behavior. Joe Lockhart should apologize for these remarks, and Kerry should fire him. Otherwise you're going to hear a lot of people questioning Kerry's patriotism. And they'll be right to.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian calls Lockhart's comment "disgraceful," and observes:

Remember, Kerry may need to work with this so-called "puppet" in the future. Regardless, this is astonishingly irresponsible campaign rhetoric from a key member of the challenger's campaign team. To malign the serving PM of Iraq as appearing a "puppet" plays right into the handbook of insurgents operating in Iraq. I'm truly shocked Kerry would ostensibly authorize such an inflammatory statement (ie., not in the Casablanca 'shocked, shocked' kinda way).

I think that statements like this are more evidence that the Kerry campaign -- or at least the Clinton folks running it -- expects to lose. Hence, they don't have to worry about who they'll be working with, but they want to fire up the anti-Bush base. That doesn't make it any less disgraceful to be going around uttering comments that might as well be designed to undermine America's alliances, of course. This sort of stuff is appalling.

MORE: Roger Simon thinks there's no strategy here, just the desperate flailing of a drowning campaign:

I think it's more a product of "Hail Mary" desperation than a conscious desire to bring out the base. The isolationist anti-war left, noisy as they are, do not constitute a large enough minority to be useful in that regard. Bad strategy all around. It might even be a turnoff, because it leaves us with these Profiles in Courage to compare:

1. Awad Allawi - a man who was once left for dead (1978) in his Surrey home after having been bludgeoned with an ax by one of Saddam's henchman who thought he had killed him. Allawi then spent a year in a hospital. He is still said to walk with a limp and is now the object of, one would imagine, daily assassination attempts.

2. John Kerry - a man who left the Vietnam War after 4 1/2 months after having been "seriously wounded" - a description that now even his biographer finds dubious.

Indeed. Whatever it is, it's disgraceful, and if Roger is right I suspect that the Democratic Party will pay a stiff price for it in November. If Kerry keeps this up -- making statements that are not merely anti-war, but that are deeply destructive and useful to our enemies -- you'll see Democratic candidates -- and not just Tom Daschle -- scampering to distance themselves from Kerry and embrace Bush.

PAYPAL SEEMS TO HAVE DECIDED that Bill Quick's blog is a "hate site" or something, which is absurd, and they're threatening to shut down his account.

This strikes me as a terrible move on their part, and they certainly deserve to hear from everyone who is unhappy about it.

RICHARD COHEN is defending Dan Rather for making an honest mistake: "Mistakes are what happen to aggressive news organizations."

Yes, and so is fixing them when it's obvious that they're mistakes, instead of stonewalling and calling those who point them out partisan hacks. Even if the error was in good faith -- which some would certainly dispute -- the response wasn't.

And this sounds like political maneuvering more than journalism:

Newsweek's Howard Fineman argued that CBS News producer Mary Mapes became "obsessed," with trying to prove that George W. Bush got special treatment in the National Guard, because she wanted to "save the world from a George Bush presidency, and in the last five years, she's tried to find that smoking gun that would allow her to do that." Appearing on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning on Wednesday, Fineman fretted that due to the CBS scandal, it is getting "increasingly difficult to prove" that the rest of the media strive for "objectivity" and want to be "fair" and "even-handed." Fineman also predicted that "if Roger Ailes and Fox had done something like this, you know, the world would be on fire."

I'm guessing that Richard Cohen wouldn't be defending them as vigorously, either. (And when some blogger blows it this way, I'm guessing that Cohen will write an I-told-you-so column rather than a bend-over-backward defense like this one, though I could be wrong.) But the damage has been done, and defenses like Cohen's -- which pretend that hit jobs intended to influence an election, based on documents that any reasonable person should have recognized as likely false, constitute "committing journalism" -- probably explain why media credibility is at a low point today.

VIRGINIA POSTREL notes the kind of reporting we need from Iraq.

September 23, 2004

RESPONDING TO MICHAEL MOORE: A must-read post from Junkyard Blog.

RATHERGATE UPDATE: Here's the speech Les Moonves ought to give. Also, articles on bloggers and Big Media in the International Herald Tribune, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Wired News. All of them mention pajamas, but the Wired News article by Adam Penenberg has the best bit: "My first thought was if bloggers had no credibility then why was this guy on my television, defending CBS?"

UPDATE: More here: "I'm glad Dan Rather has apologized. But I'd rather he would explain."

I'd be happy if he would resign. Meanwhile, Charles Paul Freund says that CBS and Rather are acting like politicians, not journalists. He observes:

The continued wellbeing of establishment journalism requires trust. That trust is exactly what CBS' bizarre behavior has been undermining.


A WHILE BACK, I linked to some very cool photos taken by a Marine aviator over Afghanistan and Iraq.

He's now returned from his second deployment in Iraq, and he's posted a bunch of new photos.

They're also worth a look.

A SMALL REACTION TO A BIG SPEECH: The Belgravia Dispatch is deeply unimpressed with Kerry's response to Allawi's speech:

Kerry looks, er, very small today. I mean, was this statement for real? In its discombobulation, utter lack of grace (all but calling Allawi a liar), near absurdities ("Let me tell you, if the 4th Infantry Division and the diplomacy had been done (ed. note: whatever "done" means) with Turkey, you wouldn't have had a Fallujah"), pleading tone ("And ask the military leaders. Go ask the military leaders")--it reads more like a bona fide Deanian (or Goreian?) meltdown than a serious policy statement/press conference.

What I don't get is that Kerry's big claim is that he'll get us allies, but it seems that whenever you turn around he's dissing somebody on our side. Last week it was Australia, and then there were those remarks about a "fraudulent coalition" in Iraq. This seems to me to be no way to win friends, though I suspect that it may influence people.

UPDATE: Roger Simon asks: "[W]hat if Kerry wins using this rhetoric? What will he do when confronted with decisions to make on Iraq?" You know, the more I look at the new, Dean-channeling Kerry, the more I think that he doesn't expect to win. He's given up trying to convince swing voters that he's serious on the war. I think this is about firing up the base to protect down-ticket candidates as much as possible.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jason Van Steenwyk, recently returned from Iraq, is also unimpressed with Kerry's remarks. "Ok. So you want other nations' leaders to expend political capital and treasure and send their lads to risk their lives . . . . So why don't you act like it? Why aren't you trying to sell the deal?"

Related item from Ralph Peters here: Ouch.

MCAULIFFE KNEW! I'm waiting for the bumper stickers.

Meanwhile, Cathy Seipp has still more on RatherGate, in a piece called "A Typist's Tale."

UPDATE: Actually, it seems McAuliffe didn't know. With a speed that Dan Rather should envy, Jim Geraghty has retracted the McAuliffe report above: "Again, I blew this one, folks. My bad."

See, Dan, it's not that hard. (And, by the way, Jim Geraghty also sent an email to people to be sure they'd notice the update and correction, and offered another apology. Very handsome. I think the New Media are serving as a role model for the Old, here. Or should be.)

POLIPUNDIT: Black Gay Republicans put Bush in the White House!

JEEZ, I'M TOTALLY OUTCLASSED in the "minions" department, by this Nathan guy. My minions aren't "everywhere."

In fact, they're not really anywhere. [What about me? -- Ed. That's my point.] I guess I'm not trying hard enough to recruit. . . .

MYSTERY POLLSTER is a polling-related blog by one of Kaus's secret sources. It's full of interesting information on, yes, polling.

Plus, scroll to the bottom to find out Wonkette's dirty little secret.

I HAVEN'T PAID MUCH ATTENTION to the whole Cat Stevens brouhaha. But Eric Olsen has some thoughts.


UPDATE: I agree that Kerry's response to Allawi's speech was ill-considered. Somebody call the brand manager!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Dart Montgomery emails:

Arrgh - Kerry's speech was "ll-considered???"Are you running for office on the Upper West Side?

How about Arrogant, Awful, Divisive, Dishonest, Destructive, Horrible, Terrorist-Inspiring etc., etc., etc.?

Actually, as other people get more inflamed about the election, I'm making an effort to become milder, though I was chided by a colleague the other day for being insufficiently snarky of late. And, of course, there are those who claim that I lack fire.

CATHY SEIPP has more thoughts on RatherGate and the cocoon.

UPDATE: Another story in the CBS-affiliate-backlash category.

HOW BERKELEY CAN YOU BE? Amusing photos, though not entirely work-safe. ("There was no shortage of Bush/pubic hair jokes.")

UPDATE: More pics here.

TODAY I OPENED MICHAEL KELLY'S POSTHUMOUS BOOK, Things Worth Fighting For, and came straight to this passage:

I used to watch television news, but at some point between the time CBS married Westinghouse, NBC married General Electric, and ABC married Mickey Mouse, I sort of lost interest.

I don't think that corporatization was the only thing to hurt TV news, but I don't think it helped.

UPDATE: Reader Michael Nolin emails:

It took almost a full year before I stopped thinking first thing every Wednesday morning, "Oh good, it's Michael Kelly column day." He was great. He would have been all over Rathergate.

I think that's right.

SCOTT KOENIG will be debating the war on public radio in just a few minutes. Follow the link for audio-streaming and call-in information.

BURNING ANNIE, an indie movie that I like, will be showing at the Silver Lake Film Festival in Los Angeles this Sunday.

INTERESTING THOUGHTS on terror-cell size and social dynamics, over at The Belmont Club. Read the whole thing.

I'VE UPDATED THE KERRY DRAFT POST, below, which seems to have involved AP misrepresentation of Kerry's remarks, though to be fair that misrepresentation was perhaps understandable in light of things that other Democrats have been saying. And read Tom Maguire's post on the subject, "From Fake Boos to Fake News," for more.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE CRITICIZES KERRY ON IRAQ, saying that he is "channelling Howard Dean:"

After his 2002 Senate vote to authorize the war, Kerry often characterized disarming Hussein as "the right decision." In May 2003, Kerry said on ABC that while he "would have preferred" more diplomacy before going to war, "I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him."

As recently as last month, Kerry was sticking by that principle, stating that even if he had known the U.S. wouldn't find unconventional weapons in Iraq or prove close ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, he still would have voted to authorize the war. But succeeding weeks have confronted Kerry with two harsh realities: His presidential candidacy has ebbed in public opinion polls, and Iraq has grown bloodier.

So it was bizarre, although not exactly shocking, to hear Kerry veer left during a speech on Monday: "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure ..." he said. "Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions, and if we do not change course, there is a prospect of a war with no end in sight."

Kerry, who knows a few things about changing course, evidently believes he and his Senate colleagues were right to give President Bush the authority to wage war, but that Bush was wrong to use the authority.


UPDATE: On the other hand, SpinSwimming says that Kerry is channelling C3PO.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This is interesting: "While leaving the House floor, did you see Allawi kiss Senator Lieberman on the cheek? and couple minutes later kiss Paul Wolfowitz on both cheeks? And we're worse off today than under Saddam rule?"

I HAVE A COLUMN ON RATHERGATE and what it means for the media, worldwide, in The Australian today.

UPDATE: Yes, somehow Microsoft and Linux got reversed. I've asked them to fix it.

JAYSON BLAIR ON RATHERGATE: "It’s really sad to see what’s happening to Dan Rather and CBS, and no one knows like me what its like to lose their credibility. I would give anything to have it back."

A PROPOSED LAW AGAINST "RECKLESS SEX:" "To convict, prosecutors would need to show beyond a reasonable doubt (i) a first-time sexual encounter between the defendant and the victim; and (ii) no use of a condom. The defendant would then have the opportunity to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the victim consented to the unprotected sex."

UPDATE: Er, no, I'm not uncritically repeating proposals from the religious right. Follow the damn link. More commentary here: "Starting off, however, it is pretty clear from past experience (say AIDS/HIV) that the criminal law is a paticularly crappy way to deal with health problems (and health issues have to motivate here or there would be little point to required use of a condom). In adddition the suggested correlation of first time encounters without condoms and coercive sex is (a) speculative and (b) too poor a relation to support use of the criminal law." I'm inclined to agree, though I haven't read the paper in question.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A law student offers a counter-proposal.

And here's another counter-proposal, designed to deter unplanned pregnancies.

MORE: I think Clayton Cramer likes the idea, though.

WHY THE BLOGOSPHERE is like Voltron.

UPDATE: Of course, the Borg metaphor remains popular.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, the "minions of Skeletor" reference seems like an outlier.

GREG DJEREJIAN IS DEBUNKING AFGHANISTAN MYTHS, and wonders whether this rather positive report on Afghanistan in today's New York Times will get the attention it deserves, especially from Bush's critics on the Left. He says that Kerry's got it wrong, too.

Meanwhile StrategyPage reports:

While al Qaeda manages to set off one or more suicide bombs a day in Iraq, it finds itself losing the war it is waging. The bombs are killing mainly Iraqis, and the Iraqis have noticed this. . . . Al Qaeda will fight on until the last of their members is rounded up by Iraqi police. But al Qaeda have already lost their war in Iraq.

I certainly hope so.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Stephen Green thinks that Bush is blowing it on Iran.


Hundreds of Iranian online journals have been protesting against media censorship by renaming their websites after pro-reformist newspapers and websites that have been banned or shut down by the authorities.

Many of the websites, known as blogs or weblogs, have also posted news items from the banned publications on their websites.

The protest was started by blogger Hossein Derakhshan, a student at Toronto university in Canada.

He told the BBC that although he felt the action was symbolic, he wanted to show Iranian authorities "that they would not be able to censor the internet in the same way as they have managed to control other media".

He said he was delighted with the response.

The hardline Iranian press has published a personal attack on him, he said, "which is proof that the authorities must be worried by the bloggers' protest".

Kind of like when Dan Rather's defenders started talking about pajamas.

MICKEY KAUS on elevating the debate: "But this is the blogosphere, where we get to talk about ... what we are interested in talking about! You want duty stories, read David Broder. ... It's not every day that a new information medium undermines an old info-constricting, caste-like hierarchy either. (Think Protestant Reformation.) There are enough pixels to discuss both Rather and Zarqawi."

And they're premium, American-made, non-outsourced pixels!

September 22, 2004

CBS NAMES AN INDEPENDENT PANEL, but Stephen Bainbridge notes some Thornburgh- and Rove-related background you might miss otherwise.

LOTS OF GOOD STUFF over at The Volokh Conspiracy. Just keep scrolling.

OKAY, NOW I BELIEVE THOSE POLLS about how badly Kerry is doing. Why else would he be making bogus claims about restoring the draft?

Maybe some reporters should ask him why, if this is a secret Bush plan, it's Democrats in Congress who are sponsoring bills to bring back the draft? Or maybe at least note that in the reports?

UPDATE: This take seems about right:

What next, is Kerry going to denounce the U.S. Postal Service's plan to tax e-mail?

This is not the move of a campaign confident about where it is in the polls.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Weirdly, the draft reference is now missing from the AP story linked above. You can still see it here, though, at least for now.

MORE: Hmm. Is this AP's fault, rather than Kerry's? This may have been the result of a reporter hyping the draft issue rather than, as I thought, Kerry trying to raise it in a "nuanced" fashion. [LATER: Reader Jim McManus emails: "Doesn't it say something Danron-like that you find the need to apologize for believing an AP post without first checking it out?" Heh. Yes, it does.]

STILL MORE: More thoughts here, including the observation that this seems to be some kind of unified message-of-the-week.

MORE STILL: Jeralyn Merritt says that there are a few Republicans pushing the draft, too. She's got links. I have to say, though, that everyone -- and I mean absolutely everyone -- I've heard pushing the idea has been a Democrat, and I've seen no sign that the White House wants it.

STILL MORE: A debunking of the draft rumors -- which I'm scoring as "cynical fear-mongering" unless there are new and unlikely developments -- here, and also at Snopes.

MORE STILL: Spoons has a post untangling this, and a reader who saw Kerry on MSNBC says that he seemed rather noncommital, and that he was very hard to understand because of laryngitis, which may have confused the AP reporter. It seems likely that Kerry's statement on the draft wasn't as clear as the original report made it. However, it's also clear that the Democratic Party, beyond Kerry, is trying to fear-monger on the subject of the draft.

YESTERDAY WAS THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER, and I happened to be on campus for a trip to the library. So I took some pictures.

The weather was beautiful today, too, but I spent the day mostly at home, slaving over a hot word processor on various writing projects, hence the relatively limited blogging.

I really should spend more time outdoors, and less time at a computer, shouldn't I?


THE INTIFADA IS OVER: Michael Totten notes a major victory in the war on terror that deserves more attention.

POLLS: Yesterday, I wrote that I was skeptical regarding state-by-state polls showing Kerry doing badly. Today, I have to say, I'm skeptical about the way Kerry is plummeting in the IEM and TradeSports futures markets.

IS THE BLOGOSPHERE ELEVATING THE POLITICAL DEBATE? I just had an interesting conversation with a journalist who's writing on that question, and who pretty clearly seems to feel that the answer is "no."

If "elevating the debate" means a sort of good-government, League-of-Women-Voters focus on where candidates stand on health care, etc., that's mostly true, I suppose. But I think it misconceives what blogs are about. There certainly are bloggers posting on healthcare and other issues -- see, for example, Jeff Jarvis's Issues 2004 posts and this post by Ann Althouse on medical malpractice -- but the political blogosphere is to a large degree about media criticism. If the Big Media were talking more about issues, and less -- to pick RatherGate as the example which I think inspired this conversation -- about Bush's National Guard service, probably bloggers would be talking about issues more, too.

Of course, what's striking about RatherGate is the absolutely incredible degree of ineptitude, arrogance, and outright political manipulativeness that it has revealed. In light of that, I can understand why members of the media would rather talk about other things.

But, all blogger triumphalism aside, the media criticism matters. And it matters because Big Media are still the main way that our society learns about what's happening, and talks about it. A serious breakdown there, which seems undeniably present today, is very important. In many ways, as I've said before, it's more important than how the election turns out.

Meanwhile, I don't recall much tut-tutting about bloggers focusing on Trent Lott's racial remarks, instead of his position on national health insurance. Were we elevating the tone then, but not now?

UPDATE: Ann Althouse, on the other hand, points to someone who isn't elevating the tone. As you might expect, she manages to deflate him, without using improper language. Plus, she comes up with a cool new blog name. [LATER: My linking of Althouse has apparently turned her into one of my "minions." Minions? It sounds so very Ming the Merciless. "Minions! Sieze him! We'll see if Professor Leiter can maintain his trademark self-regard after a few months of grading exams in the bluebook mines of Kessel!" Okay, we're in Frank J. territory, now. . . .]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting Gallup data on public attitudes toward the media in the wake of RatherGate. Apparently, it's not just bloggers who care.

MORE: Reader Tucker Goodrich has these thoughts on "the issues:"

The issues the blogs have been addressing are issues the press and the Democrats would rather not address, because (in my opinion, and I guess, by their omission, on theirs) they'd lose.

We're in a war. The character and suitability of the commander-in-chief is a valid issue. A partisan media trying to throw the election by releasing forged documents to throw the character and suitability of the CinC in doubt is an issue. Whether or not the new CinC would prefer to win or lose the war is an ISSUE!

But the Democrats and the press are trying to win the debate by framing those as not "issues", but as partisan carping. Nice try, but sorry. They are issues, and are every bit as important as healthcare or the economy, if not more so.

They'd simply like to frame a debate where they, the press, define the issues in such a way that they'll win. The real impact of blogs in this election is that the press can no longer frame the debate to their liking. And this is a huge win for people who don't agree with how the press tries to frame the debate. And competition in framing the debate can only be good for our democracy and our republic, even if it's bad for the Democrats and the Republicans.

And the press. As reader Bill Gullette emails: "Where did Rathergate originate? And most certainly even in the most favorable terms, the story was hardly an above the belt effort in terms of what CBS or Rather/Mapes intended the story to achieve."

Reader Merv Benson adds: "Blogs are the letter to the editor that the editor does not want to print."

STILL MORE: A positive spin:

All the MSM really needs to do is be the professionals they have falsely claimed to be all these years. A real news organization which was devoted body and soul to getting the truth out, chips fall where they may, would embrace the new world that is growing up around it. . . .

The real story is a happy one. The MSM is on the verge of a new golden age. If it would just learn to do its job, take advantage of these new developments, quit trying to be "gatekeepers" and drop the ideological and partisan shilling, good things would start to happen sooner rather than later.


MORE STILL: Hmm. Compared with Lewis Lapham, who's charging Bush with "treason," maybe bloggers are elevating the tone!

FINAL UPDATE: This article on the contributions of blogs is worth reading, too.

OKAY, REALLY FINAL UPDATE THIS TIME: Virginia Postrel has more thoughts, and says that the real issue is that reporters aren't interested when blogs elevate the debate:

Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.

That's no doubt true. Virginia also thinks I sound "defensive" in this post. Maybe, though I'd say "reactive" -- the interview, with a guy who warned me up front that I wasn't likely to like his story, seemed driven as much by unhappiness over RatherGate as anything else.

DON'T MISS THIS WEEK'S CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES: There are a lot of blogs out there besides InstaPundit, and you should be reading them.

AUSTIN BAY, just back from Iraq, has a new column up:

According to the Times, the report from the National Intelligence Council "outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war."

Wake up the Beltway bureaucrats: The Iraqi civil war started in summer 2003, when a group hard-core Baath (and Sunni-dominated) holdouts decided their route to personal survival -- and possible track back to power in Baghdad -- was relentlessly savage violence.

Savage violence is the daily routine of the criminal gangs who run dictatorships large and small, so virtually everyone expected some degree of post-Saddam thug resistance. However, no one knew the Baath hardcore had so much money. [Money? Where could that have come from? -- Ed.]

The biggest mistake the Iraq coalition made, however, was underestimating the power of criminal arrogance. That's a mistake we Americans make repeatedly -- whether the thug is Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam, Osama bin Laden or one of our own mob chieftains like John Gotti. . . .

When does arrogance turn to desperation?

I don't know -- perhaps Mohammad Bogy could give us an opinion. I do know the Baath thugs are attempting to manipulate the U.S. political cycle. If they continue to murder, they believe America will wilt and leave the new Iraqi government in the lurch.

Read the whole thing.


Democratic and Republican pollsters say the reason for the change this year is that an issue Mr. Bush had initially pitched as part of an overall message - which candidate would be best able to protect the United States from terrorists - has become particularly compelling for women.

I've been saying that for three years.

HMM. This ad on Kerry looks a lot like this one. I guess we've established a theme.

TOM MAGUIRE doubles down on Nick Kristof. I agree with Maguire that for Kristof to complain about mudslinging is "a bit rich."

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

UNSCAM UPDATE: Claudi Rosett pulls no punches on Kofi Annan's involvement with the Oil-for-Food scandal.

And Roger Simon says that Annan is engaged in the mother of all stonewalls.

IT'S INTERESTING to read these thoughts on technological change from Terry Teachout in conjunction with this column by Anne Applebaum on RatherGate.

OUCH: "It would be like an American today meeting with the heads of al Qaeda."

UPDATE: Heck, even Chris Matthews saw this one coming.

ANOTHER UPDATE: But it wasn't secret -- well, it may have been when it happened, but not later.

YOU KNOW, the "pajamas" remark just won't go away: Part-time pundits in pajamas find CBS asleep at the switch. Heh.

And interestingly, look at what's number two on Google when you search "pajamas.' Heh, again.

MORE ON THE INTERNET, cocooning and customer revolt: My TechCentralStation column is up.

THE NEW CLIMATE OF FEAR IN AMERICA seems to have claimed another victim:

A local soldier back from the war in Iraq said he was beaten at an area concert because of what was printed on his T-shirt, NBC 4's Nancy Burton reported. . . .

According to a Columbus police report, six witnesses who didn't know Barton said the person who beat him up was screaming profanities and making crude remarks about U.S. soldiers, Burton reported.

Not anti-war. Just on the other side.

UPDATE: In response to a later link back to this post on August 8, 2006, Reader Ted Gideon emails that this report turned out to be false.

I don't promise not to link to stories that turn out to be wrong (how could I?) just to correct errors when they appear. And, actually, I'm glad this looks not to have been true.

September 21, 2004


These days, network news survives in hermetically sealed cocoons—free of commercial pressures and calls for financial viability. CBS News has more cocoons than any other network. There's Evening News, which languished in last place for years; Face the Nation, another ratings disaster; Sunday Morning, which remained unchanged even after the death of anchor Charles Kuralt; and 60 Minutes, which is profitable but has an employee-retirement program similar to that of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The CBS cocoons engender a kind of madness. Rather is paid an outsized salary—he makes $7 million per year—that is in no way commensurate with the number of viewers he delivers. Where most prime-time shows have a few weeks to prove their viability, newscasts often are given years and decades. The network's former glory allows Rather to shroud himself in the aura of Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. "I'm confident we worked longer, dug deeper, and worked harder than almost anybody in American journalism does," Rather told the Washington Post Sunday, when in fact CBS spent less time verifying the Guard documents than most bloggers.

Indeed. Don't miss the conclusion.

UPDATE: Read this transcript and this one.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More here: "Rather appears to have been guided by the belief that he was doing his institution a great favor by holding out instead of retracting the story. Why any institution should believe that shirking the truth in the short run is a path to strength in the long run is beyond me."

Meanwhile, Patterico observes:

These are not people who were duped. And the problem is not how they handled it once they were caught -- though they handled that part badly. Their main transgression was in ignoring the evidence staring them in the face before the story ever ran. At the very least, they could have given some time on the broadcast to the dissenters.

But they didn't. And I've said this before, but it bears repeating: don't fool yourself believing that this is the first time this has happened. Come on. If you have watched "60 Minutes" then you are familiar with that feeling you have at the end of a segment, when you think to yourself: "Wow, everything seems to point to one conclusion." You thought that was because everything really did point to one conclusion?

Nope. It's because everything else was left on the cutting room floor.

We're just seeing one very notorious example where they got caught.

Yes, it's a thirteenth chime of the clock.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Larry Walsh emails: "More to Patterico's point, as another pundit once noted, 'crisis doesn't build character, it reveals it.'"

DAVID BERNSTEIN notes that Reuters is reporting dishonestly. It's also creating incentives to threaten its reporters' lives. This doesn't seem very smart to me.

GREG DJEREJIAN blogs on Bush's speech to the United Nations. Here's the text of Bush's speech.

TOO GOOD TO CHECK? I wish there were photos with this report of a protest at CBS headquarters, but I do like this bit: "the protest is notable because all of them were dressed in pajamas."

Like Dan Rather, I want the story to be true. Unlike Dan Rather, I'll wait for confirmation before pronouncing it genuine.

UPDATE: Ah, I think it was this protest.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Photos here -- but not everyone is in pajamas.

WOOHOO! Just got the new Neal Stephenson book, The System of the World, today. Blogging may be halfhearted and distracted while I read it.


Polls show the president is tied or slightly behind in New Jersey and trailing Senator Kerry by only some six to eight percentage points In New York. GOP Governor George Pataki introduced the president at a reception with 1,000 people by saying, "Welcome back, Mr. President, to the swing state of New York."

It's really hard for me to believe that Bush is doing as well, and Kerry as badly, as these state polls seem to suggest.

"REALLY, THOUGH, THIS IS ALL JUST A COINCIDENCE:" John Cole posts a RatherGate / "Operation Fortunate Son" timeline.

This NPR report features talking-heads saying that this story -- which involves the release of forged documents in order to influence a Presidential election, and back-channel conversations and what sure looks like collusion between a major television network and a political campaign -- isn't all that important.

No doubt the nabobs of the journalistic ethics establishment would be giving Fox News and the Republicans the same benefit of the doubt, were the facts reversed.


A week or two before the issue of the supposed National Guard memos on President Bush's military service came up, I speculated on this site about the emergence of a new cyber-public in response to the discrediting of many of the traditional news media. Luck made me a prophet: the exposure of the memos as forgeries was a textbook example of what I had been talking about. . . .

What we saw was an extraordinary example of what chaos and complexity theorists call spontaneous self-organization. Out of a highly communicative but apparently chaotic medium an ordered, sensitively responsive, but robust order emerges, acting as an organism of its own. Suddenly a perfectly-matched team of specialists had self-assembled out of the ether.

Read the whole thing, which is very interesting. (But InstaPundit is "venerable?" In Internet years, yeah!) It's also worth reading this piece by Cathy Young from the Boston Globe, and this essay by Andrew Sullivan from Time.

Pajamas are mentioned in all three.

I ALMOST FEEL SORRY for the tag-teamed Nick Kristof. I am actually acquainted with Yoshi Tsurumi, having edited one of his articles back when I was on the Yale Law & Policy Review in law school. While he was pleasant enough to work with, I wouldn't bet the farm on him. On the other hand, these quotes sound out of character -- and I wouldn't bet the farm on Kitty Kelley, either. . . .

IT'S NOT ABOUT IRAQ OR DAN RATHER: Perhaps reason enough to check out this week's Carnival of the Capitalists?


What does Mr. Novak know about Iraq and the decision makers in the USA? If his information about how decision makers in America are thinking, is similar to his information about Iraq, then I guess we are safe and there’s no need to worry.

Read the whole thing. I'm with Ali on this one.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has more thoughts, which are very much worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: So is this column by Jonah Goldberg. And read this post from Soxblog.


Twelve French soldiers on peacekeeping duties in Ivory Coast have been arrested in connection with a bank theft there last week.
The troops had been assigned to protect a branch of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and were charged with stealing $120,000 (100,000 euros).

French military spokesman Colonel Henry Aussavy said the accused soldiers were being sent home to face French justice.

More than 4,000 French troops are serving alongside UN peacekeepers.


WHERE NEXT FOR THE BLOGOSPHERE? Pejman Yousefzadeh has some thoughts.


Syria's ambassador to Washington said yesterday his country's forces in Lebanon will begin a major redeployment toward their own border this morning.

The diplomat also said Syrian and U.S. troops will partake in joint security operations along the Syrian-Iraqi border, although State Department officials contradicted that claim.

"This is official," said Imad Mustapha, Syria's ambassador to Washington, speaking by telephone from the Syrian capital. "Tuesday morning there will be a major redeployment of Syrian forces in Lebanon toward the border." . . .

A senior State Department official disputed the ambassador's statement last night.

"We are looking for Syria to take certain action to protect the border. That action has not been taken yet. We'll be working to improve Syria's performance," the official said. "At this point, that does not include joint actions with American troops."

Hmm. Stay tuned.

TOM MAGUIRE is checking Joe Wilson's travel schedule.

MICKEY KAUS IS ON FIRE, with posts on everything from RatherGate to polling.


OL: Are you a gun owner? If so, what is your favorite gun?

Kerry: My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam. I don’t own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle.

Reader Kevin O'Kelley has some questions:

1. How did you acquire this assault rifle? Is it an illegally imported, untraceable souvenir?

2. Is it a fully-automatic weapon or a semi-automatic?

3. Where is the gun now? Is it legal for it to be kept there?

4. How can you support a law that forbids other people owning a weapon that you already own?

Good questions, all.

Inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, inquiring minds also want to know if there's any question -- any freaking question at all -- that Kerry can answer without mentioning Vietnam.

THE BELMONT CLUB looks at the dark side of American involvement in Iraq:

I cast about in vain for some way to estimate whether the level of corruption in the Iraqi government, which is a proxy for efficiency and just governance, was increasing or decreasing. It is the one area for which I truly fear, not in the least because few Americans have any idea what a distorting gravitational force normal levels of American prosperity and largesse have in a Third World country. The sheer capability of America can create a dependency even in richer societies. One wonders whether the new Iraqi Army will have any concept of operations constrained by their true resources, without implicitly assuming American support. Sixty years of America in NATO have arguably weakened indigenous military capability in a continent which once dominated the world. Sometimes a quagmire is when you are too damned good.

Perhaps this is how we will, ultimately, convert the whole world into a bunch of diplo-speaking social-welfare pacifists, one quagmire at a time. . . .

But there's an upside. Evan Coyne Maloney parses John Kerry's positions on Iraq and concludes:

But if we can't decipher Kerry's plans, neither can al Qaeda. Therein may lie the true strategic brilliance of John Kerry: after four years of Kerry in the White House, Osama bin Laden will be so damn confused, he just might forget who his enemy is.

Now there's a campaign slogan.

Arthur Chrenkoff is less amused.

And finally, Mongai looks at the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in Iraq, with links to reports and photos.

September 20, 2004

JEFF JARVIS: "It's bigger than Dan Rather. It's bigger than CBS. It's about journalism and Big Media and their relationship with the citizenry and democracy. It's about sharing authority with the people."

That's what's got 'em scared.

UPDATE: Read this, too.

CROSSING OVER INTO BIG MEDIA, the Power Line guys have written this piece on Kerry in Vietnam and Cambodia, and this piece on Kerry's anti-war activism. And here's another piece on the subject by Mack Owens.

MAPES TO BURKETT TO LOCKHART? Power Line wonders what's going on.

Meanwhile there's this new development:

FORT WORTH, Texas - (KRT) - The son of a late commander in the Texas Air National Guard said Monday that CBS owes his family an apology for airing documents - now believed to be false - that purportedly were of his father criticizing President Bush's service as a young man in the Guard. . . .

Gary Killian, a Houston businessman who once served in the Guard with his father, said he initially questioned the validity of parts of the memos, then later became convinced they were all fakes.

Killian said he is angry with both CBS and Burkett.

"Do I take it personally? Yes," he said, adding: "I think, first of all, CBS and Dan Rather owe my deceased father and my family an apology."

For starters.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt:

Wow. A senior Kerry aide phoning the forgery-passer at the request of CBS? CBS is advising the Kerry campaign? And the Kerry campaign is following the advice? Fire them all.

My guess is that Kerry won't be meeting with reporters tomorrow either.

Somebody should ask him about all this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on CBS/Kerry Campaign collusion here.

Shouldn't CBS just register as a 527 and have done with it?

EUGENE VOLOKH is guestblogging over at

Meanwhile, on his own blog, he's offering religious instruction to Jimmy Swaggart.

I'M WATCHING KEITH OLBERMANN ON MSNBC talking about blogs being "infiltrated." Boy is he clueless and behind the times. First, Hugh Hewitt already wrote about this stuff in the Weekly Standard months ago. Second, it's rather convenient that this issue only comes up elsewhere now, when Big Media's looking bad and is obviously in bed with a campaign, rather than back when David Brock's operation was busy hiring lefty bloggers. (Not that there's anything wrong with that -- but there is something wrong with not noticing it while making a big deal about a chatboard post on FreeRepublic that, shockingly, comes from a Republican.)

Olbermann is really an embarrassment here -- not least because he seems to think that you need to have some sort of specialized insider information to notice something as unbelievably obvious as the CBS document forgery. Maybe if you're Olbermann, you do. . . .

UPDATE: Ernest Miller has related thoughts.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's someone else who was watching.

And Patterico has thoughts on transparency and reciprocity.

MORE: Reader Wayne Seibert emails: "Why should you care about Olbermann - you have 3x as many viewers as he does." Heh.

And a few readers think I'm "brave" to criticize MSNBC when I write for them. If you knew how little they pay me, you'd think less of my courage -- but in fact, I made clear up-front that signing up with them wasn't going to change my blogging, and they had no problem with that.

DONALD SENSING is on hiatus. He'll be missed.

In what I'm sure is a coincidence, so is Belle de Jour.

PLAME UPDATE: Roger Simon is asking "what did Joe Wilson know, and when did he know it?"

You know, I think I'm posting more on the Plame story these days than some of the bloggers who used to chide me for not paying enough attention to it.

UPDATE: Say, I don't think I linked this story before, though, regarding the much-maligned Scooter Libby: "Fitzgerald had focused on Libby as the possible leaker of Plame's name and identity, but the new subpoenas to Time suggest he may be rethinking that theory. Four reporters have now testified at Libby's urging that he did not disclose Plame's name or identity to them. Pincus is one of those who answered questions about Libby, he said in his statement. Both he and Cooper said they did so with Libby's approval, and both said that their conversations with Libby did not touch on the identity of Wilson's wife."

ROBERT NOVAK writes that the Bush Administration plans to cut-and-run from Iraq after the election.

I'm deeply skeptical, in part because of his shaky sourcing [At least he's not claiming newly-discovered documents from Texas! -- Ed.] but moreso because it doesn't make much sense. We heard the same kind of cut-and-run discussion all through last year, centering around the transfer of sovereignty, and it didn't happen then. From what I can tell (including a look at some of the units, including my secretary's, that are on their way there now), it seems like we're building up offensive capability, not getting ready to leave.

Could this be a head-fake? An effort to scare the Sunnis into thinking we'll take a hands-off position while Shias and Kurds massacre them? Dirty intra-Administration politics? Or just a lousy story? Yes. Could it be true? I suppose so -- I don't get weekly memos from Condi spelling out what the plans are, and even if I did, I suppose those could be wrong, or dishonest -- but I don't see Bush having much of a second term if he cuts and runs in Iraq. In fact, I think that would be, for all practical matters, the end of his presidency.

Unless, of course, the "running" takes place via Tehran or Riyadh. Which I see as more likely.

Greg Djerejian is skeptical, too -- though he thinks, as do I, that this would be a disaster if it's true. Is it true? Let's just say that at this point, I'm even more skeptical than usual of poorly-sourced stories that would be devastating for the Bush Administration if they were believed. I think I'll retain that skepticism at least until the election. And I'm not the only one who feels that way.

UPDATE: Reader Mike Robinson emails:

Glenn, I am little confused. So Robert Novak claims Bush has a secret plan to cut and run next year from Iraq. Now, wait a minute. Wasn't just a three days ago that Kerry was claiming Bush had a secret plan to call up more National Guard and Reserve troops? Why, yes he did. ["Kerry: Bush has secret troop call-up plan."]

Well, which is it, dang it?!!? Are we going to escalate or cut or run? What other secret plans are there? I am soooo confused!

Yeah, it's hard to remember what we're supposed to be worrying about this week.

HAVING HAD IT WITH RATHERGATE for the moment, and since the post-Ivan weather here is magnificent. I took off for the mountains today and just got back. That leaves me a bit behind the curve at the moment. But here's Rather's statement, and I have to agree with those who think it's not enough.

I want to know where the documents came from, and I want to know why Rather isn't more interested in getting to the bottom of all that -- and in telling us what happened. If he's not willing to do that, he should resign. Or be fired.

Hugh Hewitt writes:

Rather's statement is a pathetic attempt to save face, a "limited, modified hang-out," a contingent apology that contains nothing of remorse or any promise of reform much less of resignation.

Jim Geraghty has much more -- just keep scrolling.

Meanwhile, John Ellis is advising Mary Mapes: "Call your lawyer immediately. DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow CBS counsel to represent your interests."

KERRY SHOTGUN UPDATE: Reportedly, Kerry has returned the shotgun that produced so much unfavorable attention.

DAILY KOS is a "satire site?" Either Google News has problems, or the 'bots have a sense of humor. (Via Tim Blair).

INSTAPUNK is channeling Jonathan Chait.

CBS: Hey, you know, those fake-looking memos might actually be fake! Send them some pajamas!

Once again, it's hard to tell real life from Scrappleface.

MARK STEYN writes that Kerry's "Vietnamization" strategy hasn't worked out. "Ever since the first cries of ''Quagmire!' back in the early days of the Afghan liberation in 2001, the left have been trying to Vietnamize the war on terror. They failed in that, but they succeeded in the Vietnamization of the election campaign."

UPDATE: I suppose it's worth mentioning these thoughts on why the whole "Operation Fortunate Son" thing is ill-conceived, too.

But don't let the Kerry Campaign's misuse of John Fogerty's music, and misrepresentation of his life history, stop you from enjoying the music. I've got the Creedence Clearwater Boxed Set and it's great. They did a good job with the remastering, too.

DEATH OF A BLOGGER: A very nice tribute to Aaron Hawkins, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

JOHN KERRY'S SKILLS AS AN ALLIANCE BUILDER come into question. (And that's without even mentioning the whole Kerry Australia gaffe).

But Michael Totten is trying to build a hawkish case for Kerry. I'd like to be persuaded by this, but. . . .

TOM MAGUIRE has a lot of interesting posts.

SIMON WORLD has your Asia blog roundup.

BELLESILES UPDATE: And, actually, it's not just disgraced, data-manufacturing former Emory University Historian Michael Bellesiles, but perhaps a more widespread problem within the historical profession.

UPDATE: This story from Australia is interesting, too.

MICKEY KAUS: "What do you have to do to lose your job at CBS?"

He also joins the crowd criticizing Kristof.

STRATEGYPAGE looks at the media dynamics of the conflict in Iraq:

Now you would think that this bunch of cutthroats, whose favorite tactics are kidnapping or threatening unarmed civilians, would be widely reviled. Nope. They are the underdogs, and have been labeled in the media as "insurgents." Since many countries, and their media, opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, the "insurgents" get favorable press. Very favorable press. Iraq's problem with its armed anti-democracy groups is described as "widespread unrest," despite the fact that it is confined to that third of the country (most of it desert) that is dominated by the Sunni Arab minority (about 20 percent of the population). The Baath Party and Islamic radical leaders can read, and make the most of their status as "freedom fighters." OK, that last tag isn't used very often, as even most journalists gag at so describing two groups so openly dedicated to restoring dictatorship.

But they don't gag hard enough.

Meanwhile, The Belmont Club is crunching numbers on the Iraqi situation and finds Andrew Sullivan's portrayals excessively negative. ("The danger with uncritically accepting claims like 'the insurgency is spreading' or 'Bush is so desperate he is calling up the National Guard' is that it is not obviously supported by the geographical distribution of casualty figures, the rising number of enemy deaths, the drawdown in deployed forces nor does it account for changes in the force mix.") [LATER: Brian Dunn does more number-crunching here.]

Meanwhile, Winds of Change has its regular Iraq War roundup posted. (You do know to check that regularly, right?) Plus they have thoughts on what's going on with North Korea.

Over at the Wall St. Journal's OpinionJournal site, Arthur Chrenkoff notes the passing of a little noted Anniversary in Afghanistan, and reports on what has changed.

Finally, I keep getting emails from lefties saying "you're ignoring Iraq" and "you haven't posted on Iraq in weeks." Actually, I've made a point of starting every day with a big Iraq post, so that it doesn't get buried in the RatherGate news. But I have to wonder if these people know how to use the scrollbar, or if this is just some sort of mass email campaign designed to discourage coverage of Dan Rather and his phony documents. If so, it's not working!

September 19, 2004

THE INSTAWIFE says she sees a lot of Kerry bumper stickers, and wonders if he's ahead in Tennessee. Apparently not:

President Bush would beat Democratic challenger John Kerry in Tennessee by 16 points if the election were held today, a new statewide poll indicates.

Bush would do a better job handling the war in Iraq, the issue of terrorism and homeland security, and issues related to the economy, poll respondents said.

Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, did his best on the economy question but still lagged Bush by 8 points on that issue.

Well, Knoxville is a college town.

UPDATE: Uh oh. Somebody's getting the bends.

MARK STEYN WONDERS why RatherGate has been allowed to fester so long:

Why has CBS News decided it would rather debauch its brand and treat its audience like morons than simply admit their hoax? For Dan Rather? I doubt it. Hurricane Dan looks like he's been hit by one. He's still standing, just about, but, like a battered double-wide, more and more panels are falling off every day. No one would destroy three-quarters of a century of audience trust and goodwill for one shattered anachronism of an anchorman, would they? . . .

The only reasonable conclusion is that the source -- or trail of sources -- is even more incriminating than the fake documents. Why else would Heyward and Rather allow the CBS news division to commit slow, public suicide?

Power Line speculates that the only thing more incriminating than falling for a forgery is falling for one that came from the Kerry campaign. But in light of this meta-story, maybe that doesn't even matter.

SUMNER REDSTONE DUMPING STOCK? My first thought is that this has nothing to do with RatherGate -- but of course, my first thought on RatherGate was that CBS's case couldn't possibly be as flimsy as it looked.

On the other hand, betting on Sumner Redstone being an idiot looks to be longer odds than the same bet regarding Dan Rather.

UPDATE: A reader emails that insider knowledge couldn't be involved:

National Review wonders if Sumner Redstone sold his stock based on "knowledge unavailable to the general public". How could that be? Within a day or two of CBS's promotion of the inept forgeries, anyone who was interested was well aware that CBS had - at the least - screwed up horribly. By September 14th Dan Rather and his producers were the only ones left who claimed to believe that CBS news hadn't just driven off a cliff.

That works for me.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A less charitable take on the subject here. I still don't think Redstone's that dumb, and expect that this will turn out to have an innocent explanation. But this point is a good one: "Where is the Viacom board of directors, by the way? . . . Boards of directors of public companies, particularly in our Sarbanes-Oxley world, have the obligation to act like Johnson & Johnson in the Tylenol crisis, not like Arthur Andersen or Enron." Indeed.

MORE: Professor Bainbridge thinks he knows what's going on, and it's not nefarious.

STILL MORE: More on the non-nefarious side, at Power Line.

GERMAN ELECTIONS: Bad news for Schroeder, who continues to learn that you can't successfully organize a party around anti-Bush sentiments. But it's also bad news in general, given that it's the extremist parties who are doing better.

NATO: A fraudulent coalition?

RATHERGATE UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has more on CBS's rush to broadcast while questions remained unaddressed:

An examination of the process that led to the broadcast, based on interviews with the participants and more than 20 independent analysts, shows that CBS rushed the story onto the air while ignoring the advice of its own outside experts, and used as corroborating witnesses people who had no firsthand knowledge of the documents.

This is quite embarrassing, especially given the political cast. But in my opinion, their behavior since the broadcast has been worse. Anybody can make a mistake, even a stupid one. It's their consistent refusal to admit it, amid a fog of counteraccusations, that has been really disgraceful.

UPDATE: A RatherGate Web of Connections, at PoliDock.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More from Newsweek:

CBS insiders are increasingly worried that the credibility of the network's news division has been grievously damaged by anchor Dan Rather's persistent defense of a story which relied on questionable documents about George W. Bush's National Guard service. "This has clearly hurt us," one veteran correspondent told NEWSWEEK. Network sources describe finger-pointing within the news division, with concerns greatest among "60 Minutes" producers, who fear the issue has tainted their entire program. While CBS News president Andrew Heyward has publicly backed Rather, the network has quietly assembled a team of additional producers to work the case. Rather is privately telling colleagues he remains "confident" that the story, and the memos, will be vindicated. . . .

Emily Will, a documents expert approached by CBS to examine the memos, told NEWSWEEK that she was told by a CBS News producer that the network's source had received the memos anonymously through the mail.

Hmm. Sounds like an L.A. Times headline: "Rather aides increasingly confident!"

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES WRITES ABOUT BLOGGERS: Professor Bainbridge writes back. Shockingly, he discovers errors and misrepresentations.

A RATHER NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT of John Kerry's military career, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I still wonder why he decided to make Vietnam the keystone of his campaign. Even without problems like this, Vietnam doesn't have positive associations for most voters. As I've said before, it seems like bad "branding."

RATHERGATE, explained.

I'VE POSTED SOME NEW IMAGES over at the Exposure Manager site, on subjects ranging from UT street scenes (always much in demand from UT alumni and Knoxville expats) to "suburban wilderness" images. The pictures shown here, and some others (it's indicated in the galleries) were taken with the Sony 5 megapixel pocket camera that I bought a while back. They're not as good as the ones that the Nikon D70 produces . . . but the Nikon doesn't fit in your pocket, either.

I hope you enjoy them.

I've got a lot more to process and upload, alas. The problem is that driving around and taking pictures gets me away from my desk and the computer. Processing and uploading them, alas, does not.

And I like getting away from the computer now and then. I spend way too much time here as it is.

Maybe I should go back to darkrooms and film. . . .

THE FOLKS AT NRO fought off a bogus libel suit. They were successful, but are asking for contributions to defray the cost.

TOM MAGUIRE REMAINS ON NICK KRISTOF'S CASE: "Kristof may have deliberately crafted his statement in a way that is misleading, but accurate." Hey, that's better than fake, but accurate! And there's a reflection on "the question Kristof does not ask (although Don Imus did!)." Ouch.

UPDATE: More on Kristof's problems here, here, and here.

Don't these people have editors?


OVER AT THE MEDPUNDIT SITE you can read this quote:

"When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

Over at RealClearPolitics you can read this:

Advice For Mr. Kerry: Leon Panetta | Donna Brazile | Bob Kerrey | Paul Glastris
Kerry's New Call to Arms - Richard Wolffe & Susannah Meadows, Newsweek
Kerry's Muddled Message - Gloria Borger, US News & World Report
To Win Kerry Will Have to Answer Hard Questions - Clive Crook, Nat'l Journal


JEFF HARRELL'S SHAPE OF DAYS BLOG was nine days ahead of the big media in looking at the Selectric Composer and realizing that it couldn't have produced the RatherGate documents.

I THOUGHT THAT FOOTBALL FANS FOR TRUTH was just an amusing bit of election-year distraction.

But having seen this incriminating video, well, I think it's a serious matter. . . .

HERE'S AN EVEN MORE DEVASTATING COMPARISON OF CBS DOCUMENTS WITH THE REAL THING, courtesy of The Washington Post. If Dan Rather still has a job tomorrow, well, CBS is in even bigger trouble than I thought.

IRAQ UPDATE: StrategyPage reports:

September 19, 2004: Anti-government forces are desperately trying to shatter the morale of police and reconstruction personnel. But suicide bombing attacks on police facilities, and gun battles against police patrols in Sunni Arab areas have not worked. The police continue to recruit, and police patrols grow larger and more aggressive as they move into Sunni Arab neighborhoods in cities like Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul, and arrest known, or suspected, terrorists and armed anti-government activists. There is less aversion, among the majority of Iraqis, to playing rough with the Sunni Arabs who comprise nearly all the anti-government forces. A growing network of informers in Sunni controlled areas provide targets for daily bombing attacks on buildings the anti-government forces are using. The government has said that it will hold national elections, as scheduled, even if voting is not possible in some Sunni Arab areas. It's thought that an 80-90 percent vote is better than a delayed vote. This is because a national vote will be concrete proof, to dubious Shia Arab Iraqis, that Saddam is truly gone, even if thousands of Saddam's thugs are still running around killing people. The vote will also make it clear just how much power the Kurds hold, on a national scale, and get started negotiations to sort out how much autonomy the Kurds will have in a predominately Arab country.

Partial elections, disenfranchising the rebellious? Like Mickey Kaus, I think that's the right approach. I also think that for the widely-disliked Sunnis to put themselves into this position is extremely unwise. But, then, "extremely unwise" is a pretty good description of their strategic approach all along.

This tidbit is also interesting:

September 19, 2004: The Pakistani army says it has cleared foreign (al Qaeda) fighters from the Pushtun border areas (Waziristan) along the east Afghan border. Some 70 foreigners were killed in a week of operations, plus a dozen or so Pakistani soldiers and civilians. But there are still several hundred foreign fighters still on the lose, mainly men from Chechnya and Central Asia. The army says it knows where these men have fled to, and will move on them next. The border areas north of Waziristan contain Pushtun tribes less receptive to Taliban activities.

Of course, an item beginning "the Pakistani Army says," is only slightly more reliable than one beginning "CBS News has learned. . . ." And there's this:

September 19, 2004: Russia is opening a terrorism liaison office in Indonesia. Because of recent terrorist acts in Russia, there is renewed enthusiasm for sharing terrorist information internationally.

I suspect that Russian anti-terror operations will emphasize assassination and covert ops rather than the more straightforward approach that has marked (most) U.S. operations.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, The Command Post notices that a lot has been going on below the radar. You don't say.

UPDATE: It's also worth reading this piece by Thomas Bray: how Europe became a 90 pound weakling."

In Bosnia, where the French and Germans did collaborate in the sort of coalition Kerry favors, the United States had to deliver an embarrassing 85 percent of the missile strikes because of the primitive condition of the European air forces.

Why is Europe so weak? The trend began well before the end of the Cold War. Increasingly, Europe opted for the free-rider approach, happy to let American taxpayers shoulder the major share of the burden. But Europe’s continuing power-slide strongly suggests there may be an even more fundamental reason for its weakness: the debilitating effect of the vast European welfare state. . . .

A broader European coalition to help out in Iraq? Don’t count on it. There isn’t much that France and Germany could contribute, beyond some marginal peacekeeping forces, even if they wanted to. And they are likely to remain unwilling to do so even if John Kerry is elected.

Europe just doesn't matter much on the military front. That's unfortunate.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Who do you believe? Sometimes it's easy to know, sometimes it's not.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Carnival of the Liberated, the regular roundup of Iraqi blog posts, has moved. Dean Esmay is hosting it now. Be sure to check it out. It's not all cheerful by any means, but it's different from what you hear from Peter Jennings. Much less Dan Rather.

MORE: Daniel Drezner notes that Anthony Cordesmann thinks Bush hasn't done well, but that Kerry's approach is vapid.